Top Fiddle Tunes in Your List

Your Fiddle Tune Repertory

How you choose your fiddle tunes can be very personal, or it may be a matter of necessity. I still recommend to my students that they choose tunes that are well known for at least 80% of their fiddle tune repertory. Below is an explanation of my current…

Favorite Fiddle Tunes and Why I Keep Coming Back to Them

Fiddle tune sheet music on the music stand
Fiddle Tunes on the Music Stand

This list is just a snapshot of my current selection. Just a year ago it would have been different. And next year it will evolve further. “So many tunes, so little time.”

Blackberry Blossom—a top 10 tune, right. Once at the Florida Folk Festival, held on Memorial Day weekend at White Springs, I was just passing, at a distance, by a stage on the way to a performance, and I heard a fiddler playing what I had thought was my original variation in third position. First I acknowledged that someone else could have had the same inspiration I had. Then I remembered that I recorded the tune years earlier.

The Little Book of Talent urges us to steal from the best. Certainly I do as much as I can. It felt good that someone liked my hot licks well enough to copy them.

2. Dusty Miller—a favorite Texas style contest tune. I’m still picking up or creating new licks for it. In my early days of playing bluegrass, the bass player asked me if I knew this tune. I didn’t at the time. When I did learn it later I brought it up, but she had no memory of the conversation, or playing the tune ever.

3. Golden Legs—is a favorite Liz Carroll tune. It starts in a similar way to Spotted Pony or Snowshoes, then it gets tricky. But seriously fun to play when you conquer the difficulties. And here is another of her tunes.

4. On the Boulevard—a jig that I thought at first was a simple repetition of the melody an octave higher for the B part. Not so. I looked over the tune in the Liz Carroll Collection. The B part starts very close but takes a subtle and skillful turn as it resolves the musical tension. I’ve gotten to enjoy this one a great deal. is the tab version. On her album she segues to:

5. Crabs in the Skillet—a trad tune in G minor. The G—Em—Gm move from one tune to the next is brilliant. I play the same medley of the two now. And I also took advantage of the ultra hot lick she employs in the C part.

I first played the tune in my early days of learning Irish tunes. The only unusual thing I did was to slide from the G, 3rd finger, on the D string to the D octave harmonic for the first two notes. That’s how I played it in a local fiddle contest and did not make the top 5 play off, despite having the powerful backup guitar of Bill Dudley.

6. Snowflake Reel—a long time favorite. I really like the move to Bb in the D tonality. Could almost be Brahms! And for the same reason I play an original old time tune:

7 Moscow Duck—this one, in the key of G, picks up a Bb chord and melody for contrasting color.  This Tab was published as a hand drawn tab  in The Florida Fiddler newsletter, before the turn of the century. That sounds like an awful long time ago doesn’t it? Its also online:

8. Eclipse Hornpipe—comes from Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes, which comes from Sean Ryan’s Mammoth Collection. Including this tune gives me a chance to nag everyone to swing the eighths in a  hornpipe. (I realize few fiddlers would agree with me unless they play Irish tunes, or Scottish.)

You remember the solar eclipse on August 21st last year. It carved a swath across the United States of America and astrologically brought in Donald Trump as President. While is was active I was playing Eclipse Hornpipe.  (♫ Nothing’s Gonna Change My World.) But, tell you what, that was one powerful eclipse.

9. Roxanne Waltz—attributed to Bill Monroe, who is credited with so many great tunes. It’s a favorite contest tune, too. Contest players typically play through the tune one time and kick it up from C to A before a second go. I kick it up an octave and play it in third position the second time. Then drop back to first position for a few variations on the third time through.

10. Whistler’s Waltz—a very pretty melody. It features some work with harmonics to show off the whistling. I’ve tweaked that a little and created a variation that I can’t play yet. (Heh!) This one is also popular at Texas contest style events.

Of course I left out a ton of great tunes, many of which I play. That makes it awkward to come up with a list of ten. Well, there it is for now.

2 thoughts on “Top Fiddle Tunes in Your List”

  1. never heard of any of these (except Blackberry Blossom)

    The most played, most listened to, most danced to tune in the world, for the past 410 years consecutively is Sailor’s Hornpipe, adopted by the navies and commercial shippers in 93 countries around the world, because of British colonialism.

    Other common ones are Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek, Soldier’s Joy, Ragtime Annie, Cherokee Shuffle, Arkansas Traveler, Fisher’s Hornpipe, Off to California

    1. Those were the top tunes on my list at the time. I play about 300 tunes and songs. What I focus on changes from time to time.

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