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Tempos? Reel/ Jigs Etc..


seanc
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I know this is very very nebulous and utterly subjective. That being said is there any sort of bench mark as to what *generally* the tempo "should be" for reels, jigs, hornpipes, slides etc??

 

I am just learning and playing from sheet music. All the while I am trying to lock into a metronome to get myself up to speed. The problem is I am really not sure how fast "up to speed" is..

Thanks in advance!

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I guess it depends on the context. I don't know what the fashion is at the Irish sessions you seem to be interested in. When I used to play regularly for contradances (1980's), we found that 120 beats (steps) per minute was a little too fast, and usually settled with 110 - 116. It might be faster now.

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Sean

 

You've acknowledged both the Ramones and the futility of your question, Sean, :lol: and seem to realize that you'll know when a tune is "up to speed" only after you've spent countless hours listening with understanding to skilled musicians playing that tune type in differing circumstances on recordings and in person, and then spent countless hours trying to apply what you hear to what you play. Furthermore you probably have accepted the fact that your tunes are going to be dry as dust at whatever speed you play them if you play them straight off a sheet.

 

David mentioned that speed depends on context. Tempo varies regionally, locally, circumstantially (step dancing, set dancing, contradancing, sessions, performance, parties, solo, group), and personally. Here's a benchmark. In Terry Moylan's book "Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra," Moylan charts the average speed of tunes in beats per minute as played by O'Leary: hornpipes, 98; jigs, 140; polkas, 138; reels, 118; and slides, 152. You could use your metronome to clock the speed of Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon as they play for dancers on the recording "In Knocknagree." That'd be a benchmark, for those tunes, on the night they played them anyway.

Edited by Laitch
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You might find the site linked to in this thread to be helpful as an enjoyable device for learning to play Irish tunes well.

 

I know this is very very nebulous and utterly subjective. That being said is there any sort of bench mark as to what *generally* the tempo "should be" for reels, jigs, hornpipes, slides etc??

 

I am just learning and playing from sheet music. All the while I am trying to lock into a metronome to get myself up to speed. The problem is I am really not sure how fast "up to speed" is..

Thanks in advance!

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I know this is very very nebulous and utterly subjective. That being said is there any sort of bench mark as to what *generally* the tempo "should be" for reels, jigs, hornpipes, slides etc??
I guess it depends on the context.
David mentioned that speed depends on context. Tempo varies regionally, locally, circumstantially (step dancing, set dancing, contradancing, sessions, performance, parties, solo, group), and personally.

Additionally, it depends on the tune.

 

There are jigs and reels that are commonly classed as "slow", others as "fast", while some seem to work well at just about any speed. And while I'm sure that the reel "The Sunset" could be exciting to dance to at a quick ceilidh-dance tempo, I'm sure it would lose much of the flavor that I enjoy in listening to Altan's rendition.

 

If possible, get a recording of a particular tune you're trying to learn. Better yet, get several, so you can get some idea of the variation that others find appropriate. And to develop your own "benchmark", listen to many tunes of each classification played by several different musicians/groups. Then when you play from the "dry" dots, you'll be able to feel for yourself what speed feels "right" to you for each individual tune. And if you're not sure, play it through many times, until you do feel it.

 

One more comment: There's far more than speed to getting the right feel. Dynamic variation and emphasis within a phrase, from note to note, and even within a single note can make a world of difference, as can the lengths of individual notes and the "space" between them. (The difference between "staccato" and "legato" is not either-or, but a continuum.)

 

Have fun!

Almost certainly, the more you play, the more fun you'll have.

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