Too many tunes
For a beginner this music must be so daunting. I’m interested to know how members react to these comments of mine https://thesession.org/sessions/1311#comment241459. Is it too much to ask? Or is it wrong to ask?
For a beginner this music must be so daunting. I’m interested to know how members react to these comments of mine https://thesession.org/sessions/1311#comment241459. Is it too much to ask? Or is it wrong to ask?
I think the list is helpful.
What might be interesting is to compile a list based on the 20 most common tunes at the sessions listed on this site. Bung them all in a big spreadsheet and order by frequency.
OTTH you could take the top 50 tunes from this site based on popularity (by the number of time they’ve been added to tune books).
As long as you don’t expect the beginner to know all 60 tunes for next week’s session … ! 😉
If you go to the same sessions every week/month you will soon discover what the commonly played tunes are.
The problem is that there are large regional variations.
Even worse is playing something in a strange session to discover that it’s a tune considered to be overplayed and that it is loathed by the locals!!!
Re: your 2nd paragraph, MandolinWind, I think there’s a difference between "session standards that you’re expected to know" and "most common session tunes". Our most common session tune at the moment is probably a D minor setting of The Broken Pledge. It’s a common enough session tune worldwide, and definitely a "standard", but I wouldn’t say it was one that *everyone* would be expected to know, like say Drowsy Maggie or Sally Gardens.
I think it is targetted about right. For an absolute beginner it would be daunting but I’m sure they’d expect to be…erm…daunted. For a more experienced player, there’s enough there to keep them interested also. Your comments are spot-on.
Even *I* couldn’t have done better 🙂
This is serious Nox, maybe an effect of too much eye time on this site… I am familiar with the symptoms…
So, is that the law there?
I’ve seen those tunes that are in 300 tunebooks or more… It scares me that everyone may be playing everything in the same key and exactly as it has been transcribed ~ considering some of the transcriptions ~ that really is scary… 😏
Do you provide sheetmusic and stands? 😉
Hey, are you planning to have monthly or weekly updates? 😛
Are people going to look at that and think it’s a beginners session with everyone reading off sheetmusic? That’s not what I want. I think what I want is… well, I dunno what I want… I think I want people to know those tunes so we don’t have to play them or something 😏 No I don’t mean that. There’s some lovely tunes there, but, well you know what I mean.
Telepathy vibes weaken over such a huge distance, Mark, so I for one don’t really know what you mean 🙂
But what would be interesting is, would the list be the same in 10-20 years time?
I don’t really know what I mean either 😏
That list was bloody hard to write though. I had to leave off tunes like the Sligo Maid and the Wind That Shakes The Barley and Jenny’s Chickens and all those tunes otherwise it got too long. And then I started thinking well I’ve cut down the list to this extent and there’s *still* 60 tunes there.
I think the list is helpful. I’ve been going to sessions for less than two years, about once per week on average. I can definitely play a bit over half of those, and have heard the rest and would probably recognize them if played. (Which means there are a lot left to learn but it wouldn;t be hard.)
Hope this helps.
I think it’s useful too…..
But I also was wondering about how much these tunes also might form technique basics?
Cos I know something like Drowsy Maggie has an e b e d e b e thing that happens that also happens in other tunes….but I guess if you learn it here…you’ll pick up on it better in others?
And I was also wondering which ones are most likely to lead you astray in a session if you are a beginner….you hear a tune start and think it’s going to be one of the 60 and everyone else is gonna do something a bit more ‘interesting’ that starts off the same?
As you know, I’m a fervent advocator of there being too many tunes. However, I think that maybe 60 tunes is not enough for this particular list to be effective. Think of how many tunes you’d play of an evening. I reackon that would be about the right number.
I would say that about 80% of those tunes are played at our local session on a regular basis, a pretty good effort at capturing the ‘core’ tunes, and a good list for beginners to dig their teeth into. Llig raises a good point, I would say that 100-120 is probably a better number of tunes to provide a good solid core repetiore.
Of course, I have some learning to do—while I can accompany nearly all of them (and a few I might know but not recognize the name), I can only play about 2/3s of them on melody instruments.
It’s a good list (a few I haven’t learned, come to that). Enough for a starter to chew on, certainly. I’d go on to say that the first five pages of the members’ tune list - if not more - make up a very good larger compendium of session standards.
Thanks Noxious Blanket. A very helpful list. I see there are some gaps in my education. One of the hurdles of a beginner is learning the tunes that are so standard no one plays them anymore.
Mark, I don’t think 60 tunes is enough. Remember this?
Sorry, that should be: https://thesession.org/discussions/110/
I can see what you’re getting at but is it not a bit pointless? Why not just advise ‘beginners’ to go along to their local session and learn what’s played there. Enough of this standardisation .. surely one of the chief characteristics of ITM over the years has been regional and local variation. That’s the goal, I’m not particularly interested in what folks play in USA or Australia is you know what I mean .. what I need to know is the tunes local musicians play.
Al has it about right - 100 -120 for starters. After all no-one could learn them all, let’s say, even a tune-a-day. So that many would keep the best learner going for at least 3 months. And what would be the hurry?
I’m new to this lark and I may know many tunes once they have started to be played because in my head I say, "Oh! That’s that nice one in D mix" and join in BUT how on earth do you ever get to know what the names are?
Every time I ask the more inveterate players at the session they either smile as if I’m joking in asking or all say something different. There’s a hint that it’s almost bad etiquette to ask. It certainly seems bad etiquette to announce a tune. And anyway (i) Everyone (myself included) gets bored with me asking like a parrot at the end of each set , "What is thet tune called" and (ii) I can never remember them anyway- and I’m not gonna start writing them down, that would be just too nerdy.
IMHO the list is very useful. Thanks for that! Now I have a lot of great tunes to learn in the nearest future.
It will be even more useful to see those tunes grouped in the sets that you play at your session. Learning the whole sets is even better way to to get encouraged to join in. How about that? Any favourite combinations of the above tunes?
I refuse to learn the Irish Washerwoman! It’s just about the *only* Irish tune I don’t like. It’s just so…so…I don’t know, more than a caricature of a tune than a real tune. Is it just me who feels like that about it?
And I agree with Key Maniac—-there’s no hurry. The process of learning tunes is half the fun, I think.
‘Tune a day’ ?!!! - I’ve heard more than once from people far more experienced that I am, that you’d want to be playing a tune for a good year to know it really well. Learn your ‘local’ tunes and in the sets they’re played locally. And I agree with yhaalhouse re tune names, some people are more helpful in this regard than others but the only real solution to getting names is to record them, then learn them, jot down a few notes in ABC and google them.
Wounded, I agree with you. It’s funny how often people here in the States assume I must be fascinated by sessions in Ireland, when in fact, I’m mostly interested in my own local sessions. Sure, people have brought tunes back with them from trips to Cork, Dingle, Kerry, and Clare, and we’ve picked up tunes from players who’ve visited us from Ireland, but these are additions to our own local repertoire. Of course, as it turns out, that’s pretty much how sessions work in Ireland and most other places, too.
That said, there are a couple hundred tunes that are widely popular and known, and the more of these you know, the more likely you will be able to join in at sessions wherever you happen to land. Doesn’t mean you have to learn them all (after 30 years I still don’t play Humours of Tulla), nor worry about learning some "standardized" version. And there’s real joy in launching a rare old tune among strangers and having one or two of them join in.
So the "common" tune lists can help newcomers to this tradition whittle away at a core batch of tunes, while exploring the thousands of other melodies floating around us. No harm in that, eh?
I don’t think it’s nerdy to write down the tunes u can’t remember the names of…at least, in certain sessions…like, at our session (a pretty advanced one) the leader will be like, you know, what’s that tune? and write it down. but I wouldn’t do that at a session of all people I didn’t know- or that I was desperately trying to impress.. ;-D
Re: tune names. Some of us a burdened with brains that latch onto words like a sheep in burdock. It’s really not our intent or our fault that tune names stick with us. To my shame, I often know not just one name for a tune, but a roster of alternate titles. Thankfully, for me at least, this doesn’t interfere with recalling and playing the tunes themselves.
Ah crap! I took a gander at Mark’s list of 60 and thought, "ok, I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m not doing to badly". But then Danny, Will, Michael, etc. indicate not enough tunes on that list. Oh just he!!. 🙂
Deb, that’s the beauty of it—there’s no end to the journey and so no hurry. Just relax and enjoy.
So it’s kind of like the number of pairs of black shoes I need; just one more pair!
In answer to Mark’s question, I think having a list like this is helpful for a beginner. Gives a good idea of where to start, a grounding so to speak. Would make a good addition to a fiddle book, hint, hint Will!
I thought I would mention that during a holiday concert (last week) with an Irish theme, the band played Egan’s. Of course they added an interesting twist to it and played briskly, but it was fun to hear by experienced musicians. I think the same could be said for the Irish Washerwoman, beleagured as she usually is.
Wounded - of course, "a tune a day" is ridiculous. I was deliberately exagerating for the sake of that argument.
Kennedy - disagree with you about the Irish Washerwoman. Great tune and a great caricature of a tune. Always gets them going!
Gets *who* going, if I may ask?
It’s just a matter of personal taste, not to worry. I tend to like those mournful sounding tunes that are modal or minor. A happy little jig like the Irish Washerwoman just doesn’t do it for me at all. Makes me feel like I should be eating a bowl of Lucky Charms or something.
Not enough really - and more reels needed (given you’re probably going to be playing way more of those). Some of these are very old-hat though. It’s odd, these are undoubtedly core tunes but some of them I haven’t aired in ages.
REELS To Lose
The Concertina Reel
The Gravel Walks
The High Reel
The Maid Behind The Bar
Martin Wynne’s 1 & 2
Johnny Henry’s (!) May as well be up to date.
and the Tamlin.
I sat down one day and compared the list of tunes I know with a list of tunes our leader knows. I then tried to recall the tunes I have played in this area for a couple of years, ones I hear very often. I composed a list as a GUIDE for those begining or just joining us. It seems to be getting a grateful response.
When learning tunes, I try to get a good mix of tunes I just like (Carolan and obscure O’Neil stuff) with tunes I probably wouldn’t learn except for having heard them often enough at sessions (except Washerwoman). Therefore, my tunes list is a LOCAL reflection and, therefore, a pretty good GUIDE to start with.
(http://www.sessionite.com/page.php?in=10 for the curious)
When I started out I felt like I knew hardly any tunes and I started collecting them as fast as I could. The feeling that I didn’t know very many tunes persisted for 20 years or so and still to this day I feel that I hardly know enough tunes. But here’s what I have noticed: in the past I used to start a lot of tunes at sessions because then I knew we’d be playing tunes I knew. As time went on I noticed that I was starting more and more tunes that no one else knew… so I started fewer tunes to make sure I wasn’t the only one playing. These days I start very few tunes, but I’m playing on nearly all of them. But I still feel like I don’t know enough tunes. This becomes more obvious when I travel. But I think that’s one of the most valuable things about this music — you’ll never learn all the tunes. It’s all about the journey.
How should I view such a list ~ as a guide? Let’s see, to me I’d take it as representing a percentage of what might happen in this session of yours. I’d assume that not all those tunes would be played. So, putting my beanie on and getting the propeller spinning ~ I’d be happy with expectations that a 1/4 to 1/3 of that list would be given air time. That wouldn’t disappoint me, taking the list as just a guide, something to work from and prepare for. Now the next step, to take that further ~ if that percentage were equally met by the content of the evening, leaving at least 2/3 to 3/4 of the tune content of the session ‘off-list’. That means there would still be interest and surprise and room for guests, visiting dignitaries or interloppers…or the unexpected knock down drag out fight or song fest… 😉
Thanks for all your great replies. Just quickly in answer to Will, yeah I remember that thread. I half thought about making a few tweaks to your list and using that, but then I decided to set out to make a smaller list.
Also one point I wanted to address. People are saying that it should be about the tunes played in a particular session. Well, I’ve always gone for that approach, and I don’t think it works here in Australia. Not enough people have a solid grounding in tunes over a number of years, and the sessions here tend not to be beginners sessions, so people end up learning tunes like the latest Lunasa tune or Diarmaid Moynihan tunes, which is fine because they can join in with them in the session, but it means they don’t get a solid foundation in terms of standard tunes, even though they’re playing what they’re playing quite well. So you get this thing where you drop in on a session and people seem to be at a higher level than they would be considered to be at in Ireland, because of the type of tunes and technique, but it’d be mind-boggling for a visitor from Ireland if they tried to use one of these standard tunes to involve everyone, only to find that only a few people played it. I mean, these are the sort of tunes kids learn at *school* in Ireland, right?
Basically I’m working on this idea that "common session tunes" and "standards you’re expected to know" are not necessarily the same thing. What think you?
You’ve given a choice, no one should be expected to like or play all those tunes, but there is enough variety and choice there for them to find something that suits them. I wouldn’t take it as a straight-jacket but a smorgasborg, horse durves…something to ‘pick’ at…
Right, no-one should be expected to like or want to play them all, but is it unreasonable to expect everyone to *know* them?
The sessions I have always gravatated toward and enjoyed the most, while not avoiding some standards, had a clear identity, a focus to them, often regional, other times a certain group of old standards, meaning the core musicians. One of my all time favourite Dublin sessions was strongly Southwest in its inclinations, a lot of polkas and slides, but also some old shoes too. Another regular session had a strong Clare focus, and yet another was very much Ulster, with the strongest representations being Donegal and Fermanagh… I like it when a thing has some ‘identity’ to it, a ‘taste’… I am not so keen of the fast food way or the ‘all you can eat’ approach…of which there is enough of that already about…
Good point Nox… Clearly put…
How about those sets? any chances?
Uh oh, that four letter word ~ s-e-t-s… I’m outa here…
Sorry Barfly, it is a valid question, each session has their ‘usual’ lineups, at least a handful…
Do people really learn tunes they don’t like just so they can play them at a session? I mean, there are always some tunes we’ll like better than others, and I can see learning one that’s not my favorite, but if you really don’t like a tune, wouldn’t it be a drag to learn?
I say this as someone with a 10-tune repertoire, of course, so it’s very possible I don’t know what I’m talking about…
Hey Kennedy, some people take what Nox says as gospel, like acolites, of course they’d go right out and start learning all those, starting from the top and working their way down one tune at a time, as handed down to them on stone tablets ~ don’t yuh know… So, it is best to get things sorted. I suggest you follow the link and read the ‘Genesis’, I mean intro… 😉
Thus Spake Noxious Blanket…
OK, I just thought we’re talking abot that specific session that Noxious Blanket recommended, so I assumed it probably has some sets characteristic to itself.
I just find learning the whole sets more efficient if I want to join in, but now i see it’s probably more general discussion, not concerning this very session in Sydney.
"So please make sure you *at least* have these core tunes under your belt. These have been picked from a list of hundreds of session standards, and believe me it was very hard to cut it back even to 60. There are thousands of tunes in the session repertoire and this really is the bare minimum to get you started."
Nox, come on guy, give poor Barfly a couple of sets, maybe one jig set and a reel set, the hornpipe, polka and slide ones are already given Barfly… 🙂
& the hop and slip jigs too. There’s only so much you can do with so few…
I think I talked about your point on another thread, Mark. It was about tune learning if I recollect. I was referring to "standard tunes" on that thread and I likened collecting tunes to assembling a jigsaw puzzle and that you had to include the standards to complete the picture. Someone else commented that the jigsaw puzzle keeps expanding and I agreed. So it’s like assembling an ever-expanding puzzle.
Now, are you making fun of me? I’ve played in many sessions so far and I know each one has some specific sets, but I just find it easier to learn some combinations that someone invented before me, instead of making them up as I go and then hearing that "This tune is usually followed by something else" With what? I don’t know. If that’s some kind of mystery, it’s ok, I quit.
that was for ceolachan, not the Phantom Button, sorry
No Barfly, I’m trying to get a response from Nox by blowing pepper in his face… He hasn’t sneezed yet, but I’m waiting. However, yes, you will see sets in that short list. I’m hoping he’ll give you some, especially if you’re planning on making it to one of his sessions.
That said, I take Button’s point too and am in agreement. I cease now to be surprised when a particular set that has been ‘taken for granted’ suddenly mutates into a different sequence of tunes ~ and that’s cool… If I don’t know the new addition I’ll sit back and enjoy the listen, or I will quietly absorb it so next time, wherever it shows up, I’ll have the choice to join in if I please…
I hate when that happens… you post a quick quip to something someone says and an unrelated post pops up in between.
Uh… just like that…
What about Taylor and Hill and ~ ??? Have you sold your soul? Why can’t there be a session with that kind of focus, maybe half the content being something you claim to hold close to your heart music wise, the music of Northumberland, for which you’ve dedicated your ‘details’… Why is that missing from that list? Is it someone else’s session, or did you design it with others in mind rather than your own passions? Someone mentioned Plato somewhere in discussions today, is this the cave?
What? Have you been hiding those missing jigsaw pieces?
I like the idea of a list of basics. If there are new players who seem to be not participating much, I think of those basic tunes to start. Those who seem to be livingdead (was that on this thread?) come alive and join in. It makes the session even more enjoyable for them. And that makes it more enjoyable all around. Having a list as a GUIDE makes that easier.
I learn tunes that I don’t especially like as a community thing. But having learned them, I begin to like them.
sorry, going to sleep now, It’s getting late here
There are people that come to our session who’ve only been learning for a few years that are nice players, but they seem to have only learned the tunes that are popular from recent CDs. There’s no harm in that, if that makes their boat float, but I have seen them sit idle and look slightly frustrated as the more frequently played standard tunes come and go. So as cool as it is to be able to play the hip new tunes you might end up being frustrated much of the time. My advice is to always try to be learning the standards right along with the new groovy tunes… and be patient because it takes time… unless you’re idiot savant or something.
‘Standards’ are a comfort I always welcome, the familiar, even if I don’t join in, they are welcome to the ears.
Nicely put ‘feardearg’, as a good part of the reason for the music in the first place, my attraction to it, is the ‘community’ in it. Making the time and effort learning the tunes of others, individuals or groups, is an important part of confirming that ‘community’ ~ if they are fond of them then learning their tunes and joining in will allow me to share in their pleasure, whatever the tune. For me that’s a big part of what the craic is about…
Nox’s ‘guide to ‘basic tunes’, depending on how it is presented, could be taken as a nice welcome, the extension of a helping hand, a door being held open for you…
I think this whole thing has come about because of new problems I’ve faced trying to run a session. So far its been successful, but being paid to run one is a whole different ball game from just sitting and playing. I find that people’s problems always seem to come my way and that can be stressful - like, "so-and-so keeps elbowing me when I’m trying to play and it’s really annoying", "oh, really, um, so? Whaddya want me to do about it?", type thing. But that’s a whole different thread. But anyway a few people have asked me to provide a list, so I felt I had to come up with something.
I think that running a session has made me think about the issue of the function that some tunes have of binding a session together in the way that other tunes can’t, however good those tunes are. It’s about the social community thing, and that’s where the standards are powerful, even if they aren’t as musically appealing as some of the more obscure ones. So I try and aim for a healthy mix.
So, in answer to the question about sets using those tunes in my list. I’d never contemplate stringing them together in a set. I’d always use those tunes in the list either to finish a set of more obscure tunes so that everyone can have a play, or as an "ice breaker", maybe at the start of a session, if I can sense that people aren’t feeling in the mood to kick off a set, or there are new musicians there who you’ve never played with before and you need to feel your way around their repertoire for a bit.
I like this thread, it’s full of lots of good freindly stuff. I particularly like you last post ceolachan. And I think noxious’ whole idea for the list in the first place is great
Someone once described the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations as "the iron rations" of English literature. Maybe it was Seamus Heaney.
As someone who - perhaps shockingly for this site - doesn’t give a toss about whether I’m preserving tradition or destroying it, I still like to play tunes of whatever ilk, and I love to play tunes with others. I like to know about the tradition, though I’ve no claim to it at all, and I like to try to get inside a tune with a group of musicians, though I may not succeed
So I salute Dow/Nox for sticking his head above the parapet in attempting to provide the "iron rations" of a modern Irish session which may sustain a haggard wanderer hungering for some musical interaction.
They may laugh, they may snigger, they may roll their eyes, they may sneer. They may put down their instruments and talk loudly, or go to the bar, or call a taxi, but someone, someone, will join in …
… with any luck it won’t be just the drummer..
Yes, anyone who preserves tradition for the sake of it has, by definition, left his eye of the ball.
Maybe a suggestion for a beginner could be, for every tune you learn of the above list, learn one that’s not on it?
It happens that we’re starting a new session out here in the western U.S., and I recorded our last get-together (it was the third or fourth time) and made a list of most of the tunes we played. Some of us had played together at other sessions, others had not met before—so this would be an example of get-acquainted tunes, I suppose.
Lark in the Morning
Kid on the Mtn.
Star of Munster
Shores of Lough Gowna
Humours of Ballyloughlin
Rose in the Heather
Cup of Tea
Trip to Durrow
My Darling Asleep
Tripping up the Stairs
Off She Goes
Swinging on the Gate
Cliffs of Moher
Off to Calif.
Church Street Polka
Ships are Sailing
I was about to ask how we’re doing—but then I answered my own question. We had fun, so I guess we’re doing fine.
Definitely Llig (with a Welsh ‘LL’)…
Alright hold it there Nox, just above the parapet while I take aim… Say "CHEESE!!!" 🙂
llig I like that so much I’m going to have to copy that into the session comments - hope you don’t mind.
Whoa ‘mickray’, you’ve buried him in that sling… I can’t even see his baseball cap…
And yet he’s still talking… Shouldn’t you be in bed Nox?
Hey Llig, just to be irritating ~ go to the link and check out my paraphrase…
When people interested in participating in our session ask what we play I suggest they record them to see what comes up most often and which ones they like. It’s a mix of new and groovy tunes right alongside the "standards." But I would be at a loss to attempt constructing any list.
Yes ‘c’ that was highly irritating 🙂
Sorry ceolachan—I just can’t resist a parapet. Type R (risk-taker) personality, that’s me.
Yeah I"m daunted as a semi-beginner…who gets no session exposure except one week a year…but these lists are really helpful so that I can avoid looking really dumb during that one week (as I have before…)
In the misty distance, near the beginning of this thread, Yhaalhouse wanted to know how to find out the names of tunes played in his session, and said "Every time I ask the more inveterate players at the session they either smile as if I’m joking in asking or all say something different. There’s a hint that it’s almost bad etiquette to ask."
Not at all. These guys have been playing tunes for so long that they literally cannot recall the names of many of them, especially when they’re being put on the spot, and so may feel slightly embarrassed.
It’s a phenomenon I’m noticing more and more. Typically, a very experienced player next to me might whisper "what’s that last tune?" - which we’ve both been playing. I’d whisper back "I haven’t the faintest idea".
I’m quite sure that over the years I’ve been exposed to, and "know" (in the sense of being able to play along when someone else starts) more tunes at sessions than I am now able to identify by name - perhaps age has something to do with it 🙂. I’m equally sure that this isn’t at all unusual for many players.
"I remember the tune, but I forget the name" and "I know I can play it, if you start it" are probably the most common sayings at the sessions I have been to.
"Yes, that’s the banjo player’s Porsche, parked out there" is the least common.
OK, thanks for your explanation. Just made a couple of pages with the tunes from the list that I don’t know and I’ll be working on them.
Barfly, on the ‘sets’ question, sometimes it depends on who starts the thing off. If they are confident to carry it their choice of tunes may be different from another’s, or as Nox has said, it may be on the fly, not prepackaged… In other instances, and these are not uncommon, you might start a set off and before you’re really through with the one tune someone takes the end of that t o a tune they suddenly have an urge to interject, so, again, another form of ‘on-the-fly’. There are some ‘standards’, old sets that the likes of Coleman or Morrison burned into the minds of some people ~ or were joined up on the latest top 10 recordings. With the older ones, they too can be a kind of welcomed ‘standard’, basically, "Ahhh, I don’t have to think much about these!" ~ Coleman: Tarbolton / Longford Collector / The Sailor’s Bonnet ~ The Kilfenora Ceili Band: The New Rigged Ship / Cape Breton Favourite / Captain White’s ~ but it really is a question of who is influencing who at the moment. For example, there are those that get a large portion of their tunes and/or sets off of their favourite musician or group’s album ~ Tommy People’s, Kevin Burke, John McKenna, Mary MacNamara, Altan, The Coleman Country Ceili Band ~ the list is potentially endless. I’m hoping that might give you some idea of the breadth of your request, the ‘openness’…
Yes, some tunes seem to have carried over from the old days, after just playing them one at a time, of pairing them up, the practice in early recordings, eventually rising to groups of 3 with technological advances and other influences and demands. Some of those pairs stick in the mind, but even there things are not necessarily inflexible. For some folks, bringing their latest tune to a session, they digest them one-at-a-time and not necessarily in sets, so they are waiting for the moment in a string of tunes, or at the beginning, to introduce the rest of the group to their latest passion. If it is all on its own, not unusual, then the rest will string it along with whatever set it enters or starts, not necessarily in any particular order.
Best of luck with your list…
Though, having said that, and reflecting on sessions I’ve known, each group of core participants in a given session do tend to form at least some ‘usual’ sets, things they come to expect and welcome during the night of tune sharing… For a ‘newish session’ that may take some time, but even there, some folks bring the sets common in the area, in this case ‘Sydney’, along with them to the new event and that becomes part of that sessions traditions… I suspect some few sets or groupings have already formed at Nox’s session and he might be able to at least give a rough outline of at least a two or three of these?
Thanks once again for claryfing. A bit of my background may be of some explanation to my enquiry. I’m quite young, Polish, living in Poland, playing Irish Music for more than half of my life now, and even though I visited Ireland a couple of times and attended many, many sessions in many different places I still feel like a humble student, not really "entitled" to make up my own sets, so I feel more comfortable basing on the sets that are established by someone, somewhere, so when I start one I could easily explain, that I learned it as it is played by someone, somewhere. I’m sure you get the point.
I play with a band here in Poland and obviously we make up our own sets that we play at concerts, but we don’t get many sessions as such around here, so when we finally meet with some Irish Music playing frind we often find we don’t share many tunes, not speaking of sets as such. I still have a little knowledge of the sets played around the world, that’s why I’m so curious and asking for some examples everywhere I can.
Of course I’m familiar with some standards like Master Crowley’s, McKenna’s, Coleman’s and some other ones kindly taught by my teachers and friends both in Ireland and Poland and I just feel comfortable and confident with them. That’s my solid ground under my feet when I join a session.
I play lots of single tunes that I like to pair with each other, but those establised sets just build up my confidence. Might be more of a psychological effect, I suppose, but still it helps.
Sorry *Irish Music playing friends* of course
I understand, honestly, and it is a fair question.
Where I had problems wasn’t so much with the tunes or sets of tunes but was the frequency (& speed) ~ the repetitions. I’d learned a slew of things from different folks and groups and playing for dancers. When finding myself in certain big city session, I suppose because they were quantity lead, having so many tunes they wanted to get through, I’d find that on average they’d never carry any one tune more than twice through. At other times and places it could be worse (my opinion), situations where I preferred to take a far seat and nurse my pints, where some folks would only play any given tune just the once through, one right after the other… This practice, along with uncontrolled speed and mayhem, drives me nuts, even more so than my occassional aching wrists…though such things might also contribute to such aggravations… In such instances I’d much rather just leave them to it, finish my pint, and find my way elsewhere or home…
The plural was intended, more than one ~ "certain big city sessions"…
Last summer I was lucky enough to join a session with two great musicians (big names, but I won’t be tossing them around). Easy, relaxed atmosphere, not much noise around just three of us all the time - very educational experience. We all had a nice time talking and playing with no hurry whatsoever. I learnt a lot from them including the unusual way they played tunes - fife or six times through, two, three even four of them in a set. Never experienced that before or after, but found it great, especially when I could join in. The sets were really looong 🙂
*five* of course. Shame on me.
And I highly endorse Nox’s suggestion of using core tunes that everyone knows at the end of a set. Musically, ending with everyone playing is very satisfying, the so-called ‘big finish.’ And from a social standpoint, it is more satisfying for everyone to join in at the end, than to join in at the beginning, and be "forced out’ by not knowing the tunes that follow.
Barfly your English is excellent. No shame.
Ditto on that Barfly, my Polish is awful… 😉
I like the sound of those longs sets, that is my kind of ‘laid back’ and spending time with each tune, lovely…
Al, about the ‘big finish’ ~ that’s really how a lot of ‘group’ recordings finish off. It isn’t limited to Irish, they do it in Cape Breton and in Northern Europe and all across America. I’m thinking of recordings and concerts too, and the festivals and the like, where the final set (or 2 or 3) is a stonker and strings a half dozen old standards together and everyone rips… Having experienced that a few times ~ including the Cape Breton fiddler gatherings and Scandinavian Sommerfests ~ it is a great way to bring things to a close. Alright lads and lasses, this next one is our last set (or penultimate 😉 )…
Amen to that, ceolachan, and to draw from Nox’s list, The High Reel, Silver Spear and Star of Munster in particular have capped many a rousing set in our local pub!
Barfly will like appreciate that Al…
I do, indeed. Happy to find out that these are the tunes I’m already quite familiar with. Thanks Al and all 🙂
Inspired by a few things in this thread, I decided to put my session.org tunebook to use. I don’t use it for learning tunes, preferring just to copy and paste to Barfly (no, not the person, the software). So I’ve been going through the database here, alphabetically within each major rhythm, and putting the tunes I know (at least well enough to play along, maybe skipping a few notes here and there) into my tunebook.
I’ve been quite methodical about it, but I’ve missed a bunch, probably because when you search leaving the title blank and just choose a rhythm, it seems to give only the title entered first by the person who originally entered the tune. Sometimes that’s a title that I didn’t recognize, so tunes I knew slipped by unnoticed. One of these days, I may try to find the ones I missed.
It’s a mix of common tunes learned in order to be able to participate in sessions, less-common tunes that caught my fancy, mostly Irish tunes, but the odd tune from Cape Breton, Scotland, Quebec, and the U.S.
It would be interesting if others here would use their tunebooks the same way (if they don’t regularly use it for learning tunes). But it does take a long time to sift through thousands of titles.
Nox, for what it’s worth, here’s how we tackled the "tune list situation." YMMV
I was asked to do the same sort of list for our local session, and I resisted it for a long time because I didn’t want up and comers to dwell only on the tunes in the list. People also wanted a sense of how those tunes fell into sets, but we mix ours up quite a bit, so listing sets seemed counterproductive, both for the people learning, and for the direction our session was headed.
I finally did make up a list of tunes, even grouping some in sets. Here’s how I reasoned my way through it. First I considered only the tunes that the core 5 or 6 regular musicians know and will immediately join in on if someone starts them. This narrowed it down to a few hundred tunes. Because I was culling from the repertoires of a few specific musicians, the tunes ranged from old war horses to obscure stuff, new groovy tunes, and even a few original local compositions.
Then I arranged them in sets according to (1) old sets that we more or less played when the session was first starting out year ago, and (2) the tastes of the one local regular muso who most often tends to stick to preconceived sets. And I included the caveat that the tunes often are NOT played in those sets—that the whole point is to listen for the change.
This has worked fairly well. And I’m really happy that some of our more recent newcomers do use the list to learn tunes already in our repertoire—but it hasn’t stifled them at all from bringing new tunes into our circle.
Tunes I have no use for- my pet peeves;
Fanny Power (fanny power, what kind of name is that??? I’m not even going to go into the jokes..)
any mazerka really
Road to Lisenvarna
My darling asleep
Off to feckin California
and all the usuals that follow it…can’t remember all their names right now but u know what I mean!
Tunes I think are awesome and that everyone should know;
Martin Wynne’s #1,#2, #3, and #4
The Flogging reel
Knocknagow, (the jig *and* the reel)
The Strawberry Blossom
ALL Charlie Lennon comps(!!!)
The Black Rogue
I could go on and on w/all the tunes I love…
To get back to the original question - yes, there are too many tunes, how are we expected to learn them all ? My repertoire is vastly smaller then my collection of tunes, both the whole books acquired over the years and the file of tunes printed out from here and other sites.
But it’s still fun, eh ? The thrill of hearing a new tune, trying to prize the name out of the musician, the endless hunt through books and the internet, then trying to remember how it sounded that inspired you in the first place.
There we are, another post up to 100 replies !
What reason do you have for knocking all those really good tunes?
And to damn "any mazerka really" ??!? Seems harsh, especially when some of them have been in the tradition for such a long time (we know from at least the early 19th century and possibly before). And, I must admit, I tend to groan when some of your favourites come up … Still, personal taste is what keeps these sessions we all love alive and varied, doesn’t it?
Its good to have a core bunch of common tunes, but as Dow knows - I know a fair amount of tunes and have even very recently been to sessions (overseas) where I have sat all night and known maybe one or two tunes. It makes you wonder about those few people you know who can be thrown into any situation/session and still seem to know all the tunes.
Kennedy - I never learn a tune I dont like - there are just far too many great tunes to justify spending time learning tunes that I dont like.
Wounded Hussar - I find it interesting that some experienced players have said you’d want to be playing a tune for a year to really know it. I mean - it all depends doesnt it? If you play the tune once a month at your monthly session then maybe it’d take a year - but what if you played that tune over and over and really took time to get it right? I’ve never really timed how long it takes me to feel really comfortable with a tune, but it’s definately not a year.
How long it takes to nail a tune depends on how free a player you are. Some players I know play tunes virtually the same every time. If you are like this, I reckon you should be able to nail them pretty quickly.
But where I play. we like to feck about with them big time. Someone will bring a tune in and we’ll start to learn it, then just before everyone has it, the originator’s version starts to wander with variations. This confuses everyone for a while until we settle down with decent ensemble playing. Then everyone else fires in with variation/harmony and everyone has to listen to each others variations and make theirs fit/compliment etc.
Sometimes this can take years. And it’s all part of the process of getting it right. And it’s the fluidity of it that so beautiful
I never play it the same every time - thats just obvious - obviously if you have any idea about the music you know to put variations in etc. And the tune does constantly evolve of course…..but I think that sometimes it depends on the tune as well - some just seem to click better than others.
Oh no, llig, I’d never have pegged you as a w*nky harmony type! That’s so depressing. Don’t tell me your mates do those flowing Celticy Lunasa-y low whistle harmonies eeugh! just play the tune for god’s sake 😛
Sorry Beebs I know I’m supposed to be at your place now. I’m just letting my food go down and finishing a cup of tea. Will be round in 15 mins bye.
Dow - godamn it! its almost bleeding 9:30 - hurry the f up!
Nothing to worry about ~ it’s Nox & bb’s knitting circle… 😉
Now which would be the ‘standard’ stitches every knitting circle enthusiast should know, or work up?
hotfiddler… which "Tommy People’s" tune are you referring to? there are dozens with that title.
Sorry - I just thought this thread needed a hijack - MG totally agreed with Dow and now I am scared…..
So, how’d the knitting go bb? Did you go for Aran or Arran?
I almost forgot I came back here to offer Barfly some hope as far as ‘sets’ of standards is concerned. Here it is Barfly, but I’ll post it to you as well, these sets were put together by Brid Cranitch and are in two books published by Ossian, Eire, 2003, and you can also get accompanying CDs of the music:
"Irish Session Books: The Blue Book"
Ossian OMB 152
"Irish Session Books: The Orange Book"
Ossian OMB 153
Thanks for the list Mark.
Beginners who have never played in a session need a launchpad and your list is as good as I have seen.
I look forward to visiting your session at Kelly’s when I get to Sydney.
Thanks once again. I’ll try to get my hands on those Books. Sounds just like the thing I’ve been looking for.
Anybody interested in Paddy O’Brien’s collection? Here it is:
Bannerman did you write these books or something? You’re *always* going on about them. Every single post I’ve ever read by you on this website is about these books. There’s life outside the Comhaltas you know.
Sorry Noxious, I’ll make no apologies for publicising these very useful publications from Comhaltas - 220 good traditional tunes arranged in sets available in 2 books with accompanying CDs would be a useful addition to the armoury of most musicians new to the trad scene. As for your comment "every single post etc", I take exception to this exaggeration as I enjoy this site and communication with the people on it, and have always tried to contribute something positive wherever I can. If you check my 1,060 posts, I think you’ll find they’re not all about Foinn Seisiún!
Do you get a kick-back… 😉
~ Nox is always winding someone up… You should have expected he’d be back to review his own thread and get up to some kind of mischief, especially in the later postings… It just happened that you were here when he came back. If it had been me he would have been particularly noxious… Here Bannerman, take this spare gas mask and we’ll get out of here before the next blast…
Sorry, I didn’t mean to be obnoxious. The books aren’t all bad. The choice of tunes sometimes seems a bit strange to me, and some of the settings are a bit crap, but I suppose all books of that sort are a bit like that. Fair play to you…
Thanks for the spare gas mask Ceolachan. Out of curiosity I went back to his original post (I’d initially come in at the bits about book sets when I inadvertantly wound up Noxious) and followed his link to https://thesession.org/sessions/1311#comment241459. On reading this, him and I should be on the same wavelength - just substitue the number 220 for 60 and don’t worry about taking the recording device to the session as all the tunes are already on the CDs. Notwithstanding this and for safety sake I’d better don the gas mask and make for cover!!
But that’s exactly my point. I’ve written a list and that’s all. I haven’t written out the sheetmusic for every tune for the benefit of people at my session. What if all beginners all over the world learnt their tunes of those CDs. They’d end up all sounding the same. That’s the problem I have with it. I’d rather people *did* record the tunes at their own local session. Because that’s the whole point of a session - it’s about local community and making music together with friends and pouring your own soul into it, not just playing through the same bunch of predictable sets from the same source every week.
Uh oh, I’m feeling the devil poking at me to be his QC… You know I agree with you, and I suspect so does Bannerman, having followed at least some of his existence here. You also know I’m not too keen on aspects associated with tune bibles ~ but ~ eating my words ~ these two collections and the accompanying CD’s are ‘BASIC’… Yes, that dreaded ‘standardization’, and I am making faces now, but ~ just guidelines. The idea is that you then go to your session. If you are a beginner they will give you a fair skeleton to work with, but, hopefully, you will take that and use it only as a guide, and you will pick up the version that is current in your local gatherings ~ & ~ I HOPE WITH ITS OWN CHARACTER!!! See, you got me shouting again… It is hard talking through this gas mask…
I know we are in agreement here, none of us want a Kentucky Fried Chicken of Irish music… Oh, by the way, did you say you wanted nuggets Nox? (What, no evil smiley? 😏 )
Some of the recordings I’d made at some sessions were hell to make sense of. To have just one instrument, even if just playing it through once, is always welcome, whatever version. A few times when I had bodhrans either side of me I ended up recording over that mayhem. I could only hear myself and I didn’t like what I heard, or the stereo accompaniment… The only way out was to sink under the table ~ and eventually that is what I did, leaving my rhythmic bookends behind…
Why do so many bodhran players think that more than one at a time is ok? But I digress….
Session recordings are problematic all right. Sometimes you’re hearing the person next to you who’s still trying to sort out the tune for themselves better than you hear the person across the table who actually knows it. For a while we had a piper who would stick his tape recorder in the face of whomever he determined to have the tune down best. It became a mix of turning the session into his personal interview or his best-of-session-player adjudication. It was disruptive in my opinion, but he moved out of state before it drove me to taking any action.
The way I utilize my session recordings is to get a snapshot of the tunes being played. I research the tunes beyond the session tape and try to find either professional recordings of it or someone who knows it to play the tune for me. If that fails, then sheet music is helpful since I have the ‘snapshot’ of the session to compare it with.
Ceolachan is right when he says that the Foinn Seisiún books and CDs are only a guide to get someone started and as Noxious says it would be a disaster if all sessions started to sound the same. I think that any fears in this regard are totally unfounded. Irrespective of where/how musicians learnt their tunes, the nature of any session on a given night will be influenced by the musicians present (age balance, etc) and the dynamics (are people on a bit of a high or just out for a laid back night of relaxing tunes). Sometimes you’ll get both factors at play in the same session which is the type I prefer - some nice steady East Clare type music with the odd Sligo or Donegal wild reels thrown in for good measure! As they say "variety is the spice of life".
I never could get into that, shoving a microphone into the face of someone you’re there to share music and craic with. A ‘concert’ is a different matter, or visiting someone outside of a formal gathering like a session or dance. I tend to do as the Button ~ find out as much about a tune I like as I can, and if there is a musician around who’s playing I inspires me and who has the time, or is on record ~ I go there.
Where I can fail, is that if there is a way I’ve fallen in love with, say tunes learned from a friend, I tend to listen at a session if they have another way with it, or if it is a jumble, rather than taking on THE-WAY-THEY-PLAY-IT… I’m starting to feel antisocial now. I don’t mean I can’t appreciate what they do with it, but sometimes I just don’t want to learn to play it that way, happy with the way I’d learned it elsewhere. I sometimes feel that in an uncomfortable way, like when I find I’ve taken on someone else’s sometimes awful way with a tune… I too easily give in to following rather than imposing my take on a thing. Not too long ago I sat in on a bunch of tunes with a lot who were badly out of tune and out of time with each other ~ it was a jumble… I had to just stop and sit back and let it flow over me, or I’d have burst a vessel… That would have been messy…
Maybe that’s good? It isn’t just bodhran bangers and various percussionists that shouldn’t play for every damn thing…
In the early days I learned some tunes from a friend who would often tell me what recording he learned them off of. I took it for granted that his versions were accurate. Then one day I was listening closely to one of the recordings (for a completely different reason) and I realized that my friend had left some very important turns and sometimes altered critical notes. From that moment on I stopped taking it for granted and I always check sources and investigate tunes as much as possible when I learn them at a session or from a friend.
Yeah, I don’t take anything for granted anymore… Which reminds me, the wife… 😉