ABC Notation–Part One

ImageFor many people into Irish traditional music, abc notation is the main way they share and learn new tunes. It’s simple, not hard to write and read, and can be translated by a variety of programs into sound and standard musical notation image files. Some programs also allow you to transpose the key, and organize your collection of abc files for easier reference, among other things

ImageIn posts following this one I plan to explain how abc files and notation work and the basics of what to do with them, with a slight emphasis on a free program called “abcexplorer”, which is available for Windows HERE.

Stay tuned, it’s as easy as a, b, c. (had to say it.)

Yes, I Am Slightly Concertina-centric….

But I love the pipes too! The sound of the two together makes my hair stand on end.

Here are Caitlín Nic Ghabhann and Caoimhín Ó Fearghail playing Down The Back Lane, followed by Pipe on the Hob (the three part one) and another jig the name of which I do not know. There is a fiddler off to the side that isn’t named who plays on the first tune but seems to sit out the others.

I love Caitlín’s playing. Her album, simply titled “Caitlín” is absolutely brilliant. You can pick it up at CDBaby. From what I gather, Caoimhín released an album called “Lá ag Ól Uisce” (meaning “a day drinking water”) along with Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Tomás Ó Gealbháin, which is available on iTunes.

Improvin’ thru You-Tubin’

old-television copySince I started learning the concertina about a year or so ago, I have been posting videos of my playing  on YouTube. (My YouTube channel) There are a few reasons why I think this is a good idea:

First, I do it because it allows me to hear my playing objectively, without the distraction of actually having to, well, play.

It also allows me to track my progress over time–I can go back a few months, if I  dare, and wince along with my earlier self as I butcher perfectly good tunes. Then I can breathe a huge sigh of relief as I remember that the video I made just yesterday sounds waaaay better. Relax–you’re improving!

I also like to share the videos with as many people as I can. As crappy as my playing can be, I find it benefits me to play for an audience, even if they are not in the room. In fact, it’s kind of a first step toward being comfortable playing in front of real live people because you know it’s going to be seen and commented on, if not immediately.

So here are a couple examples of my videos–both recordings of The Congress reel. The first is from April, 2013, and the second is from this month–November, 2013. You can definitely hear the improvement in rhythm and speed.

And just for laughs, here’s the first concertina vid I ever posted–in it you can see I still have the enourmous rental concertina from The Button Box in Sunderland, so this was within 90 days of my very first encounter with the instrument. Junior Stevens taught me this version of the reel The Wind That Shakes the Barley–I need to record this again for comparison. Hopefully I’ll do Mr. Stevens proud!