We looked at several ideas for varying the tune, using specific musical landmarks:
Repeated notes – here we tried two different ways of varying the tune. The first option was to combine or tie repeated notes together to create a longer note. This is demonstrated in bar six of the example. The second idea was to insert a ‘fidget’ in between repeated notes, this being a note that it a step higher or lower than the repeated notes. The technical term for these is ‘auxiliary notes’ but I prefer the term fidget as it indicates a reluctance to sit still on one note for too long! These are demonstrated in bar one of the example.
Descending scales – these are often a good place to put a turn, or alternatively a triplet, as these emphasise the smoothness of the melody.
Scales in general – here we added some pedal notes, as demonstrated in bar 12. This is where a note is repeated or held, while the harmony in other parts changes. In this tune, you can try holding or repeating an A in the section from bar 10 to bar 13.
Skips, or thirds – wherever you have an interval of a third (e.g. D to F#), you might consider adding a passing note in between (e.g. to make D E F#). An example can be seen in bar 2.
The idea in general is to experiment with these ideas, and to find the combinations that you like and that work for you on your specific instrument. I’d suggest focusing on one idea at a time and getting comfortable with that before trying the next, and ultimately limiting yourself to a couple of variations per phrase – sometimes less is more! Exploring and experimenting with the tune in this way also helps to internalise and memorise it.
Here is the video and dots for The Munster Cloak, also known as The Spanish Cloak and An Fhallaingin Mhuimhneach. I haven’t been able to find out much about it; it only seems to appear in manuscripts from the 1960s onwards and there is some suggestion that it originated in Spain, with comparisons drawn to a melody by Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916). I’ve put a video of this tune at the bottom of the post so you can draw your own conclusions, but I would always resist the urge to fill in the gaps – it’s a tune that’s in the Irish tradition, and it’s gorgeous!
The third in our trilogy of 3/2 hornpipes – this three-part hornpipe, first published in 1742, has some similar musical figures to the previous 3/2 tunes covered recently and follows on rather nicely from the Rusty Gulley.
Here is a video with a slow and a faster play through, with another faster play through courtesy of Spiers and Boden:
Try adding the turns and triplets that we’ve been using recently in places where the melody moves by step, and look out for places where there are repeated notes – we will try some things out with those next time!
Here’s the Cumberland Waltz from, surprisingly enough, Cumberland. It was recorded in the 1950’s by Robert Forrester and Norman Alford, along with other songs and tunes from the area, on an album called ‘Pass the Jug Round’. This is available on Apple Music, and is worth looking up!
Here’s a slower and faster run through of the tune:
Here are the dots with the slightly more interesting chords that we tried out – who doesn’t love a walking bass line?
You might want to try some turns in places where the melody moves downwards by step or by a small interval such as a 3rd, good places to start might be bars 4-5 or bars 21-24. As a challenge, try adding up to three turns in the A section and maybe four in the B section. The effect of this ornament is to emphasize where the melody moves smoothly – sometimes less is more so try them wherever they might fit and then chose just a few places for each time through! Here’s a video on turns to refresh your memory:
Here’s tonight’s tune, Willie Was a Bonnie Lad. It’s a 16 bar reel from England that goes rather nicely with Allonby Lasses and that you can practise your clave rhythms on. It feels rather like a pipe tune to me, but I’ve not been able to find out much about it – I have it in a couple of tune books but there is no info forthcoming! Here’s a video with a slow and a faster run through on it:
Here are the dots:
Here’s a PDF with the suggested emphasis, achieved with accents or slurs/phrasing, your choice!
Allonby Lasses is a reel from the Lake District, from the 1825 Browne family manuscript. It’s is undoubtedly similar to a number of other tunes, specifically the Flagon Reel (present in the 1770 Vickers manuscript from around Newcastle, also widespread across the Scottish Borders at the same time) and the related Flogging Reel (Irish). As I’ve said before, a good tune will travel! It seems to be very much a pipe tune, which would go some way to explain why there are versions in G Mixolydian and G major, according to the limitations/quirks of Northumbrian/Border/Uillean pipes.
Here are the dots:
We played with the emphasis of different notes to create different kinds of drive or groove. Here is a PDF of the things we tried:
Here’s a fantastic French-Canadian reel that fits rather nicely with last week’s tune The Big Ship. It’s a well known reel with lots of different versions, some of which have a third and fourth section, but we’ve kept it simple here with lots of space for ornaments and minor variations. You can hear some of these in the faster version in the second half of the video.
Here’s a fab reel to see us into half term; The Big Ship also known as Glise de Sherbrooke, La Grande Chaine and Reel de Tadoussac. Many of you will know the first section from the children’s playground game and song The Big Ship Sails on the Ally Ally-O (or Illy Ally O, or Eely Ally O etc), a thread-the-needle game found across England, Ireland and Scotland which dates back to at least 1916 when it was published in a book of London street games (children’s games were not a source of interest until relatively recently). There is much debate and speculation over what the Ally Ally O refers to, with no definitive answer. The thing I find more interesting is that this tune is often cited as being French-Canadian in origin. I haven’t been able to find out anything more the journey this tune has taken around the world, but it’s certainly in the Canadian, American and English repertoires still.
Here is a demo of the tune with slow and faster version:
Here are the dots:
And a PDF of the tune and chords are available here:
We had two challenges with this tune. The first was to take out as many notes as possible to create a basic skeleton of the tune. There are many reasons to do this as an exercise but here we looked at a) creating a basic version into which we could slot different melodic figures later on and b) taking out just a few notes to create an immediately usable melodic variation of the tune. More on this later in the term! The second challenge was looking a ornaments, applying the turn ornament and introducing a double cut to emphasise notes on the main beats of the bar. Here’s a short video to explain: