Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Phil Howard on February 15, 2019, 08:12:47 AM

Title: Playing for jigs
Post by: Phil Howard on February 15, 2019, 08:12:47 AM
What advice does the collected wisdom of MelNet have on playing for morris jigs?

Any advice on this topic will be gratefully received, if I can ask that open a question!
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Lester on February 15, 2019, 08:22:16 AM
Only one musician.
Practice with the dancer.

Really it's easier than playing for a team as you have only one dancer (or possibly two) to try to keep aligned with.
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: jonm on February 15, 2019, 08:50:11 AM
As Lester says, has to be one practised musician who is watching continuously. Some other things I would suggest:

You're playing to the dancer, not for them, so adjust the pace - beat by beat if necessary - to their feet. Use the once-to-yourself to agree the starting speed (make eye contact and have a two-to-yourself if necessary).

Staccato notes provide lift, although ideally the whole tune should be staccato. Practice the jig with the dancer, so you can provide a swell to give lift into capers and hit the next beat on landing. Don't be afraid of silence while they're in the air, it gives the impression of height, as can a little "snatch" in the tune with capers.

Basses light or non-existent, and no bass notes which don't have a corresponding footfall.

I offer the below (and yes, it's concertina) not as an exemplar for the playing, but to show the difficulty of playing for a really good, athletic jig dancer. (
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Theo on February 15, 2019, 09:28:30 AM
If only all Morris were so beautifully executed.
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: george garside on February 15, 2019, 09:49:08 AM
I agree strongly with what Lester and jonm have said  and particularly like the sound of the concertina for the job '  On that basis the single voice Lilly or similar instrument  is probably the best 'melodeon' for the job and definately without bass

Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Steve Coombes on February 15, 2019, 11:59:47 AM

Good advice from everyone as usual. I've tried dancing to a musician who was doing his own thing and it didn't work and played for someone without first practicing and I inadvertently rushed him though it. Practice with your jig dance partner and use your skill to help make him look good, it's not a competition (usually).
I do like the little ritual of taking your hats off before the jig starts and placing them on the ground between you, I've no idea why this happens but it helps to create a buzz that something different is about to happen.
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Andy Next Tune on February 15, 2019, 01:04:37 PM
It might be stating the obvious but you need to know the jig. Knowing how it is structured and the different types of movement will help to shape the emphases and transitions in the music.

Toby and Jon's performance illustrate it well. Here's another great example of the musician's playing being in complete sync as the dancer speeds up and slows down during a jig. Listen to the music as dancer's feet hit the ground. (
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Jesse Smith on February 15, 2019, 02:34:57 PM
I really like this video of Ian Dedic playing the Nutting Girl. In particular, pay attention to how he handles the slows (which is definitely the most exciting part of the dance). You can tell he's really watching the dancers and subtly adjusting his rhythm to sync with their jumps. I guess that's important in playing for any Morris dance but in a jig with only one or two dancers it really becomes critical. (And especially so in a dance with such dramatic leaps as this one.)
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Phil Howard on February 16, 2019, 08:40:55 AM
Thanks all

I shall be digesting your tips, and taking in/mulling over these and other examples, before we start (trying) to practice.
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on February 16, 2019, 09:04:48 AM
Take a little time and try dancing the steps.
It will give you an understanding of how the dancer executes them and so the timing of them.
Slows in particular are tricky, so if the jig requires them try them yourself. Just the basic footfall will allow you to understand  the unusual beat and therefore play to it.
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: baz parkes on February 16, 2019, 11:25:55 AM
This might sound flippant, but make sure you both mean the same version of the jig...i e from the same tradition...there were a couple of, shall we say, tentative, moments at a jig competition I witnessed recently..

Good luck   :||: :M
Title: Re: Playing for jigs
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on February 16, 2019, 11:33:01 AM
Good point Baz.
Traditions vary in steps therefore the need to play for them varies with the step. It emphasises the need, as above, to practice with your dancer.
That bond can become really special too.  :M
good luck
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