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The nyah or the notes?
The nyah. 100%  100%  [ 7 ]
The notes. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:09 am 
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Hello!

This is not an answer. It's a question.

I am in, but not the leader of, a Celtic band that has various disagreements on how ITM music should be played and which facets of it are of greater importance than others. We come from various backgrounds: part classically-trained, part self-taught, part Bluegrass-inclined, part music-theory-obsessed, etc. (Man, this is a sitcom waiting to happen.)

Anyway, my biggest question is this: which is more important, playing all the notes, or the lift/nyah/thing that makes ITM sound like it should?

I can't speak for everyone in the band, so I am hoping to get the word from people who know more about it than we do. From what I've gathered from some research is that Irish music is based on the individual player's taste and abilities, that you are advised not to play a tune the same way twice, and that maintaining that lift/nyah is a cornerstone.

This is where the camp divides.

I am on the side that follows the above methodology, of using sheet music merely as training-wheels until the tune is memorized, of throwing variations into songs when deemed safe and like a good idea, and that the sacrificing of notes in order to play a tune up to speed and to maintain the lift/nyah is a worthy sacrifice.

Others disagree, and believe that following/sight-reading the sheet music is better and that being able to hit all the notes is important, though the song must be played slower in order to do so.

Please shine a light, guys, I'm at an obsessive wit's end trying to really figure out ITM.

Cheers,

-Jon


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 2:43 pm 
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Welcome to the Boards Jon. :)

I haven't voted because I don't think the question is quite right. The answer I'm inclined to give is "I wouldn't start from here". :wink:

All of your band, including you, seems to learn entirely from reading sheet music. So how do you know what it sounds like? And, in that sense, I would tend, to an extent, towards the "Nyah" side of things. But not entirely. If members of your band think that they actually are playing all of the notes correctly, then they're probably wrong. A tune consists of more than any one version of it as transcribed by any individual, not matter of what experience. So playing all of the notes as written of any one sheet music version is not likely to produce the tune that I know.

I would suggest instead that you do a lot of listening to tunes that you like, as individuals and as a band, and then try to play what you hear. I think you're likely to produce something much better.

To add, when I learn a new tune I generally don't use the sheet music as "training wheels" at all - I either learn it direct from someone else's playing - a friend, often - or I try to play what I hear of a favourite version.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't learn tunes form sheet music occasionally ...

Oh, and by the way, "speed kills," so, until you do know what you're doing, maybe take it easy. :-)

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 2:49 pm 
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What Ben said. And if you're trying to figure out ITM, above all listen to the real thing; listen, listen, and listen some more. Never stop listening.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 12:33 pm 
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Thanks for the welcome! :D And wonderful advice.

Benhall.1: We mostly learn from sheet music, yes, though, it depends what each of us do with it. My methodology is to use it only as a base for memorization which then turns to improvisation. Basically, I see the music as something to defy and make my own. Still, I don't know for sure if this is the correct mentality to have. Other members believe in following the sheet music not necessarily as the "real" thing but simply as what is written and what should be played. At least, I think that's how they think. The only thing I can truly confirm is that some of us are more rigid than others when it comes to sheet music. As for ear training, I've learned a few things from listening alone, like Rocky Road to Dublin and Cam Ye O'er Frae France... can't remember the versions, though.

Also, very good ideas! I will take this into account and try to emulate my favorite musicians' styles. :) Here's to hoping Martin Haye's fiddling translates to the mandolin. *Fingers crossed* As for speed, I will try not to exceed anything that doesn't sound good.

Nanohedron: Definitely have been! I've been analyzing the tempos, volumes, transitions, octaves, etc. of some of my favorite Irish music bands. These don't include Dropkick Murphys.

Thanks guys, I'd love more info and/or opinions if you have them.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 2:48 pm 
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I have nothing against sheet music and often track down notated tunes for reference/reminders.

BUT, like Ben and Nano said, it's all about the listening. You can't see lift on a printed page, and I've seen only one or two instances where someone has figured out how to write it down. The notes are the outlines; the color is the music you make from them -- i.e, phrasing, breathing, and shaping the arc of the tune and set.

Maybe you and your band could put together a shared playlist of tunes you're working on, and at least try listening to the same things? Narrowing the field might be a good start :-)

That said, I like to listen to different *versions* of a tune I'm learning as well. Maybe a setting by a box player, a piper, a geezer, a band of 'rockers' ... it's really illuminating to compare and contrast. So find several recordings or settings of a tune, and maybe you guys can agree on the ones where the "nyah" rises to the top. There are bunches on YouTube.

One of the things I bet you'll notice is that, even though the bands/duos or whoever are often playing variations, they are generally doing so as a unit. To me, the music that seems to lift the most feels like it's heading in the same direction, and I think some of that comes from playing mostly together/agreeing on what variations will be, instead of throwing them in willy-nilly. That's for solo stuff (if you can manage it).

When you're all playing basically the same thing, your band's sound might emerge.

I'm a great fan of the "If you want to write like Hemingway, type Hemingway" maxim. When you really sit down and type about two pages of a Hemingway book you start noticing things you'd never in a million years catch while just reading it. Same for the music -- there's a LOT to be learned from playing exactly what the masters play. You'll start hearing where a breath or a shortened/lengthened note adds just a little "oomph" in just the right place, and that's one of the keys to lift.

The Amazing Slowdowner is helpful there. Could your band all agree to tackle one tune or set from a recording using that? The people who like music can still glance at it as they go, but they must agree to listen to the ASD while they read/play along. At the end of the experiment, I bet everyone will be quite surprised at how different you sound on that set compared to others you play.

It's a landscape of subtle stuff, easily missed if you drive too fast, especially at first. And it's definitely not an "either notes or nyah" choice. You can't have a tune without notes! But lots and lots of people have tunes without nyah.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:33 pm 
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I can just quote an instructor I had the good fortune to study with for a year or so, uilleann piper Al Purcell (R.I.P.). Al grew up in the tradition and studied with Leo Rowsome before moving to the United States and finding employment in the auto industry. Al used to say it was all about the "Nyah". Incidentally, Al was also not one for playing everything lightning fast. He could squeeze more emotion out of a single note than any traditional musician I've ever come across either live or on recordings. However, Al emphasized the importance of the "Nyah" over everything else. I can't count the number of times that I played the notes, but lacked the true Irish pulse and feel. On those occasions, Al was a stickler for doing things the right way. I had to stop, listen, and try again. I've never met a kinder, more generous man, but he insisted that Irish traditional music be played correctly and correctly meant with the "Nyah".


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:57 am 
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Is the subject of this: http://www.irishworldacademy.ie/inbhear ... an-11.html section of an online article (recently linked to on the flute forum) a little-discussed element of nyah ? Not something that comes through in the notation.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:13 am 
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W3R3W00F wrote:
Others disagree, and believe that following/sight-reading the sheet music is better and that being able to hit all the notes is important, though the song must be played slower in order to do so.

I think it may be important to emphasize here that you should not have to leave out notes to get nyah. If anything, getting the nyah right should let you play the tune more slowly and still have it sound good.

I've run into people who play so crazy fast that they have to leave out half the notes. Given a figure where the tune keeps coming back to a root note, something like G2 BG dG BG, they'd just play G2 B2 d2 B2. (If you don't read ABC, I mean instead of a quarter note G followed by six eighth notes, every other one of which is a G, they'd leave out all the G eighth notes and just play four quarter notes.)

Having recently posted on another thread about "wrong" vs "not my personal preference", I hesitate to say that doing this is outright wrong. Maybe there is a strand of Irish music out there somewhere that considers four quarter notes in a row a perfectly standard and reasonable thing to do every time through a tune. But certainly in my opinion if you are playing so fast that you literally cannot play this pattern of eighth notes, you really need to slow down.

(Mind you, in the normal course of events adding or removing a single eighth note is absolutely normal in Irish music, either as a variation or as a personal version of a tune. Two examples off Horan & Finn's "Music of Sligo": On the very first tune on the album, the "Duke of Leinster", the above G figure "normally" occurs three times in the A part. Their version of the tune changes the initial G quarter to eighth note G, eighth note A the second time the figure happens in the A part. Brilliant. Later on in the album, on "Michael Reilly's" (aka "Twilight in Portroe") the tune "normally" starts with a sequence of sixteen eighth notes making four arpeggiated chords. Their version takes the second group of 4 eighths and turns it into two quarters. (Or sometimes maybe a quarter and two eighths.) Again a really nice change.)

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