May 2006

After doing a bit of a hunt for a hardanger bridge, I stumbled across Lennart Sohlman’s Swedish Fiddle site – and he has a delightful collection of tunes in sheet, abc and midi format from all over Scandinavia – from Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Want to buy a new hardanger fiddle? Wulffenstejn has a full price list 🙂 But I think I’ll be happy with mine for quite a while yet.

And from the sublime to the … er… creative: This fellow makes instruments by finding ways to adapt existing ones into new forms, or, even new instruments out of old boxes, bits of PVC pipe and so on.



Well, the tunes I’m currently learning are mostly ones that Eve has found at sessions – and a great collection of tunes they are too!

  • The Sweetness of Mary (strathspey)
  • Cliffs of Moher (jig)
  • The Flogging Reel (reel)
  • Heights of Casino (jig) – tricky with all those dotted notes!
  • Blue Idol (jig)
  • Catharsis (reel) (some tricky cross-bowing on the second part)
  • Sean Ryan’s Jig (jig) – I’ve heard it at festivals – but most recently at a session in Brisbane where my daughter held up her mobile phone so I could listen to the tune in Canberra!

All these tunes are on – a great resource for tunes. I’m looking forward to hearing the other tunes that Eve has in mind for me to learn – she’s got a great ear for an interesting tune or rhythm.

Are you a high-tech folkie? How about taking the complete O’Neill’s Music of Ireland in your pocket to a folk festival! Here’s where Bryan Duggan’s TunePal comes to the fore. I first encountered this wonderful software when I found an early version for my Psion 5MX. Since upgrading to an HP iPaq2750 I have been on the lookout for something that would play .abc format tunes, so I can take an aural reference with me to festivals. Enter Bryan Duggan again – with an updated version for pocket PC (pocket windows 2003+).

The software is easy to instal, and, once you pay the €10 registration fee (ten euros)you can then install a MIDI instruments package that lifts this software into a truly useful package. So you can play the tunes with a fiddle-like sound, and control the volume, and more importantly, the speed of play. That is, you can vary the speed without varying the pitch – so you can slow the tune down to learn it, then speed it up as you get more confident with the tune – or to hear it at session speed.

This will play any .abc tune, and runs very stably on the iPaq. So now I can go armed with literally thousands of tunes, and when I hear one I like at a session, I can retire from the fray and play it over a few times to get it stuck in my head and ready to play for real 🙂

TunePal on pocketPC

TunePal on pocketPC

As you can see from the screen shots above (the bulge is an artefact of the camera lens) the interface is simple, clear and easy to navigate. The only further development I would like to see is a means to display the tune as sheet music – but this has a big thumbs up from me – well done Bryan 🙂


The bodhran is an Irish frame drum. At the recent St Alban’s Festival I gave away my tipper (single double-headed stick) to the bodhran player in the band Mothers of Intention – I figured I would soon enough get around to turning another one.

Today I ventured out to my shed, selected a branch from our mulberry tree – which had died last year in the drought – and cut a suitable length. I mounted it between centres and roughed out the shape. Then I brought out the shape properly, using a spindle gouge, to shape the ends and a nice bead around one-third of the way from one end.

Then I removed the tool rest and sanded the piece and applied a little beeswax polish, before cutting the tipper free and giving a little touch of sandpaper and polish at the ends. And here is the result:

bodhran tipper

And here it is next to the bodhran 🙂

Walton bodhran with tipper

This should last quite a while!


This would have to have been one my more successful swap-meet scavenges… About 2 weeks ago I spotted a mandolin for sale at the Woden swap meet – but I was ina rush and didn’t try it out. This time the mando was back, so I sauntered up – casual like – so as not to seem overly interested, after all this was a flat back mandolin and I had tried a few AU$250 mandos in a couple of music shops, so I knew what I should expect for the money.

I picked it up and had a quiet pick at it hmmm – then I asked the bloke for a plectrum and went through a few chords – this was not a $250 mando – though that’s what he was asking for it, no, it sounded much better than that. After parting with AU$220 and ensuring the nicely-made case and a new set of strings came with it, I walked away with a Greg Bennett MA3 McCoy mandolin worth AU$469 – I think this might be just what my daughter Eve might be looking for 🙂

Greg Bennett mandolin