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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 2:25 pm 
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I'm a decently proficient jazz guitarist, with a large vocabulary of #9b13 cords all up and down the neck. Multiple inversions, the whole overly complex deal.

I've shied away from playing guitar at a session, because I kind of hate the cowboy major chords and the folk/country strummy strum, if you know what I mean. But I've been watching Dennis Cahill and he's a very interesting player. He doesn't really bother with roots much, it seems. He loves to hang in one position, or on one chord, for as long as humanly possible and let the tune go modal, and then just shift a finger or two. It's like he kind of liberated the guitar from the US folk tradition. He seems to play a lot of sus chords or at least pass through sus.

Any thoughts on guitar in ITM?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:26 pm 
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Check out John Doyle, he will show you everything and more! ITM is not jazz
Best, Gremich


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:57 am 
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gremich wrote:
Check out John Doyle, he will show you everything and more! ITM is not jazz
Best, Gremich



I'll check him out. As to the differences between ITM and jazz, yeah, they are kind of hard to miss


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:03 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Any thoughts on guitar in ITM?

DADGAD and drop-D are popular tunings in ITM backup. You might try those and see where they take you.

I personally favor DADGAD and similar tunings (my cittern was DGDAD); such tunings simply have that "sound" that goes so well with Trad, right out of the box. I'm hardly conversant in theory at all (and certainly am no jazz musician!), so I'm afraid I haven't the means to discuss this in much technical or scholarly depth.

I would definitely suggest that while there is no one style to Trad backup, there are aesthetic parameters to consider. To that end, I agree that you should listen to what the backup luminaries do, and not just on guitar alone. Simple and often open chording is a workhorse for some, more contrapuntally-based playing is habitual for others, and some do indeed push the envelope hard and explore the jazzier side for recording or stage performance purposes, but it must be pointed out that such individuals are already steeped in the tradition and are making informed (if brave) decisions, not stabbing in the dark. While such jazzier playing is definitely not traditional and not at all within the general norm, it still takes someone who can play traditionally to know what rules they're breaking from, why they're doing it, and to do it masterfully, to say nothing of convincing your audience you know what you're doing. Whether you should be doing it is another matter, and it will probably always be up for debate. Context counts, too. Jazzy, "outside" playing would not normally be done at an open session, for example. Indeed, there's a limited market for it; I remember one very familiar tune that was so turned on its ear that my jaw dropped, but that sort of thing is more viewed as just a novel diversion, an entertaining display of the backup artist's compositional chops, rather than something to make a steady diet of.

I think that in simplest terms, in Trad the melody comes first, and everything else follows from there.

For backup artists to listen to, John Doyle is a great choice. Other notables include Ged Foley, the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Andy Irvine, and Dónal Lunny. All have distinct personal styles, yet they all fit the tradition to a T with that certain je ne sais quoi.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:59 pm 
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Mike McGoldrick’s solo albums are a good listen for the jazzier side of ITM done well. If I remember right it’s more piano than guitar on the accompaniment side of things.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:09 pm 
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In Mick O'Brien's May Morning Dew album, he does a killer, and I mean killer, Johnny Cope on whistle. Then there was the piano backup: breezy, bouncy stylings that made the whole thing sound as if you'd play it in a Tiki bar wearing a leopard-print jacket. It was good, but I still don't know what to make of it. :lol:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:06 am 
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I have to admit the popularity of DADGAD is a main reason why I don't try to bring my guitar skills over to ITM. It seems like a way to make thing less harmonically interesting. As a confessed jazzbo i like extensions and ambiguous harmonies and dislike the 'ol major triads. The thing that catches my ear about ITM is the wild modality, the strangeness. The last thing I'd want to do is corral it in cowboy chords. I just feel like on guitar, I come at it from the wrong kind of expertise, if that makes any sense.

I like what Cahill seems to do, which is stop emphasizing the 'ol "here we go again back to the tonic round and round." I mean there's noting wrong with the relentless here we go round, it's fun and good, but it's not the ONLY thing.

You can hear this is jazz if you play bop tunes, which are extremely challenging but have a relentless diatonic cycling though going on, and then shift to Miles Davi's post Kind of Blue stuff, which is all about escaping the machine like inexorability of diatonic harmony.

Thanks very much for the suggestions, very interesting and useful


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:00 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
I like what Cahill seems to do, which is stop emphasizing the 'ol "here we go again back to the tonic round and round." I mean there's noting wrong with the relentless here we go round, it's fun and good, but it's not the ONLY thing.

This is why the emphasis on listening to the masters of Trad backup. In Trad, technical expertise won't be enough to make up for not understanding the idiom. I said earlier that in Trad the tune comes first, and this is not idly said. This music is conceived first as solo melody playing, without accompaniment - what in Irish parlance is called the Pure Drop - and there is firm historical basis in this. This is the context that all good, informed Trad playing comes from. Thus, my view is that a good Trad backup player considers him/herself to be in service to the tune. One may, or may not, do what you call the round-and-round, but whatever the case, in the best backup what one does above all is variation. Sometimes these variations are simply a matter of voicings; sometimes they are a matter of substituting the tonic with a minor sixth, for example; sometimes it's rhythmic shifts, or contrapuntal elements; sometimes it's silences. And so on. Done right, there is certainly room for a touch of ambiguous harmonies, and temporary tonicization too (had to call my educated friend for that term). But it's done with care and with the idiom in mind. Cahill exemplifies this in his own way, but he's not the only one by any means. There are certain fundamental commonalities to be detected in really good Trad backup, but there are also a lot of individual styles to draw from. To be honest, Cahill's not my first choice, but that's just personal taste. You don't get to back up Martin Hayes by being anything less than good, after all, and Cahill does the job very well indeed.

At one session a rather heated discussion was quelled by a friend of mine who wryly said, "It's just dance music for farmers!" A perhaps disappointing assessment to those who want more lofty views, but it is dance music for farmers (aside from the new stuff, necessarily, but it's still recognizably all one genre). But as you can hear - based on the melody - neither is it simplistic. It can be, if that's your level, but a good backup player can tie it up with a special bow and add to the enjoyment. Attempting to draw a Trad tune far onto jazz ground, however, is IMO an ill fit, like trying to get a duck to draw a cart. They're two different realms with almost nothing in common but sound waves. Trad is a cultural artifact in its own right, and is best approached that way. It's like so many other things: Just because you can do something, it doesn't make it a good idea.

I've encountered jazz guitarists trying to fit into a Trad situation before. Their skills were quite evident and admirable, but they made the huge mistake of thinking they could simply walk up and plug their skills in seamlessly without knowing the idiom. The fact was they couldn't fit, had no way of knowing how, and they realized it in short order. Music is not music is not music. Idioms count, and the first criterion of Trad backup is knowing the tune, and by extension, its familial group. I really can't say that often enough.

I think that what puts a lot of academically trained non-Trad musicians off is that in getting into Trad, you basically have to become a beginner again, because it's a different language with different groundings. But if you're okay with that, then by all means do some listening to the good backup players and absorb what they're doing and what their goals are.

Here's a local lad, Brian Miller, backing up his wife Norah Rendell:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2rjpGSeVm4

This was comparatively restrained and conventional-ish, compared to what he's capable of. Brian's a crack fluteplayer himself, but also plays a lot of backup, and he can always be depended on to do it excellently and in good taste. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:47 am 
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Thank you very much, that's a very thoughtful reply. I should make it clear I'm not going to any sessions and I'm not planning to any time soon. I'm learning Bodhran and whistle precisely because I think all the skills and techniques I have on guitar will likely just get in the way and stomp on things.

It's fascinating how little role harmony plays in ITM. Instead you get melody and rhythm. I mean when they added the banjo, they didn't do the strum strum strum they would have heard in American music or minstrel shows, they did single note melody playing It's very interesting, and from my observation that leaves the field open for a guitar player. He's there to accompany and support, as you say, not lead, but I find if I go to the online academy of irish music say, and try playing guitar to one of the practice tracks, I don't have a "voice" for it.

It's dance music for farmers is a great line, and it seems like it must be true, but of course it's also full of tragedy and a kind of weird mystic grandeur. I remember the first time i heard the Chieftains, as a middle school kid way back in the 70s: wow, I thought, that music is wild and strange while ALSO being dance music for farmers, How cool is that?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:20 am 
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that music is wild and strange while ALSO being dance music for farmers,


It could be argued it being the dance music of mountainy men is the very reason it is wild and strange.

But then again, once you're familiar with how it works, you find it is far less strange than it is at a first glance.

You may want to look at Steve Cooney's rhythms.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 2:24 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
I'm learning Bodhran and whistle precisely because I think all the skills and techniques I have on guitar will likely just get in the way and stomp on things.

Take heart. Your skills and techniques themselves will not stomp on things. It's what you do with them, and it's your musical mindset, that determine that. A hammer might as well be a paperweight until you pick it up; then, it's for you to drive the nail, or generally smash at it, but the hammer itself is the innocent party. That's why listening is so important at Trad entry level; listening for content is fine, but as an educated musician from an entirely different world, listening for style and expression should be your first purpose, because it's not just about the notes: it's about the "pronunciation", if you will, and it counts. A common stumbling block classically trained musicians encounter embarking on Trad is the unfortunate mark of still sounding identifiably classical, and trust me, if you intend to really get to know and represent this idiom from its own standpoint, one needs to learn to not play the Kesh as if Stravinsky wrote it. It matters. Should I expect to fit into a jazz session just because I can play an instrument? Of course not. I would need to learn the idiom first. You are at an advantage in that your training will give you the best technical leg-up possible, but that's as far as it goes; using your ears keenly is more important. Above all, don't be overly put off when things don't match, or even seem to be at odds with, classical requirements or goals. It's a different language, remember. There are differences and some variability, though. The classically-influenced sound is generally held as unsuitable to the Irish sound, whereas in Scottish Trad you can find more leeway for it, but those are fine points under circumstances that are not so important here.

PB+J wrote:
I find if I go to the online academy of irish music say, and try playing guitar to one of the practice tracks, I don't have a "voice" for it.

Learn the tune. Learn each one as intimately as you know the back of your hand, and you should be able to find that voice.

You should know that I spent a lot (as in, a lot) of hours at home getting a handle on Trad backup before I ever trotted it out to the public. Most of that time was spent listening and "getting" it. And where it wasn't, I had to know the tunes by memory in order to do it. There's no magic bullet. As with all languages, you either grow up with it, or you apply yourself.

One approach to listening to Trad backup artists would be to notice what they don't do.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:16 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
You may want to look at Steve Cooney's rhythms.

He gets pretty wild. :)

He is also someone who uses his obviously considerable education to good advantage in suiting the Trad idiom. Here's a vid of Steve Cooney and Vinnie Kilduff. Some of the backup is more "conventional", some of it is quite a bit less so and might not be to everyone's taste, but all of it is nice and rich. Point is, you have to admit the guy knows what he's doing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJheHR0y-Uw

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:55 am 
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Point is, you have to admit the guy knows what he's doing:


I was thinking specifically off the stuff he does, going all percussive, when playing with Seamus Begley, somewhat like this, or this, with Cranitch and Murphy

Some years ago I heard a radio programme where he talked, and demonstrated, at length what he does and how he arrived there. Very clever and well considered stuff. Interesting,

That all said, he can go all melodic too, like here

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:35 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
...playing with Seamus Begley, somewhat like this...

Playing aside, that has to be one of the funkiest guitars I have ever seen. :boggle:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:46 pm 
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The one Glen Hansard plays is at least along the same lines, perhaps even more so: like this.

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