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Old-Time Fiddling: Book One (Second Edition) Review by Carissa Ruiz

Cindy Miles
Miles Music
3060 Larson Rd
Weippe, Idaho 83553

This introductory level course uses an old-time fiddling method in tablature format (TAB) and standard music notation. It comes with a book and a split-track audio CD and sells for $24.95.

The book gives simple instructions on how to care for and tune your fiddle. It also names the parts of the fiddle and shows you how to hold it and how to bow. It teaches the names of the strings and the finger positions. It shows some simple rhythms to use with the bow, and how to read the TAB. After that, you start your first song, "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star."

The book teaches in the way old-time fiddlers used to learn, by ear and passing from one player to the next without musical notation. The first half teaches the songs using TAB, which means it tells you the string to play and the finger placement on string. The TAB does not show the rhythm of a song, but you can hear the rhythms of the songs on the audio CD. On the CD, each song is accompanied by a piano. The chords played are provided in the book, so someone can accompany you if you desire.

The book teaches about 35 songs, including "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Down in the Valley," "Peek-a-Boo Waltz," and "Arkansas Traveler."

The second half of the book shows the standard music notation for each of the songs learned in the first half of the book. There is no music taught in this section; it is assumed you know how to read music.

This is a simple instruction booklet, even if you have no experience with the fiddle or violin.
The CD enables you to hear what you should sound like.
It provides both the TAB and the standard music notation for each song.

It may be a struggle for those with no music background, as there is no music theory taught in the book.
I would have liked to see the standard notation and the TAB on the same or opposing pages so that I could compare the notes to the placement on the fingerboard.
In addition, I think a picture of the fiddle needs to be placed on the tuning page.
I wish the words to the songs had been included.

After figuring out the rhythms of "hop bunny hop bunny" and the like, I found I was playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" within 30 minutes. I was so excited, so I had one of my children (ages 7-11) try it. Within one day, that child was also playing "Twinkle, Twinkle"! The next day, two of my children were playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and were starting "Oh, Susanna."

As we have moved on, it has become more challenging, but we are moving forward. We can play several songs. We have been nothing but amazed at how we are progressing. (Note: We are not good; we are progressing.)

I do need to add that we would be dead in the water after "Mary Had a Little Lamb" without the audio CD. The CD is simple but very helpful and effective.

I have never taken fiddle or violin lessons and have been looking for a book to teach my son. I have bought a couple of "teach yourself" books but found them too overwhelming. I found this book much simpler and more effective than all the others I looked through. The simple instructions, the CD, and the TAB enable me to follow what is going on and what is expected. Now, whether my (or my son's) fingers can perform is another story, but for now we are moving along. We are not yet reading the standard music notes, but there is sound coming from our instrument. That pleases us enough for now.

In conclusion, though some concepts took me a couple of days to understand, I am finding this level teachable to the child I wanted to teach. So if you are going to teach yourself or your child and you have no experience, this may work for you. I have been so amazed that we are actually making music. I highly recommend this book.

Product review by Carissa Ruiz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2008