View Full Version : Versions and Eigth Notes

Feb-08-2004, 7:29am
Two questions/observations:

A. Variations of Melody:

1. New to Celtic music.
2. Have the Fiddler's Fakebook, and 121 Favorite Irish Session Tunes.
3. The song, Rights of Man (just one example), appears in both books, and each book has a slightly different version.

Is there one "correct" version, or is variation in melodic content the norm? And if so, what happens in a jam where everyone else is playing the "other" version?

B. Eigth Notes

I've been listening to some Celtic music, and found that sometimes the eigth notes in hornpipes are played straight (as written), and other times played with a swing approach.

Is there any hard and fast rule as to which songs should be played swing, or staight?

That is, reels=straight eigth notes, hornpipes=swing, etc.


Bob DeVellis
Feb-08-2004, 8:56am
You'll get lots of opinions here. I think you'll be hard pressed to find one "right" version of a traditional tune. The essence of traditional music is that it has been transmitted primarily aurally rather than in a written form and, in the process, little bits get added or deleted. Most traditional tune collections (Niles Krassen's version of O'Neill's being an exception) have a fairly straight, commonly played version of the tune written out. Ornaments are simplified or omitted. Things like rolls are indicated where they usually occur. But rolls work better on some instruments than others and those rolls may well be played as triplets. Also, even these fairly sparse versions will have small differences in the melody. It can be very frustrating to learn a tune only to find that everyone you encounter plays a slightly different version. Once you know a tune fairly well, it's easy enough to modify so that it is compatible with how someone else is playing it, but that can be tough and frustrating in the beginning. With a familiar tune, small changes in the melody are difficult even to notice but as a new learner of the tune, they can really throw you.

Hornpipes are played with a strong swing by some people and with very little, if any at all, by others. My personal choice is not to accentuate the swing. I arrived at this by really listening carefully to how hornpipes tend to be played by musicians in County Clare. Although the tunes sound somewhat swingy, the acutal note durations are pretty much standard. The bounce doesn't seem to be achieved so much by altering note duration as by differntial dynamics. I find that if I try not to put in swing intentionally, a little bit creeps in and sounds right to my ears. If I intentionally try to alter the note emphasis, it easily gets overdone. Americans, I've been told by Irish players of traditional music, are more prone to swinging the melody than are Irish. Once again, you can play in whatever way you enjoy. And different people have different preferences and opinions. I've just given you mine and I'm sure that others with more experience and wisdom will also give you theirs.

Feb-08-2004, 12:08pm
Tune settings vary considerably- the books are usualy a good starting point from which you can get the "bones" of the tune together.. Krassen "Sligo-fied" O'Neill's quite a bit, making his settings stylistically partial to the Sligo style. Probably the most common sub-genre in Irish, followed by Kerry style, then perhaps Donegal style..

I hear horpipes most often played as if the notes were all broken into single jig rhythm.. ie
1 2 3 4
is played like 1 & 2 are the first & last notes of a triplet.. so the beat is like
12 3 45 6 78 9 1011 12

It's fairly common at sessions I've been to to play them like jigs with all triplets, especially the last 2 bars or "turnaround" of a part.

Feb-09-2004, 2:02am
Taking into account the (quite correct) comments already made, particularly Bob's about individual variation, my experience is that hornpipes tend to get swung on a triplet feel (I am in the USA). This is approximately the same feel as the swing in the blues. You'll see the notation in blues fakebooks that (writing out in English what they use notation to convey) "two eighths = triplet dotted eighth + eighth". Thus the first eighth is approximately twice the length of the second (This is pretty much the same thing that Dan said, rephrased). Collections that print hornpipes as dotted eighth/sixteenth are just plain wrong (IMHO). This would make the first note three times the length of the second--and they're harder to read that way, too.

As for variations, they are, indeed, the norm. Best advice is to listen at your local session (if you're lucky enough to have one), and learn the version that's played in your neck of the woods. Or learn your favorite recorded version. If neither of those work out, you sometimes get lucky anyway--there's nothing inherently wrong with playing a different variant than everybody else as long as the two versions are compatible (some are, some aren't). It's not even uncommon for different variants to be played on the repeats, either of the whole tune or just of the part.

Feb-09-2004, 7:25am
Once again, thanks to all for your thoughtful responses.

There is a jam session in the town where I live, held once a month. I plan on going this month and am looking forward to the learning experience.

I was even contemplating bring my mandolin since I thought I was playing some tunes fairly quickly. That is, until I got Steve Kaufman's, Four Hour Celtic Workout. If his tempo suggestios are correct, I'm nowhere near fast enough to join others.

I do have a few questions about tempo, but I'll start a new thread for that shortly.

Thanks again. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif