Workshop Information

Recently, we have been trialling running a short tune-learning workshop at the beginning of each session. This involves spending 30-40 minutes learning a new tune by ear. The idea is to increase the confidence of the sessioners for playing tunes by ear and relying less on the music. After we have learned a tune, we will post notes about the tune we learned here.

The tunes here should all be shown as scores. If they're not then it could be your browser doesn't support the library used to draw the music. You can probably see the ABC notation used to generate the music. I'm trying to add PDFs to all the music so you can download that to see the score. Alternatively, use a new browser!

Select a date below:


2014.12.12 - (No tune this month)


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2014.11.14 - The Blackthorn Stick (jig)

The Blackthorn Stick is a very common session tune in G major. It's one of those tunes that, if you were to play it at any Irish music session, someone would know it.

It's a little tricky in places for all instruments because of the arpeggios, and also because of this there isn't a lot of space for ornaments. However, the very first 3 notes in the tune could be converted to a long note, a cut long note, a treble or a roll. Similarly, the BAB at the start of the 4th bar can also be replaced with those ornaments.

Slow Version
Normal Verison

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X: 1
T: The Blackthorn Stick
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:d|gfg age|dBG AGE|DGG FGA|BAB A2 d|
gfg age|dBG AGE|DGG FGA|BGG G2:|
|:d|edd gdd|edd gdd|edd gfe|dcB A2 d|
gfg age|dBG AGE|DGG FGA|BGG G2:|

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2014.10.10 - Calliope House (jig)

Calliope House is a modern tune that's ended up as part of the current Irish repertoire. It was originally written by Dave Richardson of Boys of the Lough and is named after a folk society in America.

It was originally written in the key of E-major (and you may still hear it played in that key), but has been transposed to D as flute and whistle players find that key easier. You'll also sometimes hear the parts of the tune swapped.

X: 1
T: Calliope House
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|dAA fAA|eAA fAA|Bee e2d|efe dBA|FAA A2F|
A2B d2e|1 f2f fed|e3 e2A:|2 f2fedc|d3 efg|
a2a faa|eaa faa|g2g fgf|efe dBA|FAA A2F|
A2B d2e|1 f2f fed|e3 efg:|2 f2fedc| d3 d3|

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2014.09.12 - The Black Rogue (Jig)

The Black Rogue is a very common sesison jig. It's a bit unusual in that it doesn't start on the tonic, but on the dominant; that is, it's in the key of D but starts on the A chord.

The music is shown below, and it's nice to play it with a swing and with a relaxed feel. You'll notice a few places where there are "dip" ornaments (e.g. GFG, or BAB). As with any jigs, these can be replaced with other forms of ornament such as long rolls or "The Long Note". At the old school, the G and B "dips" in the 7th bar of the A part we learned with a long note.

Chord-wise, the tune is in standard D major. However, as already mentioned, it the A part starts on the A chord.

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X:1
T: The Black Rogue
K: D
L:1/8
M:6/8
R:Jig
d |: cAA BAA | cAA A2d | cAA BGG | AFD D2 d |
cAA BAA | cAA AGF | GFG BAB | AFD D3 :| 
|: fef gfg | afd cBA | fef gfg | afd d2 a | 
agf gfe | fed cBA | GFG BAB | AFD D3 :|

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2014.08.08 - Dennis Murphy's (polka)

Here's another common session polka called Dennis Murphy's. It's also quite well know as a ceilidh tune. Dennis Murphy was one of the old itinterant fiddlers who moved to New York in the 1940s. He died back in 1974.

If you play the fiddle, bow out the short notes as it gives a more "Irish style" to the rythmn. You may hear this tune played with some small variations in the timing (where there are dotted quavers you may find it played with straight quavers).

There's a couple of tricky bits on the fiddle. Jumping from the low E to the high E in the third bar of the tune can be tricky at speed, as you have to jump the A string to get to the open E (you could finger the top E with your pinky but that's unusual in folk music). The other tricky part is the run in the last-but-one bar of the tune where you must jump from the high G to the C# which means jumping across string and forward. So practise those bits especially.

Chord-wise, it's pretty simple. I've added a couple of variations into the sheet music (using Em as a substitute for G). You could also make the B part more interesting by using a rising bass chord sequence (D- Em- D/F#- GA).

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X: 1
T: Dennis Murphy's
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
"D"f/g/f/e/ d>B|AD FA|"Em"GE "A"e>f|"G"ed "A"BA|
"D"f/g/f/e/ d>B|AD FA|"G"GE "A"e>f|1ed "D"d2:|2 ed "D"dB||
|:"D"Af f/e/f|"G"Ag g/f/g|"D"Af f/e/g|"A"e/f/e/d/ BA|
"D"Af f/e/f|"G"Ag g>a|"A"ba gc| ed "D"d2 :||

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2014.07.11 - Hardiman The Fiddler (Slip Jig)

So here's a very common session tune that everyone will know. It's called Hardiman the Fiddler and is honouring James Hardiman, author of Irish Minstrelsy (1831). It's a trance-inducing tune that just wants to be played again and again, and it can be quite hard to stop! To stop the tune, play upto the long F-sharp in the first bar as a coda.

Being a slip-jig that has no definitive ending, it can be quite hard to follow the phrasing of the tune, so it's quite important to try to exaggerate the phrasing a little. In particular, ensure you exaggerate the jig rythmn.

It's in the key if D mixolydian which has a single F-sharp, just the same as G major. However, for backing the chords would be mainly D and C, for simple backing. You could substitute Bm and Am in various places for variation.

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X:1
T:Hardiman The Fiddler
R:Slip Jig
M:9/8
L:1/8
K:Dmix
|: "D"A2 G FDE F2G | ABA AGA "C"cAG | "D"A2 G FDE F2 G | Add ded "C"cAG :|
|: "D"Ad^c d2 e f3 | Add ded "C"cAG | "D"Ad^c d2 e f2 g | agf ged "C"cAG :|

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2014.06.13 - Concertina Reel (reel)

Here's another well-known session tune that you'll find played all around the world. It's pretty simple but that means when you hear it at a session it might be played at quite a pace.

It's a reel, so in 4/4 time. Remember in Irish music you often have the pulse on the off-beat (on 2 and 4) which this tune really accentuates. To do this on the fiddle it's best to use a 1-bowed, 3-slurred type of bowing. Do the 1-down-bow on the F-sharps and C-sharps in the first part of the tune, and slur the subsequent notes all on a up bow.

Because it's quite a simple tune, it has plenty of opportunities for adding ornamentation or variations in there, although once it's galloping along it can be hard to fit them in!

Download Score

X: 1
T: Concertina Reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K: D
|: "D"A2FA BAFA | A2FA BAFA | "A"B2cB B2cB | B2cB BAFA |
"D"A2FA BAFA | A2FA BAFA | "A"B2cB B2cB | AFEF "D"D4 :|
|: "D"Addc d2Ad | d2fd edBA | "A"B2cB B2cB | B2cB BAFA |
"D"Addc d2Ad | d2ed edBA | "A"B2cB B2cB | AFEF "D"D4 :|

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2014.05.09 - (No tune this month)


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2014.04.11 - (No tune this month)


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2014.03.14 - (No tune this month)


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2014.02.14 - (No tune this month)


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2014.01.10 - Larry O'Gaff's (jig)

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X: 1
T: Larry O'Gaff's
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A|dDD FED|F2A AFD|GAG FGF|EFG ABc|
dDD FED|F2A AFD|GAG FGF|EFE D2:|
A|ABc dcd|efe ecA|efe ede|fdc d2B|
ABc dcB | ABA AFD | G3 F3 | EDC D3 :|

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