Most common (musical) phrases used at a session

Most common (musical) phrases used at a session

As a little play off of the other thread about common phrases at sessions, I thought we could talk about the most common phrases in tunes. We all know the old adage about this music being made up of common phrases, and that when you build your "toolbox" of these phrases, learning and playing tunes gets easier. (Or harder, in some ways, because if you know a bunch of tunes that have the same phrase, it’s easy to get lost and go into another tune…) Instead of talking about the most common phrases overall, maybe we limit it to talking about starting phrases of tunes.

An example I just gave in another thread is G2BG DGBG. Milliner’s Daughter, Peeler’s Jacket, Duke of Leinster, Miller of Droghan, and likely several other tunes start with that phrase. (Putting that phrase into my tune search engine, it came up with about 30 unique 100% matches, but that’s including all parts of the tunes, not just the beginnings…)

Maybe the most pervasive way to start tunes in my repertoire are in D, and start with dB|AF (3FFF. If you take any note in the D scale and put it after that phrase, I think I know a tune that starts that way. A Night in Ennis, Jackie Coleman’s, Murphy’s Reel, Green Mountain, and Ríl an Spiddal are the ones that come to mind off the top of my head.

And don’t get me started on all the Ador tunes that start with EAAG ABc…

So what are the most common opening phrases of tunes for you? Do you find yourself getting confused? And how have you worked around it?

For me, I find that it isn’t bad having tunes that start the same, you just need to figure out where they diverge from each other, and have that in your head when you’re starting the tune. Then once the tune is flowing, it’s not hard to remember which one you’re playing…

Re: Most common (musical) phrases used at a session

I think of these phrases as clichés. Common, useful, but not unique. Except that in music they are certainly noteworthy. Notably so.

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Sometimes it seems like every single hornpipe in the key of D begins with a triplet run up the A string: (3ABc d2 …

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No pun intended, David? :-P

Yeah, geez. (3ABc d2 happens in EVERY tune, doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t, you can use it as a variation ;-)

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Puns intended….

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I know a Scot. tune which goes 2 low D then high d and after it twiddles downwards in a pleasant way. But I can’t remember the name, silly elderly person. Then a Niel Gow tune starts a bit like it but again have lost the name.

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Niel Gow tune called "Hop high ladies" in the States (re above)

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Some similarities between the start notes of "Major Graham" (old tune for My Love is like a Red, Red Rose) and "Niel Gow’s Lament for the death of his second wife" tho’ the timing is different.
In D, they both start with D B A B D (going downwards then up again!)

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Susan, I think the tune you are referring to is a little-known ditty called "Mrs MacLeod of Raasay", and while the Gows published the tune, they didn’t claim it as their own. In the Skye Collection it is attributed to Sir Alexander MacDonald.

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Hey Rev, could you tweak your search engine to identify the most common one or two measures?

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Interesting idea, Joe. I could certainly write something to do it, but unfortunately there’s not enough spare time for me these days. Heck, I’ve been planning on rewriting the whole thing for years, and just never have the time… But it would be fun to see what the most used phrases are. That might be a "shortcut" to building your "toolbox" - since people are always looking for shortcuts to learning this music ;-)

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Does anyone know of any open source code, in something like Python or Pascal, that is able to parse out specific components of ABC files, such as key, time signature, individual measures, repeats, etc? Thanks.

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Re: Most common (musical) phrases used at a session

@dfost the abcnotation site lists a whole raft of software available for ABC - http://abcnotation.com/software - there might be something like that in there.

Chris Walshaw has an interesting set of publications and tools related to tune analysis http://chriswalshaw.co.uk/papers/ His latest one includes a figure showing the whole musical ‘corpus’ of thesession.org displayed as a 3-D clustergram — like his TuneGraph feature on abcnotation, but for ALL the tunes! Very cool. Sadly it’s not yet interactive, but maybe that’s work in progress.

@reverend - also interesting but rarer are tunes that start out similarly but in different keys, like The Blarney Pilgrim in G and Stan Chapman’s in A. The two tunes have a similar "feel" through the A part, but diverge a bit more in the B part.

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Many thanks, Nigel G, now I remember that feminine title, Mrs MacLeod of Raasay. A favourite of mine, always liked hoppity, up one octave tunes.

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yeah, @nicatnite, that’s a good one! I like finding tunes in different keys that have similarities, and try them out together to see if they sound great together or whether they are just too confusing to try to put together (or both) ;-)

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I’m smiling at Mrs Macleod of Raasay being called a ‘little known ditty’ as here on Skye it’s one of the locally themed tunes known by everyone. It was the first tune I ever scratched out, and then felt suitably disheartened when I heard it played at its proper speed of 375mph!

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Latecomer, Nigel is most certainly talking tongue in cheek… though maybe you are yourself for that matter.

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Angus Grant Junior once told us at "The ALP"(It was called that back then) that if we wanted to play "Mrs Macleod" then we would have to learn it for ourselves.
:-)
However, he did actually teach us "The Fairy Dance" but with a subtle minor variation. So, obviously, I always consider this to be a "cooler tune" now. :)

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I’ve also seen Mrs MacLeod attributed to Iain Dall MacKay, the blind piper of Gairloch. I don’t know of any actual evidence linking him to the tune but it certainly makes sense in terms of geography.

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"I’ve also seen Mrs MacLeod attributed to Iain Dall MacKay" are you sure you’re not thinking of the Grey Haired Woman of Raasay - which is sometimes attributed to Iain Dall? Mrs MacLeod of Raasay is generally thought to have been written by Alexander MacDonald junior of Skye, who wrote several other tunes at that time.

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Having said that, both tunes are very much in the style of tunes played by John MacKay of Raasay in the early 1800’s so so either is possible.

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"Mrs Macleod of Raasay" aka "Hop High Ladies" (US) - this latter so descriptive of the tune that I forgot Mrs Mac and "HHL" stayed in the head. The tune is very popular in US - I wonder if it’s also popular in Oz and NZ.

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The opening phrases of Haste to the wedding and The lark in the morning always seem to have a thin line between them for me. I always fudge it up.

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A nice example of pairing tunes with similar opening bars is Palm Sunday followed by The Humours of Kilclogher (Kiltyclogher), both of which open with |:B|AGE G2E| but then diverge widely… Played by Dale Russ on solo fiddle (together with The Cordal aka Julia Clifford’s as the third tune), it’s fun to hear the delayed reaction as the audience realize he’s going into a new tune only after the first measure of Humours!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9D7be9-Wyw

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Think you copy/pasted the wrong link, nicatnite?

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Thanks, hadn’t seen that. Nice solo fiddle album!
I edited track 10 for the correct tune number (864) for that third tune, ‘The Slopes of Sliabh Luachra’ (more commonly known as ‘The Cordal’ ). The other tune by this name (12634) seems vaguely related but isn’t the one on the album (or the house concert).
-Jon

Re: Most common (musical) phrases used at a session

Oh and one more thing and then I’ll shut up. Re: common tune phrases, ‘The Cordal’ aka ‘The Slopes of Sliabh Luachra’ aka ‘Julia Cliffords’ opens a lot like ‘The Humours of Glendart’. I think the tunes sound a bit too much alike to be played together, though.