Tag Archives: Bob Townsend

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azM8ZMbR2dk)

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOD8f3BiL_U)

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 neighborlymusic.net.


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:

http://www.stringband.mossyroof.com/ (tunes taught at Greg and Jere Canote’s Seattle string band classes









Filed under American old-time/modern