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Cape Breton, Irish and Scottish
Fiddle Music

Raised Bass Tunes

Altered Tunings

The most flexible violin tuning for modern music (twelve semi tones / equal tempered scales) is called 'standard tuning' GDAE'. The strings are tuned a fifth apart. Many players never tune their instruments any other way.

Altered tunings are used for various reasons... added resonance, extended range, ease of fingering, different drones and double stops available ect. Much of the beauty and tonal colour can be more fully appreciated when the fiddler plays in a solo context.

Although played by some modern musicians, most 'professionals' both play in a band context and also try to avoid frequent retuning on -stage ... hence this part of the older tradition is dying out.

Because standard tuning is the way 99% of fiddle music is notated, any fiddler who reads frequently immediatly associates written notes within the violin range with various fingering positions. Scordatura notation keeps these fingering associations intact. All that is changed is the tuning ... the reader plays his retuned fiddle without having to adjust the notation.

Scordatura notation was common in the 18th century when Baroque musicians first started notating Scottish fiddle music. What this notation does is define the fingering in any altered tuning. You read the music exactly as if reading for a normal violin. Because the violin is tuned differently, the proper pitches are sounded. Unlike tablature, for a violinist used to reading standard notation, there is no learning curve.


Same example in both Standard and Altered Tuning


When the fiddle is tuned AEAE, the fiddler reads the scordatura notation using fingering as if in regular tuning. Because of the tuning the same pitches are sounded as in the first 'standard tuning example.'

Note that the scordatura notation system is useless to any who tries to sight-sing or play on an instrument other than a fiddle tuned as indicated before the clef.

Examples of tunes in Raised Bass Tuning (AEAE)

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last update 2/28/2001