How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

Hi I am wondering what is the proper way to play 8th notes in traditional Irish/Scottish music. Some tunes like Road to The Isles seem to play the 8th notes like triplets where it is played as quarter note and 8th note. However, in up tempo Loch Lomond, it sounds as though the 8ths are played as they would normally be played ie 1 &, 2 &, etc. I believe that hornpipes are written with 8th notes but to be played like dotted 8th and 16th so I was wondering if there are any other "unwritten" rhythmic rules I should be aware of. Thanks.

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

There are a lot of "unwritten" rhythmic rules in any traditional music. Some of them fall under the "swing" category and some are distinct and recognizable as a regional style. Your best bet for learning any traditional tune is to get yourself a good recording of a traditional player playing it and imitate the sound you hear. Any written music will only be a skeleton of the tune, often with swing and any ornaments (which are sometimes rhythmic) completely left out for ease in reading.

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

I’ve never got my head around it. To me the theory doesn’t always match up with what I hear. Fpr example my triplets sometimes blend it to 4, depending on what I”m playing. I tend to try and play according to what I hear and feel, rather than what somebody else has written down.

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Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

Yeah, "triplets" are often closer to two 16th and an 8th, hornpipes are often heavily swung, except when they’re not, reels are often swung, but not all the time and not as much as hornpipes, the amount of swing depends on where you are (none in Scottish music, little if any in Donegal, quite a bit in Sligo, etc)…

Your best bet is listening to the players you want to sound like.

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

If there is any advice I can offer as a beginner it is to listen to the tune being played by a professional. Doing this usually gives me ideas like where to add ornaments, what the rhythm should sound like, where to take breaths etc…

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

Well I was taught that where you have a dotted quaver followed by semiquaver written down for hornpipes, you actually allocate/play the 2 notes more like 2/3 and 1/3 of the available time, so it fits with the triplets in other parts of the music. If you play it as written, you will be a bit TOO snappy: yes, the swing’s the thing. And it doesn’t just apply to piano or whistle.
(And of course, in Scottish music we have a lot of "Scotch snaps", i.e semiquaver followed by dotted quaver, especially in strathspeys, but also in some of the marches).
And incidentally, Loch Lomond, mentioned by the OP, gets played all ways, including as a waltz!

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

For English hornpipes I was taught the same as trish santer says - that the triplets were usually ‘even’ and, whether written dotted or not, a pair of notes were close to 2/3 - 1/3 to match the triplets.

It seems to be a good starting point for hearing what Irish players are doing, though the gaps between the notes have a big effect.

Re: How to play 8th notes? ( piano, whistle)

To answer your question, there is no one specific way to play eighth notes in this music. I am personally a big believer in written music but you must understand its limitations. And until you understand exactly how a ‘reel’ or ‘hornpipe’ or ‘jig’ sounds and feels, you should listen to each tune you learn repeatedly, carefully, and preferably by several different musicians so you really get it.