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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:17 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2002 6:00 pm
Posts: 35094
Location: Minneapolis
PB+J wrote:
I was trying to discuss this with a friend who isn't any kind of musician, and I sent him this version of "the Rolling Wave," where I thought the guitar player was just coming at it from the wrong direction, trying to impose a harmonic structure that ended up making the tune less interesting and more trite. I have nothing against these guys and am sorry to hold them up as a bad example.

Yeah, it's not exactly wrong, because he clearly has a firm grasp of what goes where, but it ain't exactly "right", either. You hear this sort of basic standard-approach guitar playing a lot, and it's an unsatisfying aesthetic fit for Trad. But I think your friend might have a better idea of what you're getting at if you could also provide a contrasting, more ideal example for comparison.

I'm of the fervent opinion that if you really want to know how to back up Trad, then listen to the greats who came before and absorb the spirit of what they do, and their techniques too if you can. DADGAD, drop-D tunings, and the like have found their way into Trad for good reasons, so one should seriously consider adopting those as well.

PB+J wrote:
Dont' worry, no need to be afraid of the spector of the seventh

No need? Look, I know one guitarist who uses it in Trad backup. Miss McLeod's in particular, I think it is - haven't been to a session for so long that I've forgotten exactly, but that 7th and the threat of it scarred me for life. I live in a state of abject terror whenever I see her.

Peter Duggan wrote:
But there's nothing rarefied about m7b5 (aka half-diminished) even if you can't see yourself ever using it.

It's rarefied to me, but then I'm a very simple creature.

"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2019 8:37 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2001 6:00 pm
Posts: 2163
Location: Binghamton, New York
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 can think of a few reasons.

First, the word "mixolydian" is fun to say. Mixolydian. Mixolydian.

Second, it helps with chords. Many of our "minor" tunes are really dorian, with its very common minor-major pattern E.g. Em-D-Em-D, and knowing that sort of thing helps me find my way around a tune. If your instrument doesn't play chords, it can also help with counterpoint or alternate notes.

Third, it helps with sets. One of our sessioneers is a real stickler for pairing up tunes with a good solid contrast. A bit of theory helps a great deal when someone wants to raid their memory banks for a tune with a contrasting key or mode.

Meanwhile, I'm a big fan of pairing up tunes that reinforce a certain mood (rollicking+rollicking, cerebral+cerebral, melancholy+melancholy.) Music theory doesn't help so much with that, but it does help me dig up matching tunes that will also satisfy my buddy's sense of contrast.

Fourth, it does give some insight into the character of Irish music. ITM made much more sense to me once I learned how tunes often have chord progressions that oscillate one note up or down. For Dorian and Mixolydian (Mixolydian. Mixolydian.) tunes this is natural and widespread, e.g. The Pigeon on the Gate, or the High Reel. For major tunes, it's still common for Irish tunes to step up and down, and in fact it's almost stereotypical, e.g. The Irish Washerwoman or The New Copperplate. Noticing that has made it easier for me to hear tunes, and to learn them by ear.

Finally, although ITM is not so formal, knowing some formalism helps you to combat other formalism. For example, once in a while someone will find some sheet music (bleh) that is clearly mistaken, e.g. a key signature mistakenly set to Gmaj because one of the Cs is natural. It helps to be able to say, look, that must be mistaken because it makes no sense for the other Cs to be natural with the chord progression of the tune.

I'm sure I can think of some other reasons. It helped when a fiddler came by and played Liz Carroll's slip jig for Rose and Kathleen, and I noticed it actually followed a blues progression. Sometimes that stuff is just below the surface and it helps to see it.

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