Photo by Alex Bienfait
‘Your workshops are fab’ – workshop regular.
English traditional music workshops – Gun & Spitroast, Horsmonden, Kent
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 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
For the next few workshops (19th Feb, 5th March, 19th 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:
- A Starry Night for a Ramble (jig)
- Bonny Kate (reel, maybe march)
- Caddam Woods (polka)
- Dorset Four Hand Reel (full length) (set dance, polka)
- Glakey Hornpipe (slowish jig)
- Mittel’s Hornpipe (schottische or hornpipe)
- The Cumberland Waltz
- Jacob or Enrico (schottische )
- Three Around Three (set dance, polka) See YouTube with fiddle (a melodeon YouTube can be found further down this page)
- Uncle Jim’s (jig)
- 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)
- The Redowa (48-bar polka) Written music (amended to what I find I actually play!): The Redowa Abc: The Redowa YouTube: The Redowa
5th February 2019: Jacob or Enrico, Three Around Three Abcs: Jacob or Enrico, Three Around ThreeYouTubes: The Cumberland Waltz, Jacob or Enrico, Three Around Three (melodeon), Three Around Three (fiddle)
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 1, Dorset Four Hand – tune 2, A Starry Night for a Ramble, Mittel’s Untitled Hornpipe
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
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)!
2 October 2018 John of Paris The Ideal Schottische, Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta abcs: John of Paris, The Ideal Schottische, Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta YouTubes: John of Paris, The Ideal Schottische, Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta
18 September 2018 The Hundred Pipers, The Shepton Mallet Hornpipe abcs: The Hundred Pipers, The Shepton Mallet Hornpipe YouTubes (which now come with chords): The Hundred Pipers, The Shepton Mallet Hornpipe and The Italian Schottische
Here’s a little tune for folks who might fancy a summertime challenge: The Chinese Polka
3rd April 2018 Will Atkinson’s Schottische and Harry Reeves’ Favourite Abcs: Will Atkinson’s Schottische, Harry Reeves’ Favourite YouTubes: Will Atkinson’s Schottische, Harry Reeves’ Favourite, Lads 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 Brandy, Dashing 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
2017 – Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed Reel (Bromsberrow Heath), Major Mackie‘s Abcs: Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed Reel, Major Mackie’s YouTubes: Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed Reel, Major Mackie’s, Shave the Donkey Bonus YouTube for Chris: Eleanor Plunkett (complete with abc)
Tunes for the dance on the 25th November:
Hare’s Waltz (32 bars)
Peeler Creek (waltz 16 bars, I think)
Archie’s Fancy (32 bars)
Galopede (32 bars)
The Quaker (polka 32 bars)
The Squirrel in a Tree (jig 32 bars)
The Ball (jig 32 bars)
The Trip to Highgate
Oats and Beans
Reel or march
The Curly Headed Ploughboy (reel or march 32 bars)
Smith’s a Gallant fireman
Off to California
Tenterden Folk Festival tunes workshop 2017 – Sally Sloane’s Mazurka, The Trip to Highgate Abcs: Sally Sloane’s Mazurka, The Trip to Highgate YouTubes: Sally Sloane’s Mazurka, The Trip to Highgate, Davey Davey Nick Nack,
Summer 2017 A little present in abc format – Harry Reeves’ Favourite in abc format: Harry Reeves’ Favourite – in D (dots in pdf) and the original YouTube played in C on tuned-down fiddles (so playing in C using D fingering). Have fun with it – it’s a great tune and there’s a lot to pick out and think about here, especially the way the tune is full of rhythmic drive…
8th March 2017 – Drops of Brandy abc: Drops of Brandy YouTube: Drops of Brandy (This is a ‘slip jig’, and it goes jiggity jiggity jiggity, unlike the jigs you are used to, which usually go jig-ty jig-ty or jiggity jiggity or some combination. You’ll hear lots of versions on line but I should warn you that many are rather fast… )
Kathy has kindly made one of her excellent lists including the first four bars of each tune.
More tunes for the dance on the 25th March:
The Sloe (polka) – see 25th January
Waiting for the Federals (reel) – see 14th December
The Swiss Boy (hopstep) – see 28th September Chords: The Swiss Boy
Uncle Jim’s (jig) – see 28th September Chords: Uncle Jim’s
Rusty Gulley (3/2 hornpipe) – see 28th September Chords: Rusty Gulley
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 email@example.com and I will be pleased to try to help.