Fiddler Contest Rules

Contestants must play a waltz, a schottische, a jig and a reel in a manner suitable to Michigan old-time dancing. Contestants will be judged on tempo/timing, intonation, expression and repertoire. 

Michigan State Championship Old-Time Fiddlers Contest Rules

  1. Contestants will draw for order of appearance prior to the contest. Contestants must be present and ready to play when their number is called or they will be disqualified.

  2. No electrical or amplified instruments allowed.

  3. Each contestant will play a waltz, a schottische, a jig and a reel in that order.

  4. Tunes that do not meet the definitions below or tunes played out of order will be penalized.

  5. Trick fiddling, cross-tuning, show tunes and novelty tunes such as “Listen to the Mockingbird”, “Orange Blossom Special” and “Black Mountain Rag” are not allowed. Styles of playing other than Michigan old-time fiddling are not acceptable, although the judges may take into account variations in Michigan old-time fiddling.

  6. Each contestant may use one accompanist playing in chord-style rhythm. Contestants may play without accompaniment if they choose. Scores will not be based on the presence or absence of an accompanist.

  7. Contestants and accompanists must play from memory. Sheet music is not allowed on stage.

  8. In the event of an accident beyond the player’s control (such as a broken string), at the judges’ discretion, a replay may be allowed from the point of the incident.

  9. There will be a six- minute time limit. No scoring will take place after the six-minute mark. Contestants may use less playing time if desired.

  10. In the event of a tie, a one-tune playoff will decide the winner. Any tune a contestant has played in a qualifying round or playoff may not be repeated in any subsequent rounds or playoffs.

  11. Any person placing first a total of three times will no longer be eligible to compete.

  12. Contestants will only be identified by number. Contestants are not allowed to speak on stage.

  13. All decisions of the judges are final.

Tune Definitions

Waltz: a tune in 3/4 time appropriate for waltzing.
Schottische: a tune in 2/4, 4/4 or 2/2 time appropriate for dancing a schottische.
Jig: a tune in 6/8 time appropriate for square or contra dancing.
Reel: a tune in 2/2, 4/4 or 2/2 time appropriate for square or contra dancing.

Judging Categories

Rhythm, Tempo & Timing (25 points)
– A steady, danceable tempo with no unevenness, pauses or dropped beats. A pleasant “lift” that makes dancers want to move. This shows the contestant’s ability to move dancers around the floor, rather than display “hot licks”. Excessive speed is discouraged.
Clarity & Intonation (25 Points)
– Notes played clearly with good tone. This shows the contestant’s ability to make pleasant sounds and to play the right note at the right time.
Expression (25 points)
– Use of phrasing, dynamics, ornaments and variation. This shows the contestant’s ability to make the tune their own by putting some of their own style and personality into the tune, however, elements that obscure the dancer’s musical cues are discouraged
Repertoire (25 points)
– Tunes that are appropriate to Michigan old-time fiddling. This shows the contestant’s knowledge of the tunes played by Michigan’s old-time fiddlers, helps to preserve the old tunes and promotes the unique musical heritage of the state of Michigan.

Scoring Guide

  • 5 points – Needs Work

  • 10 points – Fair

  • 15 points – Average

  • 20 points – Good

  • 25 points – Excellent