Learn old time tunes and bluegrass instrumentals
More than 210+ tunes are available in Pete’s Tune Collection. You’ll find standard notation, printable sheet music, and MIDI audio files thanks to longtime SCVFA member and trustee, Pete Showman.
Some old-time tunes (and a few others), curated by Pete Showman
Credit must be given to Pete Showman, the dedicated curator of the Pete Showman’s Tune Collection, that he’s made available to the SCVFA.
Over the years, the tunes in this collection have been played at the South Bay Old Time Jam. So, if you bring one of these to the jam, you’re likely to find someone there that also knows it. Learn more about the Jam on PeteShowman.org
Most of the arrangements are simplified and based loosely on the ways Pete plays them, with basic chords. Some fiddlers prefer fancier chords and/or more notes—leading to many an interesting discussion! Pete has provided some tips on how to get started and keep improving.
Pete’s philosophy about style and what to strive for in old time music.
Some old-time musicians strive to duplicate the sound of a particular musician as heard on an old recording, considering that the way it “should be” done. But as one of those old musicians said in an interview (I can’t recall just where I read this), each band or group had their own style, their own way of playing, so they’d stand out from the rest. Some just happened to get recorded.
So my approach is to hear the tunes, feel them, and then play them in some way(s) I find interesting, to bring out various characteristics—maybe different ones each time through the tune.
While some of these tunes have been transcribed from a recording (or are a mash-up of things heard on two or three recordings), many are just the basic tune, maybe with a few ornamental suggestions, awaiting your interpretation.
In particular, for fiddlers: there are so many ways to bow these tunes that I’ve usually omitted bow-marks and written-in slurs (though I have often suggested “leading” the beat, since that’s common in old-time fiddling).
Use your creativity: how many different ways can you bow the notes, looking for that old-time sound—or just your own sound? Though it’s good in many (but not all) tunes to emphasize the first beats of measures, that doesn’t necessarily mean using a down-bow all the time. Classical players may have some un-learning to do.
Learn them slow, then speed ’em up when you’re ready!
The speed, or tempo, for most of the samples at a normal or moderate speed. Some tunes also have an extra slower tempo for learning, and a few are faster. The tempo for dances or performance band can be quite a bit faster than these samples. Of course, professional recordings may be even faster!
So far all the tunes are notated using ABC notation.
(“I also have Finale and Sibelius, but have come to prefer ABC, and the free abcm2ps compiler, for typesetting this kind of music.”–Pete Showman)
Free E-books and Sheet Music
Download or print music notation for individual tunes or a complete collection.
These transcriptions are the copyrighted work of Pete Showman and are provided for your personal use only. The are not to be reproduced for distribution, for sale, or any other use or format, including for use on any other website, without the permission of Pete Showman.
202 Fiddle Tunes (.pdf, 1.4mb)
This is a compilation of 202 fiddle tunes, each transcribed with standard music notation by Pete Showman. This is a .pdf file that allows you to search by title, key (for example: “D major”) and many other bits of information. Print the entire e-book or individual pages as sheet music. 202 pages.
202 Fiddle Tunes – Tablet format (.pdf, 1.5mb) This is the same set of 202 tune as described above. The format has reduced margins so the tunes can be viewed for mobile tablet users. 202 pages.
South Bay Old-Time Jam Tunes (.pdf, 2.4mb)
This is an a similar complilation of tunes frequently called at the South Bay Old-Time Jam here in Santa Clara, California. A convenient index is provided listing the title, the key, and the page number where a tune can be located. This document is updated from time to time to include new tunes that are introduced at the jam. Download the complete set or selected tunes as individual sheet music. 206 pages. Last updated 1/15/2018.
60 bpm — This indicate a MIDI file at “60 beats per minute”. (You might also see “mpm” which means “measures per minute”).
MIDIs don’t sound great, but they should help those who learn by ear. A few tunes also have links to audio files or videos of real performances. Of course, you can search most of these on the Web or on YouTube.