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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tune of the Week June 17, 2011 - Petronella

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BANJOJUDY - Posted - 06/16/2011:  20:45:40

Tune of the Week: Petronella

Petronella is a tune and a popular dance (with the same name) in New England.   

A good tablature (played in double D tuning) for this can be found in the book, Melodic Clawhammer Banjo by Ken Perlman (page 60).  Ken wrote,"This Scottish tune is used extensively in New England for accompanying contra dances.  I learned it from fiddler Colin Quigley of Chappagua, NY.”

I personally contacted Colin Quigley through email (don’t you love the Internet?) and he responded as shown:

“I don't have a lot off the top of my head re. Petronella -- other than that it's a great old classic -- we used to love dancing it with Dudley Laufman and Canterberry Country Dance Orchestra in the early 70s, it verged on a kind of singing call the way he did it. I should think that the Larkin Dancers, haven't thought of that name in a while and it could be off, of old-style contra from Vermont would have done it, and they are documented in various places  -- but the person I would really ask is Paul Wells - he's on Facebook - he produced an LP album of New England fiddling with an extensive liner note booklet and is probably the best tune historian around. i can track down his address if you can't find it -- if i get a chance i'll look through some of my older boxed up stuff on contra etc. to see what i find -- a moment of nostalgic fun for me.”

There are numerous Paul Wells listed on Facebook, and sadly, I have not been successful in contacting him for more information.  For now, I am enjoying the tune.

Don Zepp plays a fantastic rendition on banjo on YouTube:

Fiddle player on

Watch the dance and listen to  the tune:

Paddy’s Trip to Scotland is identical in the B part.   Listen here:







A search for Petronella in the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Music and Dance Recordings returned 81 results which can be researched further at this link:;page=1


The dance has influenced a long list of other dances as shown in this link:



The information found on the Fiddler’s Companion is shown below:

PETRONELLA. AKA - "Patronella." New England, Canadian, Scottish, English; Reel, Scottish Measure and Country Dance Tune. D Major (Brody, Kennedy, Kerr, Lerwick, Messer, Miller & Perron, Raven, Sweet): G Major (Linscott): F Major (Athole, Emmerson, Gow, Hunter). Standard. AABB.


The tune is Scottish in origin, published in Gow's Repository, Part Fourth, 1817. The RSCDS Scottish Country Dance Book (Book1) also says the tune comes from Nathaniel Gow's Repository, although gives the date of publication as 1820. The accompanying dance is said (in The Ballroom, 1827) to have been introduced by Gow at his Annual Ball, in Edinburgh, that same year. It is linked with a country dance of the same name in Scotland and New England. The dance Petronella seems to have enjoyed remarkable popularity throughout the last three quarters of a century in Scotland, write Flett & Flett (1964), where "it appears in every ballroom guide published in Scotland from 1823 to 1914, and it was also included in the repertoire of all the dancing-teachers whom we know to have have practiced in Scotland within living memory." Likewise it has proved a staple at New England contra dances over the last century.

Here’s the link to more information and ABC notation at the Fiddler’s Companion:

J-Walk - Posted - 06/17/2011:  07:11:35

How weird. I was playing this tune yesterday, and I thought that it would make a good TOTW. And now, here it is.

A really good fiddle/banjo/guitar recording of this tune is on Protect the Innocent, by John Blisard.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 06/17/2011:  07:20:40


Originally posted by J-Walk

How weird. I was playing this tune yesterday, and I thought that it would make a good TOTW. And now, here it is.

A really good fiddle/banjo/guitar recording of this tune is on Protect the Innocent, by John Blisard.

For years I kept seeing the name, PETRONELLA, as I skimmed the Perlman book mentioned above.  Then, while learning the fiddle, I saw that tune in a fiddle book and curiosity got the best of me - so I decided to at least listen to hear how it sounded.  AND I loved what I heard, so I learned it on the fiddle, and then on the banjo.

Another tune in that book is OLD FRENCH.  Give it a try and you'll like it as much as Petronella.

Sad to admit, but shoulder problems have now brought the fiddle to rest in its coffin.  It was fun playing fiddle, but the physical issues dictated death to my fiddle playing.   Playing the fiddle sure made learning the banjo tunes easier, sigh!




vrteach - Posted - 06/17/2011:  07:22:03

Oh man, Petronella! I love this tune, and have yet to play it on anything (other than accompanying those who can play it).

hendrid - Posted - 06/17/2011:  08:33:51

Good pick Judy, Thanks.  Quite a bit on  The tune is in Fiddlers Fakebook page 216 also has the tune abc and sheet and quite a lot of commentary with the tune and sources.  We keep running into it so good to get us going on an old and popular dance tune.  Don

Sheet music:


Many pages on other entries:

Edited by - hendrid on 06/17/2011 08:34:54

cookge - Posted - 06/17/2011:  10:03:48

I've heard parts of this tune played by military pipe bands. I don't think it's the whole tune I've heard in this context but there is definitely a link.

johnv - Posted - 06/17/2011:  10:08:00

Great little tune, Seems to me that I seen this in one of my bag pipe books as a horn pipe, got me wondering now I have to look. I never tried it before. but great tune.

whitetop_banjo - Posted - 06/17/2011:  13:29:06

I think I've heard a great version of this by Frank George on an LP or CD also.

LyleK - Posted - 06/17/2011:  16:05:16


Originally posted by whitetop_banjo

I think I've heard a great version of this by Frank George on an LP or CD also.

There's an *.mp3 of him fiddling it at;REC=5

 ...  and it's definitely a great version.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/18/2011:  06:49:20

This tune brings back some very fond memories.  My wife and I used to go to contra dances around Boston when we were young and lively, "when the bloom was still on the rose," as my sister used to say, before the kids came and we grew up.  Dudley Laufman and the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra were featured at a lot of those dances, at the Girl Scout House in Concord, or at the Congregational Church in Cambridge.  I understand that his more relaxed way of running a dance has fallen a little out of favor with some of today's strict contra dance aficionados.  He is 80 years old now, but still performs for concerts and dances with his wife Jacqueline, under the name Two Fiddles.  In 2009, he was awarded an NEA National Heritage Fellowship, a well deserved honor.  On his website, he has an essay about the Petronella

Dudley Laufman

Lyle, that Frankllin George recording is really sweet.  A long time ago, I think around '68 or '69, Mr. George gave me some real encouragement when I first started playing banjo.  I was just a teenager, and at the time I was getting discouraged with my very slow progress.  I met him at a festival in West Virginia that my parents had taken me to, where he was doing a fiddle workshop.  After the workshop, as folks were filing out, he offered to play a few tunes with me.  As we started playing, someone with a tape recorder asked me to stop playing, so that he could record Mr. George without my banjo picking ruining it.  Mr. George spoke right up, saying, no, this young man and I are playing some music, if you want to record it, that's fine, but we aren't going to stop just for you.  I can't tell you how important that was to me that he stuck up for me.

Ed Britt has been suggesting that we play Petronella off and on for over a decade, but I never got around to working it up until yesterday.  I started messing with it late in the afternoon after finishing up my yard work, and Ed came over after dinner to record it with me.  What a pal!  I have attached the MP3 below.  This is the first recording Ed Britt and I have done in over a year.  

Ed Britt and I picking some tunes.

I always write everything down these days, I just can't remember all of the dang tunes anymore without help.  Actually, that's been true for quite awhile, now.  Anyway, I have posted the tab for my three-finger arrangement in Tabledit, MIDI and PDF format at my website:

Three-finger Style Tab for Petronella

Thanks, Judy, for a great TOTW pick.  Now I'll be waiting for Eric, Lyle, J-Walk, Tom, and the rest of y'all to show us what you got!  I know it's a Yankee tune, but if Franklin George can record it...  bigbigwink

- Don Borchelt


Edited by - Don Borchelt on 06/18/2011 06:58:57



Voyageur - Posted - 06/18/2011:  07:09:01

Well, cool! I have played this on the fiddle and will give it a try on banjo now!

Judy, sorry to hear about your shoulder problems. Playing the fiddle is hard on the body. I have elbow issues when I play, but luckily I was never very good at it anyway!

ramjo - Posted - 06/18/2011:  07:59:30

Judy--great choice. Thanks!

Don, those were terrific stories; I'm so glad you shared them. And your and Ed's playing...well, it's beyond terrific! This made my day.

Anyone else hear Saint Anne's Reel in the B part? (It's not on the list of tunes influenced by Petronella, but maybe that's an oversight.)

Julian44_4 - Posted - 06/18/2011:  09:51:44

Clawhammer tab by Dave Marshall in Tab Archive, also by Donald B  Zepp in newest additions.


banjered - Posted - 06/18/2011:  10:36:37

"Clawhammer tab by Dave Marshall in Tab Archive"


Yeah but only in tabledit...never have been able to get that to work. Woodchuck's stuff is also in tabledit, and also equally unaccessible. Darn! Banjered

banjered - Posted - 06/18/2011:  10:45:27

By way of example Petronellakey of DTab by Dave  Marshallxez ^@@I¿IF`%IÄF‡#I@I@I@I¿I‡ICÄF` IÄ




c0w "'.Banjo

Julian44_4 - Posted - 06/18/2011:  12:18:56


I have just added pdf's for both tabs, hope this will help.



banjo_brad - Posted - 06/18/2011:  12:40:49


Have you downloaded the free TEFviewer from the Tabledit site? Be sure to pick the one for your OS (PC or Mac), install it, then download the tef file you want, start the viewer program and open the tef file.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/19/2011:  03:46:28

What banjo brad said.  Also, make sure you download the TefView.exe free viewer file, and not the demo of the full package.  Although if you want to write your own tabs, the full Tabledit package can't be beat, IMHO.  Click on the icon below:



BanjoFlyboy - Posted - 06/19/2011:  05:12:13


blanham - Posted - 06/19/2011:  06:13:39

Good TOTW.  Don and Ed: that's really pretty playing.  Also, Lyle, thank's for pointing out the Frank George fiddle recording of Petronella; it's great, and I got stuck in the D.L.A. for quite a while.

Tamarack - Posted - 06/19/2011:  06:49:34

A very sweet tune -- I had heard it about a zillion times and never knew the name.

Interesting comment about too-serious contra dancers.  My wife was turned off to contra dancing when she ended up with a too-serious partner who demanded eye contact and criticized/corrected her every move.

J-Walk - Posted - 06/19/2011:  19:56:31

Here's my feeble attempt at Petronella. 




Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/19/2011:  23:22:41

Very nicely played, smooth and elegant.

Banjowik - Posted - 06/20/2011:  18:14:48

Great tune of the week Judy! A tune I tried to learn long ago as it is a favourite of a fiddling friend of mine. Couldn't find a tab for it so it got a little lost and forgotten.

Now I'm anxious to jam again with fiddling friend to "carve it up"!

Thank you!!

J-Walk - Posted - 06/20/2011:  18:42:10


Originally posted by Don Borchelt

Very nicely played, smooth and elegant.

Thanks, Don. But to me it's hardly smooth and it's far from elegant. It sounds much smoother and more elegant when the H2  recorder red light isn't on. I just turned on the H2, played it, and stopped it.

I've learned that every subsequent recording attempt just gets worse as I try to play it better. Maybe some day I'll be able to figure out how to avoid  the dreaded "recording fright." 

Banjowik - Posted - 06/20/2011:  19:10:04

Hey J-walk I'm using a H-4 great little piece of technology but I'm not sure what to do once I've recorded a track, got to Audacity and saved it to my computer. How do I then upload it to the hangout? I'd love to get some feedback on my playing!

Thanks Banjowik!

J-Walk - Posted - 06/20/2011:  19:24:48

Banjowik, after you save the MP3 on your computer, just go to your BHO home page, click Music (above your photo), then click Upload New MP3 and follow the instructions.

After it's uploaded, you can post a message and click "Add attachments" (below the text box) to add the music clip to your message. It sounds harder than it is.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/21/2011:  05:41:28

J-Walk wrote: "Thanks, Don. But to me it's hardly smooth and it's far from elegant. "

I feel the same way about a great many of the recordings and videos I have made.  When you listen to your own music, you hear all of the missed notes, the breaks in rhythm, all the things that make it fall short of the ideal performance that you hear in your mind.  What everybody else hears is some real fine banjo picking.  I personally can't explain it, that's just how it is, another ironic fact of life that robs us of comfort.  But it's not about whether it's perfect, and whether we feel good about it, it's about giving others a chance to enjoy it, before death or arthritis takes it away. 

- Don Borchelt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 06/21/2011 05:43:32

stevel - Posted - 06/21/2011:  08:31:09

i need to learn this song.  lovely melody.



strokestyle - Posted - 06/21/2011:  09:40:37

Nice pick of the week - this is a great tune!

strokestyle - Posted - 06/21/2011:  11:02:47

BHO member "Nuts" Paul Breen  found this recording of us playing this tune last summer and ask me to post it.



J-Walk - Posted - 06/21/2011:  13:28:35

Wow, that's great Christine. I'd say that's my favorite recording of the tune (and I've heard quite a few).

You and Nuts make a good team.

strokestyle - Posted - 06/21/2011:  13:55:17

Thanks so much John! A strong master fiddler and a great back-up guitar guy! I am still the weak link but with more time under my fingers I'll catch up someday, sooner than later I hope!

ELWOOD - Posted - 06/22/2011:  08:53:59

Absolutely  top 100 old time totw.   Man thats it , Cant  say any more... The Finest Old Time Band Sound On the Net .    I AM a FAN .........ELWOOD.    the Matthews, Breen combo is  great

Edited by - ELWOOD on 06/22/2011 08:57:02

strokestyle - Posted - 06/22/2011:  09:17:42

So sweet! My mushicon is turning redblush

TOTW - Posted - 06/22/2011:  20:31:25

Here it is in a few different styles

Jehile Kirkhuff  -

Dave Mallinson -

Highland Reign -

Wendy Stewart -

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