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Echoes of the Arkansas River Valley: Open Jam Sessions

Traditional Folk Arts

Spring 2019

Take that guitar out of the closet and dust it off. Come pick with us!

The music at the jams consists of "fiddle tunes". This refers to a basic tune that is used for contra or barn dancing and played on any acoustic, usually stringed, instrument. Many of the tunes date back to the 19th century, long before bluegrass. 

Beginners are encouraged to join us. 

Chords and notation are projected to a screen. If you don't read music bring an audio recorder (maybe your phone). All you really need to know are some basic chords to strum along.

If you play a melody instrument such as a fiddle, sometimes called a violin, you should know how to use the bow and where your fingers should be placed to hit the desired notes. 

What is Old Timey Music?

Old-Timey Music         

Old time fiddle music, as it is often called is the music brought to the states by European immigrants, mostly Scots-Irish. This group carried their instruments with them to the USA and often settled in rural, mountainous regions that reminded them of home. They played fiddle tunes, rhythmic instrumentals led by fast melodies on the fiddle that were meant for dancing. The tunes had been passed down through generations by ear, preserving them as they had been for centuries. In the new land folks were introduced to different instruments such as the banjo which originally came from Africa. They incorporated these sounds into the music eventually influencing a great deal of music played today. This music came before bluegrass, the Carter family, and country/western. 

You can find groups of people who play these tunes together all over the county. In Arkansas there are a few groups meeting regularly, the closest being Little Rock where the Arkansas Country Dance Society hosts dances with live music bi-weekly. The Arkansas Celtic Music Society hosts a weekly Irish session on Sundays. There is the  Arkansas State Old Time Fiddlers Association - Northwest Chapter who have regular jams and dances. Then there is Mountain View and the Ozark Folk Center State Park where the whole town seems to come alive with old time fiddle music on the weekends. 

The purpose of this program is to create a home for these traditions right here in the River Valley. 

Tunes Played

Angeline the Baker

Arkansas Traveler

Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine

Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss

Over the Waterfall

Ragtime Annie

Red Haired Boy

Road to Lisdoonvarna

Soldier's Joy

Swallowtail Jig

Wind That Shakes the Barley

These are just a few of the tunes played at the jams. Many are found freely on the open web. See the Music Resources tab for links.