Contra Dance Books and CDs

These materials are designed to help contra dance musicians learn new repertoire, develop their musical style, and learn to understand the theory behind the music. Whether you are just starting out or have a lot of experience playing for contras, you'll find something in these books and CDs of interest. 

Titles to check out

  • Portland Collection, Volumes 1 and 2: These two books include traditional and original contra dance tunes from New England, Quebec, Ireland, Appalachia, and the pacific Northwest. They have become standard sources of repertoire all over the country, and include melody and chords.
  • Portland Play Along: This slow jam CD gives musicians a chance to work on playing contra dance tunes at a slower tempo. It goes along with the Portland Collection tunebook.
  • New England Fiddlers Repertoire: The essential book of New England repertoire, including many chestnuts (early contra dances where the tune is matched to the dance), written out with melody and chord suggestions.
  • The Castles in the Air Tune Book by Alan Roberts: Transcriptions of classic New England fiddle tunes, as played by Rodney Miller on the 1976 recording "Castles in the Air." Includes a half-speed learning CD, information about Rodney's fiddle style, basic versions of the tunes, and full transcriptions of the tunes with Rodney's ornamentation, bowing, etc.
  • Interview with a Vamper by Peter Barnes: piano accompaniment techniques for traditional dance music
  • Fingers Dancing by Bob Pasquarello: chord theory and piano accompaniment for contra dance music
  • The Waltz Book, Volumes 1, 2 and 3: Waltzes are a standard component of many contra dance evenings, and these books are the standard source for waltz repertoire, including traditional and contemporary melodies from a wide range of styles, including Celtic, French, Latin American, Scandinavian, and other sources.
  • There are numerous other tune books and CDs in the CDSS Catalog, ranging from very traditional to very modern sounds. The best way to get comfortable with the contra dance style is to listen to a range of other contra dance musicians. Get in touch with us and we can suggest some good recordings for your contra music education.

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