Tunes

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.

Permissions

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.

Me

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.

Biography

Chicago

1977: Banjo for Christmas! Banjo banjo banjo! Modal tunes rule.

1978: Bulgarian music! Bulgarian dance! Five nights a week! No time for banjo.

Madison, Wisconsin

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.

Bloomington, Indiana

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!

Cathy Moore

44 Responses to “About”


  1. 1 Don White July 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for your site and the info on it. I am a novice clawhammer player and am always looking for (mostly bluegrass) cords and tabs that i can play with that style. Any sites you know of that have that type of info would be greatly appreciated.I struggle a little when trying to figure out a song when i have no clue of the cords or key it’s in.
    Thanks,Don

  2. 2 banjomeetsworld July 21, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Don, thanks for your comment. You might check the Banjo Hangout for tab for both bluegrass and clawhammer. They have a directory of tab here:

    http://www.banjohangout.org/tab/

    If you haven’t seen them already, I have some tips on learning by ear, including how to figure out the key:

    https://banjomeetsworld.wordpress.com/tips-for-learning-by-ear-old-time/

    Cathy

  3. 3 Joe McNally August 4, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Cathy,

    Thanks for the tab and MP3 of Crested Hens…one of my dearest friends has learned this tune and I really want to be able to help her out. You RULE!

    Do you miss Madison?

    I live just west in Blue Mounds

    thanks again

    hope we meet some day in the by and by

  4. 4 banjomeetsworld August 5, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Joe,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the tab was useful. It’s a beautiful tune (and therefore a challenge on the banjo!).

    I miss the anything-goes nature of the Madison music scene, but I like the woods and easy lifestyle I have here in Indiana. And I don’t miss the winters at all!

    Cathy

  5. 5 Pattylvk August 9, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    LOVE your tunes! Wish I could play them as well as you
    Patty

  6. 6 Daniel Herman August 15, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    What a wonderful resource! Your playing is great as is your teaching. One question: how would you distinguish the appalachian and Illinois clawhammer styles?

    Dan
    Katonah, NY

  7. 7 banjomeetsworld August 15, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Dan, I don’t really know enough about traditional American banjo to make an informed distinction between Appalachian and Illinois styles. But that won’t stop me from guessing!

    To my untrained ear, contemporary Illinois and Missouri players and tunes use more notes. For an example, you might listen to St. Louis banjo player Dave Landreth: http://www.myspace.com/banjoboysbrain (the tunes are original but the style shows his approach to trad tunes). Traditional IL and MO tunes also sound more Scandinavian and German to me.

    Also, I was listening to the field recordings from Dear Old Illinois a few days ago and noticed that on at least one track, the banjo was played in what I think of as “Kentucky” style–huge amounts of fast strumminess and much less emphasis on melody notes. It’s nothing like the style that’s currently called “old-time” by most and is very similar to the style played by several at an eastern Kentucky festival I went to a couple of weeks ago. You can hear it as played by Brett Ratliff in “Roving Cowboy” here: http://www.myspace.com/cornbrett. In KY, I heard it used for solo banjo as well as for backing up a singer.

    So I don’t know if the current clawhammer style was used traditionally in Illinois or if it’s a more recent import that supplanted a strummier style. Of course, a whole lot of other styles have also fallen by the wayside due to the current focus on Round Peak banjo.

  8. 8 seth September 16, 2008 at 1:42 am

    This site’s an incredible resource. I just got my first banjo with the intent of studying clawhammer/frailing. I’ve always preferred the darker stuff and have really been trying to find more music in modal keys. Most everything I’m finding, though, is traditional folk dance music – not bad, just not at all the same. Anyway, everyone says that to learn banjo, you need to listen to banjo players who you enjoy. What can you recommend? I really enjoyed the Turkish banjo pieces, and like I said, I’m a total sucker for modal tunings. Kitchen Girl’s the only traditional song I’ve found that I really look forward to playing.

    Also, do you employ the bum-ditty technique on pieces like the Turkish music? I’m just curious about methods. Bum-ditty, the phrase, sounds so “down-south”. Any idea on where the method originated, or how widespread it is? Thanks.

  9. 9 banjomeetsworld September 16, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Seth, thanks for your comment, and welcome to the clawhammer world. There’s a ton of music from many cultures in modal keys or with a dark sound, but for the most part, we need to learn it by ear. The mainstream banjo teachers and publishers tend to stick to “old-time” music, which in its current definition doesn’t include a lot of dark tunes.

    Some modal tunes in that tradition that you might like are Sally in the Garden, Shady Grove, Cold Frosty Morning, Falls of Richmond, Pretty Little Dog, Betty Likens, West Virginia Gals, and Lonesome John. For way more modal fun that’s not too far from old-time, look to Irish music.

    If you’re looking for tab, Ken Perlman’s books include modal tunes from American and Irish traditions, and I have an old book called “Clawhammer Banjo Solos: On Modal Music and the Irish Tradition” by Alec Slater that I liked when I was starting out. I don’t know if it’s still available. I think once you get several modal tunes under your belt from tab, you’ll be familiar with the patterns and ready to learn by ear.

    If you’re looking for dark US or Canadian recordings that include an audible banjo, you might like Dyad, the Crooked Jades, the Duhks, and the TurtleDuhks (a combination of the Duhks and another band). Richie Stearns’ “Solo” CD is almost unrelentingly dark, but it’s only about half banjo.

    The first reference to “bum-ditty” I personally saw was in Pete Seeger’s banjo book, published in the late 1960s. I think he called it “bum-titty.” Almost everyone in the US banjo community uses the phrase.

    The rhythm that “bum-diddy” expresses exists in many cultures, and it can be used to build odd meters like in Rampi Rampi as I describe in this video:

    I’m hoping to do a video soon on playing in D minor.

  10. 10 Randy J. Arnold October 9, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Thank you very much for taking the time to create and maintain this great site. This is my favorite blog, and I’m learning a lot.

    Looking forward to the future posts,

    Randy Arnold

  11. 11 Daniel Herman October 27, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    The Liza Jane lesson on dynamics and varying rhythm is very helpful to me. The ten minute length with the tab within the video is a great format and you are very good at explaining how you go about your style. Thanks!

    Dan
    Katonah,NY

  12. 12 Josh January 6, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Cathy,

    Love your site, I’m struggling through the triplets on Jump at the Sun, thank you!

    Here’s a new project I have, take a look.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  13. 13 Cathy Moore January 8, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Josh,

    Nice playing on that tune! That’s a good idea for a site, to play a tune and ask for video responses and other feedback. Unfortunately I’m slightly injured and not playing much but at some point maybe I’ll have a video response for you on your site.

    Cathy

  14. 14 Bill March 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Cathy:
    In going over your tab on You Tube for “Liza Jane”, are you drop thumbing in the second measure in the high or “A” line of the tab? Great stuff.

    Bill

  15. 15 Cathy Moore March 7, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Bill, yes, that’s a drop-thumb to the open second string. Have fun!

  16. 16 Glenn Ferrell March 29, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Love your site — both this and your professional site. Simple, easy to look at and well done. First heard your banjo on Youtube & love it. I play strictly guitar but I love learning from Banjo players ! (Not enough old-time jams in Northern Illinois — mostly bluegrass and NIBA. Let me know if you know of any !)

  17. 17 Cathy Moore March 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Glenn, thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any old-time jams in northern Illinois, though I know of some people in Chicago and in Madison, Wisconsin. Or maybe you can persuade some bluegrass players to take off their picks and add an old-time groove to their repertoire.

  18. 18 Andrew T. April 4, 2009 at 8:51 am

    What sort of banjo are you using in most of your Youtube videos?

  19. 19 Cathy Moore April 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Andrew, I often play an old SS Stewart pot that had a new neck put on it about 10 years ago. In most of the videos, it has steel strings and a Fiberskyn head. The shinier banjo is a Gold Tone OT-800 (their Tubaphone style model).

  20. 20 jon clark May 4, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Hello Cathy

    I was unable to attend the Banjo Camp near Dortmund. I have been playing clawhammer style for a year now and would love some input from other players, so was very disappointed not to make it to Dortmund.
    I live in the UK and I am coming over to the USA in the summer.
    Are you running any Banjo workshops? If so how do I find them?
    Or can you recommend any workshops?
    You and your Banjo site are an inspiration. Thank you.

    jon

  21. 21 Cathy Moore May 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Jon, I’m sorry you couldn’t make it to Dortmund. I’m not doing any workshops in the US, but if you’re here in June, I can recommend the Midwest Banjo Camp, which happens on June 5-7:

    http://www.midwestbanjocamp.com/

    The instructors and students are both dedicated to great banjo playing, and the concert is unforgettable.

    You might ask on the Banjo Hangout for ideas for other camps:

    http://www.banjohangout.org

    Good luck!

  22. 22 noxtorc May 24, 2009 at 5:41 am

    I’ve noticed as I puruse many of the sites out there didicated to our humble instrument,that the most frequant questions seem to be about finding tablature for various songs. Now I think tab is a useful tool, however I found it wasn’t much of a leap from tab to standard music notation. So I’ve often thought that if a student is going to take the time to learn tab, they may just a well learn standard notation. Any thoughts on this?
    P.S your site is the best

  23. 23 Cathy Moore May 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I think tab’s usefulness lies in its ability to communicate technique at the same time as notes. In addition to telling you the melody, it tells you how to create that melody on the banjo in a specific tuning. That makes it useful for beginners who are building their skills.

    If you rely on musical notation, you need to figure out for yourself which tuning to use and how to create the notes. This is fine for more advanced players, but those players are probably best off learning by ear so they get the “feel” of the tune as well as the notes.

    So if I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose tab, since it does a better job of recording and teaching technique.

    After players learn the basic techniques, I encourage them to build their tune repertoire by ear, not by reading from tab or standard notation.

  24. 24 Linda October 19, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I’ve been playing clawhammer style banjo all of 4 days (I just bought a Gold Tone BC-100). I stumbled across your You Tube videos while searching for banjo resources. What a great website and a generous service to the banjo playing world. I love your video of Cooley’s Reel (a favorite ever since I heard Russ Barenberg play it) and the Congress Reel. I look forward to learning from this website.

  25. 25 Cathy Moore October 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Linda, welcome to the banjo world! I hope you have a lot of fun with your BC-100.

  26. 26 Sandy McCall's Ghost October 26, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Your “Uke” video is terrific. I found your site under “Comments” on the Steve Martin Loch Lomand medley on You Tube. I am having the darndest time trying to figure out the tuning he is playing in. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for this well-organized site. You are are very good teacher.

    Sandy

  27. 27 David December 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Hey Cathy, Love the rhythm lessons and I play guitar. In fact, do you know any source of info that teaches “dancing rhythm” but on guitar? Thanks, and keep swinging. David

  28. 28 Lynn February 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I just found your site, and love the variety you offer

    I’ve been learning Bluegrass Banjo for the past three years and would love to learn Frailing style.

    Not sure where to start, I think this looks like a good starting point !

    Thank you,
    Lynn

  29. 29 Nathan February 6, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Hi Cathy,

    My heart’s happy to find a banjo player of your caliber pulling good old Illinois tunes out of the closets of American folk music they’ve been relegated to. I’m sure looking into getting that Dear Old Illinois CD set. Do you consider Burl Ives in the repertoire of Illinois traditional music?

    Peace,
    NA

  30. 30 Cathy Moore February 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Nathan,

    I’m not familiar enough with Burl Ives to know whether he’s considered to have promulgated Illinois traditional music. I know he grew up in Illinois, but he became a traveling musician in the 1930s and 40s and apparently absorbed all sorts of folk music during that period. I guess it depends on how you define “Illinois” and “traditional.”

  31. 31 poboypaul February 27, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Hi ma’am,
    your website is better than can be hoped for! I’m new to both wordpress and clawhammer, it’s nice to be involved with both. I’m interested in further extending the expression of my spirit beyond the instruments I already play to my banjo, you see, in this way that doesn’t require the evangelization of my soul to the Scruggs-style method and your charmingly comprehensive instructional videos are pretty much what I’ve been looking for. Thank you! Your playing is of the pulse that keeps fresh, unique music alive and inspiring. I can’t wait to play adaptations of some your beats in accompaniment to my fire dancing friends!
    Anyhoo, I’ve been experimenting clawing away to songs generally falling under the distinction of gypsy swing and thus far it’s been nearly cacophonic. Is clawhammer realistically a sound playing style for this sort of music, or is it advisable to strum entirely? I look forward to hearing from you!

    May many warm blessings your way,
    po

  32. 32 poboypaul February 27, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Hi ma’am,
    your website is better than can be hoped for! I’m new to both wordpress and clawhammer, it’s nice to be involved with both. I’m interested in further extending the expression of my spirit beyond the instruments I already play to my banjo, you see, in this way that doesn’t require the evangelization of my soul to the Scruggs-style method and your charmingly comprehensive instructional videos are pretty much what I’ve been looking for. Thank you! Your playing is of the pulse that keeps fresh, unique music alive and inspiring. I can’t wait to play adaptations of some your beats in accompaniment to my fire dancing friends!
    Anyhoo, I’ve been experimenting clawing away to songs generally falling under the distinction of gypsy swing and thus far it’s been nearly cacophonic. Is clawhammer realistically a sound playing style for this sort of music, or is it advisable to strum entirely? I look forward to hearing from you!

    May many warm blessings come your way,
    po

  33. 33 Bob Little May 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Cathy, do you ever visit the UK? I’d love to have you do a banjo workshop here.

  34. 34 Cathy Moore May 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Bob, I might visit the UK on business in the next year or so. I’ll be sure to let you know if I do! Thanks for your interest.

  35. 35 Dan August 1, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Cathy-

    I just got my new cello banjo (ceb-5) and love the growl! I’ve been 3 finger pickin for about 10 years but with this new instrument, and the help from your you tube videos I’m trying the clawhammer style and not sounding too bad. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

    Dan

  36. 36 Peter Wolcott August 5, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Hello Cathy,

    I just found your web site and would like to thank you for your intelligent, precise, clear and very enjoyable banjo playing. It’s an inspiration. I especially enjoy the application of claw hammer to other styles and cultural back grounds. I remember hearing a Leonard Cohen tune done in claw hammer – sounded like he had written it especially for the banjo. You never know what will work until you try it.

    I’m sure you have seen the movie ‘Talking Feet’ by Mike seeger . Buck dancing looks deceptively easy – I’ve tried it a number of times – and it is not easy at all, at least not for me. Since you are a self proclaimed ‘dance person’ I was wondering if you have considered producing an instructional video on that subject. Banjo and Buck dancing seem to go hand in hand and I would certainly appreciate it.

    Thanks for the great tunes. Cheers, Peter

  37. 37 Cathy Moore August 7, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Peter, thanks for your comment. I do contra and other types of dancing, but not buck dancing, so unfortunately I wouldn’t be any good at creating a video about buck dancing.

  38. 38 Joe McNally September 20, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Cathy,

    Greetings from Madison. I see you mentioned being hurt or something. I certainly hope all is well for you now. Glenn Ferrell (one of your devotees above) mentioned looking for an old-time jam in Northern Illinois. I might be able to help him out in that regard if you can point him in my direction.

    My home e-mail is

    banjo@mhtc.net

    I hope this finds you well. I didn’t see you at Battleground. I went this year for the first time. Where you there?

    Peace

    Joe McNally

  39. 39 Sandy McCall January 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hello Cathy,

    Do your travels ever take you to Washington DC or the New England area? If so, do you ever give private lessons?

    Thanks very much for the incredible caliber of your teaching lessons.

    Sandy McCall

  40. 40 Cathy Moore January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Sandy, thanks for your interest. I don’t currently have any plans to go to DC or New England, and I’m not teaching or even playing much at the moment, as I’m focusing on my business. With any luck I’ll dust off the banjo soon and if I end up in your part of the US I’ll let you know.

  41. 41 Sandy McCall February 3, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Dear Cathy,

    As I struggle to figure out that hidden triplet in “Julianne Johnson,” I want to thank you for your series of videos.

    Mirroring your banjo website and–I suspect–your general tendency towards clarity in your business life, I have found “Julianne,” the “Uke Strum,” and “Creating Drive” to be amazingly well taught and concise. You are an exceptional teacher, even on video. I hope your business goes well and that you will soon be back to add to your banjo laurels.

    Please contact me if you are doing any workshops etc in New England or Washington, D.C. I know and am friends with quite a few exceptional players, but as a teacher I think you surpass them.

    Thanks again for all your work,

    Sandy McCall

  42. 42 Paul Makinen August 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Thanks a lot for a wonderful website. Your tunes bring tears to my eyes

    I don’t have a banjo, but I have been playing around with a gurdy for a few months now. But it’s coming really slow, because I didn’t start in 1968 or even 1978…

  43. 43 Keith Madison June 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Your playing is wonderful, Tony told me( woodchuck) about you & being a beginner but a player of other instruments, well enough said/thanks Keith


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