Jump to content


Photo

Getting "lift" Or "bounce" In Irish Tunes

Irish lift fingering bellows

22 replies to this topic

#1 SusanW

SusanW

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 86 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:New England

Posted 20 August 2015 - 03:25 PM

Looking for thoughts about making Irish tunes sound "more Irish". Does changing bellows direction on every note, or every other note make a difference...as opposed to playing several notes on a draw or push? Emphasizing the first note in a measure? Any other tips? Thanks! I'm playing a C/G Anglo.



#2 Sidsqueezer

Sidsqueezer

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 58 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sidmouth, Devon, England

Posted 20 August 2015 - 05:35 PM

I would think changing bellows direction rapidly would be the last thing to do as would then sound very English Dance style. ITM is generally played at a brisk pace with little use of pauses or emphasis, so as much as possible in each direction seems the way to do it. Also, tune only with little use of chords.

#3 Bob Michel

Bob Michel

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 373 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:USA

Posted 20 August 2015 - 06:42 PM

The phrasing is subtle and requires many, many hours of listening, watching videos and, if possible, playing with others. It's like learning to speak a foreign language with an authentic accent. It doesn't happen easily or quickly.

In very general terms what you're after is the right *mix* of legato, one-direction phrases and choppier phrases involving quick bellows reversal. This often involves learning multiple fingerings for a single passage. Some players largely avoid chords; others use them all the time, but almost never in the insistent patterns associated with English styles. Chording can seem perversely random until you grasp that it's used not to lay down a rhythm, but as an accent (as are octave notes), in much the same way that an uilleann piper uses the regulators. In fact, listening to lots of Irish piping can be a great help in developing a lively sense of phrasing. (Sean-nós singing, too.)

And your sense of what sounds right is bound to change over time as you delve deeper into the music (mine certainly has).

I find some well-known players to be much more helpful guides than others. Noel Hill is a distinguished virtuoso, and by all accounts an inspiring teacher, but one could go mad trying to figure out the complexities of his style from recordings. On the other hand, Mary MacNamara's CDs are worth their weight in gold; what she's doing sounds so simple until you try it. (Constant shifts of emphasis, in fact, and plenty of pauses, but oh, so understated and sly!) Ditto for Jacqueline McCarthy. Chris Droney. Jack Talty and Cormac Begley. But you'll make your own list; these are just some starting points.

Above all, be patient with it. Wherever you are on your learning trajectory, it's a good place where you can make attractive music that others will want to share. And you're always on your way to still better places.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel, 20 August 2015 - 06:43 PM.


#4 Jim Burke

Jim Burke

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 21 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:United States

Posted 21 August 2015 - 04:49 PM

Susan, I would not try to apply a strict system to the bellows changes (like changing on every note, or every other note). The fingering pattern you choose to get the phrasing you want will largely dictate the bellows changes. In my own playing I find that I rarely play more than three notes in the same direction, and more often it is two or one; but there is no fixed pattern to it.

 

You are right that emphasizing a specific note in a measure is important, but I don't think it is the first beat (the down beat)--It is the second and fourth beats (the back beats). If you can manage to give these beats a bit of extra kick in your reels and hornpipes, I think you'll start to hear a bit of the "lift" that you're after. 

 

Good luck. J



#5 gcoover

gcoover

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 502 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Land of Aloha

Posted 22 August 2015 - 02:02 AM

Susan,

The online classes by Edel Fox and Ernestine Healy from the Online Academy of Irish Music (www.oaim.ie) are a good place to learn more Irish fingerings and ornaments.

 

It's also fairly common to use the far right button on the left hand G-row (d/e, or #10 in some tablatures) instead of the right hand e/d (#2). Assuming a 20-button numbering system with 1-5 on left and right C-rows and 6-10 on both G-rows, you might want to try this example:

 

RH#6 (push) RH#2 (push) RH#6 (pull) RH#2 (pull) versus RH#6 (push) LH#10 (pull) RH#6 (pull) LH#10 (push).

 

Exact same notes, but while the first might be more logical, the second has far more lift.

 

Gary


Edited by gcoover, 22 August 2015 - 01:47 PM.


#6 SusanW

SusanW

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 86 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:New England

Posted 22 August 2015 - 07:27 AM

Thank you all! Lots to continue to work on.

Susan



#7 Peter Laban

Peter Laban

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Back of Beyond

Posted 22 August 2015 - 12:13 PM

ITM is generally played at a brisk pace with little use of pauses or emphasis,


Really? I generally hear music very different from how you describe it there and am left wondering if we listen to the same music at all .

Edited by Peter Laban, 22 August 2015 - 12:24 PM.


#8 John Wild

John Wild

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1114 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Gillingham, Kent. U.K.

Posted 22 August 2015 - 02:06 PM

 

ITM is generally played at a brisk pace with little use of pauses or emphasis,


Really? I generally hear music very different from how you describe it there and am left wondering if we listen to the same music at all .

 

 


The quote Peter replied to sounds like an accurate description of some Irish music sessions I have heard at some festivals in the South of England - wall-to-wall notes as fast as possible with no real feel for the melody.



#9 Peter Laban

Peter Laban

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Back of Beyond

Posted 22 August 2015 - 02:22 PM

The quote Peter replied to sounds like an accurate description of some Irish music sessions I have heard at some festivals in the South of England - wall-to-wall notes as fast as possible with no real feel for the melody.


I have heard poor players, of any instrument, in big sessions roll off a few yards of reels. It's not really sensible or fair to hold that against a whole genre of music, is it?

When I think of the average player of Irish music on the concertina I get to hear, and I get to hear the odd one, an image of people playing nuanced, well phrased rhythmic music with plenty of breathing space comes to mind. Not a music bearing any resemblance to what I see described in the quote above.

#10 JimLucas

JimLucas

    Ineluctable Opinionmaker

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10104 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Denmark

Posted 22 August 2015 - 03:39 PM

The quote Peter replied to sounds like an accurate description of some Irish music sessions I have heard at some festivals in the South of England - wall-to-wall notes as fast as possible with no real feel for the melody.


I have heard poor players, of any instrument, in big sessions roll off a few yards of reels. It's not really sensible or fair to hold that against a whole genre of music, is it?

When I think of the average player of Irish music on the concertina I get to hear, and I get to hear the odd one, an image of people playing nuanced, well phrased rhythmic music with plenty of breathing space comes to mind. Not a music bearing any resemblance to what I see described in the quote above.

 

I think the best way to moderate this discussion would be to put quotes around the word "Irish" in John's and Sid's descriptions.  While I'm generally one to defend (and practice) freedom in interpreting music, I do think it's worth recognizing (American spelling; no apologies ;)) when that's what's being done.  It's not only "Irish" sessions where some musicians -- possibly even most of them -- display more enthusiasm than understanding and sympathy with regard to original sources.

 

We shouldn't forget that there are also regional and local variations in style.  However, I'm not trying to say that there's necessarily a local style in Ireland that is a match for what John and Sid describe.  (There might be, but I have my doubts.  I think Peter could be in a position to know.)  Instead, it reminds me of friends in Brooklyn (New York City) who were very much into the southern Appalachian music generally known as "Old-Timey".  They said that folks who knew the genre could often identify not just the state or region, but the actual town a musician was from by his style on the fiddle, banjo, etc.  And they said that they were even accepted by the old-timers as a part of the tradition, well known for their own "Brooklyn" style.  Similarly, I wonder if John and Sid haven't described what has become a "South English" style of "Irish" music.



#11 Mikefule

Mikefule

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 621 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Lincolnshire, UK

Posted 23 August 2015 - 01:56 AM

I don't think it's just an Irish thing.  English Morris sessions are often the same.

 

With a dozen similar instruments all playing melody, you end up with the pack chasing after the leader while the leader tries to stay in front.  The speed goes up, the rhythm gets simplified.  Everyone puts their own decorations in or plays their own variations so there are no gaps and it becomes a sludge.  In 6/8 time, all you can really hear is the heavy beat of the first note of each triplet.  (And all hornpipes sound like reels.)

 

The participants seem to enjoy it, but for the listener it is nothing more than something to tap your foot to.

 

If you were dancing to it all you could do is a stomp-y stomp-y on the first beat of each triplet.

 

Listen to a fiddler like Martin Hayes and you will hear tunes played at a proper dance speed, where there is all the time you need to do a nice | 1 2 3 (&) | 1 2 3 (&) | and each triplet becomes an specific arrangement of 3 notes.  You hear whether the middle note of each triplet is higher or lower than the first one and the third note gets full value.  (And the difference between a hornpipe and reel is clear.)

 

I'm not claiming I can do it as well as I would like, but I know which of the two sounds I am striving to make on my concertina.



#12 Peter Laban

Peter Laban

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Back of Beyond

Posted 23 August 2015 - 04:34 AM

Hearing the sound of the dancer's feet in your head is perhaps key to the right phrasing and rhythm. Nothing better for your rhythmic education than playing for good dancers doing their battering steps.

Martin Hayes would be a good example of that approach although, unless he is sitting in with the Tulla, his performance style (he can wear different hats while playing) is generally probably too slow for the needs and wants of most (set) dancers. Dancers like their music up to a fair old clip and in my past experience playing for sets, the speeds asked for by dancers were generally that bit higher than the ones we would play at for out own amusement.

But perhaps getting up to dancing speed isn't and shouldn't be the first worry, getting the rhythm right is really what it's at. Speed will come in time, if you want it. And when you have it the secret is in having the speed while making it sound easy and relaxed and maintaining breathing space in your music.


A few examples of good dancers at reasonable dancing speeds, and music with good 'lift' to carry the steps : Aidan Vaughan demonstrating battering steps, Peter Hanrahan, Brush Dance Mick Mulkerrin, Maréad Casey, Reel steps

Edited by Peter Laban, 23 August 2015 - 06:08 AM.


#13 chas

chas

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 276 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Somerset

Posted 23 August 2015 - 06:49 AM

Peter makes a very good point, as the clips illustrate. 

 

Someone who plays predominantly English music said to me recently that people play too fast in Irish sessions because they have no experience of playing for dancing.  I pointed out that Irish set dancers demand their reels pretty fast.  In fact, I eventually gave up playing for the local set dancers in Somerset because I wasn't enjoying playing at the speed required, with too little time to decorate or enjoy the pulse.  Jigs, slides, polkas and hornpipes were fine; it was the reels where the number of notes per second was uncomfortable.  I've gone back to playing in sessions (in the south-west of England) where, in my experience, the speed is more reasonable.  Many of the southern session players I play with have spent time playing in Ireland and listen to a lot of Irish players. 

 

So I can't concur with the anti-southern generalisations.



#14 Peter Laban

Peter Laban

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Back of Beyond

Posted 23 August 2015 - 07:27 AM

I love playing for the occasional set but I wouldn't like to do it all night long or all the time. Music for the head/heart and music for the feet and all that. During my years playing with Kitty Hayes we were occasionally asked for sets but we usually declined politely. Kitty herself was a fine dancer and her rhythm was impeccable but between the limits posed by her age and her concertina, dancers thought our music too slow for their liking. Interesting enough musicians always commented we played at the perfect speed. We didn't mind. We weren't in a rush, we played music for listening to.


On the subject of jigs : Pat Mitchell wrote a paper on the rhythm and structure of jigs, with pipers in mind but possibly an eye opener for other instrumentalists as well : Rhythm and structure in Irish Traditional Dance Music

Edited by Peter Laban, 23 August 2015 - 07:56 AM.


#15 ceemonster

ceemonster

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1308 posts

Posted 23 August 2015 - 09:16 AM

RE "sounding more Irish" on the Anglo concertina---the posters who mentioned listening, listening, listening, have it on the nose.  A traditional idiom has its traditional conventions, but it also offers a wide spectrum of choices that are still authentically in the tradition.  Traditional Irish music is like a big grazing field or pasture with a range of choices in phrasing, bellows switches, staccato (or at least, breaking a line by not slurring in a legato manner).  But the pasture has these outer fence posts. Past those posts you are free to go, but you won't sound like you're playing in that tradition.  You really only get a feel for where the fence posts are, and for all the range of choices there are,  by hundreds, thousands of hours of listening.

 

There is a "smoother," more legato end of the pasture, that is still very "authentic." Until you go outside the fence, after which you're so smooth you sound classical or whatever, rather than traditional Irish.   And there is a bouncier, more staccato, more "back-and-forth" sounding end of the pasture, that is totally "authentic."  Until you go outside of that and you're so herky-jerky you're massacring it.    But there's a lot of grazing area within the fence posts, and in that area, it's YOU who get to choose.  Some traditional Irish Anglo concertina players are switching bellows directions very frequently and playing the notes very short and staccato (not staccatissimo, which is rare in the irish tradition)  because they are playing old-style "on the row."  Some are switching less, and playing more of a "long note,"  because they're playing more smooth and fluidly using both rows or "across the rows" to get more notes in one direction in a phrase. To add another layer of nuance, some supposedly old-style "on the row" players still phrase so fluidly and smoothly that hearing a recording you'd think they were playing "across the rows," and some "cross-row" players are so bouncy and staccato you'd think they were playing the old "on-the-row" style. 

 

Highly advised--As much as you can, listen and watch solo concertina playing.  You will start to get a feel for the spectrum of choice that is still inside the pasture. And you will start to get a feel for what's out of the pasture, and just doesn't sound like quite the thing, as well.


Edited by ceemonster, 23 August 2015 - 09:32 AM.


#16 ceemonster

ceemonster

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1308 posts

Posted 23 August 2015 - 09:25 AM

RE speed and no-breathing-room, etc. . . . I blame it on the "star bands" dating from Bothy on down the line. well, they didn't do it by themselves, it is the times and the culture---it was eaten up by audiences and the next wave of musicians.  I remember my first year at willie clancy week, I was studying box. and I was in a box class with joe burke. i can still see him and hear him saying, "Don't beat the life out of the music." there were a couple of older teenage boys in the class, stone virtuosos, who judging from their pyrotechnics in class and at night in mullagh, needed that counsel but had no intention of following it.  I  live in a region where the beat-the-life-out-of-it style is considered the ne plus ultra of whether one is good. And how they want to play is that lunasa/danu/dervish thing, where there really is no effing breathing room. just so-called "drive," and unexciting "excitement," with  the shrieking at the key changes and all that.  it's as depressing as all hell.  but the poster who mentioned that dancers want it super-fast, is stating what I have seen also. I was told by a teacher who is a seriously traditional player that this is because contemporary set dancers can not do the footwork one sees on "come west along the road."  and they want the hyper-speed to keep them moving and in the air. . . .oh, and it's "exciting." it has "drive."


Edited by ceemonster, 23 August 2015 - 09:42 AM.


#17 John Wild

John Wild

    Heavyweight Boxer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1114 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Gillingham, Kent. U.K.

Posted 23 August 2015 - 11:17 AM

perhaps I should have added emphasis to the word "some" when referring both to sessions and festivals.



#18 Peter Laban

Peter Laban

    Chatty concertinist

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Back of Beyond

Posted 23 August 2015 - 11:49 AM

I was told by a teacher who is a seriously traditional player that this is because contemporary set dancers can not do the footwork one sees on "come west along the road." and they want the hyper-speed to keep them moving and in the air. . . .oh, and it's "exciting." it has "drive."

I posted a number of clips earlier that will show you people who have their steps.

Here are a few clips, for comparison of dancing skills and speeds, you may have seen on Come West along the Road : Mullagh Half set, West Clare Set.

But to end the speed related thread drift, listen to good concertina players who have lift: Yvonne Griffin, Dympna O Sullivan, Mary McNamara, Lorraine O Brien, Katie O Sullivan, Hugh Healy, Jack Talty, Kitty Hayes, Tommy McCarthy, Liam O Brien, Caolfhionn ní Frighil, Aoife Kelly, etc etc (I have to be careful here, I know I am leaving out or plainly forgetting loads more of them) There are heaps of good players and you can take something away from all of them to work into your own music.

Edited by Peter Laban, 23 August 2015 - 12:42 PM.




Reply to this topic



  



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Irish, lift, fingering, bellows

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users