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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:51 pm 
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I've been giving some study to vertuoso performances, which always have a verry differen't 'feel' to the raw tune. What I expected was complex useage of ornimentation (cuts rolls etc), but what is actually more apparent is the strong employment of meldoy variations. Such used as a form of ornimentation in themselves.

Are there any tecniques used to create such variations, or is it just 'noodling around' and seeing what sounds good?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:35 am 
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If you're asking if there's any short cut, there isn't. Close listening and learning to identify what is going on in what you hear and incorporating the various means of ornamentation and melodic variation in your own playing is the only way.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:05 am 
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It's manly a question of how variations are created and what is the logic behind it. It all seems rather arbitary.

Like, I can copy something and play it like someone else does, but then I can only think of it in that way.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:09 am 
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The idea is ofcourse to learn understand what is going on, how and why a phrase is being changed, only then you can internalise the whole approach and apply it to your own music.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:14 am 
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Listening to and learning different versions can help a lot. Then you can apply some of those treatments to similar passages in other tunes. In fact, the more you listen the more you'll notice that happens pretty often.

The other thing that I've found is key -- though I'm by no means "there" yet -- is to know a tune so well I can pretty much play it in my sleep. When the foundation is that solid, my ear can start thinking about other approaches. From there I just experiment. (Sometimes it's what i've heard someone else do; sometimes this leads to something of my own)

So basically, it's the usual answer: keep listening and keep playing!

Oh, and as for the boundary ... if you're playing by yourself, sure, have some fun. But if you're playing with others and what you're doing is clashing, then it's polite (and better for the music overall) to hew closer to the basic tune until you can work out a setting that doesn't conflict.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:17 am 
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Looks like Mr. G. said it much more succinctly ! (no surprise there :-) )

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:54 am 
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Thanks both of you.

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The other thing that I've found is key -- though I'm by no means "there" yet -- is to know a tune so well I can pretty much play it in my sleep. When the foundation is that solid, my ear can start thinking about other approaches. From there I just experiment. (Sometimes it's what i've heard someone else do; sometimes this leads to something of my own)


That's one issue I'm having, I know the tune by mussel memory of the fingerings, changing anything throws me and I loose where it goes next. Should I be memorising the notes rather than fingerings?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:11 am 
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Yes, of course - muscle memory is a start, but you need to know the tune, not just know a pattern of fingering.

This doesn't mean memorizing sheet music, if that's what you're asking. It means being able to sing, hum, lilt, or whistle the tune. Maybe you're terrible at all of these things, so at the very least you should be able to hear how it goes in your head - sing or play it back in your head.

That's really what "knowing the tune" entails. Knowing it, not just being able to move your fingers in a pre-programmed way.

I wanted to add, that when you've mastered your instrument, it should be like an extension of your body, so that you can "sing" the tune on your instrument as well - it's no longer just about memorizing fingerings, or muscle memory, although that can also be relied on in some situations.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:16 am 
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NicoMoreno wrote:
I wanted to add, that when you've mastered your instrument, it should be like an extension of your body, so that you can "sing" the tune on your instrument as well - it's no longer just about memorizing fingerings, or muscle memory, although that can also be relied on in some situations.


Beautifully said, Nico.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:02 pm 
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What's been said is absolutely true.
But another thing I think is going on with people who have this complaint is subconscious. It may be a fear to do things "wrong", it may be a feeling that a setting you've heard is somehow sacrosanct, it may just be that you have to concentrate too hard just to play it the way you know how and you can't spare any brain power to do anything else.

So, while you're listening more and building your vocabulary, here's some exercises I would suggest:
(NOTE: I am trying to avoid music theory as much as possible in this explanation, so please excuse any stilted language that may result. If you know theory, my apologies.)

    Get the sheet music for any tune you know with the chords. (A good place to start looking is JC's Tunefinder.) Once you do that, play along with a recording, holding the note named by each chord (so if you see a "G" chord, hold a G for that measure). This is already a variation... you're basically playing a very boring bass line. Then try playing the first A part like you normally would, then holding the chords for the repeat of the A part. Now switch that. Now play normally for 2 measures and hold chords for 2 measures, then play normally for 2 measures and hold chords for 2 measures, etc. Now trade off every measure. You get the idea.
    This exercise will help convince yourself that you can safely play something else that most likely won't sound bad. You're giving yourself permission to change things, to experiment. That sounds touchy-feely and maybe boring, but it is an important step.

    Now pick a note in, say, the second measure, and change it. It's probably best to pick a longer note (quarter note or longer) if there is one. Change it at least two notes from what it is (e.g., if it's an E, don't change it to an F# or D, change it to a G or a B... this will have a lower chance of sounding bad against the current chord). See how that sounds. If you like it, try changing the next note too, and the next. Or change every other note. You can try this with the chord exercise above, too, by playing the second or fourth note above the written chord.

    Try taking a pair of 8th notes, ignore the second note and hold the first as if it were a quarter note. You will hear of people "dropping notes" when a tune gets too fast for them. This exercise is practicing that technique and also helping you find which notes are most important (the "bones" of a tune). Some variations are just taking these bones of the tune, the most important notes, and putting different "connecting" notes in between them. The goal in that case is to keep enough of the rhythm and bones of the tune that it is recognizable.

    Here's a tough but interesting one: take 2 similar tunes in the same key. Play the first measure of one tune then the second measure of the other tune, then the 3rd measure of the one tune, then the 4th measure of the other, etc. Or try every 2 measures. This might not result in anything musically pleasant, but it is kind of fun, and will help teach you about how tunes are put together, and how each measure leads into the next with in a phrase (by seeing what happens when they don't lead correctly).

If you get comfortable with these exercises, hopefully you will be on your way to experimenting successfully with variation. This is where the listening comes in. If you have enough "vocabulary" won from lots of listening, you will be able to assess your experiments and see if they fit in the "language" you are trying to speak. Try to make up a new word in English. You know "eqpzlitr" does not look like a proper English word, but "beltinger" could be. In the same way you can start judging your variation experiments. Did that change sound like Irish, jazz, or Martian?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:13 pm 
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Unfortunately, while these exercises would work well for jazz, they aren't so great for irish traditional music, because it's not really a chord based music. There are certain idiomatic variations that wouldn't really follow the chord idea.

Another way to approach this, in a slightly more idiomatic way, would be to learn a setting of a tune, then learn someone else's setting, then practice intermixing the two settings.

Or if you have a good teacher, they'll give you some variations and places to try them, to get you started. They'll also talk to you about ornamentation.

Remember, people, talk to your kids about ornamentation! :lol:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:56 pm 
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Quote:
This doesn't mean memorizing sheet music, if that's what you're asking. It means being able to sing, hum, lilt, or whistle the tune. Maybe you're terrible at all of these things, so at the very least you should be able to hear how it goes in your head - sing or play it back in your head.


I generally do know tunes in this way, howeaver I have little to no connection of sound to fingering, which is at least one reason why I'm falling out of step. I.e. I may play some variation but I often loose the meeter in doing so and don't know where in the tune it continues from. I've a verry poor short term memory which can't help eather. It literally only stores the thing im thinking and as soon as my focus shifts it's gone.

On the thourght process of this, if you're altering do you 'hear' the alteration in the context of the tune before actually playing it?

Also thanks fearfaoin for the pointers. I can't comment on weather or not this music is chordal in the strictest sence. Howeaver most do display such tendencies with melody notes falling onto the chords, even if there are only two or three and not in a progression as such. I've experimentd with varying notes by 3rd's and fifths before, but want to get beyond that. Will try out your excersises. Also thanks for the point on note merging.

My understanding of harmony is limited with only ever playing melody instruments.

On the point of merging bars from two tunes thats interesting, and I really don't have a clue why some things work together. There are some variations done to the extent that the player has effecctivly composed a 'part C', yet it still fits. For this matter what ties the a and b parts of a tune together? What does it have to do to not sound like an entirely different tune?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:53 pm 
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robehickman wrote:
Quote:
There are some variations done to the extent that the player has effecctivly composed a 'part C', yet it still fits. For this matter what ties the a and b parts of a tune together? What does it have to do to not sound like an entirely different tune?


I'd be judicious with the "variation almost becomes a C part" notion -- a setting that strongly varied fits only in some contexts, mostly in solo playing. If you try one of those flights while the rest of your group is playing the more standard version of the tune, trainwrecks can ensue, and that brings no joy to anyone.

From slow and painfully-gained personal experience I'm discovering it's REALLY important to separate how you approach solo playing vs. ensemble playing; that will inform the settings you use for each. Unless you and your pals agree that you're all going to use the Lunasa take on that A part the last time through, the outcome will be messy. So pay attention to what you're hearing from whom. If it's Kevin Crawford doing his awesome thing all by his awesome lonesome or as arranged with the band, you'll find more ornate settings. If it's the Tulla Ceili Band, everyone plays together (it'd be impossible to dance to them otherwise).

As for your memory, just keep listening, preferably constantly. I always start with the bog-standard setting of the tune, and then I go look up other settings for variations. I find myself borrowing a little bit here and there, but it takes a long time.

Meanwhile, there's CERTAINLY nothing wrong with playing simply and cleanly! 99.99999% of the time, the tune as written has pretty much all the notes you need to make lovely lively music.

In answer to the second part of your question ... :lol: ! Lots of tunes sound a little like each other; some even borrow from each other. And the more tunes you know, the more opportunities for cross-pollination, accidental or otherwise (i.e., sometimes I'll hear musicians "borrow" from or reference another tune as a variation, but that's almost always in solo or arranged settings).

I know there's a more scientific answer, but IMO, the successful tunes are the ones where the two halves make enough sense together that you remember how they go!

Good luck!

P.S. If you want to hear truly mind-blowing solo variations -- ones that range all over the outside edges of a tune -- check out Niall Keegan sometime. That'll put the fear in ya.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:08 am 
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Hi,

Check this thesis for some analysis from a player's viewpoint.

https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/ ... sequence=1

Jim


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