[Callers] Good Tune Sets

Amy Cann acann at putneyschool.org
Thu Dec 2 19:54:59 PST 2010

Hmm. Having a caller assign the medleys could get a little... political?

Even as a fellow musician I would feel a little weird dictating medleys;
what if I play a tune a certain mellow way and this band does it zippier?

And just to check: was it the medley combination or the tunes themselves?

Newer bands often do things that are "cool" but deadly.One is to pick
inscrutable tunes -- so inscrutable that noone is quite sure where the A
part is.

I would probably encourage them to listen to some of the seminal Canterbury
orchestra/Yankee Ingenuity type albums and start with the chestnuts --
there's a reason those tunes became "canon." Listen to how the tunes are
matched -- what are the keys, the personalities? Why do those medleys work?
There are newer dance-length CD's by longtime bands that are also excellent.

If they already have their own favorite repertoire, have them at least
screen out the old time tunes where the A and B parts are different by only
one note -- and the Celtic tunes where they're different by all 64. A good
dance tune should have a recognizable shape, be kindof singable -- have a
good mix of note values, neither all sparse quarters or relentless machine
gun sixteenths.

As far as putting together medleys? That's hard, since it partly depends on
instrumentation (flutes shine on certain tunes that don't ring out much on
fiddle, and v.v.), partly on the group's personality. Tunes wake up
differently with different players.

Newer bands often put perfectly good tunes together into adventurous medleys
-- New England jig into Celtic polka into French Canadian reel. This
sometimes works...

Pretty much safely true: pick three tunes of similar character ( put Old
Time with Old Time, marches with marches, celtic with celtic, French C. w/
That way the particular groove of that culture will have time to really
establish itself, settle in. The band will find it and so will the dancers.

Put the clearest, ringing-est, zippy-est tune LAST, put the other two before
it in whichever order makes sense to you. By key? By range on the

The tunes will either end up mellow-bigger-BIGGEST or big - mellower -
bigger, and either is fine.

Oh, and be careful: a spare/sparse tune (like a march) medleyed into a dense
note-y tune will actually feel like a downer ( and newer bands will
sometimes slow down to accomodate all those notes!)

Right off the top of my head?

Red Haired Boy
Shenandoah Falls
Mason's Apron
Joys of Quebec (careful which dance it gets matched to)
Liza Jane
Sandy Boys
Meeting of the Waters

Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
Forked Deer
Waiting on Nancy
Spotted Pony
Pays de Haut
St. Joseph
Old French
Paddy on the RR
Cuckoo's Nest
Vladimir's Steamboat

Green Mtn Petronella
Farewell to Whiskey
Mairi's Wedding
Nail That Catfish
Saut de Lapin
Reel de Montreal
Crooked Stovepipe
Far From Home
Lady of the Lake

Say No More

Ross's #4

Lochlavan Castle
Grumbling Man/Growling Woman
Star of Munster

Julia Delaney

Down the Brae
Dancing Bear

Jigs :

or Celtic vs. New England, or smooth vs. bouncy, or whatever you want to
call them.

(I personally think you're better off substituting a reel of the right
character than getting the wrong kind of jig).

Perfect ex. of smooth huhmanahuhmanahuhmana jig: Morrison's.
Perfect ex of bouncy jouncy  jiggity-bump type: St. Lawrence

Keep the two kinds separate! And consider not messing around with
jig-to-reel until you've got more gigs under your feet.

Just my (2 cents) x 10 !


(PS: you could also talk me and Carol Compton into coming out and doing a
big ol' weekend workshop on just that sort of thing...)

On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 8:12 PM, Sue Robishaw <sue at manytracks.com> wrote:

>   Hi,
>       We have a group of musicians getting together a band for a new
>   contra series (hurray!). They are mostly experienced musicians (old
>   time, celtic) but not for dancing, and most (unfortunately) aren't
>   dancers. Does anyone have any tune sets of common tunes that they
>   particularly like? Having had the experience of calling to a rather
>   amorphous (phrase wise) tune set put together by wonderful musicians
>   but non dancers, I'd like to recommend for our group some good, solid
>   core tune sets for a starting repertoire.
>       Thanks!
>            Sue Robishaw, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
>   PS - Anyone know of a set dance musician's list similar to this one?
> _______________________________________________
> Callers mailing list
> Callers at sharedweight.net
> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers

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