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Now The Tyrant Hath Stolen My Dearest Away

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Here's a follow-up for the self-accompanied-song-departement:

Now The Tyrant Hath Stolen My Dearest Away

(link updated; here's my original post: take 1, as discussed in the first seven posts)

Inspired by Irene's and Ralph's Version (and the impressive singing this great tune by my Swedish friend Sebastian), with words compiled from the older broadsheet source... First take, but maybe not that bad anyhow...

Please comment!

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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G'day Wolf,


Very nice, I always enjoy your playing. You've got your vocal/instrument balance sorted out pretty well these days. Nevertheless, because of your accent I found it difficult to understand the words sometimes, sorry. I don't know this song and I'm not a big fan of these longish ballads from a performance point of view. I can see the audience getting restless, looking at their programs, toward the end. But that's just my opinion.



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Hi Steve,


thanks a lot for the attention and feed-back, I was counting on that... :)


Listening to the take repeatedly I find the, well, cloudiness of the words the major drawback here myself and had been working on this point this evening. I'm hoping to improve on it because I'm considering my choice of words (three stanzas from the male part, three from the better-known female part and the last - still female - one thought as to be shared by the two lovers) a well-balanced middle course between just giving the three (or four) verses which seem to have (distortedly) survived (with one non-original stanza not really fitting in and thus often skipped in favour of even repeating the intial verse), and in fact the whole lengthy broadsheet ballad with some pretty overacting words.


The remaining verses are meaningfull and witty (at least to my ears), and I'd really like them to be coming through, so thanks again for pointing me at this point. I'm still confident some effort will be worth to your ears as well... Please stay tuned!


Best wishes - Wolf



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Hi, Wolf!


Thanks for sharing!


By your declaration, this is an exercise in self-accompanied song, so I'll not comment on your playing or singing as such - Steve has already done that.


Self-accompaniment has always been my main form of musical expression, and since my group disbanded a few years go, I've been working intently in this sector, with various instruments. One of them is the Waldzither, which is as close to the English guitar as you'll get, so I've been researching English guitar technique. And most of the literature dates from the late 18th century, which was the heyday of that instrument. The English guitar was most often used to accompany song, though there are some quite nice instrumentals written for it in the late 1700s.

And what one performer of the period, William Tytler, has to say about accompanying traditional songs (and your "Tyrant" song would fit in that category) is, basically, the following:


- Do not use the melody of the song as accompaniment - use a "thin, dropping bass" (in modern terms, a sparse chordal accompaniment)


- If your playing technique is up to it, play a harmonised version of the melody as an ouverture. Be as elaborate as you like


- Play a portion (e.g. the last line) of the melody as an interlude between verses to give the voice a rest.


This applies to any accompaniment (and I would add, any instrument), but I regard it as most important for self-accompaniment. Why? Because singing a song requires a lot of concentration, and so does playing a elaborate accompaniment. A good singer and a good instrumentalist can do both, but we poor mortals, doomed to accompany ourselves, have to simplify at least one of the tasks. And the obvious field for simplification is the accompaniment. If you practise an elaborate instrumental arrangement of the tune for your ouverture, you can free up a lot of mental (and finger) energy by just playing the chords that occur in it when you start to sing.


What can happen if you don't, I'm afraid, is audible in your clip: The concertina intro and bridges sound sprightly and confident, but the same notes sound hesitant and laboured in the verses. This is because the words divert your attention from the playing. And I'm quite sure that you'd sing the song with much more expression if someone else were accompanying you, or if you were just playing a few chords as a backing.


So my tip would be, thin out the concertina part during the verses.

I do this on the Waldzither by simply arpeggiating the open-position chords, and forgetting about always finding the melody note. On the Crane duet, I usually just give my right hand time off for the sung bits, activating it again for the interludes. I don't know which of these techniques would apply to the EC. You don't have the hand separation that a duet player has.


But try to go that way!




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Well, I really liked the tune and how you harmonized it in the introduction. I wonder if you could work on some variations and turn it into an instrumental piece?


I am not criticizing the vocals at all, I just thought the instrumental introduction was charming. Have I heard it somewhere else?

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Hi John,

thanks a lot for your in-depth commenting on my exercise, as you so rightly say.

You won't be too surprised if I'd be telling you that I'm very reluctant to give up what I consider to be part of my "trademark" style. Aside from that some shakiness may be attributed to the very early stage (only 5 - 10 runs through the song before recording it. All the more (and I think this is of some importance), at least presently omitting parts of the melody appears to be more difficult than just playing along (maybe this is EC-specific) for myself.

OTOH I'm frequently thinking about varying my style of accompaniment. Up to date I have only one recording with just light harmony (Shallow Brown). Doing (and preparing) that had been sort of hard work (more than usual), and I don't recall my arrangement any more (because it's not melody-based). However, I shall try out whether your approach will be able to help me improving on this song.


I'm using arpeggio style anyway (for instance here at the beginnung of the first complete bar), and it might be good advice to expand that at the expense of melody notes... Maybe it's more about diversity as for me... I shall try to avoid unconfident melody notes in any event!


I will think everything over, whether mentioned and not mentioned in my reply, and come back with a new recording soon. Thank you very much again, John - I really appreciated your comments!


Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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Don, thanks a lot for your affirmative comment - I'm very glad about your liking my style with the EC!


As to the suggestion of transforming the song into an instrumental piece with variations I believe this could really work, and might give it a try at some point, maybe soon.


OTOH I don't want to give up what I'm consider a really nice and charming ballad, which forces me to make the words more understandable.


As to having heard this song somewhere else, I can only tell you about my own encounters. The initial spark for taking it up myself and having it recorded was listening to Irene's and Ralph's version (as already mentioned). In the last years I heard it from various (female) floor singers at folkclubs in England, and from one Sebastian from Stockholm. OLDNICK pointed me at a recording by Keith Kendrick, which I haven't heard as yet and will now go for...


Best wishes - Wolf

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Nick, Steve, John, Don & al.,


I tried to follow at least some of the good adivce given but ended up with just a version with improved vocals resp. more balanced accompaniment, played and recorded with the critique in mind...


However, I would of course much appreciate your listening to...:


Now The Tyrant (take 2)

Many thanks and best wishes - Wolf

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As I have been listening to my two takes in order to value them myself quite a few times now I reckon it might be appropriate to analyze what had been altered from 1 to 2:


  • some (but not many) additional runs through the song which had been better rehearsed then,


  • skipping the use of (unplugged) headphones in order to better hear my own voice (what I sometimes successfully do when singing in a choir with just a finger), which had turned out to be a stupid idea here, destroying the coordination between voice and instrument, and maybe even prompting some pitch issues which are distracting in the first verses of take 1


  • altering some lines which were difficult to sing (one copied from the Etchingham Steamband version, twice or so just changing the allocations of the syllables),


  • daring to sing with more expression and confidence, thereby risking a slightly parodist touch which in fact may be not too far away with theses stanzas anyways,


  • finally: pretty concentrated effort with the critique and good advice kept alive in mind...


As a result I have a version with the unevitable flaws but - to my ears - the proof that song accompaniment can be done this way (too), and hopefully understandable words. To sum it up: small changes but signifant better result...

Thanks again everybody, and one might give it a try against the first posting... :)


edit: I now embraced the opportunity to bind my five ballad recordings together in one playlist (with instrumental interludes added). You may bear with me telling you that I'm actually loving the new one together with "Barbara Allen" most (mainly due to the quality of the songs of course)...

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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