Playing Tunes in Third Position

Apr 25, 2018

Hi, I’m Mitch Reed. And today my vlog is going to be on the third position on the fiddle in Cajun music. So what you find in Cajun music is a lot of times on the B parts, the fiddle would go to third position and play the B part high. Now we’re talking back in the 1920s and 1930s that they were doing this and they were doing this on the old 78 recordings. And then, of course, you know, Cajun fiddle then changed and you didn’t find fiddlers playing in third position as much. So these were the old 78 recordings, but it’s some of the original standard tunes like Catch My Hat and Jolie Blonde and tunes like that, that were played that way. Dennis McGee was one of those players, but really a lot of them. And so I was just going to make an example today, kinda talk a little bit about that, as we talk about that every now and then. So yeah, I think maybe the first tune that’s a good example is one that Dennis McGee recorded with Amédé Ardoin and Amédé just called it Madame Etienne. It goes like this. [01:23].

So that’s a really nice old tune. And so you see what I mean? There he’s going way up here to reach this note. Now doing a slide can help you find that note. So if you’re not used to playing and leaving first position, that’s a good way to get started. And I’m kind of leading with that third finger so… [03:25] You can practice just that. When you get up there, I’m not using my fourth finger up there. I’m using my third, my second, and my first. [03:36] And then there. [03:46]

My theory is just that fiddles could be heard over the accordion if they played in that third position. So the B part is kind of an exciting part in a Cajun tune. It builds up to the B part and it’s usually a very rhythmic part that the accordion player is playing. So the accordion is very busy. It was hard for the fiddles to be heard in the old days. So we’re talking about the old house dance days, you know, before amplifiers and things like that. So fiddlers would go into this third position and it was a higher pitch so they could be heard. So that’s what I believe. I think that’s why fiddlers were doing it. But you know, since those days, now we have pickups on fiddles and amplifiers and fiddlers don’t play or do that. I love the style of it. I think it’s a beautiful sound.

And then you have the drone of the A. [04:45] So that string just being as a drone sounds really nice with it. So yeah, I’ll play another tune. This is one that Dennis McGee played and he just called it The Crapaud Two-step and it goes like this. So the A part’s in first position and the B part’s in third position. Oh. And the reason they call it that is because your first finger is going to slide all the way to where your first finger’s in a third finger slot on a first position violin. So if you have stickers on your fiddle, you’ll notice your first finger is going to be where that third piece of tape is. So that’s why they call it third position, so it’s kind of going by where the first finger is. So this is Crapaud, Dennis McGee. [05:47]

So that is Dennis McGee, Crapaud. So very nice. In that one, I’m sliding with my fourth finger; it just brings it out. I don’t know if it was an accordion tune, but it just really brings out the melody and kind of builds up the tune, too, where it goes so high like that. So I’ll do one more. This is one that Angeles LeJeune recorded and Dennis McGee played fiddle. And when Angeles plays the B part, Dennis plays it up in a third position. It’s called Attrape Mon Chapeau, Catch My Hat. [07:57]

Alright, a little Attrape Mon Chapeau. So just a little discussion on third position [09:40] and why Cajun fiddlers used to do it. You don’t find it so much anymore. Players that are still doing it, I would definitely say that Michael Doucet is one of the guys who not only uses it but even took some interesting things that players like Wade Fruge did, where they actually slid the whole octave. [10:05]

You know, things like that. So Michael’s definitely been, you know, inspiring for that kind of playing. And then a few good players that I know use it, but you don’t hear it that often anymore. So again the things I learned were just from listening to the old 78 recordings. So the recordings that Dennis McGee did with Amédé Ardoin and Angeles LeJeune. But there were a couple of other fiddlers, Leo Soulieau as well with Moise Robin. Dylan T. Guillory was a musician that I’m getting confused at the moment if he was the accordion player or the fiddle player. But you know, he had a great fiddle player that also played in that third position. So pretty interesting stuff. So if you like that style, there are some new compilations coming out on the early recordings of Cajun music. Check it out. So those old 78 recordings and you’ll hear some of that for sure.

So thanks so much for joining me today. Stay inspired, keep on fiddling, and hope to see you out there soon. Thanks so much.

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