Anacrusis in Irish Traditional Music

Anacrusis in Irish Traditional Music

I’m just wondering are there any rules or standards that govern the anacrusis that is played in any given tune? As far as I can tell it is completely up to the individual player. But are there any absolute no-nos when it comes to playing them, or are there any bog-standard anucruses that appear time and time again?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term anacrusis (because I wasn’t, until somebody told me recently that that is the term to use), it refers to the lead in notes that appear before the first bar of a tune.

Any help or comments would be very helpful!

Thanks

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Don’t think many trad musicians go on about their anacrusises or should that be anacrusi? Bit cringe inducing πŸ™‚
‘Lead in’ is good enough perhaps - ‘link notes’?
I wouldn’t know a huge amount about it but when I try to figure what sounds best, I look to where the tune feeds back into the opening phrase and see what notes preceed that. This might be at the end of the part or halfway through etc.
Doesn’t always apply though, as I can think of The Mooncoin jig, where the lead in notes are: ed when you start the tune but cd throughout the tune, at least that’s the way I was given it.

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It’s quite nifty to play a couple of lead-in notes if you’re starting a tune as it can alert others as to what’s going to be played and give ‘em a chance to join in at the start of the first full bar, if that’s important to you. In notation you can either stick it in at the beginning and shorten the last bar of the part appropriately or you can leave it out and do that "first time through-second time through" marking for the last bar of the part. The last bar will then embrace the anacrusis anyway, so to speak. (Then tear up the script and just play it!) πŸ˜€) I’m not aware of any rules governing this except the rules that lead to musical sense. You see it done every which way. Who needs rules when you’re having fun anyhow!

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If you call them "pickup" or "lead in" notes you’ll conserve syllables, pack in more info per kilobyte and help reduce global warming by exhaling less carbon dioxide when you talk about them.

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I think people have the definition a bit wrong (yes, I had to look it up)

My dictionary says it’s the:
"note or notes preceding a downbeat; upbeat"

You have:
"the lead in notes that appear before the first bar of a tune"

I know it looks like I’m splitting hairs here, but I think the difference is very important. You have it like it’s some sort of appendage before the tune proper begins. This is not the case. It is as much a part of the tune as any of the other notes. If you look at it correctly, you simply see that some tunes start on a up beat. Or that some tunes’ parts start on an upbeat.

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"anacrusis"

I reckon you’ll get "short shrift" if you use this sort of language at your local session..even the Edinburgh lot might frown upon it. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, it is up to the player which "lead in" notes to use and it shouldn’t really matter except when it’s done in the middle of a set, i.e. for the second or third tune etc.

Actually, it needn’t be done at all in this situation unless you’ve changed the last bar of the previous tune to "lead in" more easily to the next tune. However, and this happens "all the time", you’ll get a set of tunes each of which have their "lead in" notes" attached when the previous tunes have been fully completed…if you know what I mean?…… This can often sound very clumsy and is obviously confusing if the other players are expecting different "lead in" notes or none at all.

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I suppose what my question is really asking is, are there any melodic guidelines as to what lead in notes should be played? For instance, in what cases should the lead notes ascend, descend, be one long note, be two identical notes, be a triplet etc.?

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No Johnny, it’s not up to the player. It’s part of the tune. You can’t go aroung chopping bits off tunes just so you can fit the next one in

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The melodic guide lines are play the tune. You can’t go around changing the beginings of tunes.

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"It is as much a part of the tune as any of the other notes"

I’m not disagreeing with this comment but I don’t think that these notes are necessarily "set in stone" although many tunes are actually written or composed this way while it would also be inconceivable that you would wish to play certain tunes with a different set of leading notes or without them.

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You know me, I’m all for fecking about with tunes. But before you even smell this concept over the horizon, the melodic guidelines are very very strict. PLAY THE TUNE.

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I dont know you [thankfully].
leaving out an anacrusis is entirely ,up to the individual,for example the second part of the LiltingBanshee,is sometimes written with a d note,to my mind it is better left out.
IMO,most lead in notes at the beginning of a tune often enhance a tune,however that is just my opinion.
the notes are not set in stone,variation is what makes the music interesting.Dick Miles

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I’ll say it again …
Some tunes start on an upbeat. They are not lead in notes before the tune starts proper.

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Michael,

I disagree that the melodic guidelines are very very strict, in fact I would go so far as to say that the opposite is the case. This is not classical music. There is ample room for different players to vary the way a tune is played, there are very very loose guidelines as to how a tune should be played. Accordingly, different players play different lead in notes for the same tune. My question is, from a tonal point of view, are there any limits to the combination of notes that one can use as lead in notes.

For instance if a tune starts on D, it would sound ok to me to play an ABC triplet leading up to the D, however it probably wouldn’t sound good to play a descending CBA triplet and then go back up to the starting D.

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There are two questions here. One is how does the tune go? And the other is, what whold make a good variation?

Take the fisherman’s hornpipe. It doesn’t start on the D which is the D on the downbeat of what you might refer to as the first bar. The tunes actuallt starts with the triple ABC, like your example above. Could vou vary it by doing a descanding triplet CBA? Yeah, of course, if wou want.

You get the difference?

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By the time you’re grooving away in about the fourth bar nobody will remember what you did at the beginning, so whatever stirs yer musical loins is good.

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The anacrucis may be important to musical pedants to make the bars add up, but when a tune is part of a set, the lead-in can change depending on the previous tune so becomes less set-in-stone in a set.
You can often ignore it by starting the tune half-way through the last part or something similar and "easing" into the tune.

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I give up. Play half the tune if that’s what pleases you

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Are you doing this on purpose, Michael?!

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I have to agree with Michael. Tunes that don’t start on the downbeat have an anacrusis that is part of the tune.
It is up to the individual to muck about with the anacrusis just as it is up to the individual to muck about with any other note/notes in the tune.

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Penfold: rules, no - strong opinions, yes? πŸ˜‰

Some tunes do demand pickups - that Fisher’s Hornpipe is a great example. I’ve changed residences a few times, and find that in different places other tunes may or may not have pickups - so advice you get on an international website may or may not apply to what happens around you. Just like anything else about this music, it’s all in what you want to do - if you want to fit seamlessly with what the musicians in your area do, listen listen listen, and if you wanna do your own thing, enjoy - someone will assuredly tell you about it if it’s a problem.

T.J.
http://www.cdbaby.com/hullksiazek

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Reminds me of the question regarding the number of angels who can dance simultaneously on the tip of a needle - maybe I’m not taking this session playing seriously enough but I can imagine the reaction I’d get if I were to ask "are we doing the anacrusis before the Donegal reel tonight?"!

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I never heard of an anacrusis before this thread, but one thing I tend to do when leading off a tune is to play those leading notes a bit slowly, and then drop into the rhythm when I get to the first bar. Of course, on repeats I stay in time, as one should always do when playing dance music. Is that a permissible liberty, or should I fear a visit from the trad police?

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Agree that some tunes sound better with the lead in (the low ABCs in the Donegal reel are a case in point) but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a hanging offence to leave them out.

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That’s a very good idea, Al, and one which I’ve tried to get our chaps to adopt. It removes the danger of everyone wading in right at the start at a tempo you didn’t really intend. Just let the starter of the set play a bar or two to find the tempo before joining in. We can’t all be Toscanini.

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"Her name was Anacrusis, she was a showgirl,
With flowers in her and a dress cut up to there…"

Once I had an anacrusis in my shoulder, hurt like a sonofa…but the Chiropractor fixed me right up.

I remember when my last car had anacrusis. Those lousy shysters down at the garage tried to con me into having them remove the whole engine…just for a little case of anacrusis!

"…and as you can see, once we pierce the chest cavity we are afforded a clear view of our entire operating area as well as full access to the anacrusis…"

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"…flowers in her HAIR and a dress…" ya dirty minded so-and-sos, I know what you were thinking. It’s Barry Manilow for crying out loud!

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OK, OK, class, let’s have some order there and get back to the subject.
Is it in fact always necessary to have an anacrusis, or a link, when going from one tune to another in a set. Sometimes it’s very effective to have a beat’s complete silence between one tune and the next.

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Agree with Lazyhound 100% on this as it can sometimes add an element of excitement to a set but not everytime!

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If my memory serves me, β€œanacrucis” , being a Greek 3rd declension noun, would have the plural β€œanacruces”.

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Anascrusi can be essential to maintaining the beat - certainly if you look at the last beat of the last bar of the last part of the tune they’re frequently notated either with a beat short or a pair of quavers/triplet that leads back into the A part. As Michael says, many tunes start on the up beat, these notes are part of the tune. If you drop them the first time through, you’ll almost certainly need those notes at some point - either added onto the last bar or to fill in the short bar.

Dropping that beat can be a useful tool in term of arranging stuff - it eases rhythm changes (two different jig rhythms in the same time, for example), permits slight adjustments to tempo if needed, can provide a lift to a set. Can be a bit cheesy if overdone though…

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hound, that would still be an ‘anawhatsit ‘anyhow would it not,? a variation?, the spaces bing as much a part of the music….

To go back to lligs point re the fishermans; i would tend to treat triplets as variations,so the ‘anathingy’ to my mind could be a cut on the first A. its still the FM HP. Or, for that matter, a descending triplet, or simply an A crotchet. etc.

I remember llig considers the ‘ornaments’ to be a part of the tune, but i disagree, on different instruments some ornaments are not possible. eg roll’s on a banjo[or very hard!] So to my mind a roll is not an integral part of the tune, simply for the above reason.
Re the anacrusis, the vsn of ‘throw it across the road’ i play has 2 main variations, each with a different intro,or anacrusis. My conclusion is that if you play solo its not relevant what intro, or ornaments you use,but playing ensemble the more cohesion the better.

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Class? Order? Back to the subject?

"Bog-standard anacruses"?!?!?

Class? Order? Your honor, I rest my case.

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While we’re on pedantry, the plural should be ‘anacruses’.

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… to rhyme with "Who sees?"

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Yes, rolls and stuff are part of the tune. And yes, it means you can’t play the tunes properly on the banjo.

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Girl boy stood on the burning deck playing a game of cricket
The ball rolled up his trouser leg and hit his middle wicket

I changed the anacrusis. Ah, so sometimes it is important.

I wish people woudln’t make fun of others to cover their own ignorance. Anacrusis is the word. What’s wrong with that? It means exactly what it says, unlike any of the other alternative terms.

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Get a solo bodhran to do it.

Peace and love to all of you. I love you all.

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Micheal Gill invented Irish traditional music.
His word is gospel ,[quotefrom his last post]
Yes, rolls and stuff are part of the tune. And yes, it means you can’t play the tunes properly on the banjo.
is this man serious?,sorry Mr Gill,but the roll is an ornament borrowed from baroque music.
your argument would exclude Donegal fiddle music,where the bowed triplet is used in preference to the roll,the anglo Concertina[not the English]upon which it is difficult to perform fiddle rolls,theOrgan Beil[harmonica],and the Mandolin.

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I’d agree that the banjo isn’t the ideal instrument for Irish music.

However, how do you define "properly"?

Can Tony Sullivan not play "The Roaring Barmaid" *properly* on the banjo or, similarly, is Dave Richardson unable to play Caliope House?

Or are we talking about the Irish style as opposed to the tunes themselves?

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I should have added "on the mandolin" for DR, of course.

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But llig, Many Irish tunes are pipe tunes,so if you cant play a crunluath, or tuorluath according to your logic you arnt playing them right! Ornaments are played differently on different instruments. They are ornaments, not part of the ‘tune’.

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Batten down the hatches and prepare for heavy rolls! Here we go again!

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We love you too BB! That’s the stuff.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled silliness involving arguments about pre-defined non-existent written introductions to Irish dance tunes.

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Most of our tunes are already upbeat, it is the very nature of the music, so I do not see a problem.

I love you all like brothers and sisters.

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Bliss, you seem fully medicated today. Mind sharing some?

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Michael is lite-trolling here, of course. Ornaments are de rigeur in ITM but how you do them and how many of which types you put in is entirely up to you. If the audience is actually listening you will be lauded, hung drawn and quartered or (probably) politely applauded for your ornamental efforts. By Jove, you can play entirely without ornaments if you like. You can’t do every possible ornament under the sun on any note of the scale on any one instrument, so what cobblers it is to say that this, that or the other instrument is "not ideal for playing ITM." People play music, yer silly sods, not instruments!

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ILig is right, the lead-in is usually part of the tune. If, say, you have two 1/8 notes as the lead-in then the last measure of the tune is two 1/8 notes short.

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…though not the case in trad music as often as in classical music.

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I just happened to have the Kranssen’s O’Neill lying on the table. For jigs the last measure is most often short the amount of lead-in note values, for reels seems to be more arbitary.

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Risto, that 2/8th could be a triplet or a 1/4 or a roll, the space is essential,what you put in that space is more flexible.
that 2/8th will quite likely be replaced by the intro to the next tune at some point.

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sure

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…,the timing makes it part of the tune, what you put there might be your variation or what ever.

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ok i see your point,they are an integral part of the tune, how and what you play there is, to a certain extent , up to you.

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phew

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many

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"many"

As sang by the enoch choir of fattieboys?

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What you might call an acrusciating thread…