higherarchy in diddley instuments

higherarchy in diddley instuments

There is a kind of higherarchy in diddley instuments that people may find eletist for elitist sake. but there are good reasons for these ratings. And give or take the arguments for the odd instrument jumping from one group to another, I would be surprised if there is not general agreement in this:

top three (in no particular order):
pipes, fiddle and flute

second tier (in no particular order):
Tenor banjo, mandolin, button box (B/C), whistle, concertina.

next:
Piano accordian, harp, anything strummy, piano

next:
bodhran


I hold up my hands if I left any out (except the things that don’t deserve to be on the lisr at all)

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D’accord. But why not C#/D as well?

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I am going to do what St Patrick would want me to do and put aside our different opinions and wish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day Michael.

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lol, micheal - you’re really on a rampage about the bodhran. I’d bump harp and concertina to your top tier and learn to spell "heirarchy" and then I’d say you’ve pretty much got it right. That and a buck fifty will buy you a cup of coffee.

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Woohoo! Let’s start a war.

Is this hierarchy for sessions or the whole art form?

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(whoops, I guess I need to learn to spell hierarchy too.)

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OK then. Why put mandolin down a tier? Is it because it is quiet? And what is wrong with the button box?

Whilst I am a guitarist I am not going to argue about the guitar’s placing. You do need the melody instruments primarily of course or there is no session.

Why seperate the instruments off though into many different tiers, down to what I am assuming are personal preferences. Or is this just an attempt to "subtly" introduce a new bodhran bashing thread?

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where are the spoons and bones in all this- admittidley not *instruments* ,(opening myself up to all kinds of flak,(!) but for arguments sake they have other uses), but do they stay with the bodhran, or in the heirachal scheme of things, or inhabit a lower level?
and if this is as a session heirachy then (other than personal taste for some instruments to be *bumped up*) it seems right on.

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Well, he did put the bodhran on the list at least, I’d take that as a good sign because he did say something about not putting instruments on that didnt deserve a place.

I’d put button box and concertina up on the top tier and backing instruments on the second tier. Of course session can happen without a good backer, but really - how fun is it? I much prefer a session that has a good backer in it.

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Quite bb. So does that not mean we have two tiers - melody and accompaniment. Hardly a new concept.

I would also agree that a session is better with good backing instruments as it adds more dynamics to the music and, yes Michael, that includes the bodhran if played properly!!

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I would transpose flute and whistle. I’ll go along with your assessment of the harp for *diddley* music, but for *Irish* music would move it to the top tier.

Any ideas on where the oboe should be placed? We got one of those.

And bearing in mind that I’m a strong advocate of playing anything you like on anything you like.

KFG

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I agree, as a melody instrument , the pennywhistle deserves to be up there on the first tier. Or is it because you can actually buy one for less than a weeks (or more) wages that its considered a second rate flute?

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Hey, guitar IS a melody instrument! But I would agree with the placement.

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I disagree that there is any fixed hierarchy of instruments. A session’s hierarchy hinges far more on the repertoires and abilities of the players, not which instrument they happen to play. If the person with the most good tunes or the best feel for the music happens to play tenor banjo, then it’s not a "second tier" instrument.

I’d hate to suggest to Mary Bergin that she plays a second tier instrument….

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I know what you mean Will, I suppose I was just pointing out my favourite instruments:) Havind said that, I love a nicely played banjo too!

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Go Will go.

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Will, yes I agree, but perhaps if we thought about it in terms of "street cred", it might be a different story. Like Ms. Bergin probably would agree that she doesn’t get the level of respect or automatic publicity that say Kevin Burke would get. And Kieran Hanrahan would probably admit similar things. And so on and so on.

Taking that line, I would definitely put Box on the first row. There are many significant box players and they tend to get significant respect.

And like in all things, there are the rule breakers, like Ms. Bergin.

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And I can’t wait to see what Noel Hill thinks about the idea that he’s playing a "second tier" instrument. On the other hand — at least we don’t have to worry about any nasty letters from Seamus Tansey.

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I would argue that Ms. Bergin, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hanrahan would be more likely to whip out their respective instruments and play a few tunes together (regardless of Mark’s opinions about their relative acceptability) and not waste their time ranking each other.

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Yep, I was not referring to or placing in doubt the mutual respect between them! They are wise enough not to be bound by "street cred".

I was witness to an incredible session with the first two in it. Life and love forming…

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(Let’s not tell Cathal Hayden his first instrument is inferior to his second - I’d hate to see him play favorites on his next recording.)

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Yes Bobhimself, guitar can be a melody instrument and I like playing melody on it myself although I am not particularly good at it but generally speaking the guitar is used for accompaniment in a session environment.

Anyway, personally I would like to agree with Will in this. It clearly does depend on the quality of the player. A good bodhran player must surely appear higher in the rankings than a bad fiddle player. Assessing inividual contributions to the music must surely be done on an individual basis and not on what instrument they play.

Besides, where has Mr Gill gone in this discussion. Is this his usual trick of attempting to stir something up just to disappear into the background?

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Good, general agreement. Yep, C#/D box, my mistake. And the bones, spoons thing are in the don’t deserve to be on the list at all tier.

Whistle? Yes, there is a good argument to put that in the top. Let me explain the criteria for the top tier:
It’s to do with what you all call the decoration and I call the heart of it. Flute, fiddle, pipes and, yes, whistle are the only instruments who can do this properly. Banjo, box do fantastic emulations of it, and I love it to bits, but it’s not the real thing.

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Here’s an interesting sub-question:

Compare the top and second tier. How many multi-instrumentalists do you know on each tier? (Discounting perhaps the whistle for flute and pipes.)

In other words, how may fiddlers, fluters, pipers or box players who started on or call this their main instrument, play other instruments (in public)?

And how many mando, banjo, and concertinists play other instruments?

This is a question, not a statement.

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Noel Hill once asked me why I bother to play the flute.

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What was your response?

Seriously, no disrespect meant.

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Even when it is spelled correctly, I honestly don’t understand what Michael means by "hierarchy" in this context.

There are hierarchies of players within sessions, sure, and it’s tougher to be a session leader with a mandolin than it is with a fiddle - okay. But I have seen a session led quite capably by a banjo player. So it does depend to some degree on the players skill level and leadership qualities.

If it’s leadership beyond session playing, say including ceilis, perhaps piano accordian might be king?

If it comes down to top tier = "must accept any number of this instrument in a session" as the Field Guide puts it, then Uileann pipes probably have to be demoted.

If it’s "associated with the largest number of well-known and/or recorded musicians" … hmm, That one seems to fit Michael’s list best of all?

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I know this is a hijack, but I ask because I have been messing around with this really horrible anglo recently. I have always liked the concertina. But sometimes I doubt whether I should even get into it. Of course the entry level price helps with this doubt.

But the fiddle can be such a challenge, and I am only starting to get half good. Like Will said in another post, 20 years later and I am only beginning to sound how I would like to sound. I would think this is true of most instruments.

So why "bother" learning another instrument?

(And Jack, I am in no way saying that you are not fab at both your instruments!!)

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Jode, Noel seemed to indicate that there was enough going on with the concertina that to waste any time on another instrument was futile. I don’t think he meant that it was a lesser instrument – I just added that as comic innuendo. As to what my response was to Noel… I think I said something like, “I can’t help it.” Sometimes I wonder if I’d be good at one of those instruments if I concentrated on it rather than just half good at both. Since I’ve been playing for a little over 20 years now – I figure I only have 19 years to go. :-)

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Come on, folks, I think that you’re being a bit hard on Our Mr. Gill. (Yes, I did say that. No, you need not faint. I recognize the irony!)

I think he’s trying to express an honest opinion of something he perceives as real, and not laying down the Gospel According to Gill. (Notice he didn’t list the viola, for instance, which he plays. It’s not just him saying what instruments he likes, IMO.) And although I disagree with his belief that there is inherently a hierarchy in session instruments, I do agree that I’ve heard this sort of opinion voiced a lot —- some sessioneers apparently feel this way.

Jode, the point of "bothering" to learn another instrument is the same as the point to learning the first one —- it leaps out of a dark alley, grabs you by the throat, and won’t let go. In the words of someone who was talking about writing, if you *can* do something else, you really should. If you can’t do anything else, then you’re doing the right thing. That includes becoming a multi-instrumentalist. (One mouse’s opinion.)

I shall now retire to my mousehole and ponder the remarkable twists and turns of irony while incessantly playing a tune that’s grabbed me by the throat and won’t let go.

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Mousey…I think Mr. Gill can handle it!!

Gotta catch the bus. Have a great Paddy’s everyone! I’m starting it out tonight with Lunasa! and maybe a session afterwards!!! Air America radio gig tomorrow early in the morning, so can’t stay out too late!

Safe home!

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It seems to me that most people categorize whatever instrument they themselves play as THE instrument that matters.

But it also sort of seems like there’s a lot of time spent trying to put everyone into their place, a sort of ‘A lsit/B list’.

I agree, the fiddle is important and fabulous. But I think the tiers system is a bit exclusive.

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"So why "bother" learning another instrument?"

I go the other way I’m afraid. I can’t figure out why anyone would fail to want to play any instrument.

Yes, it takes a long time to learn an instrument. 5 years to core compentency and 10 years to some level of expertise is the accepted norm, but some instruments refuse to fit the curve. Fiddle is one of them.

Of course I despair of *ever* sounding as I would *like* on any of them, no matter how long I play them.

Still, instruments run in families, and most of the families have at least some cross over of skills needed to play them, so learning one instrument gives you a jump start on most others (when approaching your first instrument you probably know nothing much about music even, and don’t know have any experience at twiddling your fingers. For your next instrument you already know music, and don’t have to relearn basic finger twiddling, just the specific twiddles for that particular instrument.)

David Amram, Mark O’Connor, Roy Clark and a host of others belie the charge that you necessarily can’t be an expert of the highest level on several instruments.

"What was your response?"

I haven’t been asked why I play the flute, but when I once mentioned to a guitar builder that I built mountain dulcimers he looked at me with real shock and wonder and asked "Why?"

I thought the answer was patently obvious:

"Because I want to."

KFG

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"Mousey"?

*blink blink* That’s a new one. Only someone in an e-forum like this one could come up with it, since you’ve never interacted with me ftf.

Might want to watch your ankles. Mice have teeth. ;)

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OK so my spelling aint great, so let me spell it out again:

It’s to do with what you all call the decoration and I call the heart of it. Flute, fiddle, pipes and, yes, whistle are the only instruments who can do this properly. Banjo, box do fantastic emulations of it, and I love it to bits, but it’s not the real thing.

Remember now that I’m talking about the instruments’ capabilities and not how some genius or other overcomes them.

Lets look at the concertina, as it’s been mentioned quite a bit. You press one or more buttons each of which activate a lever which allows air to pass over a brass reed. The pitch of each reed is fixed, and though you have conciderable control over the dynamics, you have no control over the individual dynamics of one note played in a chord. You have no control over the tembre or pitch off notes other than how the dynamics effect them. You can play quite effective triplets similar to those on the banjo and are able to play a certain amount of grace notes, but you are unable to play rolls, crans etc.

This puts it in the second tier.

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Teeth…. >:)

**Sticks a seamrog behind Sara’s ear**

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*Adjusts greenery*
Thank you, kind sir!
One more month until M. Hayes and D. Cahill infest our neck of the woods… ;)

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It all depends on the criteria by which instruments are sorted. Personal preference? Popularity in Ireland? Popularity on www.thesession.org? How established they are in the tradition? Their capacity to be faithful to the tradition?

What Michael says above on the concertina is most closely related to the last of the four criteria I have mentioned. But he makes the assumption that, in order to be faithful to the tradition, an instrument must be capable of imitating other instruments in the tradition, namely pipes, fiddle and flute. Yet the concertina is a very well established part of the musical tradition of Clare, and there are several local styles within the one county. Similarly, whilst the button accordion may be regarded as less ‘traditional’ by some, it has a well established place in Connemara and Sliabh Luchra music, in the former case being more prominent than any of the the ‘top three’ instruments. And where are all the flutes and pipes in Donegal?

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One reason to pick up whistle or flute as a second instrument is to learn how breathing informs your phrasing, which can then be carried over to the other instruments you play. But you can also get the same influence from simply lilting the tunes.

Like Jode, chronic frustration with the fiddle first led me to try another instrument (whistle, then flute). But now I find that progress on flute, in particular, has inspired me to keep improving the fiddle playing. I’m more than ever aware of the different capabilities of these two instruments, and I love what they both bring to the music. I’d recommend this to anyone.

As for Michael’s hierarchy, it sounds to me that he actually means a hierarchy of Irish trad articulation—his first tier instruments are the only ones (in his estimation) that can do the music full justice by playing all of the essential articulations (cuts, rolls, triplets, cranns, smears, slides, etc.). I can see his point, but in practical, real-world terms I still think this is a misleading and not very useful construct.

First off, most of the articulations we hear on fiddle, flute, and whistle are attempts to emulate pipe sounds. So maybe pipes deserve their own peak of the pyramid.

Second, some instruments in the hands of really good players do as well as those in Michael’s first tier. I’ve heard concertina and box players do everything (and more) that a fiddler can do.

Third, who says the music has to remain forever locked in it’s earliest form? Yes, it’s a slow-to-change tradition, but it does indeed change. The articulations available on banjo, bouzouki, box, piano, etc. have influenced fiddle, flute, and pipe players, helping them expand their musical expressiveness. (E.g., I suspect that tongued triplets on flute come not just out of the classical or jazz flute tradition but in response to the crisp plectrum triplets we hear from banjo. Such mimickery is natural.) If your premise is that new articulations dilute the music, then Michael’s hierarchy begins to make sense. But I’d say your premise is wrong. At some point, bowed triplets were an "innovation" on fiddle. The music did not start out fully formed as we know it today. The tradition is not wholly against innovation per se, but it does insist on a slow pace of change, and on embracing only those articulations the practitioners themselves deem suited to the purpose at hand—giving lift to dance music.

Fourth, if your concern is that mixed articulations muddy the sound—say, when a banjo resorts to a triplet while the fiddle does a roll—I’d say one person’s mud is another’s beauty treatment. I think that mixed articulations add interest to the overall sound, allowing each voice to be heard distinctly, yet as part of the whole. This is true of nearly any ensemble form of music.

Finally, when I play fiddle with another instrument, I pay attention to supporting that other instrument. If it’s banjo, I might do more chromatic bowed triplets. If it’s a whistle or flute, I might open my rolls up a bit and make them less percussive. All the while letting the fiddle also do its thing—the fiddly bits that only a fiddle can do. It never crosses my mind that the other instrument is not on the same tier as mine—we’re partners, not members of a caste system.

But my opinion is always wrong and stupid…. ;o)

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Heh. That’s all right, Sara. Waaaaaay back when, I was a GeoCities volunteer community leader, and part of that was mandatory chatroom babysitting and policing, two hours a day. My nick back then was RatGirl, because I was born in the year of the Rat. I’ve heard all the rodent jokes and insults you could ever imagine — at least mice are cute. Rats are *not* considered cute by most. :) People degraded my nick even further and I became "Ratso" somehow or other. Finally I gave in and my MUD/chatroom personae became a large rat, about knee high — with extra sharp teeth in the case of chatroom flamers.

Anyway, a bit more on the subject, I’d say that it’s not a case of how some genius overcomes an instrument’s limitations, but how they flaunt and develop its strengths.

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Yes Will, I learned to play with the pipes, so my fiddle playing is very pipey. And you are right that when you play this ensemble music, you adjust your articulation to fit. But one of the things I do when playing with the pipes is to cut down my dynamic range almost completly.

So an interesting byproduct of this ensemble playing is a reducton in variation, not an increase. So maybe the pipes should go under the flute and fiddle?

But as I said at the opening here, we can quible about the odd thing, but the basic premise still stands. And that is that the more the range of the specific articulations needed for this music you have available on your instrument, the better the instrument is at playing this music.

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Actually, I’m the opposite, Michael — I don’t cut down my dynamic range at all; in fact I probably over do it a bit when playing with our piper, to make up for the fact that he doesn’t have much of a dynamic range.

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But I love unison

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I don’t know Michael, maybe I’m just being hard-headed but "better" still rubs me the wrong way. I think each adds its own voice—different, but only "better" if you want to get subjective about it—"I like fiddle better than concertina." In other words, a fiddle is only "better" than a concertina if the fiddle sound is what you’re after. If you want that concertina sound, only a concertina will do, eh?

And I’m still trying to figure out what good it does to rank the instruments this way. I would never want to discourage someone from learning concertina simply because it’s somehow less well-suited to the music than fiddle or flute. If anything, we’re overrun with your first tier instruments at most sessions—we could use a few more concertina and button box players (at least at the sessions I’ve been to). As a famous banjo player once cried out, "Ah jayzus, just what we need—another g—damned fiddle player with reels spilling out of his f-holes!" *grin*

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"Lets look at the concertina […] you are unable to play rolls, crans etc."

Excuse me, I play rolls, crans and ects all over the feckin thing.

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Geez Jack, that sounds more like anarchy than hierarchy. :o)

I was wondering about that—I could swear I’ve heard rolls and cranns coming out of the concertinas in our sessions.

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Also, if it’s strict unison we’re after, then you’ll have to teach one side or the other to match the timing and notes of their rolls. It’s absolutely common for fiddlers and fluters/pipers to use different sounds to articulate their rolls, and most fluters/pipers use a much more even timing ("dah-blah-blah") than do most fiddlers ("daaaah-diddle-ee"). And we haven’t even gotten into what fiddlers do when piper’s crann the D or fluters roll the A….

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You actually did it. I just finished saying in the "Coming Out" thread that an instrument "hierarchy" was sad. In fact I actually said "catch yourself on".

You see the bloke in the Berlin philharmonic orchestra with the triangle, he’s not there because they want to split the money one extra share, he’s there because they think they need him/her. He/she is there to enhance the music, to add and contribute.

Instrument hierarchy my arse. Oh my God, I have awoken an evangelist.

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I agree with Will. There are melody players and support players that are both mutually dependent. Team effort and compatibility are critical.

I don’t see how it helps to dissect it beyond this point. I suppose it would help anyone on the top tier feel more important. Why is this needed if you are there for the music? What is the benefit of everyone else feeling less important ?

:^) )^: )^: )^: )^: or :^) :^) :^) :^) :^) ?

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P.S.: Happy St. Patrick’s Day Bodhran Bliss!

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Indeed Will. Each instrument has its own voice, its own system of rendering notes, phrases and thus tunes, and so its own level of required expertise. I’m not sure I agree with you that flutes’ and fiddles’ ornamentation are trying to emulate the pipes, Molloy actively tries to do so, but among the older guys they play with tonguing, etc. ….anyway not wishing to get bogged down on a second front….
Briefly this reductionist notion of hierarchies is relevant really only in food chains where plankton are eaten by small fish which are eaten by big fish which are eaten by Penguins and vegetarians who are eaten by fiddle players who are eaten by pipers….OK, there is a heirarchy after all….
Personally, I think spoons players and dire singers should be at the top.
Then "singers" who can accompany themselves on guitar, but as an example of minimalist art - fully exploring all 3 chords to their total potential.
Then bodhran thumpers.
Then bodhran players.
Then guitars, accompanying the next, and of course lowest, level of the pyramid:
Pipes, flute, fiddle, box and any strong melody instrument.
Why do you think I’m wrong?
That’s the way it is in certain "sessions" (these gatherings are termed sessions, I promise you) down in SE London.

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Heh, "dire" singers certainly are in a class by themselves, eh?

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How could you be happy, Ceol? Are there hierarchies of happiness?

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I’ve yet to come across the solo bodhran cd that I will lay out money for….haven’t really heard that much solo mandolin either, although the concertina could be a little diff….

it seems that the fiddle , pipes, and flutes were the first instruments to produce music of the genre..perhaps therefore Michaels hierarchy statement…

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‘Happy St Patrick’s Day?’
Is that what you say? That’s dreadful, that’s like saying ‘Happy Fathers Day!’
It’s just providing Hallmark with an excuse to make another Greetings Card section in their foul little shops. And then the pressure will begin. "You haven’t bought your father a St Paddy’s Day Card!" "Go and buy your Mother some flowers, it’s St Patrick’s Day!" "I know it’s not something you agree with, but do it for her sake!"

I never met a Mando player who didn’t really want to play the fiddle…
;-)

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I was attracted by something to the mandolin, and was then to lazy to change the tunes for a left handed player, a useful excuse for failure. I never wanted to play the fiddle, but pipes, whistle for ITM and the piano for anything else. Never learnt any of them, but then I,ve already confessed to being lazy. Or what about the sax? Remember Zoot from the Muppets?

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Excuse me, Ottery, but let me introduce myself. I LOVE my mandola and mandolin, and have never once wanted to play the fiddle. I have great respect and admiration for (good) fiddlers, but my interest in other instruments has gone to whistles and, in other musical styles, piano. Mostly because that’s what I studied when I was very young, and it was easy to pick up.

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This conversation is killing me. Seriously. I’ve even skimmed the posts of everyone I love to read. KILLING me. I’d trade a fiddler for a concertina player any day of the week, just because of the numbers. I thanked the gods when a local whistle player finally got his long awaited concertina. I MISS the banjo when the local wizards don’t show up. I don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, Micheal, but if I had to choose between a session with five fiddles, three flutes and two pipers and a session with a flute, a fiddle, a guitar, a piper, a concertina, a banjo, a bodran, a button accordion, a whistle, a bouzouki and a harp I’d actually pay money for the latter, whereas the former is the sad reality I confront every day of my waking life. Can you not see it?

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Zina —- sister! I too was born in a year of the Rat, which is one of the several reasons behind the "mouse" handle. (I prefer mice to rats. ;)

Now we *really* gotta get together for some tunes. As I said to somebody on another list when a debate was going on and on, there’s a cool little brewpub just down the way, called the Standing Stone. Let’s head on over and rattle some windows, yes? I’ll run on over to the other list and grab my friend, he’s a piper and a darned good one, and there’s a whistler on that list too. Can you get a couple of folks too? Bet Padraig would come. We can nail down a table and get a double order of garlic fries and some pints and have a good time.

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Ach, come on, then….

…………

Did you say Garlic Fries!?!?!


_gevalt!_

And yes… less than a month … now All I must do is find money… argh

Padraig

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Ottery: Yes, my best wishes for St Patrick’s Day for Bodhran Bliss is a sad alternative for a Zoot muppet T-Shirt (if they had them) now that you mention it. That Zoot muppet thing has character.

We had a go at each other in the "Coming Out" verbal tsunami, and its my way of trying to declare a clean slate with both Michael and Bodhran "Zoot" Bliss. So it isn’t just a corny, plastic green hat and shamrock gesture (at least for my part).

Bodhran Bliss: am I happy with the hierarchy thing and assuming the bottom status for bodhran? No. I would hate to put any instrument or musician in that status. I would hate to see a talented guitar player or tinwhistle player refrain from leading due to some rigid formula. I would hate to be a bodhran player capable of studio level playing and have to conform to the human metronome expectations of another lead musician. Teamwork and compatibility seems to be a much more productive group focus than hierarchy.

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Well, Sara, *squeak!* to that! Have Padraig bring along some of those drumsticks, of the chicken persuasion. Try as I might, I still have a fondness for them.

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But… But…. the pipes have inherent limitations where notes of the melody couldn’t be articulated except with fingering, and it uses a constant stream of uninterrupted air. Isn’t that where the style of Irish music emulates? Don’t the other instruments emulate this to even though they don’t share the same limitations? Wouldn’t that place the pipes at the center of the ITM solar system with all the other instruments orbiting around?

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Personaly I dont think you have the right to put down any instrument as it can really offend those whi play it. I think its discussion like what you have started in this one causes hatred in Irish music. Its just a type of music. Why not try enjoy it for what it is without de grading it in any way.

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Yes Jack, you get it. Though the fiddle and flute’s dynamics I think put them on the same level as the pipes. Or rather, as you put it better than I, at the centre rather than the top.

And as I said before, you can creat a very good immitation of a roll on a concertina, but you can’t roll. Anyone who thinks they can doesn’t know what a roll is

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I’m a bit late here but Michael’s "hierarchy" is probably about right. At least as far as Irish music is concerned. However, I still play the mandolin much more than fiddle, especially in sessions.
To be fair, Michael isn’t suggesting that the instruments in the lower tiers shouldn’t be played (though he might make an exception in the case of the bodhran) but only that the flute, pipes, and fiddle are the best and most natural instruments for Irish music.
However, it also depends on the player. Mandolins, tenor banjos etc and even piano accordians can sound great in the right hands.

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Michael, do you mean keyed or unkeyed flutes?

:-D

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Come on Ketida, you must be in denial(!). I love my mandolin, but it isn’t an overly expressive instrument. It has a limited dynamic range, and if you want to play something slow, you’re condemned to to the ‘neapolitan buzz’ thing, that gets a bit much after a few bars…
;-)

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Very interesting responses, though I don’t think anyone has touched the fundamental point. We’re all talking about "Irish TRADITIONAL music." From my understanding, )and reading Brendan Breathnach etc.) Michael’s first tier is completely valid in that those are the instruments on which the music and tradition was created. (Not sure where whistle stands in that.) All the others joined in later, but there need be no value judgement or criticism implied.

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On the contrary, Chad. I "touched" on it, albeit very slightly. :-)
However, I agree with you. It is the hierarchy in *Irish music* that Michael is referring to and not a hierarchy of instruments in general. It’s even possible that the bodhran or some other form of drum might be at the "top of the tree" in some other form of music. I haven’t heard it yet, though. :-)

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I think Pingu’s "hierarchy" should be called a "malarchy".

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I haven’t bothered reading half of this. I agree there is definitely a perceived hierarchy as far as instruments are concerned.

However to say you can’t play rolls and crans on concertinas/boxes and so on is wrong. I can play them on a piano accordion and I’m no great shakes. They’re a bit harder than on, say, a flute and they don’t sound as fluid but they’re certainly achievable.

Certainly boxes and concertinas don’t have a huge dynamic range and therefore you need to be a gifted and more imaginative player to imbue the music with emotion.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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By the way, I certainly know what a roll is! I haven’t been playing this stuff for almost 25 years for nothing.

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Michael’s hierarchy would have been ok 50 years ago, when a roll was something you did in the hay. Too much elitism for me to handle, I’m afraid. Happy Paddy’s day.

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Ha ha, you’ve got me sussed, Gary. But I kid you not about a couple of groanarou…sorry, *Sing*arounds down here which ARE advertised as sessions. A while back a thread appeared on Mudcat slagging me off in name because I played some tunes on the box at one of them! (Some might argue my playing deserves at least that, right enough….) So I dread to think what would happen to a piper should he have the misfortune to chance upon such a gathering.

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Conán - you can achieve good dynamics on the button accordion, surely you can also on the PA? (assuming I’ve understood you correctly.)

Anyway what the hell are you doing in front of a computer when you should be in the pub by now?

:~}

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Hi Michael,
Don’t forget the harmonica players. We play melody unlike the bodrhans; we can sustain notes, unlike the mandolins, guitars, harps and banjos; we can play chords, unlike the flutes and whistles; we can alter a note’s pitch, unlike button boxes, accordion or piano. There are good players eg Brendan Power, Mick Kinsella, Murphy family, James Thurgood, Steve Shaw - all have ITM CDs well worth listening to and easily found by Googling.
If you don’t think we belong we’ll huff and we’ll puff and blow your hierarchy down.

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> It’s to do with what you all call the decoration and I call the heart of it….

Seems to me that this represents the major flaw in Michael’s take. No doubt ornamentation is a special part of the music. But to elevate this as the defining essential characteristic is mistaken in my view. Listen to the playing of a really fine musician, and it should be readily apparent that there is so much more there: pacing, phrasing, lift…and heart.

Does anyone doubt that musicians such as Tony MacMahon, Elizabeth Crotty and Johnny O’Leary have produced music of the first order? Yet if I were take Michael’s list seriously then presumably I’d be left with the nagging feeling that, fine as it is, they would have done better to focus their efforts on another instrument, more inately suitable for ITM.

It seems to me that this is an attempt to impose a pre-conceived model on the music. You’re entitled to try this if you want. But don’t be surprised when it breaks down in the face of reality.

Ed.

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ah.. the league of Big Bad Harmonica Players!

Steve Shaw’s already tried huffing and puffing around here, hasn’t he? And yet this house of straw still stands.

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"Hierarchy in diddley instuments" : from a personal viewpoint, I’d say fiddle, first and foremost, no contest, in the respect of the range of highly varied styles of ITM being played these days. Also, the variety and versatility of the instrument itself, augmented by the skill of the player. An instrument which seamlessly and with ease, crosses any fine lines between different regional styles (eg Clare & Dongal)….not to mention its seamless integration into numerous other musical genres.

Well, by now I guess you know I love fiddle.

As for "Hierarchy in diddley instuments" in the session scenario, I think Michael’s got the list about right - apart from the bodhran being at the bottom, but as in another thread he says he genuinely ‘does not get’ bodhran, then that’s neither here nor there - but it’s a good for simply leaving it off the list.
I think his list only reflects the unspoken elitism for the melody instruments, and has nothing to do with the effectiveness of their function. Same with the group of accompaniment instruments.

Jim

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Yeah, Q, but he *is* good at his job, you have to admit that, even if he doesn’t like the Glee Club.

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Too true. A better Irish harmonica player I’m sure I’ve never heard.

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Greetings All,

I’ll just jump straight away into the fray. To my way of thinking the notion of hierarchy is born of ego and in my nearly fifty years on this planet I have yet to see any true benefit of ego.

I ask; Is the engineer that designed the bridge or those laborers that built the bridge the most important? After all, without both we would be swimming, wouldn’t we?

To me the true top of the heap are the smiles on the faces and tapping of the feet of those listening, the children dancing, the fellowship of the community, the welcoming of those new to the community or just passing through, and the encouragement of new players so that the tradition continues. This is what the music brings about in my world.

May the peace of himself find you this day of celebration for St. Patrick.

Peace,
Ed

A Smile - An Unspoken Expression of Love
A Tear - That of Compassion
An Outstretched Hand - Comfort

Re: higherarchy in diddley instuments

hierachy depends on how many of them show up (and insist to play the whole night) at a session the same time).

if the sixth fiddler shows up it is not a problem, six whistles is a small problem (easy to solve when two of them play a good low or a nice flute), six pipers might be a bigger one only topped by twelve bodhrans + 12 strummers (a friend of mine says, if there is a good strummer in a session he leaves his guitar in its case because one more is one too much). 12 good concertinas played unison would be a great blast, so I would put this instrument almost on top of the hierarchy. but really top to me is a good mix of 1 or 2 pipes, a couple of fiddles, whistles/flutes/low whistles, 1 concertina, button box or as 2nd choice an irtrad emulating piano accordion, one good strummer and why not added like spice not too much exotic instruments …

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You know, there’s the argument that going against a hierarchy is selfish and egotist.

If you don’t wanna play by the community’s rules and accept your assigned place, why, then you’re asserting your individuality. Which is very egotistical, you must admit.

But never fear, I’m selfish too. Damn the hierarchies! Let’s all be equal! Come and see the harmonicas inherent in the system!

(Help, Help, I’m being emancipated!)

%7)

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Actually, I think the point’s been taken that Michael is not talking about the players of the instruments nor the importance of those instruments whether out at a session or in theoretical SessionSpace, but rather the naturalness of this stuff to fall on those instruments, or rather, that was a bit backwards, that he believes those "first tier" instruments were probably the ones that the music was developed upon and so various bits of ornamentation and such that "make" the music what it is are more natural to them than to others.

It’s just that, as usual, he’s couched it in terms that automatically make peoples hackles rise. I’m not actually sure if Michael (pardon me as I once again talk about you like you’re not here, Michael) *means* to do this, but I rather suspect he does.

Or maybe he is. *grin* One never really knows with Michael.

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Ohh, I think we do know, Zina - what is the one word he uses in his bio to desribe himself? Cynic. Mick likes to light the touch paper then stand well back and watch the fireworks….he sometimes gets burnt as he doesn’t stand back far enough, but what the hell, it was worth the show.

My sensible answer, not the previous one I posted, is as usual, sitting on the fence, yes and no…it depends. We should be wary not to class all sessions together, and each one on their individual merit…yeah yeah, I know we all know that. Sometimes a whistle player can make a session and sometimes a piper can ruin another one (I’ve seen both). Or a fiddle player, etc….
If there is any heirarchy it might lie with pub governors who will always want a fiddle and/or a box. Also, as has been mooted before, if there is a heirarchy, it might lie within the egos of the players. I’m not getting at any of you guys, but I’ve noticed some fiddle players (and box players) can have big egos and *think* they’re the centre of a session. And this might be because they get more gigs/sessions than other players because the landlords think they are indispensible!

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Hows this: if there are to be teirs (an odd concept) Pipes should be at the very top. They’re the only indigenous instrument in the bunch. Everything else was barrowed from other traditions/cultures. Whistle doesn’t count because the original early bone whistles were not meant for dance music and had a limited range. The whistle as we know it was invented by an Englishman. Fiddle could be next, it was being used for playing dance tunes at the same time that the pipes evolved out of the Pastoral Pipes. The others are all relative newcomers.

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Fair point Corin, but if pipes, fiddle and flute were all there when the music grew into something we’d recognise (1700’s?) does it make any difference where the instruments had come from? What if the piper uses regulators? Aren’t they a nineteenth century addition?

But I’d agree, even as a fiddler, that the uniqueness of the pipes gives them a special position.

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Merely an observation - the few occasions I’ve been to the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, the audience attending the Senior Fiddle competition has been I would estimate 10 times greater than for the equivalent competition for any other instrument. Of course, that might just be an indication of popularity………..

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I forgot to mention that I can get the individual dynamics of one note played in a chord on the bodhran, and play rolls and crans and all the rest, although most of you probably already guessed that.

I am still horrified about this very idea of a hierarchy. By the way Ceol, I sent you an e-mail explaining all, did you not get it?

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"Though the fiddle and flute’s dynamics I think put them on the same level as the pipes."

But Michael, even the flute and fiddle are emulating the effect of the limitations from the pipes. There is no equal to the uileann pipes when you’re considering where the source of what defines the style of ITM. Any of the instruments mentioned above can cross musical delineations as they relate to culture and genre, but the uileann pipes are always associated with ITM.

Other instruments have inherent limitations that result in a sound unique to that instrument, like the concertina, but the concertina can cross cultural boundaries without anyone saying, "Oh look, an Irish instrument playing French music."

Since I mention the concertina, I’d like to add that Noel Hill once told me that he gets his ideas for how to play ITM on the concertina from listening to the uileann pipes.

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Yes, I got your e-mail. Thank you. I wish we were in the same neighborhood. We could start a regular "Zoot" club. "Bodhrans certainly lift the music, all you have to remember is that you are a backer, trying to enhance the tunes." Yes, we agree 100%. My latest fascination is Teada and how the bodhran enhances very traditional Irish music.

The Sierra Mountains here are very beautiful, but then there is Bush. You said you were joking. I’m not. Bush is in Norn Ireland!!! Just saw him in the news with a shamrock houseplant in hand. Can you guys keep him there awhile? Get him extremely drunk on green beer. Maybe if he dozes off, you can line up the empty bottles around him, crown him with one of those plastic green hats, and take photos for the newspapers. Many Americans would be eternally in your debt.

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I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet as there too many posts to read :-) but surely the instrument on which a tune(s) was composed must be significant? I mean they weren’t all composed on Uillean pipes or fiddle and flute for that matter! Take newer tunes like Caliope House and McArthur Road, for instance, which were both composed by a mandolin player-Dave Richardson. These are played on all instruments but could it be argued that the mandolin is the more natural instrument for these?
I can’t give any examples of bodhran tunes, I’m afraid. ;-)

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Or, you could let that madwoman with her baseball bat wander onto the airstrip and give a good hard whack to the nose of Airforce 1 right where all the sensitive computer parts are stored.

I know they have pretty tight the security around the Shannon airport - when I was there there were two really cute guards peeking in the windows of passing cars on the road to the airport.

"Where are ye goin’?"
"Uh… I’m going to the airport."
"Alroight den, have a noice day."

I really think if she doesn’t fill her back seat with placards or wear a T shirt with a big, bright picture of a burning American flag she might be able to sneak past them.

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What’s that got to do with the price of fish, Kerri? :_)

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John, I always thought "Calliope House" was composed on a calliope. How terribly disappointing. I had visions of big red shoes and dancing monkeys…

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Oh, John, responding to ceol’s plan for getting Bush sauced up enough to get one of those post-wild-party photos.

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Is Bush not at home in The White House? It’s a contigent from Northern Ireland that have come to visit him. At least, that’s what’s on our news!

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Ugh! You may be right. Me jumping to the conclusions I like. He had a lot to say about violence in N. Ireland, and I suppose he’s an expert on violence. I suppose the next topic will be torture. Hmmm! Plan B for a St Patrick’s Day photo. Maybe I need to contact the local guys.

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I was just listening to Democracy Now and they were talking with one of the Irish anti-war activists, Tim Hourigan, who was acquitted after his arrest during a protest against President Bush. He said if it wasn’t for his group and others like it, the Irish people would never have known about the nature of the US military’s use of Shannon Airport. He also reckons that the US military is using Shannon as a stopover point for people that the CIA are abducting illegally and taking to other countries to be tortured. I just wonder what Bush and the US has on the Irish government to get their complicity with things the Irish people are clearly and overwhelmingly opposed to.

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Don’t worry John J if YOU don’t know any tunes composed on bodhran, I’ve already made it clear on other threads that you don’t actually need to know who’s who, or what’s what.

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Just for Jack. Never annoy a madman who has WMDs, that’s what Bush has on the Irish, and the Brits.

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I thought you were the one with the WMDs BB. hahahaha :-D

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Weapons of musical disruption?

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Thank you Jack. I thought I had just stepped in the "don’t talk about politics" cow pie. If we are going for the weapons of musical disruption, I want the Calliope and Lambeg with subwoofers.

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Myself, I’d plop for a hurdy-gurdy and a sound system with major feedback problems.

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Why lug all that around when all you really need are two spoons and a jar of of the quare….

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"plop"?

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Ask my brother, I got it from him.

Somebody normal would have said "opt for". ;)

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So there are people who like unaccompanied melody instruments and people who like their music with bodhrans or guitars or whatever backing? You can’t like both?

I haven’t actually met anyone like that. Everyone I know who likes the aforesaid Whirlwind CD (I myself own it) also appreciates groups like Danu.

So where are these either/or folks you speak of?

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Actually, CeolCairdeas, (Michael) I was relieved to hear you speak that way considering that you might be living in close proximity to Nic C.

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Is that Robbie hannon who tried to play a bodhran in 1975, and then had to buy a half set of pipes? I used to teach him, and I don’t mean the pipes.

Incidently if I play pipes or flute or fiddle it obscures the detail of the music. I wonder why?

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Do u ever do any work on that computer bb?

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All of this is at home. Using the computer at work results in being shot at dawn.

Kerri, "weapons of musical disruption". I like that, I think I’ll use that one.

Jack, I only claimed to be a dirty fighter, people are not supposed to know about my WMDs so please don’t mention them again. Thanks.

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BB, you’ve created an aura "aw aroon aboot yersel", what with your descriptions of your bodhranistic talents and your highly verbose postings. I for one am dying to hear you play. How’s about a tune for the Mighty Craic Online? Go on, you know you want to! Please?

Jim

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Jim to BB: — "How’s about a tune for the Mighty Craic Online?"

CAUTION: Could result in musical disruptions

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*Apologies* from Jim ….

"BB, you’ve created an aura "aw aroon aboot yersel" " - I mistakenly referred to you, "bb", the fiddle player. That comment was meant for the "bb", meaning "Bodhran Bliss".

Sorry about that! (The Mighty Craic Online is of course available to everyone on this site).

Jim

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Jim. Two difficulties.
1: I’m not very IT minded so haven’t a clue as to how to go about recording on a Computer.
2. I need to find a couple of musicians, because I am but a humble backer, and as for JfiddlerH………….

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bodhran bliss - would be nice if you could do something, but I’m not badgering you into it. Honest! I just asked. Maybe meet up at your session next time I’m down your way. OK? :-) Cheers

Jim

Re: higherarchy in diddley instuments

From a romantic’s point of view, regarding hierarchy of ITM (as opposed to diddly-diddly music) instruments:

Voice
Harp
Pipes, whistle, flute, bohdran
Fiddle, Concertina
All other plectrum
Piano Accordion

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Bottoms Up!!