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Author Topic: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)  (Read 1070 times)

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Steve C.

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Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« on: June 13, 2018, 05:27:51 PM »

OK.  Regrets in advance for music theory ignoramus question following.
Many tunes I learn by dots, especially when either I cannot sound them out by ear or cannot quite figure out the best chords to go with.
Newcastle was one of them.  I attached a file as to where "I" would put the staff breaks so that the tune "looks like it sounds".
I understand that you generally (always?) have to have the correct time signature, i.e. 4 quarter notes per bar and cannot put the the bars wherever you like.
Question is:  why is the "phrasing" different from the dots?  A lot of tunes are like this, not all tho.
Or is this just another example of my (admittedly) weak ability to read music?
Thanks, Steve
(see attached)   
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 06:18:28 PM »

The tune as written seems perfectly normal to me. If people are after hearing it, you can do so here.

Staff breaks are not really about splitting the music up into passages, or forming musical sentences - they're not really punctuation in the same way that a comma or a full stop are, and your blue lines seem to be aiming to split up the music in that manner. A lot of the design of sheet music is about writing the music down so that it can be read fluidly and effectively while it is being performed, and good sheet music is written to make things clear not just in terms of pitch, but also of rhythm. The staff breaks are there really to help coordinate the position of the melody with the position/repetition cycle of the beats of the music, and help guide emphasis and match up with the rhythm for the accompaniment.

Consider that you could ditch the time signature, and remove all the bar ends and just have a stream of notes on a stave. Principally, the tune and chords would all be in the same place and would sound the same because all the note lengths would still match up, but, it would be much harder to play and find your place, and agree about how the somewhat unwritten parts of the tune should go. Instead, we use the concept of Meter to help structure the piece, and bars help a lot with that. The position of beat 1 is integral to the way the piece was conceived, but, you can shift the music sideways and move notes from one bar to another. If you don't move the rhythm of the accompaniment with it though, it quickly starts to sound, if not wrong, then at least different.

You can read about more about why Meter is important/useful here as well as a few different types, or maybe search around the internet for it, but, in simple terms, it's more when you use a new line when writing a poem so that the rhymes line up and the reader knows how to keep your syllables more balanced, rather than where you actually grammatically need a comma in the middle of a line.

Disclaimer: don't really have a music education so may be wrong.
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 06:48:37 PM »

What Gina says. It looks like you are confusing barring and phrasing. They are not the same thing. Bar lines divide the notes rhythmically according to the metre (blocks of beats as shown by the time signature, corresponding to the underlying rhythm). Phrasing marks are used to show the musical,  er, phrases.

I've attached my attempt to include phrasing marks (attached). The phrasing marks are the curved lines. Bear in mind, phrasing tends to be personal and can vary with how you feel like playing something. There is a lead in to each phrase. However, I haven't included this within the phrase.
 
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 07:06:01 PM by Tone Dumb Greg »
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 06:53:36 PM »

The start of each bar is a strong down beat (the "one"). You can hear that in each phrase although many times you have a lead in notes or notes starting on the fourth beat of the previous bar. But the lead in notes don't change where the down beat is (where you might tap or stomp your foot).
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george garside

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 08:24:35 PM »

looking at it from a mainly 'by earists' perspective the bars   divide a tune into  maneagable 'chunks' each with the same number of beats eg for a 4/4um pa , um pa. or for a 3/4 um, pa pa, um pa pa.

the phrasing  , sometimes indicated by a curved line  covering a particular group of notes,  is completely different  as it indicates where a pause between 'phrases  ' is required or suggested but does not in any way change the timing of the beat  which is about where a note is played.  The pause between  'phrases' is brought about by pinching a bit off the note before or aafter the end of one phrase and the start of the other  but does not alter the underlying beat.

There are no rules governing phrasing and it is up to the player ( or band leader) to decide where the gaps ( end of one phrase and start of the next) should occur and how long or short they should be  . Imagine a reader starting at the top of a page and not stopping speaking until he/she runs out of breath  - its just a gabble of words.

on the other hand a good reader will  take notice of punctuation , commas, full stops etc  and together with changes in the volume of the voice  sound  much better to the listener.

The three things that together transform  playing the right notes in the right order into a tune worth listening to or good to dance to  are -rhythm,  phrasing,  and dynamics .  in other words a steady underlying beat, playing the gaps between notes  an varying the volume here and there.

george
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 09:22:33 PM »

Quite often, when you see dots, there will be phrasing marks. Sometimes they will be for every phrase but, other times, possibly more often, they will only be for elements of phrasing that the dot writer thinks are less obvious/intuitive.
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 09:32:08 PM »

Steve, I just do what you do. With folk music or where you just have simple notation you often don't get any clues, and I have spent ages trying to get tunes I basically know to sound right because my fingers are playing to the dots and my ear is expecting something different.

So when learning a tune I just add lines (on a printout, it doesn't work well on the monitor!) once I've listened to the tune to identify the phrasing. After a while you know the tune well enough to not need them.

Also, I sometimes find it makes the tune easier to learn by breaking it into more suitable chunks.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 09:34:05 PM by malcolmbebb »
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2018, 11:06:28 PM »

It's all been said. So what am I adding to the feast?
Well firstly, you've called them staff breaks which is the main issue. They have several purposes, but breaking anything isn't one of them. In Renaissance music they weren't really used - and you can imagine the problems caused by not being able to pick up a passage without starting all over again. Tunes are fluidly ignorant of their notation prison.
Like so much notation time signatures represent the music rather than the music being a slave to the barline.
The primary accent is of course the strongest whether in 2 beats per bar, or 3 or 4. I think it was Messiaen who called it the tyranny of the barline. At its best we don't write music to fit the form, rather the form becomes established because it is so often the best solution. Like many conventions, the best results are a deliberate deviation from the convention.

The upbeat figures in your tune (the notes that lead into the barline) give energy into these anchor points. Look at how many tunes start with a 3 note upbeat - sketching out the triad - such as the 3 notes into the Abbess. Or the 3 notes into Adieu Ma Dedee. The metre of language is equally rife with convention - hence the Scotch Snap  (also known as a Lombardic rhythm for similar reasons) and the Iambic pentameter of 'The Ploughman homeward plods his weary way'.
Also think of the downbeat as the strike of an axe into the tree - it doesn't work without the preparatory swing. And without expectation you can't have surprise. For example the Interrupted cadence of chords 5 to 6.
I love musical rules not because I am musically honest but because I am not.
Great question.
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george garside

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2018, 09:26:20 AM »

 When deciding how to phrase a tune  and how not to phrase a tune it can be instructive to listen to the many youtube vids  etc  of a great many 'folk' tunes.

some will be bloody awful and some brilliant and to some degree the  version  an individual likes may be somewhere between the two extremes.

you don't have to try to copy  exactly what someone else has played but  perhaps base your version on the youtubes that  sound half decent.

george
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Winston Smith

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2018, 10:24:04 AM »

When I first saw this heading, I imagined that it might be regarding Theo generously deciding to allow his wife tea breaks. But after reading, I'm pleased to see that this is not the case.
(This reply is intended to prove to one particular member that I do, indeed, dwell in the Victorian age.)
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2018, 11:11:09 AM »

Musical notation is an imperfect compromise. I encounter a similar problem to this when writing ABC for songs with words immediately under the stave. Very often the lines of a song don't start on the first beat of the bar, and while I want each a line of music to start at the beginning of a bar, a singer would rather have the line breaks fit the lyrics, which would mean that the printed lines started and ended with with a partial bar of music.

The answer is simply that musicians, ever since bar lines were invented, seem to have preferred the convention that bars mark exactly equal lengths of time in whole beats and with a notionally 'strong' beat at the beginning of the bar. As long as we all know the convention and stick to it, and understand enough about music interpretation to get the phrasing right, everyone's happy. There are many ways in which what's written doesn't tell you everything about how to play the music: this is just one of them.

There's an analogy with poetry written in a regular meter. The lines have a fixed pattern of long and short syllables, but sentences and phrases may start and finish in the middle of a line, and a good reader of poetry doesn't slavishly follow the syllabic pattern, taking a breath at the end of each line, because the semantics often don't flow that way. Typical interpretations of Shakespeare, for example, can sound like prose or normal dialogue, even though most of it is written in a regular meter.

I think it was Messiaen who called it the tyranny of the barline. At its best we don't write music to fit the form
Though it's interesting to speculate how much of our music IS influenced by the form.
Bartok expressed a similar opinion about "the tyranny of major and minor scales". He found a way to escape that, but on this forum people still get wound up about "what key this tune is in", forgetting that the map is not the territory, and that a human failing is our obsession with categorising things and then assuming that everything MUST fit into one of the categories we've invented. But I digress...
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Steve C.

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2018, 12:58:59 PM »

Many, many thanks to all!  It's all becoming much more clear.
My Youtube learning version, favorite for this tune is Shiftyscrivens', and it does have that primary accent/strong beat that caused the phrasing vs. bar disconnect in my peabrain.
PLUS, I did not know what "phrasing marks" were.  Sometimes I have seen them and wonder...
I do rely so often on Pete's Playford file (that's the one that has the chords I think) because besides giving the chords, it also makes it easier to work out the fingering, since you know if you "must" be on the pull or push for one of the phrases to get that particular chord.
Not sure about this, but I feel like Georges, Mallys and some other methods often try to transcribe tunes so that the dots often reflect the phrasing.
Again, THANKS (insert melodeon love emoticon here)
Steve
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2018, 04:09:17 PM »

(1)...Bartok expressed a similar opinion about "the tyranny of major and minor scales"...

(2)...on this forum people still get wound up about "what key this tune is in", forgetting that the map is not the territory,
and that a human failing is our obsession with categorising things and then assuming that everything MUST fit into one
of the categories we've invented.

A bit OT, but it's sort of related...

(1) I like Bartok, I've always liked Bartok but I didn't know he'd said that - what a very sensible chap he
must have been.

(2) Over the last three years, I've asked questions along much the same lines both here and on concertina.net,
and always received helpful, but sometimes vague replies. I now see that the vagueness is probably 'necessary',
because the question may not have a hard and fast answer, particularly if you accept that 'our obsession with
categorising things' and the subsequent categorisation of stuff is relatively unimportant (I do accept this). I think
I've always had a suspicion of this lurking at the back of my mind, and I'll sleep easier in my bed tonight - no
need to worry about whether that tune is in C, Ddor, G or Dmix...

Ta.

Roger
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 04:28:22 PM by lachenal74693 »
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2018, 07:25:59 PM »

I think Brendan Breathnach's observations on traditional players' phrasing are possibly the most useful analysis of the subject - (and here I can only paraphrase because someone borrowed my copy of his book ten years ago, then died before returning it) -

phrases are usually longer than a single bar and no longer than two bars, normally commencing on or near the first note of the first bar and ending on or within one, two or three notes (quavers I think) of the end of the second bar, that space being filled with the requisite number of lead-in notes to the beginning of the next phrase in the tune.

He doubted that players had any concept of bars at all, and observed that traditional players usually learn tunes phrase by phrase rather than any shorter unit.

He was talking about the Irish tradition of course, but I think the principle's universal.  I've found it a very useful bit of information. 
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2018, 07:58:53 PM »

I think Brendan Breathnach's observations on traditional players' phrasing are possibly the most useful analysis of the subject - (and here I can only paraphrase because someone borrowed my copy of his book ten years ago, then died before returning it) -

phrases are usually longer than a single bar and no longer than two bars, normally commencing on or near the first note of the first bar and ending on or within one, two or three notes (quavers I think) of the end of the second bar, that space being filled with the requisite number of lead-in notes to the beginning of the next phrase in the tune.

He doubted that players had any concept of bars at all, and observed that traditional players usually learn tunes phrase by phrase rather than any shorter unit.

He was talking about the Irish tradition of course, but I think the principle's universal.  I've found it a very useful bit of information.

Definitely.

One thing I can say about "standard" musical notation is that it takes practice to present the musical intent in as readable and natural a form as possible.  My transcription/notation from 45 years ago and today has improved in many ways although the dots are the same.  It's a language used with varying degrees of facility.
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2018, 11:59:32 PM »

Bar lines are what happens between our drummer lifting his  (or her) stick up and bringing it down.
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george garside

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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2018, 02:00:36 PM »

from what has been said so far it  seems that  bar lines have slightly different meanings and values to different people. Perhaps the by ear player is fortunate in not having to worry about such things  and many can change the rhythn  eg from 4/4 to 3/4  making all the necessary adjustments to note length  , phrasing etc  on the hoof. Same goes for playing  a tune as perhaps a haunting slow air or a swirly waltz.

Those who worry over much about  getting the detail right from the dots may do well to get the hang of playing by ear/from memory.  Of course many by earists would also benefit  from getting at least a basic knowledge of dot reading.

george
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2018, 02:55:45 PM »

The start of each bar is a strong down beat (the "one"). ... (where you might tap or stomp your foot).
Yes, I think that's a splendid explanation: The bar lines indicate where to stomp your foot.  :M
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2018, 05:26:40 PM »

Using various ABC and sometimes Sibelius music software, at one time I tried to make it 4 bars per line/staff, which made clearer the similarities of the phrases. Then with 1st and 2nd time bars the formatting all goes doolally.

The correlation between written music and audio music only goes so far. Use it to learn a tune and discard it asap is my thoughts on this.

Many musicians, most famously The Beatles, are horrified that their music is put onto manuscript. So two-dimensional (and also largely incomplete and wrong) but of course a great aid to kick start learning a piece of music.
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Re: Why are staff breaks where they are? (Newcastle)
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2018, 06:35:13 PM »

Am I the only Melnetter who thinks employees,  when they read the word staff? It was always a stave when I was at school, and although I do know staff is equally valid, I'm still misled every time I see it.

Sir John
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