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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW for 9 Nov 18: Sweet Nell

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:

banjukebox - Posted - 11/09/2018:  05:46:19

This week’s Tune of the Week is “Sweet Nell” a “new” Old-Time Tune in the key of A.

It was written by a couple of fiddle players now based in the southwest: Rob Pine and Jim Mullany. The story I get is that one of them wrote the A part and the other the B part.


It can be found on an album called “Sweet Nell, New Old-Time Tunes” by Tom Adler, David Margolin, Jim Mullany and Rob Pine. It’s a great  collection of original tunes.

Here’s a link:


According to the liner notes:

“We send this tune out to Paul Newman’s daughter, Nell Newman, whose smiling face adorns the bags of pretzels and chips we often devour between playing tunes.”



Sweet Nell


“A small portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD goes toward the purchase of a bag of Newman’s Own Pretzels or a package of Fig Newmans for our next practice.”


I first heard the tune while scanning Youtube for new tunes to learn. I came across a lively group of young musicians playing it in the kitchen:


I am hearing the tune more and more at gatherings here in the Pacific NW.


Here is a banjo version along with the tab:


Edited by - banjukebox on 11/09/2018 05:57:07

rickhayes - Posted - 11/09/2018:  07:08:00

Nice choice and nice playing Pat. Enjoyed that kitchen jam a lot too.

JC Bryant - Posted - 11/09/2018:  08:19:44

Nice tune. I could watch videos of Pat's playing for hours (and have), I appreciate his relaxed approach and tempo. I wish I could play like him and after watching him play, I think I can and then I pick up my banjo and then . . . . . . . . Oh well, I'll keep trying anyway.

RG - Posted - 11/09/2018:  14:12:44

Thats a real nice tune there Pat and great playing!

JanetB - Posted - 11/09/2018:  17:31:32

You chose a sweet tune, Pat, and played it sweetly. My husband tapped his pencil and feet to this one! Washington must have a wonderful old-time scene. It's nice to hear that Yigal Zan's good friend, David Margolin, plays on the CD. I miss seeing and hearing their posts on BHO.

banjukebox - Posted - 11/11/2018:  06:22:25

Thanks for the comments! That's another "sweet" version, Janet. That group playing in the kitchen has two or three other nice tunes on youtube.

jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/12/2018:  10:42:14

Sweet Nell is quite popular in Old Time circles out here, and for good reason.  Since Colorado and New Mexico are neighbors, a good bit of the wonderful repertoire out of New Mexico spills over into this area. A New Mexican contingent, including Jim, is always present at the CROMA festival, and they have some fantastic jams.  Anyway, I am really happy that Pat selected Sweet Nell for TOTW.

I'll add that I think that Jim Mullany et al are some of the best "new timey" tune composers around. 

I gave my nascent two-finger picking a try on Sweet Nell (but took it home with some clawhammer).  I think I can work on the arrangement more, but I'll just put it out there as "giving it my best shot today."

Thanks Pat for posting this one!

Don Borchelt - Posted - 11/12/2018:  13:16:14

A great choice for TOTW, Pat, and great picking by you, Janet, and Jack. I love Jack's switch from up to down! I recorded the embedded video six years ago, but for some reason never posted it. Better late than never. I am three finger picking on my short scale semi-fretless Paramount in open A tuning (aEAC#E).

I used to pick tunes with Dave Margolin years ago at the jams that were held at Old Joe Clark's, the music collective that was on Fayette Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We played a gig together once, at Boston College, my alma mater, in 1973. Dave had more hair then, and I was about 90 lbs lighter! Well, I had more hair, too.  He was an amazing fiddler, even then.


Old Cremona - Posted - 11/13/2018:  18:16:42

Here's my version for 3 finger "melodic" style. This tune is somewhat off the beaten path for us Scruggs\Keith players; I learned it because it was part of the "homework" for Carp Camp at the Walnut Valley Festival. It's a really cool tune, I love finding fresh material to learn. It lays out really nice in the melodic style. It would be interesting to hear a melodic clawhammer player tackle this one.

cmic - Posted - 11/14/2018:  01:14:55

Carl: beautiful version !. And nice picking !

banjukebox - Posted - 11/14/2018:  06:17:34

Thanks for all the amazing additional posts. In addition to two(actually three) clawhammer versions, we now have an old-time two finger, old-time three finger and a melodic bluegrass version. I'm not too sure how differently a "melodic" clawhammer player would arrange the tune, but I'd be interested to hear it. Scruggs-style would be interesting as well.

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