Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

A fig for a kiss
Banish misfortune
Cooley’s reel
Congress reel
Drowsy Maggie
Gravel walk
I Buried my wife and danced on her grave
Kesh jig
The Kid on the Mountain
Morrison’s jig
The musical priest
Out on the ocean
Saddle the pony
St Anne’s reel
The blarney pilgrim
The butterfly
The lilting banshee
The maid behind the bar
The silver spear
The wind that shakes the barley

got from here https://www.funkywhistle.com/popular-irish-session-tunes/

I know this has been asked before on here but the lists I have read before have run into the hundreds even thousands.

This list is a manageable amount to learn to keep in the repertoire for brouching new sessions. It seems accurate so far as I already knew kid on the mountain and butterfly and\or heard them played more than once in different sessions.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

As I’m sure you’ve seen pointed out, most popular can mean very little from session to session and area to area, but yes, your list is well known tunes that most people will know, which is I guess what you really want to know.

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Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

All of those tunes would be known in most Irish sessions - but not necessarily played.

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Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Arthur - you may be interested to know that there’s tune going around my locality called "I Married My Wife And I Laid On Top Of Her" :)

Yep, that’s a fair list you posted. Most people know the tunes, but may not have played them for a while.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Of the tunes on that list, maybe three get played at nearly every session in my area.
I’ve played all them except two in sessions this year.
I’d perhaps start three of them myself.

So, which other tunes get played at nearly every session? It depends on who’s present.
Which other tunes get played now and then? Tunes from a pool of maybe a couple of hundred others, depending on who’s present.
Which other tunes would I start/lead? Tunes outside the pool above, if I really wanted to play what I wanted. Inside the pool, if I thought that one or two could join me.

All this being said, it is a good list - if nothing else, to return to now and then. If you can’t play these tunes, make sure you can. Then work on twenty others. Then, practice 1-20, and 21-40 on alternate days for as long as you want/need. Then add another twenty tunes….

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

It’s hard to call it the *most* accurate list out there, because I don’t think there is such a thing. But you should learn all those tunes, as most Irish players know them all (but don’t necessarily play them all that often).

When you’ve got those under your belt, then maybe start cherry picking Dow’s List (http://www.cheakamus.com/Ceilidh/Downloads/Dows_List.pdf)

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

It’s kind of like most popular streets in Cities, the thing you do first in a new city (European anyway) is find the most popular street or area and then make sure you avoid it, you certainly wouldn’t go into a restaurant on the most popular street and eat there…. Tunes are similar….

Typically if you drift away to the smaller back streets off the most popular street (not too far away mind) you will find good restaurants at a reasonable price, and you’ll find lots of people in those restaurants, more locals than tourists, here’s an example of what I’m talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn-bb5tLpq4


learn all those tunes and you’ll be fine, leave the most popular tunes to the really good players and there isn’t anything better than hearing someone with real talent reviving some of the tunes on your list.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

the list is ok as far as it goes but consists only of reels and jigs [ok and a couple of slip jigs] but totally lacks hornpipes, polkas, slides, barndances, mazurkas, highlands, O’ Carolan pieces………………i find it tedious if its literally jigs and reels all night, but maybe thats just me.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Your list is certainly a reasonable one in terms of generally popular. "MOST" requires a qualifier - where, with whom? Every area/group has a few tunes which are played to death but infrequently heard elsewhere.

There’s no "magic bullet" repertoire unfortunately. There’s definitely 75-80 of the below list which is 5-star solid popular and widely played. Though again which 75 will vary by area and with whom you associate.

The more you know the more you realise how little you know :-)

Rank Tune Name Type
1 Drowsy Maggie  reel
2 Kesh , The jig
3 Butterfly , The slip jig
4 Cooley’s  reel
5 Morrison’s  jig
6 Silver Spear , The reel
7 Maid Behind The Bar , The reel
8 Banshee , The reel
9 Banish Misfortune  jig
10 Wind That Shakes The Barley , The reel
11 Out on the Ocean jig
12 Tam Lin  reel
13 Connaughtman’s Rambles , The jig
14 Musical Priest , The reel
15 Rights Of Man , The hornpipe
16 Harvest Home , The hornpipe
17 King of The Fairies hornpipe
18 Kid On The Mountain , The slip jig
19 Gravel Walks , The reel
20 Mason’s Apron , The reel
21 Blarney Pilgrim , The jig
22 Sally Gardens , The reel
23 Swallowtail , The jig
24 Mountain Road , The reel
25 Saint Anne’s  reel
26 Sí Beag Sí Mór  waltz
27 Lark In The Morning , The jig
28 Lilting Banshee , The jig
29 Boys Of Bluehill , The hornpipe
30 Star Of Munster , The reel
31 Calliope House  jig
32 Morning Dew , The reel
33 Cliffs Of Moher , The jig
34 Merry Blacksmith , The reel
35 Cup Of Tea , The reel
36 Bucks Of Oranmore , The reel
37 Congress , The reel
38 Toss The Feathers reel
39 Off To California  hornpipe
40 Irish Washerwoman , The jig
41 Tripping Up The Stairs jig
42 Wise Maid , The reel
43 Inisheer  waltz
44 Miss McLeod’s  reel
45 Pigeon On The Gate , The reel
46 John Ryan’s  polka
47 Road To Lisdoonvarna , The slide
48 Blackthorn Stick , The jig
49 My Darling Asleep  jig
50 Fig For a Kiss, A slip jig
51 Red Haired Boy , The reel
52 Haste to The Wedding jig
53 Earl’s Chair , The reel
54 Britches Full Of Stitches , The polka
55 Julia Delaney’s  reel
56 Rocky Road To Dublin , The slip jig
57 Merrily Kissed the Quaker slide
58 Brenda Stubbert’s  reel
59 Humours Of Tulla , The reel
60 Jimmy Ward’s  jig
61 Dusty Windowsills  jig
62 Mist On The Mountain , The jig
63 Foxhunter , The reel
64 Farewell To Erin  reel
65 Monaghan , The jig
66 Kerry , The polka
67 Saddle The Pony jig
68 Toss The Feathers reel
69 Ships Are Sailing , The reel
70 Atholl Highlanders , The jig
71 Foxhunter’s slip , The jig
72 Jig Of Slurs , The jig
73 Garrett Barry’s  jig
74 Otter’s Holt , The reel
75 Rakish Paddy  reel
76 Man Of The House , The reel
77 Castle Kelly  reel
78 Give Me Your Hand  waltz
79 Sligo Maid , The reel
80 Rose In The Heather , The jig
81 Teetotallers , The reel
82 Dunmore Lasses , The reel
83 Rolling In The Ryegrass , The reel
84 Donnybrook Fair  jig
85 Tarbolton , The reel
86 MacLeod’s Farewell  reel
87 Rambling Pitchfork , The jig
88 Over The Moor To Maggie reel
89 Ashokan Farewell  waltz
90 Sporting Paddy  reel
91 Swallow’s Tail , The reel
92 Glass Of Beer , The reel
93 Maid Of Mount Kisco , The reel
94 Ashplant , The reel
95 Concertina , The reel
96 Tenpenny Bit , The jig
97 Music For A Found Harmonium  reel
98 Geese In The Bog , The jig
99 Salamanca , The reel
100 Greig’s Pipes reel

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

I feel like Drowsy Maggie always makes the Top 5 of these lists. I just played it for the first time at a session last night (after about a year of going to sessions).

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

While these tunes are undoubtably popular, the number of downloads here exaggerates their status enormously.

One of the reasons being is that newbies to the site and the genre will be more likely to download the apparently "more popular" tunes in the first instance especially if they are hoping to build up their repertoires to venture into a session for the first time.

However, as we have discussed, these tunes often feature very infrequently in the average session. Often, it’s either when "warming up" or as a finishing set. Just because it’s something everyone knows.

Even so called "beginners’ sessions" may only feature a small proportion at any one time as most good tutors tend to steer clear of teaching too many standards. Angus Grant Junior once told us…"If you want to play Miss Macleod etc etc, learn it yourself!" which was actually good advice as it also motivated us to work on our own when necessary.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Isn’t it like going into a room full of people each from a different country; at first you would speak some english since it is the most common language or most aspired to at least then after you gained some rapport then venture off to see what else others know.

In learning at home I usually pick the most obscure and usually challenging not cos I could play them but I find them the most interesting and will keep me interested learning them for a long time.

Like most of the tunes I learned initially were obscure settings in o neils. but that was mainly cos I didn’t know any better when I first started that they were obscure, but I also have learned alot tha I just liked and wanted to learn in o neils which I doubt are played at sessions. I imagine the gold standards get your foot in the door and get your comfort levels up in the new sessions. Then next step is learning what they commonly play and then I imagine third would be inttroducing new ones once you had the chops for it.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

When I was coming up when the old Dance/polka/wedding bands were still around, some of the older musicians used refer to the “dirty dozen”. I remember some of them: Green Grass of Home, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Tiny Bubbles, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. They were largely disdained. Later in the pop bands I played in it was: Old Time Rock and Roll, Takin’ Care of Business, Mony Mony… I think this exists in most music traditions. I’m relatively new to Irish trad but I would say some tunes on this list would be: Butterfly (though it’s a lovely tune), Galway Girl (had to throw that in), Shoe the Donkey, there are a few polkas and hornpipes I’d put on the list. I don’t want to make anyone mad - I just think a most hated tune list is fun to argue.
Still, If you’re just beginning, these tunes may seem fresh and fun and we all need to know them. Some of them just get over played and often these same tunes get played poorly.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

The electric guitar band equivalent of Mr Wiseman’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ includes Mustang Sally, Freebird, Johnny B Goode and, of course, Smoke on the Water.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

JWiseman, I almost posted a similar message, although using the term "groaners" instead of a most-hated list. Tunes a session might play to welcome a newcomer who wanted to start them, but with a bit of forced smile and quiet gnashing of teeth until it was over.

It will vary by locale and specific session of course, but in my area, the groaner list would probably include The Kesh, The Road to Lisdoonvarna, Drowsy Maggie, The Irish Washerwoman, and maybe The Swallowtail. Nothing objectively wrong with those tunes. Well, except for the Washerwoman, for reasons of historical association, and the way it tends to over-excite the patrons in American bars.

If you can manage it, an "intermediate level" tune like Kid on the Mountain or Gravel Walk could be a safer choice, when asked for a tune in an unfamiliar session.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

There are always a few tunes that set your nerves on edge. We had a gal that insisted that we start every session with the Ballydesmond Polkas. Up until then, I liked them - now I don’t. We also played them in 1,2,3 order although earlier this week I learned that they’re supposed to be played 2,1,3. Someone will respond to that I hope. I personally don’t get along well with A Fig for a Kiss or The Butterfly either. Partly because they’re over played among the beginners but mostly because I can’t get my head around them to memorize them and then provide the level of playing they should receive.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

The Butterfly is an amazing tune if played well, as a somewhat dark tune in a small group of sympathetic players and not speeding up too much. One of my favorites.

It dies when it’s "steamrolled" and played with no sensitivity, and when a guitar player shifts into major chords for a happy feeling in the last part. I know there are probably many old arguments about that here.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

I would mostly endorse the 100 list gbyrne posted. The first 89 of them are certainly worthy of such a "best-of" list; 90 - 100 are questionable. For example, I personally like the Coleman version of Swallow’s Tail, but I’ve never heard it at a session. I’ve not hear the Dervish version, either.

I would avoid show-off fiddle pieces like Tam Lin or Music for a Found Harmonium. At a typical session, half the musicians (fiddlers) get excited and the other half (whistlers) go get a beer. If you need something spicy, look for a more universal ITM tune like Dusty Windowsills, White Petticoat, Golden Keyboard, Wedding Reel, Hunters House, Trip to Durrow.

Some tunes like Butterfly provoke a love-hate response. That seems to be one of the first tunes newcomers learn, and after too many experiences of the Butterfly Dirge, it gets put on the shelf. I agree with Conical Bore: It’s lovely when played well and it really has the feel of a butterfly.

I don’t like Athole Highlanders (boring and repetitious), but that might just be me. I’ve come to despise Harvest Home, which is such a humpty-dumtpy tune that it sends me off to the bar. To be fair, it is a pretty easy one for beginners. Off to California and Rights of Man are others that serve a beginner well, but aren’t session favorites.

I think it’s a mistake for experienced musicians to avoid oldy-moldies for a couple reasons. They welcome and encourage newcomers, and they provide a familiar reference point in a set of less-known tunes. You need some rice with your ginger-tofu-surprise.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Hello, Arthur. Your list is as good as any. But there will always be good tunes which are well known but rarely played aside from the most popular ones. Right now I’m thinking about this one… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ7gGSb6Ygg

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Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

what number Ballydesmond is the one that starts with the descending run cBAG ? I never can remember!
If I sometimes get tired of playing the Kesh, or the Butterfly, i just go back to the Bothy’s recording to remind myself why I loved them in the first place. Unfortunately there exists an elitist mindset that regards anything that becomes popular as devalued by its association with the masses - I remember feeling it myself in the late 60’s when the Stones went from being a blues band to just another teenybopper rock band - part of the human condition I guess………..

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

ps Conical, if I’m playing guitar or zouk on Butterfly yes i do shift into G major for the last part -I love the contrast when we dive back into moody old Em next time round!

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

I was going to mention the Kesh but then I thought of the Bothy recording. The Butterfly is stunning but often groaned at. So much has to do with the reality that certain tunes get played badly because they are played by beginners and kind of drug down. Advanced players like to fly free.
The Ballydesmond Polkas are numbered differently depending on who you ask. I like to number them the way they were played on Julia Clifford and Denis Murphy’s recording “Star Above the Garter” - a recording everyone should have IMO. This was the earliest recording I found when I was first digging around for source recordings. I really didn’t like the first (no 1) for a long time. To me it is odd and ancient sounding. It is my favorite now. I don’t generally like two and three from that set but the original recording helps me to appreciate them a bit. There is one I call no. 4 that I like pretty well. It starts in a G ascending arpeggio and the B part goes to A Dorian.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

christy taylor- No problems there if the melody players all like that G major chord in the last part of the Butterfly. It’s just a personal bugbear of mine. :)

I do like hearing shifts between minor and major feel, it’s one of the things that first drew me to this music. However, I think there is a difference between a shift intrinsic to the melody notes like Kid on the Mountain, compared to a tune could go either way, maybe a little ambiguous like The Butterfly, and it’s the backer making the choice to go major or minor. Forcing the modality from "outside" the tune, as it were. But that’s just a personal preference, and I know many people who like that G major for the Butterfly’s last section. I may be in a minor-ambiguous minority here.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

I was going to mention whether any on that list would wreck my trad credibility by suggesting them. I knew that kerry polka and irish washerwoman are almost universally hated.

As someone else mentioned, in my personal practice, I prefer the more obscure tunes the better however it seems there needs to be a common ground between not totally overplayed and so obscure no1 knows it.

I would like to avoid irishwasherwoman level tunes but kid on the mountain seems like a good bet as someone else mentioned and I happen to like that tune which can’t really be said for how I feel for alot of the other ‘popular’ session tunes.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Arthur, isn’t it just a very personal thing depending on your association with tunes? For example with The Wind that Shakes the Barley I immediately think of this rendition by Bobby Gardiner (https://youtu.be/xlGdv4hjuM8?t=102). Shannon Heaton also recorded it on her Oil for the Chain tune cd. So I have good associations with this tune. With Banish Misfortune I always think of the time I played it for days on end on the whistle. In the end I got really sick of it. I don’t want to learn it on the box now. I still like it when I hear it played by Willie Clancy, though.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

Well…. Arthur Gondolor!
Thank you to the end of time.
As a fairly newbie to Irish music, and a box player, I do have time consuming trouble finding fully charted sheet music.
Your link to the ‘funkywhistle’ site has given me enough info to keep me busy for at least a year.
I am eternally indepted to you.
Thanks again.
P.

Re: Is this list accurate for most popular session tunes?

I wondered what looked strange on that last post.
While showering (to go and accompany carol singers tonight), it came to me.
The ‘p’.
It’s indebted, not indepted! (don’t know why the spellcheck didn’t pick it up).
Anyway, the message remains. :)