Osborne by lanyuehua


by Carolyn Osborne

by Carolyn Osborne

      As the co-director of the Gahanna-Lincoln Fiddlers and the main fiddle teacher, it was my
job to arrange tunes so they were playable by our students. Because it was a high school group,
we had a wide range of players: freshmen to seniors, students who had only a casual relationship
with their instrument to students who were planning on majoring in music in college. The
challenge with a wide-ranging group is that the advanced students enjoy difficult music and the
less advanced students become frustrated easily.

My solution was to create arrangements of tunes that had easy and hard versions, played
sequentially, although the easy part could be played all the way through. One example would be
Old Joe Clark. The easy version was the tune as it is sung. A slightly harder version is to take
the sung version and use the "blue jell-o" (eighth, sixteenth, sixteenth “shuffle”) bowing. The
hardest version is one I learned from my husband, an Appalachian fiddler and it is much more
 I used the same technique for two "fancy fiddle" tunes, Black Mountain Rag and Orange
Blossom Special. In the case of Black Mountain Rag, I taught a simple melody for the C part for
one iteration of the tune and a shuffled version for the next.

    Our version of Orange Blossom (OBS) doubled the shuffle. We did one set of shuffle with a
simple pattern (low, low, high, high) and then did the more complex shuffle (low, low, high, low,
low, high, low, low etc.).

     Our OBS also started out slow and got faster during each of the train whistle parts. This
arrangement, then, basically parallels the learning process: it moves from easy to more difficult,
from slow to fast.

      We also did the slow to fast on Swallowtail, an arrangement we "borrowed" from the Saline,
Michigan fiddle group. Students really enjoyed this tune because it's not terribly difficult but it
is a lot of fun to play fast. We created a simple second part (play E and D according to the chord
changes) that students could change over to that when the speed got beyond them. Again, the
arrangement paralleled the learning process.

  I value authenticity. One of my goals with the fiddle group was to prepare students to
participate in any type of folk music that they enjoyed; I wanted students to think of music as
something they do beyond high school, whether or not they were going to major in music. With
that in mind, I did not change the keys of tunes to accommodate cellists and violists. It would be
embarrassing for them to show up to a jam and try to play Boil the Cabbage Down in D instead
of A.

  Nevertheless, the fiddle group is a learning venue and creating versions of tunes that build in a
teaching process allows all students to find their own comfort level in playing.

[Recordings of the versions that Ms. Osborne teaches can be found on-line at
www.woodshed.podomatic.com - editor]


Until recently, Carolyn Osborne was the co-director of the Gahanna-Lincoln High School
fiddlers, Gahanna, Ohio. She teaches in the Dept. of Education at Capital University.

{From the editor:
There was a dialogue about teaching children and authenticity concerning the tune Liberty in
issues #20 and 22 (Aug. and Dec. 2006) of Fiddle Sessions. – SP}

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