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Learn to Play Fiddle with Shady Grove Free Fiddle Lesson

Using Fiddle Tab to Learn "Shady Grove"

Check out the fiddle lesson in Shady Grove first and then decide if you want more.

The numbers on the tab chart correspond to fingers. One is the index or pointing finger. Two is the middle finger, "tall man." (You do remember the finger song, don't you?) Three is the ring finger. And four is the pinkie. No finger is signified by a zero. That means the open string is played.

The joke is--fiddlers only have to count to four. Four fingers, four beats. And it is true, in rhythm we do count to four quite often. Sometimes we count "one, two, three, four." Sometimes we count by tapping out foot and feeling or sensing which beat is one. Sometimes the process is completely internal, with no outward evidence that counting and beat keeping is going on..

If you have not, this sample lesson is a good place to start being aware of the beat.

In tab notation, the rhythm or beat indication is much like in standard music notation, (SMN). This is a simple system developed hundreds of years ago. It hasn't changed significantly since music started being printed.

When you look at the tab staff you see the five horizontal lines marking off the four spaces corresponding to four violin strings. If you hold your fiddle in front of you, the top facing you, and the neck on the left side, then you will see the strings in the same order as in the tab staff. The E string is on top, then the A, followed by the D, and G on the bottom..

The small vertical lines you see descending from the numbers, (indicating fingers), signify the beat or the rhythm. I call those lines "stems" just as I would in SMN. One stem descending from one number indicates one beat.

When we get into "Shady Grove" you will see some numbers are circled. That means two beats are allotted to that note. Further on, we will look at the shuffle bow version of "Shady Grove." You will see that two descending lines may be connected with a short horizontal line, (called a beam). These two notes are played in one beat. Download Shady Grove Shuffle Example.

 

There is a rhythm convention in fiddle tunes published in SMN that I also use in tab. Musicians call this convention "cut time." Think of it this way: instead of counting two beats for the circled note, you play fast enough so that it only gets one beat.

There is a rhythm convention in fiddle tunes published in SMN that I also use in tab. Musicians call this convention "cut time." Think of it this way: instead of counting two beats for the circled note, you play fast enough so that it only gets one beat.

There are more considerations of rhythm notation. They will be taken up as needed. For now, make it your goal to master the shuffle rhythm. Once you have it steady and fast enough to move in cut time, you are ready for the next step: grooving your shuffle.

That's the next lesson. This is what distinguished fiddlers from scrapers. You are not just scratching the strings with your bow. You are playing a tune in a danceable rhythm with a definite groove.

The melody of "Shady Grove" is certainly well known to folkies. Its haunting flow and familiarity comes from the minor mode that it is in.

This minor mode sound is produced when you play fingering from the D scale and the tone center, or home note is B. It gives the song a wistful, plaintive quality.

To help you get acquainted with the fingering in the key of D, let's start by playing the D scale the open D string to the D note played by the third finger on the A string. Download D scale

Now extend the D scale to the E string. Play the notes of the scale on that string. Download D extend.

You will notice the placement of the second finger on the E string. It is in the low position for this finger. And is so indicated by the 'L ' just above the number. But, in the melody for "Shady Grove" it is not required. You will begin using this note more when you learn to play "Old Joe Clark."

Finally, let's play the minor scale that matches the key of the tune. Download B minor.

 

This has been a long page of instruction. You've made it this far. Congratulations!
Now we move on to the tune itself. First in simple saw stroke style. Then, the same tune played in shuffle bow. Click on Shady Grove.

 

 

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