Dear Old Dixie-- a 3rd Position Lick

The tune:
Dear Old Dixie became a banjo standard when Earl Scruggs recorded it. It's a lot less well-known as a fiddle tune, but it shows up enough in jam session environments that it's well worth learning.

Rather than try to post the whole thing, I'll just focus on a third position lick that Raymond McLain showed me when I was learning it in an ETSU student band. It shows up in the third measure, where the chord progression goes from the G to the C chord (from the 1 to the 4). Raymond is the only one I heard play it exactly like this, but Paul Warren did something close to it, although fancier, with Flatt and Scruggs.

Here's the first 4 measures of the melody, keeping it as simple as possible:

It sounds like this when I play it; maybe sounds a little better when you do.

To demonstrate the third position slide lick, I'll get my teacher Megan to do it. Guess she's the third player I've heard do it that way. Turns out she learned it from listening to the Flatt and Scruggs version. Here's Megan's demoThe slide up to third position happens on the second e note, right after the dotted quarter note e in the third FULL measure.

So, what's happening here, exactly? She's starting out in normal first position, grabbing the C chord double stop with a third finger c on the G string and a first finger e on the D string.
Then she slides that shape up to third position, letting her first finger land on the g note on the D string while the third finger slides up the G string to the c note.

A full c major chord is c,e and g, and this move changes the voicing from the c-e double stop to the e-g combination.

Because there are more half steps going from the g to the c than from the e to the g, the third finger on that G string has to move just a little bit further to keep the whole thing in tune. You can hear it, but it's hard it to see on the fiddle,

but you can easily see it on the Fiddlewidget. I set mine to show the key of G and marked the double stops in first and third position in yellow:

First position C chord double stop (left; c and e notes circled in yellow) sides up to third position (right; e and g notes). Notice that the third finger on the G string must slide a half-step further than the first finger on the D string. The fingers end up being just a little further apart.

OK, having the widgetized diagram of what's happening with this lick is helpful, but at some point you need to start practicing it. Megan tried to give me some mechanical ideas, like measuring the distance traveled by feeling the spot with the heel of my hand, and sliding each note separately to get a feel for the intonation.

Being sure that you get a good tight hold with the shoulder rest is important, too. If the left hand is free to move, and not being used to physically hold onto the fiddle, it makes this a much easier move.
So that's all there is to it, that and about 500 repetitions. Now, if you like, you can move on to see this same idea used in a different chord in another song

I Saw the Light sliding double stop

Or return to the Higher Positions page.

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