Monthly Archives: July 2015

Newt Payne’s Tune

This Tennessee old-time tune is simple in structure, but its chiming arpeggios are great fun to play on fiddle and banjo – and hopefully on box/accordion too, which I understand often don’t gel with old-time tunes.

Three videos featured in this post: one solo fiddler, one fiddle/banjo concert performance, and a link to an excellent teaching video.


Newt Payne

Fiddler and banjoist Newt Payne (1904-1977) was born on South Pittsburg Mountain, Tennessee, and worked most of his life as a miner.

DANCEDOG-001-CD__96094_zoomThe only recordings of his music are on a 2003 CD* by another Tennessee fiddler, Bob Townsend, who heard Newt play as a child. One tune was untitled, so Bob called it Newt Payne’s Tune as it was known as a Payne family tune that Newt used to play at dances. (See banjohangout)

* Old Time Fiddlin’ Tunes From The South Cumberland, available here.



Newt Payne’s Tune makes a good introduction to playing fiddle cross-tuned – a traditional feature of American old-time fiddling,with that unmistakable sympathetic ring characteristic of open tunings. All three versions below are in either open G or open A, so you can take your pick of which you’d like to tune to and play along with! (It’s worth noting that fingering is identical in GDGD and AEAE – ie, the same fingering works for the different keys because the tunings are at different pitches.)

Of course, you can still play the tune in standard tuning GDAE, though it will be more difficult to catch the lower drones, and the glorious ring will be lost.

(Note for the financially-challenged: It’s cheaper to play cross-tuned in A (AEAE) as the lower strings are far more forgiving of being tuned back and forth. If you play in cross-tuned in G (GDGD), for example, there’s a tendency for the top string to break once you’ve retuned it back up to E a couple of times.)

(See below for more information on cross-tuning, and blog post ‘Falco’/25.6.2015 for a good English tune to try cross-tuned.)


Katie Henderson (fiddle)

A resounding version in G (fiddle tuned GDGD/Sawmill tuning), recorded for Katie’s long-running, encyclopaedic New Tune A Day project.


(‘Newt Payne’s Tune (Old-Time) NTAD’ YouTube video, 1:24. Posted by Katie Davis Henderson, 4 Feb 2012.

Katie’s newtuneaday.blogspot and Youtube channel are stuffed with brilliant tunes, and well worth rummaging around in. She has also compiled a NTAD tunes e-book, available through her blog.


Stephanie Coleman (fiddle), Adam Hurt (banjo)

Adam and Stephanie weave their magic around Newt’s tune at the Sore Fingers Summer School, Oxfordshire, UK, April 2010. (Love that quirky bass line!) Key: G (GDGD/Sawmill tuning)


(‘Stephanie Coleman and Adam Hurt play “Newt Payne’s Tune”’ YouTube video, 2.53. Posted by clawhammerist, 23 Nov 2010.

Click for more information on Stephanie Coleman and Adam Hurt. (Adam will be teaching banjo at American Banjo Camp 2015, 11-13 September, at the stunning Fort Flagler State Park, Nordland, Washington State.)


Sophie Enloe (fiddle), Maggie Lind (banjo), Patrick Lind (guitar)

A really clear and well-paced teaching video here, produced by a trio of tutors from the Portland Old Time Stringband Class. (I’ll embed the video once I’ve received full permissions from all players). Key: A (AEAE/cross-tuned).

Fingering note: unlike standard tuning, the fingering here plays the same notes (an octave apart) on both pairs of strings. (It’s worth noting that fingering is identical in GDGD and AEAE – ie, the same fingering plays in different keys because the tunings are at different pitches.)

The Portland Old Time Stringband Class YouTube channel habibanola has many old-time videos, with more accessible via their website


So you thought you could play violin…? – cross-tunings for those hell-bent on going over to the dark side:

From Wikipedia’s excellent page on cross-tuning:

FCGD = Cajun Tuning (one whole step down from GDAE)

GDGB = Open G Tuning

GDGD = Sawmill Tuning or “Cross G”

GDAD = “Gee-Dad”

DDAD = Dead Man’s Tuning, or Open D Tuning, or Bonaparte’s Retreat Tuning, or “Dee-Dad”

ADAE = High Bass Tuning, Old-Timey D Tuning

AEAE = Cross Tuning, “Cross A”, “High Bass, High Counter” (or “High Bass, High Tenor”), Cross Chord; similar to Sawmill Tuning

AEAC♯ = Black Mountain Rag Tuning, Calico Tuning, Open A Tuning, or Drunken Hiccups Tuning

AEAD for Old Sledge, Silver Lake

EDAE for Glory in the Meeting House

EEAE for Get up in the Cool

(Reproduced under Creative Commons license)

See also: (tunes taught at Greg and Jere Canote’s Seattle string band classes








Filed under American old-time/modern

The Muffler/Bhaskar’s

(NB: This set of tunes is a double post to cover next week as well, when I’ll be fiddling away on the EAC Summer School somewhere in deepest Gloucestershire, and nowhere near a computer!)


The Muffler composed by Jon Swayne; Bhaskar’s composed by Barn Stradling. From the Blowzabella album Strange News.

A pair of breezy mazurkas to wish Cool Spinnings to Alasdair Paton and all the courageous amateur cyclists taking on the gruelling Étape du Tour in the French Alps this Sunday 19 July.



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Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion, triangle), Jo Freya (vocals, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, whistle), Paul James (border bagpipes, soprano and alto saxophones, whistle), Gregory Jolivet (alto hurdy-gurdy), Dave Shepherd (violin, octave violin), Barn Stradling (acoustic bass guitar, octave bass guitar), Jon Swayne (border bagpipes, soprano and alto saxophones)




For upcoming gigs, band news, and to possess Strange News in the flesh, go to Blowzabella’s website, here.



Ernesto Voena (diatonic accordion), Angelo Girardi (bass guitar), Giulia Tomasi (violin), Arcangelo Divita (clarinet), Luigi Mingoni (flute), Marco Gajon (guitar)

This group from the Piedmont region of north-west Italy specialises in playing for folk dances. The dancers in this video show the lilting rhythms of the mazurka steps.


(‘The Muffler / Bhaskar’s (Mazurka)’ YouTube video, 4:16. Posted by girando49, 23 Feb 2014.

For more information and videos of many more named folk dance tunes, see Controcanto’s website, here, and girando49’s Youtube channel, here.




Filed under English folk/modern

Silver Strands

A delightfully almost-danceable crooked Kentucky tune that repeats across the whole fiddle range.


fhofstepp2William Hamilton Stepp (1845-1947) recorded the tune in 1937 for the Library of Congress – the last of the Kentucky fiddlers to be captured on disc machine by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax during their Kentucky song-collecting expedition. ‘Fiddler Bill’ Stepp was a close friend of fiddler John Salyer (see ‘Last of Harris’, 22 May 2015).




Andy Fitzgibbon

Andy’s teaching video for the 2014 Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. Standard tuning GDAE.

Andy notes: ‘As played by William Hamilton Stepp for the Library of Congress in 1937.’


(‘William Stepp’s Silver Strands – Andy FitzGibbon’ YouTube video, 2.55. Posted by Andrew Fitzgibbon, 4 Oct 2014.


Andy Fitzgibbon plays with the Iron Leg Boys, and is part of the New Young Fogies project co-run by Anna Roberts-Gevalt (of Anna & Elizabeth: see ‘Billy in the Lowground’ 7 May 2015)


Filed under American old-time/traditional

Weekend Folk Retreats with Laurel Swift

Here’s an extra mid-week special, to alert everyone to Laurel Swift’s  exciting new venture (if you don’t already know her playing, see  28 May post ‘Whitefriars Hornpipe’).

Laurel retreats

Get away and absorb yourself in a relaxing folk music retreat. Hone your folk style and skills, build musical confidence and jam informally whilst surrounded by beautiful countryside and lovely people. Two unique weekends of inspiring classes, homecooked food, informal sessions and country walks!

Folk Fiddle Retreat

4th – 6th September 2015
Stour Valley, Brantham, Suffolk/Essex border

A small and friendly weekend away for fiddle players (violin, viola and cello players new to folk music all very welcome), plus walks along the beautiful Stour Estuary.

Full details:


Folk Music Retreat

30th October – 1st November 2015
Telscombe, East Sussex

A dynamic yet relaxing weekend away for players of all instruments, plus walks on the South Downs with views of the sea!

Full details:


Filed under Uncategorized

Swaggering Boney

With media recently marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, I offer this jaunty Morris tune (for those who prefer their titles rather more pc, sometimes known as Travel By Steam.)


Nick Hart (MacCann duet concertina)

A brief (but beautifully-formed) in-house recording from a Saturday Workshops Ensemble class, Cecil Sharp House, London.


(For more on the versatile Mr Hart:


Battle of Waterloo, Sunday 18 June 1815

This savage event was the last battle of the Napoleonic Wars. On that one day, some 47,000 died (not including prisoners and missing). Just three years earlier, French Neoclassical painter David had painted a portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte, of which this is a detail.


(Jacques-Louis David: The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC)

For a fascinating real-time simulation taken from eye-witness accounts, see:

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Filed under English folk/traditional