Rippin’ Bluegrass Fiddle Soloing – Lessons

First steps

Yay! Hi friend! So glad you’re joining me on this journey to level up your bluegrass fiddling.

Here are your first steps:

  • Email me at hello@katbula.com to request the password so you can watch the video lessons below.
  • Find me on Facebook (Kat Bula) and send me a friend request, so I can add you to the course Facebook group. Online learning is SO much easier when you know you’re not going it alone!
  • Put your hand on your heart and say this out loud to yourself: “I promise to take this course one little bit at a time, so I can get as much out of it as possible!” There is enough content here to keep you busy for months or years. You can learn waaaaay more in four weeks than you can master in four weeks. Don’t rush through, and don’t beat yourself up for being “behind” if it takes you several weeks or months to feel truly comfortable with one week’s assignments. As long as you’re working steadily, you’re right on track!
  • Week One

    Video – What Makes it Bluegrass?

    Listening List (click the headings below to reveal):

    Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys – Little Maggie

    Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys – Uncle Pen

    Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard – The One I Love Is Gone

    Del McCoury Band – Nashville Cats

    Dolly Parton – Travelin’ Prayer (This video is hilarious! Great performance. And yes, to the haters: I know this is a Billy Joel song. But Dolly’s version is straight-up bluegrass.)

    New Grass Revival – Can’t Stop Now

    Alison Krauss & Union Station – Oh Atlanta

    Here’s what it sounds like when rock and pop influences are conscientiously introduced into bluegrass by pickers who are deeply rooted in the bluegrass tradition. Hear how it’s radically different from the classic stuff, but the instrumental playing is still very much based on how the more traditional bands play?

    Compare this to jam bands that may casually be called “bluegrass” but might really be incorporating folk influences into rock and pop music, rather than the other way around. (It’s worth noting that the musicians above don’t necessarily market these recordings as “bluegrass,” either.)

    Assignments

    • Find me on Facebook (Kat Bula) and request me as a friend, so I can add you to the private group. This will be our class community space, and a major place I share content with you.
    • Listen to at least three songs by each of the following artists. (YouTube is a good way to do this.) What do they have in common? What does the fiddle do? Make notes of which songs you listened to and what you hear; we’ll talk about this in the Facebook group.
      Bill Monroe
      Flatt & Scruggs
      Jimmy Martin
    • Pick your favorite of the songs you listened to. See if you can figure out how to play the vocal melody of the verse (not the chorus or the fiddle solo). It’s okay if you get stuck here; just do your best & try to push through any discomfort you might be feeling.

     

    Week Two

    Video – Columbus Stockade Blues in G, A & B flat – click to watch (you’ll need the password)

    Don’t expect to get all the way through this video in one sitting; use that pause button.

    Assignments

    Click to download – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of B
    Click to download – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of C
    Click to download
    – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of D
    Click to download – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of Eb
    Click to download – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of E
    Click to download – Columbus Stockade Blues – Practice Track – Key of F

    Things you might consider posting in the Facebook group:

    • If this week’s assignments are hard, how can we help you troubleshoot?
    • What strategies have you found that make the assignments easier?
    • What are you doing that helps you carve out time to work on this?
    • Do you have a favorite bluegrass song of all time?
    • What does your partner/roommate/child think of all this musicking?

     

    Week Three

    Video 1 – Melody-based vs. chord-based or “free” improv – click to watch (you’ll need the password)

    Video 2 – Ideas for how to dress up a melody – click to watch (you’ll need the password)

     

    Audio Practice Tracks

    Little Maggie – Key of D (right click to download)


    Little Maggie – Key of Eb (right click to download)


    Little Maggie – Key of A (right click to download)


    Little Maggie – Key of B (right click to download)

     

    Assignment

    You got this!  Using the practice tracks above:

    • Find the melody, and practice it during the solo sections.
    • Once you’re confident with that, start incorporating some of the melodic variation ideas described in the video.  (Here’s a quick reference sheet you can download and print if you like.)
    • Experiment with improvising solos that don’t have anything to do with the melody.  How does it go?  (If it sounds terrible, don’t worry about it.  If it sounds great, well done!) Remember that you can also do a combination of both strategies (melody-based and non-melody based) within the same solo.

    Week Four

    Video 1 — How to make it sound bluegrass! — click to watch (you’ll need the password)

    Video 2 — Shaping your solos — click to watch (you’ll need the password)

     

    Bonus Resources

    Bluegrass Fiddle Scales & Chord Shapes – PDF (right click to download)