Organising Tunes

Organising Tunes

Can anybody reccomend a good piece of software that organises tunes in to reels, jigs etc., but that can also organise them in to sets?

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Sorry, can’t help you. But while we’re on the subject of software, I’m looking for a good piece of software that will play my instrument for me. Someone please help!

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Yeah, your brain

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But Michael, how can we just rely on our brains when they have nothing to do with our computers at all. You can’t even get software for brains. How do you expect us to be able to do anything just using our brains?

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Can anybody reccomend a good piece of software that will automatically answer silly questions like the above? Just to save us the bother!

What’s the good of a computer generated set? The best way to decide on “good sets” is mainly through trial and error, i.e trying out various tunes to see how they sound or fit in. How can a computer do that?

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That’s stupid John. If that’s the case, then why use a computer for anything? Why do we even bother e-mailing our friends in foreign countries when we could easily just use our brains and hop on a plane and go and see them and talk to them face to face or wha’ever.

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Yeah, exactly, and that’s why a computer generated set is gonna be better than one you do with your brain, because the one you do with your brain is gonna crash and burn 🙂

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As for organising tunes into reels, jigs etc…the database here can do this already and a search will bring you back lists of each.
Obviously, other software can do this sort of thing too and this might be useful.

I still think making up a set is a personal thing though, although I’ve no problem with “popular sets” etc being held in a database and offered as suggestions.
However, I think the idea of a computer “randomly” choosing three or more tunes to make up a set a bit daft and pointless.

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I hate to think what the results of computer selected sets might sound like. It’s even worse than picking Grand National winners with a pin. Mind you if you’re satisfied with this approach, then a pin and a tune list is a lot less expensive than a computer and for “Friend’s of the Earth” types, a lot more environmentally friendly!

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Write out all the names of the reels you know on separate pieces of paper. Put said pieces of paper in a suitable container (a bodhrán would be ideal), shake the container, close eyes and take out the first three pieces of paper you touch. The order you take them out will be the order they’re played in the set.
Repeat process for other tune types.

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Hmmm Lazyyhound… can the bodhran therefore be cosidered as a primitive form of computer?

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Yes, I think so. If you had passing through the bodhrán an endless tape having an infinite series of compartments, and an arrangement to move the tape in one direction or the other, or to stop, depending on what is written in the compartment being read, then wouldn’t you have a Turing Machine, the most basic of all computers?

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“Write out all the names…..on separate pieces of paper”
I don’t think I can get my computer to do that. Even if I could, how would I save it?

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You simply scan the pieces of paper, and use word recognition software to read the names of the tunes.
Come on guys, get with it!

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On returning from tonight’s session I have in mind a modification to the bodhrán considered as a primitive form of computer, outlined in my previous posts.
In the cylindrical wall of the bodhrán make a slot and provide within it a metal rod extending from one side of the slot to the other. Drill a hole through the centre of two metal discs and mount them on the rod so that they are able to slide along the rod.
You will find that when the bodhrán is shaken in the course of its function as a computer to produce a random output of tunes the two metal discs will make a jingling sound - which may be pleasant or unpleasant depending on personal preference.

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Why stop there? If you are going to have metal disks in bodhrans, why not go the whole hog and have a pair of 250gb Hard Disks? They could tell you whether the tune you were playing was a reel or a jig, and which tune you should play next in ‘the set’. A small servomechanism could be used to provide mechanical control at a distance. For example, a servo could be used at a remote location to proportionally follow the angular position of a tipper. So you could stand at the bar, whilst your trusty bodhran worked out which set to play, whether these were in fact reels or jigs, and beat the goat for you!
What could be better?

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Call me Mr Thickie, but I’ve never understood the arcane science of “putting together sets.” Just listen to as much ITM as you can and stick tunes together according to your instincts and the ones you happen to know. Key-changes are quite nice, but apart from that I know of no other rules, and even that isn’t a rule really. I don’t see that a “computer-generated set” should be any better or worse than a set assembled by a human. I’m just as unlikely to know the flippin’ tunes anyway in either case. Do own thing. And I really can’t understand why anyone ever sticks to that stupid Tarbolton set. Is there a dafter tune on the planet than Longford Collector (except for Drowsy Maggie, as I’m sure we’ll all agree). I would have thought that The Bothy Band had terminally ruptured this tiresome medley, but some guy showed up at our session last week and played the whole set. Naturally, it was a Yorkshireman.

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Ottery, send me a detailed description and drawings and we’ll have a patent application on file next week 🙂
Believe it or not, I’ve seen dafter ideas described in granted US patents!

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“Glee Club Commandant, you’re Mr Thickie.” There, Michael, I’ve saved wear and tear on your keyboard.

Or then again, one might offer a sensible answer

What with Michael Gill’s typical bit of tunnel vision, Dow making comments mainly to push other peoples buttons, someone else reading your question to mean having the computer *generate* your sets (that wasn’t what you meant, was it?), the only sense we have seen so far is mockery of the bodhran! But that’s a cheap and easy sport, so it’s clearly time that I dispensed some wisdom.

And before I get to my real answer, the idea of having the computer *generate* sets is not absurd. Personally I would doubt if in itself it would be a valuable piece of software, but its development would make an interesting project for, say, an undergraduate computer science student who also happened to be a trad fan. Collecting the input data and thinking about the necessary algorithms would teach him or her a lot about both music and computing. Developing the test methods for determining how well the program was working would also be interesting. But I digress.

To return to the question of organizing tunes, including sets, the answer I have for you is yes, there is such software: Excel. More accurately, any reasonable spreadsheet, and to be honest I supplement it with Word for formatting printouts, but that’s partly because I’m more familiar with Word, having used it all day every working day for the last 10 years.
This is not the place to give computer application lessons (and in any case the most important lesson these days for this kind of thing is: “get used to using the online help facilities”), but here are some starter tips from the way I do it.
Obviously you have a column for the tune names. Format them, for reasons of alphabetic sorting, with “The” at the end, e.g. “Monk’s Jig, The” rather than “The Monk’s Jig”. If I start with a list with the latter format, I use a Word macro to change the format easily and quickly.
Then you will have another column, of course, for the tune type: hornpipe, jig, reel, mazurka, march, air, barndance, polka, waltz, slide, slipjig, whatever
You can add or delete columns at will, and ones that you might well want might include key, comment, alternative names, source, some scheme of how well you know it (e.g. favourite, learning…). Make a column for anything you like, such as whether your mate Hamish knows it, whether you have dots or ABC for it and if so where, or whether you have recordings of it. The operative word again is “whatever”.
I organize sets this way: a column for the “set number” and a column for the position within the set. The “set numbers” don’t have to be contiguous, and their sequence does not have to mean anything (though if you want to list your sets in a specific order for, say, a gig, it’s handy to use the sequence of set numbers for that). They just have to be unique for each set. So if you want to play The Maids of Ardagh, The Ballyvourney and the Tourmore Polka #1 in that sequence, they might all, for example, be given 47 as the set number (and no other tunes may have set number 47), and then have, say, “a”, “b” and “c” respectively in the position column. I use letters here as I find, for instance, 47a, 47b and 47c clearer than 47 1, 47 2 etc., and I don’t contemplate sets with more than 26 tunes in them! If you then sort on set number followed by position, your sets will be grouped together.
You can easily have more than one such pair of columns - one pair to sort you tunes for practising, another pair to organize them according to the sets you play with Hamish, another for the sets you play with the Jumping Jiggers. Having sorted them, you can print them out if you want.
You can not only then sort tunes according to these criteria, but filter them – see all your polkas, or your reels in Bm, or just the tunes you have classified as favourites.
The biggest difficulty about this is getting all the information into your database in the first place, but if you start keeping your list electronically in the first place, it is not so hard to keep it up to date (provided you remember), and it gives you a great power to organize your tunes, both for your own benefit and for that of people you might play with.

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I’m in awe. May I call you Padré?

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PS It should be obvious, but you wouldn’t usually print out all the table. For many purposes, just the names grouped into the sets you wanted, e.g.:
Maids of Ardagh, The / Ballyvourney, The / Tourmore Polka #1
If you have the software, you have the control.

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No, just tell me I am old.

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Or, you could just go and have a toss

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I’m starting to wonder if it’s not an act, and you really are an unpleasant person. What’s your problem? Are you short?

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…imagine how well any of us could play those tunes if we didn’t spend our time creating and maintaining a spreadsheet for sets. Sigh.

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“…imagine how well any of us could play those tunes if we didn’t spend our time creating and maintaining a spreadsheet for sets. Sigh.”
It’s not such a big deal. It takes a few minutes. If somebody wants to do that, why not? I’m not saying it’s important, let alone essential. But it can be useful.

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Useful? Yes, for people with memories measured in nano seconds, a tin ear, and way too much time on their hands.

Good sets come together aurally, not by typing lists. Like everything else in music.

So even if you’re inclined to list sets for playing gigs, ceilis, etc. with a band, I’d suggest *playing* the tunes to noodle out sets that you like and then writing them down, rather than shuffling tune names in a spreadsheet.

To be clear, if you seriously rely on a spreadsheet to create your sets, you won’t grow to be a decent musician. Use your ear and your brain.

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I dunno, it sounds to me like he created the spreadsheet to record sets he’d already put together. Anal-retentive, maybe, but we’ll all a little obsessive in one way or another, aren’t we?

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Having designed lots of databases, though, I can tell him it won’t work if it’s only in a spreadsheet because he can only assign each tune to one set (each set having one identifying number). If you want to have multiple sets with the same tune, you have to develop a relational key so that you can assign the tune ID to each set ID, and for that, you need multiple related tables (spreadsheets). I can design one! I’ll only charge a few hundred bucks for it…

😉

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Ah, you posted as I was typing, kennedy. I don’t think there was anything in the original post about using a computer to generate sets, only organise them. I wonder if some of you more experienced guys forget how, for a beginner, many of the tunes you learn feel like hard-won victories. I keep a list of tunes I’ve learned, if only to gloat over. And also to remind me of tunes I need to practice. It’s part of the overall sick obssession. Yes, at the end, it’s a time waster and doesn’t really make you a better player, much like, um, writing screeds for discussion boards.

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I don’t understand what cheshire puddy tat means by using your ear. It’s much easier for me to type using my fingers. Anyone who tells me otherwise is just stupid.

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Wow, now I sound even grumpier than Michael…

Sorry–didn’t mean to get so snipey.

But seriously, it amazes me to see the amount of *work* (sheer drudgery) people will go to to avoid *playing* music.

My point is simple: Keeping a spreadsheet of tune names or sets doesn’t make you a musician. It makes you an accountant.

I think it’s poor–even damaging–advice to suggest using a spreadsheet or software to build sets.

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In order to make new sets, I often use the technique of spell-casting. It’s pretty easy once you’ve been doing it a few years. I bought a book on it and learnt out of the book. I didn’t even need a proper teacher. You can put all sorts in the cauldron and get interesting results every time. I’ve never tried using my ear though. I just can’t bring myself to chop it off.

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Will—you know how the new Comhaltas site has their session tunes organized by set, but then separated out so that people can look at/hear them individually or together? And how some tunes are in more than one set? How is that different from keeping track of your own tunes on a computer? Isn’t it possibly useful to set things up where you can put tunes together and hear what they might sound like?

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Oo oo ooh tell me the url of the Comhaltas website! I *love* having things spoon-fed to me.

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Nope, K, that’s just a list of sets. Arrived at after playing the tunes.

(Though the image of Comhaltas members generating sets with a computer is fun to contemplate….) 🙂

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Oh, come on, now. What do y’all think this mustard website is? It’s one huge database! With what, 6000 tunes, organized by key, tune type, with references to performing artists and recordings, etc. etc. Do you guys realize how simple it would be to add a “create set” feature to it? (I’m not suggesting this, by the way!) It’s just data! Embrace your inner geeks, people!

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If you can’t be bothered to be creative, there’s a whole database full of recordings - you can get ideas for sets from that.
Yaaawn.

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“If you want to have multiple sets with the same tune, you have to develop a relational key so that you can assign the tune ID to each set ID…”
I don’t think you need to go that far. I think I covered that point in the paragraph that started “You can easily have more than one such pair of columns…”
I leave it to others to judge the retentivity of my arse if they are interested, but I would say that if you deal with things like office software on a regular, even daily basis, what I described is only one step beyond trivial.
Let’s imagine you are invited to take charge of a few musicians together and put on two hours of music for, let’s say, a dinner tonight. Some people might want just to wing this, and that can be fine too, but wouldn’t it be handy to print out some setlists? And wouldn’t it be handy to be able to look at your existing stuff, make some decisions, and print your lists in a couple of minutes? A computer can do the same job as the back of an envelope, but quicker and better, and with less effort.

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Yup, that’s it, Dow, it’s ones and zeroes for me. Can’t be bothered to dream up something out of just my imagination. Why would I want to be creative if I’m playing music?

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BIG sarcasm alert so nobody misunderstands, of course…

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uh-oh. Setlists. The fur’s gonna fly now. I’m gonna hide behind the couch and watch…

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Sorry Father, sets are far more than randomly juxtaposed tunes. Your approach lands us in the musical version of monkeys typing Shakespeare fallacy.

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There are some technophobes around here aren’t there? No dots, no lists, no tune names, no paper, no computers, no databases - makes you wonder why they are here!

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For the record, and seriously, my method of choice is iTunes. My whole music collection is in there, organized by genre, recording artist, album, tune name, etc. And into that I download my recordings from my iPod, so I have recordings of myself, my teacher, local sessions, everything. Even YouTube videos. I am a confirmed geek. I’m on the computer as much as I’m on my fiddle. Often at the same time. I’ll play a tune I’m learning from the computer, play it on the fiddle, back to the computer, then the fiddle…not all the time, of course. But it’s helpful. It helps my ear. And it’s a great resource when I want to remember a tune, because I know where to look.

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I learned my first programming language at the age of 12, back in 1971. Got to play a moog, one of the early synthesizers, around the same time. I have pdfs of nearly trad 1,500 tunes on my hard drive.

But weaving tunes into playable, enjoyable sets takes far more art and understanding of the music than is allowed in Father Bill’s bean counter approach.

Not a technophobe, but smart enough to know why I play trad music and how it works.

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Will, you can play the music *and* you’re good with computers? Does that make you some sort of ubergeek?

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AND he plays a dozen instruments, don’t forget!

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“Sorry Father, sets are far more than randomly juxtaposed tunes. Your approach lands us in the musical version of monkeys typing Shakespeare fallacy”
You still seem to think this is about using a computer to generate set lists. As far as I can tell, it was “John J” who brought up that idea, and several people went off as if that was what Penfold opened this thread for. He/she has yet to comment, but I don’t think that was what was being looked for, and it certainly was not what I was trying to provide.
In fact I explicitly stated that computer generation of set lists would be more interesting as a learning exercise for someone doing computer studies than as a piece of software to actually use. Such an exercise would, of course, *not* be equivalent to “randomly juxtaposed tunes”, but that is emphatically not the point at issue. It’s an idea that could be amusing and interesting to some, but not one that I have time for.
What I tried to offer is no more than a glorified version of a piece of paper, and I wrote out a few pointers that a new user of spreadsheets might find helpful. Have you never written out the names of a few tunes?
By the way, “Father” is not the way to address me. The clue was “just tell me I am old”.

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I’d like to say something to Will. Will, I got into an argument about something with someone on this site a while back - something about sessions and how they should be run or ways of learning the music or something, and this person was all mouth telling me how it should be done, and then I logged on a week later and that same person was saying “I just went to my first real session and I’m so pleased with myself - I was scared but I managed to pluck up the courage to play a tune”. And I thought, wtf.

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Dow, it’s the music I have a struggle with, you should know that.

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LOL, who said I was good with computers? That language I learned was fortran–boy howdy does that come in handy these days….

And after hearing Martin Hayes in person last night, I’m not so sure that I can play music, either. 😏

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Oh, I recognize who Father William is–one minute we’re bolstering his musical ego after a nasty bash, and the next we’re jousting over the niceties of hot, well-lubircated sets as though he’s an old hand at crafting a set list for a two-hour dinner gig.

Between that scenario, which FW offered, and Penfold’s original request that included a plea for software that could organize tunes into sets, I think some of us are actually being quite restrained in our responses.

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Again, just for the sake of being clear on this, I *do* keep a few set lists kicking around (on my computer, in fact). They’re old sets from past gigs. So when another gig offer comes up, and my music mates say, “I’d feel more comfortable knowing what tunes we’ll play” (rather than just winging it, which is what I usually like to do), I can pull together a fresh set list.

But chances are we have lots of new tunes to include, and maybe some of the old tunes have gone stale, so there’s usually a fair bit of new sets to build. (We don’t do gigs very often anymore.)

To build sets, ***I play through the tunes, trying different groupings, until they form fun sets.*** That’s an essential step.

I *don’t* just shuffle tune names on a list. Because I don’t want our sets to sound like crap.

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I like lists, me 🙂

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Yeah, as I was listening to Hayes and Cahill romp through 3 hours of great music, I found myself wishing I had a pen and paper to jot some things down. Tune names. ABCs of some interesting bits, or choice phrases of nameless tunes so I could look for them here.

Funny, but even without those tools, all the tune names stuck, and I was able to suss out some others by noodling out the melodies today, from memory.

Trusting your own mind is one of the most powerful “technologies” you can bring to playing music.

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I *still* can’t see what the fuss is about. On the one hand, I said “Let’s imagine *you* are invited … two hours of music…” That is not a claim to be an “old hand at crafting a set list for a two-hour dinner gig”. Not the way I read it anyway. It’s an assumption that there are people here who might do that.
In my first contribution here it tried to steer *away* from the idea of using a computer to generate set lists.
And I’m afraid I can’t see the problem with organizing things in written form, whether on paper or electronically.

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The problem is that people have started relying too heavily on computers and now kids can’t spell anymore. It’s because the computer checks their spelling for them, and in some cases even corrects it for them automatically!!! Not to mention the stupid video games kids play these days…

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Penfold,

If you’re still reading this thread, rather than getting thoroughly sick of the rampant BS and self stimulation that passes for comment on this site these days, you need to check out “ABC Navigator 2”. It’s a free download, and although there’s not much of a help file I think it will do what you want. It automatically identifies tunes by type and allows you to list sets. Effectively it maintains the sort of database that Father William suggests, without you needing to do any programming (plus, not being a Microshaft product, it doesn’t spy on you…) and will also produce nice printouts.

I suspect this is the sort of response you were after? 😉

Eno

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Supereno swoops in and rescues Penfold from the forces of evil.

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Hold on - I should have logged in under my ‘real’ name - Dangermouse!

And shouldn’t you be working?

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And as for pocket calculators! It all started to go down hill when they superseded slide rules.

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I meant “downhill”, but my spellchecker thought it was ok as two words. Sorry

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What’s a so-called “slide rule”?

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A bourgeois degenerate substitute for an abacus.

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I thought the slide rule was ‘don’t play more than three in a row’ ?

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I get thirsty every time I see Penfold’s name.
But I think you guys have scared him/her off for now. Penfold submitted another discussion about sets last year and is obviously having some problems with the concept. Looks like it’s going to stay that way.

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Okay, okay. Penfold wants a computer program to organize sets? It’s called word processing. Widely available. See, this keyboard thingy isn’t just for posting questions on the internet and IMing your lust du jour….

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With due respect CPT, you are now saying something very close to what I wanted to say, whether I made it clear or not. What I said in addition was that for a job of this sort, involving, dare I say it, lists, possibly with other attributes (reels or jigs, keys, etc.), something like Excel or some other spreadsheet is even handier than a wordprocessor.
I hope Penfold does come back and tell us clearly what s/he really wanted!

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Quite an interesting discussion, this.
I don’t really see the point in doing this, ie, putting tunes onto spreadsheets, and I don’t think it would be particularly “harmful” either, other than waste good practice time but each to their own, I say. It might be useful if you have been playing for a few decades and want to tidy up your knowledge base, but personally I couldn’t be bothered. If I DID ever get bothered enough I would go along with Alex’s suggestion of using a straightforward Microsoft application, but I think I would use Microsoft Access, not Excel or Word. MS Access is *the* application for databases. It is a bit more difficult to get started on but would be better for this idea. Taking this to its logical conclusion, I suppose what you really want to do is cturn up at your local pub session with your laptop and all the paraphernalia for projecting a slide show. All the tunes you intend to play that evening would be made into Powerpoint slides so that everyone can just look up the screen and join in.

Software for making up sets? I suppose it would be possible, even with Access, if you had an entry for what keys tunes are in, or the first fragment of ABC of a tune, or whatever parameters you decide or are the cardinal theme of your set, if that’s what you get off on.

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Penfold, in Excel, use the “concatonate” function.

Penfold, in your head, use the “awake” function.

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Cheers for the mature responses lads, always a pleasure. I meant a piece of software that just keeps the sets organised that YOU have decided on, I don’t want it to randomly generate sets. Just a nice piece of software that makes it easy to organise your tunes in a way that makes it easy to remember sets.

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Sorry, it wasn’t too clear.

Anyway, as has been suggested, Microsoft spreadsheets and the like are as good as any but (as also suggested)

ABC Navigator2 has a good facility for this and can be downloaded free.

See details in the “Links section” here

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Ah yes….the usual suspects were being particularly cantankerous tonight. No invocations of Godwin’s law yet……but some sharp wits having fun and maybe drawing blood………

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“….but that can also organise them in to sets?”

was your question, penners. How are they supposed to know?

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Further to Eno’s advice, you do need ABC Navigator - get it from here: http://abcnavigator.free.fr/abcnvgt.php?lang=eng
Then you need big, big archives of tunes (i.e. don’t just open one at a time) like the ones you can get here: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/music/Info/RRTuneBk/listings.html
I’ve also got a copy of a huge archive of mostly Irish tunes downloaded a while ago from a French source - I use it all the time. So what you do is, open the archive(s) and try and find versions of the tunes that roughtly correspond with the ones you’re seeking (they never do totally correspond - they’re only notation after all!) To help you do this, you can filter the archives by tune type and key. Then you can copy any tune you want to the clipboard and paste it into a new ABC archive file for the set. With ABC Navigator you can add tunes to a print list, re-sort them and print them either to a printer or to a freeware PDF converter. Look no further.

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P’Fold did originally ask for ‘a good piece of software that organises tunes in to reels, jigs etc., but that can also organise them in to sets?’
If it’s actually ‘Just a nice piece of software that makes it easy to organise your tunes in a way that makes it easy to remember sets.’
then any word processing, DTP, or spreadsheet will do the job, but no better than a little pad and a pencil, which has the added advantage that you can stick it in your pocket and refer to it if you have an attack of ‘set-blindness’ at the session….

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I notice that Penfold has 70 tunes in his list here (no biog so we havn’t a clue to motivation). Out of the 70, 20 are jigs. So multiplying 20 x 19 x 18 gives him 6,840 possible sets of three jigs. And I did need my computer to work that out. I’n not gonna, but it would be relativley simple to make Excel print out all 6,840. I reckon at 5pt type size he could get all these onto just a couple of A4 sheets. He could take that to the session no problem

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Hi Penfold,
You don’t seem to be getting much help from the humorists on the site for your question.

I use Excel spreadsheet to do what you want.
Each tune has an idex number eg J 01.1, means jig set 1 tune 1, If the tune is not in a set it would be just J; the key D, G, Am etc ;and the start notes FAA dAA
I use the sort function to arrange them it sets:

J001.1 Connaughtman’s Ram D FAA dAABAB
J001.2 Sixpenny Money D fAAfAA
J001.3 Out on the Ocean A GEDBBAG
J002.1 Boys of Town Am gedBcA
J002.2 Cliffs of Moher Am agabag

or alphabetical order:

J002.1 Boys of Town Am gedBcA
J002.2 Cliffs of Moher Am agabag
J001.1 Connaughtman’s Ram D FAA dAABAB
J001.3 Out on the Ocean A GEDBBAG
J001.2 Sixpenny Money D fAAfAA

The start notes are useful to remind me how a tune starts and also to remember the name of a tune if I know how it starts by sorting into start note order:

J002.2 Cliffs of Moher Am agabag
J001.1 Connaughtman’s Ram D FAA dAABAB
J001.2 Sixpenny Money D fAAfAA
J001.3 Out on the Ocean A GEDBBAG
J002.1 Boys of Town Am gedBcA

I use R, A, H, SJ for reels, Airs, Hornpipes Slip Jigs etc
I also have other columns for different sessions, tunes learnt.
It only takes a minute to add a tune’s info to the spread sheet but takes some time to start from scratch (I’ve got nearly 400 tunes in my database).

It makes it easy to print out lists of sets, tune types, tunes I know.

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I’m totally surprised that this thread has run and run! Last time I looked at it we were arguing whether the bodhrán was in fact the forerunner of today’s ubiquitous PC (perhaps Bill Gates should have one mounted on his office wall) and I thought “well that’s that”. However, since then the postings seem to have quadrupled! Is it that the concept of “sets” is so emotive that we just can’t resist posting?

For me, once I realised no one was suggesting that computers would be used to select individual tunes to make up sets (a creative and also subjective task - I still think the Tarbolton set works well and that the Longford Collecter is a great reel), I thought this was the end of the matter. Using a PC to list ones tunes is a great idea as it only has to be done once (bits of paper get dog-eared or, worse still, lost) but whether you use Access, Excel or Word is a matter of personal preference. The latter apeals to me because it’s simple. Fair play to Lurcherjohn for going the extra mile and including snippets of the tunes but I don’t think I’d have the patience.

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What do you mean no help? I suggested using the “concatenate” function in Excel. Concatonate, to chain or link together. It’s perfect.

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And I said Access. Hmmmph. No help indeed.

That’s it. Never again.

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Why did people suddenly turn sensible while I went down to the session at Kelly’s? Is there a deep meaning to this?

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Bellboy, How dare you accuse us of being sensible! It’s almost as bad as the Penfold (Mr? Ms? - the bio is curiously reticent) saying: “Cheers for the mature responses lads”. I’m only fifty!
Bloody cheek!

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Far more useful would be some kind of system for devising awful counterpoint. This could be in the form of getting two record players running at slightly different speeds.

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Yes, an Access database would be the answer - each tune ID and each set ID has to be unique and you create a linking table containing the tune ID and the set ID as key fields. Tunes could have multiple titles. Create a form for sets and add the tunes to each one using a look-up combo box. On your laptop at the session you can use a tickbox to mark the tunes that have been played (useful later for your returns to the Performing Rights Society). You’ll have a decreasing number of sets that can validly be played as the session wears on as other people will have inconsiderately used up certain tunes, but the sets still available can be displayed by means of a select query.

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And you could wirelesly link your monitor to the “big TV” to display the next three sets to come up. There by giving valuable pre-planning information to musicians who might want to go the the bar of go for a leak or a smoke.

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or head off to another session !!

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tee he

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Yebut, Michael, if you used MS Powerpoint + big screen, you could have the dots plus an animated “Bouncing Ball” to follow (for the hard of thinking.)

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… and, if everyone has the tunes in their heads, like Mr.Llig, you won’t even have to play them.
Everyone just checks out the set of tunes listed, thinks of them and remembers how they go for a couple of minutes, and you move along.

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Irish trad instrumental karaoke…sure to be the next big fad on all the cruise ships.
😉

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“Right lads, let’s do set 47 a,j,o next. Hup!”
(4’33“ of silence follows)

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I don’t think the poster was saying that he wanted a software program to “generate” the sets, but rather to “organize” the sets. Seem to me to be a perfectly legit question and need.

I actually created a database in MS Access to do this, organize tunes into sets. But i don’t use it much anymore and opt to more or less go with the flow.

But to answer the question: no, i don’t know of any software that organizes tunes into sets, but almost any database software should be able to do the trick.

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Hmmm, a telepathy session…..sounds good, so long as everyone plays the same versions of tunes…or am I just being a bit pernicketty?

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Has its draw backs yes, but think of the benefits …
It won’t matter if you have dfifferent versions
You could noodle all you liked
There’d be no argument that it was a performence.
The bodran player won’t get on your tits
You wouldn’t have to tune up
Heck, you wouldn’t even have top bring your instrument

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Lots more time for slagging, drinking, and flirting….

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Reminds me of a bloke I knew who went fly fishing. He was a vegatarian and he didn’t like hurting the fish. So he made his own flies that didn’t have hooks in them. He’d count it as catching a fish if he just got a rise

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…and arguing who has the best virtual sets.

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But remember that night when Evelyn Glennie came in with her bodhran and ruined the evening?

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We told her again and again that it was only a telepathic session, but she wouldn’t be told ….

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“He’d count it as catching a fish if he just got a rise.”

Sounds like safe sets to me….

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Perhaps the distinction between telepathic and psychopathic wasn’t clear to all….

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Ah, don’t you mean psychokinetic sessions, where you just stare at your instrument and will it to play a tune…

…..sorry wrong thread. Is the drugs thread finished yet?

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Having a bit of craic was never illegal in the good old days!!

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I wonder if there’s software to sort out silly threads…

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To….be….or not….to ….be…that is….the…flurp$#@…

Ohhhh, so close!

The Slide Rule: No more than two per session.

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I think Michael is really trying to cod us with his fishy tale about the vegetarian angler! As for slide rules, you only need these when playing in Sliabh Luachra sessions.

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I’ve just been threatened by some irate North Cork musos to get my terms right; at their sessions it’s always “Slides Rule - OK”

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Surely, what was originally being asked was: “How can I get my computer to correlate good tunes into good sets ?”
And the answer is “You can’t. Artificial intelligence does not exist. The computer can only work out what the programmer asks it to do.” Electronic devices are not perfect - my digital tuner sometimes takes several seconds to recognize the note I am playing, to be able to recognize a whole tune, especially at the speed some people play them, would be impossible, even before asking it to arrange that and two other tunes into a pleasing set.
After all, what computer would put John Brennans’, The Providence, and The Nine Points of Roguery, into one set ?

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I think you’d need a computer with an infinite memory to put the Tarbolton, Longford Collector and Sailor’s Bonnet together!

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Tarbolton set. Two tunes with a thing in the middle. Just the kind of thing a computer would come up with.

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Strewth!

I know we don’t necesarily speak the Queen’s English down here, but why don’t youse blokes take a good long look at yerselves?

The original question was for software to ORGANISE tunes into sets. I never even got a whiff of aritificial intelligence or computer generated settery. All (s)he wants to do is keep a list of the stuff he plays. I reckon ninety percent of the people on this board have done that at some time or other, once you get beyond playing everything you know every time you go to a sesh.

Give a feller an even break, why don’t yers? 🙁

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Then what’s so effen hard about typing up a list in a word processing program or excel? Jaysus, if you can post on this web site you otta be able to figure out how to make a list of tunes….

Besides, what’s wrong with simply remembering the sets you like? What, it takes a pc, printer, ink cartridges, high white paper, and $600 worth of software to make *a list?*

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From a purely listing point of view my vote goes for the computer. It’s tough enough learning and remembering 600 tunes without having to remember the 200 sets you’ve organised them into! Also “a computer list is a list for life” - it never gets dog-eared or lost and can so easily be modified as you learn new tunes or re-arrange your sets.

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If you want something where you can move files around and organise stuff, try ABC software. There are a few free ones you can download. Go to the links here https://thesession.org/links/6 and try them out and find one that fulfils your needs. Otherwise just use a word processor. How’s that for a “mature” answer?

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““a computer list is a list for life” “

How can you say that?

They made the same claim about CDs when they first came out!
Of course, you can make copies but I wouldn’t guarantee any form of storage lasting a lifetime. Even your brain is a better bet. 🙂

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bcBP - “good piece of software that” …..“organise them in to sets”
was the question.
That would imply to me something that does the brain work for you. If s/he was using the “Queen’s English” as you put it (I didn’t know the baked bean played Irish music), surely s/he should have said simply “organise sets”, so please dismount your moral high horse, thanks.

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Nay, Danny lad (or should that be ’Neigh, Danny lad?)

If the question had asked for software that arranged them, I’d agree. Organised sounds much more like a filing system to me.

And anyway, the mysterious Penfold him/herself posted that “I meant a piece of software that just keeps the sets organised that YOU have decided on, I don’t want it to randomly generate sets. Just a nice piece of software that makes it easy to organise your tunes in a way that makes it easy to remember sets.” half way down the thread, but we still get criticism based on a non-existant request.

I just get a bit miffed at the number of posters who are so quick to offer sarcasm or disparagement instead of encouragement.

And so does my horse. 🙂

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I hear you BC, and I did apologize for coming off so snipey right away.

But it strikes me as a bit daft that we have a whole thread about how to make a list….

Of course the obvious answer is “erm, list your sets in a word processing program, or spreadsheet, or with paper and pencil.”

But the best answer I can give based on decades of experience is, “Forget the lists and remember the tunes and sets. Quit wasting time with tune bookkeeping on a computer and go pick up your instrument and play.”

See, no amount of organization or external filing system is going to make you a better player. And when you reach a certain level of basic competency, such lists aren’t needed. You’ll get there quicker and more effectively if you start learning to remember tunes and sets in your head, NOW.

It’s not rocket surgery….

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All of which I mean in the most encouraging tone possible. 🙂

It’s just that some people are so intent on avoiding the real learning that leads to being a musician that they end up being a filing clerk or data entry grunt.

Common sense says we learn what we do. So play your instrument. Find your memory and knock the dustballs out of it. Accept that if you want to play good sets of tunes, you’ll want to be able to store them in your head and retrieve them at will.

Tough love. Actually, I’m just being honest.

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To be fair, though, some of us like me have a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder thing where you *have* to have certain things organised. I HAVE to make lists of the tunes I know. It wasn’t even like I got to a certain stage in my learning and didn’t need a list anymore, or learnt too many tunes to be able to keep a list. In fact for me it worked the other way; the more tunes I learnt, the more I needed to keep track of them otherwise I’d go crazy. Ok it’s kind of embarrassing to admit this in public actually, but for me, hearing a tune and not being able to remember the name of it or any associations I’ve attached to it - that’s actually stressful for me. It makes me feel like I have no control over the music because I can’t pin it down and keep it still in my own head. It’s kind of hard to explain. I think the majority of people who play this music have a lot of tunes they don’t know the name of and simply don’t care. I don’t understand how these people think to play these tunes in sessions, and I don’t understand how they are happy to have this abstract thing floating around in their heads without attaching some sort of label to it. I know people like llig are like this, and you Will, and I admire that in people and wish I were able to do it. This is how bad it is for me: I probably have over 1000 tunes at my stage of learning the music. I know only 2 tunes I don’t have names for, and those 2 upset me and stress me out. It bothers me that I picked up these tunes without really trying so I didn’t have any choice in the matter whether to learn them or not, and yet because I have no name for them I’d be happier not knowing them because then I wouldn’t have to be stressed out by them. This has got to be just me being weird isn’t it? 🙂 Well, I’m guessing that there’s a continuum of a “need for lists”, and I’m at one end, and there are lots of people somewhere in the middle. So I’m just saying that some people *need* to have things organised and categorised otherwise they can’t function. Please understand this. Fortunately there’s no reason for it to affect musicianship. It’s just the way some people’s brains work.

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Tell you what though, my mates at my session find me useful for tune names. Even if I forget the name of a tune, I’ll usually be able to remember what letter the name starts with, or maybe what colour the tune is if it’s highlighted on my list in red or blue or whatever, then because my list’s in alphabetical order, I can visualise in my head which page the tune appears on and whereabouts on the page it is, and maybe remember what tunes it’s next to, and usually I’ll be able to retrieve the name in a few seconds. If I can’t, I get stressed, but that’s another story. God, that’s so embarrassing and tragic 😏

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I agree with Dow to a large extent in that it’s easier to manipulate things (including tunes) in ones head when they are labelled. It’s also a communications thing as how can you discuss the music without names - “I heard a great gan ainm at last night’s session; do you know it and what might be another good one to go with it?”

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Earning a living as a writer for over 20 years now (and long having been a verbivore), I feel you pain Dow. Music is something of an antidote for me, a chance to finally NOT be verbal at the end of the day. But I too enjoy and find relaxation in having names and words associated with everything and in writing things down, so it seeps into my musical life sometimes. Mostly as an aptitude for knowing names (and akas) for all my tunes.

Sure, some people are wired in such a way that having lists is helpful. But when that obsession carries you away from simply listening to the tunes and sequences of tunes, and makes it in fact harder to retain and retrieve that aural information, then you’re better off without the rolodex. And most people, barring ailment or injiry, can learn to think in sounds as well as in words, if they give it a serious effort. And that’s what being a musician is all about–thinking in sounds (not words).

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“Injiry”???

Making my living as a writer, not an editor thank god….

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Many people just can’t handle not knowing titles for tunes. That’s probably why we have so many alternative titles or tune names such as “Dow’s “, “Cheshire puddy tat No 2” and so on..obviously named after the composer(if known) or learned from their playing.

Like many people here, and I know Michael and few others would scoff at this, I find that it’s much easier to play a tune once I’ve identified it. Of course, it need not be the correct title and the process might just take a couple of seconds in my head but it’s still required(for me).

Yes, I’m sometimes able to play along with an “unknown tune” but I’m never quite sure where it’s going to go. Usually, the second time around, I can manage it quite easily whether I’ve identified it or not…provided I knew it in the first olace, of course!

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*place*

Of course, whatever title I give to a tune has to correspond to the melody “in my head” so I still don’t see how “lists” are that useful.

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I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t know whether this obsession of mine actually impairs my musical abilities in some way. All I know is that it’s something I have to do otherwise I wouldn’t be happy playing the music. For me, not having lists would stressful and unsettling in the same way as waking up in the morning and not knowing my name, and having to ring my mum to find out what it is.

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That I can understand. But most of this thread seems to be less about that sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder ( 🙂 ) and more about people looking for short cuts or easy ways out.

I’m suggesting that there’s a difference between Dow’s affliction, which seems to entail more work rather than less, and Penfold’s plea for a program to do at least some of the work for him/her. Which requires work of a different kind–less relevant to the actual music being played.

John J, I used to be unable to play a tune until I could pin a name on it, but I weaned myself of that. The trick for me at least was to quit dwelling on the name and focus solely on the melody, jumping in head first. It felt awkward at first but didn’t take long to get past that mental block. Now, the name usually floats up as we’re ripping along in the tune, or immediately afterward. But having it to mind (or not) no longer enables or hampers my playing of it. And it’s much more relaxing for me this way.

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It depends which way you look at it though Will. I don’t see anything in his/her post that necessarily means that he/she is lazy and wants all the work done for him/her. It could be just that he/she wants something which makes it easy to cut & paste tune names/abcs (not clear which) and juxtapose them easily so you can do stuff with it like make printouts and setlists for gigs etc really quickly. I’m thinking of something where, say, if you had a gig and you have “song” on your setlist, and you need a set of reels next, you could click a button that’s like “show all reels”, and then you can go “ah, I forgot I knew that one, I wanna play that”, so you put your mouse over the name and drag it into a box or something, and then drag another tune the same way, and then another, and then fiddle about with the order of the tunes until you’re happy with it, and then click on “save set”, or “save set as”, and give the set a name and file it away. I can see why that might be useful. In fact the more I think about it, I want one too. Then I can start naming my sets and getting obsessive about that too. Actually maybe that’s a bad idea 🙂

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You could have a clipboard thing that works like a scrapbook for sets where you could save your set ideas and it could file it away for you and date it properly and stuff. You could have all your sets filed in alphabetical order, or you could get the computer to order them chronologically by date of creation. Hahahahaha somebody make me this software I want one.

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LOL, breathe deep, Dow, and put down the antibacterial hand cleanser. 🙂

A few months ago I was playing a ceili with some friends from around Montana who I hadn’t seen in a while. Toward the end of the evening, the dancers called for a set of reels and we fell back on old chestnuts to include as many of the musos as possible. Unfortunately no one bothered to quickly noodle through the transitions–we just assumed that these common tunes would run together smoothly.

Wrong. We salvaged it (Boys of the Lough got played an extra time after a brief flurry of faffing aimlessly in 4/4, and then pouncing on the next tune come hell of high water), and the bodhran kept the beat going even if the melody tanked for a few bars, so the dancers never gave it a second thought.

I guess what I’m cautioning against here is an over reliance on visually shuiffling tune names to make sets. You have to play the tunes, in sequence. And the creative act is more about listening for a wonderful key or mode change, and/or a striking similarity or difference of phrase from one tune to the next.

And Penfold’s request bothers me somewhat less than Father Bellman’s spreadsheet, where little to nothing is said about *listening to the music.* As though sets of tunes are nothing more than lists of tune names.

Consider this: if you were going to throw a big party at your house, would you really have to make a list of all your friends and group them to make sure they fit together well? Okay, so maybe there’s a woman with a new boyfriend and you have to be careful not to invite the still-wounded ex, but would you need a spreadsheet of friends’ names to be mindful of that?

The tunes are my close friends. I don’t need a spreadsheet to keep them organized.

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The one time when I find set lists helpful is when we do a gig with people who have relatively limited repertoires or whom we don’t play with very often. Then it’s handy to be able to agree on tunes all held in common, and to be clear about the sequence.

But us regulars usually just go with time-honored sets from past gigs. I can say, “let’s play the Gallager’s Frolics set,” or “Famous Ballymote, four times each,” and we’re off on a whole run of tunes.

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For me the names in my head are like icons on my computer desktop. They contain whatever names I have for the tune and allow direct access to the hard drive in my head where the tune lives. If I click on it, I might have included other alternate names as well as anything else I know about the tune and where I learned it. I’ve always done this, and I know the names and sources for most of my tunes.

There are disadvantages to have my tunes categorized this way. Sometimes when I’m playing in a session as the tunes come up I can’t seem to access them comfortably until I locate the icon. People that only have the tunes stored on their hard drive without names (icons) seem to jump on to the tunes with a little more ease. But there are advantages as well. I seem to have a larger body of tunes to choose from in many cases, whereas people without the names tend to start the same few tunes each time. Also, I’m able to assemble tune medleys and keep a list of my favorite combinations easier.

So each way has it’s advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day I’m happy to be in the camp that knows the names etc., but it’s just one way of doing it. Besides, it’s fun; I’m known as “dial-a-tune” by many of my friends and acquaintances that will ring me and diddle a tune for me (or play it) requesting the name. Sometimes my message service has these musical questions waiting for me. You’d be surprised if I told you who’s phoned me on occasion for tune names.

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And as Kennedy alluded to way above, there’s a healthy argument to be made for winging it, stringing tunes together on the fly. That’s my preference, and when you get used to playing this way, the spontaneous transitions can be at once thrilling and smooth, even with five or six people careening along.

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Jack, I don’t see it as an either/or choice. I can play tunes without accessing their names, but 99 percent of the time, the name and all the aliases, composer, who I learned it from, funny incidents associated with the tune, and all sorts of memories are all there.

That’s what I mean by saying the tunes are my close friends. Yes I know their names, their siblings, their jobs and hobbies, their different moods, their favorite foods, etc. And I can carry on a conversation with them without using their name, but I also rely on a wealth of information and memories to enrich that conversation. As you say, this backhistory then blossoms to a whole crop of other associated tunes, some linked by melodic or rhythmic structure, some by past aquaintance, some by source, and some by pure happenstance specific to my own experience.

Just like my relationships with people.

Maybe when I’m 87 and drooling brain cells out my catheter I’ll need a spreadsheet to keep track of my friends. I hope I don’t live that long…..

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I love those phone calls - “Will? Right, here are the notes–what’s the bloody name of that?!?” followed by toddling on a whistle or banjo or fiddle.

I once played a reel for Liz Carroll that got her all excited. “Oh, oh, I know that one! Haven’t heard it in years! What’s it called? What’s it called?”

Of course she could play the tune just grand without the name, and we both had a big laugh when I told her it was The Absent Minded Old Woman.

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I didn’t mean for it to be absolute, but people seem to lean one way or the other from my observation. It might have to do with the individual’s learning process. Some people pick up most of their tunes listening to them at sessions and never ask about the names or bother looking into it. Other people are more interested in that sort of thing and end up with a different system for managing the tunes in their head. I happen to retain where I heard the tune and in most cases who taught it to me. I also remember the circumstances surrounding the time when I learned it. Other people seem to have no idea where they heard it or who taught it to them. There are even people who seem to conceal where they got a tune, but it might just seem that way because they’re able to recall at a later time when they think about it more. The memory is a very interesting place.

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Agreed. All I’m saying is that in my personal experience, it’s possible to relelarn how you learn. I use to struggle to play a tune if I couldn’t retrieve its name. That’s no longer an issue for me because I didn’t like being stymied just because I’m a verbal person with a sometimes scattered memory. So I learned to just follow the aural cues and play the tune, and let the name and other associated info come on its own time. (Which, once you relax about it, generally happens right away.)

I’m sounding as cynical as Michael in some of my posts here, but my point is sincerely a hopeful one–that the vast majority of us can learn to play music musically (rather than verbally or visually or however else we’re predominantly wired) if we practice it. We learn what we do. Keeping spreadsheets of names only reinforces a bias toward the analytical and verbal. Music flows very freely when it’s not so analytical and verbal, especially these relatively simple, instrumental tunes.

So I’m suggesting that it’s worth learning to organize sets by doing that in your head, not on some other media, and building a mental capacity for this, rather than a paper list or spreadsheet. Much like building a capacity for friendships.

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i learn tunes from recordings most of the time, often because i’m learning many tunes on one cd, but even if i first hear the tune at a session, like it & jot down the title, i then head for the kitchen pantry, home of my irish cds, and hunt down the tune, sometimes after checking for alternate titles in that tunefinder base on the web. (there is only one i have come up empty on in the pantry, a tune a fiddler here wants me to learn to play in a set with him, called “eddie duffy’s.” that one i will record from him to learn….) so usually i’ll learn a tune with its set on the recording. that set becomes the mnemonic, in my head and on the list i only recently started. if i learn a sole tune off of a set, i usually combine it with another loner and that becomes the mnemonic. i break the sets up and recombine for creativity, but the memory bank is organized by sets from recordings. so far it works pretty well….

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Because I know the names of the tunes it’s easy for me to make lists of my favorite tune combinations, or medleys. I never bring these lists to sessions, but I do bring them to gigs. They come in especially handy at set dances because I have them arranged a wide variety of medleys that correspond to each figure.

I list each set dance with the bar counts indicated, and then I cross-reference it to a list of medleys with the same bar counts – all on one 8/12“ X 11“ page. This way the dancers have the impression that we’re always playing different music for their sets, and they’re always amazed how the medleys always fit exactly with the bar counts. My fiddler for these dances is the sort who learned all his tunes without names so I play snippets to cue him to the medleys. Then all I need to do is keep track of the repetitions. In this way, having the names is a definite advantage, and having organized notes is very effective and allows for a relaxed evening of playing for sets without scrambling to throw medleys together on the spot. It also allows for more variety in medley options.

I once showed this list to Johnny B. Connelly and he said, “You’re scaring me, Jack.” hahahahaha

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One of the nice things about discarding lists is that it frees you up from worrying about ‘losing’ the tunes itemised on them.
If you lose a tune, and it pops into your brain a few years’ hence, and you play it, this is a source of unalloyed delight, particularly if someone tells you what it’s name is and you say, “Oh, we used to play that at the Frog and Lentil back when that bloke with the dulcimer used to turn up and spend three hours tuning up and then play Sonny’s Mazurka completely out of time. – I don’t think I’ve even thought about it since then.”

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I know what you mean, Mark, but sometimes I come across old tune lists and have a similar experience. But in this day of computers I have all these lists in Word docs and they don’t get lost as easily as they seemed to in the old days of paper-only lists.

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Ottery, if someone played me a tune I used to play but had “lost”, it would disturb me so much it would almost kill me. That’s why I have a list to keep track of them. The thought of “losing” a tune is horrible to me. It’s not that I worry about losing the tunes itemised on the list, because that’s “forgetting”, not “losing”. I don’t mind *forgetting* a tune, because I can go back to my list and find it and practise it up for next time, but actually losing it and not having any record of it anywhere on paper - that would be so horrifying. The thought of it makes my toes curl.

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Will, where have you put my handwash? I need it now you have to give it to me otherwise something bad will happen on the other side of the world and it will all be my fault. Lemme wash my hands 🙂

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Friends, we’ve got to help Dow. Not only is he obssessive-compulsive, but today I passed by a newspaper and noticed a headline that read, “Dow Seeks New High.” What’s it coming to?

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Calm yourself, Dowsy. Remember, you always have a packet of sanitary wipes in your back pocket for just such emergencies.

Tomorrow we’ll go over your list of self-soothing strategies again and check the schedule of deelp breathing exercises we have for you on that spreadsheet–maybe it’s time to shuffle them a bit, move the yamayamasamassa cycles to earlier in the day….

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I’ve never made any lists but reading all this has set my head in a spin. For me it gets more complicated as there are tunes in different categories:
Tunes I know well but only to accompany
Tunes I can play on the Mandolin
Tunes I learnt to flatpick on the guitar
Tunes Iearnt as a guitar fingerpick arrangement
And more recently - tunes I can play on the fiddle
Tunes I should have learnt but don’t get them partially because they make no sense to me
The To-Do List of tunes I need to learn

After spending years of accompanying melody instruments I got into the comfort zone where I never had to think of tunes proactively, but just react quickly to others. I now find it really difficult to start sets even of the tunes I can play moderately well. Maybe I need to get into this whole list thingy to get my brain organised.
I once met a person who told me that she always wrote a shopping list before going out to the shops but usually either left it in her purse or at home because writing it down meant that she knew what she needed to buy and imprinted it into her memory so that she didn’t need the list anymore.

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Well assuming you are serious, Donough, and at the risk of stirring things up again, you can do just what you want in a number of ways, but Excel is a good one. Even in Excel, there are different ways of going about it, but one easy way is that having made a list of your tunes in one column, you use the next column for, say “Tunes I know well but only to accompany”. You can then put something like “yes” or “X” in that column for each tune that it applies to, and leave it blank for the other tunes. Then you use what is called “filtering”. You can, for instance, filter to see just the mandolin tunes, or all tunes except the flatpick tunes, or all the tunes that are both fingerpick and fiddle.
It really is not a big thing, provided you actually have the software. It’s just a lot more flexible than trying to do the same on paper.

On a related thing, half way up the thread Danny said:
“It might be useful if you have been playing for a few decades and want to tidy up your knowledge base, but personally I couldn’t be bothered”
I would feel the same, I guess - it might well at that stage be more effort than it’s worth. Who wants to type in the names of hundreds of tunes? Who has time? But if you start early, it’s easy. You might not need it when you only have 6 tunes, but it’s easy to set up, and it can grow organically to 60 tunes, 100 tunes, 200…. and get quite useful just at the stage when a paper list would be illegible, falling apart, full of crossings out and changes.

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3 days, 155 posts on a subject that’s come up so many times in the past - what is it about sets and lists that generates so much heat? Maybe it’s because it touches on so many different aspects of trad sessions from whether it’s important to have tune names at all to should they be played in sets and finally whether these should be listed (either on paper, computer or both). This thread started with a slight ambiguity which suggested computer programmes might be able to create the sets (as opposed to organising them) which no doubt stirred things up even more.

Personally I don’t understand why this topic generates so much interest (I know I’m not helping by adding yet another post!) as it’s the prerogative of each musician to adopt the approach that works for them - nothing is compulsory. I may prefer a list approach as I don’t enjoy dodgy changes between tunes or worse still single tunes where no one knows what’s coming next. As already stated they have additional benefits where you have to string tunes together for dancers or playing in gigs. Having said this there is the argument that lists make things too predictable and stifle spontanaety and I won’t argue against this. At the end of the day it’s personal preference and individual choice so can we all just “agree to differ” on this one as we’re never going to reach a consensus.

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Dow, you’re killing me - you’ve almost got me believing that you have a list of the 2 million tunes you seem to know …

Bannerman - the other aspect this thread skirts but dares not actually touch is Mr. Gill’s notorious contention …..

That there are …

TOO MANY TUNES!

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There, I’ve said it!

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I believe this argument to be fundamental to the music. It’s about definition, in both senses of the word; the amount of detail and the question of how to define.

I believe these diddley tunes are far to complicated to be defined by any other means than merely playing them. And that’s not just playing them once, or having a recording, it means playing them often over many many years in different company. They are chaotic, in the strict mathematical sense of the word. Meaning that for any model you make of them to be successful, the model would have to be as complex as the original.

Yet attempts to model them are made all the time. The abc to a tune is a particularly poor model. And even a good recording three times through by a good player is a poor model. And I often despare at the concept that tunes can be learned from such poor models. You may think I’m off on a tangent here, but it’s all related.

I know that a tune’s name is just a label, and a label’s function is not to define, but when you start to make complex lists with many columns of cross references, you are making a model of your knowledge. And as with any model, the more complex you make it, the closer it becomes to the real thing.

Models can help. The shopping list is a good example. It’s not intended to be a representation of the things on the list, merely a memory aid for one particular shopping trip. Used and discarded. A set list for a gig is same.

And you could say that your complex, cross referenced spread sheet is not meant to define, but the more you add to it the more of a definition of your knowledge it tries to become. Tunes you can play, tunes you can accompany, tunes you’d like to play, tunes you are bored of, tunes that you can play up a tone for effect, etc etc. But none of these attributes are definitive. They are all constantly shifting. Concatenate tunes 4, 57 and 83 into a set. Though next week it might be 4, 57, 83 and 15. But 57 and 94 have the same b part and 186 and 231 have the same name but are completely different. etc etc. Where do you stop?

The function of a model is to help with your understanding of a system and to predict how the system behaves. A butterfly flaps it’s wings in the jungle and it rained this morning. The weather man said it wouldn’t. His model was crap. Someone came to our session the other day and played 4, 57, 15 and 83.

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Right Michael. The shopping list analogy is good. I suppose that’s why tunes have got names. The names are just handles, and some of these are pretty handles, and/or handles with history, etc., but that’s all they are - handles.
Rather than someone at a session saying to you “do you know the one that goes da- da-daa, da-daadadi da daa da” they just say, “D’you know Christmas Eve?”

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Spot on, Michael.

Um, Bannerman, some of us keep posting (on this thread and on this site) because we’re at work and we’d much rather be thinking about the music, even if we can’t be actually playing it.

And the point to Michael’s lucid explanation above is that if you spend your life buidling models of the music instead of playing the music, you will become a good builder of models, not a musician….

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If someone wants an easy way of making up a simple list of the tunes they know using a computer, all they need to do is to use the personal Tunebook facility on this website. If a tune isn’t on the database, then all they need to do is add it, to everyone’s benefit.
BTW, observant persons will have noticed that the content of my Tunebook is zero. I have a very good reason for that.

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Can’t you spend your life doing both?

If it has to be a choice between one or the other I don’t know what I’ll do, Will. I can’t leave my liiiists!

::rushes off to wash hands again::

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Its either pushing buttons on a concertina or tapping keys on the keyboard with you Dow, isn’t it?

….Same as me, come to think of it, except mine’s a box or a flute……….

…..hmmm….

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Right. I have a keyboard on my computer already … and I STILL couldn’t resist playing the one in your link, Danny.

Now then … how many people, like me, couldn’t resist?

And how many, like me, played Frere Jacques?

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My list of medleys for set dances I described earlier in this thread is in a Word doc. I’m changing it all the time as new tune combinations occur to me and old ones become obsolete. I date the changes and print it out often. I glance at the top of lists I might have laying around to see where I was at that time. The computer allows my list to be fluid. I could never have done this so easily in the paper-only days of yore.

As far as the tunebook in this website goes, it’s just a place where I flag tunes of interest. Every now and then I should go in and weed out the ones I might have sussed out, but I’m too lazy I guess.

The bulk of my tunes are in the organic computer in my head. If I wasn’t so lazy I’d keep some sort of list for that as well that would be more reliable. As it is I forget many tunes until someone reminds me of them or when they come up at a session. If I had a list I could go through every now and then and blow the dust off of ones I haven’t looked at for a very long time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I see no problem with keeping lists, but I would never bring them to a session. My set dance list functions very well at gigs, but it only represents a fraction of the over-all tunes I know. So far my memory is pretty good, but a list would be handy to have for the reasons I already stated.

The only time I don’t like to see lists is when people bring them to sessions. I don’t know why this bugs me; perhaps it would be like someone bringing all the books they ever read with them wherever they go so they can look up topics to discuss or find answers etc. I think when we show up at a social event we share what we’ve learned without having written notes to refer to.

~~~

Bob: Hi Don, how’s it going… nice day isn’t it?

Don: Yes indeed… I have the weather report right here… let’s see… oh here it is… 75% chance of showers later today it says.

Bob: Uh… okay… I see… so how’s the misses?

Don: Oh… just a sec… I have her report right here… (flips through some pages) here it is… she’s fine, but according to this she had a headache last night right before we went to bed. I have a report about headaches… did you know that half of all headaches are self-induced? Oh, also… it says here that aspirin helps prevent heart attacks… wanna talk about heart attacks?

Bob: Uh… no thanks… I have to go now… see ya.

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Dow, some people have so much talent that they can be experts at both lists and playing music. You must be one of them. 🙂

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Ben, you can play Danny’s virtual piano keyboard on the real computer keyboard by using certain of the keys on the top two rows of the alpha characters - click on “Instructions” for details.

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I agree with all that was said above about learning and organizing tunes being part of being a musician, and we just have to buckle down and do the work.

My problem is that I already have a full-time job, two kids, and I’d like to do a bit of gardening here and there, so it’s a bit difficult to find enough time to really give the tunes their due, you know? I’ve already given up TV - no loss there - and I’m thinking of cutting back on reading books for the foreseeable future.

So I built a MS Access database to keep all my tune information in. Its purpose is to a) force me to organize all my tunes, b) BE A *PRACTICE* AID, and maybe c) keep track of a bunch of tunes that need work, or “tunes I meant to learn” (and d) I like playing with database stuff).

The best feature (for me) is that it generates random lists of tunes, so that I can practice recalling and splicing tunes together on the fly. It’s not intended to generate “sets” for performance, although if it did come up with a nice change I might keep it.

There are lower tech ways to do this: For example, get a large-format address book, and write your tunes in it (try to get one with a large “M” section…). Then open at random and pick the third tune down or whatever. Sure it’s just an alphabetized list, but it can be very helpful when you’re trying to think of what to play next.

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It’s 2011 now
did you people figure out a system that would please everyone?

I’d love to click on a link and see 200 “D” tunes (reels) show up, and then click on the page for Jigs in certain keys and see a ton of them

then I’d like to see the page with at least 200 suggestions for sets.

that would be lovely.
do you guys know each other, are you on the same continent?