[Callers] Best tunes for a band that normally doesn't play Contra

Amy Cann ACann at putneyschool.org
Fri Jul 9 11:35:35 PDT 2010

So, I'm a caller and a fiddler and a violin/piano teacher and a wedding
musician and this is a fun challenge I just HAVE to take a whack at.
What's your band's instrumentation? And can they read? And what style DO
they play?

A couple/three thoughts --

If they're an experienced wedding band, they already know the right style:
it's called The Chicken Dance.
A swing band's players might also be familiar with Broadway classics --
most of the uptempo tunes from shows like Sound of Music (Do Re MI), South
Pacific (Nothing Like A Dame) , Oklahoma (June is Busting Out) use the
exact same boom-chuck pattern as standard contra/square tunes.
A Bar Mitzvah band probably knows Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, which BTW fits
Galopede PERFECTLY (and now I've given away one of my trademark pieces of
A Country Western probably knows how to play Twosteps.

Whichever analogy works for them, tell the rhythm section to set the
keyboard's metronome to 112, and to make sure they use a tune that has a
repeat of 

64 beats where the beat equals 112.
32 measures of 2/4
16 measures of 4/4
(tunes get written out on LOTS of different unit scales)

That takes care of style/length/speed. Now, tunes:

Good tunes are ones that have LOTS of quarter notes, that are singable, as
opposed to relentlessly note-y celtic reels.
"Red Wing" comes to mind.

If they are readers, how about a book of Scottish tunes that includes the
written-out piano accompaniment (there are lots)-- and have a musician
friend pick out some good marches with the right length. Mairi's/Mary's
wedding is a good starting point, so is Meeting of the Waters and Down the

The fewer sixteenth notes, the better your lead player will like it --
ESPECIALLY if they're a wind player. Celtic reels are WICKED hard on sax
if you're not used to them. 

Heck, just get a copy of Chimes of Dunkirk from New England Dancing
Masters and pick a dance or two that appeals. The dances are all good, the
music is right in the book and the explanations are lucid.

There's my .02 cents squared -- let us know how it works out!


If they're by-ear-only heavy metal dudes, I don't know what to tell you
except good luck!

More information about the Callers mailing list