Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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For a small group of beginners who are just learning the idea of the dance, a piano is quite sufficient. But if the group begins to get good, they will want authentic music, which means that a good old-time fiddler must be found, and it is surprising how a little inquiry will usually discover one in any community. Most carefully schooled violinists simply cannot produce the authentic flavor. "Fiddlers" have mas­tered a proud craft all their own. They consider it a dis­grace to be a "note-reader." They have learned to fiddle by ear from some other old-time fiddler. And they usually learned to fiddle when they were little boys.
What they lack in concert technique, they more than make up in dexterity and endurance and inviolable rhythm. They usually tuck their fiddle under their chins in the standard fashion, but they hold it at any bizarre angle that suits their individual fancy. One of the best fiddlers I know never tucks his instrument under his chin, but holds it in the crook of his elbow, lying out along his forearm, curling his long fingers up around the strings with amazing dex­terity, and swinging his bow in long sweeps back and forth in front of his waist. Another fine fiddler I know, because of an accident, had to give up the standard position for awhile, and perfected a style in which he holds his fiddle propped up vertically on his knee, strings away from his body like a tiny cello, and ready for a nice long comfortable sweep of his bow arm. He found this position so good that he never changed back again.
When you have found your old fiddler, he will usually have to furnish his own pianist. For since he is not a "note reader," a regular pianist, with printed music before her, worries him till he cannot play. He usually knows a "woman" who can either play chords to his music or who can elaborate those chords into a full and figured melody. But they must be teamed and used to each other or the fiddler cannot play at all. With these two old-time musicians it is customary to have a "strummer" who beats out the rhythm with either a guitar or a banjo. Sometimes drums are added to these three. Or a big base fiddle, plucked, not bowed, gives worlds of good rhythm. In fact, one of these good big-toned "bull fiddles," and an accordion, to accompany your old-time fiddler, makes a combination that is hard to beat.
A modern jazz orchestra with its saxophones and clari­nets, somehow cannot supply authentic flavor. If a real

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