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Welcome to the Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured Tunes

Daniel Decatur Emmett

OLD DAN TUCKER. AKA and see "Soap-Fat Man (The)." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; known in nearly every state, coast-to-coast. D Major (Mattson & Walz, Thede): G Major (Bayard, Ford, Ruth): C Major (Bayard, Buarchenal). Standard or AEf#c# (Thede) tunings (fiddle). AB (Burchenal, Ruth): AABB (Bayard, Ford, Thede). Bayard (1981) states that the origins of the tune are unclear, but that the tune predates its mid-19th century American minstrel lyrics, which have been variously credited to Dan Emmett (1815-1904), Henry Russell, and {in a version called "Gwine To De Mill"} to J.R. Jenkins. It is said that Emmett first performed his song "Old Dan Tucker" at the age of fifteen during a Fourth of July celebration on the village green in his hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio. Nathan, in his book Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy (1962), documents that Emmett taught the tune to the other three Virginia Minstrels in 1843, and that it became an instant hit (it was first published that year). However, Old Dan Tucker was more than a song, but was also a role acted out on stage by Emmett. Various minstrel-era publications printed different sets of words, sometimes as political satire [See Wikipedia article [1] ].

"Old Dan Tucker" was a popular tune throughout the 19th century and into the next, and is mentioned fairly frequently in publications. Several older fiddle-players have said the "Old Dan Tucker" was the first tune that they learned to play, according to Mike Yates (2002). It was recorded on a dance card as a square dance played at a "Grand Select Quadrille at City Hall, Lima, Ohio, on Thursday Evening, Jan. 13th, 1870," and "Old Dan Tucker" was given as one of the "category" tunes played in an 1899 Gallatin, Tenn., fiddle contest-the fiddler who played the best rendition won a prize (C. Wolfe, The Devil's Box, vol. 14, No. 4, 12/1/80). The title appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Elizabeth Burchenal prints a circle dance of the same name to the tune, and Ford (1940, p. 207) also prints a dance called "Old Dan Tucker." Indeed, Paul Tyler reports that Old Dan Tucker is the name of a square dance figure--"It's something like the Nine-Pin Reel, a 4-couple square dance with one extra dancer in the middle"-with the active male dancer being known as the 'Tucker'. Recorded versions in the 78 RPM era come from Uncle Dave Macon (in the early 1920's), Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters (1928), and the Skillet Lickers (1928).

T:Old Dan Tucker
B:Gumbo Chaff - The Complete Preceptor for the Banjo (1851, p. 7)
N: A later edition of the earliest known banjo tutor, published in 1848.  It was written by Elias Howe, whose pseudonym Gumbo Chaff 
N:is taken from Thomas Dartmouth Rice's 1834 blackface character.  The 1851 edition was published in Boston by Oliver Ditson. 
N:In 1850 Howe sold some of his works to Ditson (this one among them) and agreed not to publish similar works for ten years.
Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion
(3A/B/c/|dd (3ddd|dddA|dd df|AA BA|dd(3ddd|
dd dA|dd df|AABA||f f/f/ f2|edBd|e e/e/ e2 |
AABA|f f/f/ f2|edBd|ed/e/ fe|d2||

(OLD DAN TUCKER full annotations and Past Featured Tunes)

Why there is a need for the Traditional Tune Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
Above all, the developers wish you joy in the use of the TTA.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Getting started


Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditiona Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

  • Search. The Search function is located at the bottom of the SideBar on the left, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word.
  • Alphabetically by tune title. Under “The Index” on the SideBar on the left is “All Tunes”. Click on “All Tunes” to open up the list of tune titles in the TTA arranged in alphabetical order, 200 titles to a page. At the top of the page is an alphabetical breakdown that serves as a shortcut to pages. Clicking on any title will bring one to the music and tune fields. Once the tune appears, clicking “Tune Discussion” at the bottom of the page (below the notation) will open up the narrative information on the tune.
  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Index” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Drill Down. Cumulative information about TTA entries can be found in the “Drill Down” under “The Index” in the SideBar on the left.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Issues” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.

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