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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:02 am 
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Can anyone shed a little light on the specifics of the technique known as 'Kurma' as detailed in the following pics:

Image

Image

When I listen to the audio on the accompanying CD it's hard to make out exactly what is being done without seeing it visually.

Is it perhaps something like what this guy does with his bottom hand index finger at 1:25

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-OenKbjpKE

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 7:43 pm 
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Getting in the way of figuring out what it is, is the inconsistent terminology sometimes encountered regarding chanter pitches, and the inconsistent terminology various people use in naming fingers.

So Kaba chanters are named by their tonic, but Djura chanters are usually named by their bellnote.

And to some people the "D finger" would be the finger raised to sound D, while to others it would be the finger put down to sound D.

In any case, the C# notes circled in the music above are in the normal gamut of a "G" chanter (tonic D).

The "leading tone" is C natural, but opening the Mormorka raises the pitch of C to C# in the normal way of Bulgarian chanters.

The verbal explanation is hard to follow, but perhaps it's referring to getting the sharp leading tone by bending C natural up to C sharp (in other words, half-holing) rather than by using the Mormorka. If that's what it is, the same thing happens on the uilleann pipes, where many pipers will prefer to half-hole F natural though their chanter has a key for it.

I haven't knowingly heard that, but what I've heard many good gaidari do is play a note above the highest note (the thumb note) by increasing the pressure.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 8:05 pm 
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pancelticpiper wrote:

The verbal explanation is hard to follow, but perhaps it's referring to getting the sharp leading tone by bending C natural up to C sharp (in other words, half-holing) rather than by using the Mormorka. If that's what it is, the same thing happens on the uilleann pipes, where many pipers will prefer to half-hole F natural though their chanter has a key for it.


Ahh yes...I was forgetting that the C of a G scale is C nat. My chanter is indeed a 'G' chanter (Bell note G) so the notes on this page and the fingering on my chanter correspond to the usual G major scale.

So it seems to be basically as you say, half-holing the C note to raise it to C#.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 5:01 am 
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I don't know if you have it, but there's a wonderful book called

May It Fill Your Soul
Experiencing Bulgarian Music

by Timothy Rice

In the section New Approaches to Pitch and Timbre he says:

The Thracian or Strandzha gaida was a relatively high-pitched instrument of indeterminate or relative pitch... the new orchestras used Western pitch and all instruments had to be built to approximate the tempered scale. The directors decided that the tonal center would be A... Since the Thracian gaida was pitched higher, two gaidunitsi were created, one raised to D as the drone pitch and tonal center (raised from the traditional pitch around C) with a convenient A the second note to the bottom... the problem was that it played most conveniently in D whereas the best key for the Kaval and Gadulka was A. To play together in A the gaidar had to play in the instrument's lower register (Tim means the lower hand) which required a difficult half-holing technique called Kurma to play some of the modes, and whose intonation and timbre weren't as clear as in the upper register (Tim means the upper hand). To solve this problem a second gaidunitsa was created with a much lower tonic of A... thus the new 'orchestral gaida' had a lower, more muffled sound.

The implication is that Kurma is used for notes not available through the use of the Mormorka (on a traditional-style gaida only the three-finger, two-finger, and one-finger notes, that is, the upperhand notes, were reliably raised a semitone with the Mormorka).

Googling, I came across this Tim Rice article which says that the word 'kurma' covers "various crossfingerings and half-holings" which "the older generation used on only a few notes"

https://books.google.com/books?id=_syhA ... ia&f=false

The crossfingering part is puzzling, because as you've probably noticed the gaidunitsa is resistant to these... leaving various fingers up or down below the hole the note is emitting from has little effect on pitch, which is why gaidari will freely use so many different fingerings as they go along. (The Mormorka does what it does, of course.)

In his book Rice speaks of the newer generation of gaidari who view the gaidunitsa as a "skin saxophone" and relish playing highly chromatic music along with accordions and clarinets. I know that many newer gaidunitsi are designed to be fully chromatic, designed so that the Mormorka will raise both the upperhand notes and lowerhand notes a semitone.

As Rice says in the chapter Gaidari The Next Generation, speaking of Ivo Papazov's huge impact on Bulgarian folk music

While studying traditional technique, the more advanced players imitated Papazov's chromatic runs and arppegios, transposed sections of tunes that outran the gaidanitsa's range, and played in keys and modes previously foreign to the gaida.

Personally though I love Papazov's music I prefer it when the gaida stays close to its roots rather than imitate a clarinet.

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Last edited by pancelticpiper on Sun Dec 21, 2014 5:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 5:26 am 
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I do have the Tim Rice book (and his second one 'Music in Bulgaria' - also with a CD) and realise now I had seen the Kurma mentioned in it - at the page you linked to. The chanter I am using is the old one I purchased from an 'antique' store on Ebay and as I become more proficient am begining to realise the full potential of this chanter. It is old and shows lots of obvious signs of a bit of a hard life but I have been lately managing to run up and down a fully-chromatic scale with use of the mormoka - with correct pressure all notes from bottom to top can be chromaticised.

I like the tradtional dance tunes too, and I remember Rice mentioning that Kostadin Varimezov owed a lot of his repertoir to songs as well. The book in these photos are song tunes.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:32 am 
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ausdag wrote:
Is it perhaps something like what this guy does with his bottom hand index finger at 1:25

It is exactly that. The guy, by the way, is the late Encho Pashov, who developed the idea of the "skin saxophone".
For the Kurma-technique, the bottom hand index finger is being bent inwards, thus half-opening the D-hole to the side facing the palm of your hand, to achieve C#.
In many cases, a staccato effect is desired by closing all other fingers, thus playing a very short low G before and after C#.
This technique requires a lot of practice to get C# clear and in tune.
More or less the same technique can be used to play high G#, by making more or less the same movement with the thumb of the top hand.
From which book are the description and the tune that you pictured?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:21 am 
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The book is one I picked up on EBay from the U.S. called 'Passing with the time: Popular Bulgarian Folk Songs for Gaida'. Traditional song tunes arranged by Milen Slavov and played by Petyo Kostainov (on the accompanying CD). I also got one for Kaval as well. 14 Tunes plus the CD includes two more tracks of two of the tunes played accompanying a singer.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 4:24 am 
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The book is proving to be a valuable resource but should be treated as one would treat the Pat Mitchell 'Willie Clancy' book: a visual reference to the playing. The CD is, for me, the main resource. I play the tunes over and over while driving or at my office desk until the tunes start to grow on me. The book serves as a reference to visualise many of the things the piper is doing. It's a futile effort to sit at the book and try to nut out a tune from the dots without having the recorded tune fairly well established in one's mind.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:29 pm 
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I have the book for kaval, and I found it totally unsuitable for beginners...
You should start off with easier tunes than that one.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 2:23 pm 
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I haven't been attempting this tune. There are easier ones I'm working on. This was one that had several examples of the kurma. The repertoire of tunes I'm working on are mostly from recordings that I have been listening to, internalising and transcribing from various CDs and YouTube videos.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2014 6:08 am 
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What I don't understand is why Kurma would be used to get that note, when it's a standard Mormorka note.

Tim Rice implies (more than once) that Kurma is employed further down the chanter, for chromatic notes unobtainable through the Mormorka.

Specificially, he speaks of using Kurma so that tunes in A could be played on a Sol (drone note D) gaidunitsa.

Tunes in A of course would use various modes, forcing the gaidar to use Kurma to get notes not available on a traditional chanter (these notes marked *)

G#* A B C#* D E (A Major)

G A B C D E (A minor)

G A Bb* C#* D E (A Hijaz)

As you can see playing in the common "hijaz" mode in A on a Sol chanter would be a workout if you had to use halfholing for all those Bb's and C#'s.

I know Hector Bezanis has long been making his chanters so that all those low notes can be got with the Mormorka. Giorgi Doichev (my one-time teacher, and friend of Hector's) was playing some of Hector's chromatic chanters and told Hector (in Bulgarian) "Hector, you're going to have to stop doing this!" (He evidently prefers how traditional chanters play, though he had Hector make him a full set of chanters in every key.)

It's interesting that your vintage chanter does that. I don't think they were intended for that, but heck, Highland chanters are partially chromatic, and they were never intended for that, either.

Kostadin Varimezov's famous recording of Nestinarsko Horo features him playing the entire tune (which is minor) on the standard tonic of the chanter, the 3-finger note, but then transposing the tune down to the 6-finger note and playing the tune down there, using brilliant on-the-knee staccato technique (not just for uilleann pipes, that!)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 11:35 pm 
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Although it is very difficult in the beginning, kurma allows for a quicker and probably more reliable C# once you've got the hang of it, also the technique I mentioned before of "framing" the C# with two low Gs is quite important, particularly for tunes or passages in Hijaz mode, when Bb is played with the marmorka but C# almost invariably with kurma.
After three weeks lessons (and when my holidays were nearly over), my first teacher showed me how to play kurma, watching very carefully that I get the actual movement right (although I didn't get the tone right at that time) and told me to practice this over the year, pointing out it is a very important technique, and he wrote down a line which I were to practice every days many times through, speeding it up gradually: A - Bb - C# - D - E - D - C# - Bb - A, all these notes played with a short low G inbetween, and all except Bb with only one finger open. While it is in no way "forbidden" to play C# with the marmorka, you're better respected if you play it with the kurma technique :wink:
On all G chanters I've seen so far, vintage or modern, all semitones would work by marmorka, only a few having a problem with low G#, while on most D chanters this tone (D# in this case) does most usually not work.
What Tim Rice calls "traditional" is in this case pre-WWII or even pre-1930ies - and I don't believe many instruments from this era still survive.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:18 am 
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Thanks for the explanations!

I used to have chanters in four keys. I switched between all four of them in the dance band I was playing in, back in the 1990s, due to the various keys the singers liked etc.

Do (keynote G)
Re (keynote A)
Fa (keynote C)
Sol (keynote D)

The Do and Fa were vintage chanters I got from Giorgi, ones he'd used professionally for many years, until Hector made him a full suite of matching chanters.

Giorgi said the Do chanter was quite old, from the 1940s.

The Re and Sol chanters were by Varimezov, from the 1980s.

All were, as I understood, the traditional type, and the Mormorka didn't do much down on the lower hand.

Hector had moved on to the "skin saxophone" fully chromatic neo-chanters that seem to be all the rage nowadays. Giorgi seemed to feel that some of the traditional tone and playability was sacrificed in order to make the full scale chromatic with the Mormorka.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:11 pm 
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Lots of interesting information. Thanks guys. I have just placed an order for a new G chanter with Veselin Hasabaliev - http://www.kavalibg.com/en_index.html . Will be interesting to see how it compares with my 'old' chanter.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:41 pm 
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Hi Ausdag,

Sorry I'm weighing in a bit late, I haven't been following C&F much recently. Looks like you're trying to learn djura gajda on your own without a teacher, which is possible but not easy, since a lot of stuff isn't written down. For example, most gajda music, be it Thracian (djura), Rhodope (kaba), Macedonian, or Greek is written as if you were playing a D chanter, which is the standard ensemble tuning (the Milan piece is very unusual). For any other tuning, you just play the same fingering on the different chanter. This despite the bell note on a kaba is Eb, on a Macedonian is Bb and Greek depends on where you are but often E-E1/2#.

First off, Milen isn't a gajda player, he plays accordion (exceptionally well). Petyo Kostadinov is a monster player but I doubt he proofed the book. The Kurma explanation is flat wrong. C# on the G is easily achieved. Just play C and lift your top finger - if you don't get C# your flea hole is messed up. G# is equally easy on the D. Get yourself a tuner and see what is really going on. There are notes you have to half hole (F and high D# on the D chanter and Bb and high G# on a G chanter) but they are almost never used (the only place I currently use them is a couple Gadulka tunes and they go by so fast nobody notices if they are only roughly correct).

You need to find yourself a teacher. Look up Lindsey Pollak in Bald Knob. Though he plays Macedonian, he's an expert player and can help you a lot. Or join the Eastern European Folklore Center list and ask. There should be somebody local that can help you out. Gajda is more of an apprenticeship than an academic subject. Individual chanters are wildly unpredictable. They have to be tweaked to play for the individual user. My chanter might not even play for you. Remember, gajdas are folk instruments. Their standardization is probably half a century behind Highland, Uilleann, and Small pipes.

Good luck,

Jim

PS I tried to post a fingering chart, but can't figure this system out. Contact me off line (*bogus*mcgill at *argle*halcyon dot *bargle*com remove between the *'s, inclusive) and I'll email it.


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