strathspey Archive: Change of tempo

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Change of tempo

Message 43402 · Norma or Mike Briggs · 3 Dec 2005 20:13:36 · Top

A follow-up to my message about using an mp3 player for class music.

In your opinion, how essential is it to be able to speed up or slow down
recorded music in an SCD class? Would it make it a difference to your
opinion if you have/had a real live musician for the teaching part of
your class?

Mike
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Change of tempo

Message 43403 · Richard Goss · 3 Dec 2005 21:16:43 · Top

"how essential is it to be able to speed up or slow down recorded music in an SCD class?"

It is interesting how some posts, which, in theory, are asking a question, are actually simply making a point designed to control the response.

Assuming that this post was mine and I really wanted to know the answer, I would have chosen to say something such as ...
"That is an interesting point, what do you see as the main advantages in being able to speed up or slow down recorded music in SCD class?"

As an SCD teacher since the 60´s I would answer my restatement this way.
1. I have an extensive record collection of SCD music including 78´s dating from the 30´s. While I find these early recordings inspiring, the tempo of SCD since my time has slowed considerably. To the extent that good dancing in the current style is impossible at these speeds, I find the good arrangments and orchestration to be inspiring when played at the current tempo, as opposed to that at which they were recorded.
2. There are some figures, that when being taught lend themsleves to a slowed tempo which allows the dancers to pick up the beat without the teacher counting, leaving him free to use mnemonics to instill the proper phrasing.
3. There are other dances, particularly some Strathspeys, where the excessively slow tempo of the present style, makes the setting steps for the "majors" (a group to which I am a member, as opposed to "minors) difficult and tiring.
4. In a world where many do not have live music for classes, where the teacher can give the musician the desired tempo, it is a shame that good teaching methods are limited to the packaged tempo of a recording.
5. When I worked with Scottish Studies, we had the opposite problem, it was the electrical system that was wrong, so all of our recordings were made from battery packs, with calibrated tape recorders. So if we wanted a recording faithful to the original, it was stupid to rely on the fluctuating U.K. power system.

I still have, and use (though with an adaptor), my variable speed turn table, purchased at a school yard sale. It not only has the 78 45 & 33 speeds, but all of those in between, in addition to a "plus-minus" dial. As bearings wear, and parts get old, machines often slow down, so assuming a 60 cycle electrical system, there is a disc that looks like those wagon wheels that run backwards in Westerns, the idea is to fine tune the machine so that the "wheel" seems to stand still at the desired speed.

"opinion if you have/had a real live musician for the teaching part of
your class?"
Of course it would, if you could rely on a good musician to be able and willing to follow one´s directions. The problem is that many musicians have an automatic metronome in their heads, and if the musical selection approaches 32 bars, they often relapse into the tempo with which they are confortable, as opposed to that which you spefied. As all my musicians here in Spain are simply reading the score to music with which they have no dancing or cultural affinity, I usually place a handy metronome where it can be seen.

OT and BTW, went to a piping festival last weekend - pipes from Africa to Scotland (Bedford actually) and the Balkans were represented. In the course of the day around the various booths, I noticed a phenomena new to me. Most of the "in group", had Cassio pocket pitch meters, which they held to the drones when tuning.

Mike
--
how essential is it to be able to speed up or slow
down
recorded music in an SCD class? Would it make it a difference to your
opinion if you have/had a real live musician for the teaching part of
your class?

Mike
--

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Change of tempo

Message 43404 · Steve Wyrick · 3 Dec 2005 21:32:48 · Top

Well, in addition to variation in tempo between recordings and dances, there
are a lot of local factors involved in determining the appropriate tempo for
a particular dance, like the floor, the dancers, how late in the evening it
is, etc. As a "real, live" musician, I've learned by experience that the
best tempo one time I play a set may be inappropriate the next time! I
would say that variable speed would definitely be something you'd want, even
though you have a musician for part of the evening.

In our class one of our teachers has been using a Mac laptop with iTunes and
Amazing Slowdowner, running into a boombox for amplification. She uses a
remote for the Mac (I don't know the details) so that she doesn't have to
run to the computer to reset the tracks. Seems to work quite well; I don't
know how much compression she's using (iTunes allows several different
formats) but I haven't noticed any defects in the compressed files. -Steve

Norma and Mike Briggs wrote:

> A follow-up to my message about using an mp3 player for class music.
>
> In your opinion, how essential is it to be able to speed up or slow down
> recorded music in an SCD class? Would it make it a difference to your
> opinion if you have/had a real live musician for the teaching part of
> your class?
>
> Mike

--
Steve Wyrick -- Concord, California

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Change of tempo

Message 43405 · John Chambers · 4 Dec 2005 00:19:17 · Top

Mike commented:
| ... "opinion if you have/had a real live musician for the teaching
| part of
| your class?"

| Of course it would, if you could rely on a good musician to be
| able and willing to follow one´s directions. The problem is that
| many musicians have an automatic metronome in their heads, and if
| the musical selection approaches 32 bars, they often relapse into
| the tempo with which they are confortable, as opposed to that
| which you spefied. As all my musicians here in Spain are simply
| reading the score to music with which they have no dancing or
| cultural affinity, I usually place a handy metronome where it can
| be seen.

Here in New England, we have a similar problem for the opposite sort
of reason: Most of the SCD musicians play for New England contras
more than for SCD. The tempo for NE contras is slightly faster (120
or so) than for SCD (112 or so). Unless you have a backup musician
(piano, bass, or drum) with real SCD experience, you often find that
the musicians will start off at the SCD tempo, and slowly speed up to
the contra tempo that they're comfortable with. At that speed, SCD is
possible but rather hectic, and the dancers usually don't like it.

The main problem here is that the two tempi are too close, so that
the musical difference is subtle. I've also occasionally had the fun
of teaching musicians to play for rapper sword, where you want jigs
played at a tempo of around 160. The footwork doesn't work much
slower than that, so you have to play at that speed. If you have
contra or SCD musicians, you pick a few tunes that they know, and
play them at rapper speed. Inevitably, the musicians' reaction is
"Wow!! That's fast!" They know they're facing a challenge. But with a
bit of practice, if the tunes are already familiar from their other
dancing, they find that they can do it with only a little work. And
they aren't tempted to slow down, because the feel of the music is so
radically different.

The same sort of thing happens when playing for Morris dance, but in
the other direction. In this case, the tempo is so much slower than
SCD or contra tempo that you can't confuse them, and there's little
temptation to speed up. All four of these dance types use many of the
same tunes, so playing for several can be a real educational
experience for a musician. But the biggest challenge is SCD vs contra
because their tempi are so close.

I've seen that many of the experienced SCD musicians hereabouts often
carry a metronome with them as a reminder, if the dance leader isn't
good at giving the tempo. Both my accordion and fiddle cases have a
resident electronic metronome. I don't use them much, but they come
in handy at times.

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Change of tempo

Message 43406 · Ron Mackey · 4 Dec 2005 00:43:32 · Top

Re Richard's message
Points 1,2,3,4,5.. yes

That says it all, really

Oh, one point which occurrs is; when using a recorded tune for a dance
other than the intended one. Some naturally require a different tempo.

> I still have, and use (though with an adaptor), my variable speed
> turn table, ...... there is a disc that looks like those wagon wheels that run backwards in Westerns, the
> idea is to fine tune the machine so that the "wheel" seems to stand
> still at the desired speed.
My, that takes one back ......... when close to the correct
speed it was sometimes difficult not to turn one's head to compensate.

"opinion if you have/had a real live
> musician for the teaching part of your class?" Of course it would, if
> you could rely on a good musician to be able and willing to follow
> one´s directions. The problem is that many musicians have an automatic
> metronome in their heads, and if the musical selection approaches 32
> bars, they often relapse into the tempo with which they are
> confortable, as opposed to that which you specfied.

Something like the Jimmy Shand mould? :~)

Regards, Ron

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Change of tempo

Message 43407 · campbell · 4 Dec 2005 11:58:00 · Top

I have been reading the thread on MP3 and now Change of tempo with
increasing incomprehension. However, the discussion on change of tempo
has motivated me to write. I have always disdained changing tempo as I
believed that the way the musicians play it is the way it should be
danced. I am now convinced otherwise by the various arguments put forward
in favour.

My issue is that having just had my hi-fi that I used for my class, my
computer that had many of my tunes on it, and my SCD CDs that were trapped
in my hi-fi disc changer and so went the way of my hi-fi, all stolen I am
facing the issue of re-equipping. I am looking for advice from all these
technocrats on Strathspey. What should I buy? I use my equipment for my
own personal enjoyment, but also lug it along to the class and when we
have a party I have been hiring a mixer and mike to supplement my
equipment for the occasion. I dont often have the luxury of starting from
scrathc, so please someone, introduce me to the new world of choice and
technospeak (within a reasonable budget of course).

Campbell Tyler
Cape Town
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Change of tempo

Message 43408 · Norma or Mike Briggs · 4 Dec 2005 13:53:09 · Top

OK, I give up. I looked at my post, then at Richard's reply, and I wish
I could see a difference between the way I asked my question and the way
he rephrased it.

Let me refine the question, though, to accommodate Richard and others
who care.

Let's assume that you have no class musician. All you have is recorded
music. How critical is it to your teaching (or learning) to be able to
slow it down or speed it up on the fly to teach (or learn) an individual
formation, as opposed to readjusting the tempo of a whole dance because
it was originally recorded (in someone's opinion) too fast or too slow
for comfort?

This is where I'm coming from with that question. Our group is
considering using an iPod or similar for class music. (Less bulky and
less heavy than our present set-up; less expensive than a dedicated laptop.)

It would be fairly easy to slow down or speed up music on the hard drive
of a laptop before transferring it to the iPod, so that all of the stuff
on the iPod is at what you believe to be appropriate dance tempo. But,
once the selections are on the iPod, there's no way that I know of to
adjust tempo to slow down an 8-bar (or whatever) passage so that you can
have the class dance a formation in slo-mo. Locally, that doesn't seem
to be much of a problem. How much of a problem would it be for you?

Mike

P.S. Richard: I'd love to play for one of your classes some day, if
only to give you a couple of suggestions as to where you could put your
metronome for my comfort as a musician.

--
----------------------------------------------------
Norma Briggs Voice 608 835 0914
Michael J Briggs Fax 608 835 0924
BRIGGS LAW OFFICE
1519 Storytown Road Oregon WI 53575-2521 USA
----------------------------------------------------
www.briggslawoffice.com
----------------------------------------------------
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Change of tempo

Message 43414 · Richard Goss · 4 Dec 2005 23:17:59 · Top

Before, I respond to the rest of your post, I have already answered your initial question, and several others have agreed with my answers as the advantage of it.

"How critical" again suggests that you do not consider the matter important, so let me repeat. It is not absolutely critical, just as it is not absolutely critical that an experienced SCD teacher read over the dance notes before teaching. Having said that, the ability to fine tune one´s music for the needs of the class makes the difference between good teaching, and a lesson and one that is merely adequate.

The word "critical" used to mean absolutely necessary, so in that sense it is not critical. At the same time, control over one´s music is one aspect of good teaching. In the Miss M days, she had Kitty. As a team, very little conversation was necessary during the class as through experience Kitty knew what, when, and how fast, depending on the lesson. I can remember many times when she used to get a standing ovation from a class. The trouble with recordings is that the response is only in one direction. So, if the dancer indicates the speed by clapping at the point of a tempo change, the record player does not respond.

I have taught with recordings and trained my own pianists (I am a musician myself). I preferred to encourage young pianists who were already dancers, hopefully country dancers, as they were more sensative to the problem. Classicly trained musicians, non dancers, take a lot more breaking in. You seem to have missed my point regarding a metronome, I have never used one with a country dance class in the U.S. Here in Spain, where, by US/UK standards, everyone is an anarchist, I found the structure of a metronome helpful, though it would never be needed for musicians playing for Spanish dances.

This is because of a different dance structure. Whereas in the SCD movement, the teachers are the focus of authority, and they and the branches hire the musicians, In Spain, the opposite is the case. First comes the village master of music who runs a music school, where dance is also taught. Out of the music schools evolve bands of various ad hoc structures. Each band has its afficianados some musicians, some dancers, and some merely spectators. A dance, is whenever, the village hires a band or two for a scheduled event, or an ad hoc band gets the keys to the amp from the police. As a result there are always dances happending somewhere, with the dancers coming from two sources, the village itself by schedule or simply hearing the music, and the fans of the band who tend to follow their schedule. Bad music, no one dances, no followers, band not invited back. Good music, lots of dancers dancing, lots of gigs.

The problem with Spanish, nonSCD dancers as musicians, is that they are mostly classicly trained, can sight read, but are not a part of the culture that most of use don´t even have to think about. When "River Dance" came round, "Irish" meaning |sell-tik| music was the rage. The musicians are playing to the score, but the result does not fell right or make me want to dance.

"On the fly" is no problem, if one is descrete, simply slowly turn the nob so the dancers don´t immediately notice.

"In someone´s opinion too fast or too slow"
First of all the teacher´s opinion is not just that of "someone".
Secondly, in the days of WYJTD [Green] before the improvers got a hold of it, the tempo was specified as a standard from which to work. Bands that did not follow that standard were not hired by RSCDS branches. In my area, the problem in the early days the musicians were from the "ceilidh and bothy ballad" school, and played bouncy strathspeys, and runaway jigs. This is OK for the informal style of the ceilidh, but does not work for good country dancing. I don´t know about now, but for my prelim at home, we were trained in use of the record player and selection of appropriate music. For my full at St Andrews, we also had sessions with the professional, and approved, RSCDS pianists.

The fact is that many of the early RSCDS tunes were consciously recorded too fast, to fit on the 78. And in those days the 78 was designed to allow one to vary the tempo. One of my favorite dance recordings is a 78 of the D&D/E - at the recorded speed, it becomes a frenetic romp, slighly slowed, one can appreciate both the dance and the fantastic full orchestra arrangment.

"readjusting the tempo of a whole dance"
Sometimes a good idea, simply for "marking" out the phrasing for a new figure, using the music that the dancers will meet at full speed in the complete dance.
.
Regarding the "iPod" back in the early days, I had my casset recorder equipped to allow for a speed change, but found it easier to prerecord chunks of music for special purposes when I liked the tune, but not the tempo. Mike

"Where [I] put the metronome" was already answered in that the context was missed in my original comment. For myself, when practicing with a metronome, I usually put it at eye level somewhere between 45 and75º from my LOD. I never have to look at it, but am still aware of the pulse of the little read light. Got used to this when recording for cartoons where the music had to be in sync with the prerecorded action. Last job, not too long ago on a visit to L.A. was for the film version of the "Power Puff Girls" (here called "Super Ninas" - rubbish, but very popular with girls in the lower primary grades)..


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Change of tempo

Message 43415 · Ron Mackey · 4 Dec 2005 23:18:58 · Top

all stolen I am
> facing the issue of re-equipping.

Sympathetic noises from here!! Let's hope you find that it has
it's recompense.
Regards, Ron

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