Traditional Southern Appalachian Mountain Music

Deep In Tradition podcast

O.O.Henderson fiddles

After college, I briefly subscribed to the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology and read this article:
Notes on the Teaching and Learning of Old-Time Fiddle
Michael Frisch
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter, 1987) , pp. 87-102
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology
Stable URL:

Augusta Heritage Center is where I first learned to play old-time music on the fiddle at a workshop with Gerry Milnes in 1988. Some of the people I met that week continue to have the greatest influence on my own playing: Bruce Greene, Melvin Wine, Clyde Davenport, Gerry Milnes.

Earlier influences:
The Darlings from The Andy Griffith Show
Flying W Ranch
The last 10 seconds of Tanya Tucker's Old Dan Tucker's Daughter (1974)

I've been to visit with Clyde Davenport a couple of times at his home. I've learned several fiddle tunes from him, and I'm starting to learn some of the banjo tunes he plays. When I first visited Clyde, I played the tune Puncheon Camps which I'd learned from a tape of him. Afterwards he said to me "You got that tune, but you're playing it all wrong!" And he was right -- I had all the notes, but it didn't sound right. He proceeded to show me some of what I needed to do to play the tune.

Old-Time Fiddle Tunings

What really matters here is the intervals between the strings. Many old-timers tuned their fiddles lower than A = 440 Hz, sometimes as much as 2 whole steps lower.

notation string
(typical tune)
correspondence to
Heinrich Biber's 15
Rosary Sonatas
G3--D4--A4--E5 Standard Tuning P5--P5--P5   Standard Tuning 1. The Annunciation
A3--E4--A4--E5 Cross Tuning P5--P4--P5 A Cross Tuning,
High Base
2. The Visitation
A3--E4--A4--C5 Black Mountain Tuning P5--P4--M3 A Black Mountain or Calico Tuning
(Jack of Diamonds)
5. The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus
G3--D4--A4--D5 Gee-Dad Tuning P5--P5--P4 G Gee-Dad Tuning 10. The Crucifixion
A3--E4--A4--D5 Old Sledge Tuning P5--P4--P4 D Old Sledge Tuning 14. The Assumption of the Virgin
A3--D4--A4--E5 D Tuning P4--P5--P5 D D Tuning 15. The Beatification of the Virgin
D3--D4--A4--D5 Dee-Dad Tuning P8--P5--P4 D Dee-Dad Tuning
(Bonaparte's Retreat)
E3--D4--A4--E5 Glory in the Meeting House Tuning m7--P5--P5 G (Glory in the Meeting House)  
A3--E4--F4--C5 The Original Grey Eagle Tuning P5--M2--P5 A (The Original Grey Eagle
played by Marcus Martin)