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Folk viola music sounds great!

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Is there any folk viola music? If you play viola or play fiddle folk music, you might have wondered.

Some years ago I joined a folk group of fiddlers in UK and have been playing with them for some time.

I joined them because I liked the music and wanted to try something new, different from the classical music I used to play.

Also I wanted to learn play by ear. In fact folk players play without reading, which is something that most classically trained players cannot do.

25th January
Celebrate Robert Burns night!

Auld Lang Syne
, Words by Robert Burns
Famous Scottish song for viola and piano in G major, viola and piano

Download free MIDI file

Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file

Read more on Robert Burns

Listen to My love is like a red, red rose,
Music on a poem by Robert Burns

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17th March!
Play Saint Patrick's Day Collection


Irish Tunes and Songs

Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Black Velvet Band
The Irish Rover
Jug Of Punch
Finnegans Wake
Girl I Left Behind Me
Molly Malone
Seven Drunken Nights
The Wild Rover
Whiskey In The Jar

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These tunes and songs are suitable for all viola players of all levels!

Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file and MIDI files
Arrangements for violin and viola - viola and piano - string quartet

Who composed folk music?

Viola Fiddling - Collections of folk viola sheet music

With the term "folk music" is generally intended the music which is traditional, typical of a country, the product of a community rather than of a professional composers, so in most cases folk music is by "anonymous".

What we today call folk music was very familiar to "serious" composer (I mean those composers now famous as classical music composers) who took inspiration from it. Baroque suites were works inspired by folk dances of the time; Haydn, the viola player Mozart and more composers wrote ländler (the most common folk dance in Austria and other countries); the viola player Beethoven spent several years working for a Scottish publisher writing piano trio arrangements of Scottish folk music and planned to write similar arrangements of other countries' folk music. Brahms wrote his very famous Hungarian dances for piano and then for orchestra, the viola player Dvorak knew folk music and wrote his Slavonic dances, Bartok was the first composer able to actually record live folk music performed by Romanian village players and took inspiration from them, writing his orchestral Romanian folk dances. Vaughan Williams did the same with English folk songs and there are more examples.

Collections of folk viola sheet music

The following is a popular folk tune called Michael Turner's waltz but it also appears in Mozart's catalogue of works (K536), it's a trio and is nearly exactly the same tune, apart from a few notes.

Michael Turner's waltz

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How to play folk viola music
(fiddle music) 

Back to folk viola music. So what I learned is that all this fiddle music was written down later by someone who wanted to pass on the tradition and there are many collections available.

What I do with the fiddle group is this:

I play the same melody doing some adjustments, changing octave here and there, basically whenever fiddles play on the E string I play an octave lower. These register changes sometimes require some other adjustments because I can't use two strings or an open string as they do.

Sometimes I can add some extra notes and play chords with the tune and in many cases the viola range enables me to play two versions of a tune in two different octaves (while fiddles can't). See Michael Turner's waltz, Fanny Power and Miss Rowan Davies in this page. I like this because the viola tone adds a very special touch to a bunch of fiddles which would be ear piercing otherwise and a bit monotone (just a viola player's opinion).

The Irish folk tunes
Sportsman's hornpipe and The road to Lisdonvaarna

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I think being able to play different styles enriches the player, you too could try it.

Fiddle music is quite simple and can be useful for beginners to learn new tunes, although advanced player can play it skilfully and make it really impressive. Because of the octave change that breaks the melody, some arrangements work very well when played in a group but I don't like them in a solo context.

Some folk viola tunes

To add variety to your repertoire, you can mix different genres and styles of music. Here are some folk tunes that sound nice played solo on the viola and that I play: English, Scottish, Irish, American, songs and dances (waltzes, jigs, etc.), including some of the most famous ones.

You can also see some of them in the videos on this page. The following three videos are of three tunes that go well together, watch them in succession.

Another suitable folk viola tune: The greenwood tree

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The south wind

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The Irish folk tune Fanny Power by Turlough O'Carolan
played on the mellow viola

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Here is a list of some tunes and songs that sound great on a solo viola:

The greenwood tree, The south wind, Fanny Power, Michael Turner’s waltz, Iron legs, Sportsman’s hornpipe, The road to Lisdoonvarna, Greensleeves, Ye banks and braes, Skye boat song, My Bonnie, My love is like a red, red rose, Ashokan farewell, Inneshere, Old Danny boy, Carrickfergus, Philadelphia soldier's joy, Bonaparte’s retreat, Miss Rowan Davies, Dark island, Sally Gardens, The land of my fathers (Welsh National anthem).

The famous Irish song Carrickfergus,
a melancholic folk viola song

Listen to and play folk viola music

So if you've decided you'd like to play some folk viola music, listen to some folk music (better if it's live), join a band, play by ear.
Here you can download free the tune book of the folk band I play with, the Oxford Fiddle Group. The tunes are written in treble clef, but viola players can read it. Here's the list:

Ae Fond Kiss; Arkansas Traveller; Ashokan Farewell; Auld Lang Syne; Banshee, The; Barrowburn; Bonaparte's Retreat; Bonny At Morn; Bonny Breast Knot, The; Bonny Kate; Brenda Stubbert's; Brosna Slide; Butterfly, The; Bwlch Llanberis; Calliope House; Calum's Road; Came Ye O'er Frae France?; Carrickfergus; Cliffs Of Moher, The; Cock of the North (A); Cock of the North (G); Dance Ti' Thy Daddy; Dark Island; Dashing White Sergeant; Dennis Murphy's Polka; Eighth Of January; Far From Home; Ferry, Da; Foxhunter's, The; Frank's Reel; Ganivelle; Give Me Your Hand (Tabhair dom do lámh); Greenwood Tree, The; Hamnataing; Hundred Pipers; Hut on Staffin Island, The; Iron Legs; Kerry Polka 1; Kerry Polka 2; L'Inconnue; Lay Dee At Dee; Le Canal En Octobre; Liberty; MacArthur Road; Mairie's Wedding; Margaret's Waltz; Mason's Apron; Merry Blacksmith, The; Michael Turner's Waltz; Midnight On The Water; Miss McLeod's ; Miss Spence's; Molly Oxford; Music For A Found Harmonium; Old Joe Clark; Old Mother Oxford (Headington); Out On the Ocean; Over the Waterfall; Pearl Wedding, The; Philadelphia Soldier's Joy; Princess Royal (Abingdon); Road To Lisdoonvarna, The; Rocky Road To Dublin, The; Rusty Gulley, The; Ryan's Polka; Schottische de Virmoux; Shetland Molecule; Si Bheag Si Mhor; Slockit Light, Da; Soldier's Joy; Solstice, The; South Wind, The; Spootaskerry; Sportsman's Hornpipe; Star Above The Garter, The; Staten Island; Stool Of Repentance, The; Tom of Oxford; Waiting For The Federals; White Cockade, The; Ye Banks and Braes.

A contemporary folk tune:
Miss Rowan Davies by Phil Cunningham

Otherwise, if you want the "dots", there are a lot of collections of folk viola sheet music. Here below you can also find links to pages to download free MIDI files, or to get some Mp3 files and recordings of folk viola music.

Technical notes:
Some of the following files, not all, are compressed (zipped) files. To unzip them, here you can download Winzip

Zip files:
To download the file, click on it and then choose Save.

Non zip files:
To hear the file, click on it.
To download the file, right click on it and then choose Save target as...

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Download viola sheet music

How about some famous folk viola tunes by some classic masters?
Download FREE MIDI files

Johann Sebastian Bach

Cello suite n. 1 in C major BWV 1007;
Download free sheet music two files: the viola version and the cello original
Download free MIDI file

Cello suite n. 2 in d minor BWV 1008;
Download free sheet music two files: the viola version and the cello original
Download free MIDI file

Cello suite n. 3 in Eb major BWV 1009; Download free MIDI file

Cello suite n. 4 in Eb major BWV 1010;
Download free sheet music two files: the viola version and the cello original
Download free MIDI file

Cello suite n. 5 in Eb major BWV 1011; Download free MIDI file

Cello suite n. 6 in Eb major BWV 1012; Download free MIDI file

Johannes Brahms

Hungarian Dance;
in Halloween Collection, Scary compositions arrangements for viola and piano, for a special night!

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Max Bruch

Kol Nidrei for viola and piano op.47 (Kol Nidre; ‘All Vows’), an Adagio on Hebrew melodies; Download free MIDI file Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file

The popular Irish folk song Sally Gardens played on the mellow viola

Vittorio Monti

Czardas for viola and piano (originally for violin); have fun with this very famous Hungarian style folk work; Download free MIDI file Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file

Do you really need a piano? You can do very well without it or, if you want company, try a cello


Amazing Grace
in Very easy collection for solo viola
Download free MIDI files Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file

Auld Lang Syne
, Words by Robert Burns
Famous Scottish song for viola and piano in G major, viola and piano; Download free MIDI file Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file

Read more on Robert Burns

...and more music is coming all the time, come and visit again for more free music download, more free viola music.

Want more free tunes?

Here is a link to a great website about folk music, where you can find a huge number of free tunes (in treble clef, but most viola players should know it), lists of sessions, events around the world, discussions, links: The Session.

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Buy Viola in Music's Collection of 13 famous tunes (19 pages)
£7.99 and download them instantly
They are in their original keys, so you can play them in sessions with other instruments

Jesu, joy of man's desiring
Michael Turner’s waltz (2 versions)
The greenwood tree
The south wind
Fanny Power
Ye banks and braes
Skye boat song
My Bonnie
My love is like a red, red rose
Sportsman’s hornpipe
The road to Lisdoonvarna
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Iron legs

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