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Another "chords in ITM" question.


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#1 Dan A

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 11:15 AM

Hi guys.

I've been playing concertina for about a year and a half now, and I have more or less begun to develop a style. For better or worse, that style has a pretty fair amount of chords and harmony notes. There are lots of players - the majority, I'd say - who play less of that stuff than I do, and I'm okay with that. I've also never particularly accepted the "concertina ITM should have no chords, if you want regs play the pipes" argument either; older players played their octaves and chords too (Ella Mae o'Dwyer and John Kelly have been big influences on me). But I do want to ask the question, more or less - how much is too much?

I've linked to a sound clip of myself playing an old march, with what I would call my standard amounts of chording and ornamentation. Is it too harmony-heavy? I've only played out at one session yet, and never with other concertina players except among friends. If I walked into your average session and started playing...would I get a lashing for being *that* concertina player? Or is this still a fairly acceptable quantity of honking?

Opening up a can of worms? Well, yeah, probably. But may as well get the criticism out of the way now and start the reforms if needs be!

Thanks,
Dan

http://www.box.net/s...uzozmr00j2lkzvs (sorry it's a .wma!)

#2 Rod

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 11:38 AM

Hi guys.

I've been playing concertina for about a year and a half now, and I have more or less begun to develop a style. For better or worse, that style has a pretty fair amount of chords and harmony notes. There are lots of players - the majority, I'd say - who play less of that stuff than I do, and I'm okay with that. I've also never particularly accepted the "concertina ITM should have no chords, if you want regs play the pipes" argument either; older players played their octaves and chords too (Ella Mae o'Dwyer and John Kelly have been big influences on me). But I do want to ask the question, more or less - how much is too much?

I've linked to a sound clip of myself playing an old march, with what I would call my standard amounts of chording and ornamentation. Is it too harmony-heavy? I've only played out at one session yet, and never with other concertina players except among friends. If I walked into your average session and started playing...would I get a lashing for being *that* concertina player? Or is this still a fairly acceptable quantity of honking?

Opening up a can of worms? Well, yeah, probably. But may as well get the criticism out of the way now and start the reforms if needs be!

Thanks,
Dan

http://www.box.net/s...uzozmr00j2lkzvs (sorry it's a .wma!)


Stick to your own style, lead the way, follow your own path and play for your own satisfaction.

#3 michael sam wild

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 11:52 AM

I enjoyed that , it had echoes of double stopping, have you played fiddle before this?. Your rhythm and phrasing were fine for the march.. In English music you'd be deemed sparing with the chords! but , as Dan Worrall has researched , there were a lot more similarities between old style players in England and Ireland , octaves and chords wrere more common when you wanted to make more noise for dancers without a group of musicians.

Before they tried to play with fiddles and flutes in D and G and A a lot of concertina players would play a C/G in C as in England so chord accompaniments were easier .. I've never subscribed to the idea that chords are alien to ITM, church chants , harps and pipes used chords, drones and harmonies and there is written evidence of 'Celts' singing in parts in Geraldus Cambrensis in the 13th C.

Edited by michael sam wild, 05 August 2011 - 11:54 AM.


#4 Tootler

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 05:14 PM

Leo recently posted a link to this video of Edel Fox playing a set of reels.

http://www.youtube.c...jm9khMa4&fmt=18

If you listen, she's playing quite a lot of chords both for emphasis and at times to support the rhythm.

#5 eskin

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 10:29 PM

I think the "how much is too much" really depends on the context. In a session, if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords. I tend more toward the Uilleann pipes regulator type of chords on the anglo, both because I also play the pipes and because my mentor is Noel Hill, who uses a lot of regulator type playing in his style and I've learned some of his tricks of the trade.

I think it's useful to have the flexibility to play with chords, but have run into players who aren't able to <not> play the chords, they play note perfect, fixed and very thick arrangements of tunes. In my opinion, this often times just don't work in the context of a session where there is a backup player, or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs.

So it all depends on the context. If you're just playing alone, it's lovely to throw the kitchen sink at the tune and build up a story line building from sparse to thick harmonies, but if you're playing in sessions like I do, it's worth developing the skill to adapt based on the instruments you're playing with.

Edited by eskin, 05 August 2011 - 10:44 PM.


#6 michael sam wild

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 05:34 AM

I play in sessions with guitar or bouzouki players and piperes so I keep chords sparing and miss out thirds as so many tunes stray across standard keys.

When I went to a M o'R (can't spell it!) concert in Otley (Yorks) after Swaledale Squeeze he held us all evening as a solo player and use lots of chords to add texture and depth. as Edel did later at Headingley , Leeds when she appeared with the Knae sisters on fiddle. . Noone wants the concertibna to sound like pipes but the pipes where a very significant influence as the Anglo came into Irish music.

#7 eskin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 09:54 AM

I play in sessions with guitar or bouzouki players and piperes so I keep chords sparing and miss out thirds as so many tunes stray across standard keys.

When I went to a M o'R (can't spell it!) concert in Otley (Yorks) after Swaledale Squeeze he held us all evening as a solo player and use lots of chords to add texture and depth. as Edel did later at Headingley , Leeds when she appeared with the Knae sisters on fiddle. . Noone wants the concertibna to sound like pipes but the pipes where a very significant influence as the Anglo came into Irish music.


Noone? Really? Have you taken a survey? :-)

#8 jileha

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 04:59 PM

I think the "how much is too much" really depends on the context. In a session, if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords. I tend more toward the Uilleann pipes regulator type of chords on the anglo, both because I also play the pipes and because my mentor is Noel Hill, who uses a lot of regulator type playing in his style and I've learned some of his tricks of the trade.

I think it's useful to have the flexibility to play with chords, but have run into players who aren't able to <not> play the chords, they play note perfect, fixed and very thick arrangements of tunes. In my opinion, this often times just don't work in the context of a session where there is a backup player, or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs.

So it all depends on the context. If you're just playing alone, it's lovely to throw the kitchen sink at the tune and build up a story line building from sparse to thick harmonies, but if you're playing in sessions like I do, it's worth developing the skill to adapt based on the instruments you're playing with.


Accompanists are called acconpanists because they accompany the melody instruments. Any decent accompanist should be able to identify the chords being played by a concertina or button accordion player, particularly as the chords available to them are not that many or that complex (usually just fifths) to confuse them. And this is what I've got from an All Ireland Concetina Champion when I asked him if/how to use chords in a session. If there are several regular melody players playing chords at a given session, they might have to coordinate to some extent, but again, the chording options for those (cocnertina, button accordion, pipes) are fairly limited, so I don't think there would be too many problems.

If one would take your opinion to the extreme, fiddle players wouldn't be allowed to play double stops, because they might clash with accompanists or other melody players...

In my opinion, chording on the concertina adds (as well as the use of the bases on button accordion) a lot of rhythmic umph to a session and variation to the tunes. And based on what I have heard from session members as well as listeners, I'm not alone with that opinion.

#9 eskin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 06:12 PM

I think the "how much is too much" really depends on the context. In a session, if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords. I tend more toward the Uilleann pipes regulator type of chords on the anglo, both because I also play the pipes and because my mentor is Noel Hill, who uses a lot of regulator type playing in his style and I've learned some of his tricks of the trade.

I think it's useful to have the flexibility to play with chords, but have run into players who aren't able to <not> play the chords, they play note perfect, fixed and very thick arrangements of tunes. In my opinion, this often times just don't work in the context of a session where there is a backup player, or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs.

So it all depends on the context. If you're just playing alone, it's lovely to throw the kitchen sink at the tune and build up a story line building from sparse to thick harmonies, but if you're playing in sessions like I do, it's worth developing the skill to adapt based on the instruments you're playing with.


Accompanists are called acconpanists because they accompany the melody instruments. Any decent accompanist should be able to identify the chords being played by a concertina or button accordion player, particularly as the chords available to them are not that many or that complex (usually just fifths) to confuse them. And this is what I've got from an All Ireland Concetina Champion when I asked him if/how to use chords in a session. If there are several regular melody players playing chords at a given session, they might have to coordinate to some extent, but again, the chording options for those (cocnertina, button accordion, pipes) are fairly limited, so I don't think there would be too many problems.

If one would take your opinion to the extreme, fiddle players wouldn't be allowed to play double stops, because they might clash with accompanists or other melody players...

In my opinion, chording on the concertina adds (as well as the use of the bases on button accordion) a lot of rhythmic umph to a session and variation to the tunes. And based on what I have heard from session members as well as listeners, I'm not alone with that opinion.


I don't disagree with anything you wrote. The player of any instrument that is capable of chords has to have the skill and responsibility to be able to adapt to the situation at hand. Yes, limiting the chords to open fifths can help reduce the chances of clashing, but for example, if you have a guitar player doing substitutions or chord scales, they may or may not clash with a concertina player who is playing full chords with the thirds in them. Then there is the often push-pull dictated rhythms on the concertina with off beat chords that may clash rhythmically with a backup player. Again, its all about listening and adapting.

We actually agree here completely about the fantastic lift the use of tasteful harmony and basses can provide in the hands of a skilled and responsible player.

Edited by eskin, 06 August 2011 - 07:03 PM.


#10 eskin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 06:22 PM

I think the "how much is too much" really depends on the context. In a session, if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords. I tend more toward the Uilleann pipes regulator type of chords on the anglo, both because I also play the pipes and because my mentor is Noel Hill, who uses a lot of regulator type playing in his style and I've learned some of his tricks of the trade.

I think it's useful to have the flexibility to play with chords, but have run into players who aren't able to <not> play the chords, they play note perfect, fixed and very thick arrangements of tunes. In my opinion, this often times just don't work in the context of a session where there is a backup player, or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs.

So it all depends on the context. If you're just playing alone, it's lovely to throw the kitchen sink at the tune and build up a story line building from sparse to thick harmonies, but if you're playing in sessions like I do, it's worth developing the skill to adapt based on the instruments you're playing with.


Accompanists are called acconpanists because they accompany the melody instruments. Any decent accompanist should be able to identify the chords being played by a concertina or button accordion player, particularly as the chords available to them are not that many or that complex (usually just fifths) to confuse them. And this is what I've got from an All Ireland Concetina Champion when I asked him if/how to use chords in a session. If there are several regular melody players playing chords at a given session, they might have to coordinate to some extent, but again, the chording options for those (cocnertina, button accordion, pipes) are fairly limited, so I don't think there would be too many problems.

If one would take your opinion to the extreme, fiddle players wouldn't be allowed to play double stops, because they might clash with accompanists or other melody players...

In my opinion, chording on the concertina adds (as well as the use of the bases on button accordion) a lot of rhythmic umph to a session and variation to the tunes. And based on what I have heard from session members as well as listeners, I'm not alone with that opinion.


I don't disagree with anything you wrote. The player of any instrument that is capable of chords has to have the skill and responsibility to be able to adapt to the situation at hand. Yes, limiting the chords to open fifths can help reduce the chances of clashing, but for example, if you have a guitar player doing substitutions or chord scales, they may or may not clash with a concertina player who is playing full chords with the thirds in them. Then there is the often push-pull dictated rhythms on the concertina with off beat chords that may clash rhythmically with a backup player. Again, its all about listening and adapting.

We actually agree here completely about the fantastic lift the use of tasteful harmony and basses can provide in the hands of a skilled and responsible player.


Edited by eskin, 06 August 2011 - 06:57 PM.


#11 jileha

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 06:37 PM

I'm not sure why you're taking such a defensive and somewhat dismissive tone. We actually agree here completely about the fantastic lift the use of tasteful harmony and bases can provide in the hands of a skilled and responsible player.


I guess because you seem to imply that a concertina player has to give way, so to speak, to everybody else ("if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords") and must not dare to interfere with a piper ("or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs"). :P
If I start a set, I think everybody should try to adapt as much as possible to what I'm playing, be it accompanist, piper or player of other instruments. That, of course, implies that I'm not going way overboard in any way that I know would make it difficult for the others. But the choice of chords, I would think, is mine.

#12 eskin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 07:11 PM


I'm not sure why you're taking such a defensive and somewhat dismissive tone. We actually agree here completely about the fantastic lift the use of tasteful harmony and bases can provide in the hands of a skilled and responsible player.


I guess because you seem to imply that a concertina player has to give way, so to speak, to everybody else ("if there is a backup guitar/bouzouki player, I leave out all my chords, or if I know the backup player and where he/she's going, I'll coordinate my playing to match their chords") and must not dare to interfere with a piper ("or even a piper who might have his/her own ideas of harmony using the regs"). :P
If I start a set, I think everybody should try to adapt as much as possible to what I'm playing, be it accompanist, piper or player of other instruments. That, of course, implies that I'm not going way overboard in any way that I know would make it difficult for the others. But the choice of chords, I would think, is mine.


I do think that in a session with a skilled backup player, you should let them do backup and dial back on the concertina/regulators chords. Now in your case, you play with the same guitar player nearly every week, and I'm guessing he's becoming familiar with your arrangements, so it works because it's more or less a band situation. Go to another session with another backup player or concertina player who also plays harmonies and it may not work out so well. :-)

Edited by eskin, 06 August 2011 - 07:12 PM.


#13 jileha

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 07:54 PM

I do think that in a session with a skilled backup player, you should let them do backup and dial back on the concertina/regulators chords.


I don't see the chords on concertina that much as backup. They often have a more rhythmic than "chordic" quality and work as some kind of rhythmic counterpoint to the rhythm of the backup player. Chords are not always added in the same manner or at the same beat. In one bar, you might have a chord on the back beat, the next bar the chord comes in on a different, maybe even unstressed beat and almost works as some kind of syncopation. This way, the music gets the typically ITM-ish floating linear quality (sorry, can't find any better words to express this at the moment). Fiddlers achieve this by changing bowing patterns, slurring into the beat, etc. Concertina players can use chords or octaving for similar purposes.

Since you mention the "regulator" chords: do you also leave your regulator chords out when playing the pipes with a skilled backup player? I would hope not, as they add a very specific quality to the pipes and the overall music (also or particularly to a session) and allow certain ways of expressions unique to the pipes. The same is IMO true for chording, octaving or other typical concertina add-ons.

In this regard, backup players should always back off IMNSHO.

#14 eskin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 08:23 PM

No, if I'm in a session with a backup player, I'll generally stay off the regs unless I'm extremely familiar with their playing. There are definitely opportunities for harmonic clashes if care isn't taken.

#15 Azalin

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 09:31 PM

Interesting discussion. My personnal experience in watching Edel Fox, Tim Collins, Michael O'Raghallaigh and especially Michael Rooney play concertina in a session is that playing chords is part of their style, and a good backup player will actually try to adapt to them and not the other way around. But there again, very good ITM players can adapt to each ther even if they never played with each other before. From my point of view, always playing the same style and same way no matter who you're playing with is a weakness. As Eskin is saying, listening and adapting is key!

#16 ceemonster

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 10:15 PM

chords are a stylistic fillip that in irish concertina-land the last fifteen years or so, are getting mistaken for a qualitative advance or standard of some kind, and have almost become an obligation for those who want to compete in fleadhs. i recently consulted sigmund freud about the issue with the help of a Ouija board. i can't render all the nuances of his Old World Viennese German, but the jist per the Father of Psychoanalysis was that the "postmodern" chordal trend in Irish concertina exploded from unconscious Oedipal insecurities unleashed by this diminutive instrument historically played in the kitchen by mothers, and even known folklorically as the bean cairdin. in closing, Dr. Freud added that 1) the quote often attributed to him to the effect that "the Irish are the sole people impervious to psychoanalysis" is apocryphal; but, however, that, 2) "While a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, a concertina is never just a concertina."

the elevation of chords to some kind of height of concertina technique is ridiculous, particularly since concertina chords have equal potential to be obnoxious and drown out the melody in this essentially melodic traditional style as accordion chords do. but if you do it on accordion, crazed villagers bearing torches hit you with spikes and run you out of the hamlet, whereas if you do it on concertina, you get a Genius Grant and a Comhaltas medal. i have enjoyed learning chords and doing them at loud seshes just for the practice, but my favorite aesthetic is fluid cross-row melody playing, extremely light and minimal bass work. i always love those first few bars of michael o'r's tracks before he starts in with the loud basswork, in his case chords as well as octave and fifth double-stops. edel fox is another chordal player whose melody playing i very much like...her second cd has a number of tracks where the chordal/bass stuff is less heavy, and i think she really has an expressive way with a melody...

Edited by ceemonster, 06 August 2011 - 10:16 PM.


#17 Rod

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 01:54 AM

chords are a stylistic fillip that in irish concertina-land the last fifteen years or so, are getting mistaken for a qualitative advance or standard of some kind, and have almost become an obligation for those who want to compete in fleadhs. i recently consulted sigmund freud about the issue with the help of a Ouija board. i can't render all the nuances of his Old World Viennese German, but the jist per the Father of Psychoanalysis was that the "postmodern" chordal trend in Irish concertina exploded from unconscious Oedipal insecurities unleashed by this diminutive instrument historically played in the kitchen by mothers, and even known folklorically as the bean cairdin. in closing, Dr. Freud added that 1) the quote often attributed to him to the effect that "the Irish are the sole people impervious to psychoanalysis" is apocryphal; but, however, that, 2) "While a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, a concertina is never just a concertina."

the elevation of chords to some kind of height of concertina technique is ridiculous, particularly since concertina chords have equal potential to be obnoxious and drown out the melody in this essentially melodic traditional style as accordion chords do. but if you do it on accordion, crazed villagers bearing torches hit you with spikes and run you out of the hamlet, whereas if you do it on concertina, you get a Genius Grant and a Comhaltas medal. i have enjoyed learning chords and doing them at loud seshes just for the practice, but my favorite aesthetic is fluid cross-row melody playing, extremely light and minimal bass work. i always love those first few bars of michael o'r's tracks before he starts in with the loud basswork, in his case chords as well as octave and fifth double-stops. edel fox is another chordal player whose melody playing i very much like...her second cd has a number of tracks where the chordal/bass stuff is less heavy, and i think she really has an expressive way with a melody...



Could I be correct in guessing that many players of ITM on Anglo appear to use chords very sparingly primarily to conserve air in their bellows to fuel their frenetic, high-speed, single-note melody lines ? Could it be that a combination of much chord work with single-note high-speed melody is to a very great extent simply incompatible and impractical ?

#18 eskin

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 11:06 AM

No, that's not the case, since generally, one can come up with chord patterns in either direction to adapt to the bellows flow of the tune. The use and density of chords I think is more of a stylistic choice and can be influenced to some extent by if you learned from a teacher who plays with a more harmonically complex style. It's also a fair amount of work to do well, so a lot depends on the experience level of the player.




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