Illawarra Music Sessions

Illawarra Folk Club Inc.

established 1980

PO Box 5289
NSW, 2500



Concert and Festival
Enquiries: tel/fax: 1300 887 034

Concert Bookings


Sessions are a traditional form of socialising with the joy of music.

Many festivals have tune sessions but at times it is difficult to join in unless you know the tunes.

There are a number of opportunities to play traditional folk music in the Illawarra.

Opportunites to play traditional music in the Illawarra

  • 8pm Wednesdays - Wongawilli Community Hall for the Bush Dance (established in 1985), Sheet music is provided and it’s a good chance to be introduced to lots of tunes, including Australian ones, in an informal acoustic environment. Where is Wongawilli Community Hall
  • 'No Such Thing' Monday Night Australian Tune Session Yvonne O'Grady hosts an Australian tune session suitable for beginners every Monday in Kiama. Call Yvonne on 02 4233 1073 or email her at for more details.
  • Bluegrass Jam Session 3rd Saturday: Bluegrass Jam 7.30pm Thirroul Railway Institute Hall,Railway Parade Thirroul contact MARK BALLESI on 02 4267 5786  or  (Jam is on every month except November and January)

Some on-line tune resources for Australian tunes

There are some sample Australian dance tunes available from the net from the Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club website from the following links: - 32 tunes - 14 tunes

You can purchase some of the following collections from the Good Tunes website.

Australian Traditional Dance Tune Book, Volume 1

Over 185 set tunes, jigs, reels, polkas, marzurkas, waltzes, varsovianas, schottisches, hornpipes traditional Australian bush dances. This tunebook is part of a larger project by the Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club Inc. in its ongoing aim to present Australian traditional folk dance and music. The tunes are arranged in sets suitable for the suggested dances. These sets can also be used for other similiar structured dances in regards to numbers of bars and repetitions. The majority of the tunes used are authentic tunes collected from older dance musicians by folklorists since the early 1950s. Many thanks to the following collectors for sharing the music - John Meredith, Rob Willis, Alan Musgrove, Dave de Hugard, Mike Martin, Brad Tate, Chris Sullivan, Mark Rummery, Mark and Maria Schuster and Peter Ellis. Additional information also included on Australian instruments and dancing.

A Swag of Treasures - Australian Traditional Dance Tune Book, Volume 2 - 179 tunes

This is the second comprehensive collection of Australian dance tunes collected from various sources. The book is based upon Jane Brownlee and David De Santi's 2004 National Library Folk Festival Fellowship which allowed them to unearth over 50 new 'old' tunes. This book includes 179 set tunes, polkas, reels, jigs, mazurkas, waltzes, schottisches and varsovianas. Instructions for 20 bush dances have also been included and a large article by Peter Ellis on traditional music forms in Australia. 51 of the tunes have been recorded on a CD by Jane and David called by the same name and a subtitle - A Swag of Treasures.

Australian Dance Tunes for Fiddle - CD & Tune Book, played by Alan Musgrove, Jane Brownlee

A printed collection of 34 traditional Australian folk tunes with an accompanying CD. Tunes are from various traditional musicians and locations. CD music performed by Alan Musgrove and Jane Brownlee on fiddles with guitar, bass and drum accompaniment. The tunes are set out in sets for various dances including the Schottische, Polka, Waltz, Galopede, Jigs, Varsovienna, Reels and Quickstep. An authentic resource for bush bands.

A Queensland Selection – tunes and dance instructions

A publication compiled by Maria Zann and her husband Mark Schuster from Toowoomba, Qld. The 19 dances are a mixture of 19th and 20th century local dances with influences from the European ballroom, sequence dances and German folk dances. The 42 tunes are from button accordion players and include waltzes, mazurkas, schottisches, varsovianas and polkas.

Zumpa – sheet music for 63 Italian folk tunes

A collection of 63 traditional and popular folk songs and tunes from Italy and includes tarantellas, saltarellos and old tunes. It has been compiled by David De Santi whose parents are from Vallo Della Lucania in Campania. David plays piano accordion. The title of the collection is ‘Zumpà’ and it is a Neapolitan dialect word meaning mean ‘jump’. 50 pages.

A Collector's Songbook – Australian folk songs

A reprint of Alan Scott's collection of 31 traditional songs published by the Bush Music Club in 1970. Alan's original aim to share their songs is as sure as ever with his kind permission to reprint this book.

Bush Dance – Tunebook

Bush Dance consists of 165 dance tunes arranged in sets for 39 bush dances by David Johnson. Background notes provide valuable information on the origins and history of the tunes. The tunes were transcribed from field recordings of traditional bush musicians, learnt from contemporary traditional style players, gleaned from relevant researched published sources, and written more recently. Bush Dance was first published in 1984 and became established as a valuable source book for musicians interested in playing for bush dances. It has been through three editions and used in all states of Australia. The Monaro Folk Society use it currently as a basic repertoire for their beginning musicians. Published by the Bush Music Club 1984 A4 Perfect Bound 100pp. 2nd Ed 1987. 3rd Ed 1997.

Session hints

One of the best and most pleasurable ways of improving your playing is to participate in jam sessions.

This is not necessarily as simple as walking up to other musicians and playing along with them.

Common sense and courtesy will get you a long way.

  • Figure out if the session you are thinking of joining is an “open” session at which anyone is welcome, or a “closed” session where the participants want to play only with each other.
  • Tune types at sessions are generally traditional reels, jigs, polks, waltzes, mazurkas, hornpipes, set tunes, schottisches (in Australian sessions).
  • The instruments might include fiddles, flutes, whistles, uilleann pipes, concertinas, accordions, mandolins, banjos, a guitar or bouzouki, piano and bodhran.
  • Never play loudly into anyone’s ear. Especially if you are just a beginner, play along softly in the background until you are invited to lead a tune.
  • Bring in common denominator tunes rather than “jam busters” that no one has a clue how to play along with, unless the session is specifically dedicated to obscure tunes.
  • Be courteous and respectful to all musicians at the session regardless of their playing ability. Be appreciative of everyone’s contribution to the session and be generous with your help and encouragement.
  • All instruments are welcome at sessions but use discretion when bringing and playing what might be considered an esoteric instrument. Accompaniment instruments should allow the melody instruments to be clearly heard.
  • Always keep your instrument in tune. Try and play tunes in the original keys they are known in.
  • The session is where you are introduced to new tunes and techniques and is an opportunity for you to hone you skills and expand your repertoire. If you are unsure of a tune play softly, or refrain from playing, until you know it.
  • It is considered polite to wait until you are asked before playing a solo or singing a song. Respect the breaks between songs. This is an opportunity for the musicians to speak with each other.

Celtic Tunes