Dynamics

Dynamics

OK, it started with foot tapping and moved on to bowing and tone. Now I’m adding another theory & technique thread.

Dynamics - volume, accents, crescendos etc. Do you use them? How and when? Can you really use them in a session, when others may not notice or even care? Or is this purely a performance thing? Discuss.

Jeff

Re: Dynamics

Jeff dear, when I can get through a tune feeling good about how it’s going, I’ll worry about dynamics then. *snicker*

I think it’s a performance thing, although I’ve seen it happen in sessions when the players are good. And some tunes just demand it — TamLin, for instance.

zls

Re: Dynamics

C’mon, Z, a virtuoso like you should be able to add all manner of interpretation to a tune! πŸ˜›

Re: Dynamics

Right now, my major interpretations seem to be "hmm, had a little too much of that hard cider there," or maybe "maybe you should practice more"… hehehe…

Actually, I tend to think of trad Irish music like Shakespeare — if you go for the meaning of the words, the poetry will take care of itself…

zls

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I heard ITM doesn’t have dynamics. πŸ™‚

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Personally, I play louder in the upper octave.

(That’s a whistle joke, in case your wondering)

Re: Dynamics

Jeff, I asked the same sort of question to Kevin Burke a month ago at a workshop, and he said that dynamics are an important part of how you interpret the tune. He used the analogy of "saying" the tune, and giving it natural inflections and dynamics.

So I pressed him on whether this was "authentic" or not, given the earlier recordings of so many old masters who didn’t play with any dynamic range. Burke suggested that some of this may be due to the limitations of the musicians—and he was being careful not to dismiss our musical ancestors here. But, he said, if you CAN play with inflection and feeling and dynamics, and it helps you express the tune, why wouldn’t you use it?

I think it does work in sessions, as long as you don’t expect every single person in the circle to catch on. Some people can’t , and others won’t out of some misguided (did I say that out loud?) principle. But I’ve noticed that other musicians loosen up as soon as someone introduces the ebb and swell of dynamics to a session.

Of course, it can be overdone (witness again the Boston Pops doing Toss the Feathers, but don’t—please spare yourselves). I’ve also noticed that players who lean toward heavy dynamics also tend to do a lot of sliding into notes, another supposedly "non-trad" inflection. I think that some of this may be what Brad Maloney was talking about when he criticized Martin Hayes and others for catering to commercial interests. And I agree that there may be something to that. But I also find Hayes’s approach almost always tasteful and highly respectful to the tradition.

So…yes I use dynamics, though not as much as I might if I were a classical player. Some tunes get more of it than others, and it also tends to fall on a note or three here and there, rather than blossoming through extended crescendoes and fading into whispery diminuendoes. Like most of Irish trad music, it thrives more on innuendo….

grin

And by that I mean hinting at dynamics without going full swell into One Thousand and One Strings.

Will

Posted .

Re: Dynamics

Damn! I was just about to pull out my Mantovani LPs…

Will, that was well said. I’ve never heard the Boston Pops’ rendition of "Toss the Feathers", and if a live a clean and moral life I expect I never will. Ooops, too late! πŸ™‚

I’ve always wondered what Bach would have written if he’d had a modern piano with pedals at his disposal…

Jeff

Re: Dynamics

Oh *fine*, Will, interrupt a perfectly good thread hijacking with actually talking about the subject. heh.

I have to say that I agree with Kevin Burke (and therefore Will) in re: "inflecting" a tune. It has to do with finding the phrasing of the tune, I think — something that’s going to be different for every player, and so you can’t really utilize it except in a fairly basic way in an actual session. And it’s a rare accompanist who can catch what whoever the leading light of their particular session is doing with dynamics, so that pretty much blows any subtleties out of the water right there.

Now…we can talk about whether dynamics SHOULD be available as part of the toolkit of a session, I suppose…

Zina

*frown*

You know, this is much more difficult when we’re all online at once. Jeremy, can’t we utilize some kind of gatekeeping function or something to only allow so many people on at once? hehehe.

Of course, this kind of reminds me of one of those session where you’re holding three different conversations with three different other players all at the same time, all of whom are doing the exact same thing… πŸ™‚

zls

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Does anyone who frequents this site actually do their day job from 3 to 5 in the afternoon? And it’s OK to "inflect" a tune so long as you don’t "inflict" it.

Re: Dynamics

Or "infect" it.

Joe (who’s not infectious and has the certificate to prove it.)

Posted by .

Re: Dynamics

Here’s my two bits on dynamics - get into the habit of playing as dynamically as befits the tune, then who cares if you get drowned out in the quiet parts, or if your meticulous phrasing is un-noticable in a session environment? Do it anyway. You will get some practice and perhaps dynamic playing will become more habitual - ie. one less thing to think about so you can use all the tools at your disposal to express a tune as well as you can. You can develop a lot of bad habits (I know I have) at sessions by playing less dynamically, at a different tempo, etc etc than you would alone. It’s more likely that the bad habits will affect your solo performance than it is that the good habits will affect your group drinking binges with fellow musicians.

Re: Dynamics

Why is everyone so worried about getting work done when we’re all in here cogitating on the REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF?

I have to confess that the time I spend in here during the day comes out of my sanity at night when I stay up way past my bedtime to crank out the verbage I avoided during the day. It’s a double whammy for a writer to type away in here all afternoon (for FREE dammit!!! Must be why they call it free lance…) only to sit glued to the keyboard till 3 am to pay the bills.

Kerri’s right on about dynamics in sessions—do what you want. If anyone accidentally hears it, they’ll think you’re really original. But I disagree on one point—I *never* let good or bad habits interfere with my group drinking binges.

Will

Posted .

Re: Dynamics

*mystified* Is there anything that should interfere with group drinking binges?

hehehe

zls

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What is a binge? Is that like, when you drink for a long time, then stop to get sober for a while?

When asked, "Are you drinking again?", the correct answer is "No, still!"

In our little session at the Lionshead, in Hamilton, there are dynamics expressed in quite a few of the tunes, for example the first G in Temperance Reel, or in John Ryans Polka, the pairs of D notes get emphasized, …. usually with a laugh. Maybe it is just because this is pretty much a beginners session….

Re: Dynamics

What is the difference between one of the ABC/MIDI programs reciting a tune, and a real master fiddler playing the tune? A few of the differences are:

1. Use of ornamentation
If you ever notice many great fiddlers ‘lean in’ to their long rolls ie they get louder at the end of the roll?
2. Variation
Not just in tune, but also in dynamics - TamLin (The Glasgow Reel) is a very good example, where the first part is played quiter, and in the lovely broad tones of the G/D string, and then the second part ‘explodes’ both in dynamics and with the fiery qualties of the E string.
3. Varying Bowing patterns so that different notes are accented
4. Use of double stopping - if two strings are played at the same time of course there is gonna be a change in dynamics

Which are all contributing to changes in dynamics.

Also, you often hear great flute players vary their dynamics a lot and this is *amazing* and they jump between the octaves in tunes (the higher ocatves giving more volume). This really makes the music pulsate and makes for fab ‘lift’.

The flute/violin duelling in Lunasa is a very good example of this varying dynamics.

Re: Dynamics

>Not just in tune, but also in dynamics - TamLin (The Glasgow Reel) is a very good example, where the first part is played quiter, and in the lovely broad tones of the G/D string, and then the second part ‘explodes’ both in dynamics and with the fiery qualties of the E string….
Tam Lin is not a trad tune

>The flute/violin duelling in Lunasa is a very good example of this varying dynamics…
Lunasa is not a trad band.

Dynamics are a new thing in ITM, for the simple reason that there is no such thing on the pipes & whistle. It’s a more modern addition to the music, if it’s not overused it can be a nice effect.

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>Tam Lin is not a trad tune
Why not? I beg to differ.

>Lunasa is not a trad band.
What kind of band are they then?

A great music teacher told me: "Like everything else, if traditional music does not grow and evolve, it will become stagnant and die."
Wake up Brad, Lunasa are one of the hottest trad bands out there - they play traditional music on traditional intruments, they are definately trad!

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Some people classify Lunasa, Solas, Bothy and Danu and even the Cheiftains as ‘reasonably traditional’. However, the first few Cheiftains albums are execptions and are regarded by most purists as ‘traditional’. As for myself, I happen to like them all.

Another ‘reasonably traditional’ player who is defined by his extensive use of dynamics is Martin Hayes. I LOVE what that guy does on the fiddle. His expression and phrasing are flawless and can transport a listener as only a master player can, but even I have to admit it’s difficult to say he’s the pure drop.

No doubt, we are allowed to grow in this tradition, but on the flip side, we are also allowed to define it and to standards. Too much of EITHER and the music will stagnant and die. Balance is the thing.

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If Tam Lin isn’t a trad tune, then what of all the original tunes our members have been posting here? What about the newer tunes that folks have gotten directly from the composer, who may be a Sligo fiddler or a whistler in County Cork? Which tunes are the real trad tunes, and how many of them are there? Is there an authorized list of trad tunes that cannot be added to or modified in any way? If so, I’d like a copy of it!

Jeff

Re: Dynamics

Boy I wish Malony would give his take on this, though we are wandering a bit off subject.

I’ve regarded several nice tunes (that I like to play) as being "non-traditional". ‘Crested Hen’ being one and ‘The Butterfly’ being another( The latter tune sounds too much like New York jazz to me). However, recently composed tunes such as ‘Caliope House’ or ‘Stan Chapmans’ (which we’ve been discussing on another thread), seems to be well within the traditional conventions.

Funny, I can’t imagine either ‘Crested Hen’ or ‘The Butterfly’ being played without dynamics but I could see the latter two tunes standing quite well without it. Hmmmm.

I wish I was familiar with the paticular tune in question, but I don’t find it difficult to believe that some tunes popularly played may not be ‘traditional’, (whatever traditional means, was that every answered?).

It’s in the steps!

Maybe the distinction we’re looking for is between dance tunes (straight, not a lot of dynamic, emphasys on the down beats) and performance tunes (such as the Butterfly)?

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No argument that Lunasa is the hottest band right now, but it’s not traditional at all. I guess it would be safe to call it Contemporary Irish Music. ‘Tam Lin’ is a Scots tune, it’s as traditional & Irish as ‘Music for a Found Harmonium’; they’re both played at sessions occasionally but I’ve also heard people play beatles songs & "Frosty the Snowman".
To quote Frazer Crane, "If a cat has kittens in the oven it doesn’t make them biscuits"

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Brad — that’s what people down here like to tell Yankees who have children in a southern state — just to let them know they ain’t raising no Southerner! Ha!

I did do a search for that tune and was able to hear a midi file of it. I guess there’s little doubt as to it being ‘traditional’ (because it is trad Scots ballad). As much as I like the Scots tunes (and the vast majority of our reels are directly Scottish), I agree that this tune doesn’t seem very appropriate for Irish session. The Scots do get dramatic don’t they?

Glauber — That seems right doesn’t it? But on the other hand, ‘The Butterfly’ is very danceble tune, and a favorite of the dancers who perform slip-jigs. Hmmm. We might be onto something though.

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Kevin, TamLin is also known as The Glasgow Reel, if that helps. The ballad is different from the reel. You can find a midi of the tune in the archives of The Session.

I can dance and have danced to many a "non-traditional" tune — Tommy’s Tarbuka’s is a favorite at our dance school, for instance — by that definition, then. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a "straight dance tune", actually.

I happen to adore Lunasa, but they are not strictly traditional. They use a lot of "non-traditional" instruments, like double bass, and Michael McGoldrick is famous for his non-trad sound (although he can be as trad as the next when he wants to be). Their music, to me, is defined best as music based on Irish trad.

You can take any tune you like and jazz it up, take it off the beat, whatever. That doesn’t make it not traditional. You can take a piece of bluegrass music and trad it up fairly successful. That doesn’t make it traditional either.

I think Joe put it pretty well in the thread on traditional instruments. There’s two extremes, most people fall somewhere in the middle, and all three camps have a place.

Zina

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Thanks Zina. Check this site out. I believe they claim the origin of that eeel to be an older Scots ballad (lyrics and midi file included). Same tune? Sorry if I wasn’t clear earlier.

http://www.contemplator.com/folk4/tamlin.html

damn! not ‘eeel’ but ‘reel’

It’s a slippery one, all right!

Re: Dynamics

*ouch* That hurt! *laugh*

Re: The ‘ealing hands?

Or Eel in the Sink,even…
Oh dear

Re: The ‘ealing hands?

Or Eel in the Sink,even…
Oh dear

Re: Dynamics

I hearby retract any and all remarks that have been said or may have potentialy interpreted as being disparaging in regards to the tune ‘Tam Linn’. Turns out the tune and the ballad have nothing in common but a name.

Just listened to Tir Na Og’s version of Tam Linn on the Black Rose Album and, while certainly Scottish is origin, it’s as fine a tune as any and I can’t believe anyone would snub their nose at it.

Would you never play ‘Caliope House’ at a session because a Scottish fiddler wrote it about an American building in Chicago? Granted, I’m not about to pull out ‘Scotland The Brave’, but let’s be a little forgiving here! Like I said earlier, when it comes down to it, almost all the reels came from Scotland with little or no change.

Re: Dynamics, Brad’s comment that Lunasa are Contemporary

There is NO WAY in hell that Lunasa are contemporary Irish. Examples of contemporary Irish music are the likes of Michael O’Sullivan playing and arranging for the Irish Chamber Orchestra, where the playin/arrangin has strong 20th Century music influences. Also some of the scoring in Riverdance is definately contemporary, for exmple part of the main tune changes continuously from 4/4 6/8. I dislike this kind of music, but I LOVE Lunasa.

There you go.

P.S. And please everybody ensure when talking about TamLin (The Glasgow Reel) we are talking about a reel, played either in Am or Dm available at The Session. This is an _extremely_ popular Irish dance tune: I’m never done being asked to play it at a feis.

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Well I guess I have a broader range of what I consider contemporary Irish Music. I include Eileen Ivers, Davy Spillane & John Whelan into that group as well. Head-banging cellists & reels on the bass fiddle fit into this category as well. If you think that is traditional you should lay off the blow.

Tam Lin is a new reel, only ten years or so old. It is popular with dancers at a feis, so is Cotton-Eyed Joe. (Oven-kittens do not equal biscuits) Tam Lin is being accepted into the tradition, but I wouldn’t put it on the same shelf as The Merry Blacksmith.

Tam Lin

Caoimgh, the ballad ‘Tam Lin’ is a favorite of mine, along with ‘True Thomas and the Queen of Elfland’. Actually, I like most of the Childe ballads, although they’re certainly not Irtrad! Fairport Convention of course did the definitive modern vresion of ‘Tam Lin’.

Jeff

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Well,my two pennarth would put The Merry Blacksmith with Miss McCleod’s with Tam Linn.
What does that tell us,other than my rather dodgy tastes?

Every tune was new at one time,he said,stating the bl**ding obvious.

I wonder if this sort of discussion was around when The Blackbird was knocking about…
Yours,fairly grumpily but not too much,Dave