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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Jesse Smith on April 02, 2019, 05:50:20 PM

Title: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 02, 2019, 05:50:20 PM
Can we talk about chord progressions on the melodeon, especially as they relate to traditional English music?

In the introductory notes of one or more of John Kirkpatrick's tunebooks, he decries what he views as the inappropriate prevalence of guitar chording conventions in melodeon music, such as the heavy use of dominant 7th chords and relative minor chords. He recommends arranging the tunes "as if Handel were scoring them" with straightforward major chords. Now I'm not all that familiar with Handel, but I suppose if pressed I would say he brings to mind a sort of "Trumpet Voluntary" style of suspensions resolving to the tonic and rather grand cadences.

These thoughts come to mind as I'm "playing in" the Dorset Four Hand Reel for the TotM and trying to work up a somewhat interesting left hand part that complements the tune (as opposed to willfully contrasting with it). And what I'm finding is that there really are any number of "right" chords under any given section, and it leaves me wondering whether any given choice is more "authentic" or appropriate for traditional music.

For example, the very last bar of the B part goes "a g g". One could play the chords "D G G" under that, which is very natural to the melody and instrument, but I was also playing around with "C D G" which gives an interesting sense of movement beneath the resolving melody. But of course neither the C nor the D go with the melody notes so it creates different suspensions here. Would that be considered too "outré" for traditional music or is that right in line with the "Handelian" notion?

Maybe these musings are really just sort of navel gazing, as the entire use of the D/G melodeon for traditional music is a revival thing anyway and not truly "traditional" in the first place.

I would also like to hear people's thoughts on coming up with interesting bass lines on the melodeon, and how that intersects with this question of historically/traditionally appropriate chord progressions. I'm thinking in particular of Anahata who often comes up with very melodic left hand parts (I think influenced by his background with the cello). How does one go about working up such a left hand part?
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 02, 2019, 06:44:03 PM
I think I've read the same comments from JK.
His attitude is to remember most of these tunes are dance tunes, and so don't loose the essence and natural drive of the tune by over complicating it with esoteric chords.
Probably a gross over simplification of his attitude, but that's my take.
Cheers
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 02, 2019, 07:07:06 PM
I would also like to hear people's thoughts on coming up with interesting bass lines on the melodeon, and how that intersects with this question of historically/traditionally appropriate chord progressions. I'm thinking in particular of Anahata who often comes up with very melodic left hand parts (I think influenced by his background with the cello). How does one go about working up such a left hand part?

Experience of playing cello parts, and also of watching and hearing JK play back in the day when the only squeezebox I knew how to play was a piano accordion, so I had the flexibilty of Stradella basses.

I'm mostly not bothered about chord progressions: they are for PA players. For me, chords are often just a rhythmical offbeat percussive noise filling in between bass notes.
Part of what I do is using different bass notes for the same chord. For example, on a D/G melodeon:
With a G chord you can play all three notes of the chord as bass notes: G B D
With a D chord you can often play an A instead of a D in the bass.
With an A chord you can do an E instead of an A.
With a C chord you can do an E or a G instead of a C.
Often the same chord happens at least twice in a row in a tune, so I play each with a different bass note.
So in Dorset Four Hand reel I might play (with caps for bass, lower case for chords)
G g B g | C c C c |G g B g | A d D d |

(Note that in the second bar I could do | C c E c | but for some reason I don't think I have got into the habit of doing that. I did notice someone doing it on YouTube recently and it was very effective, so I might do more in the future)

Now the chord sequence above is very simple and obvious (GG CC GG DD), but try playing the bass notes alone and you'll hear something much more varied. I'd hesitate to call it tuneful, but it's a whole lot better to my ears than playing only root notes, and it disguises the fact that the chord sequence is really simple and obvious.

Another part of what I do is what people like to call "bass runs". There you are playing a sequence of bass notes instead of note-chord-note-chord. Usually it's where the melody moves stepwise for three or more notes in a row, in a place where you can play three or more bass notes a third (give or take an octave or two) below the melody. The most obvious is where the tune goes BCD(E) and you play GAB(C) in the bass. There's a slightly less obvious one where the tune, (on the D row) goes DEF♯G and the bass can go BCDE. Obviously those sequences can go down as well as up.

To get some facility with playing these, it is well worth practising:
- the six note scale of G on the bass buttons.
- scales in thirds between treble and bass as far as you can go.
- Simple tunes on the bass buttons e.g. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, When the Saints Go Marching in, Shepherd's Hey, the first half of Jimmy Allen, The Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th...

The next step is contrary motion. Simple example is CBA in the treble, ABC in the bass. Again practising sequences like that means they will come naturally when you are playing a tune where they might fit.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 02, 2019, 08:53:17 PM
I'm mostly not bothered about chord progressions: they are for PA players. For me, chords are often just a rhythmical offbeat percussive noise filling in between bass notes.
Part of what I do is using different bass notes for the same chord. For example, on a D/G melodeon:
With a G chord you can play all three notes of the chord as bass notes: G B D
With a D chord you can often play an A instead of a D in the bass.
With an A chord you can do an E instead of an A.
W9ith a C chord you can do an E or a G instead of a C.
Often the same chord happens at least twice in a row in a tune, so I play each with a different bass note.
So in Dorset Four Hand reel I might play (with caps for bass, lower case for chords)
G g B g | C c C c |G g B g | A d D d |

Thanks, that alternating root/3rd is something I'm working on for the first time in this tune, which seemed like a good tune to try it out in.

I'm curious about your comment about chord progressions. My first serious instrument was the acoustic guitar, which I learned for the most part in a typical "strummy" style playing Beatles songs and the like, so I tend to fall into the rut of thinking that every tune has an underlying chord progression inherent in the melody. That's not strictly true of course, but I'd say that even without playing any chords the presence of a bass line would imply a harmonic progression based on the movement of the bass notes and the chords they trace.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Eshed on April 02, 2019, 09:21:10 PM
I'm a guitar player in my brain, even if I played more melodeon recently. That's why I'm thinking very carefully on the chords I use and if I can't find a fitting chord I'll play a bass I can get away with or no left hand button at all. When I choose what key to play a tune in, the most important factor is the chord choices it gives me.
I suppose that unlike Anahata, I can do this (or maybe I even must do this) since I never play for dance.

Another thing I thought about: There's a cultural element to how we interpret chords. With a good chunk of my local traditional music being in minor keys, I suspect I don't find minor chords as sombre as others here might.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: boxer on April 03, 2019, 10:17:53 AM
dance tunes, played for dancing, don't need anything more than the melody line.  Anahata's right.  If not for dancing anything goes as you're out of the "trad" loop.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Theo on April 03, 2019, 11:08:09 AM
Maybe for "English" dancing, but other traditions make great use of chord sequences and interesting bass lines, and speaking as a dancer, it adds a whole new dimension to the dancing experience.  If you feel like being creative with chords and basses then go for it, but don't loose the essential rhythm of whichever dance form you are playing for.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 03, 2019, 12:37:43 PM
I agree with Theo.
An interesting bass line or chord change does help dancers, and can give you a lift. We often use such things within our Morris tunes to give a lift. But as you say, don't loose the ssential rhythm.
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Mark Leue on April 03, 2019, 01:40:34 PM
You guys either have more buttons on your bass row, or have unlocked secrets I cannot find on my two row D/G box.
I can sometimes find a few bits where I don't just umpah the root-triad, but precious few.  I guess (KNOW!!) I have a lot to learn. :-)
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 03, 2019, 01:51:47 PM
I'm curious about your comment about chord progressions. My first serious instrument was the acoustic guitar, which I learned for the most part in a typical "strummy" style playing Beatles songs and the like, so I tend to fall into the rut of thinking that every tune has an underlying chord progression inherent in the melody. That's not strictly true of course, but I'd say that even without playing any chords the presence of a bass line would imply a harmonic progression based on the movement of the bass notes and the chords they trace.

Yes, any bass line absolutely implies a chord progression. I think part of what I'm saying is that you don't have to play "chords" to get harmony. The thing with "strummy" guitar chords (and melodeon chord buttons) is that it encourages you to think of chords as a separate thing you play - they are inherent when ever there's more than one note at a time sounding, and sometimes without even that.

Also not all chords are available on a melodeon, but even little bits of bass line can give a feeling of progression and movement when the chords themselves aren't terribly interesting.

dance tunes, played for dancing, don't need anything more than the melody line.  Anahata's right.
Oh, I wouldn't go that far. As Theo says, something else to help with the rhythm will improve the dancing experience, and on a melodeon it's going to be something that adds harmony. I wince when I hear "wrong" chords, especially  on a 2+8 melodeon when even that could do better. But, once I have a harmony that doesn't actually clash horribly with the tune, I don't believe in going to extremes to dress it up further with jazzy chords.

For dance music, adding further interest by varying the bass and chord patterns to spice up the rhythm and create more of a feeling of movement does make  sense to me, and I think is part of what Theo is talking about.

I could say more about JK's reference to relative minors and dominant 7ths, but I'll save that for another post...
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 03, 2019, 02:01:36 PM
You guys either have more buttons on your bass row, or have unlocked secrets I cannot find on my two row D/G box.
I can sometimes find a few bits where I don't just umpah the root-triad, but precious few.  I guess (KNOW!!) I have a lot to learn. :-)

Learning is a never-ending process! I have been playing for a month shy of a year and a half now and just recently started to seriously explore more complex left-hand stuff. I have a regular 8-bass Pokerwork like you. To see and hear lots of interesting bass work, look for Anahata's melodeon videos on YouTube, or give a listen to John Kirkpatrick playing the two-row on his tutorial DVD or his records "Sheepskins" and "The Duck Race".
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 03, 2019, 02:09:36 PM
Oh, I wouldn't go that far. As Theo says, something else to help with the rhythm will improve the dancing experience, and on a melodeon it's going to be something that adds harmony. I wince when I hear "wrong" chords, especially  on a 2+8 melodeon when even that could do better. But, once I have a harmony that doesn't actually clash horribly with the tune, I don't believe in going to extremes to dress it up further with jazzy chords.

For dance music, adding further interest by varying the bass and chord patterns to spice up the rhythm and create more of a feeling of movement does make  sense to me, and I think is part of what Theo is talking about.

I could say more about JK's reference to relative minors and dominant 7ths, but I'll save that for another post...

I agree that chords are part of the movement and complement the rhythm - thinking of the way that a lot of Morris tunes kind of hang on the V chord and then fall snugly back to the I with a really strong downbeat. The cadence itself is part of the "rhythm".

Please do share your thoughts on JK's views on chords! That was half of my original question - there are lots of "right" chords for a given melody, but are some more appropriate to the genre than others? As an American, I'm not as steeped in traditional English music as some of you (although it obviously makes up a large portion of the "melting pot" of our own folk music traditions).
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 03, 2019, 04:36:43 PM
OK...
7th chords can't easily be played on a melodeon, so we're fairly safe, though it can be done with some RH help.
There's an implied dominant 7th in the key of G if you play a pull D and the tune has a C, but sometimes that seem to me to be an appropriate chord. But if the tune in G has a G - C sequence, making that into a G7 - C sequence is the sort of thing that a PA player might well do, but is in bad taste to my ears. E.g. in the 1st two bars of Dorset 4 Hand Reel.

Another example is the second bar of Ashokan Farewell. It's possible to go D - D7 - G and on my D/G melodeon I have a low RH C natural that enables me to make that 7th chord. It's really schmaltzy, but for a tune like that I don't care and I sometimes add it for shock value in a session (not that anyone's apparently noticed yet) but it's an example of what I think JK was talking about. English dance tunes are not supposed to sound like Mantovani...

So, relative minor chords... I think they are OK used sparingly. Here's an example of a way I both do and don't use an E minor in a tune in G, right at the beginning of Galopede:

dc |"G"B2Bc"D"A2AB|"G"G2G2G2AB|"C"cBcd edcB|"D"A2A2A2dc|"G"B2Bc"D"A2AB|"Em"G2G2G2 ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SejM6wB17w

That's the identical phrase repeated. Some people play G both times, some play that E minor chord both times. I like using one of each for variety and to emphasise that the tune is about to move on somewhere else. It's questionable, as is the decision about whether to precede the Emin with a B instead of a D, which I do in that video (actually a Bmin on that box).

In the same passage, a possible excruciating example of an unnecessary 7th is in bar 4 where some might play
"A7"A2A2"D7"A2
Again, this is the kind of over-egging the pudding that PA players seem to enjoy.

Those simple examples might ring a bell of familiarity. It happens a lot, but many of the worst examples are impossible on a melodeon. Diminished chords, anyone?  >:E
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 03, 2019, 05:28:28 PM
When I'm home I'll copy out the actual JK quote about relative minors and dominant 7ths. He places their appropriateness in a historical context, saying they largely stem from modern folk guitar conventions and that most of these tunes were written in an era where "sevenths were an unforeseen blemish on a jazz-free horizon" (which I think is a hilarious if perhaps historically inaccurate joke).

So, relative minor chords... I think they are OK used sparingly. Here's an example of a way I both do and don't use an E minor in a tune in G, right at the beginning of Galopede:

dc |"G"B2Bc"D"A2AB|"G"G2G2G2AB|"C"cBcd edcB|"D"A2A2A2dc|"G"B2Bc"D"A2AB|"Em"G2G2G2 ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SejM6wB17w

That's the identical phrase repeated. Some people play G both times, some play that E minor chord both times. I like using one of each for variety and to emphasise that the tune is about to move on somewhere else.

Yes, Mally's beginner melodeon book does this in Bonny Green Garters, in order to demonstrate two different ways of playing the same phrase, I believe. I think it sounds fine in that tune and like you said, adds a feeling of movement to the tune.

In the same passage, a possible excruciating example of an unnecessary 7th is in bar 4 where some might play
"A7"A2A2"D7"A2
Again, this is the kind of over-egging the pudding that PA players seem to enjoy.

That's a classic "secondary dominant" or V-of-V (or V7-of-V7 in this example). I don't think these progressions are exactly anachronistic; Bach and Mozart certainly used them and that is in the same period as many of the country dance tunes we're talking about. But perhaps they are just considered a bit "froufrou" for simple dance tunes!

I think I read somewhere that JK had the entire row of 7th chords removed from his B/C/C# box's stradella mechanism (or at least the buttons anyway). I guess he really does have little use for them! ;D
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 03, 2019, 05:57:29 PM
I know the Casali box he's had for a very long time is 12x4 with major and minor chords only, but I think it was built that way.

Re secondary dominants: yes, I'm sure they have been used in perfectly respectable contexts, but can be overdone!
I'd be interested to know what JK said. Perhaps I should get a copy of his book - which one is it?
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 03, 2019, 06:00:42 PM
my understanding is that John had the 7th row buttons removed because they got in the way of his unique style on the BCC# box. This may have something to do with the full length airbar   which is operated by wrist action rather than thumb action.

I happen to like the sound of 7th chords  and use them fairly often  on my 3 row box  - but of course everybody to his own.  I would however mention that a very small eg trichord bcc# with a 48 bass piano accordion stradella  grafted on ( as has been done on a number of occasions)  is to me a far more sensible way of  providing  bass led accompaniment (as well as decent rhythm) than can be achieved farting about  with 8 or 12 bisonoric bass.

The 8 bisonoric bass DG box is  however great for  most dance music where the ability to drive  decent rhythm with a small box is important

george >:E ;)
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 03, 2019, 06:07:22 PM
as far as I am aware the only 12x4 casali BCC# was  much smaller than johns and only 3 voice. I think his is a 4 voice that was an 80 bass originaly. there is  a wide ( 2 rows worth) of  flat space on the outer side of the bass keyboard that enables him ? better access to dart all over the place on the remaning 4 rows without his wrist  catching the buttons that would originally have been there - or something like that

george
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 03, 2019, 06:58:12 PM
Thank goodness there's not just a single "correct" way to play. 
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 03, 2019, 07:52:52 PM
indeed!
george
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 04, 2019, 02:30:13 AM
OK, I've had a chance to find the quote in question and I'll copy the relevant bits here. It is from John Kirkpatrick's "Jump at the Sun" tunebook of his own tunes (and Anahata, it is definitely worth picking up - as John jokes, "138 tunes for £10, that's just over 7p per tune, and some of them must be worth at least that much!").

He writes, in the Introduction:

Quote
Now that we've mentioned chords, I have to confess that for many, many years I hated seeing chord symbols added to collections of straightforward melodies like these. I thought it was insulting to any decent practitioner to assume that people couldn't work out their own chords, and I found the conventions of guitar chording, with regular appearances of the dominant seventh in particular, and a great prevalence of relative minors within major tunes, unbearable and inappropriate.

[...]

This isn't deeply sophisticated stuff, on the whole. If you make the chording too rich and lush you smother the natural strength of the melody, and even though we are now playing this material in the twenty-first century, the idiom and style of these tunes harmonically is firmly based in an earlier age where sevenths were an unforeseen blemish on a jazz-free horizon. Most dance melodies of the kind in this book work better if you treat them as though Handel were doing the scoring - simple chords, on the beat, uncluttered, and unencumbered with ideas above their station. It's actually much more interesting and challenging to stick to a narrow harmonic path through this music than to range untrammelled over the whole chromatic landscape.

Of course, after all that very opinionated talk, he finishes the introduction thusly:

Quote
The good news is that you can whip through this book without me breathing down your neck, and you can play on whatever instrument you like, in whatever style, in whatever key, with whatever chords you fancy, and just please yourself - which is exactly what I would do!
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 04, 2019, 02:56:46 AM
You can think melody/chords or you can think lead voice/other voice.  The other voice can be whatever you want:  bass line, harmony, counterpoint or chords.  I'm always pleased and often surprised when the Music and the instrument reveal yet another set of possibilities.  It truly seems there's no end.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 04, 2019, 08:40:41 AM
OK, I've had a chance to find the quote in question and I'll copy the relevant bits here. It is from John Kirkpatrick's "Jump at the Sun" tunebook of his own tunes (and Anahata, it is definitely worth picking up
Thanks for that, Jesse. I've clearly received that opinion somewhere and I'm sure I've seen the book, and don't know why I haven't a copy myself.

I've certainly been persuaded that printed chord symbols are an annoyance and tend to avoid them in my own ABC transcriptions. And all the rest of it...
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 04, 2019, 08:49:42 AM
JK's comment has always rung true with me.
Reading it again now I'm reminded of a track on a CD of the Morris dance tune Cuckoo's Nest by a much respected box player that I normally love listening to. The version is best described as 'lush' to use John's words. I usually skip that track as the 'lushness' in my opinion removes the drive and power from the tune.
I think JK makes valid points - in my opinion!
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Howard Jones on April 04, 2019, 09:04:14 AM
One of the fascinating things about melodeon is that the fairly limited range of chords forces you into making choices which you might not do on a more chromatic instrument.  It can lead to some interesting harmonies.  One of these choices is the substitution of minor chords for major, which JK apparently deplores but which I feel can add a bit of variety and interest.

Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Theo on April 04, 2019, 09:13:59 AM
If you want to explore more chordal playing, and with great rhythm here is a master demonstrating (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEQ36OHwUq0).  The box is in AD
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 04, 2019, 01:55:57 PM
I've certainly been persuaded that printed chord symbols are an annoyance and tend to avoid them in my own ABC transcriptions. And all the rest of it...

The irony is that JK does go on to include chord symbols in his tunebook, going on to say:

Quote
So, after listening to other musicians playing chords which I would consider to be wrong, or at least inappropriate, I realise that in fact a suggestion of the chords does firm up the character of each piece. And when they are my pieces, then I would hope that anyone playing these would honour the way I'd intend them to be played. And, of course, we all have to start somewhere, and an understanding of chords and harmonies, and how they affect your music, has to be learned, just as tunes have to learned. So I have provided chords with each tune, not necessarily because that's exactly what I would play myself, but more in the hope of indicating what I would not play!

I think JK tends to be very "forward" in his opinions for teaching purposes, and I'm sure one can find any number of "lush" arrangements full of technical wizardry in his discography that belie his statements on this matter. But in general I am very much biased to agree with him, because the entire reason I fell in love with the melodeon and English dance tunes was not any intellectual harmonic complexity, but the sheer foot-stomping *exuberance* of the music. The first English trad albums that I obtained were "Son of Morris On" (with John Tams and John Watcham, mainly on concertina), "Morris On the Road" (with Simon Care on melodeon), and John Kirkpatrick's "Plain Capers" (whereupon I embarked on a yearlong quest to obtain just about every album John has recorded!). And his comments about simple, straightforward tunes played with gusto and enthusiasm ring very true to what fundamentally draws me to the music and his playing of it in particular.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 04, 2019, 02:26:38 PM
I think dance has been a theme throughout John's career.
He started playing and dancing with Hammersmith when a young person, then moved to Shropshire and started Shropshire Bedlams ( and kick started the Border dancing through that creation )
He still dances with Bedlams, so dance has been a constant companion throughout his squeezing career.
It puts his forthright comments into perspective for me.
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 04, 2019, 02:31:06 PM
Quote
So, after listening to other musicians playing chords which I would consider to be wrong, or at least inappropriate, I realise that in fact a suggestion of the chords does firm up the character of each piece. And when they are my pieces, then I would hope that anyone playing these would honour the way I'd intend them to be played.
etc.

So, damage limitation!

I think JK tends to be very "forward" in his opinions for teaching purposes, and I'm sure one can find any number of "lush" arrangements full of technical wizardry in his discography that belie his statements on this matter.
He does a nice arrangement of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, for example - but we're a long way from traditional English dance music there...

Quote
But in general I am very much biased to agree with him, because the entire reason I fell in love with the melodeon and English dance tunes was not any intellectual harmonic complexity, but the sheer foot-stomping *exuberance* of the music.

We are definitely on the same page there.  :|glug

I think dance has been a theme throughout John's career...
It puts his forthright comments into perspective for me.
Undoubtedly!
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Peadar on April 04, 2019, 08:21:07 PM
Quote
dance tunes, played for dancing, don't need anything more than the melody line.  Anahata's right.  If not for dancing anything goes as you're out of the "trad" loop.


Thank you for that. Absolutely true.

I appreciate Anahata isn't quite saying that - but dancers take what we can get.... I can't speak for others but given a choice between a record player and a single fiddler at a small hall country dance I will take the fiddler any day.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: boxer on April 05, 2019, 12:23:42 AM
thank you Peadar.  I think there's an elegance in dancing to one well-played line of melody that gets diminished when chords (no pun intended)  intrude.  And for me, the jury's out on drones.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 05, 2019, 10:32:02 AM
when I used to play regularly for rapper as a  single musician I never used the bass  and my preferred instrument was the single voice castagnari lilly  ? substitute fiddle(ish)

george
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Mark Leue on April 05, 2019, 11:32:19 AM
when I used to play regularly for rapper as a  single musician I never used the bass  and my preferred instrument was the single voice castagnari lilly  ? substitute fiddle(ish)

george

Here most of the rapper teams are dancing to Irish jigs on a concertina or fiddle.  No bass lines at all. The melodeon without the basses sounds basically Celtic to me.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: boxer on April 05, 2019, 07:18:24 PM
that's a really nice analogy Gerorge.  I always think of my left arm influencing the stresses of the tune like a fliddler's bowing arm.  I hardly ever play basses, even on my 12 stradella black dot DLX.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 05, 2019, 07:54:18 PM
I think those who feel that the melodeon should always be played with some sort of bass accompaniment  are missing out !  Playing treble only opens the way for  great dynamics (volume variation)  including diminuendos and crecendos or whaterver they are called that  are greatly facilitated by using small bellows opening  to facilitate varying the  pressure.   

 it is more ''air economical' and arguably more 'musical' to add right hand chords and or rhythm rather than bass chords and this eg works well  the second or third time through many slow aires.

etc etc etc.

you don't have to use it all the time just because its there!

others may disagree!


george
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 05, 2019, 09:52:22 PM
It certainly all depends on context. In a band or session situation there may be no need to add to the din with the left hand noise. And I think dropping out the left hand for part of a tune is a great way to build musical tension that resolves when the accompaniment comes back in. (I like this trick a lot actually.) It's also a bit of a low key way of showing off your technique with dynamics and ornamentation but in some ways is easier because you don't have to worry about messing up the left hand. ;)

All depends on the musical mood you're trying to create!
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Sarah the fiddler on April 05, 2019, 11:05:21 PM
An interesting discussion! I'm not a frequent visitor but was directed here by a friend as we've often debated this!
As a child at junior school we did country dancing and one of the things I loved was the straightforwardness of the tunes and relatively simple harmonic progressions & sequences with the driving rhythm and energetic & often joyful melodies. I drove my skipping feet into the tarmac and enjoyed every beat.

Taking up Morris, Ceilidh & sword dance musicianship very many years later I still love this. My favorite dance players are definitely those with tremendous rhythm & drive plus some harmonic interest & variation. I think my musical head has different 'rules' for different situations - I feel Morris as far simpler than Ceilidh and would happily listen to players in a non-dance situation playing more 'lush' variations. Though my ears seem to draw the line at Jazz chords with trad tunes! I guess a lot is personal taste and one's musical 'education'?

Incidentally, JK's comment about trying to 'harmonise like Handel' - I wondered if he knows 'Dixit Dominus' - which could be described as 'Handel on acid'!
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 06, 2019, 06:49:23 AM
Speaking of JK and left-hand tricks, I think I have finally cracked what he's doing when he really gets going on the dancey numbers. Instead of playing "oom-pah oom-pah" with alternating basses and chords, he very often plays "pah-pah pah-pah" and then throws in "oom" wherever he feels like it. In effect, he is running the oom-pahs with the chord buttons alone and using the bass notes to make a bass line. To use a band analogy, it's like he's playing rhythm guitar and bass guitar at the same time (as well as lead guitar on the right hand, of course (:)).

It only took me a year of listening to work out why my oom-pahs never sound quite the same (I mean, other than the 60 years of practice that he's got on me ::)) Thank goodness for Audacity's "change tempo" feature! :Ph
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 06, 2019, 02:52:06 PM
Speaking of JK and left-hand tricks, I think I have finally cracked what he's doing when he really gets going on the dancey numbers. Instead of playing "oom-pah oom-pah" with alternating basses and chords, he very often plays "pah-pah pah-pah" and then throws in "oom" wherever he feels like it. In effect, he is running the oom-pahs with the chord buttons alone and using the bass notes to make a bass line. To use a band analogy, it's like he's playing rhythm guitar and bass guitar at the same time (as well as lead guitar on the right hand, of course (:))).

It only took me a year of listening to work out why my oom-pahs never sound quite the same (I mean, other than the 60 years of practice that he's got on me ::)) Thank goodness for Audacity's "change tempo" feature! :Ph

Congratulations!  Not only have made a leap in understanding, I'll bet your "ear" is much improved from time spent actively listening for specifics.  And to reply to this from your initial post (How does one go about working up such a left hand part?) I'd say equal parts concious effort and incorporation of fortuitous accidents found pleasing.  These are often messages from the subconcious level, more direct ear to hand coordination or a bit of both.

As an old-timer once told me, "Don't worry.  It's just the first 30 years that's the hard part."
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 06, 2019, 10:39:31 PM
Congratulations!  Not only have made a leap in understanding, I'll bet your "ear" is much improved from time spent actively listening for specifics.  And to reply to this from your initial post (How does one go about working up such a left hand part?) I'd say equal parts concious effort and incorporation of fortuitous accidents found pleasing.  These are often messages from the subconcious level, more direct ear to hand coordination or a bit of both.

As an old-timer once told me, "Don't worry.  It's just the first 30 years that's the hard part."

Ha ha, yes I was afraid it would be something like that! Ah well, where's the fun in an instrument whose potential can be exhausted within a few years?

I often wonder about how very experienced players are actually mentally engaged during their performances. To what extent are all of the details (ornamentation, dynamics, etc.) thoroughly worked out ahead of time, and to what extent is a great deal of it quite improvisational, based on combining all sorts of bits and bobs from a bag of tricks that are known to work in a given place? From things I've read I suspect it is heavily weighted to the latter; after many years I imagine one builds up a strong intuition about what will work on which tunes and where.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on April 06, 2019, 10:43:35 PM

I often wonder about how very experienced players are actually mentally engaged during their performances. To what extent are all of the details (ornamentation, dynamics, etc.) thoroughly worked out ahead of time, and to what extent is a great deal of it quite improvisational, based on combining all sorts of bits and bobs from a bag of tricks that are known to work in a given place? From things I've read I suspect it is heavily weighted to the latter; after many years I imagine one builds up a strong intuition about what will work on which tunes and where.

My friend Sally is one of the very best players I know. She says that uses her playing time to plan shopping lists and the like.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 07, 2019, 12:18:24 AM
Here's a link I often post when talk turns to how we play music.  Guitar great Jimmy Raney on concious vs subconcious participation:

https://youtu.be/f29a1RL2ly0
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Jesse Smith on April 07, 2019, 02:53:20 AM
Here's a link I often post when talk turns to how we play music.  Guitar great Jimmy Raney on concious vs subconcious participation:

https://youtu.be/f29a1RL2ly0

Thanks for that, very interesting thoughts. I liked his phrase "I don't really think anyone can think as fast as we play". Or, in my experience, we can think only about portions of what we are playing, like remembering that you want to use a certain variation this time round, etc. But while the mind is conscious of that we have to rely on the subconscious (or "muscle memory") to take care of dynamics, or the left hand rhythm, etc., on autopilot.

But to be honest I have rarely got to the enlightened zen state of musicianship that some of these folks talk about. I have sort of scraped at it at times, especially the year I was practicing blues guitar on a daily basis. In fact I found it a little disturbing for a rational guy like myself, to suddenly feel like I understood why the ancients spoke of the Muses. Have not quite got there yet on the melodeon but I keep working at it! (:)
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 08:02:53 AM
It's a fascinating subject - what is happening whilst you play.
Last year at a workshop Andy Cutting touched upon it. His best attempt at explaining what happens is that over time playing a tune he constructs a three dimensional memory map in his head. Once built he 'goes there' so that once entering it he plays the tune and will not make mistakes.
He found it difficult to explain, as do any of us when asked what we are thinking about or where do we 'go' when playing.

I am conscious of what my left hand is doing, not in a controlling way (thinking play C, play G etc) but almost 'looking at it moving from the sky'.
Sounds like I've sprinkled something on my muesli but that's what I'm aware of when playing!
Q
Needing more tea....
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Eshed on April 07, 2019, 08:16:44 AM
I am conscious of what my left hand is doing, not in a controlling way (thinking play C, play G etc) but almost 'looking at it moving from the sky'.
I'm exactly the same!
I haven't a clue what notes I play with my RH (even when I play the right ones ;D), but the LH choices are semi-conscious.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 08:26:50 AM
How interesting!
Thank you for that. I have become aware of what's going on in my head when playing, and as odd as it sounds, that's the best description I can come up with.
I'm glad there's at least two of us like this  :|||:
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Eshed on April 07, 2019, 08:34:20 AM
Oh, I forgot one thing! When I think "Play C", I actually mean "play the bass of the inner row key", or "play bottom left", because my brain thinks in GC layout regardless of the box I'm actually playing.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 08:44:00 AM
This is scary.... I too don't think of the actual bass note/chord in musical terms but simply of my finger position and pattern in the 8 buttons.
Fascinating!
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Eshed on April 07, 2019, 08:55:35 AM
It seems I haven't explained myself well.
The words in my brain are "Play C" but I can be on any box, so it might not be C at all.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: playandteach on April 07, 2019, 10:06:36 AM
Oh, I forgot one thing! When I think "Play C", I actually mean "play the bass of the inner row key", or "play bottom left", because my brain thinks in GC layout regardless of the box I'm actually playing.
I'm in no-man's land at the moment. In an attempt to get more DG oriented, I've put down the GC box. Some times it takes me a while to clear my head especially when an Am chord comes along, but I am making progress in thinking in DG. If they were entirely different keys it would be easier, but they have so many chords in common.
If I'm working at something to upload, then I do work everything out in advance.
I have to confess to being a bit stuck in a groove and I'm thinking of having some lessons. I quite fancy the playing of Paul Young, but he's a fair hike away.
I don't think I'm a Skype person.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 10:14:08 AM
Eshed, no I understand, and I think we both work in the same way.

P&t, I work things out first then try and learn the tune. If when learning a little tweak happens, such as preferred or easier  fingering then I'll go with the change.
I wish Paul was closer to me, I really like his playing.
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Roger Howard on April 07, 2019, 10:41:38 AM

I'm in no-man's land at the moment. In an attempt to get more DG oriented, I've put down the GC box.
I'm feeling much the same. I've just been on the Pariselle course at Halsway and come away with a lovely DG, which I'm trying to find my way round, at the same time as trying to take on board what Emmanuel said about chords and how important it is to achieve "automatism" - ie knowing just where which chord is and being able to go to it without thinking about it. Dreams ....

Roger
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 11:00:17 AM
I think we all aspire to 'automatism'.
One day...
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Winston Smith on April 07, 2019, 03:00:42 PM
"I think we all aspire to 'automatism'."

I'm not sure that I quite agree with that, Q. I'm certainly aware that my fingers often move to the right buttons without any conscious direction (and sometime the wrong one!). However, to work automatically would (IMO) remove the "fun" aspect of playing, as well as the tension inherent (which could be either slight or serious) in the uncertainty of whether a bum note might be hit occasionally. 
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 03:45:42 PM
Well I think we can beg to differ.
To my mind, if your fingers become automatic, then it allows you to take it to the next level. Think about dynamic phrasing, how you want to play it at that moment in time, introduce light and dark, quiet or louder moments and really get into how you want to play it beyond playing all the notes in the right order.
....but others may well think differently!
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 07, 2019, 04:09:04 PM
Well I think we can beg to differ.
To my mind, if your fingers become automatic, then it allows you to take it to the next level. Think about dynamic phrasing, how you want to play it at that moment in time, introduce light and dark, quiet or louder moments and really get into how you want to play it beyond playing all the notes in the right order.
....but others may well think differently!
Q

I prefer being guided by my feelings rather than mentation.  Birds sing thoughtlessly...
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 07, 2019, 04:46:30 PM
Yes, that's what I was thinking of.... go beyond the mechanics.
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: george garside on April 08, 2019, 09:55:23 AM
Well I think we can beg to differ.
To my mind, if your fingers become automatic, then it allows you to take it to the next level. Think about dynamic phrasing, how you want to play it at that moment in time, introduce light and dark, quiet or louder moments and really get into how you want to play it beyond playing all the notes in the right order.
....but others may well think differently!
Q

totally agree and would add that it is vital to have a feedback loop operating throughout the proceedings to enable small adjustments to be made -- in other words listen to what you are playing!

which is rather like the need to watch the feet of dancers you are playing for in which case you need two feedback loops in operation - a visual one and an audiological one!

george
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Julian S on April 08, 2019, 11:42:07 AM
Much as I enjoy the whole gamut of possible variation in left hand playing, it's down my list of priorities when playing for dance. That could be my inherent limitations in skill I suppose - but I am sure I learned quite a bit from simply playing alongside JK during my years in Shropshire Bedlams. Not that I could ever emulate his fantastic skill. In my mind, dancers won't really notice clever chords but certainly will if speed, emphasis, phrasing is wrong.
 I think Andy Cuttings approach is interesting - building a 'memory palace' in playing maybe ? Talking to him I know how much time he puts into really working out how he wants to play the tune - options on fingering,  chords, dynamics etc - and a lot of focussed practice. Personally, I learn melodies quite easily, but all the rest is much harder to retain. I think I just need to spend more time on each tune - and maybe make notes and keep a diary as memory gets increasingly rusty.

J
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Anahata on April 08, 2019, 12:14:35 PM
I know how much time [Andy Cutting] puts into really working out how he wants to play the tune - options on fingering,  chords, dynamics etc - and a lot of focussed practice.

Apparently, that approach doesn't mean you can't do stuff spontaneously. From all I've heard, Leveret don't make planned arrangements of their tunes, but improvise on the fly. Of course, spending time on the tune's harmony, phrasing, dynamics etc. does help with that - when you know a tune inside out, it's easier to play harmonies against it.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Julian S on April 08, 2019, 12:42:24 PM
Yes Anahata -as you say knowing the tune inside out is fundamental. I reckon they probably each build up a 'toolbox' of options but every performance is likely to be different. Their workshop weekend at Halsway last year was fantastic and I'm sure will be a highspot for me this time as well.

J

Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on April 08, 2019, 01:09:57 PM
"I think we all aspire to 'automatism'."

...However, to work automatically would (IMO) remove the "fun" aspect of playing, as well as the tension inherent (which could be either slight or serious) in the uncertainty of whether a bum note might be hit occasionally.

I think you are misunderstanding the intended meaning of automatism, here, Edward. When I read this it jarred slightly, until I realised he probably meant have an intimate and automatic understanding of the possibilities for chording, not "play like an automaton".

I appreciate your observation about the tension inherent in not being certain if the right note is going to be the one that comes out. I am not sure if the adrenalin hit helps or hinders, though  :D.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 08, 2019, 03:16:49 PM
I too was at the same weekend with Andy Cutting last year as Julian and remember his Memory Palace ( map ) comment.
He also said given a new tune, he will play it for at least a day, looking at all the ins and outs of it before embarking on a particular way of playing. From previous threads, I think Andy will take a full day and regard that as a working day, so not a couple times through the tune a few times during the day but a proper 'working day's' worth.
Playing a tune continuously for a day must get it into the brain so much that you can automatically play the tune whilst improvising an accompaniment or working out which way to go.
You can improvise on the fly if you don't need to think about what notes come next.

I's like anything. Once you know what you are doing and where to go in a particular morris dance, you can put that down to automatic memory, you have freed up the brain so you *can* think about how to improve your performance in a dance, better timing, little nuances that make the dance even better.
That's my take on it.
Q
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Dick Rees on April 08, 2019, 04:32:17 PM
Yet another "broken record" posting of an old saying regarding difficulty/time spent:

"The first 30 years is the hard part."

Told to me by a great Frnech-Canadian fiddler.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on April 08, 2019, 05:27:36 PM
... I think Andy will take a full day and regard that as a working day, so not a couple times through the tune a few times during the day but a proper 'working day's' worth.
Playing a tune continuously for a day must get it into the brain so much that you can automatically play the tune whilst improvising an accompaniment or working out which way to go.
You can improvise on the fly if you don't need to think about what notes come next...

I think that is part of the difference between the amateur striving for excellence and the truly professional excellent musician. I have fond memories of the Leveret weekend.
Title: Re: Chord progressions and bass lines
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on April 08, 2019, 06:06:51 PM
When I wrote that, in the back of my mind was a comment from Ian Dedic of this parish.
He helped Andy when first starting out and seeing if it was right for him. Ian said he practiced every day, 7-8 hours a day  for a year, and then thought he might give it a go!
I get the sense that Andy has an incredible work ethic which he applies to his playing.
Q
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