Marion Thede and old time fiddle

One of the first tune books I got in the early 70’s was Marion Thede’s book “the Fiddle Book”, it really influenced my take on old time music.

She was a music teacher who ended up in Oklahoma in the late 20’s, she was a classical violinist who suddenly found herself surrounded by fiddlers who opened to her a whole new way to approach music, like playing by ear, using different tunings etc.

I really liked her observations and how she explained how the music that was being played would be different for each fiddler, in her own words;

” I am inclined to the belief that fiddlers pick up a tune by hearing the general structure and then supplying a whole set of notes to their own fancy…finally emerges a fixed version only used by this one fiddler…”

Which explains the multiple versions of tunes that are out there.

I also read one person’s observation about the difference in fiddling and playing the violin, the violinist is expected to play all the correct notes in the correct order where the fiddler plays it like he like to hear it.

Sometimes I notice that some who play old time fiddle will approach it like a violinist, play a Clyde Davenport tune exactly like Clyde played it and frown on anyone switching notes around.

Another observation by Marion was that when the fiddlers played together they all played the tune their way and would comment on so and so’s coarse part being awfully nice, but would never think of playing it that way themselves.

I have to admit that this is how I try to approach learning a tune, I usually find the skeleton of the tune and then how I play the rhythmic part of the banjo is how I fill it out.

Here is a link to more info on her book…