How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I am having same trouble hearing the difference between the kinds of tunes (e.g.single jig / slip jig / fling / slide / polka / mazuka). I would love to be able to say to myself "thats definitely a single jig" etc. Double jigs,reels,hornpipes are obvious to me but I get confused with the rest. I understand the reading/structure of the tunes but what easy system can I use to help me recognize the tune type when just listening to a tune.

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

the only advice i can give is what i do. know one tune of the each of the types and hum it along with the tune your listeing to. see if it fits.

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Many album sleeves of "straight" recordings of traditional musicians (as opposed to more fanciful sleeves of band recordings) would conscientiously give the tune type, on the cover list, of every tune or set of tunes played. This may still be the case.

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Kevo’s got the right idea - the trick is to recognise the rhythm of each type of tune. The more tunes you learn, the easier it gets. The key signature gives you a clue when you see them written down, but you need to train your ear a little to pick out the distinctive pattern of each tune type. Funnily enough, I was doing just this on a new CD a mate gave me last week - it helped to pass a particularly boring car journey.

Pick a tune of each type which you know and also have the dots for. Think about the time signature and the pattern of emphasis when the tune is played (ABCs may not be the best tool here - try to find a recording of actual musicians). Once you start to become comfortable with the difference between types, try listening to tunes and picking out what form they are and what time signature you think they are in, then look them up on this site and see if it agrees with what you had figured out. It’s a lot easier than you think at first. There are some tricky ones, and remember that people often play hornpipes in reel time, but the majority come out fairly easily. I played at a mate’s party on Sunday, and his mother (82 and over from Dublin) was telling the girl next to her what type of tune I was playing with the first couple of bars. She obviously danced as a child, and in fact did a waltz, hornpipe and reel for us. And it was nice to know my timing wasn’t that far out..:-)

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Sing along using a three syllable word (elephant, elephant…) and it’s a jig.. Four syllable word (generator, generator…) and it’s a reel.

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Or higgledy-piggledy higgledy-piggledy for a jig, Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty for a somewhat different jig (doubles or singles anyone?), chikka chakka chikka chakka for a reel. These are a start, anyway.
(And as someone pointed out recently, Gina Lollobrigida for a 7/8 monstrosity that has nothing to do with the tradtion.)

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Two main areas where it matters -

1) If you’re playing for dancers (!)

2) If you want to play accompaniment

Tunes don’t need to be the same type to go together in a set. Two of my current favourites are Off To California / Salley Gardens (hornpipe / reel) and Blackthorn Stick / Rakes Of Kildare / Merrily Kiss The Quaker (jig / jig / slide).

If you want to play accompaniment you need to be able to identify the rhythm on the fly - mind you, I suspect it comes as second nature once you’ve played for a few months. You don’t necessarily need to know the label ("jig","double jig","slide"), just the pattern.

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I think it definitely matters what type of tune it is, although, if you’re new, you can just rely on other people’s rhythm for what it should sound like.

Unfortunately, a lot of times people will blur the lines between the different types of jigs by the way they play them, and IMHO, that’s a shame, because each type is unique, and should sound unique.

First off, Jigs (or Double Jigs) are in 6/8 time:

one two three, two two three…

Slip jigs (hop jigs) are in 9/8 time, and are often played:

one two three, two two three, threeeeee…

Slides are in 12/8, and the rhythm is often like this:

one-three, two-three, three one two three, fourrrrr…

Single Jigs are often notated in 6/8 (or 12/8), but they’re often a simpler tune than a Double Jig or a Slide. They’re easy to confuse with Slides.

Besides the rhythm, the speeds, swing, lift, and accents of the tunes are somewhat different, and the easiest way to learn how to differentiate between them is to listen to the differences for yourself.

Here are some common tunes that you should find some recordings of and get the feeling of the difference.

Jigs: The Kesh, Trip to Athlone, Tom Billy’s Jig
Slip Jigs: The Butterfly, An Phis Fhliuch, Kid on the Mountain
Single Jigs: Merrily Kiss the Quaker, Hag at the Churn, Off She Goes
Slides: Liz Kelly’s, Road to Lisdoonvarna, Star Above the Garter

This can be confusing when you’re starting out - and it is difficult to explain the differences with text. It would be a lot easier to explain if you could hear a practical demonstration.


Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I decided I wasn’t happy with my notation of Slide rhythm, this way might be better, so you can see where the beats are:

and ONE, and TWO, and THREE, and FOUR

And some of the beats might have all three pulses like this:

and ONE, and TWO, and THREE two three, FOUR

or this:

and ONE, and TWO two three, THREE and, FOUR

Sigh, this isn’t coming across like I’d like… There’s got to be a better way to explain it… Maybe sleep will help ;-)


Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I confess I have trouble knowing which of the jig family a tune might belong to. Are there any conventions that prohibit combining regular jigs and slip jigs or slides into sets? I’m sure this would be a problem for dancers, but in a sessions is this a faux pas?

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I get particularly confused over the ‘difference’ between single jigs and slides. I have always assumed that the terms are inter-changeable.

I’ve just done a quick trawl of the net and, while a few sites proclaim a marked difference between single jigs and slides, from the examples they give, I can’t tell the difference.

Bugger. It’s probably me, but clear help would be appreciated.

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Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Single jigs vs. slides - makes a big difference if you’re playing for dancers. Slides are pretty fast - I think of them most of the time as having two big beats with 6 eighth notes per beat. If you’re not playing for dancers, the speeds of all tune types become more flexible.

I think it’s going to depend on the session whether it’s customary to combine/conflate all the 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 tunes. In a session context, single jigs and slides sound a lot alike. Reverend’s posts above are really detailed and accurate, although I think a case can be made for Merrily Kiss the Quaker being a slide - the problem with that tune, probably, is that it’s old, may have been a song, and might even be from England…

Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

I think from a sessioning perspective, for all intents and purposes, single jigs and slides are interchangeable. Dancers dance a "single jig" step when the musician is playing a slide.

This is an age-old discussion on this board, and I don’t know that there has ever been any definitive resolution to it. But here’s an old discussion from when Zina (who was a step dance teacher) was still around:

And I agree with reenactor, it’s up to the particular session as to whether they combine the different jig forms in a set or not. Generally what happens when you do that is that the rhythms are blurred a bit, so slides might end up being played with more notes, and less accents, so they end up sounding more like jigs.

For instance, if you think of Pop Goes The Weasel (which is a slide), it would normally be:

"All around the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel"

But it might end up being played more like:

"All the way ‘round the old cobbler’s bench,
The chimpanzee chased a carnivorous rat"

Which can be done with the tune, but it stops being a slide, per se.


Re: How to recognize the different kinds of tunes

Thanks guys for the great explanations. I think I;m really ging to have to do some woodshedding to get this into my skull. I’m going to have to sing "pop" along with some jigs and slip jigs that I know well, and see where that gets me. I play mandolin, so if its d-u-d, d-u-d it fells so much the same to me.

I do miss reading Zina’s posts…