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Accepted chords for traditional tunes

Will Fly 24 Mar 09 - 05:50 AM
TheSnail 24 Mar 09 - 05:52 AM
Will Fly 24 Mar 09 - 06:06 AM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 10:05 AM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 11:50 AM
greg stephens 24 Mar 09 - 11:59 AM
greg stephens 24 Mar 09 - 12:03 PM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 12:09 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 12:33 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 12:35 PM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 01:14 PM
Jack Campin 24 Mar 09 - 01:27 PM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 01:57 PM
DonMeixner 24 Mar 09 - 02:00 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 02:33 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 02:38 PM
Marje 24 Mar 09 - 02:39 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 02:41 PM
Will Fly 24 Mar 09 - 03:05 PM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 03:41 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 04:11 PM
Vic Smith 24 Mar 09 - 04:13 PM
Jack Campin 24 Mar 09 - 04:16 PM
The Sandman 24 Mar 09 - 04:25 PM
greg stephens 24 Mar 09 - 04:25 PM
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Will Fly 24 Mar 09 - 04:28 PM
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Subject: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 05:50 AM

There's a wealth of lead lines available for traditional tunes out on the net, for example, the Lewes Tunebook, The Session, etc.

What is harder to pin down is the "standard" harmonic underpinning of the tunes - the chords - which one can play in a session, and which are the accepted chords. There are many options for chord sequences for such tunes and, while some are intuitive, some are not so. I have a good ear and am fairly good at anticipating chord changes on guitar when hearing a session tune for the first time - but I don't know, unless someone else more familiar with the tune is also playing it - is that my changes are completely correct.

Anyone know of any source(s) for chords for the tunes?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 05:52 AM

"completely correct" WHAT!?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 06:06 AM

"completely correct" WHAT!?

OK - I'll rephrase that: correct in the sense that they're generally accepted as the chords to play. If everyone is playing the melody line at a session, the question barely arises - it doesn't matter. However, for poor, humble guitarists who are playing chords behind the melody, the question does arise - particularly if there's more than 1 chordal player. If we don't agree on what chords to play, then some 'orrible dischords can arise - so the question arises: are there "standard", "acceptable" or even "correct" chord sequences which one can turn to?

For example, I play the following sequence for "Staten Island" (in D):

D / / / D / / / G / Em / A7 / / /
D / / / D / / / Em / A7 /D / / /
D / / / D / / / G / Em / A7 / / /
D / / / D / / / Em / A7 /D / / /
D / A / D / G / C - - - C - - -
D / A / D / A / G / Em / A / D /
D / A / D / G / C - - - C - - -
D / A / D / A / G / Em / A / D /

Other players might feel that the underlying sequence should be different - if they do: dischord.

Any questions?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 10:05 AM

well for chords in the dorian mode example Adorian[a minor [or modal]f major to g major,seems a common progression.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 11:50 AM

In sessions, I play guitar (chords) and mandolinish /banjoish things (melody) - often with two of the people who have contributed to this thread so far.

I make it a rule NEVER to play guitar if there is another guitarist playing because inevitably there will be a clash of chords as no two musicians will agree over what the chords are without arranging them in advance. There is a monthly session in our area with some fine musicians as regulars, but I have stopped going because there are three or four guitarists contributing regularly and the result is often a messy discordance.

I play in a six-piece dance band - again both chords and melody - and I always make sure when we introduce a new tune that what I am playing chords that agree with the inventive accordionist and the bass guitarist. When the accordionist can't make it, the dep. is a G/D melodeon player and then I have to play a much simpler range of chords simply because the melodeon - whilst being ideal for dancing - has a more restricted palette of chords.

Even although guitar was my first instrument, my only instrument for many years, I think that overall sessions are better without them.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 11:59 AM

"completely correct" indeed, Will Fly. Go and wash your mouth out. This is a folk forum.
Anyway, at a session playing British or Irish tunes, you are forgetting the Second Rule. Which is "only one harmonic instrument at a time". (The First Rule is, no bodhrans). So, if you obey the Second Rule, there will only be one guitarist(or piano) or whatever, so it shouldn't matter too much which chord you play. Problems also may arise with meledeon players who use their left hands on the chord buttonsw, but they can safely be ignored. Those buttons just make a sort of indeterminate wheezing noise.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 12:03 PM

I find Captain Birdseye's comment rather confusing, when he suggests Fmajor is a good chord to use in A dorian tunes. Since there is no F natural in the A Dorian mode, I think almost any use of an Fmajor might jar and confuse the ear, even if it fits with a melody note (eg an A or a C).
Cap'n, I might be talking total rubbish here. Can you link to a recording of an A dorian tune with an F chord in the accompaniment, so that we can judge what you are suggesting?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 12:09 PM

Greg Stephens wrote:-
"The First Rule is, no bodhrans"


I think that the person whose opinion that we should respect on the use of the bodhan is the great Reg Hall, perhaps the finest mind associated with traditional music in these islands. He has said -
The only place a bodhran should be heard is accompanying the Wren Boys on St. Stephen's Day........ and then, not every year.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 12:33 PM

no, I cant,
but try it its more likely to work when the melody is a or c,it often works between a minor and g major as a apartial sub,just before you change to g,depending on the melody.sometimes this chord works face[a cross between a minor and f]and sometimes a brief d modal 7 dac can work when the melody is either a or c.
have alook at the jig old johns jig


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 12:35 PM

bodhrans are grand,if the player can play them,colm murphy is agood bodhran player,but its better if they learn to sing the tunes first.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM

Is it just me or does what Dick Miles has written about chords above not make a lot of sense?

In his first posting he says Adorian[a minor [or modal]f major to g major,seems a common progression. (I thought at first that he might be talking about a tune that modulates, but apparently not).

Greg then challenges him, correctly in my view, by pointing out that "there is no F natural in the A Dorian mode."

Dick then comes back with just before you change to g,depending on the melody.sometimes this chord works face[a cross between a minor and f]and sometimes a brief d modal 7 dac can work when the melody is either a or c.

Now, it could be that this is way over my head, but it seems to me that we are still waiting to find out how F natural fits into this scale.

Can anybody help me?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 01:14 PM

try old johns jig.a tune in a dorian.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 01:27 PM

I suspect that the Capn meant G major to A minor, or perhaps D major to G major to A minor.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 01:57 PM

OK. I am looking at http://www.thesession.org/tunes/display/57 - Old John's Jig. On that website the ABC for the tune is given as follows:-

X: 1
T: Old John's
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: Ador
|:cAA cAA|GEE GAB|cAA cAA|Add ded|
cAA cAA|GEE GAB|cde ged|cAA A3:|
efg eaa|ged cAA|efg eaa|bag a3|
efg eaa|ged cAA|cde ged|cAA A3:|

No "F" note in the A section, but three in the B section. We can see that Dick has correctly described the tune as being in "A Dorian". Now if we go from the "ABC" tab on that web page to the "Sheet Music" tab, we see the notated tune (which sadly can't be reproduced here) written out with a key of one sharp ( as if it were in in G major or E minor) so that the one sharpened note is the "F" and the sheet music does not indicate the need for an F natural.

So how does Dick answer Greg's comment that I think almost any use of an Fmajor might jar and confuse the ear when there seems to be no F natural in the tune. In which bars would Dick introduce an F major chord?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: DonMeixner
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:00 PM

What has happened to 4 people saying" We are gonna play this very old chestnut in D ." and then just launching into the tune? I have played The Red Haired Boy the same way for years. A great guitarist I know showed it to me recently leaving out a chord where I have always put one. The world din't spin backwards. We weren't worried about modes and what was correct. We just played the tune and we had much fun and cheers and Huzzahs! were heard by all.

The point is play the song or the tune and sort it out. Worry about the rightness or wrongness of what you have done when you are doing the doctoral disertation on Traditional Cross Over Tunes of The British Isles and The Outer Banks.

There is no right or wrong there is music and thats enough.

Don


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:33 PM

look,take the first bar caa caa,right play aminor f major then thenext bar[eminor or g 6 to g major.
Paul DE grae,in his book IRISH GUITAR,then suggests and I quote,we are not finished with this tune,Iwant to introduce aconcept caled the unexpected chord,and he starts off,playing the first bar in f major.,then plays e minor for the next chord,but g6 works as well[imo]
I prefer Aminor to f major,rather than a full bar of f major.but is p[ersonal taste
Paul deGrae is a guitarist of some note who accompanies Jackie Daly.
Vic.Ihave used it on other ocassions and it is effective [imo]


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:38 PM

De Grae, uses it in bar 1 bar 3 bar5,of the first part,Iwould use it for half the first bar,and half the third bar.
try experimenting,you will find it works loads generally when you have a and c in the melody.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Marje
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:39 PM

I don't think you'd ever find an authoritative source for the "right" chords, and even if you did, no one else would be using the same source, so what would be the point?

I agree it can sound a bit of a mess when there are too many chordal instruments, but if you're not playing in a performance or a band, maybe it's not such a big deal. I try (on melodeon) to listen to other instruments and follow their chords when I can - sometimes - but other times I might just stick to what I like and ignore them. For instance, in Staten Island I'd prefer to play D / G / D / A at the start of the B-part. If I feel it's sounding too much of a mess, I might just leave out certain basses if I know mine would clash with some fancy riff.

Basically, if there are melodeons, they have a restricted range of chords and you may just have to follow them (and some melodeon basses are difficult to ignore, believe me, they're not all wheezy and vague). This won't be too taxing but may get a bit boring for a good guitarist. On the other hand if you get a piano accordion, they have vast numbers of chords and may use them just because they can. This fits with what Vic is saying up thataway.

So forget about "right" chords - I think all you can do is listen and work it out as you go.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:41 PM

So how does Dick answer Greg's comment that I think almost any use of an Fmajor might jar and confuse the ear when there seems to be no F natural in the tune. In which bars would Dick introduce an F major chord?
you have your answer,stop worrying about modes and use your ears,and exoeriment.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 03:05 PM

In reality, the problem rarely arises in the sessions I play at because the chord-playing musicians I play with are fairly sensitive and will try not to clash if they can. It's actually not too hard to fit a single line - a bass line, for example - which will fit a tune and not clash; volume levels can be adjusted to suit the piece being played - and there's very often one experienced person who can "lead" on the tune.

So I'm not too worried. I was just curious as to whether there were any established harmonic sequences in tunebooks which could be referred to...

The ceilidh band I play in was having a rehearsal last night, and we were playing through some piece or other - "Paddy Carey", if memory serves. And we spent some discussing whether a particular chord progression should include an A minor or an A major - each chord giving a very different tonal colour and feel to the tune.

Vic - your comments were very interesting! I was contemplating coming along to the first of the new Sunday afternoon sessions at the Oak, but I think I might have to forego it...

(Bloody chord players... fecking guitarists.. can't stick to the tune... might have to bring the tenor banjo... grumble, grumble...)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 03:41 PM

Dick wrote
"aminor f major then thenext bar[eminor or g 6 to g major."


Well, yes, I can see a case for that - and it makes an attractive sequence on the guitar - but I would never use it myself, particularly at the start of a tune. I think that I would feel that the accompanist was trying to grab the attention from the melody players. I would call that "F major" chord a "passing chord" with the emphasis on the "C" note in it as part of the transition from A minor to E minor. I daresay that an equal case could be made for starting with A minor / C major / E minor / G major but I wouldn't use that either for the same reasons.

Dick then wrote
"he starts off,playing the first bar in f major.,then plays e minor for the next chord,but g6 works as well"


I like this sequence even less, particularly at the start of a tune and more particularly the second or third time through when the brain wants to locate itself on the A minor chord which starts the tune. Just because an F major chord contains an "A" and a "C" it doesn't help the feel of a piece. In this case "an unexpected chord" sounds more like "a wrong chord" to me.

As has been said elsewhere in this thread, it is a matter of taste and for my money the "accompanist" should be just that, augmenting and aiding the melody instruments and providing a solid rhythmic base.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:11 PM

As has been said elsewhere in this thread, it is a matter of taste and for my money the "accompanist" should be just that, augmenting and aiding the melody instruments and providing a solid rhythmic base.
I agree,but I was trying to give you an example quickly,I stated my preference, which was for a partial sub,but there are loads of other occassions when I have heard it used successfully.
Vic,I dont care what you like.I have heard PaulDeGrae,he is a fabulous sensitive accompanist.I havent heard you,but do you get asked to accompany Jackie Daly?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:13 PM

Will Fly says -
"Vic - your comments were very interesting! I was contemplating coming along to the first of the new Sunday afternoon sessions at the Oak, but I think I might have to forego it...

(Bloody chord players... fecking guitarists.. can't stick to the tune... might have to bring the tenor banjo... grumble, grumble...)"


Well, you know, Mike, that you would be very welcome - and the session is for singers as well as instrumentalists - and the way that Ian and you were singing and playing together last week was excellent.

Can I take you back to your earlier comments where you said, If we don't agree on what chords to play, then some 'orrible dischords can arise. That is what all my contributions to this thread have been trying to address. You can read above how Dick and I differ in the way we would approach one tune. Who is correct? Dick? Me? Both of us? Neither of us? That is why I am with Greg when he suggests "only one harmonic instrument at a time" otherwise the 'orrible dischords you fear will arise. I reckon that you are going to struggle in vain to find "standard" harmonic underpinning of the tunes. In my experience, traditional music abhors the word "standard" and that is what makes the tradition so inventive.

One of my favourite singers of all time was the Scots traveller singer Davy Stewart. He often accompanied himself on the melodeon or the accordion and he broke every musical rule in the book, but he was always playing solo and only had himself to answer to but his strange otherworldly accompaniments remain a delight.

And since Mike has mentioned the new session the Tina and I are starting, I ought to give the details. It is to be on the last Sunday afternoon of the month at:-
The Royal Oak
Station Street
Lewes.
East Sussex
3.30 to 5.30


The nice thing about it is that the idea for the session comes not from us but from Patrick and Tara who run the pub. It is for singers as well as musicians and we intend that it should be roughly half and half of each.
All are welcome - even Bloody chord players and fecking guitarists.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:16 PM

This seems to me to be less attention-getting and more in the feel of the tune:

X:1
T:Old John's
M:6/8
L:1/8
R:jig
K:Ador
"Am"cAA cAA|"Em"GEE "G" GAB|"Am"cAA    cAA|"D"Add      ded|
"Am"cAA cAA|"Em"GEE "G" GAB|"Am"cde "G"ged|"Am"cAA    A3:|
"Am"efg eaa|"G" ged "Am"cAA|"Am"efg    eaa|"G" bag "Am"a3 |
"Am"efg eaa|"G" ged "Am"cAA|"Am"cde "G"ged|"Am"cAA    A3:|

It's a dance tune, you don't want to be told to stop and think in mid-step.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:25 PM

it is not attention seeking ,to use a partial sub,I would use a minor on the first bar through the tune,and if I was the only accompanist
a minor or A modal then either f or d modal with added 7 c[go on try it].
Wille Johnson used intersting and unusal chords all the time,was he an attention seeker?.
if people didnt experiment,ther would be no progress.
Paul De Grae is a first rate guitarist,and is more highly rated ,than[with respect] any of the other contributors on this forum.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:25 PM

The more "pasing" and "unusual" chords you slip in, the more the melody gets sidelined, I always reckon. If you've done the degree in Folkology with the Slightly Jazzed Up Accompaniment Module in your second year, it's not always necessary to draw attention to it.
Three chords were always enough for my gran' pappy, and they're good enough for me.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:27 PM

It's a dance tune, you don't want to be told to stop and think in mid-step.
.that is completely irrelevant,playing a partial sub,or an Fchord makes no difference to the dancers,they are listening to the rhythym.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:28 PM

Three chords were always enough for my gran' pappy, and they're good enough for me.

You fibber, Greg Stephens - I saw you play a 4th chord at Sandbach not long ago!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:33 PM

And why should the "melody" players get all the attention? Melody, and melody players, wear thin after a short time--that's why chords were invented in the first place--


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:37 PM

Jack Campin wrote
"This seems to me to be less attention-getting and more in the feel of the tune - It's a dance tune, you don't want to be told to stop and think in mid-step. "



Well exactly. The chords suggested by Jack seem to fit really well to me, but imagine sitting in a session with one guitarist playing Jack's suggested chords and another playing the sequence that Dick is advocating......

Neither would be "wrong", but the result would probably be very messy.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:44 PM

Beyond the basic chords (say C, F, and G or G7 in the key of C), it's possible to substitute chords. Rather than sitting for several measures on C before you change to an F, you may want to go to Am for one or two measures, then F. If it sounds okay and you're used to doing that way, if you find yourself playing along with a bunch of other people who just sit on the C, the worst you can do by going to an Am before the change to F is to convert the C to a C6 for a measure or two. Hardly catastrophic, and it certainly wouldn't screw up the general harmony (no horrible dissonances). Beyond the basic essential chord changes (to keep the chords from clanking with the melody), these "substitute chords" that you can stick in for harmonic variety are pretty arbitrary.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 04:58 PM

The way fruitier passing chords can flavour a tune is astonishing. They can completely put you off a piece of music, or turn you on to it. I am particular un-fond of gratuitous relative minors(often used in Victorian piano accompaniments odd Scottish trad songs, and Californian soft rock); they can make me feel physically ill. A great example of this can be heard by comparing Bob Dylan's version of Blowin'in the Wind with Peter Paul and Mary's. Dylan does a straight down the line three chord trick version, brilliant (to my ears). PPM lard it up with syrupy minors, which I find terrible. But they obviously suited the public, who made it a great hit. It's all down to taste. But if I was singing that song at a session and some second guitarist started joining in and adding those PPM chords, well I'd take his guitar and, without greasing the machine heads, I would... (rest of post deleted Joe Offer)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 06:44 PM

Greg is absolutely right about that. There are certain songs where using the relative minors is like putting fifteen spoonsful of sugar into your coffee.   Bleugh!!

Many times the bare-bones harmonies are perfect as is.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Betsy
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 07:30 PM

I agree with Greg Stephens 12:03 PM and though Dick, in the next post has tried stoutly to defend the F Major , I find it "jars" on me.
It seems a relatively new to play that way, I suppose it started +/- 25 years ago and although I can understand how it can work, it is something that I don't like to hear it. I used to refer it to it as nouveau accompaniment.It's not wrong - it's just my personal taste - I prefer a more traditional ( small "t") to accompaniment , but before slagging me off, just accept my ear is bit old fashioned , but I like it that way .


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 08:08 PM

There are always a lot of options for harmonizing and arranging traditional tunes, and taste, rather than any theory or book of rules, is the ultimate factor. Of course, some people have better taste than others.

Beethoven, Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, and Ralph Vaughan Willams all harmonized traditionsl tunes, as did the folks who bring us "Barney" and the "Teletubbies"--


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 08:17 PM

A few discords don't hurt. In fact they can work quite well, so long as the musicians are listening to each other.
..............................

A bodhran can really lift things, so long as there's only one. The important thing is that the bodhranplayer is playing the tune rather than trying to lay down a rhythm.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 08:30 PM

The original question was about what is reasonable in a session. That does NOT equate to what Willie Johnson could get away with after practicing with the same half-dozen fiddlers in the Lerwick Lounge for years, or what Britten and Stravinsky could expect a conservatoire-trained pianist to play off a score.

Playing a melody instrument in a session, my reaction to weird jazz chords is to feel faintly depressed. I'm there to try making the tune express something, and the guitarist is thundering out those chords (usually in very strange rhythms to boot) with their own expressive agenda which has nothing to do with the shape of the tune as I feel it and which I have no background knowledge of (and never will have, as guitarists who do that stuff are usually completely inarticulate). The obvious reaction is "I can't play this game, I'm outta here".

I've never heard of de Grae. Neither has YouTube.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 11:01 PM

I've come to the conclusion that the problem with a lot of guitar accompaniment is the way chords are described, learnt and reproduced. It seems to be taken as read that every note of every chord must be played, all the time and on every stroke of the plectrum. I've seen guitarists (and cittern/bouzouki players) in well-known bands thrashing instruments to within an inch of their lives. Can't say I've heard them - it's impossible to pick anything out from the wall of sound that results.

Presumably (and unfortunately), these are the people that your average session player is taking a lead from, rather than the expert players that Dick has alluded to. There are many other excellent players who could be put forward as great accompanists - Chris Newman and Arty McGlynn come to mind - but they are playing at levels of technical excellence to which most of us can only aspire from afar.

Can I suggest another approach? Throw away the plectrum. Learn to finger-pick. Limit yourself to finger and thumb to start with. Don't use thumb- or finger-picks. Suggest chords by picking out a couple of appropriate notes - leave things open to interpretation. Attempt to learn the tunes - even short phrases every now and then help vary the pattern.

And if people complain that they can't hear you - well, problem solved!

Ross


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 03:23 AM

Here's what I do when playing guitar in a session.

I start by listening to the tune (if I don't know it) and anticipating the possible harmonic content. I don't play a solid 3 to the bar or 4 to the bar with full chords all the time, but play occasional chords with a passing bass line which complements both the rhythm and the melody - with plenty of gaps.

I don't do what Jack Campin so sarcastically describes in his post of 24 Mar 09 - 08:30 PM. My role model for this sort of harmonic work, many years ago, was (for example) Martin Carthy's very sparse accompaniment to Dave Swarbrick in the late '60s.

Fingerpicking, in the context of the sessions I attend, is a no-no. The massed volume generated by, say, 2 concertinas, 3 fiddles, 2 mandolins, bodhran, melodeon, whistles, Northumbrian small pipes and occasionally an accordion en masse means that, for all practical purposes, the guitar is essentially a back seat instrument in any case. But, whether back seat or not, it's nice to get it "right" in the context of the session, and feel that you're contributing to - rather than detracting from - the overall sound.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Declan
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 03:46 AM

Well said Ross.

There are no accepted ways to put chords behind a tune, because ALL THE TUNES ARE DIFFERENT. It's a matter of learning which chords are generally associated with particular keys and learning to use your ears.

My best advice is not to play too loud until you know what you're doing and then don't play too loud - particulalrly if there are other backing instruments in a session. Many backing instruments in a session can work, but only if they are all listening to the tune (and each other).

The reason it is known as backing is that it should be in the background - audible but not 'sticking out'. The odd 'pagan' chord, as a friend of mine would describe them, can liven up an accompaniment but over use of them is jarring. Simple is usually better. If you find that a particular chord works well in a tune use it ocasionally. Remember that arrangements that have been put together by a band may only sound good in their particular arrangement of the tune.

If your ego doesn't let you stay in the background, you're probably playing the wrong instrument!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Declan
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 04:02 AM

Will,
We cross posted so my comments were not in response to your post. My only comment on what you've said is that you need to listen to the tune at all times whether you know it or not. Not only are all the tunes different, renditions by different players (and often by the same player) are different.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 04:15 AM

No worries Declan - points taken, and indeed it's what I do every time I go to a session. To be honest, most of the ones I go to have the same hard core of people there and, over time, we've got used to each other. Newcomers then come along and adapt themselves to the existing pattern. We also get a sax player, a trumpet player and a trombone player from time to time - and New Orleans then raises its head!

We also play written material in the style, such as "Da Slockit Leet" "The Ashokan Farewell", "Horizonto" and "Puddleglum's Misery", etc. - and the chords for these - being composed tunes - are readily available. It would be wrong, for example, to play "Da Slockit Leet" (in D) without the wonderful F# in the penultimate line of the B part - a chord which raises the whole tune to a new level and an almost anthemic quality.

My original post was out of curiosity really - just to see whether, as with TheSession, etc., there were other repositories of knowledge, but in the harmonic rather than the melodic sphere.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 04:17 AM

Not that one is likely to find anyone singing "Blowing in the Wind" at a session, but I think I would probably disagree strongly with Greg Stevens about the minors. Quite a lot of the time I play majors where others prefer minors, but there are some cases when the minor is definitely "right". Try "We shall overcome". It can be done all in majors with some speedy shifts between the subdominant and the dominant, but in comparison with the use of a minor in those passages it does not come close to "right". Of course neither are traditional, and neither are "tunes".

I can't say I have ever found a useful set of chords for The Little Beggarman/Red Haired Boy/Insert other name of choice, and likewise (although it is not traditional) "Paddy McGinty's Goat", but I only play them under protest anyway, since I don't really approve of Irish tunes for morris sides.

John Kirkpatrick's "Jump at the Sun" (also not trad of course) seems to demand minors a lot.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Vic Smith
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 06:17 AM

Will Fly wrote:-
"2 concertinas, 3 fiddles, 2 mandolins, bodhran, melodeon, whistles, Northumbrian small pipes"


Therein lies another problem. The sheer number of instruments that characterise some sessions means that - quite aside from the clashing chords problem - the melody can just be an orchestral blur of sounds and masks the real joy of a small session where one can hear what individual musicians are contributing.

I suppose that, to an extent, the regular sessions in my area are a victim of their own success. I have complained about one of the sessions around here. I am not really Mr. Grumpy but now I am going to make adverse comments about another.

This session has been going for years and the overall standard of the musicianship has rocketed over the years, but just before Christmas I counted 25 musicians playing at the same time. More than once I found myself wondering which end of the room I should be joining in with, the playing was so out of sync.

Do we need to add another rule to Greg's list; one about the upper limit of numbers playing at any one time at a session?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 06:27 AM

A rule I try to follow(but dont always succeed) is "don't accompany a tune till you've you've tried playing it".


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 06:44 AM

Vic, your comment about the sheer size of some sessions is very true - victims of their own success. I attend an end-of month session which is very popular, and very different each month as attendees come and go - but it's usually packed. When, for whatever reason, it's less well-attended, the session is sometimes more satisfying. I wouldn't miss it for the world, but size does make a difference.

My own middle-of-the-month session, which has been going for around 5 months now, gets between 8 to 12 players - not all of whom play together all the time - and the feedback has been very positive. I guess it's a halfway house between a session and a singaround, but some of the shyer and not quite as experienced attendees have told me how much they like it because it's quieter and more intimate.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:14 AM

It is OK not to play at times and listen. I join in with familiar tunes and any new ones I like I go away and learn accompaniments to later;there is always the next session.
John


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:21 AM

Jack Campin: just google PaulDeGrae
        
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      Paul De Grae: Traditional Irish Guitar (CD) at Musicroom.com ...
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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:22 AM

The size of sessions will always be a problem if they get too big. Luckily this is self-regulating, generally; people just stop coming, and maybe someone starts a rival so it splits like an amoeba.
    Physically, a session can't work if it is too big. People just can't hear each other, so the timing goes. There is also a question of acoustic physics: we all know that the speed of sound is finite, that if we see a batsman hit the ball there is then a time delay before we hear the impact. Just how this effects music is not always apparent to people, but it is an appreciable effect across a big stage, or across a big room. Twenty feet apart, people can't coordinate fast rhymic music. That is why you need monitors in front of you on a big stage, so that you hear your fellow musicians when they hit the notes, not a fraction of a second later. Same thing applies in a big room. Sound goes at 1000ish feet per second. That means it takes 1/50th of a second to cross 20ft of room. When you're playing a fairly fast fiddle tune, you are churning notes out at about ten per second.So the person at the other end of the room is hearing you a fifth of a note late.So if they plays what they think is in time with you, when their sound comes back to you, it is 2/5 of a note(nearly a half) later than when you played it. So it's hardly surprising that rhythmic precision is not possible at a big session. That's why big orchestras need conductors, they play in time with the beat given visually by a central person.
    It is perfectly satisfactory in a teaching situation to sit at the centre of a horseshoe of 30 fiddlers and share a tune. But I don't think that number of people can sit and pleasurably play tunes together in a big room in a pub. The rhythm will never be good enough for people to get off on the swing.
(Sorry, Will Fly, this has diverged from a discussion of "correct" guitar chords).


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM

Greg's physics is relevant to the original question - if you're in a resonant room, the echo will spell out the chords as you go. For John's Jig, you'll get something rather close to the chords I suggested being dictated to you from the ceiling. Play a chord that accentuates tones you aren't hearing in the tune, and the effect can be of some unrelated tune being played at the same time with the sound drifting in from outside.

I sometimes play in a very echoey pub. There's a show-off accordionist who often plays there - at the speed of his chord changes, the effect of his duet with himself via the ceiling is like something out of Charles Ives.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:47 AM

Greg's physics is relevant to the original question - if you're in a resonant room, the echo will spell out the chords as you go.

I would agree - we're talking about the assonance and/or dissonance of multiple harmonies here - which is related to the overall sound coming out of the session.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:51 AM

Will Fly

"Da Slockit Leet" (in D) without the wonderful F# in the penultimate line of the B part

Eh? I play a Bb in the last line but all the Fs are sharp. I might make it to The Bull on Sunday; show me then. Mind you, I don't think DSL benefits from being played by 20+ people in a session. Far better with, for instance, two English concertina players.

At the Lewes Favourites practice session last night (allowing for a few posers playing more than one instrument) -

6 Fiddles
3 English concertinas
3 Anglo concertinas
2 Melodeons
1 BC button box
1 Banjo
1 Mouthorgan
1 Viola


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 08:13 AM

Da Slockeet Leet chords as I know them:

A:
D / / / D / / / G / D / Em / A /
D / / / D / / / G / A / D / / /                 
D / / / D / / / G / D / Em / A /
D / / / D / / / G / A / D / / G

B:
D / A / G / / / D / E / A / / G
D / A / G / / / Em / A / D / / G
D / A / G / / / G / D / Em / A /
D / / / F# / Bm / Em / A / D / / /

The F# is actually in the last bar line, but in the penultimate phrase of the tune...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 05:34 PM

A recurring problem in sessions is that instruments fall out of synch, off-beat, or whatever you want to call it.

Greg Stephens pointed out that orchestras and such things have conductors who dictate the beat, and, in fact, smaller ensembles without conductors generally take the beat from a drummer, bass player, guitar, piano, or other chordal instrument. That is, in fact, the major role of a chordal instrument in any ensemble.

The thing is, in sessions, the lead player often sets the beat and everyone else, including the chordal/rhythm instruments is supposed to follow. "Follow" of course means that the nearest players get to the beat slightly after the lead, and the next nearest players get to the beat slightly later than the nearest players.

The effect is the same as that of a traffic jam, where the first driver hits the brake for a second, the second sees the brake lights and hits his brake for two seconds, and ultimately, a mile behind, everyone grinds to a standstill--


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 05:41 PM

Not really. What the competent rhythm instrument nearest to the lead does is learn what the lead is doing, and anticipate it so as to play in time. That is why the competent leader signals unexpected changes ahead of time. I try (but often fail) to watch the lead player and follow the fingers, if I am the other end of the room. With singers it is easier - the lips seldom lie (in this context) and the ribs (or flesh thereover) often give clues ahead of time.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 05:46 PM

Will Fly

The F# is actually in the last bar line, but in the penultimate phrase of the tune...

Ah, that's just where I'm playing my Bb. Could explain why it sounds a bit.... interesting.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 07:52 PM

smaller ensembles without conductors generally take the beat from a drummer, bass player, guitar, piano, or other chordal instrument. That is, in fact, the major role of a chordal instrument in any ensemble.

And that is where sessions aren't like that, most especially Irish sessions - the beat comes from the melody instruments, and any chordal or rhythm instruments follow that lead.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 08:45 PM

Well you couldn't take the beat from the bodhran player, could you?

I looked up Tom Anderson's published version of Da Slockit Light (in "Ringing Strings"). No chords given, but there is a second fiddle part, "written by an American student in 1979". The chords you get from that fiddle accompaniment are, I think:

-|D - - -|D - - -|G - D -|G - A7 -|
D - - -|D - - -|G - A7 -|D - - :|
-|D - A -|G - D G|D - E -|A - - - |
D - A -|G - - -|G - A -|D - - - |
D - A -|G - - -|G - D -|G Em A D |
D - - -|Bb - D -|G - A7 -|D - - -||


So Bb it is, though I'd never have guessed it. Maybe the American student was copying a WillieJohnsonism?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 11:36 PM

If the lead instrument is keeping the beat and playing the melody, then everyone else is pretty much extraneous.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 03:26 AM

I've just been looking at the score for Da Slockit. The first note of the B part 14th bar - the bar in which the F# chord is played - is F#. Now - how in all that's holy - how can that be a Bb? Here's the abc - relevant bar in boldface:

X: 1
T: Da Slockit Light
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K: Dmaj
FE|D3F A2d2|fedc d2A2|B2d2 A2d2|BAGF EGFE|D3F A2d2|fedc d2A2|B2G2 AGFE|D4- D2:|g2|f2a2 e3c|d3e dcBA|f2a2 e2^g2|a4- a2=g2|f2a2 e3c|d3e dcBA|B2G2 AGFE|D4- D3g|f2a2 e3c|d3e dcBA|B2d2 A2d2|BAGF EGFE|D3F A2d2|fedc d2A2|B2G2 AGFE|D4- D2|]


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 04:19 AM

I didn't have time to add a little technical addendum to my previous post:

You can certainly play a Bb note against an F# chord because the F# triad contains the note of A#/Bb. But if you play an F# note against a Bb chord - major triad Bb D F natural - it'll sound as though you're pulling out the devil's public hairs. And - unless anyone has a truer version - the lead note in the bar in question is F#.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:03 AM

The idea of a Bb chord occurring anywhere in a "traditional-type" tune played in D is truly bizarre.

I actually love this modulation, in its place, (my shorthand pet name for it is the "Honey Don't" chord change, after Carl Perkins' eponymous song which relies heavily on this particular modulation) and the other song which springs to mind which uses it is the Beatles' "I Will", right at the end.

There are a number of blues/ragtime songs sung by Blind Blake which use this change to good effect as well, but I am afraid you are never going to hear it in any melody remotely connected to the Scottish/Irish/Celtic tradition.

And Will Fly is totally correct about the F#, absolutely the right chord at that point in "Da Slockit Light".


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:13 AM

I actually love this modulation, in its place, (my shorthand pet name for it is the "Honey Don't" chord change, after Carl Perkins' eponymous song which relies heavily on this particular modulation) and the other song which springs to mind which uses it is the Beatles' "I Will", right at the end.

It's a great modulation - as you say, in its place - and also comes in the closing bars of "Thanks For The Memory", to great effect.

But ye'll no find me playing it in Da Slockit!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:13 AM

Sorry - me above...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:25 AM

Here are the melody and harmony of Da Slockit Light as we play them, slightly modified from "Ringing Strings" -

X:1
T:Da Slockit Light - melody
M:4/4
L:1/8
Q:1/4=100
K:D
|:(FE)|(D3F) (A2d2)|fe dc d2A2|(B2d2)(A2d2)|(BA) GF (EG) FE|
(D3F) (A2d2)|(fe) dc (d2A2)|B2G2A[GA][ FA][EA]|[A,4-D4-][A,2D2]:|
zg|f2a2e3c|d3e (dc) BA|f2a2(e2^g2)|(a4a2)g2|
f2a2e3c|d3e (dc) BA|B2G2(AG) FE|D4-D3g|
f2a2e3c|d3e (dc) BA|(B2d2)(A2d2)|(BA) GF (EG) FE|
(D3F) (A2d2)|(fe) dc (d2A2)|B2G2A[GA][FA][EA]|[A,4-D4-][A,2D2]|]

X:2
T:Da Slockit Light - harmony
M:4/4
L:1/8
Q:1/4=120
K:D
|:(FE)|(A,3D) (F2A2)|(dc) AG (F2D2)|G2B2F2A2|GF ED A,4|
(A,3D) (F2A2)|(dc) AG (F2D2)|G,4(A,3C)|[A,4-D4-][A,2D2]:|
zg|d2A2c3E|G4(FE) DC|D4(^G3E)|C6z2|
D4A4|G6(GF)|G2B,2A,B, A,C|A,4-A,3z|
D4C4|B,6GF|(G2B2)(F2A2)|(GF) (ED) A,4|
(A,3D) (F2A2)|_B4(F2D2)|G,4(A,3C)|[A,4-D4-][A,2D2]|]

It is a two line harmony. There are no chords in it. Can't see why a Bb note implies a Bb chord. Maybe it isn't a Bb but, as Will says, an A# so is compatible with an F# chord.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:27 AM

And, of course, bear in mind that the part was written by an American.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:43 AM

A lot of modern Shetland tunes have jazz influences (thanks to Willie Johnson and his radio tuned in to Schenectady) and Tom Anderson was a professional music teacher and pretty well educated about a lot of genres. I see no reason why he couldn't have meant that.

I've never played harmony on that tune but I've often heard something I didn't expect or understand going on in the background when doing the melody - a lot of Edinburgh folk guitarists have been influenced by Jimmy Elliot, who was doing the same sort of stuff as Willie Johnson at around the same time, but died quite young and didn't leave many recordings.

It would not be a good idea to pull out something like that unless you first made sure that anybody else playing an accompaniment part knew it was coming.

Actually the second fiddle part just has a held B flat note there. It occurs to me that it might simply be an A sharp written enharmonically, which would make the chord a first-inversion F#.

Anybody play F#min there?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 07:27 AM

Against a Bb note?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:54 PM

well how about this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHTw9XjKMc


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 05:55 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHTw9XjKMc


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

This F# chord(with an A# aka Bflat in it) is the same as the E7 in C that all players of Freight Train know and love. Perfectly standard chord, nothing odd about it, and fine with Da Slockit Light.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 26 Mar 09 - 06:16 PM

Indeed it is - and the only reason I mentioned it in the first place was to say that the use of the F# in Da Slockit is to raise the mood of the piece towards the end of the tune - to make it, as a good friend of mine says, "anthemic".


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 06:33 AM

another alternative is to get away from standard guitar tuning.
this enables more options,with ease,for modal dyads,or chords without major or minor third,although these can be added if wanted when in a modal tuning.
next,look at different inversions,for example bars 4 and 5 Staten Island,instead of using e minor,one could use e modal,or a two fingered a7 shape, 002020 slid up to fifth fret 005050 ,giving you the notes
eaggee,this could be used instead of the conventional a7 shape.
the problem is that many accompanists do not experiment or are often unaware of all the different inversions available


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 07:00 AM

Do you really want an Eminor(or A7) chord in the fifth bar of Staten Island? I think most people would find a D pretty satisfactory.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 07:22 AM

that should have read fourth bar.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 08:06 AM

A lot of fascinating information here – my thanks to all contributors. Here are a few further thoughts from a latecomer with some experience of playing guitar in sessions.

Firstly it's worth remembering that you don't have to play all the time, and there are often good reasons for not doing so. If someone starts a tune you don't know, and the opening phrase tells you that it doesn't fit into a familiar pattern, sit back and enjoy it.   If you want to learn the tune, lay the pick aside and play along with bare fingers – in an averagely loud session, nobody but you will hear the mistakes.

Secondly, even when the tune is a familiar one, you must be prepared to adapt if the melody players are interpreting it in an unfamiliar way.   (This may mean shutting up entirely, or playing very quietly until you're in synch with their interpretation.)

Thirdly, you don't have to play every beat – and on very fast tunes it's usually better not to. Thrashing away at 6 or 9 beats to the bar on fast jigs or slip-jigs can produce a wall of noise that sounds unappealingly mushy – however fulfilling it may be as an athletic exercise for the player. Whereas a few rhythmic punctuation marks at appropriate points can really boot the tune along – and picking the right points to insert them is a real challenge for guitarists. (Especially during jigs that require no chords but Ami and G.)

Fourthly, you don't have to hit every string on the instrument every time. There are occasions when a two- or three-note stab makes a more incisive comment than a six-string chord. A well-chosen bass line also enhances many tunes – or why not try playing the melody? (If it's good enough for Doc Watson …)

Finally, on Greg's point that one guitarist per session is enough, and more only get in the way, I beg to disagree. IMHO it depends on how resourceful (and how tasteful) the guitarists are – and on how much attention they pay to each other and to the melody instruments.

Agreed, if one guitarist sticks to beating out first-position chords in a steady rhythm, then duplicating that will add nothing except extra volume to the mix. But a second (or third) guitarist can still enrich the sonic texture by using different chord shapes further up the neck – or by developing an interesting bass line - or by inserting a few tasteful rhythmic accents on appropriate beats. (If it was good enough for Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson …)

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 08:18 AM

a very good way of learning how to accompany a tune,is to either learn to play or sing the tune.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Tradsinger
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:54 AM

This has been an interesting and generally well-informed discussion. Can I throw in my fourpennyworth.

There are a number of tunes in minor modes (let's take Em) as an example, where a change to a chord of C can be very effective (or F if you are in Am). For example, in the Swallow Tail jig, we used to play the sequence Am G Am Em, but now play Am G F Em. This gives a nice run down on the bass and sounds good, even though it is a slight dischord. Another example might be the morris version of Greensleeves, where you can play the first 4 chords as Am G F Em, and it also works in the Bear Dance B music, etc.

The other point that I have noticed recently is that some bands/musicians will end a musical phrase not on the chord of the Tonic but on the chord of the Dominant. In other words, if you are in G (think of, say, the Oyster Girl). end the tune on the note of G but play a D chord against it. It's a dischord of course, but it says, 'we haven't finished with this tune yet, there's more to come.' The Askew Sisters are particularly good at this technique and you can hear it in other groups as well (Faustus for example). You can't really do it in a session as it would produce a horrible clash, but in a group it can work.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:26 AM

There are lots of possible ambiguities in major/minor relationships which can make for some interesting harmonies, but which can also - as my original post suggested - make for some interesting dischords.

An example. I play a solo fingerstyle version of The Cuckoo's Nest in G (fits nicely under the fingers on guitar). The common opening chords to this are:

G / / / G / / / G / / / G / / /
Am / / / Am / / / Am / / / Am / / /

I actually play:

G / / / G / / / G / / / G / / /
Am / / / Am / / / F / / / F / / /

which is rather a nice shading in the 2nd 4 bars and a bit more subtle than a solid Am all the way through. The subtlety, of course, is the in the substitution of an F note for an E note in the Am and F major triads.

It's fine as a solo but I might hesitate at playing that particular change if others were involved...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:31 AM

thanks trad singer and will fly.
of course I would not put in the chords I was suggesting,if there was another guitarist playing more conventional chords.
I generally listen and look at another guitarist,before plunging in.
it is another reason why I find smaller sessions enjoyable.
now here is a tune that is interesting The Blarney Pilgrim,I reckon this tune is in d modal,with the middle section in g.
some people assume it is in g major,although G modal doesnt sound too bad .
if Iam playing with someones who is playing it with g major chords ,Iplay it with no double stopping or chords,If Iam playing it on my own or with another melody player,I use more chording.
here it is
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXsYa0Benws&feature=channel_page
whats your taken on the key,and the chord progressions WillFly


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 07:08 AM

Wheee! Dick - just had a great time playing along with the "Blarney Pilgrim". Dm is a nice key for it, and I enjoyed a whole raft of chord substitutions in the themes. For example, in the opening theme, I experimented with: (each mark being 3 of the 6/8)

Dm / Dm / G / C / D / ...and then
Dm / F / G / C / D /

I also tried various substitutions with the other sections - too numerous to name here. However, what seemed to me to be important here was that, if I was playing along with you, I'd be concentrating less on chords than on getting an appropriate bass line that wove into the tune in a melodic and rhythm way. Counterpointing, yet underpinning, if you get my drift!

PS: Have you heard Duck Baker's take on this on solo guitar? Excellent version.

PPS: Would have loved to see your fingering on the video...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 07:38 AM

Mike of Northumbria disagrees with me about one guitarist at any one time being enough in a session. He gives the example of Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson's guitar duets. I will say right now that if Eddie and Lonnie come to the session in the Greyhound, Penkhull, tomorrow(Wed April 1), I will make an exception to the rule. They will be welcome to play a guitar duet. Preferably Bullfrog Blues, but anything will do.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 07:44 AM

Hang on Greg, I'll just do a paint job on one of my old guitars - a shade of blue would just about do it, I think... (I wish).

A local gig stops me from dashing up to Penkhull to hear you play tomorrow, but I'll be roaming aimlessly around the area in the first week in May floating from club to club as the mood and opportunity take me. Is the Boat Band doing anything in England in that week?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Shaw Farmer
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 10:53 AM

i'm new to this forum, be gentle. i come from a jazz background in music , guitar mainly but also a little trumpet.

with folk music, it seems as all the tunes r harmonically simple, you can really play whatever you like.. isn't that the point? you arrange it to suit your style? for example... over a G major based melody.. e.g notes-

G A B C D E F#

You can play secondary harmony (e.g m7, MAJ7, DOM7, b7#5) if approached in the right way..look at Bellowhead, or that collaboration that never made it- Paraellagram

yes..if your in a folk session,playing these chords may not work with what other people are playing, but if you do play these chords while another guitarist plays other chords then your an idiot... the point of a 'session' is to LISTEN to other players.. interact etc etc.. not stop playing because someone else is, or play like everyone else to the lowest common denominator..LISTEN, JAM, INTEREACT and just PLAY!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Zen
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 11:10 AM

LISTEN, JAM, INTERACT and just PLAY!

Amen to that... should be on the wall at all sessions!

Zen


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 11:13 AM

Shaw Farmer,What you say is interesting,particularly if you come from a JAZZ BACKGROUND.
Sometimes the approach is different in traditional music,hence the fondness for open tunings,and the avoidance to some extent of major and minor thirds[Martin Carthy is a good example],these modal chords still often have added 7,9, 11,etc,but are much more ambiguous.
some guitarists have followed an alternative route[WillieJohnson] which is more jazz influenced,neither [imo]is right or wrong.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 11:15 AM

I've also played jazz - 5 years in a mainstream band plus outings from time to time with other musicians - and the kind of interaction you describe is common (though nothing is quite like the drunken conversations I've heard between two Sunday lunchtime jazz session players over whether such-and-such a chord is a diminished major demented or a minor shredded repented...).

Traditional folk sessions are somewhat different, however, mainly because many of the tunes are indeterminate and with no written harmonic content. If I play, say, "All The Things You Are" in Ab, there's a strong chance that other jazzers at the session will fit in with what I play - if only because the music was formally composed in the first place and the harmonic background is more or less common knowledge. Not the same with many traditional tunes, where a choice of harmonic progression is not so clear. Furthermore, when one "tune" in a session is usually two or three separate tunes played end-to-end, there's not always an opportunity to lay back and meld chords with another chord player. OK if one leads - but no always so easy.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 12:09 PM

i'm new to this forum, be gentle. i come from a jazz background in music , guitar mainly but also a little trumpet.

with folk music, it seems as all the tunes r harmonically simple, you can really play whatever you like.. isn't that the point? you arrange it to suit your style? for example... over a G major based melody.. e.g notes-

G A B C D E F#

You can play secondary harmony (e.g m7, MAJ7, DOM7, b7#5) if approached in the right way..


That seems symptomatic of an attitude you often get from jazz musicians coming into the folk scene - i.e. condescension and contempt for the material.

No you CAN'T play whatever you like. Folktunes have their own expressive world, we do NOT see them as simply something to egotrip over. They are tiny, but each one has been be shaped to say something unique.

I think this attitude in jazz comes from the period in the mid-20th century when it derived much of its raw material from Broadway ahows. That material was garbage - sentimental slop, aural security blankets for white Readers Digest readers - but the mostly black jazz musicians of the time had to use it because that was where the money was. So they spent decades steadily tearing the stuff up and reworking it beyond the point of recognizability. They knew their raw material was shite and treated it accordingly. The result was often brilliant, but it was an artistic triumph that succeeded in spite of its origins.

We do NOT appreciate our tradition being treated as if it was Cole Porter or Lerner & Loewe, thanks.

Actually the nastiest example of jazzifying folk I can think of doesn't involve harmony at all. It's Annie Grace's take on "The Trees They Grow So High". She distorts the rhythm and dynamics to make it sound like a Billie Holiday number. It's completely inappropriate to the content of the song, just pisses all over it.

look at Bellowhead, or that collaboration that never made it- Paraellagram

I only know the Bellowhead "E.P. Onymous" CD and wasn't very impressed (mainly because of the lead vocalist's terrible breath control, gasping for air at the end of every phrase).


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Sean Mc
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 12:10 PM

When did folk music get so feckin serious? The whole point of it is lost in such turgid detail. So the odd set of tunes goes astray - what the heck !!! And when it really works it makes those moments even more fulfilling. If you want rigid perfection and homogonous reproduction, join a bloody orchestra.

Here endeth the rant......


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 12:43 PM

Well, the whole point of this thread started from an acceptance of the fact that, when playing in a traditional tunes session, anyone accompanying the tunes on a harmonically more complex instrument than, say, a whistle, has to have some sensitivity to the nature of the music and its potential harmonic content, and play accordingly. Of course there are some tunes where you can let rip.

I recall one exhilarating session where we played "Puddleglum's Misery" - a written tune, I grant you - with alto sax, guitar, trombone, trumpet, melodeons, fiddles, etc., and it swung like hell, with improvisations weaving in and out of each other. But you wouldn't want that on "The Wild Hills of Whannies" - or, at any rate, I wouldn't.

Over the years, I've played traditional music, blues, '20s dance music, jazz, rock'n roll and '60s funk - before coming back to traditional music - and I didn't treat those different musical genres in the same way as each other. Each demanded a different attitude and a different approach and technique.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 12:54 PM

"we do NOT see them as simply something to egotrip over."

REALLY...? Postings on this site say exactly the opposite

" i.e. condescension and contempt..."
your whole posting drips with that you profess to despise.

and yes..? when did traditional songs and music become so damned serious. I came into the scene many years ago with one aim in mind and one only, to have some fun and I intend to carry on THAT tradition.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 01:14 PM

I came into the scene many years ago with one aim in mind and one only, to have some fun and I intend to carry on THAT tradition.

My reason for making music has always been to have fun, otherwise I wouldn't do it, but I think the greatest fun occurs when you play with other people in such a way that the ensemble makes the "best" sound. Define "best" according to taste.

So - fun, yes - but not at the expense of others' fun. I repeat: precisely the reason for this thread - to play in a way that fits the music in a sensitive way. The musicians in this thread, as it happens, have stayed relatively sensitive to each others' statements, but I can see the usual Mudcat wrangles starting... Isn't it obvious by now that a civilised discussion on a technical point is so much more productive than mudcat slinging?

(Sighs, picks up banjo, bodhran and Strat and gets coat...)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 01:32 PM

I recall one exhilarating session where we played "Puddleglum's Misery" - a written tune, I grant you - with alto sax, guitar, trombone, trumpet, melodeons, fiddles, etc., and it swung like hell, with improvisations weaving in and out of each other. But you wouldn't want that on "The Wild Hills of Whannies" - or, at any rate, I wouldn't.

Wild Hills o Wannies is a tune I often play as a solo showpiece - it's not widely known in Scotland anyway, and what I do is very ornate, based on Billy Pigg's version but evolved over the 25 years since I last heard it, and in D minor to fit the treble recorder. There is only one other person who can follow that melodically and she isn't often in a session with me. So the texture is typically just me + a roomful of guitars. In that situation, experimental harmonies work - the guitarists can hear and respond to each other very well and never settle into quite the same groove twice.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 01:40 PM

I have the Billy Pigg recording of the "Wild Hills Of Whannies", and very beautiful it is. I've never thought of an accompaniment for it. There's a musician* in Sussex who plays it at local sessions on Northumbrian small pipes and we sit back and listen while he plays it as a solo - just for the sheer pleasure of hearing him play it.

*Derrick Hughes - you can see him playing the small pipes on video in the thread I posted today about the Twagger Band.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 02:07 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCUVvVrlkws&feature=channel_page


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 02:18 PM

Dick - there's something in the way you play it reminds me of Copsaholme Fair. Is there any connection between the two tunes, do you know?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Declan
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 02:28 PM

While the rudeness is totally unnecessary, I agree with Jack's basic point that traditional music is not jazz or rock music and backing it as if it was never sounds right (to me) and also with Will that it's much more fun when it's done with sensitvity than approached in an I'm only here for the craic way (Help I'll be saying Good enough for folk in a minute!).


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 03:27 PM

Sorry,Will,I dont know Copsaholme Fair.
I enjoyed your versiom of Angi.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 03:40 PM

It was the Bellowhead version of Copshawholme Fair (correct spelling this time) that reminded me of the Wild Hills. The only version I can find on the Tube is Steeleye Span - which is not the same...

Thanks for the kind words on Angi, Dick - it seems a long time ago that I ever played that in a club. The YouTube version was done as a request, as no-one had played a version on the Tube that was anywhere near Davy Graham's original.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:19 PM

Bellowhead's "Copshaw Fair" and "Wild Hills o Wannies" have the same ancestor - they're both variants of the 18th century Scottish jig "The Hills [or Braes] of Glenorchy".


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:22 PM

Thanks Jack - so my ear wasn't deceiving me after all!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:49 PM

Surely the Steeleye version is the same tune(or close relation, anyway?)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:04 PM

Yes it is - it was the Steeleye arrangement in the latter half that threw me - it's just that the Bellowhead version is obviously nearer to the Wild Hills.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Howard Jones
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:16 PM

Declan wrote, "I agree with Jack's basic point that traditional music is not jazz or rock music and backing it as if it was never sounds right".

I agree 100%, except...I've just been copying a 30 year old cassette tape I made of a performance by Shetland fiddlers Tom Anderson and Aly Bain, accompanied by the wonderful "Peerie" Willie Johnson on guitar. Willie's guitar playing was of course rooted in jazz, but because he was also rooted in traditional Shetland music he was able to use that style to accompany the fiddle tunes in a way which sounded absolutely right. It took a deep understanding of both forms of music to pull it off successfully.

The recording is of a concert they played at Castleton Folk Club, but it was just a small part of a wonderful weekend spent playing all day in Derbyshire pubs, only leaving at the last possible minute to accompany the trio to their evening gigs, before returning to someone's house to carry on playing.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:27 PM

In this context, I think it is a mistake to view Peerie Willie Johnson's playing as rooted in jazz particularly. This style of chording became very standard throughout America, developing steadily from 1900 on. It soon took reoot in Briutain also. I think it would be better dsescribed as "popular dance music chording", as it was used for all sorts of music that wasn't really jazzy at all. For example, backing traditional Irish music, as we can hear in Amercian recordings of IOrish fiddlers in the 20's. And, of course, it fits fine with English or Scottish or \Shetland fidle tunes. The music was coexistng happily


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:34 PM

greg,Johnson learned his style from listening to Eddie Lang,therfore his roots were jazz:Lang was a jazz guitarist,he ws not a popular dance musician.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:37 PM

furthermore,since this thread is titled as it is, lets have alook at Western Swing:American traditional tunes using Jazz Chording.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:49 PM

Well, Lang spanned both the world of orchestral dance music (Paul Whiteman, Jean Goldkette, etc.) with small group work with Joe Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke, Adrian Rollini and others. I have no idea what Willie Johnson would have heard on the radio.

As to Western Swing, a study of my extensive collection of Bob Wills recordings reveals that there were a whole range of styles bundled together - not only in the repertoire, but in individual songs. One piece might start off with a traditional country sound - fiddles, etc., - then break into swing with a sax section, then hot jazz with trumpet and guitar solos! Certainly guitarist Eldon Shamblin played all this stuff - but I think he adapted his style to suit the recording.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:53 PM

agreed Will,but Johnson has publicly stated he learned from listening to short wave radio of EddieLang.
Eddie Lang like Bix Beiderbecke,considered himself a jazz musician,hre only worked with the likes of Whiteman to pay the bills.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:58 PM

Dick, I'm sure you're right - I had no idea of which facet of Lang's playing was heard by Peerie Willie Johnson. All I know is that Lang spanned several genres - including those marvellous blues sets (as Blind Willie Dunn) with Lonnie Johnson.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Old Vermin
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:03 PM

To more-or-less quote Mr Kevin Gorton, player, inter-alia, of melodeon, fiddle, recorder and Surrey bagpipes - but not all at the same time - "guitarists - they always all play different chords"

Who was it said that with the guitar less is more? Possibly Grant Baynham.

Reckon there's enough material in this thread for a good book.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:03 PM

Dick - forgot to mention: I have, in a cupboard somewhere, a rather battered copy, from the late 20s, of a guitar tutorial by Eddie Lang (at least, it has his name on the cover). It's a complex and detailed work - not easy to get through - which shows that Lang was very fond of using "inside voicings", i.e. the inner 4 strings of the guitar, to get dense, subtle and quite fast chord changes. I must dig it out and take a look at it again. I wonder if he ever played tenor guitar as a boy...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stringsinger
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

If it sounds appropriate to you, it probably is. Accepted may be different from appropriate, though. I guess it depends on the tune/style/history/and accessibility.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:11 PM

"guitarists - they always all play different chords"

Ah - that's because we can. :-) And "less is more" is a phrase used of many instruments... I was once playing in a pub in Hove with a funk band and the landlord asked the keyboard player to turn it down. Result! :-)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:42 PM

Just listened to Dick's version of The Wild Hills of Wannie. About the same speed overall as I do it, though I start slower, use a lot more rubato, end more definitely waltz-like and put in a lot more notes, as Billy Pigg did. But the question I wanna ask is... what on earth did you do to get the Japanese gagaku music come up as related???

Actually the gagaku sound would fit a standard folk band quite well:

sho -> moothie, concertina or melodeon
ryuteki -> whistle or flute
hichiriki -> smallpipes or uillean pipes with the drones off
Japanese drum -> bodhran

"Etenraku" for your next Irish session?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Declan
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 07:52 PM

I love Peerie Willie's style of playing, and while it has jazz roots the thing was that he obviously knew the tune repertoire well and adapted the style to fit. I have no problem with this approach. Where there is often an issue is where people who could well be experts in accompanying other genres assume that they can come in to a session without familaiarising themselves with the tunes, styles etc. attempt to apply a formula for backing tunes which works in the other idiom and assume it will work in the context of a session, often with dire results


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 11:55 PM

Will Fly--The "inside" voicings are pretty much what jazz guitarists use, both for playing chord melody and for playing those call and response chord blocks that are similar to what horn sections play in swing--

My mentor, old Uncle Albert, taught me to play four string voicings on each of the three adjacent sets of four strings, as well as four note voicings that skipped a string. The technique was adapted from jazz banjo--

The early jazz guitarists, including Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas, started out on banjo and made the switch when electronic recording was introduced. This partly because guitar had a wider range, and partly because the sound of the banjo came across as thin and harsh as recording technology improved.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:11 AM

Hi M.Ted - I'm aware that jazz guitarists commonly use 4-string voicings. I do myself and recommend the technique to young players. What was interesting for me was that Eddie Lang was one of the first persons - as far as I'm aware - to write about it and to propagate the method in print. :-)


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Shaw Farmer
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:16 AM

Jack Campin said:

"No you CAN'T play whatever you like. Folktunes have their own expressive world, we do NOT see them as simply something to egotrip over. They are tiny, but each one has been be shaped to say something unique."

I can't play whatever I like? Thats weird, because last time I checked, traditional tunes are in the PUBLIC domain, and not kept under lock and key in your museum. Do you really think 200 years ago troubadours, entertainers and alike all played tunes the same? No.. if they did there wouldn't be the diversity in folk tunes and songs we see today. What a ridiculous attitude to take to 'the music of the PEOPLE'.

Jack Campin also said:

" We do NOT appreciate our tradition being treated as if it was Cole Porter or Lerner & Loewe, thanks."

First of all... We? is Jack Campin a band? Society of folk protectors? or do you believe you speak for the majority of folk music enthusiasts?

I think your point about slushy, simple, music hall songs being turned into something different is interesting, but sadly contradicts your previous attitudes towards arranging folk material...NEWSFLASH... folk music is simple, sentimental material..(I could be controversal and say also for the white middle classes too) and its the job of the musician/singer to bring life to the material, which is exactly what jazz musicians do, they encourage diversity and experimentation, where your attitude is to let the music stagnate and die. Most folk tunes are based around 5 notes, its simple harmonically but that gives plenty of scope for the performer to make it there own.

Incidentally, most Music Hall songs/tunes that inspired jazz arrangements (especially in the UK) were closely connected to the folk music of the time... in fact I've even heard music hall songs being played as ceilidh sets (Dartmoor Pixie Band?).. so by insulting music hall your tearing apart the music you so eagerly defend.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:09 AM

To revert to an earlier bit, Eddie Lang's roots. He was the consummate jazz accompanist, but the roots are definitely in Americanised popular European(Italian) dance music. The interface between jazz, folk and popular was always a shifting and kaleidoscopic thing. As has ben pointed out, Texas swing is a big source for this kind of guitar playing. If you listen to early New Orleans guitarists, for example, they don't tend to sound like Eddie Lang. But white dance musicians, eg Texas swing band rhythm section men, do tend to.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:11 AM

You are missing the point by a very long way. The jazz musicians who adopted Broadway showtunes in the middle of the 20th century instead of what they were doing before were mostly black and working class, and suddenly they were playing white middle-class music instead of their own. Showtunes are no sort of folk music for anybody, by even the most lenient categorization. And the way the jazzers treated them showed absolutely zero respect for them. Understandably - they didn't deserve that respect, and jazz got wonderful results by utterly ignoring whatever the tunes were actually saying.

Kenneth Rexroth has some interesting things to say about this:
http://www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/jazz.htm

I don't know what Cole Porter or Rodgers & Hart thought about what the bebop generation did to their music. I imagine they were outraged.

A jazz musician today, coming to traditional music with a condescending attitude like "it's all based around 5 notes", is if anything, showing even greater hostility to their raw material. At least the bebop generation took the trouble to understand the musical structures of the showtunes before disembowelling them. Seems like you care nothing for either what the tunes express or how they came to be. And you expect us to listen to you?

Take a look at the modes tutorial on my website:
www.campin.me.uk/Music/Modes/

Some of it's based around five notes. Most of it isn't, and whether it is or not, there is a great deal more than just that going on.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Shaw Farmer
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:59 AM

I do get your point, I just think its a bad one.

Where do you get this idea that Music Hall is for the white middle classes? a lot of the origins of music hall came from east end pubs in london, where most of the time the format was very similiar to folk clubs, pay a few quid to sit around and sing, dance, tell stories.. before that it was performed in rural communitys as part of the gypsy and travelling fayre, hardly white middle class music. YES, I agree it developed into a leisure persuit, but the performers were still working class.

Anyway.. we're digressing.The point is, all music is art, art is free to interpretation, and interpretation should not be governed by anybody.

Jack Campin said:

"Seems like you care nothing for either what the tunes express or how they came to be. And you expect us to listen to you?"

Again, whats with the 'Us' - who are you speaking for?

You got one thing correct- I dont care about how folk music came to be , HOWEVER I do care what tunes express, and strumming the same shit chords that Cecil Sharp said you should play doesn't express anything to me. When I play along to these tunes, I try to express an aspect of the song/tune with my own individual take on the harmony.

Like I said at the start- LISTEN, JAM, INTEREACT and just PLAY!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:36 AM

If you actually understood the history of this music you'd know that Cecil Sharp never suggested any chords.

If you don't care how folk music came to me - don't give a damn which tunes were meant to be danced or marched to and how, which are associated with particular stories, particular moods, particular kinds of statement - how on earth can you expect to know anything about what the tune expresses? Good luck playing your arrangement of "Marching through Georgia" in Glasgow.

The original question wasn't about "individual takes" but the exact opposite - identifying the way things are usually done so as to fit into to it. How not to be original. Nothing wrong with "individual takes" in other performance contexts, but they aren't what sessions are usually about.

There is one basic mismatch between the way jazz performances are put together (these days, anyway) and folk tunes, which needs to be sorted out if you're trying to synthesize them. Modern jazz theory uses a "chord/scale" model, where a composition is presented as a chord sequence and a melody over it. The melody is then treated as not much more than a hint of how to continue - as each chord comes along, you can take off melodically into anything that fits the modal scale associated with it (and those modes are often nothing that ever occurs in any folk idiom from anywhere) or harmonically extend the chord in any vaguely compatible direction. Maybe you quote bits of the melody, maybe you mutilate it so much that its own mother couldn't identify the body. This is a very, very long way from folk practice. It's basically an art music discipline, like the Indian raga or Arabic maqam. People who manage to create music that sounds like *both* jazz and real folk music *at the same time* are few and far between and spend a very long time working their music out with a small group of collaborators (Jan Garbarek, Okay Temiz, Bojan Zulfikarpasic, for a few). They also know the folk material they're using very well indeed.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stu
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:53 AM

"LISTEN, JAM, INTEREACT and just PLAY!"

I would add KNOW THE TUNES if you intend to accompany them. If you don't know the tunes well enough to lilt them then you can't accompany them effectively.

"The point is, all music is art, art is free to interpretation, and interpretation should not be governed by anybody."

All art also has a context, and much folk music is played in sessions where many of the people playing find that playing a secondary harmony with a load of jazzy chords is at best distracting, at worse downright disrespectful. Of course, in a group anything goes.

"I dont care about how folk music came to be , HOWEVER I do care what tunes express, and strumming the same shit chords that Cecil Sharp said you should play doesn't express anything to me."

Don't care how it came to be? This is a tradition, and it's past is bloody important. How can you understand the music you play if you don't have some idea of where it's come from? It's a mistake to see traditional music as some sort of vehicle for your own self-indulgence, and there are plenty of players out there who certainly do that. It's a social activity and that means taking into account some of the basic premises of the music, and the most important one to remember is the tune is the key, and at the end of the day it's the tune that matters.

I would check out some the accompanists mentioned on this thread plus one or two others: Dennis Cahill, Alec Finn and John Doyle. Also, if i could venture one piece of advice - for the time being forget the jazz chords and study the modes, accompany using the simple chord structures that provide the basis for any accompaniment of trad music and once you're familiar with them your previous musical knowledge will be a fantastic resource to build your own style of accompanying this incredible, deep music.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Marje
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:10 AM

This is something I find it hard to explain or quantify, but I don't agree with the allegation (Shaw Farmer, above) that folk music is "sentimental", and I think it's a key point in this discussion. It may be deceptively simple at times, but for me, it's the utter lack of sentimentality that draws me to folk music. I now find that much "classical" orchestral music and a great deal of piano music sounds sentimental to me and turns me right off.

Sentimentality isn't really a way of expressing feeling and emotion - it bypasses genuine sentiment and true feeling, substituting forms of expression that allow the listener and the performer to allude to emotions without actually experiencing them. I don't think you get that very often in folk music, and for me this makes folk music more powerful and direct, more capable of stirring up real emotion.

If you want an extreme example of the opposite of folk song, listen to some barbershop - I know there will be Mudcatters who do both, but they must know that barbershop is crammed with every sentimental device known to music, while folk song is not. Instrumental folk music, at its best, has similar qualities of spareness and simplicity.

As I said, I find it hard to analyse this, and can't really do any more than say that it's my gut reaction. But it's one reason that many folk musicians do not welcome over-complicated chords and harmonies, or fussy passing-notes, accidentals, and changes in tempo. It also explains why many traditional musicians and singers dislike some "classical" or "parlour" settings of folk tunes and songs - these arrangements are often spoiled by sentimentality.


Marje


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:27 AM

Well, I certainly don't recall Cecil Sharp telling me what shit chords to play with tunes. Which chords are the shit ones, I wonder? Soldiers Joy, I always play with D and A7, nothing else. Are either of these shit? I think we should be told, maybe there is a C Sharp book I haven't come across.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:55 AM

Well, I've just picked up a C Sharp book and opened it at random. A G major version of Henry Martin. The 8 bars are harmonised as follows.
/G G/C G/G G/G D/G G7/C G/G C(D7)/G G/

Well, you'd have to try them with the tune, but those chords seem perfectly functional, simple, ideal for the tune.I've just tried them on my guitar. What's not to like? I can think of a great deal wrong with Cecil Sharp's work, and his accompaniments, and have written plenty on the subject myself. But I dont think his G chords are particularly shitty.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Shaw Farmer
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:57 AM

Jack Campin said:

"If you actually understood the history of this music you'd know that Cecil Sharp never suggested any chords."

I was joking. Shall I edit it and say Dave Mallison instead?

Jack Campin also said:

"If you don't care how folk music came to me - don't give a damn which tunes were meant to be danced to... how on earth can you expect to know anything about what the tune expresses?"

I agree with this when it comes to songs, but also if a song is well written it should tell you everything you need to know in the lyrics. There may be times when I may do some research into archaic words but most of the time the story is there.

Tune wise, I dont think knowing the title and its history will really help me 'express'. I think the way you interpret it is more important than its history.

As for telling me to learn my modes, I have.(I've also learnt how to play simple chord structures over folk melodies thankyou Sugarfoot Jack) I've been playing jazz since I was 8, played in big bands, quintets, even tried a bit of bebop, and then recently taken up folk. I do agree with you about successful fusions of jazz and folk though, its few and far between and something I'll be looking into.

Sugarfoot Jack said:

"All art also has a context, and much folk music is played in sessions where many of the people...find.. a load of jazzy chords...at worse downright disrespectful. Of course, in a group anything goes."

At no point have I suggested everyone should go out and play jazz chords over folk melodies. I only offered my opinion of what was possible (after a long stream of messages saying ignore the minor or major 3rds!)also I'd like you to tell me how playing 'jazzy' chords is disrespecting another musician? then you say 'in a group anything goes' um, What have we been talking about then?

Sugarfoot Jack also said:

"This is a tradition, and it's past is bloody important....How can you understand the music you play if you don't have some idea of where it's come from?"

What does that even mean? do I need to know how the harmonic series works to play a Gmajor chord? Do I need to know the difference between mean temperament and equal temperament to play music after the 18th century? NO. I dont. Music is just sound, its not a tradition, its just clever noises. Real folk musicians (e.g a builder who knows an old song that his grandad used to sing and belts it out in a pub after the rugby) doesn't give a damn about 'the tradition'.

Again, we digress gentlemen. We're not here to talk about the tradition.We're here to talk about how you can play along to a folk melody with other people.

As we're not getting anywhere and you guys are intent on being condascending to my attitudes I bid you farewell. I just wanted to talk to like minded people, instead I've been met by nazi like attitudes towards folk music.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:00 AM

Oh those nazis. Adolph did a wonderful Field of Athenry, but I thought Goebbels bleated like a goat.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:07 AM

Adolf.
Adolf Hitler did not like syncopation in music,he would not have liked some Shetland music,I believe he ordered the destruction of a lot of jazz music during the second world war.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: johncharles
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:07 AM

As someone who plays guitar it is my general impression that once you get above 6/7 people in a session guitarists can play what they like as they are usually inaudible above fiddles mandolins and melodeons.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Shaw Farmer
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:08 AM

Thankyou Guest!

Greg, put it this way. It takes a great musician to make lots of notes/chords sound fantastic, but it takes an even better musician to make two notes/chords sound fantastic. The sad fact is, a lot of musicians are shit.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: M.Ted
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:16 AM

Thanks for the article, Jack. Did you read it? He takes issue with your viewpoint rather vehemently:

"Nothing is more absurd than the balderdash so common amongst Crow Jim French and British critics, that jazz is "the voice of the downtrodden Negro people...jazz itself appears first as part of the entertainment business, and the enraged proletariat do not frequent night clubs or cabarets"

He also points out, in several places, that jazz music was feature in Broadway shows of the twenties--and, in point of fact, George Gershwin both played and wrote jazz--Many of his songs have been turned into silky cabaret ballads, but were hard driving jazz numbers in the original shows--Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and the rest wrote songs for the times, it was, after all, "The Jazz Age"--


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stu
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:21 AM

"What have we been talking about then?"

If you're talking about sessions then you need to take note of some of these comments because not everyone wants to play jazz (and some of them hate any accompaniment), and it's an area trad musicians argue about constantly. If you're talking about playing in a band (or 'group') then ignore everything if you wish and fill your boots.

I didn't mean to be condescending so apologise if my post came across like that, just as I'm sure you do really give a damn about the authenticity of what you're playing.

My great-granddad played the bones. I have them here on my desk.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:15 AM

Shaw Farmer: I agree with you, some musicians are shit (thgough we might not agree which ones those are). But a G chord is just a chord. Except the relative minor chords that Peter Paul and Mary played for "Blowin' in the Wind", they really were shit.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stu
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:26 AM

For what it's worth, there's a grounding on traditional Irish accompaniment here you might be interested in.

As a shit musician, I have no idea if this is any use to you or not.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:35 AM

A G CHORD is not just a G CHORD,In standard tuning it can be gbdgbd,or it can be gbdgdd or it can bethe barred F SHAPE on the third fret,in drop d dddgbg or dbdgbg,or gddgbg   the different inversions give differing flavours.
the problem with a lot of guitarists is: just this attitude,they never find outwhere the different versions of a chord are.
there are for example loads of different inversions of e 7,and they are all very different


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 12:45 PM

Captain: I did not say a G chord is just a G chord. Though I might well do. I said a G chord is just a chord. Which it is. Of itself, it is neither shit nor not-shit. Neither is it a bookcase or an orange. It is a chord. Which can, as you point out, exist in several different inversions. Which, as an accompanist, I have had plenty of time to think about, while the accordions and fiddles do their thing.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Declan
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:07 PM

Sugarfoot Jack,

Thanks for posting that link. I don't have time too read the whole thing now, but I agree with a lot of what I read on a quick scan. A lot of good advice in there too.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:28 PM

Ditto. Vey thoughtful and informative piece.But simplistic on Irish/Scottish/English musical relationships, but that's fine. Would recommend anyone to follow the link and have a browse.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: GUEST,EricTheOrange
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 03:25 AM


The original question wasn't about "individual takes" but the exact opposite - identifying the way things are usually done so as to fit into to it. How not to be original. Nothing wrong with "individual takes" in other performance contexts, but they aren't what sessions are usually about. (Jack Campin)


I used to go to a session where there was a guy who was without doubt a technically excellent guitarist (who I'll call JJ) but who had the sensitivity of a brick. He'd stomp all over the tune with a wide range of "jazz" chords and in my opinion it'd sound awful. I don't go to that session any more which is a shame as the other people were very nice.

I think a lot of what he did was about his ego. We had a young lad who came along once with his guitar. He was nothing special, just stuck to the three chord trick and simple rhythms and it sounded great just filling out the music under the tune players. We were having a nice time. Then JJ arrived and joined in with more and more extreme arrangements and it seemed obvious to the rest of us that he felt threatened by the other guys presence, despite the obvious difference in technical ability. It reached a head when JJ was so wrapped up in being clever that he played loudly all the way through one tune oblivious to the fact that he was in the wrong key! The new guy got up and left and we never saw him again.

I don't really care what people play in sessions as long as it is sensitive to both the tune and the other musicians present. Surely that's what it's all about?


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Marje
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 07:26 AM

The article in the link above is interesting but his cultural background information is somewhat suspect. It's news to me that the sessions are mainly or entirely an Irish and Scottish tradition - there's no mention of England where, if my understanding is correct, the Irish pub session habit originated with the London-Irish, and where lively sessions, including English ones, continue to take place all around the country. The same applies to dance: Scottish dancing is mentioned because of its links with Irish dancing, but Engish dancing (step dancing, country dance etc) which is inextricably connected with both, is not apparently worth mentioning.

Interestingly, the first book recommended is by Dave Mallinson, an Englishman who not only publishes Irish session tunes but is a respected authority on English music and English-style melodeon playing.

Marje

It may seem tiresome to bang on about this, and I don't have a particular bias as I was born in Scotland and raised in Ireland, but I'm now very involved in the English music scene and I get tired of seeing English culture filtered out of so many accounts, especially in other countries like the US.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 07:47 AM

Hi Marje - you would probably get a non-English bias in the linked article because TheSession.org is a great site devoted almost exclusively to Irish and Scottish music - as I discovered when I tried to get info on some English tunes. That's not to say that there aren't Enlgish tunes on the site - masquerading under other names - but the purpose of the site is predominantly what's know as (ugh) Celtic...


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 08:15 AM

www session org, is a very good resource,but most of the contibutors to the discussions have avery narrow perspective of both Irish and other traditional musics,some of them are virulently anti Irish traditional songs at Irish sessions.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stu
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 09:18 AM

Marje - As has been said, it's a trad Irish site primarily (which is the music I love) but much of the information is relevant, especially to the original poster who was asking about playing in sessions. I know the session gets some stick, but in my opinion it's true to the music and offers some excellent insight into playing Irish traditional music.

Perhaps there are English music sites that offer similar insight into accompaniment for English tunes (although I suspect there is some crossover)? I'd certainly be interested in seeing it.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 09:45 AM

Scottish music doesn't get much better treatment on The Session than English. (For some aspects of Scottish music, Footstompin is the place to go, but it's not much like Mudcat).

That article had some mistakes about rhythm. Reels are duple time (2/4 or 2/2), strathspeys are 4/4. For strathspeys that matters - they're actually going twice as fast as they sound, and if you never accent anything but beats 1 and 3 your accompaniment will sound draggy.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 09:58 AM

So much science! The folk process surely demands use of personal aesthetic criteria rather than formulaic accompaniment. Or, as Richard Digance described it in his "Drinking with Rosie", when describing the septagenarian piano player:

"... she grabbed handfuls of notes in no particular key..."


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 10:08 AM

The folk process surely demands use of personal aesthetic criteria rather than formulaic accompaniment.

So it does, George, so it does. It's when one person's aesthetic criteria clash with anothers that the problems can start...!


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Stu
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 10:48 AM

Amen.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Marje
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 01:09 PM

I know the article we were discussing was mainly about Irish music, dancing and sessions, and I've no problem with that; I just get a bit weary with the uninformed dismissal of any notion that Irish tradition and culture could be just as closely related to English as it is to Scottish/Breton/Welsh (or indeed that England even has any traditional culture).

For anyone who's the least bit interested in the origins and background of Irish music, dance and sessions, the connections and overlaps with English musical traditions, both now and in the past, are hugely significant, and to suggest otherwise or omit to mention such connections is very misleading. I can only suppose the motivation is socio-political, but there's really no rational excuse for the constant insistence that words like "session" and "crack" are ancient "celtic" words and concepts, or that many thoroughly and typically English tunes are in fact completely Irish.

It would have been helpful, for instance, when he was explaining the difference between single and double jigs, to point out that double jigs are much the commonest type of jig in Irish music, whereas single jigs are more typical of English music, but there seems to be some kind of taboo on mentioning anything English.


Marje


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 01:22 PM

you are quite right ,Marje,and it is hardly surprising that Irish and English music are so close.
A brief look at history,reveals that Ireland was ruled by England until 1921,and part of Ireland is stillpart of the UK,this probably explains a lot.
some Irish people do not realise,that England has any other traditional music other than Morris dancing and shanties,but then a lot of English people have no knowledge or respect for their own musical heritage,either.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 01:44 PM

Some Irish musicians are honest about the connection. Look at Alois Fleischmann's "Sources of Irish Traditional Music".


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 02:06 PM

But ,I doubt if the author of that piece on the session is even Irish,most of the people that contribute to the discussions are not either irish,or living in Ireland.Quite alot of them are not irish but have certain fixed ideas about Irish music.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Marje
Date: 03 Apr 09 - 04:31 AM

Oh, I bet the guy who wrote that piece has an Irish granny. Doesn't everyone in the US have an Irish relative? And yet hardly anyone has English antecedents. Funny, that.

But it's true what you say, Dick, the English are partly to blame for the way they're so often air-brushed out ofthe picture - they often contribute to this themselves.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Smokey.
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 06:27 PM

If in doubt, stick to only what chords could be formed on a diatonic harp and work outwards from that if necessary.


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Subject: RE: Accepted chords for traditional tunes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 06:44 PM

I'm surprised to find myself on here, in that I generally don't do tunes as such.

What does appear somewhat threatening, however, is that at Tenterden John Barden is double booked with a (well deserved but it should be higher up the bill) concert slot as well as chairing the English tunes session in the Lion - so for maybe half an hour I may be "in charge". This thread makes me more determined than ever simply to say "Here we are: you get on with it!"


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