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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: arty on June 12, 2013, 09:19:14 PM

Title: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 12, 2013, 09:19:14 PM
I have been learning for 10 months now and I am really pleased with my progress. I love it!

Working my way through Dave Mallinson's absolute beginners book, I have got as far as 2 lovely tunes: 'Rakes of Mallow' and 'Davy Davy Knick Knack'. I have also added 'Winster Gallop' to these as they seem to fit well together. I can play them accurately at quite a fast pace but nothing like as fast as my local session plays them. They go at breakneck speed! I really want to be able to join in with the session but obviously can't until I have got the speed up.

What is the best way to increase one's speed? Is it to practise slowly? Are there exercises to help build one's speed? Or does it just take more time and practise?
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: strad on June 12, 2013, 09:22:04 PM
As I'm finding out, just time and practice, practice, practice.

Nigel
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 12, 2013, 09:30:48 PM
Speed has very little to do with good folk music IMHO. Once a session becomes a race I generally fold my bellows and wait for the next tune, or go to bar, or gents. I can generally play that fast, but it's all become (can't think of a better word) crap.

Practice? Just play it through repeatedly, and faster, and faster each time. But once the notes blur into each other… [see above]  ;) A clean delivery and learning to "express" the tune will do you more good in the long term. If you can do that at some speed, you'll be able to do it even better at the proper speed. Practice is never wasted on a musician. Enjoy your box  :D
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Theo on June 12, 2013, 09:51:07 PM
What is the best way to increase one's speed? Is it to practise slowly?


Yes

Quote

Are there exercises to help build one's speed?


Yes!

Quote

Or does it just take more time and practise?


Yes!

You have hit the nail on the head!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: playandteach on June 12, 2013, 11:19:59 PM
A good tip is to play short chunks repeatedly , you can build up the speed of these chunks - but you still have recovery time between repetitions.

Let's say it was a C major scale you were trying to play - then you could play 5 notes - CDEFG, CDEFG 4 times in total, with as much rest in between as it took to play the notes - then try it with a click or metronome at around crotchet = 60. Then move up a note; DEFGA, DEFGA etc. and up. Then slip the metronome up a notch or two. Then go back to the first tempo, but play the notes twice as fast - allowing a longer recovery. This combination of finger speed and mental recovery is important. You need to be practising things accurately or you will achieve the very opposite of what you intended.
Remember also to stick to the fingering you would use in the real passage - don't just move your hand into a better shape as you go up.

Once you've done that, play the longer passage or scale at a very slow tempo but with a very snappy dotted rhythm - so the basic tempo is slow, but you are playing pairs of notes very close together (starting with a: slow, quick-slow, quick-slow pattern. Then reverse the rhythm so you start with the quick note (a scotch snap).

If you then play the passage in context you'll be upset how it still isn't any better, but the next day your brain will have assimilated the learning.

The good thing about chunking the music is that you don't just learn a tune up to speed, but you develop the technique to play other things faster (better) too.

I find it best to separate technique from trying to learn tunes. It saves frustration, but use the tricky bits to design your own exercises - they will then have the most targeted effect on your progress.

It really is hard to put exercises into words.If you can read music I could type out some exercises like this for you to try, but the basic concept is to use a variety of rhythms for the same set of notes. If you were really interested (bearing in mind that I am anything but a skilled melodeonist) I could demo a passage in practice.

Finally - I don't actually practise (no pun) what I preach very much on the melodeon, but I did on an instrument I needed to play well. The same techniques apply to any instrument - and seeing that the melodeon is largely free from tone and intonation input from the player, building clever fingers is well worth it.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Stiamh on June 13, 2013, 02:05:22 AM
In addition to all the sage advice given above, I would say that the most important factor in being able to play fast is economy and efficiency of movement. If you don't play in an efficient manner then playing fast will always be a struggle. If you struggle with your instrument then you can't be efficient and economical.

You know what everyone says when they see a brilliant player: he/she makes it look easy. Well, it is, for him or her, and it has to be that way.

On the box I would look carefully at how you are handling the bellows and how your right-hand fingers are moving around. Watch great players - ones that make it look easy - and ask yourself what looks different about how they do it.  And keep working towards that goal of efficiency and economy.

Finally, I don't see how you can learn to play fast merely by playing slowly. Of course you have to build solid technique. But at some point you are going to have to try playing fast. You may well find that different things have to come into play. But keep coming back to slow playing in between your attempts.  ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lester on June 13, 2013, 07:05:39 AM
<grumpy old git alert>
I can't see why anyone would play Rakes of Mallow, Davy Davy Knick Knack or Winster Gallop at breakneck speeds as it would only detract from the tunes.
</grumpy old git alert>

YMMV
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: RogerT on June 13, 2013, 07:25:21 AM
A good example of fast playing is old JK(irkpatrick) playing Washington Hornpipe on the Garricks Delight CD that goes with his book. He is playing this on a one row... And a fab tune it is too. At the end he doubles his speed. Genius. Had the pleasure of seeing him do this at a workshop at Halsway to 'test' a one row box. There is also a great recording on YouTube by Dan Quinn so you can get a different take on this tune. The thing to do, according to JK is to play staccato, slowly, and this builds up the muscle memory for when you play faster, because defintion is lost when playing faster. You can always miss out the odd note, but if you have practiced staccato, it'll improve your playing, so said JK. Amen.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 13, 2013, 09:03:44 AM
<grumpy old git alert>
    I can't see why anyone would play Rakes of Mallow, Davy Davy Knick Knack
   or Winster Gallop at breakneck speeds as it would only detract from the tunes.
</grumpy old git alert>

About once a year Lester and I truly agree on something  ;)

A good example of fast playing is old JK(irkpatrick) playing

My own mileage is that I've seen so many (mostly male) young players trying to push decent tunes at lightspeed .. that I've come to see it a testosterone thing. Someone will PC complain at this, but I'd offer that they also do it in cars? I first met John in 1970 when he was still an amateur, recall him playing "Blaze away" flat out in the Folk Camp local pub. I'd say his style then became much more considered and that his notes are "placed" I would also say that of quite a few people I've kept an eye on over the years.

There is also quite a difference between a "double up last time" and a devil take the hindmost session "race"? I personally see double up as yet another style variation, but there's scope for debate.

A bit of a consensus seems to be emerging. Plenty of ways to practice speed, lot more than I'd ever imagined! I am pleased to see others stressing clarity - does anyone here argue that a tune reduced to "mush" is in any way beautiful?

Beyond that, I'd say we should all play 10% or slower less than what we might be able to do on amphetamines? And agree again with Lester, that some tunes just don't take it. Anyone for a flat out "Monks March"?  :|glug
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Brimley on June 13, 2013, 10:23:30 AM
I don't know your playing style, arty, and so I don't know if it would help you to say that finding a playing and strap position that keeps the right hand side rigid is a necessary condition of playing fast and/or with accuracy and drive (which I guess we would all like to be able to do, fast or not!)  Practising right hand style is of course another necessary requirement, but it can never compensate for poor playing position.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Rob2Hook on June 13, 2013, 11:55:32 AM
[ Anyone for a flat out "Monks March"?  :|glug

I believe the Parliamentary leaders would have liked that!

Rob.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Rob2Hook on June 13, 2013, 12:01:05 PM
Don't sweat on it too much.  It sounds like you're in the phase where the muscle memory is learnt.  You will find a tune that doesn't seem as limiting as the others, so you can speed it up a bit - and strangely the others will follow!  When it becomes comfortable you're no longer worrying about the mechanics of your hands, your fingers will be dancing to the music.

Rob.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 13, 2013, 09:34:29 PM
- never play faster than you can!

- playing fast will sound totally crap if phrasing and dynamics are lost in the process ( which they often are!)

- keeping bellows 'tight' and using delicate wrist movement for 'crisp' ins and outs  will sound far better than trying to wave  extended bellows around  so as to look 'flash' which  it won't!!

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 13, 2013, 09:46:54 PM
Thank you so much, all of you, for your advice, ideas and methods to improve. I shall certainly incorporate a lot of what has been suggested.

All of your comments however, do make me wonder about the session I go to listen to each week. It is the only session where I live and it seems to be 'controlled' by one person (a melodeon player). He has a huge repertoire and has been playing for 25 years plus but he is known for not taking prisoners. He won't slow down for the less experienced, doesn't like it when another musician starts a slow piece (e.g. a waltz), loves to play fast and I must say, he does it extremely well! There are several equally experienced and proficient musicians who attend, playing a variety of instruments. I go each week to familiarise myself with the music and I enjoy listening, it's a great evening.

I have thought a few times though, that the speed at which they play so many tunes spoils it. It is exciting to listen to but you lose the music in the speed if you know what I mean. Does that make sense?

Maybe in the future, it would be good to start my own session with the emphasis on playing music instead of breaking speed records!

Thanks again !
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 13, 2013, 10:20:06 PM
but you lose the music in the speed if you know what I mean. Does that make sense?

 !

may well be!

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: oggiesnr on June 13, 2013, 10:37:20 PM
Another Grumpy Old Man Alert -

Playing fast?  Why Bother!

Tunes have a speed at which they work, they sing, you can dance to them, they come alive, they are music.  As soon as you concentrate on playing them as fast as is possible you lose all the beauty that makes them worth playing in the first place.

Steve
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: EastAnglianTed on June 13, 2013, 11:53:45 PM
    Speed proves nothing in my opinion. Feeling and expression are redeeming qualities to me, and often this is what people respond to. Still practice, practice, practice if you want to play fast  >:E >:E >:E
    There's no QUICK solution.     


See what I did there?  ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: AirTime on June 14, 2013, 04:54:57 AM
I sympathize with your dilemma arty. Playing with other people ought to offer inspiration & encouragement. It sounds as if, in your situation, it's rather the opposite.

As a learning player myself, I completely endorse the idea that "phrasing & dynamics" are everything. Better to concentrate on those & let the speed come with time & practice.

In addition, I rarely find "fast playing" sounds all that appealing, in fact, in my judgement, if a tune's not worth playing slow ... it's probably not worth playing.  There are many examples of fabulous slow interpretations of dance tunes, one of my favourites is Forrest's version of Orange in Bloom/Sherborne Waltz.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSO7o8VSdsg&feature=related
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Brimley on June 14, 2013, 08:35:35 AM
Arty, sounds very much like you need to start a new session - you may well find a lot of the musicians at the other one will come and support you!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lester on June 14, 2013, 08:53:55 AM
Arty, sounds very much like you need to start a new session - you may well find a lot of the musicians at the other one will come and support you!

Or invite some thick skinned mel.net chums along for slow tunes at the session  ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 14, 2013, 09:37:24 AM
All of your comments however, do make me wonder about the session I go to listen to each week. It is the only session where I live and it seems to be 'controlled' by one person (a melodeon player). He has a huge repertoire and has been playing for 25 years plus but he is known for not taking prisoners. He won't slow down for the less experienced, doesn't like it when another musician starts a slow piece (e.g. a waltz), loves to play fast and I must say, he does it extremely well!

 I'm sure this fella plays entirely to his own satisfaction, but you are describing a one man show, not a session. A session is a musical conversation in which, although some may be more experienced or informed, everyone matters. The human juke-box type of player can be great for keeping a session moving, bit (reading between the lines) it's sadly … rather more than that.

My own "favourite" experience of such a chap  :-\ he had a massive piano accordion and would impose loud and sometimes brutally wrong rhythms across tunes started by others. I met him in Upton/Severn and had the temerity to start up "Teddy Bear's Picnic" in a melodeon/fiddle friendly Em key.

This stimulated him to join in in the correct key of Dm (putting the "break" into Bb!) playing across me, though to be fair "in phase". Instinct and sheer obstinacy made me carry on to the end, but we soon lost the room. In retrospect I should have perhaps have walked out on my own tune, but to go to the bar I needed somewhere to empty my pint glass, and didn't have the balls to do exactly that …  ;)

Now, if I see him at a festival I simply go to a different pub.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 10:42:27 AM
Some good points made earlier about learning tunes, they've reminded me to learn slow and practice staccato. Must keep reminding myself and not launch into a half learnt tune but keep it steady and staccato!

Regarding your session: i too think it's time to seek out another session if at all possible. I've come to the conclusion that playing fast, irrespective of the style of the tune is nothing more than willy waving.  I hate it with a vengeance  >:(
Also if your leader is taking absolute control it's not in the spirit of a good session, where all can join in if they have summoned the nerve to start up a tune...... And then the accomplished players realise someone's starting up so they go along with the tune at that pace. Surely that's just manners?
.... And we all should realise we've been in that position too, whether just starting up or maybe more experienced but attempting a tune at the edge of your ability, whatever level that is.
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around....
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 10:53:47 AM
I  In addition, I rarely find "fast playing" sounds all that appealing, 




quite    . some time ago I went to  a very friendly   'irish' session  in a pub . It was mainly fast diddly diddly stuff  which I had difficulty joning in with as I couldn't recognise the tunes ( until I asked what was that called  - then I knew it but not at their speed!.   I joined in  and played  a few well known tunes at  a steady pace.   When we were packing up their boss man said  ' you got a lot more applause than we did'! ~All I could think of saying was 'sorry that wasn't my intention' which it certainly wasn't.

I was I suppose applying   something that the late great Will Atkinson said to me many years ago. i.e. ''every tune has a natural speed- and sounds much better played at its natural speed'' or words to that effect.

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 11:02:36 AM
'every tune has a natural speed....'
I think that is absolutely right!
Well said that man  (:)
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 14, 2013, 11:04:27 AM
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around...

It may well be that if you just "start one up" those friends might magically flock to it?  Be advised to label it "steady pace" session (eg via an entry in your loca folk directory) at an early stage. That way should anyone else  ::) happen to turn up and try to force things .. someone can have an assertive conversation with him/her ;)

eg Newcastle's Cumberland Arms (referred to obliquely in Lark on Strand (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,12524.0.html) thread) nowadays offer and "anything but Irish" session, which I try to get to when I see my Mum. People respect that; it works.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 11:07:45 AM
Fair comment Chris - there might well be others in this sesson who also are are finding it all a bit intimidating but would feel happier in a less speedy environment.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Brimley on June 14, 2013, 11:13:13 AM
I think I ought to add that it may be that the musician concerned is unaware of the effect he is having, and may have a different view of the style of music he is playing, perhaps believing it to be fun, or more interesting to an audience, if he plays fast.  And many musicians are of the same view.  He may just be nervous.  It's probably not either fair or inclusive to say that it's wrong, but if other performers prefer something different, they will join you in the new session, and speak with their feet.  The other point is that what appeals to a musician is often different from what appeals to an audience (or to a pub landlord).  A session establishes its own dynamic, and the successful ones are difficult to predict.  I believe that inclusivity and friendliness are key ingredients.  But then I may be wrong!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 11:25:06 AM
agree totally on the inclusiveness and friendliness  aspects of a session but sadly this is not always the case.   I used to go to a weekly session that was  'run' in a different way to many and worked very well and probably still is.  One person was coerced, volunteered, or whatever into 'running the session for the night'  this was a different person each week and the job was simply to  offer somebody the chance to start the next tune or set  if they so wiched, moving swiftly on if they didn't.  That way nobody hogged it and aa good veriety of ttunes (and a few songs) were played'sung. It made for  very pleasant and very inclusive sessions.  ( some may call it a sing around or play around format but so what  - it was friendly and enjoyable0

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 14, 2013, 11:40:25 AM
A "conversation", my non-player friend eventually opted out of the Manchester/Styal session "there's all sort of communication going on there, but I'm not part of it"  :-\

Never mind, but that's also to say that "listening" is as important as "talking" ::) in music
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 11:43:10 AM
Agree totally about being freindly and inclusive, and also acknowledge Chris B's comments that the person running the session might not realise the effect their playing has on it.
Just reflecting on how different sessions work. My  monthly one is a collection of people who has a core of locals that have known each other for ~ 30 years +. Within that we have some strong capable lead musicians with encyclopaedic collection of tunes in their heads.
We don't formally invite one another to start, though the person who's the contact for the session might give a gentle nod and wink follwoed by asking if a tune's lurking wishing to be aired if there's a lapse in the proceedings .....but in a very informal way.
It's usually whoever gets in first with a tune.
That does mean at times you have to be quick and step into the breach to follow the previous one, but it does mean there's no formal 'tune leader' for the night. It also means that if you start it then it is at 'your' speed, whatever that may be - slow or fast!
....but as said it can be run in a totally different way.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Stiamh on June 14, 2013, 01:41:54 PM
It's very easy to form conclusions on the basis of what we read to fit our own prejudices or, er, experience. We don't know what arty means he says he can play the tunes at "quite a fast pace", and neither do we know what sort of speed the dominant male plays them at in the session arty describes.

For all I know arty might be playing them painfully slowly and the player in the session at quite an enjoyable clip. Beginner's perceptions can be very different from those of experienced players, and if arty has got as far as two tunes in the book, well he is a beginner.

We also don't know exactly what is happening when someone starts a slow piece that the leader doesn't appreciate. I can imagine several scenarios.

Presumption of innocence, and all that.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Theo on June 14, 2013, 02:05:11 PM
Well said Steve.

I think that what the original question was getting at is: "As a beginning player how do I get to be able to play sufficiently fast to be able to join in with people playing tunes at a reasonable speed for a session, or perhaps for a dance?"  Which is something we all have had to do, or are still doing.  And of course that includes being able to play with good rhythm, phrasing and dynamics at the chosen speed, and to be able to maintain a steady tempo, ie play fluently.

Here are my thoughts:

You have to learn to play slowly to begin with, practice till you are able to play fluently, and then move the speed up in small increments.   With each tempo increment practice for long enough to achieve fluency before taking the next step up. Keep to this process until you can play fluently at a tempo that is much faster than you would expect to play in public.  Then you are in the position where you can play with others and be relaxed.  The length of time this takes depends on all sorts of things, including whether it is a first instrument, how much time practice for, what age you start at, etc, and can vary between weeks and years.  Of course if you have friends who can help by playing more slowly than usual so you can join in that can only be a help.

I still go through this process when learning a new tune.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 03:18:33 PM
I think most if not all the really good players  whether professional or other  are minimalist in their approach to   waisting  energy.  To watch them they seem to sit or stand with a total lack of violent movements or of hurried playing  and in the case of boxes the bellows movement is almost gentle!
Jimmy Shand was the absolute pastmaster at economical playing but where appropriate he went at a hell of a lick! - with little or nothing appearing to be done in the process.

 most of us lower down the line seem to  have to sometimes put more in than we get out of the box!

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Theo on June 14, 2013, 03:39:47 PM
I think most if not all the really good players  whether professional or other  are minimalist in their approach to   waisting  energy. 

I believe that is something that comes with playing well within their capabilities for speed etc as well of course to paying attention to being relaxed in body and mind (http://www.innergameofmusic.com/innergamebook).
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 05:06:14 PM
Last week I took a day off work and sat in the glorious sunshine in our garden. As Mrs Thrupenny Bit popped out for a minute I sat and played in the sun. I went through some of my current tunes and it was absolute bliss - sun, garden, day off work, what more do you need?
I was also stunned because I became aware that everything was going rather well. My tunes were at a good speed, expressive, as note perfect as I've ever played them. The spell was broken as my wife returned through the garden gate and the click of the latch made me jump!
I could not belive the difference being totally relaxed made to my playing. It all came together and made I think the most satisfying time I've ever had playing the melodeon in the ~ 3 years since starting.
Don't underestimate being relaxed.
If I could bottle it and sell it...... or just take it before playing.....
If only......  :'(
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: syale on June 14, 2013, 05:15:51 PM
They do sell it in bottles, it's called Newcastle Brown Ale  (:) . Just don't go further from relaxed and reach 'Don't care what it sounds like!' Fortuneatly for me I can buy it in a local grocery store here in Texas  :|glug
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 14, 2013, 05:23:31 PM
I'm in the position of living in a rural location so have to drive to any session and to morris on a monday ( with hopefully a tune or two afterwards ). Any laughing liquid would probably see me in the hedge before I'd be asked to blow into a bag by a nice Mr. Plod.
I need to cultivate 'relaxed' as I don't have an alternative!
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 05:40:25 PM
there is , to me anyway, a phenomena that I think of as hitting 'floatation speed'.  Sometimes I  hit  it , sometimes I don't.  It applies when playing in a band with dancers ( anything from amorris sside to a hall full)

  When it happens everything gels together perfectly aand the musicians  and dancers become as one  - playing becomes a a calm effortless experience  and  the dancers seem to somehow do their stuff  better and with less effort.  I just wish I could 'hit it' every time!

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Stiamh on June 14, 2013, 06:46:42 PM
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around...
eg Newcastle's Cumberland Arms (referred to obliquely in Lark on Strand (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,12524.0.html) thread) nowadays offer and "anything but Irish" session, which I try to get to when I see my Mum. People respect that; it works.
It is inconceivable that a folk music session that is so blatantly discriminatory would happen in Ireland.  [...] You're welcome to it is all I can say.

I can understand your being shocked aradru. But I don't think that this is racism, or that the discrimination has anything to do with nationality.

It's almost certainly a reaction to Irish-music sessions (outside Ireland) where anybody playing music that isn't Irish is made to feel unwelcome. This happens.

People who are passionate about Irish music tend to be, well, passionate about it. They may consider that it's the only trad music worth playing. Converts from other countries may exhibit an attitude that smacks of "more Irish than the Irish themselves."

I'm just saying this as an aid to understanding and not passing judgment. Personally I think there's room for all sorts of sessions, esp. in big cities. No need to have "conversations" that you find either dull, or over your head.

Cheers
Steve
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: GPS on June 14, 2013, 07:18:50 PM
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around...
eg Newcastle's Cumberland Arms (referred to obliquely in Lark on Strand (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,12524.0.html) thread) nowadays offer and "anything but Irish" session, which I try to get to when I see my Mum. People respect that; it works.
It is inconceivable that a folk music session that is so blatantly discriminatory would happen in Ireland.  [...] You're welcome to it is all I can say.
It's almost certainly a reaction to Irish-music sessions (outside Ireland) where anybody playing music that isn't Irish is made to feel unwelcome. This happens.

It does. I've been to a couple, in different parts of the UK; in each case I've packed up my box, finished my drink & left, never to return. 

Here in Cyprus, you take what you can get in a session - anything from hard-core English trad via Celtic, Van Morrison, 60s folk-pop, Beatles, BeeGees to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Amy Winehouse!  We do have a small number of Irish musicians who visit the island from time to time and I have to say we have had some pretty good evenings together - each tolerant of the other's traditions and willing to make the best attempt we can to play along with each other.  I've learned a lot about Irish music (which to be honest I'm not particularly interested in) from these sessions, and it would be nice to think that our Irish friends have learned something about the English tradition too.

In an attempt to rescue myself from thread-drift, I should say that I always take my English tunes in these sessions at what I hope is a laid-back yet compulsively rhythmic pace (what I have always known as "sitting back on the beat"), and I have never felt rushed by our Irish friends (of course they may be holding back to be nice to me!)

Graham
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: malcolmbebb on June 14, 2013, 07:48:20 PM
As in all these things, a little research before hitting the "reply" button is in order. And I am 90% sure this specific point has been covered here before.

This is not a reaction to genuine Irish music, nor is it racist. But, in England, there are large numbers of so-called "Irish" music sessions. There is a session near me, a beginners' session, just what I could do with. But I don't go. Why? Because it's an "Irish" session. So there will be a narrow - exclusive - range of music played (still an awful lot of tunes to choose from) in somebody's interpretation of an Irish style. Real or not, I don't know. The English tunes that I like won't normally get a look in.

In many areas the "Irish" sessions are, ironically perhaps, the very exclusive narrow thing that you're complaining about. Oddly enough you are - in my experience - more likely to hear an Irish - or French - or mongrel, like so many tunes nobody really knows where it comes from - tune at an "English" session than at the Irish sessions I've been to.

So "Irish" - keeping the quotes - or maybe quasi-Irish, perhaps more accurately - gets done to death in England. Often very fast. Often diddly-diddly. Often selfish. I have been to a relatively small number of sessions, I have heard the opinions of many others, and there is a huge number of sessions out there. So I can't fully generalise. But - when I saw the line you quoted - I knew straight away what was meant.

You can go to "Irish" sessions anywhere in England. But getting away from them to allow a wider range of music, to a more "inclusive" session if you like - the sort you probably _would_ get at what you'd apparently call a "proper" Irish session - is a damned sight harder than you'd think.

And I think you'd find that a real Irish musician, playing real Irish music - would be made welcome in most places.

It ain't what you're thinking.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Will Allen on June 14, 2013, 07:57:56 PM
My only advice is to play lightly, heavy fingers never go fast
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 08:22:03 PM
hoping not to upset some or all English players of ''Irish session tunes''  etc.  But there do seem to be  more than a few so called ''Irish'' sessions  manned totally by non Irish persons who think the main feature of Irish session music has to be playing  at shit off a shovel speed  and also playing now't else!

not only does this  give a wrong impression of the genre but also excludes those  who like some veriety.  The Irish session I occasionaly pop into is manned to a large degree by genuine natives of that land  and not only  am I made welcome but am invited  to play  some of my type of tunes,   

 George ( quickly putting on tin hat and ducking to avoid imminent fast flying shite)  ;)


Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: deltasalmon on June 14, 2013, 08:29:01 PM
I'm surprised by all this talk. As a beginner, most sessions I go to people are playing "too fast" and usually I'll go and I'll have instrument in hand. If they play a tune I know well enough I'll try to play. If not I'll just sit. But at every "Irish" (most probably have at least one native of Ireland but certainly there are Americans and others as well) session that I go to, if I just sit there I am always asked to start a set. Sometimes the rest will join in at my pace. Sometimes they'll just listen. But I've never been to one where I start and someone else takes the set from me and runs away with it.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: sine labore on June 14, 2013, 08:35:25 PM
Goes to show that quality counts.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: malcolmbebb on June 14, 2013, 09:31:06 PM
When we visited Whitby a few years ago, we enjoyed a great night of music and we were made to
feel very welcome there.
If you ever make it to Dorset, maybe we can find somewhere for a beer. Even if there isn't a session nearby.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lester on June 14, 2013, 10:08:42 PM
I know. Shock horror, an Irishman who plays the box and doesn't drink! :o

I'm an even rarer animal - a morris man who is teetotal  :o
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 14, 2013, 10:18:28 PM
which must make for more accurate playing!

george ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 14, 2013, 10:30:18 PM
Just to pick up on aradru's reaction, he'd really have to enquire of the the pub concerned as to exactly what they mean by it, but the fact that they also run "Irish" session on (AFAIR) the other Tuesdays suggests to me that there is no malice. If fact I suspect no one else here would read it as malicious or even discriminatory? Surely just a guide to style for the night? 

The "Irish" sessions in that pub (mind, I'm going back 25 years here)are actually very good indeed. In contrast some of the stuff played over here more resembles a musical version of the Sweep's Derby! Nothing like the lovely steady stuff one hears on West Coast. But that's just my view.

I'm off East tomorrow. First to an "mix of styles" session in the Aire valley, then to a "French" dance by the R.Don. I read both as indicative, and won't feel excluded as a mere anglais

[edit] to reinforce that I was talking about session style rather than anything even remotely ::) racist .. Here's the context of what I said.
… Be advised to label it "steady pace" session (eg via an entry in your loca folk directory) at an early stage. That way should anyone else  ::) happen to turn up and try to force things .. someone can have an assertive conversation with him …
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Theo on June 15, 2013, 12:21:15 AM
If I can give some background to the 'Anything but Irish' session.  It was started by some of the first students on the Newcastle Folk degree course who found that almost all the sessions they could find in Newcastle were either exclusively or mainly Irish music.  So they started the  'Anything but Irish' so they could play English, Scottish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, American and just about anything else you can think of.  Just to give you a hint of the attitude to Irish music: the punishment for anyone who does play an Irish tune is to put an imaginary £1 into the imaginary fines box.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Pat. on June 15, 2013, 10:28:20 AM
If the reverse was occurring in Ireland I am sure the sentiments would be the same if not stronger.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: sine labore on June 15, 2013, 10:52:46 AM
I have just watched a film that where 2 boys (children) were fighting and the mother said " there is something worse to be Irish than not to be Irish!"
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 15, 2013, 10:54:10 AM
Actually (Pat)  .. not at all. Gallway was some time back for me but I didn't expect "non-Celtic" and was pleased to hear little that wasn't local. Sat with a nice pint and joined in where I felt I could (it's so much easier at "dance" pace incidentally! Otherwise chorded a bit, think I mentioned that they ventured into F. The Oakwood can go there  8) Tried to avoid Blue notes, until the session group started to swing a bit.

While there was no notice up, the session was manifestly Celtic and I respected that. They asked me to do something, AFAIR I did a song, maybe a mazurka later on as that exists there too?

Had there been a "foreign tunes" session of any kind I'd have felt honour bound to go as I could maybe offer in some new stuff? But there wasn't,  and it didn't bother me at all.

It's all in the mind you see. If you expect problems … you'll somehow find them :-X
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 10:57:16 AM
I suspect that the Newcastle idea goes back even further.
As a nation we have famously never given a toss for our cultural heritage as any Morris person knows having to put up with ridicule when performing. Our traditional music was also squashed ( long story involving class wars etc ) to the point of dying out save little pockets of old guys on Dartmoor, East Anglia etc. I'm told any 'folk music' meant Irish or similar because we didn't have any.
As a reaction to this Rod Straddling along with The Old Swan Band issued a seminal lp called 'No Reels' simply because the tunes were not diddly speedy stuff but stumpy rhythmic English tunes. About 1968/70? Along wih Flowers and Frolics they raided the old boy's tune repertoire and kick started English music revival.
It's taken us 40 years to re-learn our musical heritage and how we used to play it after nearly loosing it, so we're starting to jealously guard our musical heritage.
In many ways the Irish, Shetlanders and Scots are so lucky to have continuous unbroken cultural traditions that are respected by their nations. In England we're still struggling to re-instate these cultural identities so at times feel strongly that we should play our tunes not someone else's.
Comments about Irish sessions are more about establishing our tunes as opposed to playing another culture's ones.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 11:05:02 AM
..... And having the good fortune to dance around Dublin in the early '80's the traditional musicians we met were wonderful. Warm, generous and very open to any tune you played from anywhere in the world. They just loved people playing live music.
Sadly the sessions are not always as open over here as others have stated.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 15, 2013, 11:06:04 AM
[3d Bit] We are a bit off "speed" but to be fair … the session in question doesn't demand an imaginary £1 for a French tune, think there were several Swedish ones last time I saw Mother. But your point about jealously guarding your own traditions is well made. Actually that's what it is about, no one else will do that.

Count myself as a cultural carpetbagger incidentally; though I've collected some European stuff over the years I can't regard myself as a Tradition bearer. Whereas Fred Paris is … for all they wrote most of the tunes themselves!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Steve_freereeder on June 15, 2013, 11:11:09 AM
I suspect that the Newcastle idea goes back even further.
As a nation we have famously never given a toss for our cultural heritage as any Morris person knows having to put up with ridicule when performing. Our traditional music was also squashed ( long story involving class wars etc ) to the point of dying out save little pockets of old guys on Dartmoor, East Anglia etc. I'm told any 'folk music' meant Irish or similar because we didn't have any.
As a reaction to this Rod Straddling along with The Old Swan Band issued a seminal lp called 'No Reels' simply because the tunes were not diddly speedy stuff but stumpy rhythmic English tunes. About 1968/70? Along wih Flowers and Frolics they raided the old boy's tune repertoire and kick started English music revival.
It's taken us 40 years to re-learn our musical heritage and how we used to play it after nearly loosing it, so we're starting to jealously guard our musical heritage.
In many ways the Irish, Shetlanders and Scots are so lucky to have continuous unbroken cultural traditions that are respected by their nations. In England we're still struggling to re-instate these cultural identities so at times feel strongly that we should play our tunes not someone else's.
Comments about Irish sessions are more about establishing our tunes as opposed to playing another culture's ones.
Q
Excellent post! I agree with everything you say and I think your final two sentence are spot-on. 
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 15, 2013, 11:22:43 AM
When I began my journey in Folk music it was all American square dance. Good fun, but for me meeting Digby, Dan and co (Flowers and Frolics) was the revelation. Old Swan came a few years later, thanks for the info on Stradling btw, thought he lived other side of t'country!

Both of these mythical bands … played at steady pace too  ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 15, 2013, 12:31:52 PM
we seem to have a consensus of opinion that over fast playing is not  particulary desirable  -- which begs the question why is it done so often in so many sessions????.   

That many prefer  a more moderate pacs   is certainly confirmed by the  numbers  who turn up every year for my '' well known tunes at a steady pace'' sessions that I have run for the past 12 years at Whitby folk Week.   Also when I did them at Sidmouth  I once had a headcount of 157  ( the stewards counted people in!)

And just for the record these sessions are not aimed at beginners ( although all are welcome) but  at those who prefer  stuff they can join in with!

george
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 12:33:37 PM
Thanks both Chris and Steve. Glad I didn't sound too pompous!
Rod and the Swans were from Cheltenham, and and I think used to get into the East Anglian repertoire but also started to mine their local Cotswold old boys and I know Paul Burgess has collected tunes and researched into their local traditional players.
I have lovely stories from Jo Fraser ( Freya ) of her when an early teenager being bounced on the knee of local travellers in a backroom of their local in between stepping and playing whilst the Folk Club was trying to emulate ernestly and re-create the Folk tradition up the road, when it was acutally happening under their noses!
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 12:37:21 PM
Thanks to George for bringing me back on track:
I think it's been mentioned previously, but nerves can play an important part in this. I often try and consciously start at a reasonable pace ( maybe even a touch slower than normal ) so as to overcome the nerves and possibly stop myself going off too fast and then unravelling half way through when a tricky bit catches me out.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: playandteach on June 15, 2013, 02:17:08 PM
There is some research to suggest that the reason nerves bring on faster tempi is the increased heart rate, and some subconscious tie in between the relationship of one's normal speed for a piece and the rest rate of the heart. When the heart beats faster, there is some sort of sympathetic increase in the tempo to keep it company.
I actually know someone who deliberately practises after exertion to synthesize this in preparation for big concerts.
After adding my comments about how to practice, I have started following my own advice. It's great therapy apart from anything else. And there's no pressure to be able to play things well, because the worse they are the bigger the progress.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 15, 2013, 02:36:31 PM
 I think there are mainly 2 factors that cause speeding up during a tune.

- being nervous resulting in a subconscious desire to get it over and done with as quickly as possible and before you make a cock up of it!

- bad mannered players  who instead of following the speed  set by the 'starter' of a tune insist on 'taking over' and whipping it up to a frenzy!   In extreme cases of this in sessions I lead I call a halt  mid tune and we restart and follow the person who started the tune even if they are a bit on the slow and shaky side  - and if anybody doesn't like it the are welcome to bugger off!

george ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 02:54:36 PM
P&t: interesting idea about heartbeat and speed. That makes sense to me!
George: stopping and re-starting might learn 'em! Takes some doing though if the tune's steamrollering along  :D
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 15, 2013, 04:21:04 PM
A good tip is to play short chunks repeatedly , you can build up the speed of these chunks - but you still have recovery time between repetitions.

Let's say it was a C major scale you were trying to play - then you could play 5 notes - CDEFG, CDEFG 4 times in total, with as much rest in between as it took to play the notes - then try it with a click or metronome at around crotchet = 60. Then move up a note; DEFGA, DEFGA etc. and up. Then slip the metronome up a notch or two. Then go back to the first tempo, but play the notes twice as fast - allowing a longer recovery. This combination of finger speed and mental recovery is important. You need to be practising things accurately or you will achieve the very opposite of what you intended.
Remember also to stick to the fingering you would use in the real passage - don't just move your hand into a better shape as you go up.

Once you've done that, play the longer passage or scale at a very slow tempo but with a very snappy dotted rhythm - so the basic tempo is slow, but you are playing pairs of notes very close together (starting with a: slow, quick-slow, quick-slow pattern. Then reverse the rhythm so you start with the quick note (a scotch snap).

If you then play the passage in context you'll be upset how it still isn't any better, but the next day your brain will have assimilated the learning.

The good thing about chunking the music is that you don't just learn a tune up to speed, but you develop the technique to play other things faster (better) too.

I find it best to separate technique from trying to learn tunes. It saves frustration, but use the tricky bits to design your own exercises - they will then have the most targeted effect on your progress.

It really is hard to put exercises into words.If you can read music I could type out some exercises like this for you to try, but the basic concept is to use a variety of rhythms for the same set of notes. If you were really interested (bearing in mind that I am anything but a skilled melodeonist) I could demo a passage in practice.

Finally - I don't actually practise (no pun) what I preach very much on the melodeon, but I did on an instrument I needed to play well. The same techniques apply to any instrument - and seeing that the melodeon is largely free from tone and intonation input from the player, building clever fingers is well worth it.

Thank you so much for this advice - I have been trying your suggestions and I can see that I will benefit greatly. It's also quite a fun thing to do. Cheers!!!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 15, 2013, 04:36:14 PM
In addition to all the sage advice given above, I would say that the most important factor in being able to play fast is economy and efficiency of movement. If you don't play in an efficient manner then playing fast will always be a struggle. If you struggle with your instrument then you can't be efficient and economical.

On the box I would look carefully at how you are handling the bellows and how your right-hand fingers are moving around. Watch great players - ones that make it look easy - and ask yourself what looks different about how they do it.  And keep working towards that goal of efficiency and economy.


A lot of good advice here that makes perfect sense I think. Thank you.

I have been looking through past posts on this site, hoping to find advice or better still instructional videos about bellows control, how to achieve it and practice it but I can't find any. Does anyone know instructional videos on You Tube that show this economy of movement both with the bellows and right hand finger movement? If there are none, then what player or players would be good to watch and emulate?
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Marje on June 15, 2013, 05:54:25 PM
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around...


eg Newcastle's Cumberland Arms (referred to obliquely in Lark on Strand (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,12524.0.html) thread) nowadays offer and "anything but Irish" session, which I try to get to when I see my Mum. People respect that; it works.

It is inconceivable that a folk music session that is so blatantly discriminatory would happen in Ireland.
I guess that says an awful lot about our respective societies!


I run just such a session - well, we call it "mainly English" but we do include Scottish, French, Swedish, etc tunes at times. And do you know why? It's because there is  - or was until recently - another session in the town that was exclusively Irish - the occasional Scottish tune was tolerated as long as it was played too fast, but English tunes (any speed) were taboo. I felt that in England it was nonsensical to have a folk session that excluded music with local roots, and that's why I set up what is now a very successful session.

So maybe you're not aware that such "Irish-only" sessions are fairly common in England. It's because of this that there is a movement to reestablish and promote English music and song.

As for Irish music being "more difficult" - well, that's your opinion. It is usually played faster than other folk music, largely because it has lost much of its the connection with dance, whereas English musicians are usually very conscious of the dance that underlies the music, and how the tune would fit if you were dancing to it. I'd contend that to play a tune - any nationality - in a way that makes the listeners want to get up and dance is a skill that's often overlooked. It's arguable that English tunes are easier to play badly than Irish tunes (although I can play lots of Irish tunes badly!), but more difficult to play really well.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 15, 2013, 06:29:52 PM
  too.

I .

 - and seeing that the melodeon is largely free from tone and intonation input from the player, building clever fingers is well worth it.

I didn't know that!!

george  :o
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lester on June 15, 2013, 06:38:23 PM
Does anyone know instructional videos on You Tube that show this economy of movement both with the bellows and right hand finger movement? If there are none, then what player or players would be good to watch and emulate?

You could probably do worse than look at any Andy Cutting video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSqi8d2VqiQ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSqi8d2VqiQ)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Stiamh on June 15, 2013, 06:54:27 PM
It's arguable that English tunes are easier to play badly than Irish tunes, but more difficult to play really well.

Arguable? Come on, then, let's hear you try to back up your case (:)





Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 15, 2013, 06:55:55 PM
tips for fine control of bellows include in no particular order

-  proficiency in operating the air button,   Pre plan where to use it in a particular tune.

- using above to keep bellows 'tight' eg between 2 and about 10 inches open depending on tune etc but never open more than necessary

- playing staccato on both treble and bass as this uses less air

-  using wrist rather than arm movement for the delicate and sometimes rapid ins aand outs whilst sometimes at the same time using the coarser arm movement if the bellows need to travel some distance in the same direction.

george

Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 15, 2013, 07:25:19 PM
Thank you George, lots to practice.......!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Sage Herb on June 15, 2013, 07:44:08 PM
As a reaction to this Rod Straddling along with The Old Swan Band issued a seminal lp called 'No Reels' simply because the tunes were not diddly speedy stuff but stumpy rhythmic English tunes. About 1968/70? Along wih Flowers and Frolics they raided the old boy's tune repertoire and kick started English music revival.

Rod Stradling is still playing in this style as seminally as ever. He'll be appearing at Whitby Folk Festival this year with the band Phoenix.

Cheers
Steve
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: exiletaff on June 15, 2013, 08:59:22 PM
Hi all. I am a beginner (bought my Hohner D/g in March2013) and have joined Wickham Morris which is the nearest to me from Gosport. (If I lose my place I find it hard to catch up, but that is just starting to come together).
All great people and very encouraging.

I have followed all the tips and hints with great interest and will try to use them to improve my playing and speed. I have been practising at slower speeds to ensure the accuracy of the tune and to get muscle memory embedded in this ancient brain. This has been working for me.

The session after a Morris evening is still out of reach in terms of knowledge of the tunes and courage to join in at those speeds, I'm afraid. But I'll get there. (Any other beginners around Gosport fancy an evening out with a pint?)

Thanks again to all for the tips and encouragement to we beginners.

Alun



Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Marje on June 15, 2013, 09:09:40 PM
It's arguable that English tunes are easier to play badly than Irish tunes, but more difficult to play really well.

Arguable? Come on, then, let's hear you try to back up your case (:)

To back up my case, I'd need to take you to a few sessions and show you  - as if you didn't know! - the difference between the beginner who can plod through an English tune quite soon after first hearing it, but badly (been there!), and the expert who can make a simple English jig or hornpipe bounce and lilt along, so that you never want it to finish (haven't got there yet!). People who say English tunes are "too simple" or "too easy" are usually closer to the first of these than the second, if you can get them to actually play one.
With Irish tunes, on the other hand, the speed which they're habitually played puts many players from other traditions off even trying to join in - the music sounds difficult because it's fast, whereas English tunes sound easier, because they are catchier and more melodic, and (usually) played at a more easy-going, song-like pace. You can't "plod" your way into a fast Irish tune-set, you have to dive straight in at the deep end (although once you do this you may find you can get away with leaving out lots of the notes, as many session players do). It's all about the perception, the "image" of the music compared with the reality, and the subtleties of interpretation.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 15, 2013, 09:49:09 PM
To add to Marje's comments:
What we've learnt about English tunes is that they are written as a rough simple 'scaffold' of the tune, kept simple and played at a steady pace ...... but the written version's not necessarily how you play them!
There's 'space' between the written notes to allow you to improvise, add twiddles, go off-piste and return to the tune whilst someone else is leading it onwards. Remember, Thomas Hardy played with his father 'at the Big House' and longway set dances were played until Squire and lady danced all the way down the set and all the way back.....15mins? to one tune.
Therefore they improvised like hell or went bonkers at the boredom of playing a simple tune for that length of time!
We're now realising that after Straddling/Swan/Flowers etc. started it off. It's taken a long time to realise that they are simple to allow improvisation but now we're getting there.
It is difficult to improvise, add twiddles, go off piste etc if the tune is going so fast that all you can do is just about keep up with the notes roughly in the right order.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 15, 2013, 10:38:04 PM
I think there is a great deal to be said for ''keeping it simple'' whether the tune you are playing is English, Irish, Scottish or whatever.  The prime way to make it listenable, danceable and generally sound good  is to concentrate on the rhythm ( primarily coming form the treble end), the phrasing and the dynamics.   After that  careful  and very selective application of ornamentation, twiddles etc etc can be added  but only where they really enhance the tune and never 'just because you can'!
 
Some of the older trad Irish players were  very selective about ornamentation  and I understand that 'over ornemetation ' is penalised in the irish fleah competitions. (sorry am not sure how its spelt).

The problem with a lot of session playing be it Irish, English of mixed is that ornamentation/twiddles  and speed  are seen by some as good musicianship or dead clever or aren't I good or something on those lines

George   (keep it simple) G ;D
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: malcolmbebb on June 15, 2013, 11:09:39 PM
I think there is a great deal to be said for ''keeping it simple'' whether the tune you are playing is English, Irish, Scottish or whatever.  The prime way to make it listenable, danceable and generally sound good  is to concentrate on the rhythm ( primarily coming form the treble end), the phrasing and the dynamics.   After that  careful  and very selective application of ornamentation, twiddles etc etc can be added  but only where they really enhance the tune and never 'just because you can'!
Well said that man. I absolutely agree. I find that ornamentation is very personal, I have heard people far better than me playing and abandoned listening to the tune half way through because I didn't like the ornamentation of an otherwise perfectly good (and danceable) tune.
As Q made very clear, even if that wasn't his point, ornamentation is often put there for the musician's entertainment rather than the dancers'. Fine if you're playing for your own entertainment, selfish if you're playing for dance.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Anahata on June 15, 2013, 11:50:15 PM
The problem with a lot of session playing be it Irish, English of mixed is that ornamentation/twiddles  and speed  are seen by some as good musicianship or dead clever or aren't I good or something on those lines

There's a real and enjoyable challenge in playing a tune simply (i.e. without excessive ornamentation and variation) but making it have the same effortless musical flow as if sung by a good singer. Key to that approach is that you are "selling" your audience the  tune, not your playing.

Or as someone said, I think in a book entitled Psychology For Musicians - you know you've done well when people afterwards don't say how well you played, but how beautiful the music was.

With much of the sort of music I play, this often translates into making people want to get up and dance, and I love it when they actually do.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: deltasalmon on June 16, 2013, 01:46:01 AM
Claiming that one cultures musical tradition is "easier" or "more difficult" seems ridiculous to me. Every culture has loads of tunes from simple ones to more complex tunes but to say one is "easier" groups all those tunes together under one stereotype.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: smiley on June 16, 2013, 04:32:15 AM
The worms are really squirming out of the can now ...
 
Irish music is more "difficult" to play than other genres of music...

I try to play a range of musical genres to the best of my ability and I find each has its own complexities of style that need to be understood and assimilated in order to play the particular music 'well'. This applies equally to fast or slow paced tunes.

Perhaps this conversation should to be continued in a new topic?
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lyra on June 16, 2013, 04:34:07 AM
It's a bit like quizzes though - they are only difficult if you don't know the answer.
For me it's really is about letting the music out. Some people can play fearsome fast but, tbh, they aren't playing the tune just a load of notes. I would be rude and call that a mechanic. Some people can play fearsome fast and sweep you up in the music leaving you breathless and smiling. That's a musician. (They're also the ones that can play a slow tune and reduce you to tears).
Then there's the ones who play fast for the same reason some people drive (or lust after) snorting monster cars and bikes - to hide a deficiency in another department.
I don't think any of those are race or tradition specific.

Then there's me - basically slightly out of breath on a push bike. Which is why I need more exercise (looky - nearly back on topic!)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 16, 2013, 09:00:26 AM
I don't agree that Irish music is more difficult to play than English ,Scottish, or whatever because it is simply to much of a generalisation. It is  often more difficult to pick up by ear  from renditions played at (?overfast) speeds with(?over ornamentation).  This doesn't make it more difficult to play.  There are many Scottish tunes that can be  very difficult to play  WELL  as  they  cannot or should not be camouflaged by over ornamentation so come out 'warts an all'   Saame goes for  some English tunes.

I think a more realistic  view of  'hardness to play' is   that in any tradition   tunes can vary from dead easy to extremely difficult  to play well------- and different players will put different tunes at different points on the easy/hard continuum.

george


Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 16, 2013, 10:00:09 AM
aradru: thank you for reminding me that history hasn't been kind to your country.
I was thinking more along the lines of 'despite suppression you've managed to keep your culture alive and well'
Through attending workshops from various people I've been lead to believe the traditional musicians who made up the village bands in England were actively suppressed by the upper classes who drove through organ music to replace the village bands in the local churches. We then followed whatever new thing emerged, often from America, such as minstrels then big bands - all to replace any vestiges of traditional music left. Instead of keeping it ticking over as a cultural identity despite suppression, we had it slowly wiped out, and most people did not know it existed let alone missed it.
Hopefully the worms are going back into the can peacefully  ;)

Yes Malcolm, ornamentation should be for our entertainment and not wreck a tune.

Lovely thought from Anahata too..... Makes me think!
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 16, 2013, 11:02:59 AM
… Or as someone said, I think in a book entitled Psychology For Musicians - you know you've done well when people afterwards don't say how well you played, but how beautiful the music was.

This sounds a really interesting book. Don't suppose I might borrow?  I'd also perhaps add them "not discussing the political correctness of what you'd played" to that little list?

Quote
With much of the sort of music I play, this often translates into making people want to get up and dance, and I love it when they actually do.

You do OK
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Sage Herb on June 16, 2013, 11:20:52 AM

Through attending workshops from various people I've been lead to believe the traditional musicians who made up the village bands in England were actively suppressed by the upper classes who drove through organ music to replace the village bands in the local churches.

For a fictional, but not implausible account of this suppression, see Thomas Hardy's novel 'Under the Greenwood Tree'. The style of singing in church current at that time, and also suppressed (by the Oxford Movement) has survived in the carols sung at Christmas in pubs in various parts of England, perhaps most notably in my native South Yorkshire.

Cheers
Steve
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 16, 2013, 11:41:11 AM
Thanks Sage.
This topic has been thoughtfully discussed in a much earlier thread where someone else did mention 'Under the Greenwood Tree'.
I ended up buying it and reading it because of the thread.
I cannot put my finger on it - but there is another short story ( or part of a novel ) from Hardy that I've heard read several times concerning the village band at Christmas. After far too many late nights, plus mulled cider discretely hidden in a tuba case, they end up nodding off to sleep in church on Christmas Eve as the vicar's sermon's way too long. Then are rudely awaken by the vicar wanting the next hymn/carol, only to blast off into a reel assuming they were up the pub! It ends with ' they then brought in an organist'! It's a wonderful story but I can't source it but know it's by Hardy.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Anahata on June 16, 2013, 11:46:16 AM
This sounds a really interesting book. Don't suppose I might borrow?

It is an interesting book, largely aimed at teachers but of interest to all musicians as we never stop learning.
I read it when I was at school, haven't had a copy of it for years.

I'm not even sure that quote was from the same book, but it stuck in my memory, wherever it came from.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Lester on June 16, 2013, 11:51:08 AM
I know. Shock horror, an Irishman who plays the box and doesn't drink! :o

I'm an even rarer animal - a morris man who is teetotal  :o

Maybe we should start up our own "exclusive" club?
Beer swillers outside the door please!
We could be on our own mind. Do you know any good Irish tunes? :||:

http://lesters-tune-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/tune-291-john-ryans-polka.html (http://lesters-tune-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/tune-291-john-ryans-polka.html)     :M     ;)
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 16, 2013, 11:57:20 AM
Quote from: aradru link=topic=12512.msg153917
When I said Irish music is more difficult I meant that in the context of it being dismissed sometimes as "diddly diddly". I did not mean to elevate it above other genres.

Came across as fairly absolute to me! Are you suggesting that the slightly silly "diddly" context in any way referred to difficulty, or that Andy Cutting doesn't practice in the morning?

I've never seen "diddly" as anything more than a reference to the stacked 6/8 jigs one encounters in the "anything Irish" sessions, yes they do exist here! I'd personally describe some French Circassian tunes with the same word.

To return (if briefly) to out topic, I suspect that you'd describe the speed of play in what we term (and its our Country) "hard Irish" sessions on this island as "too fast". I've travelled a bit and encountered nothing like it anywhere else in the world, still less on the west coast which I suspect is where you live?

This thread demonstrated early on that speeding isn't much to do with the tradition in play, albeit "hard Irish" may be the best exemplar. I personally believe it is "about" a disconnection of sessions of, frankly all, music types from their associated dance traditions. That applies to English, Irish, French, I could go on …

We also suffer here from dysrhythmics, sadly. eg some twit bodhranning 6/8 jig over a Bourrée, or worse mazurka tune, and our tendency to speed makes that worse too.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Sage Herb on June 16, 2013, 12:31:52 PM
Thanks Sage.
This topic has been thoughtfully discussed in a much earlier thread where someone else did mention 'Under the Greenwood Tree'.
I ended up buying it and reading it because of the thread.
I cannot put my finger on it - but there is another short story ( or part of a novel ) from Hardy that I've heard read several times concerning the village band at Christmas. After far too many late nights, plus mulled cider discretely hidden in a tuba case, they end up nodding off to sleep in church on Christmas Eve as the vicar's sermon's way too long. Then are rudely awaken by the vicar wanting the next hymn/carol, only to blast off into a reel assuming they were up the pub! It ends with ' they then brought in an organist'! It's a wonderful story but I can't source it but know it's by Hardy.
Q

You're absolutely right, Q. The short story is by Hardy and is called 'Absentmindedness in a parish choir', written in 1891 and printed in a volume called 'Life's Little Ironies'.

Cheers, Steve
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: GPS on June 16, 2013, 12:32:34 PM
Thanks Sage.
This topic has been thoughtfully discussed in a much earlier thread where someone else did mention 'Under the Greenwood Tree'.
I ended up buying it and reading it because of the thread.
I cannot put my finger on it - but there is another short story ( or part of a novel ) from Hardy that I've heard read several times concerning the village band at Christmas. After far too many late nights, plus mulled cider discretely hidden in a tuba case, they end up nodding off to sleep in church on Christmas Eve as the vicar's sermon's way too long. Then are rudely awaken by the vicar wanting the next hymn/carol, only to blast off into a reel assuming they were up the pub! It ends with ' they then brought in an organist'! It's a wonderful story but I can't source it but know it's by Hardy.
Q

It's a short story called "Absent-mindedness In A Parish Choir".

Graham
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: GPS on June 16, 2013, 12:33:47 PM
B***er! Just beat me to it....... ;D

Graham
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Stiamh on June 16, 2013, 01:09:08 PM
Going back to Marje's last post in response to my challenge, although a lot has been written since: I cannot help thinking that you Marje and many of the other English players who contribute to threads such as these have a very narrow view of Irish music. No doubt this is because of a certain type of Irish session you have encountered that does nothing for you.

But the thing that seems missing in all your comments is a broader appreciation of Irish music. Pub sessions are not the whole story. In fact they are still a relatively recent phenomenon and only a small part of the story of Irish music. An awful lot of playing goes on in kitchens in Ireland and outside, and there must be thousands of excellent players who are rarely or never seen in pub sessions. And an awful lot of dancing happens too - so much for the "lost connection" with the dance. Some players may never play for dancers, but a lot do.

I could take you to sessions where people play at a moderate tempo, competitiveness is absent and the proceedings are dominated by camaraderie and "crack". I could take you to dances where the dancers want fast tempos and where, if the musicians resort to the tempo they enjoy playing at in sessions, they are told to pick it up in no uncertain terms. I could show you "sean nos" step dancers who want a moderate, rolling tempo... it's a vast and varied scene.

And the music itself is a vast and varied field. The idea of a written or basic setting as a scaffold that the skilled performer uses to delight the listener surely applies as much or more to Irish music as to any other. Lurking behind all the standard settings that are thrashed out in the kind of sessions that you dislike are all kinds of variants, associated with this or that musician or this or that area. People connected to and deeply immersed in the tradition are aware of these variants and can tell you stories about their origins and the people who passed them on to us.

I could ramble on and on, but I'll stop with a wish that people would cut Irish music some slack and not pass judgment on it based on what appears, quite frankly, to be very little knowledge - or appreciation - of it. I have some knowledge of English music, but it goes back to playing for Morris, barn dances and ceilis and hanging out in folk clubs in the 1970s, and there is a lot that has happened since then of which I am only dimly aware. That's why I won't write generalizations, dismissive or otherwise, about it.

One last point: Music doesn't have to be slow to be good. Just because there are players who can play dance music very well at speeds you or I couldn't possibly keep up with is no reason to slam it. Enjoy it instead.

PS I hadn't seen the comments that aradru just responded to. Chris - it's your country, and it was mine too but comments like yours make me feel I'm well out of it. But just remember who we needed to rebuild it for us in the post-ww2 years. It was those people who began the whole pub session phenomenon in their free time. Would we be enjoying pub sessions of any description otherwise? And am I to understand you would actually like to turn this into an anything-but-Irish forum?  >:E
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on June 16, 2013, 02:01:20 PM
Steve/Graham: I've been wating to source this since hearing it in the late  ~ 1970's
Thank you so much! Absolute stars  (:)

Steve: I think you are absolutely right, the narrow view of Irish music is what perpetuates over here as it's all most of us see so you base your opinions on your experiences.
As I mentioned earlier, I had the priviledge of meeting many fine musicians in my trip over a long time back. I was amazed that there were still informal get togethers still happening, Kerry sets danced in the front rooms where the best stepper stood on a hearth stone so they could dictate the beat etc. I also made friends with a very good fiddler who's tunes and attitude reflect exactly what you say - they were totally laid back both in their attitude *and* their playing and appreciated a tune from anyone/any where.
Yes we should cut Irish music some slack, though must say that what we percieve to be Irish over here ( that generates this negativity ) is not a true reflection of it's broad nature.
Q
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Marje on June 16, 2013, 02:27:46 PM

Yes we should cut Irish music some slack, though must say that what we percieve to be Irish over here ( that generates this negativity ) is not a true reflection of it's broad nature.
Q

That's very true, Q, and Steve's thoughtful post has made me see that what I was talking about was "Irish music as it's mainly played in sessions in England", which I accept is far from the whole picture. It tends to be almost or mostly jigs'n'reels, with little variation, and yet I know there are slow airs, hornpipes, marches, waltzes, mazurkas etc within the Irish tradition. They just don't get much of an airing over here.

I do remember once there was a girl (at an English festival) who was an all-Ireland champion dancer and wanted someone to play a jig for her to dance to. They settled on "Out on the Ocean" but the player had to be stopped and asked to slow down about four times before the right pace was eventually found - a nice, relaxed, bouncy pace that really allowed the dancer to spring around, nothing like the speed that is normally found at sessions. I'd say it was more like an English tune at that speed, but I might be considered to be insulting both traditions, so I won't!
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Marje on June 16, 2013, 02:33:48 PM


There's a real and enjoyable challenge in playing a tune simply (i.e. without excessive ornamentation and variation) but making it have the same effortless musical flow as if sung by a good singer. Key to that approach is that you are "selling" your audience the  tune, not your playing.

Or as someone said, I think in a book entitled Psychology For Musicians - you know you've done well when people afterwards don't say how well you played, but how beautiful the music was.


When I sing, I know if someone says afterwards, "What a lovely song that is!" that I've got it right. I want the attention to be on the song, not the singer or the delivery.

Mind you, I was quite chuffed when at a recent session I played a slow-ish tune, without a lot of joining-in going on, and someone said afterwards, "You know, that was almost musical!" I think that passes for a compliment when you play the melodeon ...
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: playandteach on June 16, 2013, 03:45:53 PM
I have a couple of separate comments -
Firstly, on difficulty over simplicity:
there is a saying about Mozart - that it's too easy for amateurs, and too hard for professionals. This refers to orchestras - a lot of amateur orchestras long to do bigger works, with technically challenging individual parts and the huge wall of sound that comes with playing things like Richard Strauss. On the other hand, professional orchestras can play stuff like that almost like shelling peas - the players have all developed techniques and learnt how the notes fit in the massive melting pot of textures.
Playing Mozart for amateur orchestras is often unchallenging in terms of getting round the notes, whilst professionals understand the lack of hiding places, and the absolute necessity for beauty of sound, intonation, balance - like a crystal structure standing on the most fragile of legs - it can all turn to disaster so easily.
Having said that the Mozart I most enjoyed playing was not (with the greatest respect to those eminent players) with the Mozart specialists such as Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, or even Alfred Brendel but more with those who didn't treat it with reverential kid gloves- perhaps some of the Russian pianists like Mikhail Pletnev.

The second point is that the acquisition of finger technique is not merely for speed, but for precision.
Another few things you (in answer to the OP) might try are:

Be conscious of the precision of taking fingers off (don't worry about this in playing, but in practice). Take off fingers with controlled energy so that it feels like a positive action - the articulation will transfer to the putting on of fingers in a complementary way;

Try leaving one finger holding down a note while other fingers play (with clarity) a moving phrase or little fragments of a few notes - it really highlights clarity.

Lastly try all those small chunks out with a variety of articulations - this is good musically as well as mechanically.
I am conscious as I offer advice that almost everyone on this forum is a superior melodeon player. No condescension intended.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: IanD on June 16, 2013, 06:07:06 PM
I'd be making enquiries amongst friends to see if there was an alternative session around...


eg Newcastle's Cumberland Arms (referred to obliquely in Lark on Strand (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,12524.0.html) thread) nowadays offer and "anything but Irish" session, which I try to get to when I see my Mum. People respect that; it works.

It is inconceivable that a folk music session that is so blatantly discriminatory would happen in Ireland.
I guess that says an awful lot about our respective societies!


I run just such a session - well, we call it "mainly English" but we do include Scottish, French, Swedish, etc tunes at times. And do you know why? It's because there is  - or was until recently - another session in the town that was exclusively Irish - the occasional Scottish tune was tolerated as long as it was played too fast, but English tunes (any speed) were taboo. I felt that in England it was nonsensical to have a folk session that excluded music with local roots, and that's why I set up what is now a very successful session.

So maybe you're not aware that such "Irish-only" sessions are fairly common in England. It's because of this that there is a movement to reestablish and promote English music and song.

As for Irish music being "more difficult" - well, that's your opinion. It is usually played faster than other folk music, largely because it has lost much of its the connection with dance, whereas English musicians are usually very conscious of the dance that underlies the music, and how the tune would fit if you were dancing to it. I'd contend that to play a tune - any nationality - in a way that makes the listeners want to get up and dance is a skill that's often overlooked. It's arguable that English tunes are easier to play badly than Irish tunes (although I can play lots of Irish tunes badly!), but more difficult to play really well.
I think the point about the "diddly-diddly pseudo-Irish" players and sessions that you often get in England is that they're often not what I'd call good musicians, you get the feeling they've just got a book of a thousand Irish fiddle tunes and ploughed through it, and then they just churn them out like high-speed sausages -- all sounding the same, no feeling for the shape of the tune, no expression or dynamics...

The good traditional Irish musicians -- young and old -- don't do this, they often play more slowly with a lot more bounce and feel for the tune, because in their heads they're playing for dancing, and that's how good dance musicians play. But you rarely get this in England, unless you go somewhere like the Hammersmith Irish Centre where last time we danced there I heard some fantastic young musicians play.

A couple of weeks ago we dropped in to dance at the Cat's Back in Wandsworth only to groan when we saw that it was Irish night with a band sitting in the corner -- but they were *good*, lovely fluid rhythmical playing with real feeling at a speed where you could hear all the nice things they were doing. I talked to them after we'd danced and they also hate the diddly-diddlers, they saw them as butchering the music.

One reason for the "non-Irish" sessions is that once the diddly-diddlers get in and start churning out the fast jigs and reels fewer people join in, the speed goes up, Irish tunes push out the non-Irish ones, and before you know it you've got another Irish session. Sorry to say it, but I've seen this happen so many times, and it does only seem to be the pseudo-Irish musicians who do this.

Though playing tunes too fast certainly isn't a sin exclusive to them...
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 16, 2013, 08:28:55 PM
[quote author=Marje link=

 , and it does only seem to be the pseudo-Irish musicians who do this.




indeed!

george

 
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: arty on June 16, 2013, 09:19:32 PM
I don't know your playing style, arty, and so I don't know if it would help you to say that finding a playing and strap position that keeps the right hand side rigid is a necessary condition of playing fast and/or with accuracy and drive (which I guess we would all like to be able to do, fast or not!)  Practising right hand style is of course another necessary requirement, but it can never compensate for poor playing position.

I have just spent a very rewarding couple of hours trying different strap positions on my melodeon. While sitting on a hardback chair, I found that the instrument stays a lot steadier with the straps adjusted longer, so that the instrument rests on my left leg and with my right leg crossed over resting against the bottom of the grill for extra support. Before, I had the straps quite short, holding the instrument against my chest but it wasn't resting on my leg. Consequently, it did move about quite a bit and my fingers often missed the button it was aiming for  because the instrument had moved and sometimes it slipped off the side of the button mid note! I can't believe the difference this has made. The instrument is now much steadier, and because it is not moving about so much my fingers are already playing more accurately and quicker.

Thank you for suggesting I look at this Chris, I'm sure it will go a long way to help my accuracy.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: ladydetemps on June 16, 2013, 11:07:43 PM
My rule of thumb- if it sounds like flatulence its too slow and if it sounds like morse code its too fast. As long as you can hear the melody your on the right track. My fave speed is brisk walking/strolling pace.
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: george garside on June 16, 2013, 11:19:04 PM
? sort of a non flatulating jaunty walk or in the vanacular  somewhere between a good fart and  and pebbledashing!

george >:E
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: EastAnglianTed on June 16, 2013, 11:23:04 PM
? sort of a non flatulating jaunty walk or in the vanacular  somewhere between a good fart and  and pebbledashing!

george >:E
Hahahahaha that made me genuinely laugh ;D Great analogies
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: ladydetemps on June 16, 2013, 11:26:44 PM
Lowering the tone.
:rolls eyes:
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Chris Ryall on June 17, 2013, 10:02:34 AM
Quote
And am I to understand you would actually like to turn this into an anything-but-Irish forum

Not at all. It's one of the world's greater traditions, true to itself, and also boxes well above its weight amongst the others. I confess to being  a little jaded by its commercialisation, leprechaun pubs in Bangkok etc but that's not the issue. 

I (and others) do feel that in Britain, sadly, the "Irish session" has become a little exclusive, and for some reason plays up to 50% faster than elsewhere. Bizarre, probably false to its roots, and (back to topic?) another way to exclude people. I felt no such exclusion in Galway.

I've also "had a go", several times! I don't subscribe to the "more difficult"  thesis though there's definitely a knack to it on melodeon. Actually it doesn't move my soul. Chorded stuff does, but I began this journey in a Capella sung harmony. I don't actually deny any music tradition and if it moves your soul, I'm happy for you. Delighted to listen too, though I won't award points for velocity.

Just to repeatedly re-iterate (again), that the "anything but" is a session in another city, not run by me, responding (says Theo) to local circumstances, that I get to … maybe twice a year. It was merely example of session labelling working well, in practice. I was (read it) suggesting "steady pace", but blundered into a jungle of sensitivities (sorry) with my actual point lost in what felt like trench warfare. I sincerely hope to tap in no more on this off topic side topic …
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: IanD on June 17, 2013, 02:10:20 PM
? sort of a non flatulating jaunty walk or in the vanacular  somewhere between a good fart and  and pebbledashing!

george >:E
Gordon's alternative name for "Scottish Schottis" was "Fat Man Shopping" -- tells you all you need to know...
Title: Re: Playing fast
Post by: Theo on June 17, 2013, 02:14:48 PM
This topic has strayed so far, from the original request for help, that we better end it here.
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