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Change happens: Wreck of the Six Wheeler

jody 01 Mar 11 - 10:06 PM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Mar 11 - 11:03 AM
jody 04 Mar 11 - 04:34 AM
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Subject: Change happens: Wreck of the Six Wheeler
From: jody
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 10:06 PM

When I find an old song that I like and work it up for performance, the process often ends up altering the song. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. In this case, I started by listening to the 1929 original and trying to play it just the way that I heard it. It didn't take long for this attempt to yield a very different sort of song as the groove and chords changed and adapted themselves to my style and the Anglo concertina that I play and my critical ear. The melody and lyrics remain basically the same but the old song has now become a new song... sort of.

Do you do that?

Listen to "Wreck of the Six Wheeler" from our 2010 album "Paul and Jody - American Songs and Tunes." on youtube:

We adapted this song from Newton Gains's 1929 recording which can be heard here:

Lyrics and lots of interesting and detailed discussion about this and related songs here:


It's not like I set out to deliberately change a song for changes sake. Change just sort of happens as I discover interesting ways to play and be willing to make the song my own.

How does this work for you?

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Subject: RE: Change happens: Wreck of the Six Wheeler
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Mar 11 - 11:03 AM

I arrange music for a group of friends. We have harps, flutes, recorders and guitar. One day we were playing an Irish tune which was 96% eighth notes, and a harper said, "You've gotta have a quarter note once in a while so I can look at my strings!"

So I started melding 8th notes in dance tunes into longer notes, for harpers and so wind players can breathe.

Other things I do:

Remove pointless accidentals. Some accidentals are important, some are not.

Change flat keys to sharp keys.

Raise key for flutes, which don't like to play low.

If it seems to make no difference, I alter stepwise notes so they go better with guitar (or harp) accompaniment.

It makes the music more fun to play.

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Subject: RE: Change happens: Wreck of the Six Wheeler
From: jody
Date: 04 Mar 11 - 04:34 AM

Hi Jeeneia,

Your friends are lucky to have someone like you to help them have more fun. It sounds like the changes you make are to written music. That's well and good. The changes I was talking about are to music learned by ear and performed by ear.

Not that I have anything against dots and scores. I use them myself, but rarely in the world of traditional music, once I get beyond the learning stage. I guess that I was hoping to have a discussion about how music changes through the act of playing it, the folk process on a personal scale. Quite a different thing than the valuable service of arranging you are doing for your friends.

When I play the old songs and tunes I like with my friends, we mess around with many aspects of the music, tempo, dynamics, ranges, all sorts of ways to accompany the tune, harmony, chords, interesting rhythms... all by ear in an improvisational way without dots. This keeps things fresh and new with surprising discoveries every time we get together.

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