Productive we so far; we got the last of Leannan Sidhe’s major guitar recording down in the lair. Still a few drop-ins to do, and fixes, but the heavy lifting in guitar is over. Yay!

Today, I’m busy building out melody parts for the Free Court of Seattle soundtrack album. I made learning tracks for the traditional music a couple of weeks ago, for the other musicians appearing on the album, but the fight scene set is really difficult to understand, so…

…I might explain what a learning track is. And a set, for that matter.

Okay! So, the basic element of Irish music is the “tune.” It’s a melody, typically in repeating parts (A/B, often A/B/C, sometimes A/B/C/D or more) which may and may not have basic chord and/or drum accompaniment. The melody is the defining element of the tune; the rest is optional. Here’s an example tune:

A set is simply a collection of tunes arranged together into a longer piece. As in hiphop, flow is critical, tho’ instead of lyric flow it’s melodic flow. These were historically performed in participatory playing circles, at pubs, in sessions. Those tend to look a bit like this:

The learning tracks I’ve been working on are rough mockups of some of the sets which will be appearing on the Free Court of Seattle book series soundtrack. (The link is to Book 1 on Amazon; also in print, B&N/Nook, and Kobo). You build learning tracks by taking other peoples’ performances and editing them together into a single recording that can be studied and learned from.

Most of the sets for this album are traditional; that’s intentional, being the music that informs the early parts of the book series. But for one set – for a conflict scene involving kitsune, a dragon, Our Heroes, and so on – we’re bringing in some Japanese traditional music.

To make this melding work, I’ve written a variation on one of the Irish standards as a bridging piece, and am not so much building a set as arranging the elements like one would for an orchestral piece. It’s… complicated.

And since some of this has never been recorded by anyone – my March towards Lisdoonvarna, mostly – the current learning track is a hideous mashup of flute and taiko, bagpipes and accordion, and me whistling something nobody’s heard before into a microphone.

Worst. Learning track. Evar. It’s totally incoherent.

So I’m currently learning all of these parts the hard way, and playing them on bouzouki. Once it’s all on the same instrument, it makes a lot more sense. But I’m not traditionally a big melody player on strings, which means I’m learning! new! skills! and means it’s taking for-bloody-evar.

But it’ll be cool.

Finally, a reminder from the Guild: don’t let the supervillain get bored. All CDs are on sale, so give them to friends and rivals, frenemies and nemeses, and help spread the rage. Besides, we need the money to record our new music. We can steal everything but time, and it’s just plain faster sometimes to buy things, you know? I mean honestly, who wants to spend time planning the grand supertheft of a breakfast bagel? I have better things to do. Or worse. Muah ha ha.