Playing old-time banjo, a lot of the repertoire is fiddle tunes. There's a discussion going on now on the Banjo Hangout about just what's so great about fiddle tunes anyhow? Here is the winning response:
What exactly is a fiddle tune? A fiddle tune is a melody that once you hear it, you can't seem to get it out of your head until you can grab your banjo and learn it yourself. A fiddle tune is a living cord connecting us back to long ago generations, to feel deep in ourselves just a fragment of feeling transmitted from across the ages by some plain common folk, our ancestors otherwise long forgotten. A fiddle tune is a kind of tune that has a lot of music concentrated in just a little bit of space, and in that respect it is to notes what poetry is to words. A good fiddle tune you can play for a very long time and not get tired of it. A good fiddle tune is a tune that you can never quite play the same way twice, even when you want to. A good fiddle tune will bring two or more people together who might otherwise be enemies. Fiddle tunes all pretty much sound the same, except they all sound different when you finally hear them. A good fiddle tune will always be remembered by somebody. And a good fiddle tune will make you forget, for just an instant, that man is born to die.--Don BorcheltThat about sums it up. However, Riley Baugus told me you can't forget the songs and ballads. Those are part of the music too, and they tell more of the story of traditional music.