When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

I mean is it still harmonious.

For example I notice that young comhaltas players from different areas will often have videos together as just impromptu one offs. Now maybe they would agree and practice a bit beforehand if they are making a video but in general I wonder when people from another area go ‘on the road’ is it a normal and/or an issue they would seek to correct they were playing a few notes different?

I mean if it is in the same key then it should still be harmonious to the other players shouldn’t it and so it could be seen more like a personal variation than something ‘wrong’? Like in jazz they will be playing the normal beat contuously while each one takes it in turns to improvise. It isn’t the same but I mean in terms of sounding harmonious it would be ok as such?

I ask because I just started trying to play along with other players on youtube (after slowing down by 50% :P and once I found one in the same key :)) some of their notes are still different but generally I was able to keep up and it sounded in sync with theirs.

If you are playing in the same session regularly then naturally you would pick up their version and learn it but I wondered what the modus operandi is if you are on the road finding new sessions all the time how you get in the groove with the others in that case.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

It is relevant for me now because I moved away now from where I used to live and had taken a few recordings of the local sessions to practice. In my new city I am just trying to find the active scene at the moment.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

I’ve noticed the same thing when playing in different geographical areas… It seems like the tunes (almost) always "mesh" appropriately, but some notes or embellishments may differ a little. The oddest thing that I’ve found, though, is that the "B" parts seem to be more consistent than the "A" parts! In other words, players seem to play the same B’s, but tend to have different A’s. Kinda weird (and I could be totally off-base), but that is what I have found…

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Yes, it is normal - and very much a feature of this music. Sometimes people that play together a lot (especially siblings or others who have learned their music from the same source) will synchronise each other’s playing right down to the nuances of phrasing and placing of ornaments; this kind of musical unity is also a great thing, but by no means a requirement. Whether or not small discrepancies ‘harmonise’ in the true sense is not important, in my opinion - momentary dissonances resolving into harmonies or unisons add tension and enrich the music. Besides, some people’s playing is so rich in spontaneous melodic variation that nobody could play along to them note-for note.

If the versions of tunes are substantially different, you might need to study your recordings a bit to figure out exactly what is being played. I always like to try other people’s ways of playing tunes, anyway. But it is rare to find a session where everyone plays a tune exactly the same all the time, so you might find yourself either latching onto one player’s version or coming up with a kind of ‘average’.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Don’t sweat it!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

That is good to know :).

Something big I learned the other day is, after learning more about different keys tunes are played in and having a better ear now to realise when a tune is in a different key, that in the past I had most times been trying to play along to a tune which was in a different key and I thought it was my bad playing which was why it didn’t sound right :).

I was able to play along nicely to most of the tunes I was playing on youtube today. The speed merchants I had to slow down but a couple tunes I can play well (or the best I can play) I was able to keep up at full speed.

This has given me more confidence now to venture out into the wild whistle in pocket.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

I’d say it happens all the time: even 10 miles down the road they’ll play some notes differently! I can think of at least half a dozen session tunes that are commonly played in these parts, where this applies. If you are a regular attender in both areas, and can remember the differences, you can maybe just "remember who you’re with" and play their version.
Unfortunately these variations DON’T all harmonise, and may conversely include horrible dissonances if you happen to play X version in Y place: and of my half-dozen, at least 3 or 4 of them do just that. But, maybe safety in numbers: if it’s a big session, then maybe only yourself and those immediately next to you may hear that different note! (You can always hope that’s the case, or glare at someone else accusingly ;-) !)

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Yes it’s normal, but why limit it to players from different areas? I suspect that any two players will have at least some small different takes on a tune. These tunes and we players are not homogenous. We all hear them differently, from different sources, on different instruments. We’re all mobile, and our sources are mobile. I believe, and in my experience find it to be, that it takes a good deal of concentration, and cooperation for any two people to play the tune precisely the same way and that takes practice. Sometime the blend results in a harmony of sorts, others a cacophony. Best get used to the idea. That’s why we all would do well to listen to each other while we play and set aside our own notions of the "right" way to play a tune. One, we might learn something, and two, we’ll have a more enjoyable time when we practice a little give and take,

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

All very fair comment Ross, and very true!
I wasn’t going to get into the "right or wrong" bit, having been taken to task in the past on that very subject! In a session it is not such a big issue: as Choons says: "don’t sweat it!"
It may matter more if you are playing in a performance or band, when it does sound so much better and "tight/all together" if everyone is "playing off the same hymn-sheet" (whether actually using sheet music or not! Forget the version you play in the pub, and play as per this band’s version, in other words.)
And while this site is about ITM, more modern tunes can and do creep into sessions: in this situation, I think it’s only fair and polite to a living composer to try and play what he/she actually wrote, at least the basic tune being accurate, (give or take the occasional change in ornamentation which might suit your particular instrument better).

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Speaking as someone who occasionally composes tunes, I would be very flattered if anyone liked a tune of mine well enough to learn it; and even more if they tinkered with it and played it their own way. Isn’t that the whole point?

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

It’s like one of your kids- once you send him out into the world you have no right to complain if she comes back changed.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Great discussion here, as I’ve long been concerned about this as well in the event I’m traveling and want to join in a local session.

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Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

@ 5-stringfool - only if they improved on it, and that of course is a matter of personal taste…..
Someone did mess with one of mine (without permission) and it was definitely NOT an improvement! When I pointed out the differences, they just said - "it’s the folk process". Harumph!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

But still true trish. That’s the way our music works.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Thanks Trish. I largely agree. A newly composed by a living writer should best be played as written out of respect. Of course some composers won’t care, others will strongly object. Sometimes it’s going to be hard to tell the difference. And, there may legal issues. It’s not at all a simple problem. Sorry that someone messed with your tune and took such a cavalier attitude. Not everyone feels respect is important.

Still there’s always the real world to contend with. In life I’ve played in many cover bands in several genre’s. The problem isn’t unique to Irish ( or any folk music).. You probably have no idea how many times "Takin’ Care of Business" can be creatively (?) butchered! Not just a problem in music either. The issue extends to local theater groups, including high school plays, have with even minuscule script changes. A local company here is in deep legal and financial trouble over their efforts to offer (morally self-righteous) edits to DVD’s of current movies. I suspect the problem of having someone alter a composition is as universal and as old as creative effort.

By the way, if you like, PM me with one of your tunes. I’d like to hear one. I promise I’ll not alter a note, or even play it without your Okey-Dokey. I don’t write tunes myself, when I tried they were just horrid!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

I don’t worry in sessions if I know a slightly different setting that harmonizes. It’s the ones where the B part is completely different that will flummox me, and then I’ll try to learn that version or just skip it entirely.

That’s for Irish trad. It’s interesting how this differs with some local Scottish and mixed Irish/Cape Breton sessions. If it’s a Gordon Duncan pipe tune, then by God, you’d better play the notes as composed. And then genuflect in the general direction of Scotland. Similar to the discussion above, about deference to living composers, but especially prominent in the piper scene. When I learn a Scottish pipe tune, I learn the best/most canonical source I can find, and stick to that.

Cape Breton musicians also seem to have the attitude that you can do whatever you want with the tune once you learn it, but you’d better have the canonical version learned 100% before you mess with it. Especially if written by a known or living CB composer.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

trish santer- When you play your own tunes, do you play them exactly the same on each iteration? If not, are subsequent iterations improvements on the first time through? Or are they just different?

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Not trying to be snarky in the previous post. I am just baffled by the notion of someone writing tunes in the tradition and then taking umbrage when they are treated the same as traditional tunes.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

No malice here, just a philosophical discussion. I think it’s just natural for any who creates anything feels some ownership, an emotional attachment. Don’t you think that for at least some time the rest of us could enjoy that creation for what it is, as it is? Let it stand, grow, and gel for what it is. Sure the tradition (more on that) allows for change over time, and the operative word here is time, but where and when does the evolution of a tune over time start and the gratuitous messing around with some else’s creation to satisfy our sensibility end?

As for the application of the "tradition" argument I am often baffled (I like that word here) by the way it is sometimes used to limit a tunes evolution and used to justify any outlier. Were I to play a tune to a hip-hop beat some could criticize me for playing outside of the tradition and someone else could just as easily applaud me for advancing the tradition (it’s a stretch I know, but the point stands). It’s a real puzzler! Since I lost my rulebook I’ll just have to fall back on the way some things just depend on which side of the fence I’m on. The concept of tradition is just too big to use here. Maybe in this case it’s best to let it lie and give a little space to the creations of others.

Wow, I’ve really drifted away from the question posed by Arthur!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

That reminds me of what they said of josie mcdermott in one documentary I watched. They said he would say when learning a tune from someone else you should learn it exactly as they play/wrote it including all the ornaments and he would get angry if you deviated!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Thanks Ross, will send you a couple of tunes later, and do feel free to play them: it is unlikely that I’ll hear you play them, so if you do change anything, I won’t know!

In answer to 5stringfool, I didn’t give you quite the whole story there: if playing my own tunes, I will keep the basic notes of the tune the same. Ornamentation and/or chords may change, according to which instrument I’m on, and both its and my capabilities. (I’m limited for chords on button box, but can use a wider variety on piano, especially more relative minors). BUT, the basic melody line remains the same! (Very occasionally, I may re-write or develop a pre-existing tune if I think I have something better to offer, but the majority, once finished, stay the same.)
What this other person did was to make a pretty significant change in the basic tune. It was then recorded, giving my name as composer of the tune, but by then it wasn’t my tune any more, and IMHO, had lost something in the changes made. I asked politely at the pre-recording stage if they would mind going back to my original tune, but no. It wasn’t worth getting into legal wrangles over it. Hope you now understand my position on this better.

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Yes, very common that different sessions will play more than a few notes different! Often it is hardly noticeable on fast jigs and reels if it is just the odd note here and there. The frustrating thing I found when I was a session regular many years ago is that there are literally thousands of jigs, reels, polkas, hornpipes slip jigs, marches, airs, etc. and even when you have built up a good repertoire over the years you can go to a new session and not know a tune they are playing! The only antidote for this is to build up confidence in your own playing so that you can lead the sets yourself!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Whenever different players play together there are some variations in the tune. If they don’t mesh then the person who didn’t start the tune usually makes some on-the-hoof adjustments.

Many players who believe in sticking very closely to the notes they learned alter the way they play them quite subtly on each repeat to add interest and some will add extra parts which are variations. This can result in players who are learning by ear picking up the variations rather than the tune. Varying the tune is one of the things which cause chaos when either a player hasn’t changed tune but everyone in the room thinks they have because they’ve varied it or else the player has moved onto another tune which is quite close in sound to the previous tune and no-one has noticed because it just seems like a variation.

Mostly you just can live with all this - but especially the addition of extra parts which were variations or were just added for a particular dance really can be a pain in the neck. Sometimes they get in a book somewhere and become the standard but your own old two part original version continues to unwind in your own old head automatically and you just have to drop the tune from your repertoire because even when you have started the tune in your own session the rest of the room crashes into the rogue third part. That makes me stop and swear!

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

Well at least that means I can blend in to the maelstrom :)

Re: When people from different areas play together is it normal they will play a few notes different?

The differences between settings from region to region are not that big of a deal.

The huge differences in repertoire can require a lot of work, though. You may find that you have only a handful of old chestnuts in common with your new session mates. This is normal. You just have to work on acquiring the local favorites.