Folk and bass clef brass

Folk and bass clef brass

Hi everyone,
I am a folk music lover who over lockdown has got back into playing the euphonium (I played in brass bands when I was a kid). It’s a softer sound than a trombone so it works quite well for folk music, either as the tune or accompaniment. But because it is in a very different key (Bb) to most traditional folk instruments it means I pretty have to transpose everything and it gets to be a bit of pain, even though there are free apps like ScoreCreator which are a big help. Then it just gets complicated again playing with other people!

So I have a general question and then a tecky The Session question.
Firstly: any other folky brass (or brassy folk) players out there with any good tips?
Secondly, is there any way on the Session software of posting tunes that show up as bass clef?

The only other way I can think of is to post things as treble clef and kind of just pretend they are bass clef, but it gets very confusing. Surely there is a better way?

Thanks in advance,
Tom

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

Brass hasn’t really been absorbed into the tradition so far so there is no real need for the bass clef for the vast majority of players. In fact most traditional musicians I know don’t read sheet music. ABC or learning by ear is fairly standard. Your solution, I think, lies in reading the ABC notation and eventually learning by ear rather than the mental gymnastics of jumping between treble and bass clef. Ultimately listening to a tune until you know it in your head and then learning to play it that way, including all the little pauses and inflections that sheet music just can’t convey. Good luck with it anyway.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

You can use EasyABC to transpose a tune down a couple of octaves and it automatically puts it into bass clef.
To get the couple of octaves down you’ll need to transpose down one octave twice. The process is straightforward.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

I should have added that I think a euphonium giving a bass line to a tune and coming in with the melody now and again is a great idea.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

And I should have added that for some great listening you won’t do much better than Forgotten Gems by Peter Carberry and Pádraig McGovern (https://thesession.org/recordings/4524). They play in Bb at a nice steady pace and it’s available on BandCamp.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

By default ABC uses the treble clef. You can force other clefs by using "clef=" in the K: or V: field eg K:Bb clef=bass.

Whether it’s appropriate to post versions of tunes in unusual keys is a matter for others. Any ABC software will easily transpose tunes to different keys, and will automatically change the clef if necessary, so I’m not sure why there should be a need to, unless it is a tune or version of a tune which isn’t already listed (but it would then be more useful to others to post it in a more usual key).

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

Hey thanks everyone. I haven’t used abc before but you’ve given me some inspiration to go in and start having a play around. I have found some of the tracks from forgotten gems online and I agree that it’s a great place to start with playing along and improvising some bass lines by ear. And @muircheartaigh: yes that’s exactly what works well on the euphonium. I think, anyway. Because it’s pretty much got exactly the same register as a male human voice it makes a nice alternative to carry the tune every once in a while. Some tunes are made for it too…like trumpet horn pipe (obviously) and Carolan’s air/welcome.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

"And I should have added that for some great listening you won’t do much better than Forgotten Gems by Peter Carberry and Pádraig McGovern (https://thesession.org/recordings/4524). They play in Bb at a nice steady pace and it’s available on BandCamp."

They play in B, not Bb…

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Re: Folk and bass clef brass

I have never seen a lipped brass instrument used at a Trad Irish Music session.
But I have seen them used many times for English Trad Music and Morris (esp trombones).
And very effective they are!
A sympathetic and melodious euphonium line in Trad Irish Tune could be lovely.
I can hear a hornpipe sounding copasetic played on a euphonium in the baritone voice by the right person.
As ever, what ever anyone did on the instrument in this context, it completely relies on who’s playing it!!!

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

Oops, sorry about that Nico. Yes, they play in B.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

In my experience - Morris trombones - a succession of glissando farts without any regard to key and only a vague sense of rhythm.
I heard one good one once.

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

ABC is well worth getting to grips with as it has become the standard for writing folk tunes, not just on The Session but on many other sites. A lot of tune collections are in ABC. Some people misundertand it because it is in ordinary text and can be read by a human (and some people can play direct from the ABC) and ask why not just learn conventional notation, but it is better to think of it as a way of writing music for a computer to display as conventional notation, play back, or transpose. There are a number of free software programs which will do this, and some online converters eg http://www.mandolintab.net/abcconverter.php

For simple melodies I find ABC far quicker to use than more sophisticated score writers (although you can write surprisingly complex stuff in ABC). Because it is simple text it has the other advantage that you can quickly jot down a tune using any text editor, or simply a piece of paper, when you don’t have access to a score writer. Similarly, if you don’t have access to a computer you can still read and understand it.

Steve Mansfield has written an excellent guide to ABC
http://www.lesession.co.uk/abc/abc_notation.htm

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

“I agree that it’s a great place to start with playing along and improvising some bass lines by ear.”

Possibly in an English mixed genre folk session, don’t try this in an Irish trad session 😂

Re: Folk and bass clef brass

Yes, I’ve heard trombones used a fair bit by Morris sides, as has been noted above. I’d suggest that you need to know what you’re doing do do a good job and to lift the music rhythmically, in that sort of scenario. Of course, that can be very different to session playing.

I have heard some trombones in English sessions too, and they can fit with many rhythmic, often square, Morris-style tunes. Also a lot of brass in Central and Eastern European trad music, but that’s a different kettle of fish!

I’ve also heard some brass in Welsh trad sessions- trombone, euphonium and trumpet. Not Irish, but a couple of general points spring to mind:

Trombones are loud. Much louder than usual session instruments. So are euphoniums (euphonia?). They can add some interest to a session occasionally, but I think they should be used sparingly. Used on the occasional set or song they can be effective, but played all the way through they can dominate and can jar.

If you’re going to play a bass line, you need to think about the chords that anyone else may be playing, as well as any harmonies that might already be going on. If a few people try to play harmony parts all the way through tunes, things can get a bit confused and mushy, especially if someone starts to play variations. It seems to me that you’d do well to talk to any session regulars first, or be well-versed in a particular session, to know what’s likely to happen so you can fit in.

And yes, a well-played euphonium can be lovely!