I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I know many traditional tunes. I have also composed numerous tunes that "sound" traditional, and I play them in sets with other traditional tunes. I am curious about how original composers here got started and also I’d like to hear some original compositions.

I’ve been inventing tunes my whole life from when I learned to whistle at 5 years old. It’s just the way my musical mind works.
So, at every stage of being a musician, I’ve been making up tunes and songs, in addition to learning tunes and songs that others have already created.

I’ve been fortunate to play with some amazing musicians. I’ve been very grateful that some of them have learned my tunes.
I’ve encountered very few traditional musicians in my travels, who seem to have an interest similar to mine, in creating new musical compositions. Also, I know very few traditional musicians who are willing to share original compositions. (I know many songwriters who are willing to share their songs, but in this discussion, I am mainly interested in original tunes.)

Anyways, I’d like to hear from people who compose original tunes and hopefully hear some beauties that I’ll immediately want to learn. Also I’m interested in the opinion of anyone who has played a long time, but does not or has only rarely composed tunes, and why that is.

So, I’d love to hear one example or a set of your best work - just post the link here in the discussion. That’s not posting it to the tunes section.

I’ll post the first link to get things started.
https://soundcloud.com/timmymay/the-flying-set-the-phoenix


(I am aware of the longstanding policy of a 1:5 ratio for submitting original tunes on this website.)

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Not sure it’s my best composition, but this is definitely the best recording of one of my compositions: "Two Weeks to Wait", performed by Shannon and Matt Heaton. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neI34thArAM&t=2265s (Argh — "play video" below takes you to the beginning of the hour long session. Click directly on the link above this to go directly to the actual tune.)

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

"I’ve encountered very few traditional musicians in my travels, who seem to have an interest similar to mine, in creating new musical compositions."

I find that quite surprising. Of the dozen players who are fairly regular at my local session, five compose lots of tunes, two compose occasionally and five don’t at all, as far as I know. And most of the pros I know personally, compose.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

So far, so good!! Thank you Sol and Rick. I definitely liked what I heard. I agree that it’s nice to have a nice recording when presenting new tunes. Sol, I’ve attended concerts by the Heatons and you are fortunate that they have added your tune to their repertoire. Rick, that’s a nice tune. Why is it the one and only? What stops you from creating more tunes?

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

DonaldK…that’s cool to know. It’s just a matter of chance I guess. I’ve known a lot of fine traditional musicians and very few of them have shared original compositions. And how about yourself?

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

DonaldK beautiful music, and playing!

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I’ve written several dozen tunes over the past couple of years. Some of them sound (to my ear at least) traditional enough to be able to blend into a regular session; others are a bit more exotic.

Writing tunes is something I enjoy very much, but only on rare occasions. I’ve not yet been able to figure out the exact circumstances that make for a properly creative state of mind. Similar to practising in general, some days I’ll be "in the flow" and I can create a whole new tune in ten minutes or so; other days I’ll have a few bars that sound nice but I just can’t find a good way to complete them.

Anyway, here’s a set of jigs that I’m quite happy with.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8x-QbIIkGy4

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

This thread has turned into a mother lode. In general I’ve found that this site inhibits sharing original music. I guess I could look at everyone’s profile and see if they have original music, but this discussion has already provided some excellent links in one place to provide inspiration. I’ve REALLY liked everything I’ve heard here. I’ll probably learn one or more of these tunes and they will sprout anew in another part of the world.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I have written quite a few tunes. Most of which have ABCs in my profile. And I have recorded a few, including:

The Hip Flask (last tune starting at 3:09): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ97kcNxaUA

Single Again (first tune in this set): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o-1Q-XOhws

Paula’s Birthday (middle tune starting at 1:57): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX2YbhXXcsk


I’m not sure what my most widely played tune would be, but it might actually be my most recent tune, named Maggie Moo (sorry I don’t have a recording of it). I composed it a few months ago in honor of my cat, who passed away two weeks after I wrote the tune. Of all my tunes, it might be the one that would be most appealing to players in general. The tune just appeared without much prodding, and because of that, it feels a bit like an obvious tune to me. But I think it maybe has a better flow than most of my tunes, and my session mates picked it up right away, and have been playing it and spreading it around.

I have pretty much always composed my own melodies, even before I played Irish. And it’s something that I encourage anyone who is interested in the idea to try — not to necessarily become the next Fahy or Reavey, but because you learn a lot about this music when you try composing, and it also gives you a new perspective on how great some of the prolific composers were.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

To my knowledge there aren’t any commercial recordings of anything I’ve composed. Thank God. I don’t want the attention. 90% is probably really bad. I’m really proud of the remaining 10%, but there are no recordings. And there will never be any. Not by me, highly unlikely from anyone else.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Here’s one of mine, which just shows what can happen if you let a great musician and musical arranger such as the (very sadly) late Rick Taylor have free rein with one of your tunes. This was taken from his afternoon workshops at the week-long course put on every October by members of the Blazin’ Fiddles band called “Blazin in Beauly”. As you might expect, a preponderance of fiddle players, who were all encouraged to modulate off-key on that very first note, but there were also cellos, keyboards and percussion, and you might just pick out my button accordion. Slightly faster than my intended speed, but who cares? The tune is “The Battle of Branxton” which I wrote in 2013. Other details in the clip:
https://soundcloud.app.goo.gl/qqhCYQ16pCEak3XY8
P.S. Enjoyed your original clip halfway there!

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

There are so many great original tunes being written all over the world and getting recorded by wonderfully talented people. Before I posted this discussion I searched the discussions with the phrase "original compositions" and variations of that. I read numerous discussions from over 20 years here. There has been so much negativity about original compositions here. A typical sentiment was "I visit thesession.org for Irish traditional music and that is it. Original compositions by definition are not traditional and therefore they are not what I want to see here". There is some "concern" that a new musician might stumble upon thesession.org and accidentally learn a new composition and therefore not have any actual exposure to ITM on this site. (What a crisis that would be. A young musician might learn a cool tune composed in the same century they were born in!! ) This site is an amazing resource for anything that I can think of about ITM….except for a convenient way to discover wonderful new original compositions.

Oh, by the way, thank you to everyone else who has chimed in. I’ve listened to every clip. They’re all interesting. Some remind me of other tunes. Some are totally unique. In every case, I am interested in the music.

I know a lot of common session tunes. I love them. It seems to me like there’s an infinite supply of the oldies. I’ll always be learning new old tunes. However, at this point in my listening and playing, I don’t care if a tune is old or new as long as I like it. If it’s a beautiful tune I’ll probably want to learn it. I generally can’t tell if it’s old or new if I’ve never heard it before and I really like it. So when it was written is meaningless to me. So please, bring on the new!!!

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Search below the surface. Remember, you’re yet halfwaythere…
"2017 - Composers in our midst - in their details & elsewhere"
posted by ceolachan January 2nd, 2017
https://thesession.org/discussions/40100

Posted by .

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@halfwaythere, I should perhaps clarify that I have no expectation that the Heatons added my hornpipe to their repertoire — I was just delighted to hear them play it once! But Shannon at least managed to do some very interesting things with it, which made me extremely happy.

(And I’d forgotten I’d done it, but as is The Session convention, the link to my compositions page is in my profile here. It’s the full set of tunes I’ve written, good and bad, listed newest first. One of my hypothetical current projects is trying to make better recordings of the ones I like.)

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Just getting back to this discussion after popping out for the weekly session last night. Thanks for the compliments, gooseinthenettles.
There are some great tunes and music here. A good tune is one that allows players to create great music.

Often what works best for me is what comes naturally, rather than trying to be too original and clever.
Reverend’s comment - "The tune just appeared without much prodding, and because of that, it feels a bit like an obvious tune to me" - sums up what works best for me. It’s like the tune has always been there, hiding under a stone, and you’ve turned over that stone to reveal it.
I’ve done commissions before, where you are being asked to produce a tune essentially on demand. In a lot of cases (but not all) the resulting tunes have, to me, a perceptible "worked on" feel in that they haven’t just flowed naturally. Because of this I usually compose several tunes and let the customer choose their favourite.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@halfwaythere "Rick, that’s a nice tune. Why is it the one and only? What stops you from creating more tunes?"
Thanks (we have also been known to play "Alan’s Bus Pass" in session). Reasons (excuses) that come to mind include :-
- I don’t play this music outside sessions - there is neither requirement nor outlet for performance.
- It distracted me from learning traditional session repertoire, of which there is no shortage!
- Playing (banjo) in sessions has long distracted me from playing & composing guitar music.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Great topic, There is definitely some talented people here!
I am really into writing folk music, I do so once a month or something and it feels really natural to me.

Here’s a reel (at 2:46) I composed for a friend doing a lockdown "one tune a day" challenge. I arranged it with The Pound a Week Rise and it’s called Le reel du terril wich means The Spoil Tip Reel in french. I come from Belgium and there is a lot of those artificial hills in Wallonia that results from waste material removed during mining. https://youtu.be/foGaPBp71Ek

You are welcome to check my other tunes on my profile page 🙂

I am perhaps even more interested by tunes composed by friends than by trad tunes. Only problem is that it’s not always easy to jam them unless it is a teaching session. Also, it is a super good exercise to try to write a tune to understand a certain type of music, I am still learning to write swedish polskas and it is super interesting in my opinion.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

This has been such a rich thread. I’ve heard really interesting original tunes from fine traditional players from all over the world. Clearly, composers abound among us, and whether or not the tunes are easily available on thesession.org , new music is happening and will continue to happen, as sure as the earth will continue to spin around the sun.

I am very thankful to Jeremy and everyone who has made and kept this international community of like-minded musicians moving forward. I propose that there be some type of space on thesession.org that specifically addresses new music.

50 years ago would Paddy Fahy’s tunes have ever become widely known unless someone decided to record them. What about Ed Reavy or Vincent Broderick. I could go on and on. When these composers had their music recorded and spread around, that was when their tunes became known around the world. They started somewhere and now they are considered to be ITM. 50 years from now, will there be any new music added to what is now known as ITM, according to the standard presented here at thession.org ? If the librarians of the music, do not allow new additions into the library, this will cause stagnation, and the new music will find other channels for nourishment and growth.

Anyways, there have been versions of this type of discussion/argument going on since the beginning here at thesession.org . Over the years a number of solutions have been tried. Currently the only way to really discover ‘new’ compositions is by discussions like this, or to look at every user profile one by one. There is no section for ‘new compositions’. Perhaps there will never be a section like this. But now 20 years in, there surely have been many wonderful new tunes created in the world. That’s 20% of a century. Now that this website has become a mature adult, maybe it’s time for recognition of this vital aspect of the music. Thanks for reading.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Damien Rogeau you can not jam Irish music, you join in if you know the tune, and drop out if you dont.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@gooseinthenettles I may have used "jam" incorrectly, we use it in french to speak about any kind of informal music playing as far as I know.

Still, "You can not jam Irish music" does that mean one shouldn’t improvise on it ? That would be a bit sad. (Not saying you should do it during a session in a pub unless people are ok with it of course)

Also, "you join in if you know the tune, and drop out if you dont." There is tunes I feel comfortable to catch up when they are being played during the session. It’s a super effective way to learn tunes properly imo.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I find the best way to learn a tune, is to join in but play lightly, till you have the tune.That way you’re not spoiling the session.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Thank you Lonnie the Harper. I joined the facebook group. I noticed it’s not specfic for ITM. That works for me because I have a number of Americana/Old Timey type tunes as well. It will be interesting to explore. This discussion has clarified that there is a community of trad composers, but the community is looking for its own highly organized and well-run platform like thesession.org . Maybe the facebook group is the beginning of that. However, facebook has some serious downsides, and I’m sure there are many fine composers, who do not use facebook, and have no plans to do so in the future.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

That’s a really nice jig.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Everyone here seems very organised with their compositions using Sound Cloud, YouTube, Spotify etc. to showcase their tunes. While I’ve written about two dozen, I’ve only published this one, a jig called the Workhouse - https://thesession.org/tunes/16284.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Hello Fionan. I find it very interesting that you are more inclined to introduce a new composition using notation rather than a recording. Does the midi playback (here on thesession.org website) of your tune The Workhouse sound just like the way you play it? Maybe it does. I think having a true recording is ideal for presenting a tune. Just playing a tune is WAY easier for me than notating it. I have used ABC to notate a few of my tunes. I’m not skilled enough with notation so that the playback is ever EXACTLY what I think the tune really sounds like. Nowadays, there are so many tools available for presenting recordings, that I don’t know why anyone who creates tunes wouldn’t present them with their preferred instrument.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I should have titled this discussion "I’d like to hear your original compositions", leaving out the word ‘best’. I’m still interested to hear more. I think it’s just a matter of chance as to who happens to see a given discussion at a moment in time. I’m sure there are many more among the 100,000+ users of this website that are composers, beyond the 17 that have chimed in here so far. To help keep this going….Here’s another pair of tunes that I created and recorded on the banjo: https://soundcloud.com/timmymay/spanish-thady-merry-go-round

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Nice thread. Lots of creativity. Mr Berends in particular, great tunes and savage playing too.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

"Nowadays, there are so many tools available for presenting recordings, that I don’t know why anyone who creates tunes wouldn’t present them with their preferred instrument."

Perhaps some people are better composers than musicians. Perhaps some tunes happen to work better on another instrument. Perhaps some people don’t even play that one. Perhaps some people don’t want the attention.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Some people aren’t that tech savvy to be able to present their work to others online. Some people are quite modest. Some people are not that bothered about sharing their efforts, gaining most enjoyment through the mere act of playing.

Having said that, I should be more tech savvy and less modest. But it’s an effort.

Agree with TheHappyCamper - great playing, as always, from Tijn Berends.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@ halfwaythere - Initially I didn’t have any intention of making one my compositions public on the Session but did so in response to a discussion on music composition for a student taking GCSE exams (https://thesession.org/discussions/41217). I needed to upload the tune to illustrate the things I had learned in a composition workshop.

I am also not a great musician. I’m much more comfortable playing in sessions rather than recording myself for public consumption. However, in response to your post, here is my (badly played) version of the tune. https://soundcloud.com/fionan-3/the-workhouse-jig

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Thanks, fionán. Your tune has now been added to my tunebook.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

fionán, smashing jig I like the key change to the second part, overall it has the nyah!

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Some cracking tunes so far. I’ve never understood the reluctance of many who play the tunes to embrace recent compositions simply because, er, they are recent. People have already mentioned Fahy and Reavy above but think of the many other "recent", "known" composers who have added their compositions to the mix. Sean Ryan, Josephine Keegan, Junior Crehan, Vincent Broderick, Finbarr Dwyer to name but a small handful. Think of how a superb tune like Peadar Ó Riada’s Spórt wouldn’t have made it into the tradition if tunes with known composers were truly anathema. And The Congress - what if that had been ostracised because only traditional tunes were allowed? Christmas Eve? The Providence?

Anyway… to stick my head above the parapet (something I may live to regret but, sure, what’s the worst that could happen?) here are two of the tunes which I’ve composed which (for the moment), I hold in sufficiently high regard to share here:

A Tune For Fee, named as a tribute to my partner, the eponymous Fee.

https://youtu.be/5Zf8MSYwbCk


And The Seven Derries, named after The Montiaghs area of North Armagh where I grew up:

https://youtu.be/BSWDB88MAEw

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

This thread proves there are numerous composers among us and there are great new tunes to discover. For anyone who has actual vinyl record collections, take a look at the tunes that were recorded in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, by well-known trad bands of the era. How many of these tunes are now session standards all over the world? Many of them. Now, perhaps they were already standards and that’s why they were recorded in the first place. However, these recordings also further cemented many of these tunes into the wider standard session repertoire. In any event, someone somewhere made these tunes up in the first place at some point. Perhaps the main way tunes were learned was strictly the oral tradition, and that’s why distinctive regional styles developed. Now, we have a more homogenized world and it’s probable that the Kesh Jig will sound the same no matter where you go on any continent. Is this good or bad? It’s a tune that we all can agree upon and leads to breaking down barriers so more music will happen when musical strangers meet. But there’s a portion of musicians everywhere who also are inventors and will be creating new music whether or not there is an active session community where they live. Thank you to all who have shared their original music on this thread. I and others have found great new music to listen to and maybe even learn. Our ability and tendency to learn new oldies has not been diminished. O’Neill’s is still on the bookshelf. There’s an infinite supply of the pure drop here in the tunes section and in the minds of my fellow musicians. I will continue to discover great new amazing tunes (to me) no matter if they have been in the repertoire for centuries already, or perhaps they were invented in the last week. But the only way new tunes will be discovered is if they are shared in the first place. So thank you to all who have been willing to share original music here.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I’ve made the decision to not write tunes. You can thank me later! The times I’ve tried were wandering travels through mediocracy that bored even me. Well, actually I did write lyrics for a song in the jazz world that was recorded by the guy who wrote the score but the music was better than the words. I’ve been playing for a very long time and think I have a sense of what’s good, what’s good arranging, what has a chance to stand up over time (not being egocentric, just old). My tunes don’t meet even a low bar. Still I will always love a new tune. I proudly play some of yours now that I’ve learned over the years … thanks Ketil and Trish and Pete … keep them coming. A great tune needs somebody to play it and I’m up for the job.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

Here’s another of mine: a bit more conventional than the last one I posted maybe!
"Big Eastern Skies"
https://soundcloud.com/tattieb/big-eastern-skies-1


Enjoyed Donald’s tracks, especially "The Mothers of St Ann’s" which has become a favourite in our sessions: it’s a tune that suits a range of instruments, sounding good on any of fiddle, piano, flute, mandola, etc.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I write the occasional short tune which makes its way into my harp repertoire. I recently recorded a few of my favorites, which you can hear on Spotify or or here on Bandcamp.
https://mattdeblass.bandcamp.com/album/small-musics

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@ Nick Molyneux.
Really enjoyed Staunton Park. Lovely happy tune.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@fionan
Thanks Fionan! The abc of Staunton Park is in my profile if you want to play it.

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

@halfwaythere
I’ve just noticed that you are my US doppelgänger. We both present a monthly radio show with a folk music theme, and we’ve both written a tune called The Phoenix !! Hopefully it won’t end in litigation 😜

Re: I’d like to hear your best original compositions.

I’ll make no claims as to the quality of the tune or the playing. Especially the playing as it was done just two months after a total fusion of the right wrist in 2019. Unfortunately, I broke that wrist again in April and it is getting fused again next week. It’s put a bit of damper on my playing and attending sessions to be sure. At any rate, the tune is "Embers in the Fire" played on a Crump bouzouki as well as the end tune in a four-tune set I call a "bookend" set as it starts and ends in G minor with a shift up a whole tone for the middle two tunes. The tunes are: "Paddy Fahy’s Jig #1, Sean Ryan’s Jig, Pattern Day Jig & Embers in the Fire". I only play the tunes twice so I don’t exceed the general time length of a typical three-tune set at a session. I’ve played it a couple of times at sessions locally and while most of the other session members are familiar with the first two tunes, they aren’t familiar with the "Pattern Day Jig" which I believe is from Nova Scotia and certainly not the last one which is my feeble attempt at something resembling trad.

http://www.thisoldtractor.com/guzzi007/trad/Embers_in_the_Fire.MP3
http://www.thisoldtractor.com/guzzi007/trad/The_Bookends_Set.MP3

The simple truth is that I learned "Paddy Fahy’s Jig #1" incorrectly and was loathe to throw away the part I had incorrect. That became the start of the B part and the rest of "Embers in the Fire" evolved (or devolved) from that. On a bouzouki, it’s fun to play, on a GDAE instrument - not so much.