Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Making a Tune Book for a Friend

I know this question has been asked almost a billion times, but I am making a tune book for a friend’s birthday (June) as she was gifted with a fiddle for christmas from her loving husband.

I have a few questions about choosing tunes to put in said tune book.

As I am a Fluter and not a Fiddler, I have no concept on what is hard and what is easy for a fiddler. I want to order her tune book from easy to hard so I need some help on this.

-What range should I look for when choosing and ranking tunes?What is basic, intermediate, hard for a beginner?
-Are there intervals or note combinations that are difficult that should be included later rather than sooner?
-Are there keys that are easy/difficult for a beginner?
-Finally, I have some tunes I plan to include as they are played around very often, but some tune suggestions and where they rank for her level (This is her first instrument ever) would be fabulous.

~Autumn

Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

You should probably try some Slow Airs/Waltz keys with one or two sharps are good having learned many insturments I know that these types of songs work really well here are a few:
"For Ireland I Won’t Say Her Name" is always a good one
"Si Bheag Si Mhor" is also good
"Shoe the Donkey" is really good it is incredibly easy
"The Kesh" is a pretty easy Jig and good for a first or second Jig
These are some easy ones to practice and improve on.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

I agree with the above reply. Also, a few easy airs are: "Dawning of the Day", "Star of the County Down". Britches Full of Stitches is a very easy polka (I think) if its played in key of A. "Connaughtman’s Rambles" is an easy jig. "Boys of Bluehill" is an easy hornpipe. Beginners tend not to play reels as they don’t sound quite right unless their played fairly fast.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Not to be contrary, but do your friend a real favor and *don’t* put together a tune book. Instead, give her a bunch of cds, or help her find a good trad teacher, or even just record yourself playing lots of tunes for her to listen to.

Let her learn to play a bit before she has to wrestle with learning to sight read. She’ll get a much better start with Irish music if she learns to listen first.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

I’d like to echo what Will says.

Let her learn to play a bit before she has to wrestle with learning to sight read. She’ll get a much better start with Irish music if she learns to listen first.

The Tradition in Traditional Music is to learn it by ear. Why do something different?

Dave

Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

It depends on the receiving person. Does she read music? Has she started playing yet? Is she getting any tuition?
I understand the book is to be a gift and not the sole grounding of a musical carreer. Yes, it can be hard to get away from sheet music later. But most people I know combine listening and reading the music.
The beginners’ key is D major (two sharps). So the fingers can stay in the same position on each string.
I suggest the tune Soldier’s Joy because it can be played at any speed and it won’t be ruined by lack of ornamentation 😉

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Maybe try both because it is important to have both skills most people don’t always stick to one insturment (as a musician taught in the classical way I can’t "play by ear well" and I envy people who can) so give her a few CDs and a tune book that way she gets the best of both worlds. Also if she needs to learn Irish Trad for Fiddle the book "The Complete Irish Fiddle" (Mel Bay) is really comprehensive but is not for novices get a basic Violin book once she is through that this book is good and is what I am using right now to learn but a teacher is never a bad idea and for a first insturment I highly recommend a teacher.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

I have several reasons why I wanted to make my friend a tune book. Pardon me in advance for being a bit defensive about the project.

She is practicing a bunch and having a really good time and is getting bored of the lesson book songs she is learning. She is striving to be able to play some of the tunes all of her friends are playing. So I thought I would help her in a constructive way and provide cd tracks of everything that made the "book". She learns better by ear but is really interested in getting better at reading music. So a book seemed like a good idea. She would get support and encouragement from a group of friends all of which have been playing 20+ years (mostly guitars and mandolins…. except me) and she would never feel like the music she was learning was pointless (as she does now).

The idea came from a conversation with her saying that she wanted to learn some songs that she hears played in our music community (minnesota renaissance festival+ITM+folk songs a la Steeleye and Fairport). The book was to be a gesture of inclusion more than anything else. I did not want to scare her away by accidently including something that was too hard too soon or overwhelm her with too many. Which is why I asked about what to look for in tunes to rank them. I was thinking that the first book would only be about 5 tunes and then add volumes every year after that. Kind of an on going thing.

I probably should have called the thread something else ‘cause I bet that most people read the title and rolled their eyes and said "not again". I searched the archives and I didn’t find a thread on how to tell (if you don’t play fiddle) if a tune would be super easy for a beginning fiddler. I just found lists of songs and I jotted them down for reference. But I still don’t know how to put them in order.

Thank you Kuec for the key advice that was very useful and exactly the type of information I was looking for. Thanks Unseen and Evi for the tune names for my list of possibilities. Thanks Will and Dave for your advice on listening and I totally agree with you on that I didn’t mention it as I didn’t question it.

~Autumn

Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Hi Autumn,
I’d suggest one tune to add to the book: Blind Mary. Very easy to play, and easy to find good recordings!
Also, Kevin Burke’s 6-cd-&-book Irish Fiddle tutor from Homespun would be good for a not totally raw beginner. The first few tunes are fairly easy, and importantly he goes over every tune a measure or two at a time, allowing you to play along and learn the tune by ear as well as reading it. He also explains what he’s doing and why, names the notes, teaches tuning, etc. Lots of good stuff for a beginner. (I’m using it to learn ornamentation and how to learn by ear.)
Good luck to your friend, I hope she has fun and gets hooked!
Sara

Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Some good jigs for beginners, once they get sick of The Kesh: Tobin’s, The Hag at the Churn, Morrisons.

Reels: Rolling in the Ryegrass, The Sack of Potatoes (Bag of Spuds), The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Hornpipes: The Boys of Bluehill, Fisher’s

Slides/Single jigs: Connie Walsh’s, The Road to Lisdoonvarna, Dan O’Keefe’s

Polkas: The Ballydesmond Polkas, Denis Murphy’s, The 42-Pound (62 Euro) Cheque

Sonny’s Mazurka

Give Me Your Hand



For what it’s worth, most of these are tunes I cut my teeth on, and are still tunes I enjoy playing. They may not constitute a true cross section of Irish Traditional repertoire, but most, if not all, of them would be widely recognised in sessions.

Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

If she’s already sight reading some, and can play basic melodies, then there’s far less chance of leading her astray by giving her sheet music for tunes she wants to play. And it helps a lot that you’re giving her a recording of the tunes as well.

But it’s still nearly impossible to offer up a formula for determining what sequence to put tunes in. Everybody comes to fiddle with different strengths and weaknesses, and a tune that’s "easy" for one person can be difficult for someone else. Some players pick up jigs easier than reels, and for others its the other way around. So I wouldn’t worry too much about what order the tunes are in. Just pick a handful of tunes, none of which is too technically demanding, and let her pick and choose what order she learns them in.

She sounds motivated to learn what the rest of you are playing, and that will carry her through the trickier passages. So just give her the tunes you play and that she wants to learn.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

And what kind of friend would you be if you didn’t steer her to thesession.org and our overflowing tune database…. 🙂

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

Wait a second get her/tell her ot get the book I mentioned before playing Irish style Fiddle is played with a completly different style than what she is probably learning this book also has 60+ tunes each new thing (rolls,slides, and most types of song playing) is explained throughly this would be an invaluable purchase for a potential session Fiddler and also the some of the tunes David mentioned are really good some of those are my standard new insturment tunes so Sonny’s Mazurka would be good to build skill on well the version I know anyway has a lot Dotted Eigth Sixteenths which would put it more of at an expirienced beginner.

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Re: Making a Tune Book for a Friend

I would echo what Will says - there are loads of tunes right here at the session and it could hardly be easier. If she wants to learn by ear then show her how to get the ABC player, sight reading - no problemo since the notation is there as well.