Folk Fiddle Style: Bowings and Ornaments on Viola

Learning folk fiddle style

Sheet music for the repertoire of traditional fiddle tunes generally does not include stylistic elements (such as bowings and ornamentation) written out. This is because these are personal to each player, and trying to emulate someone else's version might feel unnatural and sound stilted if we always simply read it off the page without an understanding of how it is developed.

If you would like to learn how to add the twiddly bits that make a fiddle tune sound more like a fiddle tune, I recommend The Fiddle Project by Deb Chalmers. Deb is writing a series of books on folk fiddle style. The first has been published and there is a viola version available – visit the Fiddle Project website for more information.

Transcriptions of the bowings and ornaments in my own videos

Having said all that, when learning any musical style it is often helpful to have a model to work from. So I have started transcribing the bowings and ornaments I use myself in my folk viola videos and publishing the sheet music.

They are available as pdf downloads, and with each one there is a copy of the basic tune plus a version with the bowings and ornaments that I play. These can be used in combination with my videos as a basis for learning bowing patterns and ornaments. You can use the basic (blank) version of the tune to make your own version if you find that playing exactly what I play doesn't feel quite right to you.

I will soon have enough of these to publish them in a bundle, but for now I'm making them available individually.

Those released so far are also included in my "everything" bundle.

Here are the ones I've published so far:

The Banshee
[sheet music] [video]

The Cliffs of Moher
[sheet music] [video]

The Blarney Pilgrim
[sheet music] [video]

The Tenpenny Bit
[sheet music] [video]

The Kid on the Mountain
[sheet music] [video]

[sheet music] [video]

Du’s Bun Lang Awa An A’m Tocht Lang Ta See Dee
[sheet music] [video]