Learn to Play the Fiddle Tune "Black Mountain Rag" on Guitar

by Scott Nygaard

Doc Watson learned “Black Mountain Rag” from fiddler Leslie Keith, who played it in the key of A with his fiddle cross-tuned to A E A C# (often called “Black Mountain Rag” tuning by old-time fiddlers), and transformed the unique fiddle piece into an equally unique guitar piece.  When a fiddler plays it, the mood is very different. The open drone strings of the fiddle give it a lonesome, archaic sound.

Black Mountain Excerpt
Click to enlarge tab.

Rather than trying to imitate this quality, which would have probably proven the guitar’s inferiority in evoking such a sound, Watson put the tune in the key of C, capoed to D, and reworked the melody into an exhilarating display of virtuosity. Every flatpicker of note has come up with his or her own version, but each is indebted to Watson. The first eight bars of my own arrangement are shown below.

Excerpted from Bluegrass Guitar Essentials

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