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Author Topic: Irish bass style?  (Read 1767 times)

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Irish bass style?
« on: May 10, 2015, 03:39:24 PM »

Hi guys

Been learning PA the past 18 months but have decided to pick up the melodeon too because its fantastic! I have a one-row melodeon in D, Martini make. I know Martinis arent great but it'll have to do until I can afford to buy a new, 2 row.

Anyways, I've learnt some standard famous English folk tunes like Winster Gallop and Winster Processional, but I've decided I want to start learning Irish music too. Started learning Terry Cuz Teahans Polka, and I have most of the right hand melody learnt but Ive yet to approach the left hand because as far as I know the left hand in Irish music, in terms of button accordions, is a different style than the continuous rhythm of what I've been taught so far (with regards to the English tunes, and the style of playing on the PA).

From what I've gathered by observing, it is sparsely used, and when it is used, the bass notes are used to accentuate a beat and the chords are used on the off-beat, to varying degrees of frequency.

Is this true? Does anyone want to give me a general run-down on the bass playing techniques for Irish trad? Thanks! Very excited to start my melodeon/button accordion journey :o


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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2015, 03:57:46 PM »

This webpage provides a very nice overview. A lot of people don't use the bass side at all when playing Irish music, but I find it very satisfying when I can add the left hand. 


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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2015, 06:34:24 PM »

I agree - that page does cover most possibilities. How to put any of them into practice is another matter.

The thing to remember is that less is very often better than more. If you apply a constant bass-chord pattern - unless your touch is extremely light - it is easy to render an Irish tune as dead as Monty Python's late parrot.

My advice with regard to Irish tunes is to take completely the opposite tack to that recommended by most players for developing an English style of playing: concentrate on making the tunes come alive with the right hand. If that's all you ever achieve, well it's quite an achievement. Explore the left hand as a secondary goal, concurrently if you like, but keeping it secondary, and proceed with caution.

For use of the basses on a one-row box, I reckon track 19 on this page is tops, if you can get it to load:

Otherwise you can find the track in the iTunes store: search for "echoes of erin 2006", track 1.
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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2015, 09:20:23 AM »

Or on  Spotify
Graeme - North Hampshire,UK

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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2015, 09:38:07 AM »

Breandán O Beaglaíoch (Brendan Begly) is a good one to listen to.   Just search for him on youtube. 
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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 01:44:01 PM »

Breandán O Beaglaíoch (Brendan Begly) is a good one to listen to.

Yes, he's among the very best, on both one-row and C#/D boxes. Two other masters of the latter instrument who are well worth listening to (and watching) for their wonderfully expressive use of the basses are Tony MacMahon and Jackie Daly. (Technically Tony MacMahon plays a D/D#, but the approach is the same.)

For techniques specific to the one-row, the YouTube videos of Gilles Poutoux are indispensable, especially the pedagogical ones where he breaks down a tune and demonstrates his phrasing snd ornaments in detail. Even if you can't make use of his explanations (which are in French), it's pretty easy to follow what he's doing. His own approach to the basses runs the gamut from omitting them altogether to a constant but subtle backbeat, as here:

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« Last Edit: May 12, 2015, 10:51:33 PM by Bob Michel »


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Re: Irish bass style?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2015, 10:00:20 PM »

I like Gene Kelly myself.  Puts  me in mind of Hungarian bagpipes.  Curiously enough some Québécois box players liked to hold down the odd bass button too, like Eugène Collin.  Musical parallel evolution.

Lots of old timers would vamp the chords and hit a nice long bass note when the opportunity arose, listen to the great Paddy O'Brien for instance. 
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