I have such a hard time searching tunes

I have such a hard time searching tunes

Is there a trick to searching tunes?

I spent a week trying to find a tune where I knew only a small phrase of it. People can play it one way and it can be written differently. Since I only know a little bit of it I’m not sure if I’m remembering it correctly.

For example, I had this little bit: G3 Gge dBG and thought it was a jig, so I searched jigs, I tried with the little measure bar (|) in the phrase and without. I tried rewriting the snippet many different ways but never found it. A week or two later I was able to ask about the tune and the title is Blithesome Bridal. I searched on the name and the correct tune snippet is GAG Gge dBG and it is a slip jig, not a regular jig.

Another example, I asked the name of a tune and was told it was Kilmovil. I have searched and searched on this name, trying bits and pieces of it and different ways to spell it but can’t find it. I tried a snippet of ABCs (which I admit I can barely understand) in different keys and still can’t find it.

Are there tips and tricks for finding tunes in the search?

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

Smaller snippets of abc are more likely to get hits than long strings. It can also help if you know the type of tune (to narrow down the search) but it’s not essential.

Regarding titles, spelling can be important. Also be aware that quite a lot of tunes have local titles which might not all be on the database.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

I have to say I find searching for snippets of ABC at the start of tunes very easy in Henrik Norbeck’s collection. For example I found your sequence in about 5 seconds: http://norbeck.nu/abc/display.asp?rhythm=slip%20jig&ref=75

Another tool I have used successfully in the past, written by a member of thesession.org, is Reverend’s ABC tune search (http://abctunesearch.com).

As for the title, I would immediately suspect “Killavil”, which occurs in the name of a number of tunes. Failing that, I would search for “Kil” and wade through the 23-odd pages of results. You could reduce the number of results by specifying a tune type.

PS Maybe it’s this one: https://thesession.org/tunes/2973

Which I found by searching through Henrik’s index by title under K: http://norbeck.nu/abc/display.asp?rhythm=jig&ref=281

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that tune-search wizards like DonaldK and Stiamh (and jeff_lindqvist) have a particular skillset that makes finding a tune more likely, and a more efficient process. Over time, if you develop these same skills, you’ll have a higher search success rate.

The wizards:
- Are well familiar with (even if they don’t play them all) a sizeable span of the body of tunes in this music.
- Know how to read and write ABC notation.
- Understand tune forms and structures, so they readily recognize and distinguish (and can notate), say, slip jigs from jigs.
- Have some understanding of how search engines work. Some provide explanations; with others, if you pay attention to how results are influenced by what you entered, you can suss out how the search tool “thinks.”
- Well understand how phrases can be varied. That is, G3 may be notated as ~G3; GG/G/G; G(3GAG; G(3GFG; GE/F/G; GAG; GFG; etc. Some search engines take such possible variations into account and return relevant hits just by searching G3. Some only match the specific notes entered.

It also helps to develop your ear so you can transcribe entire tunes from hearing them. Then you can focus in on the bit of the tune that’s most likely to return relevant hits. It’s often more efficient to search *not* for a “common” snippet but for a snippet that stands out as unusual, that is peculiar to that tune. A common snippet will return pages of hits you then have to comb through. An unusual snippet will return fewer hits = less combing. The unusual snippet (often the “hook” of a tune that makes you take notice) may be at the beginning, but it might also be in the middle or near the end of a tune.

Some people are reluctant to learn ABCs because they already read standard notation, or they don’t read notation at all. But ABCs are an incredibly handy tool, especially for uses such as this. It’s far easier to type letters into a search tool than to manually look for a match in standard notation squiggles. For this reason alone, it’s worth becoming adept at ABCs.

Finally, it helps to use a range of different search engines. You can type the ABCs into:

- The tune search box on thesession.org.
- JC’s ABC Tune Finder: http://john-chambers.us/~jc/cgi/abc/tunefind
- Henrik Norbeck’s ABC Tunes: http://norbeck.nu/abc/
- Reverend’s ABC Tune Search: http://abctunesearch.com/

Sometimes, simply typing ABCs into the search bar in Google or DuckDuckGo or Bing will produce useful leads.

And if you have the name of a tune, you can search Alan Ng’s Irish Tune Info: https://www.irishtune.info/

I’m sure there are more such databases (e.g., Nigel Gatherer’s site: http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes.html).

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

Without using the tools mentioned, the slip jig fragment is part of a slip jig I had in my “inner radio” the other week (I was going through polkas and barn dances mentally and came to think of the Cherish the Ladies album “New Day Dawning” where the opening track starts with this tune):
Highway to Kilkenny - https://thesession.org/tunes/3599 (is this it?)

The Kilm… could it be The Kilmovee? (I know it from “Music at Matt Molloy’s”).

This is my main method - I see a snippet or a name which reminds me of something I remember from a certain set with a certain musician/band on a certain record, and then I know what it is.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

Well thank you for the abctunesearch page. I was able to find the one I was told was Kilmovil. It’s actually called The Chicago. Maybe I misheard but it’s hard to mix up the syllables of those two words. Having a few other ways to search, maybe I stand a chance of finding the ear worm snippets that get stuck in my head.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

Kilmovil . . . Chicago. Lol.
There are many instances of misheard tune names, especially in a noisy pub session, or if you’re not well acquainted with the speaker’s accent.

Jeff makes a good point—our own minds are the first place to search.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

I have the same problems searching using ABC fragments, and the cause is simply because a phrase can be written in a nearly infinite number of different ways in ABC, all sounding to our ears more or less the same.

But to get a search match you have to be lucky enough to type it the exact way it happened to be typed by whomever posted it, and not any of the hundreds of other ways it can be spelt.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

Glad to hear that my abctunesearch was able to help you out! I am in serious need of some upgrades to that site. There’s a ton more data available than there was when I first wrote that. (I am a bit worried about too much data, which will make it even slower, though). And I’ve been working on some ways to bring back the “contour” search (which will search in every key) in a better way than it was before. It’s just hard to find enough time to do any serious work on it.

The good thing about that site is that it uses a Levenshtein function to do the pattern matching. So it doesn’t matter if your transcription matches the data you’re looking for exactly, and it should still find it.

Re: I have such a hard time searching tunes

search is an art. try finding the well known wedding reel… (easy if you know the trick). now try to find the chorus jig (which is a reel). my biggest complaint is alternative tune names. instead of established traditional names, more and more tunes have bizarre alternate names without any explanation of who added them why and where they come from.