The world of Texas fiddling is an area of music that many enthusiasts feel they need to work hard to preserve. It does not imitate other modes of fiddling and rather embraces a unique elaborate style with a consistent melody line that affords enough room for personalization to allow for lively, sophisticated sound. Texas fiddlers employ the full the length of the bow in their play with varied chords along the fingerboard and it takes some practice to smoothly coordinate the required motion of the arm and the wrist. The resultant music is complex and rich, never monotonous and filled with melodic variation.
The style really had its start in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, sometime between the Civil War and the second World War, and was frequently heard being played among friends on outdoor porches with a lively accompaniment of a banjo or guitar. The idiosyncratic beat made for an upbeat ambience and was frequently the backdrop for many a social gathering. Many say that the genre had virtually disappeared and was replaced by swing and other styles and with very little recorded or written about this fading style, it was forgotten for a short while. Currently, there is a movement to bring about the revival of Texas fiddling.
Those who play are committed to this style of fiddling and claim that is has a uniquely emotive quality that can inspire people in numerous ways. Many that learned to play had the technique handed down to them by family members and friends and the lessons were always accompanied by stories and tales that remain in their hearts. The style includes songs such as Dusty Miller, Sally Goodin, Hell Among the Moonshiners, songs that tell tales with a personal edge to them from legendary players like Benny Thomassen and Terry Morris.
As much as the genre may sound haphazard it does require a great deal of practice and a consistent, flawless execution. This requires a great deal of time and practice and many of those that now carry out the Texas fiddling tradition have been learning from others since they were young, although there are exceptions. One of the difficulties does lie in the use of the full bow and the movements that are necessary to achieve that. The style requires a specific type of drive and finding the right banjo or guitarist player to accompany is also a significant aspect of nailing this type of fiddling in exactly the right way.
With contest cropping up now in Texas and even in other states and with players now touting its renewed status, the following of Texas fiddling is emerging and will likely grow to be more recognizable in the mainstream. While new players may have their own flavour to add to the style, the melodies they emit are generally reminiscent of the old masters of this tradition. There is an amazing resurgence to the popularity of the genre and many organizations are developing to support that and to establish a greater following.