This, That and a Few More Things

So many things going on this past week that I decided to bunch them all here under one post rather than making a bunch of smaller posts.

Probably the most significant development is I have removed my Don’t Fret from my fiddle!

I had been thinking about removing it for the past week or so. It was getting clearer to me that while I felt it was beneficial when I first picked up my fiddle, it was actually beginning to hold me back from progressing. In the beginning, when I didn’t have a clue where to find a note, the Don’t Fret was a visual aide. However, over time, I found myself not looking at it as much, until I hit a wrong note. Then, rather than letting my ear guide my finger to the correct note, I used my eye to direct my finger. It is when I realized this that I decided it was time to pull off the Don’t Fret.

After I removed it, I played a couple of tunes. When I was a bit off on a note, it was my ear that led my fingers to make the adjustment, not my eyes as was the case when I had the Don’t Fret attached. I was actually surprised at how fast my ear guided my finger and found the correct note. I guess it’s harder to understand this concept (advice I heard from so many on Adult Starters – Violin/Fiddle) until it’s actually happening. I do think the Don’t Fret was helpful in the beginning, but I know removing it now is going to be even more helpful.

One member of Adult Starters, Ed Pearlman, offered a link to his blog and a post he wrote entitled Why Finger Spacing is > Intonation. I found this article very insightful, and I recommend it to anyone using any of the fingering/fret aides out there. As a side note, Ed’s website, fiddle-online.com looks like it has a lot of interesting and helpful nuggets. I will be exploring it more. I also like his motto, “I played it better at home”. This is something I’m sure all fiddle teachers hear all to often. Ed even sells a t-shirt with his motto; I just wish he sold it in 3x!


Yesterday, I had my third lesson with my teacher. The song we started with was Juliann Johnson, and I swear I DID play it better at home! We also started working on a new tune, Rock the Cradle Joe. Rock the Cradle Joe is an old-time tune, which has had many variations and lyrics over the years, and perhaps is descended from “Rock the Cradle, John” which was licensed by Laurence Price in 1631 in England. Most modern “old-time revival” versions of the tune come from the fiddle playing of John Watts “Babe” Spangler (1882-) of Meadows of Dan, southwestern Virginia, who recorded it privately in the late 1940’s, accompanied by his brother Dudley on guitar.

Here is a more updated version of the tune played by the Druckenmiller Band at the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival in 2013. In this version, Betty Druckenmiller, on the fiddle, is my fiddle teacher. I have also uploaded the Tab version to the Fiddle Tune Tabs section here at FFOF which you can download.

Betty and Tom Druckenmiller, along with Norm Williams and Stacy Bechtel treat the audience to a wonderful ‘old-time’ tune during their closing concert at the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival, 7/14/13, Blandon, PA.

Nest Saturday, Betty and Tom Druckenmiller will hold their 11th Annual Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival at Maiers Grove in Blandon PA. The Maidencreek Old-time Music Festival is a unique event to teach old-time music to musicians who play (or would like to begin) fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and other instruments traditional to the music. Unlike other local or regional events, the festival emphasizes hands-on learning in the person-to-person way in which these tunes and songs were originally shared. ​The Maidencreek Old time Music festival is a full day,  packed with nearly two dozen workshops, half a dozen concerts, and four master clinics.

I would love to attend, but unfortunately I am already committed to a Craft Show in New Jersey that weekend for our home business. Oh well, there is always next year.


But, on a better note, I will be attending the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm Music in the Valley Day on Saturday, July 20th. Quiet Valley Farm is a living history museum preserving 19th century Pennsylvania German agricultural heritage. Period dressed interpreters portray descendants of Johann Depper, re-enacting daily life on the farm. 

Music in the Valley features various groups performing traditional music at different locations on the farm. This is a wonderful opportunity to speak to the musicians and learn about folk instruments and traditional music. There will be informal presentations and just plain playing of music across the farm, including the open barn, the farmhouse back porch, a small stage near the gift shop, and possibly under the grape arbor near the bake oven. The day ends with an informal jam session. It’s great fun for visitors and musicians, too!

Of particular interest to me will be my teacher and her husband, Betty and Tom Druckenmiller, who will be dressed in period costume and playing old time tunes and rare song gems from the past. I hope to get some pictures I can post and maybe even finally learn how to operate my Q2n video recorder; maybe I can post a video, too!

Norm Williams, Betty Druckenmiller, Tom Druckenmiller

So, that’s about it for today. Hope you enjoyed, and as always, I appreciate any comments.

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  1. This question is unrelated to fret tape, but still a this and that issue. I wonder what style bridge you (or the other readers) are using? Have you had a flat fiddlers bridge installed on your fiddle? I have a standard arched bridge on my antique fiddle, and I’m not happy with it at all.

    • Good question. I have a standard arched bridge on my fiddle. While some fiddlers use a flatter bridge to enhance the playing of double stops and drones, and economize arm movement, I am probably years away from trying something like that since I only started playing 6 months ago. What is it that you don’t like about the standard bridge?

      • Thanks. I had a flatter bridge on my previous fiddle and it seemed so much easier to play. I bought the antique fiddle as an upgrade, and had it in a restoration shop for some work, and asked the shop to put a ‘fiddle’ bridge on it. The shop charged $100 for the bridge work. I suppose I can take the instrument back to the shop, but its an hour & half drive… ugh. I’ve been trying to just work with it as it is, for the last 2 or 3 months, but it’s not working out. I wondered if something was lost in translation when I asked for a fiddle bridge. Thought someone one else could help advise me in what to communicate to the shop, next time.
        Deb B

        • Did the shop mainly service violins? I ask that because many violinists refer to their violin as a fiddle, also. They may have assumed you just wanted a new bridge and just put on a new violin bridge. Also, I don’t know if you can buy a “fiddle bridge”. I have never seen any place that advertises or sells them, although I have never been in the market for one of them. Many fiddle bridges are re-carved by the fiddler to get the shape he/she desires. In fact, I just Googled “fiddle bridge” and everything I found was called a “violin bridge”. I will have to look further.

          • Deb…I had a few minutes yesterday and searched the internet, but couldn’t find anyone who sells flatter fiddle bridges. Even if you found one, you would have to set it up yourself…or, I guess you could bring it to a luthier and ask him/her to do it for you. Another thought…look up OT Fiddle groups/players that might be in your neck of the woods, contact anyone you find, and ask them if they have a source or can guide you.

            • That’s pretty much what I found when I researched fiddle bridges also. Since you have a professional instructor, I wondered if she had made a suggestion for a different bridge. I looked up OT Fiddler groups and Bluegrass groups.. nothing close by, they also are an hour and half away in Omaha. I will try emailing them for some advice. 🙂 Thanks.

  2. When I first started, I marked the first three frets with tape and it worked OK. A few weeks ago I removed the the first two and left the third one. I found I could locate the others by knowing where the third one was at. I have been thinking about removing it but have decided to wit until I learn that stupid shuffle bow first!