Certain tunes for certain instruments?

Certain tunes for certain instruments?

So i’ve officially decided to take up mandolin, and i’ve actively started working on tunes on piano but there are soooo many. One day I thought to myself "There’s no way i’m learning all the tunes I want in my repertoire for all instruments" and I came up with this. I’ll play most tunes on fiddle, excluding hornpipes; reels and jigs on piano; and jigs and hornpipes on mandolin. Anyone else play certain tunes on certain instruments? From what i’ve been learning and hearing, they’re played differently on different instruments. Right now i’m assuming that some tunes will be more fun to play on certain instruments, but I don’t know yet cause I only know a couple on piano and mandolin. If you play more than one instrument, i’d like to also know what tune types you find more enjoyable on the selected instrument.

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fiddles own hornpipes, you can’t not play them!!

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but anyway i’ll play all tunes on fiddle and i’m really enjoying playing polkas and slides on the button box (C#/D). the box gives you that extra punch you need for those sorts of tunes

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Hey get an octave mandolin, I highly recommend it for any chording you might end up wanting to try. In my opinion you should never ever play mandolin chords at a session.

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I do find some tunes suit certain instruments a lot better than others. Flute is my main instrument but I play mandolin and bouzouki as well and there are a few tunes that just aren’t suited to the flute that fit will on mando or zouk. I also find that jigs and hornpipes fit well on the mando but reels up to speed are difficult. I would think tunes that fit well on fiddle will fit well on mando but then again I don’t play fiddle so I may be underestimating the transition from bow to pick.

For me as a flute player I tend to play things on mando or zouk (I usually use zouk for backing tuned GDAD but some tunes sit well in this tuning) that don’t sit well on the flute. Tunes that have a lot on the g string or are in difficult flute keys I tend to just stick on another instrument. For example the Castle jig by Sean Ryan has a lot on the g string so instead of playing lots of notes an ocvate up I just don’t bother with it on the flute although sometimes I try transposing it into different keys. Although I have an 8-key flute playing chromatically is easier said than done so there are some tunes in more difficult flute keys, i.e d minor, F, ect, that I like to play on mando. Like Jenny’s Welcoime to Charlie and the Humours of Scariff, doable on the flute but they sound better on strings. I also don’t really like playing hornpipes on the flute for some reason, they just never felt right on it. Although there are some that I like to play.

There is of course another side to this question in that certain tunes are just better suited for certain instruments. Like there are plenty of pipe tunes that sound fine on other instruments but sound the best on pipes. (I find some of those tunes, usually d mixolydian jigs, sit well on bouzouki tuned GDAD like the Hag at the Kiln and the Yellow Wattle.) Or fiddle tunes that are quite challenging on flute or whislte. Then there are more recent compositions where we know it was composed by a fiddler or a flute player or whatever. Like how Sean Ryan’s tunes don’t usually sit well on the flute or pipes (too much g string) or how Vincent Brodrick’s tunes sound great on flute.

For me it isn’t really a case of what type of tune but the tune itself like how reels may be difficult up to speed on mandolin but some sound really good. It isn’t really the type of tune that matters but the content of it.

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I would have put reels in mandolin/banjo territory because of the potential for triplets. (They work perfectly well on other instruments- the twangy triplety thing is just one approach that works well.) Fiddles definitely do the job on hornpipes from my perspective cos you can vary bow speed to do the pulse justice. More generally, I wouldn’t have said theres any particular type of tune that can’t be done on any type of instrument but there’s certainly some that fall better under the fingers on certain instruments or lend themselves to particular styles of ornament and so certain instruments.

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probably cross posted with what why bother said

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A mandolin’s distinctive strength is that it can switch instantly from strumming to melody and back.

What music have you got that needs that? It won’t be concentrated in any one specific dance metre.

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You’ll find that really rolly reels like Earl’s Chair or Crock of Gold don’t work as well on mando, until you develop a work around.

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might be wandering off topic here, but somehow, rolly ways of playing seem to work especially well on minor and modal things and bouncy triplety ways of playing seem to work better on major tunes. Is this just me? If it isn’t then why?

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try B(3ABB instead of B(3BBB on mandolin/banjo for long b rolls in tunes like crock of gold/earls chair. use a light touch.

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BTW to the original post, I don"t find particular instruments more or less suited to particular forms - but there are some tunes that are harder on certain instruments, I’m still shakey on the 4th part of the maid at the spinning wheel on the fiddle & still trying hard at the bunch of keys(Gmix) on a keyless flute. I disagree with flute players that transpose everything into a key/mode with one sharp - keys make a big difference to me & half of the appeal to me is the tonality.

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Well there are certain tunes(but not types of tunes) that I only play on one or the other instrument.

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‘I would have put reels in mandolin/banjo territory because of the potential for triplets.’

Playing triplets is much much easier on the banjo than on the mandolin. Double strings make a big difference, how many mandolin players do you hear using a lot of triplets? I can’t think of any that use as many picked triplets as a banjo player would. I tend to use more left hand ornamentation on the mandolin rather than relying on the pick as mandolin has more sustain so you don’t need to pick triplet runs and you can get a roll effect by using cuts.

‘I disagree with flute players that transpose everything into a key/mode with one sharp…’

If this is aimed at me I generally do this to fit tunes onto the flute that go below C (as mentioned before I have an 8-key flute.) When I said I do it on that Sean Ryan jig I actually meant that I have been working on playing it in D dorian so I don’t have to play parts of it an octave up. It means going up to the third octave E but it is doable. I happen to like transposing tunes into all sorts of different keys for a different effect; but I wouldn’t be one of those people to put everything in an easier key.

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Interesting, interesting. I guess I just ran into a few select tunes that I think would fit better on one instrument than the other. Maybe I just haven’t gotten the proper feel of it all yet. I can rock a reel on fiddle, but I can’t give hornpipe that "rock" that’s sooo "hornpipe". I guess it’s that I neglect them cause I don’t hear a lot that I like. I’ve tried out reels on mandolin and the plectrum factor really thows me off, but I really like jigs. I think of mandolin as an laid-back type, and to me, most reels aren’t laid-back at all, but rather hype. I don’t think I could get hype on a mandolin. Is it me, or is the dynamic range on that thing really slim? And for piano, well, the tunes are a lot more complicated to learn, and it’s not like i’ll be playing that in sessions.

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"Playing triplets is much much easier on the banjo than on the mandolin. Double strings make a big difference, how many mandolin players do you hear using a lot of triplets? I can’t think of any that use as many picked triplets as a banjo player would"

Well, the banjo has much less sustain, so there is little else to do but play triplets! As you say in the rest of that paragraph:

" I tend to use more left hand ornamentation on the mandolin rather than relying on the pick as mandolin has more sustain so you don’t need to pick triplet runs and you can get a roll effect by using cuts."

I don’t find triplets any more taxing on the mandolin. As for not hearing many players use them extensively, here is one example that springs to mind:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdQiOkV0ccI


Some players who play both instruments might have some "overspill" in their playing - this player obviously has some banjo experience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3MrIytLVco&feature=relmfu


Then there are those "tremolo" Italian mandolin players…..

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Rapid triplet ornamentation is very effective on the Vulcan arse flute but one has to watch for the follow through. Of course, a continuous tremolo style of playing is seriously disencouraged.

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discouraged?!

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Has no-one mentioned the word ‘articulation’ yet?

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You are welcome to follow through on your Vulcan arse flute any time, Yhaal. Those tremoloes were never the same after Brian Poole left.

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Certain tunes are easier than others on certain instruments but that shouldn’t influence what instrument you play them on … after all, they are all relatively easy on any instrument. If difficulty was an issue, then everybody would just play the whistle (except those numpties who do stuff because it’s difficult, of course)

And certain tunes can sound better on different instruments, but they are never the best tunes. All the best tunes sound equally good on any instrument (within reason of course) and in any key and at any speed. These are characteristics that define great tunes.

http://www.thesession.org/discussions/26904/

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As an aside, it’s one of my pet peeves when people accompany tunes they don’t know to play on the mandolin. They just don’t sound great when you’re strumming them along to Irish tunes. Similarly, "chopping" on a fiddle along to tunes you don’t know…. not a fan of that, either.

If you want to accompany on a mandolin-type thingy, get a ‘zouk, octave mandolin, or cittern. :)

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I think that certain tunes, certain repetitive and unimaginative tunes, can struggle to sound interesting on such a limited instrument as a mandolin. Where as a half decent player on a flute or a fiddle or a set of pipes can hold your interest with them - simply because there is more you can do with that kind of tune on those instruments.

And sometimes, the reverse is true with the better tunes. If the fiddle/flute/pipes player is not great, then there can be a tendency to over do it and loose the tune - where as on a mandolin, the enforced limitation can sometimes be beneficial.

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The fact is that every instrument has its own mechanical issues and We are only qualified to make a statement about the ease of playing the instrument if we can actually play it!
Eg Every individual woodwind instrument has its own playing potential as a result of the ability of the maker to produce an instrument that is playable, in tune, and has a good sound. These aspects are the fundamental issues any player has to deal with and all individuals and individual instruments differ.
Some instruments are made so well that everything is just right , others not. So any blanket statement regarding even wood wind alone demonstrates a clear lack of understanding and ability, let alone ‘every instrument’

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@fiddlelearner

As has been said by others, some tunes fit better and some sound better on certain instruments than others. However, good players play to the strength of their instrument.

For trad mandolin check this guy out;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeZGpRMJb44


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" It isn’t really the type of tune that matters but the content" — got it in one.

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Most tunes are easily transferable to a variety of instruments provided you are familiar enough with both, i.e the tunes and instruments.

I prefer mandolin for hornpipes but the fiddle is better for slow airs, waltzes etc although I’ll not always stick to this rule. After all, it’s not always convenient to have both instruments immediately handy. However, it’s actually a lot harder to play slower tunes on a mandolin if you want to make them sound half decent that is.
I’m not that keen on using a mandolin for chords although I may do it occasionally but it depends on the circumstances and combination of instruments present.

Nobody’s mentioned such instruments as the accordion, harp, (although piano was mentioned in the opening post) where it is possible albeit not always preferable to play either a bass or accompanying part, or perhaps even a special arrangement of a tune. There are times when these instruments would be very suitable for certain tunes too although not always in a session situation.

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Fiddle for everything :) If I don’t like a tune, I wouldn’t really want to hear it played on any other instrument. I honestly can’t think of anything I’d like to hear (that was playable on fiddle) that would sound better on another instrument.

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Hmm. Ok. For me, mandolin will be a kind of personal thing. I would take it too sessions, but it would be mostly used for passing the time, are just plucking out tunes cause I love the tone of it, when i’m not around other musicians. Piano will likely be fully private except for my normal occasional performances, so that’s just for fun too. And I may get hit for this, but I would like to pick up a harmony instrument, like the bouzouki, just to be a backup player in case there were no other harmony players. I like how harmony sounds in this music. It’s different cause it doesn’t lead like it does in a lot of other music. It would be a purely session instrument.

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There are no ‘musts’ in this but personally I aspire to being able to play any damn tune in the tradition both on the whistle and on the two-and-a-half-row D/G melodeon I play.

I can’t at present, of course, and maybe never will, but the challenge for better or worse hovers before my consciousness. It lets me off playing in unnatural keys with notes I haven’t got, but admonishes me to learn these tunes in the keys I *have* got. It doesn’t let me off tunes that dive below bottom D (well, they can be the best ones anyway…), but the box has some of those notes.

I favour the box when I want to make loads of noise.

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Llig wrote:

"I think that, in the interests of pluralism, I’m gonna have to see if I can find a tune to play on the thing that doesn’t go better on the fiddle. I’m not talking taste.

If I can’t find one, I’ll write one. And all yous plinky plonkers can have it."

Llig, my friend, did you find one? If not where’s the dots for your opus?

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When I first began playing my G fife I was surprised how easily certain tunes fell under my fingers, but it wasn’t limited to tunes in G. Recently I’ve been playing more A whistle & that’s a Déjà vu-doo too. Some Breton tunes are very easy to play on 2 or 3 different keys of flute or whistle.

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My main session is mandolin, with whistle as a ‘second’ instrument - I’ve been playing both for roughly the same length of time, but mandolin has always taken precedence. (I play fiddle also, but I am still a beginner on it after 8 years.) I am comfortable playing any tune (that I can play) on mandolin. As a part-time whistle player, I tend to stick mostly to the ‘whistle tunes’ on that instrument - i.e. tunes in D, G and their modes, which don’t spend much time below bottom D. Of course, there’s plenty of piping and flute repertoire to draw on, so I’m never short of a tune on the whistle. But for tunes with lots of low notes in,or with F-naturals, B-flats, G-sharps etc. (mostly ones composed by fiddlers and box players), I usually play the mandolin. As a private excercise, I sometimes try playing the more awkward tunes on the whistle (something I used to do more of and should do more often), but I would rather spare my fellow session goers my ineptitude.

"I think that certain … repetitive and unimaginative tunes, can struggle to sound interesting on such a limited instrument as a mandolin."

I can’t speak for the listener, but I usually find a way to make a tune interesting to *myself* on mandolin - repetitive is no object. (‘Unimaginitive’, surely, is down to the player.) Admittedly, I would like to be able to play them all on the fiddle, but I would have more trouble making them sound musical. My familiarity with the mandolin gives me a much wider expressive palette than I have on the fiddle. Perhaps, had I been playing the fiddle as long as, and as much as, I have been playing the mandolin, I would find it a superior instrument. But it is pointless to speculate.

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"Playing triplets is much much easier on the banjo than on the mandolin. Double strings make a big difference, how many mandolin players do you hear using a lot of triplets? I can’t think of any that use as many picked triplets as a banjo player would."

Mick Moloney.

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"Playing triplets is much much easier on the banjo than on the mandolin."

Not if you’re a mandolin player. I have a banjo, that I use mainly for ceili gigs, and I find it considerably harder to play triplets on it.

"Hey get an octave mandolin, I highly recommend it for any chording you might end up wanting to try. In my opinion you should never ever play mandolin chords at a session."

You’re entitled to your opinion, Earl. But I think the mandolin has its place as a backing instruments. There are certainly things I would *not* do with a mandolin (in Irish trad): I wouldn’t play bluegrass chop chords; I wouldn’t use it as a backing instrument in a big session (the only way to be heard would be to strum it loudly, which sounds horrible, in my opinion). But where the mandolin comes into its own as a backing instrument, is when there are just one or two melody instruments. It can be used effectively for gentle, arpeggiated chords, interspersed with countermelody, generally sticking to the lower 3 strings. I don’t do it often, as I’d usually rather be playing the tune - or if I don’t know the tune, either trying to pick it up or sitting out, depending on how complicated the tune is, or how much I like it.

I wouldn’t, however, recommend taking up the mandolin primarily as a backing instrument, as it can do a lot more than that. As you say, Earl, an octave mandolin is better for that purpose, as it offers more possibilities for chord inversions within an appropriate range (mandolin chords end up higher than the melody if you go too far down the neck). The octave mandolin has, of course, all the same melodic possibilities as the mandolin (arguably, more, since you can always play it an octave up if you want to, but you can’t play the mandolin an octave down). But, being an octave lower and lacking the ‘edge’ of a tenor banjo, it tends to sound ‘muddy’ playing melody in a session.

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I think you have described about the only type of mandolin backing that would be appropriate at a session, Creadur. I am sure the other modes you described were what Earl was thinking of when he suggested avoiding it as a backing instrument, especially that bluegrass chop.
For myself, being currently limited to the harmonica, I find the instrument singularly unsuited to waltzes and slower tunes. Every time I play it slowly, even when I avoid vibrato, I feel like there should be a herd of cattle around me, and beans cooking on the campfire. It just refuses to sound Irish.

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"I think you have described about the only type of mandolin backing that would be appropriate at a session,"

Yes - but I wouldn’t much want to hear bluegrass chop chords or loud strumming on guitar, mpouzouki or octave mandolin either.

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in total agreement with Al & Creadur thoughts on mando backing - Al I got a giggle out of the beans & campfire thing.

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Well I see your point. I guess I meant it’s too high for chord strumming, but double stopping and arpeggios can work. I just know If I was spending the money the octave mandolin be more useful to me as one who plays in sessions and such. I don’t think they sound muddy at all though. You have less edge than a banjo but doesn’t everything? You also have more sustain than a banjo. As a tenor banjo player and a fiddler I often crave an instrument that I can play similar to the banjo but with more sustain, opening up different possibilities in my playing, such as backing myself with nice low double stopped notes (It’s just a blip on the banjo) or even strumming some chords from time to time.

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Yes. An octave mandolin also has more sustain than most mandolins, so it is more responsive to LH ornamentation. But that tends to get lost in all but the most intimate of sessions.

One thing which I don’t think has been mentioned yet on this thread is how well mandolin family instruments complement one another. This is only partly relevant to session playing, as you never know what other instruments will be present - and I enjoy playing with flutes, pipes, concertinas, fiddles etc. as much as I do with other mandolins - but when I do get the opportunity to play with one or two other mandolins (not necessarily even in other registers), it can be a great buzz to play around one another, weaving around the tune, ducking and diving. I don’t know if it’s strictly ‘trad’, but it’s music and it’s fun.

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I’m not sure the double course fretty string things do naturally compliment each other. I think they can, if the players have worked it out and they keep to their own spaces (Lunny/Irvine) but generally, I think it’s mud. Everybody doing their own arpeggio stuff on top of each other with loads of sustain? Eauuurgh. It’s a bit like playing the piano with a brick on the sustain pedal.

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I suppose it could get messy if people weren’t listening to one another. But I was taking mutual listening as a given - that’s the fun bit.

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…working bits out is one way of doing it, but it’s nice to take yourself and each other by surprise as well.

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"Everybody doing their own arpeggio stuff on top of each other with loads of sustain? Eauuurgh. It’s a bit like playing the piano with a brick on the sustain pedal."

I was thinking more of everyone playing the tune, with incidental bits of harmony, than massed backing - or maybe one player taking a backing role.

…and you can have as much (within limits) or as little sustain as you want. Every mandolin/OM/bouzouki player comes equipped with two dampers - a left hand and a right hand (I have a beard as well - although it has no nerve endings in it, so it’s hard to control).

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[*Every mandolin/OM/bouzouki player comes equipped with two dampers - a left hand and a right hand*]

…an invitation to do bluegrass chops, then get punched in the tits :)

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I have no idea why (and would appreciate it if someone else can tell me why), but I love to play Sweeps (aka Belfast) Hornpipe on flute but not on fiddle. On the other hand the Bees Wing Hornpipe is just great on fiddle (also on flute). And I can’t imagine playing The Night Before Poor Larry Was Stretched on anything but fiddle (at least not flute). I don’t think it is the keys, but maybe it is. The keys, however, can’t explain why the Sweeps Hornpipe doesn’t work on the fiddle since it’s in D.

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Well, I can’t explain that one. The Sweeps is great on fiddle. :-)