Friday, July 14, 2017

Crash Course in Appalachian Fiddling

I am taking a self-taught, or autodidactic, course in Appalachian fiddling. I was enlisted by Great Trail Festival to play for the Cedar Valley Cloggers this year, and Celtic tunes won't necessarily work well at the tempos required by cloggers, so I'm learning Appalachian tunes, which can more readily stand up to higher speeds. I've long loved Appalachian fiddling but at best enjoyed an uneasy truce with it, to paraphrase a late friend describing my difficulties with Irish and Scottish reels. I have long played reels and Appalachian breakdowns well on mandolin but never understood the nuances of bowing that made the tunes sound like traditional tunes. In the last couple years I suddenly grasped the subtleties of these tunes, a result of years of listening and study, and when I began practicing Appalachian tunes last weekend they felt like first cousins rather than strangers from the next hollow. I have compiled a tune list, I ordered a book about fiddling and fiddlers, and I found an online file of an old book called the Hamblen Collection on the website of my friend Christian Wig, I am practicing like mad and excited about playing onstage at Great Trail. The festival takes place on the weekend before and weekend of Labor Day, and the website is The cloggers are at

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