The come back of the piano accompaniment?

The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Am I right or wrong that piano accompaniment is making a kind of come back? I hardly hear enough new releases to state this, so your opinions are welcome.

And what are your preferences regarding accompaniment? I must say, I mostly dislike piano accompaniment. It almost invariably takes the flow out of the tune, a bit like a drumkit does (when played in rock style), cutting the music to pieces. Give me a good guitar or zouk any time.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

It has been making a comeback for twenty years or more hasn’t it? Noel Hill and Frankie Gavin using Charlie Lennon during the eighties I mean.

Posted .

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

You ‘re right, maybe forget about the first part, it was more of an intro. The second part is more what’s it about. Any opinions?

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

OK, this thread is of course a bit provocative. One of the best albums I know offers a mix of accompaniments, including piano. One you’ll certainly know, kilfarboy:

https://thesession.org/recordings/408

Still, if it would have been piano accompaniment from one end to the other………

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

There something interesting about that one: I keep hearing the first track on ClareFM without any backing at all except the Bodhran. And each time I think I don’t miss anything.

I don’t know, we get a few pianoplayers around here: Ita and Angela Crehan, Geraldine Cotter, Mick Willis, Padraig O Reilly and years ago George Byrt used to come out at times (I see him regularly doing his shopping but I am not sure he still plays).

It depends on the context.

I am usually quite happy without backing.

Posted .

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

On a slightly different topic, if anyone saw The Magdalen Laundry on telly last night… good film, if not rather depressing, etc etc, but it had a bodhran-playing & singing priest in it then it had a piper accompanied by a guitar (steel strung)…in the fifties? Surely not? Anachronistic or what?
Then you get these pirate films of the C18th with concertinas in them (invented C19th)….grrr….

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

A priest singing ‘the Well below the Valley’ is in itself an unlikely proposition.

Posted .

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

"I am usually quite happy without backing."

Kilfarboy - as a piper (I don’t know what, if any, other instruments you play), you come with your own backing, so that’s not surprising. Somehow, I can’t imagine the piano complementing the pipes particularly well (although, no doubt, there are a few exceptional players who can make it work). Guitar and bouzouki can, I think, be used to good effect with the pipes (although they are by no means *necessary*), provided the played pays close attention to what the chanter, drones and regulators are doing, and how they interact with one another. If a backer is going to play, playing as little as can be got away with, without stopping altogether, would seem the best approach.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

I enjoy the occasional use of piano backing — "Traditional Irish Music from London" is one CD that comes to mind.

What really grates on me, though, is the prevalence of electronic keyboards in place of genuine pianos. Dozens of Comhaltas videos show excellent players on diverse instruments backed by a Roland or some other cheesy electronic toy. And don’t get me started on the players I deeply respect who allow the use of these things on their CDs. Is it really that hard to find decent pianos in Ireland?

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Just like any instrument, in the right hands it’s quite nice, I feel. A decent keyboard will have a quality piano sound, and it’s a lot easier to travel with, obviously. Most places don’t keep pianos kicking around for fun anymore.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Most of the pianos that I’ve come across at gigs are terrible: badly out of tune, keys that don’t work, etc, etc. One of the locals used to bring along some tools and a tuning wrench and fix ‘em before he played. The quality of the pianos around town improved dramatically when he was around. There are some exceptions, but those are usually things like great big old well-maintained Steinways. At some of those, I like to show up early just to play the piano for a while before I have to go to work.
Patrick - thanks for the tips. I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit the piano into session tunes without making everything sound like a ceilidh band…
…suggestions, anyone?

Posted by .

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

there are many brilliant piano players out there who add a lot to the music when they play and are simply top notch! Seamus Brett, Ryan Molloy, Brian McGrath just to name a few.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Kilfar - indeed, but if the song was in that film (I saw most of it but must’ve missed that bit), it was probably chosen cos it mirrors pretty exactly the film’s subject material - no better choice in that sense…

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

A couple of years ago I dropped into Spelman’s in Ballaghaderreen for a session. Having just rolled into town on my bike, I had no idea who would be playing there. After pitching my tent in a kindly old lady’s garden, I arrived unfashionably early at the pub and sat awkwardly with a glass of slightly odd-tasting orange juice, waiting for some musicians to turn up. After an hour or so had elapsed, a man came in had pulled up a seat in front of the upright piano in the corner. This turned out to be Jim Corry, sometimes-pianist with the Tulla Ceili Band. We disucussed the rarity of finding a real and fully working piano in a pub nowadays and the comparitive practicality but inferior quality of digital pianos. He then informed me that he had personally been into the pub earlier in the day and tuned the piano himself.

The main tune player for the evening was young box player Barry Brady. There was also a pair of twin brothers playing flute and banjo. To cut a long story short, it was an evening of great music, with tasteful and *in-tune* piano backing on a real piano.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

ragaman

i usually play with Jim Corry and that piano every wed night in Spells. Jim makes it sing!

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

I love the sound of a piano in this music, I am all for it. I still miss Arcady and the fine sound of their two CDs, wish there had been more. And I recently heard, in the Christmas Celtic Sojourn concert hosted by WGBH radio out of Boston, young Sean (or maybe Seth) Lakeman, who not only backed up Cara Dillon, but also played tunes along with Solas, and did a fine and interesting job of it!

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

What come back? I thought piano accompaniment never went away completely. I thought it was up to the musicians who are recording the music whether or not they want backup and what type of backup or instrument they want to use.

Speaking as someone who has been playing piano for about forty years, I didn’t want to buy an electronic keyboard but since there are so few real pianos anywhere in any place you go to now, I finally went to a local music store and tried playing some of the electronic pianos in the store.
I bought a Roland EP-90 Digital Piano because it had a halfway-decent imitation of a real piano and I could carry it by myself without needing anyone to help me. Although I really like this Digital Piano and I enjoy playing it, I still prefer to use a real piano when one is available.

Speaking of real pianos…..I prefer to use an upright or "console" piano to other types of pianos such as grand pianos or spinets.

I use my Digital Piano at the local sessions because the other musicians said that is the instrument they need me to bring to the sessions and play. I also play bass (both acoustic and electric) but the local session doesn’t need a bass player.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

That was probably Sam Lakeman (Cara’s hubby) on the piano, Al.

I’m old enough to remember when virtually every pub had a piano, but sadly that’s very far from the case nowadays, and, yes, boxist, it really is hard to find a decent piano in an Irish session pub.

Apart from its portability, the advantage of the electric keyboard is that it doesn’t need tuning. Sadly, however, and I write as a pianist, it’s rare to find such a keyboard which packs the sheer resonance of an acoustic piano (unless you’re willing to go to the top end of the Roland market) and, from experience, packs the essential bounce.

One superb pianist who hasn’t been mentioned is Séamus Quinn. Another (and he’s self-taught) is Hugh Gallagher of Húdaí Beag’s in Gweedore renown. I’m also very partial to the playing of Patsy McCabe and Josie Keegan, both of whom were long-standing accompanists of the late Seán McGuire.

Posted by .

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

I understand why lots of musicians prefer no backing at all — especially pipers. I like music that way too — solo playing, duets, unaccompanied sessions with lots of melody players. But if you like backing (at least sometimes), a couple of other points worth considering about electronic keyboards…from someone who occasionally gets to back good musicians on a keyboard or piano (and who did his first pro gigs as a musician in the 1970s on a Wurlitzer 200A)…

For communication and fun, I think it’s great to be able to look across the top of an electronic keyboard at the other musicians; this can be trickier with a "real" upright piano, especially one backed up against the wall. You can look over the top of a grand piano (if you could find one in your local pub!) but the size and volume of those also compromise the intimacy of a session.

It’s a lot easier to bring the volume of an electronic keyboard *down* to appropriate levels for accompaniment of some quiet players than it is with some "real" pianos. I like the attack and timing I get from playing pretty hard on a piano or a touch/velocity-sensitive keyboard, so along with that I like the option to turn down the volume until the melody players ask for more.

You can really warm up the sound of an electronic keyboard with the right tube amp. I like the old Fender Princeton for its size and tone (makes a good bench, too), but if I did this more often I might look around for a Pro with a 15" speaker. I got mine for $100 but that was a few years back. Sounds good with a Yamaha P 90 slab "piano."

Most of the electronic keyboards let you alter the pitch to match other instruments. This is great for playing with (for example) old concertinas in original pitch (like A = 452.5), pipes that have a special pitch preference, etc. Then in a few seconds you can be back at A 440 or whatever. Try that with a "real" one.

Going further in that vein, a lot of the decent keyboards actually let you dial in non-equal temperaments that can sound lovely for traditional music (mine has a so-called "just" scale, meantone, well-temperaments etc.), or even user-programmable alternative temperaments.

Finally if you are lazy and don’t want to learn to play in Eb, B, etc. many electronic keyboards can "transpose" so you can finger everything in C, D, or whatever is easy for you. Of course, you would cheat yourself out of the fun of learning to play the piano but I have seen folks do it …. sort of like the capo for fretted instruments, which does see wide use among pros….

PG

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Depends who is playing the piano - if it is someone who knows ITM inside-out , theres no problem - if it is a classically trained player, the chords will invariably change in the wrong place.
Many Scottish dance bands use piano, double bass and 2nd accordion as rhythm section, but they make sure they are all playing exactly the same chords and bass line.
And there is the magic word - "Dance" - ITM and piano is fine for dance sets, but not always applicable to ITM sessions unless its a small group and the piano player can "read" the other musicians like a book.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Before I began playing piano at the local sessions in 1995, I knew music "inside-out" (but not Irish music) because I had been playing music for almost thirty years by 1995.
My mother was a music teacher who began teaching me how to play the piano when I was a little boy. Her musical gods were people such as Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, etc.
When I was in my twenties, I earned a bachelor’s degree in music at a local college.
Then I began sitting in and playing piano at a local Blues Jam where they played only by ear and never, ever used sheet music (otherwise known as the "dots"). I learned a lot about how to work with other musicians and (to quote geoffwright) "read" the other musicians by participating in these Blues Jams.
This was good training for me because some of the other musicians who came to these Blues Jams were professional and/or semi-professional musicians who wanted to play music on what was an off night for them. Some of the other musicians were semi-retired professional musicians who got tired of life on the road and decided to come back home but they still wanted to play music occasionally.
As a result, when someones started an Irish Jam Session here in 1995, it was easy for me to fit in and play piano at the local sessions despite my lack of experience with Irish music.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Floss wrote: "Yes, boxist, it really is hard to find a decent piano in an Irish session pub."

I don’t doubt that. I used to play "piano" for contra dances and I owned an electronic keyboard precisely because we couldn’t count on the real pianos in the dance venues.

But it’s not pub-session or dance-hall use of eIectronic keyboards I was bemoaning — it’s their use on professionally produced, studio-made recordings, and at events such as major fleadhs and festivals that *should* (IMO) provide for a real (rented and tuned) piano in the budget.

I don’t sense much enthusiasm here for electronic uillean pipes, MIDI concertinas, or other gadgets that can offer some cool capabilities. I find the embrace of just one type of electronic instrument in ITM surprising.

Re: The come back of the piano accompaniment?

Yes, boxist, I agree with your comments. You would think that a professional recording studio already owns a piano or could arrange to rent one temporarily for a recording session. As for a fleadh or a festival, I should think it wouldn’t be too unnecessarily difficult to arrange to rent a piano for the fleadh or the festival instead of using an electronic keyboard.

The last weekend in May there is an arts and entertainment festival here at a park on the river in downtown. The people who run this festival don’t seem to have any trouble arranging for a real piano to be placed on one of the three stages where musicians perform at this festival.

Many years ago, I played piano occasionally for a local contra dance society who used the fellowship hall at a Presbyterian church for their regular weekly dances. The church allowed the dance society to use an upright piano which belonged to the church.
However, on the rare occasions when the dance society couldn’t use the fellowship hall, I had to bring my electronic keyboard because we didn’t know whether or not there would be a piano available wherever the dance society was going to dance.

For about two years, I played piano with a band (called the Fauxcelts) that specialized in playing Irish and Scottish music which was started by some musicians from the local session. Since we never knew ahead of time whether or not there would be a piano available for me to play, I always brought my electronic keyboard with me to all of our gigs.

No, I don’t sense any enthusiasm or need for any other type of electronic instruments in "ITM".

I guess it is up to the musicians at a session as to whether or not to allow anything other than acoustic instruments. As I stated above, I bring my electronic keyboard (a Roland EP-90 Digital Piano) to the local sessions only because I was asked to bring it.