52 Tunes From Fiddle Hell
Fiddle Hell is “an informal gathering of fiddlers to meet, jam, learn, and have fun.” It’s named after the Saturday night jam session, which looks to be a large room full of (mostly) fiddlers all playing together. Here’s a sample:
One really nice thing the organizers have done is put together a common tune list for the jam, with 52 tunes likely to be played in jam sessions there. Having a tune list can be really nice for fiddlers who want to learn some tunes in advance, rather than picking them up entirely by ear on the fly. And 52 tunes is a nice number for learning one a week, which is something I plan to do starting soon.
Happily for folks who don’t want to have to track down recordings of each of the tunes in the list, the Reiner Family Band (organizers of Fiddle Hell) have put together a set of recordings, available as a $15 CD or a $12 mp3 collection. All 52 tunes from the common tune list are played at a dancing speed on one track and then at a slower learning speed on a different track. So you’re getting 104 tracks (actually, 106 tracks, as they include two tracks to tune your fiddle against) total. It’s a real bargain.
The arrangements are scored for fiddle and piano or fiddle and guitar, and the recordings are nice and clean. Fiddle is mostly panned to the left and piano/guitar to the right, so you can decrease the volume of either by adjusting the playback balance, which can be handy for playing along. The separation isn’t as complete as on the Portland Play-Along Selection albums, but it’s still there and useful. The slow versions are fiddle only, and are actually played at a reduced tempo, not just time stretched on a computer.
I unreservedly recommend that any beginning fiddler looking to build her repertoire buy this recording, especially since there’s probably going to be a fair amount of overlap between their tune list and the Slower Than Dirt base tune list.