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Thread: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Traditionally, this music is played on gajda bagpipes and kaval flutes. The ensembles of the ex-Yugoslavian nations are accompanied by a stringed instrument with double courses called the tambura, or the smaller tamburica. These instruments are related to the tambouras, bouzouki, baglama saz and so on.

    In Northern Greece (in Macedonia and Thrace), a laouto would accompany the modal music, if at all. Violin and clarinet are also popular. You see, bouzouki players are very creative people. So while this music is absolutely not played on bouzouki traditionally, of course people who like this kind of folk music will try to play it on their instrument. If I can do it on bouzouki, I can do it on mandolin, was my thinking. The playing styles of bouzouki and tambura are shockingly similar, anyway, if we forget for a second that one is used for rembetiko and pop music and the other for folk music. I like to play it in DAd then.

    I had one of my mandolins in an alternate tuning yesterday and was inspired. There is nothing speaking against GDAe, but I prefer a modal or open tuning for this. I didn't like open G tuning GDGb and the cross tuning GDGd lent itself better to Epirote and Albanian folk music. This GDGc was perfect. I just found out that many players like to tune their tambura DGBe, actually. My next step would have been ADAd, after not finding GDAd all that appealing. So here is my improvisation in GDGc.



    FWIW, this kind of music is also fun to play on the guitar!
    My YouTube channel. My tabs and video lessons on Ultimate Guitar and GuitarTabsExplorer.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Beautiful melody and performance. Very interesting, thank you!

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Thanks for sharing this video. I love rembetiko music and often see similarities with (my favorite), klezmer music. I suppose the modes are what makes the sound similar. Here's a tune you probably know. I think everyone knows this one.

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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    I love rembetiko music and often see similarities with (my favorite), klezmer music. I suppose the modes are what makes the sound similar.
    Indeed. But, in fact, Misirlou is in a mode with two augmented 2nds (sometimes called 'double harmonic minor' but I am sure it has better name in Greek), which is not one of the traditional klezmer modes so, although it is well known to klezmer (and rock'n'roll) musicians, it stands apart from the 'native' klezmer repertoire. Still, a great tune knows no boundaries.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Thanks for sharing this video. I love rembetiko music and often see similarities with (my favorite), klezmer music. I suppose the modes are what makes the sound similar. Here's a tune you probably know. I think everyone knows this one.

    Nice one, Apollonia, thanks.
    And.
    Aaeeeeeh! Now there’s a song, thanks Doug.
    If anyone’s interested the tab is here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ky7c95c1ms...20TAB.pdf?dl=0
    Sorry I couldn’t just post the single page, but it’s fun looking up the titles of the other songs on YouTube.
    Misirlou is on page 49 the song in the vid is very slightly different but it’s a great intro to this scale, and good practice for tremolo.
    Rock the house with this one guys, enjoy!

    (Oh by the way, I believe GDGc is also a tuning used on the banjo, I seem to remember thirty or forty years ago hearing an amazing ‘Sally in the Garden’ in this tuning)
    Last edited by atsunrise; Jun-20-2019 at 4:19pm.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Thanks for sharing this video. I love rembetiko music and often see similarities with (my favorite), klezmer music. I suppose the modes are what makes the sound similar. Here's a tune you probably know. I think everyone knows this one.
    The modes are actually different and the tonality is too, but there really are similarities to klezmer. I know a guy who plays klezmer clarinet, we used to compare songs often. Misirlou is in a scale called hitzaz kiar in Greek. Hijaz kar, in Turkish. The Arabic maqam is different from the Turkish and Greek makam, so that is a topic for another day. I never learned Western music theory, the modes don't inspire me. I believe Phrygian or Phrygian dominant would be the closest Western counterpart.

    In regards to Misirlou. Is it rembetiko? Depends on who you ask. It's a traditional song from Asia Minor, but there were quite a few folk songs of the Anatolian Greeks that entered Greece through the refugees and ended up as rembetiko repertoire! The Arabic, Turkish and Yiddish versions of Misirlou are as old as the Greek one. And the recording you shared is just fantastic, one of my favorite versions. Here is what I think was the first recorded version, from 1927:



    While my video was clearly folk and not rembetiko, I would call rembetiko modal music, too. The tuning of the six string bouzouki, tzouras and baglamas is D modal, or "open". How it was explained to me, when I first learned it: Neither major, nor minor. In order to better fit the originally microtonal music into a now equal temperament. The bouzouki used to have moveable gut or nylon frets, just like the saz. It was actually called tambouras for many centuries and pandourion, pandouris or pandoura in ancient Greece. They still play the pandoura in Caucasian Georgia!

    When you read about the name of the instrument, which comes from Turkish bozuk (meaning "broken), it will often mention the tuning. Turkish saz has two standard intervals, depending on whether it's a long neck or short neck instrument: Baglama düzen or kara düzen (meaning "tied" and "black order", respectively) and bozuk düzen ("broken order"). Some people say this is because the Ottomans played a tambouras and called it broken because it had 12 frets to the octave. But that is most likely not very accurate. Why? Well, you see, the bouzouki is actually still a very young instrument in it's current state. There was no uniform bouzouki luthiery until 50 or 60 years ago. In the 20th century, they stopped carving the bowls from blocks of wood and started making them out of old Neapolitan bowlback mandolins. They would remove their necks and put a much longer one on, just like on the tambouras or saz. That is why the pre WWII bouzoukia are so small. We know it was microtonal before that. They then also started hammering frets in equal temperament in, just like the mandolins had. That is how the modern bouzouki was born.

    Pure conjecture, but I suspect they called it broken because what is today called baglama/kara düzen is tuned in fifths. And that is a pain in the ass to play on a long neck with frets that are far apart, such as on the bouzouki... I know it, because I do it. It's much more natural on the saz, which is tuned re-entrant, with the middle pair actually being the lowest of the strings.

    I think I have info dumped you a bit too much, but... If you are as enthusiastic about rembetiko as I am, going a little off-topic might not be a bad thing!

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    And for what it's worth, here is this "other" modal music, as it is natively played in northern Greece and ex-Yugoslavia. Macedonian and Thracian folk from the regions, without fighting about who gets to be a Macedonian and a Thracian. This is what I played on the mandolin, not rembetiko.

    Gaida bagpipes:



    Zourna, with a reed:



    Kaval, an end blown flute:

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollonia93 View Post

    In regards to Misirlou. Is it rembetiko? Depends on who you ask. It's a traditional song from Asia Minor, but there were quite a few folk songs of the Anatolian Greeks that entered Greece through the refugees and ended up as rembetiko repertoire! The Arabic, Turkish and Yiddish versions of Misirlou are as old as the Greek one. And the recording you shared is just fantastic, one of my favorite versions. Here is what I think was the first recorded version, from 1927:




    I think I have info dumped you a bit too much, but... If you are as enthusiastic about rembetiko as I am, going a little off-topic might not be a bad thing!
    This is never 'too much' when such good music is involved. That is a great version of Misirlou from another part of the world. Thanks!
    The wonderful aspect of the internet and Mandolin cafe is that we can 'find other enthuasists' and share our knowledge.

    I also like the bagpipe music and sometimes imagine how the tune would sound with string instruments. I have a friend who plays Iranian Saz with movable gut frets, and he has a better ability to play micro-tones. However I transcribe tunes for violin, mandolin and tsimbl for Eisner's Klezmorim, our klezmer band.

    Here is a nice klezmer tune from Alicia Svigals - Binyomele's Kholem.

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  13. #9

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Double harmonic major scale from Misirlou -which means ‘Egyptian woman’ by the way- can be found by flattening the second and sixth of the major scale. Nice to see on the fretboard, because it’s completely symmetrical.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Double harmonic major scale from Misirlou -which means ‘Egyptian woman’ by the way- can be found by flattening the second and sixth of the major scale. Nice to see on the fretboard, because it’s completely symmetrical.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Nice chart. I suppose my klezmer music is mostly 'Gypsy' mode. The joke about that goes something like this, "You may call this a modal scale pattern, for me it is a living." I have attached one of the best descriptions of klezmer dance forms and modes available. (Nowadays it is quite rare, I think). In any case it is an interesting tutorial all about klezmer music. Enjoy.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails compleat_klezmer.pdf  
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    For what it’s worth, here is the original Greek hitzaz kiar mode (big discussion happening fairly often, that they are modes and not just scales) that Misirlou is in.

    (Based on Ottoman Hijaz kar)

    Greek Hitzaz kiar: D Eb Gb G A Bb Db D
    Descending same as ascending

    Primary chords: D, Gm, A, Eb

    Secondary chords: C#dim, F#m

    Basic harmonic cycles:

    D, Eb, D

    D, Gm, Eb, D

    D, Gm, A, D

    D, Gm, Eb, A, D

    Harmonic cycles consisting of both basic and secondary chords:

    D, C#dim, F#dim, D

    D, C#dim, A, D

    D, Gm, F#dim, Eb, Cm, D, F#dim

    Straight from Payiatis’ book on the scales used for rembetiko and popular music. I can post all of these if there is interest, but the passing notes that we use for the trills and slides and scale changes are honestly too much to consciously process.

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    Registered User Gan Ainm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Just a quick thanks for the musical performances and academic information for this beautiful and enigmatic music. One of the take home messages is how far back the concept of "crossover" music goes! It's particularly fun for those of us who play both stringy and flute-ish instruments.
    Gan Ainm
    AKA Colin, Athens GA and Nelson Co. VA when I can

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  19. #13

    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Thank you, Gan. That is very kind of you. It shocks me to see the information I am passing on being called academic and, generally, so well received. I never had a formal education and know just a little music theory, just enough to know what chords and scales I am playing.

    When I have time this weekend, I will share the aforementioned modes and the history of them with you all. If not this weekend, then next. Any suggestions on which section to post them in?
    My YouTube channel. My tabs and video lessons on Ultimate Guitar and GuitarTabsExplorer.

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    Registered User Gan Ainm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    Well here is I think fine, but alternately the "Music Theory" section might pull in some other interested parties. By "academic" I generally just mean anything with more structure than "well we just play it that way..."
    What makes your input quite intriguing is that most of us might have background in a little classical (western) theory or Jazz chord/mode/progression theory which had propagated into discussions about much other music and while often helpful is not the whole picture. So while much Irish music CAN be named after one of the western modes fairly easily (although the CHORD theory is a whole 'nother can of worms) as you point out much music even with recognizable 12 tones does NOT fit into those categories.
    Now, most of us "know better" then to venture into seriously different tonal structures (Indian, certain Arabic) with instruments not designed for such (OK I DID get a Kaval...) we ARE tempted by nominally 12-tones-to-a-scale "exotic" music that may or may not interpret the "temperament" issue in the Bluegrass or Early Music way.
    Of course one might say "neither does "old style" Irish or Old Time, in certain situations.

    And even the no longer rare Klezmer idiom often plays by less conventional "rules". So input from people actually playing this stuff in a reasonably informed way is most enlightening to those of us "musical omnivores" with curious ears and brains. Even when nuanced disagreements arise which is fortunately civil and well intentioned*, we all learn.
    One question I sometimes have is whether a certain World Music is "Art Music" with very important rules, such as Indian Raga's, or "Folk" where certain license is allowed or even encouraged, within sometimes fluid boundaries. Comments on this re Greek/Balkan music appreciated.

    *Because we are such a nice bunch here at the Cafe.
    Gan Ainm
    AKA Colin, Athens GA and Nelson Co. VA when I can

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modal music (Balkan) on the mandolin

    I didn't realize that you play lefty mandolin, Appolonia, as well as other stringed instruments. At firstI thought you were a righty and that your computer reversed it but then i saw some writing in the back ground and it did not read as mirror-writing. Did that just happen or did you consciously decide to play that way?

    I want to take time and listen to all the samples and read all the good info on your threads. BTW do you mostly learn these tunes by ear or do you look at sheet music?
    Jim

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