Whether you liked his music or not, it’s undeniable that Charlie Daniels had a huge influence on bringing fiddle music into pop culture with his smash hit, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Even if the main theme was borrowed from Vassar Clements’ “Lonesome Fiddle Blues,” “Devil Went Down to Georgia” is more than just that theme. There is no song that I have played more times by request, and it’s a rare show I play where it doesn’t get asked for.
In honor of Charlie, please enjoy this free fiddle lesson on his most famous tune, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Rest In Peace Charlie Daniels.
Check out my album recording of Devil Went Down to Georgia here
Hi, I’m Vi Wickam, and this is a free lesson, brought to you by myTalentForge.com.
I’m going to teach you how to play the different pieces of Devil Went Down to Georgia. Now, Devil Went Down to Georgia is one of those fiddle tunes that is probably the most requested, actually there’s no question!
This is the most requested fiddle tune that I play- and it’s not really a fiddle tune! It really isn’t. The main theme of it is kind of based on Lonesome Fiddle Blues, which is a Vassar Clements tune.
But this is more of a story song that’s a whole band kind of deal. So we’ll talk through it. I’ll play the different parts, and we’ll play them slowly so you can hear them. And I’ll break it down so you can learn this too!
So we start out with the drums open… and then the tune […]. Let’s break that down- that’s our first theme.
…3, 2, 3, 0, low 1 (we’re in D minor)… B natural…
Notice there are some accidentals- B to C# to F… C natural, B natural… You can catch that D#. So that’s our first section […].
Then we have this little walk down […]. We’re kind of walking down the scale. […]
The first time we play this theme, you end with […], but we’re going to continue that up with a little D minor scale […].
And then we go up to the F natural, and you can either do either a slide-y kind of… […]. You slide down to the theme.
That’s where the singer comes in, or the “talker”, and says, “The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal, …. he was willing to make a deal…”
And then we come to Johnny. So you can learn those words, I’m not teaching you the words. But we see Johnny on the hickory stump, and Johnny accepts the Devil’s dare so he can win the fiddle made of gold.
The singers come in and sing, “Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hot, hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the card. If you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold. If you lose the Devil gets your soul…”.
And we play that theme again […].
So that little [1, 3, 4…] with the D as a drone, is something you kind of play repeatedly while the person who’s narrating, the lead on this, does the talking.
Which you can do the talking too if you’re playing fiddle. It’s just a little trickier to switch back and forth.
Anytime you really feel like it, you can do that, you can do little D minor riffs, but quietly while the person is talking… if you do anything, you can do […].
The next thing we come to is the Devil takes his lead and you start out with the guitar strumming, and then the bass comes in.
And then after two measures of each of those, the fiddle comes in and we do a little thing where we’re […].
So we go up an octave a little bit at a time. And the specific notes you’re playing on this are not really specific notes. It’s more of you’re moving up […], and it’s an effect.
Then when you get to the top, you come back down.
Those are kind of the 3 little sections in the Devil. As the band plays and the fiddle has joined, we have the walk-up… So that’s phase 1- is walking up that octave.
Then phase 2 is the walk-down. This is all effects. So if you’re playing electrified, and you can add a digital delay pedal or something like that to it, where it really sounds trippy and wild, that makes it extra cool!
Then you have your […] and do that a few time, and you end with the same [1- C natural…] theme.
You’ll have to coordinate that with the base player, as far as how many times you’re playing each of the stuff. There’s a timing out of it, and you have to listen and pay attention to where you’re at in the song.
So you do the Devil sound effect stuff, and then it goes, “Fire on the mountain, run boys run…” […]. We’re playing D major- “fire on the mountain run boys run”, “Devil’s in the house of the rising sun…” […]
I’m not used to playing this slow!
So basically this is a call and response section. “Fire on the mountain run boys run…” and then you do a lick in D. “Devil’s in the house of the rising sun…” […].
That’s kind of the standard lick, but you can also do […] or something like that- a little shuffle bowing.
“Chicken in the bread pan picking out dough…”[…]
You have 4 beats for your lick in D, 4 beats for your lick in C, and then another 4 beats for another lick in B… […].
Take your pick from the options, do it differently each time if you can. Just because a little change up is fun!
That’s that section…
It’s a memorable piece of this song, so it’s a good way to end it even if you use alternate licks for each one.
Now we go to the 3rd main theme, which is […].
That’s a little repetitive, but I’ll play the lick for you slowly… [1- F natural, 0 , 1, 2, 1, 0, 3, 0, 1, 0, 1, 2, 1, 0, 3, 0]. So that’s our first phrase.
Second phrase […2, 1, 2- C, B, C…] [2, 1, 2, 3, 0, 3, 0, 1, 2- F natural, 2, 3, 2, 1, 0, 3, 2…]. And then we repeat that section.
So we do 3 of those, so here we go again.
Now we come to our first ending- […]. That sounds a little abrupt- we have an F#…
And then we return to that phrase. So we have 3 of that theme, and then we have our ending. We kind of modulated to an A chord, which we haven’t really had in this song yet… Then we’re going back from A to B minor […].
Then we have 3 of this pattern [1, 2, 0, 2, 1, 0, 2, 0, 1…]
So it takes us back to that same landing spot.
We have one more section where the Devil has been beaten, he lays the golden fiddle at the ground at Johnny’s feet. Johnny says, if you ever want to come back again, I’ll give you another shot because I’ll beat ya again.
That theme that we just played, we play again after that next phrase, with a different ending. So we have […]. That’s our ending.
We did 2 1/2 here, and we’re going to go […]. And now here’s our final ending […].
That is our same ending of our first theme […]. Instead of doing that […] last time, we have […], and end it on that open A and D. So I’ll play that theme for you one more time before we’re out.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, I hope you’ve learned what you wanted to learn on this lesson on Devil Went Down to Georgia.
If you would like more lessons on fiddle tunes and other technique, go to myTalentForge.com because we have over 500 fiddle lessons there!
There you go! Have a great week! I’ll see you soon!
Join [my]TalentForge.com now and get access to the full lesson, which includes sheet music and both slow and fast play-along tracks.