Personal Notes on Celtic Music

We are told that Celtic Music is primarily an aural Tradition, so the 'correct' way to learn it is 'by ear' - i.e. one should listen to the music, and play what you hear. I have created this web site for those of us, like myself, who do not have the talent, time, or patience to learn this way, but who are capable of reading sheet music. However one should always bear in mind that the sheet music is often to some extent not a true representation of the music, and should never be considered 'correct' but rather just a guide, and the ultimate goal should be to play what you hear other competent musicians playing in preference to what is in the sheet music.

There is, as yet, no set list of tunes for the slow session - the choice is that of those present. As a guide though, the following are popular: Kesh Jig, Blarney Pilgrim, Lord Ullins Daughter, The Butterfly, Silver Spear, Drowsy Maggie, Tobin's Favorite, Banish Misfortune, Swallowtail, Rolling in the Ryegrass, Sally Gardens, Down by Sally Gardens, Foxhunter's Jig, Primrose Lass, Merry Blacksmith, Boys of Bluehill, Harvest Home, Cooley's, etc. etc.

The sheet music on this web site is formatted primarily to display on a computer, and you may find (as I did) that it is does not always print out very well. In particular the right side may be cut off. If this is the case, I suggest you first of all try reducing the margins under the printer setup, since the default margins are often much wider than necessary. Another approach is to cut and paste the music into a word processor, or some graphic editor program, which should allow you more control over the way the music is printed. The BEST way however that I have found is to use a program that converts ABC files into sheet Music, such as abc2win which is the one I use, both for printing out music for personal use, and for the Web Site. Another more comprehensive program (for the same shareware price), that I've recently found is Melody Assistant - does a better job of printing, and editing music as well as playing the music (as a bonus it is also capable of multi-track recording, and CD and Web site generation). Other software, as well as similar software for systems other than Windows, can be found on the ABC web site. ( ABC Home Pages ). This site also has useful indexes for finding almost any tune you can think of in ABC format. However I find most of the tunes played at the CAC more easily in Michael Shulman's tune list in ABC, since he used to play at the Monday night sessions, and has made a collection of some 300 of the most popular Celtic tunes.

For practicing the music, another shareware program I have found to be very useful is abcmus , which allows you to play tunes in ABC format through the sound card (synthesizer) on your computer (the ABC web site again has several other similar programs). This allows you to play the tunes at any chosen speed, with or without chord accompaniment (it'll add chords, if they're not in the original file!), and with a whole lot of other options - including generating midi files, which is how I generate the midi files for the web site.

Some useful information on playing by ear, which is the best way to play Celtic Music, and is helpful in all kinds of music, is in 'How to Play by Ear for Keyboards' by Roger Bates. It is available from the LA Public Library ( ). Although this is primarily aimed at keyboards, the basic principles apply to all instruments. In addition this book also covers some basic music theory, which beginners may find helpful.

Robin Ellwood