Free English traditional tunes workshops

‘Your workshops are fab’ – workshop regular.

The tunes for these classes are posted below!

Learn to play traditional tunes for music sessions and dancing in the company of others in workshops at the Gun and Spitroast, Horsmonden, led by fiddler, concertina, guitar and melodeon player Gavin Atkin – and you’ll soon be playing in a group that sounds like this (YouTube)!

We play our tunes slowly to begin with, speeding up only as the class picks them up, and help you practice whatever’s causing difficulty for you. We generally work on three tunes during a two-hour workshop, and the Youtubes demonstrating how the tunes go (sowly and at tempo) appear online a few days after each workshop.

We meet at the Gun & Spitroast pub at Horsmonden, Kent (TN12 8HT) on the FIRST and THIRD Tuesdays of each month at 8pm.

”Well done Gavin. Your uploads and tunes are perfect for anyone who wishes to learn D/G Melodeon. You make it interesting but keep it simple… Very clever. Easy the best tutorial channel on Youtube. Keep them coming. Cheers” – YouTube user JackDaw

Please join us at any point through the year. To sign up for emails about these events and others we run in mid-Kent click here!

Admission is free but we often have a small collection (a quid or two would be fine, please don’t hand over paper money!) to cover expenses.

Typical instruments might be melodeon, fiddle, concertina, mandolin, harmonica, whistle, flute or banjo, but we’ll be just as happy if you pitch up with percussion (say, a triangle, tambourine, cajon, or snare and hi-hat) or  a saxophone or an electronic piano. Reading music isn’t necessary, though it definitely helps (and is worth working on it you can).

In addition to the classes we run tunes sessions (see the Sessions page) and in the spring and autumn also put on a dance in which the class is joined by friends to form a band to play for dancing. To see an example of one of these dances, click here.

Please tell your friends and especially anyone who’s starting to play and really should know about these classes! There’s a poster to print out and give to friends here: Horsmonden classes flier.

For information, call Gavin Atkin on 07985 522734.

Music for these workshops

Click on the links to download either pdf files of the tunes, or ABC notation (which can be played using the various ABC softwares and websites, including the excellent www.mandolintab.net), or to access YouTube clips (many of which are here, but I’ll have to catch up with the rest when I have time!).

If you’re a learning player, don’t miss the notes about playing these tunes at the bottom of this page – I’ve put them there for convenience, but that doesn’t mean they are not important and useful!

Melodeon players may be interest in my document A first introduction to melodeon chords.

Workshop regular Kathy Wallwork has kindly made an index of the YouTube videos. Thanks Kathy! To access it, click here: Tunes YouTube index

There’s also a short YouTube demonstrating some of the most common tune types.

17th December 2019 Walter Bulwer’s No 1 and No 2 abcs: Walter Bulwer’s No 2, Walter Bulwer’s No 1

3rd December 2019 Jenny Lind, The Star Above the Garter abcs: Jenny Lind, The Star Above the Garter YouTubes: Jenny Lind, The Star Above the Garter, The Rogue’s March, Winster Gallop

19th November – the final practice for the workshop barndance at 7pm on the 23rd November (finishes 10pm). Here’s Kathy’s incipits list showing the first few bars of all the tunes.

5th November – practising the November barndance tunes list, all of which are on this page.

  • The Happy Farmer
  • Fox and Geese
  • The Hogmanay Jig
  • Jimmy Allen
  • Robertson’s Reel
  • Whinham’s Reel
  • The Cumberland Waltz

15th October – practising the November barndance tunes list, all of which are listed on this page (use search or press control-F to find them):

  • Sussex Cotillion
  • Gypsy Princess
  • Captain Pugwash
  • The Kirkgate Hornpipe
  • Dingle Regatta
  • Litchfield Tattoo
  • Caddam Woods

2019 November barndance – Rusty Gulley, The Litchfield Tattoo Abcs: Rusty Gulley, Litchfield Tattoo

1st October – Dingle Regatta and Captain Pugwash, abcs: Dingle RegattaCaptain Pugwash YouTubes: Dingle Regatta, Captain Pugwash, The Flowers of Edinburgh

17 September 2019 – Robertson’s Reel, Navvy on the Line, abcs: Robertson’s ReelNavvy on the Line YouTubes: Robertson’s ReelNavvy on the LineThe Litchfield Tattoo

18th June – Harper’s Frolic, The Gypsy Princess, abcs: Harper’s FrolicThe Gypsy Princess YouTubes: Harper’s FrolicThe Gypsy PrincessOh Dear, What Can The Matter BeJimmy Allen 

4th June 2019 – Albert Farmer’s Bonfire Tune, The March of St Timothyabcs: Albert Farmer’s Bonfire TuneThe March of St TimothyYoutubes: The March of St TimothyAlbert Farmer’s Bonfire TuneThe Keel RowBlaydon Races

21st May 2019 – Lamshaw’s Fancy, The Rose Tree abcs: Lamshaw’s FancyThe Rose Tree YouTubes: Lamshaw’s FancyThe Rose TreeThe Sussex Bonny BreastknotWhinham’s Reel (yes, I gave it the wrong name in the workshop – sorry!)

7th May 2019 – The Kirkgate Hornpipe and Fox and Geese abcs: Kirkgate HornpipeFox and Geese YouTubes: The Kirkgate HornpipeFox and GeeseWait for the Waggon

16th April 2019 Sussex Cotillion, Leadley’s Hornpipe Abcs: Sussex CotillionLeadley’s Hornpipe YouTubes: Sussex CotillionLeadley’s HornpipeThe Happy Farmer

2nd April 2019: Roxborough Castle (hornpipe), The Red House Abcs: Roxborough Castle (hornpipe)The Red House YouTubes: Dan Leno’sBlow the Wind SoutherlyThe Red HouseRoxborough Castle

For the next few workshops (19th Feb5th March19th March), we’ll be working towards the workshop spring barndance at Brenchley Memorial Hall on Saturday the 30th March, so here’s  the proposed list:

  1. A Starry Night for a Ramble (jig)
  2. Bonny Kate (reel, maybe march)
  3. Caddam Woods (polka)
  4. Dorset Four Hand Reel (full length) (set dance, polka)
  5. Glakey Hornpipe (slowish jig)
  6. Mittel’s Hornpipe (schottische or hornpipe)
  7. The Cumberland Waltz
  8. Jacob or Enrico (schottische )
  9. Three Around Three (set dance, polka) See YouTube with fiddle (a melodeon YouTube can be found further down this page)
  10. Uncle Jim’s (jig)
  11. The Four Seasons (48-bar jig) See YouTube with fiddleand updated dots The Four Seasons  (a melodeon YouTube can be found further down this page)
  12. The Redowa (48-bar polka) Written music (amended to what I find I actually play!): The Redowa Abc: The Redowa YouTube: The Redowa

Here’s a list of incipits (written out starts of tunes to job the memory).

5th February 2019: Jacob or Enrico, Three Around Three Abcs: Jacob or EnricoThree Around ThreeYouTubes: The Cumberland WaltzJacob or EnricoThree Around Three (melodeon)Three Around Three (fiddle)

15th January 2019: Bonny Kate, Watson’s Hornpipe, abcs:  Bonnie KateWatson’s Hornpipe YouTubes: Caddam WoodsBonnie KateWatson’s Hornpipe

18th December 2018 Dorset Four Hand Reel (full length), Mittel’s Hornpipe Abcs: Dorset Four Hand Reel,  Mittel’s Hornpipe YouTubes: Dorset Four Hand – tune 1Dorset Four Hand – tune 2A Starry Night for a RambleMittel’s Untitled Hornpipe

4th December Malcolm Woods Glakey Hornpipe Uncle Jim’s Abcs: Malcolm Woods Glakey HornpipeUncle Jim’s

24th November barndance tunes list

Polkas: The Redwing, The Belfast Polka (AABBAACC), Church Street, The Shepton Mallet Hornpipe

Jigs: Seven Stars, Hogmanay Jig, John of Paris, The Hundred Pipers

Waltzes:  Percy Brown’s Walta for the Veleta, (And possibly The Orotava)

Schottisches and hornpipes: Ideal Schottische (AABBAACC – and A to finish), The Italian Schottische, Off to California

30th October Redwing, The Belfast Polka, Church Street, abcs: The Belfast PolkaChurch Street YouTubes:  RedwingThe Belfast PolkaChurch Street

16 October 2018 Seven Stars, Hogmanay Jig, John of Paris, abcs Seven StarsHogmanay JigJohn of Paris YouTubes: Seven StarsHogmanay JigJohn of Paris

To whet your appetite for the Hogmanay Jig, just listen to the lovely Magpie Lane playing it (though very slightly different, as we know happens)!

YouTubes for the 2018 Tenterden Folk Festival tunes workshop: Rosalie the Prairie FlowerSeven StarsThe Orotava (the video has it spelt wrong!)

2 October 2018 John of Paris The Ideal Schottische, Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta abcs: John  of ParisThe Ideal SchottischePercy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta YouTubes: John of ParisThe Ideal SchottischePercy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta 

18 September 2018 The Hundred Pipers, The Shepton Mallet Hornpipe  abcs: The Hundred PipersThe Shepton Mallet Hornpipe YouTubes (which now come with chords): The Hundred PipersThe Shepton Mallet Hornpipe and The Italian Schottische

Here’s a little tune for folks who might fancy a summertime challenge: The Chinese Polka

5th June 2018 The Irish Washerwoman and The Four Seasons abcs: The Irish WasherwomanThe Four Seasons YouTubes: The Irish WasherwomanThe Four Seasons, Walter Bulwer’s No. 1

15th May The Staffordshire Hornpipe, Ann Frazer MacKenzie abcs: Anne Frazer McKenzieStaffordshire Hornpipe YouTubes: The Staffordshire HornpipeAnn Frazer McKenziePoor Robin’s Maggott

1st May 2018 Parnell’s March and Ville de Quebec abcs: Parnell’s MarchVille de Quebec YouTubes: Parnell’s MarchVille de QuebecKentish Cricketers,  Speed the Plough

17th April 2018 The Great North Run and Elsey’s Waltz abcs: The Great North Run ’86,  Elsey’s Waltz YouTubes: The Great North RunElsey’s Waltz, The Redwing

3rd April 2018 Will Atkinson’s Schottische and Harry Reeves’ Favourite Abcs: Will Atkinson’s SchottischeHarry Reeves’ Favourite YouTubes: Will Atkinson’s SchottischeHarry Reeves’ FavouriteLads of Alnwick

6th March 2018 Drops of Brandy, Fred Pigeon’s No 2, Dashing White Sergeant (make sure you’ve got a new printout as there are a couple of corrections) abcs Drops of BrandyDashing White Sergeant (ditto)

We’re bringing back these workshop favourites for the big dance on the 24th March, along with some extra jigs and a couple of step hop tunes. Here’s the proposed tune list:

Hornpipes and schottisches: Smith’s a Gallant Fireman, Off to California

Reels: Fred Pigeon’s No 2, Dashing White Sergeant

Polkas: From Night ’til Morn, Quickstep in the Battle of Prague, The Marmalade Polka, Oh Dem Golden Slippers

Jigs: Major Mackie’s, The Hullichan Jig, Squirrel in a Tree, Rig a Jig Jig

Slip jig: Drops of Brandy

Waltzes: Shave the Donkey, The Dark Island

6th February 2018 Marthy, From Night ’til MornFrom Night ’til MornMarthy YouTubes: MarthyFrom Night ’til MornQuickstep in the Battle of Prague

This isn’t really for the workshop, but it’s a little lollipop I coded for a friend and I thought I’d make it available for folks who’d like something a bit challenging and different: 

Abc: Untitled Hornpipe from the Leadley manuscripts

16th January 2018 Beilbe’s Hornpipe and The Dark Island, ABCs: Beilbie’s HornpipeThe Dark Island YouTubes: Beilbe’s HornpipeThe Marmalade PolkaThe Dark Island

2nd January 2018 Hullichan Jig and Inisheer, ABCs: Hullichan JigInisheer YouTubes: Hullichan Jig, Inisheer, Kafoozalum (aka Oh Mrs Huddledee)

2017 – Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed Reel (Bromsberrow Heath)Major Mackie‘s Abcs:  Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed ReelMajor Mackie’s YouTubes: Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed ReelMajor Mackie’sShave the Donkey Bonus YouTube for Chris: Eleanor Plunkett (complete with abc)

Tunes for the dance on the 25th November:

Waltzes
Hare’s Waltz (32 bars)
Peeler Creek (waltz 16 bars, I think)
Archie’s Fancy (32 bars)
Polkas
Galopede (32 bars)
The Quaker (polka 32 bars)
Jigs
The Squirrel in a Tree (jig 32 bars)
The Ball (jig 32 bars)
The Trip to Highgate
48-bar jigs
Oats and Beans
Reel or march
The Curly Headed Ploughboy (reel or march 32 bars)
Schottische
Smith’s a Gallant fireman
Hornpipe
Off to California

An aide-memoire for tunes playing

There are various tips and tricks that you can use to bring interest and life to tunes. Good country dance tune players find all sorts of ways of embellishing them and emphasising their shape and form and especially their danceable rhythm – and they all do it in subtly different ways.

A good analogy is a child’s colouring book picture. The written music is like the printed outline waiting for the crayon to fill in the colours, and the pencil strokes and colours used and any added details are what makes the image individual.

Perhaps the most basic but also most important advice I can offer is this: generally keep notes considerably shorter than they are written, though lending extra length (within the specified length) when the phrase seems to call for it. This is a great place to start with nearly all types of tunes used for dancing, including the waltz. (Though clearly not the slow air or the slow retreat.)

I’ve listed out some ideas you might like to try using to add ‘colour’ to your playing below.

Phrases

Listening to the eight-bar phrases in the tunes, you’ll notice that there’s often a recognisable ‘call and response’ type of structure – perhaps two bars seem to make a statement and then the next two form a response, and then maybe you’ll recognise two or four bars where you can imagine the callers and responders are all together.

Consider playing the calls and responses slightly differently – say make the call louder and more clipped, and the response slightly softer or just a tad more legato.

Long notes

Where you have a long note, consider:

  • inserting a lower note and going up to the higher
  • changing the chord during the note (if you have a chording instrument), say from the most obvious chord to one a fourth or fifth above and back. This is something to experiment with: try different options and see which one works best
  • playing a second open or double-stopped note if your instrument can do this
  • breaking it up into two or more notes and playing the first short and sharp (this is also good wherever you have two notes that are the same, ditto three notes, which you might play short, short, long)
  • using turns (one note up, one the same, one down, one the same ) or trills (quickly and repeatedly play the note and the note above)
  • playing the long note short and very loud, and then leaving a space
  • if you’re a fiddler or a brass or wind player, add a little vibrato at the end of some of the long notes
  • again, with long notes, where possible play with a little pulse – that is, get louder and softer in time with the rhythm. This is particularly effective with waltzes. If pulsing isn’t possible on your instrument, try achieving the same kind of effect by repeated plucking on a mandolin or banjo, by using a little vibrato on a whistle or recorder, or perhaps by breaking the note up – though this may not work if you do it too much!

 Repeated notes

As above, where you have repeated notes, consider making all the notes short /except/ for the last one.

Where you have repeated notes and you’re playing a chording instrument, consider changing the chord underneath, perhaps through a cycle of chords containing the same note.

For example, if the repeated note is a G, you might consider using the chords of C, Em, Am7 etc.

Dominant chords, perhaps with the 7th

Using a note or chord to add tension and ‘announce’ the next phrase. The last note of a tune is likely to be the key note – for example, if you’re playing in G, it’s likely the written music will end with a G note. (Ditto a C note when playing in C, or a D note if you’re playing in D. A good way to give shape to a tune and to ‘announce’ that the next phrase (say, the A music, B music or C music) is about to begin is instead of the key note to slip in the chord (even better the 7th chord) of the note that’s a fifth above.

This is called the dominant. So, for example, in a 4/4 tune in G, you might let the tune finish on a G notes with a G chord for two or three beats – but the last one or two would be a D or F# or A (all notes from a D chord) accompanied by a D or D7 chord. Ditto, an A or A7 chord when playing in D, of an F or F7 chord if you’re playing in C. It’s much easier and much more instinctive than it sounds! But be warned – it doesn’t usually work with waltzes!

Tune types

Thinking about different kinds of tunes, my take has been that in English sessions there seem to be broadly two kinds of tunes – lifting tunes such as polkas, jigs, hornpipes and schottisches where the emphasis is on the off-beat (oom-PAH, oom-PAH or oom-PAH-pah-PAH), and running tunes such as marches and reels where it is on the down-beat (OOM-pah-Oom-pah or OOM-pah-pah-pah). This is something to think about especially if you’re playing a chording instrument. In particular with guitars, I’ve found the ‘running’ tunes work best with all down-strokes across the strings, while the ‘lifting’ tunes work best with an  alternating down (down-beat) and up stroke (off-beat). It’s especially cool it you can play the downbeat short (by damping on a guitar, or releasing the keys on a piano) and let the following chord sing a little.

Getting the emphasis that works best into a tune can bring real excitement to the tune itself and to a dance.

If you have any questions about any of this, please email me at gmatkin@gmail.com and I will be pleased to try to help.

Sing, dance and play – English traditional and old fashioned music, dance and song in the heart of Kent