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jeffn

Playing in the Irish Style

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This has been interesting reading, and I've learned a lot from the replies. Thanks, guys! A great help you all are. One of the members was kind enough to send me information on the preferred method for playing the D scale in the Murphy/Hill school of thought. So, now I see better what you're writing about. This has been doubly interesting to me, as I've signed up for one of Noel's classes here in the States this summer. I'm looking forward to it despite misgivings about being at the bottom of the heap as a beginning player.

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To play in D on a C/G is not the same as playing across the rows. The Paddy Murphy / Noel Hill style is really all about avoiding chopping and coming up with what is to them the most logical way to access the notes for whatever keys more smoothly (allowing for a faster playing with more ornamentation possible). As opposed to being more row based, it's more of a column based approach, with care being had to not use the same finger for two differing buttons in a row. It's a solid technique, and there is good reason that many are learning this way now. It's logical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to play many Irish trad tunes in D, you have to arrive at a 'system' along the lines of Paddy Murphy/ Noel Hill as far as I can see. Take the aptly named Concertina Reel - relatively speaking, this is a breeze if you play it along the C row in the key of C. Presumably that is exactly how it was played in the past by concertina players for house dances etc. But play it at a session with others or in a Ceile Band in key of D and it becomes quite a different animal that requires a new approach. Playing efficiently in D is surely what defines the 'modern' approach to playing Irish trad on the C/G.

 

You are confusing a 'system' with just playing along the G row and stepping out of it for two single notes. Everything except the C# and E are in that G row. That's what playing within the rows is, as opposed to the much more complex system that Hill is teaching. As I've stated, that complex method is a darn fine one. It allows for smooth passages which in turn allows for more ornamentation choices (note, I'm not saying just more ornamentation, but more choices in what you wish to use). That's quite compelling and shouldn't be overlooked. Heck, unless they are on a 20 button, I don't know anybody who strictly just plays along the rows these days, but it's a style that has a certain sound.

 

I also don't see Noel Hill's teachings to be defined as playing efficiently in D more than just playing efficiently. That system works perfectly well in G (which could indeed be played on one row), A or C (and I'm sure a few other keys). It's well thought-out.

 

Quite a few folks use Mr Hill's system because it makes sense. Quite a few use it because it allows them to play faster, or with more ornamentation. I just happen to like the bounce that comes with playing along the rows. I'm fairly sparse in my ornamentation anyway, and Concertina is a secondary instrument for me (after Flute/Whistle and even Harmonica), but I miss the bounce if I'm playing too long in one bellows direction.

 

Anyway, I'm rambling now and need some more coffee.

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One point that I don't think has been made is that row-crossing isn't just to give you access to different notes so you can play in different keys, it allows you to use bellows direction to put the emphasis on specific notes in the tune, which is particularly useful in dance music. It's the equivalent of a fiddler playing certain notes with an upbow or downbow just for emphasis. It also means you can slur two notes to take the emphasis off the second one, for example. I find it very effective for English dance music, but I don't use many chords (because the emphasis on certain beats is coming from within the melody line rather than by adding an extra note).

 

Pippa

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Heck, unless they are on a 20 button, I don't know anybody who strictly just plays along the rows these days, but it's a style that has a certain sound.

 

 

I realise this was just a passing comment while making a point, but "even" on a 20 key, cross-rowing makes a lot of sense and is well worthwhile!

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I am a beginning Anglo player. I need to say this before asking my questions. :rolleyes: I am confused about the meaning of “playing in the Irish style” as I often read in connection with this the mention of “playing across the rows.” I think I understand this idea but fail to understand how this differs from playing other repertoire on the concertina.

 

So, if I were to play, for example, Sunshine on My Shoulders or Greensleeves, I wouldn’t want (or need?) to play in the Irish style or across the rows? What exactly defines the Irish style and differentiates it from other styles? What are the other styles?

 

I have other questions as a beginner, but this one in particular has been bugging me. I know there’s no better group to ask than you folks, so thanks in advance for your help.

 

Jeff

So far in this thread, I haven't seen anything about how the music is supposed to sound. You can play all the Irish tunes you want and use any fingering you want and still miss what makes them sound Irish. There are a lot of different concertina styles in Ireland, but they all have something in the music in common related to the rhythm and phrasing that is tied to the Irish musical tradition. It's what makes a tune sound Irish when played rather than American as an example (be it New England Contra, Appalachian, or French Canadian ) Even within this aspect of the music, there are a lot of differences differentiating sounds from different locales, East Clare or West Clare for example. So perhaps Irish Styles would be a more appropriate term. You won't get any of this out of any book. You may get it from careful listening to recordings of a lot of great Irish concertina players. My experience of ITM is that the tunes often make much more sense when played with an Irish sense of the rhythm and phrasing. As a beginner, obviously you'll need to learn one method or another of fingering. Keep in mind, some methods lend themselves to a different sound than others. There is no Right method. But beginner or not, Listen To Really Good Players. ( they don't even have to be concertina players, just really good Irish Musicians or people who have learned from them) Don't just listen to the notes, listen to the rhythm and the way they accent or weight the tunes. If you don't pay attention to this, you'll end up with your slides sounding like jigs and your reels sounding like hornpipes or visa versa, and your Polkas could sound like they are fresh out of Milwaukee instead of Kerry.

Dana

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i always wondered at the quote in mick bramich's book where it says he had happened to figure out the irish style of concertina playing. what else would he have figured out? he's irish and plays irish music... any style he comes up with is an irish style.

 

there is no one irish style of concertina playing, but irish concertina players do use their instruments differently, because irish music is largely melody based, and the tradition does not emphasize chords, and plays in keys which make you play melody on both sides of the instrument, rather than focusing your melody on the right. i agree with what everyone else has been saying in the definition of what irish style is supposed to mean, but agree most with dana in that it kind of misses the point to separate the fingering from the music, and to consider there to be a standard system of playing.

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Mick Bramich says in is Introduction to the book ...'the method was arrived at independently and without having heard 'Irish' style playing prior to my discovery of the technique'

He comes form the Birmingham area in England . His earlier experiences were singing and folk clubs and he says it was seeing Jacky Daly on concertina that inspired him and holidays in Ireland.

 

In the early days of our folk revival in the 50s and 60s there was a more free and easy movement of musicians between England Ireland and Scotland before it got 'political'... a lot of Irish musicians were popular in England before making it or being little known outside ther local communities at home ( eg Dominic Behan, Christy Moore, Michael Gorman, Margaret Barry). Migrants to London etc formed the nucleus of live traditional instrumental music in pubs who influenced pioneering English players like Dave Swarbrick and Barry Dransfield and Reg Hall and his pals

 

 

the Topic label (English) and later Free Reed did more to present traditional Irish musicians to people outside Ireland ( and I suspect, a lot at home, since it was pre Bothy Band and RiverDance) than others since the 1920s USA labels . A debt which often goes unrecognised .

Edited by michael sam wild

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