Great tunes

Great tunes

After looking at some new tune postings, I started thinking (not for the first time) what the ingredients are for those really great tunes, that excite us all tremendously and make us want to play them all night, or write another one for everyone else to enjoy. For me, the mode is very important - I’m always at first more interested in dorian and mixolydian tunes, various keys, usually what works well to make my fiddle sound good. But they also have to be structured with balance and flavour, and here is where I get stuck. When I say *flavour*, what do I mean? I’d love to hear what players and composers think.
Fiddlefingers

Re: Great tunes

I am a self taught traditional player, with a very sketchy knowledge of the technical side of the music. I have always had this fear that if I learn all the nuts & bolts, the magic will be lost, but that’s just me. I’m sure the next man is quite happy to soak up all that techno - gobbledeegook, but the magic for me is that you really don’t need any of it, to be able to play thousands of tunes. It’s a bit like in a Disney cartoon, you just pluck them from the air, & in the playing, cast them back up there again for the next person to take down. For example, I won 2nd place in the All Ireland senior Concertina competion a few years ago, & at that time, I could not read music, & in fact could not have told you the notes on the instrument, but I could play the tunes, obviously!. That information was surplus to requirements, I knew in my ear which button produced which sound, so why would I need to know the letter for the note. I already had hundreds of Fiddle tunes I’d learned by ear, & I just played loads of those. Now, you may say that if I’d actually learned the notes, I might have won that year, but it was the only time I ever tried to compete, & afterwards I had to ask myself ‘what is the point of a competition for traditional music’. Other than maybe encouraging a youngster to practice real hard, which they would do anyway if they were interested, I haven’t been able to come up with a good reason. The search for glory may well be the reason for most folk, but who needs that. Just remember how you felt, the first time you heard Liam O’Flynn playing on that first Planxty record, back in the early 70’s. You just had to be a part of that for satisfaction, but you didn’t have to actually become Liam O’Flynn. The beautiful thing is the journey, not arriving. Anyway, in a very roundabout way, I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I come to compose a new tune, I don’t get all technical, I can’t even spell most of those modes, I just go for a gut feeling, an instinct, & with a bit of doodling I either get inspiration or I don’t. If yes, then I go on working on it until I’m convinced it’s a tune. If not, I leave it for another day. First thing in the morning is a good time for me, & once I have a new tune, I tape it & leave it alone for a few days & then come back to it, to keep or discard. I would say keep that word flavour, go for feel & gut instinct, & throw away that other fellow structure, he sounds far too technical for his own good.

Re: Great tunes

Ptarmigan has it about right.

Has anyone ever seen one of those computer composite images of “the perfect beauty”?
Some boffins scanned thousands of photos of beautiful women and loaded them into this crazy software and marked what were their best features, big blue eyes, high cheek bones etc. The computer then amalgamated all these best bits and came up with an image of a lady who was supposed to be drop dead georgeous.
It didn’t work of course, the lady was bland.
I do hope that nobody wastes their time trying to do the same thing with diddly tunes

Posted .

Re: Great tunes

Dunno about all of what you’re saying. What I *do* know is that I’ll play through a tune or hear it at a session and think – eh, it’s okay I guess, but nothing to write home about. Next thing I know, I’ll hear someone like Kevin Burke or Paddy Keenan or some such play the tune, and bam! I discover that it’s a wonderful tune!

Guess what I’m saying is that sometimes the tune isn’t so much the thing that has the flavor as it is the player who seasons it. 🙂

Zina

Re: Great tunes

I’m inclined to agree with Zina- it’s an individual’s take on a particular tune, but then again, there are those tunes that just seem to grab you. It seems to me that tunes that reach down to the very depths of your soul and send a shiver up your spine, might fall into this category. But, that seems all too subjective, doesn’t it?
Personaly, I find that certain keys and tempos garb my attention more readily than others, and I might be inclined to respond by saying,“Wow, what a great tune!” Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t. But that distinction clearly lies within the confines of my aural reality, not necessarily yours…

Arbo

Re: Great tunes

A tune is a tune.
Of course it’ll sound better if played better, but the tune is still that tune.

There is something wonderful about this abstract nature of these tunes. Sometimes it can take a while to realise the full potential of a tune and this is where hearing a cracking version can help. But this can also hinder, as you find yourself just copying a way of playing it.

If your hung up on certain keys or tempos, try playing the same tune faster or slower or in a different key. This way you’ll discover new twists to the melody that may have illuded you.

The different key thing is a bit of a misnomer (unless you have perfect pitch that is, and what diddlers do you know with that). It’s more about the different phrasing, bowing, cranning etc. a different key forces you to play. For example, the brightness you get in A major can sometimes mask a quite dull tune. Try it in G major and see if it really is a good tune afterall.

Posted .