What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

This is meant to be a new twist on a well-worn topic. As a newish player, I’m interested in learning tunes that are likely to be familiar to at least some of the people I’m playing with (because the point, for me, is to play with others)…but I appreciate the oft-stated caution to avoid the tunes that are way too overplayed. I do not want to waste precious practice time learning tunes that will make my session mates silently groan. They’re too polite to tell me if they do, so I’d like to avoid that situation if I can.

What does your list of "please don’t play these ones, they’re too overplayed" look like? Granted, the list will vary from person to person and session to session, but it would be great to have a rough list.

I’ve gathered that "The Irish Washerwoman" makes the list. Also the "Kesh Jig." (Not that I know either of those tunes yet. In fact, I’m duly avoiding them, for now.) What else?

Oh, and in case anyone wants to jump in to tell me that it is never a waste of time to learn any tune, that every tune has something to teach, I agree. But with a repertoire of only about 20 tunes, and a strong desire to fit in as quickly as possible and contribute in the best way I can at my session, I think it’s a prudent approach for a newbie.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Don’t avoid the Kesh anyway. Go along to the session, buy someone a pint and ask for a list of twenty odd tunes that they often play. Almost very session is wildly different as far as repertoire goes so best learn what tunes they play locally. A thousand people could give you a thousand different tune lists here.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

What Bogman said. Every session will be different. You can go to one and play 80-90% of the tunes and the next night at a different session, play one tune if you’re lucky. And that’s if you have a relatively decent sized repertoire.

Also, ask them if it’s ok for you to record some tunes. Then you’ll have the tunes available to learn by ear and you won’t have to constantly inquire, "what’s that one" (and deal with the usual reponse: "I don’t know") all night.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

The most-played, most-known tunes are nearly always very good tunes. But yes, when certain ones come up I really do feel I am sitting through dead time.

This usually has less to do with the nature of the tunes themselves and more to do with them being played in a dreary way.

DO learn The Kesh, The Irish Washerwoman, Merrily Kissed The Quaker and such, in your own time - not necessarily because they are "standards", but because they’re good tunes!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Amy
there’s another odd thing about some of the "chestnuts"…..some of them anyway [sorry, names escape me at the moment and/or i’ve mercifully stopped playing some of these tunes] is that, in fact, the so-called "easy" tunes are not in fact all that ‘easy’ to play!! due to odd string crossings or whatever. Others have other challenges [each tune you’ll find presents diff ones for diff instruments depending on the key etc].

For instance, I’m not particularly fond of the The Irish Washerwoman….I don’t think it’s that great a tune [and it is somewhat difficult to play well on fiddle], on the other hand I still love Out on the Ocean, say, or
Boys of Bluehill….there is an endless amount of things you could do with either tune as you progress. And for that I think they are great tunes, feel nice under the fingers and have a good swing.

For now, as Silver Spear said, a digital tape recorder is your best friend and the session is your second best friend. Tape what appeals to you. if stuff feels a bit too challenging now…leave it. Go back ina year or two. Concentrate on tunes that appeal to your ear and feel good naturally to your playing style at this particular moment. If you do so, you can hardly go wrong. Soon enough you will have a good rep of dance tunes!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

[Mandatory thesession.org meme insertion] Ask not what the tune does for you, but what you can do for the tune!

Ditto as above. They get played a ton because they are good tunes. Treat them well and be good to them. It’s hard to groan at a well played tune, no matter what it is. Well, for decent people that is. Jerks will groan at anything. Ha ha.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Amy, forget the tune cranks, session snobs, etc and learn tunes you like the sound of and enjoy playing. Don’t be dictated to by anyone on what you should or should not play but use your own judgement. There are very few bad tunes. If some become hackneyed, its more likely it’s because they’re very good and therefore get played a lot - tunes such as the Kesh, Boys of Bluehill, the Bucks immediately come to mind. Just because our generation may have played them to death, it’s no reason up and coming musicians should be deprived of these tunes. My only gripe would be where certain regulars in a particular session insist on playing exactly the same sets of tunes week-in-week-out so that time is not available for other good sets. However if a newcomer comes along and starts a set with the Kesh, the Irish Washerwoman or whatever, I’ll be more than happy to join them - remember we were all there once and in any case it’s also an excuse to give some of these great but neglected tunes an airing!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

"forget the tune cranks, session snobs, etc and learn tunes you like the sound of and enjoy playing"

YES!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Thank you for the unexpected but positive response! There is some very wise advice here, which I intend to soak up like a sponge.

I just got a digital recorder and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

I can see how tunes you love would probably be tunes you’d be inspired to play well…I’ve found this in my own playing, and it’s a good gauge for whether or not to learn a tune (at this point in my learning, anyway)!

Thanks. I appreciate your replies very much.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Great post, Bannerman. Tune cranks — I love that expression.

Someone’s groaner of a tune will be someone else’s favorite tune ever. Its completely subjective. For many years, I couldn’t tolerate Star of Munster. Not because of the tune but because of an experience with someone that involved the tune. Every time I played Star of Munster I was reminded of the experience. That was twenty years ago, though, and I think I may be over it. I even started the Star of Munster in a session recently.

Anyway … there are plenty of tunes. Playing the ones "you love" is good. Pretty soon, you may come to know that you love them all.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

It’d be a wonder if anyone who read this site was brave enough to go to a session at all.

You may be urged never to play this or that old chestnut , but the very same people will be aghast if , as a result of all this, you don’t know them at all!

Posted by .

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Which tunes to learn - the tunes that you like.
Where to find them - the ones that are played at the session that you play at.
It’s that simple.

The other thing about not learning the great old tunes is that often at festivals these are the tunes that do get played as they provide a common ground for everyone to play together.
Heard about a session where Solas and Fiddlers Bid where t in. After about 15 min of everyone waiting for someone to think of a tune, Wini Horan started the Kesh - no ego just playing tunes that folk know.

Agree with Bren, tis good to know the old tunes - less chance of feeling like a tube!!!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Over the years I’ve gotten sick of a fair few tunes , as most people have.
But I’ve found that if I left them for a bit (year or two), & came back to them, once I played em the second time…I never seemed to sicken of them again.

To be honest, as I think Nickolas said..alot of it depends who you’re playing them with.
You can have a ball winding up a Chestnut with the right people, while in another setting 3x through seems like a lifetime.
But now I try to tackle any tune that comes up on a personal basis..that is to play it the best I can, put my own little spin on it,some cool variations/octaves/harmonies
that seems to keep me amused & they don’t seem to get old for me any more.
I can’t think of one tune right now that I’m too big to play.
And from a new persons point of view, it suck if they start playing , lets say the Butterfly heh heh, they’ve been practicing it all week for the chance, & all they see is frowns , blank stares n people checking their tuning…..I always try to help em out with Gusto!!
I think it’s a lovely tunes, loads of room to make it "Yours"…same with nearly all tunes if you look at it that way
cheers
RogerB

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I’ve come to suspect that some middle-of-the-road players make a big deal about being bored of the Kesh et al as an affectation, put-on to make people think they’re more steeped in the tradition than they really are.

The Kesh rocks, by the way.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

"I’ve come to suspect that some middle-of-the-road players make a big deal about being bored of the Kesh et al as an affectation, put-on to make people think they’re more steeped in the tradition than they really are."

Yup.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Paddy Keenan still plays the Kesh all the time.

Good point from clunk 999 "tis good to know the old tunes - less chance of feeling like a tube!!!" - There are a few really standard Scottish tunes I avoided learning properly for years cause I’d heard them to death. I ended up lots of times feeling pretty red faced for knowing loads of tunes but sitting through bog standards. Learn the standards and they will serve you well.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I think the Kesh jig is a very good beginner’s tune. It’s a good tune anyway, but for a beginner, it has plenty of easy options for playing slight variations and slow rolls. It plays itself really.

Not so for the butterfly. It’s quite a hard tune for a beginner. It’s not easy to make it flow. And playing the top B in tune is not easy for a beginner.

I’ll happily play the Kesh Jig with beginners, Not so the butterfly, they make a mess of it.

Posted .

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

It’s been said already. Play everything that comes to hand, It’s all ‘grist to the mill’ Even Pop Goes the Weasel can sound good at times, so enjoy.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………one small thing however, don’t play that bloody Soldier’s Joy it drives me bananas!.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I’d listen to Paddy Keenan playing anything - even TV jingles.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

As has been suggested, it seems like a "no win situation".

If you learn these tunes, you’ll get people who’ll "groan" and complain about them being overplayed.

On the other hand, if you haven’t learned them, other players will be amazed and reckon you don’t know very much.

So, if you like these well known tunes (In most cases, you should), do learn them. Then it’s really a "Win win" situation. You’ll know them if you need them and can choose yourself whether or not to include them in a session.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

i like the irish washerwoman, except it kind of hurts my hand…jerusalem ridge should stop though….

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Wait, llig, so is the high B in the *Kesh* easy for a beginner to play in tune? Or do you play some variation that bypasses the high B and makes the Kesh into a nice beginner tune? (I definitely agree that the Kesh is more beginner-friendly than the Butterfly, but it really doesn’t come to mind as a tune that plays itself, not on fiddle anyway. The Road to Lisdoonvarna, on the other hand, will always be a sentimental favourite of mine, for managing to sound like something recognizably akin to music even when played by folks who have no idea what they’re supposed to do with their fiddles and bows - in particular, me two and a half years ago.)

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I love the old tunes, but I agree that certain players who always play the same sets of the same tunes can get quite tedious. But nobody forces you to go to their sessions, so who cares.

One thing that really bugs the hell out of me is younger players. maybe that haven’t been around many sessions and have a sort of performance mentality playing awful showy tunes like Tam Lin and bopping up and down like they’re trying to be all intense….sorry recent event has me all worked up

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I think a large part of the problem is the idea that there are ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ tunes, ‘beginners’ tunes and ‘advanced’ tunes. A tune played well is a good tune, and tune played badly is a bad tune. It just so happens that certain tunes have become associated with poor playing, so people avoid them. It’s a problem of association, rather than a problem with the tune. Obviously some people hate certain tunes, but they can sit them out.
The best option is to learn tunes that you like, and learn to play them well. If you play the Kesh well, it will sound good. If you play Dr Gilbert’s badly, it will sound bad. It’s nothing to do with the tune, really. Apart from the Irish Washerwoman. Just Say No!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Irish Washerwoman is actually quite tricky on banjo or mandolin. The high B on Kesh, well you sort of walk up to it like on a stepladder, whereas on Butterfly you need to jump up and pluck it confidently out of the air

The young players Splendid mentions - well, they’re just young. Let them be - go find some old codgers to play with.

Posted by .

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I couldn’t agree more with the last three posts. Splendid, like me you don’t like the same sets week-in-week-out but then this is the nature of the session where each one has it’s own ethos and we can always vote with our feet! However, if it’s your own session this may not be the solution but then you can always collaborate with some like-minded musicians to make sure you get some of the more rare sets you’d like played. As for youngsters and their "performance pieces", I’m with you 100% and funnily enough I always associate Tam Lin with this type of situation too.

Robert, your comment "A tune played well is a good tune" is also so true. I often think of comedian Frank Carson’s line on jokes "it’s the way you tell them" which applies equally for music if you substitute "play" for "tell".

Finally I’ve always had a problem with the "B" part of the Irish Washerwoman on fiddle so I often wonder why it’s looked on as a "beginner tune".

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Amy,
I’d agree with Tall & Dark….Road to Lisdoonvarna is a good one and like Llig’s recommendation of The Kesh has much to commend it….relative ease, playability, and the opportunity early on to try a bunch of variations…Important even at this juncture in the music.

You might also want to consider a 4-parter tune of some kind….perhaps Lark in the Morning…it’s also relatively easy and you can really get a nice lilt to it…*also* it seems to be the kind of tune that’s one of those great "join in" pieces….there is also tons of opportunity for variation….but get a good recording from somewhere off a cd unless you have a friend you can play you a great version with variations…in fact, find one or two recorded versions if you can [ignore the dots] and get that tune under your belt. It’s a nice one, albeit often played.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Ha ha Free Reed @ "Pop Goes the Weasel" - Just had to play that for a tiny girl with curls at a stepdance thing. She made it lots of fun.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

A fiddler I used to play with once commented that Frank’s Reel sounded a lot like, "I’m Picking up a Baby Bumblebee" (or however the lyrics go). A common tune on both sides of the pond (Frank’s reel that is), but I don’t find it particularly easy. Might be easy on a fiddle.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Frank’s Reel is "Arkansas Traveller" in disguise - FACT!!!!

Posted by .

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

"Irish Washerwoman on fiddle so I often wonder why it’s looked on as a "beginner tune"."

Not so much because it’s easy to play but because it’s already in everyone’s head. or it was in the days of Looney Tunes cartoons and the like

Posted by .

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Myself, I haven’t groaned yet, I must like ‘em all!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

I like ‘em all.

But I don’t like ‘em all if the person starting them has been playing them for three years, every week, and hasn’t learned a new tune the whole time.

Take a chance!!!

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

This is great. Thanks for all the responses. I am pleased to say that my repertoire now actually contains enough tunes that I can make it a point not to start the same tune two weeks in a row. So I will learn tunes I like (or tunes from my session that stick mercilessly in my head and beg to be learned). And I will stop worrying about it.

Re: What are the top tunes that are so overplayed at sessions, they make you groan?

Good for you, amy!
Enjoy!