Back at the beginning of December, I took inventory of the tunes and songs that I know, that are callable in a jam (meaning I know them well enough to lead, teach, sing, etc), and was disappointed with the small number. As a result, I launched into a end-of-the-year sprint to learn three new tunes and two songs each week, trying to add an additional 12 tunes and 8 songs.
I was not quite as productive as I hoped, adding only 7 new tunes and 2 songs. Looking back, I could have paced things better, but it looks like 2 tunes and a song a week is my comfortable limit at the moment. As a result, I have revised the 2023 Tune of the Week list and the 2023 Song of the Week list down to two tunes and two songs for each week.
I recently took inventory of the bluegrass and oldtime tunes and songs that I know. While it is a huge increase from the 4 fiddle tunes I “knew” in July of this year, it just isn’t a very big list. Nothing compared to the pile of jazz standards I know, and not anywhere near enough to have the same kind of literacy in bluegrass/oldtime as I enjoyed on the piano with the body of jazz music. I want to know more, have a better vocabulary, and be all-around more fluent in speaking bluegrass (musically, that is) on my mandolin.
I started back in July of this year knowing 4 fiddle tunes (if I am very generous with the meaning of “know”). I have generally been keeping track as I’ve added new ones over the last months. Presented here is the list of tunes I know to date.* Some of the tunes have resource pages here on the site, so I have linked to them.
As you can see, the list is not very large, but it is what it is. I have two initiatives – one underway and the other planned – to boost the amount of material in my tune vocabulary. During the month of December, I am doing a end-of-year tune and song sprint (which I will post about separately) to add an additional 12 tunes and 6 sings to my repertoire. Then next year, I have planned out a Tune of the Week, with a designated TOTW and a bonus tune each week (because I try to always learn at least two tunes a week). I also have a Song of the Week plan, with a SOTW and bonus song each week (because I am trying to increase the number of songs that I actually know the melody and lyrics to). There will be posts about the TOTW and the SOTW plans closer to the end of the month.
* I also know two or three Hungarian fiddle tunes from my book, but I can’t pronounce or spell their names, which really gets in the way of talking about them.
Among the various YouTube playlist I keep is one titled “Bluegrass Idle,” where I save bits and clips that are interesting or informative, but that aren’t directly instructional. Today I saved one to the list that I thought also needed to be shared here: multi-instrumentalist and composer Tony Williamson explaining, in 1995, the development history of the American Mandolin.
I am still working my way through Chris Haigh’s Hungarian Fiddle Tunes. Some of the melodies are super alien to my ears. Some of them I recognize. This one (the Párnástánc) I posted a recording (below) to a mandolin Discord and someone asked for a tab of the tune. So here is a PDF (also below) of the melody in standard and TAB notation.