Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

114
Fiddle Lovers Online


Jun 26, 2020 - 8:00:41 AM
1879 posts since 8/27/2008

I'm stealing a comment made by "fiddler" in another topic to ask about phrasing: "For contras, phrasing is imperative. It drives the dance. To be a dance fiddler, I feel that you must be able to show good phrasing".

I don't disagree with that, but I can't tell you exactly what "good phrasing" is either. Presuming one keeps the beat then, to me, it seems phrasing refers to something like breathing. But violins don't breath. What defines "phrasing" to you?

Jun 26, 2020 - 10:44:58 AM
like this

367 posts since 3/1/2020

I think if it more as communicating, like syntax in speech. If you read text in a monotone and with an unchanging pace, the text will sound like gibberish, despite how well it’s written. Phrasing is the way that the reader interprets what’s on the page and makes it comprehensible and engaging.

The same is true in music. There are natural points in a passage where the music needs to be interpreted to give it life. You can get a feel for places where there should be short pauses (like breaths) and where ideas begin and end.

Fiddle tunes can sound dull and lifeless when they’re played without any interpretation. The phrasing tends to be passed on through listening to other players. Much of the notated music is simply there as a reminder of the notes and chords, but it isn’t written in a way that makes phrasing clear (perhaps it can’t be). That’s why listening to other players and field recordings are crucial to learning to play a tune if you want it to sound like it did in a certain period or in a certain player’s style.

I think that whether it’s recognized or not, phrasing is what separates skilled and mediocre players.

Jun 26, 2020 - 11:17:54 AM
like this

Fiddler

USA

4138 posts since 6/22/2007

I'll see if I can explain ... (I'll likely do a terrible job at it!)

Obviously, most of the tunes used for contra dances are AABB (8 - 8 - 8 - 8 or 32 bars). The general tendency is to put a brief pause between the A and B parts. It can be anywhere from a rest (no sound) to passing or leading notes. This is probably the easiest phrasing to "feel".

The other places are more subtle and it helps to know the dance figures and how much music is need for each figure. For me, it is a feel. I have also spent quite a bit of time dancing and listening to the music, so it come somewhat naturally.

Here goes for the tough part ... the A and B parts can be divided into 2 bar, 4 bar or 8 bar phrases. The first figure of the dance might need 2 bars of music and the second might also need 2 bars. Phrasing the music signals to the dancers that HERE is where the next figure starts. It is very subtle and may be a pause or an emphasis on a note or some other technique. But, if the music is properly chosen for the dance and it is executed properly the dancers have no choice but to move into the next figure.

So what happens if the phrasing is off? Does it mess up the dance? That depends. It most cases, it is not a problem for experienced dancers. They will know the progression and they will be fairly forgiving. With novices it is a bit different. What happens is that they will end a figure late (or early). Their partner or the next couple ends up waiting and the dance doesn't have that satisfying flow. This is most prevalent in lengthy swings. Nearly always inexperienced dancers will end this figure late. So, here is where the music provides some really good direction for the dancers.

Many times when I am playing for a dance, I will heavily accentuate the phrasing at first several times through the dance to help the caller and inexperienced dancers know where the figure starts and ends. Sometimes I will do accents or other embellishments that go with the dance. For example, there is one dance uses the Petronella turn followed by a clap. I will accentuate the clap. On a "gypsy" I may play the phrase with a bit more expressiveness. (The "gypsy" is a very sensuous walk-around connecting with your partner only with your eyes.)

The New England Chestnuts (Rodney Miller et.al), Canterbury Dance Orchestra (Dudley Laufman), Ruffwater String Band (Glen Morningstar), Bare Necessities are excellent sources.

One of the problems (in my opinion) with using some OT tunes for contra dances is that many are not distinctive enough between the A and B parts. From the dancers point of view, they don't know where they are in the dance.

Additionally, for me as a musician, I will sometimes get lost. Am I playing the A part or B part? How many times did I play that part? So, as the caller is teaching the dance, I learn the first figure of the A and B parts. If I mess up, I can make a correction without screwing up the dance. I also learn who the head couple is because I can watch where they are in the dance. This is a gauge to tell me when to change tunes (if even do!) and how much longer the dance will be. Some callers continue the dance until the head couple is back where they started.

For me, all of this makes the music/dance connection stronger and something that makes live music unique. I know that there are some dance groups that use recorded music because they have to. It is just not the same!

I hope that this helps a bit and that I haven't confused the issue!

Jun 26, 2020 - 2:05:50 PM
likes this

1879 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler

I'll see if I can explain ...


I appreciate your explanation in regards to dance music because I think that's where it's hardest to define it. Slow lyrical tunes can be treated like songs using phrasing devices like delaying or anticipating notes and other singing techniques to give interest. I appreciate Rich's explanation along those lines which I agree with. Fast fiddle tunes don't have much time for those phrasing elements to happen, so your discussing it as it relates to dancing is good food for thought. As you both suggest, you'll recognize good phrasing when you hear it.

Jun 26, 2020 - 2:10:04 PM

9037 posts since 3/19/2009

For me, it is just like recording a conversation.. she said- he said, ... Call and response.
When I play these days, if I can't hear myself having a conversation with... well, Myself, then there is something wrong..

Jun 26, 2020 - 5:17:05 PM
likes this

5096 posts since 9/26/2008

Also worth noting, not all tunes work for dances.
I play almost exclusively old time reels and Irish jigs. There is the occasional "contra dance" tune like "Dancing Bears" but otherwise the OT tunes I choose fit the described criteria and are distinct in their A and B parts. Another thing one can do is alter the tunes a tiny bit, phrase them if you will, to fit the dance where there may be two stomps and you make the notes land on the foot falls.

Jun 26, 2020 - 6:53:28 PM
likes this

644 posts since 8/10/2017

I think good phrasing means you know where to slur the notes, where to hit the down bows and that you can keep and express the rhythm. It's not enough to just plug in some shuffle or whatever. You have to make people want to dance. Don't ask me how to do that though.

Jun 26, 2020 - 6:58:27 PM
like this

DougD

USA

10033 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

That's what you need to learn though, in addition to some technical improvements.

Jun 26, 2020 - 7:29:59 PM
likes this

1879 posts since 8/27/2008

Whether or not it's a part of phrasing, I agree about having distinct A and B parts for dances. As I've said, I don't play too many dances, but some. I usually choose old time tunes, and often obscure ones that most won't know. But the tunes have distinction between the parts. I've got good timing. So far dancers and callers seem to like what I do, and it gets better with time.

Jun 26, 2020 - 7:41:57 PM
like this

2262 posts since 8/23/2008

Phrasing would include dynamics; a short repeated motif would be played at varied volume. The length of a motif can vary from tune to tune, and a long motif may gradually increase in volume. The length of the motif will also indicate where the accents lie, and the melodic contour can determine the best bowing pattern to emphasize the rhythm. Phasing is also marked by particular cadences usually at the middle and end of a tune, and the end of a tune section would contain a melodic variation to clearly indicate this.

Jun 27, 2020 - 2:23:28 AM
likes this

1489 posts since 4/6/2014

i think of a Phrase as a sentence, the note grouping or subdivisions as words in the sentence, Articultation as the plosives and consonants that form the words and cadences as the punctuations. i suppose this analogy could be taken further to include capital letters exclamation marks as emphasis etc. i also think that as in singing phrasing can be lyrical or rhythmic etc as well. Just like a language or regional accent i suppose?

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 06/27/2020 02:26:15

Jun 27, 2020 - 1:24:30 PM
likes this

1774 posts since 12/11/2008

quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle

i think of a Phrase as a sentence, the note grouping or subdivisions as words in the sentence, Articultation as the plosives and consonants that form the words and cadences as the punctuations. i suppose this analogy could be taken further to include capital letters exclamation marks as emphasis etc. i also think that as in singing phrasing can be lyrical or rhythmic etc as well. Just like a language or regional accent i suppose?


Pete -- still better, think of a phrase as a phrase!  I'm tryin' to think...  Gotta go...  Lookie lookie!  The object so sublime, I shall achieve in time...

Jun 27, 2020 - 1:48:38 PM

1489 posts since 4/6/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler
quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle

i think of a Phrase as a sentence, the note grouping or subdivisions as words in the sentence, Articultation as the plosives and consonants that form the words and cadences as the punctuations. i suppose this analogy could be taken further to include capital letters exclamation marks as emphasis etc. i also think that as in singing phrasing can be lyrical or rhythmic etc as well. Just like a language or regional accent i suppose?


Pete -- still better, think of a phrase as a phrase!  I'm tryin' to think...  Gotta go...  Lookie lookie!  The object so sublime, I shall achieve in time...


I see what you mean Ed,  literally speaking,  i'm wrong again, Never mind, It'll all come out in the wash.

Jun 27, 2020 - 3:43:26 PM
like this

DougD

USA

10033 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Ed, I love that song from Mikado. I often think of it in relation to the FHO, but a later part:
"And make each prisoner pent, unwillingly represent,
A source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment".

Edited by - DougD on 06/27/2020 15:45:22

Jun 28, 2020 - 1:22:18 AM

1489 posts since 4/6/2014

Seems i'm not the only person to confuse musical phrasing with a literary "sentence" rather than a phrase. Maybe that's why i sometimes see phrase marks within phrase marks on music notation? The top one being  like the sentence, and the lower phrase marks are the phrases within the sentence?.... Or the upper phrase mark may indicate a legato passage, and the lower marks indicate the phrases within that passage? ... Another rabbit hole to get lost down.
 

https://franspianostudio.me/2012/06/23/curved-lines-phrases-and-how-to-shape-music/

Jun 28, 2020 - 7:35:44 AM

1879 posts since 8/27/2008

I've always found phrase slurs in sheet music just cluttered up the page.

Jun 28, 2020 - 4:35:38 PM

1306 posts since 7/26/2015

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 06/28/2020 16:41:27

Jun 28, 2020 - 5:18:50 PM

2262 posts since 8/23/2008

The analogy between the musical phrase and a 'sentence' is effective, but it is just a basic comparison. It doesn't explain in musical terms the devices needed to construct a 'good musical phrase', such as, how are the notes manipulated to function effectively in the construction of the musical phrase. We construct sentences using correct grammar, but the grammar of words is very different to the grammar of 'notes'....

Jun 28, 2020 - 6:20:51 PM

1306 posts since 7/26/2015

John Engle goes fairly deep into the idea of musical grammar, talking about roots and affixes. https://vimeo.com/115812743
quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry

The analogy between the musical phrase and a 'sentence' is effective, but it is just a basic comparison. It doesn't explain in musical terms the devices needed to construct a 'good musical phrase', such as, how are the notes manipulated to function effectively in the construction of the musical phrase. We construct sentences using correct grammar, but the grammar of words is very different to the grammar of 'notes'....


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 06/28/2020 18:21:10

Jun 28, 2020 - 6:53:50 PM

2262 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
John Engle goes fairly deep into the idea of musical grammar, talking about roots and affixes. https://vimeo.com/115812743

 


Interesting videos, but can you put it into your own words what you are trying to say. 

Jun 28, 2020 - 7:21:35 PM
likes this

367 posts since 3/1/2020

I wouldn’t say a sentence is a direct analogy, as phrases are not necessarily complete ideas. A phrase could be compared to a part of a sentence separated by commas, semicolons, or colons, as a few examples. In music, you can certainly have phrases within phrases (this is why Bach is so masterful). I think that certain structures are dictated by writing style, but it is up to the interpreter to find a personal meaning to what’s there on the page.

I think the analogy to speech and syntax is very important, especially given that the violin is the closest instrument to the human voice.

Jun 28, 2020 - 7:44:46 PM

1306 posts since 7/26/2015

I wasn't trying to say anything here, just share another person's idea to add to the discussion. This exchange between Kirk Hunter and me will give you a better idea of my thoughts on phrasing
I didn't necessarily mean there was a pause. Maybe I accidentally inserted a space. The apostrophe just meant "variation". Maybe I should have written it as A1A2B1B2. Risey Scruggs' "Eighth of January" comes to mind. He used to play for square dances. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esjA3MmJ__s  
quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
What is "good" phrasing? Does it have more to do with execution or with arrangement? Making sure that similar parts sound distinct from each other? I've noticed that Howdy Forrester and Paul Warren tend to turn AABB into AA'BB', sort of signaling the change from one section to another in the last few bars. quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler


To be a dance fiddler, I feel that you must be able to show good phrasing. 
 


 


Yes, that brief pause is part. And, there are other techniques to make the phrases distinctive - pause, accentuation, sonic level, expressiveness, etc.

I responded in a bit more detail in another thread that was just started by Brian Wood entitled "Good Phrasing".

 

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
John Engle goes fairly deep into the idea of musical grammar, talking about roots and affixes. https://vimeo.com/115812743

 


Interesting videos, but can you put it into your own words what you are trying to say. 


Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.15625