Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Why irish traditional music is in D…?

I know that’s a quite useless question, and maybe it’s stupid too, but… just curiosity!
So, are there anyone who knows why ITM is almost all in the scale of D?
Historical reasons or something like that…
Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Is it to do with the uilleann pipes being d maybe

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Was recently a topic about a similar question: https://thesession.org/discussions/35570

I think the main reasons were; it lies nicely on the fiddle and the whistle size for D works well. I think I’ve read that the pipes were not in D originally, or if they were they were adapted from other pipes and tuned in D to fit the music.

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

This question has been asked before - several times I suspect. Here’s one discussion:

https://thesession.org/discussions/25437

X-posted with Boyen, who confirms my suspicion. ๐Ÿ™‚

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Sorry, I didn’t find the other discussions before, even if I have searched for them! :/
But I still don’t understand "why": lots of guys here say that’s because of uilleann pipes were in D, but it’s not true, the very first versions of pipes were in B or in C usually :/ don’t know if the flutes have always been in D…
(I’m replaying in this discussion ‘cause in the others someone starts to quarrel about the theory of music..!)

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

P.s. sorry Boyen, I’m reading your answer just now!

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Think Its the Irish Pipes mostly D chanter ?
And suits most Irish tunes D, G, Em, etc.
Scottish Bag Pipes I think Bb ?
But most Scottish tunes in A, A-G, Bm, etc.
I think its the Pipes of each Country, that originally,
Set the Music… Style’s etc. ?
f4

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Well, older (and some newer) sets of pipes are not necessarily in D.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

It’s not

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Agreed there are lots of different keys in Irish trad. For a truly accurate and nuanced answer you really need to look at the individual tunes and when they came about, if the composer is know you might look at what instrument they play, or perhaps they favor certain keys as a matter of taste alone. Certain keys gain favor over time because they are popular among the musicians who are forming the core of their respective tradition at the time that those tunes gain popularity. Perhaps many piping tunes that were originally in other keys were adapted to D when the pipes adapted to that key. You would be surprised as well how many session tunes are not really that old and the composer is actually known, I think its a misconception that the majority of tunes played are anonymous, it just doesn’t apply everywhere, for all sessions. It is widely assumed that many Americana tunes are in G or A is because the 5 string banjo is commonly tuned to G while the key of A has a very rhythmic quality on the fiddle (also popular among Irish trad fiddlers, incidentally for I believe the same reason) and the banjo can accommodate with a capo. I don’t think it’s as clear cut with Irish trad where you have tunes in all sorts of keys and metres, and also the tradition overall is more flexible and adaptive which is due to so many factors I wouldn’t know where to start, and I’m hardly an expert so it wouldn’t be worthwhile to worry about.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

D is easy to spell.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Not sure how relevant this is, but before the Boehm flute systems (the metal classical flutes you see today), concert flutes (what we know as Irish flutes now) were pitched in D (with that as the lowest note in most cases. As the classical musical community discarded the wooden flutes, trad musicians could take up the instrument and use it in dance music in the 19th century. It might not be the sole factor, but could be one of the reason things are mostly pitched in D. I’m sure someone knows more about this than me, but I will quote my hearsay knowledge from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_flute

Cheers

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

not sure about ‘almost all’ in D, looking at the average range of session tunes I would say it works out
fairly even with ‘G’ and ‘Amin’ [ok A dorian if you want to be pedantic, i never figured out the difference]

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

A minor is relative to Cmaj while A dorian is relative to Gmaj (same notes as G major in another order).

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

In jazz music saxophones play a lot in Bb or Eb as that is what their instruments are pitched at. I used to play guitar in an 18 piece show band and the main keys were Bb,Eb,Ab,Db, and related minors, and I don’t recall playing anything in D or G. Using the same logic I guess back in time many people in Irish music circles played penny whistles and maybe these were pitched in D? A lot of melodeon players play a D Melodeon, a lot of flutes are pitched in D, it’s what I would describe as a "convenient" key on fiddle or GDAE tuned instruments, as compared to ,say, Eb, so there’s a strong natural bias toward D/E Dorian.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

[Almost all the trad Am tunes are Dorian ]. The reason is , as others have pointed out that the Old Irish Chanter, was in D [though our modern positioning of D is somewhat flatter than before. ] The Uilleann pipes are an innovation from the Older Mixolydian Irish chanter , nowadays commonly refereed to as ‘pastoral’ and the Oboe is a descendant of these also I gather according to Oboe History. Its basically because of the practicalities and physics of conical bored reed blown instruments I presume.
Just as Jim said, Older Scottish music is , generally , in A mix and Older Irish music in D mix because of the national pipes and the two instruments can play together successfully as a result of this. ๐Ÿ™‚
I gather ‘A’ was defined as 452 in the UK up to the last century when standardization was introduced at A440, an innovation stemming from Goebbels It appears!!

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Well, it’s not all, as said above.
But there have to be some common standards, or everyone will be playing on their own, because no two instruments can agree. You do sometimes get snobbish sessions, where the fiddles and other strings tune up to Eb, so that the box players can’t join in, the whistle-players pull out their Eb, and the flute players push their tuning slide up tight !
It has been suggested elsewhere that most Irish music was played solo, apart from when bands were needed for ceilidhs, up until the advent of the session in post WWII Britain that was caused by the diaspora.
One might ask why is it that the "Irish" concertina is traditionally a C/G, when the tunes are mostly D or G ? Not very practical, one might think.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

As long as we keep in mind we’re not talking "key of D" necessarily, but "one or two sharps" (G Major, D Major, E minor, E dorian, A dorian, A Mixolydian, D Mixolydian, etc) it probably was driven by the flutes, the wooden early Classical flutes (4 to 8 keys) and convenience on the violin. Of course there have always been ‘band flutes’ made 1/2 step sharp.

About pipes, the pre-uilleann pipes (New Pastoral pipes) of the 18th century were said to give the same notes as the oboe, putting them in the same range as the flutes of the same period. In uilleann pipe history we tend to focus on the output of a very few early Irish makers, but the centres of uilleann pipemaking in the 18th century were Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, and London. I don’t know the pitch of the British-made instruments, but in photos they don’t look like the huge low-pitched things the Irish makers were doing. But yes the few Irish makers were making pipes around B, as I understand.

I think whistles in D are a relatively recent thing, I could be wrong. When did Generation start offering D?

As I understand the whole notion of getting a big crowd of people on a spectrum of instruments all playing together is relatively recent anyhow.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

I just was reading that many of the surviving Pastoral pipes are in the key of Eb.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Eb , just as the GHB are ‘in’ Bb…… It seems that its due to the change from old Philharmonic standard at 452 to the more recent lower pitched standard [ 439]440 [442] So its simply renaming of D to Eb and A to Bb . Thats why GHB music is written in A and Irish music in D even though the older pitch is half way between modern Bb and Eb respectively. Does that make sense?

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

Well, the GHB pitch predates the 452 standard, but I agree with the general idea…

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

I would think the (uillean) pipes and the fiddle would be at the root of a lot of conventions in this music. And perhaps it’s more helpful to think of ‘position’ than key or absolute pitch. It’s less about the music being in ‘D’ than the tunes being designed to fit certain instruments.

In other words, regardless what pitch (key) the chanter is in, a major scale starts with six fingers down and goes up from there. So tunes would be designed to fit that schema. Same for the fiddle—as long as it’s tuned in fifths, regardless of the actual pitches of the strings, tunes played in first position will fall under the fingers.

Fast forward a few years, and eventually, Irish music is less of a solo pursuit; a pitch standard is needed. The fiddle’s standard tuning is GDAE, so all those first position tunes come out with one or two sharps. The pipes get scaled up to D (keeping the fingerings the same); flutes are already in D; whistles get scaled up to D (Clarke whistles were only pitched in C for a long time), and now everyone can play together.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

" the GHB pitch predates the 452 standard"

Not sure what is meant by this. Highland pipes only climbed up to the 452 pitch (Key of Bb, pitched to A=452, the chanter’s Bb around 480 cycles) around 1990.

A=452 was the standard 19th century orchestral pitch in Britain.

19th century Highland chanters were often around 452 cycles, yes, well below Concert Bb (466 cycles) and a semitone below the pitch of modern chanters (480 cycles).

In other words, one can think of old chanters as being in the key of A at the pitch of A=452, while modern chanters are in the key of Bb at the pitch of A=452.

Or put another way, the old chanters were a quartertone between our modern keys of A and Bb, and modern chanters are a quartertone between our modern keys of Bb and B natural.

It’s very common, nearly universal, for Highland pipers to confuse the concepts of pitch, and of key.

In the orchestral world the two notions are distinct, for example you can buy an A clarinet built to either the pitch of A=440 or A=442, or a Bb clarinet built to either the pitch of A=440 or A=442.

In Highland pipe parlance these would be chanters in 440, 442, 466, and 469.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

I agree that we are talking about scales involving one or two sharps and not just the key of D specifically, but given that why aren’t there more tunes in F#-Phrygian (D-scale w/ 3rd note F# as tonal center) or C-Locrian (G-scale w/ 4th note C as tonal center) for example?

These types of tunes would use all the same 8 notes we’re used to using (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C and/or C#). Perhaps it’s because these modes would sound too "foreign" due to the scalar intervals and points of emphasis.

Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

>A=452 was the standard 19th century orchestral pitch in Britain.

No, it wasn’t, at least not exactly. Pitch crept up continuously in the UK from the mid 18th century, hitting around 452 in (IIRC) 1890. At this point there was an effort to move to a lower pitch standard and the 452 became "fixed" at its last used value (though it was never fixed in stone) and became known as old philharmonic pitch.

There’s no evidence that GHB makers targeted any particular pitch (aaprt from a couple of adverts from Glen, which I find puzzling in terms of who he was trying to market to - my suspicion is he discovered the match by accident and being a shrewd salesman went for it). Given how much variance one can get out of chanters of that pitch with reeds, I think we’re on very thin ice trying to establish what pitch was ever intended. Especially given how many old instruments have critical dimensions that just happen to be a convenient number of inches.

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Re: Why irish traditional music is in D…?

>> IN 1890 a standard pitch was set for British Army bands by "Kneller Hall", or the "Royal Military School of Music." The pitch standard that was adopted was the Philharmonic pitch in use at that time, now called "Old Philharmonic Pitch", namely A=452.5. When the New Philharmonic Pitch came about in 1896, the British Army did not change; the British Army Pitch of A=452.5 lasted until 1928, when it was changed to A=440.

https://www.piano-tuners.org/history/pitch.html
http://www.practicapps.com/csun/411/lecture11.php?src=
This accords with my Old Henderson Chanter which tunes at A452.