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Speed at ITM sessions


buikligger
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Hello concertina friends,

 

I‘ve been reading there is no standard speed for the rhythms in ITM in sessions. But what is the speed at which you play hornpipes, jigs, polka’s, reels, set dances, slides, slip jigs, barn dances, waltzes, marches strathspeys highlands, etc.

Up to now I’ve been using the Tune-o-tron to speed up my tempo bit by bit, and using ‘the Session’- abc. I use the ‘Q’field to set my speed. I supposed that when I left out the Q I would get the ‘needed’ speed for a session, but that isn’t correct. In sessions the speed is still a lot higher.

So tell me about your speed, please, so that I have an indication what I have to head for.

 

Here’s an example of how I work :

 

X: 1

T: Connaughtman's Rambles, The

M: 6/8

L: 1/8

Q: 210

R: jig

K: Dmaj

|:FAA dAA|BAA dAG|FAA dfe|dBB BAG|

FAA dAA|BAA def|gfe dfe|1dBB BAG:|2 dBB B3|

K:Bmin

|:fbb faf|fed ede|fbb faf|fed e3|

fbb faf|fed def|gfe dfe|1 dBB B3:|2 dBB BAG|

 

Dirk

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In sessions the speed is still a lot higher.

 

I would usually recommend folks to go & check out the speeds being played at their favourite local session.

Do you have one over there?

If so, then those are the probably the speeds to aim for.

 

Over here, unfortunately lots of session musicians play music far, far too fast. I just don't go to those sessions!

However, if you are fussy you may be lucky enough to track down a session where they play their music with a lovely bounce & nice lift & play together WITH each other. Rather than competing with each other & charging at each tune, like a bull at a gate!

 

Funnily enough, right now I've been listening to the Charlie Piggott & Gerry Harrington CD 'The New Road'.

Very tasty music, at a lovely pace.

e.g.

1 ~ Slides (Sleamhnáin): Glen Cottage-Danny Ab's Slide- Star Above the Garter

2 ~ Track 3

3 ~ Track 11

 

I've also been listening a lot to the Ben Lennon & Tony O'Connell CD 'Rossinver Braes'

Another example of how I love to hear & play music.

 

If I were you, I'd be more concerned about getting the tune to sound just right, than how fast I could play it.

In my book, speed is way down the list of priorities.

Let's face it, if you play too fast, you'll probably find that you are just not able to add all those lovely little ornaments that make the tune sound really nice.

 

Others here, I'm sure, will offer other advice.

 

Whatever, good luck.

 

Cheers

Dick

Edited by Ptarmigan
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In many of the sessions in the South East of England where I live, which are billed as Irish music sessions, the players seem intent on playing what I call 'wall-to wall notes'. that means getting the notes in as quickly as you can and moving on. They seem to lack any appreciation of the value of melody, which in my view should always be dominant. If you try playing a slow air in such sessions, they will be incapable of getting down to a "proper" speed.

 

I believe a lot of musicians who play in that manner in such sessions have a fixed notion of how ITM should be played, and have not actually heard it played by Irish musicians in Ireland. Of course, there are exceptions, and I always look out for a player who has a real appreciation of the value of the melody. Mostly, in this region, when I see a session billed as an Irish ITM session, it is something to avoid.

 

the exceptional sessions when you find them are ones to remember.

 

- John Wild

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John, It's really not all that different in Ireland. Some sessions are very fast -- though those that are very slow are seldom considered too slow. In time, hopefully, you can develop a community that plays at an agreed upon tempo. If you are a strong player then you can hold the pace to a moderate tempo - but it isn't always easy to do that. The sensitive musicians will get the message. If you're playing with four or five players who are balls to the wall and you're uncomfortabel then you should leave and come back another day. But often you'll find that the faster musicans will carry you along at a faster tempo than you ever thought you were capable of. It's all a work in progress, isn't it?

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My suggestion would be to go to the root of what jigs reels and hornpipes are for. Rather than sessions, which can become a showcase for instrumentalists who play fast just be cause they can, try going to some dances, learn the dances, listen to the music and absorb the whole feel of the music. Its not just the speed, or the metronome setting, but the pulse of the music, which parts of the rhythm are stressed and so on, with the purpose of making it easy for the dancers to move. Then when you have the feel of the dance in your own body you will be ready to play a good tune. When I did this I was surprised to discover many things, for example, that for set dancing, the basic pulse of a reel (two beats per bar) is actually much slower than for a polka

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My suggestion would be to go to the root of what jigs reels and hornpipes are for. Rather than sessions, which can become a showcase for instrumentalists who play fast just be cause they can, try going to some dances, learn the dances, listen to the music and absorb the whole feel of the music. Its not just the speed, or the metronome setting, but the pulse of the music, which parts of the rhythm are stressed and so on, with the purpose of making it easy for the dancers to move. Then when you have the feel of the dance in your own body you will be ready to play a good tune. When I did this I was surprised to discover many things, for example, that for set dancing, the basic pulse of a reel (two beats per bar) is actually much slower than for a polka

 

Good advice Theo.

 

One word of warning though!

I have never had to play so fast, as I have had to when playing for Set Dancers over here.

In my experience, the faster you play for them, the more they are screaming for you to play faster ... & faster! :(

 

The principal is spot on though.

 

Same goes for Slow Air playing.

They say you can never play a slow air really well either, until you have totally absorbed the song, to which the air belongs.

 

Cheers

Dick

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In many of the sessions in the South East of England where I live, which are billed as Irish music sessions, the players seem intent on playing what I call 'wall-to wall notes'. that means getting the notes in as quickly as you can and moving on. They seem to lack any appreciation of the value of melody, which in my view should always be dominant.

 

However, there's different ways of viewing melody. The slower a tune is played, the more important individual notes become, together with the shape of shorter phrases, and the overall shape of the tune becomes (perhaps) less important. The faster it is, the less important individual notes are, and the more important the larger shapes and phrases are - they come into focus in a way that they don't when the tune is played slowly. It's not ITM, but Flight of the Bumblebee is an extreme example - it wouldn't "mean" anything if played slowly.

 

The point is (and I'm not advocating fast or slow), that there's positive things to be got out of playing music at a variety of speeds, and people playing fast may be getting something out of the music that is just as significant to them as what you're not, because you come at things from a different background. I don't think it's fair to characterise all fast playing as wall to wall notes with no sense of feeling. Even though... in some cases that is true! Music can be played with feeling/sensitivity or not (i.e. well or not), whether or not it is slow or fast.

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The point is (and I'm not advocating fast or slow), that there's positive things to be got out of playing music at a variety of speeds, and people playing fast may be getting something out of the music that is just as significant to them as what you're not, because you come at things from a different background. I don't think it's fair to characterise all fast playing as wall to wall notes with no sense of feeling. Even though... in some cases that is true! Music can be played with feeling/sensitivity or not (i.e. well or not), whether or not it is slow or fast.

 

Well said Danny.

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I fully agreed with Dirk. The one thing I remember Irish sessions by is their breakneck speed. Even the stuff I studied for speed was played at least twice as fast. On the last one in StNiklaas (BE) I noted down the slow things they played: The Butterfly, Si Bheag Si Mhor, and then Dirk himself played a very beautiful 'Inisheer'. And after that: reels, reels and look: more reels. Until they all sound alike to me. Not a single hornpipe. One set of polkas I think.

 

I hear in the US they have a thing called "Slow session". I wish we had these in Belgium... How on earth do Irish musicians learn to play? Do they study for five years until they are up to speed and then go to their first session??

 

Next session is in Ghent... upto now the finest session I've been to. CU there Dirk :-)

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I hear in the US they have a thing called "Slow session". I wish we had these in Belgium... How on earth do Irish musicians learn to play? Do they study for five years until they are up to speed and then go to their first session??

 

Next session is in Ghent... upto now the finest session I've been to. CU there Dirk :-)

 

 

No you don't.....Session hell, which attracts tempo Nazis that grab ye by the short hairs and give ya a good shakin.' We get refugees all the time from one of those concentration camps just up Hwy 495. I'm glad the publican finally tossed them out on their sorry arses.

 

Just find a good session. You'll know when yer there. I believe in a tradition of giving a new comer plenty of opportunities to start tunes, particularly if they look as if they've wandered out into deep water.

 

I find that tempo has more to do with bio rhythm or state of mind, and as a session is for me and my chums a communion, one is expected to take notice of others and their needs.

 

I'm with in two hours of walking in the door, getting a pint of Old Speckled Hen, fish n' chips and beginning the ritual. Something tells me I'll be more vigilant about how my tempi effects others.

 

Thank you for this thread.

 

Mark

Edited by Mark Evans
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Hello concertina friends,

 

X: 1

T: Connaughtman's Rambles, The

M: 6/8

L: 1/8

Q: 210

 

Dirk

connaughtmans rambles is lovely at 115 .

The Q setting in Dirk's abc file would give the number of eighth notes per minute. Dick's more reasonable setting of 115 is for a dotted quarter.

Q: C3=115 will give DIck's moderately leisurely dance pace. The comparable setting to get Dirk's would be

Q: C3=70 which is much too slow to dance to.

When played as a contra in my part of the country you'd be unlikely to hear the tune much off

Q: C3=120

and in sessions you might hear

Q: C3=132

 

The tempo given as dotted quarters/ minute gives footfalls per minute for walking in time with the music. The range from 107 to about 125 goes from a stroll to a brisk walk. By 132 the walk is rushed beyond comfort. At 160 you are running. I've played jigs for rapper teams at close to 180, which is very fast by anyone's standard.

 

To get similar timing for a reel you'd need half notes per minute, so

M: 4/4

Q: C2=115

would be comparable-- but four eighth notes in the time that the jig has three.

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I was once at a session where one of the musicians (and I use the word satirically) recorded one of the sets on some kind of digital recorder, and then interrupted the session to play it back speeded up, saying, "Doesn't that sound better?" Words fail, frankly.

 

I don't have a problem with "fast" per se, but a good player (of whom I am not one) can keep the pulse going at any tempo, rather than just doing the 'flurry of notes' thing.

Edited by meltzer
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I was once at a session where one of the musicians (and I use the word satirically) recorded one of the sets on some kind of digital recorder, and then interrupted the session to play it back speeded up, saying, "Doesn't that sound better?" Words fail, frankly.

 

You've a Tempo Nazi on your hands :ph34r: . It's a shame that this particular condition has no effective treatment and is unfortunately not terminal.

 

 

Session last night was by the way EXCELLENT. Stones was full to the rafters and folks were crazy in anticipation of the snow event that is today. Great sets. All sorts of tempi.

 

Later in the evening I started Soldier's Joy which a couple of us turned into a jig to mess with our flute player who never knowingly has any truck with English or old time tunes. As hoped, he was drawn in after the opening measures thinking it's a jig he's heard before and starts playing. When we hit the B part and our tom-foolery was exposed, his face said it all. The tempo was fast (after all a joke and slight of hand). Third time around I asked what's next and our banjo player offers Merrily kiss the Quakers Wife..."haf-ta slow it down". Off we go and down it goes. Such grins as we managed a nice tempo change (and our flute player re-joins us forgivingly).

 

Not long afterward I started a set with Father Kelly's. I did notice that the piper was having trouble when George the bouzouki player also noting his plight say's in my ear "slow-er down." Just like putting one's thumb on one of those old AR turn tables, down we go until Pelham the piper's face assumes his normal Botticelli like countenance and we are there. I got the giggles. Pelham's got people! He doesn't even have to make an appeal. Damnation it was a good set and the tempo was about as perfect as it's gonna get.

 

It took a long time for us to feel comfortable enough with one another to listen and request with good humor an accomodation. Find that place. As the Shaker song says: Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where you ought to be. And when you find yourself in the place that's right, t'will be in the valley of love and delight ;) .

 

Of course it helps that we drink....a lot!

Edited by Mark Evans
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I saw a thread on The Session which addressed the prevalence of cocaine and speed nowadays and its effects on session speed, much more widespread than I ever realised. Booze speeds you up then knocks you out! Look out for people who grind their teeth and walk away!

 

I ran into a jam session (Bluegrass) where a couple a coke-heads were cockin' up the works. The idiots made regular visits the facilities. Doin' lines evidently on the back of the urinal. Mighty high class eh? They played fast enough...though not too clean in oh so many ways. Didn't bother to go back. My time on the right side o the sod is way too short for that.

Edited by Mark Evans
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I once went to a local pub in the 50s on a Sunday lunch with my Dad, Sam, when we began to work on the same sites and began to share that sort of thing and I realized I was not necessarily 'the kiddy' who played Rock and Roll on my cheap guitar. I was young and gung ho and had got into 'Folk' and was listening to Seamus Ennis on Irish radio which we could pick up in Manchester. I suppose I thought we had invented it all again, what with trad jazz, blues and folk from the 20s..

 

There were some old boys in, having a jar and gentle conversation. I was - ' When do they start to play Dad and I'll get stuck in with them.'

He said

'Take it easy, no meither, wait till everyone's ready. And hegot into the chat and the crack'

 

'Eventually when everyone had told each other the news and who we all were and I'd been properly introduced as 'Our Mike who plays a few tunes' they all went under the seat amongst the dogs and brought out fiddle cases or into inside pockets for flutes and gently tuned up and led into some tunes. The afternoon developed into the best musical day of my life , just a few guys in a quiet back room, listening to each other and respecting their own local traditions. They came from various townlands and had got together in separation from their own people and localities.

The speed was steady and full of bounce and rhythm and from time to time people got up and did a bit of stepping or sang a song.

 

That was me educated and directed for life I reckon

 

Mike

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i think a session where they play everything the same speed would be boring. beyond the acceptable speeds, some tunes sound good at different speeds. some tunes get a good pulse played very fast with very heavy accent, and some sound just delightful very slow. and some tunes sound great when you play them slower or faster than you are used to.

 

it's not about rules, but about the music. in other genres, the tempo is set by what's appropriate for the piece, what sounds good... not by blanket tempo markings, and i think the same does go for irish music, but most people dont realize it.

 

the best musicians, of course, play slow but make it sound like they are playing faster than they are, by "putting their foot on the gas," as noel hill puts it, which has nothing to do with the speed.

 

edit: mike's post above does not sound boring at all, and i think it demonstrates my point of reacting to the musicians present rather than deciding how it should be.

Edited by david_boveri
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