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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:01 am 
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As a learner of both the pipes and trad music in general I have come to the conclusion that many musicians, pipers particulary focus on improving their piping technique but not the music as a whole.

For me, creating music that someone would want to listen or dance to is more important than fitting in every triplet or impressing other pipers. I'm interested in what you all think about this?


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 6:00 pm 
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For what it's worth, I'm with you Sean. For me it's all about the beauty of the music, and my ability to express that through my piping. At my age, I'll never be a speed demon wonder piper. As long as it gives me pleasure to play, I'll keep learning and trying to improve, but at the end of it all I only play to please myself.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 7:59 am 
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Quote:
creating music that someone would want to listen or dance to is more important than fitting in every triplet or impressing other pipers. I'm interested in what you all think about this?


Fair enough, music first. Just be sure you're not using your stated approach as an extremely lame excuse for not making an effort learning your instrument fully.

Perhaps it's good to not think of playing technique as something used to 'impress other pipers' or something used for its own sake. But instead view it as a means to enhance musical expression, adding to your palette of colours, enlarging your musical vocabulary. A means to make more eloquent musical statements, if you like.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 9:22 am 
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Well said, Mr. G.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:37 pm 
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Yes, I'm not a punk anti embelishmentalist! The best players for me are BOTH great musicians and great pipers. Leo Rowesome said to learn a technique before chosing to use it or not and how often. For example he was an outstanding tight player, he just chose a more flowing legatto style.

Personally my own playing uses any techniques I've learned and I'm mad keen to learn more.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:25 pm 
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To me there are two ends of a spectrum that I notice:
1) Those who take a Highland competition piping approach and aim for technical accuracy...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to
2) Those who take up the pipes as a means to learn to pump out thousands of tunes at sessions.. which leads to a very large repertoire of tunes but no attention to technique...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to.

So aim for the middle of the spectrum.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:47 pm 
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I've mulled this over many times : music vs. piping. It's a tightrope.

Learning "technique" is fundamental to virtually all instruments. With enough practice, any technique will be mastered. But knowing how to execute a technique, and knowing when to do so, are two entirely different things. For the latter, we can take classes from good teachers, and we can listen to the old (and not so old) masters and follow their example.

For a luck few, who have ... a good ear? a 6th sense? taste? ... it's easier to be musical. For the rest of us, we have to keep plodding along, hitting and missing.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 5:29 pm 
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It also helps a lot to listen closely to the old recordings, as often as you can. Ronan Browne has a lot to say about listening. He talks about really listening, not just having it on as background. Listen and give it your best guess, and then go with that. Then go back and listen again and you may hear something else--- that is how you learn to hear better. Learning how to listen is an important part of being a good musician--- you don't want somebody to just tell you what to do. This is not about learning technique for the sake of technique. It is about learning to understand what you hear as musical in others and trying to apply it to your own music. And then you have to practice it....first you must learn the grip....


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:42 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:

Fair enough, music first. Just be sure you're not using your stated approach as an extremely lame excuse for not making an effort learning your instrument fully.

Perhaps it's good to not think of playing technique as something used to 'impress other pipers' or something used for its own sake. But instead view it as a means to enhance musical expression, adding to your palette of colours, enlarging your musical vocabulary. A means to make more eloquent musical statements, if you like.


Indeed!

Whenever I hear the sentiments in the OP being expressed I pay attention to the source. Coming from a poor player it sounds like an excuse for poor playing, as you say. Coming from a good player it sounds commonsense.

In film directing they say that any technique that draws attention to itself is a bad thing. I think it's equally true in music.

But a director has to be a master of his craft to make great films, and a musician has to be a master of his craft to make great music.

Did you ever hear Rahsaan Roland Kirk play oboe? It's fascinating to listen to, hearing his immense talent being hemmed in by his lack of mastery of the instrument. The range of expression he displays on sax and flute isn't there. I assume it's simply a lack of sufficient "face time" with the oboe.

I've heard the same thing a hundred times with sax players doubling on the licorice stick.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:48 pm 
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ausdag wrote:
1) Those who take a Highland competition piping approach and aim for technical accuracy...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to
2) Those who take up the pipes as a means to learn to pump out thousands of tunes at sessions.. which leads to a very large repertoire of tunes but no attention to technique...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to.



I fully agree with #2 but as to #1 the great pipers- Paddy Keenan, Liam O Flynn, the list goes on- have tremendous technical accuracy and produce music which certainly isn't boring to listen to.

Likewise perhaps the most musical of the Highland pipers, Gordon Walker, has fantastic technique. It's the combination of musicianship and technique which has won him so many medals in competition, and which makes him so intertaining to listen to.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2018 11:41 pm 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
ausdag wrote:
1) Those who take a Highland competition piping approach and aim for technical accuracy...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to
2) Those who take up the pipes as a means to learn to pump out thousands of tunes at sessions.. which leads to a very large repertoire of tunes but no attention to technique...which leads to piping which is boring to listen to.



I fully agree with #2 but as to #1 the great pipers- Paddy Keenan, Liam O Flynn, the list goes on- have tremendous technical accuracy and produce music which certainly isn't boring to listen to.

Likewise perhaps the most musical of the Highland pipers, Gordon Walker, has fantastic technique. It's the combination of musicianship and technique which has won him so many medals in competition, and which makes him so intertaining to listen to.


That's because Liam O'Flynn, Paddy Keenan, Willie Clancy, Tommy Reck etc have technical accuracy AND musicality, which is why they each sound distinctively different from each other, whereas pipers who sit somewhere towards the #1 end of the spectrum..well, the piping all sounds the same to me - like competition Highland piping.

I listened to a few Gordon Walker videos and while he certainly has technical accuracy, I couldn't endure it for long and had to turn to watching some Barry Shears and MacKenzie Brothers Cape Breton piping for relief. But that's just me. 'Boring' and 'Musical' are quite subjective ideas :-)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:29 am 
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I dont know any pipers to which technique over musicality would apply but from the world of axe grinders heres an example.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bklFIanHdk

RORY

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:19 am 
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Learning the rudiments has got nothing whatsoever to do with "impressing other pipers". It's about laying down proper foundations in order to give you the opportunity to play great music. This is a common lazy mans excuse. The rudiments of pipes have been developed and refined for centuries to get the best out of the instrument. Sometimes people with slack technique can make great music but usually great music begins with great, or at least very good technique. Same goes for bowing a fiddle, embouchure for flute etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:52 am 
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ausdag wrote:
Liam O'Flynn, Paddy Keenan, Willie Clancy, Tommy Reck…each sound distinctively different from each other...

I listened to a few Gordon Walker videos...I couldn't endure it for long...the piping all sounds the same to me, like competition Highland piping.


I'm glad you used those very words, it "all sounds the same to me", because that's the universal comment everyone says about genres they haven't deeply listened to.

People who don't listen to Country Music say "it all sounds the same", ditto people who don't listen to Baroque music, who don't listen to Jazz, who don't listen to Irish traditional music. I hear it every day. I'm guilty of it myself! I don't listen to Country Music and indeed it all sounds more or less the same to me.

Why does this happen? Because every musical genre has defining parameters. Those who have listened to thousands of hours of music in a particular genre have come to accept the defining characteristics of that genre as the baseline norm, to the point where these characteristics are taken for granted, perhaps no longer noticed.

But an outsider, who has listened to little of a genre, ONLY hears those defining characteristics, and are blind to the range of style within the genre. To the outsider it does indeed all sound the same.

The insider, on the other hand, is somewhat blind to the defining parameters and instead focuses on everything else, all the differences, all the sub-genres within the genre, the individual characteristics of each individual band and musician. To the insider the outsider's claim that "it all sounds the same" is incomprehensible.

The identical thing happens with accents. Many outwith North America can't tell Canadians from people from the USA, while many outwith Australia and New Zealand can't tell those unique accents apart. The truth is that US English and Canadian English have many shared traits, and it's those shared traits which outsiders hear, quite rightly. But the people within that accent-group accept the shared traits as the baseline norm and focus on the differences, which is why they can immediately tell the two apart.

Ditto Australian English and New Zealand English. They have more shared traits than unique traits. Outsiders hear the former ("they sound the same to me") while insiders hear the latter ("they sound completely different to me").


Which is all to say that you'll have to take my word for it that there's a wide stylistic range in what people dismiss as "competition Highland piping". The best players, none more so that Gordon Walker, have the same rare imminence in both technique and musicality as Paddy Keenan. The difference is that Gordon Walker comes from a genre that many people haven't spent tens of thousands of hours listening to, and playing. (Did you notice his superb phrasing in his 2/4 marches? The lengthening of the first and fourth pulse of each four-pulse phrase? That's just one of many subtle things insiders listen for, but are not heard by outsiders.)

BTW the vast majority of people wouldn't be able to tell the playing of any of those uilleann pipers apart, as distinct as they sound to us who have listened to tens of thousands of hours of uilleann piping.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 8:42 am 
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Wow, so much insightful & thoughtful comments here. Thanks for the posts all. I'd suggest the polar opposite of the technique only piper is the one who learrns Irish tunes but not Irish music' (quote from Brain Howard) where the essential rhythm and dare I say soul of the music is not present?


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