Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

It’s not a practice which should encouraged, probably. At least, not as a deliberate course of action.

After all, we are supposed to learn tunes "by ear" from live players in sessions…. So, in a sense, it’s no better than learning the tunes from the dots. 🙂

However, I do have a few sets of tunes in my personal repertoire which I was inspired to learn after hearing them on recordings over the years. Lots of individual tunes too, of course, but for the purpose of this discussion I’d like to focus on sets.

Basically, I’m interested to hear which sets have entered your own repertoires after listening to albums. There are some very obvious ones, of course, like those from The Bothy Band/Planxty etc but I’d also like to hear about those which you might consider to be that little bit more special.

Some of mine are as follows….

The Tea Totaller/Da Tusker …."Coppers and Brass" album by Dick Gaughan

Off to Puck Fair (Actually just one tune but a six parter) "Strings Attached" by Mick Moloney

Kilfenora Sexy Jig(Old Favourite)/Scattery Island "Barking Mad" by Four men and a Dog

Murdo of The Moon Parts One and Two "The White Horse Sessions" Night Noise

As last entry but with "The Eagle’s Whistle" added ……. As in "Magnificent Seven" by Blazing Fiddles

I have quite a few more but I’d like to give the rest of you a go first. 🙂

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

> It’s not a practice which should encouraged, probably. At least, not as a deliberate course of action.

> After all, we are supposed to learn tunes "by ear" from live players in sessions…. So, in a sense, it’s no better than learning the tunes from the dots. 🙂

The generation of players who grew up learning from recordings of Michael Coleman et al. might have something to say about that…

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

I know….. My comment was a bit "tongue in cheek", of course. 🙂

In the early days, listening to old 78s (although they wouldn’t have been so old back then) would be how many players picked up tunes and songs especially if they lived in a remote location. They would have far less opportunity to travel then, even to another session.

I suppose I was commenting on the practice of copying sets "note for note" from more recent albums which is quite tempting to do when you start to get interested in this kind of music whether it be Irish, Scottish, or whatever. While it’s good to find new tunes and get ideas, I’d suggest that albums should just be one of many sources and the versions/settings there need not be the final interpretation of the tunes if you should choose to play same.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

We do this all the time around here, I thinks it’s universal. I’ve been in sessions in places where I didn’t speak the language but knew the next tune in a set because the locals had learned them off the same Lúnasa CD.

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Dontcha think it’s kind of lazy to copy sets from one show band or another? I know we do it all time and we even tend to cast our own sets in concrete. To me that’s all a failure of imagination. I do it too, but it always makes me feel guilty. Maybe a skill we need to work at is listening to each other and picking up on the next tune as it spontaneously happens.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

In my area the sets lifted from tunes in sessions are usually either from Lúnasa or Kevin Burke albums, maybe more common here in the States than in Ireland? Or maybe just an indication of those of us who came to the music relatively late in life.

Personally, I don’t have many sets lifted from albums because one of the most fun things for me about this music, is finding tunes that work together in a set. There are so many tunes out there and they haven’t all been locked down in perfect sets in recordings. Two here that I do play from recordings:

Caisleán an Oir - The Humours of Tullycrine.
From "Kevin Burke "Live," although with Caislean transposed to be easier on flute.

Hughie And Janet’s March - Warlocks - Tarbolton Lodge - Alistair Hunter.
From Buddy MacMaster, "Cape Breton Tradition." A nice way to "Free the Tarlboton Three". That tune isn’t only played in Ireland, and IIRC it’s originally Scottish anyway.

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In the session circles I play in we do try to mix sets up even if the tunes have been lifted from recordings & not learned in the session environment. Often one person will bring a tune saying "I learned it off such & such" which might be a person but we do try to reference an available audio source. Then others might be more inclined to pick it up as well, sometimes the whole set, sometimes just that tune. Mostly our sets get arranged on the fly with someone giving a shout when they’ve got one to come next. But there are several sets from albums which have become favorites that we haven’t taken the effort to shake.. yet.

Daimh Polkas - Moidart to Mabou, track 10
The Gullane
Tripping To The Well
The Vatersay Ambulance

Love For Liz in G - Lost In the Loop, track 7
Old Maid Of Galway
Lizzy In The Lowground

Canadian Sunshine - Afterlight, track 2
L’Air Mignonne
Luke Skywalker Walks On Sunshine

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

At our local session we play some sets that are on The Star Above The Garter:

The Morning Star, Rolling In The Ryegrass

The Galtee Rangers, The Glentaun

The Lady On The Island, Cal Callaghan’s

But we’re just as likely to play a set that someone picked up from a YouTube video.

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Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Calling upon ‘classic’ sets can be a good ice-breaker, or common-ground-finder, in a session. There are a few, admittedly, that raise an inner groan in me (the tunes deserve independence) – but I never tire of The Star Above The Garter.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Thanks for all the responses so far. I hadn’t really intended this to become a session about the pros and cons of learning sets from albums and I maybe worded my first post badly.

Basically, I was interested in which sets members have learned from albums which are "special" to them. So, I appreciate the last few posts.

As an interesting aside, I just came by an old discussion here where one contributor suggested that it is quite OK to learn Michael Coleman sets from albums but those from the likes of The Bothy Band would be unacceptable.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

I bristle at tunes being played in the same sets all the time (but that doesn’t meant that it doesn’t still happen…) We don’t necessarily pull sets off albums though. The more likely scenario for us is that someone doing a workshop taught us two tunes together, and we end up playing them together (and yes, sometimes these sets were recorded by that person, but we took it from the player not the album, if that makes sense).

Examples of this for me would be:

People’s Palace/Bruckless Drowning that we got from John Doyle (
James Byrne’s/Humours of Whiskey (Touhey version) we got from Cillian Vallely (and I recorded here

Another thing that often gives us sets that we play fairly regularly is when a composer wrote both tunes and recorded them together. For example:

Woodcock/Kerfunten by Hammy Hamilton (
Ril An Spideil/Twelve Pins by Charlie Lennon (
Aaron’s Key/O’Dea’s by Maurice Lennon/Stockton’s Wing (

I’m sure there’s more…

But I still like to cherry pick these tunes and play them in other sets occasionally, too, to keep things fresh…

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

This brings up a question that I think is worth exploring.

Historically, was this idea of "mixing things up" the norm or did players tend to play certain tunes together in sets in their social music gatherings?

Certainly in the context of a ceili band playing for dancers, I’d expect they would have a set list, but what about in the larger context of pub and kitchen sessions?

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

In my time it was about learning rare tunes, that’s what the Fleadhs were all about, you would learn as much of the tune as you could by ear, and wait till the next Fleadh to meet up with whichever musicians you learned the tune from and learn the rest. No records to learn from then.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

You make your sets the way your session does it. When I first began sessions I never began any set. The sets more or less were known by the regulars; most of the time. They could have been "lifted" but I wouldn’t have known that. To me all the tunes* came from the (local) session & I might be luck enough to sort out who our session host learnt it from & whether it was from a recording or a person. I say ‘most of the time’ because the sets/tunes *always* changed after most of the regulars went away to music camp or summer school.

Having said that about my upbringing I now say, emphatically, "Free the Tarbolton 3!" ;

^*by this I mean the session was my ‘primary source’ for hearing every tune played in our session.

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Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Of course, if you go visit any other session than your home, particularly if far away, those stale old "fixed sets" you’ve played at your own session for years or decades often seem all shiny and fresh to those players.

Context is everything.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Maybe some of the sets on albums came from sessions.

What about the banjo player who said " You’ll ken this one, it’s on ma CD" and launched into a set ?

About twenty years ago I was having a quiet drink in The Dan O’Connell in Melbourne where a session was going on.

I told a fellow tapping along at the bar that I hadn’t recognised any of the tunes in the last hour.
"Oh," he said, "That’s the Solas CD"

They were all young (i.e <30 )musicians , maybe from a class or something.

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Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Back in the early 1980s when I first got into Irish music I came across a Galway band, Shaskeen, and started learning many of their sets from their LPs. I look back now and realise just how valuable an education that was. It has served me well……

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Strange post, it’s completely normal and very common to learn sets associated with certain players, whether commercially or privately recorded. Often someone would suggest a tune and someone else would say ‘so and so recorded that with this one’, or you might add another on the end. There are also classic sets from say Coleman recordings etc. You’re not going to play the Tarbolton without everyone piling into the other two after it. Or the Wise Maid after Copley’s, or Down the Broom and the Gatehouse Maid, or the Home Ruler and Kitty’s Wedding etc. I agree it’s good to mix it up but that happens anyway when you play with different people. Being able to mix up sets is important, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore good ones.

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I think sets made popular on a recording are fine in sessions. I wouldn’t want to perform them without at least crediting the source. For sure, I wouldn’t want to record one. If you’re playing other people’s tunes the only form of creativity is in arrangement. Otherwise, you’re a cover band.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

That’s pretty harsh.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

Loughcurra: "Strange post"

To be fair, the opening poster (whoever he is 🙂 ) admitted that he wasn’t being all that serious in his criticism of those of us who do play sets of tunes from albums. After all, he even admits to doing it himself from time to time.

He also made the point that the purpose of this discussion was to invite members to offer some examples of sets learned this way which had special significance to them.

So, this thread wasn’t really intended to be a debate about the pros and cons of learning tunes and sets from albums as such. After all, we all do it to a greater or lesser extent.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

"some examples of sets learned this way which had special significance"

When I was just getting started my teacher taught us pretty much everything off of Kevin’ Burke’s "In Concert" and Mary MacNamara’s "Traditional Music from East Clare" so whenever I play Rolling In the Barrel/In the Taproom/The Earl’s Chair I think of good friends that I miss.

Re: Sets "Lifted from Albums…"

We avoided performing sets directly from albums. Since I was responsible for 90% of the arranging, I pieced together our own sets.
In a Session though, would it really make much of a fuss if the group learned a set from an LP? The couple of sessions I attended, I could swear there were sets done from various groups like Planxty and the Chieftains, and I don’t recall anyone questioning the use of the set.