donderdag 3 januari 2013

Phrasing - Making the instrument Sing

This is the first post after a long break. I'm in the middle of a fairly intense period of concentrated practice now, working to improve my sight-reading and performance skills. So these posts are thoughts that occur to me in this journey.

Back to the subject - phrasing. It's very important to make music sound beautiful and full of life, but it is something which isn't really shown in sheet music. It's an area where the performer adds their own interpretation to the written music.

I think of phrasing as being like the lines of a song. A singer will have to pause to breathe, and a good singer will do that at natural pauses in the music, often the end of each line. Not all music has lyrics of course, but it all has phrases. Playing accordion enforces some breaks anyway to change the bellows directions, and these should correspond with the ends of phrases. So, think where in the music a singer would take a breath, and make a tiny pause there.

One thing I've been trying lately is to deliberately lift off the last note of a phrase just a tiny bit early, to enable me to leave a little "pause for breath" before playing the first note of the next phrase exactly on the beat. The music will also sound better if all of these little pauses between the phrases are more or less the same length.

These are all subtle details, but they're well worth paying attention to and good attention to phrasing is one of the things that marks out really good musicians.

woensdag 29 oktober 2008

La Spagnola

This waltz titled "La Spagnola" (Maid of Spain) is an Italian song composed by Vincenzo di Chiara. It was made popular in the version sung by Gigliola Cinquetti.

To play this on a small 32 bass accordion I had to transpose the tune into G from the original key of A, otherwise it would run out of bass chords. Here's my arrangement. If anyone feels this is a violation of their copyright, then just let me know and I will remove it.

My version played on a Galotta 32 bass accordion.

And here it's sung by the charming Gigliola Cinquetti.

zaterdag 25 oktober 2008

Saddle the Pony

This is a traditional Irish tune, I picked it up from the Gallowglass Ceilidh band's excellent CD and figured out an arrangement.

It fits nicely onto the range of small accordions such as 48 or 32 bass and as it's in G it makes a nice counterpoint to other Irish jigs, many of which are in the key of D.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2008

Over the Waves

That little red accordion I play was once owned by my uncle who sadly passed away in 2003. I inherited his accordions, and that was when I started learning to play.

My uncle Melvern Cousins was a remarkable man. A printer by trade, he had wide interests and taught himself many skills including cycling, photography, music, astronomy, sailing and archery. You see him here racing in a hill-climb in England during the 1960s. This tune was one of his favourites and he used to play it on this accordion. I hope you enjoy my interpretation.

zondag 12 oktober 2008

Circle of Fifths 2

What the circle of fifths shows us is the harmonic relationship between notes. This is something that is not obvious when looking at the piano keyboard, as that arranges the notes in linear order.

Notes that are close together on the piano keyboard are in fact harmonically far apart. Try playing C and C# together - it will sound dissonant and unpleasant. These two notes are far apart on the circle of fifths, and they'll rarely be heard together in music.

But play C and G together and it will sound sweet. G is a fifth higher than C, it is the closest note to C harmonically, and they are neighbours on the circle of fifths.

The reasons for this can be analysed mathematically, in fact G is 1.5 times the frequency of C. So three cycles of G will fit into the same time as 2 cycles of C. But when playing music there's not much time to think this way, we just need a feeling for what sounds good.

Look at the circle of fifths and you'll see that G is one place clockwise from C. Now, go one place anticlockwise and you'll find F. In other words, C is the fifth note of the scale of F.

Say we are playing a tune in the scale of C. The two notes most closely related to the home key are G and F. And you'll find that the chords C, G and F are the ones that will pop up most often when trying to harmonise an accompaniment with a tune in C.
The most commonly needed chords are the two nearest neighbours on the circle of fifths.

donderdag 9 oktober 2008

Circle of Fifths 1

How to Harmonise Chords

This was, and still is, the greatest mystery in music for me.

So, you have a tune, and you want to fit chords to it. How to proceed?

As with most things in life, you can get a certain way by guessing, but it helps to know what you're doing. And to know what you're doing, you need to understand the circle of fifths. Here it is, in all its symmetrical beauty.

Each chord leads to the following one, in an anticlockwise direction.

Try it. G7 makes you wish for C. C7 makes you wish for F. And so on. There is a progression here, each chord leads you to the next. More tomorrow......

zondag 5 oktober 2008

Irish Music Resource

This is a great site for finding traditional Irish tunes, jigs, reels and the like. Most tunes can be found in sheet music format, and some have chord symbols.