Fiddle Tunes from Bernie Waugh

Peter Doyle

Version 1.0, 17 February 2004

The tunes

These tunes are taken from Bernie Waugh's `282 Fiddle Tunes'. I've included only the jigs, reels, and waltzes (for now).

In converting to abc format, I left out all the slurs. I've undoubtedly introduced errors, so if the tune sounds wrong, it's likely my fault. I've probably also gotten some of the chords wrong, but in most cases where you may think the chords are going wrong, they're not: As explained below, ``He just wrote it like that.''

Bernie's Introduction

Dance Music

A fiddle differs from a violin only in how it's played. A fiddle tune isn't complete without dancers. Good fiddlers dance with the fiddle, with an eye on the steps, and a beat in bow and feet. This book's collection of tunes was gathered as a working repertoire for contra and square dances. I've omitted any purely ``listening music.'' And since most dances demand 32-bar tunes, any half-length, odd-length or three-part tunes I know have been either left out or ``altered'' to fit.


All ornamentation is highly personal. In this book if you see a tilde over a note, that's not necessarily a full turn--it's just my hint to try ornamenting that note in some way or other. But then again, gee, maybe not. With ``jiggly'' notes in the Celtic style, I sometimes write them as triplets, sometimes as two short notes and a long. The reality falls in between, and varies with the player. Please don't think a tune is beyond you just because you can't manage all ornamentals. Work out your own rendition. That's folk music! Many Bluegrass or Irish fiddlers do too much ornamentation to my taste. They're just trying to show off. Bare-bones tunes are often the most fun for dancers. And a few ornaments played well always beats a lot of ornaments played sloppily.


The chording in this book is my own idiosyncracy--an outlet for my creative juices, at times barely resembling what you may have heard. (A member of our band used to say ``Shall I play your chords or the right chords?'') Hey, try them--maybe you'll like them! In places, I've put alternate chord suggestions in parentheses, to add a little variety after a few times through the tune. Rhythm players worth their salt rarely play the same thing twice anyway.


The distinction I've drawn between ``American and Canadian'' and ``Celtic and British'' tunes is fairly arbitrary--especially since Cape Breton tunes are under ``Celtic.'' The line between a southern Appalachian tune like West Virginia Gals and a quintessentially Irish tune like Salamanca Reel is pretty clear, but there's a lot of ``gray'' in between. For me, though, the two groups of tunes have separate mindsets that comes out in playing style. That's why I've divvied them into two sections.


When I think I know a tune's composer, I've written it down. But some may be wrong--it may turn out that the reputed author was actually the person it was written for. Or the person who played it best. The romantic view is that ``real'' folk tunes (whatever that means!--you know, the ones labeled ``Trad.'') had no author at all, but somehow just magically ``appeared'' some time back in the bucolic past. Hogwash! Folklore-process-evolution had to have started somewhere.

Written tunes

In a way I quail at sharing written tunes at all. Most fiddlers aren't usually ``grabbed'' by a tune unless they hear it first, either live or recorded. It's not truly ``yours'' 'til it's in your head. Often the most catching aspect of how it's played can't be written down. And yet a paper tune can come to life. I use written versions to learn or recall tunes. Play it a few times, sleep on it, and make it your own.