Elmer’s Tune polka

Also known as Elmer’s.

There is 1 recording of this tune.

Elmer’s Tune has been added to 7 tunebooks.

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Sheet Music
Sheet Music12
Sheet Music
Sheet Music12
Sheet Music
Sheet Music12
Sheet Music
Sheet Music12

Ten comments

Elmer’s Tune

This is one of those ‘polkas’ promised. I don’t remember where I got this one from, sorry. We used to play it for dancers, for couples dancing a ‘polka’, another such tune is Bjorn’s:


I still have to write up one of those dances to include there, but will, I promise…

I forgot to say, this is a 32 bar tune. The submission given here is twice through, giving two different ways with it. The first drops down below the staff to A, ~ while the lowest the second take goes is to D…

Polkas, Longways/Contras, Circles, Sicilians and Mixers, Oh my ~

Tempo: while I know we’ve played it as fast as the midi does on site, 150 bpm, I also know we preferred it a bit more laidback than that. Aside from using this tune for couple dancing, it has also been used for ‘longways’ or contra dancing too, including circles, Sicilians and mixers…

It’s possible my first stumble into this one was in Canada!? ~ I know I was dancing to it before playing it…

Tempo, Tempo, don’t let it get the best of you ~

count to 16 taking deep breaths, let your pulse slow, think of the countryside, birds singing ~ and start again ~ what was it you wanted to play?

This ‘species’ of polka is not a race, as if any species were so intended. Along with the one linked above, “Bjorn’s”, and many others, like “The Hawk Polka”:


~ as ‘Dow’ has asked previously, and in response, “Yes!” ~ it is kind of marchy, and many of the dances these tunes agree with have that nature, as well as having some of the classic steps and moves in them typical of ‘ballroom (& ’trad‘) polkas’, see the dance descriptions appended to “The Hawk” & “Bjorn’s” (soon to be expanded).

Old style tempos in Eire, which I’ve had the pleasure of dancing, playing and recording, from older ‘dance’ musicians and ceili bands ~ Ulster, Connaught and Munster - or - Antrim to Donegal to Clare to Kerry and Cork ~ hold your breath and disbelief ~ tended to be around 130 bpm, NOT 150, NOT 180, NOT BEYOND! The manic way with these tunes started in the cities, literally, say around the 70s, Dublin as the worst example, but also in ‘competition’, music and dance…where the tendency is always to go O.T.T., to “EXAGGERATE!” ~ area, volume, speed, etc……

Back to this sort of ‘species’. The tempo for these polkas are what the old sheets call “andante”, or ‘walking speed’, ‘brisk’ being one variation of that. So, to be clinical and specific, 120 beats per minute, but, with some variation and the ‘brisk’ allowance, 120 - 135 bpm…

Yeah, I can hear it already, ‘dogma’, who me? Yes, where ‘dancing’ this music is concerned, either with your instrument or with your feet accompanying someone elses lilt, at a pace where you can still be ‘sociable’ and have enough breath for the occassional chat or comment (gossip!).

Back to an old cliche - “SPEED KILLS!” It also covers up sloppy playing and lack of control. The best way to understand and appreciate such dance tunes, to make it ‘physical’, so you can feel it and can dance it with your instrument and help the dancers ~ is to dance. You don’t have to be a Nijinsky, and flatly not a Flatly, p-l-e-a-s-e… Just get out on the floor, feel the music, enjoy the company of others, and whether you’ve two lefts or rights or one of both, go with the flow, and laugh off the ‘surprises’ and screw-ups, it’s all part of it.

Musicians, these crazy tunes do have a bit of the Shmaltz about them, but that’s good, Shmaltz is fun. There are a lot of crazy things you can add to Shmaltz them up even more, pizzicato, stuff with the bow, using bits of silence like laughter, giving the dancers a bit of a goose with the music. There are enough things to be serious about. Shmaltz came out of some really dark places, finding humour where one could, any crack of a smile to let in a little light and release some of the tension ~ in and through music and dance too. I capitalize ‘Shmaltz’ out of respect. There are times it has helped me to break through moments when I was being too damned serious about things… It can help with laughter, and at other times it can draw tears too… Both are important valves for releasing the pressures life sometimes heaves on us…

TEMPO ~ I should have allowed for the ‘approximate’ about ‘andante’, inclusive of a little slower, so:

110 - 135 bpm

Dance tempo generaly

Fast music and city slickers. 50 years back and longer most working people at dances had just done that . . . worked; and hard work at that over much longer hours than the suits in offices do nowadays. The last thing that they wanted to do was lep around like a maniac. The ‘march’ like tempo put a bit of jiz back into jaded muscels. Besides, it’s more fun dancing to an easy going tempo: improves timing too

From the Carrigan family in Québec

Elmer’s tune is from the repertoire of the Carrigan family of one of the Irish enclaves in the province of Québec. This is one of my favourites.