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Best American Fiddle Books and Resources for Teaching, Learning and Exploring

Laurie Niles

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Published: December 15, 2014 at 11:04 PM [UTC]

For many years, violin teachers have been helping their students explore fiddle and folk music in addition to their classical studies. With help from a lot of great teachers (listed at the end of this article) I've compiled a list of some of the best resources to help teachers, students and musicians explore various types of fiddle music and American music. Categories I've included are fiddle (which includes a variety of kinds of fiddle music), Canadian fiddle, and a few entries for jazz, rock and tango. In the future I hope to make other (or expanded) lists for genres like gypsy, klezmer, mariachi, Indian, jazz, etc. (Tell me which you'd like, most!)

Below, if you click on the name of the book, CD or method, in most cases that will bring you to the link for how to buy it. There are also some great books out there that are either out-of-print or not available on the Internet, and I wanted you to be aware of them anyway. If you wish to find those, I have given links that should provide a lead, and you also might check with your local library or university music library.

I hope this list of resources helps in your learning, teaching and exploration of fiddle music. If you have additional resources to share, please do so in the comments section or e-mail me with your ideas. Enjoy!

FIDDLE

fiddlerABCtunes
A collecting point for folk tunes. Very helpful to get basic versions and many versions of standard fiddle tunes

The Children's Session Book, by Karen Ashbrook
For kids that want to learn Irish tunes.

The Fiddle Series, by Greg Baker
Five books, plus his Fiddle Workshop I and II. Hard to find! Consider looking in a library for this book.

Fiddle Tunes for the Violinist and Violin Pieces Country Style, by Betty M. Barlow
Beginner and first-position pieces, arranged in order of difficulty, with piano accompaniment.

Barrage
Arrangements from the Canadian band "Barrage," which performs a mix of fiddle, folk, and world music. Intermediate-advanced.

Mel Bay books for violin and fiddle
Mel Bay has more books for fiddle than anyone can possibly describe. Explore them with the link above.

Fiddle Heart Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes, by Göran Berg
Three volumes of Scandinavian fiddle tunes. "Fabulous!"

The Fiddler's Fakebook: The Ultimate Sourcebook For The Traditional Fiddler, by David Brody (Oak Publications)
"This is not a method book, and it isn't really a 'fakebook' in the sense of giving a barebones melody with chord analysis, but it is a good place for teachers or students to go to if they want some ideas about what a particular tune could be like but they don't have a recording or a fiddler handy to go ask. As fiddle tunes morph with age and location, it's only a snapshot of what some fiddlers of the time were doing in recordings, at the time of publication, not a source for what a tune is in it's basic format," said Jenny Visick.

A Guide to American Fiddling, by Andy Carlson
Andrew Carlson provides a detailed technical analysis of Missouri-style fiddling, focusing primarily on the use of the bow. Carlson further offers a comparison of classical and non-classical techniques, a brief history of American fiddling, plus 23 traditional tunes with authentic bowing indications. A CD recording of the tunes is included.

Millionaires Hoedown by Herman Clebenoff
Great for the intermediate-level student. Also available in Solos for Young Violinists, Vol. 2 by Barbara Barber.

European Fiddle Tunes by Pete Cooper
Tunes by British fiddler Pete Cooper, all published by Schott; each book comes with a CD of the tunes played by Pete Cooper.
Irish Fiddle Solos (64 tunes)
English Fiddle Tunes (99 tunes)
Eastern European Fiddle Tunes (80 tunes)

Fiddlers Philharmonic, by Andrew Dabczynski and Bob Phillips
"I am a classroom teacher, but I like Fiddlers Philharmonic. It has easy to make into arrangements versions, and solo versions of each piece in each book," said Kristen Herbert Vance.

Fiddlin' Favorites, by Lisa Manning Deakins
Traditional Bluegrass Fiddle Tunes that correlates with Suzuki Method Violin Books 1 and 2. Compiled, edited, and arranged by Lisa Deakins. This book and digital recording set includes more than 15 solo tunes, several ways to begin and end tunes, and twin fiddling duets.

String Connection Music Book, Vol. 1 and 2, by John Dewey
Fiddle books with CDs (looks like you need to contact John Dewey to obtain the books)

Top Fiddle Solos, by Craig Duncan
60 fiddle tunes, including Dueling Fiddles; Rocky Top; Black Mountain Rag; Tennessee Waltz; Faded Love; Cajun Fiddle; Jole Blon; Gardenia Waltz; Draggin' the Bow; Granny Does Your Dog Bite?; Black-Eyed Suzie; Wabash Cannonball

Elmore Fiddle Camp, by Randy Elmore
Randy Elmore has a fiddle camp and has 10 books with Cd's that can be back-ordered. His specialty is Texas Fiddle/Western Swing. His books also have great tunes taught by all the great players/teachers: the Morrises, Wes Westmoreland, Katie Holmes, Phoebe Hunt, Marty Elmore, Valerie O'Briens. His tunes are usually just the original 2 parts, then it's up to the fiddler to dress them up with variations, but his tunes are usually obscure and fun (whip the devil around the stump, 49 cats in a rain barrel etc...kids like the titles )

String Groove, by Edgar Gabriel
Book and CD with original tunes in the styles of: Irish Fiddle, Smooth Jazz, Jazz Blues, Rock, Middle-Eastern, Old-time Fiddle, Salsa, Heavy-Metal, Cajun Fiddle, Rock Blues, Swing Jazz, Funk. Aimed at teaching improvisation.

Fiddlescapes by Deborah Greenblatt
By Deborah Greenblatt, the past Nebraska State and Mid-America fiddle champion. Contains many tunes from hoedowns to waltzes of all levels of difficulty. Tips on how to buy and take care of a fiddle; performing in fiddle contests; what to do and what to play; backup techniques; and much more.

Fairfield Fiddle Farm, by Charles Hall
Books and CDs for beginners through Suzuki Book 3 and beyond

CountryDance! by Canadian composer Donald Heins

American Fiddler, by Edward Huws Jones
This is just one of an extensive fiddler series by Edward Huws Jones, who has also written an entire series of Fiddler books for students including Celtic, Greek, French, Klezmer, Christmas and more.

Fun Improvisation for Violin and Musical Improvisation for Children, by Alice Kay Kanack
A child-friendly introduction to improvisation, using 28 musical exercises and play-along ideas. (Book and CD)

The Contemporary Violinist, by Julie Lyonn Lieberman
An exploration of fiddle and violin styles, with dozens of left- and right-hand exercises and tunes designed to help develop the feel of a variety of styles and ways they can be used for improvisation.

Bluegrass Fiddle, by Gene Lowinger
Focus on bluegrass and country, covering right-hand techniques, double stops, slurs and slides; with 29 bluegrass and 14 traditional tunes in standard music notation.

The Maine Fiddle Camp website
The Maine Fiddle Camp website has a tunes section with sheet music and mp3s of many popular fiddle tunes.

The Fiddle Club, by Dean Marshall and John Crozman
By the creators of Barrage, fiddle tunes for the beginning and intermediate student. With piano and guitar accompaniments available as well as a CD.

300 Fiddle Tunes, by Ron Middlebrook (Centerstream Publishing)
This comprehensive collection of fiddle tunes that includes reels, hornpipes, strathspeys, jigs, waltzes and slow airs. (Scroll to the bottom of the above link)

Learn to Play Irish Trad Fiddle by Tom Morley
The histories are with the pieces, and it includes a super helpful CD, making it a fine resource. Pieces can easily be made more challenging if needed. Students of all levels love them.

Ruffwater Fake Book, edited by Judi Morningstar
117 reels and 52 jigs. Great for combining tunes in similar keys, easy to read. With chords.

The Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, by Stacy Phillips (Mel Bay) (Scroll down to find book)
Volume One contains Hoedowns, Breakdowns, and Reels.
Volume Two contains Rags, Blues, Listening Pieces, Waltzes, Jigs, Hornpipes

TheSession.org
A huge online collection of Celtic and American fiddle tunes.

The Portland Collection, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Susan Songer and Clyde Curley
Two volumes. Hundreds of jigs and reels from the Portland, Oregon contra dance repertoire. Irish, Scottish, Québécois, Appalachian, and New England genres are represented. The tunes are both traditional and recently composed, from local treasures to national contra dance standards. There is an extensive commentary on every tune including stories about the tunes from their composers. There are chord suggestions, a discography, a bibliography, and more. Little, if any, overlap with the tunes in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Ashokan Farewell, by Jay Ungar
Ashokan Farewell is best known as the theme from Kenneth Burns' Civil War television documentary. This is the music to Jay Ungar's authorized solo edition as performed in the documentary series, arranged for violin with piano accompaniment and suggested chord symbols for optional guitar and bass. Also by Jay Unger, Lovers Waltz.

Walker Family Band
American-Irish music from this family band, which also holds summer camps and workshops.

Children's Fiddle Method Books 1 & 2, by Carol Ann Wheeler (Mel Bay)
Has different versions of songs - basic, then rhythm and/ or bowing variations.

The American Fiddle Method, by Brian Wicklund
The method uses traditional tunes in a step-by-step progression, and covers important concepts like ensemble playing, improvisation, and 'jamming' skills. The book includes a CD for listening and play-along. Volume 1 is geared towards beginning to intermediate-level players.

Martha Yasuda arrangements
Her American-themed arrangements include: American Melodies Double Stop Solos and Duets, American Melodies for Four Violins, Cell-Phone Symphony for Four (intermediate to advanced violinists.)

Fiddleworks 1, 2, and 3, by Zav RT (Frederick Harris Music)
Three progressive volumes of jigs, waltzes, reels, marches, as well as Old Time, Celtic, Eastern European, and North American tunes. CD included with three tracks per song: one performance speed, one practice speed and one accompaniment only.Canadian fiddler Zav RT composed and recorded these works. Great fun!

CANADIAN FIDDLE

The Dungreen Collection - Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton, by Kate Dunlay and David Greenberg (1996)
Detailed transcriptions of tunes performed by recognized greats of Cape Breton fiddling. Includes details seldom seen in books of fiddle music (bow pressure, intelligent discussion of how modes affect harmony, a discography & history for every tune, a listing & explanation of ornament symbols and a truly informative introduction) A must-read for anyone new to Cape Breton music. It appears to be out of print, but here is a starting point (Also, consider searching a library, if you are very interested in this book)

Danse ce soir! Tunebook: Fiddle & accordion music of Québec, by Laurie Hart
Extensive background information, maps, photos, and chords. The book has 122 reels, 6/8s & waltzes, including all the tunes on the CD. Co-author is pianist Greg Sandell. She has a mixture of Euro- American music.

Teaching CDs by Laura Risk
"Tunes 2001" includes two CDs with 65 well-known tunes from Scotland, Cape Breton, Ireland, Quebec and New England, each played fast and then slow. A great way to get better at learning by ear.

The Fiddle Music of Newfoundland and Labrador - Volumes 1 and 2, collected by Kelly Russell
Volume 1: 250 fiddle tunes learned from master fiddlers Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit.
Volume 2: features the tunes of 24 other Newfoundland and Labrador fiddlers

The Easiest Dance Tunes from Newfoundland and Labrador, compiled by Christina Smith
Easy-to-play, Newfoundland fiddle tunes. Old favorites (like Mussels in the Corner, Auntie Mary, She Said She Couldn’t Dance and Now I’m 64) along with many unique tunes never previously published. Graded in order of difficulty for fiddle.

Canadian Old Time Fiddle Hits, by Gordon Stobbe
Compiled by Gordon Stobbe, he has three fiddle books, plus he Fiddler's Red Book of Scales and Arpeggios and a book of Waltzes. Stobbe contacted fiddlers and asked them to list the most commonly played tunes at jams & dances and compiled this lists into these books. CD with each volume.

JAZZ

Jamey Aebersold Jazz: Aebersold Play-A-Longs
Books and CDs of jazz standards -- kind of a karaoke system for practicing jazz improv.

Stylistic Duets for Two Violins, by Jeremy Cohen
Nice jazz duets for the intermediate to advanced student. His website also includes Mexican, Tango, and lots more Jazz, including Dave Brubeck for string quartet.

Scott Joplin Ragtime Favourites, arr. by Colin Cowles (Fentone Music)
Violin - Book/CD set.

Jazz Violin by Matt Glaser and Stephane Grappelli
A comprehensive method for playing "hot fiddle," including accurate transcriptions of over 25 solos as played by Grappelli, Joe Venuti and others. Also includes original interviews and tips on improvising from the masters, a complete analysis of each solo, rare historical photos, and an informative discography.

Jazz Improvisation Made Easy by Jody Harmon and John Blake
A modal play-along improvisation method that works well with Suzuki students Bk. 2 and up,

Creative Strings Academy, with Christian Howes
A comprehensive and popular body of instructional materials for "improvising string players."

Jazz Fiddle Wizard by Martin Norgaard
Jazz string methods.

ROCK

Electrify your Strings, by Mark Wood
School workshops for kids by electric violinist Mark Wood, with arrangements of classic rock and contemporary music.


AMERICAN SOUTHWEST

Folk Melodies of New Mexico and the Southwest, by Susan Kempter and team
About 40 melodies, arranged in pedagogical order, with a history and settings when available, along with photographs, teaching points and changes that were made to the original transcriptions, with CD. To be published in 2015.

TANGO

Care to Tango, by Michael McLean
Fun tango duets for the intermediate student.

* * *

Many thanks to the following teachers for contributing to this list: Jody Harmon, Kristen Herbert Vance, Becky Lennon, Sarah Montzka, Laura Dalbey, Martha Yasuda, Marcos Kreutzer, Jenny Visick , Michael Fox, Redding Farlow Soderberg, Danielle Gomez, Göran Berg, Julianna Chitwood , Douglas Locke, Keenan Christensen Fletcher, Suzanne Edwards, Linda Louise Ford, S Ann Schluter, Rebecca Appert Kaltz, Julie 'Bamberger' Roubik , Sarah Skreko, Rafael Videira , Nathan Allen Wood, Vera Dragicevich, Laura Nerenberg, Aimee Morrill Briant. Thanks also to Kerstin Wartberg and the Suzuki Teaching Ideas Exchange Facebook group.


From 96.251.145.225
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 2:36 AM
The Maine Fiddlecamp website has a tunes section with sheet music and mp3s of many poluar tunes.

http://www.mainefiddlecamp.org/tunes/

From 96.251.145.225
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 2:39 AM
This is one of my favourite resources for fiddle music.
https://thesession.org/
From Paul Deck
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 3:07 AM
Wow!! Thanks for this stupendous compendium (neologism: stupendium)! Let me put in a plug for Brian Wicklund's books, they're really high quality, and he has one that is Canadian fiddle tunes that he did in collaboration with April Verch, which wasn't mentioned in your Canadian list, but it's real good. Suzuki teachers will appreciate how Brian recommends very standard classical hand positions and other aspects of basic technique.

I've also got Brody's "Fiddler's Fakebook" which is an encyclopedic resource, and the great thing is that each page lists recording (often several) where you can hear those tunes played. Some of the tunes (one example: Vassar Clements's tune "Avalanche") are more like transcriptions than lead sheets, which is awesome. My only complaint is that the book is in a landscape format and bound in such a way that it is not easy to read and does not lie flat on your stand. Portrait and a spiral or plastic comb binding and more space devoted to the lead sheet would have been more fake-book-like. (David -- you getting that?)

From 108.192.103.89
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 4:17 AM
This is a great list but I hope that people will remember that fiddling is primarily an aural tradition and the various styles typically have elements that are impossible to notate with printed music [unless like in the DunGreen collection, the author invents notation additions to capture the intricacies], and also contain some degree of improvisation. The "dots" are most useful once you are well-versed in a folk style and and can use them as a framework and fill in the gaps. Listening to and learning from other fiddlers, ideally in a live situation where you can get a feel for the improvisatory aspects, is essential for mastering any fiddle style.
From 76.113.54.139
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 5:30 AM
Tom Morley's Irish fiddle book(s) are great! The histories are with the pieces and it includes a super helpful CD making it a fine resource. Pieces can easily be made more challenging if needed. My students of all levels love them.
From Gene Wie
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 7:38 AM
It's good to have start somewhere, even if it is out of a book.

If you don't have the resources to fly an actual airplane, a flight simulator is still quite enjoyable, educational, and a way to at least get a start on figuring out the basics.

From Jesús Fernández
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM
What about blues? I've been practicing with "Blues Fiddling Classics", by Craig Duncan, and "Rockin' Out with Blues Fiddle" I think violin is a great instrument for blues.
From 72.52.91.30
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 2:38 PM
I'd also recommend the following by the British fiddler Pete Cooper, all published by Schott:
Irish Fiddle Solos ISMN M-2201-2233-0 (64 tunes)
English Fiddle Tunes ISMN M-2201-2376-4 (99 tunes)
Eastern European Fiddle Tunes ISMN M-2201-2543-0 (80 tunes)

Each book comes with a CD of the tunes played by Pete Cooper.


From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 2:46 PM
Really true, that it's an aural tradition, and that makes the relationship with (and integrity of) your teacher ever the more important! But for people who don't have that kind of access at the moment and wish to explore, I hope this helps. A number of my own students go to a bluegrass festival every year, and they just get out their fiddles and play whatever is in the air. I can't imagine that anything beats that!

Also, keep the suggestions coming! I'll compile them, format them, and add them. Also, include links if possible.

From 99.113.36.57
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 5:19 PM
For folks with an interest in Jazz, there is "Jazz Violin" by Matt Glaser and Stephane Grappelli.
I'm not sure if it is in print, but there are some for sale on E-Bay.
From Sarah Skreko
Posted on December 16, 2014 at 7:49 PM
Even for an aural tradition, it's nice to have sheet music if you know how to use it. For instance, I've spent enough time with Irish music that I can read down a jig and it will sound like a jig. It's a cheap shortcut to learning it by ear, yes, but sometimes it's worth it and/or necessary.

Thank you for this wonderful list, Laurie.

From Joel Jacklich
Posted on December 21, 2014 at 7:59 PM
Perhaps the greatest contributor to the field of Scottish fiddle was James Scott Skinner. The University of Aberdeen has an extensive collection on-line:
http://www.abdn.ac.uk/scottskinner/introduction.shtml
From Brent Hudson
Posted on December 21, 2014 at 8:07 PM
Then there's (uncomfortably absent): http://www.oconnormethod.com/

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