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

40,708 Tunes by title with Annotations

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Featured tune:     Astley's Ride
Featured tune:     Astley's Ride

Philip Astley

Philip Astley was one of the remarkable personages of the 18th century, credited with founding the modern circus. Born the son of a cabinet maker from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Astley early on developed a fascination with horses. At the age of seventeen he borrowed a horse and joined the 15th Dragoons as a rough rider and horse-breaker and was soon sent overseas with the unit to serve under the King of Prussia. Astley proved to be independent and resourceful, and aquired a reputation for bravery on and off the battlefield (he was also said to have been a sturdy six feet tall with a booming voice). He enhanced his career by saving the life of the wounded Duke of Brunswick and when he was discharged from the cavalry in 1768 he was given the regimental commander's white charger, Gibralter, as a leaving present.

Still a young man, Astley's ambition next was to start a riding school, although he lacked the funds to go into business directly by himself. He started by securing a position as a horse breaker with a riding school master in the fashionable resort of Islington (which featured tea gardens and other amusements). This and simlar resorts provided recreation for the well-to-do and attracted many riding masters who provided public entertainment with demonstrations of skill in order to build up a clientele. It was at Islington that Astley met and married an accomplished horsewomen, whose name is only known to us as "Petsy." Luck was the vehicle for his next career move, however, when he found a diamond ring on Westminster Bridge. The item brought him £60, with which he bought a second horse, and he and Petsy began to give unlicensed open-air equestrian displays at Glover's "Halfpenny Hatch" field in Lambeth. The hat was passed at every performance. Luck again smiled on Astley when he helped King George III subdue a spirited horse, again near Westminster Bridge, earning a reward of a performing license.

Only a year or two after his discharge from the military Astley was in a position launch his career. He purchased land close to his lucky Westminster Bridge and constructed a roped-off enclosure that he surrounded with stands, later adding a canvas roof. Those wishing to be entertained at his "Royal Grove," as he called it, could sit in the stands or, for a lesser amount, secure a standing space. Astley hired a drummer-boy to accompany his act, to add punctuation to his tricks. His main inspiration of his early period, however, was to realize that a circular ring rather than a straight list would allow his audience consistently better viewing and a more cohesive, flowing performance, and, in addition, a larger audience could be accommodated. Best of all, Astley discovered performing in a circular ring generated centrifugal force, a fact Astley quickly capitalized on in his routines. Through experimentation, he discovered the optimum diameter for the performance ring was forty-two feet.... more at Astley's Ride full Score(s) and Annotations

Past Featured Tunes

Astley's Ride
Played by: The Black Smock Band
Source: Soundcloud -

X:1 % T:Astley's Ride M:2/4 L:1/8 K:D |:(a/f/)|dd dc/d/|ee e(f/e/)|d/c/B/A/ Bc|d/e/f/g/ a/g/f/e/| dd d(c/d/)| ee e(f/e/)|d/c/B/A/ Bc|(d2 d):| |:A|ff f(e/f/) | gg g(b/g/)| ee e(d/e/)| ff f/g/a/f/| dd dc/d/|ee ef/e/|d/c/B/A/ Bc|(d2 d):||

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Who Builds The Archive
Who Builds The 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.
Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

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.

Help Getting started


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

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  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Archive” 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.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Publications” 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.