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New England Fiddling: About the Music

Developing Chord Progressions: An Example

On the previous page we looked at the issue of whether there is a single correct chord choice, as I believed (as do many others) when I first started accompanying fiddle tunes, or whether there might be multiple possible valid chord progressions for a set of music, depending on the effects one is trying to create. We looked at how chord choice has changed over time and from place to place.

Now I want to present an interesting example of choosing chords to fit a tune that I was recently involved with.

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The Example: Gone A Rovin' ~ A March from Ralph Page

Ralph Page was a square dance caller from New Hampshire who called from the late 1930s into the 1980s. He published a quarterly to monthly journal of music, dance, cooking, humor and more called Northern Junket. He was also a composer of tunes, and although not prolific, most of his tunes make good to excellent dance tunes. They include Rollstone Mountain, McQuillen's Squeezebox and Year-End Two-Step. Many were published in Northern Junket, and in various of his books. Generally he provides the melody but not chords (although in some cases chords were provided that came from others).

For the past couple summers Elaine Malkin has taught one of his less known marches, Gone A Rovin', in her classes at Maine Fiddle Camp. It was published in Northern Junket, Volume 13, Number 11, Page 26 (June, 1981). I converted this to abc notation; the resulting transcription is shown below.


I tried to come up with an accompaniment but never quite felt like my chords did justice to the tune. It was hard to find either a recording of the tune or a transcription to use for comparison until I realized that Randy Miller (fiddler and piano player from western New Hampshire) had included the tune in his book The Fiddler's Throne (Alstead, NH, Fiddlecase Books, 2004). With permission I reprint his chords (and later another version of the chords) below.


Now I should start by saying I was very much predisposed to like these chords. Randy is an excellent piano accompanist. He played for many of the best dances I attended in my early years of dancing, and his accompaniment on the three recordings he did with Rod Miller is first class. Many times I've listened to one of those recordings and realized they were the source for one or another aspect of my own accompaniment style. But I tried it, and although I liked some of it there were parts I was less sure I liked, and it didn't quite give the feel I'd expect for a Ralph Page tune.

<Continued on the next page>


Choosing Chords ~ Regional & Generational Differences  Previous Page     |     Next Page   Chord Development Page 2

The NH Old-Time Fiddle Website covers a variety of topics related to traditional music and dance of New Hampshire and surrounding areas.

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Use the Menu (upper left) to navigate. Here are the main topics covered on this web site.

  • Fiddle Tunes! Tunes in abc notation and in PDF format.
  • abc Notation . Music written out in text form that can be displayed as standard notation and played back for proofreading or tune learning. Section includes:
    • abc tutorial on basics of using abc notation & links to web sites that document/teach abc, sources of music in abc, & to abc reader/converter software.
  • Learning tunes by ear and from notation, a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each, differences in what is learned, combining the use of both kinds of learning with relevant links.
  • About Fiddle Music. General discussion of fiddle-related topics, starting with choosing chords for a tune.
  • Lamprey River Band. About the transition from the Dover dance to the Durham dance with schedule information.