Bluegrass Your Fiddle Part 8

Bluegrass Fiddle Tuition by Rick Townend

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Bluegrass your Fiddle Part 8

Twin Fiddles

They say you can't have too much of a good thing so, if you're really into the sound of the fiddle, why not double it up. Bill Monroe used twin fiddles a lot, and so did many other bands in the 50s and early 60s, including Jim Eanes & the Shenandoah Valley Boys, and even Reno & Smiley and the Stanley Brothers on odd tracks. But it was Bill Clifton's records that first drew me to that fuller, richer sound, imitating the vocal harmonies, and with some extra attractions of its own. Bill used Tommy Jackson, Benny Martin, Gordon Terry, Cal Newman and Carl Nelson on the early tracks, Tommy Jackson and Buddy Spicher for the Carter Family Tribute album, and Paul and Roy Justice for "The Code of the Mountains" and "Soldier Sing me a Song": all excellent players who stamped their characters on the twin fiddle arrangements. Music for part 8A

When Bill was over last year for the south-east area Mayfest, I transcribed a few of the breaks and Bob Winquist and 1 played with him at the concert in Hastings. Let's have a look at "You go to Your Church and I'll go to mine" [8-1], which has a nice straight-forward melody in A, ideal for adding harmonies to on the fiddle: no tune notes above C# (on the A-string), so the harmony fiddle can easily work in 'two-harmony-parts- above-the-tune1 mode. As you can see, the fiddle-break is on the verse, while the vocal harmonies are on the first half of the chorus - a different melody - so no duplication is involved, which is a bonus. Music for part 8B

[8-2] is the intro to "Mid the Green Fields of Virginia", which Bill sings in the key of F. This may be an unpopular key with some bluegrass fiddlers, but it should be a point of honour that you don't gripe: the singer must choose the key which is right for his voice, and it's up to you to find something interesting and appropriate for the fiddle in that key. Tommy and Buddy have a lovely 'floating' feel to this 8-bar 'half-break', and manage to work in a lot of extra quality - note the use of what is effectively an Eb triad to signal the change to Bb, for example. Notice too that although the harmony fiddle works 'around' the melody line mostly, in the penultimate bars it flits to 'two-parts-above' to avoid some ugly left-hand fingering. Music for part 8C

For something a bit more "fruity", have a look at [8-3], which is the 'turn-around' intro to "Mary Dear". Here the lead fiddle plays the open E-string along with the melody - as it might well if playing solo anyway. However, when the harmony parts are added the effect is considerably enhanced I'll be covering more about twin fiddles in part 9 of 'Bluegrass your fiddle'.



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