Chris Peterson -- Hammered Dulcimer, Guitar, Original Music

Traditional Music

This is a collection of (mostly) traditional music to look at, listen to, or download at your convenience. The emphasis is on traditional Celtic tunes, but there are some others you may find interesting, as well. Sound files are General MIDI, and tempos are friendly, but not slow. Sheet music is in the GIF format; a few tunes are two pages long, so be sure to get both if you want the tune.

Tunes marked with a dot are basic repertoire tunes, generally considered useful for beginners to know, at least where I live (it varies somewhat by region). For a little more information about traditional music, click here.

As far as I know, all of these tunes are in the public domain. If you see any that are copyrighted, drop me a line so I can withdraw them. Same goes for factual errors or missing information.

Remember, this is folk music. Use these files as guidelines, not gospel, and have fun!

Click on the title to hear the tune, and click on [sheet music] to see it.

Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance [sheet music] -- E minor.
  • The Ash Grove [sheet music] -- Welsh air, G major
    The Back Side of Albany [sheet music] -- American reel, E Dorian.
  • Banish Misfortune [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D Mixolydian (one sharp)
    La Bastringue [sheet music] -- French Canadian reel, D major.
    Bedlam Boys [sheet music] -- E Dorian. This is the melody to an English folk song.
    Bill Sullivan's Polka [sheet music] -- Irish polka, A major.
  • The Black Nag [sheet music] -- jig, A minor.
    The Blarney Pilgrim [sheet music] -- three part Irish jig, G major.
    Bobby Casey's [sheet music] -- Irish (I think), A minor, presented as a slow reel.
    Boulavogue [sheet music] -- slow air, G major
    The Boys of Ballycastle [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, E minor.
  • The Boys of Bluehill [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, D major.
    The Boys of Malin [sheet music] -- Irish three-part reel, A major.
    Branle [sheet music] -- A major. Pronounced "brawl," this untitled French tune accompanies a dance of the same name.
    Campbell's Farewell to Red Castle [sheet music] -- reel, A Mixolydian.
    Charlie Harris' Polka [sheet music] -- Irish polka, D major.
  • Childgrove [sheet music] -- English, A minor
    The Clare Jig [sheet music] -- jig, A Dorian.
  • Colonel John Irwin [sheet music] -- O'Carolan air in D major.
  • The Congress Reel [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A Dorian.
    The Connaughtman's Rambles [sheet music] -- jig, D major.
    Cooley's Reel [sheet music] -- Irish reel, E Dorian.
    Couragie [sheet music pg 1, sheet music pg 2] -- D major.
  • Denis Murphy's Polka [sheet music] -- Irish polka, D major.
    The Derry Hornpipe [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, D major.
    The Donegal Traveler [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A major.
  • Drowsy Maggie [sheet music] -- Irish reel, E Dorian. This is one of the tunes heard in the steerage party scene in the movie Titanic
    The Earl's Chair [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D major.
    Eleanor Plunkett [sheet music] -- a beautiful slow air by Turlough O'Carolan, D major.
  • Fanny Power [sheet music] -- O'Carolan air, G major.
    Father O'Flynn [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D major.
    Finnish Polka [sheet music] -- A minor.
  • The Flowers of Edinburgh [sheet music] -- Scottish reel, G major
    The Flowing Tide [sheet music] -- hornpipe, G major. This is a great tune for the hammered dulcimer (thanks, Patti!).
    The Foxhunters [sheet music] -- Irish slip jig (9/8 meter), D major.
    Funeral March of a Marionette [sheet music] -- Charles Gounod's haunting tune, known to most folks as the "Alfred Hitchcock theme," E minor.
    Gentle Maiden [sheet music] -- Scottish air, G major.
  • George Brabazon, Second Air [sheet music] -- O'Carolan air, G major.
    The Good Natured Man [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, G major.
    Greensleeves [sheet music] -- a very familiar tune, in A minor. Though often attributed to Henry VIII of England (who did, in fact, write several verses), the melody actually dates back to the late 15th century.
    The Halting March [sheet music] -- A minor. Also known as The Pikeman's March.
  • Harvest Home [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe in D major.
    The High Road to Linton [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A major.
  • Hobart's Transformation [sheet music] -- American reel, A minor.
    The Holly Bush [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, D major.
    The Humours of Ballylaughlin [sheet music, pg. 1, sheet music, pg. 2] -- four-part Irish jig, A Dorian and D major.
    Hungarian March [sheet music] -- A major and E major.
  • The Irish Washerwoman [sheet music] -- jig, G major. A standard if ever there was one and, from what I've heard, not Irish, but Scottish in origin.
    The Jig of Slurs [sheet music] -- four-part Scottish jig in D major (first two parts) and G major (last two parts). This tune is commonly followed by "The Atholl Highlanders."
    Joe Burke's [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D major.
  • John Ryan's Polka [sheet music] -- Irish polka, D major. This is another of the "steerage" tunes from Titanic, and a common set companion to "Denis Murphy's Polka."
    The Kerry Reel [sheet music] -- Irish reel, E Dorian.
  • The Kesh Jig [sheet music] -- Irish jig, G major.
    The Kid on the Mountain [sheet music] -- Irish five-part slip jig, E minor.
    Kitchen Girl [sheet music] -- American reel, A Mixolydian.
    Kolomeiki [sheet music] -- D minor, mostly. Most likely a dance from the Klezmer tradition, and a bit of a challenge on hammered dulcimer.
    Krebble Giant's Dance [sheet music] -- Belgian, A minor. According to legend, this tune was used as a "weapon" against a local giant, to make him dance until he collapsed.
    The Last House of Cannaught [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D mixolydian (one sharp).
  • Liberty [sheet music] -- American reel, D major.
    The Load of Hay [sheet music] -- Irish polka, E Dorian (two sharps).
  • Lord Inchiquin [sheet music] -- O'Carolan air in D major. The B part is longer than the A part, but is still played twice.
    The Maid Behind the Bar [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D major.
    The Mason's Apron [sheet music] -- Irish reel, G major.
    Merch Magan [sheet music] -- slow air, G major.
    Merrily Kissed The Quaker [sheet music] -- Irish jig, G major.
  • The Merry Blacksmith [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D major.
    Mon Coeur Se Recommande a Vous [sheet music] -- G major. This is the melody from a beautiful Renaissance madrigal by Orlando di Lasso.
  • Morrison's Jig [sheet music] -- Irish jig, E Dorian. It's not as imposing as it sounds.
    The Mug of Brown Ale [sheet music] -- an Irish jig in A Mixolydian, courtesy of The Tinker's Own. This is different from the versions I've found in various other sources, primarily in mode (most are in A Dorian).
    Muineira de Chantada [sheet music] -- Galician jig, D minor & D major. I got this from the playing of Milladorio, a hot band from Spain.
  • The Musical Priest [sheet music] -- three-part Irish reel, B minor.
    The New Rigged Ship [sheet music] -- Shetland reel in A minor.
    O'Carolan 174 [sheet music] -- one of Turlough O'Carolan's lesser known tunes, in C major.
    O'Carolan's Dream [sheet music] -- air in A minor. This comes from an obscure Irish record, and is a little different than what I've seen in print.
    On The Banks of Helicon [sheet music] -- Scottish court tune, G major (thanks, Norm!).
  • Over the Waterfall [sheet music] -- French-Canadian reel, D major.
    Paddy Kelly's Jig [sheet music] -- a great slow jig in D Mixolydian (mostly!) that I found on a Tony Trishka recording.
    Pastime With Good Company [sheet music] -- A minor. This song by Henry VIII of England is presented here as a duet.
    Peacock's Feathers [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, D minor.
    Peter Turbit's Hornpipe [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, D major.
    Rabbit in the Field [sheet music] -- Irish jig, A major.
    The Rakes of Kildare [sheet music] -- Irish jig, A Dorian (one sharp).
    The Ravelled Hank of Yarn [sheet music] -- Irish reel (I think), G major.
  • The Red Haired Boy [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A Mixolydian. Also known as "The Jolly Beggarman," with accompanying lyrics.
    Redicans [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D Mixolydian.
    Reel a Bouche (Mouth Reel) [sheet music] -- Traditionally, this French Canadian reel (A minor) is sung.
    Reel Beatrice [sheet music] -- a hot French Canadian reel I found on a Liz Carroll recording. It's presented here the way I play it, in A minor with dulcimer-friendly ornaments.
  • The Rights of Man [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, E minor.
  • The Road to Lisdoonvarna [sheet music] -- Irish jig, E Dorian (two sharps).
    The Rocky Road to Dublin [sheet music] -- Irish slip jig, A minor. It also has words for the long of breath.
    The Rolling Waves [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D major.
  • St. Anne's Reel [sheet music] -- D major.
    St. Basil's Hymn [sheet music] -- E minor.
    St. Kilda Wedding [sheet music] -- Scottish reel, A major.
    The Scholar [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D major.
  • Scotland the Brave [sheet music] -- Scottish march, G major. This should be very familiar.
    Sculley's Reel [sheet music] -- Although occasionally played as a reel, hammered dulcimer players will always know this Irish tune as a slow, spooky hornpipe, thanks to John McCutcheon. The key is E minor.
  • Si Beag, Si Mohr [sheet music] -- air, D major. Pronounced "Sheebeg Sheemore," this O'Carolan composition is said to commemorate a mythical battle between the fairies on two nearby mountains in Ireland.
    Sligo Maid [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A Dorian.
    Smash the Windows [sheet music] -- Irish jig, D major. This version has a 16-bar B part played once, but some folks play the last 8 bars twice instead.
  • Soldier's Joy [sheet music] -- Irish reel (I think), D major. This tune is said to have won its composer his freedom from jail.
  • Southwind [sheet music] -- slow Irish air, D major.
    Staines Morris [sheet music] -- E minor. Another song presented as an instrumental duet. Here again, the arrangement is from the period.
  • Staten Island [sheet music] -- Irish hornpipe, sometimes played as a reel, D major.
  • The Star of the County Down [sheet music] -- Irish song, D minor. This song is often played as an instrumental, and sometimes in 3/4 time. I've written it out as an upbeat tune in 4/4, which I prefer. I've also written it in a very static form for simplicity. I take some liberties for the sake of phrasing and suggest that you find your own as well, because if you sing it like this, it'll sound quite boring. I've included the first verse and chorus on the sheet music, but you can find the full lyrics by clicking here.
  • The Star of Munster [sheet music] -- Irish reel, A Dorian.
    The Strayaway Child [sheet music, pg. 1, sheet music, pg. 2] -- six-part Irish jig, E minor.
  • The Swallowtail Jig [sheet music] -- Irish jig, E Dorian.
    Take the Bull by the Horns [sheet music] -- Irish jig, A major.
    The Ten Penny Bit [sheet music] -- Irish jig, A Dorian. Also known as "The Rakes of Chicago."
    The Three Sea Captains [sheet music] -- I call this a Irish tune a jig for convenience, but since the parts are of unequal length, it may have been intended for some other dance. G major.
    The Volunteer [sheet music] -- reel, G major.
    La Valse Pour Les Petites Juenes Filles [sheet music] (The Waltz for the Little Girls) -- French, F major.
    Village Dance [sheet music] -- E minor.
    Waltz From Orsa [sheet music] -- Swedish, D major. This version's mild swing comes from the playing of an Irish fiddler. I've since heard a Swedish fiddler play it, and the difference is striking. If I can get the effect in a MIDI file, I'll post that version, as well.
    We Sing in Celebration [sheet music] -- A minor.
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast [sheet music] -- reel, D major.
  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley [sheet music] -- Irish reel, D major. Note that the A part is 4 measures repeated, and the B part is 8 measures played once.

  • A Little Background on Traditional Music

    Most traditional Celtic and American tunes were written for specific dances, and are called by the same name. The tunes in this collection cover the most common forms of Celtic dance music, including:
    • Reel -- a fairly quick tune in 4/4 time signature (meter)
    • Jig -- a moderate to fast tune in 6/8 meter
    • Slip Jig -- a moderate tune in 9/8 meter
    • Hornpipe -- a moderate tune, written in 4/4 or 2/4, but played with a pronounced "swing" (listen to "The Rights of Man" and compare it to the sheet music)
    • Polka -- a quick dance tune in 2/4 meter
    These tunes usually consist of two parts of eight measures each, and each part is played twice, in the format AABB. There are exceptions, of course; for example, some reels and slip jigs are four measures per part, and many tunes have three or more parts.

    Airs are slower tunes with no "standard" meter, and the parts may or may not be repeated. They're not usually intended for dancing, and some have accompanying lyrics.

    While looking over this and other tune collections, you might wonder what you should learn first. In truth, there is no "should" about it, but there are certain standard tunes that most folks know. This might vary from region to region, but here in Southern California, the tunes marked with a dot are standards that are recommended as part of your basic repertoire.

    Important: This is folk music in the truest sense. Some of these tunes are very old and have been passed down by ear through many generations and regions, resulting in many melodic and stylistic variations. And every musician will tend to put his own mark on tunes, as well; I'm often surprised to find that what I wrote down last year is different from what I play today. So take the music presented here as a guideline, not gospel, and don't be surprised if you hear any of these tunes played differently in your travels.


    © 1997 by Christopher W. Peterson.