Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the tune rhythms referred to throughout this site?
- How are modes defined here?
- What are the instruments named here?
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Other Tune Indexes on the Web
Besides this site, there are also other kinds of tune indexes available. First the recording indexes:
- The only similar index, in either printed or electronic form, is Andrew Kuntz's The Fiddler's Companion, which is being gradually transformed into the community-maintained Traditional Tune Archive. I recommend it if you are curious about the broad history behind a tune. It apparently uses a conceptual structure similar to mine, but very different data. His sources were primarily printed transcriptions rather than recordings, he combined Irish with non-Irish tunes and musical concepts, and some of his basic principles were quite different. My plans for what I hope to release eventually from my private database are similar in scope (regarding magnitude of information per tune) but quite different in format and content.
- Jane Keefer has also published a useful database as Folk Music: An Index to Recorded Resources. It is primarily focused on American music, but includes some Irish sources. Cross references are sometimes included.
- Occasionally you can find a variety of sources and anecdotes about tunes by searching the IRTRAD-L archives.
- You can also try thesession.org, which is a community-written collection of mostly Irish tune information. You may find interesting anecdotes about tunes here, but since nobody ever sorts out which tune people are actually intending to write about, it's often quite a jumble. For example, utterly unrelated tunes are talked about as one tune just because somebody thought they had similar tune titles!
- Johnson's Uilleann Pipe Discography & Tune Index is an index of recorded tunes, but it is not a cross-referenced index.
- Rod Stradling's "A Discography of Recorded Traditional Music," although not focused on Irish nor on tunes, includes so many valuable sources of Irish tunes (with album reviews!) that it deserves recommendation here.
- I would like to recommend Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index as a positive example of a tune index in a musical culture related to Ireland's.
- Likewise, but with very different strengths than Snyder's work, see Larry Warren's "Fiddle Tunes from the Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes"
- Paul de Grae has generously shared his careful, properly cross-indexed index of Irish tune books. Thus you can find the same tune in various books regardless of whatever titles the books used.
- Jack Schroevers's and Anneke Eijkelboom's Index of Tune Titles catalogs the tune titles and page number references in over a hundred different tunebooks.
- Chris Walshaw's index of tunes in abc notation is very useful and very large.
- Similarly, John Chambers's ABC Tune Finder also allows you to search through the world's abc collections, but with the addition of some fancier search options.
- Music possibly composed by Turlough O'Carolan is presented by Lesley Nelson.
- The "Digital Tradition Folk Song Database," hosted by Mudcat Café, is a very large collection of information contributed by anyone in the world, sometimes including experts, about folk songs, including many Irish songs.
For book publications of cross-referenced tune indexes, see CRE and FF in the Bibliography.
For other recommended Web sites about Irish traditional music and other "Celtic" traditions, see my link collection at the Celtic Music Association of Madison, Wisconsin.
What is the official mission of this site?
irishtune.info is a publicly accessible database of research on Irish traditional music funded solely by donations.
Short, informal version: To promote authentic, high-quality learning of Irish traditional music around the world. To be mercilessly and amazingly accurate at cataloging the Irish tune repertoire.
Long, formal version: The guiding educational mission of irishtune.info is to promote aural learning of Irish traditional music using recordings of historically important musicians within the tradition. It achieves this mission by revealing to visitors exactly where a particular tune can be found on commercially available recordings. Because that achievement requires solving the problem of musically identifying the tunes on each recorded source despite the lack of standard tune titles in Irish music, the secondary mission of irishtune.info is to establish the identities of Irish traditional dance tunes in a way useful for the global community of scholarship on this subject.
Why do you do all this work?
What really drives me to make this database publicly available is to provide a better alternative for the many musicians who resort to written transcriptions (sheet music and abc) to learn Irish traditional music. (See Tips for Learning Irish Traditional Music). Without irishtune.info, two difficulties face even the most well-intentioned tune learner. On the one hand, traditional sources for tunes are very hard to find outside of a few places in the world. Not even in Ireland is it always easy to dig up a good traditional player willing to teach you a particular tune.
And on the other hand, finding a tune in one's personal music collection is highly unreliable and difficult, because there are no standard names for Irish tunes, and furthermore most folk-music recordings are published with at least a few labeling errors such as misnumbering, misspelling, omissions, etc. Therefore someone, finally, has to consistently identify all the tunes on all those recordings so people will have a recording to go to when they want to learn a tune. So – no more excuses! Don't touch that book and stay away from that abc!
[Comment added decades later:] ... and disdain online sheet music - if you can't support living trad musicians by buying their music, then at least always choose learning from a YouTube video or Spotify stream over reading someone's transcription at thesession.org or tunearch.org or whatever.
You might ask: so why do you care so much about other people learning this music better? I admit my selfish motive: because I love playing great, high-quality music spontaneously with others. And I want more people around me who are able to do that, everywhere I go!
So why do you bother indexing books and abc?
Four reasons: 1) Despite all my preaching in the two answers above, even I use books and abc as a quick reference to remember how a tune starts or which tune goes with which name when I'm practicing. 2) Notation provides a great, searchable reference when I'm indexing tunes. 3) Notation makes it much easier for people to analyze and discuss particular tunes as we communicate with each other (only intellectually, not musically – you need to pull out your instrument and be heard if you want to communicate musically!). 4) Many books were published before recordings were possible, so establishing the earliest date of existence of a tune is much easier with printed sources.
How should I cite this Web site?
To credit this Web site as a source of information, please use something like the following examples.
Informal Examples: The title of this site is "irishtune.info," and the optional subtitle is "Irish Traditional Music Tune Index: Alan Ng's Tunography." You can name me, Alan Ng, as the author. You can give the site address out as www.irishtune.info. If you want to tell somebody about a particular tune you found here, please use the ID number (such as Ng #321) which they can then look up using the Tune Search and Finder. That makes sure they find exactly the tune you mean, regardless of which tune title they may prefer to use for tune #321.
Formal Examples: These follow MLA guidelines for citing Web sites:
. . . You might compare this polka to Ng #1320; Ng's sources lead
him to present that tune as a polka generally played in G Major under
the title Mist on the Glen
. . . .
 Alan Ng, "irishtune.info for Mist on the Glen,"
irishtune.info Irish Traditional Music Tune Index, 15 Nov. 2002
The tune ID numbers will remain permanent and will never be used for a different tune. I may abandon use of a particular ID number if I find a better way to index that tune, but I will never reuse that number for a different tune.
. . . The 1920s represent a peak of recording activity
in the first half of the 20th century. . . .
 Alan Ng, "irishtune.info Recordings by Decade," irishtune.info
Irish Traditional Music Tune Index, 19 Nov. 2002, 24 Nov. 2002
Note that there are two dates given there. The date immediately preceding the Web address refers to the date you read this particular information from the Web. Since Web pages, unlike print publications, are constantly updated, that's an important piece of information – I might have changed my mind or corrected something a week later, the day before, six years later, etc. If my page includes a "This page was updated on" date at the bottom you should include that as in Example 2 (19 Nov. 2002). This is because a) Web addresses can change unexpectedly at any time, so you need to say when you used this particular address and b) you might be reading from an older version of the page than was actually available that day. Before you make any hasty use of what you read on any Web site, be sure you force a refresh/reload of the page directly from my server when you view it (Tip: always refresh three times in case your service provider, such as AOL, is showing you its own stored copy of an older version of the page).
How do you pronounce Ng?
My family, as Americans, pronounces it "ing," like "ring." It's a very common name in the Cantonese language, although I don't know how to pronounce it exactly right in Cantonese. Anyway, that has absolutely nothing to do with Irish music, except as an example of the truth that until you have completely immersed yourself for a good while in the sound – and even better the entire culture – of a music or language, you won't be speaking or playing it with any chance of sounding like the original, or even of making any sense. So get thee to a session, listen up and bottoms up!