Sean Maguire tuning

Sean Maguire tuning

Just a quick question o knowledgeable ones:
My current obsession is with the following set dance tune, as recorded by Sean Maguire
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-linYJHWDwg

I’ve copied it faithfully (his first time round anyway) but can’t play along because my tuning sounds so flat. I’m starting with a long ‘e’ but it sounds almost, but not quite, a semi tone lower than Maguire’s. Obviously this follows for the rest of the tune. Now I know my fiddle is in tune, I can play along with lots of other recordings, I can make a fairly decent fist of this tune when I play it alone. Is Sean Maguire’s fiddle deliberately tuned sharp and is this how he has that beautiful "brightness"? (I mean one of the factors; the man was a legend, I know it’s not just a "trick"!)
Or am I missing something, have I even more to learn than I thought????

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

I wonder if it is tuned to old school pitch, A=452 or thereabouts.

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Re: Sean Maguire tuning

The recording is about 30 cents flat of the key of Bb. To match the dots here:https://thesession.org/tunes/2344 the pitch needs to be reduced by about 270 cents (I used Audacity).

Could he be playing it in A and either tuned sharp or the recording played too fast?

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

I just noticed that there is a piano…

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Does anyone know how old this recording is? That might be a start explaining what’s going on.

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Re: Sean Maguire tuning

There is a field recording (? 1960s) around where he seems to be in A and follows it with the reel "Driscoll’s Fancy" (https://thesession.org/tunes/5735 I think) in A. As that also has piano accompaniment (by Archie Adams) I guess any drift from concert pitch is probably down to the recording.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Could be that the piano was tuned to 453 so the fiddle just tuned up to it. Taking up from A a semi tone does not lend itself to conducive fiddle playing , not that the man himself would have any difficulties.
The recording sounds natural and relaxed, doesn’t sound speeded up to my ear. 453was still the standard for brass bands and pipe bands in the 60’s so it’s quite likely thats the case . But yes it’s at 453.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

I tuned my fiddle to A440 and played along from the start. It sounds to me like he’s playing the tune Madame Bonaparte in the key of Bb, using Bb fingering, and he’s just a fraction above concert pitch.

If you listen to the cut at 00’08 you can clearly hear two stopped notes, so that tells me it’s the key of Bb rather than A.

On the YouTube link, the comment from Celtic Note directs you to iTunes, where you can hear a sample of all of the tunes.

This is funny : if you look further down the page, there is an "About Sean Maguire" section, and this is what is says :

"Best known for his starring roles in several U.S. sitcoms, British actor Sean Maguire was also responsible for a rather ropey, if briefly successful, mid-’90s pop career. Born in Ilford, London in 1976, Maguire first shot to fame in the U.K. thanks to his role as Tegs Ratcliffe in the children’s school drama Grange Hill, and then later as Aidan Brosnan in the soap opera EastEnders.

"In 1994 he became one of several of the show’s stars to pursue a music career, and although he never quite reached the chart-topping heights of Nick Berry and Martine McCutcheon, he scored a respectable eight Top 40 hits from two studio albums, 1994’s self-titled debut and 1996’s Spirit, over a three-year period. However, following the disappointing chart position of his Brit-pop-influenced credibility-chasing 1997 single "Today’s the Day," he called time on his pop ambitions to concentrate on acting.

"In the noughties, he landed parts in several American comedies, including Off Center and Eve and the Class, and in 2008 he played the lead role in Meet the Spartans, the critically panned (but box-office number one) parody of the film 300. ~ Jon O’Brien"

Some muso journalist is clearly snorting too much Domestos :)

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

It looks like the 1969 field recording may still be available where I got it from:https://thesession.org/discussions/22394#comment464522

It is in A at about 440 so Will’s suggestion about the piano in the recording in the OP being tuned to 453 would fit. How commonly is it played in A? I have, thankfully, only come across it in G.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Do be careful with the mediafire link in that old post - don’t clink the ‘Start Now’. The ZIP file was OK at the time that old discussion post was made but I have not checked it again.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Ah yes Jim, just the man I was thinking of! I thought you’d probably have the best insight and as I listened I thought it sounded very smoothe as if there were no open strings.

Funnily enough when I played along I didn’t need to retune at all on my uke , my tuning was way sharp to concert pitch!!
But I did check the tuning by setting my tuner to 453 and that’s where it was….
sharp of 466? I tried 466 and it was way sharp to the recording., I’m on a fretted instrument.
It’s at 452 give or take a little
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=
Play the 2 together

A piano being flat would be just as likely, if not more so! So playing in Bb but flat to 466 could be.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

It was Calum who first suggested 452 . It’s the old philharmonic standard and my old old Henderson chanter was 452 as well.
that’s why pipe music is written in A but played closer to Bb and why some old uilleann pipe chanter had to be worked with rushes and different shape reeds to get them Down to 440 . They were made to 452 standard

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

I’m afraid you’ve lost me! Anyway, one way or another I seem to have learned the tune in A, might try it again in G but no harm done. Interesting reading, it never occurred to me that an E wasn’t always an E! Learning every day….

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

@Beatles - if you play the tune in Bb you will get closer to the sound of Sean Maguire, rather than playing it in A or G.

If you record the tune using Audacity or Amazing Slow Downer (or similar), you can adjust the recording’s pitch to suit the key you want to play in.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

To my ears he is playing in A major. It sounds like he’s sliding up to the e note using his third finger on the A string, rather than playing open E. He’s also playing harmonics, which would probably rule out B flat.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Stevenmiles, yes that’s what I’ve been doing, sliding up to the e with 3rd finger and using harmonics, and I think, ahem, that it sounds good!

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

I uploaded that mediafire stuff, the link shouldn’t have changed, I’m too lazy for that.

I’ve played along with Maguire recordings and the pitch is often off by half a semitone, for whatever reason. He could play in any key he wanted to, note, so maybe he did play this tune in Bb for S&G purposes. See if other cuts on the record are in the key and pitch you’d expect.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

@stevenmiles - I’m now pretty sure he is playing in Bb fingering (and in Bb). You mentioned that he is playing harmonics - well, I don’t think he is.

If you listen at 00’33, the note is cleanly stopped and very short, while he slides up an octave to hit the high note.

If he was playing in the key of A major, the open A would sound fully and ring out, before he slid up to the octave above. If the high note were a harmonic, it would also ring out (with that distinctive glassy tone), but it doesn’t. It’s cleanly stopped too, so those two things are telling me it’s Bb, with the low Bb fingered with 1st finger, and high Bb fingered with the 4th finger.

So, for me it all adds up - he’s playing in Bb, with Bb fingering, in concert pitch (with the actual pitch leaning very slightly to the sharp side).

Playing along with the recording bears this out too.

Sean Maguire was always very fluent in the flat keys, and I’ve heard so many of the tunes he played, played by other fiddle players who chose the open keys instead.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Yes. As Will suggested up the thread being played in A with a piano tuned to 452 fits what we hear.

The other recording ** is close enough to A not to raise thoughts of anything else.

** thanks to Kevin Rietmann for that. Folks, you need to hear the whole tape, which includes Sean playing the pipes and other respected players of that generation.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Well that was interesting, a Piper! I didn’t know that.
I note his father was also playing at 452 on the flute. I wonder is it all just due to the recording technology ? I also hear that the pipes also appear to be in 452, which would be expected.
I wonder who’s pipes they were? Sean Reid?
Where was the recording done?
Kevin?

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

McGuire’s pipes were made in Belfast by Frank McFadden.

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Re: Sean Maguire tuning

To my personal knowledge, Sean never re-tuned his violin. He had equal technique in every key. Since he has a piano accompaniment I suspect it is the result of the recording studio. At the time of the recording studios had not yet become capable of changing the speed of the recording without also changing its key. His recording of Driscoll’s Fancy was ‘stolen’ and reproduced as some ceili band (can’t remember the name) and on the flip side there was a ‘stolen’ copy of Larry Cunningham’s Lovely Leitrim credited to Barry Cunningham. It was a 45 & I have great suspicions of the thief.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

@stonecrusher, the recordings are not speeded up, if you listen to the whole recording that’s fairly obvious.
And yes we know he was renowned for playing in flat keys. The point is that either he’s playing in Bb with a piano tuned Flat , or he’s playing in A at 452 .
The standardisation of A at 440 is still not complete , orchestras sometimes tune to 442…. pipe bands have an A that is way above Bb these days!!
The old British army standard was 452 A .this is what Irish pipes were made to play at back in the day. Old Rowesome chanters and the like , so back in the 50’s it’s quite likely that A452 was where they were playing. If a house had a set of pipes in it or other instruments at 452 then automatically the fiddle will be tuned up to that pitch, which is what I suspect is the case here.
The voices (or playing) show no indication of being speeded up , the pipes are also at the 452 pitch .
Whether the piano was also 452 or was tuned flat as per the " Paddy in the smoke " recordings, who knows.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

@Beatles - what key were you playing in when you were playing along with the recording?

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Regardless of the actual pitch relative to concert pitch, he is playing in Bb (Bb fingering) and not Amaj fingering.

As Jim Dorans said earlier, the stopped notes would point to playing in Bb, rather than in Amaj, where they would ring out, as they are being played on an open A.

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Ok sorry stonecrusher, I’m getting confused between the 2 recordings.
On the second recording ,in davids link above , not the album, where he plays pipes and stuff he’s playing the tune in A440 and then moves to another tune, also in A where he says quite clearly to the pianist"A" I think we can agree on that ? Does it sound like it’s fingered differently?

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Jim Dorans, I never managed to play along with the recording. I listened and copied phrase by phrase, with me playing in A, sounding flat by comparison, wondering what the heck was going on!

Re: Sean Maguire tuning

Try the other recording linked above he plays that in A 440 , I’m curious as to how that differs from the OP link .
or tune up to A453 , half a semitones sharp and play along with it in A or tune down half a semi tone and play in Bb.