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Apr 13, 2018 - 5:34:16 PM
5651 posts since 8/7/2009

A recent discussion was the inspiration for the question...

What is the difference between a variation of a tune and version of a tune?  Does anything really define the difference?

Apr 13, 2018 - 6:10:35 PM
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3871 posts since 9/26/2008

Originally posted by tonyelder

A recent discussion was the inspiration for the question...

What is the difference between a variation of a tune and version of a tune?  Does anything really define the difference?

Besides spelling?

Apr 13, 2018 - 6:27:55 PM

3871 posts since 9/26/2008

I suppose in some circles a version is repeatable, perhaps from a recorded source, and a variation is a purposeful (possibly repeatable and predetermined, possibly improvised) deviation from said version while still maintaining the meat and potatoes of said version. Think: those Texas style players who know Major Franklin’s version of “ “ which is already varied, and then they riff on that version.
Now, all “Half Past Four”s are derived from Ed Haley and some folks play it fairly straight from his source recording. Then, like the Telephone Game, that person shows it to a jam and after a few jams removed, it takes on a different form that is still HPF but a variation of the actual, documented original source (which is brilliant and varied in its execution.)
I feel they are essentially the same thing. Semantics.

Apr 13, 2018 - 6:40:29 PM
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Old Scratch


293 posts since 6/22/2016

In casual speech, the terms are used interchangeably. More formally, 'variation' suggests something more deliberate, to the point that you have - certainly in Scottish tradition - a tune played through in its 'original' version, then put through a variation, or a series of variations; e.g., Skinner's variations on Tullochgorum (all seven of 'm). In American old-time, you have the variations that Clark Kessinger put on Monymusk. You might call the whole thing Kessinger's 'version', while his innovations are the 'variations' that make his 'version' his version.

More generally, 'version' often, though of course not always, suggests something that has resulted from the 'folk process' - "this a Southern version of Soldier's Joy", for example. The grey area, I suppose, is where some player has come up with 'his own version' ......

Apr 13, 2018 - 7:33:16 PM

5651 posts since 8/7/2009

Generally - I would agree with you both - but it seems like that water gets muddy sometimes.

Sometimes - what is called the same tune - is just the same - in title only. I pointed to this in "Old Hen (She) Cackled" - John Salyer vs John Carson (Sound Off). Fiddler's Companion talks like they are the same tune.  hmmm....  I don't think of those 2 tunes as the same - maybe just me.

And sometimes a tune is the same tune - but played so differently - you (I) might hesistate calling it just a variation - and more like - truly - a different version.    i.e. Snake Chapman's version of "Johnny Don't Get Drunk" verses - everyone else - or Wilson Douglas' version of "Brushy Run" verses everyone else. There are other examples.

The difference?  Would someone recognize it - if you played it?  ...and then when you told them what it was - would they say "Oh yeah. I can hear it now."

Sometimes - (imo) what folks are referring to are really different variations - more that different versions. ...or am I making too much of this?

Edited by - tonyelder on 04/13/2018 19:42:04

Apr 13, 2018 - 8:55 PM
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898 posts since 7/26/2015

When you say variation, do you mean variant? I'm no fiddle expert, but my thought is this: Fiddlers play variations within versions of tunes. Eck Robertson's version of Sally Goodin contains many variations, while Tommy Jackson's version contains few. Howdy Forrester's is interesting. His basic melody was nearly identical to that of  Jackson, but he added even more variations than Robertson, if I remember correctly.

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 04/13/2018 21:11:59

Apr 13, 2018 - 9:24:49 PM
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Old Scratch


293 posts since 6/22/2016

By now, we have several versions of essentially the same post - with variations ... !

Apr 14, 2018 - 4:55:22 AM
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3857 posts since 6/22/2007

I don't know. I just "render" a tune. It is my version (interpretation) infused with myriads of variations (expression).

Variations (expression) can be small differences in melody, phrasing, intonation, bowing, attack, dynamics, tempo, etc.

A version is dependent on the performer. Since this music is transmitted and passed down through the folk tradition, much depends on how our brains process the tune. How do we hear it? We each may not hear OR replicate the same turn of phrase.

If we were only playing from sheet music, we would only be left with variations. Consider classical music. We hear the exact same notes the composer wrote out. The composer also wrote down some information about how a phrase is to be played - soft, loud, fast, slow, emotion, etc. The conductor's job is to interpret what is on the paper. If you compare performances of your favorite work, you will hear differences based on the composer - and the times. It is merely a variation - not a new version.

ok - my two cents......

Apr 14, 2018 - 5:04:25 AM
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2018 posts since 10/1/2008

IMO a version is somebody else's variation. As in So and So plays it this way and wow did you hear what I just did? I think I'll keep that in next time. R/

Apr 14, 2018 - 2:21:43 PM

6814 posts since 3/19/2009

Technically speaking, I'd say that a version can have variations, but variations, because they, well, VARY, don't have versions..!! (How profound is THAT!!)

Apr 15, 2018 - 5:32:31 AM
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946 posts since 3/19/2009

I think a “Version” would be your interpretation of a tune, though slightly different, you’re trying to imitate the original . . . where as a “variation” would be an intentional change of part or parts of the original tune.

Apr 15, 2018 - 7:51:05 AM
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Players Union Member



2349 posts since 2/3/2011

It's like vegans and vegetarians. Vaguely.

Apr 15, 2018 - 2:18:42 PM
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31 posts since 3/18/2012

With tunes like Soldiers Joy you might have the Irish version, Bluegrass version, Old Time version etc. When playing one of those versions you might get several variations from the most common one leading to several variants of each version.

When playing one of those versions in whatever variant you prefer you might vary it each time through, just to get some variety in the version you’re playing. There are probably many more varied explanations we could come up with in a variety of ways all with their own varying levels of veracity. Verily ‘tis a knotty variety of conundrum that could variously vex us in many varied ways.

Apr 15, 2018 - 5:34:50 PM

181 posts since 9/6/2011

A vary good explanatory explanation.

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