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Six Things

Playing music well is a long-term commitment. Six things will help you improve your playing more quickly.  The first is a tuner, so you can be in tune.  The second is a metronome, so you can be in time.  The third is a small, portable recording device, preferably one that records in a common format (e.g., MP3) and can be easily ported to your computer (e.g., either with a USB connection or with an SD card).  The fourth is a “slow-downer” program that can reduce the tempo of music without altering its pitch.  There are a number of them available, as programs or apps, and they’re not too pricey.  Record music you want to learn, and play it back often.  In unfamiliar circumstances it’s a good idea to ask people if they mind being recorded.  The fifth is a knowledgeable teacher.  Written explanations, no matter how lyrical, simply cannot replace focused instruction and aural learning. It is also true that for the novice it is not always clear just what to focus on when listening, so having a good guide will keep you from years of wandering around in the woods.  The sixth is a group of people to play with.  This is social music, it’s music to dance to, so keeping the tempo steady is important.  While you might be able to play it reasonably well by yourself, the real fun is in playing with others.  That’s where the music really comes to life and lifts the spirit!  There is quite a difference between playing a tune alone in your kitchen and playing it with five other people.  You have to learn to listen to others as you play so that you can all play at the same tempo and keep it steady, training your ear so you can hear when someone is doing something interesting that you’d like to pick up.  Doing this is a skill that only develops over time with considerable practice.  As I say elsewhere, if you really want to keep you ears on your toes, then start looking around for these six things now.

Long Gold Braid

Links for Slowplayers

The following links can help you discover tunes and techniques, as well as provide important insights on your quest to become a better player.  I have not listed all the sites there are since that would be overwhelming.  Instead, I have listed just some essential sites.  These are the sites I go to first when I’m researching tunes. You should explore them when you can so that you know what is available.  [updated 16 Sept. 2014]

Sites of Interest: Places to Hear Tunes, Practice, and Gain Understanding

Youtube – there is a considerable amount of material on youtube, but it is of widely varying quality.  Some people are seasoned players, some seem to have just picked up an instrument the day before yesterday.  As it’s important to start off right – as Plato was fond of saying “well begun is half done” – you should focus on the way the better players play the music.  Please ask if you are unsure, as it can save you months or even years of frustration.

Short Gold Braid

ABC Tools and Tune Archives

ABC is a music file format designed by Chris Walshaw for writing tunes in an intuitive, portable way,  useful for sending tunes via e-mail or text, for putting tune books together, for typesetting tunes, and for comparing versions of tunes. There are a number of different software packages (almost all freeware) available for handling ABC files on various platforms. Instead of dots on a staff, the tunes are written as letters (but can be easily turned into dots n’ sticks on a staff).  Additional notation determines the length of the notes and other features.  It takes just a little getting used to, but those who can read ABC can do so as fast as those who read dots.  The tune archives offer tunes collected from a wide variety of sources, from traditional players, local sources, tune books, other internet sites, defunct session archives, and more.  As with all ITM, the arrangements and settings will sometimes differ.  That’s a good thing.

Short Gold Braid

 Some other Information:

Cruinneachadh na nGaidheal (The Gathering of the Gaels) – A Gaelic historical reenactment group working at Renaissance Faires, Celtic Festival and Highland Games. They specialize in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands of the 15th and 16th centuries. There is a lot of cool information about costumes and language here, but it seems to have been defunct since around 2007.

Irish Language Sites

 

 

 

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