Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

What is the etiquette here, or what are reasonable expectations?

Say I wanted to play for example the Glens of Aherlow in Dm in a session would it be reasonable to expect competent musicians who knew the tune already in its most common key to be able to play it? (Assuming it suited their instruments).

How do you introduce a tune in an unusual key to a session?

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Better to play what’s common instead of trying to change it up. We’re talking about changing muscle memory/how a tune is played without variations to an entirely different key on the fly. Why wold you want to change the key if tune is already learned and played in another? Sure you could transpose, but then whistlers are going to need to grab another whistle, backers need to change accompaniment, and just makes a hassle for all involved.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

One thing I’ve seen is fiddlers playing tunes down a string, so that A tunes are in D, for example.

Then at least for the fiddlers, banjo players, and mandolin players there’s not much bother.

I can’t remember exactly when but there was one fiddler or box-player for whom the key of Am didn’t seem to exist and everything was down in Dm. Happily I had a mezzo-G whistle so I could play as usual.

Likewise there’s sometimes a G versus A thing where tunes that pipers and fluters play in G are being played in A by the fiddlers. There was one time where we played several tunes 3 times in G then 3 times in A, which accommodated everyone.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Thanks Richard. @theBlindBard it’s fun to play tunes in different keys sometimes.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I guess it depends on what the culture of the specific session is.
If it’s mainly the music/top notch players then it’s likely interesting and fine.
If it’s mainly the social aspect then it’s likely exclusionary and not fine.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I’m with belayatron on this. It all depends on the norms of the specific session.

If you do decide to play a tune in some unusual key and notice that nobody seems interested in joining in with you by the second time through, consider switching to a version in a more common key for the rest of that tune in the set, or just change tunes completely to one more likely to be in the shared repertoire.

I think there are some reasonable exceptions to this. As Richard mentioned above string players will sometimes play a set down a string which gives a very different darker character to the sound and feel of the tunes with minimal challenge (if you are a string player).

More challenging shifts like from A minor to G minor can be problematic for some players or may exclude some (pipers with minimal keys on their chanter) and should be carefully considered.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Thanks Michael and Belayatron. I’m definitely not interested in playing tunes in unusual keys to exclude anyone, just to play something different and was wondering how likely it would be that people would be able to play along.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Then of course, there is the chance that someone might have picked it up from a recording which had it in Dm…

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I find that the ‘quality’of a tune can change considerably if played in a different key. For example The Musical Priest is usually played in B minor, but I can also play it in A minor or G minor. Once shifted to one of these other keys the notes/ornamentation/mood etc can be varied. It creates a different feel. They all work for me on mandolin/fiddle but starting up in a non-standard key without warning would probably risk having to play solo. So it’s really down to who knows what is going to happen and is geared up to it. Playing the majority of tunes in non-standard keys would probably start to look a bit ‘passive-aggressive’ or ‘show off’

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I’m thinking also of tunes which have been ‘shifted’ to a more comfortable key, presumably to make them more accessible - for example Calliope House from E to D or Music for a Found Harmonium from C to D.

It may be that the limits of the ubiquitous D whistle is the prompt for a lot of this. Whistles already have the challenge of adjusting for melodies which drop below D, for which fiddles and mandolins have whole string available

The reverse challenge is when a whistle player unrolls a bundle of whistles in every conceivable key and sizes going up to perforated scaffolding pole.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Unless you’ve discussed it beforehand it seems likely the other players will just assume you’ve messed up and started playing the tune in the wrong key.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

One thing I would add (outing myself as a still relative newbie/crap intermediate).
Is, whilst blindly obvious to you, it might not actually be obvious to everyone the key is different if they’re new/play a chromatically limited instrument, so do announce it if there are any relative newcomers.

I’ve had that sinking feeling before when happily playing along to a common tune on my whistle and suddenly getting odd angry looks from people and not realising why = you feel stupid!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“Unless you’ve discussed it beforehand it seems likely the other players will just assume you’ve messed up and started playing the tune in the wrong key.”

That presumes there is a “right” key.

Many tunes are commonly played in various keys. Musicians with decades of experience and/or who’ve traveled to many different sessions are perhaps more likely to be ready to play a given tune in a range of possible keys. Veteran fiddlers in particular seem to relish moving tunes around the fingerboard.

It’s not like this is an uncommon or hidden phenomenon. Take a look at The Cuil Aodha: https://thesession.org/tunes/825 and you’ll find transcriptions in G, D, A, and E. I’d wager that most of the more popular tunes in the database here include transcriptions in more than one key (and sometimes mode as well).

I wonder if this was always a thing (as in Clare and Galway where tunes have long been shifted into flat keys), or if it happens now more than it used to because there are so many recording artists and they transpose tunes to stand out from the crowd.

Regardless, if I was at my local session, I might chance playing a tune in a different-than-usual key in hopes at least a few of the more adept players would join in. I might announce the change ahead of time or not. But when visiting a session, I’d be more inclined to query first, something along the lines of “Do you know XYZ tune, and what key do you favor?”

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

> would it be reasonable to expect competent musicians who knew the tune already in its most common key to be able to play it?

The term “competent musicians” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Transposing on the fly to different keys is a specific skill generally expected of conservatory level musicians and session recording artists. For the rest of us, it’s a simple question of how important that skill is to us, no matter how good we are at other things. There isn’t one simple ordering of musicianship.

Among friends you know are comfortable with it? Fine. If you have dug into it and believe that you’re bringing something new and worthwhile to the tune to do it? Fine, with the caveats that go with introducing any other new tune. Doing it because you can? Hmm.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

That’s fair, Calum. I was thinking of the fiddle or banjo where it can be as ‘simple’ as moving down a string. But not sure if I’d manage playing a tune for the first time in a new key in a session!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Transposing on the fly is fun. A long time ago, I attended a session where a D tune was played in C, and an Em tune in F#m. Not as simple as moving up or down a string.

Another time, just a few years ago, one musician started a set we all knew. It turned out that their capo was two frets higher. So, that became a set in Emix, C#m and E. I was playing the box (C#/D). Not the end of the world.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Calum wrote: “…bringing something new and worthwhile to the tune….”

That’s the crux of it, yes? A bit like engineering—just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

For example, the Morning Star is widely sessioned in G, but it’s also lovely in F (a la Martin Hayes). On fiddle, moving to F opens up new possibilities for ornaments and variations, and it’s a sweet sounding key.

So in a session full of fiddles, I might chance it in F. Probably not if my session mates were on flute, pipes, whistle, etc. Or then I’d at least play it in G as well (maybe later in the set).

Context matters, as does being sociable.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Jeff, that reminds me of some guitarists I know who say every tune or song they play is in D. Then they play in D but move the capo all over the neck. 😀

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

If it’s a really familiar tune it’s doable and can be fun sometimes. I can just about manage it in manageable keys. We often play the Foxhunters from G up to A, or the Hole in the Hedge from C to D, etc

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Transposing on the fly on a woodwind is a vastly different prospect than on a stringed instrument. On strings, you shift position or string and the muscle memory pattern for the left hand is often more or less unchanged. On a woodwind, moving up or down a whole or half time requires a completely different muscle memory pattern that is time consuming-not necessarily difficult- but definitely time consuming to acquire. The tune just doesn’t fall under the fingers necessarily and you have to think about it, unless you have spent a lot of time working at on the fly transposition as a skill. Even then, that may not help, given that the likelihood one acquired that skill through the practice of Irish traditional music is pretty low- more likely the person got it through classical or jazz training.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“It may be that the limits of the ubiquitous D whistle is the prompt for a lot of this.”

That and the flute in D, where we fluters don’t have the whistle player’s option of showing up with a roll of instruments in different keys.

I’m able to play a tune in G minor or G dorian on my flute because it has keys for Bb and Eb, difficult to impossible notes on a keyless flute. But I have to *practice* a tune in Gm or Gdor to be able to play it at session tempo. I’d be pretty hopeless trying to make a switch from a tune commonly played in Ador to Gdor on the fly.

The other issue mentioned previously is that fluters don’t have a note below the open D on a fiddle. We have to “fold” up an octave for notes on the fiddle G string, or else find a phrase that harmonizes. That’s something I spend time working out at home. It’s hard to do on the fly unless you’re a better player than me (I’m not a great flute player).

I guess this wouldn’t be an issue in a session where it’s just fiddlers. Anyway, I do have a solution to switching to unusual keys on the fly, because I usually bring both mandolin and flute to sessions. I can just pick up the mandolin where it’s easy to find where a tune is going. Not everyone has that option though.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“On strings, you shift position or string and the muscle memory pattern for the left hand is often more or less unchanged.”

That’s generally only true if you’re just shifting up or down to the next string.

Moving a tune from, say, G to F, or from Ador to Gdor (both common shifts in the Galway and Clare traditions) requires completely different fingering on fiddle—and often bowing as well. Similarly, shifting a G/Em tune (think Maud Miller: https://thesession.org/tunes/1177) into D/Bm (as played by Cathal Hayden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v2surTZ9VM) is a sea change, nonetheless a very rewarding one.


That said, it’s no doubt easier to move most tunes through a variety of keys on fiddle or mandolin than it is on flute or pipes. I enjoy doing this on fiddle for the reason Calum mentioned above, but also to free myself—and the tune—from living in only one pattern. The process has made me a better fiddler in that I know the fingerboard better than I would otherwise, and I can be freer, more spontaneous, with the bow.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

As Gimpy suggests, what is a right or a wrong key? Or a usual v unusual one?
I have found on my travels that certain tunes get played in differing keys in different places, and for those who usually play there, their chosen key is, to their thinking, the right or the usual one. Go a few miles away and you’ll find folk who always play the same tune in a different key, which, for them is also “usual” and “right”.
For me on B/C box, it means a totally different set of fingering to play in another key, but yes, if you know the tune it may well be possible, but I would sit out if it goes into Ab!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I could - but I wouldn’t. Unless I knew you well and you were a regular member of the session I’d just assume you want to play it alone and let you go.

Just FYI - it’s Glen, not Glens.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“what is a right or a wrong key? Or a usual v unusual one?”

With recent tunes, we usually know what the composer intended. However, they don’t always play tunes in the same key either. For instance, Bruce MacGregor plays “Doddie’s Dream” in different keys with Blazing Fiddles and others ( F & C) than he does on his solo album (G & D).

Many standards are played in different keys depending on location or general style of music. For instance, Mrs Macleod is usually in played in A “Here in Scotland” and in G in Irish sessions. Similarly, The Blackthorn Stick and many more.

Also, many tunes are transposed into more familiar “session friendly” keys. That’s OK.
However, for performances, it’s not uncommon to experiment with more difficult keys and/or play the original key.

There’s also the scenario, where tunes are played in the original key(well fingering, at least) but a semi tone higher. So, the fiddle or mandolin may be tuned up a semi tone(or the latter capoed), E flat whistle used instead of D etc.

Sometimes, these are known as “E Flat sessions” and the participants may choose to have these for various reasons. It’s been suggested here before, whether true or not, that the musicians do this deliberately to deter visitors and/or lesser players.

I’m sure that’s not necessarily the case all the time. I will often tune up or capo my instruments to play along with Highland pipers and the like.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I was pleased to have come up with this during lockdown : https://thesession.org/tunes/432#setting40355
I haven’t been in any session to try it out - [ nobody in Aberdeen would know the “original” anyway ].
It all depends on the session you are in. I doubt if I would ever play it in Ireland, unless I knew all or most of the players, and I would certainly announce that it was in a “not usual” key.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I do it occasionally, but only when I’m familiar with most or all of the players. I do like moving tunes from D to C, for instance. But C is not a particularly friendly key on D wind instruments or DADGAD guitars (especially if, as gimpy says, the player plays everything in the D form and moves the capo around). So the context of when and why you’re doing it matters, as well as who you’re doing it with.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“Say I wanted to play for example the Glens of Aherlow in Dm…”
Total stop! Correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t think the usual key for ‘Glens’ is Bm.
Now if you asked,“Say I wanted to play for example the Glens of Aherlow in G dorian…”
My tendency would be to pick up a C whistle if I’d brought one and see how it plays.

When I began playing Irish tunes it was mostly on a D whistle, which I could play in about 3 keys. Although I also kept a C whistle and a Bb. Back then D was the go to whistle but I always appreciated hearing a tune which had me grabbing one of the other whistles. Not so much changing the *usual* key of a tune but a new tune which wasn’t usually played in the usual keys.

Here is a tune I’ve never properly learnt but always enjoyed when a certain player starts it in our local sessions. I’m guessing it might play well on my C whistle (I could be wrong)…

https://thesession.org/tunes/280#comment370735

edit:https://thesession.org/tunes/280#setting13029

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

AB, Seanamhac Tube Station in Gdor could be played on your Bb whistle. Or a Bb flute. 🙂

One of the fun things about a low Bb flute is that it’s easy to play in Gdor without keys. I have a six key low Bb flute that’s more flexible for accidentals or playing in Gm, but I’d never bring it to a session. Too much work, too big. Multiple instruments in different keys are for the whistlers!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“ But C is not a particularly friendly key…“
I have 2 low C whistles which I don’t always bring to sessions but I have appreciated having at least one of them for at least one tune which we always like to play with a particular fiddler. I’m also fine with listening if I don’t have a low C. I can play one of my high C whistles on the particular tune but only when I am *in the zone*.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Cheers, Conical bore! I will break out my Thornton Bb whistle.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

So, i’m going to play something on my Ab whistle at the next session. And blame Oisin macDiarmada for recording it in that key.
Plausible deniability.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I must admit that my flute bag has a C whistle in it… (As well as a D whistle to lend people and a Fagerstron technopipes…) Though I also do not take it out that often anymore as my proficiency with the keys improves.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Bumping tunes between session friendly keys D/G/A (and relative minors) is something we often do at our session. It’s good to learn the tune (agnostic of “key”). Also good ear training. There’s quite a few sets where if the last tune is in G we might give it a final round in A for example (nice lift).

Bumping a major tune to minor or opposite - interesting but not done often.

Key of C should be relatively accessible - we’ve a fair few tunes in C/Am and played as such. The John Dwyer jig set Sunny Hills of Beara and Fox in the Thatch come to mind (key of F - play on C whistle).

https://youtu.be/EM7y3Fh5QDQ


Eb and Bb certainly would be “noticed” and not necessarily in a good way - unless you’re trying to lose some of the musicians.

There probably isn’t much harm in a couple of tunes played during the evening in “unusual” keys - even if only to give the ears and some musicians a little rest. Rock on!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

‘Fagerstron technopipes’….wow!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

@gimpy - cheers! That’s some almighty fiddling by Cathal Haydn, for sure.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

They had some Eb/Bb sessions at Whitby one year: I didn’t go, but heard that the melodeon players brought out their Eb/Bb boxes, and then there were Bb clarinets and whistles in the mix, and (now just speculating) maybe some up-tuned fiddles! Not quite the same as playing your usual instrument in its usual tuning!

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“That presumes there is a “right” key.”

Well, if you want to question the entire premise of the discussion (see post #1), go ahead.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Yes, TBfCC, that was precisely my point. As other people on this thread have said, the “right” or “usual” key at one session may not be the “right” or “usual” key at the session in the next town or county over. Or even night to night at the same session.

As I said, session players with many years experience and/or who’ve traveled to a variety of different sessions are well familiar with the fact that many tunes are widely played in different keys. This very discussion bears that out, with plenty of examples of tunes commonly played in a variety of keys, and a good number of posters here describing their experiences with this.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I have a question. Are we talking about our regular local sessions or etiquette when visiting a session away from the usual (local)?

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

AB, in my posts, I’ve intended to cover both. It’s a relevant question either way, but I’m guessing the etiquette would differ from your local session to one that you’re visiting. As I said, context and sociability matter.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I’m asking because they are two completely different questions.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Hmmm. I think of it as the same question applied to two very different contexts.

Also, I don’t really see the relevance of your link to the tune index that identifies whistle key. People play tunes on all sorts of differently keyed whistles, not to set the key of the tune but because they prefer the sound and responsiveness of a given whistle (or because it’s the one they had handy). If you look at the tune transcriptions with that index, they are written “as if played on a D whistle,” e.g., Kieran Collins played Last Night’s Fun on a C whistle, but the transcription is given in D.

The OP plays banjo, so he’s not asking about switching instruments or tunings, but transposing tunes into different keys. A whistle player with a big quiver of whistles can simply grab the appropriate whistle. Most other instrumentalists will have to shift around on their instrument to land in the “new” key. I think the OP is asking whether that’s too much to ask of the average session player (if such a beast exists), and whether there would be pushback if you chanced a “different-than-usual) key at a session.

But maybe I’m missing something else you’re seeing in the OP.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Sure, same question different context. I agree. It’s just too easy to conflate the separate issues by generalising both as one thing. I’m hoping to make a relevant distinction, if that is feasible. That is why I asked. Although the only one who can answer my question is the original poster.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“A whistle player with a big quiver of whistles can simply grab the appropriate whistle. Most other instrumentalists will have to shift around on their instrument to land in the “new” key.”

WTF!

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

LOL!
Sorry, I guess I’ve seen so many whistle players with a magically infinite bag of tubular tooters.

But really, it’s not uncommon, for example, for a whistler to set the D aside in favor of a C whistle when the fiddlers dive into Ddor tunes (e.g., Porthole of the Kelp, Broken Pledge, the Tempest, etc.). Most experienced whistle players I’ve known typically have D, C, Bb, and A whistles on hand when sessioning, at a minimum. Many also keep F and G handy. That array covers an awful lot of the most likely key transpositions, all playable “as if on a D whistle.” So, for instance, if you’re accustomed to Shoemaker’s Fancy in G but the fiddlers go into it in F, you can grab your C whistle and not change a finger. Or for my example above, of Maud Miller in D/Bm instead of G/Em, swap your D for an A whistle and you’re flying along with Cathal Hayden, no new finger map needed.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

As for “generalising both as one thing,” that’s why I posted this way above:

“Regardless, if I was at my local session, I might chance playing a tune in a different-than-usual key in hopes that least a few of the more adept players would join in. I might announce the change ahead of time or not. But when visiting a session, I’d be more inclined to query first, something along the lines of “Do you know XYZ tune, and what key do you favor?”
And:
“Context matters, as does being sociable.”

To bring this out of the abstract, at my local session, I know who else knows Calliope House, and I know what key they prefer it in (one fiddler likes E, two others and the fluter prefer D, and the piper wants it in G), so I take all that into account when launching into the tune. If I’m visiting a new-to-me session, I don’t have any of that information. Knowing that Calliope House is widely played in various keys, I would ask beforehand (a) if they know the tune, and (b) what key they prefer.

I don’t see how the two scenarios need any more complex consideration than that. And regardless of which scenario the OP had in mind, no doubt they’re both relevant to other readers.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Re “switching around”, I could be cheeky and say “Just learn your instrument properly” but my post might get deleted 😉 and, besides, I don’t consider myself a good enough player to get away with such a remark. 🙂

Besides, as has been discussed before on this site, changing the fingering to play in another key on certain instruments can alter the feel and possibilities of the tune.

For instance, as in Caliope House above.
I actually learned the tune in “E” and can play it very well in that key. It frequently gets played in D and I’m fine with that too. However, I can get different effects from simultaneously playing the adjacent strings in the “D” version. I can do other things while playing in E to make it sound nicer(to me! :-0 ) but it is still a slightly different overall sound.

Of course, with instruments such as mandolin, banjo et all, one can always slip on a capo which would be just as quick as changing a whistle. Again, those of us who have been playing for a while wouldn’t need to do that most of the time except for musical effects as stated above.

Fiddles are more awkward, of course, although I believe you can get violin capos too and I’ve heard about the old “match stick trick “. I think that would be more awkward and time consuming though if the session was in full flow.

Also with accordions and boxes in general, there isn’t really any option but to change your fingering. Then, there’s the harp…. you need to change the levers too.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

There are some fairly simple pentatonic tunes that work in several keys using the D and G scale notes (e.g. The Britches Full of Stitches). I have known some of them started accidentally in the wrong key or deliberately out of mischief. Either way an incentive to know one’s instrument.

If they don’t fit there is that strange feeling on flute of fingers beginning to reach for note that isn’t there.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Kenny:
“I haven’t been in any session to try it out - [ nobody in Aberdeen would know the “original” anyway ].”

I wouldn’t be too sure about that Kenny.
Used to play Maid(s) of Mt Kisco in a band with Charlie in Am, not for a good few years now though, so I would probably just sit there looking confused as usual.

The shift to Bm doesn’t look too hard for mandolin as long as you’re prepared for the high c#, sure it would be a breeze on the PA.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“It may be that the limits of the ubiquitous D whistle are the prompt for a lot of this…”

Not just the whistle, the “Irish trad woodwinds” in general, the D uilleann pipes, D old-system and keyless flutes, the Low D whistle, the high D whistle have a more-or-less shared fingering, technique, and limitations in both range and the number of practicably performable keys.

As we know while there are tunes and keys that are shared amongst all “Irish trad” instruments, there are also pipes/flute/whistle-friendly tunes and keys, and other tunes and keys more the realm of fiddle/banjo/box players.

The difference of course is that a whistle player can show up at a session with whistles in numerous keys and not take up much room, and not be in the poor-house. A piper could indeed show up with chanters in D and C, a fluter with flutes in D and C (for the C Major, D minor, and G minor tunes) and I myself have done both.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

“Of course, with instruments such as mandolin, banjo et all, one can always slip on a capo which would be just as quick as changing a whistle. “

Heresy! At least for mandolin, where capos are almost never used. 🙂

The scale is too short for it to be practical, not to mention the difficulty in slapping it on quickly in the middle of a set when the key changes (the bane of DADGAD guitarists).

I can usually figure out an unusual key in first position on mandolin, unless it’s something like an “Eb session” where all the other instruments are tuned up a half step and I’m not. It’s a different story on the flute.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

I would never really bother with a mandolin capo in a session either and a mandola/octive mandola/banjo is a better instrument for playing along with the GHPs. So, I will sometimes capo the first fret then.

However, as I mentioned earlier, a tune like Caliope House will sound different with “D” as opposed to “E” fingering. So, I’ve used the capo sometimes when I’m playing on my own for this tune. In a session, I wouldn’t bother as I can play it quite easily in E without a capo and such “subtleties” usually tend to go unnoticed in this sort of environent.

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Calliope House is one of those tunes that you can encounter in both E and D, even in the same session , or even same set sometimes.

Then the “Phil & Aly” trick of playing Jig Run Rig in D, G, A and back to D.

Graham Townsend’s My Dungannon Sweetheart, written in C, tends to be played in D by whistlers.

All above tunes worth learning in all the keys mentioned, in my opinion. They’re not so obscure that you’ll never encounter them in the other keys mentioned, if you travel around a bit.

Posted by .

Re: Playing tunes in unusual keys in sessions

Of course, and you wouldn’t want to go changing instruments, using capos, or retuning in the middle of a set.

I just mentioned Calliope House as there can be a difference in the feel of the tune if you use D fingering(as opposed to the key itself) as opposed to playing it in E fingering on the mandolin.
It’s subtle and a matter of taste but something I’d do on my own as opposed to within a fast session.