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Thread: The pulse of a tune

  1. #1
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default The pulse of a tune

    I find myself drawn to two ends of a tune, it seems.

    One in which I try to play as fast as I can and the notes produced as the shots on a machine gun. (Although I am not nearly so fast.) No "pulse but even and equal and fast.

    And on the other end, which I actually enjoy more, is a considerably slower version of the same tune but with a definite oulse, not a hornpipe although I sometimes wonder if I am not trying to create a hornpipe sound, or pulse.

    But maybe that demonstrats what I am taliing about. A bluegrass version of Sailor's Hornpipe versus a slower, with definite pulse version of the hornpipe.

    Am I doing it all wrong or do you get into the same issue, with the tunes you play?

    Do you try to create a definite pulse?

  2. #2
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    I like to play melodies with swing, as in a hornpipe, which I find hard to do at a faster tempo. But I think I usually hit beat 1 too hard (just trying to make the metronome proud of me, I guess).

    D.H.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    For a jig, to get lift and a pulse you either want a metronome with a pattern that’s got hesitation, or just have it sound at the beginning of each measure.
    In this case the pulse comes from note spacing.
    With a jig the 123, 456 notes should not be equally spaced. (I believe)

    Check this out: https://youtu.be/mtg3w7pmz_s

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    Every tempo, tune style and player has its (their) own feel and pulse. Each player needs to decide what that is and find it on their own.

    Practice suggestions:
    Play slowly, syncopate as much as you can
    Play slowly, syncopate as little as you can
    Play fast, syncopate as much as you can
    Play fast, syncopate as little as you can
    Now do all in between tempos
    Try to copy and play with your favorite players feel

    It’s amazing what you discover when you do this.
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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    I don't think it's an either/or scenario necessarily unless someone wants it to be (meaning they prefer fast tunes to have a staccato quality with the notes ripped through with the same emphasis throughout. Certainly in irish trad music examples abound of great players who can play with both speed and lift/swing etc. On top of that they sound so relaxed doing it! I don't know how many times I've heard a recording of a tune and thought, oh that's a decent speed to learn from, and then when attempting to do so realise just how fast the player/players are actually playing!
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    But maybe that demonstrats what I am taliing about. A bluegrass version of Sailor's Hornpipe versus a slower, with definite pulse version of the hornpipe.

    Am I doing it all wrong or do you get into the same issue, with the tunes you play?
    There is a cultural consideration here, where it's neither right nor wrong, but a question of how tune rhythms are adopted and standardized differently depending on genre of music.

    Check out the YouTube video of Fisher's Hornpipe played by Mike Marshall and Chris Thile and you'll hear it flattened out almost completely in the service of speed and drive, which is what Bluegrass is all about. Which isn't to say it's completely without a pulse, but there are limited opportunities to get a pulse in there with the notes flying past that quickly.

    Fisher's is never played that way in an Irish session, or for dancers at a Caleidh. It will be played at a slower tempo, and often with a bit of bounce or swing. Different cultures, different approaches.

    Another example: A mandolin player friend of mine learned "The Merry Blacksmith" reel in local OldTime jams. I learned it in Irish sessions (and from recordings). We could never manage to play the tune together when he came over to my house for a visit, because he played it with a dotted feel (swing), and I played it straight-ahead with just a pulse on the downbeat. Neither way was right or wrong, it just clashed when we tried it together.

    I think one reason reels are often played with a little swing in OldTime jams is that they're usually played a bit (if not a lot) slower than the same ones in Irish sessions. I once attended a Scottish Country Dance workshop where Merry Blacksmith was one of the set tunes, and the band leader required a 112 bpm tempo (counted 2/2) for the dancers at that evening's event. I thought at the time that sounded really fast, but it's actually a good dance tempo. At that speed, there just isn't time to use a dotted/swing feel even if you wanted to.

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  9. #7
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    Here’s an example of a tune with a definite pulse to it.

    There are lots of different rhythms. I actually play the tunes I know in different styles just to get used to having a rhythmic intention when starting up each tune.


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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    Regarding "the pulse" of a song. Every song will have a pulse. Try sitting down and playing a known song with someone new. What my experience has been that is where the differences in each persons timing and "pulse" either come together in a sort of compromise. Or doesn't. Then again, to me, that might not apply to BG.........as that is more about speed.

    Again......."to me".

  12. #9

    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    I tend to think of fiddle bowing shuffle patterns rather than just the hornpipe rhythm/swing. There's a lot of them. The fiddle shuffle really adds the pulse to the tunes. Mike Compton really gets that pulse/shuffle in his mandolin playing.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyFC7PZ6jiI
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  14. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    I used to "hornpipe" just about every tune I played that wasn't a waltz. I just liked the bounce.

    The real answer to the OP's question is more like what ajh says above. IMO every tune has a speed at which it is most effective. Where the purpose of the tune is best expressed and the beauty just comes through.

    I think the pros have to play a fast one in every set, in order to "prove" themselves, to show that when they play slower its an artistic decision, not "as fast as they can". But for all of the rest of us - I never play a tune faster than it needs to be. And the way I tell is I try it a little slower and see if it sounds better somehow. Some do. Some don't.

    So for example, a beautiful tune like Elk River Blues, I have heard some play it fast but it really shines played at a slower pace. Something like Dry and Dusty I think needs a little energy to sound great. And something like Greasy Coat, I like the sound fast.

    As an aside, I go after the beauty of the tune every time, over showing my chops. So I won't learn Blackberry Blossom, Brilliancy, Rawhide, and the like, because I can't find the musicality in it, dexterity at the expense of beauty, IMO. And well, if I put my mind and hands to it, to the exclusion of other mandolin goals, I am sure I could get one of those tunes up to speed, but there are so few times (ever?) I need people to think I can play great. A better compliment is if I can convince someone through my playing that a particular tune is beautiful.

    An example of a tune that is more beautiful fast than slow is Get Up John. It is not just a finger exercise, it is a rip snorting adventure of a tune. That would be missed at a slower pace.

    Another thought - if you can play the slow ones fast and the fast ones slow, you immediately double your repertory of tunes.
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  16. #11
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    I can find the musicality in Blackberry Blossom without much effort.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lqHItQtGPc0

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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    This is a good thread for me, as a relative beginner I try to find the pulse of a tune that works best for me. Since I am trying my hand at writing my first tune
    it took me a while to marry the words and music together then one day bam! I found the pulse and now I cant get it out of my head.

  18. #13
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    Mike Compton! Yes indeed! you can see the pulsein the audience!

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: The pulse of a tune

    This is written from the fiddle perspective but I feel like it relates to this discussion. It's well worth a read anyhow. Enjoy.

    JamWithLauren Blog: How to Improve Your Groove

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