Mari uses the “Tune of the Month” project to share some of the tunes she especially enjoys playing. Each month, she will perform and teach her one of her favorite tunes so you can learn it yourself. The series includes tunes from all styles, including Irish, Scottish, downeast Canadian, Cape Breton, French Canadian, old time, jazz, swing, and klezmer, plus some of Mari’s original tunes (or “catches,” as she calls them). In each video, Mari will play the tune at tempo, like she would in a concert. Then she will break it down and explain all the elements you need to play the tune with comfort, authenticity, and pizzazz! It’s like a mini fiddle lesson that you can play over and over, right on your computer.
Mari hopes that you will learn these tunes and share them with your friends, students, neighbors, and fellow music enthusiasts. And of course, she’s also hoping to play them with you out in the real world — So what are you waiting for? Pick up your instrument, dive in, and join the jam session!
BONUS: Mari will also send out marked sheet music for every Tune of the Month in her monthly e-mail newsletter, as an exclusive gift for newsletter subscribers. If you would like to have sheet music, be sure you’re signed up!
(NOTE: Due to the high volume of requests, we are unable to send out sheet music for past Tunes of the Month; however, Mari still encourages you to learn the tune by ear and/or look for the sheet music on the many excellent online tune libraries, such as The Session or JC's ABC Tune Finder. Enjoy!)
To see the latest Tune of the Month right when it comes out, be sure to subscribe to Mari's youtube channel
- May 2021: Flowing air / slow strathspey, "O'er The Moor" (Traditional, found in Gow's 3rd collection)
This gorgeous tune is played all over the fiddling world (Scotland, Cape Breton, Ireland, Canada, etc...), and is actually the first expressive tune that Mari ever learned by ear. With it's soaring lines and lovely harmonies, a beautifully-played version of "O'er The Moor" will almost always take your listeners' breath away! Focus on creating beautiful "expressive tune" bowing patterns by following the strong/weak beats of 4/4, adding in ornaments without disrupting the melodic line, and exploring how to turn an air into a slow strathspey/variation by adding in extra melodic material.
- April 2021: Sweeping American waltz, "Nina's Waltz" (Mari Black)
A brand new composition of Mari's, written to commemorate the 1st birthday of her "honorary niece" on March 4th (as in 3/4...as in waltz baby!), this one immediately caught the attention of dancers / dance musicians who requested it for "Tune of the Month" -- how cool! Focus on creating beautiful waltz bowing patterns by following the strong/weak beats of 3/4, hearing melodic and harmonic sequences to help you learn more quickly by ear, and some fun 3rd position work as an added bonus.
- March 2021: Driving Quebecois reel, "La Belle Catherine" (a la Louis "Pitou" Boudreault)
One of Mari's all-time favorite French Canadian tunes, this famous version of "La Belle Catherine" comes from the playing of "old school" Quebecois fiddler Louis "Pitou" Boudreault, a master of creating fantastic groove and drive with just his solo fiddle playing! Focus on navigating "crooked" tunes, making an authentic Quebecois sound & bowing choices, and creating rhythmic variations by interchanging quarter notes -- “double” notes, bow lifts, double stops, and cuts (triplets).
- February 2021: Powerful Old Time reel, "Glory In The Meetinghouse"
This is one of those tunes that has it's own special sound. You could be listening to a whole string of great old time tunes, but THIS is the one that's going to really prick up your ears and get your attention! Focus on how to use the “drop E” alternate tuning, groovy old time bowing patterns (“scoop”, hook 3, rocking bow), and putting in double stop drones.
- January 2021: Grand Scottish Strathspey, "The Miller of Drone" (Nathaniel Gow)
One of Mari's favorite tunes to play in 2020, this gorgeous, expansive strathspey is a classic example of great "east coast" Scottish style, and it's one of those tunes that just FEELS great to play! Focus on bowing patterns that go with 3 & 4 note cuts, adding in chordal double stops, and stylistic ways to express that classic Scottish strathspey rhythm by switching around the "te-Tums" and "Tum-tes".
- December 2020: Original Mari Black jig, "Sun's Up" (Mari Black)
Mari "caught" ("wrote"?) this jig a couple years ago in the days leading up to the Winter Solstice -- a special time in the year because it marks "the return of the light" as the days start getting longer. She says this is one of her favorites to play when she needs a tune that can "just wrap you up in a big hug". Focus on finding pentatonic patterns in jigs, ornamenting long notes, and learning that spiffy extended bridge (an unusual tune feature)!
- November 2020: Soaring slip jig, "Soggy's" (Sean Og Graham)
One of the most majestic melodies Mari knows in the fiddle repertoire. No further description needed! :) Focus on slip jig bowing patterns and making ornament-based variations on long notes (rolls, hammer-ons, neighbor tones).
- October 2020: Playful Canadian reel, "The Whirlygig" (Bill Guest)
Another of Mari's favorite tunes from the pen of masterful Canadian tunesmith Bill Guest. This well-named reel is full of whirling arpeggios and unexpected melodic twists that will catch the ear of any listener! Focus on finding "sneaky" arpeggios and common skipping patterns...and the "glue finger" technique that makes them easy to play fast!
- September 2020: Awesome genre-defying 7/8 tune, "Luke Skywalker Walks on Sunshine" (David Stone)
Easily one of the coolest tunes Mari has discovered this year and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this brilliant melody will be your gateway to getting hooked on odd-meter tunes (7/8, 13/8, 5/4, or any other time signature that you might think is "scary") because it is just so darn catchy and FUN to play! Focus on how to feel 7/8 time (2-2-3) and find bowing patterns that will work well for odd-meter tunes in general.
- August 2020: Driving Cape Breton strathspey, "Beaton's Delight" (Donald Angus Beaton)
A truly iconic strathspey that will bring enthusiastic foot-stomping and whoops of delight from your listeners! This is one of Mari's very favorites from the Cape Breton repertoire, and a classic composition from the ever-prolific Beaton family. Special focus on mastering those signature 4-note cuts (i.e. the REALLY fast ones!) that are the hallmark of the Cape Breton strathspey sound.
- July 2020: Bright old time reel, "Ducks on the Mill Pond"
This delightful little ditty is one of the most "summer-y" tunes Mari knows -- lots of room for adding double stops and playing around with fun little variations! Focus on how to use the alternate tuning ADAE to get extra resonance in key-of-D tunes, as well as working on how to use "glue-finger" drones, double drones, small melodic variations, and glide slurs in the old time style.
- June 2020: Elegant jig, "The Late White Swan" (Ian Hardie)
A gorgeous, classy Bb jig that Mari fell in love with the first time she heard it! Focus on developing more ease and comfort in the majestic key of Bb, and using "glue finger" technique to improve your speed and intonation in arppegiated melodies.
- April 2020: Blazing Klezmer hora, "Emil's Hora" (Emil Kroiter)
Another tune from Mari's new album "UNSCRIPTED"...in fact, maybe *the* most intricate, flashy, and utterly crazy tunes on the whole CD! This amazing hora is written by famed Israeli accordion player Emil Kroiter, and is guaranteed to pick up the ears of anyone listening! It will take some pretty serious practice, but in Mari's opinion, it's worth every second. :) Focus on dexterity and fluency with klezmer modes/scale patterns, and shaping distinctive klezmer-style trills.
- March 2020: Cheerful French Canadian clog, "Clog in C"
Another tune from Mari's new album "UNSCRIPTED", this cheerful little melody kicks off the "Kitchen Party Set", and is one of the most adorable tunes Mari has ever encountered! You can't NOT smile when you hear it, so it's a great one to play when you want to lighten the mood around you. Focus on using "glue finger" technique to improve your speed and intonation in arppegiated melodies, and creating variation with "fill-in" triplets.
- February 2020: Original Mari Black jig, "Zora's Sunrise" (Mari Black & Cory Pesaturo)
Mari is celebrating the release of her brand new album, "UNSCRIPTED" -- a collaboration with 3-time world accordion champion Cory Pesaturo -- and here's a mischievous little jig that she and Cory co-wrote especially for this album! It represents some of the best of the duo's collaborative work, with Cory providing a rich set of chord changes and Mari weaving a rollercoaster-like melody to follow them. Focus on "slingshot" rolls, using 3rd position, and some extra zesty chromatic embellishments.
- January 2020: Original Mari Black reel, "Shortcake Sherpa" (Mari Black)
By popular request, Mari teaches her original "fiddle camp hit tune" written in honor of her friend and Canadian fiddler juggernaut April Verch! "Shortcake Sherpa" features every kind of musical mischievousness that Mari could throw at it...so hang onto your hats! Focus on navigating excessive use of chromatic embellishment, hocket rhythms, syncopations, and more.
- December 2019: Expansive Canadian waltz, "The Holiday Waltz" (Rudy Meeks)
Mari learned this amazing waltz from the playing of Ben Guillemette, the fiddler who helped introduce her family to fiddle music in the first place! This was one of Ben's signature tunes, and Mari still loves playing it in his honor. Focus on adding in rich double stops and using some decorative 3rd position.
- October 2019: Melodic Irish jig, "Mouse In the Kitchen" (Colin Farrell)
A truly gorgeous jig from the masterful pen of the great fiddler Colin Farrell, Mari reaches for this tune every time she wants a soaring melody that makes anyone listening feel GREAT! Focus on applying rolls/taps and “sneaky slurs” to go with long notes and over-the-barline ties.
- September 2019: Sassy Texas tune of choice, "Crafton's Blues"
Mari learned this super fun tune of choice (a.k.a. "wild card" tune) from the fantastic Texas fiddlers Tashina and Tristan Clarridge, and it's one of her favorite tunes to create cheeky variations on! This is a tune that can take it too, as it has a great sense of humor and mischief baked into the melody. Focus on discovering and creating Texas-style variations through exploratory improvisation, especially using double stops and chromatic approach tones.
- August 2019: Unusual klezmer "jig", "Yaron's Cajon" (Jon Cannon)
An amazing "style combination" tune by one of Mari's Boston colleagues, Jon Cannon, who uses this tune to combine his love of fiddle/contra dance jigs with the fiery sound of klezmer music. This is truly a one-of-a-kind tune, and is guaranteed to get any listener to prick up their ears! Focus on the use of melodic patterns in klezmer scales, traditional klezmer ornaments, and over-the-bar syncopation.
- July 2019: Pyrotechnical Québécois clog, "Jean Carrignan's" (Jean Carrignan)
Few fiddlers in history had chops to burn like Jean Carrignan, the truly gravity-defying Québécois violinist who set the bar for the fancy tricks we could pack into clogs. This tune is playful, mischievous, capricious, and SO fun to both play and dance to! Hold onto your hats, folks....! Focus on navigating quick transitions in higher postions (3rd, 5th, 6th), shifting technique, and stylist rhythms in clogs.
- June 2019: Awesome dance reel, "Sligo Creek" (Danny Noveck)
This slick and sassy Irish / New England Contra dance reel practically leapt off the page when Mari was browsing through one of her favorite tune books, and she has been watching it delight dancers and audiences every time she plays it ever since! Focus on using the “bounce slur” bowing to accentuate groove, and building your personal creativity by ornamenting quarter-notes.
- May 2019: Groovy Old Time reel, "The Yellow Barber"
A classic old time tune that is so approachable and fun to play that Mari learned it in 5 minutes on stage on one of her recent tours -- and then she fell in love with it through exploring the endless playground of variation possibilities it provides! In this video, she shows you both the tune AND how she plays around with it. Focus on old time style double stop drones, the "swoop" bowing (rocking bow), and creating subtle variation with anticipation rhythms.
- April 2019: Elegant Canadian jig, "Cape Breton Dream" (Pierre Schryer)
A strikingly gorgeous jig from the pen of one of Eastern Canada's greatest fiddlers, Mari has performed this tune all around the country and it never fails to set toes tapping! Focus on using chromatic movement to enhance a melody, and creating a great Downeast jig swing with a mix of “big-little” bowing and “glide slurs”.
- March 2019: Singing Scottish air, "The Honble. Miss Elliot" (John Pringle)
By popular request, Mari teaches the stunning air that she performed on the historic Niel Gow fiddle in Scotland (see that video here). Originally written as a strathspey, Mari turned this lovely tune into a slow air for her appearance at the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championships. Focus on left-hand ornamentation choices, singing variations, and finding the perfect timing for fermatas in slow airs.
- February 2019: Driving Cape Breton reel, "Mike to the Rescue" (Andrea Beaton)
Top among of Mari's favorite "summer camp tunes" from 2018, this is a particularly clever and driving reel from Andrea Beaton, one of Cape Breton's best and brightest living composers! Focus on playing in a driving Cape Breton reel style, and learning quickly by ear when tunes mix up skips and scale patterns.
- December 2018: Classic French Canadian reel, "Mouth of the Tobique"
By popular request, Mari teaches this classic French Canadian / Acadian dance tune that has been making toes tap for generations! Focus on learning the "double shuffle" bowing pattern and using it to create ear-catching variations within a section.
- November 2018: Flowing Texas Waltz, "Festival Waltz" (Kenny Baker)
One of the most gorgeous and classic waltzes to grace the "Texas Contest" style, this delicious Kenny Baker tune is beloved all through the U.S. and Canada. Here, Mari teaches her own signature version that she performs every chance she gets! Focus on creating that distinctive Texas sound through the use of close-voiced double stops and two-voice moving lines.
- October 2018: Twisty Canadian reel, "Manitoba Special"
A fantastic, grooving reel that is one of Mari's long-time most favorite "snazzy tunes" that she uses to close rockin' medleys, put a flourish on competition sets, and generally drive audiences and dancers crazy with delight. Practice learning quickly by ear, and focus on creating a fancy signature tag ending to cap off your snazzy tune!
- September 2018: Stately Scottish march, "Nancy's March" (Tom Clough) -- Part 2: Variations!
Let's take that beautiful march from last month and really fancy it up! Here, Mari shows how to create and improvise your own march variations so you can start really developing your own "signature version" of this tune. (If you don't already know "Nancy's March", make sure to check out last month's video and learn the tune before you dive into this video)
- August 2018: Stately Scottish march, "Nancy's March" (Tom Clough)
A lovely, stylish march written by "the prince of pipers," as Tom Clough was dubbed in his native Northumberland. Mari learned this one from one of her fiddle camp students during a jam session, and it was so catchy and fun to play, that it ended up being her #1 favorite tune of the whole camp! Focus on creating great pipe march style and variation using ALL the left-hand ornaments we've covered so far in Tune of the Month: roll, flap (or tap), "wiggle", hammer-on, and Mari's special "combo".
- July 2018: Swingy Irish reel, "Man of the House"
One of Mari's favorite high-energy jam tunes, this is a guaranteed toe-tapper. This video is a challenge to see how quickly you can learn a tune by ear! Focus on learning quickly by using pattern recognition and form to help keep track of the tune.
- May 2018: Cross-Tuned Canadian/Cape Breton strathspey, "The Open Door" (Paul Cranford)
A beautiful, stately, and stylistically-flexible tune from the pen of master Canadian tunesmith Paul Cranford, Mari loves this one so much that she included it on her album "FLIGHT"! Focus on navigating key-of-A (also called "high bass") CROSS TUNING in a Celtic-ish style, and coloring the tune with drone double stops.
- April 2018: Mischievous Irish polka, "I'll Buy Boots for Maggie"
An unusually fun and mischievous polka, and one of Mari's recent favorite tunes to perform, as it easily delights audiences with its unexpected harmonies, playful rhythmic figuration, and abundant opportunities for variation! Focus on bowing in the off-beat polka feel and strategies for creating variation through improvisation.
- February 2018: Slinky New England march, "Reign of Love" (Keith Murphy)
A beautiful, mysterious New England march that Mari (and many others!) love to use for contra dancing. The unusual and striking melody draws listeners in, and the smooth but swinging rhythms give dancers that special lift they didn't even known they were craving! Focus on emphasizing (and varying!) rhythmic figuration through bowing patterns.
- January 2018: Foot-stomping Downeast Canadian jig, "Naomi's" (J. Durocher)
A fantastically groovy Canadian jig that Mari has loved for years and performed around the world whenever she wants a jig feel that is guaranteed to get people dancing! Focus on learning long form tunes (i.e. 16 bars instead of 8) by ear, and bowing for maximum jig swing.
- December 2017: Character-filled Scottish strathspey, "The Witches' Hill" (Abraham MacKintosh)
A striking, unusual, and delightfully colorful strathspey from the pen of the ever-mischievous Abraham MacKintosh. With the unexpected minor-to-major key change between the sections, this tune is especially great for building variations and changing up the character with different phrasing and dynamics! Focus on learning quickly by ear using chord/arpeggio shapes, and strategies for improvising/planning melodic variation.
- November 2017: Expressive klezmer jhok, (unknown name)
A beautiful slower-tempo klezmer tune in dotted 3/8 rhythm, used for circle dancing, and one of Mari's favorite klezmer pieces to perform. Focus on listening for tune structure underneath all the ornaments, plus how to hear, understand, and execute stylistic left hand ornaments (authentic klezmer trills and the krecht).
- August 2017: Lilting Irish reel, "The Oak Tree"
An especially catchy and fun Irish reel that Mari has loved for years. This is one of those rare tunes that can be played countless ways, from slowly and gracefully to fast and driving, and it always sounds great! In this video, Mari focuses on learning a tune the way you would in a live session setting, with all the ornaments already put in to create variation (check out past month videos to catch up if you encounter an ornament that's new to you!).
- July 2017: Elegant New England waltz, "The Gonzallas Waltz"
Here's a beautiful summertime waltz from New England, one of Mari's favorite old timey dancing waltzes. Focus on learning long-form phrases by listening for the "skeleton melody", as well as how to fit in chromatic ornaments and "decorated ending" variations.
- June 2017: Original Mari Black reel, "Technical Terms" (Mari Black)
One of Mari's originally "caught" tunes, off her album "FLIGHT" (part of the "St. Anne's Set"), a fun and driving reel that's great for kicking up the energy in a set! Focus on where/how to fit in "cut" bowings to add to that rockin' dance feel, as well as applying bowings that go with cuts and left hand ornaments.
- May 2017: Spirited Scottish strathspey, "Mrs. James McInnes of Edinburgh's" (William Marshall)
A delightfully interesting and versatile strathspey from the pen of Mari's favorite strathspey composer, William Marshall. This one can sound awesome in a driving feel, a classy laid-back feel, and every tempo in between! Focus on finding melodic patterns (ie. skills for quickly learning tunes by ear), and rhythmic bowings particular to strathspeys.
- April 2017: Fiery French Canadian Reel, "Le Voyage" (Eric St-Pierre)
By popular request, Mari teaches this amazing 4-part French Canadian reel from composer Eric St-Pierre, which is as utterly rockin' as tunes can possibly get!! Focus on learning by ear with ornaments intact (ie. listening for melodic patterns) and bowing options for sections that include triplets.
- March 2017: Lyrical Irish jig, "Bye Awhile" (Padrig Rynne)
Another of Mari's recent favorite tunes that frequently appears in her shows when she's looking for a tune that really soars. Focus on using left hand ornaments and "glide slurs" to create an authentic lyrical Irish jig feel.
- February 2017: Swingin' Old Time tune, "Booth"
When asked to play a tune that really grooves, Mari almost always choses THIS one. Focus on developing a classic old time sound using string crossings, across-the-string slurs, and drone double stops. (Ps. This tune is CROSS-TUNED!)
- January 2017: Snappy Scottish jig, "Lord Dunmore"
One of Mari's oldest favorite Scottish jigs! Focus on how to create an authentic Scottish jig swing feel, plus use of ornaments.
- December 2016: Lovely contra dance waltz, "April Waltz" (Selma Kaplan)
A new favorite tune that Mari learned playing with a guest band member this fall, written about a surprise snow storm that visited an April contra dance. Focus on applying waltz bowings that follow the rhythm of the tune.
- November 2016: Driving Cape Breton strathspey, "Glen Rinnes" (Charles Grant)
A fantastically energetic Cape Breton strathspey that Mari recorded on her album "Flight". Focus on creating an authentic Cape Breton strathspey feel (as opposed to a Scottish strathspey feel) with bowings, the use of cuts, and left hand ornament choices.
- October 2016: Fiery Klezmer freylach, "Meron Nign"
A fiery and famous Klezmer freylach (fast tune), which Mari enjoys playing with her accordion partner, Cory Pesaturo (Check out their video of a great set finishing with this tune here!). Focus on applying fiddle tune skills to learning Klezmer tunes, use of distinctive Klezmer scales, and how to bow fast Klezmer tunes.
- September 2016: Awesome New Brunswick reel, "Pacific Slope"
One of Mari's long-time favorite reels, made extra awesome though it's use of hip French Canadian rhythms and key change (A-modal to A major...cool!). Focus on applying mixed bowing patterns to bring out different rhythmic implications, as well as use of 3rd position.
- June 2016: Fun Canadian-style hornpipe, "Bonnie Isabel Robertson"
One of the very first fiddle tunes to find it's way into Mari's family, and also featured on her CD "FLIGHT", this is one that is sure to have you tapping your toes! Focus on creating a light, bouncy dance feel in a hornpipe style, using previously-taught bowing and ornamental strategies.
- April 2016: Downeast Canadian Jig, "Cheticamp" (by Elmer C Briand)
A particularly bright, cheerful (and flashy!) jig out of Mari original home style of Downeast Canadian fiddling. Focus on how to navigate tunes that use higher positions, including strategies for shifting, how to locate 3rd position, and how to move fluently around the fingerboard.
- February 2016: Lilting Cape Breton jig, "Dave Marsh's Favorite"
A long-time favorite tune that Mari learned from Natalie MacMaster years ago. Focus on using chords to help learn tunes with arpeggios, and using "glue" fingers to make playing fast notey tunes look and feel easy!
- October 2015: Slinky Irish polka, "The Tolka Polka"
Mari shares her newly-discovered love of polkas that are on the mischievous side! Focus on syncopated rhythms and an unusual but effective cross bowing strategy.
- September 2015: Catchy Old Time reel, “The Charleston Gals”
A super fun and danceable old time reel Mari picked up in her recent excursions into Appalachian-style fiddling. Focus on creating an Old Time feel through drone double-stops, and rocking bow patterns.
- July 2015: Cheerful French Canadian hornpipe, “Le Tableau”
One of Mari’s very favorite dotted hornpipes (sometimes called “clogs” up in Canada), which she recorded on her album “FLIGHT”. Focus on chromatic decoration, creating hornpipe variations using duple vs. triplet rhythm, and resulting bowing strategies.
- June 2015: Fiery Klezmer freylach, (Unknown name)
Mari invites you to join her on her journey into exploring klezmer music with this fun, wild fast tune! This video focuses on a new ornament, the “krecht”, and introducing the freygish scale, which many klezmer tunes are based on.
- February 2015: Cheeky Canadian jig, (unknown name)
Mari shares her all-time favorite jig for getting a dancey, festive mood going! This video focuses on creating subtle but effective melodic variation within a section
- January 2015: Playful Scottish reel, “The Gladstone” (by J.S. Skinner)
A tune from Mari’s album “flight” that also helped her to win the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championships in Scotland! Learn how to evolve a tune through developing variations, as illustrated by Mari’s own original championship-winning variations. Includes variation pacing, cuts, barrage bowing and related left hand technique.
- December 2014: Flowing Irish jig, “The Highlander”
A tune that Mari just discovered and instantly fell in love with — she hopes it will capture your ears and heart too! This lessons focuses on Irish left hand ornamentation, including the hameron (review from June 2014) and the 5-note roll — and where/how to apply them.
- November 2014: Original Scottish-style reel, “The Loremaster” (by Mari Black)
One of Mari’s most popular original tunes, also performed on her album “Flight”. This tune will teach techniques for left hand (incorporating 3rd position) and right hand (slurred vs. unbowed triplets/cuts), as well as applying ornaments taught in previous videos.
- June 2014: Original Irish-style jig, “Exhale” (by Mari Black)
One of Mari’s most-requested original tunes, a joyful flowing jig that depicts the feeling of taking a big breath of fresh air after a long period without. This first Tune of the Month video focuses on Irish-style left hand ornamentation: flaps/hamerons and rolls.