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What's in a name?

Posted by bj on Monday, June 20, 2011

Tune names. They've bedevilled me and bewildered me lately. And I used to be the one who knew the tune AND knew its name.

Lately? Not so much.

Someone will ask if I know some tune, and I know I know it, have kicked it off a zillion times and . . . zilch. Lost in the ether. Can't remember how to kick it off to save my soul.

Or I'll have a tune float through my brain, kick it off at the jam, then have someone ask what the name of that tune is only to find that I have no clue.

I gotta wonder if my brain has reached capacity on matching up tunes and names.

It's either that or I'm having the first inklings of what Senior Moments are all about. Nah, that can't be . . .

16 comments on “What's in a name?”

Cyndy Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @5:28:59 AM

Nah, that can't be!

It's funny. On the way home from a fiddle gathering last night I was explaining this very thing to my husband. (I spent the first few minutes of the drive trying to pull a waltz out of my head from a few distinctive notes that I remembered from the B part. Eventually (which was reassuring) I got it.

For the first two years or so I knew tune names and knew how to start them but the more I learn the fuzzier that kind of thing gets. Luckily, I'm worse on naming tunes than I am on remembering how they go so it doesn't hinder my playing. : )

OTJunky Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @10:28:04 AM

I'm having similar issues but, in my case, I think I've just quit caring very much about tune names.

There're are just so many tunes, so may variations on tunes, and so many "alternative" tune names that it just doesn't seem worthwhile to bother about the names any more.

I think this is very common among Irish fiddlers today. They just start off on the tune and you follow along if you know it, or sit back and learn it if you don't. After all what's the point of that 5 minutes of discussion that seems to precede every tune in every jam - "Do you know XXX?", "Whose version of XXX"?, "Oh, is XXX the same tune as YYY?", "I think so, YYY is the name for it in Tennessee.", "OK, I know YYY but I'm used to it having a different B-part than the tune I know as XXX.", etc.



richdissmore Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @10:38:53 AM

this has happend to me i have played songs hundred s of time i for gotten the words the tune will playing it this all so happened to Elves your in good company from time to time we all blank out some times like you say for get how to start a tune for get words to songs the thing i for get the most the name of the songs after i had learned over 100 tunes i can,t remember names of people eather when you play out like i have for 40 years plus you meet some many people now when i go to play out i bring a list of songs to make set lists or play on the fly and pick songs as i go along some times put a note for chords to play

bj Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @11:36:57 AM

There is ONE reason I want to know tune names. I no longer record at jams or festivals because when I did I found that trying to find that ONE tune was impossible anyway, and I don't have the patience to break a jam recording up into separate tune-named files. So I found that writing the tune name down on the list helped me to find the tune SOMEWHERE on the interwebs later on. This works if you know the tune name and can find a version vaguely close to the one you remember playing, enough so that it'll dig it up out of the gray matter. It doesn't help if you don't write down the tune name. But it also doesn't help when you are AT a jam if nobody else knows how to kick off the tune that you know the name of but not the tune kickoff.

dwoolsey Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @12:42:47 PM

I also have some similar problems and have started making my " backup" recordings with intro's, breaks and endings. I now have narrowed my playing key's down to G and D and A and have seperate little books for each tune played in that key. The notebooks are one page per tune and show the back up chords in large letters. I don't read music notes but this really helps my friends that are helping me and it is helping me from being so scatterbrained at the jams. I hum the melody line while I record the guitar backup to help me recall how it should go. So many fun tunes and so little time.

devilsbox Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @12:56:59 PM


Your right on!

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @3:19:39 PM

The more tunes you know, the more tunes you forget. Same for tune names. Comes with the territory.

One trick I've learned lately is to not even try to remember if there's another tune being played within earshot. Something about my need to pay attention to that - it gets in the way of retrieving something else. It'll come to you sometime, but maybe not at the moment when you first try to start it or name it. :-)

robinja Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @3:40:09 PM

I really hope that I don't get to that point - I love tune names, and I love the discussion over who's version and whether it's really in this key or that key and whether there's a XYZ chord in the B part. I get so irritated at fiddlers that just start playing a tune without announcing it first, because my brain connects the tune with the name, and although I might be able to play along with "unnamed tune", I often have no idea what tune I'm playing until I ask someone after the fact! I'm getting a little better at that, and I try to be tolerant of tune-name-agnostics, but for me, the tune (or multiple tunes) go with the names (or multiple names!).

bj Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @4:16:09 PM

Our jam has a bunch of Gabby Gus types. The only way to shut 'em up is to start the next tune. It's amazing, they stop talking mid-sentence, and sometimes mid-word, and start playing! For that reason we identify tune names at the end of the tune. When we can . . . ;-)

mike jarboe Says:
Monday, June 20, 2011 @6:12:15 PM

I'm with Larry and OTJ. Just start the tune and people know it or don't. Plus, I got into a very uncomfortable discussion at a recent session in which someone who didn't even know how to play a tune claimed afterward that I didn't play it right because I didn't play it AABB like Bruce Molsky does. Well, Bruce is one of the greatest fiddlers on Earth, but I happen to play it differently than he does (and would never claim to play it one-tenth as well), and I happened to have been the one holding the fiddle at the moment, and I played it AAB. The alternative to just starting the tune and playing it my way would have been to have this discussion beforehand, which no doubt would have left me so frustrated I would have said screw it and not played the tune.

chippyvan Says:
Thursday, June 23, 2011 @11:39:54 AM

I am also with Mike and Larry and OTJ
It is amazing how passionate some folks get over playing a tune like this guy or that guy, even when those very same guys never played it the same way twice. There are many tunes that I play that are collections of the best parts (according to me) of different versions of that tune. I sometimes get comments like "where did you get that version?" or "Thats not how so and so played it.
Oh well, now that I can't remember the names anymore, I can just makeup some new ones. (like Melvin Wine)

bj Says:
Thursday, June 23, 2011 @11:59:43 AM

Or we can all just call every tune we don't know a name for "Possum up a Gum Stump" which means that when someone actually calls and plays that tune we'll have NO CLUE what it is! This actually happened at a jam once . . .

mike jarboe Says:
Thursday, June 23, 2011 @1:01:52 PM

Chippy, I might play the damn thing AABB next time just to be contrary and then claim I have always played it that way

FiddleJammer Says:
Thursday, June 23, 2011 @5:04:56 PM

Some people just have to start the tune when it's bubbling up. If they stop to name it, poof! it's gone. Knowing the name is, however, very helpful for folks who get a better start if they know the tune, or know it slightly differently than the person is playing it. So, if I know it, I holler it out. I've been playing long enough that I don't have to play when I talk, and I can jump in after I holler out the tune name. Team work, people.

john timpany Says:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 @7:49:10 AM

Oh I know that feeling so well bj.
Fortunately I still remember the tune though.
I am getting trouble singing 27 verse ballads these days.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 @10:07:51 AM

"Possum up a Gum Stump?" I guess it's possumable.

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