‘Catchy’ tunes

‘Catchy’ tunes

Probably opening up a hornet’s nest but as I hunt through the website for new tunes that I would like to learn, I find that there are a number of tunes that don’t seem to be all that memorable or catchy. Some even have sections that I find flat out unpleasant to listen to.

When I first started I was given a few recommendations and picked up a few tunes from local sessions that caught my attention. Now however, I find myself relying on pot luck as to whether the tune I look up on here is going to be catchy or run of the mill.

So…over to you…

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from this site it’s that there are a lot of people with vast knowledge and experience in this field so I’d be delighted if you could share that knowledge. I know there are plenty of discussions of ‘which tunes should I learn’ but I am not necessarily looking for easy tunes, slow tunes, well known tunes etc - I am looking for tunes that are memorable, that have a catchy melody or hook that will grab a listener’s attention.

I do not mind in the slightest if they are frowned upon in some circles, corny, overplayed or fit the description of being ‘daggy’ - if you consider them to be catchy tunes please pass on your suggestion.

Thanks in advance.

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Re: ‘Catchy’ tunes

I am with you 100%. I do not learn tunes that don’t grab me in some way. There are many tunes that, IMHO, are just so much garden variety diddley-diddley. Of course that view is purely subjective, but I don’t care. I find that I gravitate to tunes with more than two parts like Farewell to Ireland and Lark in the Morning, or tunes that have key changes like Gravel Walk or Jig of Slurs. My favorite jig is probably the Monaghan Jig. Favorite reel is Over The Moors To Maggie. I also play a lot of Scottish songs like Come By The Hills, Will Ye Go Lassie, Go, and the airs of Phil Cunningham. Very melodic stuff.

I listen and when I like, I learn. But I won’t play a tune simply because it is a session staple.

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Re: ‘Catchy’ tunes

Agree with Aiden,
’cept for the Scottish tunes.

Many tunes don’t lay well on concertina or the pipes, (and some of my favorite piping tunes don’t seem to fit the fiddle very well) I love Gravel Walks on the box, but it has no interest to me as a piping tune. I love going through the tune collections and loading the abc’s into a player to get a hint of it’s sounds, then sight reading it to find how it lays down. Recently I learned Jackie Small’s (Tailor Small’s) for it’s piping connection, but I love it on the ’tina. Nobody at session last night knew it, but to my surprise the tune I played before it, Trip to Athlone, was known to many, yet we’ve never played it before that I recall.

I too rarely learn a tune because someone else plays it. Cat’s Meow being a recent exception. I have it on both instruments but it just seems so directionless. Sorry Joanie.

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Some tunes have something of a riff that really grabs the ear and make them catchy. Some ‘riffy’ tunes that immediately come to mind are:

- The Donegal Lass
- The Dusty Windowsill
- The Growling Old Man (Might have the name wrong here - I mean the one in D, not the Canadian Am tune)
- The Red-Haired Boy (Little Beggarman)
- Cronin’s Hornpipe
- The Happy Polka
- Jean’s Reel
- Jim Hodder’s Reel
- Pigtown
- The Finnish Polka

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Unless you’ve been playing (or listening) for a long time, simply reading through sheet music can be misleading. I would listen to a lot of recordings, go to sessions, etc. Learn the tunes you like. Many times after hearing a tune that I love, I find out it was one I had previously skipped over. I just needed to hear it played really well. This weeks favorites for me:
-Sweeney’s Dream
-Love at the Endings
-Lady on the Island
-The Bloom of Youth
-The Virginian
-The Gatehouse Maid
-The Dairy Maid
-Lad O’Biern’s
-The Sailor’s Bonnet
-Toss the Feathers

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you…

It strikes me as monumentally turned-about to ‘hunt through’ or ‘look up’ tunes on this website, to figure out if you want to play them or not. Would’t you just LISTEN to to music (sessions, youtube,recordings, etc), to find tunes that you like? And then either learn by ear, or from a written source like a book or this site.

Of course, that’s assuming that you actually ever listen to traditional Irish music.

I mean, how do you select tunes to try out? By title? By numerical sequence? By key? That seems so weird to me--I get that YMMV and all the best if it works for you… but it sounds like it’s not.

A tune like “Rolling the Barrel” probably does’t seem nearly as cool on the page as it does as played by Mary McNamara or Kevin Burke. It isn’t hook-y so much as a loping, rhythmic dance groove. Or, check out The Bothy Band rocking out on “Flowers of Red Hill.”

Ok, all that aside, some catchy, hook-based tunes might include:

The Convenience
Tam Lin
Music for a Found Harmonium

You said you don’t really care, but be aware that these tunes tend to be way overplayed by dabblers, and may mark you as a poser.

edit: I cross-posted on my main point with reelsweet

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‘to to’ … I splutter a bit—apologies

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The tunes in my tunebook were all catchy to me. I need to update it, but there’s 60 tunes in it if you want to give it a look.

I tried looking through the site to find tunes that I like but it’s proven to be a very unreliable method given that a tune sounds a lot different from a MIDI keyboard than it does from a professional instrumentalist.

If you wanna find some catchy tunes, I say buy album of a musician that you really like. This is a sure-fire way to find some crackin’ tunes.

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I think this ‘catchiness’ must be a completely subjective thing. Some of tunes mentioned above - by contributors to this site whose opinions I respect - I really find, to quote, “flat out unpleasant to listen to” - examples:

Tam Lin
Music for a Found Harmonium
Farewell to Ireland
Lark in the Morning

Sorry guys. But many of the others mentioned I really like. I think it can be something to do with what, or who, you associate particular tunes with. If someone batters away at The Lark in the Morning week after week at your local session, it might get a bit tiresome. You might just get a bit fed up with the tune, so end up despising a perfectly respectable tune.

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Danny--I was not saying I like those tunes, I was saying they were ‘catchy.’ Like the flu. 🙂 I define ‘catchy’ not as ‘pleasant’ but more like ‘obvious’--the casual listener can identify it. Like a hook in pop music. I agree that whether it is perceived as pleasant or not is completely subjective.

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Ah. OK Joe, gotcha. Concertina Reel might fall into a similar category. Not much to it but it has pulse, and despite its simplicity I quite like it for its pulse. Round here we call such a tune “A Driver”. It drives the pace of a set.

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‘Catchy’ is a very subjective thing -- as evidenced by some of the comments above. Of course there are many eclectic sessions, which tolerate/encourage non-ITM tunes. E.g., Personally I think Tamlin is an awful tune, and I rarely encounter it at sessions. The same with Music for a Found Harmonium.

Catchiness is often not in the tune, but in the playing. It is impressive what can be done with very simple tunes, when they are played with lift and creative variations. The same tune sounds insipid when played with less skill. Such things are not so easy to see when just looking at dots.

Styles matter. Tastes matter. Catchy is so very subjective, it is a near impossible criteria. Literally, it means ‘immediately appealing’. If you try to expand that beyond your personal tastes, it becomes audience dependent. A lot of pop music is ‘catchy’ by definition. Jingles for TV commercials are ‘catchy’. Is that what you are looking for? Trad music does have a sense of ‘age’ to it, either in the tune itself, or in its alignment with other (old) components of the tradition.

Some tunes might have an appeal that seems timeless. My mom still loves to listen to Lawrence Welk recordings. But I wouldn’t consider Welk to be timeless. Will Beatle songs still be popular 50 years from now? Ode to Joy was written in 1824, and many people find it ‘catchy’. Others find it boring. But, if a performer modifies an old idea, brings it up to date so that it appeals to a current audience, it becomes catchy. Can you see these things by looking at the dots?

I generally don’t start with the dots for tunes I have never heard before. I have no problem finding tunes that interest me by listening to people play them (concerts, sessions, CDs, etc.). Then I might come to a place like session.org to find ideas on different ways to play the tune.

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@joe fidkid - you mean, there is such a thing as people who learn ITM strictly via dots or ABC? How sad. Must result in a lot of really dull performances.

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One thing that I find interesting is that a tune on a recording may grab my ear, and I have to go sit down and figure it out, only to realize that it’s the playing that I found catchy, not the tune. Take a band like Lunasa, for instance. While they play a wide variety of tunes, they’ll often take a simple, “rhythmic” tune and make it sound much more interesting, because of all the stuff they do with it.

(Slightly off topic, I think a lot of tunes get their catchiness by being rhythmically interesting - like maybe the Cameronian, and others get it from being more melodically interesting - like anything from Paddy Fahy, for instance. This is obviously a wild generalization, and not all tunes fit in one mold..)

So maybe it would help if you told us what tunes you find “catchy”, and then people could tell you tunes that hold the same kind of interest…

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Michael, I really don’t know if there are people who learn ITM strictly via dots. But that seems to be the OP’s approach. Right? It’s hard to imagine, I know.

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Here are a few that I never get tired of, and find “catchy”, indeed. This is for the OP. I have 50 other lists…
The Bucks of Oranmore
Lucy Campbell
Martin Wynn’s #2
The Banshee
Tarbolton/Longford Collector/ Sailor’s bonnet (don’t care if they’re played a zillion times)
George White’s favourite
Master Crowley’s
Foxhunter’s (reel & jig)
Jim Donohue’s
John Stenson’s
Lady Gordon
The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Noel Hill’s version)
Toss the Feathers #2
The Green Gowned Lass
Maud Millar
The Merry Blacksmith/ Mason’s Apron
Shaskeen
Dr Gilbert
I don’t have all night (not a tune, you catch my drift). All chestnuts, and reels, for a reason.

Re: ‘Catchy’ tunes

Thanks for all the suggestions. To clarify though, of course I don’t learn/judge purely from dots, I don’t have too many actual sessions that I can get to but do go regularly to a couple of them and pick up most of my tunebook from actual players.

I do use this site for a bit of a top up where I sometimes sit down for half an hour and have a flick through the tunes based on a particular mood or style, for example, the other day I was right in a waltzy mood and spent a bit of time trying to find a new waltz to learn.

I find it a little amusing that people thought there was someone who only ever learnt new stuff by randomly looking through this site.

My comment that I didn’t care whether they were overplayed simply referred to the fact that tunes overplayed in one place may be rarely heard elsewhere.

P.S. what’s YMMV from joefidkid’s comment mean?

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I am relieved, dcef, that I was mistaken in how I read your original post!

I’ve been thinking that just about ALL Irish music is inherently ‘catchy’ on one level or another since it’s phrase based. A tune typically states a musical idea in the first few measures, then answers it in the next few measures, then states it again, then answers it a little differently and resolves it. There’s always a phrase, a hook, a catchy little run.

YMMV = “your mileage may vary’-- another way of saying, ”you might get different results“ or ”it might be different, for you."

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Follow your own ears! As to tunes that suit or not a given instrument, that’s how new and interesting versions arise, and fall, adaptation, finding your chosen instrument’s way with a given melody… But, back to your own ears and inclinations, trust your own heart, and especially through the ears…

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I can’t agree joe, there’s a great deal of stuff (especially some of the 6/8 stuff) that just passes me by as very similar or just a stream of notes rather than a catchy melody. That’s probably just my taste/preference though.

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Re: ‘Catchy’ tunes

YMMV 🙂

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Like lots of folks have said, catchy is in the ear of the beholder. Do lots of listening, and take on the tunes you enjoy hearing. But a word to the wise, the old favorites are the old favorites for a reason. What sounds catchy from a top flight band going a mile a minute may not sound catchy in the hands of a beginner. So don’t turn your nose up at the straightforward tunes.

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The Snowy Path by Alten is very catchy. I love that tune and it’s been one I’ve been meaning to learn the rest of. Bag of spuds by O’Conner on tener banjo is very nice. The gooseberry bush and Arthur Darley’s by Mick Molony are both really catchy and nice tunes.
All things I’m trying to work on and learn 🙂

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I’m with you Al.
I think those are all mighty tunes, too, BlindBard!

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At least a few people have said that “catchy” is subjective. While strictly speaking that may be true (after all, nothing appeals to everybody), if you are reasonably musical, you can identify catchy. Back in the days when I actually listened to the radio, it was seldom if ever that I could not identify a hit before it became one. Similarly, with advertising jingles. Film composer John Williams probably understands catchy better than any other film composer living or dead. Whether or not you like catchy, if you’re worth your salt as a musician, you should be able to identify it.

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“The Snowy Path by Altan is very catchy”

That’s possibly another example of “catchiness” (According to the spell checker here, there’s no such word 🙂 ) being in the ear of the listener.

It’s one of my favourite tunes and I can play it no bother now but, at the time, it didn’t seem to be the most accessible melody. The same applies to many tunes though. If you’ve been playing them for a long time, they often sound easier than what they are and obviously still very catchy to yourself.
There are some tunes which seem to have instant appeal though or are very easy to pick up and it’s usually those, though not all, which tend to wear very quickly.

On the other other hand, there are many tunes….. I hesitate to say this….. especially some of the new modern tunes which are not catchy at all and many of these seem to be very popular. I can play quite a few of them if I have to although there’s some which I can never really get into the swing of playing. Because they don’t have “a hook” or pattern which I can identify or sound particularly enjoyable, I don’t usually make much effort to learn them either. So, when they turn up in a session, I just give a grump and drink some beer. Everyone else seems to know and like them though!

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The worst thing with new tunes is that while there may be a dozen musicans who know the tune, the aren’t any backers who know what to play unless they’ve heard the recording. Quite often, there’s a certain chord sequence (which might change after each iteration), and playing a tune without hearing the appropriate chords is painful. Of course this applies to standards as well.

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I dunno if this will come out or not, but this tune caught my attention that I named it, Sue’s Happy Tune pick.

X: 90
T:Lorna’s Reel
% Nottingham Music Database
S:Bryon Bonnett, via PR
M:4/4
L:1/4
K:G
A|“G”B/2dB/2 AG|B/2d/2B/2d/2 AG|“G”B/2^A/2B =AG|“C”C4|“D”F/2AF/2 ED|
F/2A/2F/2A/2 ED|“D”FF E^D|“G”D2 -“D7”D2|“G”B/2dB/2 AG|B/2d/2B/2d/2 AG|
“G”B/2^A/2B =AG|“C”C4|“D”F/2AF/2 ED|F/2A/2F/2A/2 ED|“D7”_BB A_A|“G7”G4||
“C”E/2G/2c ec|E/2G/2c ec|“G”d/2^c/2d BG|D4|“A”^c/2=c/2^c A/2^G/2A|
“A”^c/2=c/2^c “A7”A/2B/2c|“D7”dc AF|D^D E=D|“G”B/2dB/2 AG|B/2d/2B/2d/2 AG||
“G”B/2^A/2B =AG|“C”C4|“D”F/2AF/2 ED|F/2A/2F/2A/2 ED|“D7”_BB A_A|“G7”G4||

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