The Way of the Fiddle

One Fiddler's Collection of Old-Time Tunes

This is a collection of old-time fiddle tunes — most of them from Appalachia — that I collected for my own use and would like to share with other fiddlers who love this kind music. Clicking on the title of any tune below will take you to a page of sheet music in PDF format. As far as I'm concerned you may use this music in any way you like as long as you don't sell it. "Freely ye have received; freely give." To my knowledge all of these tunes are in the public domain; if not, I hope someone will correct me.
 If you're one of the few people who don't already have some sort of PDF reader on your computer, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free from Adobe's web site.

Sources and "Authenticity": I put the sheet music together by transcribing recordings, consulting printed versions of the tunes, and making my own adjustments. You should not treat any of these transcriptions as "authentic" versions or accurate reflections of any particular fiddler's playing. Two different fiddlers will almost always play the same tune differently, and the same fiddler will often vary his playing substantially between performances and between verses within the same performance. I have felt free to combine two different versions to suit my own preferences, and even to change notes to suit my taste and fiddling skills.
 If you want something more authentic, one superb source I can recommend is Jeff Todd Titon's Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes (University of Kentucky Press). Another great (and bigger, and more diverse) source of American fiddle tunes is Stacy Phillips' Phillips Collection of American Fiddle Tunes, Vol. 1 (Mel Bay Pub.). You should also know about Andrew Kuntz's Fiddler's Companion, a massive online compendium of information about thousands of fiddle tunes.

A few comments on the transcriptions: The music is in standard notation. Some people prefer 'tabs', but I think traditional notation is much more useful, and well worth the small trouble of learning how to read it. Sometimes a source is listed in the "composer" slot below the title; this usually refers to the musician who was the main source for the tune — probably not the composer. These tunes usually evolved over many years, and trying to identify a 'composer' is useless. This style of fiddling makes liberal use of drone strings; usually I haven't tried to notate the drones. Which drones to use are in my opinion fairly obvious. Some old-time fiddlers 'keep a full fiddle,' using drones almost constantly; others (my preference) use them more selectively for emphasis. Experiment, listen to recordings, and enjoy yourself.
  Usually you won't find any metronome markings or chords. Most of these tunes were originally played on solo fiddle, or with a banjo doubling the melody or playing a drone-like accompaniment, and were not composed with chord progressions in mind. A given tune might be played at very different speeds depending on circumstances, so providing a 'correct' tempo would be misleading. A metronome setting from about 96 up to about 120 will cover the usual range of tempos. In my opinion, today's 'festival' fiddlers tend to play many of these tunes too quickly to bring out the richness of the music. But maybe I'm just trying to rationalize my relative lack of skill.
  In my efforts to transcribe tunes from recordings, I've gotten a lot of help from a program called Amazing Slow Downer, which allows me to slow a recorded tune to any speed without changing its pitch; to loop a few bars of a tune; or to adjust the pitch. Useful, recommended.

To contact me with questions or comments, email: hamartolos at gmail dot com.

The Tunes, listed alphabetically

Most recent update: October 9, 2007.
Current tune total: 58