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Thread: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ...

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Great discussion
    Reminds me of what the judges at a piping competition must consider when a slow air is offered up, as does happen!
    Sean-nos is a style that has its origins in singing, so the (later?) evolution of slow air into instrumental (and instrumental/vocal) can get a bit complicated. Takes a lot of practice to get that feeing and delivery to happen effectively and become worthy of presentation. Well worth it, as it can be a captivatingly personal approach to music.
    And yes, of course it can be done on mandolin.
    Perhaps more modern slow airs, as written, are challenging to the instrument and one must rely on traditional precedent and ingenuity to achieve a satisfactory result.

  2. #27
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Reinhardt View Post
    Sean-nos is a style that has its origins in singing, so the (later?) evolution of slow air into instrumental (and instrumental/vocal) can get a bit complicated. Takes a lot of practice to get that feeing and delivery to happen effectively and become worthy of presentation. Well worth it, as it can be a captivatingly personal approach to music.
    Practice yes, and also just listening. Hours and hours of listening to get your head wrapped around that kind of musical presentation. People like me raised on Rock and Blues before getting into Irish and Scottish trad have a very different feel for music. It takes time and hard listening to figure out what the heck this very different music is all about.

    It's like pipe music. My S.O. is a fiddler, and she got into Scottish pipe music earlier than I did. My ears just couldn't adapt. Eventually I got there, but it took time. Same thing with true airs, the kind with rubato (un-metered) phrasing. I think many of us in the Western world raised on pop music aren't wired to appreciate these slower tunes until we decide to make a study of them; really sit down and listen before we even try to play them.

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  4. #28

    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Practice yes, and also just listening. Hours and hours of listening to get your head wrapped around that kind of musical presentation. People like me raised on Rock and Blues before getting into Irish and Scottish trad have a very different feel for music. It takes time and hard listening to figure out what the heck this very different music is all about.

    It's like pipe music. My S.O. is a fiddler, and she got into Scottish pipe music earlier than I did. My ears just couldn't adapt. Eventually I got there, but it took time. Same thing with true airs, the kind with rubato (un-metered) phrasing. I think many of us in the Western world raised on pop music aren't wired to appreciate these slower tunes until we decide to make a study of them; really sit down and listen before we even try to play them.
    I'm prbly a little different - I was called for slow music since when I first heard it .. although it took much longer to get into playing it - acquiring the instruments, finding recordings, etc. The music immediately spoke to me. (I eventually got into very slow stuff - Chinese trad)..

    *But I know what you mean. Perhaps there's a somberness, austerity, gentleness and depth in the music that speaks a correlative emotional language in us. There's a lot of space for a note to speak - the vistas are immense. Slow music has taught me a lot.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Apr-24-2021 at 10:47pm.

  5. #29
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Here's the thing... mandolin is still an "outsider" instrument in Irish and Scottish traditional music. It's a newcomer, although I can date a solid reference to a "famous" Irish mandolin player in Ireland back to the 1930's at least. I don't know if he played tremolo or not, but in modern amateur sessions and recordings, it's still something of an outsider instrument. Count the number of prominent Irish mandolin players vs. fiddlers, fluters, or pipers in either local sessions or famous recordings and you'll see what I mean. We're a small handful in this music, and we're still trying to fit in.

    Maybe it doesn't matter if you only play this music at home by yourself. But I think if you want to join an Irish/Scottish session where the occasional slow tune or air is played, you might want to avoid a "foreign" technique like tremolo that could grate on the ears of the other players. Whatever you think personally of the appropriateness of tremolo for the music.
    Well, maybe in another century or so...Perhaps a famous player will make a recording and incorporate tremolo technique on a rubato air, and suddenly (over 50 years or so), tremolo will become an accepted technique. Of course you wouldn't want to play something that unexpected in a session, not that i know a single thing about playing in sessions.

    Although since standard instruments are tinwhistle, tenor banjo, and pipes, I have to think that the criteria for grating on Irish ears is very mysterious.

  6. #30
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Well as a general statement, it is best to listen, and figure out how orthodox the session is. And then always abide the local rules.

    Or not. Just keep walking. Mandolin is probably too outsider altogether. There are plenty of jams and sessions, with a range of orthodoxy, and if one isn't fun, the next one may be. Or, do as I have done and start another jam, with yer own home rules.

    I know I could do a tasteful tremolo on a slow air that would not only be appropriate but would enhance the tune. I have done it, as described above. But your point is correct, you have to play by the home rules, whatever they are, or don't play.

    Very much like a mandolinner doing chop chords in an orthodox old time jam.
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  7. #31
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Very much like a mandolinner doing chop chords in an orthodox old time jam.
    Nailed it right there.

    Have to learn the local lingo before you can speak it.

  8. #32
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    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Moving away from tremolo, I want to note that Macdara's performance is not on mandolin but rather the bouzouki, and that involves a different approach. Indeed, his use of chords takes his style closer to guitar playing in a different tuning.

    From my own point of view, I tend to use a sort of 'tremolo lite' as opposed to what you might get in Italian music, for example. I am with Aiden that full-on tremolo doesn't generally suit an Irish slow air.
    But it depends on the tune itself. There is quite a difference between a slow but gently flowing rhythmic tune and something more akin to sean-nos singing, and some tunes will work better on mandolin than others. I think there also can be a difference between Scottish and Irish music in this regard.

    My own playing is to some extent influenced by clarsach playing. I like the sound of mandolin and clarsach together and if you incorporate chords into your mandolin, then I think you can make the mandolin sound a bit like a harp.
    This is particularly true of Stefan Sobell instruments, with their wonderful ring. When I first started using his instruments, I used to enjoy listening to slow tunes by the Scottish band Ossian, who featured Billy Jackson playing harp for that aspect of their music. To my mind it captured the best elements of what is sometimes (and not always in a complimentary way) known as Celtic twilight music, and I enjoyed playing that kind of thing on my Sobells.

    The harp is obviously one of the great instruments of Celtic music, and certainly one of the oldest. Many of you might have heard the early Chieftains albums with Derek Bell on harp, where they played lovely airs and you perhaps might have been influenced in some way by that. I also remember hearing a radio broadcast on Radio Scotland by the American harper Ann Heymann which I taped and listened to a lot which I found inspiring. We are lucky to have the great harper Bill Taylor living in this part of the world and he teaches a lot of people to play.

    So basically I think mandolinists should explore chordal voicings more when playing slow airs, and consider how a harper might do it.
    David A. Gordon

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  10. #33

    Default Re: Apparently you can play a slow air on a fretted instrument ..

    Additionally, I'd like to point out that there are really two different instruments commonly referred to as the Irish/Scottish harp (clarsach/clairseach). What is most often seen is the modern nylon or gut strung lever harp. This is a different instrument than the ancient wire (brass, bronze, silver gold) harp. The playing techniques vary widely, but the sound and repertoire are the most salient differences from modern harp. One example: technically, we strike the wire string with the fingernail, rather than pluck (with the flesh of the finger) the nylon/gut string; this in itself lends a conceptual affinity with mandolin. Wire harps have a much greater sustain than nylon/gut, and therefore particularly well-suited to slow forms.

    It's presumed that the (wire) harp preceded the pipes. But have a shared repertoire of pibroch/pobaireachd

    Pibroch, piobaireachd or cel mr is an art music genre associated primarily with the Scottish Highlands that is characterised by extended compositions with a melodic theme and elaborate formal variations. Strictly meaning "piping" in Scottish Gaelic, piobaireachd has for some four centuries been music of the Great Highland Bagpipe.[1] Music of a similar nature, pre-dating the adoption of the Highland pipes, has historically been played on the wire-strung Gaelic harp (clarsach) and later on the Scottish fiddle, and this form is undergoing a revival.

    A more general term is ceol mor (Scottish Gaelic: cel mr (reformed spelling); cel mr (unreformed spelling)), meaning the "great music", to distinguish this complex extended art-music fro
    m the more popular Scottish music such as dances, reels, marches and strathspeys, which are called cel beag or "little music". (wiki)

    To further Dagger's point, I feel the traditional wire clarsach has greater affinity with metal-strung mandolin (being both metal-strung); to inform one's mandolin playing of airs, it could be helpful to delve into the earlier milieu of music.

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