Session Tunebooks

When I first got interested in playing Irish and Scottish music, I did a search of the web and found a slew of tunebooks that people put together for their sessions. I started downloading them when ever I stumbled across one and, after awhile, found out that I had a pretty good collection of tunes in various PDF files. These did me pretty much no good until the iPad came out. Then, overnight, between the Goodreader app (for reading PDF files) and the Tunebook app (which displays ABC files as standard notation and PLAYS them!!), I was able to take volumes of music books with me wherever I went. To save you the hunting for these files, I'll post them here along with a link to the original site (if known).

Another reason for me posting these is as a second repository in case the original site vanishes. Even on the intertubes, nothing is really forever.

The Kingston Irish Tunebook. This tune book comes from the CCE Harp of Tara Chapter in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is a great collection of tunes, but where it really shines is that it gives Source and Background Info for EVERY tune! Some tunnes have just a line, some tunes have WAY more info. Such as, Julia Deleny was named Captain O'Neill's (of the O'Neill Collections) sister-in-law, "wife of uilleann piper Bernard ("Barney") Delaney. Julia was the sister of O'Neill's wife Anna, both hailing om Feakle, County Clare....O'Neill apparently greatly admired Bernard Delaney's music, and Barney had a job on the Chicago police force, courtesy of the Captain." I would download The Kingston Irish Tunebook for no other reason than to read these nuggets on the tunes.

The King Street Session Tunebook from Michael Long's web site. Weighing in at 1006 tunes and 406 pages long, this is the heavyweight champ of the group. This tunebook is used by the Santa Cruz slow session folks. I managed to get up to a few of their sessions in the past and was amazed to find that they are still adding sets of tunes to this book.

The Blarney Stone and The Blarney Stone 2 Session Tunebooks from Michael Eskin's site

The Field Session Tunebook. Another tunebook from Michael Eskin.

The Houston Area Tunebook from Eddie McCreary's site.

The King's Head Tunebook, The Mostly Celtic Songbook, and The Mostly Celtic Tunebook are all from the Americeltic website.

Updated March 2020. The new The Montreal Session Tunebook and the older The O'Reagan Session Tunebook. In 2015, Robin Beech contacted me and provided me with the link to the Montreal Session ABC files at their new site. I put the ABC files together and printed them out into the large Montreal Session PDF file listed above. (The O'Reagan's file is an older version of this.) The Montreal Session PDF is now five years old and looks like it may only contain about half of the 3,000 tunes Robin has listed on their site.

Update - Nov 2016. Tom Buchanan's Scottish Tome The story here is that I got an email out of the blue from Carl Allison telling me about his web site of ABC files (with PDFs and scans of source handwritten dots as well).

In Carl's words, "it represents a bit more than 10 months effort to reduce 650+ pages of hand-written scores into abc notation. It's a tad less than perfect and there have been some small updates as users spot errors between the scanned page and the abc notation. Unfortunately for me, there hasn't been enough circulation of the material to provide much feedback." So, have a look and offer feedback!

John Walsh's Session Tunes Book and The Pipers Club come from the Ceolas web site along with the Paddy O'Brien Sets and the Microphone Rambles Collection that was put together by Bernie Stocks. There are lots of other ABC collections on this site (or linked from it) as well.

Ryan's Mammoth Collection 1050 Reels and Jigs. Hornpipes, Clogs, Walk-arounds, Essences, Strathspays, Highland Flings, and Contra Dances, with Figures, and How to Play Them. I heard about this book and went looking for a copy and the net delivered. It was Published by Elias Howe in Boston in 1883 so it may be an early record of the "jump" of some of these tunes into the Old Time structure. There is a second PDF that contains an Index to Ryan's as well.

A Field Guid to Irish Music put together by Rosanne Santucci. This comes from her site at Besides the tunes, this PDF contains an introduction that goes over the different tune rhythms, scales, some notes for classical players who want to play trad, info on ornamentation, and some guitar chords and strumming patterns.

The Finbarr's Auld Irish Pub Tune Book was put together by John Sullivan. I got this from John's site at The tunes in this book are put together in sets.

Paul Hardy continues to do massive updates on his site. He updates these files regularly and makes all of these files available for download for free in various PFD formats as well as ABC files. You can also buy printed copies for £8.00 (about $11.00 US). You can also donate some cash to Paul to show your support of his efforts.
Paul Hardy Session Tunebook - 518 tunes
Paul Hardy Annex Tunebook - Additional tunes not in Session book
Paul Hardy Possible Tunebook - Additional tunes that MAY end up in Session book.
Paul Hardy Tunebook Cheat Sheet - Just the first couple of bars of the tunes in the Session, Annex, and Possible Books (plus a few more).
Paul Hardy Basic Tunebook - A subset of the simpler tunes from the Session book.
Paul Hardy Sets Tunebook - A few tunes from the Sessions book arranged in sets.
Paul Hardy Christmas Tunebook
Paul Hardy Theory Handout - A brief writeup on theory and nodes.

And, there is more to come.