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Author Topic: Fancy keys  (Read 2651 times)

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Offline swarbrules

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Fancy keys
« on: Apr 06, 2005, 12:31:38 PM »
I came across this and noticed it was by my teacher.

If you want to cheat you can pretend you are playing in F but, if you want to be correct, it is in a mode, in this case, A phrygian.

How are the bars played? Three sets of three?

X:20
T:Hoffedd Modryb Marged
T: Aunt Margaret's Fancy
C:Trad. Arr Paul Hopkins
M:9/8
L:1/8
K:Aphr
D2 d AFD AFD | D2 d AFD GEC | D2 d AFD AFD | cde fga ecA :|
|:A2 f fdA fdA | A2 f fdA ecA | A2 f fdA fdA | cde (3fga f ecA :|

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #1 on: Apr 06, 2005, 07:24:48 PM »
Huh, a Welsh slip jig!  Who knew....?   ;)  Yes, 3 sets of 3; the emphasis is on beats 1,4 & 7.    -Steve
« Last Edit: Apr 07, 2005, 12:22:18 AM by Steve_W »

Offline simon

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #2 on: Apr 07, 2005, 10:39:56 AM »
I can't hear it in A, just seems like D minor to me. Must try it at home on the piano - busy office isn't the best place for trying to hear harmonies in your head. ;)

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #3 on: Apr 07, 2005, 06:13:32 PM »
The difference between minor and Phrygian scales has to do with the 6th and 7th notes of the (minor) scale; in minor mode they are sharp ascending but natural descending.  In Phrygian they're natural both going up and down.  So in this case the evidence that this is in Phrygian mode is that the C's in measures 4 and 8 are natural both ascending and descending.  NOTE: nobody that wasn't totally obsessed with detail would make this distinction; they'd all just call it D minor and leave it at that.  If you tell accompanists that this tune is in A phrygian they won't know what you're talking about, but if you say it's in D minor they'll follow happily along! -Steve

Offline simon

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #4 on: Apr 07, 2005, 06:31:44 PM »
Sorry, should have been more specific - it seems like D aeolian (natural minor, the descending bit of the melodic minor you refer to). But when I get home I'll try playing it against an A drone and see how it sounds.

Offline swarbrules

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #5 on: Apr 07, 2005, 07:14:22 PM »
NOTE: nobody that wasn't totally obsessed with detail would make this distinction;

I agree but, its nice to be a pedant at times and any way, my teacher has been talking about modes in music.

Could, however, there be a valid pont in using this nomenclature? Can we say that, because it is in a mode, it is an old tune (or at least has a old base)?

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #6 on: Apr 07, 2005, 09:19:52 PM »
Sorry, should have been more specific - it seems like D aeolian (natural minor, the descending bit of the melodic minor you refer to). But when I get home I'll try playing it against an A drone and see how it sounds.

I agree with you, I think that D aeolian is a better match than A phrygian.  A D drone works much better than an A in my opinion. -Steve

Offline simon

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #7 on: Apr 07, 2005, 10:28:50 PM »
Well I've been playing it all evening. Really simple tune, but a very nice one - that's possibly more evidence of its age than the mode is.

To my ear, it's certainly in D, but who's to say that means A phrygian would be wrong? When I first got into Irish music I wasn't too familiar with modes other than the major and minor scales I'd done for my classical studies. Some tunes were a mystery to me. I think the Old Bush was one I had a particular problem with. It starts and ends on A, and it never satisfactorily resolves to the root note of D, and it took me a while to get my head round it.

I have a recording of the piper Felix Doran playing George White's in G followed by the Ivy Leaf in A. He drones on D the whole way through which I found really disconcerting at first, but now it sounds perfectly natural to me.

So, to get to the point, your whole musical experience influences your sense of the harmonic context of a particular melody. That's why newbie guitarists get a bad name in trad circles because they don't think outside of the I-IV-V kind of accompaniment they're used to from rock/blues etc. That's also why I can't rule out the possibility that whoever first played these notes was thinking in A phrygian, but I'm just not used to hearing that way.

On the other hand, I'm pretty certain it's in D. ;)

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #8 on: Apr 08, 2005, 01:00:00 AM »
That makes a lot of sense to me; I don't understand this whole mode thing as much as I'd like to.  Being classically-trained, I'm much more happy with "major" and "minor" instead of the church modes!  I also hear it in D but maybe I'm missing something.  Swarbrules, if you get a chance to ask your teacher, I'd be curious to know why he notated it in A phrygian. -Steve

Offline swarbrules

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #9 on: Apr 08, 2005, 08:05:51 AM »
I would assume he took the simplistic view. It finishes in A, therefore it is in the "key" of A. Since it cannot be our modern A it must be a mode and the A mode with one flat is phrygian. Several Welsh tunes are in modes which, perhaps goes back to the age and traditions of the crwth.

I can't really understand why we bother nowadays with these small distinctions, apart from being a smart a**e. There was a programme on the radio a while ago about key signatures and the ways of tuning the piano etc. I know that if you tune each note to its exact, theoretical pitch you get a nasty sound on chords etc so, it has to be a compromise. The old fashioned way was called mean tempering where C was tuned perfectly and the rest fitted around it. That meant that the farther away from C you got the more discordant things got. This gave certain characteristics of melancholy or harshness etc to various keys. With the Bb in different parts of the F and Dmin scales I would assume that there were major difference in the keys. The modern way, however, is to compromise across the range to give an even temper and those characteristics are lost. So, nowadays it could be A phrygian, F or Dmin with, again I assume, little difference in a scale.  This is from a half remembered programme so the detail might be a bit off but, the gist I think is right.

Offline simon

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #10 on: Apr 08, 2005, 11:30:51 AM »
That's the gist of it, yes. You're right that on a keyboard, A phrygian, F major and D aeolian all use the exact same notes. (On a fiddle we aren't restricted to one temperament, so the exact pitch of a particular note might very well vary a little depending on which key we're in. Without a fiddle in my hand, but I'm thinking the Bb could be a little sharper in F than in D minor, for instance.)

Either way, the issue here isn't so much about temperament. It's simply about the root note of the scale. In traditional music, the most important thing is the root note; you can vary the modality as you play, switching between major and minor 3rds, or playing those in-between notes I always like to rabbit on about, but the root note is the anchor for the whole tune. It's funny that the sheet music never actually tells you what the root is, you just have to figure it out yourself.

I think the best way to get a feel for the various modes is to sit at a piano and experiment. All the relative modes of C major are represented in the white keys, so no keyboard skills required. For example, start a scale on F and you get F lydian. It sounds like F major, but the B natural sounds, well distinctly unnatural. Play around with it for a while and it starts to sound good though. Try my favourite example of the lydian mode (not sure it qualifies yet as a traditional tune ;) ):

K:FLydian
M:4/4
L:1/8
F3 A- AB-Bd | c3 A- AF-FD | BBBC z4 ||

Offline Tize

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #11 on: Apr 08, 2005, 12:27:41 PM »
I gave up bothering with the intricacies of keys when I took up jazz ;D I just listen for the melody and then play what sounds good against it! I think you can get too stuck in a key sometimes - exactly the I, IV and V problem, but then even when you venture into the relative minor, there's so much more you can do, inverting bass notes, using the major right hand against the minor left (so often effectively playing sevenths chords but without the root of the min7 in the right hand, but you can go further with it) and just generally 'making up' chords; playing notes because the tune leads you to them without thinking about what chord they make and whether that chord fits with the key - that's the only way I managed to back Lizzy's 'Darkroom Ettiquette' (and, in fact the Secret Language (Lizzy) and Reverse Osmosis (mine) set!) (shameless plugging, moi?!)

When I'm backing really good musicians I like to play around with rhythm too, e.g. setting dotted crotchets against a reel for a part then returning to 4/4 (or it's a good way to lead into a jig), or vice-versa, going for crotchets against a jig - good for a change into a reel. It's not a good idea to do that when playing with easily confused souls though!

Cheers, Tize (and Seamus, my 4-day-long hangover/illness)
« Last Edit: Apr 08, 2005, 12:32:44 PM by Tize »

Offline beeswing

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #12 on: Apr 08, 2005, 05:18:44 PM »
"not a good idea to do that when playing with easily confused souls though!"

amen to that

Haven't spent much fiddle time with this tune, but mean to. Plunked it on the mando a bit, I have... no real rooted sense of it yet.

Since it doesn't use either B or H it could just as easily be in A aeolian or D dorian, but for that flat in front of the staff.
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Offline Steve_W

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #13 on: Apr 08, 2005, 05:32:19 PM »
I think one reason to look at modes apart from pure scholasticism is to glean an understanding why a tune is written a particular way.  Not that the composer would ever have been thinking "I'm writing a tune in the phrygian mode" but s/he would have been following it instinctively, based on what sounded "right" in that tradition.  For those of us who grew up with classical or modern music and are trying to learn the ins and outs of a fiddle style, and especially for those who want to write music in a traditional idiom, it can be very instructive to learn how the modes work.   -Steve

Offline beeswing

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Re: Fancy keys
« Reply #14 on: Apr 14, 2005, 04:41:32 PM »
In my mountain dulcimer days I used to think of the Phrygian mode as the "annoyed" mode. Maybe it has something to do with the semitone to the 2nd note.

The other mode with a semitone right at first is the Locrian, which somebody told me was forbidden in the early church as the devil's mode.

Somebody else told me that there's a modern school of theory that likes to think of the Lydian mode as a base from which you may go anywhere you like.
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