Combining songs and tunes

Combining songs and tunes

Hi,

I’m new to the world of Irish tunes, but I have listened to and played traditional Irish songs for many years now. I’m wondering if it is “okay” to make a set that consists of both a song and a tune? How would one go about doing this? I had two ideas in mind:

1. Find a tune in the same key, that has a similar rhythm and tempo as the song. Play before or after song

2. Go by chord progressions. Like If I were to sing I’ll tell me ma, the chords would be:
G G D G
G G D G
G C G D
G C D G
It would then be really cool to find a tune that works over the same chord progression, and play that as an interlude/bridge between one of the verses for instance.

What do you people think?

Re: Combining songs and tunes

It’s fairly common in Irish “folk” or “trad” groups to use a dance-tune (reel, jig, etc) as the break, intro and break, or intro, break, and outro.

I don’t think people think of it as finding a tune with a matching chord progression, just a tune that sounds good. Yes generally the intro/break/outro tune is the same key as the song but not always. As we know it’s common in pop music for the break to be in a contrasting key, and it works in folk and trad music too.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

About the concept of playing an instrumental tune and the song simultaneously it’s been done.

I’ve heard two songs sung simultaneously, one in Irish, one in English, the two melodies fitting nicely and working as a tune+descant thing.

A gimmick I’ve done, which I think works well, is to compose a descant for the song, a descant that’s tuneful enough so that when it’s heard on its own it sounds like a tune in its own right.

This descant/tune is used for the intro and break, but continues after the break, the song coming in over it for the final verse, a structure like
I
V1
V2
I
V3+I

It’s not until Verse 3, when the instrumental tune and the song melody are heard together, that the listener hears that the instrument tune is in fact a descant. Of course they don’t know whether it’s purposely composed, or a traditional tune which happens to fit.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

A lot of pipe tunes and Scottish Gaelic tunes have words, sometimes people sing them while playing the tune.
E.g. Brochan Lom has a few different sets of words, in Gaelic, English and Doric.
Similarly, the Barren Rocks of Aden.

I think the same thing would be true of Irish tunes.

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Re: Combining songs and tunes

Most of the leading Irish trad bands this century [and last c.] - Planxty, Bothies, Altan, BotL, Danu, De Dannan etc have done just that !

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Cool! And I can just mix and match stuff as I please (as long as it sounds good)? That gives a lot of possibilities. Would maybe arrange it so that different instruments get their own “solos”

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Maybe a lot depends on when and how you would want to use a song/tune combination. Not really the thing for a dance or a session, I’d have thought, but fine for a performance at a gig or concert, or for a recording. As noted above, it’s a way of embellishing a song that’s often been done by some pretty eminent artists.

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Re: Combining songs and tunes

The Pogues (the band that got me into all this) did a lot of songs with tunes, or excerpts of tunes. Sometimes they added “real” tunes, sometimes self-penned ones. Sometimes the “solo” was just one part.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

This sometimes happens in our session, good fun. I don’t see any problem with the idea.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Tune/song/tune sets are really enjoyable to listen to, too. Just as an example, the Poozies do this on both their Baytree and Hogties sets.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

There’s quite a funny song by the late Ian Davison (Glasgow songwriter) called “There’s room for us a’ in the dance”: it’s about the perils of ceilidh dancing. The verses and choruses are to the tune of “The Back o’ Bennachie” but there are fill-ins between which are well-known Scottish ceilidh dance tunes.
(There is a version of it on YouTube, performed by another singer, auto-generated by Apple, so sadly no credit given to the author/composer! Makes it look like the performer wrote it: maybe not his fault. Comments are disabled, so can’t contest it. Hence I will not link to it!)

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Ed Miller used to sing it - “Phil on the box, and Aly on the fiddle….” You know you’ve made it when people start including you in their songs.

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Re: Combining songs and tunes

@Kenny, that’s why I didn’t name the singer: slightly annoyed that the songwriter was not credited! But, as I said, maybe not Ed’s fault! C’est la vie!

Re: Combining songs and tunes

I had not seen any Youtube recording of the song by anybody when I posted above. I remembered hearing Ed singing it at an Auchtermuchty Festival we were both guests at maybe 30 years ago. I haven’t ever heard anyone else singing it.
There’s no reason not to post a link to any song or tune under discussion here because of the ignorance of the organisation putting it up on the internet, but out of respect, I will leave that decision up to you, Trish. The lack of credit given to Ian Davison is certainly not down to Ed Miller.

PS - perhaps the ultimate “song + tunes” :
https://youtu.be/wlAdphgu_to

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Re: Combining songs and tunes

I’ve just looked up the album on that most reliable of sources 😛 Wikipedia…

I think the entry is probably mostly correct. There are a few songs by other acts there and they all seem to be credited to the original writers including the one by Ian Davison.

Also, the whole album has been submitted to YouTube apparently “Provided to YouTube by CDBaby”.

So, it’s certainly not Ed’s fault. Like Kenny, I see no harm in posting it here as long as Ian Davison is now credited as the song writer. In fact, this would actually help to address the issue.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Ok, this thread is drifting madly….but I’ll maybe drift even more and say that whoever stuck that in Wikipedia has got Ian’s name wrong - it’s Davison, not Davidson! We had the pleasure of having him at our festival and our local songwriting group as both tutor and performer, and he attended our local sessions regularly for a while. he did complain once that BBC Radio Scotland only ever played the song I referred to above (his own version), whereas he had written hundreds of others, but my answer to that was, “Well, Ian, it drew me in and got me interested in your other songs”.

Re: Combining songs and tunes

Trish, I found a recording of a song which I think Ian D. wrote the lyrics. It’s on Soundcloud & there are zero credits except for Peggy Seeger who produced the album. If I’m not mistaken it’s a tune of unknown composer, words by Ian Davison, sung by Irene Scott. “My Joy of You”. I did find something which may be sourced from BBC radio Scotland (just a hunch) which says the piano is ‘drippy’. https://soundcloud.com/peggy-seeger/my-joy-of-you

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Re: Combining songs and tunes

Thanks AB: it’s a song I’ve heard before: that’s because I have Ian’s CDs somewhere in my vast collection and it’s on one of them!
The tune is very very similar to the one used for “Lady Franklin’s Lament”. And Wiki tells me the air for this is a traditional Irish tune : Cailin Og a Stor. (Should be a couple if accents there!)
Much as I love piano generally, I think it’s a bit over-egged in this arrangement!

Re: Combining songs and tunes

My favourite Ian Davison song (Archie sings it) has a line something like “I want to see your face ? years from now”

I can’t remember what it’s called, for the life of me. It’s quite old and I seem to recall it being sung as far back as the 70’s