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Music for a Found Harmonium (Sharon Shannon version)

Posted by Tom Hanway on Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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In a BHO thread, Mark from Ohio wrote: “I know it's done but is there a place on this site to learn the basics? I like Irish tenor songs but would like to mess around with it.”

Hey, Mark, and folks who are in the same boat ... I'm here to help posters who "would like to mess around with it" and learn the basics. Okay, one can start anywhere, but it's a steep learning curve, to be sure.  

This tune I'm blogging about works on both tenor and 5-string banjo. Bear in mind that one must have "beginner's mind" to get anywhere with this music, and it's a never-ending learning process. So, just hang in there, my friend. 

Okay, not for purists, haha: I’d like to explore in greater detail one of the more curious tunes that is loved and loathed in Irish trad these days. Of course, wherever you have people you have politics, and there’s no accounting for taste, especially other people’s bad taste in music.

In Ireland and in the States, I know tune players who love to stretch out on ‘Music for a Found Harmonium’, as well as others who flat-out refuse to play this tune; go figure?  It's a lovely tune, and it's great for the stage or to wind down a session, leaving audiences wanting more.... wink

I’ve played and transcribed this tunes lots of different ways over the years, and I have two main templates for it, one in the key of C and one in D (shared here), also a complete harmony part, which I’ll skip over for the time being. I posted a tab for this earlier, and I’ll re-post that below.  It’s also in the Tab Archive, under ‘Music for a Found Harmonium (Shannon version)’.

First, here is a template that a lot of trad – especially box players – tend to use, though it’s almost always played in the session-friendly key of D, based on Sharon adaptation of the tune, Sharon Shannon - Music for a Found Harmonium [Audio Stream] (here in Eb). Banjo players who enjoy playing trebles and stuttered triplets will have fun with this one. (I play it on the 5-string in Celtic fingerstyle, but that’s my choice.)

Second, here is an oft-copied version that one hears at trad sessions across Ireland and wherever Irish trad is played for the punters and tourists, Patrick Street - Music for a Found Harmonium.

Third, here’s a restrained live version that is worth a careful listen, Patrick Street - Music for a Found Harmonium TG4. (Tune backers: Please notice what Andy is doing here.)

Fourth, here is an early original version that needs to be appreciated, played by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Music for a Found Harmonium. (I had previously submitted two tabs for the BHO Tab Archive.)

Fifth, here is a very pleasant live version by The Orchestra That Fell to Earth (former members of PCO):  Music for a Found Harmonium.

Last, here’s  a manic live (a little rough around the edges) version with Galician piping by Carlos Núñez Muñoz, hailed as the “Hendrix of the bagpipes” from the Celtic Diaspora, Carlos Núñez - Music For a Found Harmonium (En concierto) (2000). (Isn’t the Gaita galega a gas instrument?)

And finally, the main reason for this blog: Here’s a session-friendly version (key of D) in both standard notation (4-string) and tab (5-string), based on Sharon’s heavily trebled version in Eb. 

MUSIC FOR A FOUND HARMONIUM (based on Sharon Shannon’s version on the box) STANDARD


(I have also  arranged in the key of C, closely based on the original PCO recording, but that’s not what’s heard at trad sessions, at least not in Ireland, so I won’t confuse folks with that syncopated rendition here, as fun as it is. If anyone wants it, please message me privately – no problem forwarding it on. I might put it up in the Tab Archive at some stage, even though it’s in standard.)


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