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Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 06/26/2021:  10:58:12

Sorry, long post, but please bear with me: A group has requested that I play with them while supporting a square dance scene in an actual theater play. Turn of the century (1900), so things like Liberty, Angeline the Baker, Old Joe Clark, Buffalo Gals, AR Traveler, Cripple Creek, as well as some singing ones like Keep on the Sunny Side, Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

They already have a fiddle player and I don't play those songs the same way she does. So, what do I play on my fiddle? I'm decent at supporting with chords, fill and "countermelody", if that's even a term. I don't think I can play harmony in those fiddle tunes. I have played with these folks many times, but IMO it always sounded clashy with 2 fiddles playing dissimilar styles.

So my question is--have you ever seen (or been one of) 2 fiddles in a band at folk dances, and if so, what/how did they play together?

Maybe I should just play my mandolin?

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 06/26/2021 11:07:13

Brian Wood - Posted - 06/26/2021:  11:10:26


Originally posted by Flat_the_3rd_n7th

,,, but IMO it always sounded clashy with 2 fiddles playing dissimilar styles.

So my question is--have you ever seen (or been one of) 2 fiddles in a band at folk dances, and if so, what/how did they play together?

Maybe I should just play my mandolin?

If you've played with these folks before then maybe they don't think it sounds clashy when you play with them, or they wouldn't have invited you, right? Maybe you're too sensitive and should just do it.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 06/26/2021 11:10:50

Swing - Posted - 06/26/2021:  11:11:59

Maybe, just maybe the two of you could get together and try to play the tunes for the show...a bit of compromise/learning on both parts.... it is not an unusual problem

Play Happy


Mobob - Posted - 06/26/2021:  11:44:44

you could always just shuffle along through double stops against the chord progressions, if its dance tunes. almost like fiddle back up.

pmiller510 - Posted - 06/26/2021:  11:53:16

I'd say go with the mandolin. If you hear it as clashing, trust yourself. I had played in a group with another fiddler (who was quite good) that always wanted to do 2 fiddles because he had heard others do it well and really wanted to make that sound. However, our styles were quite different and never sounded good together in my opinion (there were arguments about this between us, by the way). Twin fiddles takes a lot of work from the fiddlers involved, or at least a high level of skill on the part of one or both fiddlers. Anyway, it seemed to me that if it was going to sound OK, I would have to change the style of fiddle I was working towards to fit with what he was doing and I wasn't willing to do that. A good fiddler can move between styles and pull it off. I certainly wasn't at that point when this occurred and the group sounded a whole lot better when I played guitar or second banjo. As usual, trust yourself.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 06/26/2021:  17:29:59

So my question is--have you ever seen (or been one of) 2 fiddles in a band at folk dances, and if so, what/how did they play together?

I've played a lot with 2 fiddles... in bands or at jams. What/how depends. Mostly we are familiar styles and will adjust to each other. Much of the playing then is a mostly like unison/doubling idea; although often let one take lead, and other might play under, with slightly simpler basic melody, leaving space for the dominate fiddle to better define nuances.

One thing I like is incorporating actual old seconding ideas. (sometimes that is mostly what I play); gives more options to sound, even if can play in tight unison with other. There are lots of various ways, but probably the easiest is playing as rhythm section; chord/rhythms. Borrowing from what tools of other accompaniment instruments (guitar, banjo, uke). Some combination of creating part of a rhythmic texture, and/or providing chordal support and movement (walks, or perhaps tracing the melodic contour). Generally works best if more on lower octave range, stays out of way of other fiddle melodic range.

Keep in mind, that in a band context, as more part of rhythm section, often might need focus on and work with the other rhythm players as not to clash, more than the lead. IOW, mix of rhythm section as whole needs to work together (whether fiddle/mando/banjo), to support the lead.

A pretty good example/ideas of two fiddles, one seconding is in many Cajun bands. Though the style/rhythm is different than OT, the ideas are similar.


Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/26/2021 17:40:02

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 06/26/2021:  18:22:17

I sure appreciate all this--especially the seconding idea, which I can do. Seconding to another fiddle is not much different to supporting any other instrument.

What I'm curious about is what you may have seen to employ 2 fiddles in a cultural event, like a folk dance? How did they play together? These folks I will play with are pretty high on historic authenticity.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 06/26/2021:  20:01:09

Having two fiddles is not at all uncommon, and there’s plenty of historic precedent.

It depends somewhat on the group, but some will play more or less in unison, some will take turns, and some have a melody and accompaniment.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 06/26/2021:  20:44:00

A few thoughts on historic authenticity; it depends on what culture and era.

Many were just solo fiddle oriented. That said, with two fiddles most are pretty unison/double oriented. Historically the two fiddlers were likely from the same culture, played in very similar versions and style (at least could easily adapt); and many of those styles were not highly melodic improvisation/break oriented (such as BG).  So unison/doubling fiddle might have been fairly common in those cultures/context (still is). Doubling the melody creates a lot more volume and thicker sound; important in days before amplification.

But some are seconding/accompaniment oriented (such as Cajun and some OT); as well some cultures might include actual harmony twin fiddle to some extent.

One other factor is overall context of band/accompaniment. Many culture/styles were less accompaniment/chord based as like what guitar/piano provides rhythm/chord foundation. Solo fiddle, fiddle/banjo or two fiddles; is different that with a guitar or band.

FWIW, I've learned to be fairly skeptical about the historic "authenticity" aspect; it's often involves bit romanticized, myth or imagined nostalgia; more than reality.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/26/2021 20:59:29

alaskafiddler - Posted - 06/26/2021:  21:04:26

Forgot to mention... for another perspective of two fiddle on that repertoire;  to check out some of the Georgia stringbands like Skillet Lickers; as well as DougD's infamous 2 fiddle Highwood Stringband (what exactly was Bob playing?)

farmerjones - Posted - 06/27/2021:  08:27:34

Our jams often have several "lead" instruments. Fiddle, harmonica, steel guitar, electric guitar, even a flute. When we're not taking a break we chord along. What I sorta found out, if you have/know the chords, the harmony part is in there. So it's easier to sus out the many harmony lines. It took me a little time to just go back and forth from melody playing to chords (double stops). I thought it was a right brain, left brain thing, but it's just gaining experience/skill.
The differing in style thing, I can't seem to relate to. I know two fiddlers never play the same. But I don't understand if you're playing the same tune, in time, how it wouldn't work? Taking turns playing the melody line certainly works. But playing the same melody line, I could see how that would sound clashy. If your other fiddler is reluctant to trade back and forth, one might have to work up to that.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 06/27/2021:  14:36:23

But I don't understand if you're playing the same tune, in time, how it wouldn't work?

Different versions of tunes; although similar general framework of melodic contour and meter which make it recognizable as that tune; can have significantly different phrasing, rhythm or notes.

DougD - Posted - 06/27/2021:  16:14:45

Exactly what Uncle Bob Potts was playing in Highwoods is proprietary information, but there's lots of Highwoods stuff on YouTube, with the fiddles usually panned left and right, so you can draw your own conclusions. Whatever it was seemed to work.
As far as your historical concerns, "Liberty" dates from the 1940's Bob Wills recording. I'm not sure how old "Keep on the Sunny side" and "Will the Circle be Unbroken" really are, but the Carter Family recordings and resultant popularity is a generation later than 1900.
I'd suggest that some rehearsal time with the other fiddler should solve your problem.

Edited by - DougD on 06/27/2021 16:17:14

DougD - Posted - 06/28/2021:  05:38:46

BTW, the earliest examples we have of two fiddles playing together are the recordings of "Arkansas Traveler" and "Turkey in the Straw" made by Eck Robertson and Henry Gilliland, themselves from two generations. Here's "Arkansas Traveler:"

DougD - Posted - 06/28/2021:  05:49:35

I just realized that those recordings were made 99 years ago this week! Next year will mark the centennial of commercially recorded country music.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 06/28/2021:  11:11:03

Well, i think you could arrange stuff all classically in 3rds & 6ths watching out for parallel 5ths, and avoiding the Devil's interval et cetera. Or you could just play stuff together, hear what it sounds like and enjoy the moment...Or not, as the case may be....indecisionlaugh

Edit: i think that's what most folk do ?

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 06/28/2021 11:13:29

farmerjones - Posted - 06/28/2021:  14:15:50

I'm gonna take one more go at this,
Scenario: 2 fiddlers playing incompatible versions of some tune.
Case 1: One fiddler yields to the other because he/she can. (has the skill)
Case 2: Neither fiddler is able to yield to the other. (sad situation)
Case 3: Either fiddler is capable of yielding to the other. (Best case. Tune can be tossed back and forth, and a wonderful time can be had.)

ChickenMan - Posted - 06/29/2021:  04:35:46

That Robertson/Gilliand recording is, IMO what two fiddlers sound like, not lock step like an orchestra but fluid and similar enough that bits of harmony pop out due to variations between players and different drone options.

Two can sound like three or more when done with some thought.

sbhikes2 - Posted - 07/04/2021:  13:56:49

I play old-time music with others all the time and it really doesn't matter if we don't play the tunes exactly the same as each other. If they're close enough it sounds good. I tend to play tunes pretty simply so if I play with another person who likes to play really notey versions, we sound good together, the notey person's notes are clear and my basic melody supports. If I play with someone who likes to sound really shuffly and double-stoppy, then my simple melody helps bring out the melody that might be obscured by all the double-stops. As long as the rhythm is good and it sounds good people will dance.

hokelore - Posted - 07/05/2021:  04:34:05

On the subject of different versions played together, I have occasionally run into situations where someone knows a version that is flip-flopped -- what they know as the A part is what I know as the B. I don't know who is correct.

By the way, you can counter point Cluck Old Hen by playing the B against the A and it sounds good. Found that out by accident.

ChickenMan - Posted - 07/05/2021:  09:20:14


Originally posted by hokelore

By the way, you can counter point Cluck Old Hen by playing the B against the A and it sounds good. Found that out by accident.

I've been in situations where that happened and once it just became one half of the jam playing the A part and the other half playing the B. Messy ending but not unpleasant mixed up like that. 

Mitch Reed - Posted - 07/08/2021:  17:35:34

Cajun traditionally has two fiddles play. The second fiddle plays chords and fills. Here are some chord charts if you need:

And here's more info on seconding:

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