This index of tunes began as a simple preliminary to a more involved project. It was, largely, intended to be useful for my own purposes because I had found it aggravating on more than one occasion to have to search the indexes and tables of contents in a dozen books to find one particular tune. Such searching can be tedious because of the variation in the arrangements of the indexes in books of pipe and fiddle tunes. Many, such as that of the Skye Collection and the Ceol Rince h'Eireann, are subdivided into types such as double jigs, reels, and so on. Others are strictly alphabetical. O'Neill arranged his index by type and then subdivided by the initial letter of the title, but the entries under any one letter are in no order. There are published indexes of bagpipe tunes, such as those of Bain (1983) and Pekaar (1993), but no similar guide exits for the greater corpus of the Anglo-Celtic-American repertoire.

The need for such a reference is fairly obvious to one who has been involved in playing music for folk dances. I once met with some people who were all excited about a tune they had picked up somewhere as The London Bridge Polka. Unfortunately, they had rifled all available printed sources and could find no written version. Fortunately, I had learned the tune in question some years before as The Waves of Tory (see index). Unfortunately, I couldn't recall where they could find a written version (except for an Australian publication called Begged Borrowed and Stolen, which I have lost) even though I knew I had seen it. Fortunately, I found it in the course of this project in another Australian publication, Take Your Partners. There is, unfortunately, no reference in the index at this time to a The London Bridge Polka. As these things go, Roche lists two entirely different tunes under the title, Waves of Tory. I have just recently found an Australian publication that lists some alternate titles for this tune, but none of them mention London Bridge.

This work is by no means complete. These and similar tunes continue to be composed, circulated, and played. A slip jig known as The Butterfly, for example, was featured on a record in the early seventies and spread widely among players. While the tune enjoys great popularity it does not appear in any of the older collections; it is listed here in a few recent ones. There is a lag, therefore, in the publication of tunes which are commonly learned from recordings. On the other hand, particularly among bagpipers, sheet music circulates long before formal publication or even recording. Falkland Castle (a march for the bagpipes) does not seem to have appeared in print yet but I have three different versions written in different hands from various parts of the country. I have, on the other hand, a copy of MacLean's Farewell to Oban written out by hand in Australia in the middle seventies, the identical music in a different hand from Indiana in the early eighties, and a copy of a printed text, nearly identical, from Florida. This last copy comes, apparently, from Seamus Mac Neill Collection of Bagpipe Music while the earlier copies are of unknown origin. This is strictly traditional although irksome to publishers. Johnson (1984) relates that the same kind of copying was going on in eighteenth century Scotland.

As to how many tunes are here, for reasons discussed below, I have no idea. About a fifth of these entries are cross references and the same tune appears with different titles while the same title may represent more than one tune.


The sources for this work include the major collections of traditional English, Scottish, Irish, Breton, Australian, and American dance music. It is envisioned as a work in progress in which additional sources will be included as they come to hand.

The material included gives a good overview of the traditional dance music from (approximately) the eighteenth through the twentieth century. The great bulk of the materia l comes from the last century and a half. This period covers a time of significant change in traditional music as more instruments and a greater variety of them became available. The accordion in its various forms and the five-string banjo gained significant popularity while the flute and the harp generally declined in importance. During this period the Scottish and Irish bagpipes flourished under the influence of nationalistic revivals. American music exerted a great influence through the development of the minstrel show and ragtime. This is also a period in which romantic nationalism was in the ascendancy. National identity seems to be associated with the existence or development of national literature and arts. Nationalistic revivals among some groups has been one of the spurs to the assembling of some of the collections here. Such sentiments make some collections rather myopic in that they disregard tunes which may have been popular in, for example, Ireland, but which are not of Irish origin. Bayard's Dance to the Fiddle..., Collector's Choice and a few others are notable exceptions in this regard.

As to structure, these tunes tend to be, when performed for dancing, thirty-two bars in length and composed of two parts or strains. The first strain of eight bars was sometimes known as the tune and the second eight bars as the turn. Most strains are built upon a four bar phrase. The second four bars comprise a variation on the first four. The phrase may often be subdivided into two bar sub-phrases. Ordinarily the full eight bar strain is played twice, or doubled, but in the case of many tunes built on two bar sub-phrases this produces an overly repetitive sound so the eight bars are not doubled. The modern practice is, thus, to play a tune of two strains, doubling each strain so that the entire tune gives 32 bars of 64 beats. The entire tune is repeated as often as needed for a dance or played with other tunes to make medleys.

This general AABB structure is practically universal in traditional Anglo-Celtic-American dance music. Another other common form, AABA, is found in American (and other) popular songs. One may speculate that tunes in this form are have not become more popular for traditional dances because it leads to an excessive repetition of the A part. Indeed, we find that instrumental treatments of tunes in this form, as for example by the big bands of the thirties, often rely on modulations, interpolated vamps and segues, and tempo changes to avoid this problem.

Medleys, or sets of tunes, are not, by tradition standardized. A musician playing for dances needs to select sets of tunes that go well together. In common practice there are certain sets that have become fairly standard. A good example of this is the Tarbolton set recorded by Michael Coleman early in the century. The recording has had such an impact that many other players now regard Tarbolton Reel, Sailor's Jacket, and Longford Collector a standard set. Few collectors arrange their tunes in sets, although Kerr does and others occasionally do.

Exceptions to these structural rules are rare in Scotland, Ireland, and America. English tunes are somewhat less regular. Among the few exceptions with which the author has come into contact are the Irish tune The Ace and Deuce of Pipering (with a thirteen bar strain), the Irish Piper Through a Meadow Straying (with a twelve bar second strain), the American Billy in the Lowground (with a nine bar strain), most of the Piobaireachds (which are instrumental, but not for dancing), and a few morris tunes, some of which only seem irregular because of the variations in tempo and some of which are irregular in the order of repetition of parts. Joyce and Bunting also list a few irregular tunes.

A second category of tunes with three parts, one of which is a trio in a different key, can be identified. Tunes in this category are polkas, schottisches (based on the polka), and rags (possibly based on the polka).

In regard to aesthetics, one may distinguish Scottish, English, Irish, and American music by ear. Obviously the differences must reside in identifiable characteristics of the music as played, and somewhat abstractly, therefore, as written. It is reasonable to assume that a statistical analysis of the formal properties of this written material would demonstrate significant and interesting differences amongst these interrelated musical cultures.

On the other hand, quite likely, someone from outside this cultural area would tend to identify all of these tunes as comprising a single body of material. Within this musical culture we are more likely to be interested in the differences among the subdivisions of the culture. An outsider, or an insider who can take the outsider's point of view, will, more likely, see the commonalities by which a cultural family is defined. This is to say that an Irishman might not care for Scottish music where a Chinese listener might not notice the difference, being more struck by the similarities.

By way of introduction there follow some remarks on the various types of information to be found in the index.


Early in this project entry numbers, numbers assigned to each index entry in the order they were typed, were used to facilitate cross references. Later the cross reference format was altered and the entry numbers deleted. It has become apparent that the entry numbers are useful for various purposes and have been restored. Unfortunately the original entering order has long since been lost so the current numbers are based on the alphabetical sorting of the sources when there were approximately 36,000. entries.

Please refer to these numbers when sending in corrections. they are, by default, the standard references to specific tunes and titles in the collections represented here.


The index has been arranged strictly according to title. For those titles which appear on several tunes of varying type the entries are further alphabetized according to the type. In all cases the titles are recorded in full to the extent that space permits (none are censored or euphemized) except for the deletion of any initial article. The initial an in Gaelic titles was also deleted because of its rough equivalence to the English definite article and because it is common enough to throw an excessive number of entries into the A section. This practice is used by some authors in Gaelic. A great number of jigs and hornpipes as well as a few other tunes include the type of tune in the title, i.e., The College Hornpipe, or The Kesh Jig. In these cases the type has been deleted because it appears elsewhere in the data except for a few tunes in which the type precedes the title, e.g. The Reel of Tulloch. The Kesh Jig, therefore, appears simply as Kesh. This is in keeping with common practice. In a music session a tune may be identified by a single person calling out, "Kesh!"

The foregoing convention is applied somewhat differently to different sources. In the case of a collector like O'Neill, who always gave a title, even if, as suggested in Waifs and Strays he had to invent one, an entry like Munster Jig is interpreted as a title for a jig called Munster. In the case of a similar entry in Petrie, who listed tunes without titles, the same heading would be interpreted as descriptive of the provenance of the tune, thus entered as Munster Jig in the index. The tune type is, therefore, appended only to descriptive titles and titles at variance with the type as in the case of The Mountaineer's March, listed as a jig. Spellings are as given in the sources with only a few corrections of obvious errors. No responsibility will be accepted for spelling of Gaelic titles. One tune, The Full Little Pitcher, has been rendered in various sources as Cruisgin Lan, Cruiscan Lan, Cruiskeen Lan, Cruiskin Lan, or Cruis Kan Lan. One also finds this tune spelled like the commercial brand of liquor which bears a corruption of the name along with a picture of people sitting on a lawn. Spelling in Gaelic is somewhat problematical because of variable orthography and dialect.

There are cases in which the article has been included in the title following a comma. These were included where the article seemed to add to the meaning. With The Old Langolee, for example, the article suggests a reference to a tune or thing, while Old Langolee might suggest a place or a person. There is no hard rule to indicate where the article should be included.

This work was begun on a CP/M system. Because of the sorting protocols of the software being used on that system (Super Sort) it was expedient to regularize capitalization of Gaelic titles and to delete any punctuation following an initial letter. Punctuation was also deleted from common abbreviations such as Mr. and St. Abbreviations such as Col., Cln., or Coln. have been regularized and punctuation deleted. The present alphabetization results from the sorting protocol of Quattro Pro 4 in which spaces are sorted before letters and punctuation follows. Thus, O l would come first, Ol next, and O'l last.

Commonly, tune names which include ranks, such as Pipe Major Sam Scott, are frequently recalled without the rank, i.e. as Sam Scott. In most such cases, therefore, additional entries have been made beginning with the name of the person. This has not been done as completely with the large number of tunes which include Lady, Miss, or Mrs because relatively few of these tunes are in the popular repertoire. It also appears that such titles tend not to be shortened in recall.

Gaelic titles are as given in the source with those originally given in the Irish alphabet simply transliterated. The titles include Irish, Scottish, Breton, and Welsh Gaelic. The cross references are, whenever possible, from the Gaelic to the English. Such reference does not necessarily give a translation, although this is most generally the case. This convention has been followed even when the Gaelic name appears to be a translation from the English as in An "Dili" Airgid Liom-Bhearnan, The Silver Dealie Gap Filler (see index). The diacritical marks found in some Gaelic and in French have been deleted for practical reasons related to the programs being used for this work. In some cases the spelling of the Gaelic seems questionable because of either obscure typography or because multiple spellings are given in the source as, for example, conflicting spellings of the same Gaelic title in Ceol Rince ... Finally, no italics are used for foreign words in the index because they are impractical with the programs in use.

Bill Taylor of Monticello, Illinois, said, in jest, that all old fiddle tune titles contain a preposition. He cited Walking in the Parlor, Indian on a Stomp, and Ducks on the Mill Pond as examples. These are all banjo tunes derived, like most American dance tunes, from older British ones. Bayard (1945) credits this type of title to a common eighth+eighth+eighth+ eighth+quarter+ quarter note pattern in reels.

It appears that reels, and to a lesser extent jigs, tend to have such complex and fanciful titles. Hornpipes tend to bear simpler names which specifically designate them as hornpipes. See, for example, The Dundee Hornpipe or Rickett's Hornpipe. Strathspeys are more likely to be known for a person in who's honor they were composed or dedicated.

The reason for these differences is not at all clear. In the case of the strathspey it may indicate something of the social position of musicians at the time the strathspey was developing as a distinct style within the class oriented patronage system of Scotland. Much the same can be said of the Planxtys. The characteristic single word or name title of the hornpipe may be harder to account for. Certain ones, like Rickett's can be traced to particular performers who danced between acts at theaters popularizing both the dance and the tune. Perhaps the individual performers set a standard as the hornpipe developed and newer tunes were titled in imitation.

It may also be that the jigs and reels are, as types, older and more closely related to songs. The strathspey and hornpipe, being more recent developments in a more literate social context, may simply not have had time to come adrift from their origins before being collected.

Certain conventions are worth noting. Many tunes are titled as The Humors of ... with a place name added. In this usage humors seems to refer to style. A tune may thus be titled as being in the style of a particular place. Others are titled as someone's frolic, favorite, or fancy, indicating that it was a tune much liked by or composed by a certain individual. A few other such terms appear from time to time.

According to Joyce, "The reader must be cautious not to draw hasty conclusions from mere Titles [sic.] (Petrie, 1909, p vi)." Different tunes may bear the same or similar titles and a single tune may be known under a variety of names. Several tunes listed as lacking a title will sound quite familiar, but it is not the intent of this work to put names to tunes.

The complaint has been lodged by a librarian that the indexed should be further grouped to allow for variants of titles and alternate spellings instead of simply listing all titles as they appear. While this might be more useful in some ways this has not been done because a) the index is slowly growing so the current arrangement is much simpler, b) it is not clear which variant spelling should be the official one in many cases (some people know Johnny Scobie as Bide Awa' and so on), and c) the current arrangement keeps the author's intrusion into the data to a minimum. Anyone searching for an exhaustive list of all versions of a particular title needs to try all possible variants taking careful note of cross references.

Many of the sources which are only partly listed are indexed according to information supplied by John Hartford who sent me copies of the title pages and tables of contents for many of the books in his extensive collection. Legibility is occasionally poor on some of these copies, so it was judged to be better to omit information which could not be clearly read. I appreciate John's contribution, but I hope in the future to be able to replace these entries with more complete ones.


The tunes in this index are, for the most part, dance tunes. Many are also used for songs. Greensleeves, for example, has been used for many different songs and dances. In those cases where a few songs are included among dance tunes, such as in Negro Minstrelsy, they are included for source completeness. There is, however, no clear cut distinction to be made between dance tunes and song melodies. D'urphy (1720) includes some of the same melodies as Playford (1651), although the former was printing songs and the latter dances. Many songs in 3/4 time are played as waltzes while many reels and jigs have been used for a songs. Melodies, or airs are often played simply for their pleasing sounds or as vehicles for displaying the virtuosity of the performer.

The dance tunes in the this tradition are commonly divided into several categories; reels, strathspeys, hornpipes, jigs, and so on, but these categories are not rigid. The categories actually apply to dances, but because certain tune types are associated with certain dances, the category of, for example, double jig dances, developed a body of associated music and a musician could then compose a new tune in the style of other tunes used for that dance. All such tunes are, therefore, justifiably referred to as double jigs.

Because one collector may call a tune a hornpipe and another may call a nearly identical text a reel, the type of tune has been listed here only if it is explicitly given in the source or in the title itself. The only exception to this rule is for Cole's collection in which several tunes are identified as clogs with the term Lancashire appended to the title. It is not clear whether this identifies the Lancashire Clog as a type or identifies clogs in a particular style. In all of Cole's entries the type follows a hyphen, but Lancashire is included before the hyphen in parentheses. This suggests that the Lancashire is a subtype of clog.

The following generalizations can be made about the types included here:

I. Principal types in even time.

Reel: Modern Gaelic sources use the word ril, but the word reel, according to Breathnach (1971), comes from the Anglo-Saxon word rulla, meaning to whirl. He equates the reel with the hey, from the French haie, a hedge. Although the term hey survived into the eighteenth century in Scotland, the term reel has entirely replaced it. The term, curiously, seems not to designate a particular dance, as there are reels which are associated with round dances, contra or long dances, and quadrilles.

Reels are tunes in even time (2/4, 4/4, or 2/2) with fairly regular timing and limited melodic content. The reel, regardless of the time signature, has two accents to the bar, while the hornpipe and strathspey have four. The reel and the jig are really the heart of this musical tradition. The Strathspey (see below), so important in Scottish music, can be seen as a style of playing which has transformed some reels to the point of their development into a new genre. Reels tend to have little variation in note value and tend not to have large intervals between notes. Reels also tend to have less pronounced endings than hornpipes; the last phrase leads the melodic line back to the start. Reels are played quickly. The dense packing of identical note values gives the reel a restless running sound.

Irish reels are very prone to be written without dotted and cut notes (notes shortened relative to dotted companions), while the Scottish reels are more likely to have such accents. Older tunes are less likely to be written in an accented style, but it is not clear whether this should be attributed to a change in the style of playing over the years or a change in the manner of notation. It could be that in the older written records the accenting was taken for granted as a matter of technique for the musician. Pipers clearly make this assumption about their written music today, despite the detailed accenting of the writing.

The reel and the jig are particularly prone to being constructed on what may be called hot licks. This guitar player's term, adopted for lack of a better expression, refers to particular melodic effects or motifs which come from a certain movement of the hands on the instrument. Entire tunes may be built on a particular effect produced by a technique peculiar to one instrument. One finds, for example, pipe tunes which are based on the repetition of particular decorations. There are Irish Pipe tunes which play off the distinctive timbers of the various parts of the chanter's range. Many fiddle tunes make extensive use of cross bowing two strings, a fairly easy movement on the fiddle, but which can produce melodic lines difficult to play on other instruments. A series of cross bowed notes may lie on opposite sides of the octave break for the flute or whistle and may, thus, be difficult to play.

These tunes could be classified on the basis of these hot licks in such a way as to indicate the instrument on which they were developed. Some tunes go particularly well on the accordion and others on the flute.

Roche makes a distinction between single and double reels. He calls those in 2/4 time single reels and states that these are simpler tunes than the double reels in 2/2. Some collections put all reels in the same time. The current tendency appears to be to write reels in 4/4.

Hornpipe: A hornpipe (crannciuil or cornphiopa in Gaelic) is a tune in even time (2/4, 4/4, or 2/2) with a fairly regular timing, a somewhat greater melodic content, and four beats with the greater stress on the first and third. Hornpipes typically end with three even notes, eighth notes for tunes in 2/4 and quarter notes for those in 4/4 or 2/2. For step dances hornpipes are played quite quickly, for other dances they go more moderately.

O'Neill lists many hornpipes with quite irregular timing and many with a great number of triplets. These latter tunes are not unlike some single jigs (see below). The greater melodic content and the greater intervals give the hornpipe a more bouncy quality. This irregularity allows Henebry to draw the analogy that the double (see jig, below) is to the jig as the reel is to the hornpipe, i.e. the double jig and the reel are highly regular in their timing while the single jig and the hornpipe are more irregular.

In times past the hornpipe was identified with uneven times. Older sources include hornpipes in 6/8 or 3/4. Forde (1940) lists at least one hornpipe in 3/4. Such unevenness may have arisen as a natural part of the hornpipe after its transformation into even times. Seeger goes so far as to describe the hornpipe as "really just 6/8 played very fast. Occasionally you'll find it written in 12/8 time" (1954 p. 27). Krassen, in reworking O'Neill's tunes, irons out these irregularities.

Roche distinguishes between single and double hornpipes. Offord (1985) discusses the Lancashire and Cheshire double hornpipes and clogs.

Rant: The rant seems to be a reel or hornpipe with a four, rather than eight bar strain (Emmerson, 1974). Although several tunes retain the term in the title, The Cameronian Rant, for example, it no longer stands as a distinct type of tune. If the four bar definition is correct many of Cole's or Kerr's reels might be classified as rants.

Strathspey: A tune, generally in 4/4 with considerable melodic content and highly irregular timing. It is considered characteristic of the strathspey that a cut note often precedes a dotted one. The strathspey (the dance) is usually a contra dance (a dance for several couples starting in lines, usually with the ladies in one line and the gentlemen in the other) performed to a strathspey tune played slowly. The strathspey was probably originally simply a style of playing which gradually developed a corpus of its own.

The tune texts indexed here are regarded by traditional players as guides or generalizations rather than as precise directions for performance. Additional interest can be added by accenting particular notes, either by lengthening them (particularly when playing the pipes) or by playing them more loudly. This is particularly true of the Scottish style in general and strathspey playing in particular. The dotted notes in a strathspey, particularly those falling on the first and third beats of a measure, are lengthened more than the single dot would suggest. Such dotted notes should be considered as double dotted.

Players of American music typically have difficulty playing strathspeys because the accents in the Anglo-Celtic music are based on subdividing the beat into four. The American musical taste favors the subdividing of the beat into three. The American dotted-eighth+sixteenth is typically played as a triplet-quarter+triplet-eighth. This fact is sometimes stated at the head of American music transcription, particularly in ragtime and popular music, in order to spare the musician an excess of markings on the page. Phillips (1994) states explicitly that the dotted quarter-eighth combination is to be interpreted as a tied triplet, i.e. as equivalent to a triplet-quarter and triplet-eighth.

Scotch measure: This is an older Scottish form now rarely recognized as a type. It is reel using longer note values than the usual reel and featuring a characteristic quarter+eighth+eighth note pattern in the melody (Emmerson, 1971). Examples are Petronella and The White Cockade.

Fling: This indicates a solo step dance which is generally performed to a strathspey played quickly. In Ireland strathspeys seem to be known as flings. Roche lists several flings, including Monymusk [sic.], a common strathspey. His flings are like strathspeys in that they are heavily accented and include several triplets, but he rarely puts the cut note before its dotted partner as is characteristic of the strathspey. These flings are reminiscent of Cole's (Ryan's) clogs.

Clog: This is a dance which is performed to tunes which are rather like hornpipes or strathspeys, but for which the lengthened note precedes the cut one. It appears to be an English type which has little contemporary currency. Offord (1985) discusses the clog in Lancashire and Cheshire.

Polka: In this material a polka is generally a tune in 2/4 with regular timing. The polkas, like all these tunes are based on eight bar strains. Whereas most of these tunes have two or four parts, the polkas tend toward three parts with one part being a different key. This third part is often marked as a trio. Nettle (1947) describes the polka as a two part and trio form. He also defines the Gallop as a polka played at a fast tempo. Lloyd Shaw (1948) discuss the relationship of the polka to related dances in some detail.

The redowa seems to be a 3/4 cousin of the polka craze. Some authors include redowas and compound forms such as polka redowas. Similar compounding is found in polka mazurkas and so on.

Polkas tend to have only two parts in the Australian tradition.

Schottische: This appears to be an English adaptation of the polka as a country dance. The music is much like the strathspey, often with a trio. It is, thus a Czech-Anglo-Scottish type. Roche equates the schottische with the barn dance. The Schottische seems to have migrated from England back to the continent where it is played along with the polka. The schottische is a staple of American Polka bands.

Shaw (1948) describes the Schottische as very old and devotes all of chapter eight to it. He relates the barn dance to the military schottische. He further asserts that the jitter-bug is a variant on the schottische step.

II. Principal types in odd times.

Jig: The term jig seems to be derived from Italian. Modern Gaelic uses the term port or poirt for the English jig. Port seems to have indicated an air and the term poirt rince seems to denote simply a dance tune. Breathnach (1973) assigns the origin of the Irish Jig to England as early as the sixteenth century.

The jig is a tune for dancing in 6/8. It has the usual eight bar strain and two strains for a tune. Some jigs are identified as Scottish, Irish, or English but this distinction is largely a matter of style. Dance tunes in 6/8, now indiscriminantly identified as jigs, are as common in the English folk tradition as elsewhere in the islands.

Henebry (1928) makes an unclear distinction between the jig and the double. Apparently the measures of a double are rigorously divided into triplets, while the measures of a jig may be otherwise filled out. Thus Henebry's double is what others call the double jig, while his jig is what is otherwise known as a single jig (see below).

Breathnach in his discussion of the jig dance says that the basic batter step can be doubled in each measure. Thus, the double jig, or the double, is a dance step and the music most suited to the double jig dance is the genre of tunes now called double jigs.

In America during the nineteenth century, particularly in the black-faced minstrel material, a jig was a lively tune in 2/4. Although several of these tunes found their way to Britain, they were not collected as jigs, except by Kerr who drew directly from American sources and identified many 2/4 tunes as jigs, plantation jigs, or sand jigs, a reference to a minstrel stage practice of spreading sand on the stage before dancing to these tunes, obviously a precursor of the soft shoe of vaudeville.

Jigs are difficult to play on the five-string banjo because of the peculiarities of the traditional techniques. This fact may not be unrelated to the nearly complete disappearance of the jig in those parts of the American east settled by people from the British Isles.

Slip Jig: Also called Hop Jig. A type of jig written in 9/8, typically of Irish origin, but not unknown in England and Scotland. The strain is generally short (four bars rather than eight) for slip jigs while 9/8 marches are more likely to be composed of eight bar strains. Among highland bagpipers these marches are often used when playing for dances instead of slip jigs.

Single Jig: Some confusion exists over the meaning of this term. It sometimes denotes a tune in 12/8. Cranich (1988) classifies single jigs in this way.

The reason that this designation is not very common may be that, on the one hand, some tunes in 12/8 can also be thought of as 6/8, thus The Frieze Britches, for example, can be found in 12/8 or 6/8. On the other hand, a tune in 12/8 may sound much like a hornpipe with many triplets. O'Neill's The Quarrelsome Piper, listed as a hornpipe, could be easily written in 12/8. Finally, another category of 12/8 tunes, the slide (see below) exists.

Joyce (1873), Lerwick (1985), and others identify the single jig as a 6/8 tune based on a quarter+eighth+quarter+eighth note pattern and the double jig as a 6/8 tune based on eighth+eighth+ eighth+eighth+eighth+ eighth note pattern. Henebry (1928) generally concurs, although he uses the term jig as others use the term single jig. Breathnach (1971) describes the single jig in similar terms and adds in passing that they may be in 12/8.

Roche lists several 2/4 tunes with dotted-eighth+sixteenth note pairs as single jigs. Cole (Ryan) includes numerous jigs in 2/4, but many of these are clearly from the black-faced minstrel stage.

Slide: Slides are usually in 12/8 and are not clearly distinguished from single jigs. Few collections include slides as a distinct type. It has been suggested by Jerome Colburn that "In Ireland today the single jig thrives in the west, especially Kerry, where it is known as a 'slide.' (Irish Folk Club Tunebook, 1980, 15)" Mc Cullough (1976) states that "In the province of Munster single jig tunes called slides have remained very popular and are generally written in 12/8." Cranitch, states that, "...slides, strictly speaking, are single jigs...(1988, p 61)" but goes on to explain that he groups them in his collection with the polkas (see below) because they are [currently] mostly played for the dancing of sets (see below).

III. Other Types.

Planxty: In Ireland, planxtys were harp tunes written in honor of someone, usually an aristocratic patron. They may be in any time or key. The term appears almost exclusively in the works of Turloch O'Carolan. The term is, apparently of obscure origin. It is rendered in Gaelic as plangstig, plaingsti, plearca, or pleraca.

Laments: Slow, sad tunes. A few, such as Lord Lovett's Lament (2/4) and Battle of the Somme (9/8) are speeded up for dancing or marching. Many of the piobaireachds are titled as laments.

Waltzes: Dance tunes in 3/4. The waltz, like the polka, was a dance craze of the nineteenth century although in one form or another the waltz is very old.

Many songs, particularly in Ireland, are in 3/4 time but are not suitable as a waltz because of the characteristic division of the time (a dotted quarter and three eighths) which plays the three beats off against a two part division of the bar.

The waltz-country dance is a Scottish country dance which is performed to a 6/8 tune, usually Bonnie Dundee.

Country Dances: A classification of various types of tunes specifically associated with particular social dances. O'Neill classifies these tunes as long dances because the bulk of these dances are of the type for which dancers form up in opposing lines. Quadrilles, on the other hand, are square dances. A small number of tunes are specified in such ways except in Bayard (1982) and Christenson 1974) in which numerous tunes are untitled but identified as square dances or quadrilles. Howe lists a numerous quadrilles, but these are sets of dances to series of several tunes which he usually did not identify.

In Scotland the term seems to refer to all of the social dances for groups. There has long been an organization in Scotland to promote country dancing and to make it respectable. Members of this organization strongly oppose classifying country dancing as folk dancing.

Set Dances: Joyce, O'Neill, and others use the term to refer to dances with some peculiarity of timing or length which requires special attention on the part of the musicians. Joyce specifies that set dances were solo dances for men. Bayard notes several tunes as set dances and notes that these were for special dances which have been lost.

Set dances are not to be confused with dances in sets, such as the Lancers. It was customary at one time to arrange a sequence of dances to different tunes into a single series. This series is known as set. Some collections, particularly Howe's and Kerr's, have tunes arranged in sets. Cranitch describes sets as, "... a number of fixed dance-figures, arranged in a sequence of parts (usually five). A short break is normally made between parts" (1988, p 61).

The term set also refers to a group of people, usually four couples, arranged for a dance. The situation is further confused by the use of the term set for particular movements in dances. The term refers to somewhat different movements in different traditions. McCullough (1976) associates Irish music for sets (or half sets of only two couples) with dances brought from the continent, particularly quadrilles, and points out that extant jigs and reels were used. Some tunes associated with sets survive as slides and polkas.

There has been a great deal of interest in sets of dances in dance revival in Australia although they have been largely ignored in America. Collector's Choice (Ellis, 1989) and other Australian dance books contain much information on the sets and make many suggestions about appropriate tunes.

Square Dances: Quadrilles, or dances for four couples starting in a square. There does not seem to be a characteristic type of tune for square dances, but some tunes are designated as such. The calling of square dances is quite distinctive in America, regardless of the tunes played.

Christenson (1974) seems to distinguish two types of dance music: breakdowns, which are analogous to the reels and hornpipes set in 2/4 time; and quadrilles, which are analogous to the jigs set in 6/8 time. The identification of the quadrilles with the jigs may be a peculiarity of Christenson's classification or may relate to his cultural area centered on the Ozarks and southern mid-west.

In America the square dance does not have a particularly distinctive music, but the style of direction for dancers is highly developed. The square dances involve quite elaborate series of movements for which directions are spoken or sung. Some of the singing calls work the dance directions into songs.

Play Party: A few play party tunes are included here. They come from a vocal singing and dancing tradition in America. The play party was a dance performed to vocal accompaniment either in lieu of instruments or because of religious scruples about dancing. In some communities, where dancing was frowned upon, dances were turned into social games with singing. The songs comprise a genera of music midway between the instrumental tunes and children's games songs. Similar traditions are found in parts of Wales and South Africa.

Morris: An English ceremonial dancing tradition. There is a characteristic lightness to tunes commonly associated with morris dancing, but the tunes are somewhat irregular in form and structure. Morris tunes may be jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, reels, or unclassifiable. A few morris tunes have been taken into the American fiddle repertoire. Shepherd's Hey, for example, has become Walking in the Parlor in the United States. It is probably coincidental that both play party tunes and morris tunes are often recognized as children's game songs.

Morris tunes are distinctive within the Anglo-Celtic-American tradition because they sometimes change time. Within this tradition this change appears to be unique to England. A familiar example would be the carol Here We Come a'Wassiling, in which the verse is in 6/8 and the chorus is in 2/4.

Marches: Tunes for walking or marching. They may be in any time, but are usually in 2/4, 4/4, or 6/8 and less often in other times. In the Scottish bagpipe material marches are subdivided into quick marches or quick steps, played at a normal walking speed; slow marches, played either more slowly or at the same tempo, but with the beat less divided; and retreats, played either slowly or quickly as fancy dictates---this was once justified to me by an Australian piper on the grounds that, "If you win you can play anything you want."

Marches in 6/8 are distinguished from jigs by a slower tempo and a more accented division of the beat. Armstrong quotes an Englishman as describing the Scots as people who play the tubes (pipes) and who march to jigs. It is a modern development that the march has come to dominate the repertoire of the bagpipe. Many 2/4 marches for the pipes are too complex to be readily played on the march and are played as, and sometimes classified as, competition marches. These competition 2/4 marches tend to have a beat subdivided into dotted sixteenths and thirty-seconds.

These marches are, in the mold of the dance tunes, two part tunes with each part repeated. This rule is not followed for 4/4 marches because they naturally have 32 beats in eight bars. More modern marches for the brass band are more likely to be three part tunes with the third part not infrequently modulated to a different key. As with the polka, this trio section sets these marches apart from the mainstream of the Anglo-Celtic tradition.

Rag: In American music this is a tune 2/4 or 4/4 which, like the polka, typically has three strains, one of which is a trio. It is further characterized by certain rhythmic devices, particularly the division of two beats into a three note pattern of short-long-short and playing a three note arpeggio into a four note pattern. Ragtime developed in the 1890's and some of these tune, like The Dill Pickle Rag, have entered somewhat into tradition while other syncopated tunes were composed in the rag style. Certain characteristics of the rag are to be found in more modern tunes from the eastern shore of the Atlantic as in the third strain of the Scottish 2/4 march The Australian Ladies.

The term is also attached to American fiddle tunes for unclear reasons. The Randy Lynn Rag, for example, shows few of the characteristics of the rag. Ragtime Annie, on the other hand, has many of the characteristics of a rag but is not generally considered to be one. Apparently the term rag has, among traditional American fiddlers, a fairly broad meaning.

Much of the same situation is met in regard to tunes titled as blues. The blues is a 12 or sixteen bar form following a melodic pattern of AAB or AAAB rather than the Anglo-Celtic AABB. A number of American fiddle tunes are called blues, but this designation is not reliable.

Breakdown: This term has no specific meaning except that it implies a tune in even time, with a pronounced rhythm, and with a quick tempo. The term appears in Scottish titles such as Liverpool Breakdown, a reel, and Banjo Breakdown, a jig commonly played on bagpipes. The term probably came to Scotland, presumably, through American minstrel shows.

Piobaireachd: This term, somewhat variable in spelling and generally pronounced pea'-brock, refers to a particular type of bagpipe music, occasionally played on other instruments. It is somewhat irregular of form, but tends to follow a fairly standard theme and variation structure. The basic theme, however, is not the first part (MacNeill, 1968). Piobaireachd typically begins with a melodic variation which is then simplified to a melody and then to an abstraction of the melody accompanied by increasingly complex decorations. Collison (1976) maintains that it is based on a genre of harp music, now lost. There is some debate about the origin of the Piobaireachd, see Campsie (1982). Dalyell (1849) discusses the number of piobaireachds and gives estimates of up to 300. There are some two hundred currently in publication. Cooke (1976) distinguishes a variety of sub-types including the lament and the salute.

Piobaireachd was often regarded as a prose (non-strophic) form of music. It has been claimed (Haddow, 1982) that the music was formerly played in a more regularly metrical form with a clear occasional restatement of the theme and that one particular style, that dominated by the E cadence, is simply the single surviving style. Cooke (1976) agrees and defines a few styles based on different schools. Thomason (1893) Emphasized the underlying regularity of structure. In light of these considerations the piobaireachd is less different from the rest of the traditional music than might appear at first.

Air: Melodies which are slow or associated with songs are identified as airs or tunes. These are also classified, particularly among the pipe tines as Slow Airs. Joyce and Petrie seem to distinguish airs from song melodies or song airs. A few airs intended as for non-vocal performance are specified as pieces.

In Irish music there is a distinctive type of 3/4 air. In these airs many bars are divided into two parts, the first taken by a dotted quarter and the second taken by three eighths. Other bars are divided into three quarters. These airs, therefore, lie somewhere between 3/4 and 6/8 time. The Irish style of playing airs is related to the vocal style known as sean-nos (old style) singing which "Often gives the impression of amorphousness to those hearing it for the first time" (McCullough, 1976, p 5).

English airs are somewhat prone to the changes in time described above. Also in England there is a very characteristic type of air from Northumberland in 3/4 time, but with the beat divided in distinctive ways.

Varsovienna: There are a few popular tunes such as that one which is associated with the words, "Put your little foot, put your little foot, put your little foot right here..." These are he varsoviennas.

Mazurka: Once a popular dance form in 3/4 the mazurka, according to Shaw (1948) has all but disappeared in it's original form. He suggests that it was a difficult dance promoted by dancing masters eager to secure their own trade. He also suggests that traces of the original dance remain, but that what is actually performed on the floor for this dance is quite inconsistent.

Outcry: A small group of instrumental tunes found mostly in O'Neill's collections about which the author has no information. They are similar to some of Bunting's Laments although he gives a complete score for The Irish Cry with notes about the programmatic nature of the various sections. They appear to be distantly related to the Piobaireachd, but no further information has yet been found.

Walk around: This is a type of music for the minstrel show of the mid nineteenth century. With the musicians and entire company seated on stage, individual performers or groups would perform step dances. The walk around is probably the ancestor of the cake walk of the 1890's.

Cake Walk: The cake walk is now rarely recognized as a type, but several of them, like Colored Aristocracy, have entered into the American traditional fiddle repertoire. Some older southern blues singes identified a few of their tunes as cake walks, but there has been little collecting of southern black dance music, the emphasis being on the collecting of blues per se. The cake walk is the immediate predecessor of the rag in style and structure. It is generally formed from three eight bar strains with the third modulated to a different key. It is rather more march-like than the rag. Several authors mention that a cake was a customary prize for a dance contest in Ireland. The cake would be displayed mounted on a pole. If the Anglo-Celtic tradition was indeed transformed into the rag through the minstrel stage it is possible that the cake walk is ultimately of Irish origin.

Blues: It is useful to define blues in stuctural terms as a melody of twelve or sixteen bars having the form AAB or AAAB. From this point of view St. Louis Blues (W. C. Handy) is not a blues in the technical sense. This form is not unknown in the Anglo-Celtic tradition, but it is not common. It is, however, characteristic of much American music. When used in American fiddle music, in bluegrass, and other genres the term is highly unreliable. The Columbus Stockade Blues, for example, has the form aof a popular song, rather than a blues.

Essence: A minstrel show term of uncertain usage. Essences are listed by Cole. Some seem to be variations on more familiar melodies. Essence of Old Virginny, which Cole lists as a reel, seems to be Steven Foster's Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.

Flirtation: A term of unknown meaning apparently related to country dances. It appears in Kerr's collections. It has been suggested to the author by a Scotsman, James Gray of Orlando, that the term might indicate a dance for couples. Dances traditionally were larger group activities. Dancing with a single person might have been seen as flirtatious. Certainly couple dancing seems to have grown in popularity in the nineteenth century.

Shirley Andrew has pointed out that the term appears in an English dancing book (Cowan, 1950) in reference to the fifth figure of a set of dances. In this figure the couples change partners.

Msc.: There are a few other types which represent nineteenth century dance fads or the influence of different traditions which appear occasionally. One finds mazurkas, one-steps, two-steps, and three-steps. The term contra appears rarely, suggesting that although this is a very popular dance form, it did not developed a recognizable musical form. A few tunes are specified as a Cotillions (variously spelled), which implies a lively dance with a lot of swinging of partners, making petticoats fly. The term Lancers indicates neither a title nor a type of tune, but a complex set of dances done to a series of different tunes. The Lancers and other sets were quite popular in the nineteenth century. Such sets have figured prominently in the dance revival in Australia, but have not been commonly revived in America.

Oddly, Roche includes several old dances. A careful look at this classification shows that most of these are relatively recent dance forms. The jig and the reel are of some documentable antiquity, but the polka-mazurka, schottische, and others listed as old dances are relatively recent.

Non-types: As suggested above there are a variety of ways in which tunes gain their titles. Through processes of dedication and commemoration of places and people many tunes acquire titles which include words such as, salute, humors, fancy, and so on. None of these indicate a type of dance or a type of music. Also, as suggested above, terms such as quadrille, square dance, round dance, long dance, barn dance, etc. do not usually denote a type of music. Such terms tell something of the kind of dance, but tell us nothing of the music. The term barn dance in Australia seems to identify dances set to popular tunes.


These tunes come largely from a repertoire dominated by the fiddle. Because of the way the tuning of violin the simplest keys to play are G and D. These keys are also favored by flute, whistle, and Irish pipe players, whose instruments favor notes from D through d'. These are the predominant keys in this material with the majority of the notes falling between D and a. Among these tunes those in D major, D mixolydian, E minor, and E dorian tend to be authentic while those in G major, B minor, and A dorian tend to be plagal. A smaller, but significant number of tunes employ the C, F, and A scales. There remain a few tunes in E and Bb with only a very few in other keys, except in certain collections, notably O'Carolan's, Bunting's and Gow's. American collections, such as Christenson's have many more tunes in A.

In the older collections we meet with many more tunes written in flats. In some cases, particularly in Petrie's collection, dance tunes are likely to be in D or G while airs are likely to be in flat keys. One may speculate that the dance tunes were more likely to be in keys easily played on the fiddle, flute, or pipes, while a singer could easily perform in any key. Howe shows an unusual preference for flat keys, which suggests that his keys are unreliable in terms of the keys in common use today.

The pipe tunes are commonly written in the (nominal) key of D with the key signature omitted because only nine notes are used in traditional Scottish pipe music. The actual key is near Eb, (mixolydian Bb) but it is rarely written in that way and newer pipe chanters tend to be somewhat sharper. Fiddle settings of pipe tunes are sometimes written in A with the G# in parentheses. For music intended for the Scottish bagpipe (i.e., the piob mhor) the key signature is given in the index as P.

Keys for music for the Uillean or Northumbrian pipes are given as in the score, although the actual pitch of these pipes varies somewhat. Chanters for the Northumbrian pipes are usually in or near F# with others being in true pitch as written. Older Irish pipes may be anywhere between C and D#.

A few tunes in the English Folkdance Society materials are written for transposing instruments, but these are clearly indicated in the source. Except for these few tunes and the Scottish bagpipe tunes all these tunes are presumed to be written as they sound.

The key signatures in some of this material are somewhat unreliable. Most of the collectors seem to select the key signature indicating the note on which the tune ends. This does not take into account the modal character of the music. There are many tunes such as Kerr's setting of Tullochgorum in which the tune is in mixolydian G so the key signature is G, but the tune uses the C scale starting on G so every F# in the score has a natural as an accidental. It would seem logical to write the tune in C. One may find several tunes which appear to have the wrong signature on the evidence that they sound better with different sharps or flats. O'Neill's cross references his setting of Cahirciveen as The Cumberland Crew, an American civil war song beginning, "Shipmates come rally and join in my ditty/ Of a terrible battle that happened of late/ Let each good union tar shed a tear of sad pity/ As you list' to the once gallant Cumberland's fate." O'Neill has this tune in G. It makes better melodic sense to play the same notes but to assume a key signature of F. This sounds like the usual tune for the song. It is apparently designated in G because the last note of the melody is G, but the mode is dorian and the scale is F. As this is the author's judgment, no note of such instances has been made in the index.

All keys are given as the major for the printed sharps or flats. Many of the tunes given as G, therefore, are more accurately in E minor. The modal quality of the tunes makes a more full description of the keys impractical. Sandy Mathers, in his contributions to this work, has been somewhat more forthcoming in his identification of keys. In his listings the key might be listed as: DM for D major, DN for D minor, DMM for D major modal, and so on.

Tunes for the lap dulcimer are not identified by key because players of that instrument tend to tune to keys of convenience and adjust the accompanying strings to suit, not the key, but the mode. The music is most commonly written in tablature with designations related to tuning or to mode, rather than the key.


The time signature has been listed as in the texts. In rare cases in which the time changes, mostly in certain morris tunes, only the initial time has been indicated. In certain cases the time signature was not obvious or given, this is particularly the case with certain banjo tablatures. The Mathers contributions do not have the times listed. a few other collections lack time signatures, particularly those for the dulcimer and some of the banjo entries.


In this column several different kinds of information are provided:

1. In the primary entry for each tune the attribution has been given. Many tunes are explicitly attributed to an author, arranger, or informant. All such attributions have been recorded at face value. The meaning of the attribution is not always clear because a collector, who obviously has arranged the music in the collection, may attribute a few tunes to himself as "arranged by". For this reason, if no attribution is given this column is blank. In any case where both an author and arranger is give it is the author which has been cited. No effort has been made to correct any controversial attribution such as those for some of Gow's or Carolan's pieces or for tunes such as Eli Green's Cake Walk which is credited to an author, but is more commonly credited to someone else, Sadie Kaninsky in this case. Neither is any comment made on the running discussion about the authorship of such tunes as Dixie or some of what are generally considered to be Gow's compositions.

In most collections the collector is assumed to be an arranger. Nevertheless, most collectors make some distinction among borrowed tunes of acknowledged authorship, tunes which have been consciously arranged, and the bulk of the tunes. In a few cases, particularly that of Krassen's version of O'Neill's Music of Ireland, it is made quite clear in the introduction that all the tunes are Krassen's arrangements based on contemporary players who are not specifically credited. In such cases all tunes not otherwise credited are listed to the collector. This has resulted in the loss of a few instances of authorship as in the case of Lerwick's Kilted Fiddler in which he takes credit for all arrangements and authorship of a few tunes.

It should be born in mind that composition within the tradition is very much a matter of what folklorists would call formulaic composition, i.e. the composer works with models and familiar forms to produce new materials which are recognizable as falling within the stylistic boundaries of the tradition. The distinction, therefore, between the author and arranger is not necessarily of great importance. Composers of new tunes lament that when they play their compositions for other people, the listeners often identify these new tunes as variants on old ones. We might well find a new tune by, for example, Lerwick to be largely identical to an old one in some other collection, but that would not necessarily mean plagiarism. There is a large but finite number of notes and structures to work with.

2. It has been convenient to give cross references in this column. This reference gives alternative titles for some tunes, alternative sources for some tunes, and English for Gaelic titles. These English titles are not necessarily translations; they may be the titles by which the tunes is known. There may be several references to a single entry. Wherever possible, everything has been referred to what appears to be the closest English equivalent of a Gaelic title or the first given title in a text. To locate an actual text one may have to go through more than one cross reference because a title may be listed as a variant of a Gaelic title which may be referenced to a translation.

Numerous other cross references, particularly to Petrie's collection are given by Henebry in Appendix II.

Many of the attributions are to obscure contributors to collection and little or no information may be found on these persons. Because these tunes are, in the general sense of the term, folk music, it seems a shame for the folk to be left out. A few collectors, notably Bayard and Thede, give some information on their informants.

3. Some banjo tunes have been included from the excellent index of clawhammer tunes by Lazarus Methuselah ( For these tunes this column includes the tuning used by the clawhammer player. This is really more relevant than the key for this style because a player may use G tuning in order to use a capo to play in A.

Clawhammer, for the uninitiated, is banjo style based on picking the strings down with the thumb and one finger nail. This index (http:// is highly recommended for those who are interested in banjo tunings or in the clawhammer style. Other musicians will not find clawhammer tunes useful because they are generally written in tablature, due to the custom of retuning the instrument frequently. To my knowledge scordiatura has never been employed for banjo, as it is occasionally (See Thede 1967 or Johnson 1984) by fiddlers. In the case of the tunes indexed by Methuselah which I did not previously index have been included with the tunings in the this column.

4. Some entries from an index of Scottish dances have been included. In these the point of the entry is to identify the name of the dance for which the tune may be played. Some of this information has been lost for other entries, and some entries (such as those from Ford's Good Morning) are identified by dance, rather than tune, name. In the entries from this index the dance name has been placed in this column.

A number of entries from an index of dulcimer tunes (Norwood, 1992) have been included and these entries have been designated by the term dulcimer in this column.


Tunes in some sources are located by page number (p) and others by tune number (n). Tunes lacking either are generally footnoted references given in the notes to some collections.

In the case of references to the Irish Folksong Society the author has a notebook of copies of pages from the old journal, but many lack page or volume numbers. For those with page numbers there is no space to indicate volume of issue number. These references are included because they suggest other sources and contributors. Included in the index are a few cross references from the sources, particularly from Linton's, to other works. These are included for completeness and because they may suggest further sources for investigation.


It is awkward to have to look up key number references in an index so whenever possible the title of the work in which the entry may be found is given. For those works with long titles, a simplified version is used. The bibliography is arranged according to these versions of the titles, thus The Fiddler's Tunebook will be found in the bibliography as it is listed in the index, "Tunebook 1".

A few of these books may be difficult to locate. Musique Interceltique, for example, is a Breton publication. There are also some Australian Publications not readily available outside that nation, but available from the publisher. The older publications are generally available in reprint form. Champaign Celtic II is a book of tunes published by a local club in Illinois. It is interesting in part because it contains some tunes available nowhere else. Copies may be arranged through the author or by contacting Jerome Colburn in Champaign, Illinois. Whenever possible the publisher's full address is included in the bibliography. These addresses are as current as possible.

Nearly all the published music for the Northumbrian Pipes is included here. Some of the major published music for the Uillean Pipes is included and further arrangements can be derived from the material in Ceol Rince h'Eirinn. The published music for the Scottish pipes is extensive, but the major sources are all included along with what is available for the same instrument in Brittany. Fiddlers may play the Northumbrian and Irish pipe music as written and may play the Scottish pipe music by assuming a key signature of D.

Much of the American material written for banjo is in tablature for reasons related to the tendency of banjo players to use many different tunings. Much of the banjo music can be played as written on other instruments. Players of the fiddle and flute are invited to play through Earl Scruggs book, which is written using the conventional staff. The results can be interesting.

De Ville's book for the concertina is among the few listed for any form of accordion. Other concertina books are available, but they are largely method books with only a few tunes. All de Ville's tunes are in C because of the limitations of the Anglo concertina. They may be read as being in other keys by those who know the row of buttons in C. This book is also of interest because of the variety of tunes printed. It assumes a popular taste not unlike that addressed in Kerr's Merry Melodies or Howe's Musician's Omnibus. An interest in folk music per se is a recent phenomenon and not a concern of the musicians who would have used the older collections. Many of the collectors are more interested in nationalism than traditionalism. The Australian publication Collector's Choice (Ellis, 1989) is another good example of a collection more oriented toward describing the music being played than collecting obscure national melodies. While not strictly written for the button accordion, it draws heavily upon the repertoire for that instrument.

A book called Timber, a couple of the old Scottish sources intended for the wooden flute, and a couple of tin whistle sources are included. O'Neill, who's massive collection is one of the most important sources for Irish music, was a flute player and this is undoubtably reflected in his collection. Depending on the idiosyncrasies of particular instruments, what is written for the whistle is largely playable on the flute and vice versa.

Bayard (1982) lists many tunes for the fife. The fife is assumed to be in C, but they are actually made to several pitches. Fife tunes can be played on the flute, but are generally written an octave below their presumed pitch because the fifer favors the second and third octave while the fluter prefers the first and second. For this reason fife music often is written as falling to middle C or lower, notes not available to the instrument if the music is read as for the flute.

A few harp books and piano books are included. Outside of the American tradition, which is dominated by the plucked strings, the piano is commonly used to accompany the fiddle for dancing and competition, but it does not seem to have a traditional melodic style of its own. One of Kerr's, books, Kerr's Collection of Reels and Strathspeys, which included simple piano accompaniments has been recently republished as a book of Scottish music for piano.

The index now includes a large number of banjo books and nearly all the published material for the lap dulcimer. The banjo entries come from a variety of sources. There are, currently, on the net at least two indexes of publication for the banjo, one of them clawhammer oriented and the other more broadly based. The entries for the dulcimer come from an index by Warren C. Norwood. If your interest is exclusively in dulcimer music you might write to: t-G Publications, PO Box 73, Dennis, TX 76439-0073 for a copy of Warren's work.


The author has been asked how many tunes are listed here. These is a discreet number of references in the index. Approximately a quarter of these are cross references to other entries. Some further entries indicate the same text in different sources. Many of Kerr's texts, for example, come from Ryan's collection. Furthermore, the same tune may be known under several different names and the same name may be applied to several different tunes. Bayard (1972) refers to some titles as floaters because they seem to be attached to no single tune. He cites Lost Indian, Nigger in the Woodpile, and many others as floaters in Pennsylvania.

Even if all these factors were to be accounted for, however, we could still not come to a final count. There is an ill defined point at which variants on a particular tune become identified as a different tune entirely. The point at which this occurs depends on a variety of factors, but principally on one's familiarity with the material. As suggested above, to the Chinese ear most jigs are likely to sound about the same. To the ear of the fiddler who plays frequently the differences among jigs are probably quite significant. The educated ear may, therefore, distinguish fifty different tunes where the uneducated ear may only distinguish twenty.

A standard example of this is Turkey in the Straw, which is nearly identical to Natchez Under the Hill. A few fiddlers stoutly declare that they are different tunes. A Kentucky fiddler related how he was roundly chastised by an older fiddler for failing to understand the distinction between two tunes which had one note different. One can always start an argument among knowlegable fiddlers by asserting that Drowsy Maggy and Sleepy Maggy are the same tune in different settings.

Clearly some tunes are more similar than others and one might develop a taxonomy based on themes, techniques (hot licks as described above), and structural features. It is, therefore, impossible in principle to give a definite answer to the question of how many tunes are indexed here. What the index does is reference particular titles to particular printed texts and cross reference what the collector designates as alternate titles for particular texts. No judgment is made about the accuracy of such cross reference. All are included except in the case of Bayard (1983) and a few isolated cases from other collectors who give a number of such references along with an equally large number of references to similar tunes and to tunes which resemble one or another strain, sometimes noting only a slight resemblance.

Tracing similarities is an endless task. The author was once told by an Australian enthusiast for Irish music that all American fiddle tunes were of Irish origin. To prove his point he cited The Downfall of Paris. He asserted that some American fiddle tune was "nothing but the same thing in a different key and with a different time and with a few notes changed." It seems reasonable to say the same thing about almost any two tunes indexed here.

It can, however, be stated that in the version of the index which includes 66,033 entries a database summary (Alpha4 summary command) indicates that 41,511 unique titles occur in the data. Of these titles about 31,254 appear only once.* Among the other entries the following twenty titles appear most commonly:**

Title Number

Soldier's Joy 98

Irish Washerwoman 79

Speed the Plough 65

The Girl I Left Behind Me 65

White Cockade 64

Old Joe Clark 54

The Devil's Dream 53

Turkey In the Straw 50

Off She Goes 49

Cripple Creek 49 John Henry 48

Shady Grove 45

Haste to the Wedding 44

Harvest Home 39

Yankee Doodle 37

Wind That Shakes the Barley 36

Flowers of Edinburgh 35

Scotland the Brave 34

Wildwood Flower 33

Amazing Grace 32

* This is from a computer's literal counting which counts Soldier's Joy and Soldiers' Joy as different titles.

** This list reflects the inclusion of bagpipe, banjo, and dulcimer music. Scotland the Brave is most commonly a bagpipe tune. Old Joe Clark is usually a banjo tune and appears in nearly every banjo collection. Amazing Grace is a hymn tune which appears in practically every dulcimer book.

ABC Format

A number of collections are currently available on line. Most of these are in a format called ABC. This is a simple alphanumeric coding system for melodies. It is simple to learn and use. The code is read by a program called abc2mtex (for either DOS of Mac) which makes a file which can be printed as music by another program called TeX. This is an excellent system for anyone who wishes to print music from the computer because a) the quality is very good and b) the programs are free. The Tex system, however, can be very complex and take a great deal of disk space so the interested non-expert (in TeX) should look into one of the special abc2mtex packages available from

At the time of writing there are probably about two thousand tunes in ABC format available on the web. Surfers should begin at Ceolas and follow the links to Tunes and ABC.