IFR meets traditional

I love Scottish traditional music, and some Irish, but mainly Scottish, and I’ve been appliying my IFR skills to learning and enjoying my simple system flute and recently my tenor guitar. And yes I have dabbled with piping as well!

This type of music is quite simple but presents its own challenges. Its described as modal, with many tunes using either mixolydian, dorian or aeolian scales as well as ionian. Perfect for exploring these worlds with the IFR method.

My question is, what IFR materials can I use to help my understanding and practice of traditional (celtic) music?

I practice with Sing the Numbers regularly, and this helped develop my ear. The music is taught by ear, and we try to stay away from notation and play from memory. IFR has been great with this, and I can now attend sessions and play along.

I’m exploring accompaniment with my guitar, and to help here I’m working through Pure Harmony lessons to enhance my chord knowledge.

So, any ideas of what IFR methods/materials I can utilise and apply to my practice of this type of music?

I gave some thought to what I’d do if I were in your shoes, and here’s what I came up with…

Do the MELODY PATHS exercise over the Scottish tunes. Start with just small sections (2 bars, then 4 bars). This will develop your ear to the harmonic possibilities of these kinds of tunes. Start with just one melody note per bar, then 2 notes, etc. The exercise is described starting on p 186 of the IFR book. You can see the approach in this Youtube playlist: Melody Path playlist on Youtube

I’ve been doing the Melody Path exercise as part of the IFR Jazz Workshop that’s going on right now, and I’ve come to think this is the best exercise for learning the harmonic shape of a tune, so I can better hear the melody/harmony interplay, and also improvise over it.

Now, you will need to gather some things in order to do the Melody Path exercise, specifically the chord progression and a backing track for it

  1. What chord progressions to use? I know you said you learn all this by ear, but just get some written tunes as scaffolding to help with your practice. You can find a bunch of Scottish tunes here, with melodies and chords notated Tunes with Chords You can also find even more tunes here (mostly without chords) IMSLP collection

  2. Where do you get the backing tracks? You don’t need a track if you can use a guitar or piano to play the chords as you sing over them. Or you can search online for “create my own backing track online” for tools that can help you make your own track. (just found a free app for PCs and Macs called Jazzlab that might work for you, but I haven’t tried it yet … it says it plays many more styles than just jaz, here’s a link JAZZLAB )

Wow. I just looked at an intro video and a 15m tutorial that sets up a backing track for ‘Stand by Me’.

It appears to offer at least some of the scope & flexibility of ‘BandlabBand in a Box’, but as an opensource, free, application? I’ve never used BandlabBand in a Box, but have watched a comprehensive demonstration. This is of course not the same, but neither does it cost hundreds of pounds!

I’ve no idea if I’ll use it, but I’m certainly interested to know that it’s out there. Thank you @hender99

Edit: Corrected ‘Bandlab’ to ‘Band in a Box’

Opps. I meant ‘Band in a Box’.

Bandlab does exist, but is something else (an online music creation tool)!

Thank you so much @hender99, great idea so focus on Melody Paths practice. I do have some sheets music for my tunes, so will get to work translating the chord progressions into IFR chord numbers.

I have tried this before and sometimes get stuck determining the mode. Sometimes the tunes have melodies only using a pentatonic scale, which makes the mode ambiguous. But I guess in those cases it doesnt matter which one you choose.

I also thought of recording myself vamping a couple of chords or a progression. I have tried using iRealPro, which works fine.

That software you suggested looks amazing, not sure it will work on my aging laptop, but I might give it try.

Again, thank you very much for your input.

@mem Another thought. Write out the melodies you have in tonal numbers, using the major scale. I bet then you’ll be able to see more clearly which melodies circle around different modes, and what the characteristics of those melodies are.

I really like the link to songs that I gave you earlier; I might use it myself since it has chords as well as melodies (I used to play bagpipes in college, many years ago, and even played on stage — and more importantly in the lobby – at Carnegie Hall in NYC with my college band) Again the link is Scottish folk Music Tune-book and Songbook part 1

And part 2 is here (I had trouble finding it) Scottish Folk Music Tunebook and Songbook part 2

Wow, a fellow piper! That’s awesome, I’m just getting to grips (spot the pun) with my practice chanter, and have a set of practice pipes. Trying to keep my bag pressure consistant is proving difficult.

Thanks for the links, I’ll take a look.

@mem if you have a Windows/PC computer, you can try the free and really easy to use CHORDPULSE LITE as a program to create simple to moderately complex backing tracks to practice over, with Midi sound. You can also buy a more full featured CHORDPULSE for about $30.

Here’s a couple of Youtube tutorials on Chordpulse Lite

Jjazzlab runs in Window, Linux, and Macs, and is better for complex arrangements.

@hender99 @mem This morning I installed JJazzLab following the process in this ‘3rd party’ install video (except that, having watched the video. I pickup up the SoundFont and installed CoolSoft_VirtualMIDISynth before I started the JJazzLab install, since I knew they’d be needed). This guy had previoulsy tried CodePulse & considers JJazzLab better.

I then ran JJazzLab and selected File => New Song.

That immediately gave me an ultra simple 8 bar ‘song’ in C. I used File => Export to MIDI file, then opened that file in VLC Media Player (I needed to provide VLC with a SoundFont file, but that was easy – I just pointed it at the one I’d downloaded for JJazzLab). That allowed the file to play perfectly. I then used VLC => Media => Convert/Save to make this mp3 version of it.

I then did a quick simple edit to extend the ‘song’ to 12 bars, added some 4 & 5 chords to make it a 12 bar blues, changed the rhythm to one called HappyReggae (pretty much a random choice). That played fine & the same export & convert process produced this.

Not inspired, but perfectly useable if that was what I wanted, and generated in just a few minues even though I’d done nothing but watch the video and didn’t really have any particular aim in mind.

Maybe I will find a use for it. :smiley:

@DavidW thanks. I hadn’t gotten to exporting yet. Nice to know the steps and hitches.