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Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?

12 Sep 08 - 03:55 AM (#2438080)
Subject: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

I was reading through the Wildgoose Records web blurb on the Old Swan Band's CD "Swan-Upmanship" (great record, IMHO) and noted this:

"Old Swans band style [in 1974] was deliberately slow in an effort to encourage dancers to dance and the band was criticised greatly by less tolerant members of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for playing the wrong tunes for the dances, playing too slow, changing tunes, using melodeons instead of proper instruments like accordions and worst sin of all, using brass instruments."

Personally, I think it's quite permissible to play what you want, when you want, on what you want and how you want - if nothing else, you're pleasing yourself - and be prepared to accept criticism from others. But it made me wonder, if the band's intention was to play at an easier pace for dancing, where did the "less tolerant" EFDSS definitions of tempo come from in the first place? Just curious...


12 Sep 08 - 04:06 AM (#2438093)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: nickp

"where did the "less tolerant" EFDSS definitions of tempo come from in the first place?"

Overwound 78s?! *grin*


12 Sep 08 - 04:44 AM (#2438126)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Mr Happy

Absolutely right!

As almost all session tunes are jigs,reels, hornpipes etc - All dances

At the supercharged pace many sessioneers play is anathema in the case of dance tunes - no one could dance at those speeds


12 Sep 08 - 04:52 AM (#2438129)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

I quite agree. Our monthly acoustic sessions tend to rip through some tunes at a hell of a lick - and good fun it is too. But when those of us who attend the sessions are playing for dancing in our ceilidh band, we go at a much steadier pace for the dancers. Though I have to say we do tend to drive the pace up for the last dance - the Circumcision (sorry, Circassian) Circle...


12 Sep 08 - 05:42 AM (#2438148)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

I'm all for a good bit slower - then maybe the rest of us could join in

Cheers

L e s i n C h o r l t o n


12 Sep 08 - 06:04 AM (#2438174)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Fidjit

Typical of men. Want to finish first !

Chas


12 Sep 08 - 06:26 AM (#2438186)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

Depends on the number of pints of Harveys consumed.


12 Sep 08 - 06:48 AM (#2438197)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: banjoman

Typical EFDSS - its like Playford Dances which should only be performed by consenting adults in private (EFDSS Hierarchy)


12 Sep 08 - 06:53 AM (#2438199)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,BanjoRay

How fast should tunes go for dancing? Check this out...
Cheers
Ray


12 Sep 08 - 06:59 AM (#2438205)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

Fine for cloggies - can't see people going at this pace for Strip the Willow though. :-)

I'm doing the sound mixing for a traditional song and dance evening tomorrow with the Sussex Spinning Jenny clog dancers - it'll be interesting to compare speeds.


12 Sep 08 - 07:17 AM (#2438210)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Bernard

Well, Rapper Sword dance tunes are played at twice the speed of light, but the same tune played for Cotswold Morris needs to be very much slower... simple ballistics - as there's a lot of jumping off the ground in Cotswold (the dancers as well!), you can't play the next note before they've landed!

There's no such thing as right or wrong, simply what is appropriate for the needs of the event!


12 Sep 08 - 07:23 AM (#2438213)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

Bernard - that's just what I thought - which is why the EFDSS judgement I quoted on the Old Swan Band seemed so arbitrary.


12 Sep 08 - 08:46 AM (#2438253)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Dancers need a certain amount of speed so they can keep their balance. I've done a little dancing and I've experienced songs that were too slow for dancing. This is rare, however.

On the other hand, in 1976 there was quite a to-do in the States over the fact that the country was 200 years old. At the library I picked up a book of New England country dances published because of the Bicentenniel. At this time, there were people still alive who had been born in 1890. The consensus was that the music had been speeding up for decades, no doubt under the influence of movies, TV and radio. And as the speed went up, the finesse disappeared.

So do what is right for the dancers, but beware of the pressure to go too fast and 'look professional.'


12 Sep 08 - 08:59 AM (#2438259)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Leadfingers

Playing it 'So Fast' because you can may be fine for Bluegrass bands , but a LOT of Folk Tunes lose their the 'Nice' Nuances if they are done at breakneck speed .


12 Sep 08 - 09:12 AM (#2438272)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Manitas_at_home

"Dancers need a certain amount of speed so they can keep their balance" - you mean momentum. If the music is too fast you are constantly off balance and have to keep moving on to the next step to prevent falling over due to the momentum. If the music is slowed down you can maintain a more upright posture and control your speed more, slowing your rate of travel (not number of steps per minute) or speeding up as the dance demands. This puts more dynamic into your movements. You also have more time to concentrate on what your feet are actually doing and incorporate stepping into the dance.


12 Sep 08 - 10:23 AM (#2438330)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: The Sandman

it all depends on a number of different considerations.
1.what kind of dancing and how experienced are the dancers.
here are some reasonably good dancing tempos metronome speeds for ceilidhs.
Irish Reels 200 to 212[easier to use 100 to 106].
irish/english jigs 108 to 120.
hornpipes for nottingham swing 143 to 150.
irish polkas 140to 143,Irish slides same,Marches 117 to 123.
solo step dancing Blackbird 140,or as stipulated by the dancer.
english polkas[with hop]jenny lind etc[108 to120]
fast irish hoppies [hornpipes or in england, scotland, keel row type]152 to160.
rapper jigs 135 to 140.
best thing is to watch the dancers.
all these speeds are not meant to be gospel,just an approximation.
old Swan Band were trying to make a point,because a lot of EFDSS dancers at that time were involved in bum scuffling[whisking through the dances too quickly to avoid stepping].
perhaps in hindsight they went to the other extreme,but the point had to be made.
some irish players play at a speed that is [imo]too fast,Iam not alone in thinking this Johnny oleary made the same point but he blamed the dancers.
I blame the dancers as well,however its not that simple,because many people who dont play for dancing also play at a sppeed that is too fast for dancing.


12 Sep 08 - 10:56 AM (#2438357)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,doc.tom

Oh No! Not all this again. I'm very tempted - but I'll reist.


12 Sep 08 - 11:52 AM (#2438413)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Mooh

Ripping through tunes at the speed of light seems not to serve the melody much to my ears. The lilt of a melody gets lost in tempo.

As for instrumentation, there's not a better way of discouraging players from playing tunes than rejecting their instrument of choice. There aren't laws about this, just tastes, and tastes vary. Tony McManus has said some things about playing trad tunes on guitar along these lines. There's one player I wouldn't disagree with...because of his tastes.

Peace, Mooh.


12 Sep 08 - 01:13 PM (#2438514)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

Do bands rehearse with a metronome to establish appropriate tempo?

L in C


12 Sep 08 - 01:25 PM (#2438521)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Lester

Do bands rehearse with a metronome to establish appropriate tempo?


No!, well not mine. The speed depends on the age of the dancers, the state of the floor, the temperature, how we are feeling, etc, etc, etc


12 Sep 08 - 01:39 PM (#2438539)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: mandotim

The band I play in has a dual purpose. Some of the time we are a bluegrass band, and sometimes we are a barn dance band. Speed is entirely dependent on context. Bluegrass audiences tend to want us to really rip it up, whereas dance crowds want a tempo they (and the caller) can manage. I also play a lot of Celtic stuff on the mandolin, and I used to tear into reels at breakneck speed. I've learned over time that 'as fast as you can' isn't usually 'as well as you can', so I've slowed things down a bit. Or perhaps I'm getting old...
Tim


12 Sep 08 - 02:07 PM (#2438562)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Tim Leaning

I dont dance(too fat and 2 left feet)
But I have noticed that jigs reels etc get to a certain level speed wise and are exciting interesting and allowing of some breathtaking musicianship.
Then there comes a point when the speed increase kills the proper rythm of the peice and you end up with a pub full of people dancing to a 4/4 version (with full drum kit)of ,Irish washer woman,masons apron and so on.
The audience think they are hearing authentic traditional sort of things and the bands just dont seem to be arsed to play the stuff properly any more.
Or is it just me being picky?


12 Sep 08 - 02:23 PM (#2438574)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob

"The consensus was that the music had been speeding up for decades, no doubt under the influence of movies, TV and radio."

One of the main influences for speeded-up playing was, of all things, the folk festival. Also for fancy dancing moves and costumes in place of every-day clothing. I think it was at the White Top Mountain folk festival in the 30s (I want to say 1933, but can't recall what I read about all this) where the participating bands and dancers mostly worked at decent speeds, but one or two featured higher speeds and lots of step-dance moves and swishing of petticoats and such, and those bands got more audience approval (cheers and shouts, actually). Come the next year, all the bands played fast, and all the dancers featured fancier dresses for the women, with flashing petticoats and clog-dancing precision included in the dances (clogging is a solo dance style, or was till this event).

To be honest, the radio and 78-rpm records that stared the USA country music industry also featured somewhat higher speeds among the bands, so it wasn't all due to the folk festival, but basically, what you see is the musicians' response to the existence of an audience, as opposed to the existence of the "other half of the team" -- dancers. In a dance, you're working together, for each other. In a performance, you're working to GAIN THE APPROVAL OF A GROUP THAT IS NOT WORKING WITH YOU. You're working FOR THEM, for their attention and approval. It's a different dynamic.

Bob


12 Sep 08 - 02:44 PM (#2438603)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

All good stuff. But when bands rehears tuns how do you stop the guitars from running away with the tempo as they are often strumming chords not playing lots of individual notes?

Cheers


12 Sep 08 - 03:54 PM (#2438663)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

Les! Les! Give us poor guitarists some credit - some of us keep pretty good tempo - if only to keep the drummers in check... 8-)


12 Sep 08 - 05:54 PM (#2438758)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Thanks for the thoughts, Bob. That was interesting.

As for guitars running away with the tempo, I'll tell you a true story. Years ago I played guitar at a workshop with Mike Lease, fiddler from Wales. He played so fast that I could fit in only one sound per measure on my guitar. And he probably thought he wasn't going very fast.

That's probably why somebody invented DADGAB.


12 Sep 08 - 08:55 PM (#2438881)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Greg B

"Typical of men. Want to finish first !"

Guess that's why in New England they often play "Si Beag Si Mor"
(aka She Begged For More) as the last waltz.


12 Sep 08 - 09:17 PM (#2438893)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob

"That's probably why somebody invented DADGAB."

It's interesting that you mentioned that tuning (instead of the more common DADGAD). You do realize that that is "Bagdad" tuning, don't you?*


Bob


* Arabic is written right-to-left.


13 Sep 08 - 01:02 PM (#2439267)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Fidjit

Green grass Cloggers. He forgot to say that it was their Mums and Dads that won the first prize so long ago. Don't think they'd win any.

Speed for dancing. Keep that foot taping.
Whatever you do slow it down when they are dancing on grass!

You try a fast polka on grass you'll see what I mean.

A lot of musicians swing along on the stage. It keeps their timing with the dancers.

Chas


13 Sep 08 - 01:20 PM (#2439289)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Richard Bridge

Saw it once in the club tent in Cambridge (back when it was a folk fest). I can't remember quite how it came about but Diz Disley was accompanying some unknown banjo player from off the floor (he was good, he was doing Scruggs peg slides without Scruggs pegs) and the tempo just kept rising (not sure who started it) but in the end Diz had to go to every other beat.


14 Sep 08 - 09:06 AM (#2439915)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Marje

And going to every other beat is exactly what your dancers will end up doing if the music is too fast. Rather than dancing faster, they'll plod more slowly, ignoring the alternate beats, and the dancing will become heavy and dull.

This could well be why EFDSS asked for the tunes to be faster. It also explains rapper dancers' preference for fast tunes - they don't really dance, they just trot.

Marje


14 Sep 08 - 12:44 PM (#2440051)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,mike lease-fiddler mentioned by leeneia [?]

heartfelt apologies...i probably hadn't come under west clare style influence at that time.i am now a born again non- speed freak-well most of the time...occaisionally the adrenalin still kicks in.


14 Sep 08 - 01:32 PM (#2440091)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

I'd still love to know how dance bands establish the speed at which they intend to play...................


14 Sep 08 - 02:09 PM (#2440120)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: The Sandman

by practising ,regularly with a metrognome.
if you do this,you find that you dont speed up between parts,and you just get used to playing at a certain tempo.
you can alternatively use the click, just to get you started.,when you are practising,its so f##### easy,its not rocket science.


15 Sep 08 - 12:58 AM (#2440609)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: The Fooles Troupe

"by practising regularly with a metronome."

... as indeed did all 'Classically Trained' Music students in my time...


15 Sep 08 - 03:52 AM (#2440644)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

Thanks


15 Sep 08 - 06:39 AM (#2440738)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Manitas_at_home

"rapper dancers' preference for fast tunes - they don't really dance"

Quite, but it's a sword dance - the swords should do the dancing!


15 Sep 08 - 08:09 AM (#2440806)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,HughM

I agree with mandotim and Tim Leaning; if the rythm is being sacrificed for the sake of speed, the tune is being played too fast, dancers or no dancers.


15 Sep 08 - 11:59 PM (#2441746)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: meself

One thing to be aware of: sometimes the player is not 'hearing' the tune as fast as the listener or other players are ... Sometimes I've been surprised by the speed at which I've been playing, when I play back a recording of myself. As I played the instrument, it may have seemed a good, up-tempo pace; when I hear the recording, I realize that I was playing much faster than I thought I was.


16 Sep 08 - 03:32 AM (#2441821)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

For my part, the fascinating thing about the Old Swan Band's tempos (as originally quoted) is that they purposely slowed down the speeds so that dancers could dance properly through - rather than run through - the dances. And then were criticised, so it appears, by the EFDSS for playing too slow. The implication is that the EFDSS had strict metronome settings in mind for each dance. Which seems a little rigid to me.

There surely can't be a "strict tempo" for these things - after all, it's not ballroom dancing in the Victor Sylvester sense of the phrase (remember him?). When our band plays at barn dances/ceilidhs, we certainly take the composition of the dancers (young, old, experienced, etc.) into consideration and set tempos accordingly - which is what other posters to this thread seem to do. And we play at our own speeds for "listening" tunes.

It's also interesting that the Old Swans were criticised for using the "wrong" instruments. I wonder what the EFDSS would have made of Bellowhead if that band had been around in 1974.


16 Sep 08 - 03:43 AM (#2441823)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

"The implication is that the EFDSS had strict metronome settings in mind for each dance. Which seems a little rigid to me. "

True enough and :

"When our band plays at barn dances/ceilidhs, we certainly take the composition of the dancers (young, old, experienced, etc.) into consideration and set tempos accordingly"

IBut at the rehearsal stage when 4 or musicians get together a tempo needs to be established?

1234 or 1 2 3 4 or 1      2      3      4?

How is this done?

Or are all those drummer jokes wrong and cruel because the drummer knows and sets the tempo and keeps everybody together and on tempo?


16 Sep 08 - 04:15 AM (#2441832)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Liz the Squeak

The audience think they are hearing authentic traditional sort of things and the bands just dont seem to be arsed to play the stuff properly any more.
Or is it just me being picky?

No - it's not just you being picky. I've seen many a performer in sessions, with morris teams and in concert just fluffing their way up and down the instrument trying to make it look flashy when only half the notes were sounding.

I was intrigued by the programme running on the BBC at the moment, mentioned in another thread, their adaptation of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'... the programme started with the annual dance - and although they were doing it outside on grass, the pace was slow and sedate, but incredibly beautiful. In my opinion, the dancers were taking a wee bit too much room, but that's me.... If you tried to do the same dance at a ceilidh, you'd be aiming for twice the speed, even with the slow waltz they did. I think that's why I gave up dancing. It was getting faster and flashier and I'm getting older and slower. No-one seems to care about getting the steps right or making good patterns, they just want to get hot, sweaty and breathless. Well as far as I'm concerned there are much better ways of attaining that state, and it doesn't involve a band (unless I'm very, very drunk and the band is... no, let's not go there....).

Slowing down a dance makes it a more intimate and sensitive thing. It allows for greater acrobatics - I'm pretty sure Queen Elizabeth I's favourite dance, the Volta, wasn't anywhere near as fast as a tango, but just as sexy - if not more so! It allows for more intricate stepping and tunework, and looks much less like a rugby scrum.

Slowing down a song can change the sentiment completely - just listen to Martin Wyndham Reid's version of 'All for me grog'. At shanty speed, it's a happy drinking song, but at Martin's speed, it retains its maudlin character and becomes a lament for a life wasted.

I think I may start a Campaign for Slower Dances...

LTS


16 Sep 08 - 04:51 AM (#2441848)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Les in Chorlton

Naked self interest here - I can't play 'em fast


16 Sep 08 - 06:31 AM (#2441906)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Will Fly

"I'm pretty sure Queen Elizabeth I's favourite dance, the Volta, wasn't anywhere near as fast as a tango, but just as sexy - if not more so!"

"La Volta" - played at a slow speed - is a great tune, and you can slip in all sorts of variations if it's not taken to fast. Similarly, I particularly like Billy Pigg's playing on a tune like "Madame Bonaparte", where he sets off at a steady pace and slides merrily into triplets in the variations. The triplets go at a hell of a lick, but the tempo of the tune is still maintained. Great stuff!


16 Sep 08 - 08:42 PM (#2442638)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: CupOfTea

As a former dancer, invalided out to playing in the dance bands instead of dancing, I see the folks who have the best feel for tempo are those who've been out on the dance floor. Fitting the music to the dancers level makes for a superior DANCE BAND. When the music is a means to an end (making it possible for a dance to happen), it is/can be a quite different thing/speed than being played for the sake of the tune, the craic, the jam session.


17 Sep 08 - 08:12 AM (#2442949)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: GUEST,HughM

To get the right speed when practising, try to visualise the dancers. If necessary get the caller to do the visualising (or even leap around the room) and tell the band to adjust its speed as necessary.


18 Sep 08 - 08:18 AM (#2443927)
Subject: RE: Wrong speeds, tunes and instruments?
From: Dazbo

One thing I've noticed whilst learning to play an instrument is that, and it came as quite a shock, was that the professionals I enjoyed listening to didn't play anywhere near as fast in real life as they did in my head. Therefore I was trying to play like the pros but was actually racing ahead of them. Perhaps this is not unique to me and contributes to the rise in the speed?

I can't comment on all forms of dance, but the one's I do or play for (English Ceilidh and morris) is that it can be as bad playing too slow (too much effort to step properly) as to play too fast (rushed and scrappy). Any dance where you need to leave the floor unassisted (unlike the volta) must not be too slow!!