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FARNE Archive Search :: Search Tips


1. Try starting with a simple keyword search by typing a term in the entry box and pressing search. This will search through the text and keywords of all the records held in the archive.

2. If you have more of an idea what you're looking for try using our specific searches. This allows you to search by person , place , format , first line , or period . For example you may want to see all of the songs in the archive written by a certain composer, or perhaps you want to see items relating to specific place in the region.

3. The advanced search facility allows you to combine these specific searches. This allows you to broaden or narrow your search as desired. Use one or all of the options to create your search. For example you may want to see all jigs, in 9/8 time, written between 1660-1700. Or you may want to hear all sound recordings, made before 1950.

You could also use the search to find all music about a particular place (nb. this option will only find music ‘about’ a place, e.g. Hexham Races, and does not refer to the geographical origins of tunes or songs.)

4. Alternatively you may not have a clear idea of what you are searching for. Perhaps you'd simply like to browse the archives . This search allows you to browse by collection , theme or keyword . Here you can page through the archive's collections from start to finish or select material from one of the local themes (e.g. industry, war, river and sea etc.). Or if you'd like to be more specific use our keywords to find songs on any subject you could imagine.

5. If you have trouble finding what you are looking for try an alternate spelling. Many of the items in the Archive contain local dialect which can vary depending on the age and origin of the item. This may effect your search results. For example using a First Line Search to find the local song the Keel Row, many people would naturally enter:

'As I came through Sandgate'.

However the spelling of this line can vary from version to version and is often written as:

'As I cam' thro' Sandgate'

Try various spellings when using free text searches such as this for the best results. Try not to limit your results by being too specific and entering long lines of text as this will only reduce the chances of finding an exact match.

6. Gore's Index

Try using our indexing system to search for a familiar tune. Where possible tunes in the archive have been indexed using the Gore's index. This search will be especially useful to those who have heard a tune and wish to find the notation. The index is explained more fully below.

There are many ways of classifying and indexing tunes by means of codes, and all have their advantages and disadvantages. If the code is too detailed it may not provide a match for two versions of the same tune, while if it is too vague it will give matches with tunes which on examination are quite different.

The codes here use the system described in Charles Gore's 'The Scottish Fiddle Music Index' (The Amaising Publishing House Ltd, Musselburgh, 1994), which is in turn based on the work of the great Irish music scholar Breandán Breathnach. Gore's Index has itself been useful in writing the commentaries to the tunes on the FARNE website, by providing titles for untitled tunes, identifying composers, and also in showing when a tune is NOT in one of the many publications listed by Gore.

Before going into detail about how to work out a theme code, hum the first bars of The Keel Row to yourself and see if the following makes any sense:

3142 3125L. If it does, you are more than halfway there. Now for the details.

The two main factors in establishing theme codes are PITCH and RHYTHM.


The system is based on a simple numerical code which does not depend on the key of the tune, so that versions of the same tune in different keys will have the same code. For doh, re, mi etc. substitute the numbers 1, 2, 3 up to to 7. The top doh becomes 1H (H for high), and higher notes still are 2H, 3H etc. For notes below the MAIN OCTAVE we use 7L, 6L etc (L for low). A higher octave than H is represented by T, and a lower octave than L by F - both are very rare in traditional tunes.

The main octave is probably easiest for fiddlers to understand - it is the highest octave in the relevant key which can be played in first position. For tunes in C major, C minor or C# minor for example, 1 is third finger on the G-string and 1H is second finger on the A-string. For tunes in Bb major or B minor, 1 is first finger on the A-string and 1H is fourth finger on the E-string.
For non-fiddlers, the main octaves of each scale start on middle C (first leger line below treble-clef stave) for tunes in C, on D above middle C for tunes in D, and so on to Bb and B.

The numbers 1 to 7 refer to the notes in the Major scale, or Ionian mode (see the section on MODES for more information). If our tune is in A minor, for instance, the 3rd note is C natural rather than the C# of the major scale, so the pair of notes A C is represented by 13b, the b representing the flat sign. The G natural below our main octave is 7bL - G# would be 7L. F natural would be 6b, F# would be 6. If our A minor tune has an exotic D# in the main octave it would be 4#, and so on.

Zero is used when a rest falls on a main beat, and is more common in song tunes than instrumental tunes.

Occasionally when the same tune is found in different keys the theme code will be different because of the registers involved. When this is known to be the case then two versions of the code are given. Key signature is not a reliable way to find the keynote, or 1, of a tune, if the tune is in a mode other than Ionian and Aeolian ('standard' major and 'natural' minor). The keynote must be found through playing the tune or hearing it in ones head. Although often a tune starts and ends on its keynote,
this also is not a safe guide, particularly with pipe tunes whose strains frequently end 'up in the air'. Although many tunes are described 'double tonic' this usually only means that they are built on two chords, one of which is definitely felt as the 'home'
chord, but a few tunes are ambiguous, and with these two versions of the theme code are given.


The codes are based on the main beats of the first two or four bars of the tune and consist of two groups of either four or three numbers. The notes between the main beats are not counted. If a note takes up more than one beat (e.g. a minim or a dotted crotchet in a 4/4 bar) then it also provides the number for the next beat. Note that some rhythms (3/8, 6/4, 3/2, 9/4) are
interpreted differently by Gore, so if using his Index this must be allowed for.

If the tune is in 4/4 or 2/2 then the bar is divided into four and the note which falls on each beat is given a number, as in our Keel Row example. Two bars are numbered. If it is in 2/4 then each bar has two beats, so four bars are numbered to give the two groups. 6/8 is treated like 2/4 with two beats per bar: the first note of each quaver triplet, dotted crotchet or other half-bar group is numbered and four bars are numbered to give the two groups. One bar of 12/8 counts as two 6/8 bars and gives four numbers. 6/4 is an older way of spelling 6/8 and is treated in the same way as 6/8, two beats ber bar, though beware of incorrect time signatures - sometimes 6/4 is mistakenly written for 3/2 which is treated differently, see below.

These are used for 3/2, 3/4, 3/8, 9/8 and 9/4 rhythms. In each case the bar is divided into three to find the numbers of the notes which begin each beat. The advantage in using the same division for all tunes in 3/2, 3/4 and 3/8 is that matches will be found whether a waltz is written in 3/8 or 3/4 and whether a triple-time hornpipe is written in 3/4 or 3/2.

If a reel or hornpipe is written in 2/4 (mainly semiquavers) rather than 2/2 or 4/4 (mainly quavers) then it will have a different theme code. When tunes are known to have more than one rhythmic spelling then both codes are given.

7. Suggested Corrections

You may notice that many of the tune records in the archive contain 'Suggested Corrections'. This has been used to alert users to possible changes that would improve the playing of the tune.

The corrections are a simple sequence of numbers and dashes used to identify a note or group of notes in a tune, e.g. 2/4/6.

The number before the first dash identifies which strain of the tune we are concerned with. Strains (often called Parts) are usually separated from each other by double bars and/or repeat marks. They are usually but not always four, eight or sixteen bars long. The majority of tunes have only two strains, but you'll need to do some counting in some of the longer variation sets.

The number between the two dashes identifies which bar of the strain we are concerned with. Occasionally this number is zero - 0. This is when it refers to an upbeat or anacrusis, a metrically incomplete bar at the start of a strain.

The number after the second dash identifies which note of the bar we are concerned with, counting all the notes as equal regardless of their rhythmic value.

The letter following the number sequence is the Note which is the suggested correction. Only capital letters are used, and they refer to the note of that name NEAREST IN PITCH to the note to be corrected, unless otherwise stated.

Sometimes longer permutations involving commas and/or dashes are used:

2/4,8/6 - the same correction for note 6 in bars 4 and 8 (only) of strain 2.

Example 1:
2-5/4/6 - the same correction for note 6 in bar 4 of strains 2 to 5 inclusive.
Example 2:
2/4/6-8 - an inclusive sequence of three notes (6, 7 and 8) in bar 4 of strain
2. The correction might read A-B-C# for example.




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FARNE Folk Archive Resource North East