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Positive effect on Old Time tunes from playing so many Irish ones lately???

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, February 25, 2011

When I started practicing so many Irish tunes, I thought at first that my Old Time fiddling might suffer from neglect.

So far, the reverse seems to be true.  To get the right feel for the Irish tunes, I'm bowing more carefully AND phrasing more carefully with the left hand.  And the last few days, I've had two gigs where I played Old Time, and practiced some Old Time today.  And it seems like both hands are working much more precisely, both individually and together.  AND my tone is better.

Now, for those of you that like ROUGH Old Time tone, THAT may not be an improvement! ;^D


I think I've culled down the number of Irish fiddle tunes to a manageable number that I can reasonably get ready for St. Paddy's Day.

I've also realized that I'm going to need to learn some additional new Irish songs to play with guitar  I did a YouTube search and worked on "The Leaving of Liverpool", and it's not only a perfect choice since it keys into the theme of the Irish Emigration, but I've heard it so much over the years that it was hardly any effort to learn it.  I also found a relatively new song (compared to traditional material) by Johnny McEvoy called "Long, Long Before Your Time"- a very poignant, well constructed song that still manages to sound traditional.


Other odds and ends:

The Old Time jam was a bit peculiar this month.  The best backup player for fiddle tunes didn't show, I think because he was working, and one of my banjo players was feeling under the weather, and stayed home.  And it's odd, on, they were talking about blues players coming in and messing up Irish Trad sessions.  Well, I had TWO blues guitarists show up!!!  Good musicians, but not melody oriented, and in order to work with them, I think we moved more into early commercial country territory than Old Time.  A good time was had by all though, including the audience, but it wasn't quite as Old Timey as I wanted it to be... oh well!!!

I put new strings on my main fiddle, the Knilling Bucharest.  Same strings as last time, the Thomastik Precision Lights.  I was expecting the same dramatic change, but instead, it took a couple weeks for the fiddle to start sounding good!  I think it's the weather... much more humid, and the fiddle is just not as resonanant as it was last string change.  But the improvement, now that it's showing up is making that fiddle work just as well for Irish tunes as the Eastman, at least once I have them memorized.

Playing Irish Trad tunes is causing me to work on my "anywhichway" bowing abilities.  Jigs have some tendency to go that way for me anyway, and bowed triplets (which I do in both reels and hornpipes) turn the bowing direction every time you do them.  Plus the more controlled bowing style seems to make anywhichway work better- the difference between an upstroke and a downstroke isn't as great, so it's easier to add a bit of extra to the upstrokes to make them sound the same, or very close to it.  I've always bowed waltzes anywhichway, but jigs, reels, and hornpipes go a lot faster!  So I'm having to bow "anywhichway" at a much higher speed than I'm used to doing it.

  The bowing style I'm using for the Irish Trad tunes FEELS quite different, to the point where I'm actually using different muscles- I'm finding muscles are getting sore after playing Irish that don't get sore after playing Old Time.  For some reason it really hurts on the rib cage about 6 inches below the armpit, and it's never ached there before that I can remember.

I'm hanging out some on the, and although I'm using the same "handle", you'd hardly recognize me... about the only posts I've made have been gear oriented!  Bows, rosin, and such.  It's just not as friendly a place, there are some definite cultural differences going on, (it seems Ireland and Commonwealth countries are dominant) -and my confidence level in things Irish is pretty low!

I think I came up with a realistic goal for my Irish Trad attempt:

1. For the St. Paddy's Day gig, I want the Irish tunes to be as MUSICAL as my Old Time playing.  It's a foregone conclusion that they won't sound as "trad" as my Old Time tunes sound "Old Time", but I can make them musical.  That's realistic. That's not to say that I won't TRY to make them sound as Irish as possible, but the "foreign" accent will still be there to some degree.

2. For after St. Paddy's Day:

Get good enough at playing and phrasing the tunes I play that I'm an asset and not a liability at the local sessions.

Somehow having realistic goals is helping.  I probably won't ever sound like Liz Carroll!!!


Another realization:

I need to approach Irish tunes as I do the Old Time tunes.... realize that they are all in a state of flux.

I never close the book and stop changing my Old Time tunes.. I'm always open to a different bowing or a different phrasing or sometimes even a slight variation on the melody.  I need to consider the Irish ornamentation as a changeable layer on top of the melody just like I consider the bowings in Old Time tunes to be a changeable layer.  There may be a way that's more solid than others, but it's not set in stone.  And I'm also realizing that I can't consider the melody set in stone either- if I find another setting that has a better phrase in one place or another, I need to feel free to USE that phrase, and not feel locked in to one written version or another.  This may seem self-evident, yet, because I usually start playing the Irish tunes with sheet music, I tend to get more locked in to one version at first.

3 comments on “Positive effect on Old Time tunes from playing so many Irish ones lately???”

FiddleJammer Says:
Saturday, February 26, 2011 @5:17:25 PM

One of the ways that we learn is by comparison and association. When we try a different genre or pick up a different instrument, we come back with more skills, seems to me. I cringe when I hear people saying that they can't try something new because it wil take away from what they know. Our brains really are quite limitless. The only limit is time. And, even then, we probably have more than we realize.

carlb Says:
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 @10:46:28 AM

Well, I play Irish music only on the tin whistle. However, some of my old time friends are telling me that playing all this Irish music is corrupting my old time fiddling. Ha!

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 @5:14:58 PM

Ha! I wouldn't surprised if my Old Time hasn't gotten a little "tainted" as well!

Still, my bowing approach is so different for Old Time that I think very few could hear it.

I wish I could play Irish tunes on some other instrument. It would make keeping them separate easier (well, maybe not, if it's affecting YOUR playing) but then there would be a whole 'nother instrument to get good at and then maintain.

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