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Matching tunes to names and names to tunes. Again.

Posted by bj on Sunday, June 6, 2010

I played so many tunes I don't know last weekend that I'm STILL trying to match tunes to names and names to tunes!

Of course, a couple years ago I wouldn't have believed I'd eventually have this problem. I couldn't conceive of having a completely unfamiliar tune go in my ears and immediately come out my fingers in real time and without the use of slowdowner software, often during the very first time the group is playing the tune through. So I'm not complaining! Far from it! I't's a magical skill to own, and it seems to be mine on most tunes (though not yet all, and crooked tunes are NOT yet coming out right in total, they come out mixed up!) Anyway, most times it's incredible, with just a few exceptions. It first happened for one tune just about a year ago, at one of the Drux jams. Then kicked in bigtime at Lake Genero last Labor Day Weekend.

But then, when I've been to a festival and played a dozen dozen tunes I've never heard before it creates this tune mishmash in my brain and on my tunelist.

The folks I was playing with at Black Creek seem to run in obscure tunes that don't get played all that often outside of their specific area, which is mostly upper NY state, Massachussetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Much of it is contradance stuff. So there isn't always an example of the tune anywhere online that matches a title I jotted on my tunelist. Then there's the problem of tune titles too, ie same tune called different things, so I may have access to the tune by a different title and not be able to make the connection.

Or I've got an elusive tune that occasionally goes through my head (usually when I'm nowhere near a fiddle or recording device) that needs to be matched to a title. If I can get the tune recorded, I can then go through the cds that Art Bryan gave me and sometimes find the tune, but I have to record it first, since the minute I listen to anything else it's lost to the wind.

One would hope that the next event will untangle the mishmash. I have a feeling it'll just make it worse. But I guess there are lots worse problems to have. I couldn't imagine not being able to pick up a tune on the fly with nothing but the ear/hand connection, now that the ear/hand connection has been forged!

It still doesn't work that well on hornpipes or the really fast jiggy stuff though. And only to some degree on crooked tunes, which I still muddle up until I've sat and listened to them over and over a few hundred times so they're embedded in my DNA. I suspect that as I work on those types of tunes more that the skill will eventually extend into those areas.

But until then, I've got lots of tune names and tunes that don't match up.

14 comments on “Matching tunes to names and names to tunes. Again.”

OTJunky Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @3:59:37 PM

Oh well, pretty soon you can probably just dispense with tune names altogether, pick up the right thing to play during the first bar - and expect everybody else to do the same.


BGT Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @4:25:35 PM

Age old problem for fiddlers. That's why there are so many tunes with one line lyrics that helped old time fiddlers who knew hundreds of tunes remember a scrap of melody and the name. Like: John
Brown's dream, the devil is dead. It's a trick to consider.

WoodshopFiddler Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @4:34:16 PM

All those tunes with no name are called "Possum Up a Gum Stump". At least thats what I call them.

bj Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @4:57:20 PM

Well, since I'm often the one kicking off the tunes at both the Easton and Belvidere OT jams, and I'm usually doing so by starting to play while everyone is flapping their gums, there is no tune title announcement most times. So it'll just be me saying, "I have no stinking clue!" when people ask me the tune name at the end of the tune. Though I guess I could just call 'em all "Possum Up a Gum Stump."

I just counted up the tunes I can kick off. I'm just a few shy of 100 that I can actually kick off. I can play a few dozen more than that when someone else kicks 'em off, and there are others that come out my fingers that I can't remember the names of, or can play despite never having played them before. And there are a few that bubble up from time to time, but not consistently enough to go on the kickoff list. Considering that the kickoff count stood at around 50 when I attended Fiddle Hell in November, I guess I shouldn't worry about forgetting a couple tune names or tunes! Though I worry that eventually new tunes will start pushing out the old.

FiddleJammer Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @5:45:00 PM

This feeling is a snapshot. The whole movie takes about a year to solidify into a reliable memory, in my experience. Lucky you! :-)

bj Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @6:00:24 PM

Geez, and I've got a few more festivals to digest this season! Wonder how long it'll take to hit the 200 mark . . .

You started it, Terri! Look at the monster you've created! LOL!

ChickenMan Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @8:34:41 PM

A hundred plus tunes! Wow - [insert Virgina Slims slogan]. :-)
I remember my single OT overload (my fiddle teacher's wedding with more fiddling than I could digest) and how it seemed like I could play along with nearly every tune, but could remember maybe two the next day due to the mental mishmash.
I try to always record the name when possible now a days.

bj Says:
Monday, June 7, 2010 @1:28:52 PM

Recording the name on the tunelist does work IF I can find a copy of the tune we played online or on one of the cds I have from Art. Recording the tune, along with the tunename, on a recorder would work if I ever could go through 12 hours of recorded tunes to find the tune (which I found out never happens, so never bothered to buy another recorder when my last one broke.) Most of these tunes didn't have copies online or on the cds.

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, June 7, 2010 @2:31:24 PM

I'm working at editing some sound files. But, perhaps it will be all for naught...

bj Says:
Monday, June 7, 2010 @2:42:37 PM

So, in other words, they may as well all be called "Possum Up A Gum Stump" which makes life SO MUCH SIMPLER!

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, June 7, 2010 @3:38:39 PM

I would always TRY to come up with a substitute title.
For years, "Lady of the Lake" was the "Highwoods' GalaxTune" for me on my tune list.
It was a kludge, but it helped keep the tune in my mind and getting played until I finally figured it out. I think I've also used things like "A modal tune like "Such-and'Such"", "Crooked tune from Hubbard and Molk", etc.
The important thing is that you have a handle on it so you can remember it and keep practicing it.
Eventually, especially with the internet in general and the Fiddle Hangout in particular, the truth will come out. Any tune collection on-line where you can click on titles and play a tune quickly is a real gift for cleaning kludgey temporary titles off of your tune-list.

You never went through the recorded tunes???
What do you play to go to sleep to?
What do you play on the way to festivals???

In the case of common titles, you could splice the "real" but ambiguous title onto at least part of your kludge title. It gets a little long, but at least it's a distinct name.

bj Says:
Monday, June 7, 2010 @3:46:22 PM

I tried to go through the recorded tunes. But fast forwarding through a bunch of jam chatter to get to the next tune, only to find it's a tune I already know got old fast. So it just never happened. And in truth, my memory is pretty good in SOME ways. I can play a lot of tunes. I remember a lot of tunes and even their names. But with festivals there is a certain amount of overload.

mike jarboe Says:
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 @9:18:48 AM

All thoroughbreds are descended from three sires. All fiddle tunes are descendants of three original tunes. What were they again?

bj Says:
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 @9:20:44 AM

Sally Anne is one. I suspect Bonaparte's Retreat might be another.

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