Interesting answers, all, and yes, Alan, a particularly informative one.
Andrea - I take your point, but if it's all pros playing, well, it ain't a
session, it's a concert? Even with a bit of theory and practice, on some
session instruments transposing a half-tone up can be a trick, no?
>From: Alan Ng <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Eb session?
>Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 16:33:09 -0500
>Ok, in return I'll bite at that bait, Jeffrey - surely we're both offending
>somebody or other by accident en route ...
>I'm responding as a fiddler who maintains 3 different fiddles:
>1) one at A=440 for "playing out,"
>2) one fiddle tuned down one half-step, suitable for playing with C#
>chanters and many older fiddle recordings (and which I prefer to play when
>at home on my own),
>3) and one fiddle tuned somewhat sharp, almost a half-step higher than
>A=440, which is fun for fast/intricate fiddling and a Paddy Glackin-style
>The point of all these different setups is instrument timbre and reaction
>Flat-tuned string instruments are generally enjoy a mellower tone, are a
>bit quieter, and have a slower reaction speed to details with either left
>or right hand movements. In Irish music, this is one way to approach - for
>example - the old Sliabh Luachra sound which is much more about a
>hypnotically reliable rhythm with a distinctive swell of both timbre and
>volume in each beat, than about intricate details of articulation.
>High-tuned string instruments sound generally brighter, louder, and give
>the player a faster reaction to input from both the left or right hand. For
>example, in Irish music, John Doherty-style bowing or a Michael-Coleman
>level of rhythmic articulation are both easier to execute cleanly with an
>instrument having strings held at a higher tension.
>Furthermore, I set up each fiddle with the appropriate strings to
>accentuate those characteristics: gut or darker synthetic strings for the
>mellow flat fiddle, brighter synthetic strings for my "regular" fiddle, and
>steel strings for the bright, high-tuned fiddle.
>That should be more than enough fiddle wonkishness to bore many of us ...
>Alan Ng, PhD . [log in to unmask] . http://www.alan-ng.net/
>Madison, Wisconsin, USA
>Jeffrey Miller sent on 7/10/08 4:10 PM:
>>Okay, I'll bite, or bear the brunt of being the messenger to the naked
>>emperor: What advantage is there to playing Irish music in Eb at a session
>>unless it's Irish, uh, jazz? The flutes and whistles will just be all
>>that much (a half tone) screechier, for one, on a lot of the tunes that
>>sound okay in D and G on the pipes ... All this to accomodate a shorter
>>flute? And I say this as a guy with a slightly longer, uh, flute.