"Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

"Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

A quote from William Marshall, as I recall, although some have attributed it to Skinner. I think both of them would likely have had the same approach… 🙂

Anyway, we touched on this many years ago https://thesession.org/discussions/3251

There are many tunes where there seems to be a bar or phrase which is quite "quirky" and not what you might expect. It’s not necessarily difficult but it just seems more natural to play something else..and I often do when I’m not concentrating.

It’s usually in the B part where the tune resolves in a different way from what you might expect. It also is very common in four part pipe tunes and/or other tunes composed in that style especially in the final few bars of Part Four.

So, why is this such a common thing?

Do some composers such as those above deliberately do this to "catch players out"?
Or is it just a case of being a little more creative and interesting?

Maybe, it is just the accepted and traditional way of doing things?

In a small number of case, the tune might just have been wrongly notated, of course.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

I often think those are the best bits of four part pipe marches - I call it the sting in the tail.
[There’s a video clip of Lau playing Irene Meldrum in a stairwell (or some such random place), at the end of which Martin Green says he spent most of the time wondering if he was going to remember the last four bars.]
Perhaps they are there to warn inattentive pipers that the next tune is coming up soon.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

I suppose the answer is "why not". To me at least a tune is a conversation, a joke, a story, a call to arms, a pontification (guilty as charged). A tune should have a purpose. Many if not all of us make attempts to find a clever, colorful, ironic way of speaking from time to time. That’s what makes speech interesting. Don’t you think that a life without twists and turns, that always goes exactly as expected, would be pretty boring? I guess tunes should be like that.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

I think the simplest explanation (maybe too simple?) is that it’s for maximum contrast when you return to the A part on the next repeat of the tune. If the last four bars leading back into the first four bars is too similar, it just isn’t very interesting.

Some tunes provide that contrast with a full change of mode for the entire last part, like The Gravel Walks. Where the mode remains the same throughout the tune, contrast at the end can be achieved with a phrase that’s very distinctive in the last four bars, and hasn’t been heard before in the tune.

For example, the last four bars in the B part of the Prince Charlie reel, which took me a *long* time to get under my fingers because it just isn’t "logical" (but sounds great anyway). It jumps up and down drastically in pitch, and then when you get back to the A part it’s more of a steady melody line. I don’t think there’s a way to fake that part by playing something else.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

There’s a 4-part march some of the older (in particular) Cape Breton fiddlers would play that is run-of-the-mill until the end of the 4th part, when there’s suddenly a major (from … ‘modal’) variation that I find striking. But I always ask myself if I want to go through the work of learning and memorizing a long and otherwise, for me, unmemorable tune just for the satisfaction of that one moment …. So far I’ve resisted ….

Sorry, I don’t know the name of the tune.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

In respect of four part GHB pipe tunes, I imagine they start out as two parters. The third and fourth parts become variations and often follow a similar structure to the first two parts. The last four bars of the fourth part offer a different melodic approach and if chords were played they’d be quite different to the rest of the tune, possibly moving to a relative minor and so on. Giving the lift and point of interest to the tune or signalling the end of the tune noting that GHB piping tradition has not always encouraged a tune to be repeated two or three times as is more common in the Irish tradition. Sometimes we also get this in the last four bars of the second part of a four parted tune, such as a 2/4 March.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

"I imagine they start out as two parters."

Maybe some of the older reels, but most GHB tunes of the last 100 or more years that have 4 parts were written with four parts - especially marches, but also the majority of jigs and many reels.

Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

There was always a tradition, going back into the 18th century, of a small number of many-parted tunes, just as there is in Irish music today, though the bulk was always two-parters.

The competition system created a drive for innovation giving rise to writing 4+ part tunes being the norm.

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Re: "Ah dinna write tunes for bunglers"

That is true. Many of the multiple part reels in the Scots guards book 1, for example, began as two parters before competition became popular, but like i say, most tunes after that with four parts began life as four parters. Most of the reels in SG book 2 for example.