Learn how to get that fiddley sound by learning beginner-level fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs, with technique tips for both hands and basic theory.
Learn how to get in tune using an electronic tuner.
Chad shares advice on holding the fiddle, including how to hold the fiddle with and without a shoulder rest.
“Angeline the Baker” is one of the most popular fiddle tunes at bluegrass and old-time jams throughout the world. After learning the melody you’ll learn to add the fiddle “layers” that really make you sound like a fiddler, including hammer-ons, up-sweeps, anticipation, and double-stringing.
“Cripple Creek” is a classic old-time and bluegrass favorite in the key of A that is a favorite of fiddlers as well as banjo players. You’ll learn the basic melody and how to add a shuffle bowing pattern that accents the backbeat.
Learn the popular old-time tune “June Apple” and how to play the A part with the “Nashville shuffle” bowing pattern and the B part with the “Georgia shuffle” bowing pattern.
“Elk River Blues” is a simple, evocative old-time tune from West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter. It has “crooked” phrasing, in which some phrases have an extra measure of 2/4, and you’ll learn to add some nice hammer-on and drone notes to fill out the melody.
“Old Joe Clark” is one of the best-known American fiddle tunes. It’s in the key of A Mixolydian, which means that the seventh step of the A major scale (G#) is lowered to a G natural. In addition to learning a shuffle bow pattern you can use to play both parts of the basic mleody, as well as some double-stringing and slides, you’ll learn a more “notey” version of the melody with variations on each phrase.
Another need-to-know fiddle tune, “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is in the key of D and the B part includes some cool slides. You’ll also learn a few simple melodic variations.
A beautiful and popular waltz, “Tennessee Waltz” is played all over North America. It’s in the key of D so you’ll learn a D scale and a D arpeggio and get advice on getting the D and A notes to ring in tune. You’ll also learn a few variations that include hammer-ons and slides.
“St. Anne’s Reel” is a Canadian fiddle tune that has become popular wherever fiddlers are gathered. You’ll learn the melody, of course, and also how the melody fits the chords. Then you’ll learn some simple chord double stops to play if you want to play along with another fiddler or another instrumentalist taking a solo.
This pretty little A modal tune comes from West Virginia fiddler Lee Triplett and is now played by Celtic fiddlers, old-time fiddlers, and others. You’ll learn how to find the melody in the lower octave and how to add the fiddle “layers” like double stringing, slides, and hammer-ons.
The old-time tune “Seneca Square Dance” comes from a 1920s recording of fiddler Sam Long. In addition to learning the melody, you’ll pay particular attention to the bowing, which combines long held notes with quick bow strokes.
In this video, Chad gives you some simple exercises to help you keep your bow hand relaxed while you play.
Chad gives you a couple of simple exercises to help you keep your left hand loose and relaxed.
Put what you learned in the lessons on Scales and Chords to use in this lesson by adding double stops to the melody of the old-time and bluegrass favorite “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.”
The Bill Monroe instrumental “Bluegrass Stomp,” a swingy blues in the key of D, gives you the opportunity to work on some new bow techniques, in particular, learning to stop the bow, or “bow breaks.”
Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” is one of his most popular songs. Chad talks about how the notes of the melody relate to the chords that go with the tune and how some of the phrases outline the chords. You’ll also learn to add harmony notes to the melody of “Kentucky Waltz,” with advice on fingering double stops so you get two clear notes.
The great singer and banjo player Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass banjo tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” has become a bluegrass standard that players of every instrument should know. It’s in A Mixolydian and has an extra beat in the second half. You’ll learn how to anticipate or “jump” the beat as well as some bluesy slides and double stops.
Chad shows you his approach to playing bluegrass solos using this standard song with a very common chord progression. You’ll learn the melody and chords in the key of E using standard “capo” positions, the major pentatonic scale, and other bluegrass fiddle techniques. You’ll also learn some exercises to help you learn to match the melody of “Your Love Is Like a Flower” with the chords, and how you can move the “capo” position to different keys, like B, Bb, etc. And you’ll get five play-along tracks so you can practice playing “Your Love Is Like a Flower” in the keys of E, A, G, D, and C.
The Flatt and Scruggs song “Down the Road” is a bluegrass standard and has been recorded by many musicians, including the Bluegrass Album Band, whose fiddler Bobby Hicks inspired the first solo you’ll learn here. It’s a relatively simple tune, just eight bars long and with only two chords, but it’s in the key of B, so it’s a good song for practicing playing in B. Bobby Hicks’ solo includes some great pentatonic licks using the capo position. You’ll also learn a variation played by Stuart Duncan.
The bluegrass song “A Voice on the Wind” was written by Butch Waller and made famous by Tim O’Brien and Hot Rize. It’s a medium tempo song in the key of G. Chad shows you the melody and how to add some double stops and bluesy embellishments.
“Blue Ridge Cabin Home” is a bluegrass classic that comes from Flatt and Scruggs. In this lesson you’ll learn to play a simple solo on “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” in the key of A with drones and double stops.
To improvise on a fiddle tune like “June Apple,” the first step is to learn the chords. Chad shows you the chord progression as well as a nice backup rhythm. Then he talks about his philosophy of improvising and shows you how he distills a tune down to its most basic elements, so that you can start playing around with the rhythm, varying the melody, etc.
Learn how to improvise on a blues tune like “Bluegrass Stomp.” You’ll learn the D major pentatonic scale and how you can flat the third of that scale to play over the G (IV) chord, as well as a simple chord position to play on the A (V) chord and ideas about using seventh chords and singing along with your playing.
Learn a great way to improvise or play solos on bluesy bluegrass songs in the key of B. Chad starts by showing you the B minor pentatonic scale, which has the same notes as the D major pentatonic scale, and then shows you how, by just changing the D natural note to D#, you get a great blues scale in the key of B major.
Learn the melody to the swing tune “Summertime” in the key of E minor and work on learning to improvise on the melody. Chad gives you an example of how to improvise on the melody without thinking about the chord changes, and then how to improvise just using the E minor pentatonic scale. You’ll also learn how to practice improvising with the app/software program iRealPro.
Learn the old-time and bluegrass fiddle standard “Blackberry Blossom,” along with the bowing pattern Chad plays, which is primarily the “Nashville shuffle,” with a couple variations. You’ll also learn a short bluesy variation on the B part.
The jam-session favorite “Red-Haired Boy” is in the key of A Mixolydian. You’ll learn Chad’s bowing along with the melody as well as a more “notey” version of “Red-Haired Boy” and how to combine the two versions.
The beautiful “Ookpik Waltz” has become popular in old-time and bluegrass circles. It sounds traditional, but was written by Canadian fiddler Frankie Rodgers. In addition to learning the melody to “Ookpik Waltz,” you’ll learn a great warm-up exercise with open strings, designed to help you get even, consistent tone with your bowing arm.
“Soldier’s Joy” is a must-know fiddle classic. It has a fairly simple basic melody that everyone elaborates on in their own way. You’ll learn the most basic melody as well as a few variations. Chad also gives you some bowing tips and advice on string crossings and getting a solid tone on each note.
In this lesson, you’ll learn something a little different: the beautiful Irish waltz “Star of the County Down.” It’s not only a fun tune to play but, since it has a fairly simple melody, is a good chance to work on your tone and intonation. You’ll learn the melody, a few variations and embellishments, and how to play the melody in the lower octave.
The fiddle tune “Cluck Old Hen” is an old-time classic. It uses the A minor pentatonic scale, so Chad starts by making sure you know that scale, and then breaks down the melody of “Cluck Old Hen” phrase by phrase. After you’ve learned the melody, Chad shows you some layers to add, including hammer-ons, double stringing, double stops, and a bow sweep. He also gives you advice on giving a nice attack with your bow to the hammer-on and shows you how to anticipate the beginnings of phrases.
The beautiful waltz “Midnight on the Water” was written by Luke Thomasson, father of Benny Thomasson, one of the major innovators of Texas-style fiddling. “Midnight on the Water” is played in a cross-tuning, with the G and E strings tuned down to D: DDAD. Chad shows you how to tune to DDAD, how to add a steady pulse with the bow to the melody of the A part, which drone strings and double stops to play, and a few variations on the melody of the A part.
“Scotland” is a three-part fiddle tune in the key of A written by Bill Monroe. It has a simple melody played mostly on the A and E strings, and it can be played with A or E drones to imitate the Scottish bagpipes.
“Ora Lee” is a great old-time fiddle tune in the key of G. Chad walks you through the melody and shows you the bowing he uses to play “Ora Lee,” including pulses, three-note slurs, and slurred string crossings.
“Eighth of January” may be the only old-time fiddle tune that made it to the top of the pop charts— as “The Battle of New Orleans,” sung by country singer Johnny Horton in 1959. But, of course, it’s also a popular tune at bluegrass and old-time jam sessions.
The old-time fiddle tune “Arkansas Traveler” is one of the most popular fiddle tunes and is played at jam sessions everywhere. You’ll learn a basic version of the melody and then a version with fiddle layers, shuffle bowing, and variations. Chad also gives you ideas about improvising rhythmically on the basic melody.
“Goodbye Liza Jane” is a fiddle jam session favorite popular in old-time, bluegrass, traditional jazz, and western swing circles. It was published as a song in 1916, but likely dates back to the mid-1800s and minstrel shows. Chad teaches you a basic version of the melody and also shows you some more elaborate variations on the A part.