How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I’m sure this has been tackled before but I’d be interested in hearing your views again. I thought about it when I just read comments to "Margaret’s" and it is, perhaps, relevant to the "Musicians from other traditions" thread.

How do we(or yourselves) define what is a Shetland, Irish, or Scottish tune…….?

Is it a tune composed by somebody living in that area, or a tune composed in the same style of the music from that area(by anyone, anywhere), or a tune popularised or adopted by players of that particular music?

Or is it better to think in terms of Irish, Scottish, Shetland, or wherever MUSIC as opposed to just the tunes themselves?

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Don’t know whether it’s better on not but I think in terms of styles of playing and find that the same tunes cropping up in different traditions helps illustrate the differences in style.

Some people seem to get quite worked up when a tune that they regard as part of their tradition gets played in the style of another tradition.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

It’s a combination of style of the tune and style of the way it’s played. O’Neill’s writing has a few examples of him trying to prove the irishness of a tune (usually by way of origin), but there are so many "cross-over" tunes, or tunes that originated one place and changed in another, that I don’t think origin is really the main criteria most musicians use.

Here’s one long article about one such tune anyway:
https://rushymountain.com/2017/10/06/johnny-cope/

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Most musicians are really interested in playing music. Some have a passing interest in origins, categories, etc. - just enough to remember what their father told them or what someone in a pub told them or what some ‘star’ said in his stage banter. Or what they read on the session when they looked up some tune. If they like a tune, they’ll play it - and if someone tells them that that tune originates in something that they themselves identify with, then they might well be eager to repeat what they’ve been told. So, if some ‘Irish’ musician likes to play Ashokan Farewell, and someone tells them that it’s actually an ancient Irish melody slightly touched up by Jay Ungar, they might well make a point of repeating that gem of rare knowledge.

And then there are a few competent musicians who are competent researchers as well …..

When someone tells me about the origins of a tune or a stylistic feature, I listen - but I don’t argue.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

There are tunes that are distinctly irish and there are tunes that are distinctly scottish. Then there are many many other tunes that float to and fro between both traditions. Too many examples to even mention. If it’s a good tune and I enjoy listening to it, and find it worth learning, then I couldn’t give a monkey’s where it comes from……The joy of playing music…

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I play music.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I one of those people who like to look into the origins of tunes, and the stories behind them when there are stories. I like to know where tunes came from, partly to acknowledge the composer if known but also, if I know where/who a tune I like came from then that is a good place to go and look for more tunes I might like. But if I like a tune and play it, then regardless of where it came from it will be a Scottish tune, because that’s the way I’ll play it.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

While it’s always interesting to know the origins/history of a tune, the original birthplace of a tune doesn’t really tell you much: especially because "the first printed version of a tune" is the best indication we can give of which country a tune came from. And that in itself is hardly irrevocable proof that the tune is Irish; it just means that that is a likely possibility cos "the first printed version of a tune" happened to be in a book found in Ireland.

For me, style is what makes a tune Irish (or Scottish or English or Nova Scotian). To a limited extent, repertoire does too, but because we have shared repertoires that doesn’t tell you much: lots of tunes are common to the repertoires of Northumbrian and Scots playing; England and Ireland share a lot of tunes; Ireland and old-time American share a lot of tunes.

Style is where it’s at. It ain’t what you play, it’s the way that you play it. (Well, it *almost* ain’t what you play, it’s the way that you play it, repertoire does have a small role to play) You ought to be able to tell the difference between Irish playing and Scottish playing. You ought to be able to tell the difference between Irish playing and English playing. (Although I’d add in a few caveats with regard to English playing, in that England doesn’t have as profoundly established conventions as many other national folk musics)

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

The Scottish repertoire is, in very large part, driven by pipes, i.e. the Highland scale. Nine notes, flatted 7. So, for older tunes of unclear provenance, a reasonably accurate guess can be made that it’s Scottish if the tune fits within the confines of the Highland scale.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Tervs and Tunes: ‘the Highland scale’?!
One assumes from your oddly worded description above you refer to the mixolydian mode.
So you inply all mix tunes are Scottish?!!

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

"So you inply all mix tunes are Scottish?!!"

Of course not. Just suggesting the that Highland scale, an "oddly worded description" I’ve heard countless times from the world’ s finest Scottish pipers for over 30 years, is a pretty good clue.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Irish and Scottish music has influenced each other for hundreds of years. Other cultures have had their effect too. For example "Captain O’Kane" (Irish) was used by Robert Burns for a Scottish song setting. Trish Santer has commented recently that the tune for Burns’s "The Slave’s Lament" could be Sephardic. I think a creative "mulch" is no bad thing and as Free Reed comments above, let’s just play the music and enjoy it. That’s not to say that styles of playing and the distinctiveness of each musical culture isn’t important, of course it is!

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

"England doesn’t have as profoundly established conventions as many other national folk musics". I suspect that many national folk musics seem more diverse to those on the inside. Stereotypes can be as revealing to those to whom they are applied as they can be misleading to those who don’t look beyond them.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I’ve lived in Scotland for longer than I care to remember, and I have to say the ‘highland scale’ is a new one on me, and when people talk about the bagpipe scale they are usually talking about the tempering of the scale, not just the fact that it’s mixolydian.

I don’t think a tune being in mixolydian mode gives any clue as to it’s origin. There are plenty of Irish and American mix tunes, and the bagpipe repertoire is only a small part of Scottish trad, the vast majority of our tunes are from the fiddling tradition or Gaelic song and encompass the whole range of keys and modes, probably more so in the past than is common today where many old tunes have been transposed to accommodate diatonic instruments. And where a tune does show clear signs of having it’s origins in piping where does that leave us? In the past bagpipes were as common in England and Ireland (and all over Europe) as in Scotland, and that funny scale isn’t unique to the pipes, it’s also a necessity on hurdy gurdies and any other instrument that uses drones.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Thanks for the article Nico. Great stuff.
I hear so many polkas and slides with Scottish tunes behind them. Originally marches or strathspeys. I can often make a Strathspey of a slide or single jig.
I enjoyed this piece:
https://rushymountain.com/2016/06/01/cal-ocallaghan-doon-reels-and-padraig-okeeffe/
Never knew about the Ohio Scots / Cal connection. Whether it is to be believed or not. Also the ‘access’ to American tune books.
While not the whole picture, it’s nice to read about none the less and for me is the perfect illustration of tunes arriving and being completely transformed by style and stresses the importance of the individual in regional style discussions.
Living in Scotland has certainly had an impact on my style and tunes I might pick up whether on purpose or by accident.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

"I hear so many polkas and slides with Scottish tunes behind them"

yes, also the more English tunebooks I go through, the more single jigs I find that are very close to Irish slides.

I also notice a lot of strathspey-like features in many tunes in Playford’s English Dancing Master, and I often wonder the ‘Scotch snap’ in fiddling was also a feature in those Playford tunes – they could certainly be played that way

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

When the Skye reel "Mrs Macloud of Raasay" is played in G at warp speed and called "Miss Maclouds" then it’s Irish. They do that in England. When the English tune "The Ton" is played in Scotland it’s called "Jessie’s". "The Swansea Hornpipe" was first published in Edinburgh and is in O’Neils as "The Man from Newry" - which is the title under which I learnt it - in England. It now gets called "The Gloucester Hornpipe" so the previous Gloucester Hornpipe gets called "The Old Gloucester Hornpipe".

These days I characterize the tunes by the place I learnt them or the person I learnt them from and try to leave nationality out of it.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Would the Skye reel not be "Mrs MacLeod of Raasay"?

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Without meaning to be pedantic, Mrs MacLeod of Raasay is a Raasay tune rather than a Skye tune. Also, in a session, the original A version is much more likely to be played at pace in Scotland than the G Irish version. The tune is played by the vast majority of Scottish players and all the G versions in the world will not make it Irish - in the same way that playing the Kesh in A will never make it Scottish.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Aye, indeed it would. Free Reed has it about right, theres a mass of tunes that seem common to both traditions,
‘too many to even mention’ but I thought I’d mention a few just to reinforce the point - Rock and a wee Pickle Tow/O’Sullivans March, Drunken Piper/March of the Meana Toiten Bull, Sandy Duff/High Reel……………
these are just 3 that come to mind, plus there are probably loads of Donegal ‘Highlands’ that have Scots ancestry.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I think we are, again, having a semantics issue. When pipers talk about the Highland scale, short for Highland bagpipe scale, we’re really talking about range, not mode. The range is very, very limited. Nine notes. Nothing above the high A, and nothing below the closed-chanter low G. A clue, and that’s all I’m saying it is, to perhaps the tune being of Scottish origin is whether the entire tune stays within the range. For those of you focusing on the term "mixolydian", I would say you are stating the obvious. Much of Irish and Scottish trad. is mixolydian. But when the range of a tune does not go beyond the nine notes allotted to the Highland pipe, or Scottish smallpipe, then one might well muse as to whether it’s of Highland repertoire origin.

I also feel there are many other clues as to origin.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

"Tervs and Tunes: ‘the Highland scale’?!
One assumes from your oddly worded description above you refer to the mixolydian mode."

I have to agree with Tervs and Tunes. The Highland Bagpipe scale is not the same as the A mixolydian scale. The bagpipe scale (it has its own abc header: hp) is a set of notes that can theoretically have any of those notes as the root. In practice those roots, in order of popularity are A (Amaj, Amix & Ador), D (Dmaj), B (Bm), E (Edor) and G (Gmaj).
So, for example, we have The High Road to Linton (Amaj), The Jig of Slurs (D & G), The Ale is Dear (Bm) and The Little Cascade (Edor), none of which is in A mixolydian.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

DonaldK, pardon a dumb question from a Sassenach - the tunes listed above are all in the usual session keys to be played on fiddle, accordion, banjo etc but on one occasion when a Highland piper sat in with our ceilidh band we all had to capo 1st fret and the fiddler had to tune a semitone # to make it possible. Is that usual?

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

It is usual. Not a dumb question for those unfamiliar with pipes. Although Highland pipe music is written with the tonic note as "A", the tonic note of the Highland chanter actually sounds in Bb. Hence the need for other instruments to tune up. And modern era Highland chanters are even tuning somewhere between Bb and B. Sounds like the piper joining in the ceili band might have had a concert Bb chanter, which helps.

Not a problem with border pipes or smallpipes, as the tonic A actually sounds in A.

Some Highland pipers have a set of Highland pipes that sound in true concert A for the purpose of ceili bands, dances, etc. All of the Highland pipers Fin Moore’s band Na Tri Seudan play sets in concert A. It’s a great, full sound.

Hope this is clear.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

yes, thanks Tunes, that makes sense, we did all end up playing in Bb. I wonder more pipers don’t play concert A sets so they could integrate more easily with other musicians - but that’s probably not their priority!

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Christy, in Scotland nowadays most pipers who play with other instruments play Border pipes - which are basically bellows blown highland pipes that are about the volume as between one and three fiddles depending on the reeding. They are a type of pipes in their own right but are usually played exactly like the big pipes. I too agree with Tervs and Tunes that people are focusing on mixolydian rather than the range of the pipes. He clearly said a 9 note range which in the vast majority of cases means the tune has probably come from the pipes.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I hear what you are saying, but I think a nine note range is even less of an indication that a tune is Scottish than the mix mode is. I agree that within Scottish music it can be an indication that it is a pipe tune (or that the version you are hearing has been adapted for the pipes), but the same restricted range, and the mix scale, are widely used in other traditions, a tune that fits the pipe scale could just as easily have its roots in old timey, Irish, continental European dance or even a song.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

You also said pipe tunes were "small part of Scottish trad". You’re clearly unaware of the volume of pipe tunes. Would you like to share examples of the 9 note, G to A with a flatten seventh scale "widely used in other traditions"?

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Just to add to the pedantry, Mrs MacLeod was traditionally held to have been written by Iain Dall MacKay, the blind piper of Gairloch. He was trained on Skye but was never settled on Raasay as far as I know.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I was led to believe it was written by John, the son on Iain Dall, who did live on Raasay, but as I’m sure we can agree Calum, nobody really seems to know.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Bogman: "You also said pipe tunes were "small part of Scottish trad". You’re clearly unaware of the volume of pipe tunes. Would you like to share examples of the 9 note, G to A with a flatten seventh scale "widely used in other "

I’m very aware of the volume of pipe tunes thank you very much, I spend a lot of time trawling through them. But perhaps as a piper you aren’t aware of the even vaster array of non-pipe music in the tradition. Look through any volume of Scottish fiddle music and you’ll find maybe 1/4-1/3 of the tunes might have started life as pipe tunes, the rest didn’t.

For use in other traditions, ignoring the countless old-timey tunes which you could possibly speculate have derived from pipe tunes, you could start by looking at Cajun dance music, which sticks pretty rigidly to one octave, from the 5th to 5th - whenever they play in G on a C box (which they do a lot) it also has the flattened 7th. Cajun music derives from French folk dance, where you find the same restricted range in much of the repertoire. You could also just look at some Irish fiddle music, a lot of which only uses two strings in first position - 9 notes, and where mixolydian mode isn’t particularly uncommon.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Nevertheless, when you get a manuscript, such as the William Dixon manuscript, where every tune fits on a nine note scale that goes tone-tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-semitone-tone then I don’t think it’s too fanciful to suggest that what William Dixon wrote down were pipe tunes or tunes set for pipes.

There are obviously lots of tunes that are within the (highland) pipe scale that were not specifically written for pipes and, today especially, there are lots of composers writing tunes that are deliberately within the pipe scale so that they can, if desired, be played on pipes. But if I see/hear a tune that is within the pipe range then I might first think that it was a pipe tune or one written or adapted for pipes (depending, of course on the origin of the tune).

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Mark M, interesting you say 1/4 to 1/3 of tunes in FIDDLE collections may have originated as pipe tunes. Ypu’re clearly unaware of the volume of piping collections. Anyway I’m not wasting any more time with that nonsense. You’re blatantly avoiding Tervs and Tunes point that the scale he is talking about is specifically the 9 note _G to A_ range.

G to A! That was the point. Not mixolydian, simply G to A with a flatten 7th.
This is pointless so I’m out!

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I am pewrfectly aware of the volume of pipe collections, but I’m also aware of the volume of other mScottish music, which you seem to have missed. And the Cajun G to G with a flattened 7th fits very well within your G to A. (As do old timey tunes like Old Joe Clark, modern songs like Copperhead Road or Free Home Alabama, and countless French Bourees and Gurdy tunes.)

Have you ever wondered where the pipe scale came from? It didn’t just spring up out of nowhere, fully formed. It has it’s roots in ecclesiastical singing - the pipes took the singing scale, not the other way round. And that singing scale has influenced music all over Europe, not exclusively in Scotland.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

The Highland Bagpipe scale is not the same as the A mixolydian scale.
The Highland Bagpipe scale is not the same as the A mixolydian scale.
The Highland Bagpipe scale is not the same as the A mixolydian scale…..

Write another 97 times.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

As they say on Facebook: like!

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Having spent far too much time on face-book I often find myself looking for the ‘like’ button on this site.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

One style of tune is the strathspey. You never it outside of a Scottish session or dance. Wonderful tunes and great to play. It does take a distinct style of playing which is not easy to learn. One needs to use their ear as well as the dots.
Another difference is the way the jigs are played. You won’t find it in written music which generally looks like even triplets. The Scots make the first note of the triplet slightly long, stealing the time from the 2nd note. This makes the 2nd note slightly shorter. Then the 3rd note of the triplet gets the full value. It gives the tune a nice lift.
Shetland tunes use a different bowing.
As for Ashokan Farewell written by Jay Unger who grew up in either Brooklyn or the Bronx. Jay spent some time in Scotland and studied with Tom Anderson, the fiddler who resurrected Shetland music from oblivion. He used some of Tom’s note patterns while he was composing Ashokan Farewell.
Sylvia Miskoe, USA

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Um, playing jigs like that is by no means unique to Scots playing, loads of Irish players and some English players play jigs that way.

And I could be wrong, but aren’t strathspeys part of Donegal repertoire as well? Not sure about that.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I can think of one respected online guide to Irish-style whistle playing that suggests doing just that for jigs.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Donald K, instead of trying to ridicule me, go and get your pipes, and try to play Old Joe Clark or The Hathaway Two Step. Suprise suprise, you can do it. Now tell me again why, if a tune happens to fit the pipe scale it must be Scottish?

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

"Now tell me again why, if a tune happens to fit the pipe scale it must be Scottish?"

No one contributing to this thread ever said that. All we said was, its a possible clue to origin.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Mark M, I wasn’t trying to ridicule you. I was trying to stress that the pipe scale G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A is not the same as the A mixolydian scale. For some reason posters here were assuming that if it sounded mixolydian then we (me, Tervs and Tunes, etc) were assuming it was a pipe tune. We weren’t. We were looking at the range of the tune and the notes. As I said above, the tonal centre could be A, but it could also be D, B, E or G.
Also as I said above, there are lots of tunes which fit the criteria that aren’t pipe tunes. Let’s just say that if it doesn’t fit the criteria then it can’t be a pipe tune.
Is it worth having a huge argument about? I think not.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Is "pipe tune" shorthand for a tune written for Highland bagpipes?

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I scrolled up to read the previous comments. The answer to my question is up there.

Didn’t mean to be dense.

Cheers!

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

I was using the term "pipe tune" to apply to any tune written for GHB, small pipes or Border pipes, within the scale G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A, since that was the type of pipe tune being discussed. I think.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

Thank you, Donald.

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Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

To confirm, in using the term "pipe tune" I was referring to GHB, smallpipes and borderpipes.

Of course, we have to be a bit careful about borderpipes, because, like my borderpipes, depending on the reed a small handful of additional notes within the scale can be obtained by cross fingerings. And some borderpipers can even achieve a high B with the right setup.

Re: How do you define what is an Irish, Scottish or wherever tune?

In the Whatever department:
One of the Six Spanish Dances by the Spanish composer Granados written originally for the piano in the late 19th century and mostly played transposed for the guitar is heard at the 20:50 mark in the following YouTube recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je2Sx3I4SH8&t=1565s .

I first learned this tune from a Furey brothers album from the 70’s as the Spanish Cloak also known as the Munster Cloak (YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XkWK2aFVNU ).

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