Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tunes: The Swallowtail Jig

In hindsight, this would have been a good tune to learn first. I like it as a listener, it's pretty simple, and the pitch never goes above high F. Brother Steve notes that a lot of people do learn it first and hence it's not unusual to hear it played badly!

Steve's discussion of the tune is especially apropos, because he also uses it as an example of something else I'm working on now: getting the jig rhythm right. Like a lot of beginners, I suspect, I've been playing them too close to a constant rhythm, without the swing which makes the tune a jig.

But the perceptible effect (to the listener) of stretching the first note in the bar is more than just the length of the note. My teacher pointed out that it makes the note sound louder — or at least more emphasized if not precisely louder — as well, which is an important consideration on an instrument like the whistle which has a limited dynamic range. You can compare the first two audio samples in Steve's discussion to hear this effect in isolation.

Steve's page includes to the version I'm starting with, but there are slightly different versions floating around the web as well. There's also a Swallowtail Reel, but that's a different tune.

Some other things I'll be practicing on this week:

Tonguing:I need to tongue a bit lighter than I have been. So that the effect is closer to a slur, but is still tonguing.

Ornamentation: I need to practice "double" cuts, where the note being cut is sounded for an instant before the cut, instead of starting with the cut itself (a "single" cut). And whatever the corresponding tap is called. And I'll continue to practice slides.

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