Many beginning violinists learn Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as a first tune. Beginning fiddlers often learn Boil Them Cabbage Down. Also known as Bile em Cabbage Down, this tune is well known and defies dating. There are many versions of the lyrics and many recordings will turn up in a Google search.

Like most every fiddle tune, there are approximately 723 versions of Bile dem Cabbage. One version of the sheet music can be found at Fiddle Studio, which also has many other easy tunes to learn. If you prefer TAB, FiddleGuru has you covered. Note: even though both versions contain only the melody and are written for beginners, they are slightly different.

Although there are many other verses, perhaps Woodie Guthrie’s lyrics are the most well known –

Went up on the mountain                                             
Just to give my horn a blow
Thought I heard my true love say
Yonder comes my beau

[Chorus:]
Bile them Cabbage down
Turn them hoecakes round
The only song that I can sing
Is bile them cabbage down


Took my gal to the blacksmith shop
To have her mouth made small
She turned around a time or two
And swallowd shop and all

[Chorus]

Possum in a Simmon tree
Raccoon on the ground
Raccoon says you son-of-a-gun
Shake some Simmon’s down

[Chorus]

Someone stole my old ‘coon dog
Wish they’d bring him back
He chased the big hogs through the fence
And the little ones through the crack

[Chorus]

Met a possum in the road
Blind as he could be
Jumped the fence and whipped my dog
And bristled up at me

[Chorus]

Once I had an old gray mule
His name was Simon Slick
He’d roll his eyes and back his ears
And how that mule would kick

[Chorus]

How that mule would kick
He kicked with his dying breath
He shoved his hind feet down his throat
And kicked himself to death

[Chorus]

So, where do you start if you want to learn this tune? Lora at Red Desert Fiddle has posted a three part tutorial (and other great fiddle tips and tunes) on her YouTube channel. Here’s Part One –
Do check out Lora’s other tutorials and fiddle course at Red Desert Fiddle – I took her Fabulous Fundamentals course at Red Desert Violin and couldn’t be happier with my progress.

Here’s a classic version that you may  have watched on some lazy Summer afternoon –

And here’s another version –

Is it even the same tune? Listen carefully and you’ll hear the melody line way down there…

Fiddlers are encouraged to improvise a tune and “make it theirs” which sure adds to the difficulty of learning a tune for a beginner when it’s played differently by everyone you meet – there are variations by region, time period and player as well as those that are specifically “geared up” for fiddle competitions. Gaaahhhh!

How do you learn fiddle tunes – by ear or by sheet music or TAB?

* Yes, it is Sunday. Whatever.

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