Richard Goss writes: | | Strange, I can´t think of any dance tunes in fast time (reel, Jig, or hornpipe) in their original form prior to the [R]SCDS that do not have an up beat at the beginning. | | Can you give examples?
Well, as a musician, I'd say that this is basically a meaningless
question. Tunes aren't passed down from God (or even Pan ;-), to be
forever unchanged. People play them as they play them.
If you look at the published versions of tunes, many start right on
the downbeat, with no pickup. However, in the RSCDS "tradition",
musicians conventionally start with a chord (1 bar), a rest (1/2
bar), and the pickup note(s) (1/2 bar). These three events give the
dancers the tempo. If a written tune has no pickup note, it's no
problem; you just play one. It's usually the 5th of the scale, though
sometimes another note works better.
So in recordings intended for this sort of dance, there is always a
pickup note. This doesn't mean that "the tune" starts with such a
note; it just means that the musicians played one.
Often you can distinguish these cases by listening to repeats of the
first tune. A pickup note isn't needed anywhere but at the very start
of the dance, so after the first time, musicians may or may not play
one. But even this isn't necessarily meaningful. A pickup note may be
played because there's printed music that has one, or because the
musician felt that it sounded right, or because of pure whimsy. The
pickup may be omitted for the same reasons.
One thing that most musicians would agree with is that sometimes the
tune needs the pickup note(s), but usually not. Thus, Petronella has
two pickup notes that are part of the tune, and it sounds distinctly
odd to omit them. In such cases, it's meaningful to say that the tune
"has" a pickup note. But this is true for only a minority of tunes.
In most cases, a written pickup note isn't significant, and even if
it's there, musicians will omit it for variety, because they know
that it's not really a part of the tune. And many written tunes have
no pickup note, but you can always play one.