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 Post subject: Pentatonic tunes
PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 11:07 pm 
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I am putting together a collection of pentatonic Irish Traditional tunes for teaching purposes. If you have the time and/or inclination, I would appreciate your suggestions. (They can be basically pentatonic with the occasional non-scale passing note - example the Lilting Banshee, Ten Penny Bit, McMahons (aka Banshee Reel)....)
Thanks,
Sue


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 11:13 pm 
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Location: Kickin' it Braveheart style...
Christmas Eve is pretty much a pentatonic tune...


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 8:09 am 
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Location: Cork, Ireland
Hi!

Quite a lot of polkas are pentatonic: eg
X: 1
T: Johnny Leary's
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: G
GE DE| GA Bd| ed BA| AG 2E| GE DE| GA Bd| ed BA| AG 2G:||: ed Bd| ed Bd| ge dB| AG 2E| GE DE| GA Bd| ed BA| AG 2G:||
(Sorry for pathetic attempt at ABC :oops: ). This has no definitive name that I know of... I believe it's known as Johnny Leary's.

Peg Ryan's is pentatonic (BD ED| BD ED| 2G AB| AG ED| etc), as is (are?) The Britches Full of Stitches (GA BG| AG BG| GA BG| AG 2E| etc).

So is this one (no name that I know of):
X: 2
T: ?
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: D
2d dB| AB de| 2f fe| dB BA| 2d dB| AB de| fa af| ed 2d:||: fa ba| af e(2de| fa ba| af 2e| fa ba| af ed| 2f fe| dB 2B:||

And this one:

X: 3
T: ?
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: D
DE FA| Bc 2d| BA FA| (4BcBA FE| DE FA| Bc 2d| BA FE| 2D 2D:||: dc BA| Bc 2d| BA FA| (4BcBA FA| dc BA| Bc 2d| BA FE| 2D 2D:||

There are lots more examples - I just can't think of them right now!
Good luck!
Deirdre
Edited to change key from laughing smiley to D... oops!


Last edited by fluter_d on Wed Mar 12, 2003 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 8:13 am 
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Sue there are quite a few that are still played (generally, or by those with taste) purely pentatonically, such as Christmas Eve as mentioned by Michael.

Here are a few others that I definitely regard and like to play as pentatonic:

Britches full of stitches
Toss the feathers (E setting: E B3 d B3 etc.)
Out on the ocean
Mist-covered mountains (most of Junior Crehan's tunes seem to have at least one and sometimes two gaps in the scale)
Knotted chord
Duke of Leinster
Bill Collins' jig
Willie Coleman's
McGettrick's (A3 B defa |a2 -- keep the Gs out of this one)

There are loads more... I'll keep the thinking cap on.

There are also dozens of others that are basically pentatonic and can be easily stripped of extraneous notes, usually leading to an improved setting IMO.

Others have a pentatonic first part with the extraneous notes creeping in in later parts. Sometimes you can easily "purge" these, sometimes not. Sometimes doing so does not particularly improve the tune (e.g. Blarney Pilgrim - the Cs are hard to get rid of). Sometimes a radical pentatonic rework of the second part will rescue a tune from dreary chromaticism (e.g. Cronin's hornpipe). Here are a few of these:

Shores of Loughrea
Boys of Ballisodare (G reel)
Foxhunters' reel
Sporting Paddy
Sligo Maid
Cronin's hornpipe
Blarney Pilgrim
Maid of Mount Cisco
Abbey reel (Moher reel)

This just off the top of the head. I'm sure more will come to mind as the day rolls on... I'll come back and add them.

All this is, or used to be, a pet subject of mine. At one point I was getting so obsessed with "purging" tunes that I thought of writing a treatise on the matter. You'll be glad to hear that I have abandoned the idea and am playing tunes with a more liberal mindset these days.

PS While you're at it why not compile a list of hexatonic tunes as well?


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 Post subject: ???
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 9:58 am 
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Could someone explain briefly what is pentatonic?


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 Post subject: Re: ???
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 11:34 am 
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Azalin wrote:
Could someone explain briefly what is pentatonic?

A pentatonic scale is simply a five note scale. Standard major and minor scales are seven note scales, so two notes get dropped.

A very common minor pentatonic scale used in many forms of music drops the 2nd and the 6th notes of a 7-note minor scale.

A very common major pentatonic scale drops the 4th and the 7th notes of a standard major scale.

There are other possibilities that are variations on this theme.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 5:09 pm 
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Here are a few others:

George White's Favourite
Glass of Beer
Battering Ram
Kesh Jig
Christy Barry's
Cailleach an Airgid
Drunken Landlady
Killarney Boys of Pleasure
Crock of Gold

... and certainly many more I can't think of right now.

BTW someone mentioned polkas, but slides are also a good source of examples, eg Barrack Hill or O Keefe's (E2B B2A|FEF A2).

Sylvain


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 9:53 pm 
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Okay, so that my very limited mind can understand, a tune like "Out on the Ocean" would be pentatonic because only 5 different notes are found in the tune: D, E, G, A and B. Is that so? The tune is in "D", but there is no C# and F#. Makes sens?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 7:22 am 
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Azalin wrote:
Okay, so that my very limited mind can understand, a tune like "Out on the Ocean" would be pentatonic because only 5 different notes are found in the tune: D, E, G, A and B. Is that so? The tune is in "D", but there is no C# and F#. Makes sens?


Exactly. Although I'd say it's in "G".

Lots of people put in the "missing" notes in pentatonic tunes, usually in the quest for variation. For example an almost ubiquitous variation in the second part of Out on the Ocean runs up to the high g via f#.

I think one should think carefully before putting in any "missing" notes (you could make a case for saying they are totally extraneous and off-limits) because doing so can change the whole character of the tune. This also applies to hexatonic tunes, those which have one note missing, which are extremely common in Irish trad.

A couple more pure pentatonic tunes to add to the list:

Battering ram
The Cloon reel (Humours of Toomagh)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 8:14 am 
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Thanks for the info. I sometimes play a triplet going to the second part which has a "C#". Does that mean that my triplet is "in the wrong key" ? Also, what makes Out on the Ocean a tune in G, since it seems to me that the D note is more "important", like finishes a phrase.

It also seems to me that pentatonic tunes area "easier" to play (no tune is easy if you wanna play it well) than others. There's "easy" patterns in pentatonic tunes I know, for example jumping from E to G (skipping the F#) etc.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 11:47 am 
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Azalin wrote:
I sometimes play a triplet going to the second part which has a "C#". Does that mean that my triplet is "in the wrong key" ?


Usually the notes in a triplet go by fast enough that it doesn't matter whether you use a C or a C#. Most Irish flute and whistle players I know always use a B-C#-D triplet no matter what key the tune is in.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 12:09 pm 
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Brad's right about that...

OTOH if you wanted to be anally extreme about respecting the pentatonic nature of the tune, you might decide to forgo using a Bcd triplet in that tune on the grounds that _any_ kind of C is out of key, no matter how fast it flies by.

Just don't tell anyone if you do follow such a course: they'd probably look at you as if they thought you were a Raelian.

Here's another pentatonian: Glens of Aherlow (Lafferty's reel).

Pentatonic tunes can usually be played easily in at least two and sometimes three keys on the whistle.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 1:27 pm 
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So, why would Out on the Ocean be in G and not in D?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 3:28 pm 
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If anyone is into classical music there are some incredibly beautiful pentatonic themes in Max Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy". It's hard to believe what can be done with this 5-note scale!

Best wishes, Tom


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 4:32 pm 
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Azalin wrote:
So, why would Out on the Ocean be in G and not in D?


Well... The last note in the tune is often a good guide, and in this case it works (doesn't always, though, esp. in Irish trad.). In this tune there is a definite feeling of "coming home" or "coming to rest" on the final G.

Another important clue is the fact that many of the phrases revolve around G, B and D: these are the first, third and fifth notes of the G scale, or if you like the components of a G "triad" (three-note chord). An accompanist will generally be playing mostly G-chords in this tune.

Contrast this with a tune such as "Down the Back Lane", another jig that ends on G. You'd have a hard time arguing that this tune is in the key of G, even if there is just one sharp in the key signature: it's a D-mix kind of thing but ending on G: in Tomas O Cannain's analysis (borrowed from O Riada I think) it's "a tune with complex tonality". It doesn't have that feeling of "coming to rest" on G - there's a kind of unresolved feeling - it leaves you hanging.

When you get into questions of keys in Irish trad, a knowledge of standard western keys and harmony is a help - but you need to bear in mind that it only gives you part of the picture. Modes and gapped scales are among the complicating factors.

But - learning chords and arpeggios on a keyboard or guitar is a good idea. (Hey when are you coming to pick up that keyboard of yours that's lying in my basement? :wink: )


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