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Use of Piano in folk/trad music?

GUEST,MichaelK 12 Nov 12 - 12:05 PM
GUEST 12 Nov 12 - 12:09 PM
Richard Bridge 12 Nov 12 - 12:26 PM
Bettynh 12 Nov 12 - 12:34 PM
katlaughing 12 Nov 12 - 12:38 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 12:49 PM
Mooh 12 Nov 12 - 12:53 PM
GUEST,Peter 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM
CupOfTea 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM
Mooh 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM
greg stephens 12 Nov 12 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,999 12 Nov 12 - 01:27 PM
Will Fly 12 Nov 12 - 01:32 PM
dick greenhaus 12 Nov 12 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 01:41 PM
greg stephens 12 Nov 12 - 01:43 PM
johncharles 12 Nov 12 - 01:48 PM
Megan L 12 Nov 12 - 01:54 PM
GUEST 12 Nov 12 - 01:59 PM
theleveller 12 Nov 12 - 02:04 PM
Stringsinger 12 Nov 12 - 02:11 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 12 Nov 12 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 02:33 PM
Gurney 12 Nov 12 - 03:01 PM
GUEST,Big Al Whittle 12 Nov 12 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Blandiver 12 Nov 12 - 03:53 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Nov 12 - 03:59 PM
Little Robyn 12 Nov 12 - 04:27 PM
Arthur_itus 12 Nov 12 - 05:01 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 05:38 PM
Joe_F 12 Nov 12 - 06:11 PM
GUEST 12 Nov 12 - 06:23 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 06:33 PM
Commander Crabbe 12 Nov 12 - 06:49 PM
dulcimer42 12 Nov 12 - 06:59 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 12 Nov 12 - 09:53 PM
Ernest 13 Nov 12 - 01:48 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 13 Nov 12 - 03:40 AM
GUEST,giovanni 13 Nov 12 - 04:07 AM
GUEST 13 Nov 12 - 04:27 AM
Mr Happy 13 Nov 12 - 05:13 AM
Steve Gardham 13 Nov 12 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,henryp 13 Nov 12 - 09:25 AM
John P 13 Nov 12 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,Grishka 13 Nov 12 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 13 Nov 12 - 10:52 AM
katlaughing 13 Nov 12 - 11:01 AM
greg stephens 13 Nov 12 - 11:05 AM
Owen Woodson 13 Nov 12 - 11:13 AM
John on the Sunset Coast 13 Nov 12 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Grishka 13 Nov 12 - 11:48 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 13 Nov 12 - 12:44 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 13 Nov 12 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 13 Nov 12 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,Grishka 13 Nov 12 - 02:46 PM
GUEST,Grishka 13 Nov 12 - 02:50 PM
CupOfTea 13 Nov 12 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 13 Nov 12 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Grishka 13 Nov 12 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 14 Nov 12 - 12:51 PM
sleepyjon 14 Nov 12 - 07:18 PM
GUEST,Colin Holt 15 Nov 12 - 08:37 AM
TheSnail 15 Nov 12 - 08:56 AM
ripov 15 Nov 12 - 12:49 PM
Suegorgeous 15 Nov 12 - 02:29 PM
Don Firth 15 Nov 12 - 03:38 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 15 Nov 12 - 11:15 PM
GUEST,Grishka 16 Nov 12 - 05:54 AM
John P 16 Nov 12 - 08:59 AM
Don Firth 16 Nov 12 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 17 Nov 12 - 12:19 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 17 Nov 12 - 06:27 AM
John P 17 Nov 12 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 17 Nov 12 - 04:00 PM
Don Firth 17 Nov 12 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 17 Nov 12 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 17 Nov 12 - 10:56 PM
Howard Jones 18 Nov 12 - 09:29 AM
Stringsinger 18 Nov 12 - 01:40 PM
Don Firth 18 Nov 12 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 18 Nov 12 - 06:48 PM
Howard Jones 18 Nov 12 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 18 Nov 12 - 10:23 PM
GUEST,Grishka 19 Nov 12 - 05:29 AM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 19 Nov 12 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 19 Nov 12 - 08:43 AM
John P 19 Nov 12 - 10:46 AM
GUEST 19 Nov 12 - 07:12 PM
GUEST,Grishka 20 Nov 12 - 06:14 AM
GUEST 28 Nov 12 - 05:38 AM
Howard Jones 28 Nov 12 - 08:52 AM
GUEST,Banjo Tom 28 Nov 12 - 08:52 PM
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Subject: Use of Piano in folkgtrad music?
From: GUEST,MichaelK
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:05 PM

What are some members opinion on the use of the Piano in Folk/trad music?
   I like to play it on the piano myself but I've noticed very few Folk/Trad artists seem to use it. (the only one I can think of that does is Johnny McEvoy)


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:09 PM

(That should be folk/trad not folkgtrad lol)


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:26 PM

I hate it.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Bettynh
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:34 PM

Piano is certainly traditional here for contra dance music. John McCutcheon and Arlo Guthrie usually include piano in their collection of on-stage instruments. It all goes back to your definition of Folk/Trad, doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: katlaughing
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:38 PM

My mom always played the piano along with dad who played fiddle/banjo/mando/guitar, and sang, for dances, etc. The Piano was VERY important in our family. I agree with Bettynh, though; probably up to you depending on definition.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:49 PM

I imagine that the same question was posed when the guitar was first introduced into 'folk'. ..maybe they only wanted lutes and pipes or fiddle.
You can use whatever instrument you want...as long as you use them.
Andrés Segovia Torres was the first to blow the lid off using a guitar for 'classical' music...was the music any less 'classical'?

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Mooh
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:53 PM

I've heard it played by Cape Breton musicians. There's a Simon Mayor cd with considerable piano. Lots of Ontario fiddle music is accompanied by piano. Maybe it depends on how you personally define folk/trad...not that I'd open THAT can of worms again.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM

but I've noticed very few Folk/Trad artists seem to use it. (the only one I can think of that does is Johnny McEvoy)
Well either you need a venue with one installed and in tune or you need an electric keyboard and, in a session, a convenient power outlet. Without any effort I can think of four English musicians who I have seen playing piano or keyboard on stage (Reg Hall, John Adams, Gareth Kiddier and Ken Lees) although its not always their primary instrument. Among "traditional" (ie non revival) musicians Daisy Bulwer comes immediately to mind.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM

That you can't haul your piano out to a pub for a session, doesn't mean it wasn't used in sessions that HAD a piano in the place the music happened. Quite a bit of where folk/trad meets "classical" would be at a keyboard. - and piano or harpsichord would certainly have been part of the passing on of English Country Dance tunes for a couple centuries now. It's older than concertinas or autoharps, which most folks don't think about twice as being "folk instruments."

Betty's inclusion of Contra Dance music hits home here - piano has been a part of it for as long as folks have been dancing contra in northern Ohio. It's a rare contra dance band that does without.

A good piano player is as welcome in my folk world as a good fiddler, guitarist, etc... which includes knowing when to play and when it's not appropriate.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Mooh
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 12:58 PM

My guess is that lots of "classical" composers who borrowed folk melodies were using pianos to write accompaning scores...Bela Bartok, Percy Grainger, Healey Willan, Ralph Vaughan Williams, etc.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:18 PM

pretty near universal in late 19/early20th century traditional dance bands, I would think . Throughout Britain and Ireland. Don't know about America but imagine much the same? Nothing odd about it at all. But not used much for song accompaniment, except among the arty classical revivalists.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:27 PM

Ya can't run with a piano on yer back.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:32 PM

Just listen to Cape Breton ceilidhs recorded live - great piano and fiddle. Why not?


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:40 PM

Very common in trad blues.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:41 PM

999: "Ya can't run with a piano on yer back."

Yeah, that bothers me!...Still got my guitars.....I know..if and when in 'danger' I guess I'll have to just sit and blow them a tune!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:43 PM

Just wish pubs all had an in tune piano, like they used to when I were a lad. Keyboards, however soundalike, are never quite the same thing. Gareth Kiddier does a bloody good job though, I must say.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: johncharles
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:48 PM

piano fiddle guitar
Violet Tulloch Peerie Willie Johnston and a fiddler
Great stuff
john


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Megan L
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:54 PM

999: "Ya can't run with a piano on yer back."

Lad wid ye tell that tae Highland regional council they eventually hid tae ban fowks frae carryin pianos tae the top o Ben Nevis fur a bit o a sing song :)


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 01:59 PM

And then there was a Canadian by the name of Klondike Mike who hauled a piano up Chilikoot Pass during the Yukon Gold Rush on his back. He was going to bring in a bunch of dancing girls to perform in the saloons, but the Mounties wouldn't let them in. He had to haul the instrument back down.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: theleveller
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 02:04 PM

Sandy Denny made a pretty fair fist of it.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 02:11 PM

If played subtly and musically, the piano can add a lot although many piano players are florid and some intrusive. Played simply and appropriately, with proper fill-ins and sparse chord sequences and at a volume that doesn't overpower the other string instrument(s) it can add a great deal.

I second the motion about the Cape Breton players, a highly syncopated, almost
early jazz accompaniment that they do adds so much to the dance.

Of course the Blues players, Memphis Slim and others could qualify as trad.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 02:20 PM

Pianos replaced pump organs as a chording instrument with Cape Breton fiddle music. Electronic keyboards are now replacing pianos. Guitars are also used, sometimes together, but the piano still rules.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 02:33 PM

Speaking of piano and fiddle/violin....and Celtic music...

...and this absolutely beautiful piece....ever thought about this?


A must for all you songwriters!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Gurney
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 03:01 PM

Try Phil Coulter's recordings, then ask the question again.
Of course, any instrument with the possible exception of a hollow log is outre, if you are a REAL traditionalist.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 03:07 PM

Cecil Sharp ( Sharp Cess to his mates - Bad Cess to the Black Velvet Band) said that the traditional singers he encountered, liked piano accompaniment.

A mate of mine did the piano accompaniment to a classic version of Rattling Roaring Willie, for which he still occasonally gets six quid in PRS money.

I always loved Pete's keybord work in the Yetties, Graham Coopers stuff with Harvey Andrews, John Dunkerly's work with Ian and Lorna Campbell and the bloke from 1812.

Sean O Riada (sorry don't know how to do accents) used to bang on he old joanna when the occasion seemed to call for it.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 03:53 PM

There's a lovely old album of Dick Gaughan's - Coppers and Brass - with Tom Hickland on piano in fine old style. At the other end of the scale there's Huw Warren's work with June Tabor - I just adore The Echo of Hooves. Dolly Collins provides some fine piano to some rare classics - not least of which is Peter Bellamy's Maritime England Suite, where the piano on The China Clipper is enough to make grown men weep (well, me anyway).


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 03:59 PM

Many new instruments not previously thought appropriate for folk music have come into usage during the various revivals and in the last century. As people have already more or less stated above folk instruments generally have traditionally, for obvious reasons, been portable ones and relatively inexpensive. However for certain types of trad music the piano has for at least a century been traditionally used, dance music being the most obvious arena. In the early 19th century in the UK most working class folk aspired to have a piano in the front parlour. For many years it provided the basic music in the pubs before canned music took over and both these were for song accompaniment. I can remember recording singers of sea songs, bawdy songs etc to a piano in a Hull pub, and the first country dance band I played in had a vamping piano dashing out a very danceable rhythm. The last ceili bands I had all relied on keyboards for the main rhythm section and accordion for lead.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 04:27 PM

Don't forget Johnny Handle from the High Level Ranters. I've seen him play at a pub that had a very old piano that was really flat and he transposed into the right key, playing in all sorts of weird keys - no problem.
Many piano accordian players can also play any other keyboard or piano where appropriate.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 05:01 PM

A few lovely songs with piano backing.

Cara Dillon with Seth Lakeman "Garden Valley"

June Tabor - No Man's Land/Flowers of the Forest

Realtime - Underneath the stars


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 05:38 PM

Is the verdict in?

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Joe_F
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 06:11 PM

"Imagine, if you will, that I am playing an 88-string guitar." -- Tom Lehrer


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 06:23 PM

There are about 230 strings on a standard piano.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 06:33 PM

YIKES!!!...but is the verdict in?
My vote is that it's OK....unless you don't think so...

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 06:49 PM

GfS

When I were nobbut a young whippersnapper, most pubs had an old upright in the bar somewhere.

Its not folk/trad but I can remember singing along to " A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" in a pub in Looe one night about twenty years ago.

I also had the great priviledge of listening to Tom Anderson, Aly Bain, and Violet Tulloch (on piano) at a ceilidh in Lerwick back in the seventies.

In my opinion they could get rid of the big screen telly's in pubs and bring back the piano. Nothing kills a social gathering more than the goggle box.

Unfortunately, the telly is in and the piano seems to be out! (Well around here anyways)

A great variety of instruments are used for folk/trad tunes/songs the use of one or many can add (and occasionally detract) to the richness and blend of either.

That said what I really think matters here is that the music is played and the song is sung.

To be honest, I'd rather listen to someone in a pub banging out "My Old Man Said Follow The Van" or in fact anything else, than watch football anyday.

Thanks also for the links to Mairead Nesbitt and Lisa Kelly. Crackin!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: dulcimer42
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 06:59 PM

Its use seems to be quite regional. I attend folk festivals in several different states in the midwest and south.   Only at the festival (the largest of them all) in July at Evart, Michigan would one expect to hear a piano in the midst of a big jam session. And it's almost always there. Along with many hammered dulcimers and all other acoustic instruments.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 12 Nov 12 - 09:53 PM

Commander, You are very welcome...and I share your sentiments. I think the main thing is the SPIRIT of the live music, more than the 'correct instruments'(in certain people's opinion).

As for the links..one is more of an friendly acquaintance, the other an excellent friend!! ..and Glad you liked them!!!

Warm regards!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Ernest
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 01:48 AM

Apart from what is said lots of classical/early recordings of irish music used piano as a backing instrument, so the use of a piano is definitely traditional (even if using it to back fiddle-etc. recordings couldt have been due to the limits of recording technology (which I don`t think): just one mike for the lead instrument but piano was loud enough to be heard too.).

On the other hand I remember a session round here in a place that had an upright piano and a skilled piano player among the players: being loud the piano was quite dominating, even drowning out the banjos ;0)

Is it consequent allowing electric keyboards at occasions where electric guitars are banned??


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 03:40 AM

In 1972 I recorded Bill Dore at his home in Leafield, Oxfordshire. Bill was a well-known local piano player and he can be heard singing the song "Jolly Jorge" to his own piano accompaniment on the Musical Traditions double CD "Up in the North and Down in the South" (MTCD 311-2). Then there was Brian Felgate who accompanied the Suffolk melodeon player Dolly Curtis and who can be heard on the Veteran CD "Who Owns the Game?" (Veteran VT130CD).
I also remember that Ferrium College in Virginia issued an LP of piano related old-timey recordings some years ago, though I am not sure if this has been reissued on CD.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,giovanni
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 04:07 AM

Once again it comes back to what you consider "folk" or "trad".

My early introduction to music at primary school was teacher playing the piano for us to sing - Early One Morning, Drink to me Only, Annie Laurie, Down in the Glen, Barbara Allen etc etc.

I'd say that was all pretty traditional - but if you prefer Matty Groves complete with finger in ear I would guess piano is not for you.

g


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 04:27 AM

Folk piano? Try Kathryn Roberts' wonderful version of The Plains of Waterloo on her debut record with Kate Rusby.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 05:13 AM

There's a well maintained piano in the pub which hosts our weekly sesh.

It's frequently used as accompaniment, but can sometimes drown out quieter instruments, but mainly its a welcome extra instrument.

Good for blues, jazz too


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 09:16 AM

GfS
Fuck the Folk Police and go for it. I'd say the only drawbacks are its portability and being careful with volume. A good pub pianist could easily pick up almost anything once heard.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 09:25 AM

Notable English pianists include;
The late Beryl Marriott, a mentor of Dave Swarbrick
Pete Bullock - Albion Band
John Shepherd - Albion Band, Polly Bolton Band
Steve Dunachie - Polly Bolton Band

From Ireland, composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Professor of Music at the University of Limerick

From Australia, Percy Grainger 1882–1961 - composer and arranger of Country Gardens and A Lincolnshire Posy

From America, Judy Collins - who made her public debut aged 13 performing Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: John P
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 09:40 AM

The piano is clearly a traditional music instrument, given that it's been used for playing traditional music for about a century. My only problem with it is that, with the exception of the blues, I just don't like the sound of it very much for accompanying traditional music. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and that, along with the difficulty of transportation, cause it to be less popular than the guitar for trad music. Too bad for me, since I'm a better piano player than a guitarist.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 09:42 AM

The main problem some purists may have with the piano is that even for "three chords accompaniment", it requires a higher level of musical proficiency than, say, guitar or accordeon-type instruments. Folk music is often associated with a high level of technical and interpretational competence, but rarely with an "academic" training.

But most of us (even the "Folk Police") know that a high percentage of the oral tradition has gone through the hands of more or less learned musicians, such as teachers and church organists. There is no need to hide this fact, even if a "folky" interpretation is intended.

Sophisticated arrangements, as mentioned by Mooh above, are quite a different discipline. Somewhere inbetreen are arrangements for amateur choir and piano. All of this is legitimate (- and done by myself -), but must not be confused.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 10:52 AM

Steve Gardham: "GfS
Fuck the Folk Police and go for it. I'd say the only drawbacks are its portability and being careful with volume."

You are absolutely correct. Volume is not a problem, for two reasons...one piano, that I often use for for concerts has a volume nob. It is electric with a 32 bit sample of a Steinway full concert grand. You'd think electric keyboard would not be heavy..WRONG!..This thing weighs a lot, and when I do a gig with it, they have to provide a couple of guys to move it!!...OR I have to use one already there(if it's a good one)...the only thing wrong with that is some pieces sound a lot better with the string section!!

Also, as far as volume....one thing that is absolutely IMPORTANT, no matter what instrument a musician plays when he is playing with other players...Good musicianship requires listening...ya' gotta' make it seamless. some guys just get up and start blowing..with complete disregard toward the other players....can't have it!...and another thing..when players are backing vocalists, EVERY syllable MUST be heard. The human voice is the only instrument on the planet that pronounces words, THEREFORE...Every word MUST be heard!....and the vocalist should never 'hide behind style'...or they can just damn well find a different back-up!!!!
There's a story to tell behind this last part...if ya' wanna' know..let me know, I'll post it. ..but the moral of the story is the same!

Warmest Regards to All you serious music lovers!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 11:01 AM

This all reminds my Rog and I of an old bumper sticker seen in Wyoming during the 80s oil boom: "Please don't tell my folks I work in the oilfields. They still think I play piano in a whorehouse!"


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 11:05 AM

perfectly possible to play the piano quietly(that's why it's called a piano actually)


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 11:13 AM

In the vast majority of cases I'd say avoid it like the plague in any genre, but especially in the accompaniment of Irish music. There are exceptions of course. EG.,

The Southern Appalachians has spawned some good trad piano players. Uncle John Patterson of Carrolton, Georgia, is one who I particularly like.

Accompanists of Cape Breton fiddle usually bring a zest and a verve to the music which piano players in other fields would do well to note.

Elizabeth Stewart of Fetterangus, Aberdeenshire is one woman who can do no wrong for me, especially when she starts tickling the ivories in one of those medleys of Scottish dance tunes.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music? Paul Robeson
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 11:21 AM

I don't know if recitals of folk songs by Paul Robeson count as folk music. But he did just that, and, at least in the late-60s was was well thought of for those concerts. Somewhere in a room I not able to easily get to are a couple of Robeson LPs. The accompaniment on those recordings was a sole piano, if not on all tracks on the vast majority of them. I think others gave similar recitals, but none come readily to mind.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 11:48 AM

Paul Robeson's performances definitely count as "professionally arranged". However, in Gospel music, as in many genres of American music, there is no marked distinction between folklore, entertainment, and learned music. This is generally different with European traditional music; here, performers must make a conscious decision whether they want to evoke (if not reproduce) the context in which the music was created, or not.

Still, we must be aware that many songs we now regard as folk songs have in fact been composed by persons who were well able to accompany them on keyboard instruments. Quite a number of them were originally published with an easy piano accompaniment, designed for domestic use in bourgeois households.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 12:44 PM

You GO, Grishka!!!...somebody who knows and can articulate their stuff!!

Warmest Regards!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 01:00 PM

GUEST,Grishka
I'll take that as a "yes".


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 01:00 PM

Traditions, by their very nature, grow and develop. If they don't they are not traditions. There is no logical reason why any instrument (acoustic, electric, electronic) should not be permissible in traditional forms of music. There are so many examples where an instrument from one culture is subsumed into the traditions of another, eg the tenor banjo in Irish music.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 02:46 PM

GfS, thanks.

John, if it were "no" I would not have written that I did it myself, in various degrees of creativity. Note that I go as an arranger, not a "folk singer".

Captain, we all agree that new instruments have never been a principal problem for folk music. However, public performers must choose their accompaniment carefully, depending on their "message". They should be conscious of the history of their music.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 02:50 PM

PS: See here for an example, designed for a particular purpose.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 03:24 PM

The New England tradition of music for dancing seems to be a fertile place for piano playing musicians of great skill who are interested both in preservation and passing on of traditional music as well as arranging that material in innovative ways. Bob McQuillan is a one man legend in contra dance music; playing traditional music and composing a dance weekend's worth of splendid tunes.

Two incredible piano players in one band: Peter Barnes & Jacqueline Schwab in Bare Necessities, also from New England. Jackie's playing on Ken Burn's historical series, in particular "The Civil War" is remarkable. Peter is the "Barnes" of a couple volumes of English Country Dance music tunes VERY widely used. He's also done several other books of music for (traditional) dancing and his book, Interview with a Vamper he describes as: a Contra Piano Teaching Book: This book teaches piano accompaniment for Contra dancing. Peter starts with "For the Total Beginner" and progresses through "the works." Some of the items covered are: Bass Runs and Rhythmic Effects, Chording Phrasing, Left Handed Maneuvers, Chord Substitutions. Peter states, "And don't ever hesitate, if you see me at a dance, to come up and ask me about anything that I'm doing or that you yourself are working on."

All three of these are musicians who value tradition, promte it but aren't chained to a SPECIFIC way of making that music live and be a continuing tradition. Our local band is blessed with a young man who grew up going to dances played by Bob McQuillan, and derives much of his style from that in his accordion and piano playing. Part of his education at Oberlin was in music composition. His heart is in the traditional music. Listening to him talk about why this or that chord comes from his education - he knows the historical WHY for the styles of music -and that only enriches what he's absorbed through aural trad.

Joanne in Cleveland (who has had the pleasure of dancing to the playing of the first three and playing with the last)


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 04:10 PM

Performers have no obligation to the history of the music. They may interpret the music in any way they wish. Obviously it's up to the performer to decide what they want to communicate and what response they want from the listeners. The music is there to be used and, perhaps, abused. It's strong enough to take it.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 13 Nov 12 - 05:10 PM

Captain, did I write anything else? Being conscious of something does not mean to imitate it, not even to respect it.

Stage performers who know nothing about the history of the music they are performing, risk being caught missing the point without adequate compensation. If you do not care, alright, stay ignorant.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 14 Nov 12 - 12:51 PM

GUEST,henryp : "Notable English pianists include;....
.......From America, Judy Collins -.."

As long as you mentioned Judy Collins singing and playing the piano, I just about can't resist posting this.... Judy Collins, 'Albatross'

Enjoy!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: sleepyjon
Date: 14 Nov 12 - 07:18 PM

I think there's more to it than just how new or old is the piano - certainly more than how portable it is. I think its an issue of even temperament. There's no doubt in my mind that certain traditional melodies take on a different character when accompanied on a piano - one that springs to mind would be "Underneath her Apron" with its "ambiguous seventh" (I think I made that term up!)
Here are a few random and not very well thought out ideas:

Why is it that the "schoolroom" folk songs that the older among us will remember do not really feel "folky" - how often do you hear anyone sing "Early one Morning" ij a singaround? - or "Dashing away with thte smoothing iron"? - is it because of the formal effect given by the piano arrangements?

Why do the sparse three-part "a capello" harmonies of the YT, or Coope Boyes an Simpson, or many other similar groups sound so rich and full? - is it because being unaccompanied by even tempered instruments they settle back into true "pure" harmonies with all the attendant harmonics or overtones?

Does the same apply to the spontaneous harmonies in a singaround?

How many other instruments are tuned to even temperament - concertinas? - guitars - especially guitars; when you tune your guitar from string to string to intervals "heard" in your own head does it end up in even temperament? - is that why when it seems perfectly good on a chord of C it's rubbish on a chord of D?

Do string players, not constrained by frets, improvise in true or even temperament?

I feel the need to hear from John in Kansas who I would guess from earlier threads seems to know all about this kind of stuff.

SJ


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Colin Holt
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 08:37 AM

Why on earth would it not be totally acceptable ??


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 08:56 AM

Well, it all depends.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8oM0ekiv1I


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: ripov
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 12:49 PM

Quite. And I reckon that Britten played the "Miller of Dee" from the dots; most un-folky. Was that the Grainger arrangement?

There was a jolly miller once
Lived on the River Dee,
He tried to play
From morn till night
The Flight of the Bumble Bee


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 02:29 PM

Seems to me it's subjective. Some hate it, some love it. I love it sometimes, depending on how it's played/used for the song. I liked some of the earlier Unthanks' renditions, and June Tabor's, as mentioned. And of course, Sandy Denny's.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 03:38 PM

The piano's full name, back when, was "pianoforte," which means "soft and loud." This is at the discretion (or lack thereof) of the pianist.

A bit of misinformation up-thread:

The guitar in its various forms and incarnations has been used to play serious (popularly referred to as "classical") music right from its first appearance.

There have been various plucked and/or strummed musical instruments other than the lute since the mists of antiquity, bearing such names as "kithara," "guitarra," and such, usually looking like small lutes or mandolins (which, by the way IS a small lute). But the first instrument which was guitar-shaped and bore the name "guitar" first appeared during the Renaissance.

It was pretty much contemporary with the Spanish vihuela, a "waisted" instrument, which had six "courses" or double strings, except for the highest pitched string which was single, and the instrument was tuned the same as a lute. The "Renaissance guitar" had the same shape as a vihuela, but was smaller.

What is now referred to by Early Music buffs as "the Renaissance guitar" came into vogue partly because it was somewhat easier to play than the lute. It was small and had only four "courses," (doubled strings, like a modern 12-string guitar, but with the single top string) tuned relatively the same as the top four strings of a modern guitar, but higher in pitch (like capo on the fifth fret). Some lutenists looked down their noses at the Renaissance guitar as "the instrument of unmusical young ladies and servant girls" (CLICKY. But—a few serious composers for the lute DID write serious pieces for the Renaissance guitar. CLICKY.

A couple of centuries later, the guitar's size increased, and another "course" was added, like the 5th string on a modern guitar. This was the Baroque guitar. The tuning was essentially the same as a modern guitar, save for the lack of a sixth string. Here is an arrangement for the Baroque guitar by Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710) of a folk dance from the Canary Islands, played by a local girl (CLICKY).

The Romantic guitar came in in the late 1700s and into the 1800s. It had six single strings exactly like a modern guitar. It was about the size of a parlor guitar. CLICKY. It was not necessarily any more "romantic" than the previous or later guitars; it's called that because it came into existence during what is known as the "Romantic" period of classical music.

This was the instrument used by classical guitar composers such as Fernando Sor, (1778-1839), the composer of many guitar pieces, including a series of studies that are still used by modern classic guitar students, some of which make good "etudes" for concert performance. Sor did many concert tours throughout Europe, including England and Russia.

Francisco Tàrrega, (1852-1909), a prolific composer for the guitar, collaborated with a guitarist and luthier named Antonio Torres Jurado to standardize the size and shape of the guitar. Torres increased the size and added the fan-bracing system under the soundboard, improving the volume and enriching the tone. Essentially, he created the modern classical guitar.

Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña, (1893–1987), known simply as Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain. Segovia was essentially self-taught, teaching himself from instructional methods written by Fernando Sor and Dionisio Aquado. He is widely considered to be one of the best known and most influential classical guitar personalities of the early 20th century. And for good reason: CLICKY.

Segovia was nowhere near the first to use the guitar to play classical music. The guitar was used for serious ("classical") music right from its very beginnings. Many composers who were not guitarists themselves wrote pieces for the guitar. In fact, I have heard that there is more serious ("classical") music written for the guitar than for any other single instrument. Including the piano!

[This information has been carefully researched. I dug a lot of it up after applying for admission to the University of Washington School of Music in 1956, and was told by some nitwit admissions clerk that they didn't regard the guitar as a "real musical instrument!" I buried them with information gleaned from reliable sources, and Professor John Verrall charged in and kicked some butt in my behalf. As a result, I was admitted (with due apologies), and there were a couple of music profs and an admissions clerk with red faces! I'd proven my point.

In fact, the U. of W. School of Music now has a very good guitar department. The young lady (above link) playing the Sanz "Canarios" is a graduate of that department and is now teaching locally--and does about fifty concerts a year. It wasn't all my doing, but I did manage to kick the door open!]

####

I had the honor and the privilege of meeting and chatting with Segovia on two occasions when his concert tours took him through Seattle. I was a member of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society, and the SCGS held receptions for him whenever he came through town. A thoroughly charming and generous man.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 15 Nov 12 - 11:15 PM

..and Don is correct.

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 16 Nov 12 - 05:54 AM

Don, if your point is that the guitar is as serious an instrument as the piano, I do not see any message to the contrary in this thread. Certainly not by me; I had a couple of "classical guitar" lessons myself (and more piano lessons; finger nails being the cause of conflict).

Fact is, there is a tradition of folk accompaniment characterized by chord names, and this is associated with the guitar and some free-reed instruments, but not the piano. (This must not be confused with chord names in jazz, meant for improvisation, similar to the figured bass in baroque music.) See the "ChordReq" threads on Mudcat.

My point is simply the following: using a piano, or a guitar in Segovia's style, sends a signal of "sophisticated" and/or "bourgeois" (not necessarily "serious"); performers should be aware of that.

Some performers manage to be sophisticated and still to sound simple and close-to-the-folks. For example, a well-led bass line is never out of place.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: John P
Date: 16 Nov 12 - 08:59 AM

I think that, when it's time to have a dance, people have always played their music on whatever instrument they have available and know how to play. I don't think the skill level or training of the musicians, or whether or not the accompaniment is "arranged", really has much to do with it. I also don't have the idea that piano players are somehow "trained" and others aren't. I've been playing the piano all my life and used to get paid a lot of money to do so, and I'm self-taught.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Nov 12 - 03:39 PM

No, Grishka, my response was to the above statement that "Andrés Segovia Torres was the first to blow the lid off using a guitar for 'classical' music," implying that the guitar had not been used to play classical music before and that Segovia pioneered its use that way. In actuality, of course, the guitar as it evolved over the centuries had been used for "classical" or serious music right from the beginning.

This was the wall that I ran into when I first tried to enroll at the U. of W. School of Music. The Powers That Be there were under the impression that the guitar was used only by cowboys and jazz musicians—this, despite the fact that Segovia had done several concerts in Seattle and John Williams had performed at the U. of W.'s Meany Hall auditorium only a couple of months before I tried to register. It took Prof. John Verrall, armed with the results of my research (aided by information my classic guitar teacher had directed me to, a series of articles in "The Guitar Review," a prestigeous magazine published at the time by the New York Classic Guitar Society), to educate the rest of the music department.

My own approach to accompanying folk songs and ballads with a classic guitar is to tailor the accompaniment to the song. On something like "Greensleeves" (I sing only three of the eleventy-fourteen verses), I handle the guitar as if it were a lute, because the song seems to call for it. Some ballads, similarly. But I can also do a variety of "folk techniques," such as the "Carter Family scratch" and alternate bass or "Travis picking" styles—or dead-simple "Burl Ives basic." As I say, tailor the accompaniment to the song.

Just because one can do something on the guitar doesn't mean that one should. The accompaniment should "accompany" the song, not overpower it—or even draw any particular attention to itself.

As to the use of the piano to accompany folk songs. I think that a lot has to do with context. On one end, you have such manifestations as English contralto Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953) including folk songs and ballads in her recitals, with, of course, piano accompaniment. She sang the songs with taste and respect, and introduced a lot of people to that kind of music. Would that all classical singers who include folk songs in their recitals showed such taste.

One the other end, you have a few people gathered around a piano, singing songs from The Fireside Book of Folk Songs or the Lomaxes' Best Loved American Folk Songs, both of which contain piano accompaniments as well as guitar chords. So it's not on the front porch of a mountain cabin, nor on the front porch of the local township's general store. But it's still folk music.

By the way:   sometimes Lead Belly would set his 12-string guitar aside and play the piano. Most interesting style!!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 12:19 AM

In response...and to clarify another 'misunderstanding'...

Don Firth: "No, Grishka, my response was to the above statement that "Andrés Segovia Torres was the first to blow the lid off using a guitar for 'classical' music," implying that the guitar had not been used to play classical music before and that Segovia pioneered its use that way. In actuality, of course, the guitar as it evolved over the centuries had been used for "classical" or serious music right from the beginning."

I never said that 'Segovia was the first'..I said that he blew the lid off...meaning umm...'popularized' it by doing it. Virtually ALL contemporary classical guitar players today are standing on his shoulders...and the best have studied under him!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 06:27 AM

""Too bad for me, since I'm a better piano player than a guitarist.""

Buy a decent electric keyboard John.

It's as easy to carry as a guitar, and a Yamaha with 600+ voices and full size keys can be had as cheaply as a Tanglewood or Takamine Guitar.

Using your piano skills you can be any instrument you like.

With volume control and using its internal speakers it won't swamp anybody else.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: John P
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 10:58 AM

I've been playing synthesizers since they first came out several decades ago. They still need electricity and amplification, and I still don't like the sound for traditional folk music as well as I like the guitar. Besides, I'm a really good guitar player, just not as good as I am a keyboard player. Also, synthesizers sound a lot more like synthesizers than they do like "real" instruments, both in the actual sounds they make and in the nuances of how of the instrument is played. That said, there are synthesizer and drum machine tracks scattered through most of the nominally acoustic folk albums I've made. For my tastes, synthesizers can be a really good second accompaniment instrument, but rarely sound as good for the primary accompaniment, and I can only do one thing at a time on stage.

Another point is that a small inexpensive Yamaha keyboard is not going to have very good action; the expressiveness is limited. To get a good feel and really nuanced playing I prefer a keyboard with piano action and really high quality samples. That adds a lot to the weight and size (and cost). I spent many years playing keyboards in rock bands and got really tired of moving furniture. I've looked for and failed to find a 63- or 76-key synth with piano action. I'm surprised no one seems to make one as a smaller and lighter performance instrument.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 04:00 PM

JohnP, I pretty much agree with you on every point...and it's true, the best pianos/synths, have weighted keys with velocity sensitive action...(Those are the ones that play REAL good)..However, after that is the consideration of the programed sounds...and what flexibility you have with them. I have a great piano with 32 bit sample of a Steinway Concert Grand, and string section...but I'm not thrilled about all the other voices Weighted velocity sensitive keys..but then it weighed so much, that I can't move it alone....matter of fact, when I do a gig THEY have to provide for the moving of it, there and back!
Nonetheless, ALL of you points are definite obstacles..the rest of how you play it, though, might make all the difference in the world, and make it all worth it....especially when you touch someone's heart in a great way!

I think we could mutually agree on that.........

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 05:17 PM

"I never said that 'Segovia was the first'..I said that he blew the lid off...meaning umm...'popularized' it by doing it. Virtually ALL contemporary classical guitar players today are standing on his shoulders...and the best have studied under him!"

This is, indeed, true.

The first time I ever heard a Segovia record was when a friend of mine played it. This would have been around 1950 or so, a couple of years before I first got interested in folk music and took up the guitar. I was surprised that the guitar could be used in this way—to play classical music. Or that there actually was classical music written for the guitar.

Since its inception during the Renaissance, the guitar in its various incarnations has faded in and out of popularity. I'm not sure who the great guitarists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were, but during the early 1800s, mostly due to the activities of Fernando Sor, who toured extensively giving concerts and recitals, the guitar was very popular. Dionisio Aguado and Matteo Carcassi were also prominent guitarists at about the same time, and all three wrote guitar methods and studies, used by serious classic guitar students today. Francisco Tàrrega came later and wrote much music for the guitar.

Andrés Segovia and Emilio Pujol came later still, but Pujol confined his activities to Europe, whereas Segovia toured all over the world and introduced many Americans, who previously associated the guitar with Gene Autry and Les Paul, to the guitar as a classical instrument.

So Andrés Segovia was, indeed, "the first to blow the lid off using a guitar for 'classical' music" for twentieth century American audiences.

Prior to this, there were small, esoteric groups of classic guitar enthusiasts all over the United States, such as the Classic Guitar Society of New York (who published the very high quality magazing, "The Guitar Review" quarterly, every issue a "keeper"), and later, the Seattle Classic Guitar Society (of which, I am a charter member).

I recall Segovia saying that the very existence of guitar societies around the country indicated the precarious state of the classic guitar in the minds of some people who are still surprised to learn of the musical capabilities of the guitar. "For example," he said, "you don't find violin societies or cello societies or piano societies. These have long been established in the minds of most people as serious instruments. That it is misunderstood by some may come as a result of their not being aware of how versatile the guitar is."

Sounds about right to me.

Things are getting much better. For example, the University of Washington School of Music, who at first refused me admission on the basis of my interest in the guitar, now has a thriving guitar department, headed up by recording and concert artist Michael Partington, and it's turning out young guitarists like Elizabeth Brown (one of my above links, the Sanz "Canarios") who also records and concertizes, switching back and forth between lute, Baroque guitar, and modern guitar, and teaches all three instruments at Pacific Lutheran University. And the Cornish College of the Arts, also in Seattle (and which I attended for two years), has both guitar and lute teachers in attendance.

GfS, regard my comments as a clarification and amplification of what you said rather than a correction.

Don Firth

P. S. I wish I could play the piano (my wife plays quite well, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, all those guys), and I have taken some piano lessons, but this was somewhat under protest. Both the U. of W. and Cornish required all their music students to be able to play at least some piano. I can see why. Music theory is not only auditory, but visual on the piano, whereas on stringed instruments such as the guitar or cello, it is auditory but not visually obvious.

But what with my class load, plus guitar lessons, plus voice lessons, AND piano lessons and practice, I was finding it tough to find enough time for vocal and guitar practice, not to mention learning new songs. And since I was starting to do some paid performing at the time, this was essential. I found myself resenting the imposition on my already limited time. This was when I dropped out of the U. of W. and continued my music studies with a private teacher of music theory and composition, Mildred Hunt Harris. She tailor-made her instruction to what I wanted to do, and I learned a great deal from her.

Since I had no plans to teach at an institution, I wasn't interested in the diploma. I just wanted the knowledge. Cornish also required some knowledge of piano, but the class schedules there were geared toward performing artists, so I had more time. Plus a far more sympathetic faculty. By then, I was doing a lot of performing, and they were willing to make some allowances.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 07:36 PM

WELL TAKEN!!!..and an excellent post!!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 17 Nov 12 - 10:56 PM

Piano, just like any instrument that people can get their hands on, is a well-suited instrument for Western folk and traditional music. There's no accounting for taste, and no accounting for others' bad taste, and taste is subjective and individual. Any instrument, played well and in the right hands, can add to a style of music (all kinds of traditional music, folk, blues, jazz, gospel et al.), and sound appealing to many. Likewise, any instrument, played badly and in the wrong hands, can compromise a style of music, and turn off a lot of folks.

Many have said this about traditional music: that good musicians make a style or sub-style of music sound good, and bad players can make a style of music sound, well, not-so-good. It's not the style of music, or the instrument; it comes down to the skills and musicality of the player. Music is listening, and good musicians listen to what's going on and try to play in context. When in doubt, lay out, and all that.

The piano works in any key, and is one of the most versatile instruments found in Western music, including traditional music. Why wouldn't it work in "folk/trad music" (a nebulous term), considering that it's got all the notes under one's fingertips and such a great range? Okay, I've heard it not work on many occasions, but it's always the player, not the instrument. When it works, it's majestic.

The piano is such a universal instrument (even used in some non-Western traditional music) and has long been a highly valued instrument in Western traditional and folk music -- one of the first instruments that children ever bang on, as I recall.

It works for me, except when it doesn't. An out-of-tune piano, or possibly worse, a selfish or insensitive player is a nightmare, and so it is with a banjo. (There's a lot to playing a banjo well.) I have a high regard for good piano players for any style of music. And the piano is a real grounding instrument, a true companion.

Best ~ Banjo Tom };^D>


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 09:29 AM

For folk music from the British Isles, the piano probably has a stronger claim to be a "traditional" instrument than the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 01:40 PM

A grand or upright piano should only be used if supported by a strap.

Electronic pianos should never be plugged in to any socket.

Only piano players who know how to bend the pitch of the keys should be
playing folk music.

If a million monkeys were to play piano, would one come up with the tune for Barbara Allen?

The lute was displaced by the harpsichord and now wants its revenge.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 04:55 PM

"The lute was displaced by the harpsichord and now wants its revenge."

I like that!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 06:48 PM

Those are real knee-slappers, Stringsinger - keep 'em comin' - nyuck, nyuck!   };^D>

Humour aside - and I got a good laugh out of that - Howard Jones makes a subtle and clear observation that is too easily ignored by purists (from any era):

"For folk music from the British Isles, the piano probably has a stronger claim to be a 'traditional' instrument than the guitar."

His point is well-taken, and one may presume 'traditional' refers back to the first British Folk Revival of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, before the second British Folk Revival in the mid-20th century, and the birth of a more contemporary (and often guitar-based) folk music, paralleling the great urban folk boom ('Folk Scare') taking place in the States, in places like Greenwich Village, NYC and the coffeehouses of Palo Alto, CA.*

All a careful reader has to do to see the long-standing (historic) value of the piano in British Isles folk music - it's traditional use before the raggle-taggle-folk guitar came into its own - is to view a few of the transcriptions in One Hundred English Folksongs to see the VOICE (treble clef) and PIANO (treble and bass clefs) arrangements so meticulously preserved and transcribed by CECIL J. SHARP. Try it, look at the titles; look at the streamlined vocal and piano accompaniment.

So, I must agree with Howard's point about the piano having a stronger claim as a 'traditional' instrument in British Isles folk music, and one could extend that, arguably, even to Scottish and Irish traditional music (opened that ol' can of worms, oops!) in view of so many historic collections, e.g., the famous Skye Collection (1887) featuring fiddle (melody) and piano (accompaniment) - now back in print. View the violin and pianoforte arrangements by going here and clicking inside: Skye Collection (1887).

Whether it be for voice and piano, or fiddle and piano, Sharp and others relied on pianoforte accompaniment in their song and tune collections, and they're still helping us today. Only for the versatile piano would we have these important harmonized melodies at our fingertips, and they're extremely useful for guitarists and banjo players who bother to read music. A word to the wise: BIG EASY guitar chords are nowhere to be seen, and these traditional arrangements came first in folk-song. And they're not going away! [Q. How do you get a guitar player to stop playing? A. Put sheet music in front of him.]

Sharp wrote, "What form the ideal accompaniment to a folk-song should take is a question upon which many divergent views may legitimately be held. With the purist, a simple solution is to dispense with an accompaniment altogether, on the ground that it is an anachronism. But this is surely to handicap the folk-tune needlessly and to its detriment. For just as it takes an artist to appraise the value of a picture out of its frame, so it is only the expert who can extract the full flavor from an unharmonized melody. Musically, we live in a harmonic age, when every note, consciously or subconsciously, thinks in chords; when even the man in the street is under the influence - if only he knew it - of the underlying harmonies of the popular air he is whistling. And herein lies one of the fundamental distinctions between folk and art-song. The former, in its purist form, being the product of those in whom the harmonic sense is dormant, is essentially a non-harmonic tune; whereas, the latter, of course, is demonstrably constructed upon a harmonic basis...."

What he writes next is of particular interest to all serious accompanists, bludgeon-strummers and ivory-ticklers: "Surely, it would be wiser to limit ourselves in our accompaniments to those harmonies which are as independent of 'period' as the tunes themselves, for example, those of the diatonic genus, which have formed the basis and been the mainstay of harmonic music throughout its history, and upon which musicians of every age and of every school have, in greater or lesser degree, depended; and further, seeing that the genuine folk-air never modulates, never wavers from its allegiance to one fixed tonal centre, to avoid modulation, or use it very sparingly. Personally, I have found that it is only by rigidly adhering to these two rules - if I may so call them - that I have been able to preserve the emotional impressions which the songs made upon me when sung by the folksingers themselves. This, at any rate, is the theoretic basis upon with the accompaniments in this volume have been constructed."

*On a personal note, I have a few living connections and one particularly painful connection to the old NYC Village scene, having played festivals and concerts with singer, tunesmith and guitarist John Herald, formerly of the Greenbriar Boys, who died tragically a few years back. John taught me a stack of original folk and bluegrass tunes, how to arrange songs and harmonies, and then some. I had lots of good teachers from New York, and I'm glad to be alive, still playing music, and procrastinating in this thread.

So, that's my screed for the day. I have a book/CD project to finish (my third for Mel Bay). I'm a transcriber of traditional tunes, a tune compiler (tuneaholic) and arranger of Irish and Celtic tunes for 5-string banjo. I collect tunes in the field, at sessions, from recordings, people who write them, etc., and strive for settings that are fun, contemporary, or maybe historical, or whatever it is that is lurking, of which I do not know, until I stumble across it. It keeps me off the street (busking probably).

Piano players and keyboardists deserve a lot more respect in folk music circles, in my opinion. And good traditional singers, who have no cultural or sub-cultural bias, are able to work with them, no problem, and sometimes they ARE them! Being a folk singer and a piano/keyboard player are not mutually exclusive occupations, and there are so many great artists who do both exceedingly well.

Time to walk the husky, clear the head ... enjoy the lovely Irish weather, oh, I hear a dog, here he is ... sniffing at my elbow, haha! Midnight walk, so it is!

Best ~ Tom


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 07:53 PM

"one may presume 'traditional' refers back to the first British Folk Revival of the late-19th and early-20th centuries"

I was referring to the tradition itself, rather than either of the revivals. In the British Isles the guitar as a folk instrument is very much a feature of the modern revival and is largely an American influence. In American folk music, of course, the guitar is authentic.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 10:23 PM

Oh, that's even more interesting. Thank you Howard.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 05:29 AM

Some performers want to be "authentic" in the sense that they try to reproduce a typical, or at least imaginable, performance at the time, place, and sociological context where the music originated. If such a performance includes a piano, there will be no reasonable opposition.

It is also undisputed that creative adaptations, like Benjamin Britten's, are legitimate, and must be judged in their own right.

The interesting problem of this thread is about performers who declare themselves traditional, in the sense that they claim to take part in the development of the tradition. They have the right to use new instruments, but must be very careful about their cultural signals.

I agree with Howard that the major "revival" movements were not valid by that criterion, since they imposed new ideologies. Yesterday I leafed through the Cecil J. Sharp collection that Tom rightly described as "streamlined". Since it was printed in 1916, it also inevitably carries an ideological subtext: "In times of national need, the aristrocratic and bourgeois ladies must demonstrate their solidarity with the common people, on the condition that it does not smell." Which has further discredited the piano for performers who want to represent the common folks. (Note that this effect is by no means restricted to Britain; most European folk traditions suffered similar abuse.)

The guitar does not have that particular sociological problem, but, like all other instruments, it is sometimes used in an incongruous style. Many folk songs, even American ones, do not fit into the drawer "the times they are a-changin".


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 06:03 AM

Howard Jones wrote this interesting reply:

"In the British Isles the guitar as a folk instrument is very much a feature of the modern revival and is largely an American influence. In American folk music, of course, the guitar is authentic."

I'm curious and maybe a wee bit confused, Howard, so here are a few burning questions: (1) What does folk music from the "British Isles" refer to specifically, in terms of style as well as geographical boundaries, in your good view?

(2) What do you mean by 'authentic' in your statement that "the guitar is authentic" in American folk music? (Please say more about 'authentic' in the context in which you use this term.)

And last, would you mind answering these (hopefully not taxing) questions: (3) Is it important that an instrument be considered 'authentic' in (a type of) music? (4) Do you suppose musicians who might be deemed 'authentic' in a living tradition think of themselves as being 'authentic'?

I would appreciate it greatly, Howard, if you would shed some light on these matters, for clarity's sake. I gather that you know what you are saying, but it may not be so obvious to the reader what you are saying. One might infer a lot, and I, for one, will try not to make that mistake again. Thank you in advance.

Best ~ Tom Hanway


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 08:43 AM

Grishka, now that's food for thought, very interesting. Best ~ Tom Hanway


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: John P
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 10:46 AM

For me, part of the tradition -- both the older original tradition and the more modern revivals -- is that normal people play music. They have, as far as I can tell, always done so using whatever instruments are available. If a piano is what's available, you play the piano. If a guitar is easy to come by, you play the guitar. It is hard for me, as a musician, to draw distinctions between traditional music from 150 years ago and traditional music from 20 years ago. I've never considered myself a revivalist, in that I have no interest in reviving anything -- I just play the music I love in whatever way seems good to me. It's easier for me to think of attempts to recreate music from the past as historical, rather than traditional, music making. As such, it becomes to some degree an academic activity, which takes it outside the concept of normal people playing music on whatever instruments come to hand.

Besides, if we're talking about the piano as accompaniment for dance tunes, the piano works really, really well. Nice strong bass, with a full range of harmonic possibilities. For listening, I greatly prefer the guitar. For dancing (which is what dance music is all about, after all), the piano is highly functional, most communities have one somewhere, and lots of people know how to play it well enough to accompany dancing. Why wouldn't they use it to accompany dance tunes? When I'm dancing, I don't really care what instruments are being used -- that's not what dancing is about for me, and certainly isn't what I'm paying attention to while I'm dancing.

I am less sure about arranged accompaniments for traditional songs, a la Britten or Sharp. The music is often very good, and there's no doubt that the melodies remain traditional melodies no matter what is done to them, but the process doesn't strike me as particularly fitting into my "normal people playing music" test.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 07:12 PM

Thank you John P for that "normal people playing music" test. How commonsensical. I hear that!

Personally, I choose to participate in "living traditions" in folk music, Western folk music, and I see cross-fertilisation happening all the time between cultures and sub-cultures, with interesting overlaps of tunes and songs. I am an unabashed musical chameleon, a shape-shifter, a musical slut, playing music in different subcultures, and I have to practice a lot just to keep my chops together. I won't elaborate, but it's something of an epicurean discipline for me, and I play just to keep my skills from eroding. I can never play enough, and I don't play enough, and I play all the time. Hahaha.

Okay, all living traditions operate in a continuum of continuity and change. One has a connection to the past, what earlier singers and players have done (gone through and suffered). One adds something of oneself, plays in the moment, zones into the music, "breaks the bread" with normal, haha, people.

To be honest, I don't think full-time musicians are "normal" folk. And what is a contemporary folk musician these days, anyway? Ugh!

At any rate, normality - what normal people do - may need to be sacrificed - it's that old myth of selling one's soul to the trickster-god at the crossroads - if one wants to *become music* - to do it as *lifestyle* - no turning back! And it's a long road that has no turning - far from a a normal routine. It's not for everybody, not for sane people, I reckon!

I reckon it must have been one "hard time" after the next for Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, who had this to say about him: "Any display of singularity was displeasing to him; and he followed the convention in behavior as well as in appearance unless there was a very good reason for departing from them. 'It saves so much trouble,' he would say." - From Wikipedia

And here's something about his left-wing critics, who were also products of their time and peculiar social circumstances: Cecil Sharp from Wikipedia: During the post World War II "second" British folk revival of the 1950s and 60s, Sharp was occasionally chided for this by leftist critics such as Bert Lloyd. C. J. Bearman writes that "Lloyd was effectively the first to offer public criticism of Sharp and of the first revival generally. This critique was from a Marxist perspective: Lloyd (1908-82) had associated himself with the Communist Party since the 1930s. ... However, he was always more pragmatic than doctrinaire, and he combined criticism of Sharp's philosophy and methods with high and unreserved praise for his motivation and the epic scale of his achievement. Until the early 1970s, the prevailing view of Sharp was one of reverence or respect tinged with moderate criticism. This changed in the 1970s, when David Harker, a Cambridge post-graduate specialising in English literature, initiated a sustained attack on the motivations and methods of the first folk revival, singling out Cecil Sharp and accusing him of having manipulated his research for ideological reasons. These criticisms were quickly taken up by others who were doubtless in part motivated by an understandable reaction to the previous hagiographical treatment of Sharp.

I'm beginning to think that Cecil Sharp has been ganged up on unfairly, and it's essentially the pot calling the kettle black. His critics need to look in the mirror.

Sharp worked assiduously to collect material on both sides of the Atlantic, over decades, seeking out and preserving hard-to-find people, even before the material, being intimately involved in the revival of Morris Dancing down to the present day; in fact, his notations in manuscripts were used to teach the traditional dances; and he was a creative collaborator in folk-song, again, arranging and preserving scores of songs. He was no pocket-edition critic, he made real and lasting contributions. Give him a break!

It's so easy for critics (left or right) to smash statues of people, frozen icons - those mellifluous-word-wielding minions of the TMT - the Trad Music Taliban (more folk police). (Shut up and play!)

So, Sharp was most likely a "creative collaborator" in the folk tradition, who knew? That term was coined by Seán Ó Riada, an Irish composer who played harpsichord and organised the Ceoltóirí Chualann, who later morphed into The Chieftains.

Ó Riada stressed "sean-nós" (old style) songs, placing great emphasis on the individual singer, melody and its variations, what he called the "core of the tradition": This did not mean that he eschewed accompaniment; in fact, he was a composer who scored documentary films and whose orchestrations were built around tunes, starting with unharmonised monody, the single-melody line of the sean-nós singer.

Last, Ó Riada despised folk guitars, saxophones, and banjos, Stringsinger, so you get the last laugh - too funny!

"The lute was displaced by the harpsichord and now wants its revenge." - Stringsinger

This post is way too long, I'm sorry folks. I get carried away. Time to walk the husky! He loves it! Best ~ Tom


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 Nov 12 - 06:14 AM

Just to make that clear, I am not criticizing C.J. Sharp as a person and child of his time.

Also note that I made a point about stage performers with a particular claim. Singing and playing primarily for the performers' pleasure has rules of taste as well, but much more liberal ones. As I mentioned, I wrote many arrangements for choirs and ensembles including the piano, so I would be both the pot and the kettle.

However, I would never arrange a folk song for solo voice and piano, even if s person I love or a generous publisher asked me for it.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Nov 12 - 05:38 AM

Thanks Grishka, these are subtle and valuable points that you make. I hear you loud and clear. Thanks for being clear and careful. Best ~ Tom


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 28 Nov 12 - 08:52 AM

Banjo Tom asked me a couple of questions which I've only just caught up with:

I'm curious and maybe a wee bit confused, Howard, so here are a few burning questions: (1) What does folk music from the "British Isles" refer to specifically, in terms of style as well as geographical boundaries, in your good view?

Geographically, I mean the islands off the coast of Europe comprising Great Britain, Ireland, and assorted other smaller islands. I thought that was fairly well understood, although I realise that some have problems with the word "British", mistaking this for a political rather than a geographic designation.

Stylistically, I am referring to traditional music, where there is a great deal of variety throughout these islands, although there are also strong similarities and sharing of repertoire. There a few - not many - examples of piano being used to accompany traditional music. Daisy Bulwer from Norfolk is one of the best known, but I also have an album of Da Forty Fiddlers from Shetland with piano accompaniment. Furthermore, until fairly recently many homes and most pubs had a piano, and it's hard to believe this wouldn't have been used to accompany traditional as well as popular music.

There are very few examples of the guitar being used for traditional music - Peerie Willie Johnson, again from Shetland, is perhaps the best known - and its prominence in the UK as a folk instrument is almost entirely a product of the 1950s-60s folk revival, and was heavily influenced by American folk music.

I'm certainly not claiming a major role for the piano in traditional music in the British Isles, simply that the guitar had an even smaller role.

(2) What do you mean by 'authentic' in your statement that "the guitar is authentic" in American folk music? (Please say more about 'authentic' in the context in which you use this term.)

Again, I am referring to traditional music where the guitar was widely used, and along with banjo and fiddle is one the iconic instruments of American folk music. Its use in modern folk stems directly from that. The guitar in the forms we know it today, and in particular the steel-strung and electric forms, largely evolved in America.


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Subject: RE: Use of Piano in folk/trad music?
From: GUEST,Banjo Tom
Date: 28 Nov 12 - 08:52 PM

Howard, hey, I really appreciate you taking the time to reply. I think I understand what you're saying. And I've played the Shetland Folk Festival and the Shetland Blues Festival, and spent a lot of time mixing in the Lerwick Lounge, playing Shetland tunes, Scottish and Irish tunes, blues, folk, skiffle, even some old-time and bluegrass, even weirder stuff. What you're saying makes sense to me, a lot of sense. There's a piano there, ready to go. And there are various instruments hanging on the wall for people to pick up and play at any time. It's a real fun place, a sacred room, an amazing space!

I was lucky to meet "Peerie" Willie Johnson at the Lerwick Lounge in 2005 or 2006, just before he died, with American Tim O'Brien doing an interview, and he demonstrated his style. It was swing chords, sock rhythm stuff, akin to Texas Swing, and "changes" to back fiddle tunes. He could still play. Lovely man, very humble, and he took a drink, as I recall. (I was in charge of drinks for him and Tim, which gave me a seat at the table.) Tim was very respectful and in awe of him, and we all were. It was beautiful.

The fiddling tradition in Shetland is alive and well, and I noticed on several occasions that the local female fiddlers hanging out, all pierced and punked out, not looking like folkies of any description -- barely out of their teens (if that) -- had much better intonation and more stamina than their male counterparts, who seemed to be less able to handle drink. Maybe this isn't always the case, but cherish the ladies who outshone the lads in the wee hours. And move over Aly Bain!

Okay, personally, I have no problem with the use of the term "British Isles"; however, in Ireland, where I live as an American ex-pat, well, don't call Irish trad that at sessions (i.e., music from the "British Isles"). This isn't obvious to many bluegrass musicians, for example. Enough said about that. Let's see, oh yeah, I have loads of examples of piano in Irish traditional music, and I've done studio work with pianist Brendan Dolan in NYC, son of Felix Dolan, and played sessions with Donna Long from Cherish the Ladies, so I know the piano works well in trad, in the right hands, of course.

It's common knowledge that folk artists, especially female singers, and traditional singers who have crossed over to Celtic, New Age and Pop make good use of the piano, and haven't turned their backs on it. Loreena McKennitt, who plays at Carnegie Hall tomorrow night (30 November 2012), immediately comes to mind.

Finally, for use of the oft-maligned piano in "folk/trad music" -- whatever that could mean (e.g., "everything is everything") -- I found this link, a sweet recording from the Irish tradition with some delicate piano backing by Charlie Lennon, a legend and prolific composer of traditional music.

See video: Joe Burke (box) and Charlie Lennon (piano)

Best ~ Tom Hanway


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