Fiddle Tip Email List Sign Up

Every Sunday I do a deep dive into the world of Irish fiddling and how to develop the real feel for the style. This is a great way to deepen your practice, get inspired by new techniques and strategies, and learn more about the field of Irish traditional music. Subscribe below to begin receiving my Irish fiddle musings!

In the below sample email I broke down how to use sheet music as a tool in practicing Irish fiddle... plus a bonus appearance from my four-legged office assistant, Bewley!

If you've been around Irish traditional music for a time, it's likely you'll have heard of Francis O'Neill's Collection 1001 The Dance Music of Ireland -- and you might have Miles Krassen's 1992 edition of this tune book, which contains revisions of O'Neill's transcriptions.

My aunt gave me the Miles Krassen edition well over a decade ago, back when I had no idea how to play a roll or make my playing sound even remotely Irish. I was also likely in middle or high school with little to no interest in reading the intro to the book -- I just wanted to get to the tunes!

Flash forward to this past Thursday evening where I was parked on the living room sofa, fiddle in hand, cat lolled on the floor nearby... and I finally thought to read the intro of how this collection came to be. Safe to say, I learned some new things and am kicking myself for not thinking to read it sooner!

We often talk in the Irish fiddle world about the role of sheet music and how it can be both a help and a hindrance when it comes to learning the tune. (I'm in the camp where I learned to read sheet music as a classical player, so you better believe I'm not going to let that skill go to waste -- but in order to truly absorb a tune and retain it on a deeper level, it's best learn by ear.)

According to Miles Krassen's intro, Francis O'Neill was an accomplished flute player but did not have the ability to transcribe tunes into sheet music. So he enlisted the help of his classical violin-playing brother, James, to actually write out the tunes in the collection. The brothers would sit down with another musician and listen to that musician play the tune. James would write down what he heard, play it back to the other musician on his violin, and they would make edits from there.

Given that there are 1000+ tunes in this collection, this was no small undertaking (I have 150+ video tutorials in a library for my students which has taken me the better part of a year to put together -- so color me impressed here)!

Due to the size of the project, the secondhand method of transcribing, and the fact that these were collected over 100 years ago, it's no surprise that you may look at a tune in O'Neill's that you've heard played often in your local session and see a few differences in what you're hearing as well as what you're reading on the page!

It can be fun to go through and play Chief O'Neill's hornpipe or the Broken Pledge reel exactly how you're seeing on the page, because often times you'll get a variation on the tune that you hadn't expected! Liz Carroll has shared that sometimes she'll flip to a random page in O'Neill's and just play through all the tunes on that page to pick something new. I tend to do the same!

It's also important to remember that what you're seeing on the page is just one version of the tune, and shouldn't be the way you play it every single time. O'Neill's collection is a valuable resource for tune learning, and one I'm really glad to have access to -- it's also become less of a strict way to learn a tune for me over time, and more of a reference point.

I distinctly remember struggling through playing tunes in my Miles Krassen edition in the early days of owning the book. Only after a summer or two of fiddle workshops in my college years did I return to this collection and start playing the tunes with lilt. The difference? I was going off of my memory of hearing the tune played, rather than trying to play every single note I saw on the page in front of me.

Wondering about your own relationship with sheet music? I'd love to hear how its played a role in your musical journey to date! If you feel so inclined, please do reply to this email and share!



P.S. Thanks for reading through this email! I had a thought going and just kind of let it run... To show my appreciation for reading all the way to this section, here's footage of my office assistant, Bewley -- who happens to be the lolling companion during my O'Neill's practice session earlier in the week!

"I've got to tell you - your emails are fantastic.  You're like a mind-reader and I'm sure that you've got a great entourage of followers who look forward to receiving them." - Keith L

I love not going to work on Sunday mornings and drinking coffee and reading these! -Sarah S

In case you're wondering "who is Hannah, and why do I want to be discussing all things Irish fiddling with her," let me introduce myself!

I grew up in North Carolina as a classically trained musician, but through a series of concerts, workshops and other Irish-music focused events found myself fully immersed in the world of Irish traditional fiddling!

As someone who didn't grow up in an Irish trad music household, I have a natural curiosity to learn more about the tradition and share all the insights I come across in my own musical development!

It gives me no greater pleasure than to connect with new people who share a love for this music and have a good ol' conversation about how to develop a lilt in your playing.

It's why I got my Master's Degree over in Ireland (can't beat 4-5 session nights a week in Cork City), and why I regularly travel back there to continue to learn more about the music (hon the polkas and shlides)!

It's also why I teach Irish fiddling at adult trad workshops and camps throughout the year, and host my own online fiddle studio membership. I believe you can learn more about this music from anywhere in the world. 

I can't wait to connect with you!

Want to hear how I play before subscribing? Check out my YouTube Channel here!

Join the list of 300+ musicians who read these emails every week!

My Products Available Products
Sign In

Sign In Details

Forgot Password