strathspey Archive: 4 bar introductions

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4 bar introductions

Message 2528 · Etienne Ozorak · 2 Oct 1995 15:49:09 · Top

I agree that, technically, a four-bar introduction might work better
for the Dashing White Sergeant. In fact, many of the old time dances
are customarily begun with a four bar introduction.

However, I was recently teaching a music workshop on SCD music and
most of the musicians there had never even heard of the Eva Three
Step (a basic old time dance) and some are still struggling with
issues such as how long to play the beginning chord. It seems to me
that if introductions to a dance (four-bars, or those that begin with
two chords) become even more specialized, musicians will become even
more discouraged about the amount of specialized knowledge and skills
required to play for SCD.

I recently had a chat with Simon Scott of Vancouver with regards to
dances which begin with two chords. Simon has written an article
(which he hopes will appear in TacTalk) in which he argues that the
practice of two-chord introductions should be abolished.

I am not arguing for or against any of the above practices. I just
hope we can avoid making things any more specialized than they
already are.

Salut,
Etienne

4 bar introductions

Message 2531 · LMCEACHERN · 2 Oct 1995 21:54:24 · Top

This four-bar introduction sounds a lot like the practice of English
Country Dance musicians, where we commonly give the last four bars of the
tune to begin a dance. Alternatively, we often give a two or four-bar
"vamp" which serves to establish the tempo for the dancers. This does not
allow for acknowledging one's partners, however...

Let's not sell musicians short. If the dancers can cope, surely we can
too!!!

Laurie McEachern
lmceachern@trentu.ca

4 bar introductions

Message 2532 · Susan Worland · 2 Oct 1995 22:16:57 · Top

>This four-bar introduction sounds a lot like the practice of English
>Country Dance musicians, where we commonly give the last four bars of the
>tune to begin a dance. Alternatively, we often give a two or four-bar
>"vamp" which serves to establish the tempo for the dancers. This does not
>allow for acknowledging one's partners, however...
>
Oh, that's interesting! I, and most English dance musicians around here
(Boston) give a ONE NOTE pickup to start a dance. Is this a regional thing,
anyone know?
===================================================================
Susan Worland Online Computer Market, Inc.
susan@ocm.com 30 Turnpike Road, Southborough Mass.
http://www.ocm.com (508) 480-0577
A premier provider of products and services for World Wide Web
based advertising, marketing, electronic commerce, electronic
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===================================================================

4 bar introductions

Message 2533 · Courtney Cartwright · 4 Oct 1995 01:27:15 · Top

At 04:22 PM 10/2/95 Time--100, Susan Worland wrote:
>>This four-bar introduction sounds a lot like the practice of English
>>Country Dance musicians, where we commonly give the last four bars of the
>>tune to begin a dance. Alternatively, we often give a two or four-bar
>>"vamp" which serves to establish the tempo for the dancers. This does not
>>allow for acknowledging one's partners, however...
>>
>Oh, that's interesting! I, and most English dance musicians around here
>(Boston) give a ONE NOTE pickup to start a dance. Is this a regional thing,
>anyone know?
>===================================================================
>
>
>
It might be a regional thing, but it also, I suspect, is a fashion statement,
if that makes sense. I have some really badly copied tapes of old (1940's,
1950's) English Country Dance Music. A lot of the tunes have 4 bar intro's, but
some also have pickup intros, like that used in "Sellenger's Round" on the Bare
Necessities album. It seems to me that most of the dances started with pickup
notes were fairly upbeat, jig type tunes. The slower tunes, like "A Hole in the
Wall", or tunes with more eccentric rhythms, like "Fandango" had a four bar
intro. I don't know if this was the usual custom with the EFDSS players or
whether it was just the personality of the band recording the pieces. Perhaps
the EFDSS would be able to elaborate.

Courtney Cartwright
Tucson, Arizona
ccartwri@primenet.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2536 · McOwen · 4 Oct 1995 09:12:40 · Top

Dear Friends,

Etienne makes good points, but alternatively I *like* all the little
different bits and nits. They add color and interest to the streams of
8x32s. Actually I'm guilty of being kind of a proponent of 8x32 everythings
(for many events), but I also devilishly like the idea of doing two chords or
a 4-bar intro or a 28-bar tune or a 9/8 tune or a minuet, or other such
things when possible. Many musicians have a dance consultant, to keep these
things straight, as teachers often have a musician consultant. The best cure
for beginning musicians who find the unusual details too difficult to
remember is to experience the dances from the dance floor. Everything gets
put into perspective there.

Once someone had the idea of making a program that had a 16-bar dance, a
24-bar dance, a 28-bar dance, a 32-bar dance, a 40-bar dance, a 48-bar dance,
etc on up. Not a good idea for that particular party (which included a lot
of out-of-town people) or for that particular band (which included a singer),
but possibly intriguing. However, I usually find "theme" programs to not
work very well.

>From a related thread--I've gotten a piper to play along with the band for
some SCD balls, and we do manage to play a chord! The piper can use
ornaments in place of the sting.

Sincerely,
Barbara McOwen
Arlington, Mass
mcowen@aol.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2539 · Etienne Ozorak · 4 Oct 1995 15:32:55 · Top

Actually, I did not mean to imply simply that every dance ought to
just begin with one chord. I also happen to like all the variant
beginings that Barbara mentioned in her message. It's just been my
experience that if I happen to make a mistake at a dance such as
forgetting the second chord to a dance (God forbid), I have
unfortunately found that some people are very quick to turn my
mistake into an opportunity for public humiliation (and, yes, it's
usually men who do this). As much as possible, I put all those
little details (such as the type of introduction) on the chart, but I
do regret the fact that my memory bank is not as efficient as my
computer's.

Where our Dashing White Sergeant is concerned, we are likely to have
bands who will continue to do a chord to begin and some who will do a
4-bar intro. I get unconfortable about "it ought to be done this way
or that", in that this is one of the very things which many people
roast the RSCDS for doing. At any rate, a four bar intro sounds
perfect for that dance, assuming the dancers are warned that a chord
will not be forthcoming...

Salut (I will be quiet now),
Etienne

4 bar introductions

Message 2540 · Coletta Hill · 4 Oct 1995 17:55:48 · Top

Reply to: RE>>4 bar introductions

Barbara McOwen writes;
>From a related thread--I've gotten a piper to play along with the band for
some SCD balls, and we do manage to play a chord! The piper can use
ornaments in place of the sting.<

Pardon my ignorance but what is an "ornament" and what is a "sting"?

4 bar introductions

Message 2544 · SMiskoe · 5 Oct 1995 13:05:17 · Top

Etienne alludes to the quick criticism of dancers when the music is not
exactly to their expectations. He's right. SCD folks are the most difficult
to play for and this attitude warns off would-be musicians. I often ask
musicians from other areas if they ever play for the Scots. No, they say,
they are very demanding, they expect you to read music well, they aren't
interested. When I ask the dancers from the same area if they ever have live
music they say no, no one plays it. If I mention a name they say That person
doesn't read, that person doesn't play strathspeys right, that person doesn't
know the music, that person isn't interested. And yet, "that person" happens
to be an extremely talented musician, who, with some encouragement, and a
little guidance about expectations, just might get interested in playing for
SCD.
Dancers need to learn that most musicians, especially in a class situation,
will not sound like their favorite tape. Their favorite tape has been studio
recorded, massaged and mixed to perfection, overdubbed, and may be wonderful,
but not reproduceable in a class by one person.
If we don't encourage musicians, we won't have any new ones, and the older
ones will eventually retire.
That's today's soapbox.
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH

4 bar introductions

Message 2545 · Mulligan,Martin;Biochem;s3023a · 5 Oct 1995 14:31:27 · Top

On Thu, 5 Oct 1995 SMiskoe@aol.com wrote:
> Dancers need to learn that most musicians, especially in a class situation,
> will not sound like their favorite tape. Their favorite tape has been studio
> recorded, massaged and mixed to perfection, overdubbed, and may be wonderful,
> but not reproduceable in a class by one person.
> If we don't encourage musicians, we won't have any new ones, and the older
> ones will eventually retire.

Sylvia's right. But I would go further - SCD teachers need to learn that
most musicians, especially if they are learning the Scottish repertoire,
will not sound perfect. A teacher must tolerate the mistakes and help
both the class and the musician along at the same time.

A question for the musicians: if you are new to SCD music and trying to
learn the idiom, is it better to play for a class or for a social? Or
are they different and equally valuable experiences.

For the record - Newfoundland is blessed with musicians and we have a
band - Corryvreckan - that play for our socials and sound better and
better each time. It's taken several years but it's been worth it!

Martin Mulligan
St. John's (Newfoundland)
mulligan@morgan.ucs.mun.ca

4 bar introductions

Message 2547 · Terry Traub · 5 Oct 1995 17:10:51 · Top

Sylvia Miskoe wrote:
> > If we don't encourage musicians, we won't have any new ones, and the older
> > ones will eventually retire.

Martin Mulligan wrote:
> Sylvia's right. But I would go further - SCD teachers need to learn that
> most musicians, especially if they are learning the Scottish repertoire,
> will not sound perfect. A teacher must tolerate the mistakes and help
> both the class and the musician along at the same time.

Here in the Boston area I've found the Scottish dance community to be
very supportive of my efforts to become a competent SCD musician.
There were many times when I deserved to be thrown off the stage for
mangling the music beyond recognition, yet they keep inviting me back! ;-)

And, we are blessed with many professional players like
Sylvia Miskoe and Barbara McOwen who are willing to put up with
beginners and generously give of their time to help us to improve.

> A question for the musicians: if you are new to SCD music and trying to
> learn the idiom, is it better to play for a class or for a social? Or
> are they different and equally valuable experiences.

Class is an outstanding way to improve one's tempo and phrasing
skills. It's hard work but worth it.

Terry Traub
Beginning RSCDS Musician

4 bar introductions

Message 2548 · Sandra Rosenau · 5 Oct 1995 21:37:29 · Top

Regarding chords and 4 bar intros, during practice we annotate those
types of things on the sheet music itself. Then during the social, when
the dancers are forming and counting the sets, we quickly review the
critical items on the next dance: intro, chords, the number of repetitions
and order of the tunes AABBCCAA or ABCABCBA or whatever. That
way the band has the next music set clear in their minds. Is there any
better way?

As an amateur musician-in-training, I find the classroom is most difficult
because you're typically the ONLY musician; whereas at a social, the
crowd on the stage minimizes any individual's error. No one musician
has to carry the entire sound for the dancers.

Both are valuable experiences; the social is a real blast and I walk away
feeling great despite occasional flubs; it gives an emotional high that one
wants to get more of. The class is a challenge to the nerves and if you
get it right, you know you're making real progress!

4 bar introductions

Message 2549 · Courtney Cartwright · 5 Oct 1995 22:02:13 · Top

At 09:58 AM 10/5/95 +0200, strathspey@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de wrote:
>
>
>On Thu, 5 Oct 1995 SMiskoe@aol.com wrote:
>> Dancers need to learn that most musicians, especially in a class situation,
>> will not sound like their favorite tape. Their favorite tape has been studio
>> recorded, massaged and mixed to perfection, overdubbed, and may be wonderful,
>> but not reproduceable in a class by one person.
>> If we don't encourage musicians, we won't have any new ones, and the older
>> ones will eventually retire.
>
I heartily agree with Sylvia's comment, but I would add one thing to it. I
have tried for years to train my dancers to put nay suggests regarding the
music through me or another instructor or whoever is MC'ing or directing the
performance, etc. Too often I've seen bad feelings over dancers complaining
about the tempo or the arrangement of tunes, or the number of repetitions.

I have not been entirely successful in this, but it is definitely better than
it was. This sort of thing requires continuous vigilance, however. I've
had situations where I've purposely told the band to keep the tempos down do
to a slippery floor, or because I'm emphasizing foot positions, what have
you, only to find to or three of the more vocal members of my class taking
the band to task over the tempos.

I would add to Sylvia's comment that I think the only really necessary attribute
a dance musician needs is a steady sense of rhythm. I've tried to dance to
new musicians who waver and vary and halt and it IS very difficult to get
through the evening with such a situation. But if we never try, we never
get anywhere,
RIGHT??

Courtney Cartwright
Tucson, Arizona
ccartwri@primenet.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2555 · A J Dewdney · 6 Oct 1995 11:53:29 · Top

>Dancers need to learn that most musicians, especially in a class situation,
>will not sound like their favorite tape.
>
>
That's funny, here in little 'ole England, I usually find that bands sound
much better than their tape. You get a powerhouse mob like Sandy Nixon, or
Ian MacPhail or Ian Muir (CD's available) and the atmosphere tends to
inspire them. The net result is that if I'm fortunate enough to get a tape
from the stage, the recording quality is dreadful, but the music quality
outstrips any dead studio recording.
The thing is a class musician should be different, a steady tempo, steady
rythym and not much embellishment. However, in the Ballroom, you need
drive, crunchy second box chords, (usually the work of an inspired musician)
and a pianist not afraid to be heard with 'tinkly bits', plus a drummer who
does more than 'boom-tish'.
Dance to a band like that and you don't feel tired (until afterwards!!)
Many dancers though don't listen to the music. There is a band in London
that exploits this effect, by playing in an 'of hand' fashion, but he still
gets a god-like following, apart from those who do listen!
Fortunately there are other bands who are prepared to try and given suitable
encouragement can achieve great things, but I think the main criterion is
life. Play something with a bit of life and you can forgive the hiccups. I
know bands that are technically brilliant, but play like wet fish. I know
which I prefer! So to all you musicians out there, please keep trying, cos
we're always going to need you!
______________________________________
* Andrew Dewdney,
* IRC for Semiconductor Materials,
* Imperial College,
* SW7 2AX
* 0171-589-5111 Ext 56667 (lab)
* 0171-594-6669 (office)
* Try out our Web page http://sparcy.sc.ic.ac.uk/
*_____________________________________

4 bar introductions

Message 2557 · SMiskoe · 6 Oct 1995 13:02:22 · Top

Martin asks if it is better for a beginner to play for a social or a class.
My opinion is that they are quite different, the pitfalls and rewards are
different.
A class:
You are often alone, making you feel naked. You play 8 bars of this and
that, leading up to 32 bars, and perhaps a full 4-8 rounds. Half a dozen
tunes only. 8 bars is pretty manageable and less stressful than 8 rounds. A
class only lasts 1.5 hours max. Some folks feel that class playing is dull.
I find it fun, a good way to try out new sets, a way to practice improvising
(especially for warm-ups).
When I was about 12 years old my mother took me to some dance sessions and
there was a class pianist. I was so impressed that that lady could play
anything asked of her. Somewhere in my subconscious I wanted to be like her.
So I like playing for classes. It's also a way to educate the dancers and
teachers. At class the other night we had only 3 couples. After discussing
the best way to quickly scoot to the bottom before the next round began, I
suggested that at the end of a round I would simply play 2 bars of 'filler'
to allow the dancing couple to get to the bottom. The dancers were willing
to try it out. I gave them an example of what they would hear, and it was a
success. A good example of communication between dancers, teacher and
musician.
Socials are fun, too. That challenge is to learn a repetoire of 12-18
dances, 3-4 tunes/dance. A possibility of 72 tunes!!! You play a lot more
than in a class, once started there is no stopping until the last chord. You
have friends to help you and hide your mistakes. A social lasts all evening.
Takes more energy. The feedback from a whole room of dancers is wonderful.
(If positive.)
Beginners should 'apprentice' with an experienced musician and probably in
that situation, a class is less stressful as it is shorter and uses less
music.
Remember that a tape is always the same. Same time, same tunes, same hiccups
and warbles (when it gets old). The musician is never the same, but with a
little practice, we can learn to play hiccups.
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH

4 bar introductions

Message 2558 · Susan Worland · 6 Oct 1995 14:39:41 · Top

Sylvia Miskoe wrote:

SCD folks are the most difficult
>to play for and this attitude warns off would-be musicians.


I think I've played for worse! My personal least favorite is a Polish dance
group I play for. If a musician makes one little mistake, all 30 dancers
turn around and shout "NOOOOO!" We don't stop and yell if one of them
starts a figure on the wrong foot....
===================================================================
Susan Worland Online Computer Market, Inc.
susan@ocm.com 30 Turnpike Road, Southborough Mass.
http://www.ocm.com (508) 480-0577
A premier provider of products and services for World Wide Web
based advertising, marketing, electronic commerce, electronic
communities and customer support.

===================================================================

4 bar introductions

Message 2559 · Susan Worland · 6 Oct 1995 14:46:40 · Top

>A question for the musicians: if you are new to SCD music and trying to
>learn the idiom, is it better to play for a class or for a social? Or
>are they different and equally valuable experiences.
>

I don't know which is better to start with, but even for an experienced
musician, it's a very different situation and requires different skills.
Playing for a class one of the hardest things is to be ready with 8 bars
here, 16 there, always paying attention to what the teacher is going to ask
for next, being prepared to play slower or even occasionally faster than
usual for a particular dance, being able to go from strathspey to quick time
on a nod from the teacher, etc. In a way it's harder than playing for a
dance, but if you do screw up a bit, people are usually more tolerant.

For newer musicians the formality of a Scottish party, even one we think of
as "informal," may be something new. There is an etiquette to these events,
and while it may vary from place to place, it's pretty important everywhere,
and that's something a lot of musicians aren't used to! Really the hardest
part of playing for a dance, though, is getting the music together ahead of
time and paying attention to all this 8X32 stuff. That's really hard for a
new musician, unless he or she is fortunate enough to be playing with more
experienced people right from the start.
===================================================================
Susan Worland Online Computer Market, Inc.
susan@ocm.com 30 Turnpike Road, Southborough Mass.
http://www.ocm.com (508) 480-0577
A premier provider of products and services for World Wide Web
based advertising, marketing, electronic commerce, electronic
communities and customer support.

===================================================================

4 bar introductions

Message 2560 · Susan Worland · 6 Oct 1995 15:03:55 · Top

> You get a powerhouse mob like Sandy Nixon....

This is at least the second message on this list that's made me with I had a
chance to hear/play with/dance to this Sandy Nixon. Who is he (or she?)
===================================================================
Susan Worland Online Computer Market, Inc.
susan@ocm.com 30 Turnpike Road, Southborough Mass.
http://www.ocm.com (508) 480-0577
A premier provider of products and services for World Wide Web
based advertising, marketing, electronic commerce, electronic
communities and customer support.

===================================================================

4 bar introductions

Message 2564 · Courtney Cartwright · 6 Oct 1995 20:47:15 · Top

At 08:44 AM 10/6/95 Time--100, Susan Worland :
>Sylvia Miskoe wrote:
>
>SCD folks are the most difficult
>>to play for and this attitude warns off would-be musicians.
>
>
>I think I've played for worse! My personal least favorite is a Polish dance
>group I play for. If a musician makes one little mistake, all 30 dancers
>turn around and shout "NOOOOO!" We don't stop and yell if one of them
>starts a figure on the wrong foot....
>===================================================================
Maybe you SHOULD stop and yell if they start on the wrong foot...

My experience of Polish dance tells me that if YOU don't stop and yell the
person's partner soon will!!! Ive suffered a lot of crushed toes and kicked
shins from such accidents, no to mention falls on leaps.... 8-0

Courtney Cartwright
Tucson, Arizona
ccartwri@primenet.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2566 · SMiskoe · 6 Oct 1995 22:15:14 · Top

To Courtney's remark about dancers giving advice to the band, may I had, it
is even more frustrating when 2 or more dancers provide conflicting
criticisms.
Sylvia Miskoe

Sandy Nixon

Message 2583 · Anselm Lingnau · 9 Oct 1995 10:21:14 · Top

susan@ocm.com (Susan Worland) writes:

> This is at least the second message on this list that's made me with I had a
> chance to hear/play with/dance to this Sandy Nixon. Who is he (or she?)

It's a `he', an accordionist and band leader in the `modern', i.e.,
Iain Macphail-like style. I haven't had the pleasure myself, but I own a
couple of tapes recorded by his band and they are really quite nice. There's
one called `Just What the Doctor Ordered' which contains a number of `old
chestnuts' like the College Hornpipe, Shiftin' Bobbins, Reel of the 51st
Division, ... mostly in 4x32 sets. Apart from being rather nicely arranged,
these are very useful for demonstrations or encores at balls (remember that
we seldom have live music here in Germany). The other one that I have is
called `Repeat Prescription' and has more full-length (8 times) sets but
these are all for fairly obscure dances. We've been using this
`generically' when some dance didn't specify any music. The only thing
worth criticising is the general absence of strathspeys; there's a set for
Schiehallion on JWtDO and two strathspeys on RP, one of which is a 3x32.
I presume that they don't like recording strathspeys for some reason I
can't understand, because the ones that they did record are rather cute,
if a bit on the fast side.

Somebody from our Scots readership will probably be able to comment
further about Sandy Nixon's prowess as a live musician, but if it is
anything like I suspect it should be worth trying.

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau ......................... lingnau@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de
[I believe] that science is one of the primary art forms of the 20th century.
--- Steve Roy

Sandy Nixon

Message 2584 · A J Dewdney · 9 Oct 1995 11:05:41 · Top

>
>Somebody from our Scots readership will probably be able to comment
>further about Sandy Nixon's prowess as a live musician, but if it is
>anything like I suspect it should be worth trying.
>
>
Anselm's description of the mysterious Sandy Nixon I would say is a fair
one. Reels and Jigs are very lively, in the MacPhail style. Strathspeys
have the tendency to make me want to do Highland travelling steps, or at
least a Schottische instead, which offends the RSCDS purists, but
particularly on the lively University circuit in Scotland he has a
reputation of providing the sort of music to which you can't help but dance
energetically to.
There is a third recording 'Magic Medecine' (he is also somehow a
practising Doctor) out now, which is good, but really '..must be seen (and
heard) to be believed..' He sits on the edge of his seat, can't keep still
and another well known musician has been heard to declare that SNs life
ambition appears to be to pull his box apart!
There are obviously many other fine bands 'North of the Border' too, so I
wouldn't want to give the impression that he is the only one, by a long way!
______________________________________
* Andrew Dewdney,
* IRC for Semiconductor Materials,
* Imperial College,
* SW7 2AX
* 0171-589-5111 Ext 56667 (lab)
* 0171-594-6669 (office)
* Try out our Web page http://sparcy.sc.ic.ac.uk/
*_____________________________________

Sandy Nixon

Message 2590 · Loren Wright · 9 Oct 1995 18:01:42 · Top

>The only thing
>worth criticising is the general absence of strathspeys; there's a set for
>Schiehallion on JWtDO and two strathspeys on RP, one of which is a 3x32.
>I presume that they don't like recording strathspeys for some reason I
>can't understand, because the ones that they did record are rather cute,
>if a bit on the fast side.

I think that the lack of strathspeys, especially 8x32 ones, on SCD
recordings (in general!) is obvious. These take up more time/space, and
you get fewer dances onto the recording. I presume that's the reason that
the RSCDS tapes/records used to have all the stathspeys at 4x32. The more
recent RSCDS tapes have 8x32's. I assume that as more recordings are
produced for compact disc, we'll see more 8x32 strathspeys?

Loren Wright lorenw@rwp.mv.com
Nashua (NH, USA) Scottish Country Dancers
or Roger Wagner Publishing

Sandy Nixon

Message 2598 · Susan Self @ignite · 10 Oct 1995 03:28:18 · Top

Anselm Lingnau wrote about Sandy Nixon's recordings:

>The only thing
>worth criticising is the general absence of strathspeys; there's a set for
>Schiehallion on JWtDO and two strathspeys on RP, one of which is a 3x32.
>I presume that they don't like recording strathspeys for some reason I
>can't understand, because the ones that they did record are rather cute,
>if a bit on the fast side.

Loren Wright responded:

>I think that the lack of strathspeys, especially 8x32 ones, on SCD
>recordings (in general!) is obvious. These take up more time/space, and
>you get fewer dances onto the recording. I presume that's the reason that
>the RSCDS tapes/records used to have all the stathspeys at 4x32. The more
>recent RSCDS tapes have 8x32's. I assume that as more recordings are
>produced for compact disc, we'll see more 8x32 strathspeys?

As a fiddler, I find that I am never quite satisfied with the strathspeys
that can be produced on the accordion. No matter how good the musician,
the accordion is essentially a percussive instrument that cannot reproduce
the sustained notes, followed or preceded by short notes, that give the
strathspey its distinctive feel and momentum. The transition between the
short and long notes tends to sound jumpy and "cute" (using Anselm's word)
rather than sweeping and elegant. Sandy Nixon and other accordionists may
record fewer strathspeys in recognition of the greater difficulty of making
a strathspey sound right.

I think it is a shame that we have so few fiddle recordings of 8x32
strathspeys, or fiddle recordings for SCD in general. The length of the
strathspeys should not be a deterrent, as if having more tunes on a
recording is a virtue. The quality of the interpretation is what is
most important. Not only must the musicians get the strathspey rhythm right,
but they must also keep re-invigorating it so the dancers don't get tired or
bored with a long, repetitive dance. I am sure that we have all had the
experience of dancing to recordings of accordion strathspeys that seemed
like they would never end. Perhaps the fiddle has more possibilities to
vary the performance, such as through bowing and dynamics, than the accordion.
In any case, it is probably generally more difficult for musicians to
perform strathspeys with the proper verve and elegance and variation
to prevent the dance from becoming long-winded and tiresome.

Susan Self
San Diego, CA
susan@thomsoft.com

Sandy Nixon

Message 2599 · Anselm Lingnau · 10 Oct 1995 10:02:56 · Top

susan@alsys.com (Susan Self @ignite) writes:

> As a fiddler, I find that I am never quite satisfied with the strathspeys
> that can be produced on the accordion. No matter how good the musician,
> the accordion is essentially a percussive instrument that cannot reproduce
> the sustained notes, followed or preceded by short notes, that give the
> strathspey its distinctive feel and momentum. The transition between the
> short and long notes tends to sound jumpy and "cute" (using Anselm's word)
> rather than sweeping and elegant.

We've been discussing strathspeys just the other day, and so I'll make two
observations. In the first instance, sometimes a certain degree of
`jumpiness' is what you want for a dance, for example when you're supposed
to do Highland Schottische setting a lot. Secondly, there are strathspeys
and strathspeys, and in my opinion the accordion doesn't do all that badly
as far as the `pastoral' type of strathspey is concerned, which is more
of a slow air rather than a Schottische-type tune with lots of `snap'.

Actually, the 3x32 strathspey on Sandy Nixon's _Repeat_Prescription_ is
such a tune and I like it a lot (can anybody point me to a description of
the _dance_ for that tune? It (the dance) is called By Dundonald). This at
least has all the elegance one would want. BTW, on the tapes that I have
the Sandy Nixon lineup doesn't sport a fiddle at all, just two accordions,
piano, bass and drums.

> In any case, it is probably generally more difficult for musicians to
> perform strathspeys with the proper verve and elegance and variation
> to prevent the dance from becoming long-winded and tiresome.

True enough. But strathspeys are more difficult to dance well than quick
dances, so why should they be any easier to play :^)?

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau ......................... lingnau@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de
People who deal with bits should expect to get bitten. --- Jon Bentley

Sandy Nixon

Message 2605 · Tony Gibbons · 10 Oct 1995 11:44:28 · Top

Ian Barbour wrote a set of dances to go with Sandy's tape.
Instructions can be posted if you wish!

Tony Gibbons

Sandy Nixon

Message 2608 · Greg Hughes · 10 Oct 1995 14:02:10 · Top

Tony:
I agree that dances should be made available to the widest
possible audience, but, public posting of material that is copyright
on the list is probably not the way to go. I think that you should
make copies available ot correspondants via E-Mail, propagating the
dances to individuals, especially where the instructions are normally
for sale.
I an not intending this to be a flame; rather a memory jog on
the rights of the source.

Ian Barbour wrote a set of dances to go with Sandy's tape.
Instructions can be posted if you wish!

Tony Gibbons

--
Tony Gibbons <ercc04@festival.ed.ac.uk>

rghughes@isn.net
R. G. (Greg) Hughes
53 Lewis Point Blvd
Charlottetown, PE C1E 1L8
(902)892-4305

Sandy Nixon

Message 2609 · SMiskoe · 10 Oct 1995 14:04:32 · Top

Susan Self writes that accordions are percussive instruments and cannot play
strathspeys properly. Accordions are not percussive instruments, they are
reeded instruments. Air blows through the reeds making them vibrate and
producing the sound. Holding the key down will provide a sustained note,
ornamentation is produced by either successive notes or action with the
bellows. Voicing is produced by the combination of the reeds and the way
they are tuned. A good accordion will have 2-5 sets of reeds which can be
combined into many combinations. The reeds are tuned at different pitches to
provide the various combinations, giving the accordions its voice.
I have danced to good and bad fiddles as well as good and bad accordions.
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH

Sandy Nixon

Message 2620 · A J Dewdney · 10 Oct 1995 18:55:17 · Top

> Accordions are not percussive instruments, they are
>reeded instruments.

Indeed they are! The degree of expression that can be achieved rivals that
of a blown reed instrument, such as the clarinet. However, a Hohner Marino
VI has lots of reeds and the notes can be snatched and decorations played,
but they cannot reproduce the drive and _bounce_ of a good Strathspey
fiddler. I play both instruments, as well as listen very critically to
recordings and whilst I might think Sandy Nixon is great, I do love having a
fiddle in a band to bring the best out of Strathspeys.
______________________________________
* Andrew Dewdney,
* IRC for Semiconductor Materials,
* Imperial College,
* SW7 2AX
* 0171-589-5111 Ext 56667 (lab)
* 0171-594-6669 (office)
* Try out our Web page http://sparcy.sc.ic.ac.uk/
*_____________________________________

4 bar introductions

Message 2578 · Priscilla M. Burrage · 8 Oct 1995 17:42:40 · Top

On Fri, 6 Oct 1995, Susan Worland wrote:

> Sylvia Miskoe wrote:
>
> SCD folks are the most difficult
> >to play for and this attitude warns off would-be musicians.
>
>
> I think I've played for worse! My personal least favorite is a Polish dance
> group I play for. If a musician makes one little mistake, all 30 dancers
> turn around and shout "NOOOOO!" We don't stop and yell if one of them
> starts a figure on the wrong foot....

Why don't you? I know a couple -- make that three -- Canadian musicians
who will (when they are comfortable with the teacher) play seven and a
half bars of an eight-bar phrase when many of the dancers are doing
step-close for the eigth step. As teacher on one of these occasions, I
was pleasantly surprised with the missing music and immediately agreed
with the musician that he shouldn't bother with the last part of the
phrase as the dancers were ignoring it. More of them started dancing the
full eight bars and kept it up without reminder than if I'd nagged at them.
Although I don't know how a musician easily gets across the wrong-foot
message. . .

happy dancing, and joyous playing,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Priscilla Burrage (priscilla.burrage@uvm.edu)
Vermont USA (pburrage@moose.uvm.edu)

4 bar introductions

Message 2580 · RSCDSSD · 9 Oct 1995 00:20:10 · Top

I realize this thread has drifted into musicians' preferences, Scottish and
otherwise, concerning introductions, but, so far, I don't think anyone has
made the observation that the four bar introduction is the standard beginning
for Highland and Ladies Step Dances. Given the current interest in Step
Dancing among SCD I should think this introduction would be somewhat
familiar. Also, Bobby Brown's use of the pipes for the recording of Reel of
the Royal Scots on the "Ready, And" album includes a four bar intro. Our dem
team uses part of this recording, and while it sometimes takes a practice or
two to remind ourselves how to phrase the bows and curtseys, we all enjoy
adding this to a performance. The four bar intro is very stately and makes
perfect sense for the Dashing White Sergeants. Perhaps if we incorporated it
into square set dances we could acknowledge partners and corners and it would
become more familiar to us as dancers.

This is not the same issue as using two chords for dances where the third and
fourth couple need to cross over. Why not just announce that sets are to be
formed with the bottom couples already on opposite sides? After all, we do
that with square sets, triangular sets, and three couple sets. I gather this
issue will be aired in an upcoming TACTalk, but this chatty group includes
many who don't see TACTalk so I thought I'd toss it out here.

Marjorie McLaughlin
RSCDSSD@aol.com
San Diego, California

4 bar introductions

Message 2588 · Etienne Ozorak · 9 Oct 1995 16:10:57 · Top

Marjorie wrote...

>...Also, Bobby Brown's use of the pipes for the recording of Reel of
>the Royal Scots on the "Ready, And" album includes a four bar
>intro....

Sorry Marjorie, but this track starts off with a single chord, not a
four bar intro (I should know, I played the chord!) If you're really
curious, ask me how the pipes managed to come in for the final chord!

Salut, Etienne

4 bar introductions

Message 2589 · David Mostardi · 9 Oct 1995 17:19:54 · Top

Marjorie McLaughlin writes:

> The four bar intro is very stately and makes
> perfect sense for the Dashing White Sergeants. Perhaps if we incorporated it
> into square set dances we could acknowledge partners and corners and it would
> become more familiar to us as dancers.

I think this is an excellent idea.

> This is not the same issue as using two chords for dances where the third and
> fourth couple need to cross over. Why not just announce that sets are to be
> formed with the bottom couples already on opposite sides? After all, we do
> that with square sets, triangular sets, and three couple sets.

A two-chord introduction is very awkward for a band;
at least this is my experience. It takes more time
for a couple to cross the set and turn around than
it does to bow & curtsey, so the second chord must
be 50-75% longer than the first one. Getting the timing
right is difficult.

The last time a dance like this was done in the
San Francisco branch, the MC simply asked 3rd and 4th
couples to cross over, and we played one chord.
I thought this worked out fine.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Mostardi WWW: http://www.mbari.org
Systems Administrator Email: david@mbari.org
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Voice: (408) 647-3734
160 Central Ave., Pacific Grove CA 93950 FAX: (408) 649-8587

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be
understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before.
But in poetry, it's the exact opposite." - Paul Dirac (1902-84)

4 bar introductions

Message 2613 · Irene x3716 · 10 Oct 1995 14:54:32 · Top

Re: 4 bar introductions
-----------------------

On Sun 8 Oct, Marjorie McLaughlin wrote:

> ... the four bar introduction is the standard beginning for Highland and
> Ladies Step Dances. ... Also, Bobby Brown's use of the pipes for the
> recording of Reel of the Royal Scots on the "Ready, And" album includes a
> four bar intro. ... While it sometimes takes a practice or two to remind
> ourselves how to phrase the bows and curtseys, we all enjoy adding this to
> a performance.

And, on Mon 2 Oct, Jim Healy explained the phrasing of acknowledging one's
partner(s) for Dashing White Sergeant:

> It was always the same irrepective of the band and used as
> bar 1 - straighten up, glance at partners
> 2 - honour person on right;
> 3 - honour person on left and
> 4 - engage attention of trio opposite, smile and on with the dance.

How does one phrase the bow/curtsey with a 4-bar introduction in a longwise
set? Would the women curtsey on bar 3 and step-close on 4?
And, is it usual to acknowledge one's partner the normal way when doing SCD
to pipes with a 4 bar intro?
And what about the missing final chord with pipe music?

Incidentally, the RSCDS recording for Reel of the Royal Scots is played on
bagpipes with a 4 bar introduction (on record/tape RSCDS 13).

Irene van Maarseveen
(Pretoria, South Africa)
ivmaarse@mattek.csir.co.za

4 bar introductions

Message 2632 · Courtney Cartwright · 11 Oct 1995 00:00:11 · Top

At 02:27 PM 10/10/95 PDT, Irene van Maarseveen wrote:
>Re: 4 bar introductions
>-----------------------
>
>How does one phrase the bow/curtsey with a 4-bar introduction in a longwise
>set? Would the women curtsey on bar 3 and step-close on 4?
>And, is it usual to acknowledge one's partner the normal way when doing SCD
> to pipes with a 4 bar intro?
>And what about the missing final chord with pipe music?
>

We've always treated the bows for a four bar intro like the highland dancers
do. Stand erect listening (smiling?) for the first two bars, bow or curtsey on
the next 2 bars. So for the men it would be wait for two bars, bow down for one
bar and up on the next bar, eising on to the toes on the last count of bar 4.
Ladies would also wait for two bars, step forward (or sideward), bring
trailing foot into position and dip on bar three, and on bar four they rise
stepping back
into place and close, again rising onto the toes on the last count of bar 4.

For a final chord, the pipes usually hold the last note, often ornamenting it
to simulate a chord from a ceilidh band.

We have had a number of ex- or continuing highland dancers in our number in the
past, and this is what they were most comfortable with.

Courtney Cartwright
Tucson, Arizona
ccartwri@primenet.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2654 · RSCDSSD · 11 Oct 1995 15:09:14 · Top

Etienne,

Mea culpa. I knew I should have double checked the recording, but my
turntable has become a horizontal surface for piling lots of other things.
Of course, I can hear you in the chord at the start of "Reel of the Royal
Scots" on Ready ... And!

The recording I was thinking of is the one made by the RSCDS (!) on "Music
for Eight SCD", mostly dances from the "5 for 1982" book. The music is by
Ron Gonnella, Ian McPhail and others, including pipers from the Royal Scots
Regiment. Not only does that have a four bar intro, but I believe is the
recording that had to be reissued because the pipers played the wrong number
of bars - maybe this four bar stuff isn't all we've made it out to be...
Thank you for pointing out my error. And, yes, I'd love to know how the
pipes came in for the chord at the end.

At the risk of using one posting for two threads, I would like to suggest
that if anyone wants to hear an accordian capable of playing strathspeys with
all the soul, passion and depth some believe only possible on a fiddle -
listen to Etienne Ozorak on his Music Makars album. Better yet, listen/dance
to him live. Perhaps it has less to do with the instrument than with the
talent and feeling of the musician. (Unsolicited rave review)

Marjorie McLaughlin
RSCDSSD@aol.com
San Diego, California

4 bar introductions

Message 2657 · Priscilla M. Burrage · 11 Oct 1995 15:25:19 · Top

Does anyone know the relationship between the eight-bar (four-bar) bow &
curtsey and the bow & curtsey used for formal presentation to the Queen?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Priscilla Burrage (priscilla.burrage@uvm.edu)
Vermont USA (pburrage@moose.uvm.edu)

4 bar introductions

Message 2659 · Etienne Ozorak · 11 Oct 1995 16:42:06 · Top

Dear Marjorie McLaughlin and Joe Shelby,

Thanks for your kind comments. I am used to negative stereotyping
with regards to my instrument: this has unfortunately been part of
the legacy for every SCD accordionist in North America for at least
as long as I've been around. I don't get inflamed about it, I just
get really, really sad. (That's the price I pay for being sensitive
to feedback).

Thanks for your part in creating a balanced, nurturing environment
for all SCD musicians. Your kindness really made my day.

Etienne

4 bar introductions

Message 2661 · McOwen · 11 Oct 1995 17:10:07 · Top

Dear Folks,

Coletta Hill asks what is an ornament and what is a sting. Sorry to use such
specialized terms! A friend named John Trevenen said "an ornament is a
little gift to those who are listening." It's anything from one to several
extra quick little notes that are played over, under, around and through a
given note in a tune. On the fiddle an ornament can also be an extra little
sound made by the bow. A sting is an ending to a note with extra pressure or
otherwise extra sound. Chords for SCD are often played with such pressure at
the end. Some bands sound almost like they're playing two chords (not to be
confused with the two chords of another thread). Pipers cannot do anything
with pressure, volume, dynamics, etc, so they often make up for it with
either ornaments or slight alterations in the rhythm. In turn, other
instrumentalists like the ornament method of expression and borrow it back
from the pipers.

Sincerely,
Barbara McOwen
mcowen@aol.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2691 · Gerry Gray · 13 Oct 1995 02:19:21 · Top

Etienne Ozorak wrote to Marjorie McLaughlin and Joe Shelby,
>
>I am used to negative stereotyping with regards to my instrument: this has
>unfortunately been part of the legacy for every SCD accordionist in North
>America for at least as long as I've been around.

I remember the first time I met Etienne. It was many (many) years ago when I
still did highland. I had been hired to dance for the opening of the first
Toronto Gaelic Mod. As performance time neared, the piper hadn't shown up.
The first act went on - still no piper. Etienne, also on the bill, suggested
he play for me. I won't tell you what I thought:) Not wanting to be rude I
asked if he knew the music for Seann Triubhas. Imagine my surprise when he
did. Then he started playing - perfect temp without asking. It didn't take
long to say alright -- This was going to be fun!! I was really looking
forward to it. Unfortunately the piper, who until very recently I had been
praying would show up, and so we didn't get the chance to go on. I've never
doubted what an accordian could do since. But I agree with whoever it was
who made the comment, I think it is the musician not the instrument that
makes the difference.

- Gerry
-----------------------------------------------------------
Gerry Gray
90 Kinlock Road
Stratford, PE
Canada C1B 1C6
gegray@peinet.pe.ca
-----------------------------------------------------------

4 bar introductions

Message 2722 · Thestrongs · 14 Oct 1995 19:59:03 · Top

In a message dated 95-10-02 16:22:12 EDT, you write:

> musicians around here>(Boston) give a ONE NOTE pickup to start a dance. Is
this a regional thing, >anyone know? From Susan.

Nope, that is how we do English County Dance pickups in the SF Bay Area too
(at least for the last 8 yrs).
David Strong - thestrongs@aol.com

4 bar introductions

Message 2546 · Anselm Lingnau · 5 Oct 1995 15:26:54 · Top

Sylvia Miskoe <SMiskoe@aol.com> writes:

> Dancers need to learn that most musicians, especially in a class situation,
> will not sound like their favorite tape. Their favorite tape has been studio
> recorded, massaged and mixed to perfection, overdubbed, and may be wonderful,
> but not reproduceable in a class by one person.

Here in Germany, the dearth of SCD musicians is, if anything, even more
pronounced. Thus, many people aren't used to having musicians play for them
live at all. When they get the chance, it usually turns out that the
teaching is so much better and the learning is so much more fun with live
music (imagine being able to practice 8-bar phrases to music instead of
having the teacher count off the bars!) that the dancers don't seem to mind
an occasional botch too much if the speed is right and the rhythm is steady.
>From my own experience at least, folks are quite willing to make allowances
for the fact that their class pianist isn't exactly Muriel Johnstone.

We've been experiencing a trend towards more live music, at least for
workshops and balls. As far as SCD music is concerned, things are looking
up around here.

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau ......................... lingnau@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de
The way things are now (in the entire software industry), it's like having a
racing bicycle with built-in training wheels that can't be removed.
--- William R. Somsky

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