Book on Accompaniment
I’ve just put up the revised version of a book I wrote about accompanying Irish music, if anyone’s interested.
I’ve just put up the revised version of a book I wrote about accompanying Irish music, if anyone’s interested.
It’s a bit … American.
I like it. Very useful stuff on chords etc (I’m a big fan of the I-IV-V school of chord notation, because it works whatever key you’re in).
Nothing loads for me. (Mediafire often doesn’t work, or else deluges me with crappy popups).
PS Alex, it would be great to have a table of contents, if you can do those things in that format. It would also point up that you discuss bouzouki, guitar, piano etc. I was also hankering after some graphics / audio examples particularly for the basic scales and modes, but of course that’s a whole new ball-game so I appreciate the work you’ve put in.
Also wondering if you have included open fifth chords (ie no third) as these can be pretty useful when working with melodies that go between major and minor, on instruments like the harp where you can’t always change between these two quickly. Also (personal view) I think too many thirds clutter up the sound a bit so I tend to stick to open-fifth chords where the melody players are playing the third of the chord.
"(I’m a big fan of the I-IV-V school of chord notation, because it works whatever key you’re in)."
Sorry but this is absolutely wrong.
I read the parts that weren’t instrument-specific. I’ve got quite a few quibbles. Some are just careless proofreading, others are more substantive.
1. You should mention that in using Roman numerals for chords, upper case means major and lower case means minor.
2. Your tables for the major chords have the Roman numerals vi and vii backwards, as iv and iiv. And ii is incorrectly written as Ii.
3. Most "minor" Irish tunes are really Dorian (or hexatonic or pentatonic). The sixth note of the scale is sharpened compared to the relative minor, which means it’s a ii, IV, and vi diminished rather than a ii diminished, iv, and VI.
4. You describe the 3 chord trick for E minor as i-v-VII, but then list it as i-VI-VII for the other minors (chords given correctly, but Roman numerals wrong). Also, you confusingly switch the order of the 2nd and 3rd chords when you switch from Roman numerals to the chord names - listing the VII before the V.
5. G Dorian tunes are quite common in Clare, and C Major is not uncommon.
6. Again there are capitalization errors in the tables for the Mixolydian chords. Ii and Vi instead of ii and vi.
7. In Mixolydian, the iii chord is usually diminished (and I’m guessing rarely used).
8. In your examples of rhythms, giving one and a half measures of reals and jigs is misleading. Reels are "One-and-two-and Three-and-four-and", not “ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four”. Jigs are "One-two-three Four-five-six", not “ONE-two-three ONE-two-three ONE-two-three”, which invites confusion with slip jigs and hop jigs. Hornpipes are "One-and Two-and Three-and Four-and", which makes the "bouncier" comment easier to understand.
9. It’s a bit of a stretch to claim to know the purpose of the triplet runs in hornpipes.
10. There are also polkas that are native to Sligo.
11. It might be a good idea to mention hop jigs, which are also 9/8, but often played faster than slip jigs.
12. Silver Spear, first version, has only 15 half measures in lines 2, 3, and 4.
13. The C major and A minor chords in Cooley’s sound a bit strange, as they force it into E Minor, when it’s really hexatonic, omitting the c note entirely.
Earl Cameron, I appreciate that you took it a certain way, but unfortunately no, your reading of it was wrong!
When I said "I’m a big fan of the I-IV-V school of chord notation, because it works whatever key you’re in" I meant just that - that this way of writing notation works whatever key you’re in.
For example, In G, I-IV-V is the same as G-C-D, and in D, I-IV-V is the same as D-G-A.
Basically it’s a way of notating relative, rather than absolute, chord sequences. So it works in any key. Hence, what part of what I wrote was "wrong"?
I dont think his reading was wrong, It could correctly be read either way. Your point is both absolutely correct and completely wrong at the same time 🙂 depends on how its read.
Yes - the curse of the English language. I should have put it less ambiguously - I was typing in a hurry!
Thanks Alex. Always room for improvement as GaryAMartin points out, but does not negate the obvious amount of work you put into this.
I thought you were saying that the I-IV-and V chords worked no matter what key you were in. Yes I like roman numeral notation too, but usually use other chords than I-IV- and V.
should have said "use other chords than ~just I-IV and V.
Alex, I haven’t looked at it yet and I imagine you did a terrific job (despite grumblings to the contrary) but I feel that you may have accidentally forgotten to include the tablature to the hseK jig which is all the rage on the Mustard Board. I believe that it uses the V - VI and I chordings.
I actually really appreciated that, and I thought it was a great job especially for people to understand the basics of music theory more thoroughly. A lot of time went in to that, so thank you Alex for making it available freely to others.
When I tried to download this, my computer stopped the download and told me there was a virus involved. To bad, as I found the earlier version very valuable.
Oops, I meant to say TOO bad…
No virus issues with the file as far as Avast is concerned…
your chords for E minor and minor keys in general are highly suspect and show a very poor knowledge of music theory (which applies to all musics)
you don’t state what notes are even in the F# chord. in E Minor, or far that matter in G Major.
There are many available options in E minor,
Firstly the most common and standard approach is to treat it like classical/jazz theory and use the Dorian mode of D major thus giving us
i - E minor
ii - F sharp minor flat 5 (f# a and c in chord) - or simply play D major with F in the bass (which is the most common and preferred option among the main great players
iii - G major
iv - A major (this is a much stronger "turnaround" chord than a minor one)
v - B minor
vi - C# minor 7 flat 5 ( or we could use a major with C# in the bass)
vii - D major
So essentially using E Dorian, we are using the D major scale chords in an order suitable to what we irish musicians call E minor….its highly debatable whether these tunes are minor also.
The second main and less common approach is to view, for example, A minor as A Natural Minor with the scale
a, b, c, d, e, f nat, and g
the b would most certainly not be b minor chord - it would be a g major with a b in the bass.
Only very rarely and exceptionally is B Minor played in the key of a minor and this is when it is specifically done for effect, dissonance , hard edge or whatever you may like to call it…
Anyway you see where im going with the minor thing.
In terms of your mixolydian chords,
Ive studied and played with and had lengthy chats with most of the masters
- Arty Mc Glynn, Seamie O Dowd, Lunny , Cooney
Alec finn, Brian Mc Grath, Paul Mc Sherry, Niall O Callanain
,….and im not sure i’ve heard them play an E minor chord nearly EVER in a D mixolydian tune…….
I may stand corrected for maybe one or two occasions but i doubt it and challenge you to point out a recording or youtube video that proves otherwise for a d tune with f sharps and c naturals…..
F# minor in D mixolydian?????
A major in mixolydian???? whats goin on at all !!!
Mixolydian means a C natural in D key so how could we have a A major chord with a C# in D mixolydian?
come on…how long did you really think that through?
(you even said in your own notes its a c natural….maybe you dont know the notes of a major?)
Were you on something when you wrote this?
Why should we force misinformation on unknowing and wiling young participants of irish music accompaniement??
we are trying to improve accompanist reputation not kill ourselves lolol
Anyway, you may view this as harsh but i view my role here as a neccessary arbitrator between you and your unfounded theory approach, and the unsuspecting learner
I find your material uneducated and sloppy at best,
and utterly misleading and false at worst.
Mihael Mc Cague
Oops, in my haste, i spelled my name wrong.
That would be Michael.
And to those who will inevitably reply telling me im cruel - my attitude is that if your going to teach or "profess" your knowledge, make sure its correct and assured.
Teaching people wrong things is, in my book, worse than teaching them anything.
they just end up confused and annoyed.
I respect that you probably feel you have put in alot of effort, but there alot better resources out there already so there’s no need for wrong resources challenging the aforementioned.
Aplogies if you feel hurt by this but, hey, thats they way it is.
Just finished reading it all, why ? i dont know,
quite cheesy and "go you" sort of attitude.
Lets face it , most people that become good players arent going sitting down reading this book stuff because thy’re out playing getting real life experience.
Zaraliss, I’ve just read through the book and it looks good to me. Useful and very informative. Good also that you have taken the time and effort to share.
I’m not primarily a backing musician (I’m an average player of guitar and mandola, and I’d back only a handful of tunes confidently) and I don’t have a super degree of theory knowledge.
@Mickeybaker : I’m not really questioning your knowledge, but if you say that some of the book content is wrong (and you are "just another poster" here, as am I), why do you say certain things are wrong? How do you know this? In other words, what definitive reference would you look up to back up your words?
This is a simple and honest question - I hope it’s not going to start a big argument.
My take on this stuff is that it is objective, rather that subjective, in that, eg the notes in any named scale are fixed and set in stone - ie definitive. The key a tune is determined by the notes it contains - is it not? The content of chords is fixed too, till someone come up with a new combination of notes "not in the book". Agreed, or not?
Whether by changing a few notes of a tune to make it sound better (thus changing its theoretical key) is acceptable, is purely subjective. Just like using 3rds in backing chords (instead of root + 5th). Some players do both - sometimes it’s aurally acceptable, other times it’s not. Again, this is subjective and will give way to the "majority vote".
So, back to my question : where’s the "bible" on accompaniment in this context? I’m asking because I simply do not know.
"…the notes in any named scale are fixed and set in stone…" Notes of a named scale, yes, but not the notes of a tune.
"The key [of] a tune is determined by the notes it contains…" not if it contains the notes of more than one scale, or no defined scale.
That should be in the 1st chapter of a book on accompanying Irish tunes ~ With the tunes you’d be wrong if you think of any of them as having *notes* which are set in stone. Dead wrong. At best, when a tune has a tonal centre, then you can likely determine it’s key. You’d want to elaborate on that last bit.
9/8 slip jigs are not unique to irish music.
Speaking as someone who straddles the fence and plays both backing on guitar, and melody on mandolin and flute, there are a few things I’d strongly disagree with in that booklet.
First, the boosterism is unecessary and potentially misleading. For example, "the rhythm player takes the melody and makes it more awesome by a thousand times, adding a completely new dimension to it." Encouraging backers to hold that attitude will not win friends at session.
Second, the use of Nashville System (roman numerals for chords) encourages the idea that tunes are "in a key," like they are in most American folk music and its offshoots. But that system falls apart if you try to use it on a tune like Knocknagow, or many others with shifting or vaguely implied tonal centers. It’s not enough to treat tunes like this as "odd ducks." It’s the idea of applying a chord number system to this music that’s odd.
Finally, there are several instances of advice like "Don’t be afraid to drive the music and play with energy and power, but know when to back off too". And… "Remember, keeping a steady groove is the most important thing."
No, keeping a steady groove is not the most important thing.
The most important thing is to follow the pulse of the melody players, because they’re the ones establishing the rhythm of the tune. It’s the backer’s job to follow that rhythm, not lead it. It’s the reverse of a rhythm guitar player’s job in many other genres, and it’s something that trips many people up. It can suck the life out of a tune when a guitar player bangs away at a steady tempo, without following what the melody players are laying down as a rhythm pulse.
There are exceptions, like bands where a guitar player has a designated role as timekeeper, or things like Cape Breton piano backing that can serve as a rhythm bed. But as a general rule, I think a backer at a session is much better off, if they think of themselves as locking into the melody player’s rhythm pulse, rather than the other way around. The best part of this approach is that you can never be blamed for speeding up the tune! 🙂
[*With the tunes you’d be [ving *notes* which are set in stone. Dead wrong. At best, when a tune has a tonal centre, then you can likely determine it’s key. You’d want to elaborate on that last bit.*]
Yes, you are right. I should have said that "a tune is *usually* determined by the notes it contains.
I compose tunes that are nothing like Irish trad, although the time sigs are pretty much the same. When it comes to writing them down, Im often stuffed for a keys sig. I know what I’ve written, but notationally I wouldn’t know what key to designate (apart from no sig, then put in all the sharps and flats …. )
Still want to know where the ITM accompaniment bible is 🙂
Jim, are you slowly backing away from your take on this stuff as being objective?
You can change keys with roman numeral notation no problem. You just find the point where the key changes and write the roman numeral value for both keys in a column and continue as normal, Usually you write the name of the key you have changed to as well.
but generally when writing chords for tunes I stick to the full chord name with a letter and a small "m" for minor, it’s just much quicker to read, wouldn’t be surprised if there are folks that read roman numerals just as quickly though. And of course even though I often write out chord progressions for particularly tricky tunes I’m continually revising them as my opinions on harmony change over time.
I am sure there are things that require correction, but cut Zazz a break—this kind of thing is a labor of love, and a lot of work went into what he produced.
@ Earl Cameron:
But we’re not talking about an actual key change in this music.
For one thing, it’s almost never a one-way shift like it is in pop music and highly arranged Americana folk music. That’s why I was careful to say " shifting or vaguely implied tonal centers."
Look at a popular tune like Kid on the Mountain. If you used the Nashville roman numeral system, you’d be constantly notating a shift in "keys" between Em or G, depending on what section of the tune you were on. And that’s not really a helpful way to think about how to back that tune.
The idea of constantly shifting tonal centers is easier to get your head around. And it encourages thinking about this music in a different way, which I think is important.
Well the true Em (Aeolean mode) is the same as G (it’s a rare tune that’s in Aeolean). G would be major I and Em would be minor vi. There is no need to use a pivot chord or anything as it’s a case of relative Major/minor.
For a tune in E dorian which is much more common I would use Major I for D, minor ii for Em and Major IV for G.
but once again, I don’t think this method is preferable to actual chord letters but it does work just fine.
About the book. It is really quick and dirty. The viiº is a diminished chord in a major key. so for D major it’s C#, E, and G. C# to E is a minor third and E to G is also a minor third, hence a diminished chord which means a chord with two minor thirds stacked on top of one another. A Major chord is Major third/minor third, and a minor chord is minor third/Major third (just the opposite). Not all that important as diminished chords aren’t usually used in most music including trad.
Also a better way to speak of Major and minor chords is just as I just did. Major starts with a capitol M and minor with a lowercase m. You say major and MINOR which is odd to me. again it’s just a consistency thing, if you want to be on par with other documentation on music theory and harmony.
Also the dorian mode is far more relavant than the minor (aeolian) mode. the difference is that there would be no C natural in a key in E dorian because it would be sharped. A chord containing a C in E dorian would use the C# so the IV for E dorian would be a Major IV, A, C#, and E, and not a minor iv with A, C, and E.
It loads very quickly. Is it possible you just didn’t note that it had downloaded? That happened to me. It was done almost before it started…
To the OP: A format other than docx might be more useful. PDF perhaps??? I’ll read it later, and comment about contents if this thread is still going on when I finish…
It would be easier to distribute and get feedback as a PDF, yes.
To the OP: If you don’t have anything else that can do it, the free OpenOffice Writer will load a Word file and output a PDF.
No, there was some browser conflict between Mediafire and Firefox. No download button ever appeared. I’m guessing that Mediafire won’t cooperate if you have enough ad and popup blockers enabled.
docx is easy on a Mac, Pages will open it.
What I least liked about that document is that it paid no attention to gapped scales. Those gaps are there for a reason - there are many tunes where the gaps are in different places in different sections and the whole sound of the tune changes, though there is nothing that conventional tonal theory would recognize as a change of key. If you bash on throughout with chords based on the heptatonic pitch set, you iron all that out and the effect is dogged and boring. (Accompanists from a jazz background never get that).
Alex: I don’t think you’re ever going to satisfy the people who know about pivot chords / enharmonic changes / tonal centres. But hey, I’m also guessing you didn’t aim your document at people like that. I stand by what I said - it’s cool. Glad you wrote it.
Mark, why would a musician not want to know about tonal centres?
I’m sure they would and maybe you’re right…I was imagining this book was written for beginners and not as the definitive source but as a "get you going" type of thing.
"… your rhythm and listening skills must be sharp in order to complement the melody nicely."
I agree with Alex on this bit of advice. I would consider a possible starting point for a beginner might be listening for certain key things; imho this would include listening for the tonal centre in a tune.
Accompanists are those who couldn’t hack it as melody players.
There are plenty of accompanists who also play melody. I thought you knew that, Ethical Blend.
Just a quote, Ben, just a quote. 🙂
Is it from the foreword of your latest book?
[*Accompanists are those who couldn’t hack it as melody players.*]
A bit like the equally silly quote from wee hard man Frank Sinatra, who said "musician are just frustrated singers", or something like that. Like he would know….
"many think guitar players just couldn’t cut it as a melody player….yet ask the people who say that to try accompaniment, …"
July 25th 2009 by irisnevins
Re: working out the chords
Wow. Was not expecting this many responses.
First off, Gary, I very much appreciate your advice. I found it incredibly helpful and sensible, and I have made changes based on your suggestions. Fair play to you for helping out.
Michael, I understand if you find my use of chords to be inconsistent with what you view as proper backing, and apologize if I have offended you. While I have studied music theory to some degree, this book is not written from a music theory standpoint, nor is it meant to tell anyone "all they need to know". Rather, the booklet is meant as a place to find starting information—if someone is coming into Irish music with no idea what they’re doing, it’s meant to give them a jumping-off point. As for chord choices, whether or not you view them as correct, they have served me well as a musician, and I have been playing rhythm (and melody) in Irish music for nearly a decade. Furthermore I intentionally used the term "modal" because some tunes are frankly neither entirely major nor entirely mixolydian—and if you’ll remember, I said quite clearly that you would have to listen to the tune to know where it’s going. As for the encouraging tone in the booklet, I think that your attitude has quite clearly demonstrated why I thought it necessary for beginning rhythm players to be encouraged.
Many here have criticized my choices on chords in the dorian mode, as well as my referral to it as the "minor" mode. The chords I suggest using for dorian tunes are chords that, while evidently not the ones generally chosen, have served me well over the years, and I believe that they are acceptable. As for my referral to it as the "minor" mode, I meant it when I said the music theory was quick and dirty. I believe that someone who knows little music theory (and desires to know little to none) would prefer to think of tunes in terms of major and minor, as it is a more easily understood difference.
I agree that this book is not by any means comprehensive, nor is it particularly thorough. What I do believe that it does do, however, is provide a place to begin.
I appreciate all the feedback. Updated version is here: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?memrozmerg8z26s
Zazz, I’m going to give a thumbs down review. Not to be mean, but because what you’ve assembled creates more problems than it solves. For example, if someone can’t cope with learning the names and personalities of the four most common modes in this music—major (ionian), minor (aeolian), dorian, and mixolydian—then maybe they should take up a different hobby. Calling dorian "minor" isn’t quick and dirty, it’s just plain wrong and misleading. Dumb down the music like that and you’re not helping anyone, you’re leading them astray.
Learners tend to live up (or down) to their teacher’s expectations. You tell them not to undervalue themselves, but then you treat them as too stupid to learn more than two modes. 😏
I gave up reading on page 3 because nearly every sentence contained flagrant misinformation. E.g., the common keys/modes of this music aren’t tethered by fiddle (on which it’s easy to play in many keys/modes), but by uilleann pipes—an instrument older in the tradition than fiddle and with a narrower range of easily played keys/modes.
Frankly, as much as you seem to genuinely want to be helpful, most of your advice is so far off the mark as to be more a hindrance, and the presentation is poorly thought out. I’d be inclined to send aspiring strummers to materials by Chris Smith and Roger Landes, who’ve clearly put a lot more thought, time, and experience into this subject.
"the common keys/modes of this music aren’t tethered by fiddle (on which it’s easy to play in many keys/modes), but by uilleann pipes—an instrument older in the tradition than fiddle"
There are a lot of Irish tunes still played today that predate the invention of the uilleann pipe, and UPs have always been a rare and expensive instrument compared to fiddles.
Flutes were in between the two in expense and popularity and mut have had more effect than UPs.
The UP was always a prestige instrument, confined to a professional elite until recent times, and prestige does imply disproportionate influence. But it could hardly have competed with the fiddle in ubiquity.
Neither pipes nor fiddle were the main determiners of modality for Irish music. It follows from what songs do. Dance tunes are not always taken from vocal repertoire, but that’s where their style comes from; the voice can do any scale, so the modal system is not a result of technical limitation, it’s an artistic choice.
And that style doesn’t just use four heptatonic modes (all of which you need to know) as Will points out, it uses gapped modes. AND THE GAPS MATTER. Box players don’t take the thirds out of their instruments for no reason. The sludgy sound of a guitarist who can’t tell when even the simplest tune is pentatonic doesn’t win any friends for accompanists in general.
Jack, your take on the pipes and the origin of favored keys/modes is as far removed from anything I’ve ever read or heard from the most knowledgeable people on this topic—Mick Moloney, Hammy Hamilton, Fintan Vallely, Brendan Breathnach, Seamus Ennis, Tomas O’Cainann, and more—that I’ll just say Zazz’s treatment of the topic is flat out wrong and let it go at that.
Besides (back to Zazz’s book), us fiddlers at least love to play traditional tunes in F, Bb, Gdor, E, etc. The traditional repertoire may favor certain keys and modes, but it is by no means limited to them, and backers groaning about "odd" keys do no one any favors.
A big YES to "the gaps matter." That’s long been a primary argument against accompaniment in this music—strummers who pay no mind to the gaps, and to the lovely ambiguities they create.
This isn’t just about adhering to some obsolete, "purist" sense of the music. It’s about understanding and appreciating a longstanding cultural tradition before you barge in with uninformed massive changes and dilutions. The horse is already out of the barn, but some of us would at least like to slip a halter over the beast….
"your take on the pipes and the origin of favored keys/modes is as far removed from anything I’ve ever read or heard from the most knowledgeable people on this topic—Mick Moloney, Hammy Hamilton, Fintan Vallely, Brendan Breathnach, Seamus Ennis, Tomas O’Cainann, and more"
Breathnach, Folk Music and Dances of Ireland:
…Among traditional players it is believed that the pipes preceded the fiddle in Ireland as the instrument most commonly used for providing dance music, and the many references to pipes and pipers in accounts from the eighteenth century seem to confirm this view. Nevertheless, we know that the fiddle was played for dancing before the pipes emerged in their present form…
Uilleann pipes are big, showy, expensive and noticeable. Of course they’re going to get more attention from chroniclers than something as cheap and utilitarian as a fiddle.
The obvious way to get the figures is to look at newspaper adverts and street directories to see how many businesses were selling each instrument, and what they were charging for them. (I don’t have online access to any such archive from here; taking a wild shot at the Dublin Journal for 1856 through a "one paper a day before you subscribe" site, I found no adverts for either pipe or fiddle makers in the very poorly scanned copy I got).
Alex, in the preface to the Book on Accompaniment you open with this, ""Before this handbook begins, I just want to tell you: NEVER UNDERVALUE YOURSELF."
Yet you seem to be doing just this when you state, "I believe that someone who knows little music theory (and desires to know little to none) would prefer to think of tunes in terms of major and minor, as it is a more easily understood difference."
I have to agree with Will about the dorian mode;
"Calling dorian "minor" isn’t quick and dirty, it’s just plain wrong and misleading. Dumb down the music like that and you’re not helping anyone, you’re leading them astray." I know far to many backers who follow Alex’s lead already.
Like I said above, I was unfortunately not able to open the new version of Zazz’s book. But if he does lump dorian in with classical minor, I do think he needs to go one step further in his discussions. For example, putting C major chords into a tune that is in classical E minor, where the scale has a natural C, is a perfectly reasonable choice. Putting those same chords into an E dorian tune, which has a C sharp in its scale, tries to force the tune into being something it is not. You hear that done fairly frequently, and sometimes it works fairly well, but in general, an accompanist becomes much more appropriate, and accepted by the melody players, when they learn to distinguish between minor and dorian.
It’s not wrong to call dorian "minor" - the vast majority of traditional Irish musicians do exactly that, and it doesn’t mislead them. The problem comes when (as in this book), the audience is coming from a different musical tradition, in which "minor" means aeolian. Two distinct uses of the word "minor"; each correct in its own world, but in conflict when the worlds collide.
Still a few problems in the explanations of the rhythms. Reels have an accent on the one and three, not just the one. Jigs have an accent on the one and four, not just the one. You’ve only given 9 of the 12 notes in a bar of a slide.
And you still only have 15 beats in lines 2-4 of the first version of Silver Spear.
yep, jigs are compound time , so if ye need to count , Count; slip jigs|| 123 223 323. || jigs || 123 223 || and ||123 223 323 423. ||
Gary is quite correct we talk about Minor tunes when we discuss Dorian tunes. We dont refer to or defer to classical tradition when discussing Irish music.
The eye we see through is one based within Irish music looking out rather than from the outside looking in unlike many , perhaps the majority, of posters here….
[*Jim, are you slowly backing away from your take on this stuff as being objective? *]
…from an earlier post
@Ben - I am now - meaning, things like "who’s the better fiddle player", or "do these chords fit the tune?" have always been subjective (down to opinion, and there are so many variables), but I’d always thought that scales and modes were rule-based, regardless of genre, Now I’m not so sure 🙂
Hah, jig, who’s this "we" you’re on about? Flamenco guitar strummers from the UK who dabble in the tunes? You’d do well to speak for yourself and not for Irish musicians, of which you aren’t one (go read your own member profile for a refresher).
The old Greek nomenclature may be cumbersome (most people I know can say dorian, but they shorten mixolydian to plain old mix), but the concepts behind them are crucial for understanding how the intervals fit around the tonal center in this music. Calling dorian "minor" is wrong and leads to trainwrecks. We have enough of that already in the so-called accompaniment of this music.
Jim, some Irish traditional tunes fit well within today’s conventional sense of key/mode, but not all do and that ambiguity is often a big part of their beauty and intrigue. Misinformed accompaniment mangles that ambiguity. The last thing we need is more strummers pounding away on chords that don’t at all fit the tunes, sure in their self-esteem because they’ve been told how they increase the music’s awesomeness a thousand times. Ugh.
Will, do you mean if you hear a melody (in session), sometimes it’s not obvious whether the backing (at a very basic level) should just be 5ths / octaves, or whether the chord should contain a 3rd?
Or does it get deeper than that? 🙂
Will, calling dorian "minor" is not wrong. A minor scale is one in which the third above the tonic is a minor third. Likewise for major. The dorian, aeolian, phrygian, and locrian modes are all minor. The lydian, ionian, and mixolydian modes are all major. To avoid this ambiguity, aeolian is sometimes called the "natural minor" or the "relative minor".
Gary, it’s indeed wrong the way Zazz is using it, instead of simply calling it dorian. When backing music, the chord-playing strummer has to know the difference between aeolian and dorian or they’ll use chords that clash because of the difference in whether the 6th notes of the scale is sharped or flat. And since Irish tunes often use both of those intervals in a single tune, and within a single phrase, or avoid the 6th tone all together.
It’s simple, isn’t it? If someone isn’t willing to understand four simple modes, should they inflict themselves on other musicians, on the music? If you talk about accompaniment with great melody players, you’ll find a strong albeit usually unspoken loathing for cloth-eared, uninformed backing. Blurring the distinction between aeolian and dorian does nothing to remedy that.
Jim, my strong personal preference is to let the melody players imply the harmonic coloring through their choice of intervals, rather than hear the tune forced into a key/mode because one backer hears it that way (and all too often keeps it that way through every repeat of the tune). A backer playing 5ths and octaves is less likely to cause trouble, and the occasional 3rd can work, but a decent fiddler or box player is equally capable of providing that, no strumming needed.
My point to Gary is that saying dorian fits in the minor class of modes is one thing, but to call it minor *instead of* dorian is misleading and unhelpful. I’ve had 9 year old guitar students who understood major, minor, dorian, and mix. If you dumb this down for Irish backers you’ll end up with more dumb backers.
I agree with everything you said, Will, but my point is that most traditional Irish musicians (those who were immersed in it from an early age, not those who came to it from some other type of music) do use "minor" to refer to Dorian (or Aeolian, or something more ambiguous). Zazz uses "minor" to mean Aeolian. Neither is wrong. What is wrong is that an accompanist who follows Zazz’ usage will be playing in the wrong minor mode most of the time.
"What is wrong is that an accompanist who follows Zazz’ usage will be playing in the wrong minor mode most of the time."
Most *good* Irish guitar and zouk players I’ve met know and use the terms dorian and mixolydian. They’re not ignorant (in the best sense of the word). And instruction (which Zazz’s book purports to be) clearly favors the normal vocabulary. Take a workshop from Tony McManus, Donough Hennessy, Paul Brady, Alec Finn, John Doyle, Donal Clancy, etc. They don’t dumb it down.
Yeah, and lots of people (including Zazz) talk about dorian and mix tunes as "modal" tunes. But all tunes are modal. Major is a mode, too. I just don’t see any point in continuing bad habits and wrong-headed thinking that causes more problems than it solves. Especially putting it in writing as though this misinformation is somehow "authoritative" or even "acceptable" advice. It’s not.
One of my pet hates is people backing Dorian tunes useing Aeolian theory and chords and not their ears.
I also dislike people substituting minor or major chords with the relative M/m though it seems to be quite common these days.
I was taught that ‘there is no substitution as you might find in Jazz or folk/pop in Irish trad’ so that is what I teach and I also prefer . So I would take issue with zazz’s recommendations in that regard.
As regards backing and avoiding thirds and these ‘theoretical’ gapped scales I have a strong preference for the backer to reflect those thirds from the tune and demonstrate they actually know the music rather than some wishy washy non committal ‘modal’ chords.
I doubt there any tunes that are played with out these thirds, they may be written without them…. but not played.
piobagusfidil - can you give an example of a backer of Irish music who does not use chord substitutions?
Mick O’Connor backing Paddy Carty on the 1970’s album off the top of my head.
Is a chord a substitution when it is being used appropriately? I can think of many points in many tunes where either a G or Em chord could work equally well. Which, then, is the substitution? Perhaps, never being formally schooled in music theory, I missed something that relates to that whole concept.
(And I can see Gary’s point, that both Aeolian and Dorian are minor keys, while both Major and Mix are major keys. I guess the message we need to get across is that there is more than one of each, and they all have different accompaniment that is appropriate. That is a key point in the journey of becoming a good accompanist. And then there is learning the fact that each tune is unique, rather than something that fits into a ‘mode’ where there is a fixed bag of chords that always apply. Oh, and while you can argue about chords all day long, it is the pulse that matters. You ain’t got the gift if you ain’t got the lift, or something to that effect.)
nicely played piobagusfidil! Very interesting album!
No. If I play a G major arpeggio then an Em to back it is inappropriate if not Wrong and vice versa. Maybe if its a conscious, artistic decision, based upon an intimate understanding of the particular specific tune then ok… begrudgingly 😎
If you know what you are doing then they can be occasionally tastefully used, but I personally dont and in general I would rather backers got on with listening and reflecting/playing the tune not ‘trying to make it more ”interesting”’ by adding added notes and extensions not present in the tune .
I see backers often being praised that they bring their Jazz influence into their playing and I agree it is commercially rewarding, it makes it more ‘understandable’ to the masses perhaps but I prefer say the tasteful backing of Jackie Daly [though he obviously has been influenced by Continental box players and tunes he still has a solid traditional approach throughout his Polka’s ] or Seamus Bugler.
. To be honest I dont really look to modern trad guitarist for inspiration or a depth of understanding as reflected by these guys, after all I started backing the tunes in the mid 80’s , What backers would I have heard apart from the Bothies? and they were long haired Hippies! not bastions of the tradition! 😉
A G major arpeggio wasn’t what I was thinking of, mr. p. I was talking about spots in melodies where there is some ambiguity, and there is no ambiguity in an arpeggio. Of course, an Em chord wouldn’t fit that, and your example doesn’t really prove much of anything.
While sometimes harmonic structure and tonal centers are clear, harmonies are not always strictly dictated by the shape of a tune—that is part of what makes it fun. And such choices are not just an example of ‘jazz influence.’
Zazzaliss, I hope I’m missing something but I have looked through the book & I simply cannot find anything which suggests you are choosing chords for any tune in the dorian mode. Everything I see regarding choices for minor keys (or minor mode) is the relative minor. The relative minor is the same as aeolian mode.
"Many here have criticized my choices on chords in the dorian mode, as well as my referral to it as the "minor" mode. The chords I suggest using for dorian tunes are chords that, …"
Quite simply the scale for E aeolian is E F# G A B C D
The scale for E dorian is E F# G A B C# D
Obviously you know this. Fair play if you simply acknowledge this now. But have I missed something in looking through the book? So far I see nothing which suggests you are passing along information about minor keys as being anything but those in the relative minor, i.e. ~ aeolian mode.
"The eye we see through is one based within Irish music looking out rather than from the outside looking in unlike many , perhaps the majority, of posters here…."
What does that even mean pio? Don’t get me wrong, Gary is making a good point. Don’t try so hard to make more out of it than it is. Please?
Piobagusfidil, I’m just listening to Paddy Carty’s album now and yes, the backing’s very sparse, but sorry, there are definitely both chord substitutions and chords that "clash" with the melody. I haven’t even got past the 1st track yet and I find a good example of a clash: 1:17 into the first track when they start the "West Wind", Paddy is playing |=cAd^c AGG^F|, Mick is playing an F major chord throughout the bar. Again at 1:20, Paddy is playing |~g3a g^fdg| while Mick plays an F major chord. Is this a mid-1970s jazz influence?!
Continuing through the album, I found a chord substitution at 1:16 in Jenny’s Wedding, Track 9. Paddy is playing |=cAAB c3d|eaag edd2| while Mick plays a C major chord throughout. By your standards he should be playing an A minor chord somewhere in there.Again at 1:20, Mick substitutes a G chord for what should be D or D-A-D in |fde^c d2ec|.
In Track 13, College Groves last part at 1:49, Paddy is playing |e2=ce cece|, while Mick is playing an A minor chord. According to you, he should not be substituting the relative minor here, since there is no A in the melody.
It’s true that Mick uses fewer substitutions than most backers do these days, but I asked you to give me an example of a backer who does not use ANY substitutions. Still waiting…
Fair enough Dow I Dont listen to guitar backers, I listen to solo pipers and solo fiddlers mainly . I cant be arsed rummaging through recordings listening for a backer! It doesnt matter to me particularly what other guitarists do unless they sit in sessions Im in ! If you want to play the ‘wrong’ chords thats up to you 🙂 As long as you know the tune and dont feck it up tunesmiths are remarkably tolerant of backers because there are relatively few who actually know what they are doing .
Ive already given you an example of a guitarist who uses no substitution, maybe you missed it.
@Al its not so much Jazz influence as our ears/brains are culturally acclimatised to hearing sounds as consonant or dissonant.
So to many people a chord substitution such as useing a G instead of Em in coolys occasionally sounds consonant while to me it sounds dissonant….
To me its like a fiddler useing lush vibrato in a trad tune, inappropriate, yes they know the tune , they can play the tune, but my ear says it sounds wrong, its as simple as that.
So a backer substituting relative chords sounds wrong or at least inappropriate to my ear as a tune player but as I pointed out its very common these days.
As far as I am concerned the lesson I learnt many yrs ago that ‘there is no substitution in Irish trad ’ is one I subscribe to and promote. I dont need to advance other guitar players opinions , they are entitled to their approach, if it works for them… I dont defer or refer to other players as ‘authorities’ in this field.
The tune is king, support the tune with the chords directly relating to the melody and IMO the music takes off . your mileage may vary.
Yeah, I missed it. Could you repeat again, for stupid little me, your guitarist who does not use chord substitutions? You won’t of course, because there is no such backer…
What is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
I dont use chord substitutions at all dow, as I said earlier. but really it isnt my aproach, it was simply founded on the , in those days uncontroversial, instructions to refrain from substituting when I was a newbie backer .
Now I guess you dont like those guidelines/ rules because perhaps it goes against your own practice? but thats what I was taught thats how I play and thats what I like from a backer; the right chords at the right time within the framework of trad, not Jazz or folk or rock.
I dont like chord substitutions and IMO within the context of trad they are like vibrato on the fiddle. Ok some fiddlers use vibrato [ not many thank gods! , ] Fair enough its a personal stylistic choice, just one I personally think sounds terrible. 😎
A backer useing chord substitutions is not so severe but just imagine how we would feel if in 20yrs every fiddler uses vibrato and its become’ traditional’ because tom dick and harry all use it on their CD’s along with the traditional Irish synthesizer. 🙂
Am I to assume piobasusfidil stands alone in his challenge to using chord substitutions as presented by Zazzaliss in his "Book on Accompaniment"?
I am still trying to wrap my mind around someone engaging in the use of G chords in accompanying Cooley’s, something I can’t say I have ever heard (although maybe someone very creative might get a hint of G squeezed into the end of a measure here or there without it sounding completely horrible). I wouldn’t refer to the use of G chords throughout this tune as a ‘substitution’ as much as a ‘mistake.’ If he is hearing things like this, piobagusfidil obviously travels in different circles than the rest of us, and this perhaps explains why he is so traumatized by the very thought of these infamous ‘substitutions.’
Myself, I think it is not so much a matter of substitutions as picking different chords that still fit the notes of the tune. There are many spots in many tunes where you have a choice where neither option is wrong, only different.
Piobagusfidil, fair enough. You can choose to play how you want to play of course. My only problem is when you say "within the framework of trad". Who are you to say what the framework of trad is? Who is your teacher to say what it is? Indeed, if you’re going to go that far, should you be accepting backers at all?
I think the framework of trad is defined by its practitioners. I’m pretty certain that you are the only backer in the world who does not use substitutions, piobagusfidil. Does that make you the only person in the world who can back Irish music in the proper traditional way?