minor tune addiction

minor tune addiction

Anyone else find minor tunes sooooo much more fun to learn and play than jingly jangly nicey nicey major tunes??

Just me?

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Nope! It is not just you. The majors indeed do tend to be bright and brilliant, great for dance tunes and great for military parades, etc. But shifting into the minors can go into a whole ’nother world. On flute, I have had tears flooding from my eyes on playing some of the most beautiful minor tunes.

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There are minor tunes and minor tunes. Some come across to me as nothing less than extended long groans. The Tongadale Reel comes straight to my mind as an example. But there are people who *love* this kind! And especially if they’re in D minor or G minor, heterodox keys for some of us. It’s fiddlers who dig these, being children of Paganini and in some cases having more rather than less of the sado-masochistic Goth streak that has, surely, to be part of the makeup of anyone who embarks on the torturous business of becoming a fiddler in the first place.

Don’t mind me, I’m just waking up to the day 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉 …!

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Oh, I love both: Stanes Morris & the Atholl Highlanders.
So many mouthwatering tunes to learn - so little time! 🙂

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Absolutely agree about minor tunes. I am obsessed with anything in E dorian!

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Everytime a minor tune comes along my daughter compliments me that i’ m playing so beautiful. I wonder if i really play with more attention and feelings (certainly could be) or if it is just an unconscious love for minor keys by my daughter and myself. Especially for her in slow airs.

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@ stefanremy

One of my music teachers once said that a semitone can be the most sensitive step in all of music.

Yes, the major keys can be bright and brilliant, but the minor keys can rip your heart out.

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Minor tunes can sometimes be beautiful things. The important word there is “sometimes” and I do play a lot of them. I confess that as I read over my tune list the ones I really like are mostly in Major keys. If pressed to the wall I guess I feel like there are too many (not all for sure) minor tunes that are angst ridden, whiney, droning, things. They remind me of the singer-songwriters, many quite talented, who show up at open mic nights to sing sad songs about sad lives that I know they have not experienced. One thing I was not sorry to leave behind when I quit playing blues/rock was pentatonic scales. It is that flattened half tone that darkens the mood. It is the lightness and joy in major key Irish tunes that attracts me. Funny, it just now occurred to me that I feel the same way about the old-time and contra tunes that I play. I have a rough idea, very non-specific, that it’s less work to infuse a tune with a sad feeling than with a bright feeling. Often all you have to do is play slowly. Joy and laughter are valued feelings. I think we all need more of that in our lives.

This just my notion, my way. My wife may say that I need to see a shrink, I’m not unhappy enough! I fully understand and respect the attraction of the dark, sad tune. Still I mostly wish, joy and laughter for us all.

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‘D minor…. which I always find is really the saddest of all keys’ ; )

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I do like quite a few tunes in the minor keys, just as much as the ones in major keys.

I think my favourites would be those that have both - eg, Reel Beatrice, where it modulates from minor to major between the B and C part. There’s a setting here : https://thesession.org/tunes/483 (1st setting), but I think it’s more fiddle-friendly if played in Gm instead of Am.

Also, Princess Beatrice is another one, which modulates between minor and major from the A part to the B part : https://thesession.org/tunes/4299 (2nd setting).

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Yes, Doug it is definitely Major Key. As goofy as that may sound it makes me smile. Thank you!

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One of my favourite songs to perform with guitar is “Follow me up to Carlow.” I base my playing of it on Gm.
One of my own songs “Where the Wild Birds Sing on the Mountain” is based on Bm, but the refrain to each verse is major. If anyone wishes to hear a lousy video of it, you’ll find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs8Vf_CfCV0

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could some of you give us a kind of list or some exemples of the best minor/major tunes ? Especially reels

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I love major key tunes. Really super happy ones get me dancing and smiling. An example is the Dance of the Honeybees. I like a good mixolydian tune, too.

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you need both minor and major modes in a set to give balance - light and dark, yin and yang, day and night.

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Yep, in the best of melodies, majors and minors can and do interchange, all in the same piece.

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Brahms lullaby is major though no?

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On Brahms lullaby, listen to the focus of the melody. A minor key is made of the same tones as a major key but shifted downwards. The minor keys can rip your heart out. The minor keys are sneaky like that.

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so it is - my own personal favourite is Oidche Mhath Leibh, surely one of the loveliest Gaelic lullabys
that swims in and out of minor and major modes

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The jig Balls To Hall is in E minor in the first part, E Major in the second:

https://thesession.org/tunes/6279

It may not be exactly the ‘soulful’ kind of tune some on this thread may have mentioned or be looking for, but it’s a cracking good one… 🙂

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“It’s fiddlers who dig these, being children of Paganini and in some cases having more rather than less of the sado-masochistic Goth streak that has, surely, to be part of the makeup of anyone who embarks on the torturous business of becoming a fiddler in the first place.” -nicholas.

…children of Pag… rofl. And isn’t this supposed to be a um, family friendly page…? ;) ;)

Love minor tunes. Amazing what lowering that third will do to your heartstrings.

“This just my notion, my way. My wife may say that I need to see a shrink, I’m not unhappy enough! I fully understand and respect the attraction of the dark, sad tune. Still I mostly wish, joy and laughter for us all.”

Ross… your wife is a very blessed woman. IMO the only reason you’d need to see a shrink would be to share some of that happiness to someone who needs it. 🙂

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No, definitely not addicted. Long sets of fast jigs or reels in nothing but minors, (not even changing key sometimes) make me lose the will to live. And yes, it happens at fiddle festivals.
I prefer majors on the whole, but I don’t mind slipping one or even 2 minor key tunes into a set, and I like all the pipe scale modal tunes we have in Scotland, but variety is what makes a good set. And I would never choose to finish a set with a minor key tune.
But slow airs in minor keys, they are OK, but then I am just addicted to slow airs in whatever key or mode.

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The Brahms lullaby is certainly in a major key. But mention of it in this discussion makes me wonder if lullabies are ever written in minor keys. Would small children be more likely to have bad dreams if they were lulled to sleep hearing melodies in minor keys? Or would we as children get used to it, so that the minor keys lose the ability to affect us as deeply as they sometimes do?

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virtually any major key tune will dip briefly into a minor tonality at times - a G major tune will have an E m
chord, a D major a Bm chord, an A maj an F# chord somewhere - sometimes a major tune will finish hanging on a minor chord, Ewan McColl’s much abused ‘Dirty old Town’ for example

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To contribute to the discussion, I personally find that good tunes are good tunes, regardless of the tonality. There are great major tunes, great minor tunes, and great modal tunes. Of course there are also poor examples of all of those. The player tends to have more influence on what makes a tune interesting than anything else. Players who just plod through tunes generally don’t leave me interested in listening to their playing.

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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CgwxarS18NM


A perfect minor / major reel with added emphasis between the parts with the ‘moving’ drones/ regs.
Really class stuff. I recommend his music of the Gentlemen Piper s recording as well.

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5stringfool: “What it comes down to is whether the 3rd of the scale, and tonic chord, is 3 semi-tones above the root( minor) or 4 (Major.) That is objective, and easy enough to hear.”

You are correct, of course, in your summarisation of the difference between ‘major’ and ‘minor’. But just which note is the root may sometimes be open to interpretation. Our perception of tonality is often influenced by the chords we are used to hearing with a tune.

I first heard this jig https://thesession.org/tunes/1043 played on pipes, with a D drone. Whilst many people would say it is in A dorian (both parts end on an A note), I hear it very definitely as a D mixolydian tune, and treat it as such when adding open string drones, double stops etc. - the fact that it ends on A is a small (I’m avoiding using the word ‘minor’ here 😉 ) quirk. There are many more examples.

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If you can’t make up your mind if a tune is major or minor, it’s probably modal!
And yes, Brahms’ Lullaby is major throughout, as is Matt McGinn’s “Coorie Doon”.

Re: …If you can’t make up your mind … it’s probably modal!

Trish, I trust you’re not suggesting the Maureen Hegarty song posted earlier is *probably* modal; are you?

;)

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You can easily find out if a tune is modal: try to play it on a diatonic harmonica. If you can play all the notes, it’s modal. Simple!

Re: “If you can play all the notes, it’s modal. Simple!”

OK, Steve, but then they are mostly all modal. Depends on how you’re using the term modal.

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AB, no - Derry Vale definitely major melody, but with some minor and 7th chords and even “double sharping” used in that arrangement. That does not make it modal. (And how much I prefer that set of words to DB!!)

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CreadurMawnOrganig - One also has to be a little careful figuring keys out from pipers- they drone on D no matter what the key.

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While I totally understand the attraction of multiple drones for pipers (kinda like the fascination citterns have for mandolin players) for me part of the beauty of uilleann pipes is the constant D drone. It makes tunes in E minor, or dorian, much more interesting and exciting for starters. In fact, sometimes for my own amusement I’ll play tunes on the mando with my little finger locked down on the 4th string D for the whole tune and drone away. Piper envy.

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Cheers, Steve! I’m w/‘ya; love the uilleann’s D drones.

I linked to Mr. Cook’s response because he posted a clear explanation of both older drone systems and how some of these changed as pipers’ tinkered on them. That & I was spring-fever slumming at the coffee house w/the locals when I needed to get to work & earn my keep; so I posted a link on one of the windows I had open.

Now that I’ve done my work it’s time to chill & reflect.

Earlier in the thread dunnp posted a video of Tom Kannmacher which I appreciate very much.
I’ll probably listen to it a thousand times. Being curious {as I am} about music which catches my attention
I did a little more searching & found more information about Tom’s pipes. Alot of the information is
on the thread I linked to w/Richard Cook’s comment. Also on the thread Tom Kannmacher describes
(in detail) the work he has done on the drones and what he can do w/them; including this excerpt,

“It was Hans – Jörg Podworny who in the early nineties inspired me building this “multidrone” setup.
He had his full set of his own make equipped with a traditional Ddd’ group and an ee’ group,
acted by two single levers.

These augmented drone potentials help to understand the modal structures of the tunes with tonics other than D, especially for listeners without much experience with Celtic music, as often met with in Germany.
For the purists it may be assured that there is the old Ddd’ accessible on all my sets still, and
sometimes I prefer the sound of the old off – tonic arrangements of, for example, a – tunes above d drones.“

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I practice my fiddle intonation along with recordings of drones, and often enjoy playing against the ‘wrong tonic’.

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“I practice my fiddle intonation along with recordings of drones, and often enjoy playing against the ‘wrong tonic’.”

This is one of my favourite things to do in life. 🙂

I play mostly English tunes, as it happens, and there are so many ostensibly major-chord English tunes that can be slipped into their relative minor. It’s a lot of fun.

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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1QrKwtCUIpM


Richard Patkos has done some multi drone sets as well. As have a few other makers , historically Robert Reid as well. I mean besides a separate G or A drone.
There have of course been separate E regs as well.

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Re: minor tune addiction

Phew - so its not just me then.

I may perhaps be just trying to balance out that the fact that I play the mandolin and my other musical love is weird progressive METAL, hehe.

A few splendid minor(ish) tunes for anyone out there on the hunt for more filth….

- Vital Mental Medicine
- Guns of the Magnificent Seven
- Popcorn Behavior
- Farewell to Chernobyl
- Castle Kelly