trad or self-made?

trad or self-made?


How can I find out whether a tune is a traditional tune or a contemporary product?

(I don’t know too many tunes yet and I want to spend my time on the originals.)

Re: trad or self-made?

If it’s on a CD then there should be something on the sleeve or in a tag that says who the composer is (or if it’s "trad"). Likewise, printed tune books usually tell you as well. Ideally, the composer should also be mentioned here, in the Tunes section, but this is often more a pious hope than a reality!
Having said that, many contemporary tunes can sound "trad", and you’d be pushed to tell the difference.
If a tune is in an old book such as O’Neill’s "1001", then it will certainly be "trad".

Re: trad or self-made?

Only in the US. For the rest of the world, copyright lasts 70 years from the death of the composer. O’Neills was published in 1907 so it is certainly possible that somebody could have had a tune in there and lived on to 1940. (In classical music the most dramatic example is Richard Strauss, who died in 1949 - his estate is still collecting big-time on works written in the 1880s)

In practice it’s not all that likely that anybody will come after you for royalties for such a tune. And if you’re not doing anything commercial you can ignore it.

And if you’ve found yourself a modern tune that you can’t tell from the idiom in O’Neills then it’s just as traditional. All sessions have lots of tunes like that.

Re: trad or self-made?

You could do worse than ask folks here about a specific tune. There are some pretty encyclopaedic minds lurking behind the mustard…

Re: trad or self-made?

If a tune is played by an artist, no problem.
But how can I find out with contributions here in the tune section if they are humespun or trad, if no-one comments on the origins?

(When I hear a tune on a recording, I know if it’s fine or not. But I often try out tunes I don’t know from the collection here)

Re: trad or self-made?

Maybe you should state more clearly as to why you want to differentiate.

If you’re just interested in learning tunes to play for your own and your friends enjoyment, then it matters little whether they’re old or recent in origin, as long as they are good tunes, you like them and your mates play them etc.

If it’s for commercial reasons, recording a CD etc., that’s a different kettle of fish.

Posted .

Re: trad or self-made?

Don’t limit yourself, if it moves you and draws you in, give it time and get personal with it. It might be just for the moment, but it won’t do you any harm. Answer your heart, don’t set limitations… Besides, most of what ‘survives’ long exercises and appreciated, and most of the crap new tunes eventually die off after being flogged to death. ‘Melodrama’ can tickly the heart initially, but the silliness of it eventually becomes clear with a longer association with older traditions. The same is often true for old tunes that get flogged to death and that some eventually tire of. Later on, as time passes, such folk gain a new appreciation for those old standards, like the varsovienne "Shoe the Donkey", or that old kick around "Soldier’s Joy", they re-discover the fun in it all when they stop taking themselves so damned seriously.

Much of the ‘new’ is pretentious and over the top, trying too hard to be cute or ‘different’. That doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. Just don’t take it so seriously that you feel you need to block something out, set rules and limitations. It’s all relative, and as much of this is about passion and the heart, it’s also subjective in great measure. It is part of what makes us unique, so follow your heart, and what happens locally with your friends that you share the music with, with your local session. If it doesn’t move you, enjoy your pint and just listen. If it does move you, no matter what the source or how naive your understanding ~ take it on and enjoy if for the moment, or enjoy it because a friend takes pleasure in it and you’d like to be part of that craic…

Oops! Something skipped sense there ~ "most of what ‘survives’ has had long exercise and appreciation ~ survives for a reason, it has lasting quality and interest, fits the needs of all, musician and dancer and listener ~ while crap tunes eventually start to stink and tend to have a short life expectancy, but for their time give someone a kick, a bit of fun and distraction… Children often like playing with mud and smellier things of similar consistency… 😛
And eating dirt and bugs… YUCK! Fortunately, for most, they grow out of it…

Re: trad or self-made?

The (very many) longstanding traditional tunes on this site are almost invariably well commented on in their Comments sections, and their popularity can be gauged roughly from the number of albums they are stated to appear on!

Kuntz’s Fiddlers Companion (online) is another good source, not only for tunes but also for information on a tune for which you have a name but lack background details. Though I should imagine Kuntz’s site is less likely to collect very new compositions than this one.

Re: trad or self-made?

As I’ve said before, I think this site (and other like it) should have a field to show who the composer was, if known, and also to show the current copyright status.

This is not to stop people playing the tunes - far from it - but to help provide the data we need to get fair deals for sessionistas out of people like PRS.

We can only prove a reasonable radio of PD (lots) to copyright (few) works if everyone has at least a vague idea of which is which.

And that means fostering a culture where writers are respected.

Re: trad or self-made?

>> But I often try out tunes I don’t know from the collection here <<

I don’t think this is a great idea.

I won’t dwell on the arguments for and against learning tunes from dots - these have been made ad nauseam already.

But so many of the tunes on here are riddled with errors, it would be unwise to make it a primary source for learning.

Re: trad or self-made?

if you go to the member’s section here, and select the "tunebook" tab, you will see tunes listed by how many of us have them in our tunebooks. The first 3 or 4 pages are all pretty well known and widely played tunes, which is what you are looking for.

Learning new tunes

I’d like to concur with Dave - the best road to a tune is to hear it first, played by somebody proficient, and after you’ve heard it and know you like it, then go ahead and learn it, and whenever possible make use of a recording (ad-hoc recordings from your session often do nicely). I would suggest to use the site for support, not as a primary source.

Re: trad or self-made?

Hi folks,

it’s very nice to share your philosophies about dots, ears, copyright, ancient publications, and the rest.
But I’m no beginner, I play professionally since 25 years. I am only rather new to ITM and I’m simply missing the composer info in most tunes here, nothing else.
(Of course I start by listening, but I am curious as well and try out many things. I never play the tunes the way they are written ;- )


Re: trad or self-made?

the suggestions and links given are still relevant, probably more so for those that think they’re already there but coming from a different tradition, and sometimes the conviction of knowledge is even worse with those that are ‘professionally’ rooted to their base knowledge with regards to music or genres other than our main focus here.

If you want other lists of what is most common you’ll find those both here in the comments, in the following member’s details ~

And here’s another source ~ ‘Top 100’, ‘Top 10 of this and that’ ~ "choose tune type" ~

Highly recommended ~ that no matter what you think you know or think you can do ~ don’t take this music for granted, or allow your 25 years doing something else to blinker you. But, you have my respect for 25 years of dedication, whatever your focus was…

Re: trad or self-made?

"How can I find out whether a tune is a traditional tune or a contemporary product?"

Is there a difference and does it matter? What do you consider contemporary? There are hundreds of tunes composed ‘in the idiom’ within the last 60 years or so that are as much a part of the traditional repertoire as tunes whose origins are lost in the mists of time -Junior Crehan, Paddy Fahey, Father P.J. Kelly, Paddy O’Brien, Ed Reavy, Sean Ryan, Liz Carroll, Charlie Lennon and Finbarr Dwyer are some of the more prolific contributors to the repertoire. Tony Sullivan, Tom McElvogue, Frankie Gavin, Maire Breathnach and Michael McGoldrick have all composed tunes that are frequently heard in sessions. Many of these tunes are recogniseable as more recent compositions - or will become so to you as your repertoire increases.

But it seems to me that the two most important factors to consider in choosing which tunes to learn are:
i. Which tunes do you like?
ii. Which tunes get played in your local session?

Obviously, playing tunes you like the sound of (after all, what music *sounds like* is the whole point of music) will give you the greatest pleasure. Then again, learning tunes which, in themselves, do not excite you particularly, might allow you the satisfaction of playing together with others. If you really dislike a tune, then there’s no point in learning it.

Re: trad or self-made?

"Is there a difference and does it matter?"

Yes and Yes.

It’s important to know which tunes are old and which are new for two reasons. Neither may be important to the individual, nor to the session group, but they are to the big picture.

The first issue is provenance/patina - call it what you will. Part of the pleasure of playing a tune can be - for some people - knowing its story; for example knowing that this is an old tune and that there are Irish, Scottish AND bluegrass versions, and how/why they differ. And if it’s a new tune then knowing the composer can add something too - not least the ability to seek out other tunes from the same pen.

The other issue matters for two connected reasons. If people assume a new work is trad when it’s not they may get into trouble if they (or others who learn it down the line) record it. Quite a lot of new tunes operate on an unofficial ‘creative commons’-style copyright, whereby the composer is happy for the tune to be played in sessions, but would expect royalties (or the publisher might) if it’s being sold as a recording or played at a proper performance/gig.

Allied to this is the issue of PRS licensing. If a session plays one tune that is in PRS control then PRS claim a licence must be in place - and if the landlord won’t pay up then the session will close.

The only way round this is to either only play public domain material, or to formalise the creative commons status within PRS - something for which I’ve been trying to drum up support.

Either way, fostering a culture in which tune writers are recognised is a good thing (hence why this site is wrong not to include a writer/copyright field - and PRS are aware of this situation by the way).

See LOTS more here