Learn More

This page has some basic information about old-time music and dance, links to great resources curated by other folks, and links to local dance callers and bands that enjoy the old-time tradition.

What is old-time?

"Old-time music" is one of the oldest forms of traditional American music. It is played with acoustic instruments with a particular focus on fiddle and banjo, but also includes guitar, mandolin, bass, dulcimer, cello, and other instruments. The fiddle usually leads the melody, and banjos are usually played in the clawhammer style and without resonators. Old-time music has its roots in community. Friends and neighbors pick up a few instruments and play music for dancers to enjoy. Old-time music is often confused with bluegrass music, which grew out of the old-time tradition in the 1940’s. While bluegrass is much more oriented toward performance, old-time is much more focused on participatory fun!

What is an old-time square dance?

Many folks have never been to a square dance before, or if they have, it was in middle school. This is different. Forget the frilly skirts and canned music. Traditional old-time square dancing is great for anyone, including people with NO dance experience. Here are some other things you might want to know:

  • You don't need any experience, or even a partner to come to the dance. There will be plenty of fun, cute people to dance with. Just come and have fun.
  • All the dances are explained before you do them by a dance "caller". You walk through each dance before you dance it for real. Many dances are pretty simple.
  • Music is always live.

Great Resources and Events

Check out our resources page for information about old-time music, and jamming in our community. Here are some other excellent resources about old-time music, dancing, and history;

  • The Bubbaville site - Started by Bill Martin - rest his soul - Portland's Bubbaville site is a hub for the Pacific NW old-time community and a major sponsor of Mud City! It includes an awesome resources page, as well as links to their annual gathering in January!
  • The Old-Time Herald - Is the unofficial official publication about old-time music and dance.
  • The Centralia campout is a week-long campout in August. Lots of jams and lots of fun.
  • The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes occurs in early July up in Port Townsend. The festival attracts talent from across the country and features concerts, workshops, and dancing.
  • The Olympia Old-Time Festival is a friendly February weekend event featuring jamming, dancing, and workshops.
  • The Zig Zag Old-Time Campout is a Labor Day weekend full of good old-time fun east of Portland up on Mount Hood.
  • The National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest and Festival, commonly referred to as "Weiser," happens at the end of June. Hot days and tunes can be found at Stickerville nearby.
  • Dave Mount's blog "Wait Till You Hear This One" is a great resource for cool tunes and their history.
  • The Slippery Hill site is a treasure trove of great old-time tunes.
  • The Eugene Folklore Society has been a big supporter of Mud City, check out their dances and other events in town!
"Real meal deal" old-time dance bands.  Tried-and-true square and contra dance bands from our neck of the woods. Click on a name to view the band's website.

Dance Callers

There are several great dance callers in the area! Click on a name to learn more about them or email them if you're interested in booking a caller for a square dance.

Other Bands Playing from Traditional American Genres

Acoustic bands from the area who sample from the traditional American repertoire of blues, jazz, and other genres.

Click on a band to visit their website.