I Don't Love Nobody Part Two

by Neil Rossi

Last time we looked at my setting of a great old tune, "I Don't Love Nobody". That arrangement was cobbled together by ear from various recorded versions of the tune, most of which were beyond my technical abilities at the time I learned it, so my version was built around simple first position fingerings.

As a neophyte fiddle player without access to most of today's wonderful learning aids, I had a hard time translating what I heard on record to my fiddle. In particular I was hard pressed to understand how fiddlers were able to play in keys like B and F. After I finally saw some real live fiddlers play on stage, the metaphorical light bulb went on over my head. "Duh! They're using their index finger like a capo!" Don't know why I wasn't able to figure that out before.

That was one of those "Ah, ha" moments that opened up a whole new realm of musical ideas for me. Listening to those bluegrass records again, things started to make sense and I could start to hear certain characteristic phrases and licks in each key like B, C, and Bb. Those licks were built around passing tones of open strings, achieved by momentarily lifting the index finger "capo". Those passing tones gave the tune a complexity not possible if you just lock your index finger in place.

The variation to the A part of "I Don't Love Nobody" is a good example. I developed this after I had been playing the tune for some time and started to get comfortable with leaving first position. Initially, the variation was pretty dull because I never moved the "capo" of my first finger. After awhile I started to see how I could use the open strings to fill out a phrase (even if the open string is dissonant!). Look at bars 1 and 3, for example. The open E in bar 1 and the open D in bar 3 help to build movement in the phrase. Contrast this with bar 2, where the finger stays locked in position to keep the C and G resonant. This allows you to play the blues-flavored lick with the G-Eb-D-C sequence.

The entire variation is done in second position with the exception of bars 7-8, which slides back to first position to handle the chord change to D7. The hand shifts back to second position again in bar 9 for the remainder of the tune. Remember, like most variations, this is not and should not be written in stone. Use this instead as a source of ideas for your own variations.

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