How to Slide on the Fiddle - dummies

By Michael John Sanchez

The first technique that really shows the fiddle style is called the fiddle slide. This technique creates a “droopy” sound that makes any song sound more like a fiddle tune. It’s a simple technique that you can add to any note and play a few different ways.

The first type of slide is the upslide. You can add it to any note that requires you to place a finger down on the fingerboard. It appears as a “/” symbol over the note. The other type of slide is a downslide. It appears as a “” symbol over the note.

The upslide

To do the fiddle upslide, follow these steps:

  1. Pick any note on the fiddle that requires finger placement and place your finger where the note is supposed to be played.

  2. Take the same finger and place it a half step below where you just placed it.

    So if you picked G, you’d now place your finger where you’d play F♯, or if you chose F, you’d place your finger on E.

  3. Slide your finger between the two points.

    This means taking your finger and gliding it back and forth without actually picking it up. So if you’re working between F♯ and G, slide your finger back and forth between these two points. You don’t need your bow to do this yet, and you should be using only one finger.

  4. Now that you’re familiar with the distance of the slide, place your finger in the low position.

    If you chose G on the D string, you’d put your ring finger on F♯.

  5. Get your bow ready for a down-bow stroke.

  6. Slide your finger toward the note you chose while moving the bow.

    Doing so should create a different type of sound compared to just playing the note.

  7. Try moving your finger at different speeds.

    Doing so should create different types of sounds that can flavor certain fiddle tunes.

The downslide

To do the fiddle downslide, follow these steps:

  1. Pick any note and play it normal on the fiddle.

  2. Aim to glide your finger a half step lower in pitch (toward the nut).

  3. Set your bow on the strings and move your finger down toward the point while moving the bow.

    By the time you reach the end of the bow, you should have timed it properly to where the half step glide is complete. If you play a long note, the slide will happen slowly. If you play a quick note, you should slide quicker. It’s all about timing the slide to match the speed of the note.

Practicing upslides and downslides in fiddle tunes

Try both the upslide and downslide techniques on different notes. Take a listen to hear upslides and downslides on the fiddle with all the fingers. You can try to make the same sounds on your fiddle!

Here’s a song called “Cripple Creek,” which includes some upslides and downslides. Try learning the notes and rhythms first before practicing the slides.

[Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez]
Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez

Do you notice the repeat symbols at the end of lines 1 and 2? This means you should play a total of four lines to complete the entire song.

Another great tune that you can put slides in is a famous song called “Bile ’em Cabbage Down.” Here’s the sheet music for the song for you to follow.

[Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez]
Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez

This song has a repetitive rhythm of a quarter note followed by two eighth notes. If you’re at the frog, you should play the eighth notes in the bottom half of the bow. If you’re at the tip, you should play the eighth notes at the tip of the bow. This shows the two areas of the bow where you should play the eighth notes in this song.

[Credit: Figure by Rashell Smith]
Credit: Figure by Rashell Smith

Where slides are placed is all up to the fiddler’s interpretation. This freedom of choice is much different from classical violin music, which doesn’t give you the freedom to play a song differently each time you play it. Fiddling is much more laid back, and you should feel free to open up your imagination to do slides differently each time.

Try adding your own slides to “Bile ’em Cabbage Down.” Play it through a few times, and each time, play it a different way. Record yourself and listen to see which version you like the best!