A tune book of Irish (Celtic) music for single chamber ocarina
A collection of common Irish session tunes that fit on a 10, 11, or 12 hole single chambered transverse / Italian style ocarina.
Compiled by Robert Hickman.
These tunes are written at sounding pitch in the key they are most often played.
In the British isles, traditional Irish music is played in group gatherings called 'sessions'. A number of musicians, frequently who do not know each other, come together to play tunes in a pub.
The standard keys of this music comes from the limitations of the common instruments used in these sessions, including:
- D tin whistle
- Fiddle (violin)
- Simple system flute
- D/G button accordion
Some of these such as the tin whistle and button accordion are diatonic (meaning that they can only play in a limited number of keys). The fiddle is rarely played outside of first position, which means that the highest note you will see in most tunes is B.
The selection of tunes in this tune book are in a range of an octave and a fourth, D to G' in the second octave. Playing them at written pitch requires either a transverse ocarina in D, or a multi chamber C ocarina.
If all you have is a C single chamber ocarina, you can treat it as a D instrument and read at written pitch. To do so:
- Written D becomes low C.
- Written E becomes low D.
- Written F sharp becomes Low E.
- Etc, substituting the notes of the D major scale.
Doing this, you are learning the correct fingerings to play the tune at sounding pitch on a D ocarina. Getting a D ocarina in the future will enable you to play these tunes with other people in a session.
Pure ocarinas sells the Single Alto D ocarina for playing Irish tunes.
Learning to interpret notation at sounding pitch is standard in Irish Traditional Music, and allows you to make use of the thousands of Irish tunes available on websites like thesession.org free of charge.
This tunebook, vs common Irish tunes
Once you start looking into common Irish tunes on the above website, or by attending an Irish music session, you will find that most tunes have a range of D to B' in the second octave (an octave and a sixth).
Playing these requires using a multichamber ocarina. A standard C double will work, although I (Robert Hickman) prefer using a D Pacchioni system ocarina (with chambers tuned an octave apart) as it reduces the need for chamber switching, allowing a more flowing playing style.
This instrument is also available from Pure Ocarinas, Double Alto D Pacchioni system ocarina.
I do not feel a need to compile such a tune book for multi chambered ocarinas as having a multichamber opens up the entire repertoire to you. In which case you can use any list of common irish tunes, or better yet, go to a session and ask them what they are playing.
Tunes for G ocarina
A small number of the tunes in this tune book have a range of G to B', and can be played at written pitch on a soprano G or alto G ocarina.
These can be read at-pitch in exactly the same way as tunes in the D to G' range. Just substitute the notes of G major.
With a bit of experience, reading notation at sounding pitch on ocarinas in different keys is easy. Instead of associating fingerings with absolute named pitches, look at the relative intervals between the notes, and the patterns that they form.
These can be translated into movements within a given scale.
Guidance on playing style
It is important to notice that the notation gives you only the 'bones' of the tune, it does not tell you how you should be playing it stylistically.
Most Irish music is dance music, and the names for tune types, such as 'reel', also name the type of dance that it was originally meant to accompany.
The tradition has evolved away from exclusively playing for dancers, but the core of the playing style remains the communication of a strong and reliable beat.
Exactly how this is done is somewhat subtle, mostly revolving around the placement of articulations, and playing some notes slightly longer than a literal interpretation would suggest. These details really need to be learned by listening to and copying experienced musicians in the tradition.
Unlike common practice art music, Irish music is usually played with very little tongued articulation. As a baseline, all notes should be slurred, with tonging used only to separate repeated notes, or create emphasis.
Articulation is often created using pitched articulations called 'cuts' and 'strikes', which are performed by briefly opening or closing a finger hole, creating a subliminal 'blip'. Details of how to perform these are available on the Pure Ocarinas website.
Table of contents
Jigs are in 6/8 time. There are two beats per bar, each of which is subdivided into 3. If you count it '1 e a 2 e a', the emphasis falls on 1 and 2.
The beat in jigs may be emphasised by slightly elongating the first note in each group of three, fitting the other two into the remaining time.
Jigs for G ocarina
Just because a tune is in 6/8, does not mean that it is a jig. There is another kind of tune called a 6/8 march, which differs both in structure and playing style.
6/8 marches for G ocarina
Hornpipes are notated and played in 4/4 time, at a tempo of about quarter note = 120.
They are normally played with a swung rhythm on 8th note pairs, with the first note twice as long as the second. This rhythm is implied by a tune being a hornpipe and is rarely indicated in notation.
Hornpipes for G ocarina
Reels are written in 4/4, but played in cut time (2/2) at a tempo of approximately half note = 110. You should feel two beats / pulses per bar.
If you count rhythms, you may find it helpful to count these '1 e & a 2 e & a', with 1 and 2 getting the emphasis.
Reels for G ocarina
Slides for G ocarina
Slip jigs for G ocarina
Highlands are related to hornpipes, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_(Irish)