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Notes from the VP

I can’t believe it’s already July?! I hope you all are keeping cool and enjoying summer!!

One of my favorite fiddle tunes – and I have a LOT of favorites – is Hangman’s Reel. I did a little research to see what I could find out about this great tune……………

According to Fiddler’s Companion, Hanged Man’s Reel, AKA, Hangman’s Reel, AKA, Reel of the Hanged One, came from Prince Edward Island. It is a widely known reel among French-Canadian fiddlers and is considered one of the “showcase” tunes of the repertoire. There are many versions and variations, although all of them are known for *scordatura* tuning in the Key of A.

*Scordatura* is a tuning of a string instrument that is different from the normal, standard tuning. It typically attempts to allow special effects or unusual chords or timbre, or to make certain passages easier to play.

There are several variants of a story associated with the tune, all having to do with a condemned man and an offer of reprieve as reward for a performance or musical task accomplished. One such variant is that the condemned man would be given a last-minute reprieve if he could accomplish the following challenge: he was given an out-of-tune fiddle to play and challenged to play a tune no one had ever heard before. Another version goes that the condemned was given an untuned fiddle and was told that if he could play a reel by morning he would be pardoned. He did – he was pardoned – and Hangman’s Reel is the result! (according to legend)

I don’t know about you, but I sure would hate to have my life depending on whether or not I could come up with a tune on an untuned fiddle by morning!!

Not only is Hangman’s Reel popular among French-Canadian fiddlers, but it’s also very popular in Kansas, Oklahoma, and I’m sure most anywhere there is fiddle gathering. Here’s the cool part – it’s tons of fun on the mountain dulcimer also!! Just for you…. I’ve transposed it to the dulcimer friendly Key of D. I also took out all the extra notes that fiddle players love and made a very basic version.


Here’s the challenge, learn this fun tune in the key of D. Then add your capo to the fourth fret and play it in A and you will be ready for a fiddle jam!! Bonus for Baritone players, you are already in A and don’t need to capo – unless, you are trying to play it in D.

I can’t wait to play this with all of you!!! Paula


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