Jump to content

Irish music? Help!!


Recommended Posts

This may be opening a can of worms..

 

looking for “accurate” sheet music of Irish tunes. I have collected a ton of various sheets. But none of them seem to be “correct”. 
 

maybe I am getting hung up on “ornamentation” vs the song. But, at some point if everybody seems to be playing the same ornamentation at the same time. Doesn’t that become the “correct” version of the song? Or is there a go to for more/ most accurate?

 

as an aside is the Coover 75 Irish tunes good? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The very nature of Irish dance music (and other originally oral traditions, such as southern old-time fiddle music) is that there is no definitive version. Over the years I have collected versions of tunes I play from books, recordings, and most important, from musicians I play with in classes, sessions, and elsewhere. I suspect some of my tunes have evolved to fit in better, while others fit as I learned them. I'm not even that aware of it. That's how it works; even the (some claim inadvertent) efforts of the Comhaltas organization in Ireland, which runs the competitions for young musicians, to put out one version of tunes for students to learn, those tunes still have different variations persist all over the place. IMO, may it ever be so. A bit of chaos will always be part of a living, changing tradition.

 

That said, most of the better known books have settings that will get you started. Learn to play them. If it turns out to be something you pursue, you'll learn how to internalize different versions.


Ken

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, huge can of worms! Firstly, there is no "correct" way of playing any of these tunes, only individual approaches and styles, some of which are more proscribed (e.g. Noel Hill) than others.

 

I would say the only correct way of playing is when it has that Irish energy and lilt, regardless of specific notes or ornamentation.

 

Caitlin nic Gabhann's Irish Concertina Course is excellent stuff, as is the OAIM material. Start there, listen to everything you can get your hands on (not just concertina), develop your style, and enjoy what you play as opposed to trying to find some sort of questionable and unobtainable "perfection"!

 

Gary

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ornamentation may well vary with instrument, key, player, setting (dance or session) and from time to time.  Seems to me a session is a very local (time and place) thing and therefore not broadly authoritative.  I agree with Ken and Gary and would add that if you're looking for "cred" check out some of the old stuff.  Keep a copy handy when you launch into "Fisher's Hornpipe" in F though.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gary, 

 how accurate, I know a moving target and relative term... is your 75 irish tunes book?

so far its seems to me that the “Irish fiddle tunes book” seems to be the standard and what most seem to be focused on.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

To be honest, I've had something like this problem, and it was a big turnoff from getting into playing Irish music. Now, I'm not very technically accomplished, but I've definitely encountered folks with the attitude that if you don't know the locally "right" version of all the tunes and can't get it all by ear immediately, you're not welcome to play. That kind of gatekeeping just makes it less fun if you're not already at a very high technical level.

 

Presumably there are Irish music scenes that are friendlier to new folks and have the kind of healthier attitude Gary describes above.

 

(My personal solution was to stop going to Irish sessions and play other kinds of music, but I also mostly play solo for my own amusement. I don't have any particular emotional attachment to Irish music, and there's plenty of other things I can spend my time on. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish, I guess.)

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

A few aids and ideas that might help. 

The Dave Mallinson books ("100 Enduring Irish Session tunes", 100 Evergreen Irish..." etc) usually have a decent, basic rendition of a tune.  You can add the embellishments as you or your instrument dictate.  They also can come with a CD so those of us challenged by the printed musical page have an audio reference. 

 

The CD format coupled with a computer "slow downer" program would enable you to keep the CD's correct pitch while dialing the music speed to suit your current ability.  Individual passages can be looped for practice repetition.  When you are confident and comfortable playing along at one speed then the tune can then be sped up by tiny increments to challenge and gradually increase your own playing speed.  Playing along at a comfortable speed also reinforces good rhythm and gives you immediate feedback.

 

The best tutorial would be to find someone who plays the same instrument you do in the style you enjoy or admire and get them to give you advice either informally or through lessons.   Sean, in your case, it would be english concertina and I'll email a couple of possibilities.

 

Of course listening and adapting the playing of one of the many great Irish Trad practitioners who play a different instrument to your own concertina playing can be an interesting and long term challenge.  Listening (and lilting) to their recordings until they become part of your musical memory can shape and inspire your own playing.

 

As far as learning the "correct" version of a tune I'd say listen to the masters and then judge whether your printed version comes close.  If your goal is to play the particular versions of your local session then ask if you can tape those musicians and again compare your written resources.  Before long you will be able to hear and change your playing from the written page to match the versions played at the session.  It is a journey and may take a bit of time.

 

Best,

 

Greg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a funny thing, but this type of discussion about ITM (or OTM, for theat matter)  reminds me of J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel and W.A. Mozart.

Why?

Because (a)  these three were extremely good at improvisation on the keyboards, and (b) to play their music "correctly", you've got to play the exact notes they wrote down and sent to their publishers.  Whereby the notes that they wrote down were often probably the result of an improvisation at the keyboard. And I'm quite prepared to believe that Johann, Georg(e) or Wolfgang might well have improvised some improvement in a piece of theirs when they themselves were performing it. That would still have been authentic Bach/Handel/Mozart - but if a modern concert pianist did that, the cries of "Not Correct" would be deafening.

 

Of course, "traditional-based dance music for listening" is different from "Classical Music." To me, the main difference is that trad. music is "Performers' Music," whereas academic music is "Composers' Music."

That is, with a folk song, I have a generally accepted lyric and tune. These are usually time-honoured and often rather good, so I try to bring out their beauty, humour or poignancy. How I do this is very much up to me. I can sing unaccompanied, or arrange it for the piano or guitar, or use some instrument commonly associated with the culture from which the folk-song comes. My tempo, harmonies and diction will be different from the next singer's; you may prefer his or mine, or be amazed at the differences.It'll be the performer you appreciate, not the composer (who must have existed at some time, but whose identity has been forgotten.)

Remember, music is not dots on paper, nor an abstract memorisation of words and notes - music is vibrations in the air, and it's the performer who is responsible for these.. Of course classical music is also vibrations in air, more than anything else, but in this case, the performer has very much less liberty to influence the form that these vibrations take. He ideally interprets the composer's ideas on this.

 

So what about your so-called ITM?

I suppose, if you're not Irish, the only way to sound Irish is to regard "The Irish Musician" as the composer of a reel, and try to get as close to his idea of how it should sound as a classical violinist tries to get to Paganini's idea of a sonata.

 

Cheers,

John

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

Remember, music is not dots on paper, nor an abstract memorisation of words and notes - music is vibrations in the air, and it's the performer who is responsible for these.

 

In his new book, Rob Harbron quotes Alistair Anderson: the notes on the page are "just the dots", and they only become music when they are played.

Link to post
Share on other sites

John and all.. I DO appreciate where you are all coming from. 
 


 By way of a basic example.. Kesh..

The first notes most sheets are writing (pick up note) d g(hold for three).

but most everybody seems to play it as d g/f#/g.  Some seem to have it written as g/a/g and once in a while I have seen g/b/g..

 

 

I just find that is much easier to learn a tune from a sheet and get it up to speed than it is to learn it wrong and then to to unlearn and relearn it. So, if I am starting from a “clean” sheet it is a substantially faster ramp up. 

 

and from talking to people around here. I really get the impression that if you don’t “know” the tunes the “right” way, it’s better to just not ask to join in. Ymmv.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone tells you there is a "right" or "wrong" way to play a tune, they're full of crap. All they know is the way THEY play it, which is likely very different from the way Elizabeth Crotty, or Paddy Murphy, or Kitty Hayes, or Chris Droney, or Caitlin nic Gabhann, or Cormac Begley, or Ernestine Healy, or Edel Fox, or Mary McNamara, or Michael O'Raghallaigh, or Mandy Murray, or Noel Kenny, or Noel Hill, or whoever plays it - and these are just the concertina players! Also factor in all the fiddlers, pipers, etc. All the tunes they play have regional and local variations, there is no right or wrong way.

 

As other posters have pointed out - learn from your heroes, or from your local session if you want to follow someone else exactly. But 'tis far better to learn the basic tune and then be able to add or delete or embellish as necessary to appease the awful Iroid Music Police who tend to be at way too many local sessions.

 

For printed sources, O'Neill's Music of Ireland might be the Bible for some, for others maybe Joyce, or Roche, or The Fiddlers Tunebook, or others. But I'd be surprised if you would find anyone playing the tunes exactly as notated in any of these sources. The dots are just a very limited approximation of one way to note it, not the only way. Many performers play it differently each time through. I think it was Pete Coe who said "I don't even play it the same way once".

 

And yes, Kesh can be played in a lot of different ways, none of them "wrong". That's the beauty of these old tunes -  they are tough enough to survive all these years and all these millions of players and variations and still be essentially the same recognizable tune. That's a pretty awesome thing.

 

Gary

Edited by gcoover
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Sean,

 

the lesson to be learnt from your example is that the skeletal melody IS (as written out) g for three beats. There are always half a bazillion ways to vary the melody (thus put flash on the skeleton). Which gets us back to the "wrong" or "right" question: The only thing you can do wrong in dance music is lose the rhythm. All that dancers ask for is a good steady solid rhythm to dance to. Pretty much everything else is up to interpretation. So to me the better approach to dance music is to strive at mastering the skeletal melody and get that one up to speed; once you feel comfortable there, you can fill in the void spaces however required (thus build up the pieces gradually). The additional benefit is that the skeleton will sound good against any variation whereas some variations don't work well against each other (in your example, if one person plays an upward thriller G-A-G and another one an arpeggio over G involving a B, you'll have a friction between the A and the B).

 

You can even go below the skeleton by playing chordal accompaniments ("fake it" like guitarists do), then build things up from the chordal structure. 

 

All good session leaders will be tolerant about beginners as long as there is at least one person in the group who can play over the mistakes of others (some of the best even take great delight in recovering any tune even in a group of total beginners, it'll reconfirm their quality as a musician). 

 

The bigger the session and the more experienced players there are, the easier it is for you to experiment, make your mistakes unnoticed and grow in the shadow. But without being able to play along at all, you'll constantly be lacking experience in ensemble skills.

 

Edit: The answer overlapped with Gary. I'll second all of what he wrote!

Edited by RAc
Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

If someone tells you there is a "right" or "wrong" way to play a tune, they're full of crap. All they know is the way THEY play it, which is likely very different from the way Elizabeth Crotty, or Paddy Murphy, or Kitty Hayes, or Chris Droney,

 

 

There are many ways to play a tune 'right' and there are also a lot of ways to get it wrong.  And a few people on your list would have been happy to express an, often very strong,  opinion if you didn't get it right. Just to be clear, 'different' is not necessarily wrong but playing a very different version over another one would be frowned upon so you need your wits about you and be able to adapt to different approaches on the fly. But it's nonsense to say there's no right or wrong and suggest it's a free for all.

 

Quote

All good session leaders will be tolerant about beginners as long as there is at least one person in the group who can play over the mistakes of others (some of the best even take great delight in recovering any tune even in a group of total beginners, it'll reconfirm their quality as a musician). 

 

It really depends on the type and purpose of a session. It really is a grave misconception any beginner, or anybody at all can walk into a session and join uninvited where musicians sit down to play music, especially if you don't know the group. It's best to suss out the situation, have a chat with the musicians and see what the story is. 

 

Anyone derailing the flow of music will probably spoil the night for most musicians, unless there's a specific teaching element to the gathering or the joining beginner is known to the group and is invited to play a few tunes  for mentoring and social purposes.

Edited by Peter Laban
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Peter Laban said:

It really depends on the type and purpose of a session. It really is a grave misconception any beginner, or anybody at all can walk into a session and join uninvited where musicians sit down to play music, especially if you don't know the group. It's best to suss out the situation, have a chat with the musicians and see what the story is. 

 

Anyone derailing the flow of music will probably spoil the night for most musicians, unless there's a specific teaching element to the gathering or the joining beginner is known to the group and is invited to play a few tunes  for mentoring and social purposes.

 

you're absolutely right, of course, Peter. Respect is a two way street by definition. I take it as a given that a newby will first scout the scenario, be humble and determine for himself/herself how to behave in a new environment and make sure that s/he doesn't implode the session. Rumors have it that there are less apt players totally unaware of the dynamics (that's just as inacceptable as narrow minded silver backs), but I'm assuming the TO is not one of those and has charted the local scene.

 

 

Edited by RAc
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, John, Wexford said:

How does one "unlearn and relearn" a tune.

 

In my experience, that happens on a regular 6-month cycle with no extra effort needed, but YMMV. ?

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...