The Tenpenny Bit jig

Also known as 10 Penny Bit, Billy’s Awake, Ten Penney Bit, The Ten Penny Bit, The Three Little Drummer Boys, The Three Little Drummers.

There are 53 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

The Tenpenny Bit appears in 11 other tune collections.

The Tenpenny Bit has been added to 97 tune sets.

The Tenpenny Bit has been added to 1,019 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Ten settings

1
X: 1
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GAB|def ged|BAG A3:|
eaa aga|bag ged|eaa aga|bag a3|
eaa aga|bag ged|def ged|BAG A3:|
2
X: 2
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
g|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|ede gdB|BAG A2:|
|:d|eaa eaa|egg egg|eaa eaa|def gfg|
eaa eaa|egg egg|def gdB|BAG A2:||
3
X: 3
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|: g/f/ |\
eAA eAA | BAB GBd | eAA eAA | def gag |
eAA eAA | BAB GBd | def gdB | BAG A2 :|
|: d |\
eaa eaa | egg egg | eaa eaa |def gag |
eaa eaa | egg egg | def gdB | BAG A2 :|
|: d |\
eaa a^ga | bab ged | eaa a^ga | bab g2 d |
eaa a^ga | bab ged | def gdB | BAA A2 :|
4
X: 4
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:e|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|edB gBB|ABA A2:|
B|A2a aga|bge dBG|A2a aga|bge g2d|
e2a aga|bge dBd|edB gBB|ABA A2:|
# Added by ACW .
5
X: 5
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
g/f/ | edB G2A | Bed Bcd | edB G2A | BAG AGE |
DED G2A | Bed Bcd | ede gdB | {c}BAG A2 :|
|: d | e2f gfg | eag fed | e2f gfg | efg a2a |
bag agf | gfe def | gfe fdB | {c}BAG A2 :|
6
X: 6
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Edor
|:d/c/ | BEE BEE | FDD DFA | BEE BEE | ABc dcd |
BEE BEE | FDD DFA | ABc d2F | FEE E2 :|
|:e | eBB eBB | ABc dcd | eBB eBB | ABc d2e |
eBB eBB | ABc dcd | AFA d2F | FEE E2 :|
7
X: 7
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def g3|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|def gdB|BAG A2B:||
|:e2a aga|bge dBG|e2a aga|bge g2d|
e2a aga|bge dBG|efg dBA|BAA A2:|
# Added by JACKB .
8
X: 8
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:e|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|edB gdB|BAG A2:|
|:e |eaa aga|bge gdB|eaa aga|bge g2e|
eaa aga|bge gdB|def gdB|BAG A2:|
9
X: 9
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:d|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|edB gdB|BAG A2:|
|:d |eaa aga|bab ged|eaa aga|gef g2d|
eaa aga|bab ged|def gdB|BAG A2:
10
X: 10
T: The Tenpenny Bit
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
|eAA eAA|BAB {F}G2B|def gdB|BAG A2d:|
|:eaa aga|bab ged|eaa aga|bgf g2 d|
|eaa aga|{a}b3 ged|def gdB|BAG A2d:|

Seventeen comments

I like to play the opening phrase of this tune with plenty of attack to give it some "bite;". For variation, this phrase can be played with one long E and a short A note instead of EAA.

The second part of the tune has plenty of opportunities for triplets and rolls, the most obvious one being that long G note. When that second part works it sounds delightful. It has a great cascading sound to it.

Here is a variation I learnt at a workshop in Listowel in 2001 under the name Three Little Drummers. This tune is one of the first jigs taught to beginners at the Hibernia Centre in Bristol (UK) because it is technically not too difficult, it is easy to remember, and most important of all it’s a good tune.

K:Ador
g|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|ede gdB|BAG A2:|
|:d|eaa eaa|egg egg|eaa eaa|def gfg|
eaa eaa|egg egg|def gdB|BAG A2:||

for some reason - maybe I’m leaving some notes out subconciously, or something - this tune always tends to bunch up on me, rythym-wise

"The Three Little Drummers" - 3 parts:

K: Ador
|:g/f/|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gag|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|def gdB|BAG A2:|
|:d|eaa eaa|egg egg|eaa eaa|def gag|
eaa eaa|egg egg|def gdB|BAG A2:|
|:d|eaa a^ga|bab ged|eaa a^ga|bab g2 d|
eaa a^ga|bab ged|def gdB|BAA A2:|

This is as picked up in a session in the vicinity of Dublin, but I also have some memory, not always to be trusted, of coming across this as a three-parter in one of the O’Neill collections, none of which I have on hand at this moment, sadly…

3 little drummers

this is O’Neills version (No 969)

O’Neill’s has a nice third part for this tune, I believe.

Both this one and Dervish’s version (the one in O’Neills) are good tunes. I learnt this from a banjo player in my local session but I’m gonna give the other one a try because I’ve taken a real shine to it.

On the fiddle

For the E’s in the opening phrase it’s fun to double up with the open A string. Gives more power.

A New England version

It’s interesting that because the tune has no C’s (natural or sharp) one cannot say for sure whether it is in Dorian or Mixolydian mode. I should do the necessary research to find out the name of this ambiguous hexatonic scale.

Here’s a version that I used to hear (and play) at New England contradances. The last two measures are different, and the B part has the same harmony but is more arpeggiated.

|:e|eAA eAA|BAB GBd|eAA eAA|def gfg|
eAA eAA|BAB GBd|edB gBB|ABA A2:|
B|A2a aga|bge dBG|A2a aga|bge g2d|
e2a aga|bge dBd|edB gBB|ABA A2:|

I really like "biting" the high g with an up-bow in the second-to-last measure.

Posted by .

This tune is in the Gunn Book (Fermanagh 1865) as the Humours of Ballinamuck

Dervish version

X:1
T:Tenpenny Bit, The
M:6/8
L:1/8
R:Jig
S:Dervish
K:Ador
g/f/ | edB G2A | Bed Bcd | edB G2A | BAG AGE |
DED G2A | Bed Bcd | ede gdB | {c}BAG A2 :|
|: d | e2f gfg | eag fed | e2f gfg | efg a2a |
bag agf | gfe def | gfe fdB | {c}BAG A2 :|

Again Josephine Keegan has her own title, Billy’s Awake, for this tune. Her setting appears on page 120 of her 2004 tune book ‘A Drop in the Ocean’.

Posted by .

The Tenpenny Bit, X:9

Differs slightly from previous settings. Not necessarily better or worse 🙂

Re: The Tenpenny Bit

"Differs slightly from previous settings. "

Slightly is the word! And perhaps you could tell us where you got your setting, sixholes…

Re: The Tenpenny Bit

“The Tenpenny Bit”? The title raises a question. There never was a coin named “tenpenny bit” in Britain. In the pounds/shillings/pence system, the only “bits” were threepenny (“thrupenny”) and sixpenny (“tanner”). Whence the name, and what does it mean? — In nineteenth-century England, the Decimal Association (founded 1841) pushed for the adoption of a decimal system, either the “pound and mill system” or the “tenpenny scheme.” In the latter, the main silver coin would the “the tenpenny bit,” or “franc.” A Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage met in 1856–57 and issued two reports, neither favorable. There was considerable discussion in the press, including a lengthy essay in the “North British Review” of 1858. The tune names “The Ten-Penny Piece” in Howe’s “Musicians Omnibus, Complete” (Boston, 1863) and “The Ten Franc Piece” support the idea that the title refers to the “tenpenny scheme.”

Which came first, title or tune? When the tenpenny scheme became a topic of conversation in the mid-1850s, did people start writing tunes they called “The Tenpenny Bit”? Or did they attach the new title to existing tunes, previously known by names including “The Three Little Drummer Boys” in O’Neill or “The Humours of Ballinamuck” in Gunn (1865). Complicating the picture are the variety of tunes by this name: The “Tenpenny Bit” in Kerr’s “First Collection of Merry Melodies” (Glasgow, 1870–75) matches “The Three Little Drummer Boys” in O’Neill (969), while the two settings of “The Tenpenny Bit” in O’Neill (929, 930) differ from Kerr’s tenpenny and O’Neill’s drummer boys. The 9/8 in Howe also differs from the one here in The Session.

What does the title mean? Perhaps, like “Castles in the Air,” it suggests something fanciful. Or perhaps there’s an edge to it — when all you have in your pocket is a tenpenny bit, you’re broke.