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Hi! I’m Vi Wickam and this is a free fiddle lesson for myTalentForge.com. This is a song that’s one of my favorites to play. It was also one of my grandma’s favorite tunes, and I used to play it for her when she was in the nursing home.
This lesson will be pretty straight forward. I’ll also be doing a harmony lesson on Ashokan Farewell.
This tune was written by Jay Ungar, who was a great fiddler, who lives in upstate New York. He has a place called the Ashokan center. He’s a really nice guy, tremendously talented! And this is his most famous tune. It’s called Ashokan Farewell.
I’m going to play it for you first and then we’ll break down some of the intricacies.
So that’s your basic melody. It’s a beautiful tune. I’ll just kind of break it down for you.
This is a beautiful waltz tempo, so it’s in 3/4. It’s in the key of D.
It’s kind of lament, as far as the feel. So it should feel sad. It’s a reflection- you should be expressing a little bit of sadness in this tune.
So think about something sad as you play it and try and express that communication of that sad feeling while you play it.
We start out on the A string… 0, 2, 3… back down. So that first phrase […]. And that’s kind of the rhythmic pattern […].
That rhythmic pattern repeats […]. So that’s kind of a common trend in waltz- they’ll have a rhythmic phrase that you play, and then you repeat that rhythmic phrase with different notes.
It might be over a different chord, or it might be down on a different string.
[…] There’s our first 2 phrases … [1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 0, 2, 4, 2]. Notice my bowing- I want to be on a down bow.
So there’s a D arpeggio, ending on the F#.
That’s kind of our first segment. So I’ll play that together…
So that ending […] is our first ending. You can tell we ended on an E note, which ending a phrase on an E note when we’re in the key of D, means that note is from an A chord. So A is the 5-chord of D.
That E note tells us this is an A chord. A chord is the 5-chord, which tells us this is not resolved. So we need to go back and repeat that A phrase.
Then here’s where we resolve it with our second ending… […]
We had […] as our first ending, and then the second ending is […].
So you can hear we end on a D note, which gives us very good resolution. It makes us feel like, “ahhh, this is good, this section is good and done!”
Then we move onto the B part of this song. There was an A part with the first ending, and then an A part with the second ending. I’ll put the A part together so you’ll hear an A1 and then an A2. Then we’ll play the B part.
So that’s our A part. Now you’ll notice I added a little bit of variations in there. I added a little bit of flurishes.
You’re welcome to take any of those little additions that I did that time, and incorporate it into your version. Or to work out your own!
The first time I played that through, I played it pretty straight, so that you can learn the melody.
And the next time we play it, we can add a little bit of your own personality to it.
Being as this is a slow, pretty song, we want to make sure that our bowing is really smooth throughout the bow stroke. I don’t want to do […] because that sounds like I’m killing it!
I want […]. So really let some emotion out, let some expression out. Add dynamics. Keep your bowing smooth.
It will also help if you tilt your bow a little bit- so we’re touching with less hair. If you tilt your bow forward so that the hair is pointed towards the bridge, and the stick is a little more toward the finger board, that will give you more surface area of violin bow hair.
Touching the string will make things a little softer for the amount of pressure you add with your right hand.
So now we’re onto the B part… […]
You’ll notice that […] is the same rhythm as […]. Just another pattern to keep in mind as you learn it. So that’s our first phrase: […], second phrase: […].
That has a little bit of a scotch snap. It’s a reverse swing.
So I’ll put those 2 pieces together: […]
And now for the 3rd phrase of the B part […].
So you’ll notice, just like in the A part, we have a repeating rhythmic pattern. In the B part, we also have a repeating rhythmic pattern that you’ll feel […].
Now we’re onto the next phrase of the B part: […]. There’s a D arpeggio again… And normally, we would think it would be a D7 chord, but Jay wrote a really clever chord change here.
So it goes to a C chord, which isn’t a normal chord to go to when we’re in the key of D. It’s a flat 7 of the key of D. Or it’s the 4 chord of the 4 chord- of G, which is the 4 chord of D.
Getting a little theoretical here, but it’s a really cool effect to do. We’ve been keeping kind of close to the key of D. We had […] [1, 2, 3, 0, 2]. You’ll hear that little scotch snap again…
We can end it any number of ways. As we’re looking at it, we’ve got [… 1, 2, 3, 0, 2, 0, 1, 0, 2, 0, 3, 2, 1, 0, 3, 1].
We have that same D arpeggio: […] and we can keep going!
And that’s it! That’s the song. It’s really important with it being such a beautiful, expressive song, that when you play it, that you add some of your own emotion to it.
Remember the rule of rubato- what you take, you must give back. So if we stretch out a phrase here, the next phrase may have to be a little tighter, so we stay within the rhythmic structure of what our guitarist, or mandolin player, or other accompanist player is playing.
It has to keep rolling rhythmically! So here it is again- Ashokan Farewell. Thank you so much for being here for this lesson!
If you’ve enjoyed it, I hope you come to myTalentForge.com to enjoy and visit and learn! We have a lot more lessons for you there.
This is Ashokan Farewell…
Thanks a lot! I’ll see you next time!