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Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?

Mr Happy 05 Jun 04 - 07:28 AM
GUEST 11 Sep 03 - 05:20 AM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Sep 03 - 11:24 PM
Don Firth 10 Sep 03 - 01:58 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Sep 03 - 12:39 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Sep 03 - 12:34 PM
Pied Piper 10 Sep 03 - 06:41 AM
Leadfingers 10 Sep 03 - 06:09 AM
Pied Piper 10 Sep 03 - 05:31 AM
treewind 10 Sep 03 - 05:20 AM
GUEST 10 Sep 03 - 05:06 AM
Don Firth 10 Sep 03 - 04:02 AM
Malcolm Douglas 09 Sep 03 - 11:23 PM
The Fooles Troupe 09 Sep 03 - 10:37 PM
The Fooles Troupe 09 Sep 03 - 10:26 PM
Mr Happy 09 Sep 03 - 06:46 AM
GUEST,Rag 12 Mar 03 - 04:17 PM
Pied Piper 12 Mar 03 - 11:14 AM
Declan 12 Mar 03 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Rag 12 Mar 03 - 08:19 AM
Pied Piper 12 Mar 03 - 06:01 AM
JohnInKansas 12 Mar 03 - 04:01 AM
CraigS 11 Mar 03 - 04:14 PM
Mr Happy 11 Mar 03 - 02:35 PM
Don Firth 13 Sep 02 - 11:20 PM
Gypsy 13 Sep 02 - 10:29 PM
Mr Happy 13 Sep 02 - 02:51 PM
JedMarum 13 Sep 02 - 01:22 AM
JedMarum 13 Sep 02 - 01:15 AM
Gypsy 12 Sep 02 - 11:50 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 02 - 10:11 PM
Seamus Kennedy 12 Sep 02 - 06:30 PM
The Shambles 12 Sep 02 - 09:28 AM
Declan 12 Sep 02 - 05:07 AM
Murray MacLeod 12 Sep 02 - 03:59 AM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Sep 02 - 06:46 PM
The Shambles 11 Sep 02 - 06:39 PM
Leadfingers 11 Sep 02 - 05:08 PM
Don Firth 11 Sep 02 - 04:22 PM
The Shambles 11 Sep 02 - 02:45 PM
Kim C 11 Sep 02 - 02:06 PM
Don Firth 11 Sep 02 - 01:56 PM
Kim C 11 Sep 02 - 11:44 AM
Mr Happy 11 Sep 02 - 11:37 AM
Mr Happy 11 Sep 02 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Bagpuss 11 Sep 02 - 07:00 AM
Mr Happy 11 Sep 02 - 06:49 AM
Dave Bryant 11 Sep 02 - 06:38 AM
Mr Happy 11 Sep 02 - 05:48 AM
Kaleea 11 Sep 02 - 03:38 AM
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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 07:28 AM

'Traditional Musician' attended Mr Happy's Come-All-Ye this week with brand new guitar!!

All cheered when he took it out of equally brand new case & commenced to play all in- wait for it!- 440Hz concert pitch!

After he'd finished & the applause & huzzahs had died down, he quipped, 'it was in tune when I bought it!'

All's well that ends well, eh!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Sep 03 - 05:20 AM

"A good whistle/flute player can "blow" the instrument into small pitch shifts by ear." Brass players do the same - they call it 'lipping in'


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 11:24 PM

Thanks Don

Now I wish _I_ knew what I was talking about....

:-)

Robin


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 01:58 PM

No problem, Robin. You obviously know what you're talking about.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 12:39 PM

Oh one more thing about "tuning"

A good whistle/flute player can "blow" the instrument into small pitch shifts by ear.

Robin


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 12:34 PM

1) Don, I agree with almost everything you said theory wise. Respect your training! I can't hear any emotion in the KEYS, but sometimes in the pieces (the intervals, timimg, etc).

Yes to hearing colorations (treewind).

Yes to the open strings things, but some of this myth about emotions was applied to keyboard pieces, harpsichords, etc BEFORE PianoFortes were invented, and to non-stringed instruments (woodwinds etc which do have certain resonances...). Yes (treewind), some woodwinds have totally different characteristics in different parts of their ranges, which means that any "electronic imitation" has to usually be some sort of compromise sound. Midi can be great fun, but they have to pinch the sound from "Real" instruments... and usually lose most of the expression that the real instrument has. I can usually tell when someone is electric keyboarding an accordion sound...

2) Stretched tuning for pianos: Primo, my Piano accordion tuning man, says similar things about P/A's - they can also be a bas**** to tune anything else to, especially since some (smaller ones) of them have unswitched multiple reeds intended to be slightly out of tune and thus beat ... (vibrato/musette etc) ... also the vibrato effect (wet/dryness) is usually not constant over the keyboard in the smae manner as the pitch stretching ... :-)

3) Piedpiper: I agree.

4) Leadfingers, you're perfectly right you know... :-) I did get a bit carried away, didn't I? :-)

5) I had thought that it might be almost impossible to tune my triple strung hammer dulcimer, but discovered that if one of the three strings for a note was just a little a bit off, it tended to get "pulled" into tune sympathetically (but once all 3 are spot on the volume is greater!) ... and once the damn thing WAS in tune, it tended to STAY pretty well, provided that the temp & humidity could be controlled. Funny, I don't seem to have quite the same amount of troubles that others claim about having to be tuning all the time...

6) and Don, I'm sorry, I'll put on my dunces cap and stand in the corner...
(puts thumb in mouth, shuffles, scratches floor with toe) ...

for about 5 secongs... :-)

Robin
(who plays more than one instrument, but not at the same time... and is NOT any expert on guitars or harmonicas...) :-)


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 06:41 AM

Spot on, but they don't lissen.
PP


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 06:09 AM

A lot of very useful information in this thread,but the basic problem is - IS it a session or an Open mike/singaround.I have been to events advertised as sessions which most attendees used as a place to ego trip and play complicated arrangements in weird keys.Despite the organiser insisting it was an'Every body will join in'session.
IMHO a 'Session' is somewhere where everybody can join in and learn by playing with other musicians,so turning up at a session and NOT tuning in to everyone else is at the very least impolite.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 05:31 AM

Being a Piper I am very aware of intonation issues.
I tune my pipes to a scale of just intervals. The problem comes when playing with 12ET instruments.
The lower the pitch of the other instrument the better, if the instrument is in the same octave, beets can be a serious problem.
This applies particularly to the low G (actually Ab) which is a 7/4 ratio and a lot larger than a 12ET tone down from the tonic A (Bb).

All the best PP


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: treewind
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 05:20 AM

Scriabin and Alkan were famous for having synaesthesia - seeing colours when they heard music, and associating particular colours with particular keys.

The idea of keys like D being "bright" and flat keys being more sombre, for example, probably has a lot to do with the use of open strings in the string section. When a violin is played in D or A the open strings may be used or may vibrate in sympathy. In keys where the open string notes are not used or are not on the notes of the key chord they have less effect. In G the open G string will resonate, but that's the lowest string of the instrument so imparts less brightness to the sound. Also, for instance, some of Bach and Handel's works use a high D trumpet which only works properly in that key.

Interestingly this has nothing to do with absolute concert pitch. If concert picth in Handel's time was flat, the strings were tuned flat (by modern standards) so a work is D would still have those bright sounding open strings.

I'm sure the wind instruments of the time had key related peculiarities too. A baroque flute sounds very different in different keys, because some notes are stronger than others, while a modern instrument is designed to be more uniform.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 05:06 AM

String pianos (ie not eloctronic) are tuned using stretched tuning. This means that the lower notes are flattened and the higher notes are sharpened: without this the harmonics of the low notes would be out of tune with the corresponding high notes. Why? Because the harmonic stucture, or overtones if you like, are between those of a perfect string and a metal bar.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 04:02 AM

Robin, actually, I skimmed over the matter of pure or equal temperament because I didn't want to add another element to a subject that some people seem to find unduly complicated already. I've had discussions with a lot of folk musicians who've had little or no formal musical training (sometimes shunning any knowledge of music theory for fear it will pollute their purity as folk musicians) who have some peculiar ideas about what equal temperament actually is. I've actually had it used as a verbal club against anything I try to say about music: for example, "because you've studied music theory, you're limited to just playing certain notes, whereas I'm free to play any note I want," and other such twaddle. Since the original question had to do with someone refusing to tune with other people at a session, I was plumping for the acceptance of a standard of pitch accepted internationally and which most instrument makers have in mind when they build an instrument, be it fixed pitch like a clarinet or an instrument that has to be kept in tuned, like a guitar. My idea was to save everybody a lot of time and aggravation by accepting and tuning to that standard, not clinging to some misconception about what "traditional" musicians do or don't do.

Just for the record, three years at the University of Washington School of Music, two years at the Cornish School of the Arts, and private theory lessons with Mildred Hunt Harris, plus lots of private lessons in voice and classic guitar. I'm always open to learn more.

It's my understanding that Vivaldi, Mozart, et al often did maintain that different keys had different emotional qualities, and it may very well be because they were using just tuning and it struck them that way. I have met musicians, both classical and jazz, who insist that each key has it's own quality: "D is bright and sunny," or "G, even though major, is dark and somber," and on around the circle of fifths, ascribing qualities like this to each key, major and minor. And this, even when dealing with instruments tuned in equal temperament. I tend to think that this may be a bit of "one-upmanship." To me, different keys on the guitar do seem to have different qualities of sonority, but not any particular difference in emotional quality. But this is because of the different voicings of first position chords in each key. Other than the way different keys sound on specific instruments, I can't hear such qualities inherent in each key regardless of instrument. If it is there it's too subtle for me.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 09 Sep 03 - 11:23 PM

It makes a good deal of sense. Folk song collectors in the early part of the 20th century often noticed that singers appeared to be using intervals that pre-dated equal temperament, and non-classically trained fiddle players (having no frets) often still do that, though we have to make adjustments when playing with fixed-pitch instruments. To my ear, that means that I often have to play a bit sharp or flat on certain notes so that they fit with, in particular, the free-reeds.

You can get electronic tuners that will do just as well as equal temperament nowadays; unfortunately I don't remember who makes them. A friend (classically-trained fiddler escaped from the straitjacket) has one, and I'll try to remember to ask.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 09 Sep 03 - 10:37 PM

Reading what I just posted, I left this out:

I can't tell any difference in "emotion" - sad, happy etc between keys (of the pieces of the periods when such was all the rage) as played by Orchestras nowadays, for the reasons I went thru above - These pieces are now all perfomed in "Equally Tempered" Intonation. My pitch sense is OK, but I don't have "Absolute Pitch" often referred to erroneously as "Perfect Pitch".

I have a treasure in my collection. A beginners book for the Recorder.
It has the famous "Air in G" (Major) - the Author has cleverly transposed the piece to F Major to allow him to present it to the student who can at that stage can only play F Major notes, as the F# key hasn't been taught! :-)

Most people can't tell the difference aurally! - although some Classical Musicians may get a little uncomfortable...

Thaks for reading my rant...

Robin


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 09 Sep 03 - 10:26 PM

A while ago KimC said "One thing I wonder about, though, Don, is that if tuning wasn't really standardized, how do we know that Mozart's Ab wasn't Beethoven's F#?"
and Don Firth said "When Vivaldi or Mozart or Beethoven specified what keys they wanted their compositions to be played in, they had specific sounds in mind."

I won't repeat it all here, but in the One-Chord Songs thread there was a lot of music theory (some may pass over the head of some, but that's OK!) about "Just" and "Tempered" intonations (there are other threads about this theory too.)

Don's comment is interesting, because it skims over the real reason WHY they did this. The "Just" system as the referenced thread elaborates, means that for instruments tuned to say C Major in "Just" Intonation, playing in other keys means that the notes are "out" for any keys other than the "base" key that you tune the instrument to.

"Equally Tempered" Intonation tuning did away with all that, with both positive and negative results:

Positive; all instruments could now play with all others in any key without retuning (other than for purpose of absolute pitch - the relative pitches were now all in agreement!). The Well Tempered Clavier was the big demonstration piece for this - which is WHY is was composed! It was a BIG HIT of its time!

Negative; the particular sounds of certain keys (sad, happy, etc) relative to the original "Just" tuned base key now disappeared entirely, as the relative distances between notes was the same in ALL keys. This is what is really meant by Don's remark, perhaps more than he conciously intended - although I don't know (and don't care, it really doesn't matter to me cause I was not trying to insult him!) his level of experience in Classical Music Theory! :-)

I don't know of too many electronic tuners that can be set to pure "just" intonation - if anyone does, I'd like to know! - they are all in "Equally Tempered" intonations tuning!

So --- depending on how old the particular Tradition is   :-) (see the other thread!) a "Traditional Musician" perhaps could be performing in "Just" - a relatively easy thing to do on an unfretted string instrument or the human voice - it merely relies on his sense of "Perfect Pitch"! Playing along with such a muso with "Equally Tempered" instruments would be "interesting" to say the least... and everybody else would try to claim that he was "wrong"!

Interestingly "Traditional" singers may NOT be in Pure Modern "Equally Tempered" Intonations - there were countless "Temperings" before the mathematically based modern "Equally Tempered" (often confusingly abbreviated to merely "Tempered") system swallowed everything else - some still exist on this planet! (The Orient - Africa, etc)

A comment was made about 19C "collectors" putting collected tunes into particular keys - they were also struggling with the "Temperings" and the Modalities (Also see the referred thread!) - classically trained musos believed only in "Equally Tempered" - Folk Temperings were only finally killed off by the spread of the "Equally Tempered" Piano Accordion! Other free reed Squeeze Boxes added their nails to the coffin too... Pianos were tuned "Just" or some form of "Tempered Just" until Portable "Equally Tempered" Tuners were available. Most people (Folkies!) normally tuned to a piano. Orchestras traditionally tuned to the oboe.

Of course I doubt that the original muso that started off this thread was aware of the above ... :-) the discussion has already gone over that ground!

Pardon Me for repeating this...
QUOTE
Came across an interesting reference in Irish Traditional Music. Seems that it was considered bad manners to advise a fellow session fiddle player that he was out of tune. The accepted courtesy was to say "Sean, can I borrow your wee fiddle for a moment to try out that tune you was playin'?"

Then play a tune, and stop and say "I'm sorry Sean, the thing's gone out of tune now while I was playin' it"

and then retune it... and pass it back :-)
UNQUOTE

Robin


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 09 Sep 03 - 06:46 AM

at Mr Happy's Come-All-Ye last week http://www25.brinkster.com/folkorbit/localvenues.htm#wednesday
, a scottish chap brought a chanter from highland pipes (but without the pipes themselves). it sounded really indescribable-but maybe due to highland pipes being tuned somewhat different to other instruments.

he didn't seem aware of the tuning incompatability & also played a flute which seemed equally discordant.

even so he didn't piss anyone off by any 'superior posturing about 'traditional' etc, & opted just to play solos- not joining in while others were playing.

hence everyone enjoyed the evening & if folk are concious of differences of this sort it's still possible to achieve a healthy balance.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: GUEST,Rag
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 04:17 PM

On the Uillean pipes, it seems according to Tomas O'Canainn's book on Traditional Music of Ireland, that until the mid C18th, the pipes were tuned with two drones both tuned to D an octave apart and then a third drone was added, again tuned to D, an octave below again.

The standard pipes were designed early in the C19th with chanter, bellows, three drones and three regulators, though some have four regulators. The more normal setup, we are assured, is to have a tenor regulator of five keys from F# to C in the treble clef, a baritone for D to A in the same clef, and a large bass regulator giving G to C an octave below the tenor regulator.

O'Canainn argues that the extra regulators were only added to suit the nineteenth century ears.

Since the regulators can be tuned, as can the drones, it seems that since the chanter can also be replaced, the whole thing is hugely tunable.

And there was me thinking the fiddlers in Clare were doing it to shut up the boxes... Seriously though, I've seen pipers in Ireland tuning to all manner of keys.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 11:14 AM

As I understand it Uillean Pipes changed up to D in order to get more volume for playing in Vaudeville.
PP


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Declan
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 11:06 AM

From what I hear, a lot of Uileann pipers had chanters in flatter keys in the older days, whereas "the peoples key" is now deemed to be 'D', many uileann pipes would be pitched in 'C' or even B or B-Flat.

A lot of fiddlers would tune down to play with these chanters. As a result in some areas of Ireland, where the Pipes were prevalent, notably in Clare and East Galway there in a lot of fiddle tunes in keys that would be awkward on alot of instruments. This means a lot of Reels & Jigs played in C and F Major and Dm and Gm.

Most of these are awkward to back on the guitar without the aid of a trusty capo. However they are really nice keys to listen to in moderation. A long session all played in flatter keys can be a bit wearying after say the first 3 hours !


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: GUEST,Rag
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:19 AM

In one of our sessions we don't seem to have much of a problem with tuning - everyone sorts it out by finding a note and tuning to it. On the other hand, we have another session where despite the fiddles being initially in tune, the players always tweak them up, never down, so during the course of the night all the fiddles go sharp and then other instruments try to follow, until a box joins in then there's lots of accusing glances and more tweaking. But mentioning instruments out of tune in a session can set off some touchy people. We usually just say, "I think I've gone out of tune, anyone have an A?" then most folks get the idea and retune.

By the way, there's a wonderful collection of Irish tunes collected by Dr George Petrie a couple of hundred years ago. He made the mistake of carrying around a tuning fork and then writing down lots of the tunes exactly in the key they were played... so we have lots of tunes in Gb, Ab, Db, Eb, Bb minor, F minor and so on. The music is peppered with accidentals and the easiest way to figure out what's going on is just to rewrite them out in a sensible nearby key.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Pied Piper
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:01 AM

Hi CraigS

I'm afraid that your perfect pitch will move, as you get older. If I remember correctly it will go flat. I'm glad I don't have it for this reason.
I hope I've not pissed you of too much, but forewarned is forearmed.

All the best PP


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 04:01 AM

Happy -

"Traditional tuner" reminds me a little of a guy I attempted to play with a while back.

"Traditional" maybe means "plays mostly alone" - at least that's what my guy did. He was also pretty good, and could sing a little along with his playing, but never owned a tuner and didn't know how to use one. Offering your tuner may have been, to him, like asking him to set the clock on your VCR.

Wife's commment about "hates to tune" may mean that he "does it the hard way," and is frustrated enough that he just doesn't want to face "getting in tune" - since he sees it as an ordeal, rather than just something you do as a matter of course. Chances are, if he "dislikes tuning" he doesn't even have a good, systematic, understanding of how to get in tune with himself without just "messing with it until it's good enough."

Unfortunately, if he's only around on rare occasions, there's probably not much you can do to help him - but a sympathetic approach may be more effective than criticism, since - if the above view is close - he's probably already more than a little defensive about the whole subject.

On the other hand - I met a spectacular player who tuned his Dulcimer to Eb just to be sure noone tried to play along.

John


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: CraigS
Date: 11 Mar 03 - 04:14 PM

As I get older, I find my perfect pitch is not so perfect as it was.
But these electronic tuners are not always as perfect as the makers want you to think they are. I've borrowed the bass player's tuner a couple of times lately, and I still find myself tuning a little bit sharper than the tuner - then the harmonica player turns up, and I'm in tune with him! What I have found in the past is that I can be distracted by hearing external music before I tune the guitar, then I tune it a semitone or a tone out of tune. As 50 approaches I'm not even a perfect interval out nowadays, but some fuzzy little bit off - and yes, I hate admitting it!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Mar 03 - 02:35 PM

i'm getting a little worried about my frend, 'no c.p. trad. muso/siner'

i wonder if he's getting a bit deaf & doesn't notice he's out of tune with everyone else.

i've spoke to his parnter about this, she's not sur, as she relies on him to tune her mandolin.

but she's peformed v. well recently at 'mr happy's' using a borowed guitar & sung brill!


me & 'Menage', one of the goups i'm in, went to a Bluegass sesh last week & although bluegrass isn't our usual thing it was a good sesh + included some gentle 'old tine' singing.

About 20 to 11pm, the 'traditional non-tuning' person came in.

we hadn't seen or heard him sing or play for ages & the last couple of times, [during the xmas/new year break] had made the effort to be in concert pith.[which showed he was aware that some discord in sesshes in both pubic & private partes]

Well, what a suprise!- he still wasn't in tune, but belted out some blues nos.   

we didn't express any disfavour towards him this time tho', cos we all concluded amongst ourselves that his preference must be to be slol & not have others joining in.

we'd been to this same venue last spring/summer & there'd been a lot of novice/beginner instrumementalists participants not in tune- other than being in tune with themselves- but this tine, all were in c.p. -the leaning curve!!

we knew 'trad. non tuned musician' attended this sesh a lot & now understood why. if other novice players thought his was the 'right way' of going along, then they would've been retarded by his continual insistence of not being in c.p.

but lucky for them, there'd been some other muso/siners from the other N. welsh seshes attending + other blugras muso's from chester to point 'em in the preferred direction- giving hints & tips etc.

in other respects, i like my fiend who's been a realk good buddy in the paste.

Anyone have any thoughts on hearing deficits being the problem + a reluctance to own up to this?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Sep 02 - 11:20 PM

Well, mebbe so, Murray, but I'm going by what Arcangel Fernandez wrote me in 1961 about the flamenco guitar he made for me. Tune it to concert pitch (440=A) and keep it there. I got the guitar for 6,000 pesetas (about $116.66 American), 35% duty, and about $20.00 air freight from Madrid, which brought the total up to about $175.00. It took about a year and a half after I ordered it for it to be delivered. Fernandez was back-ordered. It sounded pretty darned good right from the start, but over the next few years it really opened up, developing a definite Spanish accent in the process.

In 1962, I took some lessons from Antonio Zori, a genuine flamenco guitarist who was playing with a dance troupe at the Spanish Village at the Seattle World's Fair. He played my guitar some, and I could tell he was almost resentful that this rich American (!!????) had such a good guitar—considerable better than his, actually, even though his was a pretty good instrument.

My guitar could really bark when you were playing flamenco on it, or you could back off and mellow it out nicely. I play some flamenco (I'm not that great) and I also play classic on it (although I also have a nice classic guitar), and it really sound good for song accompaniments (it has enough bite to really sound good when fingerpicking). And in sizable halls, the sound goes all the way to the back wall. I've kept it tuned to concert pitch all this time, and it just keeps getting better.

A recent internet search for information on guitars made by Arcangel Fernandez turned up a couple of interesting web sites. I found two 1961 "Arcangel" flamenco guitars with signed, dated, and numbered labels for sale by concert guitar brokers. In the pictures they look exactly like mine, and one of them—the number on the label, and the exact same rosette—was made just a week or two after mine. One was going for $12,000, and the other (a few numbers from mine) was going for $18,000. Arcangels in good condition are rare and eagerly sought after. But I love that guitar, and I wouldn't part with it for any amount.

Methinks the guy knows what he's doing. So I'm not going to mess with something that I know works.

But Fernandez was talking about nylon-string classic and flamenco guitars. I'm no expert on steel-string guitars, so that might be different.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Gypsy
Date: 13 Sep 02 - 10:29 PM

Jeb, can i clone you and get you to our sessions? Me hats off to ye for good sense!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 13 Sep 02 - 02:51 PM

i spoke to our mutual fiend's wife on the phone this evening. i needed a favour doing & she suggested he might do it. i told her i thoght i wouldn't be exactly the flavour of the month with him, since the session 'huff'incident. he hadn't mentioned the 'tuner incident'to her, but she just laughed & said'well he just hates tuning anyway!'.

so maybe he'll be back to the session some time & poss. we can come to an arrangement to suit all. i hope so.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Sep 02 - 01:22 AM

having said all that about tuners, I do use it discreetly and don't offer it to people who might be out of tune - and I do often just tune to the "room" rather then the tuner - if the room is already going when I get there ...


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Sep 02 - 01:15 AM

At the risk of sounding like a braggart; I'll bet you I can walk up to any guitar in the guitar shop and tune it to perfect concert pitch by ear. I have lots of experience and a damn good ear. I can always tune my own instrument perfectly and can "sweeten" my tuning on the fly to approximate the jam session's relative tune (they are usually out a bit). I say all this because I firmly believe in the use of electronic tuners! Especially at sessions. They are the polite way for being sure that you will sound good with your neighbors. When instruments like harmonicas, whistles, some accordians, banjos - other instruments that may be less precise then a guitar are being played - it is most important that YOU are precise, to blend better. You can't do much to fix the harmonica or the whistle or the accordian - so your precision on the guitar is very important - if then you discover that the whole room is out a bit, but is relatively OK - you may want to "sweeten" your tuning to accommodate. But knowing what is precise tuning is the all important starting point. I vote for good ears AND electronic tuners!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Gypsy
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 11:50 PM

Tune it! And agree from the get go what is "tune" I play hammer dulcimer, so with my 78 strings, i tune before everyone arrives. Then they tune to me. Or my tuner. I tune to melodeons, when they come. If you have a good ear, great, but don't be insulted if some one suggest that it is less than perfect.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 10:11 PM

Ah yes, I can see it now.... The boys are all gathered around the burning log heap after a long night of hunting raccoon. Each one is bragging about how well his dog did, and one of the boys wants to sing a song about his dog, Old Blue, who led the pack. He calls over to Zeb, "Hey Zeb, I feel like singing one a them treeditional tunes, did you happen to bring your pitch pipe along?" :-)

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 06:30 PM

In a session I always tune to the loudest non-stringed instrument, usually an accordion, occasionally a flute, and once a sax. great session, that one!

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Shambles
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 09:28 AM

It just hurts when I try to put the tuner jack-plug in my ears!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Declan
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 05:07 AM

We had an interesting tuning "incident" at our session last night. I'll spare you the detailed story but two people who had tuned to tuning forks were clearly out of tune with each other. An electronic tuner was produced and it turned out that one of the tuning forks was spot on and the other was a quarter tone flat - both were marked A=440.

Get rid of the gadgets and learn to use your ears !


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 12 Sep 02 - 03:59 AM

Don, I would have to disagree that "cranking the guitar up and down isn't good for it". Many luthiers advocate just such a practice, especially when the guitar is new. (I am talking about lowering the tuning a quarter tone down from concert)

Admittedly it is all, by necessity, pretty subjective, whatever opinion one holds as to the merits or demerits of such a practice, (unless somebody has carried out a controlled experiment of which I am unaware).

It does seem to me that allowing the soundboard to vibrate at frequencies it would not normally experience could only be beneficial as far as allowing it to "open up" is concerned.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 06:46 PM

How do those people who are said to have perfect pitch cope with it when the standard pitch gets moved?

Getting in tune together so we can play together is common sense if we want to pay together. Worrying about getting into some standard pitch, even to the point of junking instruments because they can't be re-tuned is a bit crazy.

Yes, I know big orchestras have different needs there - but I hope what happens is the instruments concerned move off into the folk world, where we tune to each other; and where we know how to use the facility to adjust our electronic tuners so that they coincide with the tuning of our friends, if they have instruments that can't be tuned and aren't in whatever is currently seen as concert pitch.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 06:39 PM

Starting the long tradition of arguing about tuning, what was folk anyway, horses and many other such things?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 05:08 PM

Traditionally songs were NOT accompanied and instruments only used for dancing except for Church Music,or so I am led to believe.So if it was a song session,what was a traditional musician doing there?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 04:22 PM

Well, there some fairly strong attempts at standardization early on. Much earlier than one might think. But apparently, things are still pretty fluid.

Organs first found their way into churches in the tenth century and by the fifteenth, they were well established as an essential part of the liturgy (interesting website here). Since much early music played on instruments other than the organ was liturgical in nature and often played along with the organ, it was the organ (a fixed-pitch instrument) that set the standard of pitch for the other instruments. But not all organ builders used the same standard, so pitch varied somewhat with locality.

By the time Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven came along, there was a lot of agreement, but there was still a lot of variation. This website (blicky) gives a pretty good overall picture. Also, I stand corrected. It isn't violinists and such that want to raise the pitch to 444=A, it seems to be pianists in some Eastern European countries (last paragraph of the web page).

My personal hobby-horse is that I don't want to keep cranking my guitar up and down. Not good for it. And if we all came to a songfest tuned to the same standard, then all we'd have to do was fine-tune and it would save a lot of time—not to mention disagreements as to who should tune to whom. Just about everyone I jam with tunes to a 440=A, and to most people, it just makes sense. Since that's the current international standard, I figure, why fight it? Use it. It's easier that way.

But if it's just a couple of musicians who want to play together by themselves, I guess it's sorta like sex. Whatever you do between yourselves is nobody else's business. Just try not to frighten the horses.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 02:45 PM

One thing I wonder about, though, Don, is that if tuning wasn't really standardized, how do we know that Mozart's Ab wasn't Beethoven's F#?

As long as they were not playing in the same session, I don't think it wouldn't matter too much.??

Anyone played with these guys?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Kim C
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 02:06 PM

You don't have to raise pitch to make an instrument sound brighter, at least on a stringed instrument. Experiment with strings till you find a sound you like.

I have gut strings now on one of my fiddles, and the sound is ANYTHING but "bright." But since I do period music, they're on there for a reason. I also have discovered why something better was invented. :-)

One thing I wonder about, though, Don, is that if tuning wasn't really standardized, how do we know that Mozart's Ab wasn't Beethoven's F#?

Mister and I have been in the situation once or twice, where we simply had to tune to each other and not worry about whether or not we were in "concert" pitch. It works out pretty well that way.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 01:56 PM

The 415=A tuning fork (about a half-step below 440=A, or very close to Ab) is standard for Baroque music, and I believe that a lot of Early Music groups use the same standard. This, along with using authentic instruments, or at least accurate replicas, is in an effort to recreate what this music actually sounded like. Since (for some reason) there is a severe shortage of CDs from those times, it's all guesswork, but a lot of musicologists have applied their best efforts to the question.

In the meantime, there has been a "upward pressure" applied by some musicians, to raise the standard pitch so instruments will sound "brighter." Why, I can't fathom. When Vivaldi or Mozart or Beethoven specified what keys they wanted their compositions to be played in, they had specific sounds in mind. And although folk musicians change keys with impunity all the time and think nothing of it (it really makes little difference what key a ballad is sung in, it's the story that counts), specific keys—and the overall sound of those keys—were important to these composers for various good reasons.

A change in standard (concert) pitch means that a lot of fixed-pitch instruments played in ensembles and orchestras have to go into the Dumpster. All the string players have to do is tune their instruments a bit higher. Oddly enough, it seems to be the string players who apply this upward pressure because they say it makes their violin or whatever sound louder and brighter. I say "oddly enough" because a good Stradivarius or a Guarnieri del Jesu sounds plenty loud and bright already. And these instruments are very rare, exceedingly expensive when and if you do find one for sale, and somewhat delicate. How far can you crank one up before it explodes in your face? Nobody who owns one wants to find out. I'm guessing here, but I think this pressure may come from owners of instruments that are good perhaps, but not great, and they want to make them sound better.

Recently there are those who want to raise the current standard of 440=A to 444=A. Why? To make their instruments "sound brighter." My response to this is "Why don't you just crank it up until the only creatures that can hear you play are bats and very small dogs!!??"

The current standard of 440=A is a good one, all well-made instruments (save for old and rare instruments) are built with that standard in mind, and I know a world-class clarinetist who would be pretty unhappy if he had to toss his current excellent instrument and shuck out a pile of money for a new one. Tune it to 440=A—and weld it!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Kim C
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 11:44 AM

I have been told, by People Who Know A Lot More Than Me, that way way back in the old days, tuning may have been a few Mhz lower than it is now, for whatever reason. I am under the impression that people who recreate music of the Renaissance & such, routinely tune lower. Indeed, even the great folks at the Boulder Early Music Shop sell an A415 tuning fork as well as an A440 one.

If he wants to play low, fine. But if he's going to play with everyone else, then he's going to have to get over it.


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 11:37 AM

your comments on this issue have reinforced our first notion that standard tuning is the 'norm' in sessions etc. & that if someone wants to be exclusive giving the bullshit about 'tradition'as an excuse, then they ought to be well enlightened by this thread.

i'm printing the whole thing out & will take it along to our next session.will report back with responses.

cheers,

mr h


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 07:01 AM

or 'old peculier'!


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: GUEST,Bagpuss
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 07:00 AM

Unless it was Harp.....

(stays sharp to the bottom of the glass)


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 06:49 AM

maybe a bit flat?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 06:38 AM

Ah - but what tuning was his beer in ?


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 05:48 AM

How many beers had the unhappy guy had? just the one


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Subject: RE: Help: 'Traditional musicians' & Tuning?
From: Kaleea
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 03:38 AM

Yes, traditional musicians use concert pitch standard tuning. The person is daft! The question is: what is concert pitch for that place & time?! Thre are orchestras in the USA which are now tuning strongly sharp in order to sound "brighter." I have been playing & teaching guitar & other traditional musical instruments for many years--I tune to A=440! I tune my guitar to--better sit down for this: EADGBE!!!!! Golly gee, how could all those immigrants from all over the planet get together in the colonies or the wild west & play together? They must have tuned to the accepted pitch of the times. I even tune my Bodhran! I tuned my washtub bass after I got it--but that's another story.


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