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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What is the best time signature for transcribing hoedowns/breakdowns/reels?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/43337

soppinthegravy - Posted - 01/11/2016:  19:00:24


What is the best time signature for transcribing hoedowns/breakdowns/reels? In your answer, please specify why.


Dick Hauser - Posted - 01/11/2016:  19:42:34


For reels, I like "cut time". I think 8th notes look less cluttered than 16th notes. To my old eyes, other notation stands out better as well. I can write or use a tune in 4/4 time, but when I see "cut time", I expect a faster tempo than 4/4 time. Right or wrong, this simple method works for me. Most of the tunes I play are uptempo and were written in "cut time". I listen to and memorize melodies before I learn a tune, so the time signature isn't that important. By the time I see notation, I have already learned quite a bit about a tune. I usually convert notation for a 2/4 tune to "cut time".

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 01/11/2016:  20:27:54


I'm with DH on the listen first and check the notation later, with me only if I have to. I search out notation when A.S.D. and repeated listening has failed me. I know backward to say the least but I learned to listen and learn years before I learned to read and learn. I guess I'm just a cart before the horse kind of learner. R/

ChickenMan - Posted - 01/11/2016:  21:00:49


I think with the 'cut time' aesthetic, there is room to throw in sixteenth notes for occasional extra bits if you're transcribing an Irish reel. Plus there's the similar look to jigs written in 6/8. 


alaskafiddler - Posted - 01/12/2016:  17:11:37


Not sure one can define "best" - depends on what you are trying to communicate; and what the target reader can deal with.



Mostly I prefer 2/4 - as 2 beat per measure - it is very straight forward unambiguous, and it allows better visual beaming of beats. The down side is that some folks get intimidated in seeing sixteenth notes.



2/2 works okay. Some folks get confused by that the half note gets the beat, and an idea of twice as fast. Both 2/4 and 2/2 also run into folks that think 2/4 or 2/2 only means March or choppy.



The 4/4, double length measure of 2/4; can help to keep a phrase connected. But again, reading sixteenth notes and having very long measures.



The short 4/4 - which looks exactly like the 2/2 - I see it occasionally, but IMO is a usually poor choice, conflates the basic concept of "beat" and tempo markings.


Joel Glassman - Posted - 01/13/2016:  16:48:20


For fiddle tunes--cut time. I'm writing melodies in 8th notes, and feeling the rhythm in 2. Will sometimes change the rhythmic feel to a more even 4 but not change the notation.

Chops Chomper - Posted - 01/13/2016:  18:13:53


Whatever suits your fancy. You can play a tune in cut time if you like or not or 2/4 or 4/4 it's up to you.

Just because the tune was written in a certain way does not mean that it can't be different.

If you are asking this question because you don't know the answer then good for you.

The whole idea about playing fiddle is to make the tune your own. Play it anyway you want to. Weather it's cut time or not...playing in this fashion will not only broaden your horizons but make you better fiddle player. Jerry

dogmageek - Posted - 02/08/2016:  18:50:59


2/2

graeme - Posted - 02/20/2016:  14:37:16


Hoedowns, breakdowns and reels are all "two beats to the bar".  Ask any bass player.



Which time signature you use doesn't matter: time signatures don't change the tempo, or the pulse (well, 4/4 does change the pulse, but this is a modern abuse of reel notation. Two to the bar is the reel rule.)



Changing the time signature does change the amount of ink on the page, and this can make things look complicated (which is why 4/4 gets a role, today).





Ask a competent pianist to play a reel in 4/4 against a walking bass line.  It will change the reel into a four-in-the-bar swing choon. Nah. Now it is not a reel.


abinigia - Posted - 02/20/2016:  15:05:14


Cut time. Eighth notes read much more easily than 16ths.  Four quarter notes in a measure makes good sense visually. It's a practical question as there is no correct way, only clarity matters. Written music should be made as easy to read as can be.


Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 02/20/2016:  16:35:11


2/4 is great.  So is 4/4.  Eighth notes ain't that difficult to read, in any case. Ignore the flags and let the metronome set the tempo.


graeme - Posted - 02/21/2016:  15:05:50


Time signatures mean something.



4/4 means four in a bar, each a quarter note long, with emphasis on one and three.  But, four in a bar.





Alla breve, or "cut common" , looks exactly like 4/4, but it is two beats per bar. 



The two are entirely different.  Different feel, not tempo.





Celtic music (reels, hornpipes, and their derivatives) are definitely "two in a bar".





Write whatever you like, but play these dances "in two".


abinigia - Posted - 02/21/2016:  19:07:23


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

Time signatures mean something.




4/4 means four in a bar, each a quarter note long, with emphasis on one and three.  But, four in a bar.






Alla breve, or "cut common" , looks exactly like 4/4, but it is two beats per bar. 




The two are entirely different.  Different feel, not tempo.







Celtic music (reels, hornpipes, and their derivatives) are definitely "two in a bar".





Write whatever you like, but play these dances "in two".






I may be unsophisticated about this but two is just a multiple of 4. I say cut time looks just like 4/4 time and can be considered to be the same, only played twice as fast. Doesn't matter if you count 2 or 4.


graeme - Posted - 02/22/2016:  05:59:21


Talk to a bass player about the difference between "two in a bar", and "four to the bar". It's the difference between Dixiland, and Swing.





Yes, they look the same on paper (alla breve, and four/four), but they sound very different.  And you know this: I doubt there is a person on this forum who cannot hear a band change change between the two feels during an arrangement.





This hilights one of the problems of people reading music: they don't make the appropriate distinctions, and then they say "it doesn't sound right: you can't write fiddle music down."



Well, you can't write everything down, but we need to make a good fist of what is written before we bag it. I'm thinkin'.



 


abinigia - Posted - 02/22/2016:  11:43:04


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

Talk to a bass player about the difference between "two in a bar", and "four to the bar". It's the difference between Dixiland, and Swing.






Yes, they look the same on paper (alla breve, and four/four), but they sound very different.  And you know this: I doubt there is a person on this forum who cannot hear a band change change between the two feels during an arrangement.






This hilights one of the problems of people reading music: they don't make the appropriate distinctions, and then they say "it doesn't sound right: you can't write fiddle music down."




Well, you can't write everything down, but we need to make a good fist of what is written before we bag it. I'm thinkin'.




 







Okay. Just so I understand, hoedowns/breakdowns/reels should be written 2/2 or cut time, yes?


DougD - Posted - 02/22/2016:  12:07:35


The question was "What is the best time signature." I think it should reflect the fact that there are two beats to the measure, not four, so 4/4 is not really correct. which shows up when people try to understand metronome markings. People use 4/4 because they're used to seeing it for "foxtrots" - anything from "Lady Be Good" to "Harbor Lights" on up to "Rock Around the Clock." None of those are reels though.



2/4 works, but it means that the main melody notes are 16ths, which results in a very cluttered score. 2/2 also inducates 2 beats per measure, but the main melody notes are eights, which most people find easier to read.



If you look at Ryan's Mammoth Collection, an influential 19th century collection that many fiddlers learned from in its later version as Coles 1000 Fiddle Tunes, you'll see that it uses both 2/4 and cut time, and you can see the difference and decide which you prefer. This was compiled before the 20th century rage for "four to the bar" music.. Available online here:  violinsheetmusic.org/collections/


abinigia - Posted - 02/22/2016:  12:51:07


An awful lot of sheet music uses 4/4 time for fiddle tunes too (reels, etc.). Personally I find 4 beats to the measure and eighth notes the easiest to read. Cut time, sure. Otherwise I'm not following the explanations other than there are different conventions that can be followed.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 02/22/2016:  18:51:05


On further reflection, I'm siding with 4/4 for transcribing breakdowns, etc.  2/4 implies a strict march tempo.  Not exactly swinging and danceable.  4/4's slightly weaker third beat relaxes things. It gives the piece more life.  4/4 also makes the score more readable and musically natural if the tune happens to delay or rush that third beat.


buckhenry - Posted - 02/23/2016:  13:17:30


quote:

Originally posted by soppinthegravy

 

What is the best time signature for transcribing hoedowns/breakdowns/reels? In your answer, please specify why.









Four / Four, cut time, eight quavers to the bar....this makes for less writing of bar lines and semi-quaver tails.. 



And, tis easier to read at first sight........


graeme - Posted - 02/23/2016:  14:48:31


Yup.  For a good look, 4/4 or "cut common" (alla breve).  But play it in "two".



As for "eight to the bar", now that's a different story, for a different pub, and a fresh beer.


abinigia - Posted - 02/23/2016:  18:17:07


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

Yup.  For a good look, 4/4 or "cut common" (alla breve).  But play it in "two".




As for "eight to the bar", now that's a different story, for a different pub, and a fresh beer.







I think play it in 4. It doesn't matter, I know. But you seem to be talking about what the bass player needs to think. The melody player thinks in 4 is how I feel those kinds of tunes. They're not marches.



 


alaskafiddler - Posted - 02/24/2016:  01:44:24


The meter marking describes the primary underlying framework the tune sits on.




  1.  the main underlying natural perceived steady pulse - that which would label "the beat" -

  2.  the primary grouping and meter length, how many those "the beats" you count to before you start over.

  3. how the beat (main pulse) is primarily divided, the choices are divided in 2 (simple) or in 3 (compound)

  4. the note value unit relative to "the beat"



The meter marking does not really represent nor direct any performance articulation of rhythm, dynamic accents,  syncopation, swing, bounce, strict march, smoothness, drive, groove, flow (or various other "rules" folks think exist)... nor can it really show the great diversity of rhythms;...it's  just the basic metric frame.  



That said, there are multiple levels going on, and sometimes can perceived in multiple ways; and written in multiple way without any difference; and then there are some considerations in transcribing or notation that can help nudge certain aspects one way or another.


alaskafiddler - Posted - 02/24/2016:  03:14:31


The OP was asking about the best time signature, and why...



Here is some examples might help discussion, showing different ways on might see written for the start of this fiddle tune  . Many fiddle tunes are similar to this. (none of them should technically change how it sounds or feels).





A or B are often used, and make good sense; I prefer B as it visually shows beats better.



D, E, and F always seem odd choices to me.



 


graeme - Posted - 02/24/2016:  14:54:11


Now, there is a distinct difference between some of these examples, B and C, for instance.





We do have two legs, and could march to most things with a pulse of two-to- the-bar, but it is simplistic to suggest that makes every tune with such a pulse a march.  A march is a very well-developed form, with modulations and various sections, etc.



There is no difference in the pulse the fiddler plays and the pulse the bass player plays. Have the discussion with a skilled person you trust.



In music we have plenty of "rules".  These are the cultural agreements that help us turn noise into art. Break 'em at your peril.



But I am weary of this.



(We don't write a bar line between the time signature and the first bar of dots.  Just remindin' ya.)


abinigia - Posted - 02/24/2016:  16:13:20


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

Now, there is a distinct difference between some of these examples, B and C, for instance.






We do have two legs, and could march to most things with a pulse of two-to- the-bar, but it is simplistic to suggest that makes every tune with such a pulse a march.  A march is a very well-developed form, with modulations and various sections, etc.




There is no difference in the pulse the fiddler plays and the pulse the bass player plays. Have the discussion with a skilled person you trust.




In music we have plenty of "rules".  These are the cultural agreements that help us turn noise into art. Break 'em at your peril.




But I am weary of this.




(We don't write a bar line between the time signature and the first bar of dots.  Just remindin' ya.)







I am weary too. Your reference to bass and melody playing the same "pulse" as the fiddler leaves me wondering what you are talking about. In fact I think I am having a discussion with a few skilled people, including you, about this. The issue is how best to write fiddle notation and there are different ways to do it. That's all.



Anyway...


dogmageek - Posted - 02/24/2016:  19:45:56




abinigia: I am going with a yes to your question:



"Okay. Just so I understand, hoedowns/breakdowns/reels should be written 2/2 or cut time, yes?"



The reason I said 2/2 above is that my software ties the eighth notes together in groups of four; two groups to the measure. Each group of four gets a beat; two beats to the measure. Each group of four eighth notes gets a long bow and two short bows. Two long bows per measure. Slur the first two in the group of four eighth notes and play the last two separately.



One of my teachers said to accent the second and fourth beats in the measure which would be of 4/4; this works out to accenting the third eighth note in each group of four; two accents per measure to offset the two long bows per measure. The accent always follows the long bow not vice versa.



cheers



 


alaskafiddler - Posted - 03/02/2016:  13:54:11


The examples I posted just represent a difference in readability (and perhaps perception). They ALL play the same, and indicate no difference in what, when, and how to play. The top number (nor bottom number) shouldn't be complex to understand or interpret. 2 on top is just referring to there are 2 of something. 4 on top is there are 4 of something, but...



quote:


Originally posted by abinigia

I may be unsophisticated about this but two is just a multiple of 4. 




Yep. It doesn't require much sophistication, nor complexity.  2 things of 2; (2x2) can be considered 4. The music example has an organizational layout of 2x2x2x2 as nested levels ; and any 2x2 can be represented as 4. It's not a question of if 2 or 4, but can be perceived as both at the same time.



quote:


Originally posted by abinigia

Doesn't matter if you count 2 or 4.




Yep.  [One-2] - [Three-4]  is the same as either [One-2] - [Two-2]   or   [One-&] - [Two-&]. 



 



Meter just expresses organization frame; (meter and rhythm are not the same thing) - This makes for quite simple and flexible communication system. As in these examples creates multiple choices; in perception; as well in how to write it. (note that the bottom number and note values also follows a 2x2x2x2 system) Ease of readability is a big factor, and various factors that might play a role to that; however there is not necessarily one "right" choice. End up with a lot of "oh that works too"



 



quote:


Originally posted by graeme



In music we have plenty of "rules".  These are the cultural agreements that help us turn noise into art. Break 'em at your peril.







Not sure what "rules" or cultural agreement you believe are being broken with regard to meter? You are certainly free to create whatever prescriptive rules, strict interpretations, complexity in communication you want to impose on yourself...  and  you should rigidly stick to them if it's important to you.... but realize it might be at your own peril.


graeme - Posted - 03/04/2016:  01:48:54


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Playing




in




"two"


is different to


playing 


in "four".




quote:


Originally posted by graeme



In music we have plenty of "rules".  These are the cultural agreements that help us turn noise into art. Break 'em at your peril.







Not sure what "rules" or cultural agreement you believe are being broken with regard to meter? You are certainly free to create whatever prescriptive rules, strict interpretations, complexity in communication you want to impose on yourself...  and  you should rigidly stick to them if it's important to you.... but realize it might be at your own peril.



###############################################################################################################



Well, one cultural agreement (what you are determined to call "rules" with all the negative overtones you can muster) that seems to have escaped you is the difference between playing in two and playing in four.  



Perhaps you might have a look at playing six eighth notes, grouped in three pairs, in both 6/8 time, and in 3/4 time. Another example is playing 3/4 time in either three in a bar, or one in a bar.  



These things look the same of paper, almost (actually, they don't look the same), but they sound quite different. 



Rubbing against this knowledge and experience is just pointless. 



Major and minor triads are major and minor triads because we agree that these "sounds" shall be called such triads.  The major scale is a major scale because we agree to know it as a major scale.  The blues scale is agreed ... For hundreds of years, (and not  only in some colder places on this Earth) some folk have called these things "rules", and some folk have railed against this codification of Western music.



You can evolve and develop agreements; and no-one is going to the mattresses about "prescriptions" or "restrictions" in music.  But you'll lose your audience and your friends if you get too "anti" in music.



I am too disinterested in the "anger" of people who defend their ignorance with their negative throw-aways to get get excited by the cold shoulder of the "king makers" and bullies of the Internet. But, for goodness sake, let's talk about music and playing music, and not try building ourselves up by putting other people down.  Welding has rules. Spelling has rules. Banking has rules. Driving has rules. Etc. All disciplines have "highly regarded and well-known techniques, knowledge and procedures". These are "agreements" so that we can all do business. You can only read this post because of them nasty rules.  



As for "perils": talk to the brilliant jazz musicians who cannot get paying jobs, while rock players with only 10% of their skill work three times a week. Them perils are "out there", they will tell you.



Now, when you play your reels and hoedowns, when do you start to jettison your ornaments?  And, which ornaments do you abandon first? In Alaska?




Edited by - graeme on 03/04/2016 01:51:43

abinigia - Posted - 03/04/2016:  11:36:40


quote:

Originally posted by graeme

 

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Playing





in





"two"


is different to


playing 


in "four".





quote:


Originally posted by graeme

I am too disinterested in the "anger" of people who defend their ignorance with their negative throw-aways to get get excited by the cold shoulder of the "king makers" and bullies of the Internet.









What I get from your posts is that often the first beat of any bar is stressed which gives an indication of style. Like 1-2-3-4  1-2-3-4 or 1-2-1-2. That's fine, but not the only consideration in transcribing music. And it's not in the same category as the definition of what a scale is, which is truly a matter of a set definition. Conveying music using notes and staff has some fixed rules too. We agree what notes are called on a line or space for instance. There are rules that the time should add up in the bars and that time signature changes should be indicated.



But unlike scales and such, music notation isn't a thing in itself but a way of conveying a thing, and there can be different ways a piece of music can be conveyed on paper. For myself, as I have said before, I like seeing 4 beats to a measure in reel and breakdown kinds of fiddle tunes. I find that beats look and feel right that way. When I transcribe music like that I might use a cut time sign to indicate it is faster than might otherwise be assumed, but I can see the music in that form.



Not too sure what you were saying above but it kind of comes across as a "negative throw-away" itself. For myself I don't say you are wrong at all. Except for your insistence that your way is the only right way, I think you have a valid opinion and something to add to the discussion. Alaska more closely represents my view on the matter.


graeme - Posted - 03/04/2016:  14:09:42


Why do we have bar lines in notation?



They are the first way to position rhythm into music.  The pulse of the bar line is the pulse of our playing, (and the playing came first -- the bar line was to capture the pulse).  Bar lines also make reading music easier. By playing particular notes louder, following the "agreement" of the bar line, we have our first layer of rhythm.



Now, against this underlying pulse, notation captures other things we play. We sub-divide the pulses, and get a marvelous tension against the fundamental frame work of pulse. 





We introduce accents, (and the accents are of a range of impact  -  all accents are not equal,) slurs, triplets (3 where 2 "are expected"), staccato notes, and more, all to vary and decorate the underlying pulse.





Syncopation is only possible because of the impact of the bar line.





Phrasing is a further decoration of the underlying pulse, and is part of the great variety of drive and charm of Western music.





Now, as for playing in two or playing in four -- this is something to quietly pursue, for it is part of the mechanism of achieving the lilt, or lift, in fiddle playing.



If the bar line did not achieve a useful function it would not have been "an agreement" in our music culture for the past five hundred years. Along with time signatures, bar lines give good impetus to music,  if they are "played".



(If you can be bothered, should you re-read what Alaska wrote, the negative "putdowns" are readily identified. But enough of him.) 


pete_fiddle - Posted - 03/04/2016:  18:08:50


I'm no sight reader, just enough to get the basic tune, but just to confuse things more, it seems to me that a lot of tunes in 4/4 2/2 or whatever, particularly American or American influenced tunes are so heavily syncopated, that i have been experimenting by thinking of them in 6/8 time!! (although the backup or pulse would be 4/4 or 2/2 or whatever) right up until the end of  a 2, 4 or even an 8 bar phrase, then throw in the last note(s) or rest(s) at the end of the phrase, to hit the bar line again, this seems to me to cut across bar lines, and split the phrases up nicely.... or am i just confusing myself and anyone listening ? :o)



interestingly (to me)  i read somewhere on the internet, that "experiments have shown" our brains like to split things up into twos or threes ( may have something to do with this?)



oh dear i have wandered....


soppinthegravy - Posted - 03/09/2016:  21:20:10


Ok, which of these is best for transcribing specifically Southern Appalachian Old-Time hoedowns like this tune?



"Rattletrap" played by Joe Birchfield



 youtube.com/watch?v=WGP-ECVlseM



Edited by - soppinthegravy on 03/09/2016 21:21:47

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 03/10/2016:  12:15:54


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quote


:


Originally posted by soppinthegravy

 

Ok, which of these is best for transcribing specifically Southern Appalachian Old-Time hoedowns like this tune?




"Rattletrap" played by Joe Birchfield




 youtube.com/watch?v=WGP-ECVlseM




Always loved that tune.  Taught to me by David Bragger. And yes, the thought of time signature has crossed my mind.  My quickie conclusion -- just  write the tune in 2/4 and add an extra measure to account for the crookedness.


 


alaskafiddler - Posted - 03/10/2016:  13:48:02


2/4 works great; logical fit.



That said Cut time symbol (not 2/2 sig) might be more universal accepted -



There are folks who count boom-chuck-bum-chuck as [12] [34] or as root=1, strum=2, fifth=3 strum=4.

Cut time symbol works for those folks. Also avoids the 2/4= strict march idea, and the confusion about 2 on the bottom of 2/2. Folks that are folks familiar with these tunes as 2/4 don't have a problem reading the cut symbol. 



Not sure what Ed meant about accounting for the crookedness;  it doesn't break out of the meter grouping of 2.



Edited by - alaskafiddler on 03/10/2016 13:49:04

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