Right and Wrong

Right and Wrong

I was told by benhall1 that because I had learned a tune from sheet music I was playing it wrong, and if I had the audacity to change a single note I was playing the tune even more wrong.

www.thesession.org/discussions/16952

This got me to thinking, Is there only one "correct" way to play a tune? If so, who gets to decide which version is the "correct" one?
I have actually been to a few sessions and and I never saw two people playing exactly the same version of a tune, so were they all playing "incorrect" versions, or was one of the players right and everyone else wrong?
And finally, if sheet music is flawed by nature and everyone I know plays a different version, just how should I go about finding the "correct" version?

Any thoughts?
arlo

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You’d better go sharpen your tin opener again after opening up that big big big can of worms…….

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Best thing to do is to listen to my versions of tunes. They’re all wrong, every one of them, so if you do something else you’ll be on the right track.

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I have learned tunes both from sheet music and by ear. Sometimes I have gotten the sheet music first and played the tune before I heard someone play it and sometimes I have heard the tune first, learned to play it by ear, and then found the sheet music. Yes, I have noticed that the versions which I learned by ear aren’t always the same as the printed versions. However, though, there have been times when having a printed copy of the tune did help me when I was playing at the local Irish Session. Since I am the piano player and mostly accompany the other musicians, I am primarily concerned with what key the tune starts in and what the chord changes are so I can blend in and accompany the tune properly instead of playing the wrong chords which clash with the tune. When I do play at a session, I play by ear and leave the printed music (or sheet music) at home.

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LOL. I’m sure benhall1will be only too pleased to explain. He must be the only person in the world to be playing the correct version of tunes. Now everbody put on your tin hats and flack jackets and take cover.

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Who gives a monkey’s…? I guess we all play the wrong versions of all the tunes all the time. So there, that’s settled it :-)

Posted by .

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I dreamed I saw Ben Hall last
Alive as you and me
Said I "but Ben that tune is right
No, it’s always wrong says he,
It’s always wrong says he"

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Arlo, you’re more likely to get it "right" (no matter what your source for the tunes) if you’ve spent years listening to good players who are immersed in this music. You’re more likely to get it "wrong" if you haven’t done that.

If your neck of the boondocks is devoid of trad musicians, then recordings are the next best thing, not sheet music. Do you listen to recordings? Cds, radio, YouTube, etc.?

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Not much radio or you tube, but I listen to lots of CD’s , the only problem is that the tunes that I play are rarely on the CD’s that I listen to unless of course I learn tunes from the CD (yes I do that to, I am a bit of an omnivore when it comes to learning tunes)

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It’s impossible to play a tune the same way twice. It is possible to get close, even very close, but it will never be exactly the same. How one chooses to learn the tune is moot. No matter how it is learned it can only be an approximation of an already incorrect copy. Therefore, there is no "correct" way to learn or play a tune—there are only agreed upon conventions of incorrectness… :-P

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Some of that past content that jumped to here ~

"My self I learn most of my tunes from sheet music ~ Also, I don’t feel constrained by sheet music all, If I am reading a piece of sheet and I don’t like a section of the tune I just change it; it’s folk music after all, you can do that."

# Posted on March 7th 2008 by Fellenbaum

"Right. So, you’re learning from sheet music which, depending on source, is likely to be wrong. Then, you’re making it even more wrong by making up your own bits. Fine if you’re "way out in the boonies" and therefore not inflicting it on anyone else. Not such a good recommendation for anyone wanting to play with others in a session.

Learning by ear comes naturally to everyone who tries. Unless you’re not cut out for music in the first place."

# Posted on March 7th 2008 by benhall.1

"No, they learnt how to play the music by ear, and they use some kind of abc transcriptions or sheetmusic as a convenient way of swapping tunes.

Do you learn how to speak by reading off the page? No, you learn by listening."

# Posted on March 7th 2008 by Dow

"Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. There’s nothing wrong with keeping reams of dot-speckled paper around—this is the only way some old or obscure tunes have survived. And any decent player well immersed in this music can take those dots and breathe new life into the tunes.

The point of this thread is that the hordes of beginning and mediocre players would no doubt be better off reading less and listening and playing more."

# Posted on March 7th 2008 by Will CPT

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If you take O’Carolan’s music, we know he never played his harp tunes the same way twice running - and therefore the notated versions that you find in books are just "how they were performed on the particular occasion when they were written down". Even then, there are variations across the different publications. There’s no "right", there’s (at most) "what’s agreed".

Probably the same for most music in this genre.

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‘dots’ are a guide to the well informed, a prison for the ill informed…

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I’m just curious. How much preparation would it take for someone well informed, well immersed in this music and an accomplished sight reader to play, from the dots, a set of tunes they had never seen or heard before for a group of people who were focused on dancing ?

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I’d love to be able to sing a song exactly the same way twice but it’s never gonna’ happen as long as I got a hole in me backside. And a lot of times I’m glad I wouldn’t be able to as the rendition was less than what I would have hoped for.
You want it the same way twice? I suggest a recording device…

I wonder how the likes of Nick Jones and co would feel about having to reproduce songs and tunes ‘per script’?
Can you imagine anything more soul destroying than having to reproduce or having to listen to exactly the same thing night after night after night…..agh.

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david_h ~ They wouldn’t play from the dots, they could use them as a reference, but would soon leave them… The decent dance musician pays attention to the dancers too, as well as to the other musicians present, listening, not staring at the skin of a dead tree and ink… The musicians also has to be focused, ideally, on the dancing…

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"the same way twice" ~ ??? ~ as I read those previous comments I didn’t see anywhere that folks, or Ben, said there was only ‘one’ ‘right’ way, but that learning from dots and then making changes willy nilly because you didn’t like something, from a bar to a part, was not the ‘right’ way to go about learning and practicing Irish traditional music, or any traditional music… Most folks seemed to be saying, as usual, use your ears, listen. I don’t see where that is unreasonable? In classical music traditions too, they listened, Mozart and the great classical composers did a hell of a lot of listening…

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I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that playing from sheet music has to be constrained to the dots on the page. I suspect what benhall was on about is the not uncommon phenomenon of someone who’s listened to precious little Irish trad music buying O’Neill’s or some other book of tunes and playing the tunes from the page, without a clue what this music sounds like when played by good trad musicians.

A player immersed in the tradition certainly can learn tunes from the dots, but that’s a totally different topic. When I look at sheet music or abcs, I automatically play cuts, rolls, and other twiddly bits where I hear them in my head as I’m sussing out the tune. If I go over the tune again from the page, I’ll change things as I go, depending on where the tune (and 30 years of playing this music) leads me. And that’s no different from learning a tune by ear.

That said, in the beginning, I spent thousands of hours figuring out and mimicking all the nuances of a wide range of players whose music I admired.

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"c," between us, we’ve given this long-embalmed horse a good flogging, eh?
:o)

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We often end up with a few different recordings of musical pieces, like "The Brandenburg Concertos", not one of them is the ‘same’, nor are any of the live concerts of it we’ve been lucky enough to catch. The same is true of traiditonal music, no two musicians, no two performances are identical, but the tunes are still recongizeable. Usually there aren’t huge destructive forces at play that make it completely different each time it is played or repeated. The basic melody is still recongnizeable. Also, people choose to play a given tune, whatever the tradition, because they like it, not usually with the intent to make it something else, to chop a piece off here and and a piece there…

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Your right Will… Back to the music… ;-)

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Duh! I just reread that, extra and missing letters and intended to say ~ "to chop a piece off here and ‘add’ a piece there…"

Still semi-conscious Will, not you, me…

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"… "the same way twice" ~ ???"

Which part of " :-P " didn’t you understand?

Posted by .

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Damn, spots, you need to see a real doctor. I can only prescribe more music…

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At best sheet music shows you the melody.
Any more information will start to give you a ’ version’ or ‘style’. The real thing is always better than a representational sketch (or painting)
Read for melody. Listen for everything else.
Them is the bare bones.

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& if you do listen you will hear different styles & versions.
Then you will have to choose which one you prefer.
Of course then, like Ben, you will have to comvince everyone in the session (not on thesesion) that it is the right version.
;)

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Thanks ‘c’ (if you are still here). It was slightly off-topic question. I have been enjoying those CDs in the Celtic Souls set. Including the ceili music and getting the feeling that in those there is something going on on that is not what gets most talked about here. The melodies seem fairly ‘skeletal’ and much the same each time through, the fun is in the rhythm and the dynamics. I can sort of appreciate how someone experienced could ‘wing-it’ on a unknown tune if the occasion arose.

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At best, sheet music shows you *A* melody… One of my favorite things about Irish traditional music is finding new ways to express a musical idea - and even more so, listening to someone who does it well.

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And as I’ve said before, I really like the fact that people have different settings of tunes. It adds some spice to the mix

Hello Colorado

Damn you Pete. The internet connection is lousy here but the beer is cold.
Yes, it is best as a simple lead sheet. No reason to have the paper spoon feed you everything. Some sheet music is more elaborate. Variation of melodies, articulation, phrasing, & etc.
Stuart Duncan put out a fiddle book chock full of variations (style not melody). I believe he now includes a CD.
Check out Pat Mitchell’s books on Patsy Touhey or Willie Clancy. Now those are transcriptions. One thing I love about trad is there is something for everyone. Literate & Aural.

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"Never play the same tune the same way twice".
— Louis Armstrong

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That would be impossible anyway, unless you were a robot.

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At some point in one of these many threads… somewhere by someone… and re-quoted again… and yet again now by me:

"The point of this thread is that the hordes of beginning and mediocre players would no doubt be better off reading less and listening and playing more."

I couldn’t agree more! And not just in terms of "the point of this thread". I am beginning to think this is a good point to note in terms of most of the discussions on this board. So as a beginning and very mediocre player I think I will take the advice… read less here and go listen and play more….

Thanks! Almost the best advice I’ve read on here yet!

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A few clarifications on my earlier posts.

First, when I go to learn A tune from sheet I play it a few time until I have the melody in my head, then I never look at the sheet again unless I forget something. Not only would I not, but I am not able to sit down and play a tune up to speed while reeding sheet music.

Also, when I said that if I didn’t like part of a tune I would just change it, I wasn’t talking about rewriting whole measures, or god forbid, a whole part. I meant playing a note an octave up, exchanging a D for an E, or doubling a half length tune. Not trying to rewright the tune, just trying to make the tune sound better.
Arlo

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I think the consensus is/was that:

1) The "music" part of Irish music comes from things that sheet music cannot give you. You must listen to people who have it.

2) If you have the "music" part already, then you might be able to get away with learning a tune from paper.

3) The difference between a "proper" variation and an "improper" one is very subtle. People who have a reasonably good sense for the music will typically be able to tell the difference.

So, if you feel confident in your grasp of what’s important in Irish traditional music, then go ahead an variate (at your own risk). The worst that could happen is that you might sound clunky/ameteurish/arrogant to people more familiar with the music than you.

Of course, if you are *really* interested in learning to play Irish traditional music, those are EXACTLY the people you DON’T want to think you sound clunky/ameteurish/arrogant.

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I became interested in this music after attending a workshop on Folk Keyboard in 1981 which was taught by Triona ni Dhomhnaill (from the Bothy Band). Then I listened to her perform with a band called Touchstone. This experience opened my eyes and my ears to the possibilities of the piano in this type of music. So I bought a copy of O’Neill’s and began trying to play some of the tunes without knowing whether or not I was playing the tunes correctly or incorrectly.
From 1984-1990, I was a music major at a local college and earned a bachelor’s degree in music. My classes did include learning how to sight read and learning how to play by ear as well as a lot of music theory.
In 1995, when some other local musicians started an Irish Session here, I showed up at the second session and listened. At the end of the evening, I told them what I played and asked if I might bring one of my instruments to their next session. I was asked to bring my genuine imitation piano (a Roland EP-90 Digital Piano) to the Irish Session to help "fill out" the sound as my contribution to the general cacophony. After the first time I participated in a session, the guitarist decided that I needed to listen to this music so I could learn how to play it properly. As a result, she loaned me some Bothy Band CD’s and some CD’s with Donna Long (of Cherish The Ladies) accompanying various other musicians, Yes, this did help me.
Before I began participating in the local Irish Session, I had a lot of experience playing ragtime music and I had been playing piano at a local Blues Session for a few years. At the Blues Session (where I always played by ear), I had learned and played many different versions of various songs.
After I began playing piano at the local Irish Sessions, I got to play piano occasionally for a local folk dance group. When I played piano for the dancers, sometimes I was sight reading and sometimes I already knew the tune. I always tried to maintain a steady beat while playing the bass line and the chords on the piano. There was a fiddle player and a flute player and a banjo player who took turns playing the lead. When I played piano for this folk dance group, I always used their printed versions of the tunes.

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Since this subject seems to have been about my post - ‘sfunny, felt like an attack on my perfectly reasonable opinions :-) - I suppose I’d better answer.

"I’m sure benhall.1 will be only too pleased to explain" [apols, btw, but I’ve removed the odd typo from that, so it’s not a direct quote]

Will, ceolachan and Georgi have explained perfectly adequately above, so I don’t think I’ve got anything to add.

Except to say, I have no idea where anyone would have got the idea from that I was saying that there is ‘one, correct version of a tune’, as Bernie implies. What I did say, or at least strongly imply, is that there are plenty of *wrong* ways of *playing* it. If you fail to understand the distinction I’m making here, then, frankly, you haven’t got a cat’s chance in hell of playing this stuff, and please don’t come anywhere near a session I may want to play in.

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Sorry if I caused offence benhall1. It was a comment rather tongue in cheek I just couldn’t resist. It wasn’t directed at you, It was the comment made by Fellenbaum "if I had the audacity to change a single note I was playing the tune even more wrong" that I found extremely amusing. I should have thought out the reply better before making it. Once again apologies.

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Oh sure, there’s the tune I learned from the CD that was different from the version I learned locally, which was different from the dots in O’Neill’s, and then all three of those were different from the one the flute player from Boston played for us last month when she was visiting, and then there was the fifth version I heard when I went to that one festival, oh yes, and then up the road in Tampa they play a sixth version… ;-)

Isn’t it great? So here’s the trick: Can we make our versions blend when we meet and play them?

Yes? Then we’re having a tune, right? If not, then I guess we’re not really "having" it, are we?

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IMHO:
After careful consideration, I DO think there definately CAN be a "right" and "wrong" in playing and interpretting tunes. Unfortunately, it is only valid in a few cases with ITM, until we get hold of a time machine.
Those few cases are where we have direct access to the original music, RECORDED, by the composer or someone taught the tune by the composer.
Paddy Keenan’s Jig exists, recorded and in the dots, and there is no question how the tune goes. It goes the way he plays it. The man is still with us, so a thoughtful player could even ask him how he feels about someone re-interpretting his work, or even about playing it at all (some artists do not enjoy hearing their work murdered).
Anything less direct than the above seems, to me at least, to be further removed from the original, and more prone to change and abuse.
As for me personally, I play the tunes as I learned them when I first loved them, and when corrected by an "expert" other than the tune’s composer, am just as likely to tell them to leave me very well alone. Grrowl.
Cheers.

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Rook,
What he recorded is not what he plays, no-on records and plays what they record.

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My guess is that Paddy Keenan would see more humour than irritation in a ‘variation’ from the dead dots of a composition. I can speak for some composers I’ve known, that finding your tune in the hands of another with a bit of that other giving it their go on it, is taken as a complement, that they bothered and that they liked it so much that they made it their own. I can also say that those most vehemently obsessed with the ‘one-true-way’, such as with a composer’s tune, were never the composer themselves…in my experience…

fauxcelt ~ thanks for the time and effort to clarify. I enjoyed your last few contributions, something about how you work and think and a bit of personal history. This subject of ‘right and wrong’ regularly comes up and needs an airing.

Yes frauschmittle " ~ read less here and go listen and play more…." I think we are all in agreement there, and as you meant it.

‘Music’ is much more than dots can ever show, and much more than just the performance. An important aspect of it, as I’ve known it, as we are concerned with it here, ‘tradition’, is also about humour and chat and the sharing of concerns and stories as well as the sharing of a tune, a twiddle, a step or dance… It is also not free of our own biases and imperfections, it involved humanity in all its joys and sorrows. Discussing it, including it in our chats, doesn’t lessen my respect or passion for it, only widens it. I am more inspired by what I read here, music and chat, than depressed by it. I see more hope than worry, and I have grown to appreciate a load of minds who share this passion and who think outside of the mere mechanics of it.

There’s the rare moments I regret, like when I allow myself to be wound up too tight, or my memory goes la-la. The later I have learned to live with over time, as has my wife, but it still frustrates the hell out of me. But, I have found, mostly, a great bunch of people on this site, and I welcome the challenge to think with regards to this valued aspect of my life ~ music and dance. It has given me so much, and if I can pass back into circulation even a small part of that, then I am glad.

SWFL ~ I like your quick rundown on ‘variations’. That’s part of what I love to see here in the ‘comments’ for tunes, people’s personal affection showing through in how they play a melody, including the old standards… Variation isn’t just about a note change in the basic melody, it can be where you use silence, the direction of a bow, the articulation of wind or the flick of a finger, the placement of a double-stop, the tempo you like to take it in, the pulse and flow, the complete landscape of a musical moment.

Back to music now frauschmittle, interupted by the occassional coughing fit…and preparing a hot drink for the two of us, and dinner later…maybe a walk up on the fells? ;-)

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Shylock:
no one records and plays what they record?
Really? No one? Interesting conclusion you have arrived at, not what I have observed with performing artists who compose at all. I must get out of the house more.

Ceolachan:
I agree, my point was nto that any composer would be likely to object to others embracing their works. My only point was concerning those who "know" the official legitimate coorect rigth version of any tune.
As for Mr. Keenan in particular, I was just grabbing at any example of a living composer and his work.
My bad.

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"not"

"correct"

"oops"
:-)

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To reiterate what Shylock said, a recording is only one snapshot in time. It’s like taking a 3 minute movie clip of someone, and then trying to interpret who they are as a person solely from that clip. You’re looking at limited information. Would you marry someone that you met through a dating service, and only saw a 3 minute clip of? Of course not! You would probably spend years getting to know that person.

You can point to the Paddy Keenan recording as being an authentic and useful source, but chances are that Paddy played it differently the next night, or the next week, or the next year. So to point at the recording and say "that’s THE way the tune is played" is somewhat naive.

And ceolachan, I’m supposed to take it as a *compliment* that you murde… uh… *adapted* my Cornerstone jig? ;-) (Actually, you are correct, I am flattered)

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No offence taken, Bernie.

Back to the subject, and just to make my position clear, I don’t think there’s one and one only ‘correct’ version of any tune - even a recent composed tune. Not if it fits properly into the tradition, that is. I’ve heard composers praising other people’s interpretations of their tunes to the skies, even though they may be very different.

So, anything is there to be interepreted. But you’ve got to know and understand the tune first *before* you can do that with any hope of coming up with something that won’t be wrong.

There may be many ways of playing a tune ‘right’. But there are ever so many more ways of playing it wrong. A sure fire way of hitting one or more of them would be to learn something solely from the dots and *then* compound that error by changing the dots on some personal whim.

Now, if you tell me that some big star has done exactly that with some long-forgotten tune from O’Neills … well, that’s up to them. But I’m assuming that most of us here are *not* big stars.

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… there used to be this thing called ‘doing your time’ …

[sigh]

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These discussions sure makes this stuff look daunting when one is first starting out…the more I read, the less I want to play in public. I can play my instrument due to many years of classical training, and although I have listened to almost nothing other than ITM for the past three years, I deeply understand I am only at the tip of the iceberg as far as getting it. I think I need to not read posts for a while — otherwise I have this horrible feeling of needing to apologize for my lack of "correctness" to everyone present before I even start to play at a session! I hope there are at least some players who, as incorrect as they might be, still play for the sheer enjoyment. I do get a lot from some of the other posts on this site though, and thanks for that.

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I have never set out to do a tune, to adapt it or to change it. That has never been an intention. The music takes ahold of me and sometimes it takes me to other places, things just happen. I might try an ornament or a twiddle or some sort here and there, but it isn’t so much me shaking the music up as it kind of telling me to give something a go. I’m probably not being very clear here. I know that when I push it there is a felt response ~ like ~ that doesn’t belong here, but not so much from me as from the music, and I guess that thing we’ve also touched on here ~ ‘history’, and the people that have shared their craft with me. I’m not quite sure how to put this in words, but I don’t do the music, it takes me and I follow. Yes, it allows me certain freedoms and choices, but it isn’t really me trying to make a statement through it. It is more a kind of affection for a melody.

I’ve used the walking the dog analogy before, again thinking of two lurchers I used to walk for a friend. Yes, I took them for a walk, I guess, but I’d define it as them taking me for a walk. I’d let them off the chain and I’d follow, in this case all over the hills and shores of Cymru/Wales. I got a lot from letting them lead. I think my relationship with music is closer to that. It definitely isn’t me using a lead and a choker chain… I’d never do that… I did become very familiar with the geography, in every respect… ;-)

Does that make any sense to anyone? I hope at least a little…

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traditional music has no right or wrong ways,it was passed down from generation to generation there are many different ways and variations of playing the same tune so take my advice listen to different musitions who play the tune and decide on the way that suits you.good luck!

Right

Yes ceol that makes sense.
As a geographer I like the analogy.
"The World According to Dog""
So much of it has been written by 2 - footers.
Maybe time to listen to the 4 - footers.

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I try to stay out of the way of the discussions about the "right" way or the "wrong" way to play a tune and just accompany whoever is playing the tune.
Yes, music is so much more than what you see printed on the page in front of you. As an example, I would like to mention three ragtime piano pieces which I composed and wrote down twenty-five years ago. I have never tried to play any of my three piano rags exactly as written because I have always been able to think of different ways to play each piece. Of course, in ragtime, as in jazz, improvisation is part of the tradition in this type of music.
The first time I tried to play the hornpipe called "The Rights Of Man" at the local session, I unintentionally played it so much like a typical ragtime piece that the bodhran player said it sounded like "Irish Ragtime".

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I like the sound of that, "The Rights of Man" played ragtime… :-)

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"These discussions sure makes this stuff look daunting when one is first starting out"

Oh dear. That certainly wasn’t *my* intention, and I would think everyone here would be sorry about that if that is the case.

My frustration is that, for people who are starting out, the whole journey - which, let’s face it, is lifelong, whenever you start it - is so much easier at every stage if you just make yourself use your ears. Especially at the start. My estimate is that it takes about 6 months of effort to be pretty good at picking up tunes by ear. 6 months is *such* a little commitment in terms of acquiring such an immensely useful skill.

This thread is clearly linked to the ‘sheet music oppression’ thread. Why? Because, if you do use your ears, you’ll not only play tunes ‘right’, you’ll have the important ability to be able to tweak tunes to fit in with others in new situations who, if they’re any good, are at the same time, tweaking their playing to fit in with yours. And *then* you’ll be making music.

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Ben hit’s the nail on the head, thanks for that.

And I do have to say that I get get annoyed when people spout that bloody nonsense about there being no right or wrong because it’s folk music and it’s passed down bla de bla de bloody bla.

Of course there are wrong ways to play the music/tunes. Millions upon billions of wrong ways. I hear it all time and they come back at me with the "it’s my version" sh*te.

What Ben says is really important. If you use your ears, you’ll know when it’s right. If you are at all having trouble knowing when it’s right, then you simply aren’t using your ears.

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My my -

fauxcelt:
I think that, for me, you have made an excellent point in your above entry, about trying to stay out of certain discussions. Definately my rule from now on. (I will assume that my English needs honing, like my piping, as my attempt to communicate my views has failed miserably.)
I hoped I had in general stated that, with a recording of a tune by the composer, we have a record of "how the tune goes" (the sequence of notes, rhythm, tempo, etc.).
I now find I have it added onto my statement the implication I am "naive"ly saying that that means we can only "correctly" play it THAT way. And that I am perhaps suggesting that every time we take the tune out, we should play it sterilely, note for note that way, with no spontaneity or personal expression? I did not think so, but it seems I did to my fellows here.
At the end of my remarks, I also thought I had stated the same case I now find may be directed at my entries —- that I play the tunes much as I learned them, and am not interested in whether someone else’s version is "righter" or "wronger".
Sorry to be unclear, I guess my language skills have a long way to go, eh?
I would have more to say, but expect I would only err further.
Bye for now.

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Rook, you say: "As for me personally, I play the tunes as I learned them when I first loved them, and when corrected by an "expert" other than the tune’s composer, am just as likely to tell them to leave me very well alone. Grrowl."

For me personally (and I’d suggest for the benefit of all the music), one of the best things that can happen in a session is after I’ve played a tune as I learned it when I first loved it, someone says something like, "have you tried that bit this way?" You give it a go and lo and behold, you fall totally head over heals back in love with it.

This happens a lot where we play and I must say that if you came in and someone gave you a wee hint about a tune and you growled at them, not only would you be bang out of order, you’d also be severely missing out.

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Re: Right and Wrong

Tunes I’ve composed have come back to me in different keys, with different names, notes and phrases tweaked, and even morphed into another mode…but still clearly "my" tune and often much improved. The composer’s original version is not sacrosanct.

What matters when someone changes a tune is whether those changes still fit within the tradition (even when they push the boundaries a bit), and whether they add or detract from the essential character of the tune.

Case in point—Silver Spear. A common tune, widely played, simple and repetitive. So how to make it your own, or how to vary it? Consider, for the sake of discussion, just the main theme of the B part. Frequently played as:

f~a3 bfaf|gfed Bcde|
or
fa a/a/a bfaf|gfed Bcde|

Last summer, I heard Oisin MacDiarmada play a nice variation, substituting another phrasing common in this music:
fdad bdaf|gfed Bcde|
which can also come out:
fd d/d/d bdad|gfed Bcde|
or, stretching that a little:
fdfa bafa|gfed Bcde|

And then you get Liz Carroll’s spin on the last time round:
fa a/a/a bagf|agfe gfef|g~B3 fAdf|gfed (3BdB AG|

Now this last one doesn’t quite fit against the notes or even chords of the previous variations, so it’s not "session friendly," but it’s great solo, or pre-arranged with friends. And whether it’s "right" or "wrong" depends totally on knowing the basic setting, as it’s almost universally played, so you know what you’re varying from.

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Re: Right and Wrong

Bang on the money, Will. And Michael. Every word.

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Re: Right and Wrong

With a sigh, I shall acknowledge:

Valid points in their context, I agree. And I would be missing out if I ever refused the sharing of music from my comrades, or to broaden my musical horizons with new perspectives on old vistas (there are many points from which to look at Victoria Falls, all of them beautiful). That does seem to be the best part of what a session is about, to me anyway (sorry I have failed make that clear).

However:
If I had been referring to being courteously and respectfully approached (which I was not -sorry, I failed to be clear again), I humbly try to be as open-minded as the next person. If I were not, I daresay I would not have bothered with ever making any entry to any discussion here (in this case I only intended to express some annoyance over the times someone has criticised my version of a tune - Failed to be clear again).

Your recommending I be reasonable when reasonably approached seems to indicate to me that you assume I habitually do not.
(Whoops - I failed to be clear again - but I sure get your message clearly).

Also, my reference to an "expert" was well considered — I do not hold with dictating to others what is this or is that without gathering a bit of information, or clarifying when I see something less than reasonable behavior. And I also try qualifying it as my opinion, usually with a capitalised I-M-H-O. (Oh no, Failed to be clear again).

Upon re-raeding my entry above, I still think that the only ones finding any real negativity in it are those who are looking for it. Well, you found it.

Good bye.

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Re: Right and Wrong

Just so it’s clear, Will did not write Silver Spear.

Or did he ?

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Re: Right and Wrong

Without a doubt, one of the best things about the sharing of this particular music is that the word "expert" has no place. We can all be experts in our own little ways (just so long as you are using your ears). And respect for that is important.

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Re: Right and Wrong

Any musician who can "stay in the pocket" will be appreciated
by fellow musicians and listeners alike——-the rest is all
bullsh*t—-to me its just that simple. The player who knows
the authentic twists n turns, hopefully will be heard above the "supporting cast" of other players.

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