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Trad Scots-Irish Tune database?


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If you can decipher abc (well worth the effort, and it's fairly painless)


Amazing what's out there, including many of the old Scots tune books.



has links to collections and abc info.

Besides those Andrew Kunz's Fiddler's companion at http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/FCfiles.html is useful. It isn't primarily a tune site; it has information (author, source, history, recordings, etc.) for tons of tunes, but does include a number of abc transcriptions. Nigel Gatherer's site at http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes.html is another good one (JC's Tunefinder--the first link that Ken posted--indexes it); he has a lot of abc transcriptions of traditional Scottish, Irish and American tunes, including my abc transcriptions of Robert Petrie's Scottish collections from the 1790s. There's also a bunch of abc for Scottish and Cape Breton tunes on the Cranford Publishing site at http://www.cranfordpub.com

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You're better off learning by ear from CDs/tapes made by old and respected players. The written tunes can't convey the nuances and also you get some very non-trad versions floating around in ABC from people all over the globe.

If you know of a database of traditional Scottish recordings, that would be nice to know about.

I agree that listening is the best method. Printed music, however, does have a long tradition in Scottish fiddle. And there are recordings of James Scott Skinner to be heard, who is old and respected, but perhaps not traditional.

A commercial site, ayepod.net, offers lessons for a fee. I signed up for a Lori Watson lesson a few years back, and it was reasonable. I haven't tried any of the others.

And there are some decent recordings to be had on YouTube. Just type in a tune title or fiddler's name, and see what comes up. The cool thing with both of these is that you can see bowing and shifting.

You are left to decide what style you like, and then can consider everything else non-traditional.

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Agreed that nothing beats listening to recordings, or ideally learning from other fiddlers. Written music can actually be a hindrance to the learning process for anyone with a classical background, since those players tend to take the notations too literally and miss the subtler aspects of the style--things like lilting rhythms which aren't usually notated... But once you're familiar with the style, and the shorthand used to notate it on the written page, you can use tunebooks to learn new tunes. As Ken said, Scots fiddle in particular has a long tradition of publishing tunebooks, back to at least the 1750s. Part of the fun for me is finding obscure tunes in the old books and putting them into my tune sets. If I had to rely on playing only tunes I'd learned from other musicians I'd lose probably 50% of my repertoire!

Here's a great site that has audio and video clips from Northeast-style contemporary Scottish fiddlers: The Fiddle Tradition of North-East Scotland

And here's the University of Aberdeen's James Scott Skinner website, with audio clips and facsimiles of some of his tunes: The Music of James Scott Skinner


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Or you can be non-traditional, diss the traditionalists and play anything at all and call it traditional :)

Or you can make flip remarks without offering anything of value. Tell me, mayofiddler, exactly which tradition is it that uses recordings to learn tunes?

I have nothing against recordings. I use them all the time to use traditional tunes. But I know that it's not a traditional method; it is a modern method. Or you could call it a non-traditional method. As is using the computer to learn. And I'm old enough to remember trying to learn off of LPs, slowing them down to 16 rpm -- and also dropping an octave.

I've played, or tried to play, Scottish fiddle for a number of years now. And I'm sure I do it with a Western US accent, still have a long ways to go, but tonight, at a potluck dinner, my friends and I will play tunes, some traditional, some not, some of our own invention. And in many ways, that is the traditional way music was done. We won't be recording it, we'll have trouble remembering what we did the next day, we may even look back on it through the fog of time as a great evening of music, and no one else will ever know.

So, to now try to add in something useful, here are a couple of YouTube clips. Can you spot the traditional music?


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  • 2 weeks later...

I wanted to add a website to my earlier recommendations on tune databases. Chris Walshaw, inventor of the abc notation system, has relaunched his abc notation website, now at http://abcnotation.com/. This was a great site for all things abc and I'm very happy it's back! As a bonus it now includes a great tune finder page that pops up the abc code, a standard notation preview of the tune, and a playable midi file all on a single page. Like JC's abc tune-finder, this is a "meta-index" to other collections and includes pages mentioned by Ken and myself earlier. It also has a page of links to other abc collections on the web, including some British ones that I was previously unfamiliar with. Very handy resource!

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