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PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 11:53 am 
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PJ’s question of “attacking the note” and the other thread on “imperfect” playing encouraged me to ask this question:

How do you more advanced players develop a more free style of playing, i.e., stepping out of the boundary of the basic setting of a tune that serves at the underlying structure of a tune?

I know this may sound vague, so, I’m going to try to explain what I mean. I’ve been playing for a little over 15 years and I can remember in the first five years or so of this if I messed up in playing a tune I was thrown off so much that I couldn’t come back into it within the time of the tune itself. It was as if playing the wrong note threw everything out of whack and the chain of “right” notes left me in the dust.

Now I can recover much better from such missteps, but I still am “locked” to one degree or another to the underlying setting. But not nearly to the extent I was ten years ago or so. I add variety to a tune very consciously and just memorize where it will occur and the result is another rigid setting, so to speak.

Does a player’s ability to “free form” (or whatever you’d call it) just develop over time or are there things that you can do to develop this? The only analogy I can think of is how can you become something more like a car than a train, i.e., deviate more along the path of playing a tune?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:43 am 
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When I listen to Ennis playing, and going off track, I think I can sometimes hear how his brain works: he doesn't store tunes in his brain as strings of notes but has a memory of their underlying structure that he fills in with, to point, stock phrases from his musical vocabulary.

It is something I notice more or less often in traditional musicians who have learned their music relying completely on their ear, that immediate insight in the structure of a tune, what the notes that carry the tune are and the attendant ability to fill in what's between those notes from their own musical vocabulary. It's a way of thinking fundamentally different from learning a set string of notes and it allows much greater ease in varying the path the tune takes from A to B, as it were, than you'd find in musicians who memorise a set route through a tune.

Hope that makes sense, Sunday morning and Willie week, not a clear head.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:15 am 
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It does make sense and I appreciate it very much. So, the goal is being aware of the underlying structure of the whole tune and/or its specific parts. And thinking in terms of phrases and not so much individual notes as the elements holding this structure together?

I think I encountered this early on in my learning, but didn’t have the musical wherewithal to fully appreciate it. An advanced piper was going over the B part of a reel and was basically saying something like, “well, here you’re basically saying G and here your basically saying F...”. I think what he meant was this is the underlying sound here; you can play it with a roll, a triplet, etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:54 am 
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To my mind there are notes 'anchoring' the tune or the phrases for that matter and there are notes connecting these anchor points. I think there's a lot of freedom in how you approach the connecting notes, I wouldn't go quite as far as call them 'fill in' notes but they are not the notes that carry most of the melodic structure.

Ofcourse it's never as straightforward as that but it works as a basic premise. Once you overlay it with various layers of ornamentation, rhythmic and melodic variation, things become more opaque and complex very quickly (it's all inteconnected anyway). Listening to a lot of different players tackiling the same tune can give some insight in various ways to treat a melody without loosing the essence of it.

There's some writing about that sort of thing, I mentioned Mitchell's 'Rhythm and structure' articles on another thread but there's more, Cowdery's 'Melodic tradition..' for example. If you're into that sort of thing, ofcourse.

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:00 am 
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Thanks again!


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:13 am 
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I think this is along the lines of how I saw it too, although I wouldn't say I'm anywhere near an 'advanced' player yet. I try and listen and try to understand what I hear.

I suppose a lot of dance tunes break down into families (e.g. all the tunes bearing some relationship to the Colliers, or to The Blackbird) and long experience and familiarity with them - certainly as long as Ennis had - will give an instinctive understanding of what patterns are available for connecting the notes and just as importantly how they might fit in rhythmically.

It has to be instinctive, so you need long familiarity with the music and with the instrument itself - you can't be thinking "oh I'll stick a tight GFE triplet in here next time , wait a second, missed it". Ennis probably isn't thinking about whether he might knock out one of those short upside down crans where there's a bottom D, but if there's rhythmic emphasis at that moment, then he might choose to do it. Or he might not. Other players have a different 'vocabulary' - or preferences. Anyway for my own playing it gives me an idea to try practising various phrases, sometimes knocking out a short cran, sometimes not, until they've both there under the fingers.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:27 am 
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myles wrote:
It has to be instinctive, so you need long familiarity with the music and with the instrument itself - you can't be thinking "oh I'll stick a tight GFE triplet in here next time , wait a second, missed it". Ennis probably isn't thinking about whether he might knock out one of those short upside down crans where there's a bottom D, but if there's rhythmic emphasis at that moment, then he might choose to do it.

I'm not so sure about that. Then again, I may have misunderstood you.

I think a lot of players do consciously choose exactly what they will play at any given moment, and how they will play it. Of course, it does need long familiarity, right enough, but I don't think it's accurate to call what a lot of players do "instinctive". For many, it's quite deliberate. I have found in my own playing (not pipes, but the principle applies) that, over the years, my thinking seems to have 'slowed down' what's happening within a tune. What I mean is that I now seem to have much more time to think what I'm going to play, and how to do it, whilst still carrying on playing it. It's as if the music in my head is happening a lot slower than the music that I'm actually producing.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:31 am 
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Insight and experience are important, obviously. I find the tunes you move around in most freely are the ones that have been 'lived in' longest. I have some tunes I have had on the pipes for nearly forty years and played a lot at one time or another. They're 'safe' tunes, the ones to get lost in least likely.

Doran wouldn't have been able to move through Rakish Paddy the way he did without playing it day in day out busking, half distracted by what was going on around him but sticking with the tune and going into new corners without a bother.

It possibly helps if you can compartmentalise parts of your brain, using one part for playing the tune and perhaps another for other things. JOBM once asked me 'can you talk while playing' Hm, well yes on some tunes, perhaps, when I am on the form. Saw him and Browne playing tunes in a quiet corner once, chatting and joking while both keeping the full set in full flight.

When I was learning I'd play for hours in front of the television, sound turned off, following the subtitles while part of the brain kept the tunes going. Helped not over-thinking things :P

Crossposted a bit there :


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I think a lot of players do consciously choose exactly what they will play at any given moment, and how they will play it. Of course, it does need long familiarity, right enough, but I don't think it's accurate to call what a lot of players do "instinctive". For many, it's quite deliberate.


There are plenty of people who have set performance pieces, you can hear them ten times and know exactly when the double cut roll is going to fall on a note, and it will, each time. Nothing like the excitement of hearing Ennis or Clancy play, living on the edge, taking risks.

I remember someone saying in Clancy's music 'each note was pondered over' but I don't think that meant every note, ornament or variation was planned ahead. He could take off on a whim and go into a corner that wasn't pre-scripted, experience and insight taking over. Playing a lot all the time will do that.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:06 am 
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Wow, all of this is great stuff!

I also wonder if there's a difference between players who learned the music as kids and adult learners. I'm thinking about the analogue with language. I remember before I had kids I thought (consciously or unconsciously) that when you had them you had to teach them language from the bottom up, i.e., individual sounds > words > phrases >..., (I'm simplifying here to make a point), but that's not how any of my kids or any kid I've known "learned" language. If anything, they acquire it top-down. What I mean is that the gibberish they first make mimics whole phrases or sentences. It often takes them years to parse things that they'll utter as a phrase into word components.

When adult learners take on a foreign language, they usually start from the bottom up, i.e., sound system > words > phrases... Maybe that's where the sticking point comes from?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:37 am 
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Quote:
I think a lot of players do consciously choose exactly what they will play at any given moment, and how they will play it.


Well, maybe I wasn't entirely clear - there's certainly a choice involved, but it takes sufficient experience to be able to effectively make those choices on the hoof. By instinctive I meant here has to be minimal gap between moving the fingers and your intention.

Quote:
Nothing like the excitement of hearing Ennis or Clancy play, living on the edge, taking risks.


I think this is a big part of what I was getting at when I talked about 'imperfect' performances - it's great to hear someone who has the technique and the experience to do this.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 11:06 am 
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The anchor notes are something I use when learning a tune. They can vary from part to part within the tune, but one I know which are the anchor notes, I'll learn the tune much more quickly.

As for "stepping out of the boundary of the basic setting of a tune that serves at the underlying structure of a tune", I'm always amazed when pipers fine something new in a tune without turning the tune into something different. I recall Paddy Keenan talk about "freefalling" but I'm not entirely sure that this is what he meant.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:22 pm 
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This book is always recommended in threads of this nature.
https://www.amazon.com/Effortless-Maste ... 486&sr=8-1

RORY

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:51 am 
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rorybbellows wrote:
This book is always recommended in threads of this nature.
https://www.amazon.com/Effortless-Maste ... 486&sr=8-1

RORY



Here Rory, I found this when looking into the book - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBnYgcmSJG8


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:55 pm 
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chaos97 wrote:
Here Rory, I found this when looking into the book


Very interesting, thanks for the link.

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