Sunday, March 31, 2013

The 25 Fiddle Tunes You Are Supposed To Know

I saw a young oldtime fiddler play a handful of tunes the other night.  With no sense of irony whatsoever, he played the hell out of a couple standards that are often considered to be cliche or overplayed - Cotton Eyed Joe and Bile 'Em Cabbage Down - and one other tune that's almost in that category - Sail Away Ladies.  I don't think I know how to play any of those, sadly, but I was reminded of the importance of learning these overlooked tunes.
As someone who came to this tradition as an outsider, I've really only learned the tunes that I've been exposed to in the last couple years through local oldtime jams.  The people at those jams are usually more advanced than me, or at least have been doing it longer, so they've sometimes moved past the "popular" tunes in favor of more unique ones. Because of this, some of the obscure tunes seem common to me, and the ones that you're expected to know are ones that I haven't had the opportunity or incentive to learn.

This got me to thinking about assembling a list of the 25 Fiddle Tunes You Are Supposed To Know.  Since people purposely avoid some of these tunes, they aren't as overplayed as you might think. It might be fun to revisit some of these tunes, even if they are on your "do not play list", to see how they fall under your fingers now.

Angeline the Baker
Arkansas Traveler
Bile 'Em Cabbage Down
Bill Cheatam
Billy in the Lowground
Blackberry Blossom
Cluck Old Hen
Cripple Creek
Devil's Dream
Fisher's Hornpipe
Forked Deer
Girl I Left Behind Me
June Apple
Old Joe Clark
Ragtime Annie
Red Haired Boy
Red Wing
Sail Away Ladies
Soldier's Joy
St. Anne's Reel
Temperance Reel
Turkey in the Straw
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Wildwood Flower

Number 26 might be Irish Washerwoman, which is a prime example of a Celtic tune that everyone supposedly knows but never plays. I actually like the sound of that one, so it might be worth adding to the list too.

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