Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Black Creek tune list

I've been editing my field recordings from Black Creek lately. It dawns on me that some readers here might be interested in what tunes were played at a northeast US festival. And, granted, this list is probably quite different than the other groups that were jamming around the Altamont fairgrounds. While some folks like to wander around from group to group, at this point in my path, I tend to stick with a steady crew that I meet up with each year. I mentioned that there was a hefty dose of C tunes this year. We like tunes collected by Bruce Greene. There were some fond words for Wilson Douglas, Henry Reed, and John Morgan Salyer as we played versions based on their playing. Hoover Uprights, Rhythm Rats, and of course the Fuzzy Mountain Stringband influence our style.

Early on, I used to make my mix tapes by sequencing tunes that I thought sounded good next to each other, somewhat like a disc jockey would create a playlist. That was before I understood that key and tuning mattered. As my obsession evolved, I began to take notes about tune names, origins, keys, tunings, and such. Another example of how the personal computer is a tool to keep the music going. I can look back at my notes on older festivals and gatherings like a high school yearbook. And, nowadays for my field recordings, I'm more likely to put tunes together by key to help people get the connections.

I kind of laugh at myself now that I have a better understanding about playing in a particular key for a long time. When I was clueless, it was all such a mystery. I'd call a tune and 4 people would say "We're not playing in that key." Nowadays, I can more easily figure out what key a tune is in by relating it to the other tunes in the list, likely in the same key. Clue: "It was on Saturday morning before the rain started and we played Angelina Baker before it and Soldier's Joy after it". Key: D.

Another advantage of cross tuning - you more easily associate the tunes with the tuning and therefore the key. Have I convinced you to try a new tuning yet?????

Now I can hear some skeptics saying "a tune can be played in any key". Well, technically yes. Especially, if you're playing a frickin' piano. Or, if you have the ability to play your 'violin' in first, second, third, and fourth position. But, there is a rhyme and reason for playing in a particular key for many of the old timey tunes. They just fit better. You don't 'run out of notes' when you get to the lowest string or the highest string for example. Or, the drones just work better.

Just need to add here, that I've heard a number of people say that they recall tunes based on when they learned them and who they were playing with at the time. See, the more associations that you have to a tune, the more likely you are to remember it and remember that you enjoy playing it. I've left names off of this list to protect the innocent as they say. But, I try to record in my notes who was jamming at the time of the recording. My memory does fail me on that sometimes, but it is kind of fun to walk down memory lane and recall who I played with at a particular festival in a particular year.

And, if all this sounds a little clique-y or exclusive to the newbies out there, please understand that I believe that this sort of jamming should be inclusive. If you ever run into me at a festival, say hello and sit down. Chances are it will be a good time for you to join in. Don't be shy.

So, here's the list...

Key of D, fiddle tuned ADAE:

Here Comes Jack with a Fiddle on his Back Heading to the Frolic


Eighth of January

Dubuque - from Rhys Jones

Key of C, fiddle tuned in standard GDAE

Katydid - from the Skillet Lickers


Lonesome Blues

Billy in the Lowground - from John Morgan Salyer

Pike's Peak

Old Melinda - via Rhythm Rats and Hoover Uprights

Stone's Rag

17 Days in Georgia

Baltimore the Fair City - sung; don't know what key

Key of A, fiddle tuned AEAE:

Up Jumped the Devil

Double File via Fuzzy Mtn String Band

Chinkapin Hunting

Candy Girl

Sugar in the Gourd


June Apple

Breaking Up Christmas

Five Miles of Ellum Wood

Sourwood Mountain

Tater Patch

Old Yeller Dog Come Trottin' Through the Meetin' House

Boy Them Buzzards Are Flying


Bull at the Wagon

John Brown's Dream

Key of G, fiddle tuned in standard GDAE:

Katy Hill (in G or C?)

Elk River Blues

Jeff City



Fiddle in standard, don't know what key without some more thought...

Wildwood Flower

Midnight on the Water (D)

Maysville from JP Fraley

Kenny Baker tune

Hidad in the Morning

Black Cat Piddled in the White Cat's Eye (G, from Tasmania)

Old French

Key of A, fiddle tuned AEAE:

Tater Patch

Pretty Little Widow

Going Down the River

Chinkapin Hunting

Horse and Buggy-o

Lady of the Lake

Greasy Coat

Key of C, fiddle tuned standard GDAE:

Farewell Trion

Billy in the Lowground

Old Melinda


Little Billy Wilson

Key of G, fiddle tuned GDGD

Pretty LIttle Widow

Great Big Taters

Rocky Road to Dublin

Greenback Dolly-o

Starvation on Hell Creek

Wish I Had My Time Again

Squirrel Heads and Gravy

Fiddle tuned standard GDAE

Sole's Reel

The Long Winding Road to Elkins

Pigtown Fling


Bound to Have a Little Fun

Nancy Rowland

Leather Britches

Billy in the Lowland - in G from Henry Reed via Double-decker String Band

Sandy River Belle

Can You Hear Me Now

Cripple Creek


Key of D, fiddle tuned ADAE:

Soldiers Joy

Durang's / Soldier's Joy

Star of Bethlehem


Damon's Winder

Winder's Slide

Morehead from Dirk Powell

Stuart's Longbow

Big Mule - from Bruce Greene

Ida Red - from Rayna Gellert

Banjo players - you're welcome to note banjo tunings in the comments if you'd like.

1 comment:

Gabe McCaslin said...

Irish sets are often composed of tunes in different (or "nearby") keys, for example D and G. It can often add an interesting sense of motion to a set...