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This entry into the Tune of the Week we Americans owe to our friends north of the border.
As the story goes, “Big John McNeil,” aka “John McNeil’s Reel,” a bright and peppy fiddle tune, was written by Scottish fiddler Peter Milne, but somewhere along the way enter into the Canadian traditional fiddling, where it became a standard that endures to this day.
Missouri fiddler Cyrill Stinnett, upon hearing it on the radio, was apparently the first to import it into the US fiddling tradition.
And voila, by the magic of intercerebral humanoid transmission, this intangible algorithm of organized sound known as “Big John McNeil” spread itself to the minds of 3 fiddlers in 3 countries, separated by a large body of water. Magnificent.
Let the intercerebral transmission continue.
5th String As Melody
Note here that with the 2nd note of the 4th measure, we’re using the 5th string as a melody note. While most commonly used in the service of drone and rhythm, finding these instances where an off beat melody note falls on the pitch of the 5th string is a useful thing to be on the lookout for, especially if you enjoy the challenge of including as many of the fiddle’s melody notes as possible.
Big John McNeil
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
The “Galax lick” appears in this tune in the 1st and 3rd measures, as indicated by the up arrow. For those unfamiliar with the technique, you’ll find a playlist of videos demonstrating this and other techniques in this article all about reading the tabs.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
[RELATED: Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.
Click here for a current list of all the clawhammer songs and tunes currently available inside of The Vault