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Music used for Irish Dance (karma: 21)
By Teasharkmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Aug 29, 2007 06:06 PM
Made sticky by calypso (11968) on 2007-09-02 10:26:41
Moved to Irish Dance Music by oz_helen (35388) on 2009-05-10 23:26:31 moved to our new board!

Here is my take on the connection between Irish Dance and the music it is danced to. I have divided this post into five parts: A short introduction to music theory, Tempo, Types of music and the dances they are used for, Set Dances and Instruments. I am greatly indebted to the contributors and editors of Wikipedia, The Sessions, A Fiddler’s Guide, Tcrgexam.9k.com and all of you DDN’ers who helped me by answering my questions related to the creation of this post and encouraging me to actually create it.

A short introduction to music theory

Music notation is a system which is used to represents aurally perceived music in writing. It is done by writing down the notes and rhythms in the music by using symbols. In Western music notation tunes are written down according to a set of rules, which is what this first chapter is all about. The notes are what make up the melody heard in a piece of music, they have qualities like pitch and lenght - each length has a different appearance in writing. These notes are written in a system of 5 horizontal parallel lines (known as a staff).
Staff Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Music-staff.png/100px-Music-staff.png'
A tune is divided up into bars (also known as measures), these divide the tune into regular groups of beats. How many beats are in a group is defined by the type of music in question, something known as time signature. Bars are noted in writing by drawing a line perpendicular to the staff:
Barline Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d9/Music-bar.png/100px-Music-bar.png'
‘In standard Western notation, pitches are represented on the vertical axis and time is represented by notation symbols on the horizontal axis.’1 The notes are placed on the lines of the staff according to their pitch, higher position on the line signifies higher pitch. I will include a couple of examples of notes to demonstrate their function in a bar. All of the following definitions are for a 4/4 time signature (for example reel). The ‘easiest’ note of all is a whole note, it lasts for 4 beats and fills up a bar of e.g. reel all by itself. A half note last for two beats, in reel where we are allowed four beats per bar (hence the name 4/4) two half notes would fit in a bar. A quarter note takes up one beat and in reel we can accommodate four quarter notes in one bar. An eight note takes up half a beat (1/8 of the bar in a reel) and it would take eight eight notes to fill up a bar of reel.

Whole note Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Music-wholenote.png/100px-Music-wholenote.png' Half note Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cf/Music-halfnote.png/100px-Music-halfnote.png' Quarter note Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8e/Music-quarternote.png/100px-Music-quarternote.png' Eight note Image hotlink - 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c7/Music-eighthnote.png/100px-Music-eighthnote.png'

It is hereby easy to express the length of melody by simply stating the number of bars it can be broken up into. The standard number of bars in Irish Dance is eight. It is hereby easy to count how many beats there are in a step of reel. We have eight bars of reel and four beats per bar, that adds up to thirty two beats. Melodies do not have to follow the beats, in other words the notes are not the same as the beats, the beats are an abstract concept which helps to rationalize the art which is music.

Time signature is used to ‘specify how many beats are in each bar and what note value constitutes one beat.’2 It is written in the short form of two numbers, the first indicating the number of beats and the second the note value (for simple time signatues only, compound signatures will be touched upon later). Taking reel as an example, it is written 4/4 - the first 4 signifies that we have four beats per bar and the second 4 that quarter notes constitute one beat. Common simple time signatures are 2/4, 3/4 (e.g. waltz) and 4/4.

In Irish dance also compound time signatures are used, mainly 6/8 (double jig), 9/8 (slip jig) and 12/8 (single jig). These compound time signatures differ from the simple signatures presented earlier, in that they have as their beat unit (the lower/last number) an eight note. For those interested in musical theory this is due to the fact that compound signatures use dotted notes for for the beat unit. To determine the number of beats and the beat unit in compound time signatures, some calculations are needed. A list of the results will be presented at the end of the chapter, here is an explanation for how to do it.

9/8 (slip jig) will be used as an example. To determine the number of beats per bar, we need to divide the first number, here 9, by 3 - the result is that there are three beats per bar. The second number, which is the note that represents one beat, is determined by multiplying this note value with 3 - the result is that one beat represents three eight-notes.

4/4 = counted as 4 beats per bar - 1 quarter note constitutes one beat
6/8 = counted as 2 beats per bar - 3 quarter notes constitute one beat
9/8 = counted as 3 beats per bar - 3 quarter notes constitute one beat
12/8 = counted as 4 beats per bar - 3 quarter notes constitute one beat

Tempo

How fast a tune is played depends on what level the dancer is. As a general rule, fast tempo is for beginners and slower tempo is for the more advanced dancers. The logic behind this is that when the tempo is slower the dancer can fit in more moves and the dance also lasts longer – calling for technique, stamina and speed. The tempo of a piece of music is in Irish dance stated as bmp – beats per minute. This would seem straight forward enough, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold up as such for some of the dances. If you want to figure out the tempo of a piece of music by just listening to it, it is necessary to know both what time signature is used and what the convention of stating speeds in Irish dance music is. Reel and Hornpipe and are the major problematic areas. If you figure out using a calculator how many beats there are in 2,5 steps of reel and compare that to the time it takes to dance it to open tempo music, you will find that there are significantly more beats per minute than the 113 stated on most practice CDs. This is due to the convention that only the significant beats are counted when writing the speed of reel and hornpipe – 1 and 3 are considered to be significant in these dances, thus only 2 beats per bar, this will yield 113 as the tempo. As a general rule, it is easy enough to figure out what the bpm is for any song.

How to calculate the tempo of a piece of music.
1. Figure out the time signature, usually stated on cd’s. If it is simple time signature (reel, hornpipe), then remember to divide the number of beats counted by 2. If it is in compound time signature (double jig, single jig, light jig, slip jig) then remember to convert the number of beats per bar, or look it up in the section above.
2. Take a stop watch (or simply look at the time on the cd-player) and see how many bars fit into 15 seconds/30 seconds of music. Multiply this number of bars by the number of beats in every bar (figured out in number 1) and multiply with 4 (if using 15 sec) or 2 (if using 30 sec) to ascertain the beats per minute number.
An example, Double Jig, stated on the Irish Dancer CD to be played at 73 bpm. I counted 9 bars to fit into 15 seconds, in which case the calculation would be 9 bars x 2 beats/bar = 18 beats. This needs to be multiplied with 4 to attain the number of beats per minute: 18 beats x 4 (15 sec)parts /min = 72 beats/min (the 1 bpm difference to the one stated is caused by e.g. a delay in my time-taking). If I would have taken a 30 sec or 60 sec sample the result will be more accurate.

Another way of figuring out the tempo in a piece of music is to time how long for example 8 bars of music takes. Then divide the number of beats in the 8 bars by the time in seconds. This will give the the number of beats per second. Multiply by 60 to get bpm.

There are many programs available that figure out the bpm of tunes automatically, simply insert the tune and the bpm shows up. One still needs to take into account the “Irish convention” for some tunes, but these cases are rather obvious (an example would be to get 224 as the speed for a reel). There is a nice website where it is possible to measure the bpm of a tune by simply tapping any key on your keyboard in time to the music you are listening to and the program on the website figures out the bpm from this.

In a survey on tempo in 4 different organizations (CLRG, CRN, WIDA and NAFC), the following tempo were found. I have divided the table into three levels, Beginner, Intermediate and Champion, listing the range of tempo found for the various organizations. Tempo of traditional sets is found under the list for Set dances.

Light Jig All levels 112-121
Single Jig Beginner 112-124 Intermediate 112-122 Champion 118 (CRN)
Reel Beginner 112-130 Intermediate 112-118 Champion 112-116
Slip Jig Beginner 112-130 Intermediate 112-124 Champion 112-118
Treble Jig Beginner 85-96 Intermediate 82-85 Champion 72-76
Hornpipe Beginner 128-144 Intermediate 113-130 Champion 112-116


Types of music and the dances they are used for

In this chapter the different dances will be presented according to what time signature they belong to. There are as many ways to understanding and counting rhythm as there are people, the methods of counting presented in this chapter are suggestions only, based on the way the music is written. To get a hang of counting beats in music, I would suggest starting with a Reel that has a speed of approximately 120. If listening to the ticking of a clock and clapping once for every tick of a second, you will be clapping once for one bar. Now play the Reel and start clapping as you did just before when a step begins, you should end up getting 8 claps in a one-foot-step. Turn off the music and try clapping two times for every second on the clock and you will be clapping twice for every bar. Clapping 4 times for every second will signify clapping at every beat. Try these with music. For the first you should be getting 16 claps per one-foot-step and for the second 32 claps per one-foot-step.

For counting bold will be used to indicate an accent in the music in the first examples (due to the limit on markup, bold was only put on the first bar of example). In the examples numbers are used, they can at any time be replaced with for example a DUM for an accented beat and da for any unaccented beats. In reel this would be replacing 1 2 3 4 with DUM da da da. For all these kinds of music, the main accent is on the first beat in each bar, there are additional accents but they are not as important as the main accent.

4/4
Reel and Hornpipe are written in 4/4 time signature. They are counted as 4 beats per bar, with one quarter note making up one beat. In spite of sharing time signature, hornpipes and reels differ substantially - as anyone who has tried to dance their reel to hornpipe will have noticed.

Reel
Reel is counted and written as 4 beats per bar, quarter notes as beat unit, and has a very easy pattern of rhythm to follow. The accent is on the first and third beat. Basic ways of counting reel, all of them are to be repeated eight times to count to a one-foot-step:

1 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 4 - …. This way means counting all the beats, can also be counted as
1 2 3 4 - 2 2 3 4 - …. If counting twice as slow, then use
1 2 - 1 2 - …. This way means counting twice for every bar, can also be counted as
1 2 - 2 2 - …. If counting twice as slow then use
1 - 2 - …. This way means counting once for every bar

An example of Reel, Paddy Mill’s Fancy (Irish Dancer by Bradley and Mckee, track 12):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/paddymillsfancy1.gif'

Hornpipe
Hornpipe is counted and written as 4 beats per bar, quarter notes as beat unit. It follows a pattern of having a streched first and third note in each bar, as opposed to the straight rhythm in reel. If Reel is 1-and 2-and 3-and 4-and, then Hornpipe would be 1-and 2-and 3-and 4-and. It gives a swinging feeling to the music, and Hornpipe is in other circles commonly known as sailor’s dance. Basic ways of counting Hornpipe, all of them are to be repeated eight times to count to a one-foot-step:

1-and 2-and 3-and 4-and - 1-and 2-and 3-and 4-and - …. This means counting 4 times for every bar, can also be counted as
1-and 2-and 3-and 4-and - 2-and 2-and 3-and 4-and - …. If counting twice as slow, then use
1 2 - 1 2 - …. This means counting twice per bar, can also be counted as
1 2 - 2 2 - …. If counting twice as slow, then use
1 - 2 - …. This means counting once per bar

An example of Hornpipe, Galway Bay (Sets and Solos 3 by Olive Hurley, track 3):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/galwaybay1_3453.gif'

6/8
Double (Treble), Light Jig and Single Jig (also 12/8, see below) are counted and written in 6/8 time signature. They are counted as 2 beats per bar, 3 eight notes making up one beat. The first note in the pattern of three notes making up one beat is played stronger than the other 2 notes, so that even though there can be six eight notes per bar, only two (first and fourth beat) are usually significant and used for counting. The music used for Double Jig and Light Jig is written in the same time signature and pattern, the speeds for these vary to some extent.

Double Jig
Double Jig is played at a slow tempo for most purposes in dance, usually less than 100 bpm, and under 80 for advanced dancers. Double Jig is used exclusively for hard shoe for dancing purposes. It is counted as 2 beats per bar, 3 eight notes as a beat unit and has a fairly straight forward rhythmic pattern. Basic ways of counting Double Jig, all of these are to be repeated eight times for a one-foot-step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 - …. Counting all the 8th, 6 times for every bar, can also be
1 2 3 4 5 6 - 2 2 3 4 5 6 - …. If counting only the actual beats in the music, then
1 2 - 1 2 - …. This means counting twice for every bar, once per every beat, can also be counted as
1 2 - 2 2 - …. If counting twice as slow, then use
1 - 2 - …. This means counting once for every bar, but with the slow speed used in advanced jig, it can be rather difficult.

An example of Double Jig, Planxty Irwin (Irish Dancer by Bradley and McKee, track 3):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/planxtyirwin1.gif'

Light Jig
Light Jig is played at a faster tempo than the double jig, with which it shares time signature. It is lively and bouncy, generally played at speeds above 110 bpm for dancing purposes, it is used exclusively for soft shoe for dancing purposes. It is counted as double jig, 2 beats per bar, 3 eight notes as a beat unit and has a fairly straight forward rhythmic pattern. Basic ways of counting Light Jig, all of these are to be repeated eight times for a one-foot-step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 - …. This is counting all the 8th notes, 6 times for every bar. Can also be
1 2 3 4 5 6 - 2 2 3 4 5 6 - …. If counting only the actual beats in the music, then
1 2 - 1 2 - …. This means counting twice for every bar, once per every beat, can also be counted as
1 2 - 2 2 - …. If counting twice as slow, then use
1 - 2 - …. This means counting once for every bar

An example of Light Jig, An Buachaillin Dreoite (Irish Dancer by Bradley and Mckee, track 13):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/anbuachaillindreoite1.gif'

Single Jig
Single Jig is written in eight notes like all the other jigs, but it is the only one that moves in a distinct 4 beat pattern. This has given rise to it being written in both 6/8 or 12/8 time signature. I will explain both ways of counting, here in 6/8 and later for 12/8. Single Jig is counted as 2 beats per bar, 3 eight notes making up one beat. This way of writing results in 8 bars per one-foot step, just like the other kinds of music presented. Basic ways of counting Single Jig in 6/8 time, repeat 8 times for a one-foot-step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 - …. This is counting all the 8th notes in every bar, can also be
1 2 3 4 5 6 - 2 2 3 4 5 6 - 3 2 3 4 5 6 - …. As this is rather fast, it is easier to count only the beats, using ‘and-a’ to signify the left out eight notes and help in counting
1 and-a 2 and-a - 1 and-a 2 and-a - …. Can also be counted as
1and-a 2 and-a - 2 and-a 2 and-a - 3 and-a 2 and-a - …. If counting only the bars, then use
1 - 2 - 3 - ….

An example of Single Jig, The Miller’s Maggot (Gleanntán by Sliabh Notes, track 2)
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/millersmaggot1.gif'

9/8
The time signature 9/8 is used for almost exclusively for the soft shoe dance Slip Jig. It can on rare occasions also be used for hard shoe, for example the set dance Is The Big Man Within, which is 9/8 time for the first part (step) and 6/8 time for the second part (set). Slip Jig is a graceful dances, meant only for girls, and this is reflected in the the music. The music is flowing and swinging and to many it reminds them of a waltz. Slip jig is counted as 3 beats per bar, 3 eight notes making up one beat. Basic ways of counting Slip Jig, all for these are to be repeated eight time for a one-foot-step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - …. Fast for 113 Slip Jig, good for analyzing steps. Can also be
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - 2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - …. Counting three times as slow, once for every beat, can be easier. Saying ‘and-a’ can help in keeping time.
1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a - 1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a - …. ‘and-a’ means the left out eight notes. Can also be
1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a - 2 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a - …. This helps keeping track of both bars and beats. Counting once for every bar
1 - 2 - 3 - ….

An example of Slip Jig, The Butterfly (Sets and Solos 5 by Olive Hurley, track 3):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/butterfly1.gif'

12/8
Single Jig is to my knowledge the only kind of music used for Irish dance which is written in 12/8 time. It is counted as 4 beats per bar, 3 eight notes making up one beat. As it is written in 12/8, only 4 bars are needed to make up a one-foot-step, this should be kept in mind when counting. Basic ways of counting Single Jig, all these are to be repeated 4 times for a one-foot step:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 - …. This means counting all the eight notes, twelve times for every bar, can also be counted as
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 - 2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 - …. If counting only the beats of every bar, using ‘and-a’ to signify the left out eight notes and help in counting
1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a 4 and-a - 1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a 4 and-a - …. Can also be counted as
1 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a 4 and-a - 2 and-a 2 and-a 3 and-a 4 and-a - …. This helps keeping track of both bars and beats. Counting once for every bar
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 (no repeat necessary)

An example of Single Jig in 12/8, Liz Kelly’s (One more time by McKomiskey, Mulvihill and McLeod, track 13):
Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/lizkellys1_4176.gif'


Set Dances

The set music used today by Irish dancers has its roots in historical Ireland. There are several now famous composers and musicians who contributed this list of tunes. In addition to the tunes used by dancers for sets at competition and performance, there are hundreds of tunes that are of historical nature and are still in existence. Most tunes have several names and it only adds to the confusion that several tunes can share the same name. There are several excellent websites devoted to compiling lists of all the tunes used in traditional Irish music, two examples are A Fiddler’s guide and The Session.

This list presented is based on a list of set tunes published by An Coimisuin le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG) to be used at The World Championships, it contains 38 tunes and also the minimum speed they must be performed at. Of these five to eight (depending on organization) are considered to be Traditional Sets and are performed in the Traditional Set competition (or as Set for Championship competition for younger dancers), where all of these 38 can be used for choreographing an Open/Modern Set. (The list of Traditional Sets is gathered from CRN, CRLG, WIDA and NAFC and does not reflect the requirements for the CRLG World Championships as such.) These Open Sets are performed by more advanced dancers, in An Coimisuin competitions usually as part of Preliminary/Open/Ard Grad Championship. The sets are divided into roughly half being Hornpipe and the other half Double/Treble Jig (Jig) – the set Is the Big Man Within is an exception and is written in 9/8 time for the step and 6/8 (Jig) time for the set. The number of bars in the step part (norm being 8) and set (norm being 16) varies quite much according to the tune in question. In the list the following things are listed: time signature, total number of bars and minimum tempo. A more detailed list can be seen courtesy of the excellent website TCRGexam.9k.com

Hornpipe Sets
(T)The Blackbird 2/4 60 38 (76)
Planxty Davis 2/4 48 40 (80)
The Lodge Road 2/4 36 38 (76)
Downfall of Paris 2/4 32 38 (76)
(T) King of the Fairies 2/4 32 40 (80)
Rodney's Glory 2/4 28 40 (80)
Kilkenny Races 4/4 40 80
Ace&Deuce of Pipering 4/4 36 76
Bonaparte's Retreat 4/4 36 76
Rambling Rake 4/4 32 76
(T) Garden of Daisies 4/4 32 76
(T) Job of Journeywork 4/4 30 76
(N) The Rowing Pedlar 4/4 30 76
The Piper 4/4 28 76
The Hunt 4/4 28 76
Madame Bonaparte 4/4 28 80
(N) The Four Masters 4/4 28 76
(N) The Blue Eyed Rascal 4/4 28 76
Younghal Harbour 4/4 26 80
White Blanket 4/4 24 76

Jig Sets
Drunken Gauger (Funny Tailor) 6/8 45 66
The Blackthorn Stick 6/8 45 66
Planxty Drury 6/8 40 69
(T) The Three Sea Captains 6/8 36 66
(N) The Deep Green Pool 6/8 36 69
The Orange Rouge 6/8 32 69
Miss Brown's Fancy 6/8 32 69
Hurry the Jug 6/8 32 69
Humours of Bandon 6/8 32 69
(N) The Wandering Musician 6/8 32 69
(N) The Storyteller 6/8 32 69
The Hurling Boys 6/8 30 69
(T) St Patrick's Day 6/8 30 92
Rub the Bag 6/8 30 66
(T) Jockey to the Fair 6/8 30 69
(N) The Fiddler Round the Fairy Tree 6/8 28 69
(N) The Sprig of Sheillelah 6/8 22 69

Slip Jig/Jig
Is the Big Man Within 9/8 + 6/8 8 24 69

Traditional Sets
(T)The Blackbird 2/4 60 144 / 140
(T) King of the Fairies 2/4 32 130 / 124
(T) Garden of Daisies 4/4 32 138
(T) Job of Journeywork 4/4 30 138
(T) The Three Sea Captains 6/8 36 96
(T) St Patrick's Day 6/8 30 96 / 92
(T) Jockey to the Fair 6/8 30 90

Instruments

There are a number of different instruments used for playing traditional Irish music. One of the most common is a fiddle, or violin. The fiddle has a very prominent place in Irish music, together with the accordion they are the most popular instruments. Flutes and whistles are also an integral part of playing Irish music - both wooden and metallic are used. The Uilleann pipes are a traditional Irish intrument and ‘are among the most complex forms of bagpipes’3. They are a prominent part of instrumental music called Fonn Mall. The Irish harp is making a return in the instrumental scene to where it belongs, some of the most famous irish tunes were composed by harpists - notably the blind Turlough Carolan who lived in the 18th century. Piano is also used, particularly in recordings, but the electronic version of a piano (synthesizer etc) is more convenient for feis and other events. The bodhrán frame drum is very characteristic to modern Irish traditional music, as well as the guitar which is used rather frequently at sessions.


References

1. Article on Music Theory: en.wikipedia.org . . .
2. Article on Time signature: en.wikipedia.org . . .
3. Article on Music of Ireland: en.wikipedia.org . . .
Article on Irish dance: en.wikipedia.org . . .
Article on Modern Musical Symbols: en.wikipedia.org . . .
Article on Music: en.wikipedia.org . . .
Article on Musical Notation: en.wikipedia.org . . .
Paddy Mill’s Fancy: www.thesession.org . . .
Galway Bay: www.thesession.org . . .
Planxty Irwin: www.thesession.org . . .
An Buachaillin Dreoite: www.thesession.org . . .
The Milliner’s Maggot: www.thesession.org . . .
The Butterly: www.thesession.org . . .
Liz Kelly’s: www.thesession.org . . .
Rhythm discussion: www.irishtune.info . . .
Tcrgexam.9k.com: www.tcrgexam.9k.com
List of Set Dances, tcrgexam.9k.com: www.tcrgexam.9k.com . . .
List of tempo at CRN, Diochra: www.diochra.com . . .
List of tempo at NAFC, Diochra: www.diochra.com . . .
Ibiblio, the Fiddler’s guide: www.ibiblio.org . . .
The Session: www.thesession.org
CLRG Syllabus for All Ireland and Worlds: www.clrg.ie . . .


I would be grateful for any comments and corrections to my post. I have gathered this information from various sources and tried to make sense of it all using my knowledge and experience from studying music theory and playing music. I am not claiming to be an expert on Irish music or teaching music theory, this was a learning experience for me too. Please let me know if some parts don’t make sense at all, if the post should be split up into several smaller posts or if something is just plain wrong. If you use this text or parts of it outside of ddn.net, please let me know.

Kind regards,

TeaShark - I love my Tea and I love my Sherman’s Lagoon - that Shark rules :)

36 Replies to Music used for Irish Dance

re: Music used for Irish Dance (karma: 1)
By FeisForFoodmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Aug 30, 2007 05:55 AM
WELL DONE! I knew you had been working on this and it's even more inclusive than I had pictured. Karma, absolutely, and I'm also requesting that it be made into a sticky. This could solve a lot of problems with it comes to music questions around these boards. I know it took a lot of time and effort to put something like this together.
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By KnotworkMolltPremium member
On Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:16 AM
Briliant piece of scholarship and a great contribution to this forum!

One thing to note is that the dance performed to single-jig music is called a "hop jig" in some regions and by some teachers, and isn't offered at all CLRG feiseanna. "Pop Goes the Weasel" is the best-known single jig tune in the world.

Another excellent resource for Irish music theory (not just dance music but all types) is www.irishtune.info . . .

Thanks for the contribution!
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Teasharkmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Aug 30, 2007 05:22 PM
Thank you to both of you for your kind words :)

Knotworkmollt, I just knew I had left out something, thank you for pointing out the missing hop jig. I did notice the hop jig on several occasions in doing research but as I have never danced it and don't really know much about it, it just vanished from my train of thought and never made it to the text. Shall set out to research hop jig next, kind of being a detective - The Case of the Vanishing Hop Jig.. I read that it isn't mandatory to offer it at NAFC feisanna anymore, I wonder what the situation is in UK/Ireland.

Teashark
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Celticdreams
On Sun Sep 02, 2007 06:47 AM
Great job! You did some really nice research. I'm still having trouble counting myself into a light jig, so I have not tried it at a feis yet. I really want to get a better feel for the music in all my soft shoe dances I have learned so far. Any other recommendations for me?
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By IrishLizzymember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Sep 02, 2007 08:18 AM
Wow, this is a great post. Thank you so much for putting all this time and effort into it.
Very informative and helpful.
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By fiddletunes
On Sun Sep 02, 2007 09:28 AM
Kudos- this is really extensive and thorough. You've included so much info that would answer most of the music related questions that periodically show up, and put them into a very nice contextual framework.

I'd hate to see this vanish into the archives.

Any way to keep it from disappearing? Have you considered posting it somewhere more permanent?

Sharon
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Teasharkmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Sep 05, 2007 04:47 AM
Edited by Teashark (168016) on 2007-09-05 04:51:09 Spelling..
Edited by Teashark (168016) on 2007-09-05 04:53:56 too long
Edited by Teashark (168016) on 2007-09-05 04:58:14
The promised addition to the part about Single Jig. I am indebted to all on DDN who helped me with gathering this part - read more in The Case of the Vanishing Hop Jig. The second section deals with what is classified as a hop jig in Music, it could help in improving communication between musicians and dancers.


Hop Jig - also known as Single Jig - in Dance

Single Jig and Hop Jig are the same dance (1), they are written and played in either 6/8 or 12/8 time signature. For 6/8 time signature 8 bars are required for a one-foot-step, where as for 12/8 time signature only 4 bars are necessary. This dance is in most organizations a Grade dance - it is not used in Preliminary/Open/Ard level/grad competition. One exception is Cumann Rince Naisiunta where it is danced at all levels and is faster at Championship level. Well known tunes played at feisanna for competitions in this dance are Pop Goes The Weasel and Humpty Dumpty (2).

The popularity of this dance has been dropping recently, over some years, an example is that it is not compulsory to offer this dance at feisanna under the North American Feis Commission - they are associated with An Coimisuin le Rinci Gaelacha. In feisanna run under the auspice of CRN it is used at all levels, as stated above.


Hop Jig and Slip Jig - The definitions in Music

This next chapter deals with the concept of hop jig in music. Musicians define a hop jig as a tune played in 9/8 time signature - not to be mixed up with the slip jig which is also in 9/8 time signature. There is a very clear difference between these two, when one knows what to look for, especially when looking at the notes. The rhythm of hop jig can be interpreted by singing Humpty-Dumpty-Dumpty, where as slip jig would be Humpity-Dumpity-Dumpity (3). In my above post I used The Butterly as an example of Slip Jig, as it was stated so on one of my cd’s. It is actually hop jig, and there is no way of changing the example used (dread, and double dread). I have included an example of Slip Jig here to correct my error.

Slip jig
Starting with the slip jig, which has been introduced earlier, it is written in groups of three eight notes, occasionally having a group containing a quarter note coupled with an eight note.In my example, Drops of Brandy, in bars number 4, 8, 12 and 16 there is an occurrence of the quarter-note + eight note occurrence. Please note that this is a very simplified version of a slip jig, the norm is that more quarter-eight couples occur, but this was a great example:

Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/dropsofbrandy1.gif'

Examples of slip jig are Campbell’s Are Coming, Chloe’s Passion, Countess Cathleen, The December Wedding and Down in Abbey. These are courtesy of The Session.

Hop jig
In the hop jig (9/8) the main emphasis is on the quarter note + eight note couples, the prevalence of groups of three eight notes is significantly lower than in slip jig. In my example, Cucanandy (As Pat Came Over The Hill), in the bars number 4, 8, 11, 12 and 16 there is an occurrence of a group of three eight notes:

Image hotlink - 'http://www.thesession.org/tunes/sheetmusic/cucanandy1.gif'

Examples of hop jigs are The Foxhunter’s, Coleman's, As Pat Came Over The Hill, The Dusty Miller, Top It Off and The Silver Slipper. These were found on The Session and stated in a discussion as being hop jigs, as opposed to slip jigs. There are different interpretations of these tunes, so sometimes a tune may be played and written as both slip jig and hop jig . It is certainly possible to dance a slip jig to both types of music, the feel is just a bit different - an example would be to dance the reel to polka, certainly possible but interesting.

References
1. KnotworkMollt’s reply: www.dance.net . . .
2. lightfoot_champ’s reply: www.dance.net . . .
3. fiddletunes’s reply: www.dance.net . . .

Discussion on Session: www.thesession.org . . .
Discussion on Session: www.thesession.org . . .

A great Thank You goes out also for helping me with this post to: fhearthainn, bre_2_3, dancingineire, FeisForFood, Trisch and dancemomtoo

Teashark
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By ssuni
On Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:20 PM
Good post, Teashark!

I'm a bit confused, though. You say that Hop Jig and Single Jig are the same dance and have a rhythm of 6/8 or 12/8. Then you say that the Hop Jig music is in 9/8 rhythm. How can you dance it as 6/8 if the music is in 9/8?
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Teasharkmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Sep 06, 2007 03:25 AM
Ah, I wondered if it would turn out confusing. Apparently it did. I divided the post into two separate parts - one dealing with what is known as Hop Jig in dance (what we dance) and the other with what musicians call a hop jig (9/8). We use the same name for two very different things - it is as you said not possible to dance _our_ hop/single jig (6/8 or 12/8) to what a musician would define as a hop jig (9/8). Many musicians who play for dancers are aware of this difference, but then again others are not. It can get confusing, but being able to state time signature or hum / know the name of some tunes of the dance I want to do - gives the musician an idea of what I'm looking for and it is easier to find common ground.

Teashark
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By ssuni
On Thu Sep 06, 2007 06:41 AM
Oh, alright, now I get it! Thanks!
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Dannsair23
On Thu Feb 14, 2008 05:21 PM
WOW! I'm no music theory scholar, but that was exceptionally done! I love Irish music, I just don't understand those people who ask, "Don't you get tired of listening to accordian music all day?" In fact, whenever I hear some plain accordian music (especially reels!) a shiver just goes down my spine!
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By iMaximus
On Thu Feb 14, 2008 05:37 PM
Wow.... you really did a helluva good job here!!
I just don't really understand the note explanation (12/8, 9/8 etc.......). The maths done there doesn't make any sense to me. Could you (or someone else) maybe explain that even more? I've always wanted to know what those numbers exactly mean.

But other than that, brilliant work!!!!! Worth the sticky!
re: Music used for Irish Dance (karma: 2)
By Snuffymember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Feb 15, 2008 04:21 AM
Edited by Snuffy (189942) on 2008-02-15 05:12:41
Edited by Snuffy (189942) on 2008-02-15 05:15:04
iMaximus, that's a good question.

I'm a musicologist, but I don't teach music, so I'll do my best to explain it to you and if it doesn't make sense then hopefully someone else can do a better job. :D It might be one of those things that you'll need to be taught a few times and then suddenly it'll all make sense!

The most common time signature (at least in Western music) is 4/4, and most rock and pop songs are in this timing. However, I'm going to use 3/4 as an example (probably the second most popular time signature in Western music) because it leaves less room for confusion! 3/4, which is what a waltz is. So when you hear a waltz and you count to it "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3" etc, you're counting the the music in groups of three. That is, you're counting the bars, and they're bars of three notes of a particular length (and it's the '4' that tells you the length of the notes).

Okay, I've probably confused you already, so now I'll go back to exactly what the numbers mean!

It might help to imagine that the first number is on the top and the second number on the bottom, rather than side by side. When written in music notation, this is how it would look. So in 3/4, the '3' would be above the '4'. So I'm going to refer to the 'top' and 'bottom' number for now on, so remember that.

Alrighty, so what exactly does 3/4 mean, then?

Well, we'll start with the bottom number. In this case the '4'. This is the number that tells you the length of the notes that you're counting. (So, say we're counting "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3" etc, then you need to know how fast or slow you're going to do this - although to really know how fast a piece of music is, you need to know the tempo, but we're not worrying about this!).
This is where 'whole notes', 'half notes', 'quarter notes' and eighth notes' come in (see Teasharks pictures for what these look like in music notation). Depending on which country you come from, you might have heard names like 'semi-breve', 'minim', 'crotchet' and 'quaver' - these are older names for the same things. To make things less complicated, we'll stick with the names Teashark has used.

ONE 'Whole note' is equal to TWO 'half notes', FOUR 'quarter notes' and EIGHT 'eighth notes'. (You can also get 'sixteenth notes' and a couple more too - they're always going to be even numbers, and they'll always be divisions of two of the number before... if that makes sense! Just follow the pattern, basically!)

The bottom number just refers to one of these.
So, say the bottom number is, like in our example, '4'. This means that it's a 'quarter note'.
(If the time signature was 12/8, then we'd know the bottom number means an 'eighth note', if it's 2/4 then we'd know the bottom number is a 'quarter note' and so on.)


And then to look at the top number - in this case the '3'.
(Remember, we're using 3/4 as an example - so many numbers being thrown around here I hope I'm not confusing you!)
The top number simply refers to HOW MANY of the bottom number we have in every bar. Simple as that. :)


So we're looking at 3/4, and now we know that the bottom number - the '4' - refers to 'quarter notes', and the top number, - the '3' - refers to how many.
To put that together we have: three 'quarter notes'!
More specifically, we have 3 'quarter notes' for every bar!


If it's 3/4, it's telling you that you'll probably count "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3" in your head.
If it's 4/4 (and that means four quarter notes per bar) then you'll probably count "1, 2, 3, 4 , 1, 2, 3, 4, etc" in your head.
If it's 2/4 - like marching band music - you'll go "One, two, one, two" in your head.

Remember, the bottom number will ALWAYS be an even number. It'll *usually* be a '4' or an '8'.
The top number will vary more. If you listen to more experimental music (or some extreme metal or that kind of thing), the top number could be anything, really - so you could be counting all kinds of groups of numbers!
If you're familiar with Pink Floyd's song "Money", this is actually in 7/4. That means that there are seven 'quarter notes' per bar! Not very common in Western popular music! Have a listen to it, and you'll find yourself counting "ONE, two, three, four, five, six seven, ONE, two, three, four, five six, seven" over and over. :D


Gah! I wrote an awful lot... probably made things more confusing than they had to be, but it's hard to explain this in writing rather than being able to demonstrate with sound, hehehe.

Hope this helps... :)


Oooh! And of course thanks to Teashark for an absolutely awesome post! What a great idea to do a post on the music, and such a lot of effort and great information, too. Very, very well done. :D
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Teasharkmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Feb 15, 2008 04:14 PM
Ah, how wonderful it would be to be able to go back and fix my post now.. Adding sound (as suggested above) would help so, so much in getting the message across - why I didn't do that in the first place is beyond me. Was probably scared senseless by the idea of putting videos on youtube of me a) clapping rhythms and explaining counting and b) playing the melodies on piano to demostrate what it sounds like.. sigh.. in addition to the post on music technology, this feels like somehing I should get done. Darn my school work for getting in the way of doing it right now. :P

Dannsair23 - me too, I don't even realize it's accordion music unless someone points is out to me, it's just the music I love to dance to :)

Teashark
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By iMaximus
On Fri Feb 15, 2008 04:58 PM
Edited by iMaximus (185207) on 2008-02-15 16:59:57
Snuffy.....you are a hero!!!
It makes so much more sense to me now.

It's still the bottom number that's still vague for me (you couldn't have explained it more clearer, it's crystal clear), because I don't know anything about writing music, let alone reading and understanding notes.
So how do these different notes (bottom numbers) differ from each other? I mean, from what I recall from music class I had like 8 years ago...... I know that a *whole note* last longer (by sound I mean) than for example a half note.
So now if you look at a 4/4 and a 6/8, does that mean that in a 4/4 all the notes which are played, are longer (by sound) than the notes played in a 6/8?

So If I'd use a very *......silly....well....I don't know what else to call it* example.....looking from the musician's point of view....... when he plays a reel.....his fingers would be touching the keys for a longer period of time than when he would play a jig for instance? Because the reel has quarter notes and the jig has eight notes?

This might sound silly or maybe I misunderstood it (because when I think of it now, it seems really strange), but is that what it is?

Thanks again for trying to explain to me! I'm such a non-musictechnical person :)
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Snuffymember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Feb 15, 2008 06:44 PM
iMaximus, those aren't silly questions at all! :) Nobody is born knowing this stuff, and everyone who learns music has to go through the same process of understanding how it all works. And if you're understanding ANY of this by reading it rather than having someone show it to you with real music and talking and clapping and everything, then you're doing brilliantly. I'll do my best to make sense in my answers...

1. How do these different notes (bottom numbers) differ from each other?
The only difference in the bottom numbers is how long they last. It tells you how long the top number lasts (while the top number tells you how many of the bottom number there are per bar). So if '8' is the bottom number, it still adds up to the same amount of time as if it was a '4', only the notes are twice as quick. There are four 'quarter notes' per whole note, and eight 'eighth notes' per whole note, so they'll always add up to the same thing- you just have to play 'eighth notes' faster, 'sixteenth notes' twice as fast again, etc.

Then of course there's tempo which indicates the actual speed, but that's another kettle of fish and it doesn't really matter at this point.

2. If you look at a 4/4 and a 6/8, does that mean that in a 4/4 all the notes which are played, are longer (by sound) than the notes played in a 6/8?
Yes. :) The 6/8 notes would be twice as fast as the 4/4 notes. This is because of the bottom number - the top number makes no difference to how fast the notes are played, but determines how many of them there are. (So 6/8 has shorter bars than 4/4, because 6/8 is equal to 3/4 and therefore has fewer notes per bar.)
6/8 is twice as fast as 3/4, but it'd add up to the same amount of time for each bar. In fact, 6/8 and 3/4 are the same, just that 6/8 has twice as many notes twice as quickly, so it fits twice as many notes into the same time-frame as 3/4.

3. If a musician plays a reel (4/4 timing), do their fingers touch the keys for longer than if they play a jig ( which for this example will have 6/8 timing)?
Theoretically, yes... Although in practise, because most songs are rhythmically more varied than just 'quarter notes', 'eighth notes' or whatever the bottom number indicates, there will be longer and shorter notes, but they all have to add up to what the timing says.

For example if you have a look at the Single Jig, The Miller’s Maggot (which Teashark has put in her brilliant post), you'll notice right at the beginning there's a treble clef (the big squiggly symbol - for those who aren't familiar the names!), then there's a # which indicates which notes are sharp (and from here you can figure out what key it is), and then you'll see the 6/8, so we know what timing it's in!
Then, if you take a look at the first bar, you'll see that it consists of:
'quarter note' 'eighth note' 'quarter note' eighth note'.
Now, since this piece is in 6/8 timing, the bars all have to add up to six 'eighth notes'. So if you chop the 'quarter notes' in half, what you end up with is... *drum rolls*... six 'eighth notes'! :D
So you don't have to use all/only 'eighth notes' in 6/8 (or 9/8, or 4/8, etc) timing - just as long as it adds up to the right amount for every bar. However, it would be reasonable to expect a fair amount of 'eighth notes' in most bars in 6/8 timing.

That being said, if you look at the reel that Teashark has posted, Paddy Mill’s Fancy, you'll see that although it indicates 4/4 timing, almost all the notes are 'eighth notes'! (This makes sense because you normally wouldn't call something 8/8 timing when you can call it 4/4 - and in the end it adds up to the same thing.) What we can be sure of is that every bar will add up to four 'quarter notes'.

Again, it would depend on the tempo, too. A song full of 'quarter notes' that is played at double the speed of another song with 'eighth notes' would result in the musician holding the keys down for the same amount of time.

Hope I haven't made things more confusing. :P I get really enthusiastic about these things, hehehe.
Single Jig
By Hooliegan
On Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:36 AM
Teashark wrote:


The popularity of this dance has been dropping recently, over some years, an example is that it is not compulsory to offer this dance at feisanna under the North American Feis Commission - they are associated with An Coimisuin le Rinci Gaelacha. In feisanna run under the auspice of CRN it is used at all levels, as stated above.


FYI, the Single Jig is a mandatory dance in Advanced Beginner in the ECR Syllabus. The feiseanna in Ottawa (Canada) try to offer it up to and including Prizewinner level.
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By galwaygirl
On Thu Apr 10, 2008 09:06 AM
This must have taken ages!!!! Karma for you!! :D


XxGalwaygirlxX
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Rosebud_OR
On Sun Apr 13, 2008 02:17 AM
Wow! For a non-musician (you don't actually say that but I assume you are?) that must have taken a hell of a lot of work. Well done! The only thing I can suggest is that some people say that Reels are performed in 2/4 time not 4/4. In actual fact, both work fine, it just depends on how the music is notated. I generally say 2/4 because I only count the significant beats - in 2/4, beats 1 and 2, and in 4/4, beats 1 and 3.
Interestingly, I've found that Irish dancers tend to count music differently to other dancers. A few of us worked on a project a few years ago with a number of other cultural dance groups and discovered that while we counted the significant beats only (i.e. 1 beat for every over-2-3) the other dancers counted all the beats. So when they said "Make up and 8-beat long piece" ours were twice as long as everyone elses!
Lastly, I've found that the easiest way to count Irish dance music is as I did before... one count is the same amount of music that one over-2-3 takes up. So basically we count in bars instead of beats... hence what I said before about 2/4 vs. 4/4.
I'm sure that in my normal fashion I've mananged to make no sense at all... sorry :) Ask me to clarify something if you need me to.
Rosie
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Hooliegan
On Sun Apr 13, 2008 08:44 AM
Rosebud_OR wrote:


Interestingly, I've found that Irish dancers tend to count music differently to other dancers. A few of us worked on a project a few years ago with a number of other cultural dance groups and discovered that while we counted the significant beats only (i.e. 1 beat for every over-2-3) the other dancers counted all the beats. So when they said "Make up and 8-beat long piece" ours were twice as long as everyone elses!
Lastly, I've found that the easiest way to count Irish dance music is as I did before... one count is the same amount of music that one over-2-3 takes up. So basically we count in bars instead of beats... hence what I said before about 2/4 vs. 4/4.
I'm sure that in my normal fashion I've mananged to make no sense at all... sorry :) Ask me to clarify something if you need me to.
Rosie


That makes a lot of sense. At a workshop I did with some local high school students, the topic of music was discussed. We talked about time signatures, and counting. Almost all of the participants were musicians, and I ended up having to explain that we count the bars, not the beats (and of course that steps are based on 8 bars each).
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By Rosebud_OR
On Mon Apr 14, 2008 02:30 AM
^ Oh good, I'm glad it made sense! :P lol
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By ssuni
On Mon Apr 14, 2008 07:08 AM
Edited by ssuni (156145) on 2008-04-14 07:09:14
What I find interesting in Irish music is that it's based on triplets a lot, which is not that common in other types of music. As Teashark explained, in for example single and treble jigs three notes make up one beat. An eight note triplet takes up the same time that two eight notes would take, but it has actually three notes.

For example, in popular Western music, the timings 6/8 and 3/4 are basically the same. Not so in Irish music; you can't count a treble jig to three in one bar. You can count it to two because it is based on triplets. And that's why a slip jig (9/8) can be counted as a waltz (3/4).
re: Music used for Irish Dance
By boho_reel_grrlmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Sep 23, 2008 02:53 PM
Bravo! This was really interesting and well put-together. I'm such a music junkie, so this is the kind of stuff I get excited about!
On a rather random note, I believe C+C Music Factory's hit "Everybody Dance Now" is a 113 reel. So much fun to practice to...:-D
Kudos again!
Other dances?
By dancinghobbit
On Sun Jan 25, 2009 04:29 PM
Can anyone explain what a Strathspey is? Or a Mazurka, Highland, or March? How are their dances different, and how are they different musically? Thanks!
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