Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

My daughter (15) has recently discovered Irish music, after taking part in a session locally. She’s a fiddle player, about grade 6, and I’d like to get her a book with lots of different tunes, and perhaps some tips on playing Irish music as she mainly plays classical. There are so many books out there, I don’t know where to start: does anyone have any recommendations?

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

The Matt Cranitch or Seamus Creagh books are excellent.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

G’day AndreaN.
I’ve just ordered a copy of "The Fiddler’s Fakebook".
After reading info, it seems that it is a most comprehensive publication for ITM.
Good luck.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

The Matt Cranitch book seems to be the best shout for someone coming to the music already able to play. She doesn’t really need a book of tunes so much - the internet and her ears will sort her out on that front in the long run - but the idiom is what’s important, and Matt’s book will get her a long way into that.

You don’t say where you are, but it would also be helpful for her to get a few lessons from someone who does play this style. There are Skype teachers available as well if you can’t find someone local.

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Forget Recommendations for Irish music books!

No books! The people who profit the most from these books are the people who write and publish them.
Learn by ear, with assistance from this site. Learn from instructional videos on YouTube. Enroll in The Online Academy of Irish Music.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

"No books! The people who profit the most from these books are the people who write and publish them. "

I’ve no objection to composers getting fair remuneration for their work. Also, publishers too, to an extent. However, the latter sometimes have a tendency to try and claim copyright for their "arrangements" of traditional tunes.
Books are less necessary these days for learning traditional music as there’s so much stuff online and the settings aren’t necessarily more accurate either. So it’s always best to learn by ear if possible.

Having said that, I think if one is interested in a particular player’s style and his or her repertoire, it’s nice to have "the book". For a fiddler, I would also recommend the book from Matt Crannitch.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Learning by ear is a wonderful thing if you can learn from people with the time and patience to sit and show you everything you need to know.

If.

There is nothing wrong with a well written book, which is why many good players and teachers write them.

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I’m sure there are video tutorials that will help with learning how to play an Irish tune with an Irish lift. I think Kevin Burke has one (not a fiddler myself). OAIM is a great investment. They’ll likely help develop ear learning skills, and help find a way to translate the score into a real tune. As for books, there are plenty free on line like the Montreal Session Tunebook, King Street, and others that even a luddite like myself has found. Most of all there’s this noble site… thesession.org…with tunes (thousands), pretty good ideas on which ones to learn (go to Tunes…Popular Tunes…scroll to popular tunes), and useful information about how to play them from often reliable sources! Worked for me. Good luck Andrea’s daughter!

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Personally I wouldn’t recommend Fiddlers Fakebook, particularly for someone coming from a classical background. The tunes are notated with an awful lot of detail based on a single performance. This may either be confusing, or may imply that this is "right," or may be a distraction from learning to play the music in a traditional style.

The risk is always, as a friend of mine says of his early experiences coming from a violin background, "I bought a book of Irish Fiddle Tunes, and I played through the lot, and not one sounded Irish!"

To listen is the best advice, but instructional material, either video or a book, can help guide on the way to making it sound like you want it to!

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I agree that listening is waaay more important than books, especially when it comes to making your playing sound less classical and more traditionally Irish. Still, for building repertoire, Matt Cranitch’s book is a good one.

Also, O’Neill’s is sort of the bible of Irish music—I dare say that every serious Irish musician has a copy. But it’s a 100-year old old book and many of the settings are played a little differently these days. And there aren’t any tips on how to play, it’s purely a collection of tunes. Still, a great resource for foundational repertoire.

https://www.melbay.com/Products/96322/oneills-music-of-ireland.aspx

Another collection of commonly played session tunes can be found in the Foinn Seisiún (“session tunes”) series that you can purchase from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann

https://comhaltas.ie/shop/detail/foinn_seisiun_book_volume_1/

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Since your daughter mainly plays classical, it’s pretty important that she at least listen to a ton of great Irish music, and even better if she learned it by ear instead of sheet, since what makes it sound Irish isn’t generally written on the page. Or at least plant that idea in her head for the Irish music. Then she should listen to good Irish playing to find tunes that she wants to learn. Then at least if she learns it from sheet music, she will have an idea of what it should sound like. As most of the big discussions about dots vs. ears here will show you, learning tunes from sheet music can be OK, but you can’t learn the style from the dots, especially since she is most familiar with a different style. For that, you need your ears. Best of luck with getting her hooked!

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Thanks for all the comments. My daughter is actually really good at learning by ear and always eschews the offer of music when she goes along to a session. I just thought she might like some music so she could try out some different tunes at home, as she really loves playing Irish music. I don’t think it has to be either/or: I’m sure there must be room for learning by ear but also using music to pick up some new tunes!

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

If you don’t mind another non-book-oriented suggestion… I really think the Amazing SlowDowner app is great, for students of any level. (It was recommended to me by a well-known fiddle player). It sort of combines the advantages of learning by ear with the convenience/portability of learning from dots.

If you have a Spotify account, you can pick out recordings of tunes you want to learn, add them to a playlist, and the playlist will be there when you open the SlowDowner app. You can play back the tune at any speed and "loop" a specific section of the tune. It also lets you transpose the tune to suit your instrument, or change the tuning by increments of 1/100 of a semitone if the original wasn’t in concert pitch. Plus, it’s a convenient way to keep track of what tunes you are trying to learn, and what you’ve learned in the past.

I’d recommend getting the tablet version (iOS or Android) rather than the OS X version, since it’s a lot cheaper that way.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Andrea, you just missed a couple of threads on the oft-recurring theme re playing from notation v playing by ear, and I wouldn’t want to re-open those arguments so soon again, tho’ no doubt they will re-surface at some point in the future! It’s great that your daughter can play by ear, and should be encouraged to do so, but no harm in letting her have a couple of books too, and you’ve had some good recommendations and suggestions above.
I.e. what Calum said.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Another vote for Cranitch. He shows simple bowings, ornaments, and he demonstrates via CD. Getting into bowings and ornaments correctly - which Cranitch will help do - is essential to getting the feel of ITM. And that’s extremely important for someone who’s coming from violin.

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

There’s plenty of room to learn from notes or by ear. The problem I find with learning by ear is that I simplify tunes too much. It can be useful to find a version (or 2 or 3) thats written for reference. I also like to either find the notes or transcribe the tune myself to store as a reference. It’s amazing how many tunes you can forget if you step away from ITM for any length of time.

As for learning Irish Fiddle, lot’s of resources to help with bowing and the elements of Irish fiddle style. Matt Cranitch’s book is excellent, some other are;
Pete Cooper, Mel Bay’s Complete Irish Fiddle Player
Tommy Peoples, From Time to Time, Tommy Peoples (Tutor, Text and Tunes)
Paul McNevin, A Complete Guide to Learning the Irish Fiddle

plus some decent video’s online (Murphy, Burke, Henderson). As far as "books" of music I find this place to be a good source plus TunePal. More traditional printed material would be Comhaltas: Foinn Seisiún . You can find video’s of the tunes played online and volumes 1-3 are in one pdf file floating on the internet although you should purchase them to support the publisher. My favorite though is the Bulmer and Sharpley Music From Ireland (4 volumes). Volume 2 is very, very hard to find. I was lucky to get the complete set as originals as well as a well worn photo copy. The tunes are great and the settings are really good. Most are available if you search in TunePal. The Fiddler’s Fakebook is also a good source of tunes in many settings. Yes, the transcriptions can be a bit detailed but they give you the source and many of the settings are very good. The best part of the Fiddler’s Fakebook is the frequent inclusion of chords plus tunes in many styles other the Irish so you’ll be ready for OldTimey, Bluegrass, Irish, Cajon, and other styles. Another favorite of mine are the two volumes of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Tune Book. Wonderful tunes, I like to play them on Octave Mandolin.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I guarantee you that neither Matt Cranitch, nor Tommy Peoples, nor Pete Cooper, et. al., ever learned how to play fiddle by reading a book about playing Irish traditional music.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I doubt if they did learn from books. But then again I’m willing to bet they all own books. In fact they’ve all written books themselves, so they can’t consider them to be too evil. The OP didn’t ask for advice on how to learn fiddle, she just asked for recommendations of books that would give her daughter a few tunes to get started with her local session, and hopefully inspire her to take things further.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books [M. Cranitch] ;)

It’s my desire for fair play to mention that not all the replies on this fair site about learning tunes should be characterised as *dots vs. ears*. There is a prevalence of posts about the complete lack of sheet music
*in* trad sessions. However there is & always has been acknowledgement that sheet music is useful;
w/vague reference as to exactly what that means. At the very least there is a large minority of members who consider learning tunes with a combination of listening to music & using notation (in some fashion)
will not turn you into their worst session wrecking nightmare.

Cheers!

I prefer not to comment on fiddle books (since I’m not a fiddler) except to say, best when the author includes recording to go w/. I play flute and whistle, didn’t learn to play Irish from books x 2 say I bought O’Neill’s 1001 & Robin Williamson’s tin whistle book. Neither of those books taught me anything about the music being played in Irish sessions. I learnt more from Grey Larsen himself than I did from his book. Though I appreciate the tune transcriptions. Mary Bergin’s 2nd volume of her tutorial is very well thought out information about trad whistle. Sorry to go on about flute & whistle so I’ll cut myself off there before I get in any more trouble.

Ben

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

It’s Matt Cranitch all the way and there are 2 recordings of his of some of the tunes in the book as well so you can hear and see.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

> nor Pete Cooper

I can assure you that Pete Cooper has an extensive library of musical material and refers to it regularly.

Idiom is idiom, and you can learn it from anywhere if it is properly taught.

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

It is not a fiddle book, but Soodlums Irish Ballad Book has a store of Irish tunes (used to be published by Ossian). I’ve picked up a lot to play on fiddle. And the old photos in it are lovely.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Hi AndreaN,

I have some links here that show more info on some of the books already mentioned. Hopefully clicking on the links will take you directly to the books (as it did with me).

Some of the links have a "Look Inside" option for the book, and there are buyers’ reviews if you scroll down.

Paul McNevin, A Complete Guide to Learning the Irish Fiddle :

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Guide-Learning-Irish-Fiddle/dp/1857202031/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Paul+McNevin%2C+A+Complete+Guide+to+Learning+the+Irish+Fiddle&qid=1554563007&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Pete Cooper, Mel Bay’s Complete Irish Fiddle Player :

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Irish-Fiddle-Player/dp/0786687657/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Mel+Bay%E2%80%99s+Complete+Irish+Fiddle+Player&qid=1554562798&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Matt Cranitch - 2 books

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Irish-Fiddle-Book-Matt-Cranitch/dp/1900428679/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1HQ6746KLA1XG&keywords=matt+cranitch+the+irish+fiddle+book&qid=1554563250&s=gateway&sprefix=Matt+Cranitch%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-1

https://en.schott-music.com/shop/pdfviewer/index/readfile/?idx=MTAzNjM2&idy=103636

Paul McNevin, A Complete Guide to Learning the Irish Fiddle

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Guide-Learning-Irish-Fiddle/dp/1857202031/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Paul+McNevin%2C+A+Complete+Guide+to+Learning+the+Irish+Fiddle&qid=1554563007&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull


Fiddler’s Fakebook

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fiddlers-Fakebook-David-Brody/dp/0825602386/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=fiddler%27s+fakebook&qid=1554563939&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

I think it’s worth getting the Fiddlers Fakebook in addition to anything else. There are stacks of great tunes in it, inexpensive, and it’s great value for money. I bought my copy ages ago, but the book is still going strong.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

If you can find it…"Smoke in Your Eyes" is maybe the best resource I can think of, but I believe it’s out of print. As for the Fiddler’s Fakebook, well, I gave mine away shortly after I got it. Everybody I know has one and no-one I know, including strong readers, not even the Old-Time players, ever uses it. For me there’s a message there.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Ross :

[As for the Fiddler’s Fakebook, well, I gave mine away shortly after I got it. Everybody I know has one and no-one I know, including strong readers, not even the Old-Time players, ever uses it. For me there’s a message there.]

What do you think is bad about the Fiddler’s Fakebook that you had to give it away?

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I am working my way through the Peter Cooper book and I highly recommend it I am new to traditional Irish music also and have the Cranitch book as well but for myself I found the Cooper book easier and better laid out. Make sure you get the music files or the CD to go with it. This all is just my opinion YMMV

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Thing with the fake book is it’s full of ideas from direct transcriptions from a combination of players . It needs to be used not as a source of tunes , though it is full of great tunes like the Russian rag, Roxanne waltze , up jumped the devil and loads of Irish and scots tunes . But IMO the tunes need to be learnt as bare bones and only then are ornaments added . And the chord patterns are accurate and reliable . If you want tunes go to O’Neill’s , but not the fiddlers version but the old 1001. The fiddlers version has ornaments so again is really a source of ornamental ideas . Not learning tunes ….. tunes need to be learnt as bare bone ideas . Simpler the better …. then …. approached looking for ideas of where and what to ornament.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Will, I did suggest the Fakebook as an add-on to any others (not as a primary book) - just for the reason that it so cheap, and contains a stash of quite diverse tunes.

Still, everyone has their own view of what a tune book should be, I suppose.

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Jim, the tunes I found in the Fakebook just didn’t seem “right” to my ear. This was even more so when played as written by fiddlers who knew what they were doing. They just had an Old Time or maybe Contra feel to me. Not “bad” just not quite right. I don’t mean to dump on the fakebook as much to say I found other resources were better.

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Ross, fair enough.

There are almost 300 tunes in that book. Do you remember any that you thought sounded odd? I’d like to check them out myself, just out of curiosity.

No worries if you can’t :)

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Hmm if a fiddler knows what he is doing any tune from any book will sound right, because he will ignore the bits that don’t sound right before even playing them!
The settings are a combination of direct transcriptions so were never played or meant to be played as written. They are a compendium of ideas. By ‘know what they are doing ‘ I mean very familiar in the genre .

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My big problem with the Fiddler’s Fakebook is that the tunes are written as played by a generic, commercial fiddler. There are tunes from Scottish, Irish and many other traditions, but they are not written as someone within those traditions would play them, they are written as someone making popular music recordings might play them. I have the same problem with Pete Cooper, he is a ‘jack of all trades’ fiddler, and while what he does is very good, if I want to study a particular style of fiddling I’d rather go to an original source - someone who specializes in that style, not someone who has learned it amongst a number of other styles that will inevitably have influences on how he plays.

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My biggest problem with the fiddler’s fakebook is… ummm..nah!

Actually my wife says I only have two main problems.
1. That I don’t listen to her.. and….
2. errr.. that other thing.
:)

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Sorry Jim. It was a long time ago and I didn’t even get through the whole thing. I wouldn’t argue that the book has no value, just that there are better. It seemed to have an Old-Time orientation.

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OK Ross, thanks - no worries.

Still, I did suggest it as an addition, rather than a primary source.

Some people love the original O’Neill’s 1001, and dislike the Mile Krassen version. And vice versa. Like I said before, it’s very much a personal choice.

In a previous company I worked for, they had these quality improvement courses, you know the "work smarter, not harder" type of things.

One thing that did stick with me from that was their definition of quality.

One single criteria for achieving quality : "Meeting customer requirements." Here, it matters not whether you are a beginner, improver, or a flashy top-top pro - the quality of the book depends on "meeting customer requirements."

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Private message sent.

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Oh no! What have I done this time? :)

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I live in Brisbane area. Had a fiddle lesson decades ago in Canberra. That teacher sent me some copies of tunes. Opened up the mail parcel in the presence of folkies, and instantly lost a few copies to them. Decades later I posted up a copy of 3tunes to a friend, he sent that page out to his mates in Victoria. Finally had an answer to where these tunes came from. THE BLACK BOOK. it must have been one of the first and has been copied many times. So if you don’t have it, go get it. Happy playing all.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

> THE BLACK BOOK

Never quite sure why it attained this appellation, other than perhaps to obscure the copyright theft involved in its distribution. The "Black Book" are the four "Music from Ireland" books issued by Bulmer & Sharpley.

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

This is a bit off post so feel free to PM me with an answer so we don’t clutter up this discussion. The OP makes note of a "grade 6" fiddle player. I’ve heard the "grade" term before but I have no idea what it means. Can someone tell me what it is and how it works? Is it important and if it is, how? Thanks.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

@ross - kids learning to play a classical musical instrument in Britain can take a series of graded exams typically set by the "Associated Board" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABRSM).

Grades range from 1 through to 8. If you were a violin student you might take grade 1 in or after your first year of learning. Grade 8 is a pretty decent standard. I think I had got as far as Grade 6 at the age of 15 when I decided to chuck it in (before taking it up again to play fiddle some years later). The OP’s daughter will know her way around the instrument and will be at ease in higher positions and able to play in a good range of key signatures.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

Got it. Thanks.

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

if you don’t play classical music, don’t worry, you can now take exams in Irish music too: https://comhaltas.ie/education/sct_exam/

(the whole thing seems a bit silly to me, but i suppose in the end it’s just a measure of progress that’s not so different from competing in the fleadh…)

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Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

I enjoy learning from Irish Session Tunes In Sets, Selected by Brid Cranitch. I bought the blue book but may buy the other colours. There’s a cd that goes with it, with the tunes played at a manageable speed.

So one could either learn the music from the dots or pick it up from the cd by ear - as you like it. :)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Irish-Session-Tunes-Chester-Music/dp/1900428822

Best wishes,
Mollie x

Re: Recommendations for Irish fiddle music books

May I recommend Jigs to Jacobites by Orfhlaith Ni Bhrian and Mick McCabe . It’s a beautiful new book with lots of tunes and wonderful illustrations, guaranteed to appeal to young people.
Here’s my review: http://chiefoneill.com/jigs-to-jacobites