Learning tunes

Learning tunes

I’m new to the site. I haven’t figured everything out yet or how this supposed to work.
I want to learn to play the Irish Bouzouki or octave mandolin however you want to tune it. I don’t read sheet music. All my playing has been learned playing by ear. Is this site for me?

Re: Learning tunes

I envy your skill of playing by ear. I find that this site has both written and midi forms of music which I think you would find useful. I use this site almost daily as a reference.

Re: Learning tunes

There is no harm in learning to read music, since it gives you access to the vast tune database here and any number of other printed and online tune collections. If you are satisfied with learning purely by ear, however (and there is more than enough material you can learn from recordings to keep you going for a lifetime), that’s fine. The MIDI playback facility here is OK, if you don’t mind learning from a robot.

But that is only one part of the site. By posing your question here, and getting two replies, you have already proved that it is of some use to you. There is two decades’ worth of discussions available to trawl through on various aspects of traditional music, as well as new topics being raised on a daily basis – some of it containing interesting information and valuable tips. Admittedly, talking about music may not be for everyone – some people just want to play it, listen to it or dance to it. But you can also find out information about recordings, sessions (subject to the info being kept up to date)…

I suggest hanging around a while and seeing what you can get out of it.

Re: Learning tunes

The only aural element in the tune library here would be the midi files that really only act as a reference for what each setting of a tune sounds like, but they’re less than ideal if your purpose is to try to learn tunes by ear listening to them, that’s not their purpose really. Are you more interested in playing melody or doing backing on the bouzouki/octave mandolin? If you do a search on YouTube for “OAIM bouzouki” they have a couple of free lessons uploaded. Another good source might be the Mandolin Cafe forum - there’s a subforum there for CBOM (Cittern, Bouzouki, Octave Mandolin) which could be helpful. Seconding what was said above, while this isn’t a site specifically about “how to learn” the instrument of your choice, there’s still lots of valuable information to be found in current and archived discussions, and a bit of craic to be had.

Re: Learning tunes

Halve your learning time and avoid a lot of mistakes that you’ll have to correct later - get a teacher to guide you. They will also help build your repertoire as your technical skills advance. Lots of ITM instruction available online or with one-on-one Skype classes. Best of luck with your learning.

If you were looking for a “curriculum” - Comhaltas’s Foinn Seisiuin No.1 (plus CD) is a good base of popular tunes.

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Re: Learning tunes

Of course this site is for you! Not only is there a large tune archive in ABC, the site will let you play a midi version of each tune. Listening to midi files is certainly not a great way to learn a tune by ear, because computers don’t play music, they regurgitate data. But it certainly plays a tune well enough for you to know if it is the one you’re looking for, and potentially even if it is one that you like. And from there, you can look through the comments and see if anyone has posted links to good audio or video files. Many artists just put all of their tracks onto YouTube, with just the album cover as the ‘video’, as a way for people to discover their music, but there are also lots of produced videos from artists, clips from Geantraí and other shows, Comhaltas videos, and cell phone videos of concerts or sessions, etc. So even if nobody has posted good links, almost every tune is just a quick YouTube search away!

Then, of course, once you’ve learned a tune, you can add it to your personal tunebook in your profile here, so that you can go back and look at the list, or use it as a memory aid for a how a tune starts, etc.

You can also download your tunebook and use it in an ABC Player on your computer or mobile device, and in that case, you can usually control the tempo, so you can slow down the midi playback to catch a note you’re having trouble finding.

People above have suggested learning to read music, but I also suggest that you learn to read (and write) ABC. Once you get the basics down, it’s pretty easy. That would allow you to do things like transcribe a specific setting of a tune that you learned, etc. (BTW, I have found for myself that the process of transcribing a tune that I have recently learned into ABC actually goes a long way toward making that tune’s structure more permanent in my mind).

And as contentious as the forums here have a reputation of getting sometimes, I think you’ll find that there is a lot of knowledge and experience to be found in the discussion forum, either by asking questions or by searching past discussions and reading what people had to say!

So take it from someone who started in this music on bouzouki, doesn’t read music, and didn’t really know where to start some 22 years ago – this site can be one of the most important resources for your journey into Irish Traditional Music! I now play somewhere around 1000 tunes, have two albums out (with two more projects in planning), anchor two sessions, and founded an Irish music camp. Your journey is just beginning, and while it won’t be just like mine, it very well could be just as much fun!

Re: Learning tunes

Hello, Bernard. Great question; how does one learn the tunes and is this site helpful?

I won’t pretend to answer the first because I’m the last person here who knows the “how” except I know it takes time so don’t beat yourself up trying; enjoy the process & definitely meet (session with) like minded musicians.

2nd, about learning from this site, it’s not explicitly a learning site. However it has to be the the most current, updated & resourceful bulletin board for connecting the dots ~ recordings/tunes/tune sets (with links to videos)
“Crag Road - ‘McHugh’s & The Mist Covered Mountain’ “ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0AXTiTyl_Q “Chief O’Neill’s Favourite” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db8MQNejRyU

“Tunes” Literally on a channel posted by thesession’s founder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0fyuWv5Ybw


Multiple member contributions, links & podcasts ~ https://theirishmandolin.com/learn-some-tunes/#kilnamona (Aidan Crossey) https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/kilnamona-barndance-om-version.mp3

“Irish Music Stories” (Matt & Shannon Heaton, et.al.) https://shannonheatonmusic.com/episode-06-the-backer/

(Darren & Dom) https://blarneypilgrims.fireside.fm/43

And every now & again a link to this website. (Donal Murphy, Eamonn Riordan and Brian Mooney) https://media.comhaltas.ie/video/cl321/cl321_5_Med.mp4

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Re: Learning tunes

definitely here is the right place for one more octave player. this board is focused on styling, specific tunes, history of tunes, “who plays it best” and “how to play it right”.

the other right place is the mandolin cafe forum, root around, do not miss the CBOM section:
https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/forum.php

for ideas on what an octave mandolin is good for beyond playing D5 chords, jigs and reels,
some youtube links (I assume you already found all the usual suspects)
- Jim Richter (go to his oldest videos first): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04mtQ62EwuI

- Olga Egorova: https://youtu.be/Uev8gXuVexw?t=54

- or go one size bigger with Mike Marshall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgQaHtuSBCg

- or just play tunes with tijn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1pZ4UjtNas