Ashokan Farewell



  • I guess if I were looking at it from a physics standpoint, I'd say there is probably an optimal number of hairs for playing the violin. One single hair would not provide enough grip/strength to sufficiently control the string, and 1000 hairs would be too cumbersome to manage. So, through trial and error, modern bow makers settled on a ribbon that consists of 150-200 hairs

    When I play with a bow that is missing half the hair, I can't get the big tone I am used to with a full hank. The sound is thin and airy. It is kind of like playing with a baroque bow.

    Tipping or tilting the bow is very natural, because a proper wrist curvature will almost always result in the bow being tilted. However, if your pressure is too light, this can reduce the number of hairs that contact the string, creating the same effect as having too few hairs. That's why, when my bow is tilted, I make sure to apply enough presser so that the string contacts the entire ribbon. This gives me a nice fat tone and a good wrist curvature at the same time.

    When I want to ease up on the pressure, it still sounds better to use the entire ribbon. So, I find myself flattening the bow in order to play with the full ribbon while applying less pressure.
  • Hello Dr. John,

    The tipping that I commented on was when the wood of my bow was nearly touching the strings.  Sloppy wrist control on my part and am making corrections as I recognize them.   I appreciate your remarks on the subject.  Thank you
  • Nice work, Ralph! Self-awareness is key. :)
  • G'mornin' Dr. J,

    Been making some nasty sounds with the only double stop  in AF but see that you do that with the down bow but I'd been locked into the up bow.  Vastly improved sound now.

    Also found that I have a second bow that doesn't have the proper sounds as I have to tighten it to a much greater distance from hair to wood as my other.  A music store amigo may sell me a better bow  and provide a lecture on bow care too.   Always loosen bow when I finish lessons but this came came with the violin (2 came with) but doesn't sound right.


  • Ralph, I hope you get the bow issues worked out. :(

    That double-stop in AF is not required! Ungar plays it, and I thought it made a nice practice item to throw into the song. But, don't feel bad about just playing the higher string there.
  • Kinda like that d-stop but it doesn't always make the desired sound.  Will continue working on it.  Thanks for the tip.
  • This is a beautiful one. I'm going to keep practicing this for awhile
  • Hi John....Can you help me figure out where I am messing up? I am attempting to play along  on the Ashokan  Farewell  lesson. I have the violin tuned o 440 HZ according to 2 different electronic tuneers.  I am having to finger one full step up  to be in pitch with you. I have installed a no fret sticker( for 4/4 violin) according to your instructions and cannot figure out why the difference now. In other words...When you play the open A for the first note in Ashokan, I have to finger the note at A-1 to get he same pitch. It almost seems like I need to cut off the sticker so that  the yellow line is against he nut. Thanks for your help.  Frank
  • I'm not sure what could be causing you to be tuned low! It isn't the sticker, since the open notes aren't matching up. It sounds as if your A note is actually tuned to G instead. Still, I don't know how that is happening if you are using two different tuners!
  • A long shot! Some tuners can be set to tune half step down as default. All open strings will then be tuned half step down. I spent very long time once tuning a guitar before I discovered this problem. My tuner did not display 440 in digits only LEDs for the different strings and the LEDs showed I was in tune. But I was in tune half step down. But since you are using two different tuners this is probably very unlikely. If you have a tuning fork or piano or other instrument in tune you could check the open A with one of those.
  • My thoughts too, Hakan, but what are the odds that both tuners were like that? I'm just stumped on this one. Dredger, is there anyway you could post a video about this? Maybe upload it to youtube and drop us a link, or share it with me on drop box:
  • Hello Dr. John,

    Am still working on polishing up Ashoken Farewell.   Reddesert Fiddle, on Youtube, hows how to add grace note but doesn't use tabulature so a bit mysterious  but...sorta slipping it in.

    Have been getting in about an hour a day practice so hope to get into more of these great songs that  you provide for us.
  • Awesome! Ashokan Farewell is one of the reasons I wanted to play the fiddle.
  • It  is THE MAIN REASON I wanted to learn fiddle as I thought that my great-great granddad,  a CW vet,  may have enjoyed it after seeing Ken Burns and hearing  it for the first time.   It is still so haunting for me even though it didn't even get written until the early 1980's.    Your lessons have give me lots of other songs that I 've  whistled or hummed all my life so guess I'm pretty attached to me little fiddle now and enjoy practicing every day adding a bit of new stuff when I feel like it.   You have provided a fine fiddlin' site for me to hang around and throw out questions occasionally too.     2:48 AM?
  • John never've seen that around here before!  I mess around a little here and there with Ashokan is really beautiful.  How it got matched up with the Civil War I'm not really sure, but it's just a very impassioned piece of music, isn't it?  I guess sometimes such beautiful music keeps people up all hours of the  I really need to sit down with it and get it down better.
  • Ashokan Farewell is one that I play everyday , I play along with John on his video . I can almost hit every note with him most of the time , but not perfect yet .
  • It is a beautiful song!  One of the first songs I learned.
  • It's still one of my all-time favorites, even after all these years. And Cricket is right -- I never sleep! This past week has been especially brutal, but I have tomorrow off. Yay! Just before a weekend of concerts in Lake Junaluska. :)
  • Helloooo, the last bar in the notation is incorrect. Not the tabs. Might help somebody. Jk
  • Thanks, which one?
  • Hello John, if I'm thinking right the second to last note in the ending I think the notation shows an A on the g string  , the tabs show .Correctly, position 3h on the g string , I could be wrong, but it would be a first, second,  third, or fourth, or one of those numbers
  • Yea, soon as I submitted that, I thought, wait a cotton pick in minuet here that there note  is a C not an A , at least this mistake didn't cost me ! Not used to this new fangled  violin music. Played bagpipes for the years.  Have a goodun . Supposed to get snow Monday. Shoooooot with an E.
  • Thanks! I'm not seeing the error but I'm glad it didn't trip you up! Hope to hear you play it sometime.

    Bagpipes are awesome, one of my favorite instruments!
  • Just finished the lesson, my question is, are you supposed to play the a and b parts twice each or only once?
  • just once... Can't wait to hear it!
  • John are you saying to ignore the repeat symbols on the A and B parts ?

    Gunnar , Twice each , the repeat is there on the notation and tablature , also the time to do so is only 3 minutes and 9 seconds , playing Solo !

    Once through would be 1-1/2 minutes , If the people your playing for have ADHD then 1-1/2 minute might be better !

    I think most songs are around 3 plus minutes on purpose , in order to capture your audience and keep them captured , If they are just a listening crowd and your playing Solo !

    With the exception of people dancing the songs can be longer , also at jam sessions where 3 or four people take turns playing lead and someone singing a song can last 10 minutes or so !

    Gunnar it really is up to you , The arrangement and time is your choice !
  • I meant for the backing track, thanks. I'll try to play it here soon
  • Ditto...can't wait to hear you play it, Gunnar.
  • Here's a quick take of my rendition of Ashoken Farewell:

  • Very Nice Frederick!
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