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  The Complete Irish Fiddle Player

Book and 2 CDS The Complete irish Fiddle Player
Book/CD set

Tunes List
Sample Pages and Free Downloads

On-line Discography of Traditional Irish Fiddle music


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One of the best books that you can get your hands on.

- Joe Crane, Folk Roots

I would give it 10 stars out of 5. This is simply the best book purchase I have ever made... I learned the violin at 7 and stopped when I was 14. Now at 28 I decided to pick it up again... This is a superb instructional book (and make sure you buy the version with the CD).

- Ferbose Amazon Review

This 158-page book/double CD pack is a practical, step-by-step guide to Irish fiddle playing, with eighty superb traditional tunes arranged in sequence from the simple to the more complex - jigs, reels, polkas, hornpipes, slides, marches, highlands, slip-jigs, mazurkas, waltzes and slow airs. Cooper explains the bowing patterns that generate the compelling rhythms of Irish fiddle music, as well as the cuts, slides, rolls, trebles and other ornaments used by traditional players. Every tune is played note-for-note as written on the accompanying double CD. With over fifty photographs and illustrations, and a list of recommended albums, the book also provides a wealth of background information, anecdotes and Irish literary quotations about the music and its players. First published ten years ago, the ‘Complete Irish Fiddle Player’ remains a bestseller.

“The pace is just right
An excellent book that not only clearly explains what the music is about in good plain English but has loads of additional information that makes for a pleasant browse... Cooper writes in a friendly, informative way - you wouldn’t know he is being technical, but suddenly you are tackling tunes that other tutor books seem to demand too soon... The pace is just right. The production of the book is very attractive, with anecdotes and photographs which capture some of the magic of a good Irish session...         ...Of course the trainee fiddler has to do a lot of sitting and watching, and risk lungs and liver in smoky, boozy sessions, has to ask a lot of daft questions and practice for hours, preferably in a soundproof room.  Interaction with other players is very useful for picking brains and techniques. If you need written guidance, then this book is most useful and comprehensive and one of the best books that you can get your hands on both for the teacher and the pupil. By the way, who is Mel Bay?

- Joe Crane, Folk Roots

“takes the player through the different techniques required
‘You don’t have to be a fiddle player to find this book fascinating, you only need an interest in Irish music.  By the end of the book you will have a knowledge of an amazing variety of Irish fiddle playing and dance styles, their history and how they became part of Pete Cooper’s collection...
    ...Pete Cooper has a reputation for being an excellent fiddle teacher and it is easy to see why from the way he has arranged this book.  He takes the player through the different techniques required to play a particular style of tune, he explains easily the bowing variations and sets out clearly, different patterns and tune variations that the player might like to try.  Essentially Pete gives the fiddler all the information for the individual to play the tune in its traditional setting, while allowing space to develop the personal interpretation which makes the tune unique to the player.

The player is directed through the tune with explanations of how to add ornamentation to develop the style.  These helpful explanations are essential for the basic fiddler with no knowledge of how to use a slur or a roll to best advantage.  At the same time, for the fiddler who has an understanding of these techniques, Pete’s descriptions are not only interesting but do not get in the way of the individual’s interpretation of the tune.  For example at the beginning of Morrison’s Jig he explains that in the last bar of the A-part he has ‘connected three quavers with a broken (dotted) slur-mark.  This is to,indicate that the notes may be slurred but may be bowed separately.’

There are wonderful photographs of players and singers throughout the book and for an old folky they bring back many memories - an excellent collection.  My only problem was in searching for a fiddle player called Mel Bay before my dim brain realised that it was the name of the publisher!’

OML, Folk London, 1995

"The Complete Irish Fiddle Player by Pete Cooper is a treat! Too often, words such as "complete" are bandied about in the titles of so-called comprehensive works, but their shortcomings are often all too apparent. That's not the case with this one, however; Cooper has packed a wealth of music and information into this release from Mel Bay... Cooper's introduction begins with a brief definition of Irish music and a history of the form's evolution. He explains why Irish music is usually learned by ear... and describes the basic structure of the tunes, techniques for bowing, fingering positions, tempos and other idiosyncrasies of the Irish style...

The bulk of the book is, obviously, devoted to tunes, but Cooper doesn't settle for simply collecting sheet music in one volume. He divides tunes by style (jigs, hornpipes, reels, etc.) and describes methods for playing each. In the first section of jigs, for instance, he discusses basic bowing patterns. In the next section on reels, he gets into arm weight and finger rolls. Techniques and variations grow more complex and advanced as Cooper progresses through 19 chapters of music, comprising a total of 80 tunes. He also provides brief backgrounds on the tunes, providing a cultural context often overlooked in Irish music collections.

His narrative is smooth and easy to follow, making even difficult moves sound easy. It's easier still when you listen to the companion CD (actually, a two-CD set spanning 55 tracks), which gives practical examples of the style."

- Tom Knapp

Titles and Sample pages
Ace & Deuce of Pipering,  Another One of Paddy’s,  Ballydesmond Polkas 1, Ballydesmond Polkas 2,  Ballydesmond Polkas,  Bank Of Ireland,  Banshee, Beeswing,  Bill Sullivan's Polka,  Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine, Bonnie Kate, Brian Boru, Bryan O'Lynn, Butterfly, Charlie Lennon's, Con McGinley's, Connachtman’s Rambles, Cooley's Reel, Corn Rigs,  Cullen Slide, Cup of Tea, Din Tarrant's, Dr Gilbert's, Donegal Mazurka No 1, Donegal Mazurka No 2, Eddie Kelly's, Galway Hornpipe, Garrett Barry's, Gillan's Apples, Harvest Home, Jackie Tar, Jenny's Chickens, Jimmy Lyons', Julia Clifford's Polka, Jug of Punch, Kid On The Mountain, Lad O'Beirne's Reel, Lads Of Laois,  
Lark in the Morning,  Maid Behind The Bar, Martin Kirwans, McGlinchey's, Morning Dew, Morning Star, Morrison’s Jig,  Mullinavat, Musical Priest, My Darling Asleep,  O’Carolan’s Draught, Off To California, Old Joe's Jig, Paddy Clancy's Jig, Paddy Fahy’s (Pete Cooper’s), Paddy Ryan’s Dream,  Palm Trees Of Kerry, Pipe On The Hob, Polly Put The Kettle On, Reel of Mullinavat,  Rights Of Man,  Road To Lisdoonvarna, Rocky Road To Dublin, Salamanca,  Silver Spear, Sonny Brogan’s,  Sonny Brogan's Mazurka,  Star Above The Garter, Star Of The County Down, Tailor’s Twist, The Britches Full of Stitches, The Cup of Tea,  The Heart is True, The Irish Washerwoman,  
The Maid Behind The Bar,  The Merry Blacksmith, The Pipe on the Hob,  
The Rights of Man, The Teetotaller's Reel, The Walls of Liscarroll,  
The Wounded Hussar,  Tobin’s Jig, Tom Billy’s, Toormore,  Untitled Highland, Vincent Campbell’s,  Walls Of Liscarrol, Walsh's Fancy,  Wounded Hussar,

‘When I was first learning Irish tunes,’ writes Pete in his introduction to the book  - it was when he was living in south London in the mid-1970s - ‘a traditional fiddler, Sean McLaughlin, invited me to his house for whiskey, hot water and fiddle music.  His own playing was full of lift and enjoyment, while mine sounded very stilted.  "It’s all in the bowing, Pete," was Sean’s laconic explanation.  And so it is.  The alternation of weight and lightness, of strong and weak beats, is what dance fiddling is essentially about.  Watch a good fiddler’s bowing action and see how the arm’s weight bears down on the string, then lifts again, up and down in constant play with the force of gravity. The vertical dimension of the bowing is as much in evidence as the horizontal movement across the strings, resulting in a series of circles, scoops and ellipses, a free-flowing arabesque of wrist movements.

‘In this book,’
he continues, ‘it is the study of bowing patterns, step by step from the simple to the more complex, that dictates the sequence in which the tunes are given.  We’ll work at first on relatively simple examples of each of the main types of tune - jig, reel, polka, hornpipe etc, exploring further bowing possibilities later.  Do try to follow my bowings as exactly as possible.  It is not that they are the only ones possible. And indeed  any ‘rules’ are only provisional.  But learning these bowing patterns will in the long run increase rather than limit your freedom as a player.  To highlight its importance each new bowing pattern or technique is put in a ‘bowing box’.

The Complete Irish Fiddle Player includes tunes from the great Sligo players Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran, Sliabh Luachra fiddlers like Padraig O’Keefe, Julia Clifford and Dennis Murphy, Galway fiddlers including Paddy Fahy, Aggie Whyte and, particularly, Lucy Farr, and West Clare musicians Junior Crehan and Bobby Casey, as well as Donegal style players like John Doherty, Con McGinley, James Byrne, Vincent Campbell, Paddy Glackin and Tommy Peoples.

‘But,’ as Pete writes, ‘beyond a certain point the artistry and style of such players transcends regional labels.  And while there is something attractive about linking playing style to geographical area, great differences exist between individual players - and probably always have done - whatever their home. It’s hard to relate the playing of present-day fiddlers like Kevin Burke to any particular local style. And the broad church of Irish fiddle music includes players as diverse as Tommy Potts and Sean MacGuire...’

Writing of his tune settings, he says, ‘They are a reflection of my own playing style, of course. This in turn has been strongly influenced by the many players I have learned from and I have credited individual sources where it has seemed meaningful to do so.  A tuition package like this is really a compromise between the pedagogue’s desire for a logical musical system and the anarchic proliferation of a living tradition. The ‘system’ is intended to keep the frustrations of learning a complex skill within tolerable limits.... A course like this can only be a sort of springboard but my hope is that by the end you will feel confident to jump off and find your own way. See the On-line Discography of Traditional Irish Fiddle music ’

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