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Playing at speed

sian, west wales 04 Feb 19 - 01:12 PM
wysiwyg 04 Feb 19 - 01:14 PM
The Sandman 04 Feb 19 - 04:23 PM
leeneia 04 Feb 19 - 04:57 PM
sian, west wales 04 Feb 19 - 10:15 PM
The Sandman 05 Feb 19 - 04:02 AM
Leadfingers 05 Feb 19 - 04:24 AM
Will Fly 05 Feb 19 - 04:29 AM
GUEST,Derrick 05 Feb 19 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,kenny 05 Feb 19 - 05:02 AM
Marje 05 Feb 19 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,Andy7 05 Feb 19 - 10:48 AM
Steve Shaw 05 Feb 19 - 11:48 AM
Jack Campin 05 Feb 19 - 04:47 PM
Steve Gardham 05 Feb 19 - 05:14 PM
Steve Shaw 05 Feb 19 - 09:15 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 06 Feb 19 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,matt milton 06 Feb 19 - 09:35 AM
leeneia 06 Feb 19 - 10:41 AM
Richard Mellish 06 Feb 19 - 12:11 PM
The Sandman 06 Feb 19 - 12:25 PM
Steve Shaw 06 Feb 19 - 12:37 PM
The Sandman 06 Feb 19 - 02:39 PM
GUEST,threethumbs 07 Feb 19 - 06:14 AM
clueless don 07 Feb 19 - 07:35 AM
The Sandman 07 Feb 19 - 09:16 AM
The Sandman 07 Feb 19 - 09:18 AM
Tootler 07 Feb 19 - 10:24 AM
clueless don 07 Feb 19 - 10:30 AM
The Sandman 07 Feb 19 - 12:19 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Feb 19 - 05:31 PM
Mo the caller 07 Feb 19 - 05:38 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Feb 19 - 05:59 PM
Tattie Bogle 08 Feb 19 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,Mad Jock 09 Feb 19 - 04:42 AM
leeneia 09 Feb 19 - 10:57 AM
Stringsinger 10 Feb 19 - 03:00 PM
Mo the caller 11 Feb 19 - 07:55 AM
leeneia 11 Feb 19 - 04:04 PM
Mo the caller 12 Feb 19 - 07:07 AM
Tattie Bogle 12 Feb 19 - 12:03 PM
CupOfTea 14 Feb 19 - 12:14 PM
Tattie Bogle 14 Feb 19 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,matt milton 15 Feb 19 - 05:39 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 15 Feb 19 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,matt milton 15 Feb 19 - 03:43 PM
David W 15 Feb 19 - 09:35 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 02:56 AM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 16 Feb 19 - 05:28 AM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 05:37 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 16 Feb 19 - 05:39 AM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 16 Feb 19 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 01:38 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 01:51 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 02:01 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 02:38 PM
Jack Campin 16 Feb 19 - 02:46 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 02:51 PM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 02:57 PM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 03:07 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 03:13 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 03:25 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 03:31 PM
GUEST,matt milton 16 Feb 19 - 05:18 PM
The Sandman 16 Feb 19 - 07:53 PM
The Sandman 17 Feb 19 - 03:05 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 17 Feb 19 - 03:45 AM
The Sandman 17 Feb 19 - 03:49 AM
GUEST 17 Feb 19 - 04:30 AM
Jack Campin 17 Feb 19 - 04:46 AM
The Sandman 17 Feb 19 - 09:45 AM
Steve Jones 17 Feb 19 - 03:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Feb 19 - 06:19 PM
The Sandman 17 Feb 19 - 06:54 PM
GUEST 18 Feb 19 - 04:39 AM
Jack Campin 18 Feb 19 - 04:48 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 18 Feb 19 - 06:22 AM
Jack Campin 18 Feb 19 - 07:15 AM
Steve Jones 18 Feb 19 - 10:16 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 18 Feb 19 - 10:57 AM
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Subject: Playing at speed
From: sian, west wales
Date: 04 Feb 19 - 01:12 PM

I thought this was an interesting article from Comhaltas I don't think I ever felt that tunes in Welsh Sessions went inappropriately fast (or slow) and many Sessions would start off with slow tunes to encourage newcomers/beginners.

sian


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Feb 19 - 01:14 PM

Hi Sian!!


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 19 - 04:23 PM

imo good dancing speed is 113 for jigs, 98 for reels, of course much depends on dancers competence, and some jigs like cooleys can go a little slower and some like lark in the morning faster, but imo what is important is lilt not speed


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: leeneia
Date: 04 Feb 19 - 04:57 PM

I agree with the article.

Last summer I went to a garden party where a band was playing fast Irish music. After a couple hours, I commented to my husband that the band had no sheet music - all the tunes were memorized. His reply:

"You mean both of them?"

The tunes were exciting at first, then became monotonous. After a while, there seemed to be only one difference. Some started off major and some started off minor.

But I do realize that dancers need music to go fast enough for them to keep their balance.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: sian, west wales
Date: 04 Feb 19 - 10:15 PM

I think I shall rethink one thing I said above: I have been to Welsh sessions which include singers, when instrumentalists rip through a song too fast for singing. Very annoying, particularly when it is a popular song for community singing.

Hiya, wysiwyg!

sian


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:02 AM

irish music includes the tempos 4/4 reels ,jigs 6/8. slip jigs 9/8, polkas 2/4, slides 12/8, when musicians use all these tempos it is not monotonous, if they play in one tempo eg reels yes it does become monotonous as does other music like bluegrass if the musicians play in the same key at the same tempo ,it is not the genre of music but how the musicians are playing it.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:24 AM

I think Irish Tune players have caught the speed bug from modern Blue Grass , which always now seems to be a speed competition , and to hell with the idea of music to actually dance to . IF it is a pub session then SOME up tempo stuff is great . but it is far too easy to lose all the nuances of the tunes


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:29 AM

Our band plays two sorts of speed: session speed; dancing speed - and the same tunes maybe played at either or one of these speeds, depending on the situation.

Generally speaking, when playing for dancing, the speeds may be slower, but all depends on the caller, who will assess the capability of the dancers - many of them perhaps new to the dancing - and set the speed appropriately. We tend to play most things faster - but not excessively - at sessions, not forgetting that some of the people at our sessions are relative learners and sometimes prefer a steady tempo (as opposed to breakneck!)

There are occasionally tunes which our caller makes us play at a pretty fierce pace because they suit the dances he's chosen, and he wants some action from the dancers. One set is "Staten Island/Morpeth Rant", which we play at a fair pace in the session - and almost breakneck for his particular dance! The other is "Over The Hills And Far Away", which rattles along at a ridiculous rate. We all stand back and watch the dancers bouncing around...


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:53 AM

Playing tunes at breakneck speed is not playing music.
A good player puts light and shade into a tune,ie they play with feeling.
Playing for dancing is a good example of picking an appropiate speed for a tune,too slow and the dance is laboured, too fast and it looks ridiculous.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,kenny
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 05:02 AM

Favourite quote of mine from the sleeve notes of the "Music At Matt Molloy's" CD [ and there's some very fast music on that ] -

"There's fast music and there's lively music. People don't [ always ] know the difference".
And that came from a banjo player, Padraig Morrell. [ I inserted "always" ].


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Marje
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 06:55 AM

Playing too fast for dancing can actually be counter-productive. There's a crossover point at which the dancers can't actually keep up, so they halve their efforts and end up trotting, or plodding at half speed, because there isn't time for them to get any lift into their steps and hit the ground again.

Whether dancing speed matters at sessions is a matter of taste. I prefer to play at a danceable speed and keep the feel of the dance, but others prefer showier, faster playing where there's a single pulse rather than a more complex rhythm pattern.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Andy7
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 10:48 AM

I agree that there is far too much emphasis on speed when playing music.

That must be why I only ever choose slow tunes to play! :-)


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 11:48 AM

A pretty nimble speed can be good as long as the musicians are up to it in terms of crisp articulation and togetherness, vital caveats. It can be a bit horrid in sessions when not everyone can keep with it, which means either a few disgruntled players, or the whole thing turning to mud, or both. Earlier recordings by De Dannan and Four Men And A Dog have a good few sets played at a very fast lick that are very enjoyable. If you're playing for dancing you play at dancing tempos. Duh. A much worse phenomenon is speeding up, caused either by some selfish git(s) who can't accept the opening tempo or by sheer bad musicianship. Or by a bodhran owner.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:47 PM

It's common in many genres for the slowest music to have the largest number of notes per second. Some of the highest note rates ever recorded were in piobaireachd, where the pulse is geological.

I like slow sessions because I can throw in the most elaborate ornamentation I can think up.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 05:14 PM

There is no mention of dancing in the Comhaltas article, so playing for dancing is a completely different beast and somewhat irrelevant here. I'm surprised the word 'variety' hasn't surfaced here yet, but it is implied in the article.

In a session the players are nearly always there to play music and participate, not to entertain any listeners. Things like speed will be dictated by the make-up of the company. If it's a mixed bag of beginners, middlers and proficient, then hopefully the speed and tempo will be varied. If it's a collection of proficient musicians who are all familiar with each other then the speed and tempo will be whatever they're happy with. If it turns to mud or becomes repetitive that's their choice and prerogative.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 09:15 PM

I suppose it is, but even though a session isn't a performance as such it's surely more satisfying to endeavour to play as well as we all can within our collective strengths.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 07:16 AM

Playing one day with that fine Leitrim fiddler Ben Lennon, we found we had shared in some of the lovely Irish music in London in the sixties. Don't recall such as Raymond Roland or Paddy Malynn being particularly fast players- anyway, Ben told me of an English friend coming to the session with him- the White Hart ran 5 nights a week then.
Ben told me he'd taken an English friend one night & had seen him across the room obviously enjoying the atmosphere, but didn't see him for a while afterwards.
When he did, Ben asked if he'd enjoyed the night. 'Oh it was great, he said, but why did they play the same tune all night? Oh, and at the end, why did they all stand up and play it again?


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 09:35 AM

The problem with any article about speed in Irish music, which makes all debate about it pretty much a dead end, is that nobody can really agree what 'too fast' is. Listen to recordings of Michael Coleman or James Morrison and they are playing pretty bloody quickly.

Mentioning Martin Hayes muddies the waters even more, because his recordings cross over into 'arts centre' territory: he doesn't so much play a jig at a relaxed pace as turn a jig into a slow air, in a way that he wouldn't at a session or a dance.

Plus there's lots of people who are cited as 'medium paced' players who are actually playing a lot faster than they sound (when you actually time them). It strikes me that one reason why people think of Kevin Burke as a 'slower' player is that he plays so cleanly.

At the end of the day, Irish music is dance music, and Irish dancing is fast (unless you're talking solo dancing).


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: leeneia
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 10:41 AM

1. When a music lover can't tell the tunes apart, then the music is too fast.

2. At our English Country dances, we musicians are usually supplied with a metronome setting, but nobody knows where it comes from. So we practice it at the given speed. Then, at the dance, our leader listens to it, takes a few gliding steps to it, and then says "SLower." Sometimes she says it is good.

So it's not true that nobody knows what too fast is.

And by the way, this is not purely about Irish music. All kinds of music can be played too fast. Ragtime comes to mind.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 12:11 PM

> The problem with any article about speed in Irish music, which makes all debate about it pretty much a dead end, is that nobody can really agree what 'too fast' is.

Doesn't that Comhaltas article give as good a criterion as any? It's too fast if the music gets lost.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 12:25 PM

Listen to recordings of Michael Coleman or James Morrison and they are playing pretty bloody quickly.
so bloody what, it does not mean they were right , also it is possible or even probable that colemans music was speeded up when recorded, remember recording was primitive in those days and had to be played to fit on one side of a 78 rpm, for the record patrick kelly [clare fiddler] remarked that the worse thing that happened to irish styles were the recordings of coleman. coleman was sligo style.
next a quote from johnny o leary, the music is being played too fast


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 12:37 PM

That was often true - they played hell-for-leather to fit their sets on to one side of a 78. The wrong tail wagging the dog. And very often the accompaniment was terrible. I never found much easy listening in those recordings.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 02:39 PM

my advice is listen to clips ofplayers like seamus creagh and play along , but listen and listen


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,threethumbs
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 06:14 AM

Reminds me of this   https://youtu.be/_eEIIB5hVy4


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: clueless don
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 07:35 AM

In my opinion (for what that's worth, which is probably nothing), we are talking about *DANCE* music, and for that reason IT SHOULD BE FAST. I say this as someone who has tried dancing to too slow music.

Don


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 09:16 AM

NO [CLUELESS DON]that is a clueless remark
for example solo hornpipe dancing has to be very slow because of the intricate footwork, then we have set dances like the blackbird or the garden of daisies, these are faster that the solo slow hornpipe, but still not fast about metronome 140to 150.
liverpool solo hornpipe
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 09:18 AM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA ">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA

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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 10:24 AM

Actually, Dick I checked the fiddler's tempo some years ago and checked it again just now. He taps his foot at an almost metronomic 60bpm. (The "tap in" on my electronic metronome varied between 58 & 60) He'll be tapping minims and that equates to crotchet=120.


That clip shows two things to me
1. Effective dance music does not have to be all that fast.
2. Elaborate ornamentation is not necessary to effective playing of traditional tunes. The fiddler does ornament but he uses it sparingly and is all the more effective for it.

Traditional Irish music has gained a reputation for being played at breakneck speed and I suggest some reasons for it.

* Recordings by professional bands, particularly in the 60s & 70s. Albums were often a mix of songs with instrumental pieces thrown in and these were often jigs or reels played at silly tempo. Irish bands weren't the only ones guilty. I have a couple of albums by Capercaillie who play reels at silly tempo and The same was often true of Fairport and Steeleye Span.

* "Irish Music" seems to be played by many people who aren't Irish who didn't grow up with the music and who will likely have first been exposed to it from these recordings and think that's the proper tempo.

* A few years ago, I saw a clip (probably on You Tube) of some Donegal fiddlers discussing trends in their music. One of the comments that was made is that traditional Irish music has become detached from its original function as dance music and that, as a result too many people play it too quickly.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: clueless don
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 10:30 AM

I'm familiar with Oireachtas tempo hornpipes vs. traditional tempo hornpipes. Your video was a nice example of the latter, though it was not as fast as a hornpipe might be played in a session (it seemed to be around 120 bpm, while a hornpipe in a session might be played at 140 bpm.)

My comment was aimed more at social dances (The Walls of Limerick, The Four-Hand Reel, etc.) done to reels.

Don


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 12:19 PM

Don, dancing is not about speed it is about lift, too fast and too slow is not good,
TOOTLER. the tempos i quoted were not for that clip, i know what speed he is playing, the tempos i quoted were for differentdances blackbird and garden of daisies and correlate with dons quote approximately.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 05:31 PM

"Don, dancing is not about speed it is about lift, too fast and too slow is not good,"

Spot on. If you play for dancing you either play at the tempo that dancers want (and play with that elusive lift) or you keep their bums on the chairs. You soon find out from experience what works, and all the theory and tempo numbers in the world count for naught.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Mo the caller
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 05:38 PM

The term 'dance speed' can be misleading. American Contra are danced with a smooth walk and need to be played fast. Morris dance gets higher off the ground so needs to be slower. Hornpipes depend how high you can (or want to) hop.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Feb 19 - 05:59 PM

If people dance enthusiastically when you play, you've got it right. You can chuck all the theory out of the window.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Feb 19 - 11:24 AM

If you see the legs sagging, you're too slow. If they're tripping over themselves, you're too fast: it's as technical as that. And what's right for a group of experienced dancers is different from playing for total beginners.
(I'm getting deja vu here, as all this has recently been discussed at even greater length over on "The Session"!)


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Mad Jock
Date: 09 Feb 19 - 04:42 AM

Taggart and Wright used to sing Heather Down The Moor at two different speeds, the first was slow and beautiful. The second was done as fast as they could and they would time it trying to get the time down . Their best was 1min 42 sec over a minute quicker than their first presentation.

They also introduced props who they are as they rattled through it.

The stage was a bit of a mess after with stuffed sheep, small and large, bunches of Heather, bits of tartan cloth, feathers, oversized playing cards (Kings and Queens) and a tin of beans (beans of the setting sun?) everywhere.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: leeneia
Date: 09 Feb 19 - 10:57 AM

Thanks for the practical advice, Tattie Bogle. I hope I recognize sagging legs when I see them. I have seen dancers tripping over themselves.

Last Saturday I played for English Dance. (For some reason I am the only person bothered by the fact that many people come once and never come again.)

Well, last time we had a new guy who was built like an American football player - over six feet tall and bulky (not obese) across the shoulders. When he danced in front of me, I could hear his gigantic shoes squeaking as he tripped over his feet. I was glad to be playing percussion not recorder at the time, because if he really lost his balance and cannoned into me, ramming the recorder into the roof of my mouth, that would really hurt.

Our leader teaches a dozen dances every dance, not even considering that many are new and that, being young, they have probably never memorized anything in their lives. (They just use their phones.) I was a folk dancer once, and it took over a year of monthly dances before I developed the brain skill of memorizing a dance. And I had been memorizing things (poems, Shakespeare speeches, state capitals, the times table) all my life.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Stringsinger
Date: 10 Feb 19 - 03:00 PM

Varied tempos make music more interesting. Also, music for listening and music for dancing are not always the same.

I advocate for the listener and the dancer to participate in the performance. Dancers could learn to play the music and vice versa. Listeners could learn to sing the songs.

My mantra: people have to own the music.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Mo the caller
Date: 11 Feb 19 - 07:55 AM

Yes, I certainly enjoyed dancing and calling more after I'd tried to play the tunes. And appreciated the skill of the band more


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: leeneia
Date: 11 Feb 19 - 04:04 PM

I disagree. Mastering the moves is all the challenge most of our dancers need. After they do that, they need to learn how to dance gracefully, not just walk to the right place. Playing the music can wait.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Mo the caller
Date: 12 Feb 19 - 07:07 AM

Yes it can wait. But there comes a point when trying to play (even badly) helps.
There is also an argument that dance musicians should dance, or at least give it a try.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 12 Feb 19 - 12:03 PM

My mother taught Scottish country dancing, so I learned it from an early age - probably the best time to learn anything when your brain has plenty of cells left to make all those connections to do the moves correctly!And once you've got the basics, it's easier to learn new dances.
It certainly paid dividends when, much later, I came to play for dancing: dance speeds are ingrained in me, not necessarily as metronome numbers but as just how the dance should go. I either do a few steps in my head, or actually under my keyboard before starting to play. The dance experience also helps with "count-ins" or playing intros.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: CupOfTea
Date: 14 Feb 19 - 12:14 PM

As someone who plays both for dances (contra, English Country) and plays at Irish (and occasional old time) tune sessions, the issue of "at speed" is different for the two situations. It comes down to "playing well with others." In a session, it's the other players, for a dance, it's dancers' needs first, players trying to accommodate them.

In sessions, there's the chance to play at 78rpm if you can manage it, and that's lovely if everyone is an accomplished musician. But that leaves out beginners through intermediate players for all but a waltz. If a session is meant to encourage all, a range of speeds should be part of it. In mixed ability sessions here, the person who picks the tune sets the speed comfortable for them.

For dance, a skilled caller guides the band to the right speed for a particular dance. I know that there are some tunes I could play moderately in a session, I couldn't yet get "up to speed" for a dance. Band rehearsals frequently start with slower pace to insure accuracy, then speed up the tune to dance speed. I've found, in doing this, that tunes I think I have down solidly and play fast, I've dropped notes or mixed up phrases, when playing it through more slowly. ( I also note that 80% of what I play, I have the sheet music in front of me, even if I know the tunes pretty well. Having the dots is a whole OTHER kettle of fish in sessions)

Having a few speed demons in a dance band can cause problems, as they push the pace to an uncomfortable spot, or spoil the sound. The same thing in a session discourages those who can't keep up.   

Joanne in Cleveland, off to a session at the Irish American Club, East tomorrow!


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 14 Feb 19 - 05:12 PM

I totally agree, Joanne, re being responsive to the dancers' capabilities. One other oft-observed phenomenon is that, you may play at a nice steady speed in practice, but get out there on a live gig, and the adrenaline kicks in, and the "speed demons" can take off!


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 15 Feb 19 - 05:39 AM

"next a quote from johnny o leary, the music is being played too fast"

There's a certain irony there because Johnny O Leary played really fast: much faster than Bobby Casey or the majority of the Clare players. The Johnny O Leary tunebook lists all the tempos he played the tunes at and they are really high. The introduction even compiles a chart of his tempos and they are at the high end for Irish music.

And it's all very well people saying that 'you know it's too fast when the music gets lost' but that varies between player to player and from listener to listener. johnny O Leary plays fast but cleanly and rhythmically. Bobby Casey plays at least 1/3 more slowly, closer to the tempos of English music, but his music doesn't sound like it. Frankie Gavin plays crazily fast and most of the time I dislike it, though it works on his duo album with Alec Finn and on his fantastic album The Master's Return.

I don't like excessive speed in traditional music but I have no idea what the rest of you consider fast or slow.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 15 Feb 19 - 08:31 AM

There was an episode of 'Sé Mo Laoch' dealing with Frankie Gavin on the tellie recently. In it he spoke about speed. He said 'why would you want to play it slow, it's dance music, for godsake'.

A set danced at this speed wouldn't be anythign extraordinary, around here anyway: Aidan Vaughan (and the Mulcahys) : Clare battering steps

Peter Hanrahan : Brushdance

I don't think there a one rule to fit all dancing.

One night we were playing for sets and Jackie Daly was complaining he had been up to Knocknagree. The young dancers there wanted the music so fast he had to play reels for the polka figures of the set.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 15 Feb 19 - 03:43 PM

Well exactly, That's why I think this 'too fast' business is impossible to assess. There's a huge difference between playing for dancers, and how you might like to hear Irish music at home.

"The young dancers there wanted the music so fast he had to play reels for the polka figures of the set."
I don't understand. Polkas are played faster than reels. So shouldn't that be the other way round? If you played reels where you would normally play polkas, you would be playing a lot slower, not faster. And they're a totally different rhythm?!


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: David W
Date: 15 Feb 19 - 09:35 PM

Ah yes I have heard of what Comhaltas is referring to before.

The Paddy Principle, any musician will naturally gravitate to playing their instrument at a speed beyond their level of competence at the instrument.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:56 AM

irishPOLKAS ARE PLAYED IN 2/4, REELS are 4/4, for feck sake reels are faster than polkas,


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 05:28 AM

I picked up a copy of a tunebook by Pat McNulty, the Glasgow uilleann piper at the Bridge club in Newcastle about 1965- some challenging tunes in it! His foreword was very scathing about musicians playing too fast- I can't find that copy to confirm this, but note that a reprinted copy in 1990 has a revised foreword (again by the man himself) -but no mention of fast playing!
Did he beat 'em or did he join 'em?


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 05:37 AM

the folk police emasculated him


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 05:39 AM

Idon't think he did either Jim. My edition, from 1991:

'In conclusion, I wish to deplore the present tendency to play Irish dance music too fast. It is true that it is probably more difficult to play Irish music well at a modrate and regular pace, but such a practice generally leads to better performances, and is admirably suitable for Irish dancing.'


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 05:44 AM

OK Peter but I think he was less polite in the first edition- can't prove that until I find my copy though...


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 01:38 PM

"irishPOLKAS ARE PLAYED IN 2/4, REELS are 4/4, for feck sake reels are faster than polkas"

I've never heard anyone suggest irish polkas should be played slower than irish reels. Listen to any Irish player; all of them play polkas significantly faster than they play reels.

There are more notes in a reel, certainly, but that's because you've got more time to play them all... because reels are slower.

I'd be interested to hear an example of any Irish musician ever who played polkas slower than reels. Most reels tend to be played around the 120-130bpm mark; whereas polkas and slides tend to be from 130BPM upwards.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 01:51 PM

oh for feck sake i am playing irish music reels ansd polkas all the time all the time, you are talking rubbish polkas are played in 2/4 approx imately136 to 140 reels are played in 4/4, 1oo to 112, why do you think jasckie daly made the remark, reels are way faster, they are in a different time signature , you are a classic example of someone taking complete bvolocks


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:01 PM

ihave just played along with a metronome polkas 132, reels 100, slides 138, that does not mean slides are faster than reels because slides are 12 8 time. jackie daly plays polkas slower than reels


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:12 PM

jigs i might play beteween 108 amd 116, reels 100 to 104 that does not mean jigs are faster than reels, jigs are 6/8 anyone who has any sense of tempo can tell immediately reels are faster than jigs


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:27 PM

Your metronome is giving you the indication of tempo. If it is set for 132 for polkas and 100 for reels, that means you are playing a polka faster than a reel. That's a standard musical convention.

With your metronome set to 132, play a polka. Then segue straight into a reel without adjusting your metronome. Good luck playing that reel! If reels really were faster than polkas it ought to be a cinch, really easy. Somehow I don't think you'll find it so.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:38 PM

You mentioned Johnny O Leary. In the Johnny O'Leary tune book, in which Terry Moylan transcribed O'Leary's entire repertoire, he gives the tempi O'Leary played each tune at.

Moylan adopts standard convention, regarding the kind of metronome settings you gave at referring to tempi. Accordingly he says O'Leary plays jigs, polkas and slides faster than he plays reels.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:46 PM

Reels are better notated in 2/2. When you count two in a bar, polkas are faster and have less notes.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:51 PM

yo7u are talking rubbish reels are thefastet tempom in irish music i gave you an example of a musician jackie daly , jackie daly is onre of the finest exponents of button accordion if he said what he said he is more likely to be right than you, he plays polkas slower than reels so do i and every musician i have ever encountered in ireland. jckie daly has been playing irish music for over 50 years , for god sake cop on


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 02:57 PM

Would you say the same thing to Matt Cranitch?

Would you tell him he's wrong in stating in his tuition books and in all his workshops on Sliabh Luachra playing that he is wrong in saying that slides and polkas are the fastest tunes in Irish music?

You of course know who Matt Cranitch is and who he regularly plays with, right?
I'll give you a clue: it's Jackie Daly.

"When you count two in a bar, polkas are faster and have less notes."
Yes Jack. That's how everyone counts them. Well, it appears almost everyone.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 03:07 PM

Ask a dancer if a reel is faster than a polka or slide; I think they'd go with the polkas and slides.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 03:13 PM

very shortly you will be trying to tell me that english polkas which are in 4/4 which have less notes than reels are faster than reels.
I have the matt cranitch book i know him and jackie personally, i have booked them for 8 years at my festival.
Jackie daly made a statement if you have a problem or do not understand it contact him.
when reels are played in sessions after other tunes they have a dynamic impact, this not just due to change of tempo but because they are faster. example changing from jig to reel , it rarely wporks the other way round reel to jig.
I cannot find your quote in matt cranitch irish fiddle book anywhere, what page is that on ,
what he does say about polkas which is much more important than your rremarks is that the emphasis or stress should be on the off beat, this is what is important in irish music the emphasis, there also is an emphasis in jigs which can never be notated properly in music notation, where it looks to be even but it is not there is an emphasison beat and to a lesser extent beat 4
do you play a melodic instrument matt?


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 03:25 PM

on the subject of reels he again talks about accent or lift, suggesting that there is an emphasison the second and fourth crotchets of the bar, the problem that i have noticed is that many musicians can ececute the lift at 100 or 104 but when the playing is really fast the lift ismore difficult for them to execute. players need to understand that lift is moreimportant than excessive speed. i have jackie dalys contact number ,contact him if you dont understand any of this


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 03:31 PM

if you want to 8nderstand jackie dalys music got to the numrous you tube clips listen and play along, this music is about listening not notation


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 05:18 PM

Interesting that in all the youtube vids of Jackie Daly he notably taps his foot much faster when playing polkas than he does when he plays reels.

Interesting that he also gets through the A and B part of a polka in less time than he does the A and B part of a reel.

Interesting that In all the social dance videos I can find on youtube, the dancers appear to be dancing faster to polkas than they do reels. In the various discussions on tempo in Irish music I can find via google, everyone says polkas are faster than reels (and nobody says reels are faster than polkas).

Indeed you yousellf play reels at a lower BPM (metronome setting) than you do polkas. You are the only person I've ever heard of who says a higher metronome setting can mean a lower tempo!


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Feb 19 - 07:53 PM

contact him yourself and ask him he is very amenable , in the mean time spend more time listening and playing that is if you do play,you never answered my question do you play a melodic instrument


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 03:05 AM

neither have you answered on what page Matt Cranitch makes the statement you say he makes, in the copy i have of irish fiddle he makes no such statement, in fact your contribution is as red herring , the important points he makes are about emphasis not speed. yes indeed 108 for jigs is a higher met setting than 100 for reels ,but they are 6/8 and 4/4.
if jackie daly said what he said i am inclined to believe him rather than you , there are too many internet experets who in fact know feck all, jackie daly is someone whose comments i respect , why, because he has been playing trad music VERYWELL for 60 odd years, you have yest to answer whether you even play an instrument.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 03:45 AM

I quoted Jackie saying what he said as an illustration of an increased demand for speed by dancers. Which is something many musicians seem to observe.

A shouting match about details, a battle about being 'right', wasn't really what I meant to set in motion.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 03:49 AM

Matt Cranitch does make the following comment the best advice is to listen andbe guidedby what those who are more experienced do.Ifirst started playing for dancing in 1976 43 years ago, Matt, do you play and how long have you been playing?however JckieDaly has been playing for longer so i will defer to him , i suggest you do the same, if jackie says something about dance speed, accept it and shut up, he knows more than you or i about irish dance music


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 04:30 AM

I had a look on youtube. Though Jacky Daly seems to usually tap his foot two to a bar on reels in this clip he is tapping heel and toe giving four to a bar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daAkHYXyofs

Many other players do this. I guess four toe, or four heel, taps to a bar at that tempo is impractical


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 04:46 AM

My Taktell mechanical metronome only goes up to prestissimo 208. I don't think higher tempos are named anywhere, so you just can't count a faster reel bpm than 104 if you want a tick for every crotchet. That's why cut time exists.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 09:45 AM

go to Free Online Metronome - 8notes.com you can get accent too much more important than speed, musical notation is not nearly as important as using ears, musical notation does itsb best but lacks accuraccy about emphasis


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Jones
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 03:09 PM

Peter, is it possible that this story about Jackie playing reels instead of polkas has got turned back to front? I know I've heard or read the story from you before, but I think I might have also heard it from Jackie's mouth when I was hanging out with him in the Catskills between 2005 and 2013 or thereabouts.

The way I remembered it, Jackie played polkas instead of reels as a protest because the dancers wanted the reels at an unplayable speed. This actually makes sense if you try the following experiment: play, I dunno, the Silver Spear as fast or faster than you comfortably can. Then, tapping your foot at exactly the same pace, switch into Johnny Leary's polka no 2 aka Maids of Ardagh (since it starts with a very similar phrase). I'm sure you'll find, as I do, that the polka is _much_ easier to play at that pace.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 06:19 PM

Playing tunes too fast has two "advantages". It means you can get away with mistakes, and it impresses people who think it's harder. Much of the time of course it isn't. Like riding a bicycle really - going slowly without falling off is what calls for real skill.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Feb 19 - 06:54 PM

playing too fast is crap ,it b34comes more difficult toornament and to execute emphasis imo


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 04:39 AM

que?


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 04:48 AM

playing too fast is crap ,it b34comes more difficult toornament and to execute emphasis imo

Same goes for typing.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 06:22 AM

'Peter, is it possible that this story about Jackie playing reels instead of polkas has got turned back to front?'

Steve, my recollection is of him saying 'reels' for polka figures. But it's probably nearly fifteen years ago, it was a late night between tunes after playing for sets for a few hours. You know Jackie, some of his stories and set pieces come out arseways sometimes. And memory is a fickle thing.

But I trot this one out occasionally for discussions like this where there's always one, or two, people coming out with the old 'it's dancemusic, it can't be too fast'. Rather than a diversion of the discussion into the intricacies of the beat count of each tune I think what Jackie said is a great illustration of the pressures dancers often put on musicians to give it more wellie.

That is my own experience as well, dancers almost invariably demand more speed than I, and the people I play with, usually play at.


One instances comes to mind (well, a few more do but I'll stick to this one for now) that occurred twelve or thirteen years ago, Kitty Hayes and myself were asked to play a charity concert locally, which ofcourse we agreed to. A couple of days later the organiser phoned to ask if we could play for a girl doing a brush dance, she'd come round for a practice. So, a twelve year old and her mother turned up at Kitty's for a run through a few days before the concert and could we play the Buck of Oranmore, please. Not one Kitty regularly played but we did. As you know Kitty wasn't a particularly fast player but she had beautiful rhythm, she could dance a set herself with the best of them. The girl stood there all sulky and wide eyed saying to her mother 'I can't dance to THAT'. So we picked it up to the limits of what Kitty at her age and with that particular concertina could muster. No cigar. The mother clearly wondered how they could have teamed her precious up with a bunch of non entities like that. We got Jackie (or Conor Keane) to play for her on the night.

I think when discussing speed it good to keep in mind a tune can be played to suit different dances. It's all fine to trot out the same old Tulla Ceiliband clip and shout 'THIS IS HOW A HORNPIPE SHOULD BE PLAYED'. Well, yes, it was fine on that occasion but it doesn't mean it has to be the standard for every situation. I once posted a clip to one of these discussions of Michael Tubridy playing the Harvest Home for dancer Agnes Haak, recorded at the Willie Clancy week of 2008. Like clockwork the reaction came YOU CAN'T DANCE TO THAT!. And that was in spite of the footwork clearly audible on the recording. Agnes danced beautifully (I was there), she a very lightfooted gracious dancer indeed and Mick Tubridy knows a thing about dancing (and playing for it).

My point is, look at the situation at hand before trotting out the usual cliches, some step dancers demand excruciatingly slow tempi for their hornpipes, some sean nos dancers may give it more wellie and let me tell you, for the last figure of the set (it's mostly the Caledonian around here) dancers sometimes want it at a different speed altogether.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 07:15 AM

An even more extreme situation is with rapper. Rapper jigs have to go at a pace where there is nothing left of the tune but its metre - and if you did manage to insert any expressive phrasing the dancers wouldn't want it.

There was a workshop about playing for rapper at Whitby a couple of years ago. I went along, with the main question in my mind being "how can you do it without getting bored out of your skull?" - never got an answer to that.


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: Steve Jones
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 10:16 AM

Good points, Peter. If the dancers are happy - from rapper to excruciating hornpipes - the musicians have done their job well (even if under protest, like Jackie). If dancers aren't involved, why worry about dance tempi?

I like tunes at any speed provided they are well played. I enjoy listening to good players playing at insane speeds that I could never manage, just as I love listening to the old Clare fiddlers playing reels at around 95 bpm.

Mind you, as a possibly irrelevant aside, I have heard music played by established players so slowly and deliberately that it becomes irritating - or ridiculous. The most extreme example came one night when, in a state of altered consciousness (brought on by fatigue - tired, but not "tired and emotional"), I put on a CD of a well-regarded piper playing tunes solo at a snail's pace and wringing them dry of every tight triplet and crann imaginable. The effect was electric - it was musical theatre of the absurd, and to me, at that moment, hysterically funny. The music was lost among the grunts, belches and assorted squeals and borborygmi the piper was labouring so hard to produce...


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Subject: RE: Playing at speed
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 18 Feb 19 - 10:57 AM

If there aren't any dancers, when, in Garrett Barry's words, you're playing for the heart, not the feet, your only duty is to the music. If you can make the tune shine and bring it across, you're doing a good job and the speed doesn't really matter.

Martin Hayes doing 'the Sailor's Bonnet' with the Gloaming has become the go to piece to play behind 'meaningful' and atmospheric images in documentaries and other televised imagery. To be honest, that has outstayed its welcome a bit by now.

Last night I was at a concert, first on were Josephine Marsh and Yvonne Casey, almost serene music at a leisurely pace with plenty of space. Call it modern Clare music. After them came Seán McKeon and Liam O'Connor were on. The contrast couldn't have been greater, perhaps you could describe their music as Dublin, urban, music (one of their recordings is called 'Dublin made me' taken I presume from Donagh McDonagh's poem, would suggest they'd subscribe to that). Their music was fast, loud an bristling with musical imagination and stuff they bounced off eachother. Extremely high density stuff they pulled off with incredible skill. Would I listen to it for a long time, perhaps not but there was a lot to appreciate though while it lasted. What I mean to say is, there are more ways to skin that cat and there are loads of valid ways of tackling this dance music stuff when you're not playing for dancers.


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