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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 5:54 am 
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PB+J wrote:
what did you practice against before their were metronomes?
A dancer's movements? Or rather, practice with the dancers. A quote that comes up in more than one tradition is "look for the best dancers on the floor and play for them". Maybe that is what happens in the Aidan Vaughan clip where music changes a little once the dancer gets going.


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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 6:34 am 
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How many country cottages had a long-case clock?


Very very few. You'd get the ones like the one in the picture below, even if they'd be more often found in shops or pubs, and cheap regulator clocks.

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but there has always been a relationship to technology--what did you practice against before their were metronomes?


As david_h points out, I don't think you're on the right track there. It was always the dancers that demanded the timing to be right but playing for dancers you always watch them and adjust to their requirements, putting the tune under their feet. Being steady in rhythm was always important but speed could/can always vary a bit to suit the needs of the dancers. I don't think I ever met a traditional musician who used a metronome to practice.

You know what Junior Crehan said : 'the house dances were my university' . You learned to play solid at the dances. If you didn't they'd spit you out. The ability of a musician to put a tune under the dancers was a measure of the regard they were held in by the old people.

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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 7:27 am 
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Right but a dancer is not a clock, and absent an external source of steady metrical time a dancer would be no more or less steady than a musician. This seems pretty obvious, no?

I'm told the curly-wig dance competitions require live musicians and require them to play at specific tempos. John Skelton said musicians are often asked to play to a metronome set to a very specific tempo, which I think again makes my point.


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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 7:39 am 
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PB+J wrote:
... absent an external source of steady metrical time a dancer would be no more or less steady than a musician ...
A dancer is moving and often swinging many kilograms of flesh and bone so more likely to settle to a pulse than someone twiddling their fingers. They may also be coordinating with one or more others, which will tend to damp out inconsistancies. I am thinking of the main beat, not fancy footwork that may take practice to get steady

I often run through tunes in my head when walking steadily uphill on a evenly graded lane - little reason (other than the tune in my head) not to keep a steady tempo.


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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 7:43 am 
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I'm told the curly-wig dance competitions require live musicians and require them to play at specific tempos. John Skelton said musicians are often asked to play to a metronome set to a very specific tempo, which I think again makes my point.


I am not sure it does. I don't think you'd have found competitive step dancers in country house kitchens. Social dancing, sets and half set is the game here. And the dancers don't take prisoners if the musicianers aren't steady.

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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 8:03 am 
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PB+J wrote:
a dancer is not a clock, and absent an external source of steady metrical time a dancer would be no more or less steady than a musician.



All I know is the dancing I did, and even now, 30 years later, I have the tempos engrained in my body. As I said there's physics to it, and muscle memory. To check the "right speed" all I need is to dance it a bit.

Musicians can be all over the map, un-dance-ably slow or fast, because they're not moving their whole body like a dancer is.

About "putting the tune under the dancer's feet" as Mr Gumby so well says, there are players who are very good at watching the dancers and adjusting their speed to match.

I'm not one of them! I worry about getting the speed the way the dancer wants it.

Here's a BPM horror story. I was hired to pipe for a group of dancers, their regular piper couldn't make it. No worries because the teacher is always there to advise, right? Well for this one show the teacher couldn't make it either.

So I attended their rehearsal, saw the dancers practice their show, and took metronome readings (they were practicing to recordings). As I noted the tempo of each dance I would ask the teacher "is this the right tempo? Is this how they will be doing it at the show?" and the teacher assured me that all the tempos they practiced were exactly how she wanted them done at the show.

So at the show itself I brought a set list with tempo markings, and played to a metronome. Each dance was done to the exact tempo they had rehearsed them to, the exact tempo the teacher told me to use.

The dancers were furious. I was never hired again.

Why? I can only assume that the dancers, at a show, would take dances slower or faster than they rehearsed them, at whim, and that their usual piper follows them. BTW their usual piper is extremely good at playing for dancers- it's been his fulltime job for 30 years now.

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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 8:44 am 
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I've played many, many times for swing dancers, sometimes up to 100s in a big ballroom. I'm not persuaded that "social" dancers have better time or are more likely to be steady than musicians. The bad starts the tempo. Since most of the time I was playing bass at these dances, I always watched the dancers and reacted to them. Better dancers often want to push the beat, less skilled dancers often drag.

The more serious they are, the more competitive they are, the more they are to want metrical tempos and the more likely they are to specify a tempo. That's been my experience

It's pretty a much a truism in the history of technology that there is a close relationship between the invention and spread of mechanical timekeepers and the general interest in metrical precision in every realm of life. Medieval clocks often only had hour hands, because nobody really cared about anything more than "around 2 pm." Then minute hands, the second hands, then nano second pico seconds etc. It's been clearly demonstrated that musicians, professional musicians, got more regular in their beat after the invention of records, which could be precisely timed as they were recorded. There's always a relationship between music and the technology of the day.

In the US, cheap clocks began to appear in the 1820s and by the 1850s mass produced clocks were affordable for virtually anyone. I don't know how common they were in Ireland by say 1860.


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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 6:19 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Better dancers often want to push the beat, less skilled dancers often drag.


In Highland dancing it's the opposite: stronger dancers have more lift, can stay airborne longer, and want the tempo slower so they can show that off.

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 Post subject: Re: BPM
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2020 5:49 pm 
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This thread came to mind, my wife was driving and she was playing a Danu CD and a set of reels was at 135.

I have a metronome app on my phone.

I tried, I just can't play that fast.

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