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Notes on the Tunes
In most folk music, it’s customary for musicians to add their own ornaments and variations each time around the tune. When learning a new tune, start simply with the basic melody. Don’t worry about extra ornaments and such until the main melody and rhythms feel comfortable. Some of my lead sheets show both a simpler version and then a more embellished one on the repeats. On the recordings you’ll notice we rarely play the melody and chords quite the same way twice. The tune is always traveling.

pigThe same holds true for adding Counter Melodies, other harmonies, and varying the chords. Feel free to mix it up! To enhance the older feel of a piece like “The Yew Tree’s Lament,” try using “open voicings” in the guitar or piano, i.e. leaving out the third in some of the chords. Or sprinkle some 7th’s and 9th’s into the mix and see what happens. A lead sheet is only the starting point... let your own ears and imagination take you where they will!

Some tunes work well with a few extra measures of accompaniment before or after the main melody. Others simply dive right in with the melody. Try to vary your approach. A simple intro may just cycle over the starting chord for a couple of measures. More elaborate intros might actually start on a different chord altogether, then work their way around to the opening of the piece.  

Look for ways to trade the melody between different instruments, move up and down an octave, etc. Notice how different it feels when the melody is played by a sustained tone instrument (like a wind or bowed string instrument) versus a decayed tone instrument (like piano and guitar). Sometimes it’s also a nice effect to drop out the chords for one part of the piece, with everyone playing the melody together in unison.

Beyond individual tunes, it’s fun to arrange medleys where one tune flows into another. Sometimes these involve a change of key or tempo. Where the key is the same, look for ways to play parts of the different tunes as harmony lines against each other.  

If you’re interested in a Performance or Workshop out your way,  or Commissioning a new piece, please let me know! 

Steve Schuch

“Goldberry sang many songs for them,  songs that began merrily in the hills and fell softly down into silence;  and in the silences they saw in their minds  pools and waters wider than any they had known,  and looking in to them they saw the sky below them  and the stars like jewels in the depths.”
                ~ from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings


Night Heron Music
72 Meeting Hill Rd.
Hillsborough, NH 03244
(603) 464-4321


Night Heron Music • 72 Meeting Hill Road, Hillsborough, NH 03244 • USA
• ph (603) 464-4321 •

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