How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

First discussion I’ve started for a while, but I hope this gets to the nitty gritty. (I’ll do my best not to be too preachy)

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

I always thought 90% was close enough until I started playing with a "proper" band. Now I learn tunes note for note with the piper, harpist and flute player. This is not to say we play things the same all the time as we arrange things and develop variations to keep things from getting too samey. Nowadays I ornament with the rest of the band and not when I feel like it (officially…if any of them are reading this…if they are not I may stick the odd triplet in when they’re not looking). I did get a bit ticked off when I first joined as I was always getting told my version of the tune was "wrong". I soon got the message though and the band sounds a whole lot better as a result: crisper and not blurred at the edges. So "properly" in this case is the same as the rest of the band.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is “properly” anyway?

If you play with the same people each time, it is worth standardising.
A bit of blurring is not a problem on the odd tune - one can be too much of a perfectionist.
There is no proper version of any tune, that’s what distinguishes us from classical players - but even a bit of fuzziness on the same tune is better than the cacophony of those great players who improvise at sessions because they’re too good to stop themselves from playing tunes they don’t know. Which, again, is not quite the same as trying to pick the tune discreetly until you get it right.

And Gill, refreshingly, your new discusssion is not preachy. Well done!

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Even worse, Cath, are those who KNOW a tune too well and think they are too good for it. They then go and spoil with with too many of their own variations and ornaments.

Back to the original topic. I think there’s an clear difference between having learned a tune in a different setting—there’s been a few of those posted here recently—and learning it wrong through laziness. When playing with other people in a band or session, your own setting or variation should either be the same or at least fit in with what the others are doing so you should sometimes be prepared to adapt even if you think or KNOW that your version is correct.

John

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is “properly” anyway?

Very true John. It comes down to team spirit really.
If you can’t blend in, don’t play with others.
Musical egos should be the preserve of rock musicians only.
Presently struggling to unlearn a great version of King of the Pipers, learnt from Paddy Glackin’s cd, so that I play a different version which is the one a session friend plays and is a recognised setting. Even though I do prefer PG’s setting.

Learning as many variations as you can would be ideal, but there are so many Irish tunes to learn, that it’s pretty impossible.

And then there are the regional variations….

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Michael, I beleive it is very important to learn a tune properly. And yeah, their could be a few different settings or bits here and there that vary from player to player. And I mean good experienced players.

A bandmate recently wanted to learn a tune he has chosen for our band to play. But he learns from sheet music, sometimes exclusively. He offered to put himself on tape playing it. That way I could learn it the way he will be playing it. I refuse to do that. A few times his versions are "naff" because he hasn’t learned it from a breathing living person. In all fairness, when I point out the naffnes, i.e. "No-one I have ever heard puts that bit in until the very last time only" or other such things, he does fix it. I will learn to do it authentically, even if it clashes with his version. I can’t change the way he does things, but I will learn it from my teacher and if she doesn’t know it, an "expert" recorded source.

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Andee - you’ve got me a bit puzzled - you refuse to learn to play it the way this bandmate does, you want to learn to do it "authentically". So what is the difference if we make the question:
"How important is it to learn tunes authentically, and what is authentically anyway"

The whole point of Michaels second question is surely to ask "What defines ‘authentic’ or ‘expert’ sources as authentic or expert?"

"There is no proper version of any tune, that’s what distinguishes us from classical players" - Exactly right Cath.

The whole question here hinges on this: Are you talking of playing with others, and in a performance situation?
It’s only when playing with others that there needs to be considerations of precision with regard to melody - and of course timing.
Think of someone playing a slow air - solo like you generally do. Then along comes someone else who plays it a little differently - don’t try it together lads!
As a logical extreme, imagine for a moment two people playing the same tune, but at different speeds and in different keys!

As for learning as many variations as possible - I dunno. I think you may find there are as many variations as there are (non-pedantic) musicians.
Here’s what you might do (before playing in performance mode): Play together - if it doesn’t work, then figure out who needs to change something. If it does work - you know the old saying - it ain’t broke so don’t fix it.

Dave

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is “properly” anyway?

I’m quite new to actually"playing" irish music, but I have been a spectator many times to sessions,and thought yes I like what I’m hearing and I would like to play like that.
Sometimes however, when I went along and after the first 4 or 5 tunes, all the tunes sounded pretty much the same to me, so like many others you tend to loose interest and swich off from it all.
Now don’t you lot out there assume I don;t know what I am talking about ,and yes all the tunes do sound the same to"Joe Bloggs" (the general public) . To get to my point … and the thread of the disccusion … the reason why all the songs sounded the same was because, either some of the musicians didn’t know the song and were improvising around the key of the tune (instead of keeping quiet) or players were playing variations of the tunes they learned at home thinking that was the "correct" version.
I take your point about the bluring of a tune, but if you take this to the extreme??
My point I think is especially relevant, if you have a room full of musicians who are strangers to each other as is often the case at folk festivals.
Which brings me to ask the question … I use "The Session " ALL the time to learn tunes, and I think its brilliant, but how do I know that the version on my computer screen is the "bees kness version" of the tune… the "CORRECT" way of playing it. I know what a lot of people might say, and that is there is know such thing as the "correct" version of a Irish tune and there never will be.
Seems like I’m going round in circles again ! ! Think I’ll go back to bed! Please any body out there don’t take this as a critisism of this web site … . . its definetley not.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

I don

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is “properly” anyway?

My point again is, crannong, if you don’t play a tune "correctly/properly" they will "tend" to sound the same, especially to the untrained ear.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see the truth and I think Stewpot has it.

There are two reasons why this stuff all sounds the same:
1. People who aren’t very good at writing tunes insist on doing so.
2. People who aren’t very good at learning tunes strip out the individuality of the good tunes.

Lets take a specific example. My latest favourite is "lost in the loop" by Liz Carrol. Not only is she possibly the best tune writer around, but people rarely learn her tunes properly. And by properly, I don’t meen exactly the way she plays it, but all the right notes in the right order.

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Well Dave, I guess what I meant was that if my friend was going to put a tune on tape from having learned it only from sheet music, I may as well just use the midi file to learn it. Same difference to me. It’s not that a few notes here and there are different, it’s that I won’t be learning it in the traditonal way. Unless you are really good, looking at sheet music as your only source for the tune and then recording that is not much better than a midi file. But I already said that.

Stew—there’s not one correct version necessarily, but there generally seems to be a general consensus version, and if yours doesn’t clash too much it’s prob ok, but I do like to play it the way I hear more experienced players play it myself.

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I see what you mean Andee - but I disagree.
You are suggesting that someone who learns from the sheet is going to play EXACTLY as written, and apply no style or personality to the music. Sure, if that were the case, then you might as well listen to a midi. But unless your sheet music man is one of the kind of classical musician (not all are like this!) who has had all the style beaten out of them, and been made to play exactly whats writtten and nothing else at all ever ever ever, I am of the opinion that he will play it his way - just as I would play it my way, and you would play it your way if you learned it from the sheet music.

In a discussion a few weeks ago, someone asked what was the spark that turned a non-recording non-professional player into a professional, recording player - and someone suggested that the only difference was "audacity".

I don’t personally listen to much recorded music at all. I listen to live players (and learn the tunes they play), or play myself. I suspect that there is a sort of "golden glow" attributed to people who dare to put tunes onto recordings - somehow believing that they must somehow have the secret knowledge of the REAL version of the tune - whereas really they are just playing a known tune in their own style, same as any of us might do.

I think that to slavishly follow every tiny nuance of characterisation displayed in the recorded playing of a tune by a certain artist is just as far from the real world of traditional music as the already mentioned extreme of the kind of "soulless" classical playing one encounters - -where again the player becomes nothing more than a machine to make the dots into sounds. (I hasten to add yet again that not all classical players are like that).

I would stress again that while it is necessary for any group of people playing together to have sufficient similarity to avoid spoiling the tune, there is no absolute right and wrong way to play a tune.

What if I’m just having a little twang at home and the Tune Correctness Police come bursting in and arrest me for playing Cnatural instead of the last Csharp in King of the Fairies. What court will try me? Who will be my judge? (The guy who says guitars and bodhrans have no place in irish music? The guy who says recorders have no place in irish music? The guy who says you can only play this music if you are born in ireland?)

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Andee - sorry! I forgot to put a big smile and a hug on the end of all that, cos it’s only conversation - I’d hate to be thought to be ranting.

Dave XXXXX ;o)

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

What court will try you? Why, the court that’s in Session, natch. Bailif, chain this man in claps!

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Dave there is a smart missile loaded with exploding shakey eggs and directional sound sensors hovering over your home right now, waiting, just waiting for you to play that inauthentic version of KOTF. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

I think I know what Michael and Stewpot are getting at and I think I agree with them. Too much ornament or counterpoint doesn’t enhance the tune, it levels it out, kind of like those admittedly technically gifted jazz players who use tso many substitutions and passing tones on every song that you can’t tell the difference.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Well, I think counseling a bit of moderation in all directions would be a good idea. *grin* There are no rules, and when you break one, you’ll find out about it, or even worse, you won’t.

When I play with my piper Dirk for our band, we double a great deal. Sometimes we go to the extent of playing the exact same variations, same phrasing, everything. The audiences adore it, and we go to a lot of trouble to do it. Other times it’s not doubled at all and we do whatever either of us feels like at the time. The music has a much edgier feel at that point, and the audiences like that, too. Depending upon how "arranged" our arrangement in fact is, either way works.

It’s funny, we’ve gotten to the point now where, out at sessions, Dirk and I will vary on the fly in the exact same way now, we’re so used to playing with each other — we even make the same mistakes at the same time, sometimes, which is hilarious. It’s not uncommon for both of us to stop to laugh in the middle of a tune because we’ve done something that we thought would surprise the other and the other did the exact same thing to us.

The other week, I took a workshop with Tommy Peoples. Nobody would play for him, so he finally appealed to me to play, and he wanted Mountain Road, as we were talking about bowing and phrasing. Just as I lifted bow to string, I realized that I’d never properly learned Mountain Road, only picked it up at sessions. That was a bit embarrassing. *grin* But I then realized that I have quite a lot of tunes that I picked up at sessions and have never actually gone back and played them through to get the real meat and heart of the thing together in my fingers.

So yes, I’d say learning tunes properly is important, given a fairly relaxed yet narrowish set of parameters for "properly". Especially when you first start off playing, I’ve been taught it’s important to stick a little closer to that narrow side of the definition — when you’ve been playing 20 years, you can take a few more liberties, I think, because you know exactly what "rules" you’re breaking and why. It’s too easy to just p*ss all over the music otherwise — of course, some people place a higher premium on their own enjoyment of a thing within a fairly narrow definition of "enjoyment", and that’s okay too, but I might not necessarily want to play with them.

There is, at the heart of almost any well crafted tune, a sort of base line version of the thing. Variations are supposed to be exactly that — a variant of the original, but not changing the heart of the thing in the slightest. (Then it becomes another setting, not a variant. So there’s nothing wrong with that, either, per se.)

To be polite, you stick to the setting that the person who started the tune uses — for instance, in Mason’s Apron, you should generally cock an ear towards them on that second phrase to see if they use an F natural, an F sharp, or if they bypass the whole thing altogether by playing an A, and use that.

Nothing wrong with ornament. (Depending on the session you’re playing in, there may be nothing wrong with counterpoint, either, but you’d better cock a sharp eye out the first time you try it to see if you’re in a session that thinks too much of that sort of thing is too un-traditional.)

The court that tries you, the police that will come to take you away, are in fact both yourself and the people you’re playing with. It’s altogether as important and as non-important as that. 🙂

Zina

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

That’s a good answer Zina. Though with me, whether I’ve learned a tune properly or not seems to bare no relavence to whether I just picked it up in many sessions by osmosis, or I sat down with my finger on the hovering over the pause button, or a mate went through it note for note.

I think some tunes just suit a kind of "90% will do" and the mountain road is a good example. (I didn’t know what tune you were talking about so I looked it up in Jeremy’s archive. Oh yeah, that one. There are so many tunes I’ver never learned the names of. Perhaps that’s the answer? If a tune is worth learning properly, it’s worth learning its name) I think the mountain road sounds great at a session with everyone playing slightly different versions and decoration in different places. Its hook is strong enough to cope with it.

But take lost in the loop. It’s such a precise invention and avery little turn is so subtly wonderful that you are only doing yourself a diservice by settling for 98% of it.

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Half the time when someone wants me to start Mountain Road because they can’t, I give them Humors of Tulla or one of those…very embarassing! LOL My favorite "98%" rendition of Mtn Road is probably off Doublin’ (Glackin and Keenan), so you can do it even with those more normally "90%" tunes, of course, and have it turn out lovely. But you’re right, 90% will usually do it for that sort of "tune of chords".

On the other hand, now that I think of it, when Tommy Peoples played Mountain Road for us, it was…spectacular, not the adjective I’d normally use for that particular tune. So I guess it’s all in who plays the thing…! Heh.

Sometimes, playiing at 98% is great. Sometimes, so is playing at 80%. It all depends on the day, I guess.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Zina, so how did your rendition of Mountain Road at the workshop go, and what did TP say?

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

I think we have to realize that there is a difference between a spectacular player making a run of the mill tune sound spectacular and a spectacular tune that any run of the mill player should be able to make sound spectacular. (I’m talking good tunes here, not difficult ones). Remeber, this whole session thing is about tunes, not players.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is “properly” anyway?

Michael,
in fact, the best thing about Lost in the Loop is the fine detail, those elegant jumpings from one string to another, and changing any of it would most likely spoil it.
I wish I could play it well though, but until I do, I’m not playing it at sessions.
The chord progression in the first part is in alphabetical order, which is quite different, but makes it easy for my husband to remember, c, dm, e, f, g…. great stuff

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LOL — it was hilarious. He was asking how I played it normally, because we were talking about how bowing affects the tune. I love fooling about with bowing, but had never done it with Mtn Road, never having worked it before, and so I did a very plain Jane, vanilla version of the thing. How embarassing! LOL — so sometime this week, I’m going to have to go through all my vanilla standards and work them a bit to see if I can’t get the bowing to be a bit more interesting.

I’m quite sure that Liz Carroll probably fools about with the Loop herself. Write her and ask, she’s the nicest woman alive, I’m sure she’d tell you what she does with the thing when playing it out at a session. (Although you probably won’t hear back for a while, because she’s also one of the busiest women alive.)

P.s.

Oh yes, I forgot to say, TP was extremely *kind*. LOL

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

It’s so hard, when you start, to play even a semblance of the right notes in the right order, whether you are learning from music ,recordings or live performances.It’s even harder to try to please playing colleagues of different backgrounds and tastes, trying to please all the people all the time is a nonstarter. So, where does a beginner start, with dots? if they have a classical background or by ear, because that is more traditional?This discussion site is such a good place to learn.But you all have very different opinions, so, from a learners point of view, which is "right". The wee ones came back fromthe Feis, full of enthusiasm, and tunes, one of which was apparently called the "flying dodger". However, musical memory was not faultless, and I was asked to look for music onthe Net. No Flying Dodger.Closer questioning revealed that it was a tune from Liz Carroll , and after looking up her site, I found Fly and Dodger, which I printed out, and also found on the CD. The kids had learned a, slightly different version, which they hold to be corrrect, despite furious arguments with me!
So the compromise even within the family, is that both versions are OK.
End of story
One day we shall play some tunes well enough I hope.

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If ever you come accross the argument about which is the correct version, settle on the version which is best, and forget the other one.

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I have to defend Andee’s position regarding learning tunes from band-mates. I have encountered the same dilemma in the past. If someone I’m playing tunes with regularly wants me to learn a tune, I usually ask them where they got it, especially if it sounds like some of the edges might have fallen of, or if I think I might have heard a much more interesting setting somewhere. Often I would listen to the recording they learned it from to discover they left out or changed some key-notes in the tune. If they learned it from sheet music, then it’s highly suspect, and I’m compelled to research the tune. At the end of the day, I want to play the same setting for the tune that my tune-mates are, but I want us to have a good example before we lock into it. (Like Michael says, there is no "right" version) Before I realized this, I had to go back and re-tool tunes that I learned without considering these issues. I always prefer to learn tunes from an aural source, and if sheet music is involved, it only should serve as a visual supplement to the aural source.

For example: when I decide to learn a new tune from this website; I see if I recognize the tune first, then I investigate the data base and comments to see if I have the same recording as the person who submitted it; and then I investigate other sources I might have before I begin learning. If I already have a recorded version I love; then I learn that. If I’m playing the tune with someone that has a different setting than the one I favor, I employ my best diplomatic skills and compromise as much as possible to arrive at something. If we can’t agree, we don’t play the tune together. (As if there ever could be a tune shortage crisis.)

In the event that my band/session-mates and I don’t agree on a setting for the tune, we will each have our own medley with the tune in it, or invent them on the spot so that we can still play our favored version from time to time. I will sometimes start off with the controversial setting I prefer so that my musical pals can sit it out if they choose, and then they can come in on the following tune. There’s no need to let this minor discrepancy get in the way of everyone’s enjoyment of the music.

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I think there are two different threadlets on the go here:
The first is the "are there any wrong versions" question - and I think the answer is probably yes, but also an infinite number of right versions, variations etc.
However, to my mind, the more important question is does the version sound right, and to whom? Surely the most important thing is that it sounds right to the player. Here’s a quote from Kevin Burke "When I find something I love, I play it - when I fnd something I like I bend it out of shape until I love it." Somebody will now come back and say that we aren’t all as good a KB - but perhaps that’s actually one of the things that makes a great player great is INTEGRITY (as well as audacity). It’s important that you craft what you are doing until you are totally happy with it.
Of course "happy" might be different in different contexts. You may wish to learn a particular setting or variant of a tune because of who you’re going to play with or for. I agree that it’s a great effect to hear 2 or 3 players going note for note, grace note for grace note, even greater when they do it naturally because they grew up with the same influences… but there is a charm to a looser effect sometimes.
Sometimes session players - and I’ve done this myself, so I know - feel pressed to learn a lot of tunes in a hurry, so they can join in, and especially if they know the genre quite well, or have a pretty quick ear and a bit of technique, they join in right away, playing what they think they hear. It’s very easy to get a watered down version established then and possibly never realise how watered down it is. In a few cases I still prefer my watered down versions, but more often I look back and realise how wrong I was.
Back to integrity - it’s a mixture of respect for the tune, and possibly the tradition (although that’s another indefinable) and your listeners, but mainly self respect. Don’t play that Fnatural if you really don’t like it, leave that roll out if you don’t think it sounds right. Listen to the players you think sound best - let them be your influence - judge yourself by your own high standards or don’t bother.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is ?properly? anyway?

Michael,

What about Ed Reavy’s tunes? Almost nobody plays them "properly", as he wrote them down anyway. Many of the more awkward turns of phrase in Reavy’s tunes seem to come out in the wash as generations of players learn them and pass them on by ear, and I think they often sound the better for this process. Detail is lost, corners are rubbed off, yes, but they end up more coherent in many cases. More "traditional sounding"?

As an example, take Martin Byrnes’ version of Maudebawn Chapel (as recorded by Kevin Burke). I like it better than the original. And who plays the alternating endings in Love at the Endings, or in Hunter’s House?

I haven’t heard Lost in the Loop. Is this what is happening to it, do you think? Isn’t this bound to happen if you write tunes that employ patterns of notes that don’t usually occur in traditional tunes, or that are simply a bit beyond the playing skills or memory skills of yer average session bum?

Steve

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Perhaps the best way is to learn a tune "properly" so that it can be played without faltering before moving on to anything else. However, I always have(and I’m sure many others do) several partly learned tunes on the go at one time and it sometimes takes a week or two(sometimes months) before I can play them to my own satisfaction. Obviously, I wouldn’t introduce them to a session at this stage but might well be tempted to join in if somebody else did. There are other tunes, of course, that I/we learn by osmosis (as Michael himself points out) and we might not even know if they’re right or not. We assume that they are though, as that’s how the company plays them.

John

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Ahhh… a new thread could emerge now all right. The original thread is a two-part topic, but the question of when and how do YOU alter a tune — raises a whole new issue. Some might call this the "folk process," and that could be accurate, but it’s un-plowed territory to wander into. It does explain how so many versions develop, and it explains why some are good, and others are not so good. But when you get into the why, when, and how of it, you can easily loose your footing if you lack experience with the genre. Having said that, I

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Yup. I remember thinking about that when at the Peoples workshop — he kept saying, "now, this is only my way of doing this. You might find you like a totally different way of doing it, and that’s all right." I kept wondering if there’s any way to keep yourself stable on the slippery slope; my conclusion (at least currently) is that all you can do is listen and listen and listen some more and choose to go the way you like…

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

…and realize that no matter how much you listen and immerse yourself in the music that’s come before, you will necessarily put some of yourself into the tune. You can’t help but sound like yourself, even if you try to faithfully copy someone else, and other influences that are combined uniquely in your experience of music and life will creep into your playing. Which is a _good_ thing.

I think the important thing is to be concious of this process, not necessarily to guide it (althought that too can be a good thing), but to at least be aware of your influences, so that your playing is more genuinely *informed* by them. In other words, your personal sense of what is "proper" will be more informed by the trad community’s collective sense of what is proper because you better understand the context for the notes, rhythms, and techniques you use.

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It seems that a lot of this discussion frowns upon learning tunes from a written source, favoring the aural approach. I suppose that most of the time, that is the best course. I can think of at least one example where the written source came in handy. I freelance with a number of bands, playing melody instruments in some (whistle, accordion) and playing rhythm instruments in others (guitar, bass). Frequently I end up playing the same tunes in these various bands - necessitating that I learn both the melody and rhythm parts. One tune in particular "Spootiskerry" reel I had been playing in one band for years when sitting in with a different band, they throw this tune in at the end of one of their sets. Since I’m playing bass in both of these situations, I’m cruising along using the same chord changes and everything is going fine when coming to the end of the "B" section I find the band is one beat ahead of me. Same thing happens on the repeat - so now I know it’s not just my mistake - it’s a trend. So I’m thinking that this band must be doing some different arrangement of the tune, something funky with the rhythm and when I ask them about it, they weren’t even aware that anything was amiss. The fiddler told me that she learned the tune off of a recording she had made while attending a workshop, or master class or something like that. So after asking her to play through the B part slowly a few times, I realized what was different about how she was playing it than how the other band (which included all 32 beats of the B part). I pointed out that she was dropping a couple of the notes in the last phrase. Either the recording she had learned from was mistaken, or she just hadn’t listened closely enough, I don’t know. But I found a couple of versions of it with the ABC Tune Finder, printed them out which despite their differences included the correct amount of beats and for better or worse that band nows plays a version that can be danced to without the hiccup.

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LOL — well, it’s back to moderation again…really, the printed music is a good tool, just like the aural way of learning music is a good tool. In the case of the printed music, it’s especially useful if you already know how the style and pulse and such is gotten. If you don’t have that already, learning by ear is usually better until you do.

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Will, you touched on something I feel like babbling about:

"…at least be aware of your influences, so that your playing is more genuinely *informed* by them."

My playing of any individual tune varies every time depending on what kind of mood I’m in, who I’m playing with, where I stick the tune in a set, and how much beer I’ve had to drink. It’s like cooking - even if I follow the recipe exactly every single time I make a stir fry it will never taste the same twice. But I digress, because I haven’t had breakfast.

What I’m trying to say is that sometimes I’m in a Martin Hayes kind of mood and sometimes I’m in a Liz Doherty kind of mood. I often make a conscious decision to throw a little more of this or that into my style no matter what tune I’m playing. I’ve found that when I’m having a Martin Hayes moment I tend to take out notes here and there and think mostly about melody and tone. In a Doherty moment I am thinking more about rhythm and crisp ornamentation. (Towards the end of the night I tend to have Shane McGowan moments with increasing regularity whether I like it or not). Anyway, I don’t think I have one consistent version of any tune at all, (except maybe the most tricky ones) and I don’t think any of my renderings are more or less "correct" than any other rendering.

So, uh, in conclusion… my personal experience is that not busying my limited brain capacity worrying about whether I’m doing it "right" or "wrong" makes more room to come up with subtle improvements to my playing on the fly. Somehow I have to tie that together with Will’s comment… hmm… let’s see… well, being conscious of my influences is one of the tools I can use to do this.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Yep, it’s like having this sound library in your head and you lapse into a certain sound because you’re familiar with it. And then you can change it to something else. After a while, I think you tend to internalize all these ideas and sounds and they come naturally, depending on your mood.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Exactly. That’s what I’m aiming for anyway, but I’ve always been much better at figuring out the philosophy than applying it in the real world.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Join the club, Kerri. Plus, in sessions, we tend to play witha herd mentality, which doesn’t allow for as much sensitivity and shifting gears, at least in bigger sessions. So it’s hard to practice this mindset just by playing in sessions.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Listen to John Carty playing The Silver Spear or the Sligo Maid and ask yourself which is the "Proper" version of the tune?

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Mine is. I can’t play like John Carty. *grin*

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Well, it’s risky to base your sense of what a fair session setting of a tune might be on what gets recorded commercially. Musicians do all sorts of aerobatics with tunes to help sell cds. Lots of things might be "proper" on a cd or a contest or performance stage that wouldn’t sit so well at your local pub with the gang all trying to play along.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Now we’re talking about applying the tune. Learning the tune ‘properly’ is different than playing it after the learning is completed. And the learning is never really ‘completed’ either I suppose.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Oh god, so I suppose that means I never get to play it then, Jack? ;)

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hahahahahaha

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

That’s part of the problem with recorded tunes, Will — they’re customized for the market, or designed to show of a particular artist’s abilities. That’s why I shop around and listen to different examples. If I have a c

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Hey does anybody feel like posting "Lost in the Loop" I got all intrigued by the comments about it, but it isn’t here. (Right?)

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Could be a copyright problem with posting "Lost in the Loop" if you don’t go about it correctly. In February I posted a copyright tune to mark a special occasion, but I first sought, and obtained, permission from the copyright holder to do so.
Trevor

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Last time I posted a Liz Carroll tune I e-mailed her and she had no problem with it at all. She’s just pleased that people are playing them in sessions. What a nice lady she is.

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her: "Thanks for writing to me. I did take a peek at the site you mentioned, and what I’d have to say is that, speaking for myself, I am genuinely delighted that people play my tunes. I traded tunes, copied tapes, transcribed troublesome bits… whatever it took, when I was growing up playing. I’m totally happy to receive a royalty check if a tune of mine is played on a label. I’m mostly inclined to not accept checks for homemade/selfmade cds. I really don’t mind databases including my tunes etc… I’m sure I’ll never jump on that discussion group, but you can pass along for me that it’s still traditional Irish/Celtic music, and what I and my friends like is to know tunes so we can sit down and play!" [I think she’s probably wise to steer clear of us lot!]

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Dave, I realize you are not ranting 🙂.

Jack, thanks for your defense of me, it kind of explains my situation better than I already did in a way. Suffice it to say this is something I need to work out with my bandmate—a touchy subject.

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

We recorded one of her tunes on our CD, and when I met her, I asked her if I owed her anything for it. She said, "Yea I heard about that, you murdered my tune!" (I’m just joking ok) …anyway, she said basically the same thing she said here. Since we aren’t major recording artists, and we don’t belong to a big label — she had no problem with it. I did give her a CD, but I hate to think what might have gone through her head if she heard her tune. *cringe*

Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

The best point so far is "Learning the tune ‘properly’ is different than playing it after the learning is completed" from Jack.

And the thing I’ll have to do now is check out lost in the loop on the Liz web site to see if I do have it properly. Though it’s just possible that I learned it right and there are mistakes in her writen version.

And has anyone checked the Salamanca recently?

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

Michael, re the Salamanca. Yes. I have, today.
Trevor

Re: Authenticity

It came as a bit of a shock, but then I suppose it makes perfect sense: I recently learned that this music we call "traditional Irish music" is in fact not an old music at all, it is only about 40 years old!

Before anyone jumps out of their seats, let me qualify that and maybe that might also help clarify some issues about ‘authenticity’ — many of these tunes we play are indeed variations and genetic permutations of ancient melodies handed down across countless generations, at least, those that aren’t O’Carolin, and even those I wonder if he’d recognize our versions. You see, some points to consider:

* pub sessions were invented in 1947, in England, and not introduced to Ireland until much later.

* the bodhran wasn’t used in Irish session-style music until the 1960’s when it was popularized by the Chieftains and others, probably to give us more of a rock and roll backbeat.

* the uillean pipes were invented in the 1890’s, the bazooki was brought in during the 60’s, even the fiddle is only a part of the music in the past 300 years.

* true ‘traditional’ Irish music, the ancient sort, was played, they tell me, in "cantus firmus", all instruments playing the same melody. No drop-D guitar, no polka-piano, certainly no New-Orleans-Jazz style second-horn counter-melodies!

so the question then arises: "Authentic to whom?" My personal view is the reason most of the world’s native folk music was wiped out by mass media, but Irish music continues to be a powerful export and chart-topper precisely because it is flexible. You can mix it with Cowboy, with Afro-Beat, it can be new-age rain-forest meditation-tape or a blazing disco inferno … and you can use the same tune to do all of them!

That said, I believe there are subtle things to be learned from the tradition that are transcendent of the music. The phrasings, the embellishments, the rhythms (reel vs jig vs hornpipe for example) and the flow from one tune to the next to make a set, these are all intangible skills of deep local tradition that can only be learned by playing with players steeped in the tradition.

At one of my first ever sessions with some Acadian players, I was so proud of myself, I was asked for a tune and I actually knew one, and played "Northern Lights" best I could and they all joined in and it sounded wonderful — after we finished, one of the older players, another mandolinist, leaned over and smiled and whispered, in his thick Acadian accent, "You have all the right notes, and in the right order, too" — his wink just seemed to hint to me that what he was really saying was "now you must learn to make it come alive!"

People from two different traditions may differ in where and what and how they might embellish to make the music breathe, but the important thing is how the social context of making the music transmits this indescribable knowledge; the fact that these hooks, rhythms and flourishes exist today are unimportant by themselves, but they are hard evidence of musicians living and learning together in a deep social belonging … which is why you have to get out and become part of it, live, while it is happening!

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Re: How important is it to learn tunes properly? And what is

garym wrote: "…even the fiddle is only a part of the music in the past 300 years." This is about how long the dance tunes we talk mostly about here have been developing. My understanding is that at about 300 years ago folks in Ireland were bringing dances back from their travels to Europe and asking local Irish musicians to play something "so we can dance like this." The "set dancing" as it would eventually be called, developed hand-in-hand with the music, in a uniquely Irish way, over the next couple of centuries.

I agree with Gary