Book Review : Impressive new tuition book from Shannon Heaton, that aims to keep it simple.

Boston musician Shannon Heaton has just released a new tuition book of traditional Irish tunes, with accompanying audios, in both digital E-Book and hard copy format. She is joined by fiddlers Armand Aromin, Hanneke Cassel, Nathan Gourley, George Keith and Ellery Klein as each tune is arranged for flute and fiddle, which is an interesting approach. There are a lot of tune books available these days, and most people will have a healthy selection on their bookshelf. This collection however has overcome a few of the common problems that exist with most tutors.  

Firstly Shannon and her fellow musicians have arranged the tunes for both fiddle and flute, thereby broadening the appeal. Secondly the tunes are relatively simple to play, but sound great. Shannon says that there is a “world of music in them” and this in a way adds to the appeal. If you are starting out, or even at intermediate level this helps, because there is a natural, easy flow to most of the tunes, and this is critical in building your confidence. Having said that, there are a few session standards like Maud Miller and The Boys of Ballisodare included, with a sprinkling of lesser known tunes.

The other big plus is the audio tracks. The tunes are played twice round and in sets of two, most of the time. This is a critical factor, as it give you time to press play, and get a good 2-3 minutes of practise on each pair of tunes. Most tutors miss this point preferring a single run through the tune.  In addition the pace is perfect for playing along and the mp3’s sound more natural than most tutors.

Shannon explained the book's mission: "If you're trying to balance on one foot, learning to stand firmly on both feet first can help. And if you're trying to play ornate, complicated Irish tunes beautifully, learning to play simple tunes with rhythmic surety is vital. With First 50's thoughtful fiddle bowings and flute breaths/articulation ideas, players learn just how to find that unwavering base. The accompanying flute and fiddle duet recordings are offered with little to no ornamentation at a moderate pace,” which Heaton admits was "a challenge, because ornamentation is, in fact, another essential element of Irish style. But the mission of this project was to show how mindful breaths and bowings can provide a satisfying foundation that poorly executed ornamentation can obscure."

First 50 is priced at $17 for E-Book and mp3’s, and $30 for Book and CD, which is pretty much in line with comparable products.

To provide some insight we provide a sample audio and the sheet music for two tunes. Try it out.


Download at

To sheet music is available on the links below.

Sheet Music : Bold Doherty

Sheet Music : When The Cock Crows it is Day