Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Books: Get Free Music Books from Google

Google is now offering PDF downloads of the full text of public domain books via their book search service. I did a few quick queries and found some old books of Irish and Scottish music, such as The Poems and Poetry of Munster: A Selection of Irish Songs (in English and Irish) and The Complete Works of Robert Burns.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Technique: L.E. McCullough's Presentation

Courtesy of Mike Reagan, here's L.E. McCullough's presentation from the 2006 Northeast Whistle Gathering, called "Six Ways to Break Out of Being a Beginning Whistle Player – OR – How I Became L.E. McCullough (not that you would want this to happen to you or a loved one)." It's in Microsoft Word format, but you can get a free Word viewer from Microsoft if you don't own that program. If you've been playing for a few years you probably know all this stuff, but it's a great collection of important advice for folks just getting started.

McCullough writes:

Looking back on my first couple years of playing Irish music on the whistle, these are the things I now see made a big difference in my development. I sincerely hope they prove of some benefit to you.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Photo: Burke Forest

A forest of Burke whistles at the 2006 Dublin Irish Festival.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Technique: Ear Learning

The other day I got the Jig of Slurs stuck in my head and I wanted to try and work it out by ear. Now I find two general things challenging in the area of ear learning. One is learning the tune well enough that I don't get confused about it when I make mistakes trying to play it. The second is figuring out where to start.

The second problem generally involves a good bit of trial and error for me, but this time I realized the solution was easy. The Jig of Slurs is a pipe tune, so it has to be in A mixolydian, since that's the only key the GHBs can play! This is a pretty useful shortcut if, like me, you haven't yet learned how to reliably distinguish all of the modes by ear.

Learning tunes "by ear" is something of a euphamism for me since I tend to memorize the tune first and then try to play it later, instead of playing along with a recording. One thing which has been helpful for this process is to lilt the songs instead of humming (or playing) them when learning. There are several reasons I think this is helpful:

  • It divorces knowledge of the tune itself from the technical ability to play it, allowing me to focus on really learning the tune.
  • Lilting is less forgiving than humming in terms of making you get the tune right. When I hum I tend to slur notes a bit, and this makes it easy to gloss over notes that I don't have right in my memory. With lilting it's harder to get away with this.

I tried to find a link about lilting, but I can't find anything. Any suggestions? The best suggestion I have is to listen to a good recording. I'm enjoying Colm O'Donnell's excellent Farewell to Evening Dances, which features lilting, singing, whistle, and flute.