A curated selection of recommended resources for learning and playing tunes.
Books and Associated Recordings
- Books – The Portland Collection – Tune books. Three volumes, 300 tunes per volume, representing many of the tunes played, and how they are played, in the Portland, Oregon, USA area. The tunes include Irish, Old-Time, and the omnivorous selection of tunes played for contra dance. By Susan Songer with Clyde Curley. These books are carefully curated, and the tunes are nicely presented with accompanying notes about each tune. This set is a highly recommended core for your fiddle tune library. If you actively play and learn fiddle tunes of North America, you should own these books.
- Audio – A Portland Selection — Three albums of “contra dance music in the Pacific Northwest.” These are companion recordings to The Portland Collection books, providing an audio selection of tunes that are in the books. The tunes presented and clearly and slowly enough for learning, and with musical beauty to make them a pleasure to just listen to.
- Book – Foinn Seisiún — Irish session tune books; three volumes. Each of the three volumes contains sheet music for more than 100 traditional Irish tunes. Published by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Volume 1. Volume 2. Volume 3.
- Audio – Foinn Seisiún — CDs to accompany the Foinn Seisiún tune books. Three albums. The Comhaltas website provides many of these recordings for playing or download, for free.
- Book – The Fiddler’s Fakebook, by David Brody — One of the most useful traditional fiddle tune collections of the 20th century. A staple for your reference library.
- Book – Learn to Play Irish Fiddle, by Tom Morley — Fifty core Irish tunes, presented well with sheet music, chords, and a reference CD. A good reference for a core Irish tune repertoire even if you don’t play fiddle.
- Book – Irish Music 400 Traditional Tunes, by Stephen Ducke — A good collection of Irish tunes, with downloadable audio tracks for all of the tunes.
- Book – Complete Irish Fiddle Player, by Peter Cooper (Mel Bay Publications) — A good collection of Irish tunes, with chords and downloadable audio tracks for all of the tunes.
- Book – 100 Essential Irish Session Tunes, by Dave Mallinson (Mally Productions), with accompanying audio tracks.
- Book – Gary Coover: 75 Irish Session Tunes for Anglo Concertina (Rollston Press). One of a series of Anglo concertina tune books by this author. Available as a printed book a e-book.
- Book & Audio – John Weed and Stuart Mason: Slow & Easy: 50 Irish Tunes – Sheet music with chords for 50 popular Irish tunes. The book purchase includes digital downloads of all 50 tunes tunes played slowly and clearly on fiddle with DADGAD guitar. (The included audio is also available for purchase as separate downloadable albums: Slow & Easy Vol 1; Slow & Easy Volume 2.)
- Book & Audio – Matt & Shannon Heaton: In Harmony This collection of popular Irish session tunes is subtitled: “Tune Cookbook for Irish Melody Players and Backers. Recordings, Notation & Encouragement.” The book, a downloadable PDF file, contains sheet music (with chords) for 63 tunes, and insights for players. Accompanying this are 63 audio tracks of the tunes, played beautifully but slowly on flute with backing guitar. The audio files have the flute and guitar panned hard to the left and right, so you can isolate the part that you want to study.
- Book – Shannon Heaton: The First 50 – PDF book; sheet music for 50 tunes with audio tracks for each tune.
- MandoLessons — Baron Collins Hill — Video instruction, play-along tracks, and sheet music for more than 200 fiddle tunes. These are presented for mandolin, but a useful resource for any player of fiddle tunes. Beyond instruction for playing tunes on mandolin, Baron includes instruction on improvising, chording technique, octave mandolin, and more. All of the material is accessible for free, but you can (and should) make contributions and purchase audio tracks.
- Online Academy of Irish Music — Instruction on traditional Irish tunes and how to play them on a variety of instruments. Subscription.
- FiddleVideo — Instruction for playing traditional tunes on fiddle. Great for non-fiddlers too. A variety of genres taught by several instructors, including excellent Irish tune instruction from Kevin Burke.
- Peghead Nation — instruction in old time, Irish, swing and more for a variety of acoustic instruments.
Other Instruction & Tune Resources
- Dulahan (Joe & Adele Green) — Joe and Adele Green comprise the traditional Irish music duo, Dulahan, based in County Mayo, Ireland. Their YouTube channel is loaded with dozens of traditional Irish tunes played clearly for tune learners. Between the two of them, they provide individual (via Zoom) instruction on guitar, tenor banjo, fiddle, fiddle, harp and piano. They also run residential Irish Traditional Music Holidays for all ages and abilities from their home in County Mayo. Links: Dulahan website; Dulahan Ireland on YouTube.
- Audacity — free audio editing (DAW) software. It is great for loading a tune’s audio file into, and then changing the playback speed and sections to loop on.
- Amazing Slow Downer — App lets you slow down, change the pitch, and loop on an audio file. Versions available for Windows, iOS, and Android.
- Clare County Library – Traditional Music of Clare – The library of County Clare, Ireland provides a web page that gives instant access to audio recordings and sheet music for a sizable collection of traditional tunes of the county. “Our aim with this Music of Clare project is to present a sample of the rich musical culture of the county of Clare…. We want you to be able to listen to traditional tunes associated with County Clare, played by musicians who are from the county or who have lived in it for many years.” If you are interested in hearing, playing, or dancing to traditional Irish music, this is a trove that you really should explore.
- North Atlantic Tune List – Dance & fiddle music from Scandinavia, the British Isles, Canada, Appalachia and more. A resource for traditional musicians.
- The Session – A community website dedicated to Irish traditional music. This is often a good first stop for finding music notation for tunes, and for finding Irish tune playing sessions.
- Vashon Celtic Tunes – A collection of Celtic tune music scores, many with chords and MIDI files.
- New Zealand Irish Sessions – A repository of Irish tunes, with sheet music and audio files. The site has some really clever features for playing and looping recordings of tunes, as well as a “set builder” that let’s you try out combinations of tunes.
Pacific Northwest (USA)
- All-Ireland Cultural Society of Oregon
- Bubbaville (Bubbaguitar) – Portland Oregon old time music
- Mud City Old-Time Society – Eugene, Oregon.
- Portland Country Dance Community – Portland, Oregon.
- Slower Than Dirt Old-Time Jam — Seattle, Washington. On-line virtual jams during the covid pandemic. Downloadable “Core Tune” book. Play-along audio tracks on website.
- Blarney Pilgrims Irish Music Podcast – is described as “A weekly journey to the heart of Irish music.” There are 94 episodes in the series. A good one to start with is Episode 80: Joanie Madden Interview (Whistle), in which Joanie tells about learning tin whistle from Mary Bergin’s playing, and then her work with Cherish the Ladies. Along the way she plays several tunes on whistle. If you scan the episode titles you’ll find fiddlers, concertina players, banjo players and more. Other recommended episodes: Episode 74: Caitlin Nic Gabhann Interview (Concertina); Episode 66: Karen Dolan Interview (Banjo, Mandolin).
- Get up in the Cool – Old-time music conversations from Portland, Oregon with Cameron DeWhitt and Friends. In more than 300 episodes of this weekly podcast, Cameron chats and plays tunes with some of the most significant current contributors to American old-time music. Each episode is well-crafted to draw out stories and insights along with music that is skillfully performed and carefully recorded. Listen from your favorite podcast source.
- Contra Pulse – A series of interviews with contra dance musicians about contra dance music, hosted by Julie Vallimont. The project is a cooperation between Julie Vallimont and the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS). The interviews are an unhurried meander through times, places, and the traditional music and dance communities, interspersed with music. A couple of good episodes to start with are Episode 35 – Sue Songer, and Episode 27 – Betsy Branch — both are fiddle tune heroes of the Pacific Northwest.
- Enda Scahill’s We Banjo 3 Podcast “Inside the Banjoverse” Enda Scahill, known for his Irish tenor banjo playing and instructional books, and as a member of the band We Banjo 3, has produced 26 episodes of the Inside the Banjoverse podcast, in which in chats with Irish musicians about their music and life journeys. You can find the podcast on your favorite podcast player (Google, Spotify, Apple, etc.). Episode 1: Gerry O’Connor – Tenor Banjo Legend is a good place to start listening. Or you might jump right into Episode 18: Theresa O’Grady – The Banjoista. Scan through the episodes and other names will jump out at you, including Bela Fleck, Natalie McMaster, Abigail Washburn, and Tony Trischka.