Suzi, one of my fiddle students, has graciously allowed me to post the list of tunes she is working on. She has taken up fiddle at the age of 71 and is doing very well. And what makes this especially interesting to me is that she’s not following the “normal” path for a beginning fiddle student. Of course we started there with my conventional first songs for fiddle: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Are You Sleeping Brother John, and so on. But Suzi quickly became bored with practicing these over and over. So she started picking out tunes on her own. By ear.
And here is the list she’s come up with. So far! Since she was raised in the Grace Brethren church, most of these are hymns. Since I was raised Baptist, I know them. And love them! I think this is an interesting pairing of student and teacher.
How Suzi picks these out I don’t know. And by that I mean, I have no idea of how she arrives at each starting note. But somehow she ends up playing in easy keys, mostly D, although she herself is not aware of what key she is playing in. (I told her this week that you call tell what key you are playing in by the last note in the song. If the last note is “D” then you are playing in the key of D. Cool, eh?) I have indicated which key she is playing in, in case that helps you in your own playing. I have also included the notes she starts on, in her own words which I have put into italics. (‘Twould be better if you figured out your own starting notes, but I’m just being picky!)
You’ll notice that at the end of the list are some suggestions I made for easy songs that were not religious.
Amazing Grace: Key of G: D open to ring finger
When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder: Key of D: D open to index finger
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee: Key of D: D middle finger
Jesus Loves Me: Key of D: A open to D middle finger
It Is No Secret What God Can Do: Key of D: D middle finger
Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus: Key of G: Open D to ring finger on D
Oh, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing: Key of G: D open to D ring finger
Joy To The World: Key of D: ring finger on A
Showers Of Blessing: Key of G: open D
I Have Decided To Follow Jesus: Key of D: D open to D middle finger
On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand: Key of G: D open to ring finger
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross: Key of D: D open
Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone: Key of G: G middle finger to ring finger to open D
What A Friend We Have In Jesus: Key of G: A ring finger
Take Time To Be Holy: Key of D: D middle finger
Are You Washed In The Blood: Key of G: G middle finger to D open
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms: Key of G: index on A to open A to D ring finger
Victory In Jesus (a favorite of both of us!): Key of D: open D to D middle finger
Oh Suzannah: Key of D: open D to D index finger
Carry Me Back To Old Virginia: Key of D: D middle finger
My Old Kentucky Home: Key of D: open D
Camptown Races: Key of D: A open to D middle finger
You Are My Sunshine: Key of D: G index finger to D open
Way Down Upon The Suwanee River: Key of D: D middle finger
I might mention that Suzi has been taking fiddle lessons only a few months! I will also add (for those of you who are starting to despair) that she has a strong background in piano playing (she used to play for her church) and in singing (choir). But this background relies on note reading, so all this “by ear” stuff is new to Suzi. And she’s taken to it like the proverbial duck to water.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is still much polishing to be done on these tunes. They are by no means perfect and there is still quite a little bit of “hunt and peck” going on. I think Suzi would want me to tell you this. In fact one of her questions as she walked out the door at our last lesson was, “How do I get my fingers to go to the right notes all the time?”
And my answer, of course, was practice, practice, practice. Over and over and over. So that muscle memory kicks in. But, as you can see, Suzi is making a tremendous start! Go thou and do likewise! And, for goodness sakes, if a tune that you are trying is too hard, stop working on it and try something else! This is supposed to be fun!
PS: I have checked out the starting notes on each of these songs to make sure they were correct. If you catch any errors, please let me know!!!