Hornpipes

Hornpipes

Which is the Irish style hornpipe—with a dotted rhythym, or straight? As many of you know, I’m "forced" to cross genre lines a lot with local groups, and I’m confused. Also, how fast does a dotted hornpipe go? Take Fisher’s Hornpipe—I learned it dotted, four part, and at a moderate pace (120 bpm, counting quarter notes), but I’ve heard it played straight at 120 counting eighth notes. Needless to say, trying to adapt, I was lost…
Speaking of cross-genre, the group that I was with who played Fisher’s played a contra set with Year of Jubilo (old-time/american civil war), Hungarian Dance (classical, Bach, No. 2, I think), and Fisher’s. What a ride!

Re: Hornpipes

Discussion on tempos here…
https://thesession.org/discussions/26748

There’s a lot of variation between dotted and not so dotted. I often hear reels played with more swing than fast hornpipes in Clare/Galway then sometimes with a heavy syncopation like an English hornpipe.

Re: Hornpipes

Play it how you enjoy it most.
I tend to play hornpipes quite dotted, but sometimes it’s fun to play reels fast and undotted, other times slower with a bit of a lilt.
Just read Loughcurra’s comment… pretty much what he/she said.

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I noticed that in O’Neil’s some hornpipes are dotted and some aren’t. Is that a vestige of some lost knowledge about certain types of hornpipes that we don’t follow anymore? Like these types of hornpipes are dotted and these types aren’t, and now we just don’t differentiate? I’d considered that it’s down to certain performers, but while it seems that Ennis’ are mostly dotted, but not much regularity to the others’.

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"I noticed that in O’Neil’s some hornpipes are dotted and some aren’t. Is that a vestige of some lost knowledge about certain types of hornpipes that we don’t follow anymore? "

I don’t think so. I think the tunes are designated as hornpipes because the fit the dance, whether they are swung or not is irrelevant. Just as some jigs and reels are swung and others are not, and many can be played either way, I think the same applies to hornpipes.

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I think of it more as "bounce" when playing a hornpipe than a dotted feel, but maybe that’s the same thing. I usually play hornpipes with a little bounce because that’s the way they’re played in local Irish sessions, but there is some variety between tunes. Some are played a little more straight than others. Not sure I could tell you why, it’s just the way they seem to want to go.

Here’s an interesting video clip of a fiddler playing the Liverpool Hornpipe for a step dancer in 1963:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvU7oBBgKA&feature=related


Most of the dotted feel is in the dancer’s feet, the fiddler is playing it fairly straight. The tempo is also much slower than I’ve ever heard a hornpipe played in sessions, so the dancer can get all those tricky steps in.

To the OP: If you’re playing in a "mixed" session with players from other genres, you’ll just have to adapt, especially if you’re hanging out with Bluegrass players who flatten out hornpipes and play them very fast. There’s no room between notes for a dotted feel when the tempo gets fast enough.

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Conical Bore: "… the fiddler is playing it fairly straight."

Actually, I hear quite a lot of ‘dotting’ in it - the quavers sound roughly 2:1 in length (corresponding with the triplets in the dancer’s footwork). The bowing style, however, seems unusually legato to me - although the rhythm is impeccable. The more punctuated rhythm of Macdara Ó Raghallaigh’s playing (see GW’s link above) is more typical of the way hornpipes are played nowadays.

"The tempo is also much slower than I’ve ever heard a hornpipe played in sessions, so the dancer can get all those tricky steps in."

That is, I think, about the standard tempo for a hornpipe when accompanying a solo stepdancer. Hornpipes are played a lot faster for set dancing.

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Yes, it might be the legato bowing that’s throwing me off from hearing the dotting from the fiddler.

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I agree, play tunes as you feel them, fast or slow, with swing or without. Still I remember from a previous similar discussion a succinct statement "a true hornpipe is one that sucks when it’s played like a reel". I no longer remember who said that but Thank You!

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@GW. YES!

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I have often wondered if there is a connection between the swing in some hornpipe styles and early American jazz — did Irish influence early jazz or is it the other way around? I know there were a lot of Irish American musicians early on in the Tin Pan Alley/vaudeville music scene — swinging hornpipes seem to drop into that style nicely —

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Re: Hornpipes

I first learned hornpipes as played fairly slowly in a dotted fashion, because I was introduced to the music by my partner at the time, who was an Irish dance instructor. For step dancing, hornpipes are generally played dotted and fairly slowly (the better the dancer, the slower the tempo, because they have more moves to fit in the same amount of space). But playing them in sessions is a different matter. They certainly get played dotted in sessions, and many times get played straighter as well, and you should be able to play them both ways (and anything in between), to match with how everyone else is playing them.

But also keep in mind that hornpipes are phrased differently than reels, too. They often have long scale runs that get filled in with triads, and the parts always end with a distinctive hornpipe ending that matches the dance. You don’t generally hear a hornpipe that will flow smoothly into the next part, like you might in a reel. The last bar generally comes to a solid resolution, either with a "bump, bump, bump", or a "bibbity bobbity boo", because the dance does that as well.

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"I have often wondered if there is a connection between the swing in some hornpipe styles and early American jazz — did Irish influence early jazz or is it the other way around?"

I always thought the hornpipe was a continental style. There’s plenty of other music besides jazz that "swings," for lack of a better term. French baroque music, for example, although they called it "inegale," which I think I’m spelling correctly.

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Good question, Ted. I’m really wondering if this riddle can ever be sorted. Best I can tell the hornpipe originated in England. The concept of an "Irish hornpipe" is (now) very clear & aligns with the way Reverend describes it from a dance perspective; a solo dance at that. My question is where/when did Irish dancers learn this Irish style of dance?

When the Gaelic League formed it had a strong influence over which dances were considered Irish (and which were not). But the Gaelic League didn’t always know how the people were dancing, didn’t always want to know. The Gaelic League were less interested in local and individual customs (diversity across Irish dance styles) and more concerned with defining standards of *their* community.

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