Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Well I’m at my hundredth tune in my tunebook (tunes that I know by heart) and I thought it is time to make an assessment.

I joined TheSession almost exactly 1 year ago, after being captured by the wooden flute in August 2019 on a couple of Sunday sessions at the Waverley bar in Edinburgh.

I believe these were led by George Duff. See a picture here: https://sites.google.com/view/slowsessionpisa/home/en/home - anyone recongnizes the flute player? Maybe Gordon Turnbull? We met by chance in the toilets where some hydraulic pipe was kind-of whistling, and I remember him pointing out that it was in tune!

At some point the guitar player started singing Bonny Light Horseman, I looked for this song on the Internet and fell on a live version by Ríoghnach Connolly singing and playing the flute (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYe8DhfV29c).


After a Scottish start, I turned to Irish music quite early (though will come back to Scottish music at some point!), with which I had been in contact - though mostly through pub songs - at The Three Tuns in Bristol in February/March 2010.

I started on a practice flute by Hammy Hamilton, then I got a R&R-based Delrin flute by Vincenzo di Mauro and, later, a Pratten-based one by Rob Forbes (I currently love and play both flutes, depending on the day). Now I’m on my way to a 6-keyed African Blackwood flute, which I ordered from flutemaker and brilliant player Steffen Gabriel (https://www.gabrielflutes.com/english), and which I shall receive in July next year.

My hundredth tune is the Old High Reel (also known as the Other High Reel, https://thesession.org/tunes/1584), which I got from the playing of Steffen in this movie https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=523534788258265.

My first discussions here were on 1) posting tunes with chords 2) guitar/bodhrán backing tracks. I firmly changed my mind on both topics now: 1) tunes don’t need chords 2) the best backing track is a metronome.

Over the past months, I received great advice here from Barry Morse, Ben (AB), postie, Richard D Cook and Kenny, and certainly many others whom I would like to thank along with Jeremy of course for hosting all this.

Resources that have helped me throughout last year:

Books on Irish music:
- Breandán Breathnach, Folk Music and Dances of Ireland, Ossian Publications, 1971
- Tomás Ó Canainn, Traditional Music in Ireland, Ossian Publications, 1978
- James R. Cowdery, The Melodic Tradition of Ireland, Kent State University Press, 1990

Books on the Irish flute:
- Hammy Hamilton, The Irish Flute Player’s Handbook
- Fintan Vallely, A Complete Guide to Learning the Irish Flute
- Conal Ó Gráda, An Fheadóg Mhór
- Grey Larsen, The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle
- June McCormack, Fliúit

On the web:
- The Laws of Branjo (thanks to Reverend), an essential reading on musical learning:
https://clawhammerbanjo.net/the-immutable-laws-of-brainjo-the-art-and-science-of-effective-practice/
- Jack Campin’s tutorial on Scales and Modes in Scottish Traditional Music
http://www.campin.me.uk/Music/Modes/

I was lucky enough to find and join a group of musicians here in northwestern Tuscany and I took part in my first session a couple of weeks ago. With their help, I am trying to arrange a learners’ session (Slow Session Pisa, https://sites.google.com/view/slowsessionpisa/home/en/home) which hopefully is going to start next week before the regular one.

I had arranged a 5 weeks visit to Cork for work this summer, but then we got into the Covid era and everything was postponed hopefully to next spring/summer.

And that is all!

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Well done, Sergio—keep it up!

(And good luck with starting the Pisa slow session)

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

It looks a bit like Gordon from the back.. I recognise all the other "weel kent" faces though.
🙂

Funny how you should mention the toilet thing. I like the hand dryer that always starts off with the first notes of "See Emily Play" (Pink Floyd) but there are a few others which remind me of different pieces of music, tunes etc too.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Gordon Turnbull on flute, and I also see John Martin on fiddle and Kevin MacLeod to his right. A bit heavy on the guitar accompaniment in that session, by the looks of things. What is the attraction of being the 4th guitar player in a session ?

Posted by .

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

"What is the attraction of being the 4th guitar player in a session ?"

It means that it’s fairly easy for the four of you to accompany using all twelve tones of the chromatic scale all of the time. That way the right chord is in there somewhere.
Alternatively, it gives you plenty of beer dinking time.

Joking aside, it’s not something that would appeal to me. A fourth guitar (as well as a second or third) isn’t usually going to add anything except mud.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Good for you Sergio, thanks for the update.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Congratulations on your hundredth, Sergio! And thank you for the links — the one for "Jack Campin’s tutorial on Scales and Modes in Scottish Traditional Music" in particular. Good luck with your continued musical endeavours.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

"What is the attraction of being the 4th guitar player in a session ?"

I think Kevin is playing his tenor guitar which is tuned differently and he usually plays melody on that.
Anyway, I think with the type of session it is, they’ll probably not all be playing at the same time either or I hope not! I’ll imagine there’ll the songs and the like too especially as George Duff is there.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Thank for this!

I haven’t started full bore on tunes yet as I started Fiddle six months ago but am about to and this post is super inspiring (also got a new book)!

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

So what is going to be tune #101 for you? 😉

Seriously, congrats, it’s a good milestone, and you should keep it going! About 13 years ago, I posted a thread and let people pick my 200th tune to learn (https://thesession.org/discussions/14598). Since not long after that, I started picking up tunes in sessions quite a bit more easily, and stopped keeping my list up to date, because there were far too many tunes, and lots of tunes I didn’t know the name of. I am somewhere in the 1000 tunes range now… And it only accelerates! I’ll be curious how long it takes you to learn the next 100!

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Vechey, I posted earlier but I forgot to say "Congratulations". Well done.

I think you will soon get to the stage when you give up counting and/or making lists (An ex member here used to hate such things… 🙂 ) .
Personally, I probably knew over a hundred tunes (Scottish and Irish) before I even started playing. Once I had learned how to find my way around the instrument, it was just a matter of playing the tunes which were already in my head. I realise that this approach suits "ear players" better, of course.

Re (tunes that I know by heart) , this is a tricky one. Many of us and even some of the really good players don’t necessarily have a particularly large current repertoire where they can instantly recall a tune and play it flawlessly straight away.
Of course, there will certainly be hundreds of tunes I know which will come back to me very quickly. Most of them in a matter of minutes or even just the "second time around" although others will take slightly longer. However, the number of tunes or sets that I feel confident enough to play without a mistake at any point in time is much more limited.

Having said that, I can often sit down to play and a seemingly endless number of long forgotten tunes just appear like magic and I seem to play them perfectly! Other times, I have trouble trying to think of a suitable tune or set to play although I usually have one or two "emergency sets/tunes" in the back of my mind.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Oops, just remembered that the original post was from Sergio. Sorry about that. It was too early in the morning.
So, congratulations to Sergio and apologies to Vechey. Best wishes to both of you though and enjoy the tunes. 🙂

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Thank you all for your feedback!

NotQuiteIrish and Vechey: Great, I did not mention that explicitly in the post (it was somehow in the title, though), but its main purpose was indeed sharing resources and hopefully inspiring!

As for resources, add to that:

- https://wellington.session.nz, website of the Wellington Irish session in New Zealand (tune archive, with slowdowner player able to play either the tunes on the website or local audio from your computer)
- https://shannonheatonmusic.com/instruction/, lost of good things from flute player Shannon Heaton

Reverend, tune #101 is Kung Fu Katie composed by Conal Ó Gráda and posted recently by Kenny on this board. I liked the tune, learnt it and posted a basic transcription here: https://thesession.org/tunes/19793

Thank you Johnny and Reverend for your comments on what is likely to come!

Just a little clarification on what the tunes in my tunebook mean: those are the tunes that I have fancied, listened to over and over (usually from 1 to 3 or 4 days depending on the complexity of the tune), and learnt by ear (but not necessarily practised on the instrument). At this point I usually transcribe them in ABC format on my computer and add the tune on my tunebook here. The number of tunes that I can play confidently and at tempo is much lower, but what matters most to me now is gaining familiarity with the grammar of this music.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Posted in the wrong thread - thanks Sergio for correcting me:

I do hope to get to your session in Pisa sometime, but as you know a
3 hour round trip (especially the home leg) is not something I’ll do often. Pity it isn’t Sarzana!
And above all - well done!

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

100 tunes in year 1 is mighty progress. Well done. I went on a similar frenzy to accumulate repertoire in my first year.

I found in my second year that a regularly weekly slow session (held in a hall not a pub) was hugely helpful in year 2 at accelerating progress with repertoire. In a pub the venue will expect the playing to be entertaining (for the non musicians too) and there is less leeway for learning, repeating or playing slowly. Our slow session had a fixed book of approx 20 sets (e.g. 6 Jig, 6 Reel, 2 Polka, 2 Hpipe, 2 Waltz/Airs, 1 March, 1 Slip Jig). Repetition and familiarity were the key goals and to bring all the group to a reasonable level comfortable to play in a regular session setting for the shared repertoire. Happy to share our tune book if you’d like (in PDF or ABC format) - just DM me..

I can also tick off the top 4 of 5 of your book list - great resources.

If you want an ambitious project which is well documented and with good play-along CDs - the Comhaltas "Foinn Seisiún" (1..3) books/CDs are a great resource of widely played tunes.

And best wishes with your new keyed flute which will arrive in a years time. Something nice to look forward to and a motivation to practice your art until then.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Thanks gbyrne, will send you a PM in a while!

Yes, I forgot to mention the Comhaltas "Foinn Seisiún" tunes. I completely neglected the books as I am focusing 100% on ear learning. To this purpose, the tunes (either mp3 or movie files) can be found online for free:

https://comhaltas.ie/shop/detail/foinn_seisiun_book_volume_1/
https://comhaltas.ie/shop/detail/foinn_seisiun_book_volume_2/
https://comhaltas.ie/shop/detail/foinn_seisiun_3/

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Kudos Sergio! Having a hundred of tunes by the end of your first year with ITM is really impressive. Did you play flute before starting your trad music journey?

Posted by .

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Thanks Mars! As I said, that’s a hundred tunes that I can sing or lilt, not necessarily play well on my flute!

No, I did not play the flute before, but I’ve been playing by ear with my guitar since I was 16 probably (I used to play mainly songs, either folk or from singersongwriters all around the world - including Vysotski (I see you are based in Russia)).

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

The "4th guitarist" in that Waverley session , next to the fluter, looks a bit like John Carnie, previously of Aberdeen.

Kevin Macleod is playing his resophonic tenor guitar which is probably just tuned GDAE.

Posted by .

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

It is John.
He’s "back" in Edinburgh now. I believe he was from there originally, many moons ago.

I’m pretty sure that Kevin will be playing in GDAE too although the standard for tenor guitars is CGDA just like the tenor banjo and mandola. Most of us change to the fiddle/mandolin tuning though.

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Sergio, thank you for that report and the useful links, and congratulations! It’s really inspiring. In fact, when the Corona lockdown of most of my other musical activities started, I decided to spend it on developing my Tin Whistle. Since I love goals, I decided to go for "learn 100 tunes before we all are vaccinated and go back to sessions" (and then find a session close enough to Bamberg). I’m at 43 right now (The Kid on the Mountain). 🙂

Re: Hundredth tune - A learner’s account

Hi Fermate, thanks! I just saw your comment (actually I just discovered the "Notifications" section accessible from one’s own profile page!). Good luck with the tunes and let’s hope the vaccines will arrive soon!