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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 23 December 2016: Setauket

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:

Zischkale - Posted - 12/22/2016:  21:15:16

The stately, harmonized fiddling of Spencer & Rains fits the quiet cold of snowbound December well, and since I’ll be traveling up to Colorado this one’s a good pick. One of the regulars at our old-time jam threw this one a few months back and I immediately took to it. Haven’t tried it on fiddle until my prep for this TOTW, and am getting to play my new Guarneri that’s got a real sweet sound to it (i.e. any scratches or flubs are all on me).


Setauket’s a nicely structured melody, the B part essentially a mirror of A but up a fourth. You won’t find much background online (make sure to check out the Geoff Seitz video below), but it’s one of the tunes collected by William Sidney Mount, famous for his portraits of banjo and fiddle players (which should be very familiar to BHO users, the paintings even showing up as avatars now and again). Setauket is attributed to a fiddler named Anthony “Black Tony” Clapp, who named the piece after his Long Island hometown (to this day you can visit his gravesite there).


Here’s my crack at it, cross-tuned in ADAE.

Setauket - TotW

Would love y’all’s banjo arrangements of the tune.


Awesome links:

Listen to Tricia Spencer play the tune

Hear a brief sample from Tricia’s Fiddlin’ Like There’s No Tomorrow


Fellow fan’s blog post about searching for the origins of the tune (includes a couple more renditions).


The aforementioned video taken at Seitz’s shop, with some excellent playing, a more hot take on the tune.

Edited by - Zischkale on 12/22/2016 21:16:56

cmic - Posted - 12/23/2016:  06:10:04

Thank you Aaron for giving us such a delightful tune ! Now downloading (buying) some

Tricia Spencer tunes from CDBaby. Fiddle give me shivers...But i'm a banjo player.

Happy Chrismas.

JanetB - Posted - 12/23/2016:  10:56:41

An exciting choice indeed, Aaron.  In the William Sidney Mount biography by Alfred Frankenstein there's a letter written by Mount mentioning Anthony Clapp which will give more information than is commonly known.  The letter was written in Stony Brook where Mount lived and where a museum with his paintings, writing, and I think where at least one of his original Cradle of Harmony fiddles are housed.  

With a houseful of Christmas guests expected I'll look forward to the rare quiet time to work more on this TOTW.

 photo WSM plate 35_zpsqylhrylv.jpg


 photo WSM letter_zpsmq3qghhp.jpg



 photo IMG_0672_zpssfg4xncs.jpg

JanetB - Posted - 12/24/2016:  15:30:39

In between holiday activities today I had a chance to record Setauket.  The arrangement in G tuning with the 5th string tuned to A was easier than the double C arrangement for me.  The recording is simplified further for playing ease.  I've enjoyed reading about "Black Tony" in the blog link and the biography of William Sydney Mount and can imagine the cheerful, talented, generous man he must have been.  

To remind some of us who William Sydney Mount is, here's his most famous painting.  He knew the person who posed and of course it wasn't Anthony Clapp.

 photo 62bf1b9a-3e6b-418a-af80-1ad0c6ff6da0_zpsxpngkjxl.jpg

Thanks to readers who don't mind my extensive posting on TOTW.  I find it's exciting to research, arrange, and record, and appreciate those who get excited, too, like you, Aaron! 

vrteach - Posted - 12/30/2016:  13:01:54

That's a great tune, thanks.

There are some more W.S. Mount-related tunes on a Folkways album called "The Cradle of Harmony." , and it is worth listening to as well as downloading the pdf of the liner notes. As far as I can tell Setauket is not included. The name "Cradle of Harmony" comes from the hollow-backed fiddle which Mount invented, and which is illustrated in the liner notes.

bhniko - Posted - 01/02/2017:  13:01:01

A nice tune to start the Holiday merriment.

Janet, thanks for the tabs.

Zischkale - Posted - 01/03/2017:  13:34:51

Thanks for the background, Janet! Gotta be one of the strangest epitaphs I've ever read, but I really like it. I wonder how many of those cradle of harmony fiddles he ended up making (and if they sounded any good). Cool arrangement, my go-to is definitely more sparse but I haven't sketched anything out. Which banjo are you using? I hear a lot of low-pitched resonance in there, almost sounds like a second instrument harmonizing.

Michel - thanks for the good words, definitely check out Spencer and Rains' albums, especially the Texas tune ones!

Erich - cool link, really wish Setauket was included! Need to add this one to my wishlist.

JanetB - Posted - 01/03/2017:  15:50:10

Aaron, you're always very observant and accurate (and enthusiastic).  

In William Sydney Mount's biography it states:  "What Mount wanted in his violin was an increase in carrying power.  The lone fiddler, playing for country dancers in an atmosphere of stamping feet and shouted merrymaking, needed all the volume he could summon."  Mount had three made, but never had them commercially produced.  He called it a "hollowback" violin, having "concavity of the sides as well as the back."  Here's a photo:,  One is at the Smithsonian and was recorded by a violinist, Gilbert Ross.  The other two are at the Stony Brooks Museum in Long Island. You can hear the violin tracks on the Ross CD Erich linked above.  I arranged two of its tunes for banjo a while back (Pittsburgh Hornpipe and Uncle Ben's Favorite). 

My recording of Setauket is multi-tracked on Garage Band with my cello banjo added as the low-pitched accompaniment.  It sounds kind of guitar-like and is finger-picked.  The other instrument is my well-used Mac Traynham Whyte Laydie openback with goatskin hide and nylgut strings.

Zischkale - Posted - 01/04/2017:  14:28:47

Should've figured you multi-tracked! Sounds cool. The one bit of info I'm missing about the Cradle of Harmony is a view of the back -- it's concave, but not open-back, right? The front profile looks a lot like some Russian makes of fiddles, where instead of cutouts there are rounded sides (can't think of the maker who the style is named for). 

greenbrooms - Posted - 01/05/2017:  13:59:10

one of my favorites, aaron. thanks for reminding me to learn it

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 01/05/2017:  17:07:38

Thanks to Aaron for a fine TOTW choice, and to all for the discussion.  II enjoyed the tune and all the fascinating history, most of which I knew little about.

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