PRACTICE TIP FRIDAY: Listening for Repetition

“You want to be a sean-nos dancer?   Just dance the tune!” -Anonymous Dancer, Miltown Malbay

In an ideal world, all sean-nos dancers would grow up in the following manner:  Irish music present from day 1 and the only musical experience, and as they unconsciously absorb the nuance of traditional tunes and ornamentation they develop an inherent need to express the particular character articulated in each tune with their feet through rhythm. 

This isn’t the case for most of us.  But the good news is that you can easily develop an ear for the nuances that make each tune unique through active and critical listening

You want to make sure to keep critical listening tasks manageable. Don't try to bite off too much at once. And so...

This week's challenge: Listen for 3 different kinds of repetition: 


First, identify part (8-bar) repetitions.

Ask: Do the parts (8 bar melodies) repeat?

In Irish music speak: Is it a single or a double?

In the Connachtman’s Rambles, the 8 bar segments repeat in an AABB pattern.  It is double. 

Next, identify repetition within the parts.

Ask: Does anything repeat within the 8 bars?  What is it, how long does it last, and how many times does it repeat?

In Connachtman’s Rambles, the opening phrase happens every 2 bars.  This happens 3 times and then there is a 2 bar ending phrase.  

Finally, identify repetition across the parts.

Ask: Does the A part sound, in rhythm or melody, like the B part?   

In the Connachtman’s Rambles, the B part echoes the A in the melodic structure:  in each set of 3 notes, one note is followed by 2 repeating notes.    

A part: F-A-A D-A-A

B part: F-B-B F-A-A 

This keeps the groove and the rhythm the same.    


Note: If you find listening and identifying difficult, print out the sheet music or the ABCs from the   Looking at the visual structure of the tune can help demystify the tune structure.  

Some other great classic tunes that are hellarepetitive, and great for this exercise!

  • Humors of Tulla
  • Silver Spear
  • Come West Along the Road
  • Kesh. Jig 
  • Lilting Banshee