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Discussions => Tunes => Topic started by: Hugh Taylor on August 16, 2019, 10:37:28 AM

Title: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Hugh Taylor on August 16, 2019, 10:37:28 AM
We played Whinhams Reel this week at our monthly session, and someone said that its more like a polka than a reel. Perhaps its called 'Reel' as it was played for a reel dance like the Cumberland Reel is actually a jig.
My query is what is the difference between a reel and a polka? I know about 'polkas are 2/4 and reels 4/4' etc, but is it more about how its played?
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Squeaky Pete on August 16, 2019, 10:43:17 AM
Tbh I think of Whinham's Reel as a rant.
I seem to remember we played it with Morpeth rant.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Theo on August 16, 2019, 11:08:55 AM
Both polkas and reels vary from place to place in tempo and playing style,  so do reels. What they have in common is that in a reel each of the two beats in a bar usually have 4 notes,  but each of the two beats on a polka have two notes. Of course not every bar is like that but it is the underlying rhythm.  The divisions between reels rants and polkas are not rigid though, and some tunes can be played as one or another type. Whinams for example can be more like a polka or more like a rant depending on how it is played.  It’s not really a reel though in the way “reel” would  be understand in the Scottish or Irish tradition.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: GPS on August 16, 2019, 11:10:55 AM
Tbh I think of Whinham's Reel as a rant.
I seem to remember we played it with Morpeth rant.

Or maybe a march - depends how you play it, I guess! I think of a rant as having a very strong downbeat at the beginning of the bar, a march as having accents, though not as strong as in a rant, on beats 1 & 3, and a reel as being a bit quicker than either of the above and much smoother, with a perceptible pulse on beat 1.  But maybe that's just me........

Graham
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Theo on August 16, 2019, 11:19:40 AM
It could be a march if you slowed it down a lot from the way it is usually played on its home town of Morpeth.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Rees on August 16, 2019, 11:40:49 AM
Same thing with Cooley's Reel. It's a fabulous tune but I stand no chance of playing it convincingly at standard Irish session speed.
I now play it slower as Cooley's March where it becomes much more nuanced and expressive.
The music don't mind!
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Hugh Taylor on August 16, 2019, 11:55:21 AM
Same thing with Cooley's Reel. It's a fabulous tune but I stand no chance of playing it convincingly at standard Irish session speed.
I now play it slower as Cooley's March where it becomes much more nuanced and expressive.


I think you played it in the Radway this year Rees, and very enjoyable it was too.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Steve_freereeder on August 16, 2019, 12:28:38 PM
I agree that there is a lot of cross-over between polkas and reels, but I tend to think of polkas being more lumpy and reels being smoother and more fluid. If you can dance '1-2-3-hop' to the tune it is probably more of a polka, or being played in the style of a polka.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: richard.fleming on August 16, 2019, 12:31:43 PM
I don't think 'standard Irish session speed' means very much. Some play slower, some faster, and I personally believe that some tunes lend themselves to slow and some to fast. A ceilidh band may churn them out at some approved dancing speed, as is only right and proper,  but if you play for listening or for yourself you can play whatever speed enables you to put enough lift into the music. Which I'm sure you do Rees, both professionally  and in sessions. Don't hear enough of you for one reason and another, although living 50 miles apart here in mid Wales almost qualifies us as neighbours.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Theo on August 16, 2019, 12:42:17 PM
Steve, I agree with you on the 1-2-3-hop polka rhythm, in the Southern English context,  Irish polkas are much more 1-2 , 1-2, 1-2, two in a bar, and faster, as are French polkas.
 
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Julian S on August 16, 2019, 03:07:41 PM
Maybe I'm being symplistic - but can you polka to it ? So easy to forget the purpose of dance tunes...Personally speaking, dancing a polka to a reel I find difficult...

Julian
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: GPS on August 16, 2019, 06:38:14 PM
It could be a march if you slowed it down a lot from the way it is usually played on its home town of Morpeth.

Fair enough - we in the Midlands tend to take things a bit slower!!  ;D
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Rees on August 17, 2019, 12:45:30 AM
Don't hear enough of you for one reason and another, although living 50 miles apart here in mid Wales almost qualifies us as neighbours.

I'll be over to that Sunday session in Llandingdong Bells sometime soon  :D
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Hugh Taylor on August 18, 2019, 04:09:19 PM
Julian, when you said

'Maybe I'm being simplistic - but can you polka to it ? So easy to forget the purpose of dance tunes...Personally speaking, dancing a polka to a reel I find difficult...
Julian


what were you referring to by 'it'? Did you mean Whinhams Reel? If so I think its ok to dance a polka to. I hope so as we sometimes use it as an opening polka in our band.
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Julian S on August 18, 2019, 05:31:58 PM
Julian, when you said

'Maybe I'm being simplistic - but can you polka to it ? So easy to forget the purpose of dance tunes...Personally speaking, dancing a polka to a reel I find difficult...
Julian


what were you referring to by 'it'? Did you mean Whinhams Reel? If so I think its ok to dance a polka to. I hope so as we sometimes use it as an opening polka in our band.
[/quote

To clarify, Hugh - by 'it' I meant Whinhams but also any 2/4 or 4/4 tune I suppose. I think tune names and categorisation can sometimes be quite misleading and I'm probably falling into my own trap, but I've always felt polkas are lumpier and reels have a more even beat. But I'm definitely not an expert !
And speaking of polkas, I confess to playing two Irish polkas at lunchtime in the pub today which I at least would have had problems dancing to...(and not just because I'd been drinking!!)

Julian


Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: george garside on August 18, 2019, 06:06:37 PM
since polkas and reels are both  4/4's  either can in theory be played as either..  and indeed also as a 4/4 march.   I find the easiest way to carry out such a 'conversion' is eg if wanting to play a reel as a polka is to start off by playing a tune you know well as a polka and then continuing into a 'reel' whilst maintaining the polka rhythm. same goes for it t'other way round.  A double check of a successful 'conversion' is to carry out the process with an experienced dancer(s) dancing to what you are playing. 

In just the same way many 4/4s can be converted to 3/4's 'on the hoof' by starting with a solid 3/4 waltz then going straight into a 4/4 played as a 3/4.  Even winster gallop can be converted into a waltz tune this way - its not a particularly nice waltz but it can be   danced to.

I think doing such conversions on the hoof  is much easier for by earists  than for avid dotists  as the latter would require a complete rewright  of the tune and perhaps agonise over the 'correct' length of various notes., the former would work simply on an if it sounds right it is right basis.

for what its worth I regularly play waltzing matilda (g) followed by click go the shears (d)  as a polka set  despite their origins being ,as far as I know, as 4/4  song tunes.

george
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: GPS on August 18, 2019, 06:41:58 PM

for what its worth I regularly play waltzing matilda (g) followed by click go the shears (d)  as a polka set  despite their origins being ,as far as I know, as 4/4  song tunes.

george

I've seen both those tunes notated as 12/16..........    ;D >:E

Sorry - couldn't resist that!  And yes, George, by and large I agree with you!
Title: Re: Polkas and Reels
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 18, 2019, 06:54:33 PM


I think doing such conversions on the hoof  is much easier for by earists  than for avid dotists  as the latter would require a complete rewright  of the tune and perhaps agonise over the 'correct' length of various notes., the former would work simply on an if it sounds right it is right basis.

george

Erm, I don't think it matters whether you get a tune from dots or by ear. Once you know it this trick is as easy for one person as another. Suppose the difference is that the dot literate person could pass the bones of  how he plays it on to another dot literate person on the back of an envelope.