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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Irish Style


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/134362

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foggymentalbreakdown - Posted - 12/17/2008:  17:16:16


I was watching Gerry O'conner play some tunes on his tenor and it seems like he is playing the banjo with sort of a mandolinist approach. Is that what that style is like? And can it be played very well on a 5 String? Thanx!!!


Edited by - Banjoman on 03/30/2009 09:51:41

pernicketylad - Posted - 12/17/2008:  17:48:50


Irish traditional music on banjo is played with a flat pick mostly note for note.The odd chord is thrown in but it's nearly all 1/8 notes played one at a time......it's all melody really.
Gerry O' Connor spent some time in America as I understand it and was influenced by bluegrass......his playing style is unique and seems to involve alot of cross-stitching and arpeggio.It's fantastic.
All the best.

There are three types of people in the world.....those who can count and those who can''t!

"King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O
Ki-Mo-Ke-Mo-Ki-Mo-Ke, Way down yonder in the hollow tree....."

pernicketylad - Posted - 12/17/2008:  17:54:34


Oh yeah...I've seen OTers and Bluegrassers playing Irish tunes in their prefered style.Cathy Moore (a BHO member) does it brilliantly in OT style.Leonard Podolack (spelling?) also does it with his band "The Dukhs"(spelling?).There are loads more but a 5 string banjo is not a common sight at Irish sessions.......I've only once seen it and the guy was playing chordal accompaniment.

There are three types of people in the world.....those who can count and those who can''t!

"King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O
Ki-Mo-Ke-Mo-Ki-Mo-Ke, Way down yonder in the hollow tree....."

DanielT - Posted - 12/17/2008:  20:56:57


quote:
Originally posted by foggymentalbreakdown

with sort of a mandolinist approach.


Ugh...you make it sound like a disease.

Banjoed - Posted - 12/18/2008:  00:34:46


Bela Fleck played with Seamus Egan (Tenor) on one of the Solas albums - they played the Contradiction Reel. Excellent playing.
There's a great 5-string player in the UK called Leon Hunt who plays some music with Flook, the Trad Irish Flute Band; I've played some with him and he's a fantastic player
There'll always be a bluegrass vibe to a 5-stringer playing Irish. That why we like it so much!!

I play tenor banjo and mandolin and I flat pick both and I don't know what a mandolinist approach is??!

The Tenor banjo came to Ireland via American Minstrel Groups; it's no surprise that there's a string bluegrass and old-timey influence

imac50 - Posted - 12/18/2008:  01:38:20


Check out Tom Hanway's Music page here.

http://www.banjohangout.org/myhango....asp?id=4317


Iain
www.iainmaclachlan.com

foggymentalbreakdown - Posted - 12/19/2008:  05:03:19


Cool, thanx for your input everyone i'll definitely check out those artists. I just meant the picking style when referring to the "mandolinist approach," by the way. No offense.

diarmaid - Posted - 12/21/2008:  08:42:53


i'd definitely second the recommendation to listen to Leon Hunt...thres a clip of him playing irish stuff here http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ehSTssRUTRk and as well as the othes recommended above i would highly recommend listening to Chris Grotewohl http://irish5string.homestead.com/sunrush.html check out the trimotor set...he sounds practically indistinguishable from a tenor banjo player using a plectrum (like mandolin style picking).

heres another great video, with Cathal Hayden on the tenor banjo http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-_0-QCuusi8

minstrelmike - Posted - 12/21/2008:  09:00:43


Yes, you can flatpick the banjo. The common approach is to flatpick the tenor or plectrum, but you can do the 5-string, too. Some people will find that offensive but that's their issue, not yours. I played my 5-string in a dixieland band and flatpicked it. I simply pulled the 5th string off the bridge so it was out of the way (we played mostly in Ab and Eb). One thing I discovered was that fingerpicking wasn't nearly loud enough to play behind the horns. I bought a tortoiseshell flatpick that made my banjo almost too loud to play in the house. My parents listened to a rehearsal once where I was strumming so loud I thought I'd break an eardrum. Mom said my banjo really mellowed out the horns.
If you take your 5-string to an Irish session, you may not be accepted. If you take your flatpick to a bluegrass or old-time jam, you may be ostracized. Many folks get so hung up on the 'proper' way to play that they totally forget what the meaning of 'jam' is.
Just a word to the wise.

mikeyes - Posted - 12/22/2008:  07:36:07


I watched Chris Henry (son of Murphy and Red Henry) play bluegrass banjo with a flat pick. It took me a while to realize that he was using a flat pick as he had the rolls, etc. down perfectly. So it can be done if you are a musical genius.

He was not ostracized.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com
http://www.mikekeyes.com

JOnkka - Posted - 12/23/2008:  07:55:28


I believe there is no limit to what the banjo can do. Irish music looks to be a good place to expand. If Irish session people want to put you down smile to yourself. From what I have heard Irish sessions started in Chicago in the 50s and spread out from there. The Irish steal instruments and music from everywhere. Once it's been in their grasp for a few years it becomes part of the tradition. Just tell them you heard about banjos being played in whatever session Tom Hanway plays in Ireland. If it's from Ireland it must be OK.

I host an Irish session. I am constantly inviting new people to come play. We have too many fiddlers. Did I just say that? There are a couple of banjo players that I am trying to get in.

Anyway, besides the TABLEDIT Irish tabs on this site there are a lot of Irish ABC files out there. TABLEDIT has an import function you can use. Access a banjo tab and then go for an ABC file. Do the import and TABLEDIT brings it in as a tab. It will give some idea about how you may want to play it. Works for tenor banjo as well.

http://www.alan-ng.net/irish/abc/
http://www.norbeck.nu/abc/
http://www2.redhawk.org:8080/irish/abc/index.html
http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes/abc/abc4.html
http://www.azirishmusic.com/links_J.htm
http://www.thesession.org/

Steve L - Posted - 12/24/2008:  10:41:46


I don't think anyone cares if you play a 5 string as long as you can get the rhythm right.

Steve

salmoncove - Posted - 12/24/2008:  13:18:56


How about this guys style?? 5 string Banjo with only 4 strings.
Very entertaining whatever style one would call it.
Doesn't get much better than this IMO....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsdM...ture=channel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cifB...ture=channel

Ken

mainejohn - Posted - 12/29/2008:  06:38:40


Minstrel Mike said: "If you take your 5-string to an Irish session, you may not be accepted. If you take your flatpick to a bluegrass or old-time jam, you may be ostracized. Many folks get so hung up on the 'proper' way to play that they totally forget what the meaning of 'jam' is.
Just a word to the wise."

If I'm at a jam with my longneck 5string and there's another banjo, I often take out my flatpick and play plectrum style while the other banjo player plays with fingerpicks. With the right tune, it works well, although some traditionalists might raise their eyebrows.

Cheers,
John Coleman
Scarborough, Maine

"what this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar...and a decent armrest for a 10 15/16", 28 bracket vintage Vega"

Tom Hanway - Posted - 12/29/2008:  21:42:33


A few years back I did a banjo festival workshop with Gerry, just the two of us - 'Dueling Banjos - Tenor vs. 5-string' I think it was called. Well, we didn't play that one, but we played lots of tunes, mainly Irish, but a lot of American things too.

We just sat down and figured out tunes that we both knew and were happy with. He had some bluegrass fiddle tunes he wanted to do (no problem) and I had some oddball Irish tunes I wanted to do (no problem). We just played and talked about things like ornamentation, putting tunes together in medleys, playing at sessions and with others, playing in different tunings and the like.

Gerry likes to re-tune his banjo for some of the bluegrass tunes, so he can crosspick and make it sound like a 5-string. I might be mistaken, but I recall us doing 'Sally Goodin' together that way. I think I made him play 'Soldier's Joy' and I know we played a bunch of jigs and reels. I love hornpipes and we did some of those too. We were kind of thrown together, not having played before, so we were respectful of one another and kept passing the ball. No bother. Gerry is a class guy. We got into his very low sports car afterwards and went for a spin around town before hitting the Tally-Ho for a jar. Good stuff.

It's all good if you play in context and don't try to out-do others - but play with them and go for it!

Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - William Butler Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 12/29/2008 21:43:33

A. Barger - Posted - 12/30/2008:  22:18:23


I thought melodic style for five-string was developed mainly for the purpose of playing jigs, reels, and the like note for note? If the notes are there, I can only assume that the timbre of the instrument would be unpalatable to traditionalists... I know that the tenor seems to have a 'woodier' sound that a 5-string played with fingerpicks. Is this the case? Or is it literally just a matter of tradition?

Andrew

If you make a mistake once, it''s a mistake. If you make a mistake twice, it''s jazz!

diarmaid - Posted - 12/30/2008:  22:53:38


Andrew its probably just the difficulty of doing it right on the 5 string compared to a tenor as much as anything else, it seems to be hard to get jigs and reels sounding right on a 5 string banjo, even in the hands of accomplished players.

Banjowen - Posted - 12/31/2008:  02:11:41


quote:
Originally posted by diarmaid

Andrew its probably just the difficulty of doing it right on the 5 string compared to a tenor as much as anything else, it seems to be hard to get jigs and reels sounding right on a 5 string banjo, even in the hands of accomplished players.

Diarmaid, I totally agree, some players like Chris Grotewohl come very close but in my opinion most struggle in sessions unless the session players hold back a little (if you know what I mean) but having said that, bluegrass style doesn't sound quite right on a tenor banjo, but what the heck it's all about having fun and we shouldn't get too wound up on what sounds right and what doesn't....

Owen.

http://www.banjohollow.ic24.net/index.htm

imac50 - Posted - 12/31/2008:  03:03:37


quote:
Originally posted by Banjowen

quote:
Originally posted by diarmaid

Andrew its probably just the difficulty of doing it right on the 5 string compared to a tenor as much as anything else, it seems to be hard to get jigs and reels sounding right on a 5 string banjo, even in the hands of accomplished players.

Diarmaid, I totally agree, some players like Chris Grotewohl come very close but in my opinion most struggle in sessions unless the session players hold back a little (if you know what I mean) but having said that, bluegrass style doesn't sound quite right on a tenor banjo, but what the heck it's all about having fun and we shouldn't get too wound up on what sounds right and what doesn't....

Owen.



I agree with you, Owen. It's not a case of doing it "right'. That seems to me the wrong choice of word and suggests that we should only play FMB like the original version. What a dull world it would be if that were the case. I don't think there would be many people playing FMB if that's all we could do.

The 5 string and the tenor will never sound the same and I don't think I would want them to. It's great to hear Gerry O'Connor and Enda Schahill and the likes playing tenor and it's great to hear the 5 string played by the greats too. When I play Celtic music, I don't try to be a tenor. I want it to sound like a 5 string. I'm sure most of the folks at our ceilidhs have little knowledge of the difference. Occasionally a fellow banjo player will come up afterwards and talk about it but to most people a banjo is a banjo. (That's assuming they actually recognise it!)

There are great tunes to be played and not all of them are Irish. Play the tunes and play which ever banjo you like and get the enjoyment of it. Nowadays the tunes seem to be written in "fiddle keys" but that wasn't always the case. The highland bagpipes are tuned in the neighbourhood of Bb but their music is written in C. Music needs to be living and open to change and development or else it dies. Celtic music is the same. What is "right " for one instrument isn't necessarily "right" for the other. The fiddle was imported from Europe into Scotland and adopted by the musicians of the day because it was a better instrument than the more primitive "fidhle" that they were playing at the time.

I think I've got a bit lost here so to summarise - play it your way and enjoy it. 200 years from now it will be different!

Iain
www.iainmaclachlan.com

JOnkka - Posted - 12/31/2008:  05:32:28


There are no real traditional instruments playing Irish music today. Check the history. Every instrument has gotten accepted in. Each instrument has it's own history of how it got accepted. It is harder to introduce a new instrument into bluegrass than it is for Irish. It has occurred mostly over the same time period as well. There are a lot of people with short memories that try to define their reality from what they know. We have to fight them. I think the way to do that is by playing. At some point they will get used to the new flavor and they will start to smile at us.

I host a session. It has only been going a few years. I have mostly old time/bluegrass fiddlers. We occasionally get a visiting player that will be playing some other instrument. I keep trying to interest other musicians to expand the sound. We don't have anybody that came from a session background. We are defining our session. I am pushing the definition to be pretty wide open. We don't seem to appeal to beginners. We are still learning new tunes. We have some fast sight readers. I even brought my 5-string last week as a backup instrument. Felt good. I usually play bouzouki, mandolin or guitar. We have a 5-string player that is learning the tunes and should be playing with us in the next couple of weeks. I've got some tenors to fix up and play.

My feeling is that this music is fun. It should be kept fun. Let's make it fun.

diarmaid - Posted - 12/31/2008:  08:43:52


Iain...what i meant by "right" there was the rhythm and flow of the tune, which i feel is sometimes lost when played on a 5 string...i have absolutely nothing against the use of the 5 string used for any type of music, and love to hear it done well.

Jonkka "There are no real traditional instruments playing Irish music today"

im not sure if youre really being serious there?...theres still plenty of traditional irish instruments still used commonly to play irish music today, the harp, the uilleann pipes, the warpipes and the bodhran being the most obvious that immediately spring to mind.

imac50 - Posted - 12/31/2008:  09:31:14


quote:
Originally posted by diarmaid

Iain...what i meant by "right" there was the rhythm and flow of the tune, which i feel is sometimes lost when played on a 5 string...i have absolutely nothing against the use of the 5 string used for any type of music, and love to hear it done well.




I certainly agree with that. It is the music and the way it is played that counts, not the instrument it is played on.

Iain
www.iainmaclachlan.com

JOnkka - Posted - 12/31/2008:  09:31:42


I'll give you the harp. But very few being played. I know some of them. Not considered practical for a session.

Uilleann pipes came about as something to replace the highland pipes for polite playing and at 4,000 a pop, again not many around. We've got a builder in town and he doesn't have any orders.

The histories that I've seen indicate that the bodhran didn't come into it's own until the fifties with The Chieftains. About the same time that the sessions started up in Chicago and then spread to Ireland and everywhere else.

Now if you can claim the fifties as a place to be traditional from then I can't argue further. The tenor banjo goes back to latter 1800s. So maybe the fiddle, cello and tenors have the best claim to Irish traditional. Cellos were the backup instrument waaaay back.

The Irish using wooden flutes go back to the days when silver keyed flutes came out and all the rich people took their old flutes to the pawn shoppes when they traded up. The Irish got their flutes from the pawn shops and now we have the wooden flute as being Irish and silver flutes don't have the right sound.

There's an Irish band in my area that has it's roots in bluegrass. They have a 5-string being used for many tunes/songs. They also have a small sax they use on some tunes. Most any instrument will fit in if used often enough to have worn off the shock value. You may have to be a big name to bring it in and make people comfortable with it. It happens that way. Irish bouzouki came from Greece but has been taken in like it's the oldest traditional instrument.

There's room for our beloved banjos.

diarmaid - Posted - 12/31/2008:  11:13:51


quote:
Originally posted by JOnkka

I'll give you the harp. But very few being played. I know some of them. Not considered practical for a session.

Uilleann pipes came about as something to replace the highland pipes for polite playing and at 4,000 a pop, again not many around. We've got a builder in town and he doesn't have any orders.

The histories that I've seen indicate that the bodhran didn't come into it's own until the fifties with The Chieftains. About the same time that the sessions started up in Chicago and then spread to Ireland and everywhere else.

Now if you can claim the fifties as a place to be traditional from then I can't argue further. The tenor banjo goes back to latter 1800s. So maybe the fiddle, cello and tenors have the best claim to Irish traditional. Cellos were the backup instrument waaaay back.

The Irish using wooden flutes go back to the days when silver keyed flutes came out and all the rich people took their old flutes to the pawn shoppes when they traded up. The Irish got their flutes from the pawn shops and now we have the wooden flute as being Irish and silver flutes don't have the right sound.

There's an Irish band in my area that has it's roots in bluegrass. They have a 5-string being used for many tunes/songs. They also have a small sax they use on some tunes. Most any instrument will fit in if used often enough to have worn off the shock value. You may have to be a big name to bring it in and make people comfortable with it. It happens that way. Irish bouzouki came from Greece but has been taken in like it's the oldest traditional instrument.

There's room for our beloved banjos.





theres loads of harps being played in ireland (where im from...and where im talking about)...youre going to the wrong sessions if you never see them...the uilleann pipes have been around for almost as long as America...and the warpipes for longer...not sure what youre reading as history books, though...the bodhran has been around and making music for centuries...it mightnt have been widely played in sessions until the fifties but was used to make music as a war drum among other uses for a lot longer than that. (longer thn America has been in exsistance)...now i wouldnt call since the fifties traditional...but then i certainly couldnt in all honestly describe bluegrass as being traditional bearing in mind its not been around for more than a few years before the fifties either...not sure where youre going with the flute fiddle or bouzouki...and anc cello?...which i certainly hadnt mentioned.

i dont really care to much for your assertion that we steal instruments or music from anyone or anywhere.

no offense, but i would advise you to actually take the time to go to ireland someime and immerse yourself in the music more fully...a fleadh or festival like ennis trad fest or going to miltown malby or tubercurry and you'll begin to get a slightly get a better picture of what instruments are really played in ireland, and not just your local area in america...and you'll understand a bit more about what im saying.

www.banjomafia.com check it out!

JOnkka - Posted - 12/31/2008:  22:42:18


Steal is a strong word. It implies more than what I meant. But it does make a good trigger for conversation. I meant that the Irish will shall we say merge in any instrument. Though some take longer than others and may need to take a back way in.

I would love to go to Ireland, but I'm not really discussing Ireland. Ireland is too small to contain all the Irish. You find them everywhere. Whether this generation or from many generations back.

I don't really think of anything started in the states as being around long enough to be traditional. So many of the instruments are so new that they will need another couple hundred years. We have very few of the old instruments here or anywhere around here.

I'm not too worried about what instruments are played in Ireland. It's the music more than the instruments anyway. I have to work with what is available here. I can't make traditional instrument players appear and I don't like that some are so snobbish that they can't listen to others because of what they play.

I understand the visitors coming in and wanting to play in a session so they can say they played in Ireland. It's somewhat humorous and probably annoying to the hometown crowd. I wouldn't even make the attempt.

Cellos were the backup instruments for the fiddles at dances in Scotland. I thought I had heard that may have been the case for Ireland as well, maybe not.

diarmaid - Posted - 01/01/2009:  08:59:09


Jonnka...most people in Ireland I know will happily jam with anyone, i know i am happy to (and plenty of far better musicians than me do so happily, often) in fact some of my favourite music is the exprimental stuff done by Mike McGoldrick and others like him, he has tablas, electric bass and guitar players as well as a host of jazz instruments, and plays brilliantly with just about any instrument imaginable. To me anyway, its really more about the music and playing the instrument (whatever it is) well, and enhanchining the music. ive never seen a good musician turned away from any session, nor would i ever want to irrespective of what instrument theyre playing.

JOnkka - Posted - 01/01/2009:  09:08:45


Sounds like you and I are in agreement. I just hear stories come back. Some of those irritate me a bit. Most of the stories are from this side of the pond.

I have friends that have played in sessions in Ireland. They were so tickled.

Have fun.


Edited by - JOnkka on 01/01/2009 09:45:09

cgrotewohl - Posted - 01/06/2009:  15:54:55


Diarmaid, I totally agree, some players like Chris Grotewohl come very close but in my opinion most struggle in sessions unless the session players hold back a little (if you know what I mean) but having said that, bluegrass style doesn't sound quite right on a tenor banjo, but what the heck it's all about having fun and we shouldn't get too wound up on what sounds right and what doesn't....

Hey folks, Thanks for mentioning me on some of this stuff. The Irish players I have played with play at a pace for Irish dancing, it is dance music by the way. It is the American Bluegrass mentality that speeds it up and makes it difficult to play. I totally agree that the music can be played on any instrument if if one understands, listens first, don't know it , don't dive in. MOO CG

chris Grotewohl
http://irish5string.homestead.com/chrisG.html

Banjowen - Posted - 01/07/2009:  02:23:27


quote:
Originally posted by cgrotewohl

Diarmaid, I totally agree, some players like Chris Grotewohl come very close but in my opinion most struggle in sessions unless the session players hold back a little (if you know what I mean) but having said that, bluegrass style doesn't sound quite right on a tenor banjo, but what the heck it's all about having fun and we shouldn't get too wound up on what sounds right and what doesn't....

Hey folks, Thanks for mentioning me on some of this stuff. The Irish players I have played with play at a pace for Irish dancing, it is dance music by the way. It is the American Bluegrass mentality that speeds it up and makes it difficult to play. I totally agree that the music can be played on any instrument if if one understands, listens first, don't know it , don't dive in. MOO CG

chris Grotewohl
http://irish5string.homestead.com/chrisG.html

Chris, your right the music was intended for dancing, I used to go to a lot of sessions in Liverpool (UK)where the music was played at a ridiculous speed, so fast that you couldn't hear the melody and one tune sounded just like the next one, I only realised when my daughter took up irish dancing what the actual speed should be, it sounded far,far better at the correct speed and it was great to listen to....In my opinion fiddlers are the main culprits for playing very fast probably because their fingers can reach all the required notes with very little hand movement.

Owen.

http://www.banjohollow.ic24.net/index.htm

mikeyes - Posted - 01/07/2009:  11:47:18


Chris,

It isn't even the Bluegrass mentality, that too is a victim of something else. If you listen to early F&S or Monroe, you will see that they did most of their tunes at a moderate pace. The need for speed is a more modern problem, modern in this case being after 1973 :grin:

I attended a forum on this at Irishfest a few years ago. All the (very famous) members said that Irish music was being played too fast and they admitted that professional stage performance may have a lot to do with it.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com
http://www.mikekeyes.com

Steve L - Posted - 01/07/2009:  19:17:40


Mike, I hear a lot of people say this about speed and I take your point. But if you listen to the really old recordings from the 20's and 30' they are just astonishingly fast. Some of the stuff by John McKenna and Patsy Touhey are beyond belief. I'm not disagreeing about the tempos...I'm just not sure it's a new thing.

Steve

cgrotewohl - Posted - 01/08/2009:  18:14:27


Hey Guys,

I'm glad there is some agreement here. It is the audience that wants speed. OBS for an example. I think Irish trad, BG and all players would prefer taste, embellishments etc...but that doe not always sell CD's when playing live. I've sessioned with Frankie Gavin, Paddy O'Brien, both Seamus Egans, John Doyle etc... never had a problem with speed, then hear them on stage and there would be know way for me to keep up..CG

chris Grotewohl
http://irish5string.homestead.com/chrisG.html

rob sharer - Posted - 01/17/2009:  20:18:12


quote:
Originally posted by JOnkka

There are no real traditional instruments playing Irish music today. Check the history.

I host a session. It has only been going a few years. I have mostly old time/bluegrass fiddlers. We occasionally get a visiting player that will be playing some other instrument. I keep trying to interest other musicians to expand the sound. We don't have anybody that came from a session background. We are defining our session. I am pushing the definition to be pretty wide open. We don't seem to appeal to beginners. We are still learning new tunes. We have some fast sight readers.




JOnkka,

Sounds like you know more about Irish music and sessions than the Irish themselves, despite never having been there. It also sounds like you want to reinvent the Irish session to suit your tastes and preferences, to which I say fair play, as long as everybody is happy. Just don't expect to find a mighty welcome when you try to export that sort of thing outside the safe confines of your own local - some sessions may have a different idea about things like sight-reading, saxophones, and the like. There's really no substitute for spending some time learning and respecting the tradition, if you want doors to open for you or your instrument. Cheers,

Rob

fergaloh - Posted - 01/19/2009:  10:01:34


Its more difficult to maintain the precussive nature of the music on a 5 string but theres a fella called leon hunt and he plays brilliantly on a 5 string.And check out tom hanway aswell he does a great job on the 5 string


Edited by - fergaloh on 01/20/2009 10:50:05

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/19/2009:  19:47:48


quote:
Originally posted by fergaloh

It's more difficult to maintain the precussive nature of the music on a 5 string but theres a fella called leon hunt and he plays brilliantly on a 5 string. And check out tom hanway as well he does a great job on the 5 string.

Great thread - many interesting points of view. It’s nice to see everybody coming together and fleshing out the topic. I made a connection, a little discovery about a tune.

I love old banjo books, especially *outdated* music manuscripts and tutors from the 19th century. I keep them around and leave them on tables and in odd places so I can open them up and flip through the pages on the spur of the moment.

I have one from the Antebellum Period, published in 1860, the same year that Joel Walker Sweeney died, by James Buckley. Sweeney was buried on a placid knoll beside the Appomattox River, not far from the now famous courthouse “where our nation reunited.”

Buckley’s New Banjo Book of 1860, writes Joe Ayers, “covers the musical spectrum of five-string banjo from its backwoods, folk roots to its emergence in the highest musical circles in America, a most phenomenal span. It pays a great tribute to the musical creativity of Virginia’s Afro-Celtic culture, and the musical heritage of the United States owes large debt of gratitude to the broadmindedness and hard work of ... James Buckley for the early preservation of its singular musical culture.” See Joe Ayers, ed., James Buckley, Buckley’s New Banjo Book of 1860 (Bremo Bluff, Virginia: Tuckahoe Music, 1996), “Introduction”.

I had Buckley’s tutor in a pile of books and realizing I hadn’t opened it up in months, set it down on my desk and randomly opened it to see what it might reveal to me, looking at the contours of the melodies and perusing their titles. Straightaway my eyes landed on a tune in D, with familiar triplet figures and melodic contours, but a title I was unsure about, ‘New York Reel’. Well, being native New Yorker, it was a no-brainer to pick up the banjo and start plunking out notes, but this time I had the banjo in Celtic E Modal (f#EGBD), the most versatile of my four tunings – parallel tunings for playing in all kinds of styles, modes and keys. It's a whole new ballgame. I still rely on standard G and I would never abandon it.

I tabbed ‘New York Reel’ in Celtic E Modal first, using a lot of legato-melodic techniques, but I had to substitute pitches for the low D, and this altered the arrangement and got into a lot of variation, so I re-tuned to standard G and did it again, this time concentrating on single-string techniques and closed chord positions up the neck. This is the bare bones version I am sharing with you, very close to the original, but in a different tuning and using different playing and embellishment techniques. If you think this is hard ... it’s not.



Interestingly, Buckley’s New Banjo Book of 1860 has the banjo “pitched to play in the key of E, four sharps, and A, three sharps ...; [the] fifth or thumb string, E (natural), an octave higher than the third string..., is the same note as the first string on the Violin.” Thus, the banjo is tuned to “eAEG#B”, except for tunes in D and G, in which case everything is tuned down a whole step to “dGDF#A”. These are much lower, parallel versions of our contemporary C tuning, “gCGBD”.

So, I am intrigued by the title (my hometown) and am using a different tuning from what’s in the book, which actually predates the War Between the States. The tune looked vaguely familiar but could there be any meaningful connection to the fiddle and banjo music of today?

Only one way to find out, so I started picking out each note and as soon as I came to the first triplet in the first measure I recognized it as ‘The Maid Behind the Bar’. Then, as I worked through it I heard a lovely, uncomplicated version of it. It's a really sweet and subtle version, and nobody plays it anymore, so I felt like sharing it. I know Chris and others would aready have versions and could pick this one up quickly - no problem.

I knew I had to transcribe it immediately—because I had never heard this version before and I have a backlog of tunes—and I still have to do more research on it. I now have two transcriptions for it in two different tunings, one more legato-sounding, read: smoother, the other more staccato-sounding, read: percussive.

It would work beautifully with many of the reels in my first book/CD, which for the most part sticks to standard G tuning, Mel Bay's Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo, especially ones in E modal or G Major, also A Major and modal tunes. It's a really upbeat tune.

So far, I have found no references to ‘New York Reel’ in any 20th century manuals or Irish, American or fiddle compilations from either side of the Atlantic Ocean. Its’ a neat discovery and I reckon it’s a lost title and an early version for “The Maid Behind the Bar” family of tunes, which have been published under various titles. After further research I found and cross-referenced nearly identical versions under two different titles in (William Bradbury) Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (as ‘Indy’s Favorite’ and ‘Judy’s Reel’).

This tutor was first published by Elias Howe of Boston, Massachusetts, around 1883. Fiddler, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, and former Library of Congress archivist Alan Jabbour discovered that One Thousand Fiddle Tunes, published by the M.M. Cole Company in 1940, was, in fact, a virtual replica of Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, stripped of all references to either Ryan or Howe.

Here’s putting things in social-historical context: In New York City, at the time the Buckley method was published, if a “maid” was ever seen behind a bar, she would not have been serving customers, at least not during normal business hours. Women in the US during the 19th century were involved in various reform movements, e.g., to improve education, to improve prisons, to ban alcoholic drinks, and in the Antebellum Period to abolish slavery and put an end to a host of social injustices.

In fact, in the Antebellum Period women and pubs simply did not mix, and women’s suffrage was still more than half a century away. Women got the vote in 1920, in Ireland in 1918.

So, when did the title ‘The Maid Behind the Bar’ come into general use, and could this tune—clearly a Gaelic strain—have been written in America and then brought back across the ocean, played on a sailing vessel or steamship, later re-titled and brought back again? Could it have been composed by a woman, perhaps a fiddler? After all, it goes by two other titles in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, as ‘Indy’s Favorite’ and ‘Judy’s Reel’.

These are things I love to ponder. I am doing more research on it and contacting archivists, but for now, please try your hand at the ‘New York Reel’ aka ‘The Maid Behind the Bar’.

Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 04/20/2009 05:58:00

johann - Posted - 01/20/2009:  12:30:36


quote:
Originally posted by DanielT

quote:
Originally posted by foggymentalbreakdown

with sort of a mandolinist approach.

Ugh...you make it sound like a disease.



I believe, though someone please correct me if I am wrong, that the mandolinist approach you might be referring to is called "cross-picking". This was a technique adapted from banjo to mandolin. It involves doing scruggs style rolls with a flat pick. There is no reason you can't adapt it back to banjo with a flat-pick and this seems exactly what has happened in some cases (at least, to me).

Cross-picking has its own sound and I hope to get to the point where I can do it, though it is beyond me at the moment. I have my fingers full with three-finger picking!

DanielT - Posted - 01/21/2009:  12:47:09


quote:
Originally posted by Tom Hanway

I am doing more research on it and contacting archivists, but for now, please try your hand at the ‘New York Reel’ aka ‘The Maid Behind the Bar’.


Tom, fascinating idea. Who are you contacting? When you get an update, be sure to post it here!

DanielT - Posted - 01/22/2009:  07:04:06


quote:
Originally posted by Tom Hanway

Have you any suggestions, being an ethnomusicologist familiar with tunes, players and sources?

Ahh, you flatter. I am bad at names! However, a quick peek over at the Fiddler's Companion reveals a tune by the name of "New York Reel." Not the same as yours (I didn't play through it; it was published well after your citation, anyway), but you might find it interesting:

"NEW YORK REEL. AKA and see "Chicoutimi Reel [2]." American, Reel. G Major ('A' part) & D Major ('B' part). Standard tuning. AABB. Al Smitley suggests it is just possible the tune may have been named for the ship called New York, a name that appears in American Clipper Ships 1833-1858 by Howe and Matthews. In fact, several tunes in Ryan/Cole appear to be named after famous vessels or other public works. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; pg. 38. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; pg. 65. White’s Unique Collection, 1896; No. 64, pg. 12."

I'm not real clear on what you're trying to discover in your research, but were I doing general research the first thing I think I'd do is figure out who originally published it to see if there's anything meaningful there (you don't really make the publisher clear and presumably you're working from Ayers's copy, which I've never seen). A quick WorldCat search shows that this book was published in Boston by Oliver Ditson & Co AND in New York by Firth, Son & Co. This is intersting and surely significant, but I don't really know why (Patrick Sky'd probably be your man on that).

I might also look beyond banjo tutors. I think flute tutors or piping tutors might be a way to go. I remember seeing one from the mid-eighteen teens that was all tunes (wish I could remember the name of it, though).

The bit on gender, here, is something of a red herring, I'm afraid. I don't think that you can glean much from the title in this case.

Keep us updated!

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  07:12:00


quote:
Originally posted by DanielT

quote:
Originally posted by Tom Hanway

I am doing more research on it and contacting archivists, but for now, please try your hand at the ‘New York Reel’ aka ‘The Maid Behind the Bar’.
Tom, fascinating idea. Who are you contacting? When you get an update, be sure to post it here!
Sure thing! Well, I know Alan Jabbour and he, myself and Ken Perlman played together at a school here in Longford, so Alan was the first person I contacted, and I will contact Ken as well. I'm hoping Alan will get back to me, but it’s email and so I might try snail mail. He's retired but he might be able to steer me in the right direction. Ken knows a lot of Irish tunes on banjo, especially ones that have circulated in the Celtic diaspora, in New York, New England, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.

I have also contacted Paul Wells, who's a leading researcher in the field and who has done a lot of work cross-referencing tunes between Ryan’s and other 19th-century publications. Paul is Director at the Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University. He might be my best bet in the States, and I have a phone number for him if I don’t hear back in email. He would know where to look, I reckon.

Since it was Bill Bay (CEO of Mel Bay Publications) who was very excited and sent me Ryan's Mammoth Collection when Mel Bay reprinted it 1995, I'll check with him and see if can go through the research staff at Mel Bay, those whose check on copyrights and sources for material. They have a legal obligation to do this, so going with my publisher is a safe and reliable place to begin. (I owe him a progress report anyway. A simpler version of this tune will appear in one of my three upcoming books.)

Maybe Patrick Sky, who wrote notes and a new Preface in the 1995 edition of Ryan's (while at The University of North Carolina) will have some leads. I have yet to track him down, but the publisher might be able to help me there. Let's see, who else....

In Ireland, I can contact Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (C.C.E.), though my hunch is that they will have no record of an American title, though they will probably have alternate, perhaps even older titles, and titles in Irish. I should be able to trace just how far the tune goes back in Ireland, at least in published versions, which obviously would tell me if there's a published Irish forebear older than the 'New York Reel' of 1860. That title is really perplexing. How did this tune get to Buckley? It looks to me to be a traditional Irish fiddle setting, judging by the key, triplets and note choices. They didn't call them "fiddle tunes" back then.

It's also possible that the Irish title was lost in oral transmission, which happens all the time, even with contemporary compositions. I will also go through my New York fiddling connections, Tony DeMarco in particular, who would know if Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds, Brian Conway or any of the old New York fiddlers or Sligo-style players were calling the tune by this title. If the tune was in circulation in the 20th-century as 'New York Reel', the Sligo-style players would know about it, being the kings of New York Irish fiddle. Come to think of it, there is another tune going by the title of 'New York Reel', listed in The Fiddler's Companion, but it's completely unrelated.

Sometimes oral transmission, when people remember old tune titles, can be of some help, though some players make a point of pretending not to know, i.e., not helping with titles, even when they know them. It has something to do with that awful word that purists and cynics like to toss at people (a kind of word bomb), i.e., being "authentic".

Some folks, usually purists, are hung up on showing more expertise than others, while at the same pretending not to know tune titles, because knowing these or admitting to reading music could make them look less credible as oral transmitters of the tradition. It's a form snobbery that erodes useful discussions and subverts research about tunes. People who pretend not to know (but who do know) are usually the ones who feign a curious type of superiority and are into oneupsmanship. Such types, at sessions and on boards, are uniquely unhelpful.

Have you any suggestions, being an ethnomusicologist familiar with tunes, players and sources? I might try Don Meade in New York, who is an encyclopedia for titles and alternate names. I know he is familiar with some alternate titles for this (e.g., 'Judy's Reel'). In Donegal, there is a variant known as 'McFarley's', and a whole slew of alternate titles exist, which have turned up nothing so far. I'm on it.


Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 01/22/2009 07:40:33

fergaloh - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:16:33


In Ireland its really normal for a one tune to have lots of names and numerous varitions as you know. Could be possible an Irishman brought it to new york whilst emigrating and, as it is also common for people not to have names for a tune, so it might be named in honour of arriving to a new place. 1860's time enough for people to have emigrated and settled. Its just as likely it was composed in America too though. On this page http://www.thesession.org/tunes/display.php/64 there are a few other names and the title New York is mentioned. Also the Maids of Castelbar shared a similar second part even though the tune doesn't sound the same. And you could see how the two names could morph into each other. Same as An tAthair Jack Welsh, became both father jack welsh and, tatter jack welsh. Good luck with the research. It's listed the Flanagan brothers recorded it as the green mountain. I play both the green mountain and the maid behind the bar and i've never really thought about it but there's loads of similarities and it is recognized they are kinda the same. Good luck with your research


Edited by - fergaloh on 01/22/2009 09:25:11

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:16:47


Folks, my last post and DanielT's got mixed up by accident. He posted his while I was revising mine, so they got reversed in cyberspace. In answer to his question about what it is I am trying to discover, the answer is: Yes, I am trying to discover the source: I'm trying to source the 'New York Reel' to see where it stands in relation to 'The Maid Behind the Bar' family of tunes. I have discovered that they are the same tune, or in the same tune family, going by two different names. The tune family is commonly referred to as 'The Maid Behind the Bar'. The tune may have an even older title, completely unrecognizable to English speakers (in Irish or Scottish Gaelic). Or, it might be an American tune, brought back to Ireland.

Not too many years ago 'St Anne's Reel' (a Canadian/American tune) won someone an All-Ireland Fleadh championship, to the chagrin of some diehard purists, because it's not an Irish tune! War broke out!

DanietT - I tried mailing you directly about our replies crossing, but I see you're offline now, so perhaps you didn't get the message - no bother. Avoiding politics, I don't think it's a red herring to include half of the population, i.e., women. In Irish traditional culture over the past few hundred years, women have taught their children how to sing and play their first instruments, and a wide variety of instruments which keeps getting wider. Women have composed tunes and disseminated tunes on both side of the Atlantic. It's not the exclusive province of men. No red herring here, just an open and honest search for the tune source. Female names keep coming up, e.g., "Indy" and "Judy". Look at it this way: Would it be a "red herring" to be open to the possiblility of a "man" as a potential source for a tune? I admit I'm a bit of a romantic, but it's not necesarily a romantic notion, even if my wife agrees with me - she who took piano lessons when she was expecting and taught her children how to sing songs like 'You are my Sunshine'.


Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 01/22/2009 09:34:35

fergaloh - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:28:22


Also its referred to as The Long Island Reel here so another New York connection http://www.irishtune.info/tune/2336/

fergaloh - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:37:12


And its referred to here as an American reel!!! http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/IN_...27S_FAVORITE

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:38:22


Yes, that's right, nice one. The next thing to do is to check on the actual tune settings, where they exist and see if some are closer to others. I am most interested in the Donegal version, 'McFarley's Reel'. Playing actual settings and seeing how close they are to others may reveal something....

Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats

fergaloh - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:40:14


and check this aswell http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/MAI...IND_THE_BAR_[1]

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:41:33


And don't forget this one: http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/GRE...EN_MOUNTAIN_[2]

A lot of American reels are much older and go back to the old country, so I wouldn't take it literally that a tune is referred to as "American".

It strikes me as peculiar that a tune called 'New York Reel' would find its way into an Antebellum Banjo tutor assembled by an Englishmen. Buckley was British. He traveled a lot and encountered all types of people. More on that later....

Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 01/22/2009 10:52:13

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:43:19


All of these are cross-referenced with each other in The Fiddler's Companion, but noticeably lacking is 'New York Reel' as an early version or variant of it. We have to dig further, perhaps Joe Ayers will be of help.

Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats

fergaloh - Posted - 01/22/2009:  09:47:14


Thats all i can get on the internet which i'm sure ya found already. Tha Maids of Castlebar seems to be closest to Mcfarleys

Tom Hanway - Posted - 01/22/2009:  10:25:52


Good stuff, I've been to all these internet places too, and while they are useful in cross-referencing 19th and even more common 20th-century titles, they have no listing for the D-tune, 'New York Reel' found in Buckley's New Banjo Book. I have seen no ABC notation or standard notation or sheet music for this tune online.

Buckley's New Banjo Book of 1860, actually the cover reads: Buckley's New Banjo Method, originally published in Boston in 1860 by Oliver Ditson & Company, was Buckley's crowning achievement, and he and his three sons left America that year to go home to England just as clouds were gathering before the War Between the States.

Interestling, there is a telling reference to Firth, Pond & Co. as entering the book "according to Act of Congress in the year 1860 ... in the Clerk's office of the United States District Court, of the Southern District of New York." This book was the business and had the backing of a prestigious New York music publisher, one who specialized in the sheet music of the minstrel shows which had become popular nationwide.

So Buckley's tutor was no simple homemade manuscript or the product of a single local style, but a comprehensive professional work by a banjo player who worked in the entertainment field coast to coast for nearly twenty years, who knew and played popular tunes with Joe Sweeney, Picayune Butler, Tom Briggs, Phil Rice and Converse. In fact, the Buckleys, as the Congo Methodists (formed in 1843) and later as Buckleys' Serenaders, always acknowledged Sweeney publicly and G. Swaine Buckley was even billed as "Young Sweeney", a title he used as late as 1845.

The famous 5-string banjoist of the 1840s gave his stamp of approval to the Buckleys, which writes Joe Ayers was, "an honor which he is not known to have allowed any others. This fact lends a unique certification to the Buckley's knowledge and understanding of folk tradition from which banjo sprang as they travelled throughout the United States collecting its music, in the theater and circus rings, on the docks and levies, and at the coach taverns and train stations. Indeed, James Buckley would become the most prolific transcriber of period banjo music in the mid 19th Century" See Joe Ayers, ed., James Buckley, Buckley’s New Banjo Book of 1860 (Bremo Bluff, Virginia: Tuckahoe Music, 1996), “Introduction”.

Also in his Introduction, Ayers further describes Buckley's tutor this way:

"It stands as the most authoritative and comprehensive collection of antebellum banjo music available to us. It also qualifies as the first truly classical banjo method published in the United States - one which uniquely bridges the gap between folk and classical worlds."


Happy pickin,

Tom Hanway

Please see my homepage and new digital stores.

''Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'' - W. B. Yeats


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 01/22/2009 10:56:47

DanielT - Posted - 01/22/2009:  11:54:09


quote:
Originally posted by Tom Hanway

I don't think it's a red herring to include half of the population, i.e., women. In Irish traditional culture over the past few hundred years, women have taught their children how to sing and play their first instruments, and a wide variety of instruments which keeps getting wider. Women have composed tunes and disseminated tunes on both side of the Atlantic. It's not the exclusive province of men.

It seems that our wires are crossed! I am not discounting the idea that it could have been composed by a woman nor am I suggesting that women had no role in the development of Irish music. (Julia Clifford is one name that immediately springs to mind. Elizabeth Crotty and Elizabeth Cronin are others.) My quibble is as a researcher. I find the idea that something can gleaned about this tune from its title and its variants somewhat dubious. Just because the word "Maid" is in the title doesn't necessarily mean very much. You mentioned Don Meade in another post. Surely you've read his excellent piece on Kitty O'Neil's Champion Jig where he explores the problems with making sense out of tune titles even when you have a traceable name in the title. It's a great article because he's able to shed light on the tune's context but only because it has a specific, documented name he can research associated with it. Ultimately, he makes no real claim about the tune's composer because there's not enough hard data to be had.

Now, finding a familiar tune under a different cover in a nineteenth century banjo tutor is exciting and all, but I think that speculating about a tune's history and origin based on the subjective interpretation of its title puts one on thin musicological ice. In this context, "gender" loses its use value as a research tool and becomes a poor starting point. I would do like Jabbour (and others) have done and do some original comparative work to see if the tune appears in other contemporary (esp. non-banjo) sources. Howe published a bunch of them that I'd want to check out, including (but not limited to) Howe's School for the Violin [1843], Howe's New American Flute School [1858], the Abridged edition of Howe's new American banjo school [1859] The musician's companion [1844] and especially The Hibernia collection [1860] (this one credited to a "Patrick Flannagan" but which may have in fact been compiled by Howe's son).

Now, if something comes up in this kind of search that makes gender relevant to understanding the tune (which it may very well), then great. But it may just be that the tune was very popular among New York audiences when Buckley was here. He writes a book, gets it published in Boston and New York (using the same manuscript), and based on the tune's popularity and size of the expected market for his book, gives the tune a NY name to drum up interest for when his tour comes back to town.

Or, maybe he renamed it to avoid some kind of infringement claim - if Howe already had the tune published (given the number of books he had out), it's possible the could have gotten all pissy about Firth, Hall and Pond (a NY competitor?) putting it in one of their books.

This is a long winded way of saying that before gender even popped up as a possibility, I'd look deeper into this tunes publication history in the US - there is probably a lot to find there. Having said this, I will look forward to reading about your findings, though. Great stuff!

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