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Fiddler's Tune-Book (The)

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  • Model: TN804-B
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 52pp Soft cover 297mm X 210mm (A4)

Introduction
The hollow'' is the of iginal inti oduction from the 1955 reprint of the lust
Fiddlers Tune-Boob ." rrprodrred herr with only very minor editorial amendments:
The Fiddler's Tune-Book has been compiled for, good practical purpose. Barn dances, square dancing, country dance and reel clubs are becoming increasingly popular with consequently a growing interest in the traditional dance music.

There is a great shortage of musicians who can play satisfactorily for this type of dancing and in England a considerable need for books of suitable tunes. Folk dance tunes are also useful for students learning melodic instruments of all kinds. They are good "practice pieces" because they are musically satisfying without accompaniment. They are, also, good studies for the quick movements of Handel and Bach.

Of several hundred airs which I have encountered during the last few years, only two hundred appear in this book. This collection will at least serve as the beginnings for the basic stock-in-trade of a folk dance musician. The tunes have been selected according to their popularity among the present generation of folk dance musicians. Most of them are still played by country fiddlers, melodeon and concertina players in localities ranging from Northumberland to Cornwall. Most of the tunes have already appeared in printed collections, but many of these are not now easy to obtain.

The particular form of these tunes has been moulded by the rhythmical technique used for dance purposes. Many were, no doubt, originally song lyrics which have then been adopted by the country musicians to set to various traditional dances. They should as far as possible be played with the rhythmical characteristics required for the particular type of dance-jig, reel, hornpipewhatever it may be.

The hornpipe is a step-dance originally in three-two time but now it has four marked beats in a bar, like "The Sailor's Hornpipe" and is played slowly. The jig is another type of step-dance in sixeight time. Both hornpipe and jig airs are used for country dances. The reel is a faster moving weaving or chain dance, often with stepping, but the rhythm is more continuous and without the marked emphasis on each beat. The polka, schottische and waltz are couple dances with special rhythmical characteristics, but their tunes are also frequently used for various types of country dance. In fact nearly every folk dance tune is capable of being adapted to other dances by changing the rhythm.

There is a popular misconception that this type of British folk dance music is either Scottish of Irish. A large number of the country dance tunes, in particular the hornpipes, must have originated in England, though it was at one time fashionable for reels to be given Scottish names and jigs Irish ones. Two tunes, now very popular in Scotland, "Petronella" and "The Dashing White Sergeant" are referred to in early Scottish ballroom companions as "English country dances" : This nationalistic grouping of tunes has been rather over-stressed and is of more recent date than the tunes themselves. In any case it would do no harm if the English claimed a share in the body of traditional dance music common to these islands.
Fiddling "

The "traditional" dance instrument is undoubtedly the "fiddle" and most of the tunes in this book have derived their nature through the medium of this instrument.
The older country fiddlers play their instruments in a manner rather different from the modern violinist. They prefer a flat bridge, as it allows easy cross-bowing, double stopping and the use of sympathetic drones. No chin rest is required as they hold their instrument in the ancient manner against the chest or upper arm. The neck of the fiddle is firmly grasped with the flat of the left hand.

The tunes are generally played in the "fiddle" keys (G, D and A) and seldom go beyond the first position. The bow is held some distance from the foot giving rapid manipulation with the shorter leverage. There are advantages in this manner of playing the fiddle. Playing for dancing requires considerable physical endurance and the production of plenty of volume. The player must be able to hear the M.C. or "caller" and even to be able to "call" the figures himself, without being drowned by the sound of his own fiddle.

Like country singers, traditional fiddlers use the "natural" or untempered scale, frequently flattening the third and seventh notes and raising the fourth. (For a more detailed study of this scale see "The Handbook of Irish Music" by Rev. R. Henebry (London 1928) and "The Journal of the Folk Song Society", London, Volume 12, Percy Grainger).

When several traditional fiddlers play together, they will often play by ear in a simple type of "fiddle accompaniment'! One will put in a second part following the pattern of the melody, at the same time keeping the "lilting" technique of "drops and raises". If there are other fiddlers they will perhaps add chords with double stopping. In Sweden this type of fiddle band is now quite common and players' clubs to encourage fiddling for dancing are increasing in number each year.

'Drops and Raises "
Good dance music has an infectious rhythm that makes you want to tap out the beats with your toes. This rhythm on the fiddle is created by the traditional technique, or as the country musicians call it, by the "drops and raises".

I must emphasise that the musical notations in this book cannot give more than an indication of what should be played. If one tried to write out a comprehensive notation, it would not only be impossible to read quickly but might fill several pages. Only the main bones of the melody are indicated in the notation. The flesh and blood must grow out of the playing.
The traditional musician does not look on the tunes as a succession of notes of specific length, played on specific beats. Since he seldom has any form of rhythm accompaniment, he has to make the dance melody complete in itself by creating a flowing line which is continually pulsating. This effect is produced by all sorts of "tricks of the trade"-appoggiatura, slides, turns and other graces--not just put in for decorative embellishment, but used as rhythmical contrivances for a practical purpose.

This rhythmical technique gives the pulsating effect the dancers call "lilt"' But it also gives continuity. The shimmering melodic line, fluctuating from weak to strong, flat to sharp, short notes to long, soft to loud, gives a continuous living environment for the pulsations, Continuity is also aided by the occasional use of drones. The melody notes themselves are never held without fluctuating except for some very special reason.
The technique of "drops and raises" is a subtle method of producing rhythmical music for dancing by means of the melody alone. The whole process is perhaps rather contrary to modern playing of classical music, but it is essential for the proper playing of traditional dance tunes.

Keyboard instruments and the science of harmony based on the tempered scale have led classical musicians to other means of musical expression, but the composers of the 17th and 19th centuries and possibly earlier wrote for players who had inherited this melodic technique. Evidence of this can be found in the various handbooks written for the musicians of that period, such as John Playford's "Introduction to the Skill of Music" (More recently we have Arnold Dolmetsch's "Interpretation", which is a scholarly study of this melodic technique).

In the past, of course, this technique was inherited, passed on by ear from father to son and kept sharp and polished by long hours of practice during the winter evenings in the farmhouse. Inheriting the technique "traditionally" makes for a standard of dance playing very difficult to acquire in any other way. Let me repeat that the tunes in this book are only outlined in the notation and some wider experience is required than learning to play them from the printed page. Listening to recordings of good traditional players or better still, listening to them in the flesh, will inform the fiddler as no notation can do.
PETER KENNEDY 1951




This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 06 August, 2008.