Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 10/7/11 The Reel Of The Hanged Man

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:

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/07/2011:  12:02:07


The Reel of the Hanged Man (Le Reel du Pendu)

This tune, originally from Europe where it is someties called The Nightingail  filtered down to the United States from Quebec has also steadily seeped into the American Old Time Repertory over the past 40 years. The tunes have remained quite similar but the American version is usually played as a fast breakdown while the French Canadien version tends to maintain the more stately “reel” rhythm. In my northern years we played this in the Canadian style and almost every fiddler retuned to AEAC# . In the north this was known as Hangman's Tuning, while in North Carolina most people call it “Calico”. However, few fiddlers in NC take the time to retune for Hangman's so it is most often played in AEAE (cross tuning) a common tuning for most of the “A” repertory.

There are hundreds of versions of the tune on youtube to choose from, so I was able to pick and choose exactly those that best illustrate the versions of the tune as I have heard them over the last 4 decades.

First is the classic French Canadien version Jean Carignon

It is worth looking around for the (audio only) version by Vermont fiddler Louis Beaudoin too.

And this is a typical American version by Brian Grim as learned from Albert Hash

I include it only as a reference to all the myriad US versions available. Personally I find the Canadian rhythm more interesting and the bowing much more exciting

This version by Trent Freeman

Is in the Meti tradition. The Metis are a Canadien ethnically mixed group similar to the Mestiso people of Mexico, The Meti Fiddle is a solo tradition and almost always accompanied by fast rhythmic foot stomping as in this example. There are many tunes available in the Meti style but I want to stick with the Reel of the Hanged Man. Just type “Meti” into the search function, and you will get a pile of hits.

Finally a North Sea version by fiddler Chris Stout from the Shetland Isles and harpist Catriona McKay of Scotland. I include this to show that the celtic harp doesn't always have to be that quiet instrument that does solo O'Carolan pieces and then gets put away when the dancing starts. I developed my “free stroke style” on the flamenco guitar by watching a harpist putting real pressure on those strings. It made up for not being able to get a usable rest stroke out of my rather arthritic fingers.

I could easily include a hundred more versions of the Hangman but feel that these do the job. If you are interested in checking more tunes in any of the styles here (and other styles) you will find plenty on youtube.

Edited by - oldwoodchuckb on 10/07/2011 12:07:47

vrteach - Posted - 10/07/2011:  12:24:27

'Bout time, classic tun.

I didn't know it was Canadian. I like both flavors, and it's fun on banjo, too.

Edited by - vrteach on 10/07/2011 12:28:22

J-Walk - Posted - 10/07/2011:  13:30:02

This version by the Praire Acre is worth watching, and not just because it features two babies.

I like the way they transition from the 3rd part to the 4th part.

majikgator - Posted - 10/07/2011:  14:39:50

A friend of mine plays this, i always like hearing it.

blockader - Posted - 10/07/2011:  18:11:07

this was the next tune i was gonna learn when i get done figuring out debuque. it shows up at every jam around here almost without fail. the brian grim version is closest to what i've heard but somewhat faster. looking forward to hearing some BHO renditions.


majikgator - Posted - 10/08/2011:  08:27:28

i liked that video J-Walk a lot of first string on the banjo. i notice he left his peg head "TV set" turned on. i am trying to break the habit of leaving my electronic tuner on my peg head while playing but have had little success. 

hendrid - Posted - 10/09/2011:  10:24:09

Very interesting and much played and a zillion versions. Thanks Tony. Nice pick. The Fiddlers Companion has information on the Hanged Man and Hangman's and show some differences. has quite a bit of discussion on Hangman's in the comments and has a simple abc of one version in G (for key of A just move every note up one notch on the sheet music version) of the melody, probably not the one for the purist, see below and some links. has a number of cuts of the tune in the music section under "H". Fiddlers Fakebook has the sheet music in their contents. Don

X: 1

T: Reel Du Pendu

M: 4/4

L: 1/8

R: reel

K: Gmaj

|:"G"DEGA B2B2|BcBA B2B2|DEGA B2B2|"D7"ABAF "G"G2G2:|

|:"D7"A/2A/2AA2 A/2A/2AA2|A/2A/2AB2 c2B2|A/2A/2AB2 c2B2|A2F2 "G"G4:|

|:"G"DB,CD "C"ECDE|"G"DCB,G, "D7"A,2A,2|"G"DB,CD "C"ECDE|"D7"DCB,A, "G"G,2G,2:|

|:z4 B2B2|BcBA Bz3|z4 B2B2|ABAF G z3:|

Edited by - hendrid on 10/09/2011 10:25:03

Bill Rogers - Posted - 10/09/2011:  10:43:06

Thanks Tony, for the research and the fine version choices.  I still like Carignan's version best--it's the first I heard, on his Elektra lp.  

aeroweenie - Posted - 10/09/2011:  11:09:24

I've really liked this tune since a friend gave me a tape of it in 1985. I learned it on the fiddle, but it was/is far beyond my skills to play it properly. I had no idea it was a widely played tune. And for those who think all fiddle tunes sound alike, HA! Great TOTW selection, time to learn it on banjo.

banjoholic - Posted - 10/09/2011:  11:21:08

Great tune, and lots of fun to play - seem to be a fair number of variations on it as well.  For those trying to work it up, backup is available on the old time machine, and I've attached my fiddle and banjo version here.

Josh Hangman's Reel


majikgator - Posted - 10/09/2011:  13:41:58

Very nice Josh

kevinwholmes - Posted - 10/10/2011:  07:32:36

This tune sounds cool & spooky in minor:

Julian44_4 - Posted - 10/10/2011:  08:22:24;v=18324


oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/10/2011:  19:36:55

I probably should mention that it is part of my Big Tabonanza - the tabs series I sell to raise money for more Rocket Science Banjo projects.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/12/2011:  05:50:21

A fine choice.  A fine job of fiddling and picking, Josh.  Nice and gutsy, but not rushed, just like a good hangin'.  Here's my take on it...

VIDEO: Hangman's Reel
(click to view)


banjoholic - Posted - 10/13/2011:  07:04:55

Thanks Jim and Don.  Don - loved your 3-finger take on it, as usual.  Lots of great syncopation opportunities on this tune - I've started playing this one fingerstyle as well when I play it with the band (I sneak the picks on every now and then).  I'll try to post that version here as well if I can remember to record it. 

banjoholic - Posted - 10/16/2011:  17:59:20

Okay, I recorded my scruggsified 3 finger version of this tune, which is attached.

I also received a few requests for the clawhammer arrangement of this one, so I've attached that pdf here as well.


Hangman's Reel

Hangman's Reel - scruggs style

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/16/2011:  23:54:42

A fine three-finger tune setting, Josh, well played.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories