Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Hello. I always thought of Hornpipes as very bouncy. Then I heard De Danann’s recording of "The Rights of Man" and "The Pride of Petravore", and I noticed something very peculiar. The way they play the Hornpipes is different to say the least. They have a very "Reel-like" quality to them. If that makes sense. The bounciness is still there, but it’s very subtle.

Listen for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-tsIwPXeVc


I’m just curious if this is a normal thing. If playing Hornpipes with a subtle bounce is preferred over playing Hornpipes with a very obvious bounce.

Thanks! :)

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

The recording has an obvious bounce for the tempo. Not sure what your question is, Kellie. However, when I play hornpipes for dancers they sometimes want a slower tempo which probably makes the swing not as subtle as it might seem at a quicker tempo.

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Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Yes it does have a bounce. There’s no doubt that it’s definitely subtle. Maybe you’re right maybe the tempos hides the bounce a little making it more subtle.

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

They sound that way because of the player. Not because of the tune itself. And yes, speed does have an impact on the bounciness. That being said, some tunes do lend themselves to being played ‘straighter’. Try something like Harp and Shamrock. I first heard the tune from a Nollaig Casey track, who also plays it fast(ish) and more like a reel. However, hear Frankie himself play this solo with much more bounce than in the DeDannan example.
https://youtu.be/zVVx8g28JN8?t=35m51s skip to 35:51.


BTW, Pride of Petravore is a show tune from the dance hall era rather than a trad hornpipe. Plenty of bounce here. (between the song and CJ, it’s a hoot to listen to.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVGvq-Wtyg8

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Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Kellie, if you know any (local) stepdancers who you can play different types and tempos of tunes I’m guessing an experience with them may help answer the questions you are currently postulating. I learnt quite a bit about rhythms playing with local dancers.

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Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

The faster you play a tune, the bounciness disappears (there’s isn’t as much time/space to go up and down). If you want to hear hornpipes played like reels, listen to American oldtime/bluegrass players tackling Irish tunes.
I have yet to hear a single hornpipe played with bounce (and slower than warp speed).

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Fisher’s hornpipe is one I tend to play pretty fast.

I think reel tendency can come from the arrangement of the notes themselves - some tunes are leaner in their organization than others.

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Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOKbu5FV7t4


I was trying to find a youtube of Ronan Browne playing this same tune on the Drones and Chanters compilation (II), but this was the closest I could get.

Imagine this a bit faster and smoother.

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Just a "simple" trip to wikipedia makes the original question more complicated.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornpipe
4/4, 2/2, 3/2, 9/4, 9/8 - dotted or even, syncopate or not … .

In the US, hornpipe usually refers to the 4/4 type of hornpipes like "Rights of Man", "Boys of Bluehill", etc.
And of course "Sailor’s Hornpipe".
The old-timers played this type of hornpipe slow and bouncy.
Most Americans (at least people versed in blues, jazz, classical, gospel, zydeco, Cajun, etc.) call "bouncy" either "swing" or "dotted rhythm".
When the bluegrass folks took over "Fisher’s Hornpipe" they played it faster and it lost a lot of the swing. In some cases it lost all the swing. And, strangely, many Irish musicians dropped it from their play lists.
To me, if you play a hornpipe fast, you are playing "reel" style. It changes the feel of the tune. It no longer feels like a hornpipe.
I wouldn’t condemn anyone for playing a hornpipe fast and less bouncy. But I would suggest that they occasionally play it slow and bouncy so they can experience the hornpipe feel; and know the difference.
Playing a hornpipe slow brings out the melody; and I think that is what was intended in the type of hornpipes we play today. But it’s really just a matter of taste. For me, there is some satisfaction gained from understanding and preserving traditions. At the same time, experimentation and new forms are pretty darn fun.

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

I had noticed a difference in the way Cape Bretton fiddlers played hornpipe. Very fast and "flat". Much more like a reel. We visited their Celtic Music Centre in Judique and were not surprised that in their display they acknowledge themselves that they play hornpipe more like reels. Most unfortunate. They are great musicians but they lost something on these tunes.

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Red haired boy has reel-like quality, given it’s played both as a reel and as a hornpipe…

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Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

In scottish dance music many reels have the name hornpipe in the title………

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Hmm interesting Free Reed. Does anyone know why that is?

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Thanks AB! :)

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

I tend to find it’s the other way round, as it were: there’s quite a few reels that strike me as being in their composition quite ‘hornpipey’ and I always want to play them at a slower tempo than they are generally played. ‘Dublin Porter’ or ‘The Earl’s Chair’ for instance. (More so in their A parts than their B parts!). Can’t say I often come across a hornpipe where I think ‘that strikes me a more reel-like’.

From about 34 minutes into this video, Frankie Gavin talks here about hornpipes, and gives a nice demonstration of contrasting hornpipes: playing a more ‘contemplative’ hornpipe as opposed to a more by-the-numbers jaunty faster one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVVx8g28JN8

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

Whilst hornpipes are often written on sheet music as 8 straight quavers to the bar, they really should be played as dotted quavers followed by sixteenth notes, thus giving the bouncy feel to the tunes. This format differentiates the hornpipe from the reel, which is played as 8 straight quavers to the bar. However, some hornpipes sound very good played in the format of 8 straight quavers to the bar…..eg Home By The Fire, which is an excellent tune.
Hornpipes in the USA are played very fast and do not apply the dotted quaver format !!
So the lesson in this contribution is …..play the tune as you see fit…..that’s what is great about I.T.M…diversity is the spice of life.

Re: Hornpipes with a “Reel-like” quality

"really should be played as dotted quavers followed by sixteenth notes"
That is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too bouncy. 75/25 is not correct. Years ago, a friend of mine analyzed some good playing in Audacity, and the ratio is actually really close to 60/40. (Counting 2 1/8th notes as 100%, the first gets 60% of the time, and the second gets 40%). Of course, as said previously in the thread, this varies between players, areas, and tunes.

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