Here’s some of the gear and other stuff I actually use and can recommend. The Wiley Ol’ Possum stands by these products to the extent that I will be glad to have you send them to me free if you don’t like them! — Charlie Walden
Please email me if you have questions. I’ll be glad to share my experiences with this stuff with and would like your feedback if you’ve used any of these products. email@example.com
First off you need a copy of the reprinted Ryan’s Mammoth Collection – aka Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes. This is best tune book ever and contains all the classic hornpipes, reels, jigs and cakewalks from the 19th Century you’ll ever need.
My favorite fiddle string is the green label, orchestra-medium Prim steel string made in Sweden. They sound great, are forgiving on the double-stops and stay in tune under the adverse conditions you encounter at outdoor church socials, county fairs and goat ropings.
The shoulder rest I use is the old-school Kuhn 4/4. There are a lot of different shoulder rests out there and there are plenty of knock-offs of this one. To me though it can’t be beat for durability, adjust-ability and comfort. The one I use everyday is over 20 years old and still going strong.
If you play like me a good mute is essential. Nyuk-Nyuk. Seriously though there are always going to be time when you need to tone it down to practice and not disturb others. This mute is adjustable in that you can raise or lower it to get varying amounts of muting effect. When it’s fully seated on your bridge it pretty makes your fiddle dead so only people who are very close could hear anything at all. I’ve owned one of those heavy brass “hotel mutes” and always worried that if it got loose in the case the fiddle would be toast. This one, being made of rubber, shouldn’t be a worry to you.
I’ve always found it handy to keep a small recorder at hand to catch that tune you’ll never hear again or capture an entire evening session. Likely, Going back to the analog days up to the present I’ve owned dozens of recording devices. I see a lot of people using their phones to record these days, but I’m still a fan of dedicated devices. This little Sony recorder is small enough to just leave in your fiddle case and fits right in your shirt pocket. It’s unobtrusive and makes an excellent recording. On a trip to Shetland I recorded dozens of hours of music for my personal use with mine (it’s a couple of models back from this one). I was amazed when I get home, transferred the music to my laptop and burned then played back the music on a CD. The quality was such that Patt has listened to this CD for days at a time.
The microphone you see featured in my YouTube videos of contra dance playing is an Audio Technica clip on condenser Pro 35. Mine is over 10 years old and is super reliable and clean sounding. Requires phantom power. By the way, I locate it by clipping onto the chinrest and then allow the foam on the mike to rest on the bridge between the G & D string. Sounds crazy, but it does not dampen the sound and there is never any feedback.
An ideal amplifier to go with this unit is the Fishman Loudbox Artist. There are two other models, but I like this one because it has more effects and two distinct channels.
The tuner I have clipped to my fiddle in nearly all of my YouTube videos is D’Addario Micro NS violin tuner. I really like this tune. It is visible in a wide range of lighting conditions and pickup the pitch quickly. Has metronome mode, but I’ve never used this. See my metronome recommendation below, too. The absolute besst thing about this tuner is you can leave it attached to your instruments so you will be less likely to ever use it.
Similarly, I use this version of the same tuner on my various guitars and mandolins.
If you interested in old school tuning this is the tuning fork I go with. I bought some cheaper tuning forks once and they were not actually A-440. Big surprise!! This is the Planet Waves tuning fork.
Rosin can really make a difference in the sound of your instrument so don’t get the cheap stuff. I use only Hill Rosin. Haven’t seen much difference between the dark and light myself. The old-timers used to claim you should use dark in the winter and light in the summer.
When we travel internationally I live in dread of having to check my fiddle in the cargo hold. With this BAM Overhead case that is a thing of the past. The down side is that there is no room for the bow or any accessories – only the fiddle will fit. As such, you’ll need a little ditty bag along with it carry your rosin and such and some sort of tube or case for the bow.
Although I get asked a lot, I’m the worst when it comes to actually recommending bow and fiddles to people. Pricing and taste can be subjective at best. If you’re looking for a “good” bow you need to rely on a reputable professional dealer in such. And then try as many as you can. If you’re looking for a cheap bow to take to an outdoor music festival I’ve had some good luck with this type of imported carbon fiber/fiberglass bow. Curiously, the price of this bow and the cost of a re-hair job have intersected on the graph so you can just chuck it when it needs hair and get a new bow!