The Fiddler's Companion

A Descriptive Index of North American and British Isles Music for the Folk Violin

Compiled and Edited
Andrew Kuntz
Version V2.00 (11/2000)

Copyright © 1995-2000 by Andrew I. Kuntz. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilm and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author. Requests for permission or further information should be addressed to Staggerin' Willie Music Publishing, 8 Veatch Street, Wappingers Falls, New York, 12590. Inquiries can also be made to 914-298-7996 or e-mail Library of Congress Catalogue Number Pending.


The Fiddler's Companion is constructed to grant what the title implies: a friendly, clear and useful resource for a fiddler, musician, researcher or other interested party to help in finding descriptive information on that musical genre, whatever its origins, vaguely but popularly known as 'fiddle tunes'. This descriptive index helps fill a longstanding need for a comprehensive indexing of the recorded body of British Isles and North American music for fiddle music, by far the most popular genres for the folk violin in the world, a need which has been recognized not only by me but by others who have recently bent their efforts to produce such indexes. Heretofore, however, individuals attempting such indexing projects have largely limited themselves to one national or regional genre or another, such as "Scottish Fiddle Music" or "Cajun Melodies," while the present volume is one of the first comprehensive works on the broad scope of Anglo-Gaelic-North American and related folk fiddle music.

Why is there a need for indexing this large mass of music, and for combining so many distinct genres together in one volume? For one, preservation purposes, lest these pieces tumble into oblivion as have so many unknown folk melodies (which presumably have passed from living memory in what has largely been--and is still, though to a much lesser extent--an aural/oral tradition). For another, there has been and is currently a growing international library of new and old source books and musical manuscripts that have become available as music literacy has increased in the general population over the past century and a half, and as fiddle music collections have again become commercially viable on a small scale. This means there are frequently several printed versions of any one particularly popular fiddle tune extent, each showing regional or personal performance variations of interest to the folk musician or researcher. Similarly, there is a century's worth of recorded sources available of folk fiddle music, particularly from the period of the late 1920's through the mid-1930's, and from the last several decades. In fact, a small but steady spate has been produced since the early 1960's "folk-song boom," or "folk revival," in the United States and the British Isles, which includes the production of record labels largely devoted to traditional music. This recorded music is perhaps even more valuable than printed music notation for preservation purposes, for it directly captures the nuances of the musician's performance that can never be reduced to a printed medium.

I feel it is essential to preserve not only the existence of a fiddle tune, as have a few researchers who have compiled regional tune-lists, or even to preserve the more famous tune collections (such as O'Neill's Dance Music of Ireland), but to preserve as much as possible those interpretations of a given tune which provide traditional performance with its richness and variety. Therefore, I have sought to include as many different source references as possible, though doubtless I have missed many that were not available to me.

Although I am not a trained musicologist, and make no pretense to the profession, I have tried to apply such professional rigors to the Fiddler's Companion as I have internalized through my own formal and informal education. This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk fiddle pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance. Many musicians, like myself, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want? Knowing the history of the melody I play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances my rendering of it.

If I have justified the concept of indexing this body of music, it is then necessary to define its scope. What comprises this body of music called 'fiddle tunes'? What can be included, what excluded, and what are the criteria? It seems much like trying to define what makes a person a New Zealander or an Argentinean; there are broad identifying and defining characteristics, but incredible variation within those parameters. All of this music, however, is obviously unified by the fact of being pieces performed on the folk violin, or fiddle, much like an identifying characteristic of a New Zealander, for example, is citizenship; this leads to the main criteria for inclusion of any one melody in this index: the piece must have documented evidence of having been routinely performed in a traditional manner by folk performers on the violin. In other words, it must demonstrably have been embedded in a traditional genre in Anglo-Celtic-North American cultures. Many tunes in this index fit this criteria wonderfully, clearly originating in folk culture and fortuitously having been the recipients of collectors' or musicologists' attentions for documentation or preservation--the modal melodies of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, fiddler Edden Hammons come to mind, for example, or the pieces of Shetland fiddler Fredemann Stickle. Many other melodies I have chosen to include fit my criteria with something less than stringency, and the reader will find tin-pan-alley melodies, various pieces composed for the stage, an occasional opera or classical melody, early-music pieces, old pop ditties, and assorted other oddities, all of which I have deemed qualified because there was some evidence they were assimilated into folk culture and routinely played by fiddlers as part and parcel of their repertoire.

Individual melodies used for both instrumental and vocal traditional music have also been included when I believed there was enough evidence of a tune's having sustained a life of its own in instrumental tradition apart from its marriage to specific words. For example, many English airs, such as Greensleeves or Country Courtship, were used for innumerable ditties over the years, as were, similarly, Irish airs such as The Cuckoo's Nest and The Boyne Water, and many of the famous traditional Scots melodies Robert Burns set his lyrics to. Often these melodies had concurrent life in instrumental as well as vocal tradition, and just as frequently many have survived until today only as instrumental airs, having been shorn of their words which have been abraded by the centuries (or, in some cases, even the decades). It is a truism that lyrics suffer much more severely than does music as a song ages, and sometimes only a clue set in a title or perhaps even a general 'lilting' character in a melody will betray its original use as a vehicle for words. As with those 'gray areas' of instrumental genres, however, if I thought a vocal melody had some entré into traditional fiddle repertoire, then it was included; also as with instrumental genres, I erred toward inclusion of doubtful 'fiddle tradition' melodies, striving for completeness.


Each entry consists of the title of the tune, followed by alternate titles (AKA = also known as...) and prompts (AKA and see...) referring the reader to information contained under other titles. Tunes with foreign titles are usually retained under those titles unless the tune has been disseminated under its English translation, in which case the English title is the one preferred. I have sought to include an English translation of a title, whether the title is known by its English title or not. For the most complete information on a tune and its variants all alternate titles may be referenced by the reader, as this will provide the scope of the tune family as well as more complete source and variant information. In general, I subscribe to the theory that the more alternate titles a tune possesses, then the older it is or the more popular it has been, or both.

Following a title and its alternates appears the tune's genre and type; given, for example, as Irish, Slip Jig. Often the genre consists of a nationality, such as English, Irish or Scottish, however, North American tune genres are listed as Old-Time, New England, French-Canadian, Texas Style or Cajun, which account for distinct broad regional styles each with definitive influences beyond the scope of this work to identify. In addition, some tunes are identified as American or Canadian, which identify fiddlers' pieces which have currency beyond regional boundaries and which can be considered products of the North American 'melting pot' of traditional music. Shetland is given as a genre rather than 'Scottish', even though the islands fall within the borders of Scotland, because of it's distinctive and rich fiddling tradition which incorporates both British Isles and Scandinavian influences (Shetland appears in the singular, as per local usage). The term 'Old-Time' is not strictly synonymous with 'Southern' as a name for the particular genre of early rural American country music, and encompasses a number of regional or sub-regional styles including those of the Mid-West, east Texas, the Deep South, north Georgia, the Galax/Mt. Airy complex, Kentucky/West Virginia, Cumberland Plateau, etc. Tunes that are specifically styled Bluegrass compositions have not generally been included in this index except where there was crossover with traditional fiddling. Bluegrass, a highly improvisational genre, is considered outside the scope of this index.

The field following that of 'genre and style' records a tune's historical geographical allegiances, rendered by nation(s) where the tune either originated or was assimilated into traditional usage, and then further by state or province (in the case of North American pieces) or by county (for British Isles pieces). Where a regional allegiance can be further defined, as, for instance, by USA; Cumberland Plateau or Scotland; Isle of Skye, it has been included.

Salient musical items are presented following geographical references. A tune's key is listed first; major, minor or modal, or in combination, since many fiddle tunes shift during the course of the piece between keys and modes. This shift is recorded with the device of a slash between the appropriate tonalities, as in: A Major/Mixolydian, denoting a melody which is played primarily in the key of A Major, but which employs a 'g' natural note occasionally in place of a 'g' sharp in the course of the tune. Pieces written in more than one key have each key identified by section, as: D Major ('A' part) & B Minor ('B' part). Violin string tunings are given next, with Standard referring to the normal tuning of a fiddle in fifths, GDAE from low to high. 'Cross' tunings, or non-standard fiddle tunings, are always listed low to high. Tuning information is followed by structural information. The majority of fiddle tunes are written in two-part form with both sections repeated once, denoted commonly by the letters AABB. It is quite common, however, for tunes to have additional parts, for one or more parts to be played without repetition, or for other orders of parts to prevail, thus AAB, AABC, AABBCCDD, ABCB or other combinations may readily be found. Frequently, various printings or recordings of a given tune will have different patterns repetition of parts or will have added or deleted parts compared with other versions of the same melody, depending on a number of factors including regional variations and the whims of individual musicians. Thus the patterns of parts in the index are represented and identified by source, as AABB (O'Neill): AABB (Breathnach), unless the tune is consistently played with one particular pattern. Repetitions of tunes which end in different cadences, have different leading or transitional notes, or feature other variations are recorded by the convention of an apostrophe: AA'BB'.

Anecdotes, identifying or clarifying information, examples of attached lyrics and miscellaneous information regarding a melody appear next, followed by a notation regarding the source of a given printed version when such a source was identified (i.e. Source for notated version: Bill Driver (Mo.) [Christeson]) in the original manuscript. Source information is always given by the name of the source, where he or she resided, and the author of the manuscript in which the source is cited.

The next-to-last informational fields consist of citations regarding printed and recorded sources. Printed sources give author's name, title, year of publication, page number where the melody is printed, and/or the number the tune is listed under. Under this scheme Hunter, 1988; No. 305, pg. 68 would denote tune number 305 on page 68 of James Hunter's Fiddle Music of Scotland, a 1988 reprinting of the original 1979 work. Recorded sources are listed alphabetically by the recording company label, followed by the name of the artist or group, title of the album, and, if known, the year of release. Thus, Rounder 0194, John W. Summers - "Indiana Fiddler" (1984) denotes Rounder Records album number 0194, by John W. Summers, entitled "Indiana Fiddler," released in 1984. All recorded sources appear in blue ink for easy reference. Information regarding sources for a particular musician's particular recorded version is given parenthetically.

The final field consists of a version or versions of the tune in 'abc' format, which can be read directly or cut-and-pasted into an abc reader program. A shareware version of Jim Vint's abc2win program is included on this CD for convenience, however, other abc readers are readily available for download from the internet. The reader is referred to for more information regarding abc programs and abc primers, a number of which present simple, clear and cogent presentations of the format.

It is my hope that the reader will find this index useful, informative and easy to use, and that it will indeed serve the purpose I imagined when I undertook this project, expressed earlier. I welcome all comments, suggestions, and especially corrections and information that should be included in subsequent editions of this work, which will be updated and issued periodically. Please address all such to Andrew Kuntz, c/o Staggerin' Willie Music Publishing, 8 Veatch St., Wappingers Falls, N.Y. 12590 or e-mail to

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