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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Fiddle Backup / Background Sheet Music

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

tbull42 - Posted - 05/28/2021:  09:12:09

I'm an avid listener to country music and am also a somewhat fiddle player. Does anyone know of a website or even a publication that shows fiddle backup music for country songs of Alan Jackson, George Strait, Merle Haggard, Tim McGraw, Tracey Lawrence, and so many more artist...
I would love to learn fiddle parts in order to play along with them.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/28/2021:  12:48:31

i personally don't know of any publications, but I think good backup fiddle is a sign of good musicianship, and is vastly underrated as opposed to "Hot" solo playing.

JWC - Posted - 05/28/2021:  13:44:43

The best commercial products I have seen on techniques for country fiddle are Stacy Phillips’s Western Swing Fiddle book (it may be out of print, but you can buy a used copy), his Complete Country Fiddler (Mel Bay), and Matt Glaser’s Texas, Swing, and Jazz (book and 6 CDs, Homespun). For a good initial intro to theory (which makes all of the preceding materials more understandable) is Joe Carr’s Western Swing book (Mel Bay).

I included Western Swing because the fancy riffs behind a number of George Strait, Randy Travis, and other neotraditionalist country songs are actually derived from Western Swing music, as opposed to purely commercial country music.

A terrific example that predates all of this albums is Merle Haggard’s Tribute to the Best D*** Fiddler Player In The World, which you can listen to on Youtube. Johnny Gimble, Joe Holley, and other Western Swing fiddlers who did stints with Bob Wills are playing in their prime on this album, with a lot of interesting backup riffs.

I am furiously working on transcribing additional Western Swing solos but I have just scratched the surface of playing creative backup riffs. I have figured this out, however - you have to know the chord progression if you are dealing with a song that is more complicated than a basic I IV V progression. So I would add to the mix this resource: Dick Gimble’s book of chord progressions for country and western swing songs. It’s called “Western Swingin’ Numbers,” and his family sells the book directly - you can find their website if you do a Google search or two.

If anyone has identified other instructional material useful for developing country music backup riffs, I would be eager to hear about it.

farmerjones - Posted - 05/28/2021:  18:27:53

This type of playing is what I do the most. Two things to work on: your ear, and playing with others. Johnny Gimble was telling in an interview, get so if you can hum it, you can play it. Now, that sounds difficult, but remember one can start simply.
Y'know, most start out playing fiddle tunes. That's strictly melody. Get so you can here the chords too. If you started out on guitar, you can have a leg up. If you're playing with another fiddler, throw the melody back and forth, while the other plays the chord progression in rhythm.
I'm not going to discourage anybody by saying you need hundreds of hours. But if you know what kind of playing you want to do, then don't mess around with other stuff, unless it's what you want. There's a many different paths to take with a fiddle. For some reason, a country and western dance band found me. I started playing along with them. The leader says, "Where's that fiddle? Let's hear it!" So I cut down on it. Everybody thinks it's great. I stay out of the vocals, and the rest, takes care of itself. Because a fiddle's voice isn't like the other 5 pieces. Steel guitars, and harmonicas, sort of compete. But we don't have those in this band. I don't think what I do is tuff. If I have any advantage it would be a good ear. I pride myself on never asking the key, and never asking the tune/song. This could give me a fresh approach on a tune we often play.

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 05/28/2021:  19:49:56

Sorry, brother, but I know of no shortcut like that.

You pretty much have to listen to all those greats and digest it from your ears into your hands. And realize it's all been done before, but it's been a long time since that certain sound has been heard. Even King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 that there's nothing new under the sun. Said Roy Clark: "...I used to go in and just steal them blind. I stole all their licks. It wasn't until years later that I found out that a lot of them used to cringe when I'd come in and say, 'Oh, no! Here comes that kid again.'"

I see from your pic you're in GA close to Macon. Surely there's some honky-tonks around there in which to go marinate? I don't know anymore, been 15 years since I left home.

P.S. Allan Jackson's latest CD, "Where Have You Gone" is the perfect place to start listening

buckhenry - Posted - 05/29/2021:  19:02:43


Originally posted by JWC

If anyone has identified other instructional material useful for developing country music backup riffs, I would be eager to hear about it.

I have 'Hot Licks For Bluegrass Fiddle' by Stacy Phillips. Lots of great stuff in this book, but I have never actually remembered any of the licks note-for-note. I am mainly interested in the ideas for developing my own licks which I don't commit to memory either. Since I know the structure of chords, scales and progressions there are too many ways to play pentatonic licks and land on the next chord, so why play the same lick when much fun can be had making it up every time. 

However, after reading Toby's profile I believe he does actually want to play along note-for-note with the back up fiddlers for  above mentioned artists, and a publication of such playing would save a heap of transcribing time. And considering his many years of violin/fiddle playing experience and that he has played in several country/bluegrass bands I think he may have acquired the necessary skills to play back-up fiddle.      

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