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Thread: Hornpipe rhythm

  1. #1
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Hornpipe rhythm

    Well, I have been enjoying Irish fiddle tunes for several years now and I understand that hornpipes are usually written in 4/4 time as a string of eighth notes which are understood to be not of equal length. Specifically, the eighth note that is on the beat is understood to be longer than the one appears to be on the upbeat in the written notation.

    The question I have, largely because I don't play in a group (either Irish or other genre) and I came to Irish music late in life, is just how unequal the two notes should be.

    I understand that it may vary from one group to another, perhaps from one region to another. But are there limits? I have seen hornpipes notated as dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth. That seems really "snappy". I have also heard them played with almost imperceptible difference, sounded more like a reel. I tend to play them almost like a quarter note and eighth note pair (triplet). So for what I do, a hornpipe could easily be written in 12/8.

    I would love to hear some opinions.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    since Irish music is supposed to be played as heard, not as written, the notation is not that important. I have heard all the variations you mentioned and tend to the jig-like one myself. I doubt the existance of an orthodox rule, and if the feeling is right, the playing is right.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    There are different types of hornpipe rhythm, some are very even, rather than what is often called 'dotted' rhythm. I would find it difficult to give any absolutes about which tunes or styles should be played in a particular manner. The Northumbrian dances tend to have a more noticeably dotted style of playing & I find tunes in the south east of England can be player very straight, but it's only a general impression.

    Here's a video of mandolinist Matt Norman stepping some Devonshire, South Zeal style tunes. I think the rhythms get more context when you see & hear the steps. the little rhythmic fills illustrate how what can seem like a long note in the tune can actually be quite busy in the steps.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    A 2 to 1 ratio on weighted eighth notes at moderate tempo [or, as you said, treating it as if it was notated in 12/8] is always a reasonable place to start for a traditional Irish hornpipe. If it doesn't sound or feel right, you can always adjust the rhythm and tempo until it does.

    It seems that many US musicians don't understand hornpipes at all, and often want to treat all their tunes as if they were bluegrass banjo breakdowns.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Not sure what the comment about Bluegrass and Breakdowns means, but personally I find a lot of music theory to be confusing.
    Here are two metronome examples where the rhythms can be seen.
    Example 1 and 2.
    So your average Hornpipe would be somewhere between these two?



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    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    I would just listen to YouTube videos of good players of Irish music. For the most part hornpipes are played with a dotted timing but how "straight" or dotted they are depends on taste really.

    Here are a couple of examples of the same tune (Flowing Tide) with some variation of straightness or dottedness:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onsFUSFasxE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--A4wmCUFTI
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX51_24AFOU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63zT9KE8mJo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=197t9x65R1w
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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    As it's dance music looking up videos of set dancers dancing hornpipe sets vs. reel sets might help highlight where the emphasis goes.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Here are a few examples of hornpipes played by Irish musicians. They range from very slightly 'swung' in the first couple of examples (perhaps 4:3 ~ 3:2), through 2:1 in the third, to very 'pointed' (close to 1:3) in the last (in a separate post below, as only 3 videos are allowed per post).





    The differences may be partly regional (Clare, Kerry, Tipperary and Sligo, respectively) and connected with the prevailing styles of dancing in each region, and perhaps partly due to changes in fashion over time (the last example is from the period 1920-36, the others are from the 1960s and 1970s). But it cannot be assumed that a given musician will necessarily treat every hornpipe the same way, or even play one tune with the same rhythmic emphasis every time. What is clear is that, in Irish traditional playing, hornpipes are consistently differentiated from reels. In most cases, this distinction is inherent in the structure of the tune but also in the manner of playing - i.e. a slower tempo (sometimes only slightly so) and a marked emphasis on all 4 beats of the bar (as distinct from a main emphasis on beats 1 and 3 in a reel - sometimes leading to reels being notated in 2/2 instead of 4/4). It is worth to note that reels are often played with a considerable amount of 'swing' - sometimes just as much as, or even more than, hornpipes.

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    See previous post

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Whistler's post is, as ever, very helpful. I'd echo what others have said in that there's no universally accepted "right" way to play hornpipes as the videos which he's posted show. It's all about listening to various players' approaches to tunes and developing for yourself your own angle on these tunes - informed by such listening.

    For what it's worth I'm pretty much a late convert to the beauty and grace of hornpipes. I've been thinking a lot about this over the course of the past few days and I've come to the conclusion that I was put off hornpipes as a child. I was often brought to dances and other musical occasions as a small child by my parents and I heard various players rendering "hackneyed" hornpipes. It seemed that there were only two or three hornpipes in general circulation at such events and pretty soon they became played out. (I'm thinking, for example of tricksy hornpipes such as The Belfast with its long runs of descending triplets. Or a simply ubiquitous hornpipe such as The Harvest Home which lots of newcomers to the music seem to be drawn to but which - in my opinion, yours may differ! - is actually quite a difficult tune to play with any degree of fluidity...)

    My epiphany came with "The Tailor's Twist" which opened my ears to - again in my opinion, please feel free to disagree! - a hornpipe which has a really arresting melody and which feels delightful to play. Others which I've since been drawn to include "The Showman's Fancy" - one of my all-time "go to" tunes and I was bowled over by John Carty's rendering of "The Harp And Shamrock" - one of those tunes which, once heard, had me itching to learn it! The second track in the video below...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEKSV-DLmq4

    But I really have to commend one of the most electrifying pieces of music I've heard in many years of listening to and playing the tunes. James Kellys' version of "The Stage/The Western Hornpipe" with Daithi Sproule on guitar. Simply spellbinding. I must have listened to this recording a thousand times and it never gets old!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWBdayMTBE8

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Just echoing what others have said above, there doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule for hornpipes with regard to a dotted feel, or bounce as I think of it. Some hornpipes seem to "want" a steadier rhythm like those minor key ones I posted in the other thread. Others benefit from it. I can't imagine playing Off to California without at least a little of a dotted feel.

    I've always liked this old clip below from 1963, the Liverpool Hornpipe with a single fiddler and a dancer. Partly it's the slower tempo than we usually play them in a session, allowing for all that intricate footwork from the dancer. But also for the contrast between the straight-ahead playing of the fiddle and the footwork. I can almost hear a dotted feel or bounce in the dancer's feet against that steady fiddle playing. Maybe the reason we sometimes like a little bounce when playing hornpipes is because we don't have the dancers doing it for us?



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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    @Aidan Crossey: No, it's not just you. The Tailor's Twist is a beautiful tune, with a beautifully fitting title - and The Showman's Fancy has a nice lightness to it. I've just listened to the John Carty track and am spellbound (although that has as much to do with the playing as with the tunes) - the second tune especially gets me. I will check out the other link...

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    I am enjoying all the examples and listening to the seemingly unanimous opinion saying "it varies". Thanks for all the above. There seem to be some real masters in the links above.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    In Appalachian old-time music, many (maybe most) standards that have “hornpipe” in their title usually aren’t played with much of a hornpipe rhythm. I’m thinking of some of the most often played tunes, like Fishar’s Hornpipe, Sailors Hornpipe, Durang’s Hornpipe. Most jams usually play them pretty straight.

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Lass on the Strand is another hornpipe that's loads of fun to play, lots of arpeggios. I was going to mention the difference between the bluegrass/old time hornpipe rhythm and that of ITM (or at least the ITM I'm familiar with), but wormpicker got there first. I once heard that there were two different hornpipe rhythms (bouncy and smooth) and proponents of either type simply cannot play with people who play the other! I've also heard the slower the hornpipe, the more steps you can put to them.

    I find I like to play a bouncier variety -- and it helps me memorize them faster. Think of that what you will ... I will say that people in my neck of the woods tend to play hornpipes fast -- faster than reels in a lot of cases, which i think takes some of their beauty away. Must be the New York City influence. So what do you put with Tailor's Twist? I played with someone who followed it with Smell of the Bog.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    I like hornpipes and I like them with swing.
    But it's no problem to play them straight if that's what the other musician(s) are doing.

    Two favourites at the moment (it's been a 2-year "moment,") are John Sheahan's Impish Hornpipe and his Foxrock.

    The accordionist likes them too and we've been talking for months about doing another online collaboration, with those two tunes, so if it happens, I'll post in the video file branch.

    Another couple of favourites are the Galway and the Poppy Leaf.

    Here are Shetland's Hom Bru with Davie Henry (I think) and Gary Peterson on mandolins and typical Shetland swing guitar from Brian Nicholson.

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    So what do you put with Tailor's Twist? I played with someone who followed it with Smell of the Bog.
    I play a set "The Harp And Shamrock/The Tailor's Twist".

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    I would love to hear some opinions.
    I work with rules of thumb, and then work my way out to the exceptions. I am never happy with answers that seem like a heaping big pile of special cases.

    I use fruit.

    A reel would be: watermelon watermelon watermelon watermelon,
    while the same eighth notes played as a hornpipe would be: apple-apple apple-apple apple-apple apple-apple.

    Regardless of how its written and until someone corrects me, that is how I hornpipe.
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Seeing the wonderful diversity of rhythms of hornpipes, images and stories, I thought I’d metronome a certain number of examples just to give fixed numerical values to each one.

    On the playlist I’ve given a number in brackets it’s the last note value divided by the first, so a straight reel would be (1) and a straight jig would be (.5). I suppose anything with a value below (.50) would be getting on to slip jig, maybe?

    On the mando, for hornpipes at least, the first note is often played down beat and the last note is upbeat... but sometimes it’s downbeat, downbeat. And when there are the three notes together it’s probably DUD, or the middle note is hammered/pull offed...

    Here’s the playlist with 8 vids:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...vW8cs9eVTuZsp4

    and some examples below:

    Enjoy!


    Standard, flat jig


    https://youtu.be/D6Z2geLgaSM
    Last edited by Simon DS; Nov-15-2020 at 1:38pm.

  33. #20

    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Another two of them:

    I really like this one, the (.57) speeded up on YouTube by x1.5...

    https://youtu.be/mtg3w7pmz_s


    https://youtu.be/qRLN0KHNYFo

    And one more, (.66) which sounds a bit to me like an English Country Dance, a very sprightly ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ !


    https://youtu.be/6JvqgVLd-e8

    [Note, the tempo displayed on these vids is not necessarily correct, I had to speed some of them up]
    Last edited by Simon DS; Nov-15-2020 at 1:42pm.

  34. #21

    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    I was going to post another metronome vid (‘Oh no, please don’t!’ )
    -but the app I have doesn’t do them so close to a Reel.

    So in the interest of diversity here’s another vid, I think it’s just off (1) meaning a slightly swung standard Reel, there’s a very slight hesitation. And yet there’s a sort of long slip jig (-.50) in there too?
    And 2/4 time? Not sure. Any ideas?


    https://youtu.be/O-2VPVhkTXY

    And in reply to the OP, I have often played hornpipes in the same way with the first note twice as long as the second, but since playing more triplets I’ve started to flatten the hornpipe out to sound more like (.66) or more, as in one of the vids above.

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    There are a million hornpipes out there. And many are not from Ireland. By the name of this one, it is from England. But to me, it sounds very much like a French (Brittany) tune. Here is another version. (Very cool fiddle BTW).

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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post

    I've always liked this old clip below from 1963, the Liverpool Hornpipe with a single fiddler and a dancer. Partly it's the slower tempo than we usually play them in a session, allowing for all that intricate footwork from the dancer.
    I guess that's similar to "strict tempo" playing?

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    I really like that video, Doug -- for several reasons. One, I do like the tune. Two, it is very interesting to hear how she modulates volume in the middle of a note with her bowing - it really contributes additional hornpipiness.

    And yes, the fiddle makes me think, is that really a fiddle? It looks almost like a viola. But I checked and she is at least tuned the same as my mandolin.
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  41. #25

    Default Re: Hornpipe rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    There are a million hornpipes out there. And many are not from Ireland. By the name of this one, it is from England. But to me, it sounds very much like a French (Brittany) tune. Here is another version. (Very cool fiddle BTW).

    Her playing sounds quite classical to me, but I actually donít know a lot of English Country Dance tunes so maybe itís just the way I associate it. The rhythm seems to be around (.95) to (.90)? So itís straight 4/4 with a small amount of swing. The metronome Iím using doesnít have a great range, up to (.875) but this tune seems straighter than that. And the weight of each pulse seems uniform or even slightly louder on the second beat (if thatís what French is? I donít know), giving it a spritely, upbeat feel.

    I think Iím hearing this, I donít know, not sure, each time I listen to these tunes I hear something else. I feel like a beginner, and I donít have a rich enough musical vocabulary or even good enough ear to describe the differences. So itís easier just to use metric values to describe hornpipes.

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