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Uncommonly Strong Clawhammer Tunes #12: Gavotte

Posted by tfaux on Friday, August 29, 2014

like this

Breton Gavotte

Here is another tune from Brittany, the Celtic region of western France. I first heard it played by fiddler Steve Brown from Belfast, Maine, who told me he got it from the great Kevin Burke. Like much Breton music, the tune is haunting, repetitive, and while not difficult, it is slightly mind-bending in its twists and turns. In short, it is the perfect tune for banjo.

Traditional music in the Breton region of France is often played on a small piercing bagpipe, and a fairly hair raising double reed instrument appropriately called a bombarde. Accordingly, while this particular tune sounds eerie enough as a solo number, it really comes into its own as a duet. There is no harmonic movement. Tunes like this developed in a musical world that did not include guitars, pianos, or other chordal accompaniment, and any chord changes are somewhat alien to the tradition. It may leave your guitar player wondering what to do, but there can be something liberating about not being tied to a I-V chord progression. A possibility that fiddler Robin Kearton and I discovered during one late night session was that since there’s no harmonic progression, the tune works very well as a round, or canon.  After the tune has started, the second—or third, or fourth—musician can enter on almost any beat.  The resulting music, for us anyway, seemed even more haunting, repetitive, and mind-bending. 


Tab is HERE>

Our recording is HERE>  (Thanks to Robin Kearton and her viola.)



5 comments on “Uncommonly Strong Clawhammer Tunes #12: Gavotte”

GMB Says:
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 @6:28:28 AM

Thanks very much for posting this interesting tune. You make it sound as it were written for the banjo! Learning it should be fun! Cheers, Jerry

tfaux Says:
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 @4:17:51 PM

Thanks Jerry!

Gerard Douglisse Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 @4:26:33 AM

Hi Tom !

As usual, I have so much fun to hear your tunes and learn them
Listening the gavotte, I recognize the melody, but I thin it's impossible to dance with this rythmic ... I'm a banjo player and breton leaving in Brittany( so apologize for my broken english) Gavottes must be played in a ternary rythm, and you play on a binary rythm (as usual in banjo old time music) ...
Thanks for your helpful work !!

tfaux Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 @5:15:18 AM

Thanks Gerard. Yes, we have definitely taken some liberties with this gavotte.

heronhawk Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 @8:59:38 PM


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