The Origin of Fiddle Tabs
Back around 2000 we got a computer and went online. I put up a website about playing the fiddle. It was a freebie website but has been long since taken offline. I pay handsomely to keep this website alive. A woman named Ronda from Iowa wrote to me and asked would I be able to teach her how to play fiddle - online. I didn't have a way to send music notation through email. She couldn't read music at the time anyway. She just wanted to learn how to play the fiddle a friend had given to her.
The first thing I did was search for "fiddle tabs." There were none. The closest I could find was the ABC method. But I couldn't figure out how to work with that. Then I found that some people were using mandolin tabs for fiddle. But, spatial-relationshiply challenged that I am, I couldn't figure that out either. The mandolin is held sideways and the fiddle the other way. I had to come up with something that looked the same way as we fiddlers see the fingerboard. And I had to devise a way to send her simple fingering for beginner tunes via email that wouldn't get messed up in cyberspace so that she could learn. I came up with this:
Amazing Grace -- G major Single string basic melody:
Ronda knew what that song sounded like, so with that and a map of where to put tape on her fingerboard as well as where to put her fingers for the different keys, I was able to send her enough tunes to get started.
As I tabbed out more tunes I would make recordings via our computer and a mike, post them on the old Mp3.com site - the one for independent musicians (Ah! Those were great days!) and she could download thme for free (yes, they were great days) and could listen to me play what I had tabbed out. Then she could look at the tabs, have the fingering and copy what she heard. I didn't post the mp3's on my website because back in the old days you just didn't have the space to do that aside from which with dial-up it took forever to download an mp3.
Now you can find this way of tabbing out fiddle tunes all over the net. People make books and cd sets using this method. You can buy fiddle tab collections on ebay. It can't be patented. It's an idea and you can't patent an idea. It makes me feel good to think I may have actually come up with something that is so easily and universally used as a way of teaching the fiddle.
Just curious - if you're reading this and are familiar with Fiddle Tabs that look like these, do you know anyone who did this before May 2000? I really wonder sometimes if I may have actually - out of necessity - invented something.