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Feb 10, 2024 - 4:10:59 PM
110 posts since 4/7/2016

Wondering whether there is a standard Old Time fiddle tune book that is used as the popular reference. O'Neill's serves as a source and standard for Irish tunes. Is there a similar one for Old Time? It is used for gatherings and contra dance?
O'Neill's came out of Chicago. Wondering how much overlap there is between Old Time and Irish tunes today?

Feb 10, 2024 - 4:25:34 PM
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102 posts since 4/11/2022

The fiddler’s fake book is one, but I wouldn’t classify it as old time necessarily. It’s old time and bluegrass, but bluegrass is just organized/ structured old time anyway.

Feb 10, 2024 - 4:51:50 PM
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110 posts since 4/7/2016

Ordered from Amazon. A review says it is a spiral bound edition.
Have seen it before but was not spiral bound and awkward . A Denver group used
it, but I think the group has faded.

Feb 10, 2024 - 5:35:34 PM
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3639 posts since 9/13/2009

Not sure how determine standard; but a lot of folks like 

The Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes

Good source for great versions of tunes, and those versions are played quite a bit. 

Of course, just one resource; that doesn't mean that any given others you might sit and play with know or play those versions of tunes. 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 02/10/2024 17:37:30

Feb 10, 2024 - 6:20:54 PM
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40 posts since 9/20/2007

“Fiddle Tunes I did or didn’t Learn at the Tractor Tavern” by Gene Silberberg.
Pretty popular in PNW.

Feb 10, 2024 - 6:20:54 PM
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178 posts since 2/1/2008

IMO the real joy, excitement and surprise comes from the search.

To quote Dan Levenson go to the original source and then work back to what you heard

Feb 10, 2024 - 8:30:38 PM
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11931 posts since 12/2/2007

Not sure if there is a real "standard," and I'm not sure that O'Neill's is the "standard" for contemporary Irish music. O'Neill's came from the Irish-American music community in Chicago, and I'm not sure there was much overlap between that and "old time" music (which didn't actually exist with that name at that time) then or now.
For a similar antique collectiion of American fidlle tunes, there's "Ryan's Mammoth Collection," from the 1880's which was long influential, especially in its later editions as "Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes." Its available as a free .pdf download online. You won't find many modern jam favorites in it though.
The "Fiddler's Fakebook" presents tunes that were widely played and available on recordings at the time of its publication 30 years ago, and in other styles in addition to OT and Bluegrass. Its frequently been discussed on this forum, and has its advocates and detractors. Certainly not a "standard," despite the advertising.
There have been books that give glimpses of a wide geographical and stylistic range like "Old Time Fiddling Across America" and others. They don't intend to be comprehensive though.
There are also very good regional collections like "Kentucky Old Time Fiddle Tunes" and others that have lots of interesting information beyond just the music.
I think the only book that rivals "O'Neill's" in scope is "The Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes" that alaskafiddler mentioned. Its expensive, but beautifully and lovingly produced, with a library quality binding and 1404 tunes.
To get an idea of the contents of this and other collections, and hear the recordings on which they're based, visit the wonderful Slippery Hill website, created by Larry Warren. Its an amazing compendium of music and information.
You mentioned contra dance. For that, the Portland Collection is pretty useful.

Edited by - DougD on 02/10/2024 20:41:55

Feb 11, 2024 - 4:21:50 AM
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Players Union Member



2654 posts since 2/2/2008

I've sometimes found the Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes useful.

Feb 11, 2024 - 4:44:51 AM
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90 posts since 6/12/2015

Dan Levenson's new book ( has a lot of the OT tunes that are played in jams around here, but it's too new to be a standard, and as I wrote in another thread not many OT players around here use standard notation that I know of.

There are many good online sources for tune notation, but perhaps my favorite is Tater Joes. There are sometimes several transcriptions of the same tune, and they are put in an easy to read pdf format. They'll even send you all the transcriptions for a small donation.

The MK collection sounds nice but I'm avoiding it due to the authors' decision to omit bar lines, which doesn't make much sense to me.

Feb 11, 2024 - 5:31 AM
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2986 posts since 6/26/2007

We have a shelf of fiddle tune books we've collected over the last 1/2 century. Unlike bluegrass, a standardized form, old time differs from one region to the next. The tune range widely and titles are not always similar. There are books of Missouri tunes, the Phillips books are far ranging and good, the books mentioned above are all good. Then there are the Contra Dance books here  Not always the old time you may be looking for but lots of old time in them.  Good luck, have fun on your journey.

Feb 11, 2024 - 7:01:08 AM

110 posts since 4/7/2016

OUCH!! So many tunes. So little time.
My post was prompted by a look at the contra-dance tunes played in Tucson.
None were familiar.

Feb 11, 2024 - 7:38:13 AM
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11476 posts since 3/19/2009

Try this one:       Mel Bay, The Phillip's Collection of American Fiddle Tunes..  

Feb 11, 2024 - 8:30:35 AM
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423 posts since 6/3/2016


You were recently added to my Tucson OT open jam list, but I don't know if you've gone. Introduce yourself if you attend. For that jam you would find Dan Levenson's book very helpful. I have my own tune list, which you might find useful, but I mostly learn from recordings, using the various books listed as a reference. 

If you want to play in the contra dance open band, that repertoire is very eclectic and not strictly OT. That group has tons of sheet music, I believe. Just reach out to the organizer (Dave F. I assume).

Feb 11, 2024 - 8:42:55 AM

110 posts since 4/7/2016

Not sure how I got on that list. I must have put it there sometime.

Will plan to be at the Lucky Strike on the 3rd Wednesday. Thank you.


Feb 11, 2024 - 12:01:54 PM
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11 posts since 5/3/2022

The two sources I use the most for old time fiddle tunes are Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes and The Fiddle Book: The Comprehensive book on American Folk Music Fiddling and Fiddle Styles by Marion Thede. Both are excellent books, especially for those who prefer to learn tunes as they were played by the great fiddlers and then add their own variations. is my go-to website for hearing just about all of the tunes in these books. That really helps me to hear the nuances of their playing styles.

Feb 14, 2024 - 4:23:50 PM

236 posts since 4/2/2019

Copies of Marion Thede’s book are fairly hard to find and what I was finding was either pretty worn or very expensive. I ended up buying a digital version and am LOVING the info about fiddlers from bygone eras and how they generally learned a structure for a tune then made up their own specific arrangements. Definitely reduces my worry about getting any particular tune memorized note for note. Very weird how the author notates versions with alternate tunings. Still, am loving the book and highly recommend it. (And thanks for the recommendation!)

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