Fiddle music is dance music. It is lively and infectious. It has a rhythm that makes you want to tap your foot and get up and dance. And, what gives fiddle music this characteristic is shuffle bowing.
The simplest, most common, easiest to play form of shuffle bowing is called hoedown shuffle, barn dance shuffle, or Nashville Shuffle. It can be called “four potatoes” or just plain “taters” when used to kick-off a tune because it is used as a four count introduction to the tune. In this basic shuffle, the bowing pattern is long, short, short.
Here is what it looks like in Tab notation on the A string:
This shuffle is played with alternate bowing with the accent on the first short bow. If starting on an up bow, it will look like Up-DOWN-Up, with the accent or emphasis on the DOWN bow. If starting with a down bow, it will look like Down-UP-Down, with the accent or emphasis on the UP bow.
I found an old web page where Elan Chalford has some samples of this shuffle. Here he plays it on the E string, A string, and both strings giving a good examples of this shuffle
In this next audio sample, Elan explains accents:
Elan explains that what separates a violinist from a fiddler is not only the use of shuffles but learning how to use the accent, or what he calls having your shuffle “grooved” with the off-beat. An accent mark in tab and musical notations is signified with a “>” above the note. Once again, Elan provides an example in tab notation:
And, Eric Christopher provides one in music notation:
What really helped me understand this shuffle pattern in a real tune was this slowed down version of Bile ‘Em Cabbage Down from Elan Chalford demonstrating this shuffle with accents. On this audio file below, the accents are really exaggerated. They don’t have to be that aggressive, but they do have to be at the right time to achieve that old time fiddle sound!
And, here is his tab notation for Bile ‘Em Cabbage Down with accents:
Finally, here is Elan’s audio of Bile ‘Em Cabbage Down up to tempo:
Eric Christopher has a YouTube video that explains the Nashville shuffle with examples. Eric’s video also goes into other shuffles as well including Split Bowing and the Georgia Shuffle, but I stop the video after the Nashville Shuffle part. I want to concentrate on learning this shuffle first without the distraction of being tempted by more complicated shuffles before I have learned this one. I suggest if you are reading this post to learn the Nashville Shuffle, you do the same.
To put a different spin or variation on this shuffle, here is a YouTube Video of Fiddlehed. Fiddlehed calls the Nashville shuffle the Hoedown. In this lesson, he teaches the Offbeat Hoedown. The Offbeat hoedown is a rhythm that gives your playing that old-time fiddle sound, however here it is emphasizing a different accent pattern. It emphasizes the 2nd and 4th beats, aka syncopation.