Free English traditional music workshops

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

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

15th January 2019: Bonny Kate, Watson’s Hornpipe, abcs:  Bonnie Kate, Watson’s Hornpipe YouTubes: Caddam Woods; Bonnie Kate: Watson’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 1, Dorset Four Hand – tune 2, A Starry Night for a Ramble, Mittel’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 Polka, Church Street YouTubes:  Redwing, The Belfast Polka, Church Street

16 October 2018 Seven Stars, Hogmanay Jig, John of Paris, abcs Seven Stars, Hogmanay 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 Flower, Seven Stars, The 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 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 PipersThe 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

5th June 2018 The Irish Washerwoman and The Four Seasons abcs: The Irish Washerwoman, The Four SeasonsYouTubes: The Irish Washerwoman, The 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 McKenzie, Poor Robin’s Maggott

1st May 2018 Parnell’s March and Ville de Quebec abcs: Parnell’s MarchVille de Quebec YouTubes: Parnell’s March, Ville de Quebec, Kentish CricketersSpeed 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 Run, Elsey’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 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 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: Marthy, From Night ’til Morn, Quickstep 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 Reel, Major Mackie’s, Shave 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

Chords sheets for those who need them: Off to CaliforniaOats and BeansGalopedeThe BallSquirrel in a TreeThe QuakerHare’s Waltz

7th November 2017The Curly Headed Ploughboy and Oats and Beans Abcs: The Curly Headed PloughboyOats and Beans YouTube: Off to California

17the October 2017 –  The Quaker and The Trip to Highgate Abcs The Trip to HighgateThe Quaker YouTubes: The Quaker (for melodeon and fiddle)The Trip to Highgate, Smith’s a Gallant Fireman

Tenterden Folk Festival tunes workshop 2017Sally Sloane’s Mazurka, The Trip to Highgate Abcs: Sally Sloane’s MazurkaThe Trip to Highgate YouTubes: Sally Sloane’s Mazurka, The Trip to Highgate, Davey Davey Nick Nack 

3rd October 2017 (NB – it’s a Tuesday and it’s at The Gun, Horsmonden) – Hare’s Waltz and Galopede Abcs: Hare’s WaltzGalopede YouTubes: Hare’s Waltz, Galopede, The Squirrel in a Tree

27th September 2017 (NB – at Brenchley Memorial Hall) –  The Ball and Peeler Creek abcs: The BallPeeler Creek YouTubes: Squirrel in a Tree, The Ball, Peeler Creek

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…

24th May 2017 – The Fairy Dance and Charlie Batchelor’s Lost Jig abcs: Charlie Batchelor’s Lost Jig, The Fairy Dance YouTubes: The Lost Jig, The Fairy DanceOh Dem Golden Slippers

10th May 2017 – The Hesleyside Reel and The Redesdale Hornpipe abcs: The Hesleyside Reel, The Redesdale Hornpipe YouTubes: The Lincolnshire Polka, The Hesleyside Reel, The Redesdale Hornpipe

26th April 2017 – The Gloucester Hornpipe, Schottische de Virmoux abcs: The Gloucester Hornpipe,  Schottische de Virmoux Youtubes: The Gloucester Hornpipe, Schottische de Virmoux, Mount Hills

12th April 2017 –  The Rope Waltz, Lemmy Brazil’s No 2 abcs: The Rope Waltz, Lemmy Brazil’s No. 2 Youtubes: The Rope WaltzThe Market Rasen QuickstepLemmy Brazil’s No 2

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

The Hundred Pipers (jig) –  The Hundred Pipers abc: A Hundred Pipers Chords: The Hundred Pipers YouTube: The Hundred Pipers

22nd February – it’s time to start practising tunes for the barndance at Brenchley Memorial Hall starting at 8pm on the 25th March.

We’ll need a mix of jigs, polkas, hornpipes and schottisches, reels, marches and a waltz or two. There are not chords for all of these at the moment, but as there’s been a call for them, I will work up some chords and post them here between now and the 22nd.

Here are my initial suggestions from recent months’ workshops. In each case, I propose we use the simpler chords for now, and in the case of Oats and Beans, let’s be brave and go for the B music in D!

Buttered Pease No 1 (march) (see 11th January) Chords: Buttered Pease

In the Toyshop (polka) (see 25th January) Chords: In the Toyshop

Oats and Beans (48-bar jig)(see 25th January) Chords: Oats and Beans and Oats and Beans B music in D abc: Oats and Beans B music in D

Off to California (hornpipe)(see 8th February) Chords: Off to California 

Over the Waterfall (reel)(see 14th December) Chords: Over the Waterfall

Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka (mazurka really, but /quite/ like a waltz!)(see 9th November) Chords: Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka

The South Wind (waltz)(see 25th January)

8th February –  The Steamboat and Oats and Beans abcs: The SteamboatOats and Beans Chords: Off to California, Oats and Beans , The Steamboat YouTubes: Off to CaliforniaOats and Beans, The Steamboat

25th January – The Sloe and In the Toyshop abcs: The SloeIn the Toyshop YouTubes: The Sloe, In the Toyshop, The South Wind Chords: In the Toyshop

11th January – The Dorset Four Hand Reel and Percy Brown’s Polka abcs: The Dorset Four Hand Reel, Percy Brown’s Polka YouTubes: The Dorset Four Hand Reel, Percy Brown’s Polka, Buttered Pease No 1 Chords: Buttered Pease,

14th December – Over the Waterfall and Marche des Cabrettaires abcs: Over the Waterfall, Marche des Cabrettaires YouTubes: Over the Waterfall, Marche des Cabrettaires and Waiting for the Federals (aka The Seneca Square Dance) Chords: Over the Waterfall So that’s a French tune and two American tunes, all now favourites in English sessions. That’s English music for you…

23rd November – it’s the last practice before the dance so get there if you can!

9th November YouTube: Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka Chords: Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka

26th October – More tunes, this time hop-steppy hornpipey things, a couple of reels, a march and a waltz…

The Tipsy Parson

Smith’s a Gallant Fireman

Roxburgh Castle

Over the Hills and Far Away

The Dashing White Sergeant – here’s a YouTube: The Dashing White Sergeant

Fred Pigeon’s Number 2

Hare’s Waltz (this will be new for some of you – see pdf, abc, YouTube)

12th October – it’s time to start work on a set of tunes for the dance at the end of November. We have just four practices between then and now, and I know the time will go by like a rocket…

So here’s a suggested collection to begin with:

The Bourton Six

Rig-a-Jig-Jig

The Belfast Polka

Uncle Jim’s

The Swiss Boy

The Fiery Clockface

The Hundred Pipers

Dr Faustus’ Tumblers

They’re all tunes we’ve covered in the workshops if you look at the links below. I’ll need to add a couple of hornpipes and another reel…

28th September – The Swiss Boy and Uncle Jims Abcs: The Swiss BoyUncle Jim’s YouTubes: The Swiss BoyUncle Jim’s, Rusty Gulley

22nd June – 22nd June 2016 The Bourton Six, The Quaker and Dr Faustus’ Tumblers, Abcs: The Bourton SixThe  Quaker, Dr Faustus’ Tumblers YouTubes: The Bourton Six, The QuakerDr Faustus’ Tumblers, Park

8th June 2016 – Seven Stars and Rig-a-Jig-Jig, Abcs: Seven StarsRig-a-Jig-Jig YouTubes: Seven Stars Rig-a-Jig-Jig, Michael Turner’s Waltz, The Gypsy Waltz

25th May 2016 – La Russe and The Belfast Polka Abcs: The Belfast Polka, La Russe YouTubes: The Dory Boat, The Belfast Polka,  La Russe

11th May 2016 – The Harlequin Air, The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot Abcs: The Harlequin Air, The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot YouTubes: The Harlequin Air, Smith’s a Gallant Fireman The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot

27th April 2016 – Over the Hills and Far Away and The Italian Schottische Abcs:  Over the Hills and Far Away, The Italian Schottische Some YouTubes: Over the Hills and Far Away, The Italian Schottischeand The Tip Top Polka.

13th April 2016 – Three Around Three, Davey Davey Knick Knack and The Heel and Toe Polka I’ve been asked to go over some old favourites that are common tunes that lots of people around the sessions will know.  So here they are! Abcs: Three Around ThreeDavey Davey Nick Nack, The Heel and Toe Polka And there are even some old YouTubes… Three Around Three, Davey Davey Nick-Nack, and The Heel and Toe Polka.  YouTubes: Three Around Three and Davey Davey Knick Knack with just a few ornaments for fiddlers and single note instruments and  The Heel and Toe Polka

23rd March – Washing Day, Archie’s Fancy Abcs: Washing Day, Archie’s Fancy YouTubes:  Speed the Plough, Roxburgh Castle,  Archie’s Waltz, Washing Day

10th February – it’s time to focus on  the tunes workshop members have nominated as favourites they’d like to play at the dance at the Bell & Jorrocks, Frittenden, on the 19th March! So we’ll work on them, and an additional one we’ll work on by ear. The nominated tunes are (use the index or search down the page for dots, YouTubes etc):

The Tipsy Parson

Jackie Tarr

The Chatham Hornpipe

Paddy Carrey

Dribbles of Brandy

Uncle’s Jig

Spirit of the Dance

The Gypsy Princess

The Louth Quick Step

Peeler Creek

Bewicks Hornpipe

Captain Pugwash

The Ball

Fred Pigeon’s No 2

La Marianne

10th February – Youtube: Jenny Lind

27th January – Bewick’s Hornpipe and The Staffordshire Hornpipe abcs: Bewick’s HornpipeStaffordshire Hornpipe Youtubes: Bewick’s Hornpipe, The Staffordshire Hornpipe, Captain Pugwash

13th January – Astley’s Ride and Midnight on the Water Abcs: Astley’s RideMidnight on the Water Youtubes: The Patacake Polka, Midnight on the Water, Astley’s Ride The Recovery

9th December – Albert Farmer’s Bonfire Tune, The Chatham Hornpipe  abcs: Chatham HornpipeAlbert Farmers Bonfire Tune Youtubes: Chatham HornpipeAlbert Farmers Bonfire Tune, Shave the Donkey 

28th October – we’ll start practising for the dance at Frittenden on the 28th November. I’ve linked to the dots on the list, but search the page below for the links to the YouTubes or use Kathy’s handy index (link above).  We may also learn a tune by ear, just to keep our hands in…

The tunes etc we’re planning to use so far are:

Three part reel: The Triumph

Hornpipe, hopstep/barndance things: Rosalie the Prairie FlowerThe Tipsy ParsonJacky TarThe Gypsy PrincessThe Queer Fella’s Shot-ese and Marie’s Wedding

16-bar hopstep: Castles in the Air

Polkas: 2014 Scan Tester’s Polka No 2, Scan Tester’s Polka No 1 (the way it’s often played)The Louth Quickstep

Two-part reel: Fred Pigeon’s no 2

Marches:  Kelso Accordion and Fiddle ClubMarie’s Wedding

Jigs: The BallSpirit of the DanceGarryowenUncle’s Jig

48-bar jigs: The Sweets of May, Paddy Carrey

Waltzes:  

23rd November – it’s the last pracrtice before the dance so get there if you can! 23rd November – it’s the last pracrtice before the dance so get there if you can!
9th November YouTube: Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka 9th November YouTube: Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka
26th October – More tunes, this time hop-steppy hornpipey things, a couple of reels, a march and a waltz… 26th October – More tunes, this time hop-steppy hornpipey things, a couple of reels, a march and a waltz…

  • The Tipsy Parson
  • The Tipsy Parson
  • Smith’s a Gallant Fireman
  • Smith’s a Gallant Fireman
  • Roxburgh Castle
  • Roxburgh Castle
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • The Dashing White Sergeant – here’s a YouTube: The Dashing White Sergeant
  • The Dashing White Sergeant – here’s a YouTube: The Dashing White Sergeant
  • Fred Pigeon’s Number 2
  • Fred Pigeon’s Number 2
  • Hare’s Waltz (this will be new for some of you – see pdf, abc, YouTube)
  • Hare’s Waltz (this will be new for some of you – see pdf, abc, YouTube)

12th October – it’s time to start work on a set of tunes for the dance at the end of November. We have just four practices between then and now, and I know the time will go by like a rocket… 12th October – it’s time to start work on a set of tunes for the dance at the end of November. We have just four practices between then and now, and I know the time will go by like a rocket…
So here’s a suggested collection to begin with: So here’s a suggested collection to begin with:

  • The Bourton Six
  • The Bourton Six
  • Rig-a-Jig-Jig
  • Rig-a-Jig-Jig
  • The Dory Boat
  • The Belfast Polka
  • The Belfast Polka
  • Uncle Jim’s
  • Uncle Jim’s
  • The Swiss Boy
  • The Swiss Boy
  • The Fiery Clockface
  • The Fiery Clockface
  • The Hundred Pipers
  • The Hundred Pipers
  • Dr Faustus’ Tumblers
  • Dr Faustus’ Tumblers
  • The Seven Stars

They’re all tunes we’ve covered in the workshops if you look at the links below. I’ll need to add a couple of hornpipes and another reel… They’re all tunes we’ve covered in the workshops if you look at the links below. I’ll need to add a couple of hornpipes and another reel…

28th September – The Swiss Boy and Uncle Jims Abcs: The Swiss Boy, Uncle Jim’s YouTubes: The Swiss Boy, Uncle Jim’s, Rusty Gulley
22nd June – 22nd June 2016 The Bourton Six, The Quaker and Dr Faustus’ Tumblers, Abcs: The Bourton Six, The Quaker, Dr Faustus’ Tumblers YouTubes: The Bourton Six, The Quaker, Dr Faustus’ Tumblers, Park

8th June 2016 – Seven Stars and Rig-a-Jig-Jig, Abcs: Seven Stars, Rig-a-Jig-Jig YouTubes: Seven Stars, Rig-a-Jig-Jig, Michael Turner’s Waltz, The Gypsy Waltz

25th May 2016 – La Russe and The Belfast Polka Abcs: The Belfast Polka, La Russe YouTubes: The Dory Boat, The Belfast Polka, La Russe

11th May 2016 – The Harlequin Air, The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot Abcs: The Harlequin Air, The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot YouTubes: The Harlequin Air, Smith’s a Gallant Fireman, The Sussex Bonny Breast Knot

27th April 2016 – Over the Hills and Far Away and The Italian Schottische Abcs: Over the Hills and Far Away, The Italian Schottische Some YouTubes: Over the Hills and Far Away, The Italian Schottische, and The Tip Top Polka.

13th April 2016 – Three Around Three, Davey Davey Knick Knack and The Heel and Toe Polka I’ve been asked to go over some old favourites that are common tunes that lots of people around the sessions will know. So here they are! Abcs: Three Around Three, Davey Davey Nick Nack, The Heel and Toe Polka And there are even some old YouTubes… Three Around Three, Davey Davey Nick-Nack, and The Heel and Toe Polka. YouTubes: Three Around Three and Davey Davey Knick Knack with just a few ornaments for fiddlers and single note instruments and The Heel and Toe Polka

23rd March – Washing Day, Archie’s Fancy Abcs: Washing Day, Archie’s Fancy YouTubes: Speed the Plough, Roxburgh Castle, Archie’s Waltz, Washing Day

10th February – it’s time to focus on the tunes workshop members have nominated as favourites they’d like to play at the dance at the Bell & Jorrocks, Frittenden, on the 19th March! So we’ll work on them, and an additional one we’ll work on by ear. The nominated tunes are (use the index or search down the page for dots, YouTubes etc):

  • The Tipsy Parson
  • Jackie Tarr
  • The Chatham Hornpipe
  • Paddy Carrey
  • Dribbles of Brandy
  • Uncle’s Jig
  • Spirit of the Dance
  • The Gypsy Princess
  • The Louth Quick Step
  • Peeler Creek
  • Bewicks Hornpipe
  • Captain Pugwash
  • The Ball
  • Fred Pigeon’s No 2
  • La Marianne

10th February – Youtube: Jenny Lind

27th January – Bewick’s Hornpipe and The Staffordshire Hornpipe abcs: Bewick’s Hornpipe, Staffordshire Hornpipe Youtubes: Bewick’s Hornpipe, The Staffordshire Hornpipe, Captain Pugwash

13th January – Astley’s Ride and Midnight on the Water Abcs: Astley’s Ride, Midnight on the Water Youtubes: The Patacake Polka, Midnight on the Water, Astley’s Ride, The Recovery
9th December – Albert Farmer’s Bonfire Tune, The Chatham Hornpipe abcs: Chatham Hornpipe, Albert Farmers Bonfire Tune Youtubes: Chatham Hornpipe, Albert Farmers Bonfire Tune, Shave the Donkey

28th October – we’ll start practising for the dance at Frittenden on the 28th November. I’ve linked to the dots on the list, but search the page below for the links to the YouTubes or use Kathy’s handy index (link above). We may also learn a tune by ear, just to keep our hands in…
The tunes etc we’re planning to use so far are: The tunes etc we’re planning to use so far are:

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.

5 thoughts on “Free English traditional music workshops”

  1. Dear Mr Atkin,
    because I am becoming self-taught in the mid-West of the US, I surely appreciate these notes that you have included from your music classes
    “An aide-memoire for tunes playing”–even these brief hints can make an impression on a novice. Thank you so much.
    http://frittendenfestival.com/free-traditional-music-classes-at-the-gun-and-spitroast-horsmonden/

    I’ve printed the music and continue to live vicariously.
    most sincerely, Michelle Horner

    1. Hi Michelle! I’m very pleased you find this material interesting and useful.

      Over time I hope there will be many more slowly-played examples that should illustrate some of the ways we can interpret this music. But it all takes time, naturally…

      Gav

  2. Hi Gavin,

    Not sure how I missed this but I did! I just came across the post on mudcat. As a beginning and struggling uillean piper these sessions could be useful for me. See you in November 2011 if you’re running them again. Perhaps I’ll have a tune under my belt by then!!

    All the best,

    Paul.

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