Some Thoughts on Fiddling – Colin Blair

The fiddle: shrouded in mystery, heralded as one of the most powerful musical instruments, a natural bridge of humanity for the past 350 years, transcending social status to become a favorite pastime of the rich and the poor. The traditional styles played on the fiddle throughout history have now been passed around the world. People are more aware of it than ever. From Old-Time sawing to the gliding sound of Carnactic violin, folk fiddling exists in a realm not easily conveyed on the written page.

The fiddler is the primary caretaker of these varying styles, keeping the instrument the melodic focus. These musicians have made a point to share their music so that it may live for generations. This is the musician’s legacy; when you are gone someone will still play your tunes. I know that many players feel this way and are very willing to share music with anyone interested. They may even give you a fiddle to learn on if you listen and have passion for the instrument.

Most of the non-fiddlers I have met here at Music Folk believe that fiddling is very difficult. I am here to say that it definitely is not, especially if you are playing for your own satisfaction. Even though the path to playing for an audience of eager listeners requires significant hours of dedication, the skills required come from the same place. Playing the fiddle takes a little guidance at first, but after someone shows you how to hold the bow you will be well on your way. Example: pick a tune you know by heart like “Oh Susannah” or “Camptown races” and try to find it with your ear. You may be surprised with yourself. I have taught numerous people who had never played a note to play these tunes in about ten minutes.

I feel lucky to have learned to play by ear. It is a practice many people have forgotten. Learning a tune from someone is just like hearing an old story. It is preservation in action. I find so much joy in giving the tunes I’ve learned away to my friends and students. I hope that more people become aware of their own possibilities and pick up the fiddle for their own (and the future’s) sake.

Colin Blair is a sales associate, repairman, and teacher at Music Folk. He performs professionally throughout the Missouri area and is highly regarded for his knowledge of Old-Time fiddle and claw-hammer banjo. If you have questions for Colin, email us , or call us at (314)-961-2838.

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