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jeffn

Playing in the Irish Style

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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

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This is a bit tricky, but I will try to provide an initial answer...

 

First of all, "Irish style", sometimes abbreviated as ITM for Irish Traditional Music, generally refers to playing the tunes that are played in Ireland for traditional Irish dances, mostly including reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, set dances, slides and Irish polkas.

 

The tricky part is explaining what "Irish style" means for the Anglo concertina. There is an older Irish Anglo style which does not involve much cross-row playing -- for example, a tune in the key of G would primarily played using the buttons on the G row. Kitty Hayes was a well-known player in this style. But when many players refer to Irish style Anglo playing, they are referring to a newer style, developed by Paddy Murphy and refined and popularized by Noel Hill, that uses a very specific type of cross-row technique to play Irish dance tunes. Players who play in this style tend to play one note at a time (though there are exceptions, such as Micheal O Raghallaigh) and they often use many traditional Irish "ornaments" to elaborate the tune.

 

I suppose that you could use the Murphy/Hill cross-row fingering system to play Sunshine on My Shoulders or Greensleeves, as you suggest, but you wouldn't considered to be playing in the Irish style because those tunes aren't in the form of traditional Irish dance music.

 

The best-known non-Irish style of Anglo playing is "English style", which Jody Kruskal perhaps more accurately calls "harmonic style". It's not quite as clearly defined as Irish style, but it generally involves playing melody with the right hand and accompaniment with the left.

 

I hope that helps.

 

Daniel

 

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

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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

 

Jeff, I suggest that you look upon your Anglo as a very versatile instrument which is capable of being played in a multitude of different musical styles. Irish traditional music is just one of these styles and not to every concertina players taste. You will soon discover your chosen tunes which are best suited to the instrument, many of which will certainly include hopping about between the rows and chord work. It's a voyage of discovery which is enormous fun. Rod

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I agree with Rod C/G is very versatile. If you want to play melodic tunes Irish, Scottish, Northumbrian, old English fiddle tuenes etc , fast with ornamentation listen to modern players of the Anglo for technique but listen to as many older players as you can for style and inspiration.

 

Mike Bramich's books are good as is John William's DVD

 

If you want toplay harmonically with chords on the LHS and melody on the RHS ( in the home key mainly eg C) John Kirkpatrick, Alan Day, Bertram Levy, Brian Peters, Jody Kruskal et al. are a few of the players who would help. The Anglo International CDs will give the feel of various styles.

 

best of luck it's a fascinating ride!

Mike

Edited by michael sam wild

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Mike Bramich's books are good as is John William's DVD

 

I second this -- I have The Irish Concertina by Mick Bramich and it has a very systematic explanation, with diagrams, of a number of different cross-row techniques (the book assumes you know how to read music, but nothing else concertina-specific). Playing this way is used in ITM primarily in order to be able to go faster. eg, if you can play a difficult section by finding all the notes you need on the pull, rather than pumping in-and-out, you might be able to do it faster. I'm a beginner, and I'm only about half-way through Bramich's book, but it's been really helpful so far.

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Mike Bramich's books are good as is John William's DVD

 

I second this -- I have The Irish Concertina by Mick Bramich and it has a very systematic explanation, with diagrams, of a number of different cross-row techniques (the book assumes you know how to read music, but nothing else concertina-specific). Playing this way is used in ITM primarily in order to be able to go faster. eg, if you can play a difficult section by finding all the notes you need on the pull, rather than pumping in-and-out, you might be able to do it faster. I'm a beginner, and I'm only about half-way through Bramich's book, but it's been really helpful so far.

 

Thanks, Jeff. I do have Mick's book and am working my way through it also. This in part prompted my question, as I wondered why this technique wouldn't work well for all music and was limited to Irish tunes.

Edited by jeffn

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"English/Harmonic style" playing may also cross the rows. The difference is that in this style you are usually playing in one of the home keys (C or G on a C/G) and cross the rows in order to avoid awkward changes of bellows direction which would disrupt the chord accompaniment. In "Irish style", the purpose of crossing the rows is to be able to play in fiddle keys (usually G, D and A) on a C/G instrument.

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Could anyone expound on the "traditional Irish 'ornaments'" that Daniel is talking about?

 

David Boveri did a pretty good job of it in this post (the one that says "Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:46 AM ").

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Could anyone expound on the "traditional Irish 'ornaments'" that Daniel is talking about?

 

David Boveri did a pretty good job of it in this post (the one that says "Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:46 AM ").

 

Thanks for the clarification Daniel and David, I think I understand ornamentation a lot better now :D

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Mike Bramich's books are good as is John William's DVD

 

I second this -- I have The Irish Concertina by Mick Bramich and it has a very systematic explanation, with diagrams, of a number of different cross-row techniques (the book assumes you know how to read music, but nothing else concertina-specific). Playing this way is used in ITM primarily in order to be able to go faster. eg, if you can play a difficult section by finding all the notes you need on the pull, rather than pumping in-and-out, you might be able to do it faster. I'm a beginner, and I'm only about half-way through Bramich's book, but it's been really helpful so far.

 

Thanks, Jeff. I do have Mick's book and am working my way through it also. This in part prompted my question, as I wondered why this technique wouldn't work well for all music and was limited to Irish tunes.

 

If it works well for you, there's certainly no reason why you couldn't use it for other tunes as well, especially if you're planning to generally play just melody or ornamented melody. If you want to play with a lot of chords it might not serve you as well -- but since I don't use the Murphy/Hill fingering system myself, I am not sure.

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Just to clarify though, the "older style" is still being done by modern players. Playing along the rows and leaving them when you feel it's right to, is just as valid as playing across the rows. Both get you differing results, but neither is the "right" way.

 

There are many who prefer the way Mr. Hill plays, and none can doubt that he's an amazing player. Still, there are simpler styles which others prefer. Play how you feel the most comfortable. Find a style that suits you. Most important is the music and phrasing...the pulse. To make that work, you need to be very intimate with the music and understand the idiom and nuances.

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The tricky part is explaining what "Irish style" means for the Anglo concertina. There is an older Irish Anglo style which does not involve much cross-row playing -- for example, a tune in the key of G would primarily played using the buttons on the G row. Kitty Hayes was a well-known player in this style. But when many players refer to Irish style Anglo playing, they are referring to a newer style, developed by Paddy Murphy and refined and popularized by Noel Hill, that uses a very specific type of cross-row technique to play Irish dance tunes. Players who play in this style tend to play one note at a time (though there are exceptions, such as Micheal O Raghallaigh) and they often use many traditional Irish "ornaments" to elaborate the tune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may be useful to put this in some historical context. During the 1800's and early 1900's when dancing and trad musice were very popular in rural Ireland, the norm was for crossroads and house dancing - small groups of neighbours dancing with maybe one or two musicians at most playing. For these purposes it mattered little what key the dance music was played in - whatever was handiest on the given instrument. This sort of community dancing declined in the 1900's, partly due to suppression by the clergy, and instead dancing was encouraged more in parish halls. Here you had a much bigger crowd to play to and a group of musicians was required to make the music heard. Thus the need to play in more standardised keys. The fiddle can be played in pretty much any key but the common D whistle and flute tended to play more easily in D & G etc. The concertina needed to fit it in with this idea of playing in groups of people. So, the 'Paddy Murphy/ Noe Hill style' really is just how to play tunes in D on a C/G concertina.

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Does that mean that the market for a G/D was rendered unecessary or is it that the C/G has a nicer treble sound in D? Or were G/D concertinas not widely available. Does anyone know with any certainty when the first G/D was introduced?

 

I'd assumed for 'English' music it was like D/G accordions/melodeons, when morris etc experienced a second revival in the 1960s

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The tricky part is explaining what "Irish style" means for the Anglo concertina. There is an older Irish Anglo style which does not involve much cross-row playing -- for example, a tune in the key of G would primarily played using the buttons on the G row. Kitty Hayes was a well-known player in this style. But when many players refer to Irish style Anglo playing, they are referring to a newer style, developed by Paddy Murphy and refined and popularized by Noel Hill, that uses a very specific type of cross-row technique to play Irish dance tunes. Players who play in this style tend to play one note at a time (though there are exceptions, such as Micheal O Raghallaigh) and they often use many traditional Irish "ornaments" to elaborate the tune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may be useful to put this in some historical context. During the 1800's and early 1900's when dancing and trad musice were very popular in rural Ireland, the norm was for crossroads and house dancing - small groups of neighbours dancing with maybe one or two musicians at most playing. For these purposes it mattered little what key the dance music was played in - whatever was handiest on the given instrument. This sort of community dancing declined in the 1900's, partly due to suppression by the clergy, and instead dancing was encouraged more in parish halls. Here you had a much bigger crowd to play to and a group of musicians was required to make the music heard. Thus the need to play in more standardised keys. The fiddle can be played in pretty much any key but the common D whistle and flute tended to play more easily in D & G etc. The concertina needed to fit it in with this idea of playing in groups of people. So, the 'Paddy Murphy/ Noe Hill style' really is just how to play tunes in D on a C/G concertina.

 

 

You are pretty accurate up till the last line. 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.

 

Playing D while straying from the G row only for the E and the C# is not playing across the rows, but playing along the rows (the way we have the terms defined in this thread and in others). I primarily play along the rows, but that's because it suits the sound and feel that I want (and I'm not afraid to go across the rows if that gets me what I want), but I favor the jump of bellows change and have no desire to play at breakneck speeds that dancers could never want to dance to anyway.

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The tricky part is explaining what "Irish style" means for the Anglo concertina. There is an older Irish Anglo style which does not involve much cross-row playing -- for example, a tune in the key of G would primarily played using the buttons on the G row. Kitty Hayes was a well-known player in this style. But when many players refer to Irish style Anglo playing, they are referring to a newer style, developed by Paddy Murphy and refined and popularized by Noel Hill, that uses a very specific type of cross-row technique to play Irish dance tunes.

It may be useful to put this in some historical context. During the 1800's and early 1900's when dancing and trad musice were very popular in rural Ireland, the norm was for crossroads and house dancing - small groups of neighbours dancing with maybe one or two musicians at most playing. For these purposes it mattered little what key the dance music was played in - whatever was handiest on the given instrument. This sort of community dancing declined in the 1900's, partly due to suppression by the clergy, and instead dancing was encouraged more in parish halls. Here you had a much bigger crowd to play to and a group of musicians was required to make the music heard. Thus the need to play in more standardised keys. The fiddle can be played in pretty much any key but the common D whistle and flute tended to play more easily in D & G etc. The concertina needed to fit it in with this idea of playing in groups of people. So, the 'Paddy Murphy/ Noe Hill style' really is just how to play tunes in D on a C/G concertina.

You are pretty accurate up till the last line. 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.

 

Playing D while straying from the G row only for the E and the C# is not playing across the rows, but playing along the rows (the way we have the terms defined in this thread and in others). I primarily play along the rows, but that's because it suits the sound and feel that I want (and I'm not afraid to go across the rows if that gets me what I want), but I favor the jump of bellows change and have no desire to play at breakneck speeds that dancers could never want to dance to anyway.

According to Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, who studied with Paddy Murphy, Murphy developed his style in an effort to reproduce the sound that he heard on the 1920's recordings of the Irish-American Anglo player William Mullaly. I don't know if anyone today knows for sure what Mullaly was trying to accomplish, but one might guess that he was aiming at a style that would impress the listener, following in the footsteps of earlier Irish-American recording artists like the piper Patsy Tuohey. There's a nice description of Murphy's style, written by Ó hAllmhuráin, here. Sample quote:

"What was significant about Paddy Murphy's quiet revolution was his uncanny ability to demystify Mullaly's music and adapt it to develop his own unique style - without access to teacher or classroom, manuscript or book. Surrounded by a sea of average players, most of them using one row of keys on German concertinas, Murphy managed to step out from the crowd and row against the musical tide of the time. Armed with a Wheatstone concertina bought in Cork for £10 in 1940, he perfected the three-row ornamental style of concertina music that has now become a benchmark for the Irish concertina.

 

An astute listener who perpetually sought out new tunes and tasteful settings, Paddy experimented with alternative scales, melodic runs, cuts, rolls and double stops - many derived from fiddle, flute and uilleann pipe music. His complex phrasing moved effortlessly through a range of dance music metres, lacing them with a treasury of ornaments from single note cadences to subtle double-octave variations. Gentle and understated, his rhythm gave as much meaning to the illusive domain of the backbeat, as it did to the dominant beat of each measure."

Edited by Daniel Hersh
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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.

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