My Favourite Tunebooks

My Favourite Tunebooks

In another thread someone said, "Not one of my favourites…" That got me thinking that it would be interesting to know what some of your favourites are. I’m a tunebook junkie with a very large collection, but I think my favourites are collections from the field. However, I love most tune books. Here are some of my favourites:

Irish books might include
• The Northern Fiddler (1979)
• Hidden Fermanagh (2003)
• Trip to Sligo (1990)
• Ceol Rince na h’Eireann
• Music from Ireland (1974)
• Martin Mulvihill’s First Collection (1986)
• The Dance Music of Willie Clancy (1976)

Scottish
• Flowers of Scottish Melody (1935)
• Kerr’s Merry Melodies (4 vols, c.1870s)
• The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island (1996)
• Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton (1996)
• The Scottish Music Maker (1957)
• The Cape Breton Scottish Collection (2013)

Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

http://www.sweetheartflute.com/music.html

Smoke In Your Eyes is far and away the best I’ve seen. Almost any time I hear a tune to learn, I can find it here, and the settings are spot on. Indispensable, IMO.

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Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

Hey Ailin. I was gonna say that! :) I also sometimes go to the King Street book and O’Neill’s.

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In addition to many of your favorites, Nigel, I often go back to these:
Irish:
Bulmer Sharpley V1-4
O’Neill’s 1850
Sully’s Irish Banjo Book
Joyce, Forde, Piggot Collection (PDF)
Piper’s Chair (Micho Russell)
Music and Songs from The Boys of the Lough
An Piobaire (Moylan)
Ag Deanamh Ceoil (CCE)

Contemporary:
Liz Carroll Collected
Black Isle Music V1&2 (Murphy)

Scottish:
Fiddle Music of Scotland (Hunter)

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+1 for Trip To Sligo. Other favourites of mine are two digital tunebooks (that surely counts does it) by John Walsh et al. @ ceolas.org: Session Tunes and the Paddy O’Brien Collection.
http://www.ceolas.org/pub/tunes/tunes.pdf/SessionTunes.pdf
http://www.ceolas.org/pub/tunes/tunes.pdf/POB.pdf

These two files helped me immensely to build up a certain repertoire; and the settings provided are particularly nice IMO, quite usable yet not too vanilla. Also a very nice and solid selection of tunes. Very nice overall. :~)

And then something slightly different: the Turoe Stone Collection by Vincent Broderick. — Not exactly a compilation of traditional tunes of course, but probably traditional enough by now.

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My favourite has to be The Northern Fiddler. I love the way it is laid out as the repertoire of individual players, so that you can play through one man’s tunes and get a feel of what his fiddling was all about.

For inspiration I really like Jerry Holland’s collections - when I’m feeling jaded and tired of the same old same old, opening Jerry Holland at a random page almost always provides something unusual to get the juices flowing again.

But these days I find myself looking more and more to individuals’ self penned stuff - on the floor around my music stand at the moment there are:
The Wrigley Sisters’ Trad Secrets
Fred Morrisons’ Outlands
Tom Anderson Collection (vol2)
Gordon Duncan’s Tunes
The MacAndrew Collection
and one of the Ho-ro-gheallaidh series.

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I think the Foinn Seisiún books 1- 3 put out by Comhaltas (and Brian Prior, our own sorely missed member 2466 "Bannerman" RIP) are great go-to books for solid settings.

I’m with Toppish on the Bulmer-Sharpley books offering straightforward, can’t-go-wrong settings.

I’ve said before that I think of O’Neill’s 1850 as the Bible: everyone is familiar with it but nobody actually follows it.

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O’Neill’s is the first book I got, but sadly, the settings are seldom the way I hear the tune’s played.

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I really like "The Portland Collection" books—there are currently three volumes. The settings are generally simple, but they’re a good starting point for building on. They are compiled with contradance in mind, though, but there’s a lot of good ITM.

I think I’ll order a copy of "Smoke in Your Eyes". That looks like fun.

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I have to say that I’m not really fond of B&S… yes you have your ready 2 go settings, but what for? It may have its use as a kind of standard reference, but it’s nothing I’d browse for the mere fun of it. That’s just uninteresting IMO: I want a tunebook for some real input, not just something to look up tunes I forgot, or tunes I know I want to learn in advance. And as a building block for an aspiring learner it’s probably too extensive (as opposed to the aforementioned Session Tunes by John Walsh for example, where the knack is partly the selection itself).

@joe: That assessment re. O’Neill’s is spot on! :~D

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The Irish Session Tune Books by Brid Cranitch/Sheila Garry come with a CD recording, at moderate tempo.
The Compositions of Paddy O’Brien. O’Neill’s 1001,edited by Krassen, and the Shaskeen books. Kerr’s 1-4 as well, I picked them up for $2 each. In good condition!

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I play contra dances regularly. The Portland books are "must haves" for them, and the New England books a very close second. For Irish tunes, not so much. The Irish tunes just don’t come out right outside of the Contra world.

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RF: "For Irish tunes, not so much. The Irish tunes just don’t come out right outside of the Contra world."

What does this mean?

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In defense of Bulmer-Sharpley, I really only use tune books as something to look into for a tune I’ve heard, and want to see if what I heard is what other people (ie. a book’s compiler) has heard. B-S suits that need well. I forgot about John Walsh’s tune book. That one got me started. Fantastic source. And you’re spot on, mëgafrog— the repertoire/selection is as important as the transcriptions. The Peter Cooper Mel Bay book and Matt Cranitch’s book are good for this reason.

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Toppish, that has me stumped as well. I’m also wondering how junkies compiling endless lists of tunebooks is any way to determine one’s *favourite*? Or should I say favourites?

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I got my start on a lot of tunes out of the Mallinson books, 100 Essential Session Tunes, 100 Evergreen Session Tunes, etc, etc.

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Joe, are you sure it’s OK to post the Bulmer & Sharpley sourced from Bill Black’s earlier online posts?

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Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

I’ll wait for the cease and desist order

Re: Bulmer & Sharpley

Not the point, Mr. Fago.

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Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

What is your point then Ben? Please speak plainly. It’s not my wish to infringe on other people’s income from potential book sales, or to take credit for others’ intellectual endeavors. What I’ve posted seems to me to be interpretations several generations removed from source materials. Maybe I’m naive in my belief that no harm is done if a small group of enthusiasts have access to materials for learning purposes.

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Joe, I have posted Bill Black’s links in the past. I know he has gone to great efforts transcribing various sources into ABC. But I have also seen many of those transcriptions taken offline, by Mr.Black.
I’m not sure about the current status of the collection you posted; though I think it may be in limbo. If I recall Bill removed the abcs. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be in the public domain (it is easily available for anyone who knows how to find it) just that *rights* for the original transcriptions might still be firmly held by one of the parties.

Having said that [legal bit of bullshit] the B & S collection is probably the one which I have most often heard acclaimed by members on this site.

Mr. Fago, you put me in the paradoxical situation of asking both if you have the right to post the collection, "Music From Ireland", yet also being a champion of your decision to provide all their settings to the public at large. I do not condemn your actions. I do seriously ask about your conviction.

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"for Irish tunes, not so much". I guess what I mean is that the tunes are presented in the Portland and New England books in the a very bare bones condition (not unlike the way most tune books do)…and they get played that way, like an old time tune, with old time lift, and old time ornamentation (meaning mostly none). Often there’s a piano, bass, (boom-chuck) guitar, 5-string claw-hammer banjo, and maybe a drum kit, involved. As such the tunes come out a bit "marchy" with hyper-emphasis on heavy metronomic rhythm all for the benefit of a room full of dancers mostly in long lines. As the bassist I’m particularly sensitive to that. Absolutely no cynical intention here…that’s what contra-dance music is for and judging from the looks on the faces of the dancers, it’s a lot of fun! Still it’s devoid of the lift and ornamentation that makes a tune Irish. So, that’s what I mean. What’s written "bare-bones" is played bare-bones. In the Contra world that’s the better way to play them, clean and simple, for dancing. Outside of the Contra world the Irish tune asks for more.

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Don’t think I have pdfs of the Skye and Scottish Violinist books, thanks Joe.

I download stuff as soon as I find it, you never know when someone will cry bloody murder and it will vanish in a puff of smoke. Bill Black’s website is a must go, he has the Brendan Tonra and Joe Liddy books for instance, if you’re smitten with these composers.

O’Neill’s Waifs stands out for its odds and ends. Pat McNulty’s Dance Music of Ireland from the 60s has some real gems despite its slimness. Can’t forget the Ceol Rince na Eireann books, or Tunes of the Munster Pipers, or the Johnny O’Leary, or…really, we’re drowning in books here. I remember in the 90s reading about the Kohler’s books in the liner notes of Cape Breton records, wondering what the heck kind of gems were therein. Eventually some kind soul scanned ‘em and there you are. Saved me a trip to Edinburgh!

But mostly these days I just practice the tunes I already know.

Can’t forget funky old books from the 19th century you can find at archive.org, like the various tomes published by Elias Howe. No end of oddball quadrilles and cotillions in there.

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Ceolsean.net and , funnily enough the fiddlers fakebook.

Re: Diet For The Rapacious Tune Collector

Here’s dessert; feast your eyes on these books & abc collections…

Haand me doon da fiddle ~ Tom Anderson & Pam Swing
http://www.malcolmrutter.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/hmddf.pdf

The Road to Glountane
"Terence "Cuz" Teahan, with Josh Dunson. Tune transcriptions and copying by Ann and Chuck Heymann.
The Road to Glountane represents the life work of master musician Terence "Cuz" Teahan. It contains fifty-five
of his original compositions: reels, slides, jigs, polkas, hornpipes, and highland flings. An additional seven tunes
written in honor of Cuz by fellow musicians and one special tune are also included."
http://www.scribd.com/doc/136684203/The-Road-to-Glountane

The Reel Book
"1739 tunes, 190 musicians, 973 pages of hand written Irish traditional music performances from 117 albums
and several field recordings. Album release dates from 1920 to 1992."
http://thereelbook.com/samples.aspx

Saint Patrick Was a Cajun
"All tunes in this abc file have been © 2010, 2014 L.E. McCullough.
Transcribing through 146 was done by L.E. McCullough and Lesl Harker.
Transcribing later than 146 was done by L.E. McCullough."
http://www.gjk2.com/lem/lem.abc

Cranford Publications
"Hundreds of tunes- the majority not found in our current books"
http://www.cranfordpub.com/tunes/abcs/abc_tunes.htm

http://imslp.org/wiki/A_Third_Collection_of_Strathspey_Reels,_etc._%28Gow,_Niel%29

Highland Music Trust ~ Free Downloads
http://www.heallan.com/freedownloads.asp

Ross’s Music Page ~ ‘Pastoral/union/uilleann and Northumbrian pipe music’
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/music/index.html#Union-ms

The Black Book - Peterborough Rendition
http://www.kenb.ca/blackbook/

I also want to thank Joe for the tunebooks on his site. I appreciate it very much, Mr. Fago. Sorry if I sound like the bad cop over Blumer & Sharpley’s books. That’s a tricky one. I did check Bill Black’s website & it appears he is doing his best to not encroach on anyone else’s rights while still providing all the abcs with background information for each tune transcription (the forum had a discussion here a couple of years back, about the collection).
Once again ~ very good work, Mr. Fago, Mr. Black & Mr. Gatherer.

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Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

Forgot to add:
Tutor for the Feadog Stain (Macthuna) a favorite - and not a beginner’s book as it may seem.


@ross raison - While I think that Sue Songer’s labor of love, and very useful Portland Collection is valuable for one finding standard tunes that may have been heard, and would like to learn, then, fine. If, by the New England books, you mean Rodney and Randy Miller’s books, or perhaps Larry Unger’s tune books, well, that’s fine, too.

If by characterizing contra music as ‘marchy’, ‘old time’ and only benefiting from ‘hyper-emphasis on heavy metronomic rhythm’, it’s my opinion that you’re missing a lot of what contra music really is. While I know that contra has utilized old time constructs (which you’ve mentioned) and melodies, to be honest, it doesn’t, in a technical sense, fit the form very well. Many, many old time tunes don’t fit into the 32 bar norm that is a nearly universal construct of contra calling. Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, New England tunes in many cases do. That would be 32 bar jigs, reels, and some hornpipes (if one is manic enough to do it). If, as a musician, all you want to deliver is a beat, well, to me, that’s not very interesting or challenging.

As an example of this point you only have to look at the catalogs of Wild Asparagus, Nightingale, KBR, Dudley Laufmann, Hillbillys from Mars, et al, to see that for many years, decades, contra music has been based on Irish and Scottish tunes, and the introduction of old time music is a relatively new arrival in contra. This is, of course, a function of where you live and what bands/callers there are, but, having traveled the country in contra bands, I’d say that old time is not the norm. The first time I heard an old time band play contra was in the late ‘80s in Seattle, and it was the ‘Rose City Aces’ with the late Warren Argo. Brilliant, and an anomaly. Most recently, ‘Hotpoint’ from Ohio, who’s take on old-time was more akin to jazz, or trans music - something you’d never find in a book. (I, further, found that the individual dances, when old time music was played would often go on for 15 or more minutes, whereas when standard 32 bar tunes were played the dances usually only lasted for 9 to 10 minutes. Just an observation.)

I think both forms are valid, but to say that Irish/Scots music found in the afore mentioned texts is not workable because of ‘lift’ or ‘ornamentation’ misses an entire genre of music/bands/players/evidence to the contrary.

Re: My Favourite Tunebooks

No worries AB Steen. On reflection, it’s probably best to only post material clearly and cleanly in public domain. I appreciate the wake up call.

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I’ve always liked Cole’s/Ryan’s, though like O’Neill’s the settings aren’t much like those used today. Lot of good tunes in need of revival in Cole’s! Kerr’s, too.

For Irish/PNW settings I too like Smoke In Your Eyes, but my very favorite is a trio of tunebooks I bought at Custy’s in Ennis ten years ago. The first is by Geraldine Cotter, called "Irish Session Tunes— The Green Book". The other two were compiled by David Taylor, "Music For The Sets"; one is "The Yellow Book" and the other is "The Blue Book".

All three of these books have simple settings for tunes commonly played in sessions in Ireland. The settings are close to what many people actually play these days.

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@Toppish. Well then! Thanks for the new take on contra. Looks like I’ll have to dig a bit deeper and learn something. My exposure to this style is a bit limited. I play one or two contra dances a month and other than that youtube is my only resource. I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. I would never say, or feel, that contra music is somehow less than Irish trad…and maybe I should say that when I talk about Irish trad I’m usually talking about session tunes. I realize that trad is really a very broad term. Anyway contra is by itself a rich and thoroughly enjoyable music form. I only mean to say that in my experience (and I’m far from being a young man) music of just about any genre is approached differently for dancing than for listening/performing. I’d include ceili in the same generalization. The same tunes are just taken differently than they are in a session. Maybe that’s why disco couldn’t last…great for dancing, abysmal to listen to :)! That’s why I feel that when an Irish tune is played for dancing, contra or otherwise, it just doesn’t sound the same to me. By the way, that’s even true of Old Time tunes. Finding an approach, even a rhythm-heavy one, that includes dancers in the experience while excluding some other nuances, is far from unexciting.

As for the 32 bar standard I’d have to say that I find more divergence in Irish. Off the top of my head I can find many multiple part Irish jigs, reels etc. than OT. There are of course many non-square OT tunes…I just don’t know (or like) more than a very, very few. As an aside, I usually include New England tunes with Old Time, am I wrong to do that? I’m probably an outlier here but I would argue that basing a tune on an Irish/Scot tune doesn’t go very far towards maintaining the Scot/Irish integrity of the tune. My reasons for that feeling would take a very long time to explain and starts to enter the realm of neuro-science. To be sure, the approaches one takes to make an Irish tune work for ceili dances, contra dances , country dances, performance, sessions are all useful and valid, just not the same, and to my mind, unique to the situation. So, Sir, I pretty sure that we’re not so far apart here…just a degree or two. Thanks for prodding me to learn more about contra.

By the way, Hilarie Burhans, has a familial relation ( I forget what it is) to my physician. She’s a unique person to be sure.

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This is on a different note, but I just got Tommy Peoples’s new book a couple months ago and it is a really fun read. Not really a reference for common session tunes like folks listing above but it is full of stories for all his tunes, hand drawn tune settings, and some nice fiddling advice in the beginning. It it really fun.

http://www.tommypeoples.ie/

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It is not Irish, but one of my favorite tune books of all time is The Fifer’s Delight, by Ralph Sweet, and The Fifer’s Delightful Companion, a book of harmonies for the original book. Lots of good tunes in nice clean settings, with nice simple suggested guitar chords. From lots of traditions, including Irish, Scottish, American, Canadian, fifing and contradance. And harmonizing tunes can be a lot of fun, while not something I would be bringing to the local session.

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Tunes of the Munster Pipers

Hidden Fermanagh

Learn to Play Uilleann Pipes with the Armagh Pipers Club

O’Neill’s 1001

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Beg Borrowed and Stolen is available in Australia. A collection of tunes for beginners and a staple for sessions. Has been around for many years. I would not be here without it. It now has 4 cds in the package. Thanks for all these posting. A great discussion and loads of useful information. Jan