B flat tunes

B flat tunes

While I know full well that just about any tune can be played in any key I have a notion that some tunes just work best in the key in which they were written. To that end does anyone have suggestions for tunes specifically written in B Flat Major. Thanks to my current project revolving around a Christmas show my wife’s church choir has asked me to play in leans heavily on tunes/songs in that key I’ve become quite enamored with it. (Or at least tunes with 2 flats.) As a lifelong bassist I’ve been to Bb so often it’s part of my DNA but really haven’t visited it in the trad genre as a flute player and I’m fairly comfortable with tunes in F Major (one flat). Anybody have a favorite they’d like to share with me?

Re: B flat tunes

If two flats is okay, how about G minor tunes? No shortage of good ones there.

Re: B flat tunes

Not a problem. 2 flats are 2 flats, regardless of the mode. What are your favorites?

Re: B flat tunes

There’s an old favourite of mine:
Lady Charlotte Campbell’s (New) strathspey,

reels, old and new:
The Bridge at Inver
Mitton’s Breakdown,

and, of course, lots of hornpipes, including:
The Acrobat
The Beeswing, etc.

Re: B flat tunes

Maybe the original key is something else, but I’ve only ever played these in Bb:
President Garfield’s - https://thesession.org/tunes/419
Blue Angel - https://thesession.org/tunes/685
High Level Hornpipe - https://thesession.org/tunes/2261

Some other tunes I play more often in Bb than anything else:
Headwood Crossing - https://thesession.org/tunes/4047
Lucy Farr’s - https://thesession.org/tunes/1307

If you’re looking for tunes in Gm (not Gdor), I have plenty.

Re: B flat tunes

Many so-called “G minor” tunes, including some listed on this thread, are actually in G Dorian, with just one flat (the E’s are natural, not flatted). Ross is asking for tunes with two flats, that is with a scale that includes Bb and Eb.

G minor isn’t a common key for most Irish trad, but G dor is more so, particularly among Clare and Galway musicians. They might take tunes typically played in A dor (such as the Star of Munster, Young Tom Ennis, etc.) and drop them to G dor.

One mighty tune in G minor—actually composed in that key, I believe—is Tommy’s Tarbukas, by Alisdair Fraser. I have no idea what challenges it might bring to light on flute. https://thesession.org/tunes/140

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Re: B flat tunes

There aren’t very many.

“The Last Pint” by Lunasa
“The Joys of Summer” O’Neill, MOI230 (“All Through the Night”)
“The Red Lion Hornpipe” (Mulvihill, p99)
“Dineen’s Fancy” (Luke O’Malley’s Collection, p55)

Re: B flat tunes

Two flats=Bbmajor=Cdorian. The eleven page list on TheSession.com for tunes in Cdorian is, err, confusing!

Re: B flat tunes

Nigel, I may well be missing something, but Lunasa’s version of the Last Pint comes out in Bb only because they’re playing F whistles. It’s G fingering, and the handful of times I’ve ever come across the tune in sessions it was played in G. That said, I have no idea what key Pierre Bensusan had in mind when he composed it. Maybe Pierre wrote it in Bb and that’s why the Lunasa lads used F whistles.

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Re: B flat tunes

I’m more of a one-flat guy. F-major and G-minor or D-dorian. Once my hands became happy with the Bb key… I think the simple system flute sounds particularly good in the flat keys; and somewhat unpleasant in A (anybody else think so?)

Tommy’s Tarbukas is a pain in the two-flat version. Lots of key usage in fast passages. I think I’ve played it in one flat, but I don’t remember.

Crabs in the Skillet - two flats or one.

Factory Smoke/When the Tide Comes In works very well in G-minor-harmonic (not dorian), especially if you have a low C key. That’s the way Martin Hayes plays it, going into Good Natured man in F. The G-minor to F transition is really wonderful; G-minor is so plaintive and F is so happy.

Roslyn Castle could be done in two flats (or six flats as Charles Nicholson did!), but I love it best in one flat for D-minor (harmonic - No Dorian there!). The C# note makes the tune into a killer.

I love Galway Bay in G-minor, but again that’s a one flat… Hmm, It’s G-minor hexatonic without the Eb note, so it could just as well be G-Dorian hex.

Re: B flat tunes

“Maybe Pierre wrote it in Bb and that’s why the Lunasa lads used F whistles.”

A few years ago after a local duo concert by Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, I had an opportunity for a brief chat with Cillian after the show, and I asked about the F whistle sets on their albums and tours. He said (paraphrasing) that it was basically just to add some variety, bend the audience’s ear in a slightly different way than the rest of the sets, so the show didn’t sound too monotonous.

There may be specific tunes they play that just sit better in that key, but I think that’s probably the reason for most of those F whistle Lúnasa tunes.

Re: B flat tunes

Conical, thanks, that would be my guess as well. I’ve sessioned with a particular fluter who does the same thing for the same reason. He has an F flute and uses it for a few sets just to cast some tunes in a different tint. On fiddle, it’s easy enough to match his key, and off we go.

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Re: B flat tunes

gimpy said, “Nigel, I may well be missing something, but Lunasa’s version of the Last Pint comes out in Bb only because they’re playing F whistles.”

In the 2006 Lunasa tunebook it is given in Bb major, which is what Ross was asking for. I have hardly come across any Irish tunes in Bb, “Dineen’s Fancy” being a rare exception.

Re: B flat tunes

There are a few Scottish tunes in Bb major and G minor that I quite like, namely Blue Bonnets Over the Border air/jig, Miss Hutton’s strathspey, The Marquis of Huntley strathspey, and the aforementioned Tommy’s Tarbukas reel. I also really like Dowd’s Favourite reel, but it’s in G dorian not G minor.

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Re: B flat tunes

proper Bf tune: Lizzy in the Lowground by Liz Carroll. on fiddle, mandolin, must be in Bf to come out lower than Billy in the Lowground in C, which is the whole point of the tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L_JSTHPe-o


more Gdor tunes:
Liz Carroll’s Anne Lacey’s, r&b edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVj1yWJhbS4

bluegrass edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx8WolzmIVk

Tommy’s Tarbukas, horn quartet edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZFLLcORPps

contra dance edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuOWVZ6DBQY


“must use all 4 strings” Paddy in the Landfill, contra dance edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI3aVPIOOn4

Re: B flat tunes

My favorite B-flat tune, and a welcome break from all the reels, has got to be the Scottish Miss Wharton Duff (https://thesession.org/tunes/5977) by the incomparable William Marshall. Don’t play it too fast though!

Others I like that have not been mentioned here include:
The Isle of Skye (https://thesession.org/tunes/18410)
Niel Gow’s original of Farewell to Whisky (https://thesession.org/tunes/1529), and Welcome Whisky Back Again (https://thesession.org/tunes/2970)
Lady Walpole’s (https://thesession.org/tunes/10355)
Eugene Stratton (https://thesession.org/tunes/8176), along with The Arthur Seat, not on this site.
The Shakin’ o’ the Pocky (https://thesession.org/tunes/1705), particularly with double stops on the fiddle, but alas, the flute can’t do that.
Mrs. Forbes Leith (https://thesession.org/tunes/17960)

Others not on this site:
Cock of the North (trad.; strathspey)
Miss Christie Nicholson (Ronald MacLellan; strathspey)
Mrs. Johnston of Woodhills a.k.a. Miss Whiteford (Robert Petrie; reel)
Tom Marsh (Vincent MacGillivray; hornpipe)

Re: B flat tunes

Wow! I knew I could count on you all for wonderful tunes. My deepest thanks. Learning to play them, and to play in 2 flats is going to take delightful hours over months and months and months!