- MadforTrad Irish Music CD-ROM Tutorials
This series of CD-ROMs produced by MadforTrad is a welcome addition to the growing market of "learn at home" Irish traditional music and dance tutorials. Taken individually, each disc offers a user-friendly, hands-on approach to learning an instrument with a focus on both beginning and advanced techniques and repertoire. When viewed as a whole, the series offers a remarkable window into the world of Irish traditional music through its clearly laid out juxtaposition of text, photographs, notation, video clips, and digital audio. Each disc features a virtuoso Irish traditional musician who is filmed demonstrating his or her instrument with many excellent close up shots of fingers in action. The producers of the series and some of the musicians are Cork based players who were involved in the traditional music groups Nomos and Four Men and a Dog.
One of the many strengths of this series is its carefully thought out structure that makes sections of each disc easy to access and work with. The individual discs adhere to a uniform format that is reflected in everything from cover photograph to content, context, and teaching methodology. Many of the same tunes are played on different discs, so it is easy to compare ornaments and playing techniques by listening to the same tune played on a different instrument. This uniformity of design provides clearly delineated guideposts that become easily familiar over time, while at the same time highlighting the unique characteristics of each instrument and musician.
Of the eleven available CD-ROMs, eight demonstrate melody instruments while three demonstrate accompanying instruments. The musicians (with their group affiliations) are, for the melody instruments: Cathal Hayden (Four Men and a Dog) on fiddle, Seamus Egan (Solas) on flute, Gerry O'Connor (Four Men and a Dog) on tenor banjo, Brian Finnegan (Flook) on tin whistle, Niall Vallely (Nomos) on concertina, Derek Hickey (De Dannan) on button accordion, Seán Potts on uilleann pipes, and Karen Tweed on piano accordion; for the accompanying instruments: Gerry McKee (Nomos) on bouzouki, John Doyle (Solas and The Eileen Ivers Band) on guitar, and Frank Torpey (Nomos) on bodhrán.
I will focus on the tutorial for one particular instrument, the tin whistle, in order to discuss the common elements found on each disc. [End Page 445]
The Tin Whistle tutorial features Brian Finnegan, a young flute and whistle player from Armagh who plays with the Anglo-Irish group Flook. Finnegan's photograph appears as a small insert on the back cover, while the front cover features a photograph of a section of a tin whistle. The CD-ROM opens to a homepage that gives instructions about using the different sections of the disc along with the generic headings that include "About," "Beginners," "Advanced," and "Tutor." By starting with the "About" section, the student is given a concise and clear introduction to notation, the parts of the instrument, and how to hold the whistle. The text about reading music starts at the very beginning by introducing clefs, the staff, pitches, and note values, and utilizes notated examples, a visual reproduction of a keyboard, and a clapping exercise. It proceeds to a discussion of rhythm and meter, followed by major and minor scales, including details about intervals and accidentals. The Notes section introduces the student to the fingering of pitches on the tin whistle and discusses articulation.
The "Beginners" tutorial introduces students to repertoire; each tune includes text, notation, audio, and video. The opening section, "Airs in D" begins with a...