Introduction to the book

“Gypsy Fiddle Collection”

by Gundula Gruen

I have created this book to share my favourite Gypsy and folk pieces from Eastern Europe and the Balkans with a wide audience of interested intermediate and advanced amateur musicians and professionals.

What makes it stand out from other books:

  • The music is from mostly authentic sources, many pieces are not known or found in any form of notation or recording in western Europe or the US.
  • The recording aims to inspire and it reflects the skill and experience of musicians who have taken the effort to study original ornamentation and style. They aim to bring across the passionate and fiery Balkan style with their playing that drives this music.
  • The book’s design is clear and animating, it is easy to follow as well as interesting and creative to look at.
  • It includes background knowledge on the music and pieces themselves – enough to help with the interpretation and satisfy curiosity but not too much to overwhelm or make it into an encyclopaedia.
  • Whilst other books exist on Balkan and Gypsy music, the 'Gypsy Fiddle Collection' is the only book in this field that makes the effort not just to communicate the notes to reproduce a tune but more importantly, to convoy the feel and interpretation that is arguably the most important aspect of Balkan music.

‘Gypsy Fiddle Collection’ is an exciting collection of the most beautiful tunes and pieces from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, I came across so far; a large number of which can’t be found in notation anywhere else. Most of the music I have learned by ear from original sources and written down as precisely as is possible in classical notation, including ornamentation and phrasing.

The idea started when I was holding regular workshops on Gypsy and Balkan music in London. The tunes were very popular with the participants. I taught by ear but had the written music for the musicians to take away afterwards. The players were so hungry for all this exciting music that seems to flow so naturally and is yet so exotic – I couldn’t teach them quickly enough in the monthly classes. So I started putting everything together in a book to give people the opportunity to study by themselves.

The pieces range from grade 2 to grade 8 level and can be performed on any instrument. Accompaniment chords are included in all the pieces to make ensemble playing easy. Each item contains some special information which ranges from translation of the title to background, genre or important information on accompaniment.

I have organized the pieces into the different regions where I believe they have originated from. ( Russia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Ex-Yugoslavia, Czech Republic…). Every chapter contains a paragraph about the music of each country and its specific stylistic elements, including tonal and rhythmical characteristics and local instruments. This is as much based on fact as it is on my own experience of learning the music from mostly traditional sources and performing it.

It is meant to give the musician a wider awareness of the particular regional flair and interpretation.

However, writing about style and phrasing and making a big effort to notate the music as close to the interpretation as possible, still makes it impossible to communicate the real feel and energy. The traditional way of learning is to pass on the knowledge from generation to generation by ear. To give the musician the opportunity to follow tradition combined with modern learning this book is accompanied by a CD – one can learn the notes quickly by reading, and then spend time listening to pick up the feel of the piece by ear. Even on its own the CD sounds very inspiring and is a great portfolio of how the music changes moving from region to region in the various places covered in the book.

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