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Old 01-24-2008, 03:54 AM   #1
TwitchyFingers
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Default Four note runs in strathspeys

I've been going through the Ceol Sean c.d. rom Glenn Collections again. In a lot of the strathspeys, I run across a four note run where a triplet would usually be written in more modern collections(Scots Guards, Gordon etc.).
I just can't seem to get the idea of how they should be expressed. I seems to warp my conception of how a strathspey goes rhythmically. Any ideas or histories for the reason for the modern version?
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Old 01-24-2008, 05:33 AM   #2
John McCain
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Four sixteenth notes? This isn't uncommon for fiddlers. They're played even (or round) by folks I play with in sessions.

You may think of it this way. Most of us play eighth note triplets as two sixteenth notes and an eight note. The run basically splits that last eighth note into two even sixteenth notes.

I find these runs fun to play.

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Old 01-24-2008, 01:29 PM   #3
Ross Anderson
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

It's often said that the ealiest strathspeys are the 'new strathspey reells' in Oswald Book 3 (1746), which have triplets where a quaver is followed by two semiquavers. Many other dance tunes in that collection contain four-note runs and soon we find the slow, pointed "strathspey reell' played with them.

The tune books from the second half of the eighteenth century have a lot of strathspeys. They suddenly became fashionable after the 1745 - I suspect because the dancers slowed down and kicked high, thereby exposing some leg to the other sex. Think of the strathspey as the teenage rebellion, the rock and roll, of the Enlightenment.

The four-note run continued for some decades. For example, the Advocates' manuscript on 1765 has a whole lot of "reell" dances with them, and in 1785, the Sutherland manuscript has The Haughs of Cromdale in this style (see www.piob.info for both).

By the mid-19th century - say Gunn's collection in 1848 - the four-note run is only found in marches. Strathspeys are played with triplets, notated with all notes of equal length. As late as the 1960s and 70s, when I was learning, some strathspey tripets were played even, and some as two semiquavers followed by a quaver. Now, it seems, almost all professional players play triplets in this way, with the exception of Alasdair Gillies whom I've heard playing occasional tunes in the old (1970s, not 1780s) style

Ross
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Old 01-25-2008, 04:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross Anderson
By the mid-19th century - say Gunn's collection in 1848 - the four-note run is only found in marches. Strathspeys are played with triplets, notated with all notes of equal length.
Note that this applies only to the way pipers play strathspeys. Fiddlers still do the four-note runs all the time, often in the same places in the same tunes where pipers play their triplets.
The timing of these four-note runs, like the timing of the triplets that pipers play in their stead, is difficult on impossible to precisely show in written music. Just listen to some good Scottish fiddlers and you'll hear what they sound like.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:34 AM   #5
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

I was at a fiddle workshop with John Taylor, a great Scottish fiddler, last summer. He spoke a bit about triplets in strathspesys. He said that fiddlers almost always play the triplets in a way that's closest to two short notes and a long (1/16, 1/16, 1/8, or Semiquaver Semiquaver Quaver), but occasionally play them as actual triplets (three notes of equal length). He even passed out some music that had the triplets notated both ways for clarity, iirc -- that is, in these 4 places play two 16th and an 8th, but in this one spot play an even triplet.

He didn't mention anything about runs of 4, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything other than it wasn't part of what he wanted to discuss.

Bob
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:34 PM   #6
Barry Shears
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Hello,
The four note run is still played quite often in Cape Breton fiddling eg King George the IV strathspey as well as many others. It loses something in the transition from fiddle to bagpipe since in Cape Breton each note of the run is played with a single bow stroke, thereby cutting up the rhythm. This of course is unachievable on the bagpipe and it sounds more like a slur. Reversing bow direction of each note really brings out the beautyof the run.
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Old 01-26-2008, 04:43 AM   #7
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Good point Barry. Yep the fiddlers single-bow the four-note runs (quadruplets??) and the effect is magical. Sometimes they bow them agressively, sometimes sweetly. All that shading that doesn't happen on the pipes.
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Old 02-02-2008, 06:52 PM   #8
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Quote:
Originally Posted by pancelticpiper
Good point Barry. Yep the fiddlers single-bow the four-note runs (quadruplets??) and the effect is magical. Sometimes they bow them agressively, sometimes sweetly. All that shading that doesn't happen on the pipes.
Three notes in the space of 2 is a triplet. A quadruplet is 4 notes in the space of 5. You can hear quintuplets (5 in the space of 4) in the outro of Sweet Home Alabama.

Four sixteenth notes is just a run.

Bob
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Old 02-02-2008, 07:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob864
...in the outro of Sweet Home Alabama.
Which book is that in?

Best, John
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Old 02-02-2008, 08:34 PM   #10
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Default Re: Four note runs in strathspeys

I guess the main difficulty I've had in playing these is keeping the bouncey aspect I'm used to in strathspeys. It ends up sounding a bit more like a march or reel.
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