Too MUCH ornamentation?

Re: Too MUCH ornamentation?

Huh, I liked that a lot. As the clip ran on, the sliding and swooping into notes was starting to wear thin. But then the ending—an obvious and well-done allusion to Bluegrass fiddling—tied it all together. That’s a bold statement to carry to the fleadh in Ireland, all the way from California. That alone earns him no small amount of respect in my book.

And I enjoyed his playing—hard to judge on just the lone clip, but sounds like he’d be good fun to session with.

So, no, not too many twiddly bits for my taste, and certainly not in a competition. He ably demonstrated a personal, thoughtful understanding of the tune, and gave it his own style. One of the more memorable clips. (But I’m also a big fan of Bronwyn Power’s playing in those same archives.)

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yeah i watched the clip about 3 or 4 times because his style is very unique maybe that’s why i was bothered by all the slidey whoopy stuff, fine player.

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The slidey stuff has gained traction over the last decade or so. Kevin Burke does some of it, though not quite as big a swoop as Mr. Ritter was doing there. And Martin Hayes of course employs some big swoops as the spirit moves him.

If I recall right, somewhere there’s an interview with Burke where he admonishes himself for sliding so much, saying (I’m paraphrasing), "That doesn’t sound Irish, in the traditional sense." And I’d agree with that—it sounds like a fairly modern thing to me. Although small slides—what I think of as "smears"—have been part of the music for a long time, probably echoing the smearing into some notes that pipers often do.

Part of what I like about Ritter’s playing is that he had me first thinking, "Oh, another Martin Hayes clone." But then he clearly put his own stamp on it. I can see that it might not be to everyone’s taste, but Ritter also made it clear that he can play straight traditional, too.

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It would be too much if he weren’t in such good control of it. As it is, it’s the right thing for what he’s doing. You have to decide for yourself whether you like what he’s doing.

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There were a couple hints of bluegrass towards the end. There
was a sliding double stop that sounded "bluegrassy" and the
downward slide at the end. That tied into his roots in the USA,
so stylistically it makes sense. I personally didn’t like that part
of it, but otherwise I enjoyed the playing. I don’t think the swoops
were too much - they sounded good.

Jr Crehan and Paddy Canny are two who used them.

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If you think Kevin Burke is a genre-bender - which he is, a little
bit - go to a Cathal Hayden concert. You won’t know if you’re
hearing 1930s jazz, bluegrass, Trad or what - there are flashes
of everything. The dude is amazing.

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Hup, I hear a few small slides in Crehan’s playing (not coming to mind from Canny’s), but no where near what Ritter is doing. I’d like to hear them, though—can you suggest which recordings to listen to for this in Crehan and Canny’s playing?

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I really enjoy Hayden’s playing.

Mind, I was passing along what Burke thought of his own playing….

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Not too much for me, but sometimes on notes that sounded strange to my ears. I got the feeling that it was all about him and not the music, although it’s difficult in those circumstances. I would give my right arm to be able to play like that mind. Good luck to him.

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Well I thought it was fine fiddling and that although there is a fair bit of ornamentation, and a variety of ornaments( slides, double stops,and rolls), and some melodic variation as well, the overriding consideration for my ears is that it came across as very tastefully done by someone who had the necessary skills to incorporate it successfully into the tune.

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Will, I can’t point to a Crehan recording since I’ve heard him only
on Clare FM. Canny’s Garrett Barry’s jig has lots of ‘swooping’
in it, though I guess his use of dynamics exaggerates it.

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… exaggerates the effect of it.

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I liked this. Towards the end he’s overdoing it a bit, but he keeps having a firm grip on the melody itself. Great bow control anyway.

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His playing has enough lift to get him along nicely without all that sliding. A little would have gone a long way but by the end it was beginning to sound like affectation. The crowd wasn’t overly enthusiastic by the look of it.

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I thought it was good playing. Nice tight snappy rolls. But it was all a bit samey. His hard snappy fast rolls on the beat were great, but he’s not got that lovely languid slow roll that the old players do so well, his slow rolls were more like just slightly delayed fast rolls. And it didn’t breath.

I’ve never heard him, but I’d guess he’s a better player than that. He looked like he was concentrating too much. But hey, that’s competition for you. I also get the feeling that he prefers to play a lot faster than that, but slowed it down for the judges.

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seems a bit like martin hayes style of playing. dont think theres too much ornamentation though

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You like all that swoopy stuff, Michael? I thought I was overdoing it on the harmonica but you’ve cheered me up by not criticising it here.


(talk about leaving yerself wide open… :-D)

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He’s very capable. he is a bit hard on the music.He has the rolls nailed and maybe overuses them.Llig is right about the slow rolls.He is a good fiddler that probably could do with a half hour a day playing with no ornamentation for fear that he might be losing the tune to his ability.

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he clearly likes it, surely that is all that matters, everybody is going to have a different take on style.

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I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t think there was too much ornamentation at all. I do agree that he didn’t seemed to be feeling the music and relying more on the technical stuff. And, like Llig said, it looked like he did want to play it faster.

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Hate the slides - way too contrived, forced, and to me, unlike what others have said, to my ear it doesn’t sit next to Kevin Burke’s or Marin Hayes’s way of playing in which the slides seem to fit well within and adding to suitable emphasis, flow and phrases, where they really don’t here. I like his rolls though.

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Hah. I hope a video of me playing solo never gets posted on the internet (I suppose hiding in a session is tolerable) and should such an unfortunate thing happen, I sincerely hope no one from the Mustard Board ever finds it and posts a link here.

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You all — we — are really picking this guy apart, eh?

Here’s my two cents.

He’s clearly got a nice feel for the music, not to mention wicked chops. He’s a little tense, which may account for the slight edge. The one thing I thought was excessive was the three rolls on the high A at the end — took me away from the tune, for some reason. Plus, I wouldn’t want to hear double stops all night.

But where I think he could improve would be by letting the tune evolve through the ornamentation and/or other effects. Hayes does this by starting out quietly and simply, then builds the tune by adding ornaments and dynamics. Not saying that’s the only way, but this fellow’s got the ability and the ear to be able to do better.

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I wonder if the Comhaltas judges are easier than we are?

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It does make me doubt some of the "Comhaltas is making it all sound the same" gripes that we hear.

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For those who are interested, Blake has several other clips of his playing online at his MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/blakefiddle) and YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/jiggage) that might give more insight into his playing style as a whole. I’m fixing to go listen to them shortly.

Just thought I would mention that, as several commented that it’s hard to judge a player’s style from a single clip.

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@Jmbu

Seriously, I would love if my playing was picked apart like this, as I would learn so much and get lots of suggestions for ways to improve. Though I wouldn’t nearly fare so well as our dear Mr. Ritter… :-)

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Not to mention that nearly all of these "reviews" of Ritter’s playing say as much about the reviewers as they do of Ritter. We each bring our own values and musical preferences to this, eh? Which is okay, but sometimes it’s not so easy separating them from a more objective judging of what’s in front of us.

And it really does matter that this clip is from the All-Ireland Fleadh. "Tense" doesn’t begin to describe how I would feel in that chair. Which obviously will affect his playing, and what he can do to develop the tune within the alloted time.

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I don’t mind those slides per se but there are quite a lot of ‘em in a short space. I keep imagining the tune without ‘em but otherwise just the same. In fact, I Iong for it. But Will has a good point there. Put on the spot like that I wouldn’t trust my own judgement unless I’d rehearsed every little move right down to a tee, and that isn’t the way I tend to operate. It’s an artificial setting.

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I Still say (as I did in my first post on this thread) that to me, it sounds like Ritter intentionally brought American fiddle elements into this arrangement. Clearly he can play Irish fiddle, with all the elements, including a great feel for the jig form. But he didn’t stop there—he put a small bit of a bluegrass stamp on it, on purpose. That takes chutzpah, given the stakes. And I think he pulled it off extremely well. Even if it wasn’t to the taste of the priest in the front row of the audience. :-)

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I find the notion of American fiddle elements interesting.I think I like almost every fiddle player thats well known in the States bar maybe one lady who overdoes it.The fiddle seems to be the king of the instruments(after the guitar) in the States and there is no end to the amazing styles of playing.This said ,and this is a little bit in relation to what Will describes.I cant abide bluegrass and old timey music even on the fiddle.

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My all time fave fiddle player is Stuart Duncan

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Ok my last sentence might have been a bit emphatic.Have just heard Stuart Duncan play for 38 seconds .A solo take on a fiddle with electric guitar effects.Absolutely feckin class! Never heard of him before so I’m off now to enjoy him as there is absolutely no doubt .even after 38 seconds that I love this mans fiddling.Thanks llig.

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I see there might be some money to be made in the business of threatening people with posting videos of their playing here…

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What’s your address? I’ve got a check ready for you…

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Stuart Duncan? Llig I thought your favourite fiddler was Matt
Malloy? Yes folks, he’s said so many times.

If you can say "Stuart Duncan" on an Irish Trad site, I guess I
can say Anne-Sophie Mutter is my favourite fiddler (and favourite
dead one would be Jascha Haifetz).

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Silver spear did I ever show you my video of the session at the cumberland ?

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Yeah, you’re right, Matt Molloy is my favourite Irish fiddle player. And yes, Heifetz is up there in terms of general fiddle playing.

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here’s is one of my favorite videos of blake playing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1jZbqqPjH8


blake is one of my favorite fiddlers, and a great guy. definitely committed to the music. for those who put stock in this sort of thing, he got 3rd in all-ireland slow airsthe year before.

you can pick apart someone’s style all day, but in the end it doesn’t matter. he loves how he plays, and plenty of others do, too! they clearly thought it was good enough to put on comhaltas live (and they don’t take the tradition lightly).

@jmbu: it’s hard to let tunes evolve when you can only play each twice. ideally 5 times would be a nice amount, but then the competitions would never end! they already go on for what seems forever…

@david dude: i too love very honest feedback on my playing. but, i don’t know… random criticism and unsolicited advice? i actually enjoy getting negative feedback from teachers, juges, etc., but i’m personally just not a fan of unsolicited criticism publicly online. i think it’s in bad taste, even when it’s not directed at a friend of mine. in general, i tend to be hyper critical (to a fault), but i prefer to say things directly to people, and only if they’re interested in hearing it. oh well, in the end, i suppose it’d be a compliment to be discussed at all….. so, if i ever get a clip on comhaltas live, i hope to be torn to shreds! but, only cuz i gave permission, :P

@will: he’s definitely a blast to play with.

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Never seen that video, Dave. Just don’t post it here. :)

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A fine fiddler.
Not really relaxed I would guess, but, hey.

What I listen for in ornamentation and interpretation of a tune is if any of the players elaborations kind of "lose" the feel or flow of the basic tune.

Seemed to me there were a couple of moments when, IMHO, he did just that, but, hey again -
it’s all about "What do THE JUDGES want to hear", right?
(For that purpose he may well have been spot on.)

Well done anyway, better than I could do - hope there are not too many like him out there.

I’m under enough pressure to improve already.
;-)

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Hes a million times better than me .. but… if I could play like that, I wouldnt.

Suppose thats one of the beautiful things about this music, we can all put our own stamp on it.

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Hi guys, i just noticed this! yes it sucks playing on stage with John McHugh giving you the hairy eyeball, as was my experience. I agree, i put a lot of stuff in that wee tune, however its comhaltas rules that you can only play a double jig twice, and i guess i was just trying to pour on the sauce. Those of you that liked it, i’m glad! and those of you that didn’t, sorry. I play the way that makes me happy.

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Nice of you to respond Blake..Looking forward to meeting John Mc Hugh again and hope he hasnt shaved his eyeball by then..

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Yeah, thanks for responding Blake. Nice special sauce. I think the big C likes it a bit less tangy though, you know how they are.

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"I play the way that makes me happy."

Which, despite the stress of competition, comes through very well in that clip. Good on you!

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"its comhaltas rules that you can only play a double jig twice"

Hmm.
So next time, you could play a SIX-part double jig twice through, and spread things a lot thinner —-

Just kidding, and "Well done" again, sir.

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LOL, Strayaway Child becomes the tune of choice for competition…. :-)

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I had the judges cards sent to me after the fleadh, and Mr. McHugh said basically the same thing. He actually liked my ornamentation, but wanted to hear a longer, more interesting tune and what i could bring to it. Oh well, i probably should have known that.

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@ will: i learned the strayaway child because my grandma’s cousin asked me to do it. i’ve been debating whether or not it would be worth doing it at a competition. i wouldn’t do it solo, but maybe in a duet? i was thinking of proposing it to ceili band i’m in, but we do 1920’s style, and the tunes too modern.

@ blake: i didn’t realize they liked long tunes. i didn’t know tunes existed that had more than 2 parts…

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(that last comment was sarcasm btw)

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Blake, I thought you did well to include a great range of variations within a short format in a way that fit the tune *and* built energy at the same time.

daiv, we play the Strayaway Child at our session now and then, and typically do it at least three times around. There’s just so much room for exploring and variations. I suspect it would make a great solo piece for competition—if you could build the surprise throughout and still keep track of what part you were on. :-)

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@will: i guess i haven’t played it long enough to really eke out the soul of the tune. maybe i’ll start inflicting it on people! see what happens. i’ve tried playing the keel row in sessions, but it’s not taking. everyone gets mad that they don’t know it and it just never seems to end. everyone in chicago really likes kevin burke, though, so maybe that can make up for it… i don’t want to get lynched!

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Is Noel Hill the winner of the most-ornaments-in-a-tune competition?

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Certainly on his first album, he is.
Like a cake with too many currants.