How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Hello, I’ve been trying to create my own variations of tunes that I know and I was wondering what would be the minimum amount that a tune needs to be changed in ordered to be considered a new setting?

Thanks! :)

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

It’s all up to you. If you feel it’s a significant enough variation, post it. If you’re not sure just wait until it feels right for you.

There’s no hurry.

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Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

OK, thanks again AB!

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

There must be at least a 10% difference. Add up the numerical values of all the notes, before and after the revision. Subtract the old value from the new to get the difference, divide by the original value, then multiply by 100. If the result is the Kesh Jig, try again.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

???

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

ROFLOLOLOL!!!

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

The answer is 42.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

"How long is a piece of string?" It’s a question with no general answer. But I’m not sure that’s actually the question that you should be asking right now. So when you say "variations of tunes", what do you mean? Is your goal to come up with new settings?

The term "variation" in Irish traditional music is generally referring to the idea that a player is encouraged to not play a tune the same way each time. When that kind of variation is done simply, it’s a matter of moving the ornamentation around, or doing note substitutions by choosing harmonic or triadic notes. When variation is done masterfully, it’s a new interpretation of the melodic story, in such a way that it is recognizable as the same tune and at the same time an eloquent expression of the underlying melodic story. The masterful variation is usually heard in recordings, because going too far with interpreting the melodic story can be a big problem in a session environment.

When thinking about different "settings" of tunes posted on thesession.org, the goal is to show how the tunes are commonly played in different places or in different recordings, not to show "variation", as defined above.

As a relative beginner, I really think you should be concentrating on building a repertoire, learning the nuances of the rhythms and ornaments, studying the music of the masters, and playing with other people (because that’s the absolute best way to learn!) Instead, you seem fascinated with your own creativity in composing and coming up with new settings. Those are admirable things, but maybe a bit premature in your development as a player…

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Kellie, your enthusiasm is admirable, but I agree with Reverend and others who have repeated advised you to spend your time concentrating on repertoire and actually doing the work required to achieve even a perfunctory degree of competency in this music.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

This might be an interesting question for discussion, purely for intellectual interest. But from the perspective of someone learning to develop their playing, it has no practical value whatsoever. Play the tunes you know, as you know them, listen to others playing them, pick up some of their variations, keep playing the tunes and eventually, without thinking about it, you’ll have little variation ideas of your own here and there. But you also need to develop enough familiarity with your instrument to play them spontaneously.

The idea of a ‘setting’, as I see it, is that it is a snapshot of something that is fluid, constantly changing - *set* like a jelly (or jello). Good tradtional players constantly change details of the tune as they play it, so their second time round will be different from their first and so on. A *setting* is only what is written down - musicians do not set out to create new *settings* of tunes when they play. In answer to your original question, I believe that a tune only need differ by one note to qualify as a different setting - but settings can represent quite substantially different (often incompatible) versions of a tune. The next question is, "How much discrepancy between settings is needed to qualify as a different tune?"

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Take a look at Lord Gordon’s - https://thesession.org/tunes/1774 - fierce tune, not for the faint of heart. It’s also a tune that we only have one real source for - the recording set down by Michael Coleman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV_EAkcSfhY

(Actually, there’s some debate as to whether Coleman himself added parts to an original tune to make up the five-part reel - see the ‘Old Lord Gordon’s’ as well to compare: https://thesession.org/tunes/11035 )

So if there’s only one ‘source’, why do we need three settings? Don’t most people play it the way Coleman did? Well, yes and no. The differences between the three settings aren’t big, a few notes here and there, for example in the first line of the third part, setting one has this:

fa~a2 fdad|fa~a2 fdad|gb~b2 gebe|gb~b2 gebe|

which is a "correction" of what Coleman actually played. Setting two, on the other hand, is closer to the original recording:

fa (3aaa fdad | fa (3aaa fdad | fb(3bbb febe | fb(3bbb febe |

Most people probably play it the first way. Those who are really going for the "Coleman" setting might choose to play it the second way. Is one "better" than the other? Not really, they’re just different.

The third setting I added myself, not to clarify the other two settings (which really just about cover all the bases in terms of how the tune could be played), but because I looked at the comments underneath and it wasn’t until halfway down that anyone mentioned Coleman at all. I took my setting from a book produced by David Lyth, a musician friend of mine from England, who transcribed Coleman’s playing of tunes direct from the original recordings - right down to the bowing - which is why I’ve added it the way I have, complete with bowing marks which are generally not used on this site. This is purely for fiddle geeks, because a lot of people who want to get that Coleman-esque Sligo style end up talking about his unorthodox bowing techniques.

Now, the three aren’t variations. Variations are a personal way of expressing a tune. Settings are different versions of the same tune that you might find played in different places. Sometimes settings are so different as to represent an entirely new tune - but even so, a simple variation that might be played on one repetition of a tune doesn’t normally represent a whole new setting, otherwise we’d need a new transcription for every time a player did something a bit different, and we’d end up with an infinite number of settings for the Kesh jig. There’s already 11.

Lord Gordon’s is a little different because Coleman’s own variations (playing the parts differently the first and second time through, for example) have become the standard way of playing the tune. Setting 1 tries to cover this by adding them at the end, but they really belong in the tune, in the way that they are in settings 2 and 3. This might make for a very long transcription, but it represents the same amount of tune that you’d need to learn were you getting it from a recording.

At the end of the day, a variation is only a personal embellishment. It might only get played once, ever. A setting is a way of playing the tune that exists for long enough to become a standard way of playing it. Sometimes this is down to different regional takes on it, sometimes it comes down to an individual’s unique version. Think about sitting in a session and somebody plays a tune. Afterwards one musician might turn to another and say "that’s a lovely tune, did you ever hear the way that [x] had it?" which acknowledges the fact that their version exists as a separate entity in its own right and was identifiable to them because they ‘normally’ played it that way. You wouldn’t ever hear the same thing being said of "that time [x] played it in Conway’s Corner House in the middle of July in 1997 at half past two in the afternoon when he thought of a new way of coming down off the second part by playing a triplet instead of a roll in the second-to-last bar and it seemed to work okay." In an oral/aural tradition, things are constantly in motion and always evolving, so there are very few fixed points. Preserving a particularly noteworthy version of a tune is a way of trying to make a fixed point to which people can refer.

So, to sum up, a variation is a personal embellishment, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a setting. A setting is a standard version. You can’t invent a new standard, it has to become part of the tradition on its own, first.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Nice one, matt

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Thanks, Matt, for taking such time and care to make this explanation. Much appreciated.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

If only there were a Like button…

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

There are tunes here that have several different "versions" posted which, to me, seem so similar as to be pointless.

The differences fall well within the normal amount of variation that any player would impart to the tune as the various repeats were played.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Richard, it’s perfectly fine for people to post slight variations of tunes to the tunes section here.

You’re free to ignore those settings. But I want to make it clear to anyone who is thinking about submitting a tune setting—but who is worried that it might be too similar to existing settings—to just post away.

All settings—and variations—are welcome.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

Thanks, Jeremy. I know the tune settings feature was introduced after the fact. So, some of the "settings" may have been posted in the tunes comments as variations in playing with little intention of those abcs being considered as distinct settings. Which is why I always appreciate comments when one posts anything in the tunes category.

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Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

"Richard, it’s perfectly fine for people to post slight variations of tunes to the tunes section here."

I would take that further and say that it is important that people can do this. Sometimes someone’s small personal variation can transform a tune. The proper definition of the word ‘setting’ (which will undoubtedly not be unanimously agreed on) is irrelevant - it is just a convenient word to use for the purpose of submitting different takes on the same tune.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

I’m beginning to wonder what the OP should make of our replies to his relatively simple question.

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Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

"I’m beginning to wonder what the OP should make of our replies to his relatively simple question."

I hope he will learn that not every simple question has a simple answer.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

For sure I can see the value in posting multiple version however little they might vary.

People new to ITM (esp if coming from orchestral or GHB backgrounds) usually view a "tune" as a fixed invariable string of notes (a concept alien to ITM) so it’s cool for sure to expose them to different versions.

The potential problem is that they might view each version as a fixed invariable string of notes, the only difference now being that they have several to choose from. Will they make the conceptual leap and understand that, say, 5 of the "versions" are thematically insignificant variants of a single version, and 3 of the "versions" are thematically insignificant variants of a 2nd version?

I guess it’s up to them to figure it out.

What I found most valuable, both as a beginner and afterwards, is when an entire performance of a tune is written out. All three playings (say) of a tune in sequence comprise that player’s concept of "the tune" at that moment; parsing out any one of the three playings and calling it "a version" is an artifice, and gives the reader a false impression of the nature of ITM.

For example I dug around and found four different performances by Paddy Keenan of one of his Party Pieces, one on a live concert CD and the other three on home-made bootleg tapes made at small concerts and house-parties.

I wrote out all four performances in full. Playing through them allows one to pull back the curtain a bit and glimpse Paddy’s gestalt of the tune. For sure not everything that the tune has been to Paddy, which would require studying recordings of every time he has played it, and for sure not everything that the tune can potentially be to Paddy, which no-one can know.

It’s my firm opinion that people new (or fairly new) to ITM would learn more by studying such, than they would by learning 100 fixed versions of 100 different tunes.

About the OP’s question, it raises complex issues as this thread has shown.

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

We had the fairly recent Miss McLeod thread, where the same OP asked "which of the versions is played most often", when many of them were more or less the same. Same thing with the recent Paddy Fahy thread - many versions that were essentially the same. And then in another thread someone suggested that it should be possible to vote for a tune setting. Considering the minor variations between different "settings", a c nat here or a c sharp there, a triplet instead of a roll… Voting? I won’t.

Slightly related topic:
Looking for works analysing ornamentation and/or variation in traditional Irish music - https://thesession.org/discussions/37990

Re: How much variation is needed to qualify as a new setting?

I agree with Richard. Worry about learning settings made by other people. Take a tune you like and learn how three or four good musicians play it by listening to their albums or watching the videos on Facebook. Take what you like and mix it up.

In my experience, you’ll naturally develop your own setting on accident if you respect the music and learn what established players do. Trying to force your own ideas into a tune doesn’t usually work out.

I gave up on explicitly trying to make my own settings years ago. I explore a tune, find its nooks and crannies, and see what other people do with it.

Then one day I was at a festival hours six hours from home, and started playing a tune with old friends. One guy said, "Oh there’s another Daiv" setting," everyone laughed, and they all agreed I make my own settings and they’re very distinctive.

Although I could see what they were saying, in my head when I was playing, I wasn’t playing a unique setting. I was putting in little bits of what I heard other people doing and changing little things like we all do.

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