Category Advisor Chris Partington
Music is an integral part of singing and dancing and often an accompaniment to other activities like processions and ceremonials.
Singers and Dancers are just as much musicians as people who play instruments.
Folk tunes are very often divorced from their original setting and played for another purpose or just for the joy of it. Thus a song tune can become a dance tune or a concert piece.
Sometimes a good tune inspires the addition of words to make it a song.
All of these things happen.
Here we can pool information about where tunes came from, when, what they were used for, possibly who published them, how they travelled and where they are to be found now.
Such a small word - such a big subject! This is not the place for storing tunes, those places exist in the external links below, but to give a flavour of the commoner sort here are some examples - Tune Index
If you feel the need to add tunes read this first Policy for tune pages
- Chris Walshaw's Search Engine on the ABC Notation Homepage  Search engine. Type in a title and see the tunes pop up, in notation, midi and ABC notation. Chris Walshaw can claim to be the originator of the ABC notation format as it is understood today. Links to software providers, tutorials etc. This site also has links to many online ABC collections, with a worldwide remit.
- John Chamber's ABC Tune Finder  Search engine. This excellent resource trawls the web for tunes in abc format and allows the user to retrieve the results in a variety of ways. You just need to know something about your target tune to narrow the search. He also has a large collection of tunes that he has transcribed into ABC himself, which you will find here
- Joe Wass's Folk Tune Finder  Folk tune finder is a search engine for folk tunes in ABC notation. These search engines use different methods of comparing tunes, so what you can't find in one you may find in another.
- The Traditional Tune Archive  By Andrew Kuntz. A major source of tunes and a place to contribute them is The Traditional Tune Archive - The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as The Fiddler's Companion.
- Morris Tunes on the Morris Ring website  ABCs, dots and mp3s of Lionel Bacon's Black Book, plus links to other sites.
- The Village Music Project  An ongoing study of English social musicians from the 17th Century onwards from their manuscripts. Contains information about fiddle manuscripts, plus many of their contents transcribed into ABC notation.
- The Farne Project  A selection of texts, pictures and recordings of Northumbrian Traditional Music, including a number of traditional tune resources. There are scans of one of the oldest tune manuscripts in England written down by Henry Atkinson in 1694. There are recordings by a variety of musicians including Willy Taylor, Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson. The link I have given is current as of May 2021, but Gateshead are forever changing the links so if it doesn't work you may find it via the Gateshead Libraries website, which I won't link because that keeps changing too.
- Biteyourownelbow  Another long list of tune collections on the internet, from Mickey Koth. Free collections of tunes in gif, jpg, pdf, png, or tif format and/or in ABC notation
- Manx Music - Manuscript and ABC format  contains a significant body of the music collected on the island by W.H. Gill, J.F. Gill and Dr J. Clague, as compiled by Colin Jerry in the book 'Kiaull Vannin'
- An ABC Library of Morris Tunes : website Very useful.
Online Session Tunebooks
Here are some online collections to give a flavour of the tunes that are current nowadays in various informal English music sessions in Britain and beyond. The descriptions may be taken from the compilers' own websites. These websites come and go so some links may be broken. I have resisted the sometimes strong urge to comment on how up-to-date or not some of the choices seem, since they do largely reflect the current situation.
- Paul Hardy's session tunebook. Mainly traditional Celtic and English from the British Isles.
- Lewes Favourites website. Tunes. A good, large (200 tunes?) fundamental English repertoire, courtesy of the Lewes English Tunes Practice Session, in particular Bryan Creer and the late Andy Warburton. The following tunebooks are often subsets of this one, but worth browsing to get an idea of the first two dozen must-have tunes.
- The Alton Steady Session website contains link to a small tunebook
- The Bath and Bradford on Avon Sessions website. Concertina World Tunebook, includes tips on session etiquette.
- Chorley Slow and Easy Session website contains links to three PDF tunebooks
- CLERA - The Society for the Traditional Instruments of Wales website Learn and play Welsh Traditional Music Welsh traditional tunes in sets. Scores, Midi files, MP3 files
- Dartington Morris Men's Session Tune Book website
- Dorking Folk Sessions website contains a link to a small Steady Speed tunebook
- Chris Partington's English Session Tunes website What do you play when you’re in a “Mainly English” session with musicians you’ve just met for the first time? ABCs and PDF
- The Duke of Wellington Folk Tunes Session FB page. Tunes. We (they!) are a friendly group who meet on the second Thursday of every month at The Duke of Wellington 119 Balls Pond Road, London, N1 4BL.
- The Ewell Sessions website contains a link to a small tunebook
- Horsmonden Sessions website workshop page contains link to tunes and the session
- The Montreal Session Tunebook website A very large source of tunes
- Morris Musicians Handbook PDF No tunes, but a guide to playing for the Morris
- Tuneworks Sessions From their website - "The tunes are session standards, popular tunes that are played often at sessions up and down the country so they are useful tunes to know! They are mostly from Irish and English traditions and can be played on a wide range of instruments." PDF. 27 sets of popular tunes, mostly Irish.
Tune Books since 1900
There have been many books of tunes printed since the beginning of the 20th Century. Some are out of print but can be obtained second-hand.
Many musicians over the centuries have written down their repertoire in music books and some of the old ones have survived into the 21st century. The oldest one so far identified was written down by Henry Atkinson of Morpeth Northumberland and is dated on one page - 1694.
Some good work has been done in transcribing these books and making them available as paper published tunebooks or as ABC notation collections on the internet.
A most useful list of historical dance-tune books on the web is the Early American Secular Music and its European Sources website. This was researched in the later 20th century and is a very good overview of the field, with a few omissions of books that have come to light more recently, or weren't in the targeted libraries.
Another huge resource based on years of research is the late Bruce Olson's website . Some of the material on the site has become redundant since his death in 2003, yet it remains a valuable tool for serious scholars. http://www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/Olson/index.html
Tunes and dances are bound together, and when Walsh and Simpson et al published the tunes, the dances often came attached. Mostly, modern musicians raid the tunes and skip over the dances!
Labels recording instrumental music are included in the main Recordings list along with song etc.
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Books, Articles, and Academic Studies - Music. Includes books, articles,academic studies, and links to notable researchers' websites where appropriate
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