Anyone Play Celtic Music?
I'm curious what scales and modes you normally use and are they generally what you practice? Or do you generally only practice songs that you write?
I may help you if you explain what is "Celtic" music(I may be incultured)
I would imagine that modes are more prominent than actual scales
Modes are scales. Just different scales. I would expect dorian and lydian modes to be common but I really don't know, as I don't play a lot of Celtic stuff.
Major, Dorian, Mixolydian and Aeolian, and lots of pentatonic of course. Don't hear much Lydian, Phrygian or Locrian. I don't write any songs but those are the scale/modes I use when accompanying. Anyway, if you practice the Major scales then you've got all the modes and pentatonics already under your fingers.
Celtic music? That's got to be marketing terminology, on a par with the ubiquitous "song". I'd provisionally define Celtic music as music that is embedded in the culture of a Celtic nation or community that still has its own Celtic language. Such languages would be Gaelic (in Scotland), Irish, Welsh (I'm Anglo Welsh), and Breton. To this list may be included Manx (the now defunct language of the Celtic Isle of Man), Cornish (now making a comeback in Cornwall), and, intriguingly, Patagonian Welsh in S America (I have no idea whether or not they have a music tradition).
Trevor, Celtic is a sub-genre or Folk basically
I've been listening to Loreena McKennitt and thought it would be cool to write some songs along those lines
After you've heard 20,000 Celtic fiddle tunes, you've heard them all.
There is a fair amount of confusion here. I'll try to help.
The Bonny Swans is my favorite Loreena McKennit song and when it first came out some of the radio stations played it a lot.
Let's not leave Galicia (northern Spain) out of the list.
Music is not exactly language, but the similarities are too broad and deep to dismiss.
By the way, the idea that "Celtic" is a marketing term does not make it evil. Helping customers know what to buy -- that is, organizing ones wares in a limited number of broader categories -- is generally helpful to the consumer. If you already know that you're only interested in Galician or Manx fiddling, then go right ahead and search Amazon for that.
Jeff Jetson, I really like her Middle Eastern flavored songs like Caravanserai, you can almost smell the camels when you listen to it.
Blimey. I have read some "stuff" in this thread.
Graeme -- interesting to learn about the origins with pipes and harps. That's very significant. Thanks for the education!
Very interesting Graeme
For buying music Celtic is a useful category. For playing, though, there are significant differences between the Scottish and Irish traditions. I personally prefer the Scottish stuff, myself. More rhythmic and foot tapping.
I've been involved with Scottish instrumental music and song for half a century. and feel that some of the views above are a bit misleading.
For the curious who can't travel to all the various localities to hear the local fiddle traditions in person, Chris Haigh wrote a wonderful book "The Fiddle Handbook" in which he describes and demonstrates with printed musical examples and recordings on 2 CDs which accompany the book many varieties of fiddling. He covers Irish, Scottish, English, Klezmer, Eastern European, American Old-Time, Cajun, Bluegrass, Western Swing, Country, Blues, Rock, Jazz. It's a great introduction to the differences between the various styles.
I enjoy the Transatlantic Sessions based in Scotland, it includes great musicians from the UK and members of Union Station, and sometimes Bela Fleck
My solution for books that won't lie flat on the stand is to cut off the bindings and have spirals put on at the local print shop. The worst books I have ever bought for lying flat on a music stand are the O'Connor Method books.
I agree wholly with Geoff Caplan. By the way, I've been playing Cape Breton & Scottish fiddle music for about 25 years (before that, mainly classical); and I would like to point out that the music of Loreena McKennitt -- though "Celtic" in a broad sense -- has very little connection with Cape Breton or Scottish fiddling traditions. Contrary to what was implied in an earlier posting by Paul Smith. If you want to concentrate on Cape Breton fiddling, start with Natalie McMaster, preferably her "My Roots are Showing" album.
Thank you, Geoff Caplan in particular. I don't claim any real knowledge of Celtic music, but your post leads me to suspect that much of what I've heard about it (and about ITM in particular) might be wrong, or at the very least lacking in nuance. Now I want to have a closer look/listen.
Sorry, Parker...mea culpa, I went with McKinnett being Canadian. In any case, someone interested in imitating her singing would do well to listen to traditional singers, which is the specific suggestion I made. I have no idea how serious McKinnett's study of an actual tradition has been, but her singing still sounds more Scottish than Irish to me. I did not give the OP a suggestion for learning Cape Breton fiddling, implied or otherwise, but the traditional singing from that region might be an inspiration.
"Learning" folk music from the printed dots won't work if you have never heard the music being played. The dots are a mere skeleton of the real thing and can never notate the essential and ever-changing nuances of the music when played by experienced musicians. A lot of listening, preferably at live sessions or gigs if you can manage it, is one of the very few ways to put the flesh on that skeleton. Another way of course is to take lessons from an experienced teacher of the music, or in workshops.
Henry... You are suggesting that it's possible to learn to speak French by having it written out phonetically so that you sound like you could almost... speak... French... Your theory relies on the assumption that sounding like you can speak French is a good pathway to speaking French. I don't think so. You seem to think that memorizing this phonetic spelling of French, how to make the sounds of French, means that you can sing like Edith Piaf, and actually feel the music as she did? Yeah, right.
No, but with a phrasebook you can ask for directions to the WC.
Paul Smith's analogy is a good one. To learn to play Irish music, or Scottish, etc., in which there are many dialects, you need a good teacher, and the willingness to spend time listening and playing along with humility in live gigs and sessions. Even more so if you hope to compose tunes in the right idiom; in my view not exactly a piece of cake. The written notes can help you get started if you aren't comfortable learning by ear, but they're only at best a beginning. Unlearning dependence on the written note is fundamental. I found that quite challenging as a classically trained violinist when I first began to play this music a long time ago.
I dated a classically trained pianist years ago, we tried jamming and she couldn't do anything without the notation in front of her. I was a 100% ear player (bassist) told her the keys and scales involved and she couldn't do it.
Not at all surprising. Took me me quite a while to get comfortable without a score.
Practice your pentatonic scales and arpeggio inversions. Then go to a fiddle camp. I like Centrum Fiddletunes Festival in Port Townsend, WA. Cheers! :)
Just returned from a very satisfying daytime solo violin recital at a local church. The violinist was Declan Daly. He performed an eclectic mix of solo classical with Irish fiddle music and a touch of American folk fiddle. Typically, he'd play a movement from a Bach suite and follow it with an Irish jig. Other sets would be a piece by another classical composer linked with another Irish or American tune, not necessarily in that order. Another piece played was the Bourree from Bach's 3rd cello suite, transcribed for the violin, and that worked very well (memo to self - look closer into this).
It occurs to me that Declan Daly's solo recital was, in effect, busking indoors at the highest level, performed by a master of his art.
I suspect that one of the ways that Celtic music has been "defined" for a lot of people is: "Whatever gets played on
Trevor, you ever hear of Aly Bain? he's a Scot. I see him as a virtuoso on the fiddle.
Jeffrey, yes, I agree.
While there are new "Celtic" groups and stars who play new "Celtic" music; the vast majority of Celtic music has been passed down either by ear, rote (do-as-I-do), or notation. "Sessions" are where groups of musicians come together and play these fiddle tunes. While there is some variety in Celtic music based on the region in which it is played, the same tune WITHIN an area is generally always played the same way. The same tune in a different region may have its own regional difference, but in that area it is also played the same way (for that area). [Consider a Scottish tune that came over with Scottish immigrants to the US, and stayed in the Appalachian Mountains for two hundred years. The Scottish tune in Scotland will be the same throughout Scotland, and the Appalachian tune (which may have varied over the years from its Scottish parent), though slightly different from its parent form, will be the same throughout the Appalachian area, When "Sessions" are played, everyone needs to know the same version. There are books like "1,001 Fiddle Tunes" and the resources like the James Scott Skinner Collection at the University of Aberdeen or the Miller O'Hirn Collection at the University of Glasgow Library, or any of the publications of Neil Gow, Duncan Macintyre, etc., on on-line from URLs like thesession.org that has kept these pieces alive. Except for "new" Celtic groups doing their own original music, the traditional music is basically unchanged (although SOLO performers, or a soloist with a group, will often add variations to the well-known original).
Joel, you speak in such vague and general terms about something that in practice is extremely complicated, that it's difficult to see how your pronouncements have much to do with actual traditional fiddling. That you think traditional music is "unchanged" in any context is at best uninformed, and your statement that "the same tune WITHIN an area is generally always played the same way" is simply untrue. I am not as educated in Scottish music to challenge your idea that a Scottish tune "will be the same throughout Scotland," but I can say with confidence that this is NOT the case in Ireland, nor in American fiddling, even within the same region.
What Paul says is true of Scottish traditional music as well as Irish or American fiddling. There are very many variations within the same region, and even from player to player. Accomplished players may play the same tune quite differently on different occasions. It may useful for members of an organized "session" to agree among themselves on which version of a tune to follow, since they are essentially bunch of people trying to play together in unison or in harmony, but it is simply untrue to say that "the Scottish tune in Scotland will be the same throughout Scotland." Or throughout Cape Breton, Quebec, Newfoundland, the Appalachians, etc. Traditional tunes do have a recognizable pattern, it's not utter chaos, but there are lots of differences in the details, and that's part of the pleasure of getting to know them.
I didn't read all the responses before posting this because it's actually a relatively simple answer. I'm a fiddler rather than a classical violinist, and to me and the other "Celtic" musicians I know, Celtic music means mostly (key words, "mostly") one thing: Fiddle tunes! Mostly, reels, hornpipes and the different kinds of jigs. Sure, there are also airs and strathspeys, but even those can be considered kinds of fiddle tunes. For these forms of music, the most common modes are by far Ionian, Aeolian, and Dorian. Mixolydian also occurs but the other 3 are far more prominent imo. The 6th can sometimes be ambiguous or simply left out and leaves you wondering as to whether it's strictly Aeolian or Dorian....but in the end it doesn't really matter. Let your ear guide you. Chordal back-up would differ very little between the two. For vocal music within this genre, the melodies often stick simply to Ionian or Aeolian.
Although it's worth noting that if you're in a Celtic music enviroment, you might just call them "chunes" and not "fiddle chunes". No need to offend the pipers ;)
I agree with Jason about the modes. You know, for a fiddle player to learn a little bit of guitar is just as valuable as it is for a classical violinist to learn a little piano. It just helps you understand the music you're playing, really it does.
Very true, Paul. One of the main reasons I do play just enough guitar to back up another lead player. It also seems to solidify your sense of rhythm. Very important since Celtic music is mostly dance music. You can dance to a pot being banged with a spoon or the prettiest little melody from a fiddle; but you can dance to neither if they aren't timed well.
Playing guitar or piano to accompany celtic music is great because the chords are fairly simple (most are just triads with the occasional dominant 7th thrown in) and it can be a very educational experience when you pay attention to which notes are the same from chord to chord and which ones change. It can help your whole understanding of harmony and can lead to greater improvisation possibilities.
Another great collection of Celtic tunes (with a few American tunes mixed in) is the King Street Sessions Tune Book, available for free download from several different sites online. It's got over 1000 tunes, neatly laid out with guitar chords.
Mixolydian mode is very common in fiddling.
Graeme, I can't think of a single fiddle player in my area that doesn't play guitar or who would agree with you. But nonetheless, I don't see the need to be defensive about a harmless opinion. I can't imagine that knowing more about music would ever hurt.
I do agree with you that Mixolydian is very common in fiddling in general. Although much more common in American Old-Time and Bluegrass than in Celtic, in my opinion.
…….There are very many variations within the same region, and even from player to player.....
As for myself I only focus on original music, I do enjoy picking up ideas by watching or listening to others.
Henry wrote... "I'm curious, how do you choose which region/dialect/variation and player to emulate."
There's a lot of truth in what Paul says about styles. I also firmly believe in listening widely and not limiting yourself. This is just my theory, but I believe that "your sound" developes through extensive exposure to all things music and that to create a sound, you must first hear it.
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