What harmonies do you play?

What harmonies do you play?

After picking up the concentina I found that having fiddles, whistles, pipes, flute and concentina all playing the same tune could be expanded if I played a harmony on the concertina. As an example, see the Fanny Powers Harmony I submitted to the Tunes database. I was thinking there must be a large repertoire out there of harmonies to those favourite tunes.

How do you feel about harmonies? Do you have any you’ve developed?

Robin

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I prefer not to have harmonies in the ABCs. If I save the ABC of a tune I like, the first thing I do is to strip out any harmony provided. One reason is that chord selection is much of a personal thing, on a par with ornaments, and is much more intrusive. Another reason is when doing a text search in a big ABC file for a sequence of notes - chords in the file can render such a search incomplete.
It’s important to remember that the wrong choice of chord can wreck the modality of a tune. It’s not particularly appreciated when someone uses inappropriate harmony in a tune being played in a session.
I’m not against harmony instruments in sessions, as long as everyone concerned knows what they’re doing, don’t clash, don’t ruin the modality, and don’t drown out the melody instruments.
Trevor

Re: What harmonies do you play?

If you’re interested in harmony I would recommend attending a class or getting a good text on the subject (e.g. "Harmony" by Annie O. Warburton published by Longmans, if it’s still in print). To my ear though F# and G do not go well together even in Irish music.
I would also suggest that submitting the like of "Fanny Power’s Harmony" to the tune database is inappropriate for two reasons - firstly, the title is a misnomer and secondly, I believe the datbase to be for the passing on of Irish Traditional Dance Music.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Ouch! seems I’ve hit a sore spot!

I’m certainly not suggesting that harmonies be included with abc’s fidicen. I know what you mean, chords certainly are personal. What I was trying to get at is what chording for certain tunes to you like? What I am suggesting is that quietly in the background I can play a harmony line that doesn’t obscure the tune in any way but adds color to it.

I would have to agree with you milesnagopaleen that there is a clash in the middle but when I play the concertina in the background I can’t say I notice the clash the way it shows up in midi files. This is what I’m after though - what shouldn’t be done, what should? If I’m screwing things up I’d like a heads up and suggestions for improvements.

As for submitting the tune - do you have a better suggestion for the title? I’m quite happy to change it. Secondly, the tune I submitted stands quite well played on its own so I don’t feel too guilty about putting it on here. It does make a respectable jig.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I’ve found that a lot of tunes can mesh with a lot of other tunes on top of each other. for example, that tune which I posted as ‘copeland’s’ but which is apparently a version of Bonaparte’s Retreat goes well, I think, with ‘scotland the brave’ played under it.

we’ve often performed ‘ta mo chleamhnas deanta’ (i.e. me + friends) and we’ve thus worked out a couple of solid harmonies to go with that.
one of the lines starts out
DEF|G3 F2 G E3 DEF|G3 A2 B c2 … .
(if you don’t know the original tune it goes DEF|G3 G2 B B3 A2|g3 f2 g e3 …)

I think -just now, off the top of my head, haven’t tried this- that if one were to play ‘I buried my wife and danced on her grave’ together with ‘old hag you have killed me’ they might mesh well. funny, that.

but if there is a large collection of standard harmonies, I don’t know of it.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

This topic really is too complex for anything definitive to be written here. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that in Western music the most common harmonic tones for any given note are sixths and thirds. If you play a sixth or third above or below any melody line you’ll create a harmonic "mirror" of the tune that will sound friendly to the ears of anyone accustomed to any of the Western folk traditions — Celtic especially. (Whereas, just to give another example, playing or singing a minor pentatonic melody over seventh chords gives you the unmistakable sound of the blues — it naturally tosses in those "blue notes" that are so definitive.)

The reason that there are dozens of exceptions to such general rules-of-thumb is that Celtic music is almost always modal, meaning that it isn’t easily boxed up in the form of a scale that will accommodate just any harmonies. As mentioned above, that’s why it’s easy to mess up the Celtic "feel" of a tune by sticking to any sort of shortcut like that.

The harmonies need to come from the chords, which means that you’ll need to learn those and the melodies, and then experiment to see what blends and what doesn’t. Sounds tedious, but it’s usually kind of fun. Singers have to learn this either from formal study or ear training and intuition.

So don’t be put off — having one instrument in a group playing harmony is what makes good music sound better. But having someone harmonize by playing the *wrong* notes will render something more akin to free jazz than traditional Celtic tones.

If none of this makes sense, please consult one of the books mentioned above, or a teacher, or someone who is better versed in theory than I am.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

So GW, how does so-called Celtic music differ from non-Celtic music, eg English traditional music?

Re: What harmonies do you play?

it’s the beards

Posted .

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Yes, just defining "Celtic" and which of the various traditions within that artificial grouping of traditions gets too complex for me…

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Regarding posting ‘harmonies’ in the tunes section, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be added in the comments box. Those that don’t like them, or don’t find them ‘traditional’ enough, can ignore them.

It is not my place to dictate whether harmonies are appropriate oor inappropriate in traditional music. It depends on the session and its personnel. In my opinion, a harmony part becomes intrusive when it starts to obscure the melody, or detract from its beauty - which is largely subjective.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I have spoken to Jeremy - session.org guru - and moved the harmony for Fanny Powers into a comment on that tune. Does seem much more sensible although I still think it sounds nice played on its own πŸ™‚

As for harmonies themselves, I do have musical training but not specifically on harmonies. What I have picked up was learned singing harmonies in english folk clubs. The idea is just to add texture to a tune, certainly not jump in with LOOK AT ME-SEE WHAT I CAN DO πŸ˜‰ I’ll leave that to someone who knows what they’re doing!

Robin

Re: What harmonies do you play?

What differentiates Celtic music? No, no, and no. I’m not opening that particular can of worms. The beards is a good enough answer for me. Or perhaps the beer. Or the accents. There are good debates about this over on Irtrad-L, with about a thousand avid people who will enjoy helping you argue it ad infinitum.

The point I was making is that there are "Western harmonies" that sound normal or "right" to Westerner’s ears. Since Celtic music falls into this category, the traditional harmonies of Western musical cultures hold sway. As opposed to, for instance, Indian classical music, or the microtones of Chinese folk music, or gamelan music, or whatever.

So, Celtic, English, Bluegrass, Arcadian — same hamonies apply, even if the defining differences in the music lie elsewhere.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

So, *which* "celtic"? Breton? Irish? Scottish? Cape Breton? Galician? Asturian? There’s some Irish songs that remind me of Chinese ones, at any rate…

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Oh, yeah, that slow air called To Ning….

Michele

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I guess microtones must be the asian complement to leprachauns

Re: What harmonies do you play?

And I think I’ve heard Vin Garbutt sing a version of that slow air.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

We discovered tonight in a tune-learning workshop that the tune Bring Back The Child (https://thesession.org/tunes/1653) can be played as a round, in canon with itself. The second player starts at the beginning when the first player starts the third bar and everything fits from there on.
Does anyone know of any other Irish traditional tunes where this sort of thing could be done?
Trevor

Re: What harmonies do you play?

"The point I was making is that there are "Western harmonies" that sound normal or "right" to Westerner’s ears."

Disagree. This is a generalization using imprecise language. Pick any given era of Western music, any given distinct style within that era, and I will argue that the harmonic language that applies (or is implied) is different. Further: "normal" or "right" is an enculturated phenomenon—and different "Westerners" (west of Suez? west of Greenwich? west of the Hudson? west of the Mississippi? west of San Diego?) will hear harmony differently.

"Since Celtic music falls into this category, the traditional harmonies of Western musical cultures hold sway."

Wrong, and wrong. "Celtic" music (what’s that?) does *not* simply "fall into th[e] category" of "Western music." That’s why Carolan sounds different than Denis Hempson, why "Johnny Cope" sounds different than "Hunter’s House." To say nothing about how different music from different regions has different harmonic expectations. And what the hell does "hold sway" mean?

You want an interesting experiment? Try harmonizing the same tune using diatonic triads, versus an octave drone. Which "harmony" should "hold sway"?

"So, Celtic, English, Bluegrass, Arcadian — same hamonies apply"

Wrong. Listen to Ralph Stanley’s band harmonize. Then listen to the Watersons harmonize. Then the Voice Squad. Not the same harmonies. And remember that 95% of the tunes themselves are passed on as single-note melodies: harmonies are implicit in some melodies, less so in others, totally arguable in still others. Some tunes can be "harmonized" in 2 different keys in 2 different settings. Which harmonization should "hold sway" over the other?

BTW: You mean "Acadian," right? I’ve never heard Arcadian music, except in Shakespeare.

chris smith

Re: What harmonies do you play?

>Bring Back The Child can be played as a round, in canon with itself….Does anyone know of any other Irish traditional tunes where this sort of thing could be done?

The Butterfly

—-Michael B.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I believe he means Arcadian as in ‘Cajun’…..

Re: What harmonies do you play?

… though Acadian is strictly speaking more correct.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Yes—my point. "Acadie" was originally French-speaking Atlantic Canada; "Arcadia" is a place ruled by Titania and Oberon.

Re: What harmonies do you play?

There waaaas a lover and his lass, with a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no, and a heeeeeeyyyyy, nonny nonny nooooo…. πŸ™‚

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I had a look at some sites about the provenance of the term Acadie, because I know that a lot of people do refer to ‘Arcadian’ in reference to Cajun. One suggested that the name Acadie came from a map that the cartographer had missed the ‘r’ from(!). A lot of cajun musicians seem to use the terms Arcadian and Acadian quite interchangeably - though I suspect that’s more down to the general degredation of language than anything else.
Interesting….
Mark

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Chris — scale back on the coffee, friend. And scroll back to my post on Sunday, which closes with "If none of this makes sense, please consult one of the books mentioned above, or a teacher, or someone who is better versed in theory than I am." Such as … you, a well-trained scholarly, and talented musician.

The hostility and ridicule that fairly drips from you reply is kind of curious. Sorry if I was offensive in trying to offer broad generalizations for concepts that don’t lend themselves to description, but which are much better and more easily demonstrated aurally, or at a piano keyboard.

As I think this whole thread attests, harmony is a tremendously complicated and often subjective topic. Certainly it’s not important enough to you that you feel oblligated to belittle a stranger whom you feel has misrepresented the subject? I sincerely hope you have more important things in your life to get upset about than a supposedly friendly discussion on an Internet message board.

Since there seems to be confusion caused bymy use of Arcadian, please realize that this is a fairly common term that owes much more to Victorian painting and/or Tom Stoppard’s play of that name than it does to Shakespeare’s confused geography in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" (which juxtaposes ancient Greece and Renaissance England’s woodlands in a wonderfully confusing and fanciful way.)

From Websters Unabridged Dictionary:

"Main Entry: ar

Re: What harmonies do you play?

I didn’t honestly see that Chris’s reply was all that hostile or ridiculing. This might be shaded by the fact that I know he’s a nice man, though. The "Arcadian" definition thing seems to be proving the point that there’s no real such thing as Arcadian music. Personally, though, I have more problems with the use of "Celtic", since it lumps quite a few different kinds of music in (likely who use harmony differently from each other, though perhaps similarly enough to those who do not focus on only one of those traditions).

You might try the IR-Trad list. *grin* There’s lots less hostility and ridicule there, oh yes, indeed. hehehe

Re: What harmonies do you play?

Michael B - I just tried the Butterfly as a round using midi files - talk about not-celtic music harmonies πŸ™‚ sounded great to me though. I think I’ll see if I can get our session on Sunday to give it a go with real instruments!