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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tunes of the Week: Mr. Isaac's Maggot & Mt. Hills

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

tfaux - Posted - 11/06/2009:  07:45:41

Following Lyle and ndlx's recent examples, here are two related tunes-of-the-week for November 6,"Mr. Isaac's Maggot" and "Mount Hills."

Both are old-time in the extreme, taken from the 1701 edition of "John Playford's The English Dancing Master," a compilation of English country dance tunes first published in the mid-1600s. The Playford collection is a good source for uncommon public-domain tunes, and most are pretty adaptable to banjo and stringband.
All available online in their original text form here:

I heard both of these played by buttonbox squeezer Chris Parkinson at the World Accordion Festival in Montmagny, Québec. Chris' version of "Mr. Isaac's Maggot" is part of the button accordion anthology "Planet Squeezebox" (Ellipsis Arts) and both tunes are on a solo accordion recording called "Chris Parkinson: Out of His Tree."

The tunes:

My 12 year old daughter Celia suggested "Mr. Isaac's Maggot" as this week's tune.
Here it is, played on an S.S. Stewart American Princess with Nyl-guts. Its plunky antique tone seemed more suitable in the moment than the mighty Tubaphone:

Here's Mount Hills:

And here's a slightly crooked version of the Maggot played by the fambly band (Celia's accordion recording debut):

The title of "Mr. Isaac's Maggot" has little to do with fly larvae or new Marine recruits. It was once thought that sudden flights of creative fancy were caused by tiny worms in the brain, hence the many older English dance tunes labeled as "maggots." Maggots were usually credited to particular individuals, as in "Betty's Maggot," "George's Maggot," "The Carpenter's Maggot," "My Lord Byron's Maggot," etc.
In this sense, banjo players tend to be a maggoty bunch.
I'm guessing that the redundantly-named Mount Hills is a location in England. It's also the name of a longways country dance.

The original transcription (posted on my homepage) has Mr. Isaac's Maggot in C-major. Works better for me in D.

'eres the tabs...

Mr. Isaac's Maggot:

Mount Hills:

Maggots go well with dark beer and aged cheddar.

Edited by - tfaux on 11/10/2009 05:03:04

Paul Roberts - Posted - 11/06/2009:  09:21:02

Tom, these are thoroughly exquisite and refreshing renditions of old English country dance tunes. Thanks for helping open the portal to an immense resource of musical possibilities.

Paul Paul's Gold Tone banjo site - call for lowest prices Paul's YouTube channel

ndlxs - Posted - 11/06/2009:  10:57:28

Just absolutely perfect banjo tunes....Good job!

Andy Alexis
Sacramento, Calif

ndlxs - Posted - 11/06/2009:  10:58:48

"Mount Hills" sounds a bit like "Spotted Pony" at the start and would be a natural for fingerstyle/2 finger.

Andy Alexis
Sacramento, Calif

LyleK - Posted - 11/06/2009:  11:04:45

No worries about whether these ones are public domain! Very cool, especially the button accordion. My 30 key Anglo days are long over, as my family has forbidden me to squawk along on the thing.

One comment on the tab for "Mr. Issac's Maggot": Comparing the tab to the original, it looks like your tab software is not differentiating between quarter and half notes. For example, the third measure of the first part looks to have 2.5 beats (or 5/4 meter as opposed to 6/4 if we make quarter notes the "unit" as opposed to the half note units for 3/2). I see that you used some tied quarter notes to get half notes, but I think you might have missed some of these. As another example, the penultimate measure looks like 1.5/2 or 3/4, as each note should be a half note.


tfaux - Posted - 11/06/2009:  11:23:52

Paul, Andy, Lyle, thanks for the comments.

Lyle, I did the tab in Finale, and you're right, it doesn't recognize the difference between half-notes and quarter-notes in tab except in the spacing of the notes in the measure.

My compromise is to tie quarter notes when they fall in the middle of the measure, and to leave the half-note untied if it falls at the end of a measure. The empty space at the end of a measure hopefully suggests that it's a half rather than a quarter.
Finale is a pretty thorough program. This is a bug that really should be fixed.


Edited by - tfaux on 11/06/2009 11:52:55

LyleK - Posted - 11/10/2009:  08:46:07

Thanks Tom for the further info. And sorry for my slow reply. I was deliberately waiting in case this thread needed a "bump" out of the 2nd page doldrums. But back to the matter at hand. Half notes are a perpetual problem in tab because of distinguishing "filled" (quarter notes) from "open" (half notes). Tabledit has a reasonable solution which is to use a full-length stem for quarter notes, a half-length stem for half notes, and no stem for whole notes (not that there are a lot of banjo tabs with whole notes).

Now that you pointed out the spacing in Finale that looks workable, though harder to see.


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