Arranging Fiddle Tunes to Teach Violin Techniques, Part 3

by Mary Ann Willis

From Mary Ann Willis:
The intention of this series of articles is not to present the tunes as they are traditionally done. Instead the goal is to use easy, popular music as a vehicle for the student to practice and learn more advanced techniques.

I created these versions of these tunes for my students, who enjoy them and their increased mobility around the fiddle with both left hand and bow as a result of learning them. This series is an alternative to the drudgery of Sevcik, Mazas etc. - to help inspire the beginning student to tackle intermediate techniques.

Over the Waterfall

This tune is in D Mixolydian mode. A mode is a set of notes used to construct a song. One such set, for example, is the major scale. Mixolydian is like major except that the next to last note is a whole step, rather than a half step, from the final note. So the notes of D Mixolydian are:

D    E     F#     G     A     B     C natural     D

Play this scale a few times to get this new pattern under your fingers.

We'll start with three accented chops - short, swift consecutive downbows - for our intro. Bring the bow down with somewhat of a crunch near the frog - sort of a crash landing - you can even turn the hair slightly away from you and skid the bow slighty down the string to an abrupt, almost pitchless halt. Lift and retake the bow for each downbow chop. Hold the third one out, sounding the A and F#.

After the intro, we have two pickup notes (lead-in notes before the beat) into each playing of both the A and B sections. Play these with separate strokes or the indicated slurs (corrective bowing) as needed, to land on a downbow on the following downbeat.

Be sure to conserve bow on the half notes so you have enough left to execute the shorter notes that follow.

We have a single grace note (written small) in bar 4 of section A. Flick the 2nd finger (or you can use the 3rd) lightly, as though you were touching something hot, for this barely perceptible ornament. Slur it into the following F#.

The B section is fun! Dip the bow for the open D pedal tones.
Start with your right arm and bow positioned as though you were going to play the A and D strings together. Play the first note of this section (open A). Now, leaving your right upper arm in the same place, dip the bow, with your forearm, across to the open D for the next three notes. Rock it back to the A string for the B that follows, and then dip again for three open Ds. This comes up again later in that section as well.

Play both sections twice and repeat the entire song as many times as you like.

The accompanying recording features Kelly Lancaster guitar and Dan Lewis, audio engineering.

If you have any questions you can e-mail me at
You also might enjoy visiting my website at

2005 Mary Ann Willis

For a more traditional setting of this tune, please refer to my "Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes - Volume One". -- Stacy Phillips

Mary Ann Willis bio -

  • Professional violinist, performing and teaching in Houston Texas
    1977-1999 with The Gypsies. 2000-present with Moodafaruka
  • Author of eight book/recording volumes of ethnic and classical music for Mel Bay Publications (5 published to date under Mary Ann Harbar)
  • Played with numerous symphony orchestras throughout the United States, and the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy
  • Houston Community College faculty member starting in 1988
  • BA in music from University of California

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