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Jul 4, 2020 - 10:04:30 PM
1268 posts since 7/26/2015

I've often heard contest style is not danceable. Let's dig a bit deeper. Where exactly does it cross the line into being non-danceable, and how could a contest-style arrangement be altered to make it more danceable?

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/04/2020 23:09:23

Jul 5, 2020 - 6:02:40 AM

1996 posts since 10/22/2007

Does dance mean contra or square? Or maybe buck-dancing or clogging?

Jul 5, 2020 - 6:19:26 AM
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DougD

USA

9674 posts since 12/2/2007
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And what do you mran by "contest style?" I don't think I'd recognize that outside of Texas, or by extension, places like Wieser.
Around here, like at Galax, the same tunes and style would be played in the contest, for the dance competition, and the afterparties (and played by the same musicians). An example: youtu.be/5hbg5teYaUk

Jul 5, 2020 - 6:22:21 AM

481 posts since 9/1/2010

I suppose I'm just stating the obvious here, but contest style features flair and variation on the melody that could deviate enough to "confuse" the dancers. To make contest style more danceable I think the key is sticking to the melody without variation. You can still use a moderately more notey arrangement of the tune while sticking close to the core.

Once I learn a tune and play it for a while I usually work on a slightly more advanced arrangement. I will add notes where there might have been a pause (i.e. playing two 8th notes instead of a quarter). It still sticks to the melody just not as basic.

Jul 5, 2020 - 1:32:55 PM

43 posts since 5/1/2010

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

And what do you mran by "contest style?" I don't think I'd recognize that outside of Texas, or by extension, places like Wieser.
Around here, like at Galax, the same tunes and style would be played in the contest, for the dance competition, and the afterparties (and played by the same musicians). An example: youtu.be/5hbg5teYaUk


Love that video! It's so good to see young people keeping this almost-forgotten art alive!

Jul 5, 2020 - 1:52:35 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

That's a good question. In my area, buck-dancing and clogging often go hand in hand with square dancing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_nNfok313U Watch their feet. That hasn't been true for the neo-traditional square dances and contras started by the hipsters, or the modern-western square dance clubs.
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Does dance mean contra or square? Or maybe buck-dancing or clogging?


Jul 5, 2020 - 2:22:46 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

That's wonderful. The late Riley "Frosty" Tramel said "We gotta go to Galax. They play that Old-Time up there." Sadly, that's not the case everywhere. I can't think of many contests, other than those started by an Old-Time clique, that aren't dominated in some way by the modern contest style, which is closely associated with Texas and Weiser. 
quote:
Originally posted by DougD

And what do you mran by "contest style?" I don't think I'd recognize that outside of Texas, or by extension, places like Wieser.
Around here, like at Galax, the same tunes and style would be played in the contest, for the dance competition, and the afterparties (and played by the same musicians). An example: youtu.be/5hbg5teYaUk


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/05/2020 14:25:07

Jul 5, 2020 - 3:06:22 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

An old square dance guitar picker who knows a little bit of music theory told me that people nowadays tend to improvise around scales rather than playing the melody "They'll think you're picking the heck out of it. You're just making a lot of noise." Maybe this is part of what causes the confusion. Although, one of my friends improvised around scales quite a bit, and people still loved to dance to his fiddling. It's a thinker.
quote:
Originally posted by rosinhead

I suppose I'm just stating the obvious here, but contest style features flair and variation on the melody that could deviate enough to "confuse" the dancers. To make contest style more danceable I think the key is sticking to the melody without variation. You can still use a moderately more notey arrangement of the tune while sticking close to the core.

Once I learn a tune and play it for a while I usually work on a slightly more advanced arrangement. I will add notes where there might have been a pause (i.e. playing two 8th notes instead of a quarter). It still sticks to the melody just not as basic.


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/05/2020 15:10:12

Jul 5, 2020 - 3:22:31 PM

169 posts since 3/1/2020

Contest style tends to mean an embellished way of playing tunes, often with more double stops, bowing techniques, and a faster tempo. The tunes aren’t necessarily impossible to dance to, but the focus is on playing them as performance works for an audience that’s listening closely. It’s a bit like bluegrass in that respect—the focus is shifted from the dancer to the player, and ornamentation becomes a way to make a performance unique.

I’ve noticed that champion fiddlers at Galax have begun using very short passages of spiccato within the last few years. It’s interesting to watch as the technique changes over time.

Texas competition fiddle style is its own style. Players like Benny Thomasson and Mark O’Connor are good examples.

Jul 5, 2020 - 4:51:22 PM
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1268 posts since 7/26/2015

Faster tempo? In my experience, people who play contest style tend to play at slower tempos, as opposed to faster. 
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Contest style tends to mean an embellished way of playing tunes, often with more double stops, bowing techniques, and a faster tempo. The tunes aren’t necessarily impossible to dance to, but the focus is on playing them as performance works for an audience that’s listening closely. It’s a bit like bluegrass in that respect—the focus is shifted from the dancer to the player, and ornamentation becomes a way to make a performance unique.

I’ve noticed that champion fiddlers at Galax have begun using very short passages of spiccato within the last few years. It’s interesting to watch as the technique changes over time.

Texas competition fiddle style is its own style. Players like Benny Thomasson and Mark O’Connor are good examples.


Jul 5, 2020 - 6:14:48 PM

4724 posts since 9/26/2008

When playing for a dance, fiddlers have a drive that is absent in the modern contest style. It doesn't mean they can't play for dances, but not using their contest style.

I know an accomplished old time fiddler who cut her teeth on contest fiddling and heard her play in Clifftop's fiddle contest. She played in that contest style and it was so obviously not how she plays otherwise. I assumed it was due to both the tune choice and some sort of default that came with the choice.

The inclusion of SO much three over four stuff, a la ragtime playing, is part of the modern style that can get in the way of the dance.

Jul 5, 2020 - 7:06:12 PM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

Wouldn't necessarily say it's not danceable. Might still have reasonable rhythm and tempo to dance to.

But perhaps the main issue is the particular playing is not focused on dance... or that primarily is the rhythmic flow and groove. Some folks (classical as well as contest) might be more focused on technique "wow" impressiveness; and/or perhaps designed to appeal more theory, or "artistic" considerations.  As such, might not quite grasp what dancers want... or pick the right "feel", groove, flow, syncopation, the right push/pull for the dancers. (i.e., lift, swing, bounce, forward drive). And their playing can sometimes get very tedious, dance boring, after a few times thru. Their solutions might just more theoretical variations, but really doesn't have much positive effect on the dancers. So overall, not great dance music.

I suppose I'm just stating the obvious here, but contest style features flair and variation on the melody that could deviate enough to "confuse" the dancers.

That's not typically of most dancers; or how dance music works. Variations are not a problem, nor generally confusing, Quite common for good dance musicians to employ variation. As long as still fits within the overall structure,  phrasing, rhythmic groove parameters (what the dancers are more focused on).

-------

IMO to understand concept of  "danceablity" is difficult to express and grasp from written instructions, definitions or rules... much easier just to grasp it from actually dancing.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/05/2020 19:08:03

Jul 5, 2020 - 7:25:56 PM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan


The inclusion of SO much three over four stuff, a la ragtime playing, is part of the modern style that can get in the way of the dance.


I get your point, but just to say that syncopations, polyrhythms, hemolias and such can still work fine for dancing. They are against a strong sense of continuous beat. If applied well, as understood from the overall dance feel, and movement; can help emphasize a certain push and pull. Of course if just thrown in haphazardly, overused... without sense of dance might be issue.

Kind of brings up another point... what is danceable? There are different styles of dance, not just southern square dancing. Rags, rag feel, can work great; for some dancing, even some squares/contras.

Jul 6, 2020 - 3:49:36 AM
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1268 posts since 7/26/2015

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan


The inclusion of SO much three over four stuff, a la ragtime playing, is part of the modern style that can get in the way of the dance.


I get your point, but just to say that syncopations, polyrhythms, hemolias and such can still work fine for dancing. They are against a strong sense of continuous beat. If applied well, as understood from the overall dance feel, and movement; can help emphasize a certain push and pull. Of course if just thrown in haphazardly, overused... without sense of dance might be issue.

Kind of brings up another point... what is danceable? There are different styles of dance, not just southern square dancing. Rags, rag feel, can work great; for some dancing, even some squares/contras.


For the sake of argument, let's say we're talking about the Texas/Weiser contest style fiddle vis-a-vis southern square dancing.

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/06/2020 03:55:21

Jul 6, 2020 - 4:21:03 AM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan


The inclusion of SO much three over four stuff, a la ragtime playing, is part of the modern style that can get in the way of the dance.


Interesting. I never thought about that. Can you give us some examples of this "three over four stuff"?

Jul 6, 2020 - 4:41:43 AM
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1996 posts since 10/22/2007

Three into four is a three finger banjer roll. Three into four is a ham-ber-ger bow stroke. It sometimes called three against four, because the bass/guitar is playing boom-chuck.

Jul 6, 2020 - 4:50:47 AM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

Is this the same concept? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1pejTgLuhA
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Three into four is a three finger banjer roll. Three into four is a ham-ber-ger bow stroke. It sometimes called three against four, because the bass/guitar is playing boom-chuck.


Jul 6, 2020 - 6:26:01 AM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Is this the same concept? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1pejTgLuhA
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Three into four is a three finger banjer roll. Three into four is a ham-ber-ger bow stroke. It sometimes called three against four, because the bass/guitar is playing boom-chuck.


 


That's one way, but typically different from banjo rolls, or fiddle tunes. That is simply overlaying 2 groupings of 12 notes.  The banjo roll is type is over straight 2/4 or 4/4, or over 16 notes. (with an extra at the end). A few fiddle bowing has similar accent.  Similar to the hambone/Juba (up/down/over) rhythm pattern.

This is a way you could represent it; is using note/melodic phrasing groups or 3's but accents of regular 4.

for example a phrase  of ageageageageagea.
another is the cross shuffle FFcFFdFFcFFdFFc(F), EEcEEdEEcEEdEEc(E)...

banjos might use more the pattern of 3 from different fingers Thumb, Index, middle - repeated TIM, TMI, ITM, or MIT...  over different strings/arpeggios. Basic pattern as Gbdg,bdgb,dgbd, gbdg...

----------

Another way is where the melodic phrase is as normal in 4; but accented by 3.
1e&  a2e   &a3  e&a  4e&a  -Some call this as 5 over 4... as there a 5 accents over the normal space of 4 beats.

Bowing might incorporate similar string of 3 note slurs... to create similar effect?

Should point out that many of these syncopations can be just for a phrase, part of a phrase, not whole tune.

These syncopations can work fine for dancing... as long as there is still a string sense of the regular 2/4 beat...

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/06/2020 06:37:45

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:05 AM

4724 posts since 9/26/2008

For the most part, the hemiola stuff I'm talking about is what sounds like it doesn't belong in the otherwise recognizable tune. Like it was put in there to fancy it up smiley but I guess that's not the reason it's not danceable fiddling, it's the reason the tunes sound the same.

First tune = "Cattle in the Cane" is plenty example, but if you can stand listening, you will hear one after another play practically the same thing for their breakdown. I just finished listening to "Done Gone" and it was the same as the one before it so much so that I almost didn't recognize it. 

If you think it is danceable try imagining it without the team of guitar players holding down the beat.

Weiser contestants

Edited by - ChickenMan on 07/06/2020 07:34:53

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:30:03 AM
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1268 posts since 7/26/2015

I notice that Texas-contest-style players tend lot of triplets, and sometimes quadruplets. I imagine that putting  various types of tuplets in unexpected places could cause somebody to think the time signature had changed. 1:19 to 1:25 tripped me up when I was trying to transcribe it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnQ1YsQHfLM
quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Is this the same concept? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1pejTgLuhA
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Three into four is a three finger banjer roll. Three into four is a ham-ber-ger bow stroke. It sometimes called three against four, because the bass/guitar is playing boom-chuck.


 


That's one way, but typically different from banjo rolls, or fiddle tunes. That is simply overlaying 2 groupings of 12 notes.  The banjo roll is type is over straight 2/4 or 4/4, or over 16 notes. (with an extra at the end). A few fiddle bowing has similar accent.  Similar to the hambone/Juba (up/down/over) rhythm pattern.

This is a way you could represent it; is using note/melodic phrasing groups or 3's but accents of regular 4.

for example a phrase  of ageageageageagea.
another is the cross shuffle FFcFFdFFcFFdFFc(F), EEcEEdEEcEEdEEc(E)...

banjos might use more the pattern of 3 from different fingers Thumb, Index, middle - repeated TIM, TMI, ITM, or MIT...  over different strings/arpeggios. Basic pattern as Gbdg,bdgb,dgbd, gbdg...

----------

Another way is where the melodic phrase is as normal in 4; but accented by 3.
1e&  a2e   &a3  e&a  4e&a  -Some call this as 5 over 4... as there a 5 accents over the normal space of 4 beats.

Bowing might incorporate similar string of 3 note slurs... to create similar effect?

Should point out that many of these syncopations can be just for a phrase, part of a phrase, not whole tune.

These syncopations can work fine for dancing... as long as there is still a string sense of the regular 2/4 beat...


Jul 6, 2020 - 8:54:03 AM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

For the most part, the hemiola stuff I'm talking about is what sounds like it doesn't belong in the otherwise recognizable tune. Like it was put in there to fancy it up smiley but I guess that's not the reason it's not danceable fiddling, it's the reason the tunes sound the same.

First tune = "Cattle in the Cane" is plenty example, but if you can stand listening, you will hear one after another play practically the same thing for their breakdown. I just finished listening to "Done Gone" and it was the same as the one before it so much so that I almost didn't recognize it. 

If you think it is danceable try imagining it without the team of guitar players holding down the beat.

Weiser contestants


None of those stylistically rate "non-danceable" label... to me, or the dancers I've been around for 40 years or so.

Would say most of the fiddlers, in the minute or so they played the tunes (they sound like different tunes to me), overall did a perfectly fine danceable rhythmic job, some had some good groove to it, granted some was a bit swingy; and note that overall better than some (non-contest style?) fiddlers I've heard playing for dances. 

Granted myself those I've danced with, are probably not experts, we just listen, feel and dance; not in a complex way. Maybe we've been doing it wrong?

That it's non-danceable to you, or dancers in your locale, is kind of interesting, I guess have different metrics.

Jul 6, 2020 - 9:39:56 AM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
I notice that Texas-contest-style players tend lot of triplets, and sometimes quadruplets. I imagine that putting  various types of tuplets in unexpected places could cause somebody to think the time signature had changed. 1:19 to 1:25 tripped me up when I was trying to transcribe it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnQ1YsQHfLM
 

It sounded like kept steady beat/meter to me. The tuplets seem to fit the beat/meter?

As dancer... most of us aren't analyzing details... but just listening to the overall beat, continuity, phrasing. Tunes that fit 2/4/8/16/32 are pretty intuitive, as it's kind of the expected default. Once established, a bit internalized, locked into; playing can occasionally deviate against it for push/pull effect... or even a bit of tension/resolve... or syncopation...  but doesn't lose the 4/8/16. 

That is one thing I notice about some musicians, especially that are dancers; the feel of 2/4/8/16/32 seems to get fairly hard wired in them. Of course some of that can be an issue for crooked tunes.

Jul 6, 2020 - 1:15:50 PM

4724 posts since 9/26/2008

Benny is an even better example of the excessive use of 3 over 4, but he is one of the great innovators of that style. Does not compel me to dance. It is for listening IMO.

Modern contest fiddling sounds alike due to the type of noting it up that occurs, such as 3 over 4s that obscure the melody's phrasing. I like several players, including Benny and Ed Haley, who did that to a tune, doesn't mean they drive me to want to do the type of barn dancing that's done around here.

Different tastes.

Jul 6, 2020 - 4:14:19 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

Are you sure it's 3 over 4?
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Benny is an even better example of the excessive use of 3 over 4, but he is one of the great innovators of that style. Does not compel me to dance. It is for listening IMO.

Modern contest fiddling sounds alike due to the type of noting it up that occurs, such as 3 over 4s that obscure the melody's phrasing. I like several players, including Benny and Ed Haley, who did that to a tune, doesn't mean they drive me to want to do the type of barn dancing that's done around here.

Different tastes.


Jul 6, 2020 - 4:35:03 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

Can you put the "3 over 4" you are talking about into standard notation?
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Benny is an even better example of the excessive use of 3 over 4, but he is one of the great innovators of that style. Does not compel me to dance. It is for listening IMO.

Modern contest fiddling sounds alike due to the type of noting it up that occurs, such as 3 over 4s that obscure the melody's phrasing. I like several players, including Benny and Ed Haley, who did that to a tune, doesn't mean they drive me to want to do the type of barn dancing that's done around here.

Different tastes.


Jul 6, 2020 - 8:15:51 PM
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1996 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy

I've often heard contest style is not danceable. Let's dig a bit deeper. Where exactly does it cross the line into being non-danceable, and how could a contest-style arrangement be altered to make it more danceable?


So it crosses the line into being non-dancable is according to the dancer(s). Or, ability of the dancer(s).     (?)

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