Learn to Fiddle the Orange Blossom Special, the Most Popular Fiddle Tune in the World
Learning to fiddle the Orange Blossom Special is not easy, but it's truly worth the effort. The Orange Blossom Special is unequaled in popularity. To learn it you must master three distinct parts. Each of these parts has its own character and style. They are: 1. Bells, whistles, chugga-chugga's, 2. the Shuffle, 3. the Hoedown.
Bells, Whistles, Chugga-chugga's
This is the introductory part of the tune. It starts up right after the rhythm is put down, by guitar, and other instruments usually.
The first whistle to master is made by the G# on the D string and the B on the A string.This double stop takes two of the chord notes from the E major chord and moves them down and up with a fall off at the end.
That's followed by the left hand plucking the E string for the bell.This can be recycled several times.
In between the bell and the whistle, play some chugga-chugga's.For that you must move the bow up and down the string instead of across the string. Do this very rapidly in time. I change my grip on the bow a little to make this easier.Make the movement very short, just a couple or more inches at the most. The sound should be 90% percussive, not tonal. In other words a definite pitch is not what we're after. Placement of the left hand fingers can be the same as the whistle.
It is in this part of the tune that many fiddlers do musical quotes and "stretch out." I used to do that, too. Then, I heard the classic Irwin Rouse version. The directness of his performance is powerful by comparison of the "loaded up" versions you hear today. My recommendation: except for a few bluesy, syncopated moves, lose the junk.
The most famous shuffle for this tune is the double shuffle or hokum bow. We'll get to that.
In the original version by Irwin Rouse, he played two other shuffles. And remember, we're talking about the version that made the tune famous.
One of the shuffles is a rocking bow. You play two strokes on the lower strings and two on the next pair up, back and forth. This was in last month's tabs.
This is a good technique to master for other tunes as well. Often I use this move for Arkansas Traveler. (I stole this from Dale Potter.)
In this shuffle you will need to think in terms of three strings at once. Not that you play three at once, but your fingering is organized as though you were.
Mastering the fingering for this shuffle puts you in very good position to master the double shuffle.
There are two difficult areas for the hokum bow or double shuffle. One is the left hand--having to be concerned with three strings at a time. Another is the coordination of the string crossings with the bow.
There is an easy way to get into this rhythm, using only two strings. This exercise is included with the tab charts for new Fiddle Tech Notes subscribers.
Play through this pattern carefully so that you don't add an extra note or leave on out. When you can be reliable in playing through the pattern once, play it twice with almost no pause in between.
Then play it through and go to the next pair of strings to do it again.
The ultimate performance of this shuffle shuffle gets the left hand fingers changing along with the bow. It's quite and advanced technique. An example of this is also in the tabs.
Irwin Rouse also does a shuffle of chugga-chugga's. As said before, the sound is mainly percussive. Yet, you will use the left hand positions for the fingering just as in the rocking bow.
Rouse went through the tune 3 times, ending with the hokum bow. When I play it, usually I just go through the tune twice. First with rocking bow, then with hokum. And I end after the hoedown. The Hoedown
Finally, we get to a straight ahead part that sounds like a hoedown. It's exactly the same length as Cripple Creek. Or as long as the A part of Old Joe Clark.
Creating your own version of this tune is like making up a variation of any well known hoedown. You want to keep it recognizable. After the hoedown, there is a transitional figure that takes you back to the key of E.
If you want to end the song, you need to add a simple standard tag to wind things up. And there it is: the Orange Blossom Special.
Elan Chalford,MM.--Fiddle Coach
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