About American Barn Dance / Hoedowns

An American Barn Dance or Hoedown Band is what a lot of poeple have in their mind when they think of a Barn Dance. Our All American Yeehhaa band is the Licketysplit American Barn Dance Band. However, people often get confused by the difference between Barn dance band, Hoedown,or ceilidh band. They are basically the same thing, with some dances and tunes being common to all. An American Barn Dance or Hoedown will have American tunes (many of which originate from Ireland, Scotland and Eastern Europe, and some specifically American dances. In case you're uncertain, find what style of dance band would be suitable for your wedding reception or party in your area, simply click the link below to read more about each band:


Most people think of a Hoedown or American Barn Dance as a Wild West Cowboy themed event. This can be the case, but remember American Folk Music and Dance is shaped from a complex mix of Scottish, Eastern European, Irish, African, French, Italian and more. This has spawned Appalachian, Cajun, Old-Time, Bluegrass, Texas Style and Ragtime, to name just a few styles.


Many people think of tunes like ‘Cumin Round the Mountin’, ‘Old Joe Clarke’ and the well loved favourites like these, but American Barn Dance music can be amazingly rich and varied. So your the first consideration for your Hoedown or American Barn Dance is how authentically American do you really want it to be?


For many people a band who play the best know American tunes and intersperse them with some Scottish and Irish tunes (which are often incorporated into what is considered to be American folk music, anyway), is the best compromise. People can put on their pink cowboy hats, wear checked shirts and jeans and if they avoid tripping over the straw bails they will have a fantastic evening. (Be warned if you are thinking of having straw bails. Straw bails on a concrete or stone barn floor is fine, but on a highly polished wooden or similar flooring, loose strands of straw on the floor can make it as slippery for the dancers as ice. If the venue has a polished floor, make sure the bails are tightly compacted so there are no loose strands, keep the dance area swept, or don’t have bails at all.)

However, if the event is for American music aficionados, then a specialist American Hoedown or Barn Dance band may be what you are needing. We have a range of types of band shown on our American Barn Dance Band pages, so think about what is appropriate for you, read their descriptions, listen to their music and if appropriate, when you send us an enquiry make it clear how American you want it. Bear in mind to that the specialist bands tend to charge more than those who play a mixture of music.


Another thing to be aware of: it is important not to mix up American Line Dancing with the kind of dances done at a Hoedown or American Barn Dance. You have to learn line dancing before the event, so it’s not suitable for beginners. Barn Dances are events designed for everyone, beginner to expert, children to the grandparents. The aim is to be all inclusive. In the wild west days, the barn dance was the community entertainment that everyone went to and could participate in.


The musicians normally get the dance under way by playing some music to listen to get people 'in the mood'.  For an American style Wedding Barn Dance the band would normally start with a first dance that involved the Bride, Groom and all the guests. The Caller would invite absolutely everyone onto the floor to join the happy Couple. (No one cannot do so, since it would be rude). The Caller will make the first dance fairly simple so that even those who were lacking confidence find they could do it. This gets the dancing off to a good start. (Some newlyweds like to do a first dance to a waltz, then ask guests to join in, or alternatively do their first dance to a track provided by them on a iPod. This can work well too.

For an American style wedding anniversary Barn Dance or office party event, it is very similar. The first dance is usually very simple, so that the Caller can see whether dancers are first timers, or experienced, whether they pick up the instructions quickly, an how fit they appear to be. The dancers gain some confidence, and the caller can decide the best difficulty of dances that would run well for the Barn Dance. 

American Barn Dance Bands always have a Caller who teaches the dances, so even people who have not been to a Barn Dance before can enjoy themselves. The Caller asks people to come onto the floor, often not deciding what dance to do until they know how many people have come up. They will explain the dance, running the dancers through the moves slowly. They might go through some of the dance a second time, dependent on how complicated it is and how inexperienced the dancers are. Then the band play a short introduction and the dance begins. The caller keeps an eye on what is going on, perhaps giving directions and helping those who have got muddled up or got lost. Mistakes are expected, so never take it too seriously!

Normally there is be an interval part way through the Ceilidh for a hog roast or buffet, so that everyone can have a rest and regain some more energy for the dance. If there are some experienced dancers, the Caller {could do a few more difficult dances for them, but in general they will make sure that everyone is managing the dances and having a fantastic time.

People are often confused by the difference between a Ceilidh Band and a Barn Dance Band and Hoedown. The fact is they are fundamentally the same thing. They both include a caller who guides the dancers. The music is folk music of various nationalities.

Ceilidh is the Scottish and Irish name, so this covers Scottish Ceilidh Bands and Irish Ceili Bands. (Notice the alternative spelling. Other spellings are Caleigh, Kaley, kaylee, kayleigh etc. so you can't really spell it wrong!) The bands would tend to play Celtic folk tunes. Many songs are claimed by the Irish, Scotts, English and Americans, but the way of performing them would be different.

Barn Dance ends to be the English and American terminology, where English or American folk tunes would be played. Having said that, many of the dances are the same for both a Ceilidh dance or a Barn dance. Hoedown is just an alternative American name for Barn Dance.

Many bands perform a range of songs and do dance that suites to suite. This is particularly suitable for a wedding ceilidh or birthday barn dance, where all musical tastes need to be catered for. For an event such as a Irish St Patricks night, or a Scottish Burns night, then a specialist band would be more appropriate.

An American Barn Dance Band is an excellent entertainment for Parties, Weddings and other events such as office parties. It gets everyone to get to know each other and the sound level is not too high so that dancers can still chat talking - (not like when there is a disco in full swing!) More about the Hoedown here....

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