Here you’ll find tablature and MP3s of European tunes and other pieces that are outside the usual clawhammer banjo repertoire.
I’ve spent the last 30 years dancing, teaching dance, or playing for dancers, so most tunes here are dance tunes, and I’m a little obsessed with rhythm and drive.
There are also some Illinois tunes, which like other Midwestern tunes can get overlooked due to the current emphasis on Appalachian music. I learned most of the Illinois tunes from fiddler Garry Harrison. I recommend his extensive collection and CD set, Dear Old Illinois.
How to use the site
The site is structured like a blog, with the most recently added tune at the top of the front page. Some things you can do here:
- Download an MP3: Right-click the link and choose “Save as,” or click the link and choose “Save Page As” from your browser’s File menu.
- Find all tunes that use a certain tuning: Click the tuning in the Categories section.
- Find all tunes from a specific tradition or dance: Click the tag in the Tags section.
- See a list of all tunes: Check the index.
- Find a specific tune by name: Enter its name in the search field.
- Be notified when new tunes are added: Subscribe to the RSS feed or sign up to receive new tunes in your email.
- Bookmark an individual tune: Click the tune’s name. You’ll go to a page that has just that tune. Bookmark that page.
The tabs are scans of what I wrote as I figured out the tune, so they aren’t slickly produced but should be accurate. Most tab displays in the browser.
Except as noted, the tunes on this site are in the public domain. The tab arrangements and images are mine. Print the tab for your own use, but please don’t sell it. All recordings and transcriptions are presented for educational use only.
I’ve played several offensive instruments, including hurdy-gurdy, a blaring Turkish double reed, and a Macedonian bagpipe that was basically a dead goat turned inside out. Banjo was therefore a natural choice.
When I’m not playing banjo, I design elearning for the corporate world and mentor other instructional designers. For more on that, see my professional blog.
1977: Banjo for Christmas! Banjo banjo banjo! Modal tunes rule.
1978: Bulgarian music! Bulgarian dance! Five nights a week! No time for banjo.
1979-96: Balkan and more Balkan. Some Swedish, French, English. Dance and music camps. Gigs playing things you blow in, things you hit. Also things you want to hit but shouldn’t, such as the hurdy-gurdy. Lots of “Balkan lounge funk” percussion with the Reptile Palace Orchestra. Lots of hurdy-gurdy and winds with other groups and as a busker. Very little banjo.
1997-2005: A town with no FrancoBulgarianSwedish musicians! But lots of old-time music. Hello, banjo. Remember me?
2006: I miss the hurdy-gurdy tunes. I miss the Balkan tunes. Must play them. Must play them on banjo! Banjo banjo banjo!
Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
2010-: I occasionally pick up the banjo, but I’m focusing on my business, for which I receive a ton of email. I’m leaving this blog up because people have found it useful, but I might not have time to respond to requests for help. Thanks for understanding, and I wish you happy banjo-ing!