Chris Haigh; Fiddle Books
For many years I've been interested not just in playing the fiddle, but also in understanding everything from the tiny details to the grand stories which make fiddling round the world so endlessly fascinating.
I'm the ultimate pub bore when it comes to questions like Who was the first fiddle player to set foot in America? Who really wrote the Orange Blossom Special? Why did the Bishop of Galway hate Irish traditional music? Who played the best rock violin solo of all time? What did the Battle of Culloden have to do with bluegrass?
As a result I felt compelled to start writing. My first attempt was "Fiddling around the World", published by Spartan Press in 2000. This was an 85 page book giving a brief introduction to a dozen fiddle styles across the world, illustrated with traditional and original tunes
Next up, inspired by my experience of writing traditional-sounding fiddle tunes for TV production music, I put together "Any Fool can write Fiddle Tunes". This is a more or less foolproof method of quickly creating tunes from scratch, by following structural templates, and by understanding the scales, rhythms and ornaments of whatever style you want to write in. This was published by Spartan in 2003.
Following a chance meeting with the boss of Backbeat Books in London, I then wrote the ridiculously ambitious tomb The Fiddle Handbook. 300 pages long, with a double cd, and colour illustrations, it gives a detailed history of the fiddle, describes the basics of starting on the instrument, then delves deep into 13 different fiddle styles with history, background, ornaments, scales, exercises and complete pieces. It was published by Backbeat/Hal Leonard in 2009.
I was then approached by the German publisher Schott to write Exploring Jazz Violin . For many years I'd thought that there was room for a more detailed and comprehensive teaching method for jazz fiddle, and here was my chance to prove it! I have always believed that jazz is often taught in an uneccessarily complicated way; and that the starting point should be simple diatonic and blues scales, rather than trying to play a different mode for every chord. I concentrated on presenting short phrases and riffs, and showing how they could be assembled fluidly and logically to suit the chords and style of the song. I covered a wide range of jazz styles, including gypsy jazz, bebop, fusion, blues and latin. I was able to assemble a crack team of musicians to record a quality backing and demonstration cd. For the first time I started interviewing musicians as part of my writing, gaining valuable insights into different approaches to soloing. Jean Luc Ponty was among the violinists interviewed for this book.
By this time I was on a roll, and just a year later (2012) out came Discovering Rock Violin, again on Schott. Since playing with my first band, the spectacularly unsuccessful prog rock outfit The Speedy Bears, in the late 70's, I have been fascinated by the many ways in which violinists have found a place in rock bands. In this book I not only demonstrate the techniques involved in creating rhythmic, melodic and solo parts in rock music; I also do a fairly comprehensive survey of who has done what over the last 50 years, naming over 150 different violinists who have played in rock. The scope of the book covers blues, prog rock, folk rock, country rock, jazz rock, punk, metal and art rock. Again I was able to interview many key players, and to include an excellent demo cd (though I say it myself!)
Next in line, released in late 2012 was "Hungarian Fiddle Tunes", again on Schott.
Next up was "Exploring Folk Fiddle"- an overview of folk fiddle concepts and techniques, centered on Irish fiddle, but including Scottish, English, Scandinavian, East European, Klezmer and Old time fiddle. The book deliberately includes sections on many of the things that are normally never written about- for example how to start and end a folk tune, or link tunes together, or how to modify your playing when accompanying dancing. This was published in early 2014;
Next, in 2015, came Exploring Klezmer Fiddle. This covers in some detail the history of klezmer, an overview of its history, and a detailed look at scales and ornamentation
You can get all these books from my store
In addition to books, I also write regular columns for Fiddler Magazine and the European String Teachers Association (ESTA) magazine, and have had pieces in Acoustic Musician, Direct Roots 2, MU Musician magazine and the American Old Time Monthly.