FOG Tune Lyrics: Whiskey Before Breakfast

If you’ve attended a FOG gig before, you’ve observed the designated emcee occasionally introducing a tune by citing its little known lyrics, as a means of adding a little “color commentary” to our performances. We thought it might be of interest to feature some of those lyrics. In this article, we feature Whiskey Before Breakfast. If you would like to download a free copy of the sheet music, click HERE.

Whiskey Before Breakfast Lyrics(1)

Early one morning ‘fore the sun could shine
I was walkin’ down the street, not feelin’ so fine
I saw two old men with a bottle between ’em
And this is the song that I heard them singin’

Lord protect us, Saints preserve us
We been drinkin’ whiskey ‘fore breakfast

I passed by the steps where they were a’ sittin’
I couldn’t believe how drunk they were gettin’
I said “Old men you been drinkn’ long?”
“Long enough to be singin’ this song”

They handed me a bottle, said, “Take a little sip”
And it felt so good, I just couldn’t quit
So I took a little more, next thing I knew
There were three of us sittin’ there singin’ this tune

One by one everybody in town
Heard our ruckus and they all came down
Pretty soon all the streets were a-ringin’
With the sound of the whole town laughin’ and singin’

(1) Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics,

Celtic Influences on American Fiddle Style

by James Kimball

Celtic music has strongly influenced American fiddle traditions for just about as long as the violin has been part of new world culture. Scots, Irish, Welsh and Bretons, along with their distinctive music, all made their way to North America; but it was the Scots and Irish who most widely impacted the fiddle traditions of the United States and Canada.

Scottish playing styles and tunes were particularly influential in earlier American culture and remain especially strong in the Canadian Maritimes, witness the very popular Scottish-Canadian traditions which are kept alive and well by a host of Cape Breton fiddlers from Nova Scotia. Many of the earlier Scottish tunes, dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries, became standard fare and remain in common practice across both the United States and Canada: My Love She’s but a LassieMoney Musk, McCleod’s ReelFlowers of Edinboro and Soldier’s Joy are all Scottish tunes which became and remain classics in American tradition.

Of all the Celtic influences, however, it is the Irish which has impacted American fiddling most widely. The Irish themselves have represented a variety of traditions, characterized by geography, religion, occupation and education. Artistically important, though a clear minority in numerical terms, were the Anglican or Church of Ireland Irish, especially associated with Dublin and the educational world of Trinity College. Many of Ireland’s leading English language poets, writers and composers have come from this group, including Samuel Lover (Victor Herbert’s grandfather) and Michael Balfe, both of whom wrote songs which were sung and played in the 19th century American popular market. The leading Irish song writer of the early 19th century, however, was Thomas Moore, a Catholic poet composer who shared the Dublin and Trinity College experience. Moore’s English language songs adapted and popularized a large number of traditional Irish tunes, many of which (e.g. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms’Tis the Last Rose of SummerThe Minstrel Boy, etc.) remain familiar to many Americans.

Thomas Moore
By After Thomas Lawrence – Christie’s, Public Domain,

A much larger population group and a major factor in American folk traditions of many kinds were the Scots-Irish. These were the English-speaking, predominantly protestant immigrants who came from the more northern counties of Ireland and were descended, for the most part, from lowland Scots who had earlier moved into Ireland. Their music traditions can be characterized as a blend of Scottish and Irish repertoire and styles. In America they became central to the western expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many settled in rural areas across America, others throughout the southern Appalachians and then further west into the Ozarks. In the American south, Scots-Irish fiddle traditions blended with African-American and other American styles to create the southern “old-time” traditions — which in turn influenced bluegrass. Across the north, the short bow playing techniques and tune repertoire of Northern Ireland strongly influenced local rural dance fiddling traditions which survive to the present – including those of New York state.

The third, and musically most distinctive group of immigrants out of Ireland, were those from the more southern and western counties, mostly Catholic, many speaking Gaelic, and coming in great numbers starting especially in the years of the potato famine, during the 1840s and later. They came from rural areas and some took up farming in the new land; but most settled in urban areas, famously in Boston, New York City and Chicago, as well as in several Canadian centers, one of the most Irish being St. John, New Brunswick. Early on, these urban Irish often settled near each other according to which county they had come from; they shared Irish Catholic parishes and schools and many of the old country folkways – especially music and dance. It is this music, mostly passed on through oral tradition and within these urban Irish enclaves which has evolved into the distinctively “Irish” traditions we hear today. A rich network of sessions, festivals and dance schools, enhanced today by numerous publications, recordings, touring musicians and websites guarantees that this music is not going away. This Irish music has developed its own very strong following across North America and abroad.

Published tune collections, featuring distinctively Irish jigs, reels, hornpipes, airs and the like, have been available in America since at least the mid-19th century. Patrick Haverty, himself an immigrant and an ardent Irish nationalist, published his 300 Irish Airs in New York City in 1859. Boston music publisher Elias Howe gave us Ryan’s Mammoth Collection in 1883. This collection of 1050 tunes, including many classically Irish or Irish-American jigs, reels and hornpipes, sold well enough in its own day; but a re-titled version of the same collection published by Chicago publisher M. M. Cole in 1940 did even better. This is the popular collection still in print and known as 1000 Fiddle Tunes.

Other fine collections of Irish tunes included those put out by Francis O’Neill, Irish immigrant, tune collector and Superintendent of Police in Chicago in the early 20th century and those of Frank Harding (whose parents immigrated from Ireland), in the same period in New York City. Harding’s various collections of jigs and reels sold widely across America in the first three decades of the 20th century.

Touring performers specializing in Irish music or dance have been part of the American scene since the variety and vaudeville shows of the 19th century and continuing to the present. One particularly influential musician was fiddler Michael Coleman, who first came to America in 1914. In 1917 he was touring on the Keith Vaudeville circuit and starting in 1921 he was one of the first and best to record genuine Irish traditional fiddle tunes. He continued to make recordings until 1936 and in time his distinctive county Sligo style of playing came to dominate the traditional Irish scene. James Morrison, Paddy Killoran and Andy McGann were among many other fine traditional musicians who brought the Sligo repertoire and intricate playing styles to America, where they survive in the able hands of many of today’s Irish-American players.

Celtic music has long been part of the American music scene and in many forms and styles. Some tunes and playing styles sound very American to our ears – as a lot of distinctly American music evolved from Irish and Scottish traditions. Others sound very close to what was played in the old country, as new generations of musicians discover and learn from older traditions. The whole makes for a wealth and variety of fiddle traditions that is hard to match anywhere else.

About Hornpipes

by Bob Taylor

The hornpipe is one of the most ambiguous types of fiddle tune. So says Antoine Silverman in his new book, Fiddle Tunes, Basic and Beyond (Warner Brothers, 2002). Silverman goes on to say “It’s a very old form (Chaucer mentions it as early as the 13th century), and there seems to be some doubt about its origin, as well as its meter, its tempo, and the type of dance commonly associated with it.” Silverman also notes that, according to Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. around 1760 the hornpipe underwent a transition from triple time to common (duple) time, and that even later some hornpipes adopted a dotted rhythm.

The dance associated with the hornpipe of this later period apparently required no partners and little room, qualities essential on shipboard, which accounts for the association that developed between hornpipes and sailing. In traditional dance and music circles today the hornpipe is identified simply as a tune in 4/4 (common) time that is played with a dotted rhythm, but it is not quite that simple. The actual rhythm in which a particular hornpipe is played will vary (depending on locale, players and tradition) from a heavily syncopated, clog-style beat, through various more subtle rhythms, to an almost straight 4/4 measure. In fact, it is common to hear musicians say that a given tune can be played either “as a hornpipe” or “as a reel”.

To take an example in the FOG repertoire, you can find in print – in various publications – a tune called Woodchopper’s Hornpipe, Woodchopper’s Reel, or, more economically, simply Woodchopper’s. You may find the tune written out in straight meter, or it may be carefully notated in dotted rhythm. In either case (and as is always true) it is up to the musician or musicians to interpret the written notes as may be felt appropriate.

Any fancier of the hornpipe genre will tell you that a further characteristic of many of the hornpipes written and played in the last few hundred years is a special melodic structure built on alternating scales; you can almost feel the music forcing you from foot to foot (even if you know nothing about dancing). If a strongly dotted rhythm is being used, it is natural for triplets to creep into the tune; think for example of the normal way in which the tune Harvest Home is played. The slower pace of a hornpipe (as contrasted with a reel) allows for a more ornamented and demanding melody line. Your left hand really knows it after you have finished playing a whole set of hornpipes!

The traditional Irish repertoire is the great repository today of hornpipes and hornpipe playing, but hornpipes were equally popular across England, Scotland and America (including Canada) back when the playing of instrumental tunes was a mainstay of popular culture. A great many hornpipes were written in the United States during the 19th century, as is evidenced in tune collections surviving from that period. As an interesting sidelight, it can be noted that while waltzes tend to get named after states (you can probably think of a few examples), hornpipes tend to get named after cities. Thus we have the Cincinnati Hornpipe, the Glasgow Hornpipe, etc. I have never so far heard of a Rochester Hornpipe, but who knows?

FOG Tune Lyrics: Soldier’s Joy

If you’ve played in a FOG gig before, you’ve observed the designated emcee occasionally introducing a tune by citing its little known lyrics, as a means of adding a little “color commentary” to our performances. We thought it might be of interest to feature some of those lyrics. In honor of Memorial Day, we feature Soldier’s Joy.

Soldier’s Joy” is a fiddle tune, classified as a reel or country dance. It is popular in the American fiddle canon, touted as “an American classic” but traces its origin to Scottish and Irish fiddle traditions. It has been played in Scotland for over 200 years, and Robert Burns used it for the first song of his cantata ‘The Jolly Beggars’. According to documentation at the United States Library of Congress, it is “one of the oldest and most widely distributed tunes” and is rated in the top ten most-played old time fiddle tunes. According to the Illinois Humanities Center, the tune dates as early as the 1760s. In spite of its upbeat tempo and catchy melody, the term “soldier’s joy” has a much darker meaning than is portrayed by the tune. This term eventually came to refer to the combination of whiskey, beer, and morphine used by Civil War soldiers.

Gimme some of that Soldier’s Joy, you know what I mean’
I don’t want to hurt no more my leg is turnin’ green

Twenty-five cents for whiskey, twenty-five cents for beer
Twenty-five cents for morphine, get me out of here

Gimme some of that Soldier’s Joy, you know what I mean’
I don’t want to hurt no more my leg is turnin’ green

I’m my momma’s pride and joy (3×)
Sing you a song called the soldier’s joy(1)

(1) Wikipedia contributors. “Soldier’s Joy (fiddle tune).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Feb. 2018. Web. 27 Apr. 2018.

App Review: Tempo Slow

Tempo Slow App Review

Contributed by Mike Deniz

IMG_0291If you’re like me, you download some tunes to your computer or mobile device that you dream of figuring out how to play one day – even if it’s only the base melody or a particular “riff”. The logical place to start is trying to find the sheet music online, but that often doesn’t pan out.  Another option is to use an app that can slow down your music sufficiently for you to play by ear.  There are many such apps out there; some free, some requiring purchase. One such free app that I use is Tempo Slow – also called Tempo SlowMo. It is available for iOS and Android platforms (I use mine on my iPhone).  The user interface is fairly easy to figure out as you start to work with it.

IMG_0290Once installed, you can select a song from your device playlist, Dropbox, WiFi connection, or even record ambient audio from your device’s microphone. From there a touch sensitive “turn wheel” lets you select the speed of play based on a percentage of the original tempo (100%).  If you’re in a masochistic frame of mind, you can even speed up the tune by cranking the wheel over 100%.  It should be noted that at some threshold the sound becomes increasingly “muddy” the more you decrease the speed. The percentage where this starts to occur depends on the tune. For songs with one or a couple of instruments, you can crank the percentage lower before you reach a point of diminishing returns. I find I can go down as low as half speed (50%) on my fiddle-only tunes, but for all others I can still get decent resolution at 65% tempo.

IMG_0292A swipe of the screen brings you to another screen which displays your song’s time track in the same turn wheel format. From here you have the ability to insert three different types of markers anywhere along the song’s duration.  One type of marker set lets you identify a start and end point anywhere along the song, so you are not relegated to playing it from the beginning each time or manually pressing “stop”. Another set of markers lets you play-loop any segment of the song over and over. This is particularly useful when you are trying to hammer out a difficult part so you don’t have to put your instrument down. The third marker lets you quickly return to a specific point in the track. To remove a marker, just touch it and hold for 2 seconds.

For more on this app, please go to the following links:

Google Play Store
Apple App Store

Circle of Fifths

Originally Published April 1995
Contributed by: Ben Ford

In my last article I talked about the dominant seventh chord and its strong tendency to move back to the root or tonic chord. This 5-1 motion (down a fifth, or up a fourth) is so important to all types of Western music, that I thought we ought to look at the big picture.

It just so happens that if you start at any note, and go down a fifth (or up a fourth) to the next note, and continue to move down a fifth or up a fourth, eventually you get right back to where you started from! For example, if
you start on a C, you would move through a sequence of notes like this:

C  F  Bb/A#  Eb/D#  Ab/G#  Db/C#  Gb/F#  B  E  A  D  G  C

Why this sequence occurs is a topic for a dissertation in Physics and Math. What matters to us is that we can use the Circle of Fifths to figure out the chords to many tunes.

Let’s say we are playing a tune in the Key of G. Notice that on the Circle, the G note is surrounded by C and D, which are the names of the 4th and 5th chords, respectively, for G major! It works exactly the same for each key: E is surrounded by A (4th or subdominant) and B (5th or dominant). Now it’s easy to see why the 4th chord is called the subdominant; it’s a fifth below the root, while the dominant is a fifth above the root.

Enough of this technical mumbo-jumbo; let’s go for a ride on the Circle of Fifths! Very often in various styles of music (especially ragtime), we can go on a little excursion outside the home key of the piece, and use the Circle to bring us back home. Example: Alabama Jubilee, in the key of C major.

The key of C major?!?! That usually means NO sharps or flats. But the first chord is A, which has the notes A-C#-E. Right out of the starting gate, we have jumped outside the key of C major. This adds variety and excitement to the piece, and even if you never before understood what was happening, chances are your ears at least told you that something unusual was going on.

How can we find our way back to C? By riding the Circle of Fifths!

The A7 chord is a dominant seventh chord, and pulls us clockwise around the Circle to D. By simply making the D chord a dominant seventh as well, we continue our momentum around the Circle to G. As expected, the G chord takes us home to C, a little breathless but none the worse for wear.

You’ll find this sort of trick used in all styles of music, but probably most often in ragtime tunes. The second part of Stone’s Rag uses the exact same chord pattern, A – D – G – C. The first part of Dill Pickle Rag is very similar;
the next time you play it, watch how it moves around the Circle of Fifths.

Music theory seems as dry as a desert to most folks, but a basic understanding of a song’s chord structure can really help you learn it more easily. It can also help you figure out how to play back up, harmonies or variations on the melody, or even to write your own music! I will talk about these topics in future articles, but for now, experiment
and have fun. Remember, as Pete Wernick says, “If it sounds good, it must be good!”

Cracker Barrel “Old Time Barn Dance” Music CD Review

Contributed by: Jack Metzger

The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, based in Lebanon, Tennessee, is well know for the “homespun” atmosphere in each of its “old country store” locations. Cracker Barrel strives for a southern rural atmosphere with rustic wood interiors and plenty of old-fashioned advertisements for long-gone companies and products hanging on the walls. The food is good and the appeal seems to be universal since each time I’ve dined at the Henrietta, NY store I have found myself in the company of a very diverse community of fellow diners. On each visit to a Cracker Barrel store, anywhere, I also always take time to peruse the country music kiosk near the front entrance. There, I have found a number of music CDs which feature collections of old-time fiddle music played in the FOG style. Being commercial CDs selling for around $15, the various instruments (always played by a stellar line-up of bluegrass & old-time musicians) take turns with the melody instead of using the everybody-in, 3-times-and-out arrangements that suit FOG.

One of my favorites is the “Old Time Barndance” CD. The fiddlin’ of Stuart Duncan and Aubrey Haynie is really the “gold standard” for taste, timing and smooth-but-lively playing. Guitarists Mark Howard and David Grier play in the Tony Rice and Doc Watson styles, respectively, but always mange to do justice to these old standards. Mike Compton contributes the mandolin playing and should be an inspiration to all of us mandolinists. The banjo playing of Scott Vestal is positive proof that the instrument can fit in with fiddle tunes beautifully. Mike Bub and Dennis Crouch are both solid on acoustic bass.

You’ll recognize the “C part” in Ragtime Annie and the D to A key change late in Faded Love. Listen for the interesting minor chord slipped in at various places on Maidens Prayer. Of course, Flop-Eared Mule, Soldiers Joy, Red Wing, St. Anne’s Reel and Angelina Baker are all popular FOG tunes.

Highly recommended! The 14 tunes are listed below in the order in which they appear on the CD:

1. Dixie Hoedown – G 8. Faded Love – D/A
2. Ragtime Annie – D 9. Red Wing – G
3. Flop-Eared Mule – A/D 10. Hunting for the Buffalo – Em
4. Maidens Prayer – A 11. Sally Goodin – A
5. Soldiers Joy – D 12. St. Anne’s Reel – D
6. Tallahassee – A 13. Whitehorse Breakdown – G
7. Farewell Blues – C 14. Angelina Baker – D


What is Old-Time Music Anyway? 

Contributed by Kathy Schwar

“Old-time” usually refers to music that evolved in isolated regions of the Southern Appalachians and other places in the southern U.S., based partly on tunes from the British Isles and on the rhythm of the banjo, which was developed from a West African instrument.  Old-time music predates bluegrass.  It’s the original early-recorded “country music” of the 1920s and 1930s, played by ordinary working people in communities, before travel was easy and before recordings could be heard on the radio. Old-time was the name given to this rural music by one of the first record companies to discover it and produce recordings.

The music may be fast or slow, played by a single banjo or fiddle, or the two together, or as a whole string band once guitars entered the scene somewhere after the turn of the century. There might be lyrics, although these might be “floating verses”, common to many tunes.  There’s a great deal of syncopation, and tunes might have extra beats or bars, or missing beats or bars.  Some wonderful tunes have little melody and lots of rhythm.  There are up-tempo square-dance tunes in major keys, and slow haunting ones in modes somewhere between major and minor. There’s a lot of variation between individual players as well as differing regional styles, and no one “right way” to play any tune.

It’s quite different from bluegrass, which was developed from old-time music and other influences, even though a number of tunes of the same name are played in both genres.  Bluegrass was created to be enjoyed by an audience, and each instrument in turn stands out by playing an improvised solo break.  Old Time was never performance music; it’s participatory music to sit and play, or dance to.

The Difference Between Bluegrass and Old-time


  • An OT banjo is open-backed, with an old towel (probably never washed) stuffed in the back to dampen overtones.  A BG banjo has a resonator to make it louder.
  • An OT banjo weighs 5 pounds, towel included. A BG banjo weighs 40 pounds.
  • An OT banjo player can lose three right-hand fingers and two left-hand fingers in an industrial accident without affecting his performance.
  • A BG banjo needs 24 frets. An OT banjo needs no more than 5, and some don’t need any.
  • A BG banjo player puts jewelry on his fingertips to play. An OT banjo player puts super glue on his fingernails to strengthen them. Never shake hands with an OT banjo player while he’s fussing with his nails.
  • A BG banjo is tuned gDGBD. An OT banjo can be in a hundred different tunings.


  • A BG fiddle is tuned GDAE. An OT fiddle can be in a hundred different tunings.
  • Old-time musiciansOT fiddlers seldom use more than two fingers of their left hand, and uses tunings that maximize the number of open strings played. BG fiddlers study 7th position fingering patterns with Isaac Stern, and take pride in never playing an open string.
  • An OT fiddle player only uses a quarter of his bow. The rest is just wasted.
  • The BG fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The OT fiddler got his for $15 at a yard sale.


  • An OT guitarist knows the major chords in G and C, and owns a capo for A and D. A BG guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo.
  • The fanciest chord an OT guitarist needs is an A to insert between the G and the D7 chord. A BG guitarist needs to know C#aug+7-4.
  • OT guitarists stash extra picks under a rubber band around the top of the peghead. BG guitarists would never cover any part of the peghead that might obscure the gilded label of their $3,000 guitar.

It’s possible to have an OT band without a mandolin. OT mandolin players use “A”model instruments (pear shaped) by obscure makers. BG mandolin players use “F” model Gibsons that cost $100 per decibel.


  • A BG band always has a bass. An old OT band doesn’t have a bass, but new time OT bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear.
  • A BG bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An OT bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on his blood alcohol content.
  • A BG bass is polished and shiny. An OT bass is often used as yard furniture.

Other Instruments
A BG band might have a Dobro. An OT band might have anything that makes noise including: hammered or lap dulcimer, jaw harp, didgeridoo, harmonica, conga, washtub bass, miscellaneous rattles & shakers, or one-gallon jug (empty).

The Music

  • OT songs are about whiskey and chickens. BG songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girlfriend isn’t murdered by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass.
  • OT bands have nonsense names like Hoss Hair Pullers, Fruit Jar Drinkers and Skillet Lickers. BG bands have serious gender-specific names like Bluegrass Boys, Foggy Mountain Boys, and Clinch Mountain Boys
  • A BG band has 1 to 3 singers who are singing about an octave above their natural vocal range. Some OT bands have no singers at all.
  • A BG band has a vocal orchestrator who arranges duet, trio and quartet harmonies. In an OT band, anyone who feels like it can sing or make comments during the performance.
  • All BG tunes & songs last 3 minutes. OT tunes & songs sometimes last all night.
  • All the instruments in an OT band play together all the time.
  • BG bands feature solos on each instrument.
  • BG bands have carefully mapped-out choreography due to the need to provide solo breaks. If OT band members move around, they tend to run into each other. Because of this problem, OT bands often sit down when performing, while a BG band always stands. Because they’re sitting, OT bands have the stamina to play for a square or contra dance.
  • The audience claps after each BG solo break. If anyone claps for an OT band it confuses them, even after the tune is over.

Personalities & Stage Presence

  • BG band members wear uniforms, such as blue polyester suits and gray Stetson hats. OT bands wear jeans, sandals, work shirts and caps from seed companies.
  • Chicks in BG bands have big hair and Kevlar undergarments. Chicks in OT bands jiggle nicely under their dungarees.
  • A BG band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An OT band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune.
  • BG band members never smile. OT band members will smile if you give them a drink. You can get fired from a BG band for being obviously drunk on stage.
  • BG musicians eat barbecue ribs. OT musicians eat tofu.
  • BG musicians have high frequency hearing loss from standing near the banjo player. OT musicians have high frequency hear loss from standing near the fiddler.
  • BG musicians stay on the bus or at the nearest Motel 6. OT musicians camp in the parking lot.


Reprinted with permission from Old-time Lewes Visit the web site for their tunes list and helpful resources.

Build Your Own Cigar Box Fiddle

IMG_0255 (1)Contributed by Mike Deniz

I discovered cigar box fiddles (or CB fiddles) for the first time when cruising YouTube for tips on playing some of the tunes in the FOG repertoire.  I was captivated by the primitive construction that seemed to complement so well the “ol’ time” music played on them since the mid 1800s. I was instantly obsessed with owning one. Early in my research I had run across the “build your own” plans from a 1940 edition of Popular Homecraft magazine that was posted on, a site that is primarily dedicated to cigar box guitars. Being that I am the least handy person you may ever meet, I passed it by in hopes of finding a more turnkey solution. My further online searches revealed only two for sale on the entire internet – one was a poor specimen on eBay and the other was a $600 made-to-order version, a cost I just couldn’t justify. So, I returned to the plans and decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was.

The most difficult part was finding the right cigar box. I combed all the smoke shops in greater Rochester looking for one that was the right size and construction. All these places sell empty boxes for around $3 each. A full size violin is about 24” long, with the body being about 14”L and only 4.75” W at the narrowest point to accommodate the angling of the bow; very few cigar boxes are this long and squat. I had to settle for one that was 11”L x 8”W, which meant I had to plan for the neck being proportionately longer to compensate.  This changes the point on the body where the bridge will be mounted, and where the f-holes will eventually need to be cut.

The other materials I acquired were:

  • ¾” dia. oak dowel (be sure to use a strong wood – not pine – since it would bear all the tension of the strings)
  • ½”W x ½”D wood strip for bass bar
  • Pencil-width dowel for sound post
  • Ukulele tuning pegs (these can be purchased on Amazon)
  • Steel strings
  • Two screw eyes (one large, one small)
  • Fingerboard with nut, tailpiece, and bridge (the instructions were to fabricate them all from wood, but I just purchased these instead with the string notches already in the nut and bridge
  • Wood glue

I cut the dowel to 24” long, and for a 5” length from one end, I sanded opposite sides of the dowel flat to a thickness of about 1cm. Into this flat end, I drilled four 3/8” holes an inch apart from each other, and assembled the ukulele tuners into them.  Then I drilled a small hall in the opposite butt end of the dowel big enough to eventually fit the larger screw eye.

The thing to remember is that the back of the cigar box will be the top of the fiddle. Onto it I traced f-holes using a template printed from Google Images, then cut them out with a small hand-held sabre saw. I then drilled a hole in the “front” of the cigar box such that there was a 1” distance between the top of the fiddle and the top of the hole. The dowel was inserted and passed through the entire interior length, then secured to the inside back wall with glue and the large screw eye, which was screwed through from the outside (the screw eye would eventually become the anchor for the tailpiece gut cord).

To the inside top of the fiddle I glued the wood strip such that it spanned the entire length between the center line of the box and the f-hole on the G-string side.  This would be the bass bar. Between the other f-hole and center line I glued the skinny dowel, cut such that it spanned the entire inside depth. This would be the sound post.

Finally, the last steps: 1) glue the fingerboard to the wood dowel and top of the fiddle; 2) fit the strings to the tailpiece and wind around the tuning pegs (the D and A strings were first passed through a small screw eye drilled into the ¾” dowel just in front of the nut), then fit the bridge. Because my fiddle was wider than average, I needed a taller bridge to prevent the box sides from interfering when bowing the G and E strings.

To see the original Popular Homecraft plans, click HERE.

It’s no Stradivarius, but it sound OK.  I’m working on my second CB fiddle now. Stay tuned!

Winter a Hazard for Instruments

by Kathy Schwar

mandolin caseI recently attended a workshop on caring for musical instruments during Rochester area winters. While much of the information may be common sense to some people, I found it really helpful for protecting instruments. As they say, “Instruments still think they’re trees,” though they are not, so they need special care in maintaining the wood and lacquer. Plus, the effects of the cold can affect the sound.

Stutzman_Logo_NewDave Stutzman of Stutzman’s Guitar Center was the workshop speaker. This information is intended as a summary of “need to know” points:

  • In winter, it’s all about maintaining humidity to prevent cracking. While every instrument will not crack, it is hard to say which will and which won’t. But Stutzman knows that harsh winters will bring so many panicked musicians in for repairs that he has had to turn some away.
  • Keep instruments out of the cold as much as possible. But if they’ve been subjected to it for some time, let them acclimate, best for a few hours, in their cases when they get home. Don’t immediately open the case; Stutzman has actually seen that cause instantaneous cracking of the white ourline clipart girl wearing winter clothes shivering
  • An easy rule of thumb is that when you turn your furnace on for the season, start humidifying your instruments. When you turn it off in late spring, humidifiers aren’t necessary.
  • Keep your instruments in their cases with a humidifier, not on a stand. This keeps the humidity constant and also helps humidify the neck.
  • If you use a console home humidifier, know that the gauge on the machine may not be accurate. A digital hygrometer, available where indoor-outdoor thermometers are sold, provides a more accurate humidity reading. Indoor humidity should be maintained at 45 to 55%. Keep all instruments in one room if you can. In winter the basement would naturally be more humid than upstairs, but don’t leave instruments there in summer.
  • Some humidifier choices are the Dampit-type humidifier, which is easy to use by following directions on the package. Also, hold it by both ends when shaking it out. MusicNomad’s The Humitar and similar options are available. If you fill the devices routinely once a week, twice a week when temperatures plummet, you’ll be reasonably sure there’s enough moisture. Take care that humidifiers don’t drip.
  • In summer, by the way, keep instruments out of a hot car or loosen the strings. When outside keep them in the shade with the case cracked open. But overall, Stutzman said, instruments subjected to cold “lose more moisture than they gain” in heat.