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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:45 pm 
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So I'm a advanced whistle player and fiddle player, but when it comes to music theory... I really don't know anything. I can figure out fingerings on simple sheet music but that is it. I'll be playing a jam and a guitar player will ask me what key is a tune and I'll just stare back awkwardly. Can anybody recommend some introductory music theory which will help understanding keys, scales and so-on? Perhaps a book, document or video of some kind.


Last edited by Pipezilla on Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:34 am 
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Why would a "whistle and fiddle player" who is "advanced" need "music theory" if you've managed to get to "advanced" without it ?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:55 pm 
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kenny wrote:
Why would a "whistle and fiddle player" who is "advanced" need "music theory" if you've managed to get to "advanced" without it ?

Mainly for communication, judging by Pipezilla's post. I'd say that's a valid enough reason. I have scarcely any theory myself, and it's made for some embarrassing screw-ups during performances when the other musician and I weren't prepared for the possibility of getting our wires crossed.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:58 pm 
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kenny wrote:
Why would a "whistle and fiddle player" who is "advanced" need "music theory" if you've managed to get to "advanced" without it ?



A musician is rarely injured by knowing more


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:47 pm 
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kenny wrote:
Why would a "whistle and fiddle player" who is "advanced" need "music theory" if you've managed to get to "advanced" without it ?


I'm not sure what your trying to get at. Maybe I'm missing something. If you doubt my experience, that's completely fine with me, I didn't claim to be the best. Even if I was a complete novice, that doesn't exclude the fact that most of the old masters of the music couldn't read a lick of sheet music. I just want to know more about theory.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:35 pm 
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Hi @pipezilla,

Jazz players are extraordinarily deeply versed in theory. My basic Jazz Harmony text is two thick volumes, twice the size of any Classical Harmony text. There's no reason to be ashamed of wanting to learn theory.

I have an extensive theory background. It's a big help with ITM. I know ITM has a long oral transmission, but I am sure part of that transmission was about modes and scales and keys and theoretical matters as well as just playing the notes.

Here is a resource to get you started:

https://dolmetsch.com/theoryintro.htm

It has all the essentials. It's vaguely related to Arnold Dolmetsch, the Early Music pioneer who stated making recorders and other Renaissance instruments again.

Good luck, and there will be a written test at the end of the semester.

Andrew


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:39 pm 
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Andro wrote:
I know ITM has a long oral transmission, but I am sure part of that transmission was about modes and scales and keys and theoretical matters as well as just playing the notes.

I've been thinking about this, Andro, and TBH I'm not as confident that classical theory was ever a readily present part of the tradition's transmission, except as might be in isolated cases. Otherwise, how would the tradition have developed its own idiosyncratic vocabulary? Few in a highly rural society - and this is where the music really lived - are going to have opportunities, much less the free income, to afford much beyond basic education, if it were to be had at all.

Utter "acciaccatura" at a session, and people will edge away from you or think you're slumming. We'll speak of keys, and that's usually about as close to standard theory as the conversation gets; once someone starts talking modes, then things veer too far into the theoretical for a lot of Trad people. The only mode I ever really had a conceptual grip on was Mixolydian; all else to me was simply major or minor scales/keys in the most general sense, and it served me just fine, because for me the point was purely to learn tunes and play them, or learn them in order to back them up decently. Admittedly a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; I've had more than one conversation explaining to others how the key of Em was not actually the key of G - the misconception being based on confusing key signature with the key itself. Thankfully I knew the difference, but for my part, I only learned to read music - never easily, and in limited scope - as a means of learning Trad tunes when memory wasn't working as well as I'd have liked. I would be more surprised if a Trad player knew what "melisma" meant than if s/he did not, and I only know it myself because I have a thing for collecting words even if I'm unlikely ever to use them, so this is a first time for me. Mark it on your calendars, folks: Nano actually had reason to say "melisma" in a Trad context, and with a straight face. Several years back I met a talented young man, a concertina player in the Irish tradition; after a tune he'd played, I asked what key it was in, and he was defiantly proud to say he didn't even know. That was an extreme position even by my careless standards! You'd have to be uncompromisingly militant about ear learning, and make it a point of pride. I'm not so inflexible; ear learning's just what I do most naturally, and the rest is a plus.

That said, although I've gotten by very well on what might generously be called a limited amount of theoretical knowledge, I have always wished I were better grounded in theory; but in the end, my attention span just wasn't up to it. I say go for it, Pipezilla. You might do better.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:15 pm 
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As I pointed out in another thread, Francis O’Neill and his collaborators james O’Neill and Edward Cronin knew almost nothing of keys or modes, and O’Neill ran into much trouble and very significant expense when he had to try to set tunes in a key signature. These were highly accomplished players born in the tradition.

A guitar player, or a piano player, would stand to benefit from theory—it was ONeill’s piano playing daughter who pointed it to him that a tune could start and or end on A but not have three sharps, not be in the key of A. Piano obviously wasn’t part of the tradition.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:36 pm 
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As a sort of aside, I've heard from time to time people say that there are quite a few errors in key signatures and accidentals in O'Neill's transcriptions. Then, some years ago I was given a copy of some very old recordings. I'm afraid I seem to have lost them, so my point can only be general, and from memory. The point was that there were tunes there, which I had previously assumed to have been notated wrongly in O'Neill's, and which turned out to have been played exactly as notated. I remember being greatly surprised at the time.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:57 am 
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My understanding of music theory isn't all that deep, but I feel like one of the best things about ITM is the way the tunes resist assignment to key. This to me is the source of what's often described as the "wild" feeling of ITM. I'm not sure what key "the Old Bush" is in. Or "The Galtee." Or "Rakish Paddy." I'm not sure "key" is the best way to describe them, but harmonic accompaniment demands a key and imposes one.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 7:11 am 
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Ben Hall - the cylinder of Edward Cronin playing Banish Misfortune is a good example of what you're talking about, I think.

I actually don't think that the Dance Music fixed things necessarily any better - I think they took tunes they'd written with three sharps and changed them to one sharp, but I think two often would have been more accurate - listening to cylinders of McFadden and Cronin in particular, but also Touhey, Early, Delaney, etc makes it seem so (to me) anyway.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 7:17 am 
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PB+J wrote:
My understanding of music theory isn't all that deep, but I feel like one of the best things about ITM is the way the tunes resist assignment to key. This to me is the source of what's often described as the "wild" feeling of ITM. I'm not sure what key "the Old Bush" is in. Or "The Galtee." Or "Rakish Paddy." I'm not sure "key" is the best way to describe them, but harmonic accompaniment demands a key and imposes one.

I take your point, but on the specifics:

The Old Bush is in A dorian
The Galtee (if it's the one I'm thinking of) is also in A dorian
Rakish Paddy is in D mixolydian

There are many ways to harmonise the above tunes, some of which conform more closely to the old ideas of the modes these tunes are based on than others.

In the scheme of things, there are incredibly few tunes in ITM (at least, the traditional ones) that don't fall firmly into a mode. Very occasionally, there may be a change in mode or tonal centre between parts, but it's rare. There is one tune that I struggle to assign to a particular mode and tonal centre, and that's Poll Ha'penny. I guess the closest would be A dorian, but parts of it seem more like D mixolydian (ambiguity between those two modes is understandable once you understand the basis of the modes, mind).

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 7:18 am 
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NicoMoreno wrote:
Ben Hall - the cylinder of Edward Cronin playing Banish Misfortune is a good example of what you're talking about, I think.

Thank you, Nico. Yes, it would be.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 8:32 am 
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benhall.1 wrote:
PB+J wrote:
My understanding of music theory isn't all that deep, but I feel like one of the best things about ITM is the way the tunes resist assignment to key. This to me is the source of what's often described as the "wild" feeling of ITM. I'm not sure what key "the Old Bush" is in. Or "The Galtee." Or "Rakish Paddy." I'm not sure "key" is the best way to describe them, but harmonic accompaniment demands a key and imposes one.

I take your point, but on the specifics:

The Old Bush is in A dorian
The Galtee (if it's the one I'm thinking of) is also in A dorian
Rakish Paddy is in D mixolydian

There are many ways to harmonise the above tunes, some of which conform more closely to the old ideas of the modes these tunes are based on than others.

In the scheme of things, there are incredibly few tunes in ITM (at least, the traditional ones) that don't fall firmly into a mode. Very occasionally, there may be a change in mode or tonal centre between parts, but it's rare. There is one tune that I struggle to assign to a particular mode and tonal centre, and that's Poll Ha'penny. I guess the closest would be A dorian, but parts of it seem more like D mixolydian (ambiguity between those two modes is understandable once you understand the basis of the modes, mind).


Although I was asking what Key they were in, not what mode :)

It's the many ways to harmonize that lead to both the trouble O'Neill experiences and the oft-cited "wild" feel, no? Also I sometimes play "the Rolling Wave" with a C nat and sometimes with a C#. It;s great either way but if I have to pick a key?

O'Neill prints multiple editions, as mentioned--some are corrected but I think some uncorrected copies got out.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:24 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Although I was asking what Key they were in, not what mode

I gave the tonal centre as well as the mode for each. That's the equivalent of giving the key of each. When, in classical music, we describe something as being in "E minor" or in "G major", those are only shortcut descriptions. You will find that there are subtle deviations in a great deal of classical music, and that's before you get to modulations. The same applies for music in modes. In effect, we're giving a tonal centre and the name of the mode. It's just as rigid as giving a key.

I don't think any of the ways to harmonise pieces have any bearing on the way the tunes are set out in O'Neill's or on his thinking at all. Harmonising this music is a relatively modern concept.

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