I often find that fiddle players looking for tunes to learn turn to the Foinn Seisiun recordings. These are really useful resources for finding recordings of well know Irish session tunes.
But for a fiddle player starting out with playing in sessions, they may also have their limitations, which I’ll discuss below. I hope that my tutorials listed at the bottom of the page will help.
Foinn Seisiún (pronounced ‘fween sesh-oon’) means ‘Session Tunes’ in Irish. The recordings and accompanying books) were made by Comhaltas, a group central to the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music.
There are three books and recordings in the series. The first was released in 2001. Then Foinn Seisiun 2 followed in 2003 and finally Foinn Seisiún 3 in 2007.
A great learning resource…
The tunes on the Foinn Seisiun recordings are played by good musicians, at a nice even tempo. The playing on these recordings is deliberately at a ‘moderate tempo’ according to Comhaltas. (Some would say, ‘moderate to slow’!). So if you are already good at learning tunes by ear, you can probably work out the melody.
These recordings are especially good for getting familiar with some of the most commonly played sessions tunes. Listening to the Foinn Seisiun recordings will help your ear get used the sound of different types of tune, and get the melodies in your head. This will help when you come to learn the tune by ear. As Comhaltas say about the series, they were ‘created in order to give players of Irish Traditional Music a good grounding in standard session sets.’
The choice of tunes for the Foinn Seisiun recordings and books deliberately centres on common tunes. While there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ set of tunes in any one Irish session, certainly you won’t go far wrong with the tunes suggested on the Foinn Seisiun recordings.
As Comhaltas say, ‘Though we’d never claim that this list of tunes and sets is authoritative, learning these will be enough for you to sit in on many sessions around the world.’
…with some drawbacks
However, the recordings have their drawbacks. They are a little ‘fuzzy’ — this is a recording of a session after all! There is a certain amount of background noise, and the instruments are not clearly balanced. So you maybe not be able to catch all the notes clearly. And since there are a mix of many instruments playing, that can make it harder too.
In addition, listening to the tunes on the Foinn Seisiun recordings is unlikely to help you with with specific features of your instrument. For example, with Irish ornamentation or phrasing or bowing patterns on the fiddle.
So, I have started to list below some of the tunes on the Foinn Seisiun recordings that I have made tutorials for. In some cases these are full length video tutorials on tunes, breaking down each phrase. In others, it is a solo fiddle playthrough of a tune, where you will be able to hear more of the features of that tune for fiddle players.
Foinn Seisiun 1
From Foinn Seisiún 1 I have made tutorials on the following tunes: