DIRT SIMPLE FIDDLE—BY MARY ANN WILLIS
Mel Bay MB21381BCD. (Mel Bay Publications, Inc., #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069, www.melbay.com.)
This is an ambitious and interesting instructional manual for learning the fiddle. There is a lot of ground covered in these sixty pages and twenty-one tunes. Starting with an introduction describing what a fiddle is and how to relate to it and the bow. There is a concise description of how to read music. There is a ramped-up system that makes learning to read a bit easier and this should appeal to those just starting out. There is a lot of information in a few pages. Then we are off to the tunes. They are very simple at first to just get the bow going back and forth or up and down over single strings. Then there is “Boil Them Cabbage Down” using the Nashville shuffle. From there, each tune has a “gift” for the student; there are essential techniques for good fiddling taught with each tune.
The shuffle, often the hardest part for a student to grasp, gets the lion’s share of the attention. It is presented as part and parcel of the tunes so the arrangements, when played correctly, yield the shuffle timing as part of the melody. The fingering is designated and there are charts for new notes when they come up in the later tunes and they are displayed on the music staff and there is a graphic depicting where they are located on the fingerboard. These visible clues, along with the recordings on the accompanying CD, provides the student with given plenty of reinforcement to find the notes and to also find out which method best suits their learning style.
That the author has the student playing the hokum shuffle on “Rubber Dolly” associated with so many show pieces in bluegrass, speaks to the accelerated pace of this book. The final pages include pointers on how to practice effectively. As any accomplished musician can tell you, it is perfect practice that makes perfect. Repetition is essential to make a student a great player. But that repetition needs to be of the right moves to make you better. This book, along with an accomplished instructor, could put the ardent student on the path to success with the fiddle. But, there is nothing dirt simple about it. You will still have to do the work and put in the time.RCB