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Alan Caffrey

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Hello all,

so the other night I was playing some tunes with a friend who is, without doubt, an excellent whistle/flute player, when a couple of comments he happened to make really started me thinking. Firstly let me say that I have been playing concertina for about three years and have always been aware, and made aware by the comments of other musicians, that I have a timing problem. So I have diligently played along with recordings and have recorded my own practice sessions and things have really improved - I can hear that myself and comments have been kinder.

So my friend starts in a tune and I not being familier with it on the concertina put down the box and pick up the bodhran; after we play said tune friend says: 'wow! Your timing is perfect on the drum'. I didn't think anything much about this 'til just 30 minutes later I am putting the CD from the Mick Bramich Irish Concertina tutor on to play him a tune I want him to listen to: it's Mick Bramich playing Lannigan's Ball. After hearing the track the flute player says 'that was really nice but his timing is way off!' Now, if you have not heard this disc it's an absolute pleasure to hear, the playing is just great!

So when I tie these two comments together it makes me wonder: can players of other instruments perceive the, let me say 'quirky' sound of the concertina, as being off time? Has anyone else come across this?

I'm off on vacation and away from the computor for a week so I'll look forward to reading your comments on my return. Thanks, Alan.

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Ok, I know I have no rhythm (think Steve Martin in the beginning of The Jerk), but honestly I can't see where the timing is off on that tune. I just played it 5 times (never go to work without the Ipod) and I can't see anything wrong with it. Seems dead on to me.

 

Perhaps you are onto something there....

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Hi Alan,

 

I have timing issues.

 

On the piano...some of this issue is related to a lack of proficiency...a small delay here and there as I hunt for a note. Some of it may be "expression".

 

On the banjo...my timing is pretty good. I think this is because the right-hand clawhammer motion is pretty consistent. And I have practiced a lot with a metronome. Even so, I think I have a bit of a gallup.

 

On the concertina...my timing is not quite right. There is some of the occasional small delays as I hunt for a note. I also tend to stretch some notes...I am not sure why...I think if the bellows are a bit from median then I stretch some notes at the end of a phrase as an opportunity to get the bellows to a median extension.

 

On harmonica....when playing with others my timing is OK. When playing by myself, I tend to stretch or shorten some notes similar to the concertina.

 

For me anyways, the mechanics of the instrument certainly influences my timing. This is probably something I need to work on, but I'm not too uptight about it. When I play with others I am able to adapt somewhat. And when playing by myself, my brain smooths out a lot of the timing issues.

 

Mike

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I'll add a couple of thoughts and comments:

 

Dance music has a rhythm and pulse within a framework of beats and measures.

Accent and phrasing in music, as in language, make a difference. It is possible to play 16 beats of notes and have them start at the proper time and end at the proper time. What happens in between is as, or more, important.

 

If you took four concertina players with impeccable timing, say: Noel Hill, Michael O Reilly (sp), Gearoid O hAllmhurain and Chris Droney. They all play in rhythm and in good time but they all sound different. And it is not just their choice of notes and ornaments but their individual phrasing and accent. Some tend to accent the back of the beat more than others, which to me, gives the tune a dancing "lift". Others have the accent more toward the front of the beat which can translate into "drive".

 

I enjoy the Bramich book and cd and think they can be very valuable learning tools. I think the instruction guide is well done. Coming from the "Noel Hill school of instruction" I can take issue with some of button and bellow direction recommendations. And some of the phrasing and accents and timing within measures will probably not be my first choice as I develope more technique and expertise. Nonetheless, I use and enjoy the guide often.

 

As a multi instrumentalist I'll second Micheal's observation that the particular instrument and one's expertise upon it can make a big difference in timing.

On old time banjo I can be in front or in back of the beat according to my mood and desire. To do that on guitar takes me much more effort and concentration.

Concertina? Forget it!! I'm just trying not to kill the music!

 

Listening over and over to the music and players that inspire us is one way to internalize their sense of timing, accent and phrasing. We may never be able to play "just" like them, but perhaps that isn't the goal. If we can capture a bit of what makes their music come alive and what makes it attractive to us, then we have succeeded.

 

Regards,

 

Greg J

 

edited for...you guessed it! Spelling.

Edited by Greg Jowaisas

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