Friday, November 30, 2012

Playing Tunes, My Preferred Speed Is Slow

I enjoy playing AABB (or similarly structured) instrumental tunes at a relaxed tempo.  When you play at an unhurried, comfortable pace you enunciate better and you create a sense of space inside the tune.  A repeatable stream of single line melody notes, sparsely ornamented, falling into place.  Consistent but not quite repetitive.  Trancey, groovy, and hypnotic - with the potential to possess and take one to that alpha state.

I'm not too concerned with place of origin or style of the tunes I get.  They usually come from Ireland or Appalachia, sometimes Canada. This is traditional music in the sense that the tunes themselves are usually in the public domain and are rarely written by any one individual.  Seek the same thing that those that played these tunes before you sought; don't change it from how it was previously played, but don't sound the same either.

The playing of a tune is an incarnation, a rendering that could come out different the next time around.  If you have the sound in your head, sooner or later you'll find a way to do it.  Melody and rhythm will always be paramount.  I play what I can at (in) the moment and let the rest wait.  Hopefully my skeletal, slowed-down arrangements only simplify the tune without actually taking anything away.  I get more fun and satisfaction by playing that way, and that's what it's all about, right?

1 comment:

  1. I continue to find myself resonating with your insights. I like to play slowly too. I was with a club of ukulele players and I was tired of the speed of the Hawaiian tunes. A bari uke with its deeper tone works well with a moderate tempo. I came across Nick DiSebastian via Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, which focuses on many oldtime fiddle tunes. So much of the playing there is fast-paced. There's many contributors to the magazine and great articles. I also purchased a flatpicking book called Flatpicking Fiddle Tunes by Eric Thompson.

    A few years later some of my uke friends told me that Old-Time fiddler and guitarist Suzy Thompson was having Old-Time music gathering/classes at her home in Berkeley. A couple of times there were parties too and Eric Thompson would join in.
    You'll have to find some of Suzy's stuff. In our group we had fiddles, banjo, washboard, guitars, lapsteel, bari, uke, and saw.