Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Latest Craving!

There's been a desire for me to pursue Scottish fiddling for some time now but I've just not found the right stimulus. I'm intrigued by Neil Gow. Read a bit of his history, which I found quite interesting. He lived in Scotland during the mid late 1700s into the 1800s. Strathspey's are always intriguing and daunting to look at on the printed page.

A few weeks back I came across a Scottish fiddler, Bruce MacGregor, who is part of Blazin' Fiddles. Bruce has four, brief, but, very complete, YouTube tutorial videos on such aspects of Scottish fiddling as grace notes, triplets, bow control, and, the one below, ringing strings.

As for strathspeys, I found out the Irish, especially Tommy Peoples, enjoy playing strathspeys as much as the Scottish. A strathspey is a uniquely Scottish fiddle tune and dance. Strathspeys are named for the highland areas of Scotland from where they originated. They are set in 4/4 time, a bit slower than a hornpipe but more stately with exaggerated Scotch Snaps (a short note before a dotted note) within the structure of the tune. The few previous sentences and some more info about strathspeys can be found on Wikipedia at

James Scott Skinner, a 19th century musician, fiddler and composer with over 600 compositions published. Below are several examples found on YouTube of "The Laird of Drumblair,"an easy tune and one I hope to learn. The first is a slow version performed by Sarah-Jane Summers who teaches fiddle at the Scots Music Group in Edinburgh.

This version is by Katie Henderson of the U.S. who learns a new tune a day and posts them to YouTube and her New Tune A Day (NTAD) blog. She's quite good!

Then there's Tommy Peoples playing the same tune and who Katie credits as her source for learning this tune. This is a Irish (RTE) tv video from 1981.

A killer version of the tune, played in a traditional style where the strathspey is followed by the same tune played as a reel and the reel The Musical Priest," is performed by Johnny and Phil Cunningham, some of Scotland's finest traditional musicians of the 20th century. It can be viewed on YouTube at

And, for my concertina playing daughter, Heather, here's a version of tune played on a C/G concertina!

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