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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

MAID AT THE SPINNING WHEEL, THE. AKA - "The Maid of the Spinning Wheel." AKA and see "Cailin Fionn (An)," "Cailleach an Túirne," "Cailín A' Tuirna," "Hag of the Spinning Wheel (The)," "Is Maith le Nóra Císte" (Nora Likes Cake), "Kiss Me Darling," "Ladies' Fancy (3) (The)," "Máire an Phórtair" "Noran Kista," "Nora's Purse," "Norickystie," "Road to Lurgan (The)," "Sergeant Early's Jig," "Spinning Wheel (4) (The)," "Tune the Fiddle," "Wild Irishman (4) (The)," "Wreathe the Bowl." Irish, Double Jig. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCC(DD): AABBCCDD (Breathnach): AA'BB'CCDD (Miller). This multi-titled jig is most likely to be referred to as "Maid at/of the Spinning Wheel" at present. Brendan Breathnach (1963) traces this tune to London printer David Rutherford's Compleat Collection of 200 of the most celebrated Country Dances (vol. 3, 1756) where it appears under the title "Wild Irishman (4) (The)." He also identifies a version in Glasgow publisher James Aird's A Selection of Scottish, English, Irish and Foreign Airs as "Norickystie" (c. 1782). "Norah with the Purse" is Irish collector Edward Bunting's translation of Aird's title, and it was printed as "Norah with the Purse" in Bunting's third collection, Ancient Irish Music (1840). It is perhaps this version that editor David Taylor (1982) refers to when he remarks that the melody under the "Norah" name "is presently associated with a very old two-part version." Thomas Moore wrote his song "Wreathe the Bowl" to Bunting's variant.

Other versions of the tune go by still more names. Chicago police chief Francis O'Neill printed several variants: it appears as "Road to Lurgan (The)" (which Breathnach calls "a poor version") and again as "Kiss Me Darling" in his Music of Ireland (1903). "Wild Irishman (4) (The)" titled-tune appears in O'Neill's Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody (1922), reprinted note-for-note from the Hibernian Muse (c. 1787). Finally, Breathnach identifies the titles "Cailín A' Tuirna" in Irish Uileann Pipes by T. Crowley (Cork, c. 1934) and "Máire an Phórtair" in the mid-19th century James Goodman Manuscripts (Goodman was a cleric and uilleann piper in Cork). Others have identified the title "Tune the Fiddle," which formerly had a turn in fashion as the most popular name for this tune. Another variant of the melody, as "Is Maith le Nóra Císte" (Nora Likes Cake), was found on further inspection of Edward Bunting's 1840 collection, noted from the harper Byrne in 1802. Variants have two to four parts, but the fourth part is often omitted as it is considered awkward.

T:Maid of the Spinning Wheel
T:Cailleach an Túirne
B:Breathnach, CRE I 1
Z:transcribed by Paul de Grae
D||: GAG B2 G | BcA B2 G | GDG cAG | ~F3 AFD |
GAG B2 G | BcA B2 c | ded cAF | G3 G2 :||: c |
BAG AFD | ~D3 AFD | ded cAF | G  G2 :||: D |
GBd gba | gdB ecA | dBG cAG | ~F3 AFD |
GBd gba | gdB ecA | fed cAF | G3 G2 :||: A |
(4cBAC Afd | Bfd Afd | Bfd AFD | EFG ABc |
BAG AFD | ~D3 AFD | ded cAF | G3 G :|| 

(MAID AT THE SPINNING WHEEL 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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