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Thread: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tune...

  1. #1

    Default The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tune...

    We all have our own "paths" into new tunes to add to our repertoire. For me the most common route to a new tune is through hearing it in a session. Some tunes simply stand out from the crowd and demand attention and I'll set to learning them (or attempting to) at the first opportunity.

    Sessions are pretty thin on the ground these days. So the next most common route to a new tune for me would be to get a recommendation from a friend. Occasionally I'll get a text or an email - "check this out" or maybe even a recording of said friend playing said tune so I get the gist.

    And sometimes, as we all do, I hear an attention-grabber on a recording. But no matter how good the recording, without the spontaneity and "togetherness"/intimacy/purposefulness (sorry if that sounds a bit "pseuds corner"!) of the session setting, it's sometimes difficult for tunes to arrest me in quite the same way.

    Very rarely I come across a tune in abc or "dots" format which I haven't heard before and I'll give it a go. Most times I give up on such tunes. The clunkiness of learning a tune in this way holds me back a little. It sometimes takes real perseverance to coax the tune from the dots. (I've lost count of the number of times I've thought that a tune which I've come across in this way was a bit "meh" and not worth the effort of learning, only to change my mind when I've heard someone who has really "got" the tune play it in a way which stopped me in my tracks.)

    Anyway, despite the fact that I don't learn tunes well from the abc or dots, I keep an eye on the new tunes posted to "The Session". And very recently one of the contributors there - Fernando Durban Galnares - posted a Sean (Nenagh) Ryan hornpipe called "The Barrow Banks". I started to play the first few bars and was immediately captivated. A really beautiful melody and it sits so well on the mandolin. My acquaintance with the tune is in its infancy but I can tell that in time we're going to become the very best of friends. At which point I'll be happy to share a recording of my playing via "The Irish Mandolin".

    In the meantime here's a link to the tune for those who are interested in seeing why I'm so excited by this new arrow in my quiver of tunes. https://thesession.org/tunes/19953

    And I'd be interested to hear from others about similar discoveries!

    Very best.

    Aidan

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  3. #2
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I can’t read dots. So I did search to see if I could find a recording. I only found the financial establishments in a town in Alaska. Which I think was good for a laugh this morning.Guess I’ll have to wait til you post a rendition . whenever I look at The Session I always think I should learn to read music, maybe it’s time

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I've been really enjoying playing a hornpipe called "The Rose of Drishane" - I follow Harry Bradley's "The Errant Elbow" page on Facebook and he posted this tune awhile back: https://thesession.org/tunes/2844
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    The tunes I have been coming across lately re often ones I find on youtube. I was getting more and more into Québécois tunes since I attended two regular monthky sessions in my area, but those are done for months. I have recently been discovering Missouri and other midwestern fiddle tunes through Charlie Walden an excellent fiddler who has a strong presence on youtube. He also has a large library of tunes on his web site he has transcribed. I can learn tunes by ear or by dots and use the dots at times to learn the bare bones of the tune then go back to various players' recorded renditions to add other nuances. The dots also help me to remember the tunes I am working on. I also play these on both fiddle and mandolin.
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I miss having sessions and gigs to help me focus. Totally agree with Aidan that a good player can completely change your mind about a tune .
    Bren

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  11. #6

    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    I've been really enjoying playing a hornpipe called "The Rose of Drishane" - I follow Harry Bradley's "The Errant Elbow" page on Facebook and he posted this tune awhile back: https://thesession.org/tunes/2844

    That is, indeed, a grand tune, Jill. I know it from The Smoky Chimney album (Gerry Harrington, Eoghain O Sullivan and Paul de Grae) which is one of my favourite albums of all time. If ever, from time to time, I find myself becoming a bit jaded with Irish music (it happens sometimes :-( ), I stick The Smoky Chimney on and my faith is instantly restored. However, I find The Rose Of Drishane quite challenging. I'm not sure that I have the chops to do it justice! That said I'll maybe give it another crack in the next few days when I'm loosened up...

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  13. #7

    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    I miss having sessions and gigs to help me focus. Totally agree with Aidan that a good player can completely change your mind about a tune .
    And - a bit controversial this! - a good tune can completely change your mind about a player! :-)

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by Aidan Crossey View Post
    We all have our own "paths" into new tunes to add to our repertoire.
    Here is mine: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/e...f-ginger-snaps
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  16. #9

    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    That, Jeff, is a wonderful tale, well told. I think many of us will recognise a little of ourselves in there!

    Aidan

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Aiden thank you.


    I was thinking how I am so old school. A time before the internet when everything mandolin was an effort. And maybe my love of tune books is old school. But when i listen to a youtube or a recording, my first impression is that I am listening to "someone playing a tune", not the tune itself. Its a ridiculous distinction I know, but because of how I got into all of this, to me the real tune itself is what is written down in standard notation, (or tabs if that is your preference) and everything else is someone playing that tune. Kooky I know.

    And in fact many tune books have a few variants of the tune, so even the written tune isn't the written tune. I mean, how many Grey Eagles are there?

    Someday maybe I will write a blog about where the heck is the real tune anyway.
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  19. #11

    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    But when i listen to a youtube or a recording, my first impression is that I am listening to "someone playing a tune", not the tune itself. Its a ridiculous distinction I know, but because of how I got into all of this, to me the real tune itself is what is written down in standard notation, (or tabs if that is your preference) and everything else is someone playing that tune. Kooky I know.
    I would probably take the polar opposite approach myself, Jeff.

    To me the notated tune is like a map. And the playing of a tune is a journey. The map is just an aid to a journey, the journey itself is the thing. And while maps are - if they are to be of any use at all - reasonably similar, each journey is different. Some people might meander a little, go at a steady pace. Some might be in a hurry and take the direct route. Some might view the trip as an excuse for a bit of sightseeing along the way. Others are very focused and just want to get from A to B. And similarly, by analogy, each time a player picks up her or his instrument and embarks on the journey that is her or his rendering of the tune, it's a different experience.

    Take, for example, John Carty's playing of Jim Donoghue's - https://youtu.be/FcUcQs3K_bs - which, to my ears, is just splendid fiddling. So many variations; each repeat (journey) is different from its predecessor and yet the underlying basic tune is, well, the underlying basic tune (the map?).

    Interesting that we come at this from different angles but ultimately we find ourselves asking the same question. Where is the real tune anyway? To me it's one of the mysteries of music that a tune can be played by a hundred different people in a hundred different ways but the tune somehow remains the tune, recognisable to the ear even though transcriptions of each player's version may differ markedly from each other.

    Fascinating stuff!

    Aidan

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    One of the first difficulties one has on this adventure, when listening to a new tune, is figuring out how much is "the tune" and how much is the artist taking liberties with the tune. It takes some experience with genres and styles to sort this out, and even then I don't always get it right. The Fiddler's Fakebook, a rich source of great tunes back in what i hate calling "the day", would tell you in the side bar notes whose version of the tune from which album, was there transcribed in standard notation. I found that really eye opening.

    Now I am fascinated by the Milliner Koken Collection, where time signatures and bar lines are removed and the staffs of all the notes associated with one beat or pulse are connected together. The idea is that seven fiddlers will play a tune eight different ways, so what is written needs to be capable of flexible interpretation.

    I do not want to say the tune is whatever you play, because obviously you might be playing a different tune. At the same time it feels restrictive as soon as you say what is the tune. Perhaps "the tune" is that Platonic idol which no player actually reaches. Whatever you play on any given day is not quite it.
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I take minor issue with saying the delight is inexpressible. I think that is our job, to express our delight in the tune in our playing of the tune.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Such a good discussion. Some days I feel the tune is the dots, then others make me feel it's the playing that's the tune. Most recently, it's been someone else sending me the dots and saying we should play this. And we do. But somehow, sometimes, what we put together through the dots isn't what others had in mind. Example - in Airs Tordus (the most recent one volume version) is Le bedeau de l'enfer. My duo partner and I learned it. And we've been playing it for a while. We like it. But what we do sounds nothing like when Guy Bouchard plays it. Have found a version that April Verch plays and it's closer to what we do. So, did she learn it from the dots? Don't know.

    Yes, tune books are fun. I have more than I can ever get through in this lifetime. And still haven't really scratched the surface of what's available. The Milliner-Koken collection is a bit too difficult for me to read. My classical music upbringing screams for measure lines. But I understand why they did what they did. It makes sense, just my mind is too narrow to find it easy to follow.

    And even though I don't need any more tune books, am still looking for some. Mainly specific, out of print titles at this point.
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I see two aspects here regarding new tunes. The first is to be impressed when hearing a tune. The second is the desire to learn what your friends know.
    Very often I had a list of tunes that the session played and that became my list, as I wanted to play with them. The other is a personal list of recordings that impressed me as worthy projects.

    My process of learning the tunes involves research, so I can compare different versions. Then I'll either decide on my own variation or I'll decided to play it as someone plays it. Either way, the tune is not just memorized but it is put in a larger context. I learn so much more that way. (And the more I learn, the less I know. Ha, ha).
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post

    The Milliner-Koken collection is a bit too difficult for me to read. My classical music upbringing screams for measure lines. But I understand why they did what they did. It makes sense, just my mind is too narrow to find it easy to follow.
    Yea it is a little jarring at first, but once I got used to it... It gets pretty easy after a bit.
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    There are so many tunes buried in old tune books. Great stuff not commonly played anymore. I love finding a long lost gem that has gone to ground, and re-animating it.

    The reverse too, I hate being the slave of what others want to play on youtube. Who are they to tell me what is delightful. Its great for learning, don't get me wrong, and a good source of tunes, but learning a tune from youtube means you already second in line. You are not the one doing the archeology, you are, at best, the one to whom the archeologist shows the bone, and tells you why it is important.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Friend of mine gave us a book of old fiddle tunes that look to be from about the 1940s or older -- lots of waltzes and translations of opera themes -- that's a lot of fun to drag out when I tire of the same old, same old. Fiddler friend of mine put out what she called her PPE (pandemic player extravaganza) with some tunes she'd always wanted to learn, with standard notation and a CD and we've been playing that for a few months. She's nuts for tunes with notes on the G string and one flat so we've been learning all sorts of out-of-the-usual tunes like the Drunken Sailor Hornpipe and Hamill House (nothing quite like Ed Reavy!), Farewell to Whalley Range and one of the tunes that's a new favorite, Maggie's Pancakes. Every time I get tired of the usual, there's another tune just round the corner that blows my socks off. We've managed to get together for a couple hours of tunes once every two weeks or so (socially distanced and, if there are more than 3 of us, with masks. thank heavens you don't need your mouth to play a mandolin!) since August -- but i miss the pressure to learn a new tune that's making the rounds of the session, frankly. it keeps me on my toes.
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  35. #19
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    I got a copy of Cole's 1000 Fiddle tunes in about 1974. I'm a slow learner, more than a few to go
    Play it like you mean it

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Here's my usual 'path' to my 'next tune' and I must say it is a delight to revisit the old impression.

    I'm finally getting around to a fling called 'Love, Won't you marry me' and a hornpipe called Byrne's. Now thoes tunes have been on my 'to do list' since 1978 when I heard DeDannan play them. And then Kevin Burke played it on the Portland recording. And the other day the tune came up as a song on a youtube video by a remarkable singer named ... Julie Fowlis. BTW have you seen her on the BBC program called Celtic Music at Home?
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  39. #21

    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    So... for what it's worth, here's a link to an mp3 of a sketchy recording of me playing The Barrow Banks one time through. Normally I wouldn't attempt to record a tune until it felt a little bit more "lived in". However this to my ears is such a well constructed melody (as you'd expect from Sean Ryan) that I felt the urge to share it with those who aren't able to pick the tune up from the dots or abc.

    Focus not on the playing - which is up to (or down to!) my usual clunky standard - but on the tune. :-)

    https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.w...rrow-banks.mp3

    I'd be grateful to know your thoughts. Have I over-reacted to a perfectly run of the mill hornpipe? Or is it indeed a thing of rare beauty and savage charm? (Other options are available...)

    Aidan

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    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    A lovely, joyful ditty.
    Something I’ d want to whistle on a walk on a spring day.
    So, a welcome bright spot on a chilly November day.Thank you!

    Ed

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  42. #23
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Aiden yes. Good choice. I trust your taste in tunes!

    Everything I think about great tunes is here. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/e...on-great-tunes
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Such a sprightly hornpipe! i can see why it caught your imagination!

    I'm a huge fan of hornpipes in almost any version. I think they absolutely suit the mandolin the way other tunes suit other instruments (nothing like a slow air played on the pipes)
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  46. #25
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The sheer inexpressible delight of stumbling across a new tun

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    I'm a huge fan of hornpipes in almost any version. I think they absolutely suit the mandolin the way other tunes suit other instruments
    Yes. They are so unashamedly happy.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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