Higher Up the Monkey Climbs, The (Seneca Squaredance)

As played by Bob Larkan from the Arkansas region

Reel or Breakdown in B flat

From the Bob Larkan Collection

3 files for this tune:

Melody-Only Transcription (PDF)
Full Transcription (PDF)


78rpm Record (Partial MP3 available at slippery-hill.com)


This is an incredibly cool tune, and was my first introduction to the Seneca Squaredance family of tunes. There are two things about this tune that might pose some minor difficulties: it is in the key of Bb, and the B part goes a little high (up to a high C). Despite these potential challenges, it is still well worth learning Larkan’s setting of the tune. You might want to play the highest part of the B part in second position: simply use your ring finger to grab the B-flat on the first string, and then you’re in position to grab to high C with your pinky.

Periodically, Larkan would stop fiddling and sing the following doggerel lyrics during the A part:

The higher up the monkey climbs
The higher up the monkey climbs
The higher up the monkey climbs
The plainer he shows his da-da-da-duh-da-da-dee-da

These lyrics must have been considered risqué back in 1928. The timing around the vocal parts varies, and I didn’t put myself out in making sure I accounted for every rest beat. I suppose you could call repetitions of the tune featuring the vocals crooked; it’s just part of this recording’s existential weirdness. Repetitions of the tune without any vocals are not crooked.


This tune is a member of the following groups:

Dr. Fiddle's Favorite Breakdowns and Reels

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