How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Do you put it in a ‘strange’ key to make them sound ‘modern’ (e.g. A minor D minor E major etc) or do you like your tunes sounding traditional?

I know some tunes just come straight out but those tunes where you have to work a bit to get them right what do you do?

cheers,

sam

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I try hard to make my tunes NOT sound original. That way I can slip them into the tradition without anybody noticing and take over the world.

No luck so far. But if it wasn’t for those pesky kids and their darn dog, I’d have done it by now!

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

You guys who right your own tunes & try slipping them into the tradition - you crease me up!

Haven’t you noticed, & taken the hint from, that bog standard phrase that get’s used any time someone plays a really crap tune - you know they are always asked politely, "Did you write that yourself"
In other words they consider the tune to be so bad that it is bad enough to be one of those waste of space efforts that clutter up so many new ‘boy band’ CDs.

There is enough work to be done by us all, exploring all the dark interesting corners of all the ‘good’ old traditional tunes.

Anyone who plays one of their own tunes at a session, must surely fall into the ego bracket we have set asside on the thread next door, for all the performing singers who infest many a session!

Sorry Q, didn’t mean to pick on you alone, it’s just you happened to stick your head above the parapet, at just the wrong moment - DUCK!

Like everyone else, I write wee tunes at home, when they pop into my head, but I would never dream of playing them out in public! Mainly because I know how bad they are & I know, if I did, I would immediately be asked if I’d written them myself!

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Oh it’s fine, I’m fair game. I play my own tunes at sessions all the time.

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Just after this thread the other day about the scots band who write all their own tunes………
Well, only the test of time will show whose were any good. Re the other thread about who will be remembered…

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

This seems to have gone two ways…

First, I thought the question was about how one makes one’s playing of trad tunes sound original, i.e., how to ‘make them one’s own’…

But it seems that there’s this other reading about playing original tunes in a trad context… Hmmmm… good stuff there.

As for original compositions, I like new tunes that are good fun whether they’re new, originals or trad tunes I haven’t heard yet (there are lots of those… <GG>). Bring ‘em on.

This could be a very good thread!

stv

http://cdbaby.com/Culchies

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Q - a couple of your own tunes wouldn’t be called ‘The Three Legged Dog’ & ‘There’s a Spider on your Head’ - would they? 🙂

Now, now Pete, you know we are only supposed to be talking about Irish tunes here! …………Scots band indeed! Young pretenders no doubt! 🙂

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Yeah Culchie, but let’s be honest, there are very few Charlie Lennons out there & so many of those ‘own compositions’ sound so makey uppy & gimmicky that they make my teeth itch, my skin crawl, my boils ache, & all those little hairs on the back of my neck just go - bleaaaaaaaah…………..

Re: ptarmigans comment…

you guys who hit on tunes purely because they’re new - ye crease ME up.

think about what you’re saying.

at the point the tune is played, you don’t now if its a new one or a rare old one. you can’t know because even in your wisdom, you don’t know ALL the tunes. if that tune turned out to be an old one, well its ok then isnt’ it? ……..

do you not realise how crazy that is? your attitude is basically hating something because of it’s origion regardless of the charachter of it. in human terms, that would be racism, don’t try and justify a similarly musical example. (also don’t think i’m calling you a racist, but sometimes analogy is helpfull.)

people who compose and share their compositions, enrich the tradition. if they all kept it selfishly to theirselves and played just for them, what would we be playing now?!

also, there was as much if not more crap being written back in olden days. tradition is a constant thing… thankfully the burden of what survives wont rest on your shoulders ptarmigan, the tradition itself will take care of that more than well enough so no need to fret!….

martin.

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I’m going to guess you mean: How do you put your own personal stamp on traditional tunes?

Once I learn a tune, whether directly from someone, or off a recording, or off sheet music (or all three) I try to identify the core notes and phrases that make the tune what it is. Then I try to explore ways to get from one core note or phrase to the next with tiny variables, a note here, a silence there, interspersing ornaments or taking them out as my sensibility and ability allow.

Like hiking a landscape with several peaks. You might take slightly different paths to get from peak to peak. Just make sure you hit all the peaks, I guess. And keep in mind that it’s a well-travelled landscape and the chances of taking a really untried path are slim. But then, doing it radically different isn’t what I’m after. It’s a subtle music.

Re: how do you make your tunes sound origional?

as regards the origional comment, i don’t try for anything. i just let them come through in what ever shape or form i first hear them with and write them down then.

martin.

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

It’s very hard to write a tune and not to fall into the pattern of one that already exists - the more tunes you know, the harder it is to avoid. Just keep writing them flamin’ .

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

LOL - those are fun names that my pardner in crime thought up, unfortunately they lack actual tunes to go with them as yet. Hmmm, I should fix that. Watch this space : - P

Well here are some thoughts, FF:

a whole bunch of the catchy "modern" tunes are in B minor. It’s true. Paper Bird, Poon Hill, Maggie’s Pancakes etc. I think it’s because of where it’s situated in the tonal range of fiddles, flutes and whistles - ie plenty of space above and below the tonic - making it perhaps the most accessible minor key. E minor isn’t quite as useful cos it’s difficult to raise the seventh on keyless flutes and whistles.

Synchopation - may as well list the same tunes as above - Maggie’s Pancakes especially. In Tom Doorley’s ‘Are You Ready Yet?’ in order to get the tune to work you have to phrase the second part of the C bit just right, which involves careful accenting and phrasing. Also listen to Across the Hill on Donal Lunny’s live album - some wicked stuff there, running a 6/8 melody over a 3/4 backing.

Flame on!

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Well, re the original question - I don’t "try" to make them sound original, I simply try to make them sound good to my ear. But, what I do then, is run the tunes past people who I know have a broad knowledge of traditional music, and ask for their honest opinion regarding originality, and if they think I’ve written a good tune or not.

Dick, I’ve heard a number of your tunes - some of them are good, in fact. So, why not just play one or two at your regular sessions? I’m sure no-one is going to think badly of you for that. OK, there are lots of good traditional tunes out there already, but what’s the harm in introducing more to the tradition? It is a living tradition after all, and because of this, it’s bound to change gradually with time. You’ll just have to put up with some of the crap tunes that get played; but don’t worry, if they’re crap, people will simply stop playing them.

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Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Oooops, I guess I touched the nerve of a tune writer there, eh Martin?

No, actually what I hit on are crap tunes & so many of the new tunes I’ve heard sound like they’ve been constructed out of Lego.

I know, only too well, that there are loads of old tunes out there too that are really not worth bothering about.
So many of those obscure, almost forgotten tunes that folks dredge up from some old dusty loft or cupboard under the stairs, are more often than not, almost forgotten for a very good reason - because they are just not good tunes.

I certainly don’t fall into the trap of going for a tune, just because it’s old.
Many an old fiddle is pure crap because it just wasn’t made well!

But I do feel that so many young musicians only seem to be just starting to get to grips with the music & bingo, they bring out a CD & bung a load of their own makey uppies on it.

For example, we had a young musician turn up at our session recently & announce that she had just launched her first solo CD, so we thought we were in for a real treat.
As the night wore on though, it became increasingly obvious that she knew very few of what we would all consider, the bog standard tunes & when asked to play a couple herself, she often got flustered & mixed up & was clearly just not comfortable with the session environment.

Perhaps I’m being a bit ageist here, but then I have a good excuse, being an old fart myself, & I know only too well that there are a lot of teenagers & twentysomethings who are a lot wiser than meself, but, I am entitled to my opinion & if I don’t like a tune, I don’t mind speaking up.

You are right when you say "the burden of what survives wont rest on" my shoulders, nor surely on any other, one person’s shoulders, but at the same time we are all, each of us, partially responsible for it, as we use it on our own musical journey.
So I think we should think very carefully before clogging up otherwise good session time with loads of little primadonna solos of our little pet creations.

I often wonder how long composers like Charlie Lennon leave a tune to mature, after composing it, before going back to it, to rework it & shape it into the finished article.
Would it be days, weeks or months?

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

If I were to play a new tune, it would sound old fashioned. That is just the way I play. I am past the middle of my life, don’t need to impress anyone with my modernity or hipness, and if I wanted to sound modern, I wouldn’t be playing this type of music!

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Ron, how the blazes can I stir up a good argument here if you come on & start saying sensible things - & what’s more, blowing my ‘tune writing’ cover into the bargain! 🙂

Maybe I’ll just have to change my name to some other rare Scottish bird like - Crested Tit?

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I wonder if some of the contributors to this discussion looked at flamin fiddler’s bio first. I can’t help thinking some comments might then have taken a slightly different stance.

btw, I have met flamin fiddler and his father.

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Don’t you worry about other people’s problems, flamin, keep on writing tunes. They’re just jealous.

When I first started learning tunes, I assumed that most if not all of them were prehistoric, without known authors. But of course a great many popular session tunes were written by modern composers—Ed Reavy, Michael Grogan, Charlie Lennon, etc. etc.

In the late 21st century, maybe sessions will have a lot of tunes by Liz Carroll, Donal Lunny, and… flamin fiddler!

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Oops, darn, Michael Gorman, not Grogan. (Sigh. Another "senior moment.")

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I’d expect anyone who did actually know relevant info about flamin fiddler to bear that in mind in what they post, but are you saying everyone should always check bios before posting?

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Yes, indeed. It is a sensible thing to do, especially if you don’t know the poster and may be about to say something contentious which makes implicit assumptions about the person. A bio check takes only a few seconds. In the past, there has been the occasional embarrasing "oops" moment when someone hasn’t checked a bio before posting!

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Hey, I’m sure young flamin has received enough encouragement from all the other contributors to this thread, & doesn’t need to be patronised by me, especially as I am clearly the only member, out of 22876, who doesn’t like to hear folk spouting their own wee tunes at sessions.

I’ve no doubt flamin is destined to go on & become the next Ed Reavey, & good luck to him, but by then I will probably have joined ‘Button’s’ Accordion players:
http://voyager.dvc.edu/~jsinsel/images/accordions%20in%20hell.jpg

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Hope you don’t mind me borrowing that ‘Button’? It was for a good cause!

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I’ve written a few tunes myself, or should I say the tunes found me, but they usually were fragments of tunes in my head that already existed — but I wanted to know. When they show up, I’ll try to complete the thought and finish composing them. I’ll wonder what tune it is that’s trying to come out and I’ll start it unannounced at the session to see if anyone joins in with the tune I’m looking for. If they don’t, then I go into a tune everyone knows etc. If someone starts to go into a tune, but stops… I’ll stop and ask what tune they were starting to play. This will sometimes be the tune I was looking for, and I’ll abandon the tune I "made up" and learn the real one. If no one ever recognizes it I’ll know I might actually have a new tune. If anyone (including me) likes it — then I keep it.

Having said that, I will only do this once in a while. There are two reasons; 1) it’s anti-social to always be playing your own tunes, and 2) I don’t come up with many. If someone else learns a tune of mine and starts it – I’m delighted. Sometimes I’ll genuinely like a tune I wrote and the way it leads into a well-known tune, and I’ll play them together at a session. But if I did this all the time it would soon get on people’s nerves I’m sure.

Every once in a while, if everyone’s interested, we’ll go around the table and ask people to play tunes they made up. This can be a lot of added fun. Sometimes people will have tunes we want to learn – what harm is there in that?

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

OK Flaminfiddler - its time to come back in now and tell all these people whether (as some seem to have assumed) you mean your own compositions, or just the traditional tunes that you know.

(Remember that this is a site about traditional music - so it’s odds on that people like their tunes to sound traditional.)

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Coming back to the original question, because it’s a lot more interesting to me than whether one should write tunes (of course not:

"Original" to me isn’t very interesting on its own merit. Hopefully if you set out to write a good tune that’s fun to play and fun to dance and fun to hear, you’ll solve that problem in a new and novel way, but if you set out with originality (or novelty) as your goal, you’re not likely to hit those other important points, and the tune might be original but it’s sure to be dull.

Consider Reavy - between him and Lennon, we have the two people that I think everyone can agree should definitely be granted license to compose. Reavy’s tunes almost always have something "original" in them, some turn that grabs the ear, but they sound perfectly natural doing it - it’s a dance tune that happens to hit an unexpected major chord, or to zig where you exect it to zag. If you start out thinking "unexpected major" and build the tune around that, the major chord will be telegraphed for miles. On the other hand, if you try to write a good dance tune, and you listen to the way the tune develops, you might hear where it wants to take a novel turn. That’s when you might get a tune that’s really original, in the sense that it’s got something of you in it.

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I have written only two fairly simple tunes. The second, a hornpipe, I named after my wife. I highly recommend this course of action, as the rewards can be great.

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

Ah, but the risky thing about naming tunes after loved ones is what happens a couple of years down the line, when you realize that everything you’ve written since is so much better that it’s embarrassing to play that specially dedicated piece of junk you wrote way back when….

As for the original question, for the most part I do my best to make tunes I write sound traditional . Over time I have gotten much better at this, I think, though I probably still have a good way to go.

Occasionally I write tunes that are intentionally somewhat untraditional, as in the time I said to myself, I don’t know of very many (any?) F#-minor reels that are easily playable on whistle….

I only start tunes I wrote at sessions if there is a major lull in things (like three-quarters of the players just got up to get a drink, and anything I play I’m likely to play alone) or someone specifically asks. Which they almost never do, I should add. 🙂

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

thanks for your comments.

lots of different opinions and the like……..

cheers

sam

Re: How do YOU make your tunes sound original?

I’ve found or seen that a new tune with survival potential is one that at any rate starts off by being worked out on a particular instrument, or at the least with a particular instrument in mind. (It may test the instrument to its limits, or it may be a "natural" and easy to play.) And then, in ITM, it’s got to be able to transfer to other instruments and as it were adapt to survive. Tunes that don’t do this remain curiosities, like "The Hanged Man’s Reel" (admittedly not Irish) and the yelping uilleann pipe effects in "The Fox Chase" sequence. But I’d say any new tune that can’t be played somehow on the tin whistle by a competent player - making all allowance for different speed/key, notes below bottom D, the odd chromatic note, etc. - will probably turn out to be disfunctional.
(Other traditions have forms that simply don’t cross over, like pibroch or some Northumbrian pipe showpieces.)
So, if a bar or two comes into my head, I pick up the whistle or melodeon and take it from there.