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Irish Sessiun Tune Books


Helen
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Yes, yes I know, lots of you play by ear and will want to tell me all of the shortcomings of tune books. Okay, I hear you. I am endeavoring to learn to play by ear.

 

I like written music because I am a visual learner and I like having music to spur me on to the first few notes to get started. I DON'T use the music when I play hammer dulcimer. I just LIKE having it. I DO listen and hear the nuances and variations that people are using, I know they are not playing note for note out of some book.

 

Okay, with all of that said, do you have tune books that you like? I would like to get one or maybe a few. I have written down the music played at an Irish sessiun I have gone to, but I hope to go to some others that are closer to home. And I would just like to play at home too. I realize that these sessiuns may not play what is in the tunebook. I just WANT ONE. This is my present to me.

 

Thanks all.

 

Helen

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I have Dave Mallinson's 100 Essential Irish Session Tunes, and 100 Evergreen Irish Session Tunes. They are inexpensive, readily available, the typeface is easy to read, they include guitar chord markings, and I've found them handy for all the reasons you give.

 

From the lack of response to this post I feel as if I'm revealing a secret sin here! Surely other people use written music? Of course, only as a prompt for material already learned by ear...

Edited by jmm
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Surely other people use written music? Of course, only as a prompt for material already learned by ear...

On the contrary, I prefer to use written music for learning music -- often music for which I don't have a recording, -- so that I can thereafter play it without referring to the music.

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Thank you so much for responding. I was getting a bit discouraged. I thought perhaps I had committed some huge faux pas as no one was responding.

 

I had seen several tune books for Irish session tunes, but only in catalogs and I was going to order them withour seeing them. Thus, I was hoping to get some feedback. Thanks JMM for your help and thanks to Shay for the email about the website.

 

Gosh Jim, you use written music for the exact reasons that I do. How refreshing.

 

Okay, I am happy now. Of course, I will welcome more responses!

 

Helen

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Probably the best selling tune book The Button Box stocks is The Portland Collection. While not an Irish-only, tune book, it does have a huge percentage of Irish tunes in it. I would classify it as a "contra tune" book which includes Irish, French Canadian, New England, Old-Timey, English, Scottish....

 

It has over 200 tunes with chords, notes on each tune (origin/composer, background, where recorded), discography, bibliography, and appendix. There is also a CD available so you can hear a selection of the tunes played.

 

One of the good things about this book is that the selection of tunes is reasonably concurrent with stuff being played and as (version/variation) they're played. One of the not-so-good things is that I'm finding that some people are taking these versions as "gospel", but I guess that can be said about most any collection.

 

Often when I find a vintage tune (as opposed to a new tune in the tradition) that I really like and want to work on, I'll go to Howe's (Ryan's or Cole's) for an early (unadulterated) version of it to see where things came from so I'll know what the essence is and what may be spurious.

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One of the good things about this book is that the selection of tunes is reasonably concurrent with stuff being played and as (version/variation) they're played.
I don't have it, but I've seen it, and I agree it's a good selection of tunes. It has pretty much become "de rigeur" at sessions around here. If it matches the stuff being played at sessions it's because everybody is reading from it.
One of the not-so-good things is that I'm finding that some people are taking these versions as "gospel", but I guess that can be said about most any collection.
I went to a session not too long ago, with neither book nor music stand. I suggested we play "Glise de Sherbrooke" and someone said "what page?"

 

Everybody else had the book open in front of them, waiting for my answer. {grumble!}

Edited by David Barnert
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Thanks Richard,

 

I have the Portland Collection and agree that it is a great book.

 

David, I know you hate people to use tunebooks. I use them to learn a variation of a tune and to remind me how a tune starts. I don't use them while playing with others. However, a couple of sessions I've attended do use books which doesn't bother me. I just get distracted if I use the book.

 

I guess I just love books, all kinds of books.

 

Helen

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(I was joking about "only as a prompt"--I just hate using those smiley-face things. I use written music to learn tunes too and to remind me with the first few notes or more when I forget the ones I've learned from print or by ear.)

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David, I know you hate people to use tunebooks.

I don't know if this was David's point, but I'll make it mine: When and where to use tune books can be subject to local rules, but for people to expect someone who doesn't use a book to know page numbers is a bit much.

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I suppose that there are many among us (like me ) who are a mite envious of those of you who can read the "dots" and know theory. I know that there has been a lot of debate about it. What I 'm saying,Helen, is, dont kick yourself for having a skill and using it.

I have been looking at thesession.com and "Contemplations from the Marianas Trench", both of which offer up music presented in ABC or in "dots", and have found both to be good sources. I use the MIDI files, myself. I'm sure that they have been mentioned before but sometimes things can bear repeating.

Happy Christmas

Rob

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I have the Mallinson books also. There is a third, "Enduring". I think the settings make sense, at least as a framework for how you end up hearing, or wanting to play, a tune. I refer to them all the time. Over the years I've collected others, the O'Neill's books and several volumes of Breathnach. It's all nice to have. Then along came the internet. I use JC's tune finder quite a bit. It's quicker than searching through the books. This is a link to all of the known abc files. You can get a gif of standard notation right from that site but having some software to deal with the abcs is better. There's more and more there all the time and it becomes a matter of finding a version you like. Naturally, some people's transcriptions are better than others. The books all have a style you can depend on but you can learn to recognize the better abc collections also. I just take comfort in the fact that I will never run out of good tunes to learn.

Cheers,

E

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Helen,

 

I (and perhaps others) had not replied, because I have a lot of different books and find all of them somewhat useful. That's not helpful to someone wanting advice on what one book to start with.

 

So pick one and start playing!

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Helen,

 

Many good sources:

 

O'Neill's 1001 - the Bible... I would recommend getting the original version, there have been a couple of versions after it... But, it is the one that people mention...

 

Frank Edgley has a couple of books and one on the way that he has selected especially for concertina...

 

Smoke in your eyes - Kevin Gow, a contributor to our forum... 600+ tunes

 

Then some great tunes in Breandan Breathnach's Ceol Rince na hEireann... 5 volumes that I know of...

 

God luck,

 

Craig

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Wow thanks everyone for the great responses. This is so great. It was great reading all of the super resources.

 

Jim, I know David does not like tunebooks from emails off the forum. I agree that asking for page numbers from someone who doesn't use a book is a bit much.

 

I go to a couple of sessions that do use books, but I mostly want them to learn tunes at home.

 

Robert, thank you for the lovely thought that I have a skill that I should be happy to use. I so appreciate that. It was so nice to read.

 

Hey JMM, you use books like I use them. I think I should know your first name, but I don't. (I like smiley faces, but am trying to restrain myself.)

 

Thanks and cheers to you too Eric. I am getting 2 Mallinson books.

 

Craig, I forgot that I had O'neills book! And I do plan on getting Frank's book.

 

Okay Ken I'll go play.

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I agree that asking for page numbers from someone who doesn't use a book is a bit much.

Words of wisdom:

 

"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity."

 

While I know that nobody's accusing the asker of malice, my impression at the time was that the guy had no clue that there was another way to play tunes than reading from the book.

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As a poor reader of music, I don't like sessions that rely on printed music. That said, the Portland Collection is worth every penny. The tunes are varied -- lots of Irish standards, but also wonderful modern contra dance tunes that are very nice on concertina (Bus STop, Don Tremaine's, etc.) And some nice French Canadian. For a bit of fun, try Reel des Accordeonistes on Anglo. A workout, but fun!

 

This book is a lot of bang for the buck. I understand there's a volume 2 in the works.

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There are _lots_ of good tune books for Irish. The Mally books are good. I really like Tony Sullivan's session tune books; he's got a real ear for modal harmonies. Too bad (I am not making this up!) my dog ate them. The Fiddler's Fake Book has a lot of good arrangements of Irish tunes.

Richard Carlin's English concertina book has some good arrangements. David DiGiuseppi's Irish tunes for piano accordion book is good. Gosh, where to start?

 

-Eric Root

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