48 Bar Jigs – Sheet Music Project for Ceilidh Bands

04 July 2016

Here is a new thing – a set of ten new 48 bar jigs, composed in five sets of two tunes. They were written in response to many years of playing in ceilidh bands that didn’t have enough 48 bar jigs for the number of dances that required them. I concluded that there must be an international shortage of these tunes, so over the past little while I made an effort to write a bunch of them.

I’m hoping to eventually write enough to fill a book – but after writing ten in quick succession I developed 48 bar jig fatigue and I need to recharge and write some music that isn’t 48 bar jigs for a bit (I mean, obviously I like 48 bar jigs and everything, but there are lots of different time signatures in existence for a good reason…).

In the meantime, the first ten are available as a digital download, which includes pdf sheet music for all ten melodies with chords (plus, as a bonus, sheet music with melody and scored basslines) and demo recordings of each tune played all the way through.

Viola Joke Cufflinks

24 May 2016

I made these. And I'm not even sorry.

[you can buy them here]

Tamarysk Album: Eighteen Degrees of Indigo

26 March 2016

The Tamarysk EP has been remixed, remastered and extended into a full-length album, which has just been released. In addition to the viola-based tracks (which are available as a sheet music collection of five pieces for viola and piano) there are five new tracks featuring Alice Burn on Northumbrian pipes.

Two of the new pipes tracks – ‘The Purplest Time of Year’ and ‘Eighteen Degrees of Indigo’ – are new compositions by me, as is the only pipes/viola joint enterprise, ‘Mersehead’ which segues into ‘St Mary’s Jig’, written by Alice. ‘Quiet River’ is a new arrangement of an old tune of mine, and ‘The Three Sided Mind’ was written by Tom Drinkwater, who also mixed and mastered the album (as well as playing electric guitars and mandolins on all of it, and generally having input into the arrangements of all the rest).

The title comes from the eighteen degrees of twilight, and the cover art is inspired by a diagram illustrating the three twilight subcategories.

You can listen online and download it here.

New Sheet Music Collection: English Folk Tune Harmony and Bass Parts

20 October 2015

A little over a year ago I published the sheet music to some four part harmony arrangements of Irish folk tunes, which were originally going to be part of Tamarysk. As it turned out, Tamarysk headed off in a rather different direction, but the sheet music proved very popular anyway. So I’ve made some more, this time a collection of English tunes. The concept is the same: two harmony parts and a bass part, primarily aimed at violists and cellists but presented in lots of different clefs and transpositions so they can be played on a variety of instrumental groups. (See this post for a detailed explanation of who can play them.)

The demo recordings sound a bit different to those for the Irish tunes – I’ve just recorded them straight up on violin, violas and bass guitar, with no piano or extra chords (although chords are provided with the sheet music melodies in the download) – but the format of the sheet music is just the same. The scores come as pdfs, and you also get the recordings included, for which you can choose your format from mp3, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), AAC, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and AIFF formats.

Find out more and get the download over here, or have a listen below:

How to Use My Traditional Tune Harmony Arrangements in Different Instrumental Groups

28 July 2015

Update 20-10-2015: This post references my Irish tunes sheet music bundle, but in fact applies to all of the four part harmony arrangements in this section. The arrangements proved very popular, so I’m adding some more. Click here to buy the sheet music described in this blog post.

My harmony arrangements of traditional tunes were originally created as a way for violists to play harmonies along with violinists. However, as I was writing them, it became clear that they’d fit not just on viola, but a variety of other instruments – and groups of instruments – as well.

Rather than make a lot of separate downloads (e.g “cello and violin”, “viola and violin”, “two violins and viola”) I’ve included all the different versions in the one package, which includes the sheet music for a wide range of possibilities in terms of ensemble. While this means it’s flexible – anyone who buys the sheet music can re-use it with different groups of musicians – some people find it confusing and I’ve received a few emails asking whether it will definitely work with their particular group of instruments, and if so, how.

I’m writing this post to explain how to use my folk arrangements in different duos, trios, quartets and larger groups.

How it Works

For each traditional tune, I’ve written three different harmony parts.

I’ve made several different scores of these harmony parts for each piece: one for standard string quartet, one with all the harmonies in alto clef, one with all the harmonies in treble clef, and one with all the harmonies in bass clef.

Click on the thumbnails below for examples of each version.

Any one of the three harmony parts works as a standalone harmony for the tune, i.e. to be played in a duet. If the tune is to be played multiple times through by a duo, the person playing the harmony can play one harmony the first time, another the second, etc. to form a more complex arrangement.

Alternatively, they could just choose their favourite harmony part and just play that one.

This allows flexibility in terms of using the arrangements with different levels of ability – more advanced players may like to learn multiple parts; beginners might prefer to choose the part they find easiest.

As well as this, multiple harmony parts can be played at the same time.

This means a larger group such as a trio or quartet can use them.

The harmony parts can be used as building blocks to create a long or more complex arrangement, playing the tune more than once through, with different people taking different parts each time through the tune.

They can also, of course, be used as a simple arrangement for a larger group, in which everyone sticks on one part.

Instructions for Specific Groups of Instruments

Click on any of the ensemble types below to find out about that one in particular – or scroll down to read through all of them.

You can download the sheet music for all ensembles from here.

Quartets:

Two violins, viola and cello
Three violins and cello
Two violins, two cellos
One violin, two violas and cello
One violin and three violas
One violin, one viola, two cellos
Two violins, two violas
Three violins, one viola

Trios:

Violin, viola and cello
Two violins and cello
Violin and two violas
Violin and two cellos
Three violins

Duets:

Two violins
Violin and viola
Violin and cello

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Two violins, viola and cello

For a standard string quartet, all players can read from the “string quartet” version of the sheet music for each tune for a simple arrangement.

For a more complex arrangement in which players want to try out different harmony parts, each player should use the version of the music which presents the harmony parts in the right clef for their instrument. The violins should both use the version that is all treble clef; the viola all alto clef; the cello all bass clef. It is then up to the players to decide who plays which part when.

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Three violins and cello

For a simple arrangement, this can be treated like a standard string quartet but with the viola replaced by a third violin. Violins 1 and 2, and the cellist, can read from the sheet music for string quartet. The third violin should be given the music with all the harmony parts in treble clef, and should play the third line down (which is the same line as the viola part in the string quartet version, but may be in a different octave).

For a more complex arrangement in which players switch between different harmonies, give each player the version with all the harmonies written in the right clef for their instrument. The violins should both use the version that is all treble clef; the cello all bass clef. It is then up to the players to decide who plays which part when.

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Two violins, two cellos

Give both violins the sheet music with all the harmony parts in treble clef. Give both cellos the music with all harmony parts in bass clef.

For a simple arrangement, violin 1 plays the melody, violin 2 plays the second line, cello 1 plays the third line, and cello 2 plays the bottom line.

For a more complex arrangement, using the same versions of the sheet music, players can decide between them who will play which part at which time.

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Two violins, two violas

Give both violins the sheet music with all the harmony parts in treble clef. Give both violas the music with all harmony parts in alto clef.

For a simple arrangement, violin 1 plays the melody, violin 2 plays the second line, viola 1 plays the third line, and viola 2 plays the bottom line.

For a more complex arrangement, using the same versions of the sheet music, players can decide between them who will play which part at which time.

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Three violins, one viola

Give all violins the sheet music with all the harmony parts in treble clef. Give the viola the music with all harmony parts in alto clef.

For a simple arrangement, violin 1 plays the melody, violin 2 plays the second line, violin 3 plays the third line, and the viola plays the bottom line.

For a more complex arrangement, using the same versions of the sheet music, players can decide between them who will play which part at which time.

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One violin, two violas and cello

Give the violinist the sheet music with all the harmony parts in treble clef. Give both violist the sheet music with all harmony parts in alto clef. Give the cellist the music with all harmony parts in bass clef.

For a simple arrangement, the violinist plays the top line, viola 1 the second line, viola 2 the third line, and the cello the 4th line.

For a more complex arrangement, using the same versions of the sheet music, players can decide between them who will play which part at which time.

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One violin and three violas

All players can read from the version of the sheet music with all the harmonies written in alto clef.

For a simple arrangement, the violin plays the top line, and violas 1,2 and 3 take the second, third and fourth lines.

For a more complex arrangement, using the same version of the sheet music, the players can decide between them who will play which part at which time.

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Violin, viola and cello

Give each player the sheet music with all the harmony parts written in the clef that their instrument uses. (Treble for violin, alto for viola, bass for cello.)

For a simple arrangement, the violin plays the top line, the cello plays the bottom line, and the viola can choose whether to play line 2 or line 3.

For a more complex arrangement, the viola and cello can play any of the different harmony parts – it is up to the players to decide when they play which part.

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Two violins and cello

Give each player the sheet music with all the harmony parts written in the clef that their instrument uses. (Treble for violin, bass for cello.)

For a simple arrangement, the 1st violin plays the top line, the cello plays the bottom line, and the 2nd violin can choose whether to play line 2 or line 3.

For a more complex arrangement, the musicians can play any of the different harmony parts to accompany the melody – it is up to the players to decide when they play which part, which violinist plays the melody which time, etc.

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Violin and two violas

Give each player the sheet music with all the harmony parts written in the clef that their instrument uses. (Treble for violin, alto for viola.)

For a simple arrangement, the violin plays the top line, and the two violas can take one each of any of the other lines.

For a more complex arrangement, the violas can play any of the different harmony parts – it is up to the players to decide when they play which part.

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Violin and two cellos

Give each player the sheet music with all the harmony parts written in the clef that their instrument uses. (Treble for violin, bass for cello.)

For a simple arrangement, the violin plays the top line, and the two cellos can take one each of any of the other lines.

For a more complex arrangement, the cellos can play any of the different harmony parts – it is up to the players to decide when they play which part.

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Violin trio

Give all players the version of the sheet music with all harmony parts in treble clef.

For a simple arrangement, one player plays the top line, and the other two play whichever of the harmony parts they like best.

For a more complex arrangement, the players can decide between themselves who plays which part when.

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Two violins

Give both players the version of the sheet music with all harmony parts in treble clef.

For a simple arrangement, one player plays the top line, and the other plays plays whichever of the harmony parts they like best.

For a more complex arrangement, the players can decide between themselves who plays which part when.

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Violin and viola duet

Give both players the version of the sheet music with all harmony parts in alto clef. The violinist will play the melody, which is written in treble clef.

For a simple arrangement, the violinist plays the top line and the violist plays whichever harmony part they like the best.

For a more complex arrangement with the tune played several times through, the viola player can choose a different harmony part at different times, e.g. the second line for the first time through the tune, the third line for the second time, or switching between different harmonies on the repeats, etc.

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Violin and cello duet

Give both players the version of the sheet music with all harmony parts in bass clef. The violinist will play the melody, which is written in treble clef.

For a simple arrangement, the violinist plays the top line and the cellist plays whichever harmony part they like the best.

For a more complex arrangement with the tune played several times through, the cello player can choose a different harmony part at different times, e.g. the second line for the first time through the tune, the third line for the second time, or switching between different harmonies on the repeats, etc.

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