Talk:Old-time music

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What is meant by 'Appalachia'[edit]

I've moved the heavily edited/cut N.B. from the Appalachia subsection here for discussion:

"N.B.: This section applies primarily to the "Central Appalachian" region of the United States ()."

The previous version seems inaccurate according to the definition of Appalachia in Wikipedia itself, but the above version seems either unnecessary or inaccurate, too.

Other related discussion includes: Artaxerxes (talk) 18:41, 18 April 2012 (UTC)

Mid Atlantic?[edit]

I think it is reasonably clear to everyone that "Old Time" generally refers to the traditional, fiddle dominated, music of North America and that it is subdivided into regional styles as the article says. What bothers me is that the MID ATLANTIC STATES are missing entirely from the discussion. Where is Pennsylvania's contributions such as collected by Samuel P. Bayard, or the music of Jehile Kirkuff? While I don't personally know much about it, surely there must also be something to say about similar music in western New York and New Jerseys pine barrens. The mid atlantic region is the bridge between Southern Appalachian Old Time and New England Old Time. Surely somebody must have something to say.DHBoggs 16:34, 5 March 2007 (UTC)


I see no mention of Mountain View, Arkansas, the self-proclaimed "Folk Music Capital of The World," or the Ozark Mountains tradition in this discussion. While I believe the style performed there most closely approximates that of Appalachia, I'd still like to know what others think. Perhaps the area is an amalgamation of the different styles, probably because many of the folk musicians who live there came from other parts of the country (or world) and brought the style with them. jtylerhenderson 13:23, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes, it should be added. Alan Lomax did some recording in Timbo, Arkansas as well. Badagnani 19:08, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

"Non-Appalachian South"[edit]

Calling North Carolina and Virginia the "Non-Appalachian South" is grossly inaccurate. The Appalachian Mountains run through both states (significantly) and the Appalachian folk culture is significantly represented in both states. This section needs to be seriously revised or omitted entirely, and NC and VA should be included with the Southern Appalachian folk culture, as they are by so many members of that community.

Claire H. 6/29/2007

A bit of tweaking would make it clear that the article is referring to the piedmont regions of Virginia and North Carolina. The development of the banjo, the incorporation of African music into American music, and the interplay of piedmont and mountain music are areas that can be further developed.Steventatum (talk) 17:37, 26 December 2007 (UTC)Steve T.

English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians[edit]

Link to: English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians Holger Terp editor, the Danish Peace Academy Adde —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:46, 23 September 2010 (UTC)


If this term is not synonymous with Appalachian folk music (this kind of implies it is, then it should be explained what the difference is. I tend to think it's the same thing, and that article should be merged here. But I don't really know. Tuf-Kat 00:14, Apr 22, 2005 (UTC)

I do, and it's pretty close. Appalachian folk is one of many forms of "old time music", a genre which can be found across america. Old time music is what bluegrass was before Bill Monroe called it "bluegrass", and it's what people called the music they played that has similarities to both blues, and guitar and fiddle emphasizing european folk music. The distinction with blues is sometimes very obvious, but other times it was just a racial distinction, with white guys playing "old time music" versions of the same songs black guys would play and call blues. The distinction w euro-folk can be similarly hard or easy to detect at times, depending on the style of the recording. In summary yes, Appalachian folk music should be merged here. Sam Spade 01:33, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)
And I did. Sam Spade 01:41, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Great! Tuf-Kat 21:42, Apr 22, 2005 (UTC)
In my experience as a banjo player, the term "old-time music" is far more narrow than the definition given by this article. I have noticed that musicians who play instruments like concertinas and mandolins do not tend to refer to themselves as "old-time" musicians if they do not play music of the southern Appalachians. Although other music in the United States and Canada may have come from the same (or similar sources) as what I hear referred to as "old-time," and even though "old-time" (by this definition) has spread to other parts of the continent, it seems that the original "old-time" was the string band music of the South. My experience may be unusual, however. Also, Bascom Lamar Lunsford is listed as being a non-Appalachian musician, despite the fact that he was from Buncombe County, North Carolina, near Asheville. This is most certainly in Appalachia. Messor

I agree that 'old-time' is usually considered to be southern string-band music, from Appalachia to the Ozarks or even Oklahoma/NE Texas, but not further.

I'm also going to change 'centered on the fiddle' to 'centered on the fiddle and the banjo', since, unlike bluegrass, old-time is meant for dancing and the canonical minimum 'band' is a fiddle and a banjo.

(on edit) I also added a few lines about OT banjo styles. Katzenjammer 22:20, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

The amount of information about banjo playing styles seems disproportionately detailed and probably belongs primarily in the Banjo article. Badagnani 23:31, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Actually, the oldest "old time" traditions are those of French Canada and New England and yes, the term "old time" is used to describe the fiddle-based music of these regions, which often features many of the same tunes; and square dancing isn't all that different from New England-style contradancing. Since the fiddle-based traditional musics of these regions are not as well known, people tend to overlook this. There's a reason the banjo wasn't mentioned in the lead paragraph, and that's because the fiddle is the common instrument (accompanied by either guitar, or banjo, or piano, or any combination of the above), but the banjo is not used much in the Northeast or in Canada. As wonderful as Appalachian old-time music is, please don't make the article Southern/Appalachian-centric. Badagnani 22:24, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I feel uncomfortable with that kind of expansion. The tradition with which I have the greatest connection is Cape Breton, and that's as 'old-time' as any. But it's not labelled 'old-time' except locally to distinguish traditional from newly-written tunes. Similarly, I live in New England, but the fakebooks such as the copy of New England Fiddler's Repertoire that I have sitting at my elbow right now don't call their contents 'old-time', they call it 'New England'--a completely eclectic mix of Scots, Canadien, Irish, English, and local tunes.
If we say that anything not newly-written qualifies as 'old-time', and that this article should be general enough to reflect that, then it seems to me that we lose definition. Why wouldn't some 15th-century court music played on shawms and bombards qualify in that case, and what would we get out of it? Katzenjammer 23:20, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
The construction "old-time" is a neologism anyway, but logically all the fiddle-based traditions from Canada and New England down to the South are related in instrumentation and repertoire, as North American musical traditions based largely on British Isles dance repertoire (with a small amount of German mixed in). (Two exceptions might be Cape Breton and Cajun music which, while fiddle-based, are different enough from the others to be excluded from the "old-time" category, though they should probably at least be mentioned in the article.) The article is already constructed with the regional subcategories of "old-time" thus the expansion you refer to has already taken place. I did not imply that any music that is not newly written qualifies as "old time," thus that statement is a red herring. "Early music" such as you mention already has its own term. Badagnani 23:31, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
The "neologism" dates back to the 20s. It was a term that the record companies came up with for music the Victor Talking Machine Company also called "old Southern tunes." I think the latter synonym gives weight to my argument, as does the fact that by and large, if not entirely, no Canadian, Western (beyond Texas, that is) or even Northern music was sold under the original use of the term "old time" in reference to traditional music. messor (talk) 22:24, 19 June 2009 (UTC)
I really don't see how you can have it both ways. Either you include everything 'related in instrumentation and repertoire' --which would include music being played in Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, and even Brittany-- or you leave off anything that's already got an accepted, distinctive name, such as 'New England', 'Quebecois', 'Cape Breton', 'PEI', 'Texas Swing', etc. In other words, either it's a proper noun/term of art, or it's just a very general description. Katzenjammer 23:49, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I was referring specifically to North American acoustic folk dance music of primarily British Isles origin. Again, the reference to original British Isles traditions is a red herring, as it's clear that most musicians from these traditions don't self-identify as "old time," as most New Englanders and Canadians do.
If proof were needed that the New England traditional fiddlers have used the term "old time" to describe their music for some time, here are three links: [1] [2] and [3]. These are links describing the primary New England traditional fiddle organizations, musicians, and contests. Many people think "old time" is a term applied only to Appalachian and other Southern fiddle-based music (because the New England and other traditions aren't as well known today) but it just isn't true. Badagnani 00:19, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
Okay, you and I aren't going to agree on this, so let's hear what others think, eh? Because I live in New England -Massachusetts, the epicenter- and I can tell you that, in general, people don't call it 'old-time' unless they're talking about southern-string-band music, or they mean 'not modern'. If they mean the regional repertoire, they say 'New England' just as Buddy MacMaster calls his 'Cape Breton' and would only say 'old-time' to distinguish his trad style from his niece Natalie's Irish-influenced one. And as far as I can tell, the pointers you offer do nothing to impeach my experience. Katzenjammer 00:57, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
What a coincidence that you live in the area I was bringing up in my examples. How do the links not prove that some local Vermont and other New England fiddlers describe their music and festivals with the term "old time"? Also, have you ever seen Jodi Maranchie play? She's great in the video "New England Fiddles" as a young student of the Maritime/New England player Gerry Robichaud and must be even better now. Badagnani 01:14, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
Why would it be a coincidence? I moved to Mass 22 years ago, first over by Boston working in the computer industry and as of 3 years ago, out here in western Mass.
As to the links, they point to the use of the term to mean 'not modern', if they point to anything. Around Boston, it's not unusual to hear (e.g.) a Greek quartet call their music 'old time'. All they mean is that it's not Greek pop, they're playing the trad repertoire. They don't mean they're using fiddles or that what they're doing has any musical connection to the knees-up that's going on at the Canadian Social Club in Watertown, or the music that Doc Watson is playing at the Iron Horse out here in Northampton.
And no, I've never to my knowledge heard Jodi Maranchie play. Or Gerry Robichaud, for that matter, though at least I know who he is. In the Boston area, a person could spend every night of their life going to one performance or sessiun after another, if they had the money and didn't go mad from exhaustion. Katzenjammer 14:30, 1 August 2006 (UTC)


"The fiddle is sometimes played by two people at the same time, with one player using the bow and fingers, while another player stands to the side and taps out a rhythm on the fiddle strings using small sticks called fiddlesticks."

I'm suspicious of this statement - it sound like someone is making a joke. Can anyone provide other sources to corroborate it?

Gavin Gourley 12/23/05

Yes, it's true. In the Appalachians they also call it "straws." Al and Emily Cantrell do this (Emily plays the sticks while Al fiddles; I've seen it in person. Here's a link describing it (about halfway down):
By the way, you can sign your post by typing four tildes, like this: ~~~~. Badagnani 00:25, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
Playing the strings with sticks wasn't/isn't a proper part of the tradition, though. It's always been a little vaudeville-ish and show-offy. Katzenjammer 22:20, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
In the little information about this that can be found, it's sometimes claimed that it's a very old tradition. Do you have evidence for the lack of antiquity of this mode of playing? Badagnani 01:19, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
A lot of things are old, but it doesn't mean they're part of a tradition. A fiddle is a one-person instrument. In its modern form it goes back approximately to Andrea Amati in the 1500s, and 99 point mumble percent of the repertoire since then has involved one person sawing away using a bow. So I'd think that to have a second person treating it like a hammered dulcimer while the 'official' player saws away is pretty clearly not part of any traditional canon regardless of how long ago it started. Katzenjammer 14:30, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
Makes sense but I hope we can find further sources on this. Probably the Cantrells know most of all about the history of this mode of playing since it's part of their schtick. I might as well write and ask them about it. Badagnani 16:20, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Coming in late here as I just discovered this page, but I've created a page Fiddlesticks (musical instrument). I saw a Dewey Balfa video on YouTube, and the page has what little information I was able to find on the web. If anyone could add more that would be cool. There is a list of other YouTube videos here, in the history of the old redirect page for Fiddlesticks. -- Margin1522 (talk) 18:53, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

External links[edit]

The external links section is out of control. I'm removing almost all of it for now. Before you re-add a link, make certian that it meets the criteria in WP:EL. If you think we should have a list of notable artists, make sure the artist has a page, write an article, add the artist's external link to that article (e.g. Uncle Earl). Wikipedia pages are not to act as web guides. -MrFizyx 21:45, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

The link for "The Wilders" in the Contemporary Musicians section is also incorrect. Rather than linking to the Kansas City area old-time group (, it opens onto a discussion of a modern comic book family. Strange! APace361 16:56, 20 October 2010


I see no discussion of the great variety of other instruments associated with this style of music, to wit: spoons, jugs, bones, saws, pans, washboards, kazoos, harmonicas, whistles, cans, washtub bass, tamborines, etc. (perhaps "hollerin'" could also be considered a form of instrumentation). This might be viewed as "a tribute to the ingenuity shown by impoverished rural Blacks in expressing themselves musically on whatever they found at hand,"[1] a tradition that would seem to include the banjo. That old-time music was played by other than string bands, e.g., jug bands, skiffle bands, spasm bands, etc., would not seem to dilute rather to strengthen the tradition. If this great variety of other instruments does not belong in the discussion at all, perhaps some mention should be made of why not.Artaxerxes (talk) 23:39, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

The genres you're discussing aren't usually considered part of "old-time music." They're separate, though related genres. However, spoons, bones, washtub bass, harmonica, etc. are mentioned in the article. I'm not familiar with the jug used in old-time music, though it's definitely used in jug band music. If you have sources showing that old-time tunes were played by jug bands, that would be interesting. Badagnani (talk) 23:49, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

List of advert links[edit]

Many if not all of the links at the end of this article appear to be in breach of WP:EL. Can someone with subject knowledge please take a look and remove such links. Thank you. --HighKing (talk) 16:08, 11 February 2009 (UTC)



While in the year 2000 African Americans made up only eight percent of the Appalachian population[11], their numbers were greater in the 19th and early 20th centuries, due not only to the presence of slaves but also free blacks working in timber, coal mining, and other industries.

I doubt that the black population of Appalachia was ever higher than single digits- there were very, very few slaves in the mountains; the population was overwhelmingly small farmers, mostly quite poor, who couldn't begin to afford a slave. If need be I can go back to the 1850 or 60 census, but I'm pretty sure I recall correctly.

The popularity of the banjo is not really indicative of the racial composition of any area, since by the later 1800s the banjo was THE American instrument, everywhere from rude cabins to Carnegie Hall (yes, there was white-tie classical banjo!). It's rather like asserting that the prevalence of the guitar implies a heavy Spanish population.

The African-American *stylistic* elements are very definitely present. However these could well have spread by diffusion up from the Piedmont. Solicitr (talk) 15:08, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Changing the order of sections of the article[edit]

I don't understand why the section "Regional Styles" are below the sections of "Learning old-time music", since I think that regional styles should be dealt with more and higher importance and more closely related to the history and instrumentation of the old-music. To me, the article would be more coherent and better hung-together to place the regional styles section right below the instrumentation section, and move the learning section right below the "Festivals' section. Please tell me what you people think. Davidmjeong926 (talk) 15:16, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

The Appalachia subcategory is too long[edit]

Considering there's already an existing article on Appalachia music, the subsection related to it in this article contains too much information and is unnecessarily lengthy. How about editing the subsection into shorter, more concise format? And, if necessary, the part of information that the subsection can be added to the main article Appalachian music. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:23, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Do we want to contend that Texas swing is old time?[edit]

[Old-time_music#Texas_and_the_West] seeems to say that swing is old time. Who's the real expert on what is what with regard to that opinion? For now, citation needed.GeoBardRap 02:48, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Links policy[edit]

I created a suggested working policy[edit]

If you go to edit the External Links section, you get an edit notice.

This is it:

Please prefer links which are meta-indexes or highly authoritative on account of the fact some WP editors get mad if you put too many links up- -IF YOU REMOVE ANY LINKS PLEASE PASTE THEM INTO THE TALK PAGE that way we can make sure a good resource doesn't get lost in the shuffle. We can replace the link somewhere else thanks. --

I am asking people to stick with it. Personally, I like lots of links but others won't so that is that.

For reference, this is what they are at this point in time.[edit]

Perhaps some must go?? I'd rather have talk first, deletions later. Prob'ly we are OK for now but if the section gets too big, I suggest we weed out the insrument-specific ones first. If it gets to that point.

- Geof 01:57, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

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