Good tune for absolute beginners

Good tune for absolute beginners

Hello folks,
In a couple of weeks I will be teaching a whistle class at the Kilmore Celtic Festival. Usually, these classes consist of a demo of the instrament and then I teach a tune. Ideally, the tune would be not too fast, use less than one octave and be well known to the average punter.
Last time I did this, half the group did not bring an instrument and were not musicians at all - but they came and concentrated for an hour, so there is hope for them. I taught a round (but I cannot recall what) This time I am on my own - so the round idea would not work at all.
That was two years ago and I am curious what this group would suggest I teach them this time.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Tom Wards Jig might be worthwhile thinking about.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

A colleague of mine teaches whistle in his 6th and 7th grade music classes. He has a box of Sweettones and always begins with the Star of County Down

https://thesession.org/tunes/4320

It’s a great one to start on and meets your requirements of not being too fast, stays within an octave, and here in the USA it’s the well-known hymn "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say". Good luck to you.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

…PS- just skip the low Bs.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Jim Ward’s jig is wicked easy. It’s the first tune I ever learned. And still one of my favorites now because it is just awesome.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Ta 🙂
I will look up Tom/Jim Wards Jig, but I have not heard of it before, so would doubt the students would have either. ‘Star… " could be a goer. Any more? I was thinking of "I’ll Tell me Ma" or "Skye Boat Song" so it was nice not to get those suggested

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

munster cloak

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Rakes of Mallow. Dead easy. AND … they can get the satisfaction of learning one of them ‘fancy’ notes (the C nat) in a tune where it’s easy to play it.

Be careful of the dots as shown here, though. Posted by our great leader many moons ago, but differing in one or two resepcts for the ones usually played.

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Food for thought:

My teacher started most of his students off with a couple of marches, such as Sean South and Dawning Of The Day, our first jigs were the Kesh and Saddle The Pony, the first reel was Silver Spear, first hornpipes were Boys Of Bluehill and Off To California, first slip jig was Boys Of Ballisadare.

I do not think I could choose a much better selection for starting out — all grand old tunes which I have heard brought out about a thousand times at sessions. From there it all depends on what level of students you have and how much time you have with them.

Useful tunes, and, for a beginner, good basics gained in learning them, I would say.

Good luck.

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Britches Full of Stitches (in key of "G") meets your requirement of staying within the octave while also being a well known and catchy Kerry polka. I’ve written it out below as the only versions I could find on the web were in the key of “A”.

G>A BG|AG BG|G>A BG|AG E2|G>A BG|AG Bd|G>A GE|ED D2:||
|:d>e dB|AG AB| d>e dB|AG E2| d>e dB|AG AB|G>A GE|ED D2:||

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Ookpik Waltz, one very beautiful Canadian tune in G major.

I’m learning the B/C accordion and play this one as one of the first tunes with the accordion. There seems to be three or four different versions here (see the Comments section), but I play yet another version transcribed from www.TipsyHouse.com CD.

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Rolling in the Ryegrass. Not only is it really easy, but it’s a tune that will (or should) grow with a player and become more complex and charming with stylistic evolution. Padraig o’Keeffe loved it for a reason!

—DtM

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

I thought I’d have something more significant to say for my 4,000th post 🙂 but I’m not convinced that some of these tunes are particularly easy….. for a beginner.
When you’ve been playing for a while and have tried various types of tunes, they just seem that way.

A couple of possible suggestions…"Inisheer" and the Eagle’s Whistle(Not sure if the version here is correct though).

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Happy to Meet and Sorry to Part
My Darling Asleep
Brosna
Peg Ryan’s Polka

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

The slow song tune "Down By The Sally Gardens" (the W.B.Yeats poem) is all within an octave except for one note in the second part. Clannad made a nice job of it.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

John J, I’m starting to think that there aren’t any really easy tunes! The simple ones don’t really sound good unless you work them up with cuts and rolls and things, and that takes some skill. Oh, what do I know. The more I learn the less I know!

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

I’m an absolute beginner and I do like Rakes of Mallow, Peg Ryan’s and Stitches full of Britches. Star of the County Down, too.

How do you like Molly Malone ? (probably not authorized by the tune-police 🙂) Or What shall we do with the drunken sailor ? Both quite easy and really well known by none-ITM’ers…

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Forgot Mairi’s Wedding…

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Polkas. Great, simple tunes and ones which will help to develop a strong sense of rhythm and tempo. Polkas got me going and I’ve never looked back. Choose from hundreds!

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Wow, John J: 4000 posts. A piker by Zina standards, but still — she’s been quiet lately, maybe a tortoise/hare contest in the making? Besides, you’ve got one of the coolest member numbers, too.

Keep it coming.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

You know, I couldn’t think of a single tune apart from nursery rhymes that would fit entirely between the high and low D of the whistle without adaptation.
Britches full of Stitches would though if you played it in G.
Steve Earle’s Galway Girl would too if you don’t mind stepping outside the tradition

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

what about Egan’s Polka?

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Polka lovers will not be happy about the encouragement given above to the habit of looking on polkas as easy, beginners’ tunes. Just because you don’t have to learn a lot of notes to have the bones of one does not make them easy. That habit is one reason why so many people have only heard polkas played badly.
The vision of "every child in Ireland playing the whistle badly" has its parallel in "every beginner in the music playing polkas badly".
I haven’t got a specific suggestion, but I’d be inclined to look in the direction of song airs. That might offer the right combination of lowish speed, familiarity and pitch range.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Indeed, the well played polka is a difficult rythm if you aren’t get use to it, at least in the fiddle.

I have a theory with this music: most of the tunes are relatively easy, but adding some variations and abundant ornamentation you can make any tune a hell of a tune (even the "three notes jig").

In any case, I haven’t too much experience on whistle. As a begginer, I could (and I think I can yet) the Garret Barry’s or the Morrison’s jig. I gave this instrument up long time ago.

‘luck with the classes.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

I m learning out in the ocean as my first jig no major problems with the first half so far.

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Steve Shaw, I’ve been learning fiddle for two years now and I havn’t learnt any polkas yet, am I missing something?

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Yes I know the original post was asking about whistle tunes.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

I said polkas were simple tunes, not easy tunes, and very good for developing a strong sense of rhythm and tempo. I’m at a bit of a loss to understand how polkas can be dismissed as beginners’ tunes yet song airs (slow airs?) can be recommended. I’ve been playing for 20 years almost and I still can’t get my head round slow airs - they’re the hardest of the lot by a long chalk!

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Hey, curlew, buy yerself an album or two by Sliabh Notes and listen to the mighty Matt Cranitch playing polkas on his fiddle! 🙂

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Steve - song tunes. I’m a beginner and I learn different things from song tunes and dance tunes. With song tunes at normal playing speed the individual notes go past slowly enough to think about each one (intonation, articulation etc.) whilst it is still happening. But I then often have to speed them up to explore the rythm. With a dance tune, even played slow, I am mainly battling the with rythm and phrasing (and breathing) ;sorting out the piercing high b, how to finger that particualr C natural, and if a cut would be better there, are much further down the line.

Looks like a great list of tunes above - maybe time for me to start a tune book here.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Rhythm

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Many good suggestions.
You won’t really know until you see who shows up.
It is definitely nice to work on intonation & articulation.
A familiar song are air works for that.
I notice Kesh Jig is commonly used with beginners.
It’s not bad, especially if you have enough time to introduce ornamentation. I would be careful though. They will find the high B soon enough. You might want to spare yourself a group of beginners looking for the top of their range.
I also do not think it is altogether fair to introduce a tune which goes below the range of the whistle. There are good lessons for dealing with that but I guess your time is limited.
I would watch out for Mairi’s Wedding also. It seems excellent for a beginner but I have heard it played in at least 3 keys.
Just think of them going home & hooking up with someone who plays their new tune in a different key.
Hope it helps to consider what not to do. Now I feel like the Grinch. I will try to make up for it. Can you buy a handful of Sweetones. All in different colors? Hope you have fun teaching!

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

You can’t go wrong with twinkle twinkle!

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Sullivan’s Polka fits a single octave, and can be played in D, to keep the budding whistle players in that lower octave.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

I thought the whole world learned County Down first. On the box though I learned something called Shannon Breeze. Not too tough and actually is very presentable.

The advantage and the problem with first songs. The are not too challenging but sound like something decent.

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Actually I just realised there are number of tunes which can be played entirely within the one octave (and with no accidentals) but most of them are in A or related minors, makes sense I suppose as it’s the highest key you can play in 1st position on fiddle.

So just transpose to D -
Boys of Malin
Atholl Highlanders ,
are two such
Paddy’s Leather Britches,
Concertina Reel
are another two

They are not that simple for beginners but they do avoid having to overblow for higher notes and play accidentals

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

About playing in one octave.
It seems the easiest notes for beginning whistle are
G A B in the 1st octave. You can also get pretty good
intonation going up the scale c# d e f g …
then you get into the stratosphere. Risky with beginners.
On the bottom end The F# is fairly consistent. E is a bit trickier.
The bottom D is the most difficult & has a distinct sound when played with good intonation.
If I were teaching it would be nice to demonstrate:
1) the ‘dirty’ D
2) c natural fingerings.
3) taps (strikes)
4) cuts
Depending on how much time & how many students.

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Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

Thanks to all of you 🙂 I have already bought a few Megs (mostly black). I’m thinking of going with Rakes of Marlow, Off She Goes, Swanee River and Tell Me Ma. Thanks to theMuse for the reminder about the difficulty of the lower hand - its easy to forget :(

Anyway, I’m writting out the tunes in Tab/standard (so they can take something away with them) If we get through two, I’ll be amazed 🙂

Re: Good tune for absolute beginners

How was Kilmore?

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