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Oct 12, 2018 - 10:09:40 AM

Fu2

USA

119 posts since 8/29/2015

Reading on here it seems most play clawhammer by ear,so does that put you into playing crooked time or do you still play by bars and measures like they do in B.G.? How do you go about playing and keeping the A and B parts measures correct to keep from playing crooked time? What is the secret to counting your measures or do you just let the fiddler pull you through to the end......hope i'm wording it right to get some good honest answers!

Oct 12, 2018 - 10:30:51 AM
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doryman

USA

645 posts since 11/26/2012

What exactly do YOU mean by "crooked time?"

Edited by - doryman on 10/12/2018 10:31:09

Oct 12, 2018 - 11:11:23 AM

timacn

USA

479 posts since 7/30/2004

"Crooked time" is something I have read about several times but never completely understood. Actually, I don't even understand it a little bit. Along with the concept of "the dew point," the logic of "Crooked Time" has eluded me for years. I think I know WHAT it is, but I don't know WHY it is.

Oct 12, 2018 - 11:31:35 AM
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2534 posts since 10/17/2009

It just about listening to phrasing, and beat grouping. Listen and feel is more important than counting.

Straight tunes, default parts are either 8 beats or 16 beats, and grouped as 2 or 4 beats symmetry. We are very used to it, sounds natural, intuitive.

Crooked has extra or less than beats, less intuitive. Usually it simply involves a group of 3 beats with the 2 or 4.  (could perceive it as 5, 7, 9 beats). Asymmetrical phrases. 

Listen to the phrases.
For example instead of symmetrical [12, 34] [56, 78]  
might be [12, 34] [567, 89] or [12, 34] [567]

Oct 12, 2018 - 11:35:54 AM
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8153 posts since 2/22/2007

To my understanding it is simply a tune that is not constrained by any given beats to a measure. So, you may have a tune that counts like any other 4/4 tune for most of it, then ends the A or B part with a measure that has only three beats, or perhaps carries on for five beats, then back to business as usual. And other tunes seem to have a two-count measure stuck in among the other four-count measures. They are not random, they serve the melody, which is more important than maintaining an even count and making everything come out "square". You play them by internalizing the tune and learning it's nuances.

Oct 12, 2018 - 12:02:15 PM
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rudy

USA

13132 posts since 3/27/2004

That's a new one on me.  I've been playing music for 50 years and never heard of "crooked time".  I'm very familiar with playing "crooked tunes" which generally have a shortened or extra beat, usually in the B section.  The timing is uniform, as with almost all musical structure, but the counts might vary.

If that's what is being asked about it has nothing to do with weather the music is written or only passed on in "by ear" form.  Crooked tunes aren't limited to any specific genre of music, either.  Probably the most common example of a crooked tune that is commonly played by both bluegrass and old time bands is Clench Mountain Backstep. 

Keeping track of crooked tunes also has nothing to do with following a fiddler, and can occur in various types of music that is not associated with fiddle accompaniment.

As far as keeping track of beats / measures it's simply a matter of becoming familiar with the tune and remembering where to insert or remove small timing or beat anomalies within the tune.  Crooked tunes are not random, and the timing / beat structure is consistent throughout the entire tune.

Learning the structure of crooked tunes has always been easiest for me when I physically count out the timing as the tune is played.  I sometimes resort to laying down the beat with my fingertips if it's really odd.  

Oct 12, 2018 - 12:24:45 PM
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R Buck

USA

2560 posts since 9/5/2006
Online Now

Do you mean crooked tune? That being a tune with differing in the number of beats between the A and B part. Most of the time when I have heard crooked time is when the tune is disremembered and beats are dropped or added. Ralph Blizzard was a champ at this here

You notice Gordy Hinners's  banjo is in sync with him as are the rest of the band.  Ralph used to tag the B part with a long string of notes that changes the character of the tune.

If you spend time listening to field recordings you will find more example of crooked tunes and tunes where isolated players drop beats or add them.

Oct 12, 2018 - 1:32:28 PM
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dbrooks

USA

3487 posts since 3/11/2004

I too think the question concerns "crooked tunes." Most fiddle tunes have a standard structure: A Part with 8 measures and B Part with 8 measures. Each part is usually played twice, totaling 32 measures (16 for A, 16 for B). Virtually of the contra dances we play for are built on 32 measures. As the tune begins again with a new A Part, the couple dances with a new couple. (Square dances do not depend on this structure since the caller guides the dance according to his or her wishes.)

"Crooked" tunes will vary from the above structure in different ways. Some may have more or fewer than 8 measures in an A or B Part. Some may have a measure with 2 beats rather than 4 beats. (Tunes with more than 2 parts, while not suited for contra dances,  may not be crooked unless they have measures with more or fewer beats than the rest of the measures in the tune.)

As Rbuck says, crooked tunes may be the result of misremembering or other blips in the oral tradition that support fiddle tunes. In general, though, fiddle tunes today are shared using much the same musical conventions as Bluegrass tunes (tgo address another part of the OP's question).

David

Oct 12, 2018 - 2:28:15 PM
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Chadbanjo

Canada

1370 posts since 3/27/2010

You can make any tune crooked by adding in extra fill notes inbetween the melody. Works solo for sure.

Oct 12, 2018 - 3:25:29 PM
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5730 posts since 3/11/2006

quote:
Originally posted by KHO

Reading on here it seems most play clawhammer by ear,so does that put you into playing crooked time or do you still play by bars and measures like they do in B.G.? How do you go about playing and keeping the A and B parts measures correct to keep from playing crooked time? What is the secret to counting your measures or do you just let the fiddler pull you through to the end......hope i'm wording it right to get some good honest answers!


The vast majority of tunes are not crooked (i.e. having irregular numbers of beats per measure).  The key to learning a tune by ear without inadvertently making it crooked is to have a good ear!  There is a school of thought that theorizes that many crooked tunes were converted to such by players with not such a good grip on timing, and then passing those mis-played tunes down to younger folks who perpetuated them.  Of course, there are tunes with parts that have differing numbers of measures.  In Irish trad, many, many set dances have parts that contain more or fewer than eight measures per part, and with each part differing in length.  These tunes are used for specific solo dances that often have standardized steps, unlike say, a generic reel which can be used for any reel-time dance.

When you run into a tune that has an unusual number of beats per measure, that may possibly be an indication of a tune improperly learned way back when.

Oct 12, 2018 - 3:41:40 PM

8153 posts since 2/22/2007

The crookedness is either intrinsic to the melody or it's just an affectation, imo. I don't see any reason to perpetuate a mistake, or to make a tune harder than it needs to be, especially if it adds nothing to the tune. But some melodies have their own internal logic to them and need to be played with respect for that. Squaring them off changes them into something new and takes away their essential nature.

Oct 12, 2018 - 4:20:20 PM
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rudy

USA

13132 posts since 3/27/2004

i think we may do a disservice by reasoning that crooked tunes were "accidental" and then perpetuated.  I give a lot more credit to folks who play (and compose) tunes.  I believe many of the "crooked tunes" were done intentionally.  When I listen carefully the "hiccup" appears in an obvious place and seems correct".

Some crooked tunes are very difficult to catch on to, but if you spend the time to figure out what the composer had in mind it yields a remarkable satisfaction when you finally "get it".

I consider crooked tunes to be delicious and highly satisfying when the brain finally figures out the non-conforming structure. 

Oct 12, 2018 - 5:49:52 PM

43 posts since 4/1/2016

Clinch Mountain Backstep is the only example that I can think of but I’m sure there’s hundreds of others. Dr. Ralph wrote this in 1953 and, as I understand it, the crooked (I think two beats?) piece in the B part, is considered a “ backstep”. Lots of players don’t do it and it’s not always noticed

Oct 12, 2018 - 6:04:46 PM
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2216 posts since 4/19/2008
Online Now

here's an example using AMBER TRESSES (original sheet music 4/4 all the way)
 

Carter Family https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtZBD8IzfyI very "crooked"

red measures are 6 beats instead of 4

 

Flatt & Scruggs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b2n-dTReXI  one crooked measure, can you find it?


Oct 13, 2018 - 6:55:27 AM

877 posts since 2/10/2013

I have heard/seen tunes referenced as "crooked tunes". It more often happened in old tunes where the musician was playing alone and did not worry about accompaniment. Sort of like an Air. "Crooked" just meant that there were one or more measures in different time than the others. Like you were playing along in 4/4 time, and suddenly one measure of 1/4 time occurs. Unless a person playing the tune is aware of this situation, it really messes up your timing.

One popular bluegrass "crooked" tune is Clinch Mountain Backstep.

Oct 13, 2018 - 7:47:08 AM
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R Buck

USA

2560 posts since 9/5/2006
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by rudy

i think we may do a disservice by reasoning that crooked tunes were "accidental" and then perpetuated.  I give a lot more credit to folks who play (and compose) tunes.  I believe many of the "crooked tunes" were done intentionally.  When I listen carefully the "hiccup" appears in an obvious place and seems correct".

Some crooked tunes are very difficult to catch on to, but if you spend the time to figure out what the composer had in mind it yields a remarkable satisfaction when you finally "get it"

I consider crooked tunes to be delicious and highly satisfying when the brain finally figures out the non-conforming structure. 

 

 


Not saying they all are a product of human frailties just that it often happens.  Some tunes are just crooked like 5 Miles From Town.  They are indeed fun to play.

Oct 13, 2018 - 8:18:23 AM

6058 posts since 6/27/2009

I remember when first becoming aware of crooked timing. My foot tapping would be off and so I started counting the measures and beats to see what was going on. Now I realize that some tunes are traditionally played crookedly, many considered to be from Appalachia. The crookedness can come in different places in a part, but it is always played that way each time through.

Sometimes a modern player “straightens” the tune, which is generally my preference. One example of a tune played crookedly by everyone I’ve heard is Camp Chase. The legend says that by playing it unexpectedly crooked a fiddler won a contest and was released from a Civil War prison. His grandson, French Carpenter, plays it crookedly in both the A and B parts.

I think the trick is to know and play the tune the way the fiddler who you’re with plays it. It will sound just right. If the tune is tabbed you can also see clearly where the crookedness lies. A tune book on this subject would be great!


Oct 13, 2018 - 8:35:06 AM
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8153 posts since 2/22/2007

"Texas" Tim Eriksen   Link is to a good example of a deliberately crooked tune.  Also known as New Castle, and pretty sure that Tim is playing Diller's version here,  you have three measures of four beats followed by one measure of five beats, and that pattern continues through the A and B parts.  And it sounds perfectly normal if just listening to it, but if you try to play it counting four beats to a measure you will soon be lost.  

Oct 13, 2018 - 9:10:29 AM

56 posts since 9/6/2014

How about Paradise by John Prine, would you consider it crooked due to the chord progression not being square? I have always considered it crooked.
[A][A][D][A]
[A][A][E][A][A]

Oct 13, 2018 - 10:32:12 AM

2534 posts since 10/17/2009

The OP might be referring as crooked timing in what folk singers or sometimes BG singers do in songs (as opposed to crooked tunes)... where they add extra space after phrases or parts... measure or two, (or just random extra beats). Sometimes it's consistent, arranged that way...  sometimes (esp in jams) a bit flexible and inconsistent.  Not sure what the secret would be for the latter, other than just listen try to feel it, follow the lead, listen for pickup notes.

Oct 13, 2018 - 11:02:46 AM

5730 posts since 3/11/2006

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e
The crookedness is either intrinsic to the melody or it's just an affectation, imo. I don't see any reason to perpetuate a mistake, or to make a tune harder than it needs to be, especially if it adds nothing to the tune. But some melodies have their own internal logic to them and need to be played with respect for that. Squaring them off changes them into something new and takes away their essential nature.



The reason a mistake may have been perpetuated, is that when tunes get learned a certain way, they can get passed down as part of the traditional process.  This is often why melodies get changed and passed down.  Hence the reason for multiple versions of a tune.  Melodies can get changed, and so can rhythm.  One thing that makes rhythmic change less common/permanent is the influence of dancers who normally call for regular rhythm.

To say that crookedness is intrinsic to a melody is not necessarily so... melody is melody, and rhythm is rhythm.  There are reel versions of jigs, 3/4 versions of 4/4 tunes, etc., all with the same recognizable melodies.  On one of my CD's I play Greensleeves in 4/4 for example, and I'm hoping it is still recognizable!

Here's a version of "Arkansas Traveler" at the 2:35 mark with an extra beat. There is no more standardized tune on the planet.  That melody certainly does not have anything that intrinsically calls for it to be crooked otherwise it would not been have been composed as a regular rhythm piece, and played just about exclusively that way.

I am not in any way trying to say that all crooked tunes are the product of mistakes, but I've heard enough players with bad rhythm to know that the possibility exists that some of them could be.  I'd agree that crooked tunes passed down to us should be preserved as such.

Oct 13, 2018 - 11:20:21 AM
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8153 posts since 2/22/2007

R.D., The "Texas" linked above is to me an example of where the crookedness is intrinsic to the tune. The five count every fourth measure seems essential to me and could not be played straight without leaving something out. That melody has it's own rhythm and flow and would not be the same melody without it, imo.

Oct 13, 2018 - 3:57:49 PM

5730 posts since 3/11/2006

banjo bill-e I have to agree.
Thanks; RD

Oct 13, 2018 - 5:55:23 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13132 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by writedivine

How about Paradise by John Prine, would you consider it crooked due to the chord progression not being square? I have always considered it crooked.
[A][A][D][A]
[A][A][E][A][A]


I would indeed consider it a crooked tune, and by association a "crooked song".  wink

Oct 13, 2018 - 6:46:21 PM

2216 posts since 4/19/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by rudy
quote:
Originally posted by writedivine

How about Paradise by John Prine, would you consider it crooked due to the chord progression not being square? I have always considered it crooked.
[A][A][D][A]
[A][A][E][A][A]


I would indeed consider it a crooked tune, and by association a "crooked song".  wink


I'll stir the pot and say it has "potatoes" and is not crooked.

Oct 14, 2018 - 8:35:11 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13132 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall
quote:
Originally posted by rudy
quote:
Originally posted by writedivine

How about Paradise by John Prine, would you consider it crooked due to the chord progression not being square? I have always considered it crooked.
[A][A][D][A]
[A][A][E][A][A]


I would indeed consider it a crooked tune, and by association a "crooked song".  wink


I'll stir the pot and say it has "potatoes" and is not crooked.


Sorry Rick, "potatoes" are already reserved to the count off to start a tune.  wink  

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