Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

Just out of interest……..

One that you work on, over and over again, yet it never seems to sound…..right to you?

What instrument, what tune, and why do you think it is?

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Boys of Malin hasn’t come together for me. I play flute and have a G# key, but I can’t get it to flow.

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Ailin, the Boys of Malin is pretty difficult to work out on piano too. Haven’t tried it on the concertina yet.

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Farewell to Cailroe is a hard one on banjo in A and Spórt, whilst not particularly challenging technically, just won’t stick in the head.

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The Chicago Reel.

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The Star of Munster. Damaged hands make for poor technique.

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As my surname is Holmes, I’d have to say The Amazing adventures of Dr Moriarty (though it’s easy enough to play)

https://thesession.org/tunes/7847

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Pressed for Time on Button Box, I’m coming close but the first part timing just can’t get in my head.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

I’m going to be awkward here and state that there is no one tune as such which I find difficult but several of them in a particular style or styles.

I could be glib and say that all we really to do is *practise* but, I agree, some tunes will continue to cause difficulty and I think it’s more a case of changing your approach to them.

As already suggested, the issue is often instrument dependent and some tunes can be more of less difficult depending on which one you are playing today. I always used to find tunes in "A" tricky on the mandolin when they involved playing in the lower octaves…. the low C# and G# …. This will also apply to "E" and "B" tunes where notes on the 6th fret are involved.
So, tunes like Big John McNeill’s, Spey in Spate, Da Tusker, Road to Errogie and many more will fall into that category.
I have generally managed to overcome the difficulties by adopting slightly different fingering as to that often recommended by mandolin teachers in that I tend to make more use of my pinkie in such tunes. I will use it for playing notes on the 6th fret, for example, and also on the 7th fret instead of playing the next highest string in an open position when "crossing" might be difficult.

Other types of tunes can cause difficulties for other reasons. Often they aren’t played exactly "as written" and/or they are often interpreted slightly differently from player to player…. For instance, in a tune such as "Jock Brown’s 70th". On paper, it doesn’t look too difficult but it’s one of those which I’ve rarely heard played the same way twice from session to session. Like many similar tunes, different players may or may not play the "tied notes" and the tune will sound more or less syncopated as a result.
Again, of course, this is when we should be listening to what others are around us as opposed to just doing things our way even although our interpretation of a particular tune might be perfectly acceptable in other circumstances.

I also found that some tunes can be more or less difficult when I play them on other instruments and, again, a change of approach is required but that’s another story.

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True, Johhny Jay — certain melodic patterns in a family of tunes are trickier on one instrument, for technical reasons that can be overcome through practice or adaptation.

On banjo, Brenda Stubbert’s B part octave jumps are easy, and really drive the tune’s rhythm. On whistle, much harder, so I often end up adapting the melody by rolling high As and Gs or inserting rests rather than dropping down to low A. Practice has been improving my ability to do those quick breath pressure shifts, but I doubt it will ever be as easy as playing an open string on a banjo. And for other tunes in that style, it’s less straightforward to get around the tricky bits.

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1) ‘Trip to Athlone’ - that’s one of my early learnt jigs, but my playing of it got more or less satisfactory only recently. The jig is not difficult, but is not an easy breathing pattern for a newbie fluteplayer.
2) ‘Farewell to Miltown Malbay’ - that’s in Gdor, so heavy use of keys on D flute complicates things, and a roll on Cnat, which I want to keep, adds to the complexity.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

That’s interesting, I always found Brenda Stubbert’s to be easy on flute or whistle. (The pipes is another story!)

Which brings up the way pipers will modify tunes to be more friendly on that cantankerous instrument.

I came up with a version of Hunter’s House that’s easy under the fingers. Really good pipers can play the fiddle version note-for-note.

On pipes it’s usually a matter of negotiating the octaves. On flute it’s figuring out the best places to breathe. For me, anyway.

So in the main, with me, it’s not so much a matter of bogey tunes as bogey versions.

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"bogey versions"

Yep, there are many of them around. On this site and even in so called "proper" books.

e.g. I had difficulty with this one many years ago https://thesession.org/tunes/112 as there was a note or two which didn’t seem quite right and and I later learned my instincts were justified. At the time, there was only one setting up there.

There are many more like this. I’m not "knocking" those who submit these. As I say, published versions in many books have issues too. In some cases, they may just be different settings but, in others, it could also be typing errors.

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Are there any flute players here who can play The Mason’ s Apron in A? That’s the key for fiddle.

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Ailin, I can play the Mason’s Apron. Well, still working on it, but I think I can say I play it… I don’t know if it is the standard version or not as I took Orlaith McAuliffe’s version, but I am getting there.

Never tried on G.

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I have a few. They’re very popular but have bad associations for me and I’ve never felt compelled to learn them since they give me so little enjoyment. It doesn’t matter what they are. We all have tunes like that.

There are literally thousands of tunes and time is short. Unless it’s your job, and you are getting paid to perform it, like it or not, play what you like.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

Coleraine

Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

The question is about tunes "that you work on, over and over again, yet never seem to sound…..right to you?" Not about tunes you don’t like.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

Almost every tune I learn is my "nemesis" for a while for complicated reasons. The not very well kept secret is that I find myself trying to learn the notes and not the tune. Happens a lot. My solution is to put down my instrument and listen, then lilt, until the tune settles in. Learning on multiple instruments, breaking the tune into phrases, making exercises out of difficult figures, back-to-front learning are all useful methods and I use all of them. That said, they are most valuable after I know the tune. Oh, and it helps a lot to like the tune. There are some that while not all that hard to play just don’t stick. Maybe the universe is sending me the message that I just don’t need to use up the time left me learning this tune. (Note: my likes and dislikes only apply to me and are not meant to dump on any particular tune).

Right now I’m learning 3 difficult tunes on flute (the complete) Mason’s Apron, The Banks, and the Acrobat. They can be beastly difficult, not because any part is hard but because the way all the figures fit together. I can’t play them because I can’t yet sing them. Not enough listening yet, but it’ll get there and it will be worth it!

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Ross, I don’t know if you say my question about TMA. If you’re learning all those parts Matt Molloy performs (he does it in G) in A, you have my respect. I always wanted to be able to play that version (notice I said "be able to play," not "learn"). The problem is, it’s no good for a session, and since I seldom perform these days, I’d only play it for my own amusement/amazement. Let me know when you feel you’ve nailed it, mate.

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The one I’d really like to play and constantly defeats me is Cape Breton/Scottish, not Irish, if that matters. It’s King George IV Strathspey, in the Natalie and Buddy MacMaster setting. I would love to be able to play this, and I keep at it, but I’m not sure it will ever work on mandolin.

The main stumbling block is the double descending run of 16th notes (8 notes total) in that particular setting in the B part. I just can’t play that fast enough on mandolin. Not at Cape Breton tempos anyway. Every note has to be flatpicked separately, and it’s just technically very difficult. Most strathspeys only have a 4-note run of 16th notes, and I can handle that. This one defeats me, unless I play the tune slower than it really "wants" to be played.

I will keep at it, but at my old age I don’t think my picking speed will improve much. So this may be a lost cause. I do have the option of learning it on flute, where the runs should be easier. That may be the final solution, although I’m not convinced a flute is the ideal instrument for playing strathspeys either. Maybe I should stick to Irish music.

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Ailin, yes in A, but I ought to make something clear. It’s about the journey to a destination I may never reach. Still worth it. I’m also "learning" Ravel’s Pavane pour one Infante Defunte on classical guitar and have been for 35 years. It’s a lot easier on flute where I only have to carry the melody. Mason’s Apron may well be like that for me. Sometimes we learn as much from our efforts and failures as we do from our successes and I enjoy the company of others I meet on the way. A "nemesis" isn’t always a bad thing.

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Well, I got a lot more quit in me than that. But I tip my hat and a glass to you, me old chum. Stay hungry and venture ever forward.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

As a B/C box player, it’s those tunes that require loads of pushing and pulling with no options to use your alternative Bs and Es! Some that I find hard are: yes, Mason’s Apron, De’il Amang the Tailors, Tongadale Reel, even Soldier’s Joy (easy enough on a G/D box!) We did that George IV Strathspey a couple of years back, and yes, quite a challenge to many instruments

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Ye gods, David, that is as good as it gets!

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The basic two part "Mason’s Apron" is not a difficult tune. It’s really just all the variations and unusal settings.
While it’s great to hear a great player or even virtuoso musician bringing a tune to a different level, that doesn’t mean that it should be out of bounds for the rest of us.

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The problem is not the tune, but the key as it pertains to flute. Much easier in G, but it started life as a fiddle tune in A, so there we are. I play it in G with For the Sakes of Old Decency. Makes a dynamite set.

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I can play it now, but Hare in the Corn was a real juggling act in the last part of both sections (which is the same) Makes my head spin. I can only play it fast. Slowing it down to correct a shortened note is quite impossible. It’s not a difficult tune either. Strange.

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The Silver Spire [not Silver SPEAR thats a doddle] that run up from the low A in the second part gets me every time - I can play it fine at hornpipe tempo but take it up to reel speed and it all falls apart.

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That’d be Jean’s Reel and the Reel Beatrice for me, both Canadian and both absolutely horrible on concertina.

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Yes I play Mason’s Apron on a Low E whistle :)

Very easy to play in A that way, the basic tune and loads of cool variations (Irish ones, Scottish ones, and ones you make up on the fly).

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The seventh bar of the C part of Randers Hopsa (http://www.dickgaughan.co.uk/songs/staves/stave-randers.html), on mandolin. I can’t seem to be able to play it at any reasonable speed. I assume the issue is me doing something particularly inefficient in terms of pick direction on the string crosses, but I can’t work out what it is.

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I find it very interesting that it seems that many of us have these struggles. Maybe I fond it more….comforting that I’m not alone.

I play a B/C box, or as is more correct, John Whelan plays the box….I own one.

As many said, sometimes it’s a case of the specific key the tune is in (I didn’t find the Masons Apron that difficult on the B/C in "A"), and sometimes it’s something "in" the tune itself.

For me, I have two tunes that just give me agony……

The Wise Maid - I think the issue I have with this tune is that the A and B parts don’t seem to belong to the same tune. At least to my ear. I’ve heard many versions, but the one I like the best is Cooley’s. I dare say he plays the tune as if……he’s mad at it for some reason!

The Earl’s Chair - I again think it’s because I don’t see a logical (i.e. "musical" in my mind) fit between the A and B parts. I can get through it in a session, but I’m just not happy with the way I play it.

The journey continues.

Thank you to all who answered!

Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

I generally get better at the ones I work on, like them or not.

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Re: Is there a tune that is your nemesis?

Oh yes. O’carolans concerto on whistle…I’ve about got it now and I know it’s not really a whistle tune but I love it.
Oh and Tambourin by Gossec. A classical tune played on flute….it’s tricky. Listen on YouTube.