A. STRINGED INSTRUMENTS
1. Tunings For Oud and Cumbus
Start at string number 6 or your lowest pitch (and the thickest)
Standard Egyptian/Arab: D G A D G C
Old Turkish Classical: A D E A D G (most instruments will need a heavier gauge
string set for this specific tuning). New Turkish Classical: F# B E A D G Turkish/Armenian: E A B E A D Turkish/Armenian Variant: C# F# B E A D Standard Cumbus: D E A D G C Cumbus can also use any Oud tuning
Articles: Articles on Instrument Maintenance, Instrument Tunings, Interviews, M&E, Music Humor, Dance.
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Ouds by David Brown
Originally ouds were strung with gut strings (although it is possible for silk to have been employed near the Persian-Chinese border) but today nylon has all but replaced gut. I have never played a gut strung instrument; there may still be some but almost all players use some type of synthetic compounds. D'Addario (my preference) and La Bella (a close second) make fine oud strings, using high quality nylon like that used for guitar strings. I have seen many sets from the Middle East; the Turkish strings are of good quality but I am under impressed with the Arab-made sets I've come across. Some are better than others but all are inferior in tone to even the Turkish sets. The ones on most of the new ouds from Egypt are very brassy colored wrapped basses with nylon trebles. The trebles are often blue monofilament better suited to a fishing pole than a musical instrument! Also they usually have plain 3rd strings, whereas the D'Addarios and La Bellas (even the Turkish strings) have overspun 3rds, giving a stronger tone that balances better with the other strings. All of this is for tunings using C or D for the 1st string.
Introduction to Oud
The oud is an ancient instrument, probably of Persian origin, refined during the Arab golden age into the instrument in its current form. It is likely that the earliest ouds were carved from a solid piece of wood, much like the Chinese Pipa and Japanese Biwa which are also descendants of the ancient Persian barbat. By the time of the Moorish period in Spain the body was in its characteristic staved wood vaulted back design. In fact, this staved wood may be the namesake for the oud as the word means wood or flexible stick, and the top was made of wood as opposed to the skin of the earlier lutes and the vaulted back that provided the model for the European lute and mandolin was constructed from many steam-bent "flexible sticks" unlike the Persian barbat, which was carved out of a single piece of wood and may have been the original model for the oud.
The earliest known tuning seems to have been CDGA which was soon altered to ADGC (reversing the pattern of the outside strings) giving the traditional pattern of 4ths still used today. Somewhat later the 5th string was added, tuned to G or rarer to E, adding to the low range and also giving a diapason. In more recent times a 6th course, usually single as opposed to the doubled courses on all other strings, was added; tuned to D (or rarely C for certain maqamat), it was often the first course in older ouds; most today are in the lowest place. I have an old Turkish oud that was set up this way. and although I can see some advantages to the low string first concept, I altered it to the more modern position. The use of the 6th string among Arabs is by no means universal; in fact most new Egyptian or Syrian Ôouds come set up for 5 courses (with the empty 6th or low string in the 1st place- the strings displaced even if no low string). The 1969 oud method by Hakki Obadia, published in Brooklyn NY, considers this arrangement standard and does not mention a low string.
As an example of the lack of standardization I recall the 'oud used by the Moroccan band in the restaurant at Disney's Epcot Center about 1989. It was a new Moroccan instrument, and was notable for two unusual features- 7 courses and machine-gear tuning pegs. I didn't find out the tuning of the lowest two strings, but they seemed to be D and C. The oud is played by Arabs at a standard pitch of DGADGC from low to high, thus the first 4 strings retain the ancient pattern. The 3rd string, dugah, is a D and matches the ney al-dugah, or D ney. On this instrument, rast is C and as such matches the written Arabic Classical music, where rast is C. At times this pattern may be transposed up or down; for example the Iraqi tuning of Salman Shukar, ADEADG, is up a 5th, using very thin strings. For many years Turkish and Armenian players, particularly Cabaret style, used this pattern up a step to EABEAD. I just use a capo if I need to go up from Arab standard. Older Turkish Classical players tuned down a 4th using heavier strings to ADEADG (an octave lower than Iraqi).This transposition is set up in Turkey so that the Ôoud's 3rd course, dugah, matches the ney, and have corresponding names. Thus standard pitch is mansur, and a mansur ney plays the Classical music at pitch so that a G, rast in the Turkish system, actually sounds the piano note G. The Cabaret players were using the bolahenk tuning, so that the written G sounds D concert.
In recent years a variant tuning has become popular, if not ÒstandardÓ among Turkish players, using all 4ths. Thus the Classical oud methods by Mutlu Torun and Temel Hakki Karahan, both published in1993 in Istanbul and by Bahattin Turan, published in 1993 in Izmir, uses F#BEADG; many others use the C#F#BEAD, which is a variant of the older Turkish Cabaret tuning, and is just a transposed version of the new classical tuning. As mentioned before, many players read Turkish music at the pitch where the first string, rast, is at G at the higher sounding pitch, as if it were a transposing instrument. Torun gives a chart on pages 309-311 of his book showing all possible pitches!
As I was trained by a Syrian professional player and play primarily Arab style this article will use Arab Classical as the standard for Arabic music, but will use other tunings and capoing to show the other possibilities of various tunings, some of which may be more widespread in use than the Arabic.
One consistent pattern in oud stringing may seem odd to Western players accustomed to the pattern of attaching strings to the pegs of violins, guitars, etc.; to even out the stress of the string tension, the courses alternate from side to side of the peghead.
Holding The Oud The oud is held similar to a guitar, but care must be taken to have the face vertical so that it is not visible to the player, and to support the weight with the thigh and right arm so that the left hand is free to move around the fingerboard. Note the idiosyncratic manner of holding the mizrab (Turkish) or Risha (feather, Arabic) or pick; although it seems awkward it is in reality easier than a conventional flatpick, and gives the ÒrightÓ tonal shading to the plucked note.
In all matters of holding and playing I recommend using only the muscles needed for any musical task and to relax as much as possible, using only as much force as is necessary. This will allow you to play longer, easier and to put the effort into creativity rather than mechanics. In the past many players sat cross-legged on the rug, but now most perform sitting, often using a classical guitarist's footrest under the right foot to help hold the 'oud.
Two methods of left hand fingering are in current usage. The older, more traditional Classical Arabic approach uses all four fingers for stopping the strings, one for each semitone much as a guitarist; my teacher used this method but it seems more people play with a style more akin to baglama saz or sitar technique, using the first and second fingers for as much as possible, with less use of the third and little use of the fourth fingers. At this time I find myself borrowing from both styles and employing the method that renders the musical result easiest. Hakki Obadia's book used a mixed fingering system that uses finger 1 for several notes, finger 2 for some but not all strings and finger 3, not using finger 4. I tend to use a similar method but use finger 4 and use finger 2 on all strings. I find it better for some maqamat (plural of maqam) to use the one-finger-per-semitone method; others times it is easier to get a certain ornamentation with the saz/sitar method, as it facilitates portamenti and other embellishments. It seems that Arabic players are more sparing and judicious in the use of ornaments than Turkish-Armenian stylists, although cross-influences occur often. One other factor may be the longer scale length of Arab ouds, which makes use of a wider left hand stretch facilitating the use of the guitar-type fingering.
One other facet of left hand usage is the employment of the fingernail to help stop the string, giving a clearer tone and more pronounced ornaments than use of the fleshy tips alone. This is common to several other fretless instrument, among them the sarod, shamisen and san-xien. All the method books I've seen have no mention of this practice, calling for the fleshy padded tip of the finger alone. Again, like fingering systems, I borrow from both and use the nail for special effects, often using the fingertip alone for a more basic sound. Let the music dictate the sound.
Choosing an Oud Finding a quality oud is easier than it was years ago. First, more people are playing the instrument so more of them are in circulation. Ouds are made in many places in a variety of similar but significantly different styles, and your preferred music and ideal of sound should be the first consideration in selecting which type of oud to buy. Generally, two main types of ouds are made; Turkish ouds, with manufacture centered in Istanbul, are very finely crafted of very light wood favoring a bright tone, and Arab ouds, made somewhat larger and heavier to favor a deeper tone color at the lower pitch tunings used. The main cities for oud crafting are Cairo, Egypt and Damascus, Syria. Generally Arab ouds are a bit rougher crafted, but fine specimens of all sorts are available. One possible analogy is to guitar making; Spanish Classical guitars are made heavier than Flamenco guitars whose lighter construction gives them a brighter tone. Remember, though, that the differences in ouds are minimal in comparison to other instruments, where an oud of any type sounds like an oud!
If you wish to tune to G for the 1st string, you must find a much heavier set, or use a standard set of string and move them over: for example to tune to 1st string at low G (Turkish Classical) use a regular set of oud strings, but use discard the 1st strings, put the 2nds on the first course (they were designed to tune to G or A, so they would be fine at G) and find a guitar string of appropriate thickness for the lowest course at A or F#, old and new tunings respectively.
The strings attach to the bridge in the same way as classical guitar strings, that is, wrapped around a few times to form a self-locking loop.
Right Hand-the Misrap or Risha
As mentioned the right hand employs a special method for holding the quill-inspired pick called risha in Arabic and mizrap in Turkish. The long flexible pick puts the wrist at a particular angle and adds a certain tonal color to the sound. The traditional material was an eagle quill, but this is not practical; plastic makes a more durable and standard material for the risha. Players have used things like collar stays, plastic pieces from hardware stores, cut-up plastic bottles ( this worked better with the old heavyweight containers), and of course the Turkish manufactured models. These come in a thin, more-or-less pointed tip style made of lighter gauge translucent plastic and a round tip model made of heavier white opaque stock. The thinner ones are lovely sounding and play very delicately with subtle nuances; the heavier ones play very loud.
Variations can be obtained by cutting a new tip on the thinner ones a bit further back where the plastic is a little thicker, adding volume to the attack. The rounded ones can be cut to a pointer shape and thinned a fraction with fine sandpaper adding nuance to the heavier attack produced by this pick. Both kinds are made double-ended from the factory, so one end can be left original and the other end customized, the player using the appropriate end for the musical need.
Hurdy Gurdy Adjustment by S. R. Kelley
HOW TO KEEP YOUR HURDY GURDY ALIVE AND WELL
There are three major secrets to coaxing the Hurdy Gurdy to work well. They are cotton, shim, and Dog (buzzing bridge or chien). We will approach each in it's place.
First of all, you must provide yourself with a strap with which to immobilize the Hurdy Gurdy whilst you play. A guitar strap works nicely. Attach the strap to the button at the front of the hurdy gurdy and to the button nearest you at the back, the head being to your left. The hurdy gurdy should rest horizontally in your lap tilted away from you at about 45 degree with the strap tightly around your back.
Cotton: Look at each string to be sure that there is cotton where the string contacts the wheel. To apply cotton, pull from the blob of cotton a GOSSAMER web and induce the turning wheel to pull it under the string and wrap tightly around it. Look again. Too much cotton will result in a weakened or otherwise impaired tone. Too little cotton will cause the string to be worn in two. Use just enough cotton to protect the string. The best cotton is a long staple unbleached cotton of a slightly woolly appearance obtainable from weavers supply stores. Long staple white cotton has rather slippery habits. Pill bottle cotton may be used but it wears quickly.
After you are sure the strings have sufficient cotton you may begin tuning. Tune the Chanter strings one at a time to G. This will be the lowest G you can get without it sounding like a rubber band. When they are in unison you may tune the Mouche and the Bass also to their respective lowest obtainable G's. disengage the Mouche and the Bass from the wheel and you may tune the Dog and the Tenor to C, again the lowest. Recheck the strings for cotton after this.
Tuning can be remarkably tricky if the instrument is completely out of tune when you begin, so use care. Once the strings have been tuned they tend to stay pretty close so that it's not nearly so much trouble later.
The wheel must be resined once in a while but it takes very little. Use violin or cello resin that comes in the little wooden block and rub it against the turning wheel for about four or five turns. Then use the edge of the wooden block to polish it. Feel the turning wheel with your CLEAN thumb and if you feel bumps of rosin, pare them off with your thumbnail. Use rosin sparingly and try to achieve a perfect polish.
Now we will go on to the shims: Between each Chanter string and the bridge you will need shims, usually of folded paper. Thin strong paper is desired and is folded and or added to increase or decrease the thickness of the shim. Somewhat fanatic attention is required and you may find yourself altering the thickness of the shim by as little as one cigarette paper.
The purpose of the shims is to most finely adjust the exact pressure of the string against the wheel. This, combined with the quality of the cotton and rosin has everything to do with the production of good tone. The Chanters are very sensitive in this regard and must be continuously looked after. Fortunately, the drones need much less attention. If you find that the Chanters have a harsh and rough sound then they probably need thicker shims. If the Chanters sound weakly or intermittently, then the shims are too thick. If the Chanters have a sort of warble, then either the shims are too thick or the string is being impinged upon elsewhere, perhaps by a tangent, or perhaps too much cotton. If the Chanter warbles when playing a particular key, then possibly the tangents of that key are not tight enough. In that case try oiling the tangent with almond oil which will help the fit and protect from humidity changes. The tangent may be removed and a tiny bit of cotton be wrapped around the stem, then replaced. If all fails, replace the tangent. Sometimes even the best of us are completely mystified; one evening the hurdy gurdy will play beautifully, then the next day it will steadfastly refuse the finest of your intelligence and sensibilities, your choicest curses, and entreaties to any god we know of. It is unaffected by karma, hence mysterious.
After that comes the Dog: The Dog is actually not difficult, but it may seem so at first. Of course you must adjust it so that it sounds strongly when you wish and only drones otherwise. This is accomplished by turning the key in the tailpiece. A slight turn has a profound effect. This is something you must learn for yourself. Understand that while the left hand will learn rather quickly, the Dog is played by varying the speed and pattern of cranking with the right hand. It takes a delicate touch. This is no mystery; it only wants great patience and practice. Most of the time the hurdy gurdy is played in C. For this, use the Chanters, of course, and the Dog with the tenor drone. Sometimes adding the Mouche will seem fuller but mostly it tends to blur things. The hurdy gurdy may also be played in G by using the Mouche and the Bass drone. The Dog may be tuned up to the fifth, D, or you might try a cheater bridge so as not to stretch the string. Avoid getting anything that might act as a lubricant on the rim of the wheel. If you do you will see soon enough why you must wipe or clean it and re-resin. Oil the bearings with a drop of light oil once in a while. There is an oil hole for the front bearing in the top in front of the wheel. If the crank knob squeaks, oil it at the joint. When new (and periodically thereafter) the individual notes must be tuned by turning the appropriate tangents. They will not always be the same, as the strings are organic and subject to variation. The nut (top melody bridge) is movable to make the strings longer or shorter as necessary. The distance between the nut and the seventh lower note should be the same as between the seventh lower note and the bridge.
Strings used are :
Chanters: Viola da gamba bass A 2
Dog: Viola da gamba bass A 2
Mouche: Cello A gut or aluminum wound
Tenor drone: Cello G wound
Bass drone: Cello C wound
La Bella strings seem to be suitable.
The hurdy gurdy and the strings are sensitive to humidity and temperature changes so protect them from extremes. Hurdy gurdys are also very sensitive to exact tuning especially the harmonic notes of the scale. A slight disunity can produce bizarre sounds and may seem like it must be something else
entirely..Or vice versa. When in despair, remember: It's good for your character.
A Brief History Of The Hurdy Gurdy by Astra Thor
WHAT IS A HURDY GURDY?
The hurdy gurdy, known in France as the vielle a roue or vielle for short, is an ancient instrument which is undergoing a modern renaissance in Europe and America. First, to dispel a popular misconception: the hurdy gurdy was not played by the organ grinder or his monkey. They used a large music box operated by a crank. Today's hurdy gurdy is roughly the same as those built in the middle ages. It has three to six strings which are caused to vibrate by a resined wheel turned by a crank. Melody notes are produced on one string, or two tuned in unison, by pressing keys which stop the string at the proper intervals for the scale. The other strings play a drone note. Some instruments have a "dog", "trompette" or "buzzing bridge" A string passes over a moveable bridge, which by a clever movement of the crank in the open hand, can produce a rasping rhythm to accompany the tune by causing the bridge to hammer on the sound board. The instrument is held in the lap with a strap to hold it steady. The case can be square, lute back, or flat back with a guitar or fiddle shape. Forms of the vielle a roue existed not only in France, but in Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia, Spain and Hungary.
An interesting related instrument is the Swedish nyckelharpa which was developed around the sixteenth century. It has keys and is played with a short bow. It is enjoying a revival of interest and new custom made instruments are now available.
The origins of the hurdy gurdy are unknown but one theory says that when the Moors invaded Spain they brought with them many stringed and bowed instruments. There is no proof that the vielle a roue was one of them, but the possibility exists that something similar arrived in Spain at that time and dispersed throughout Europe along the pilgrim's roads.
THE HURDY GURDY'S ANCIENT ROOTS
The earliest known form of the vielle a roue was called an organistrum and bore little resemblance to the modern one. It was so large that one person turned the crank and another played the keys. The wooden keys were arranged in various ways depending on whether secular or religious music was to be played. The organistrum was only capable of playing slow melodies and simple harmony because of the hard key action. It's main use was in the medieval church. The first mention of the organistrum was in a construction manual by Odo of Cluny, which was discovered in the twelfth century and possibly written in the tenth century. There are also other depictions dating from the twelfth century. During the thirteenth century, the organistrum was redesigned to be playable by one person, which encouraged use by blind and itinerant musicians. The improved key action with drone accompaniment made it ideal for dance music. It was adopted for popular and folk music of the day, and use in the church diminished. Even the name organistrum had died out by the fourteenth century. In France, it was known as a symphonia until it was abandoned for popular music in the late fifteenth century. One can surmise that, at this time, the name changed to vielle a roue, which is still used today. The vielle was used only for folk music by peasants and street musicians. It was known all over Europe by about 1650 but remained a peasant instrument for the next one hundred years. By this time the design had standardized to the size and shape familiar today.
THE VIELLE A ROUE'S REBIRTH
Although the vielle a roue was mentioned frequently as a beggars instrument in the early seventeenth century, it appeared occasionally at the royal court along with the musette (bagpipe), providing music to accompany the new pastoral plays. Gradually, courtly diversions about the Arcadian idea of rural bliss gained favor at court. Shepherds and milkmaids were portrayed passing away pleasant hours together. During the reign of Louis XIV, 1660 to 1715, Arcadian pastimes greatly increased because the king enjoyed them and all his court followed suit. Music for the vielle a roue and musette were written by popular composers such as Vivaldi in the baroque period and later by Mozart. Many aristocrats became accomplished performers on these instruments.
During the mid-seventeenth century, writers like Jean Jacque Rousseau castigated the corruption and lax morals at court. He advocated a return to the simple rural life where virtue and integrity came naturally with the hard work of the peasant life. He also encouraged the display of sentiment and emotion to further enhance the delicacy of one's character. His ideas gained favor at court but became twisted. The simple life continued to be portrayed in pastoral plays by highly decorated persons impersonating rural folk playing traditional instruments but behaving as no peasant would.
During the vielle a roue's favor at court, Paris instrument makers started to make elegant instruments with fancy inlay and carving. The mechanism was built into guitar and lute bodies, giving the instrument a better tone. Many fine instruments were manufactured during this period.
This renaissance of the hurdy gurdy continued until the reign of Louis XV was over in 1778. The next king, Louis XVI, was rather puritanical and did not participate in the diversions of the court. The amusements continued under Marie Antoinette but her tastes changed to the neo classical. She abandoned her milkmaid roles for Sappho with her harp. The hurdy gurdy had no logical place in this type of entertainment but it did not disappear entirely from the court scene until the French Revolution. At this time, it simply was left to the streets where it had always been. Use of the instrument for more than a beggars tool gradually retreated into central France in the areas of Auvergne, Berry and Limousin, where the tradition has remained to this day.
After the French Revolution, around early 1800, the peasants began to leave the place of their birth and migrated to Paris to find work. They typically became first water carriers then coal carriers. Many set up store fronts in conjunction with the coal business, where they sold wine from their native areas. By the 1850's, there were many homesick peasants in Paris. They gathered at the wine shops, sitting on benches and wine barrels, to drink, dance and play the familiar old folk tunes on the hurdy gurdy and cabrette (bagpipe).
About 1880, the diatonic accordion began to be added at these sessions, and gained in popularity rapidly because it was easier and less troublesome. The hurdy gurdy had to be tuned carefully and was subject to constant problems from dampness. Originally, the diatonic accordion played a simple melody line but about 1890, a chromatic model was developed which could play a fast melody with runs and grace notes. Starting about 1850, the bagpipe was often played without the drone because of the conflict with the new chromatic music. The hurdy gurdy was not so versatile playing this music, so it's use decreased while the accordion increased in popularity.
The small groups of homesick peasants dancing traditional dances gradually grew larger as more people became interested. By 1910, the dances had grown so large in Paris that large halls were built to accommodate as many as 400 dancers. The instrumentation had changed solely to chromatic accordion and drones cabrette. A whole new style of music and dance was created by the changing times. The polka, mazurka, waltz and musette are some of the creations of that period. The new dance and music gradually trickled back to central France where traditional music was still played and the hurdy gurdy was still appreciated. This time the accordion did not displace the hurdy gurdy, but was merely added. The cabrette, hurdy gurdy and accordion are still playing traditional music in this area today.
The term hurdy gurdy was not coined in England until the eighteenth century. The instrument still occurred as a street instrument in many places throughout Europe till about the twentieth century. During the eighteenth century a variation of the vielle was developed. The Lira Organizzata was a hurdy gurdy with a bellows and organ pipes inside which were operated by the crank and keys respectively. The pipes had a very high squeaky sound. These instruments are being made today and are enjoying a revival of interest.
In the early 1960's France showed an enormous interest in American folk songs and singers such as Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. In a few years, when this material was digested, something new was needed. French musicians noted how the Irish and English were reviving their own ancient and beautiful folk traditions and were reminded of their own traditional songs and instruments. This rekindled interest has now swept France and is the rage of Paris.
There are many new records of both traditional and modern music which feature the hurdy gurdy. Classes in vielle a roue, cabrette, bagpipe, dancing and accordion are very popular. Fifteen years ago, one had to go to Switzerland to get a hurdy gurdy. Now there are more than 50 makers in France. The instrument is now being investigated by the latest research methods. You can get an electronic hurdy gurdy in bright green or candy apple red. By the addition of electronic pickups and other gadgets, the hurdy gurdy is joining rock and roll, jazz and other music. It has been chromatic for years but the drones have to be turned off to play modern music. Now there are electronic drone changers which can instantaneously change the key of the drones, making the instrument much more versatile. There are many groups writing new material for the hurdy gurdy. The current fad is to syncopate the buzzing bridge in a jazz rhythm. Ireland, England, Italy, Spain and Hungary are a few of the countries where musicians are adapting the vielle to their newly composed music.
Meanwhile, the hurdy gurdy has come to the United States, no doubt in the hands of traveling Frenchmen. It is said that around 1850, there were a few hurdy gurdys being played in New Orleans. There is mention of one in New York about around 1940. There is an early California dance tune discovered in Watsonville, California, which is actually a French tune called La Valso-vienne. No one knows how it originally arrived from France. A friend of mine remembers a man coming to town with his hurdy gurdy back in the Oklahoma oil days. Any information on the use of the hurdy gurdy in the United States which anyone would like to share with us is welcomed.
Many fine hurdy gurdys, both antique and modern, are to be found at Lark In The Morning in Mendocino, California.
BAINES, ANTHONY, European & American Musical Instruments, The Viking Press, New York, 1966
BROCKER, MARIANNE, The Hurdy Gurdy, Archiv Productions, Hanover Germany, 1972
D'ALBERT, ARRIGO, Mendocino, California
JENKINS, JEAN, Eighteenth Century Musical Instruments: France and Britain, Thanet Press, London, 1973
LEPPERT, RICHARD D., Arcadia at Versailles, Swets & Zeitlinger B.V., Amsterdam, 1978
MUNROW, DAVID, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Oxford University Press, London, 1976
MARCUSE, SIBYL, Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1975
Middle Eastern Violin by David Brown
Although bowed instruments were known to the Arabs, Turks and other Oriental peoples before they were known in Europe, it is the European violin that is now most commonly played. Since NapoleonÕs campaigns in Egypt, the violin has been played in the Middle East. Turks adopted it from the Italians, and it has spread to Iran. Known in Arabic and Turkish as keman (Iranians just say violin) it is held both in the usual under-chin fashion and gamba style on the knee. Moroccans play gamba style, Egyptians and Iranians under-chin, Turks employing both methods. Often Moroccans use the normal GDAE tuning; Turks tune GDAD, Arabic tuning is GDGD, and the Iranian masters have used all these tunings and others. The playing styles are very highly ornamented, with slides, trills, wide vibrato, double stops usually with an open drone string, and as it is a fretless instrument can produce all shades of intonation of the Arab, Persian and Turkish classical systems. Tone colors range from a very rich western classical tone to more nasal, thin penetrating timbre reminiscent of the indigenous bowed lutes, the rebaba and kemanche. The use of Western notation, with additional symbols for the partial sharps and flats, has allowed the old classical repertoire of the Middle East to be put in book form. Arabs write the music from the note C as Rast, Turks the note G, and the two systems differ in the exact intonation of several pitches. Some of the music in the Arab repertoire was written by Turks during the Ottoman EmpireÕs occupation of Egypt and the Levant, and as such one can compare the Cairo and Istanbul versions of the same music (allowing for the transposition).
Asian Musical Influences In The West by Marcia Sloane
"All great art begins with imitation." -- Jean Luc-Goddard
In 1985 fusion or non-fusion of eastern and western musical elements may not have yet altered the course of musical history, but a musical partnership between East and West certainly continues to flourish, and the following statements illustrate this across-the-world musical continuum and some of its various blendings.
Chou Wen-chung cites the confucianist Record of Music to the effect that "The greatness in music lies not in perfection of artistry but in the attainment of te . . .'that by which things are what they are.'" In other words, the emphasis is on the single tones and their natural virtue or power by which these tones are what they are. Chou suggests that Eastern and Western music derived from the same source, the West having since diverged toward polyphony, the East toward te. (from Murmurs of Earth, the Voyager Interstellar Record, by Carl Sagan)
It took Tony Scott, Western jazz clarinetist, to coax two of the greatest masters of traditional Japanese music to join him in an unrehearsed session of purely spontaneous playing. Ordinarily Japanese classical music--as performed on the koto and shakuhachi--is extremely rigorous and formal, but Scott . . . charmed Yuize and Yamamoto into this free-floating improvisation by his skill in playing the clarinet in the mood and style of the bamboo flute. (Alan Watts, record jacket notes from "Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys")
JAZZ! Hubert Laws, flute; L. Subramaniam, violin; Neo-fusion sound combining the best of East and West! (concert announcement, San Francisco Chronicle, January 20, 1985)
What I call the great sitar explosion began in early 1966 . . .The special attraction to sitar suddenly came about when the Beatles and the Rolling stones and some other pop groups used it in recordings of their songs . . .Many people these days think that Indian music is influencing pop music to a high degree. But my personal opinion is that it is just the sound of the sitar and not true Indian music that one finds in pop songs. (Ravi Shankar in his autobiography My Music, My Life)
PARABOLA: We'd like to start with your thoughts on "listening" and especially the necessity for performers to listen to each other.
Steve Reich: There are a number of facts about my ensemble that are tied into that. Number one: the thirty musicians who played the first piece, "Music for a Large Ensemble," in our Carnegie Hall concert, played without a conductor. That's unusual in most Western situations with musicians anywhere near that number . . .They are listening to each other and playing chamber music--even though that chamber music may be of the size of thirty musicians . . .With a conductor they don't have to listen, and they take it from his or her ears. The only other place on the planet that I'm aware of where you'll find upwards of fifteen or twenty people playing together without a conductor is in Indonesia. (interview with Steve Reich, Parabola magazine)
Colin McPhee is the person who probably knows more about the music of Bali than nobody else in the world, including Balinese, because he went around and gleaned all of the fine information from everybody in Bali . . .What happened was that hearing a few records in the early thirties he was so fascinated that he and his wife went to visit Bali and they were going to be there for at least two weeks when they went and they stayed seven years instead, building themselves a house, and Colin McPhee himself formed a gamelan . . .and then he got the old men who knew the most about the history and theory of the music of Bali . . .and he took these things and wrote them down in Western notation. (radio interview with Henry Cowell on the work of Colin McPhee)
In the middle "thirties" John Cage invented a useful, indeed fascinating way of forming a piece. He himself refers to the type of structure as "the whole having as many parts as each unit has small parts, and these, large and small, in the same proportion." Suppose, for example, that one composes a phrase ten measures. The entire form will now be 10 x 10, or 100 measures . . .Interestingly, Young San Whay Sang (the splendid Korean Court work) contains one movement which is perfectly formed in square root form . . .While composing in this way one feel as though using a "lost-wax" process (since one seldom uses the same structure for two different pieces), and the result suggests a Mandala, balanced, and temporally symmetric. (Lou Harrison's Music Primer)
" . . .I have devoted more time to the study of non-European musical systems than other Western composers, but that is because I took it for granted that a 20th-century composer would need to know and to choose from among many kinds of musical inheritance in the world . . .Every continent has developed literally dozens of musical styles, all of which had beauty and meaning for their practitioners. This great sea of musical imagination seemed to me my natural inheritance, within which I must find my own music . . .How may one learn to live in the whole world of music -- to live, and to create? No single technique, no single tradition is any longer enough." (Henry Cowell quoted in an article by Oliver Daniel appearing in Louisville Orchestra recording album notes)
Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" undergo a fascinating change of climate. Here is every note of the Italian baroque masterpiece performed with devotion and a stunning new sound by Japan's virtuoso chamber group, The New Koto Ensemble of Tokyo. (album notes, "Koto Vivaldi")
Music creates joy . . .Man cannot exist without joy, and joy cannot exist without movement.
(Li Chi - 1st century A.D. Chinese book on music, as quoted in Sagan's Murmurs of Earth)
This article was written by Marcia Sloane, cellist with Ancient Future and lecturer on Eastern music at the College Of The Redwoods here on the Mendocino Coast.
Central Asian Stringed Instruments by David Brown
We have a new supply of tar and kemanche (kemane in this case, due to Uzbeki dialect) from Central Asia that are very well made and have excellent sound. These instruments, although not from Iran but from the countries just North of the Iranian border, are ideal for Persian music. The Kemane is a spike fiddle but unlike our Turkish spike fiddle (kabak kemence) which has a gourd body with a skin head these have a body made of strips of staved wood, and are heavier constructed and even feature a leg rest with swivel base- you don't change the bow angle to change strings but rather turn the whole instrument. The tone is comparable to Persian kemanche, and for all purposes is the same instrument, which is identical to those used in Armenia. The tar are Central Asian style with the additional side strings, but just like Iranian tar have the skin head, 3 pairs of main strings of metal and waisted body carved from wood. These tar are shaped very much like Iranian tar from last century, with the curves of the upper skin being more wide and rounded than those of the last 50 years. These are the most robust tar we have been able to offer; they even have a neck re-inforcement rod for added strength. They vary quite a bit in ornamentation, with some being austerely plain in the manner of Iranian tar, and others having inlaid patterns more in the Uzbeki and Azerbaijani style.
Several countries use the tar as one of the most important art instruments, including Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and of course Iran; even the Herat region of Afghanistan had the chartar, although it was much rarer than the dutar and rebab and tambur. For many years it's been difficult to get instruments from this part of the world, and we are fortunate to have a supply of these once rare items from a part of the world that is too little known, particularly its rich musical heritage. For centuries this was the Silk road, the caravan trail from the Middle East to China, and along with silk, spices, jewels, precious metals, etc., musical instruments were carried from place to place. Many cities along the Silk road, like Samarkand and Bukhara, were known for their great musical cultures, often mixing musical elements from different regions into a rich fusion. Political upheavals of the last century and geographic isolation (the caravan trails are not the most used routes anymore) have kept Central Asia from the mainstream of the world music revival, but things are changing now as the treasures of this part of the world become better known.
The Balalaika by David Brown
The varied family of Central Asian lutes is a large one, and one of the most popular and best known is the balalaika, with its unique triangular body shape. Developed from unstandardized folk lutes by the nobleman Andreyev in the late 18th century into a whole family of instruments with standard tunings, the balalaika has become one of the most important plucked stringed instruments in Eastern Europe, and the quintessential lute in Russia and the Ukraine. A very intricate, virtuosic repertoire has elevated the balalaika to a level of a classical instrument, and is taught as such, with written music, transcriptions of other works, and its own special music composed for it.
The varied family of Central Asian lutes is a large one, and one of the most popular and best known is the balalaika, with its unique triangular body shape. Developed from unstandardized folk lutes by the nobleman Andreyev by the late 19th century into a whole family of instruments with standard tunings, the balalaika has become one of the most important plucked stringed instruments in Eastern Europe, and the quintessential lute in Russia and the Ukraine. A very intricate, virtuosic repertoire has elevated the balalaika to a level of a classical instrument, and is taught as such, with written music, transcriptions of other works, and its own special music composed for it.
The most common size is the prima balalaika, tuned EEA, played with the fingers with a wide variety of techniques. It is strung with a metal A and 2 nylon E's, and the concert model has a range of 2 and a half chromatic octaves. One feature is the offset 2nd string, closer to the 3rd string than the 1st, facilitating the use of the left hand thumb, a significant part of the playing technique.
The Second balalaika is a bit larger and is tuned AAD; the Alto larger yet and tuned an octave below the prima. Bass balalaikas are tuned EAD and Contrabass EAD an octave lower. These may be played with a leather pick.
Balalaikas are played solo or in ensembles, in particular the balalaika orchestra which in addition to all sizes of balalaika include the domra, a related round-bodied long neck lute tuned in 4ths and played with a pick, the bayan, Russian chromatic button accordion, tambourine, and sometimes various reedpipes and flutes.
Hawaiian Music by David Brown
My wife and I visited the Hawaii in 1981, and were both struck by the beauty of the islands and the people. There was only one thing I found disappointing- I didn't hear one steel guitar player. Sure the slack-key guitar was riding a wave of newfound popularity, and the Ôukulele too was ubiquitous; but in our 2 week stay I never was able to find young people playing the kind of guitar named after Hawaii. I even found a baritone ukulele in the shape of Oahu, but most of the interest and development was in the guitar and the slack-key guitar. New luthiers were making quality guitars and ukes of all shapes and sorts-but no steels.
I knew some of the big night clubs had shows including a few of the old-timers still playing the Hawaiian guitar, but I wanted to find the steel-playing equivalents of the kids at the beach playing their slack-key. I did see many tourist-oriented show groups, and with them ukes of all sizes, but the steel guitar had appeared to have fled the islands to the mainland, now residing in Nashville in the form of the pedal steel, the most mechanically developed member of the guitar family, and it's cousin the Dobro, a resonator guitar designed as a loud acoustic Hawaiian guitar in the 1920's. Of course there were some of the oldtimers around, but we did not know how to find them.
You see, I loved the Hawaiian guitar. I had been dabbling with one since I was a kid, and one summer when working at a local music store came across a WWII vintage National six string electric lap steel, and a circa 1911 Leon Coleman Hawaiian guitar method book. As a teenager I had played in a dance band, and was exposed to the all-but defunct sound of "Hawaii Calls", of the music once the most popular in the continental USA, that of Hawaii.
I found out that by 1900 the recently-invented ukulele and Hawaiian guitar were gaining in popularity on the mainland, along with a new style of music called hapa-haole, or "half-white", and was a blend of many elements reflecting the diverse peoples that settled in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800's. Native Hawaiian elements were mixed with congregational hymns, sailor's songs, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexican, and many other musical genres adding their contributions- even European band music! Immigrants from other Polynesian Islands brought another layer of influences. Before the late 1800's, violin and flute were among the main lead instruments, and mandolins were popular as well. However by1880 a new instrument based on a Portuguese braguinha (also the ancestor of the Brazilian cavaquinho) burst on the Hawaiian scene, the ukulele, which was a small guitar-shaped body , short neck, and 4 strings of gut, now nylon. The tuning was based on the guitar as well, GCEA being the Hawaiian standard, although mainland uke players typically tuned up a whole step, ADF#B.
The ukulele became a widespread hit, even becoming asscociated with the early flapper/jazz age of the Roaring 20's, and was played in vaudeville by such string virtuosos as Roy Smeck and Harry Volpe. The baritone ukulele is larger and is tuned lower, DGBE like the highest four courses of the guitar. Players often used fingerstyle techniques, but occasionally used felt picks or some other plectrum. Double-strung ukuleles were called "taropatches" and were more often played plectrum-style.
The guitar was brought to the Islands by Mexican cowboys and possibly whaling vessels in the early 1800's, and soon the guitar was being tuned to open chords as a means to produce a certain unique style of playing, and to make playing basic chord patterns easy. This guitar style developed into two distinct areas- slack key and the Hawaiian or steel guitar.
Slack key is possibly the earlier development, and is based on fingerpicking melodic patterns against open tuned backgrounds; many tunings are used, maybe over 100, although most performers use far less. The name derives from slackening the strings, to produce open chordal tunings in different keys. Somehow, the slack key guitar was not a big part of the uke-steel guitar boom of the 1st half of this century; however with the revival of Hawaiian culture in the 1960's and 1970's the slack key became immensely popular, moreso than ever on the Islands or the mainland.
The first public performance of hula accompanied by the new Hawaiian steel guitar was the 1886 Jubilee Celebration for KIng Kalahaua. Sweet Emalie danced the hula to the accompaniment of Ôukulele and Hawaiian guitar. Although the invention of the steel guitar style is shrouded in doubt, the first person to make a steel bar and to develop the standard technique was Joseph Kekuku, who moved to the mainland in 1904 and performed and taught until1931.
Derived in part form slack key, the Hawaiian guitar uses a hard object, like the back of a comb, pocket knife, or best, a steel bar to touch the strings and shorten the strings, rather than using the fingers to press the strings against a fret, All manner of slides, graces, glissandi and vocal effects are available when using a steel, and it was this sound that influenced blues players to use slides or bottlenecks to get that "whining" tone characterizing old Delta blues. Even East Indians have adopted the steel guitar as it can play all the gamaka of Indian vocal styles- and all the microtonal pitch inflections of the Indian music system. This is fair, as one of the possible developers of the Hawaiian guitar was a naitive of India named Gabriel Davion, who may have adapted the vichitra vina playing technique to guitar. This vina is played with a hard egg-shaped piece of glass, sliding and swooping and playing quite vocally.
The earliest Hawaiian guitars are merely regular Spanish guitars with metal strings, raised nuts, played with flat metal bars and fingerpicks, tuned most commonly then in the early 1900's to open A low bass tuning of EAEAC#E. These guitars were not particularly loud, as a regular guitar placed on the lap does not project the sound forwards like the usual method of holding it, so in Los Angeles a guitar maker named Weissenborn made Hawaiian guitars with a larger body and hollow neck, often of koa wood, the preferred Ôukulele wood. These guitars were not particularly popular with the professionals of the time, but were the next step in development; in many ways the steel guitar developed faster and further than almost any other string instrument in the same period.
The first "new" guitar design which was wholeheartedly accepted by the professional Hawaiian player was the invention of the resonator guitar in the early 1920's- and also in Los Angeles- by the Dopera Brothers, notably John. The design is based on the use of aluminum cone "megaphones" upon which the bridge sits, and the tone is much louder than a conventional wooden top. Some of the most prized of these were made with all metal bodies, often etched in designs. Due to business reasons, the Dopera Brothers formed a new company, Dobro (DOpera BROthers-and it means "good" in all Slavic tongues) and intorduced a single-cone resonator guitar which bears the company name and in turn passed it on to posterity. Today the Dobro is widely played by Bluegrass artists, the only popular acoustic steel anymore.
Dobros are tuned in what was originally called by Hawaiian guitarists G high-bass, or GBDGBD. The old A low bass tuning was adapted to high bass, AC#EAC#E, and transposed to G. This is the standard acoustic steel tuning. Hawaiian player often used other tunings for more complex chords. A 1930's Gibson catalog, featuring several models of steel guitar, lists a chart of tunings, and suggests the use of an E 7th tuning for advanced players. This tuning is BDEG#BE, with use of the 2nd string up to C# sometimes.
National and Dobro merged in 1932, and soon (again it's unclear who was forst) were selling an electric Hawaiian guitar, the first commercially available ones ever. One of their former emplyees also released an electric Hawaiian guitar, Adolph Rickenbacker, forming a company still bearing his name. Soon the pros switched again, this time from the resonators to the amplified Hawaiian guitars; soon to appear were 7 and 8 string models, double necked versions followed by 3 and 4 neck instruments, console models, and finally the addition of pedals that alter the tuning, resulting in the pedal steel.
Most Hawaiian style players prefer smaller non-pedal steels. One of the Hawaiian hallmarks is the use of slanting the bar to obtain harmonies and other chords than the open tuning provided, and the use of pedals changes the whole approach- not to mention the expense and complication of the pedal steel compared to the simplicity and easy portability of the reliable lap steel.
Amplification also altered the playing style, as the acoustic Hawaiian guitar player played bursts of notes, staccato open-string and stopped tone runs, and replaced it by the nahenahe or sweet style, using sustaining notes, smooth runs, and more slides and vibrati. A player with a multineck instrument could have different tunings instantly available, and lusher tunings were developed. One of the latest but most popular is the 6th tuning; I use a G 6th, six string version BDEGBD; B and D sounded with G produce a major chord, but B and D and E make an E minor, and the whole can function as a major 6th or a minor 7th. On my 8 string I add a string at each end, GBDEGBDE. This is easy to retune to an A 6th, F#AC#EF#AC#E, another typical tuning.
There is an effort underway to revive the Hawaiian guitar. Several organizations exist for the steel guitarist; some are more country-oriented, some Hawaiian, but there is now a yearly Hawaiian guitar convention in Honolulu sponsored by Nashville pedal steel vet Jerry Byrd. Perhaps the time of the Hawaiian guitar's renaissance has arrived.
Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle by David Brown
The Hardingfele, or Hardanger Fiddle, is a special member of the violin family and is considered the national instrument of Norway. Outwardly the Hardingfele looks like a particularly ornate violin, with its inlays and carvings and designs; upon closer examination one sees more crucial differences, notably the additional sympathetic strings under the main playing strings.
The strings are different, softer than the modern orchestral violin strings, and the bridge is rather flatter, since the playing style is based on double stops and open string drones. Many tunings are used, and regular GDAE violin tuning is only one of various tunings and by no means the most common! More frequently used are ADAE or AEAE; to top it off, the whole Hardenfele is often tuned higher so that the A string actually sounds B flat or B natural.
The 4 or sometimes 5 sympathetic strings are tuned to written (B) D E F# A; of course these must be adjusted to match the real sounding pitch of the main strings.
As mentioned before the Hardingfele is more intricately ornamented than most violins; commonly the peg head, instead of the violin scroll, has a carved lion's head or dragon head. Bone or ivory inlay is also often seen, as is a sort of drawn-on design called rosemalling. Rosemalling is found on the body of the Hardingfele, usually in some sort of floral pattern.
Music for the Hardingfele is traditional and includes forms such as springar, waltz, halling, mazurka, pols, wedding marches, and more. The playing style is mostly simple polyphony consisting of melody and drone notes, changing to fit the harmonies , with the rare monodic lines for contrast. Bowing techniques are used to enhance the dance rhythms inherent in many tunes.
Bulgarian Folk Instruments by Hector Bezanis
The Gaida (bagpipe) is one of the most characteristic folk instruments of Bulgaria. It is said that a traditional wedding is incomplete without its presence. Traditionally the solitary shepherd's companion, it is often heard solo or accompanied by a large drum. It is also popular in small village orchestras. Like all Bulgarian folk instruments there are many regional variations with distinctive styles of detail and ornament. All share a common form: white kidskin bag, blowpipe, drone and chanter. The pipes of the eastern regions of Thrace and Dobrudja are usually high-pitched, while those of western Shope region tend to be lower. In the south Bulgarian Rhodope mountain region they are extremely deep-pitched with huge goatskin bags. These are often played in pairs or trios and sometimes in large groups. There is one ensemble in that area called "Sto Gaidi", which translates as "One Hundred Gaidas". The standard instrument today is an outfit consisting of three chanters and two drones, giving the player capacity to perform music of all regions. The chanter, called a "gaidanitsa", makes this instrument unique. It has the capability of a full chromatic scale. Its conical bore may have up to seven subtle changes. The tone holes are curved and recessed to give the fingers a relaxed and comfortable grip. Its most unusual detail is the "flea hole", a small metal pipe or bushing at the top of the bore. This gives the instrument its exceptional chromatic range. The pipes are traditionally richly decorated with delicate grooving or combing and trimmed with metal and ox horn of varying hues. The kaba-gaida of south Bulgaria is a huge instrument. Its single drone is almost four feet long. It has a deep and noble tone. Its gaidanitsa is hexagonal rather than round in cross-section, and it is richly ornamented with subtle carving.
The gadulka is probably the most popular and also most ancient folk instrument in Bulgaria today. Although loud and resonant, its distinctive Slavic voice is warm and soothing. It is traditionally played in small orchestral groups or used to accompany singing. Most folk musicians make their own instruments following strong regional traditions of form and tuning, though there are many renowned professional makers. Two types of gadulkas are commonly played. Both are made from large single blocks of hardwood that are carved and hollowed into pear like corpus, then covered with resonant softwood faces. The more prevalent form has three bowed strings, tuned A'EA with ten to twelve additional sympathetic strings. The other type is much smaller and its playing is restricted to the Dobrudjan region near the Black Sea. It usually has three strings tuned EAA'. Unlike violins, gadulkas are played tucked into a shoulder strap or belt and bowed horizontally. The Tambura is also a popular instrument. It is similar in form to the gadulka, with a curved, pear shaped form. It has a loud, bright tone somewhat like a banjo, and is commonly used for both melody and chords. The strings are double-coursed like a mandolin but are tuned like the upper strings on a guitar.
The kaval, a Bulgarian or Balkan end-blown flute is also a common shepherd's instrument played in orchestras and as an accompaniment to singing. It is universally popular in Bulgaria. Playing techniques vary throughout the country. Typically a staccato style is played in the West, while a richly ornamented style is played in the East.
The Gadulka by David Brown
Bulgarian folk musicians have their own unique bowed instrument, the gadulka. Pear-shaped and unmistakeably a descendant of the medieval rebec, itself based on bowed instruments of the oriental countries, particularly Moorish Spain and the Byzantine Empire, the gadulka is an ancient fiddle which has been modified this century by the addition of sympathetic strings which add another rich element to the sound.
The gadulka has three main playing strings, like many similar Eastern and Southern European fiddles such as the older Greek Lyra, the Turkish kemen¨e, the Polish and Czech folk fiddles, etc. Most of these fiddles have rebec-like body outlines and are held either on the knee or upright in some fashion, or at shoulder level similar to the violin, but not tucked under the chin. The gadulka player often uses a belt to hold the instrument, freeing the left hand.
Left hand technique varies from the violin; the three strings, tuned AEA, are not pressed to a fingerboard, as indeed the gadulka has no fingerboard at all, but are touched by the pads of the fingers, with some use of the back of the fingernail on the highest string. The bow is held in a unique underhand grip, which is really rather comfortable and well suited to the upright playing postion.
LThe strings are now of metal and at a fairly high tension, to allow for greater volume. In the past many materials were used for strings, and the pitch was up to the player's taste, since before WWII most Bulgarian folk musicians played solo, rarely in groups, so matching pitch was not very important. After the war and the founding of the Socialist Bulgarian State with its institutionalized music "of the people" (narodna muzika), ensembles became common, and pitch standards were developed for many instruments, gadulka included. Even larger gadulkas were made, such as the enormous bass gadulka, which is almost as big as the player!
With the state came factory made instruments, although village craftsmen still make gadulkas and many players make their own. The modern gadulka is about 23-24" long and has a scale length slightly longer than 13" or so. The bridge rests on a small section of the soundboard between large D-shape holes, with one foot on the treble side of the bridge resting on the soundpost which in turn contacts the back. The back, and neck and peghead are carved from a single piece of wood and are one piece (decorative verneers notwithstanding)
The bow is about 22" long, with the hair app. 16" of actual bowing length. There is no frog, the hair is permanently secured at playing tightness, and the bow curves inward like ancient and traditional bows, not like the modern recurve violin bow.
Adapting Easily Available Middle Eastern Stringed Instruments To Play The Iranian Radif
by David Brown
When I first began playing Iranian music over 16 years ago, I was struck by the fact that just finding (not to mention affording!) traditional Persian musical instruments was a major roadblock to learning this wonderful musical genre. Since the scales used in the radif utilized pitches larger than a semitone and smaller than a whole tone, most Western instruments are incapable of easily playing these important pitches which give the music of Iran its character. Of course, the fact that the timing of my interest in the radif coincided with the Islamic revolution was no help- the Khomeini government closed the borders to musical instruments, and even proscribed musical performances. One lucky aspect, at least for the American musician learning the radif, was that due to the revolution many musicians from Iran were now living in the United States, more than ever before.
The only Western instrument that makes an easy transition to Iranian music, and indeed is commonly used by Classical and pop musicians, is the violin. Fretless, it can play all the pitches needed for the radif and can also play a wide variety of dynamics, shadings, and ornaments making it suitable for Persian music. It also is fairly loud and as such projects somewhat more than the older Iranian bowed instrument the kemanche.
The biggest difference other than the use of so-called microtones in Iranian violin style from Western violin playing is the use of several tunings that depend on the dastgah and actual pitch of the tonic; some common Iranian tunings are regular GDAE, but also ADAD, GDGD, GDAD, EDAE, and others, allowing for frequent use of drone strings and other effects.
The kemanche, which is the bowed instrument whose style forms the basis for Iranian violin style, is a round body, with a skin resonator, spike neck, played gamba-style with an underhand bow grip, and usually has 4 strings. It is also played in Armenia, Tajikistan, part of Turkey, and the Uigher Rebublic (called ajek).
The least expensive kemanche, and the most readily available, is the kabak kemanche from Turkey. It uses a gourd (kabak in Turkish) as the body, and can be found in the Lark in the Morning catalog as "Turkish spike fiddle". Careful adjustment of the string height at the nut and bridge, and possible re-stringing to facilitate higher or lower tunings are the only adaptations needed if at all.
The oud was actually invented in ancient Iran, called "barbat", but was developed further into its modern form in muslim Spain. Although nowhere near as widely played in Iran as the family of long-neck lutes including the setar, tar and tambur, the oud has been used in art music and is growing in popularity. Still, ouds are much more common in Turkey or Egypt. In most of the Arabic speaking world, the oud is more popular than the long neck lutes. This works out to the advantage of anyone wishing to play the radif on oud, as there is no difference between an Iranian oud and Turkish or Arab ouds. One need only select an oud, and play it in the Persian manner which is a distinct aesthetic differing from both the Turkish style and the even more aggressive Arab style.
The ouds made in Arab countries tend to be larger and more robust, with a correspondingly darker tone, than the lighter and brighter-toned Turkish ouds, although individual instruments will show a range of overlapping tonal colors. The Persian playing style works well on Turkish ouds, and these are available as standard catalog items from Lark in several grades from student to professional.
The most difficult to find stringed instruments are the setar and tar. These are tuned alike and played almost identically, the difference being that setar is played with the nail of the index finger while the tar is played with a small piece of brass embedded in beeswax. The setar is a long necked instrument, with a wooden pear-shaped body, usually staved, with a wooden resonator, with 3 course of wire strings, the lowest also having a higher octave double, tied gut or synthetic frets. One of the oldest instruments in use in Iran, it is common in miniature paintings from early eras. It is the instrument of the mystic and the music theorist, and is held in high regard.
Unfortunately they are few and far between, and cost upwards of $500 unless you luck into one somehow. A close relative in the long-neck lute family is the Turkish saz; particularly useful are the baglama and cura sizes. A large cura (app. 24-25 inch scale length) would do for a moderate "setar", a medium sized baglama for a bit larger, and at $145 and $225 respectively offer a great value.
One option is to play a saz with a plectrum sort of tar-style; another is to use the fingernail of the right index finger as the plectrum, which is the way of the setar and of older saz styles. If one would make the saz most setar-like in feel, one would remove the second string of the treble and middle course. Some additional frets may need be tied on, but the sound is quite close to that of a setar.
The tar is not of Iranian origin, and does not appear before the 1700's in miniature paintings or literary references. It is of Central Asian origin, and is also played in Armenia, Tajikistan, Georgia, etc. although in somewhat varying forms. It was also played in the Herat area of Afghanistan, called chahartar (4-string, which it once was). The Iranian tar is a longneck lute with a wooden body carved in a complex figure 8 shape, with two skin membranes, one of which is the resonator upon which a bone bridge rests. They have 3 course of paired metal strings, the lowest course being in octaves and the others unison. It also has tied gut or synthetic frets and a large pegbox with six large turned pegs.
The Armenian/Azerbaijan/Central Asian style tar is a bit smaller with a slightly shorter scale length and a few less upper-range notes than an Iranian tar. They also have 3 additional raised strings tuned as a drone and hit in rhythmic patterns. Much of the radif could be played on such a tar, but the lack of upper range notes could be a problem in some pieces of music. Also, although readily available, the fine Turkish made tars of this design are $600 in the Lark catalog, making it a bit of an investment for a beginner- but one would own a high-grade tar!
There is another option, though, for those desiring to play specificly Persian music, and that is the cumbus saz. Like all members of the cumbus (joom-bush) family of instruments, it has a spun aluminum pot body with a skin resonator, with banjo-like screw tensioning, a neck with built-in clock key tilt adjustment, and comes set up with 3 pairs of metal strings. Most of them have come from the factory with the tied nylon frets set up almost identically with a Persian tar, have a long neck with even a few MORE notes than a Persian tar, and when played with a metal tar mezrab produces a full, loud tar-like tone. I have used one for several years to play with my Persian musician friends, and it blends well with and balances a loud 12-bridge santur. It comes with a vinyl bag, and like its larger cousin the yayli tambur can also be bowed- which at one time the tar may have been as an option. At $225 it is by far the best Persian tar-like sound for the money. Other advantages include the easy tensioning and head replacement the metal screw fittings make possible, the ease of action height adjustment the neck screw-tilt device offers, and rapid and sure tuning thanks to metal machine gear tuners.
Until the day of easy trade with Iran or a reasonable workshop producing affordable Persian instruments, these ideas may help finding appropriate musical instruments for playing the rich and wonderful music of Iran.
Tamburitza Music And The Tamburitza Family by Karen White
Tamburitza music has come to the United States by way of Yugoslavia, where its principal instrument, the tambura, is looked upon as the national instrument of the Croatians (Croatia being a region within Yugoslavia). The tambura family comprises a large and diverse group of instruments, for which there are a variety of tuning systems.
The tambura has evolved from before the 19th century, when it was used as a solo instrument, to the present day, where in its many variations, it is played in large groups of from 3 to 40 players. The various instruments, their names and tunings under different systems (from lowest pitched to highest) are as follows:
Srijemski Jankovic Farkas
Brac I, II, III EADG GDA DG
Bisernica (Prim) I, II EADG GDA DD
Bisernica (Prim) III BEAD CGD --
Kontrasica not used DD
Bulgarija I DGBD CEG GBD
Bulgarija II GBDG GBD BDG
Bulgarija III F#DAF# DF#A F#AD
Celovic DGC CGD --
Celo EADG GDA DG
Berde (Bass) EADG GDA GD
These tunings in no way represent all of the many systems adopted by tambura players. In some circles, for instance, followers of an influential gypsy group tune their prima (Prim) instruments to the pitch of E. Other groups will tune the entire orchestra to the key of E, D or other tonality. The Farkas system has all but died out due to its limitations for playing a wide variety of music, whereas the Srijemski system (and its variations) has become the most widely adopted.
The instruments used for playing music in each tuning system are constructed differently. Farkas system instruments have two courses of double strings, Jankovic system instruments consist of three courses of double strings tuned in fifths, and Srijemski system instruments are made with two courses of double strings, and two single strings, all tuned in fourths. There exist variants of all the above.
The parts played by the tamburitzas can be compared to those found in a modern orchestra. The Brac, Bisernica, and Kontrasica instruments are used for melody, counter-melody and harmony parts. The Bugarija is a chordal instrument used to keep rhythm for the group. The celovic, celo and berde correspond to the cello and bass in a modern orchestra.
How did tamburitza music come to be? This question is dealt with fully in History of the Tambura by Walter Kolar (who has kindly provided us with the information and assistance in preparing this article). In partial answer to the question, one version of the following story (taken from the book mentioned) is found:
"In the year 591 A.D. the Byzantine King Mauricius was contesting the Roman Empire in Thrace. Here he captured three Slavs. To the astonishment of Mauricius, he found these Slavs unarmed, carrying with them only a tambura. With surprise he asked these Slavs who they were and what was that in their hands? They replied, 'We are Slavs and we live along the Western Seas (Adriatic). We play tambura because in our country there is no iron and we live in peace. We do not know the meaning of war bugles.'"
At that time the tambura was exclusively a solo instrument. The music was played to accompany singing and dance. It was purported, in folk tales, to be so beautiful that even the goats would dance when it was played.
Formation of tambura groups in the 1800's paralleled the growth of similar groups in other countries. In Russia and the Ukraine balalaika and domra groups were started and in Italy mandolin orchestras came into being. The same occurred in Austria, Switzerland and southern Germany.
In Croatia, the first group of six tambura players was said to be formed by Pajo Kolaric of Osijek in 1847. The first tambura concert was given by Ivan Sladicek with a group of four players in Zagreb in 1879. In 1882, the first studies of the music were begun by Mijo Majer with a group of four students at the University in Zagreb.
In the U. S. today, tamburitza music is alive and thriving. In fact, it is claimed by some to be the single most prevalent ethnic instrument transplanted to America from a foreign land.
Alex Eppler And The Cimbalom Written by Astra Thor, Edited by Jehan Paul.
Alex Eppler is a respected musician, designer, and craftsman. Born and raised in the northwestern United States, he was inspired as a child by his parents, whose great love of traditional music and culture of Eastern Europe influenced him from early childhood. His parents loved Roumanian Gypsy cimbalom music in particular, and had an extensive record collection which was played so frequently that the entire collection became etched in young Alex's memory, forming the nucleus of his large repertoire. He remembers being impressed, as a child by the brilliance of this music.
When very young, he was given an old balalaika and encouraged to play and his talent was soon discovered. By his early teens, he was playing the Ukrainian cimbalom at the local Russian community center.
Before he was twenty, he had completed his musical education at the State Musical Conservatory of Bulgaria; specializing in the Bulgarian Kaval. He then toured Eastern Europe as a soloist with the Bulgarian State Ensemble, appearing on radio & television, winning many honors. During this period, he taught extensively, and began designing and building kavals and other instruments.
Returning to the U.S., he has continued to build instruments and is now acknowledged internationally as an expert maker of woodwinds of many kinds. He composes and performs in concert tours full time and has appeared as a soloist and had his works performed by the Baltimore, Honolulu, Edmonton, Calgary symphony orchestras and many smaller ensembles. He has soloed at Carnegie Hall and is a featured soloist with the Messenkoff Russian Folk Festival and the Aman Folk Ensemble on their tours. He has just completed his first solo album for a major American record company, and somehow finds the time to appear on film.
Recently Alex has returned his attention to the music of his youth by playing the cimbalom. Using his skills as a classically trained conservatory musician has led him to become a skilled interpreter of traditional musical folklore. He has composed much original material greatly enlarging the repertoire of the instrument.
The origins of the cimbalom are difficult to trace with certainty. There are similar instruments present in the history of almost every area of the Globe. It is directly descended from the hand-held hammered dulcimer found in Eastern Europe, whose antecedents are found in Persia or Turkey today. Early models were portable hammered trapezoids suspended from the shoulders and played with 2 short hammers. Even the earliest instruments were chromatic because of the necessity of playing the many modes found in the Middle East. Early strings were drawn copper metals such as those found on some of the courses of the Iranian santur. The sound of these strings is warm, dark, intimate; as though heard across a lake on a moonlit night.
In the 19th century, most middle-class families possessed a cimbalom for the music or parlor, just as most American living rooms contained a piano. Since the 17th century, Gypsies have been considered to be the premier musicians, entertaining royalty for large sums of gold. The cimbalom came with the Hungarians during the invasion of Roumanian Transylvania.
Roumania & Hungary have styles quite distinct from each other. In Hungary there are two styles: the classical, where the Cimbalom is taught as a symphonic instrument, and as a vehicle for performing the traditional Gypsy music handed down the generations. These are considered to be the master musicians and their techniques are rarely taught at the conservatory.
With it's larger Hungarian population the music most frequently heard in the US is that of Hungary. Hungarian players using lighter, padded sticks produce a lighter tone quality than that obtained by Roumanian musicians.
In the early 19th century, as a direct outgrowth of Hungarian nationalism, an instrument maker in Budapest named Schunda created the earliest concert cimbalom. More strings and the use of pedals gave this instrument a totally chromatic scale. Louis Bohak, his successor, changed the traditional design still more, giving us the instrument as it is today. In this country, William Somsak is considered to be the greatest builder. Alex plays a five octave, chromatic cimbalom, built by Bohak in Budapest about 15 years ago. Although he plays Russian & Hungarian music, his greatest interest lies with Roumanian Gypsy music. He has learned to play all the elaborate accompaniment styles as well as the solo music.
In Roumania there is only one style of public playing; that of the Gypsies. Although one encounters smaller, more ancient types of hammered dulcimers in Roumanian homes, used for more sedate music. The cimbalom is an important, distinctive voice in the Roumanian gypsy orchestra. In modern Roumania, bands of cimbalom, bass, two fiddles, accordion, nai(pan pipes), & perhaps a kobza, a lute-like instrument are those most frequently encountered.
Of the virtuoso school of cimbalom playing in Roumania, Alex favors Tony Iordache as such an excellent performer as to be in a class of his own; but there are many excellent composers and performers, and Alex laments that there are so few good performers outside Roumania. However, now it is not so difficult for Americans to gain access to this beautiful music, thanks to this talented man of genius, Alex Eppler.
Tres and Cuatro by David Brown
The guitar was the companion of the Spanish as they colonized the Caribbean, and in time several regional variants developed. From Cuba came the tres, a small 3-double course instrument, and from Puerto Rico, the now 5-double course cuatro. Each was originally associated with a regional, rural but sophisticated musical style with roots in Spain. Now both are used in other contexts, particularly in Salsa.
The cuatro was the instrument of the jibaro, rural farmers, and also the name of the music they played on cuatros and guitars and guiros. It also was used to sing aguinaldos, the Puerto Rican Christmas songs, from house to house. The instrument is sort of violin-shaped, more rounded like a guitar but with points at the inner bouts like a fiddle. The bridge is a classic guitar type, but the instrument is steel strung and tuned from low to high B E A D G, with the B and E in octaves. It is played with a flatpick and sounds like a cross between a 12-string guitar and a mandolin.
The Cuban tres originated in Oriente province, the most eastern part of the island, and was the instrument of the Cuban rural farmers called guajiros. They, as did the jibaros, kept alive the Spanish decima vocal style; but added African elements to produce the son, the Cuban music style that was the ancestor of Salsa. A typical son conjunto was made up of a tres, a guitar, a bass, a bongo, maracas, clave and guiro; sometimes a trumpet was also employed.
The tres is notable for having three pairs of strings, once triple, now double, tuned with the central pair unison and the outside pairs in octaves. Two tunings are used; Gg cc Ee and Gg bb Ee, one making an open C chord and the other, one 1/2 step different giving an open E minor. Most playing is single line with limited use of double and triple stops, and employs a flatpick.
A tres made from the factory as a tres has a small body with a straight upper bout and often had a classic guitar bridge but with a tailpiece. Very often a small normal guitar is altered to be a tres, by changing the strings and adding grooves to the nut and drilling 3 extra holes in the bridge, sometimes adding a tailpiece. Often a student size guitar makes a nice sounding tres for another reason. Many tres tops are plank, not quarter sawn, and some of the cheaper guitars give a reasonable sound when made into a tres. However, a dedicated tres, designed as such with the proper top and bracing, gives a superior tonal color with enough projection to play with congas and bongos.
The Mandocello by David Brown
Around the turn of the century the mandolin orchestra was one of the most popular musical ensembles particularly among amateur performers in urban areas. Although mandolins were already a popular instrument in America the late 1800's saw a meteoric rise in public appeal of this bowl-back Italian import. Colleges formed mandolin societies, clubs devoted to the instrument sprang up in residential neighborhoods, and until WW1 the mandolin was quite in fashion. These were based on the earlier banjo clubs, and indeed the mandolin had long eclipsed the banjo in popularity. In fact, the instrument that finally ended the mandolin craze was the new tenor banjo, itself a banjo crossed with the metal strings, plectrum, and 5ths tuning of the mandolin.
Mandolin orchestras played arrangements of light classics, overtures, dance music, and some original works for mandolins. The players read regular musical notation, and a high standard of technique was developed. Instruments eventually were developed that matched this growth in technical skill, but oddly enough the best of them, the Gibson F series and the Lyon and Healy "own make" mandolins, were developed in the 20's as the mandolin was giving way rapidly to the banjo and guitar.
The standard mandolin corresponds to the violin in tuning, GDAE, and likewise the other members of the mandolin family follow their bowed counterparts. The viola is comparable to the mandola, tuned CGDA, and the cello has the mandocello as its plectrum equivalent. By 1911 there even was a mandobass!
Like the cello the mandocello is tuned CGDA an octave below the viola/mandola, and along with the rare mandobass and the guitar provided the bass in the mandolin orchestra. Obviously, the mandocello is much larger than a mandolin, and some differences in left hand technique are required, similar to the differences in violin and cello. Rather than use the violin/mandolin hand spacing which can have whole steps between successive left hand finger, the guitar-based hand position is used which is chromatic between fingers, and requires somewhat more position shifting. As one plays up the neck the notes become close enough together to use mandolin fingerings again.
We offer a fine mandocello, handmade by German craftsmen, with case. It has a spruce top and flamed maple back and sides; the back is partially arched with straight sides incorporating features of the bowl back mandolin and the flatback. There is also an inlaid wooden pickguard with a simple but elegant floral design. These are rich sounding instruments with great projection that a professional would be pleased to perform with.
The modern 5 course Irish bouzoukis or citterns can play mandocello parts when tuned to the CGDAE tuning, which is both mandocello and octave mandolin tuning combined. We have several instruments that can be tuned this way, and they offer the advantage of playing octave mandolin parts or being tuned DGDAD or DGDAE for Irish style playing.
Celtic Harps by Astra Thor
It is said the music heard in heaven is the golden sound of harps. Today the harp has an aura of mystery because the average person has never seen a real pedal harp except at the symphony and has never heard of an Irish harp. When I came to work for Lark In The Morning, my knowledge of music was superficial but included one semester of pedal harp. My first sight of the Irish harp occurred at Lark In The Morning. Fascinated with all the varieties of small harp, I learned to play a Gaelic harp, eventually joined an Irish Ceili band and learned of the interesting history surrounding the old harps, their disappearance and recent revival. History often repeats itself and a resurgence of the Irish harp seems to be occurring right now.
For several hundred years, since Henry VIII, the Irish have used a harp as their emblem. Modern coins depict the fourteenth century Trinity College harp. In ancient times, the wire strung harp was an instrument of the aristocratic class as well as the most loved instrument of the Irish people. Today, some class it as a folk instrument because the original methods of building and playing it were lost during extended political turmoil in Ireland and there has been little general interest in it for years. Recently, however, the wire strung harp has been rediscovered.
In ancient times, harpers were the counselors of kings and were given the chair of honor, titles and wealth for their services. These benefits were not inherited by their children but went to the best harper. In Ireland, the harpers were consulted before going to war and often lead the troops to battle with harp and sword, singing of victory and slaying his share of the enemy. His harp was often heavily decorated and highly revered. All Gaelic peoples liked to decorate their harps with intricate carving and crystals. Chiefs and kings added fancy gold and silver ornamentation and jewels and often created priceless treasures.
Old Celtic harps were played with a different technique than used today for pedal harps. They were traditionally held against the left shoulder, the left hand playing the upper strings and the right hand, the lower strings. Today, harps are held against the right shoulder and the hands' playing positions are reversed. The old harps were strung with thick brass wire and plucked with long, crooked fingernails which resembled quills. These harps had a loud, full, rich, bell-like sound. The upper strings, often a thin steel wire, had a sweet tinkling sound. The bass register could growl and roar. The sound of the old harps would ring for a long time so, sometimes the strings were stopped to provide clarity of tone and to avoid muddying fast passages.
In his book THE IRISH AND HIGHLAND HARPS, Robert Bruce Armstrong described the playing technique of the Highland harp* "The prolonged vibration of the wire strings required to be immediately damped or stopped, thus as soon as a finger pulled a string, another finger stopped the vibration and when the performer on the harp was proficient, no jarring of the strings against the fingernails was heard." The Gaelic word for wire-strung harp is CLAIRSEACH and was used throughout Ireland and Scotland. Harp was a word denoting sinew strung instruments.
THE ANCIENT HARP
Various forms of the harp have been around on most of the continents of the world since before written history and nothing is known about its remote origins. However, there is record of a form of harp which existed two to three thousand years ago in central Asia and Siberia which is reminiscent of the old Irish harp. Burial chambers of Ur in Mesopotamia which date from the middle of the third millennium B.C. contained three harp-like instruments. Engravings of singers and musicians playing stringed instruments, in festive and drinking scenes, suggest that this was a common practice of the Sumerian civilization. Irish bards and harpers of the sixteenth century were heir not only to an ancient tradition stretching back to pre-Christian Ireland, but to one whose roots lie in the earliest Bronze Age civilization.
Harp-like instruments found in Greece, China, Assyria, Persia and Egypt were too large to carry and, while they don't appear to have influenced early Irish harps, they may have influenced later changes through the appearance in Ireland of Christian travelers. But certain small portable harps seem to have originated among barbarian peoples of Asia. The Celtic harp resembles this instrument more than any other ancient harp.
THE HARP IN EARLY LEGEND
Legends from around the end of the pre-Christian era tell of a person named "Craftine" who was mentioned in several sources as a harper and harpmaker. Another legendary figure, Conaire Mor, was said to have three poets, nine pipers and nine harpers in his retinue, according to Irish antiquarian, Prof. O'Curry.
As these legends show, the tradition of the early Celtic harp can be traced over one thousand years but the earliest representations of the harps were found sculpted on stone in Scotland dating from the eighth or ninth century.
By the year 1000, early forms of the harp were widespread all over Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The reign of the harp in the music of the British Isles was noted by learned Europeans. These early writings span several hundred years and hint at that marvelous music which is lost. For example, Polydore Virgil, who lived in England during the first half of the sixteenth century states "...that the Irish practice music, and are eminently skilled in it. Their performance, both vocal and instrumental is exquisite, but so bold and impassioned, that it is amazing how they can observe the rules of their art amidst such rapid evolutions of the fingers and vibrations of the voice: and yet they do observe them to perfection." (Cambrensis Eversus, Vol. i.P. 311).
However, all reigns of glory must come to an end. After hundreds of years of successfully fighting off or absorbing waves of invaders such as the Vikings, Romans, Normans and Moors, the English started to become a problem to the Irish and their culture. The Irish were well used to the invasions of foreigners and in 1395, according to old records, four Irish kings submitted to the English after an arduous fight. However, that was not enough. The English insisted that the Irish "barbarians" adopt English customs as well. For example, it was an Irish custom for the king, his minstrels, harpers and main servants to share table, plate and cup together. The English stated this barbaric custom must be replaced by the table manners of England, where musicians sat separately and servants sat still farther away. According to the record, the Irish complied, at least when Englishmen were present.
HARD TIMES FOR THE CELTIC HARP
The next two hundred years brought increasing pressure from the English, which included Protestantization of Catholic Ireland. Gradually, the power of the Irish princes was eroded away and this, in turn, ended the patronage of Ireland's bards and harpers toward the end of the sixteenth century.
Meanwhile, in Scotland during the same period, highland harpers enjoyed prosperity, according to the king's treasury records. Many Scottish kings were musicians and they employed many other musicians at their court. For example, during the reign of James IV, we find "He was certainly fond of music, and there were frequent notices of harps and clarischas,,," as well as many other instruments. (Armstrong, THE IRISH AND HIGHLAND HARP, pg 142). An especially musical period according to the records, occurred from 1494 to 1503. Of twenty entries for payment of musicians, half were for large companies of harpers and minstrels who performed for the New Year's celebrations. The harpers were able to maintain their lifestyle through the end of the sixteenth century, although during the last part of this period potential harper's had to be trained abroad at Bruges. Finally, according to Manson in his THE HIGHLAND BAGPIPE, "in Scotland, the use of the harp came to an end with the pomp of the feudal system."
Harpers and bards in Ireland began to be personally harassed by the English Crown early in the 1500's and many were imprisoned as troublemakers or executed. Records show only the number of pardons. All other unlucky harpers are lost to anonymity. Ironically, while Queen Elizabeth was enjoying Irish dances performed at her court in London by her harper, she issued a proclamation to Lord Barrymore in Ireland to "Hang harpers, wherever found, and destroy their instruments." As a testament to Irish harping, however, just two months after the Queen's death in 1603, Lord Barrymore's records show he had a harper in his household.
Times grew harder still for harps and harpers between 1650 and 1660 when Cromwell ordered the destruction of harps and organs in both catholic and Protestant circles. Five hundred harps were confiscated and burned in the city of Dublin alone. In another instance, 2000 others were destroyed and harpers were forbidden to congregate.
Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drastic changes in the life of the Irish people occurred. Music and poetry in the ancient fashion were encouraged less and less and all the old patrons were in exile or had lost their wealth. The deliberate destruction of harps and harpers ended after Cromwell. Harpers and minstrels, who once had the ear of kings, were forced to travel from place to place and beg a living where they could.
Many non-Irish peoples, including soldiers who didn't go home, settled in Ireland. Their traditional music came with them and was intermixed with Irish music. New musical knowledge and techniques were developed in Europe and imported to the British Isles, including the use of the pedal harp with its sinew strings and soft sound. Musical fashions gradually changed and the traditional sound and style of the wire strung harp did not fit in well. Many tunes were rewritten for the fiddle and other instruments because the public favored the modern settings.
In the late 1700's, the townspeople in Ireland began to develop an increasing interest in their long neglected national heritage. By this time there were very few harpers left and little music was still played in the traditional way. In the year 1790, the Belfast Harp Meeting was organized to promote the old music. Harpers were invited to come and compete for a prize. Only ten harpers, ranging in age from 15 to 97, showed up. The oldest, Dennis Hempson, at age 97, was the only harper to play in the old style with the fingernails. All the others played with the fingertips. This could possibly have been due to the influence of the new pedal harp with gut strings. At the meeting, the opportunity was taken to copy many of the old tunes down as they were played. Edward Bunting, the copyist, had not been trained in the traditional ways, so he was unable to reproduce what was played completely accurately and the last chance for complete preservation slipped away.
No traditional wire strung Irish harps had been made for a long time. There was little demand probably because the life of harpers had become difficult for so long due to the adverse social and political situation. So the method was lost. There was little harp playing in Ireland after the beginning of the 1800's. Social conditions were very bad and Irish energies were directed towards more fundamental needs. Schools were started in Belfast and Dublin in the early 1800's to teach poor blind boys to be harpers, but they failed. The traditional style of playing had been long gone anyway and had been replaced with fingertip playing.
THE NEO IRISH HARP
During the 1890's and early 1900Õs, some small harps were made in Ireland but they only vaguely resembled the ancient Irish harp with the big glorious sound. Joan Rimmer says in her book, THE IRISH HARP, that"....it can only be described as a nightmare parody of the old Irish harp. Their tone is particularly unattractive, rather like that of an ancient and decrepit piano." The pedal harp became of major interest over the years and although small harps were still made and played in Ireland, the wonderful resonant sound was unavailable and few played seriously. This unhappy condition lasted almost 200 years.
REVIVAL OF THE WIRE STRUNG HARP
About ten years ago, a feat of modern engineering produced methods to build a very resonant small wire strung Celtic harp with a very sweet sound. These harps are a successful continuation of the ancient Celtic tradition.
There are two basic sizes. The smallest is a lap harp which is extremely lightweight and portable. It is small enough to play in a car and is an excellent size as a beginning harp for children. There are also small nylon strung harps with pedal harp spacing, which makes them an ideal travel or practice harp for professional harpists. Recently developed models of both wire and nylon strung styles have an astonishingly large sonority for their size. The intermediate sized harp, which is about three to four feet tall, also comes in both wire and nylon strung styles. They weigh from 35 to 50 pounds and fit easily in the trunk or back seat of an average car. These also have a full range in the bass which makes it suitable for professional performing.
Due to the exciting new sound available, there are now several musical groups which are using the small harp regularly in their arrangements. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new golden age for the harp.
Introduction to Saz and other Middle Eastern Long-neck Lutes by David Brown
One of the most ancient forms of lute is the family of long-neck lutes, which today includes the Greek (and Irish) Bouzouki, the Arab Buzuk, the many sizes of Turkish Saz, the Persian Setar, the Armenian-Persian-Central Asian Tar, the Afghan Tumbur, Dambura and Dutar, and even the North Indian Sitar. By definition any lute with a neck longer than the body is a long-neck lute, so even the American Banjo is technically in this extended family!
Three ancient instruments seem to be the earliest long-neck lutes in use. These are the Tanbur-e-Khorosan of eastern Iran and western Afghanistan, the Hittite lute found in Anatolia, and the similar lute from the Egyptian 18th dynasty, which was used over a thousand years earlier in Babylon and Sumeria.
There are several sizes of saz, but no single clear classification is standard. Virtuoso performer and teacher Adnan Ataman used this system as of 1961: Smallest to largest- ¨ura, baglama (strictest sense, for an old-style small instrument), cura baglama or tambura, bozuk, divan, and meydan. By this system, most common sazes are the bozuk; this word can be traced to the Iranian tambur-e bozorg, and would also be the root for the Arab buzuk and the Greek bouzouki. In many cases, if not most often, this bozuk saz is called baglama (don't pronounce the g).
These were all 3-course instruments, but by the 1950Õs many players had followed the example of Manolis Hiotis and were using the 4-course bouzouki, tuned C F A D ( like the top 4 strings of a guitar down a step). This version , with the addition of a magnetic pickup and amplifier, became the standard. Now the 6 string 3-course bouzouki is much rarer, mostly found in the northern part of Greece.
In recent years student model bouzoukis have been made in Italy and offer a reasonable alternative at an affordable price, as Greek instruments have been more expensive and harder to find.
This small instrument is the Persian version of the saz, having a variety of body constructions, but all have the long tied-fretted neck and 4 strings in three courses. Setar means 3-string; the higher octave was added to the lowest string by the Sufi Moshtaq Ali Shah last century. The instrument is a favorite among both mystics and Persian classical theorists. A soft instrument, it was usually played alone, although there is a new custom of playing in setar ensembles that is growing in popularity.
The full name for this instrument is chahartar, or 4-string, but today it is a 6-stringed lute set up in 3 paired courses, the lowest having a high octave double. This is one of the instrument in this book with a skin resonator, in the form of two skins on an hourglass shaped carved wooden body. the larger skin is farthest from the neck and the bridge rests on this section. The neck has a large peg box with big turned wood pegs, tied frets, and often a light wood or bone strip inlaid the length of the neck. Fine instruments are well carved but sparsely decorated, and can fetch astronomical prices for a Yayeh or Sharoch instrument.
A curious style of older players was to hold the tar high on the chest with the right arm supporting the body; this facilitated standing and moving while playing.
The tar is tuned at many pitch levels, but written Iranian music gives the standard rast kuk tunings as C G C, D G C, C F C, Eb G C and CF G C (the 3rd course is not in unison/octaves!) for Shur.
A surprisingly good sounding alternative to the tar is the cumbus saz; it can be set up and played with a tar mezrab giving a very tar-like tonal color at a fraction of the price. The fretting is very close to the Persian and requires little adjustment if any. Also, like its sister instrument the yayli tambur, it can be bowed making it a very versatile string instrument.
Egyptian lute had a skin resonator and in many ways is similar to the Gimbri of Morocco, down to the round neck and method of attaching the neck to the body through a slit in the skin top. ItÕs very likely that the gimbri is a surviving variant and as such is one of the most ancient forms. The other lutes from Babylon and Khorosan ( and the Babylonian may well have been a development from the Iranian-Afghan prototype) had a wooden resonator; both were most commonly two stringed.
Today there are several instruments in use in the Middle East descended more or less directly from the ancestral forms, and each country of region seems to favor a particular variant. Certain places and time periods favored the short-neck lute, the descendants of the Persian barbat such as the Ôoud, and now for example itÕs rare to see a long-neck lute in Egypt!
Instruments covered in this volume:
Saz family; particularly Baglama and Cura, but also Divan and Meydan;
Turkey and Armenia.
Tambur (Turkish) Wooden body staved-back lute with very long neck, and many frets rendering the Turkish Classical intonation system of nine possible Pythagorean comma divisions of the whole step.
Buzuk (Buzq); Arab version; Lebanon, Syria and some of the other countries
Bouzouki; somewhat Westernized version of the saz/buzuk;Greece
Setar; Iran Tar (properly Chahartar); Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijain, Caucasus
Due to the rarity, scarcity of instruments and other factors the Afghan Tumbur, Dambura and Dutar, some comments about each instrument will be made but this volume will only include a general description of techniques and musical examples.
The Saz Family
Saz means musical instrument (among other meanings) in Persian; the 'oud is often called "sultan-e-saz" or king of the instruments. In Iran, though no instrument is called saz (the tar is sometimes referred to as the "amir-e saz", or prince of instruments), but in Turkey, the saz is a long-neck lute of several sizes. All share common features; Metal strings, long thin neck with tied nylon (formerly gut) frets, wood (or plastic composite) pegs, often without a hole for the strings (the special way of wrapping the strings suffices to hold them on the peg), three courses with the 3rd (and often the 1st) course doubled in octaves, Almond-shaped hemipyriform body carved from a single piece of mulberry, or more common now than ever, lute-type staved wood, and a soundboard with small "wings". Over the years the gross design features have changed little, but some details have been altered to suit changes in taste, manufacturing methods, tuning patterns, etc. Formerly the tops were strongly curved, but now they tend to a flatter shape.
Although most instruments are 3 double courses, Turkish players also distinguish between instruments on the basis of the number of strings per course and total number. The maximum seems to be 4 on the oniktelli saz, but this is very rare. Most common are altitelli (2+2+2), and for baglama(bozuk), yeditelli (3+2+2), where the Ist course has an added low octave string.
The method and type of stringing has changed a bit since the 1950's. Semsi Yastiman, one of the largest and best-known of saz makers, sold standard strings consisting of 4 steel strings of 20 gauge for the 1st and 3rd courses, and 1 27 gauge brass and 16 gauge steel for a pair in octaves for the middle course. This has changed quite a bit- now the current practice is to have the lowest course doubled in octaves, the middle course unisons, and the first course either in unison or in octaves. The basic tuning has not altered, though. In rural Turkey a bewildering number of tunings were used, and the folksinger tunes his instrument to match his voice and the maqam employed. Fortunately, in urban centers the has been a move towards standard sizes of saz constituting a family, or consort, and the use of standardized tunings. The most common baglama tuning today in towns and the countryside is called bozuk duzen, and is G D A from 3rd to 1st course. Other tunings (at this pitch level) would include E D A, G D G, A D A, A E A, A D G, G C G, E D A, F# DA, and many others.
Playing techniques include using the right hand fingers to hit the soundboard in a rhythmic fashion, use of the left hand thumb to fret notes in a manner similar to balalaika playing ( there may well be a connection through central Asian lute techniques.) A common ornament is the rapid trilling of a note a 1/2 step above the pitch; thus even if a B is used melodically, the player will often use a Bb above the A being ornamented.
A recent development is a baglama body with a neck only a bit longer than the body, tuned A G D. There were two such instruments used by the Saz ensemble at the 1994 Middle Eastern Camp in Mendocino. Ergin Tamer showed me these after I asked about the "odd-size" sazes. Also used in the ensemble was a classical tambur, regular bozuk-tuned baglama, and very small ¨ura tuned GDA one octave above the baglama, with no low octave courses. Although the traditional way of playing the cura was with the fingers, all of the Turkish players used a plectrum on the ¨ura...and almost all had contact pickups on their sazes.
This is the long-neck lute of the Arab-speaking countries. It has a rather 'oud-shaped staved back, Ôoud-style rosette soundholes, but a long neck with tied frets like a saz and usually a mandolin-style peghead with machine tuners. The stringing pattern is of an ancient sort, with only two paired courses tuned G C, with the G course having a low octave string in the pair. The neck is fretted to provide all useful options of the Arab-Persian scale after Safi-al-Din. Lebanon and Syria seemed to be the main areas of use, being rarer in Egypt and other Arab states. Some sources consider the nomads/gypsies to be among the finest players.
Harder to find than sazes, a small baglama or large cura can be set up can be set up like a buzuk by altering the stringing pattern. Although the key note may transpose up or down the 4th tuning is constant, and GC gives rast as C, its real pitch.
Around the turn of the century in Athens and Piraeus musicians adapted the Turkish saz to their needs, replacing the tied frets with metal frets like those of mandolins and guitars, and in the process abandoning the Oriental 1/4 tone system for the Western tempered tuned chromatic scale. By the 20's they had further changed the construction from solid carved saz bodies to mandolin-like bowl backs and had also added machine pegs, and settled on D A D as the tuning of the paired courses, the lowest pair including high octave double. The instrument was played with guitars and a miniature version of itself tuned an octave higher. Turkish origin of these instruments is confirmed by the names, the larger version called bouzouki and the diminutive baglama. Other sizes have developed and include the Tzouras, smaller in size than the standard, and the larger Koumpouzi.
The repertoire is the same as the radif of the tar as is the left hand technique; the difference in playing setar is that only the index finger of the right hand is used, a technique brought to India with the setar by Amir Khusrow. There the instrument was altered into the Hindustani sitar. Tunings are identical to those of the tar and will be covered in the next section.
Setars are rare in the US, and like all Iranian instruments expensive. I have successfully altered larger ¨ura sazes to make acceptable setars. The easiest way is to make the 1st and 2nd courses single, and to add a few frets to complete the scale as most curas have fewer frets than a classical setar.
The tar is a major Iranian classical instrument with an extensive radif; one version was written down and published in 1963 in Tehran by Musa Ma'aruffi and consists of hundreds of pieces of music, both free rhythm and measured. Yet it is not a native Iranian instrument, appearing in miniature paintings no earlier than the 1700's. It seems that the tar is of central Asian origin, and is also played in Armenia, the Caucasus, Azebaijan, and other places in this region.
Many of these tars, not primarily intended for Iranian use, have additional paran or payan strings set on a raised bridge and offset from the neck. Like the chikari strings of the sitar and sarod, these are for rhythmic drone use. All types are played with a long oval shaped piece of brass in a small ball of wax.
The full name for this instrument is chahartar, or 4-string, but today it is either an Iranian 6-stringed lute set up in 3 paired courses, the lowest having a high octave double, or the Azerbaijani style with similar playing strings but the addition of 3 drone or paran strings that are played rhythmically as the chikaris are on a sitar.
This is one of the instrument in this book with a skin resonator, in the form of two skins on an hourglass shaped carved wooden body. the larger skin is farthest from the neck and the bridge rests on this section. The neck has a large pegbox with big turned wood pegs, tied frets, and often a light wood or bone strip inlaid the length of the neck. Fine instruments are well carved but sparsely decorated, and can fetch astronomical prices for a Yayeh or Sharoch instrument.
The tar is a major Iranian classical instrument with an extensive radif; one version was written down and published in 1963 in Tehran by Musa Ma'aruffi and consists of hundreds of pieces of music, both free rhythm and measured. Yet it is not a native Iranian instrument, appearing in miniature paintings no earlier than the 1700's. It seems that the tar is of central Asian origin, and is also played in Armenia, the Caucasus, Azebaijan, and other places in this region.
Many of these tars, not primarily intended for Iranian use, have additional paran or payan strings set on a raised bridge and offset from the neck as mentioned before. This is characteristic of the Central Asian style instrument. Like the chikari strings of the sitar and sarod, these are for rhythmic drone use. All types are played with a long oval shaped piece of brass in a small ball of wax.
Assembling and Using Your Bagpipes
1. Remove the tartan bag cover (if fitted). Take off the chanter, GRIPPING IT BY THE BOSS (the end with the hemp whipping). Remove the blow-pipe and drones.
2. SEASONING for the full-size bagpipes. This process seals the bag before use. Plug all the stocks with corks, except the blowpipe. If you don't have corks, use rags or damp newspaper. Then remove the blowpipe and pour the seasoning in. Put the blowpipe back in, blow it up a bit and work the seasoning in, especially in the seams. When fully seasoned, drain all seasoning out. Hang bag up and let drain. Wipe excess from stocks.
3. Replace the bag in its cover. The blow stick is fitted with a leather flap-valve which may be tied down with yellow hemp. Cut the hemp so it can open. On some models the flap is made of synthetic film which needs no attention.
4. Fit the blow pipe, assemble the drones and fit them in the stocks. The tuning slides don't go in the stocks, they point upwards.
5. Fit the cords & tassels over the drones so as to hold them about 15 cm. (6 inches) apart, or half this in a miniature set. The rubber rings provided for this purpose may perish after a year or two. Replace them with stitching.
6. Remove the chanter and fit its reed firmly. Occasionally the hole may be a little too narrow. You can enlarge it slightly with a twist drill. If the fit is too loose, whip the reed with hemp (see sketch).
7. Fit one of the smaller drone reeds into one of the tenor drones. Put the reed in your mouth with the reed tongue free to move. Blow. If the reed doesn't sound, bend it away from the body of the reed and hold it for a bit until it stays slightly open. But it's brittle, so be careful. Some pipers use a head hair jammed at the fixed end of the tongue. When the drone plays properly, replace it in its stock.
8. Repeat this procedure with the other tenor drone.
9. Repeat for the bass drone, which sounds one octave below the tenor drones.
10. Put the bag under your left elbow and the drones over your left shoulder. Support the bag with your left hand but don't squeeze it. Blow into the mouthpiece to inflate the bag under zero pressure whilst covering the top holes (front and back) of the chanter with your left hand. Now thump the bag whilst continuing to blow.
12. When the chanter plays, some drones may also play. Silence them meanwhile by touching the hole at the top with your finger. Adjust the tuning slide till the drone plays in unison with the chanter (but an octave lower in pitch).
13. Tune the second tenor drone to the first one, then repeat for the bass drone.
14. Learners may have difficulty keeping all four reeds playing. If you have this problem, silence one of the tenor drones. If necessary, silence the bass drone too.
15. Wood swells with moisture, so allow your pipes to dry after use to avoid splitting.
A Tour Of Bagpipeland by Denny Hall
Let's say you're at the local shopping mall and you wind up (as usual) in "Bagpipe City" or some similar shop. Of course the walls are filled with bagpipes from many countries. So many that you are intimidated to the point where, when approached by the salesperson, you remark tersely, "Wrong color,' and march out the door. I will leave the history of bagpipes to the experts. Instead, this will be a general guide to bagpipes.
The Irish Union or Uilleann (pronounced ill-in) pipes have a 2-octave range. If fitted with four keys it is capable of all the chromatic intervals though the music seldom calls for most of the 'extra' notes. The C- and F-natural keys are the two most desirable additions. The uilleann pipes have three drones tuned to D in three octaves and three keyed pipes in the drone stock called regulators which are played with the wrist for rhythmic and chordal accompaniment. The pipes are bellows blown. Modern sets are in concert D pitch, which play well in the keys of D, G, and Em. Certain tunes in other keys (A, Am, Bm, etc.) are also possible. A relatively quiet pipe, they blend well with fiddle, flute and whistle. The older irish pipes were pitched lower at C, B or B-flat. These were quieter than the ones pitched in D due to the smaller bores. They might make a better acoustic blend with a harp but fiddlers would have to tune down to them. There are many good makers of Irish pipes in new and old pitch. Your best bet with reeds for these pipes is to learn to make them yourself.
Irish warpipes. There do not seem to be any surviving examples of the old pipes of Ireland. They died out about the middle of the 18th century. In the late 19th century there was a revival using what was basically a Highland pipe with one less tenor drone. This practice continued up to today in Irish pipe bands. Considering the similarity in instruments between Ireland and Scotland (the Trinity and Queen Mary harps, for example) it is highly likely the pipes were also quite similar. The irish warpipes of modern make are available in B-flat with one bass and one tenor drone. The chanter uses the same scale and fingering as Scottish pipes. Ready-made reeds are available.
Highland Pipes. You know about these, of course. They are made and played all over the world. The old pipes were slightly lower in pitch: at about A. Highland pipes today are made in B-flat with three drones--a bass and two tenors tuned to B-flat. The chanters on these (and Irish warpipes) are limited to 9 notes. Most people learning to play will start out with a practice chanter, which eliminates learning to work the chanter, drones and bag at the outset. The fingering on a practice chanter is closer together than on a full set of pipes. Ready-made reeds for the practice chanter and Highland pipes are available.
Lowland pipes were made in southern Scotland and are bellows blown. The chanter is fingered like the highland chanter and uses the same scale. The three drones emanate from a single stock and are tuned like highland drones. Being bellows blown they use a softer reed and smaller bores, which results in a much quieter sound than the highland pipes, good for ensemble playing. New sets are available in B-flat, G or A. Ready-made reeds are also available for most of these pipes.
Two reproductions from paintings of the Old English mouth-blown pipes have been developed but there seem to be no surviving originals. Both styles had two drones pitched in G.
Northumbrian pipes have had a long unbroken tradition in northern England. The old style had a keyless, close-ended chanter and three drones pitched at F. Later styles have chanters with 7..17 keys giving a great range and 4 drones used in various combinations and tunings making it possible to play in several keys. A quiet, pleasing pipe. The drones are tuned to the tonic in two octaves with a fifth between. New sets are available in concert F, and concert D, which is a slightly lower pitched set. Some ready-made reeds are available, although it is best to make your own.
The Cornemuse is a mouth-blown bagpipe with two drones: a tenor in a common stock with the chanter and a bass over the shoulder. The chanter plays a standard scale with a leading tone 1/2 step below the tonic and cross-fingerings allowing several accidentals. Cornemuses are commonly made in the keys of B-flat, G, and D. The most popular keys are G and D, being the keys most compatible with common hurdy-gurdy tunings. Not especially loud for a mouth-blown pipe, the cornemuse is a good ensemble instrument. Some are made to be used with ready-made reeds.
he Cabrette is a bellows or mouth-blown pipe with one small drone in a common stock with the chanter. Originating in Auvergne, this pipe has spread throughout France because of its relatively easy maintenance and playability. The key of G is most commonly found, but they are also made in other keys. The drone is tuned to the tonic. These pipes overblow into the second octave, making it possible to play the many C tunes from Auvergne. Since the cabrette is played so often with the hurdy-gurdy (where the drones can be quite dominant), or in groups, many players do not use the drone. Some models are available using ready-made reeds.
Musette. An 18th century court instrument, the musette is the grandfather of the northumbrian pipe. The musette has one small, keyed chanter in F or D and a second small chanter alongside with 6 keys extending the range upwards. The musette uses three drones, same as the northumbrian pipes and tuned the same way: tonic, fifth, tonic (next octave). All the drones are bored into one piece of wood like a renaissance rackett. 6..8 slides offer a choice of drone tunings. The musette has a quiet, pretty sound. Reproductions are available in F and D. With these pipes, the reeds are of the make-it-yourself variety.
Biniou Koz. The best known bagpipes of Brittany. Biniou koz means old bagpipe, probably named as a reaction to the highland pipe which was introduced as the 'grand biniou' in the 1940's. The grand biniou almost replaced the biniou but a revival is making the older pipes heard again. The biniou is in B-flat, an octave about the highland pipe chanter. It has one drone, is mouth-blown and is very high pitched. The biniou is often teamed with the bombarde, a loud reed instrument in B-flat. The call-and-answer style of playing is very interesting, as are the haunting melodies of the Breton binioutradition. Ready-made reeds are available for the biniou.
The Veuze is a lower pitched pipe in C, B-flat, A or G. One drone is most common in old pictures but two-drone models are also available. These pipes are mouth-blown. The available literature makes no mention of bombardes being used with the veuze; however, it would be possible with an instrument pitched in B-flat or C.
Gaita. The Spanish pipes are available in three keys: B-flat, C and D. They are mouth-blown (though bellows are sometimes used) with a bass drone. Some models have a tenor drone; some have a ronquillo drone as a substitute for the tenor. The ronquillo uses a double reed (as in the chanter) and sounds a 12th above the tonic. The Spanish pipes, being smaller and supporting fewer drones than the Scots pipes are relatively easy to blow. They tend to be dependable and easy to maintain. Many gaita chanters can be fitted with slightly modified (thinner and shortened) highland pipe reeds.
Zampogna. These pipes are used in Italy and Sicily. The larger models use all double reeds. They have two chanters and two drones in a common stock. Often the small drone is a dummy. Some larger models have chanters in octaves and are used to back up the piffaro (shawm) or singing. Other models have chanters of the same size tuned in fourths. These are for solo use and capable or playing the entire melody between the two chanters. The larger models in common use are pitched in F, G or A although some huge zampognas are made in Italy. Smaller zampognas use single reeds throughout. In these, pitches may be as high as B-flat. The smaller zampognas use chanters tuned in fourths. Zampognas require constant adjustment but the beautiful harmonies they produce with their double chanters and drones sounding the fifth are worth any amount of fussing. Make your own reeds--these pipes are very forgiving and reqpon to various patterns of reeds.
The Piva is extinct in its northern Italian home and appropriate music may be hard to come by but reproductions are available. The piva consists of one chanter and one drone. Some makers use a double reed chanter and some use single reed. These pipes are very small and easy blowing.
Bulgarian Gaida. The single bass drone and chanter both employ single reeds. These are easy to blow but hard to play well. They are made in D and G, often sold with one chanter in each key and an extra drone so that one set can be used for music in both keys. The gaida uses a goatskin bag. Reeds are generally made by the player. This is a fantastic instrument in the right hands.
Macedonian Gaida. Similar in basic form to the bulgarian gaida, it has one bass drone and a chanter, is mouth-blown and pitched in B-flat or A.
The Hungarian Duda has a bass drone with a horn on the end. The chanter and tenor drone are bored into the same piece of wood with a fingerhole in the drone bore allowing two drone notes. The stock that holds the chanter/drone is invariably a large carving of a goat head. A very picturesque bagpipe in the key of A. It can be either mouth- or bellows-blown.
Polish Koza. The Polish pipes are more related in appearance to some old german pipes. It uses a large goatskin bag (hair out) and a single reed chanter, cylindrical bore and deep pitch, with a large horn and brass bell at the end. The bass drone typically has the same bell. It is usually bellows-blown and produces a mellow, low pitch. A carved goatshead stock similar to the duda is common. The single reeds are often made of a can blade lapped onto copper tubing.
Flemish. In paintings of Bruegal and Teniers we see the renaissance pipers playing an instrument with two drones in a common stock. The relative lengths of the drone suggests they were tuned in fifths (a very pleasing drone chord). No pipes of this type survived. Most modern reproductions are made in the keys of F or G. Some sets use commercially available reeds. Some sets are "make-your-own".
The Medieval bagpipes were either a chanter only (no drone) or iwth one bass drone. While it is probable that some of the pipes of this time had single reed chanters, the frequency of the conical shaped chanter and vent holes make the likelihood of double reeds stronger. In later times we see statuary with double chanters and a bass drone. Reproductions of medieval pipes are available with various types of reeds.
Space, availability and knowledge prevent me from going much further--into the many more bagpipes found on the continent and North Africa. If I've left out your favorite pipe bear in mind that I'm only a volunteer!
Swedish Bagpipes excerpts from John Creager A Short History of the Bagpipe
The Bagpipe is an instrument with a strong and ancient tradtion in Sweden is certainly not common knowledge. Scotland and Ireland are the countries most strongly associated with bagpipes. In fact, the bagpipe is much more widespread than this. In different variations, it is found in large areas of Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is, quite simply, one of the world's more common folk instruments.
The instrument's earliest history is in Asia, where it may have been played as a sort of primitive accompaniment, with a drone, but without a melody pipe. Through migration, trade and war, the instrument gradually made its way to Europe.
The first clear evidence of the bagpipe in Europe is a 9th century woodcut in the cloister of St. Blasien, in the Black Forest, in Germany. Two bagpipers are pictured with an instrument of an early type, which consists of a blowpipe, bag and chanter and lack a drone pipe of any sort.
During the middle ages, the bagpipe became increasingly common in Europe. From the mid-13th to the mid-14th centuries, there appeared a great variety of bagpipes. These were made and decorated with impressive workmanship. During this period the drone pipe was introduced.
The Bagpipe in Sweden
The first known depiction of bagpipes in Sweden dates from the first half of the 14th century, in the Martebo church, in the island of Gotland.
There is richer documentation of the bagpipe in Sweden from the 15th century, mostly in the form of church paintings. It is during this period thaqt the instrument first spread througout Sweden, presumably with wanderng minstrels from the continent.
The foremost chronicler of the late middle ages, Olaus Magnus, describes the bagpipe in his work on the Nordic peoples as a dance insturment and a herdsman's instrument. These associations were true of the bagpipe in most of the cultures where it occurred.
Judging from the documentation which exists,the bagpipe flowered in Sweden during the late middle ages and through the mid-17th century. After that, as with many of the older folk instruments, it began to lose favor in most areas of the country. With the introduction of the fiddle and the influence of a newer musical style with a milder sound, there was no longer a place for a "rowdy" instrument like bagpipes.
From the 1800's on, there was a renewed interest in the bagpipes, in various parishes around Vasterdalalven. Most of the preserved pipes of this era have only one functional drone. Some, however, have a second, shorter, "dummy" drone.
The Swedish bagpipe also had several names, from the different areas in which it flourished: dramba, koppe, posu and balgpipa.
The instrument survived longest in Jarna and seems to have been strongest there even in earlier times. The Jarna lads were, among other things, known for having bagpipers with them in their log-floating work on the Vasterdal river. Two women are also named as pipers in Jarna, Or Anna and her daughter, Hol Britta.
The renewed interest in folk music, in the 1940's, also brought an interest in the older Swedish fok instruments. Since the end of the 1970's Leif Eriksson and Per Gudmundson have been working together and making bagpipes whch are played by musicians throughout Sweden.
Middle Eastern Shawms Zurnas & Mizmars by David Brown
From Morocco to Central Asia, from the Sudan to the Balkans, festivals, dances, weddings and processions are accompanied by the exotic wail of the ancient folk oboe. These similar instruments are called different names in each region, but all share basic, essential features: stepped conical bore; a flattened straw or grass for the reed which is placed completely in the mouth, no limping; 7 fingerholes plus one thumbhole rendering a Majorca scale with an upper note, with the rd and degree lower than a tempered major scale; all other chromatics available by breath pressure variation, partially opening or closing toneholes, forked fingerings, or a combination of the above; some overflowing about a 5th range above the fundamental; no dynamics, only "on" or "off"; use of a lip ring to aid cheek muscles when blowing; extra tuning hole below the lowest fingerhole.
Some of the names used by country or region are: Raita, Ghaita, Morocco and Algeria; Zukra in Tunisia; Mizmar in Egypt and the Levant; Zurna in Turkey and Central Asia; Zurla in the Balkans; Sorna in Iran.
Several sizes are in use. The most common is pitched with G as the lowest tone; Some from Morocco are at F; and the larger size, kaba zurna/zurla in Turkey/Balkans or Telt in Egypt( the smaller in Egypt being called mizmar saidi) with the lowest pitch a 4th or so lower; there is also a very small Egyptian oboe called the sibsi, about an octave above the telt.
Each region has somewhat different playing styles and uses the oboes in different contexts. In Morocco, they are used variously for wedding processionals (indoors the same musicians play on cane recorders for a softer sound), folkdance, and snake handling. Often in places like Jajouka, 20 or 30 raita players from a group. The most common drum accompaniment is the bendir, a frame drum with a snare. In Egypt, mizmars are used for weddings and for belly dance, in particular the Ghawazze tribe. The usual drum played with the oboes are the table baladi, a small drum played with a large and a thin stick and the darbukka (dumbek), and a group may have several different size mizmar and may also include a bowed instrument called the rebaba. In Turkey, single zurnas with a davul, a larger version of the tabla baladi, play for line dancing in many regions. The Turks also have a long-standing military band called the mehter, which featured many zurnas, often on horseback, with kettledrums, cymbals, - the basis for the later development of the European military bands. In some situation in Turkey, and in Armenia and other Central Asian regions there is use of a drone player too; although used in all regions, here it seems indispensable whereas it is one more texture in North Africa, etc.
A related instrument is the Chinese Suona, which is a sinified version of the sorna. The name is even a Chinese way of saying sorna. It has the same fingerhole layout, but has a true conical bore, not stepped, and has no tuning holes but rather a large metal bell. They are often somewhat slightly louder even than the Mideast variety, and the scale is a bit closer to a regular major scale. In China the suona is used at wedding and funeral processions, some Buddhist music, and for regional Opera performances, providing a shrill melody that carried a great distance. A Tibetan version, the kangling, is a major melodic component of the Tibetan Buddhist ensemble, with cymbals, long and short trumpets.
One more place the Chinese oboe is used- Cuba! Last century when the Chinese were brought to work the cane fields, they also brought their suonas; the Cubans adopted them into the comparsa, the Carnival street band, and are still an essential feature, as many groups feature a Trompete de China, as itÕs called.
In India, the oboe family is varied, but most common is the Shenai, a full conical bore oboe, no thumbholes and varying numbers of fingerholes, often with wax closing one or two. The main player is often accompanied by a drone player whose oboe may even have no holes! Long used in folk music, festivals, etc. the shenai was elevated to the level of a classical instrument capable of performing ragas by Bismillah Khan. He favored a larger shenai, typical of Benares, with a low note around C#-D-Eb. In Pakistan, Ali Nawaz Khan performed on a smaller horn pitched around Ab. A notable difference in Middle Eastern technique and Indian is that Indian shenai players often use the lips on the reed to shade dynamics and pitch, and the use of melodic lines that cross the register break, as the shenai can overblow more easily; however, the range of pitch produced by any single tonehole is so wide a firm vocal command of intonation is needed to play shenai, even more than the other types.
On Restoration - Or, My Flute has a Huge Crack In It by Casey Burns
I have been restoring many old flutes for Lark in the Morning lately, so I thought I would share a few observations, do's and don'ts. If you have an old instrument that needs repair or restoration, I recommend finding a competent repair person to handle the task rather than doing it yourself. Finding a competent repair person isn't easy, however. The lot of most wind instrument repair persons is repairing band instruments of the grade or high school variety; they may not be aware of your instrument's historical setting, higher quality (say you have a Rudall and Rose), or they may not be familiar with working on dried, old, brittle wood. You might contact the local symphony organization or a local early music group to find where their members send instruments for repair. There might even be a baroque flutemaker living somewhere nearby who could recommend someone for the task. You can always contact Lark; we may be able to repair it for you, or know of someone in your area. If you do decide to work on your instrument yourself, I recommend the following approach.
First: Find out all you can about the instrument's history and where it was made, etc. This is so you can assess the instrument's possible importance and value. For example, you have a flute made by Rudall and Rose that is in fair condition, but the keys are all there, it has a few cracks and the cork is missing. In your research, you could learn that Rudall and Rose was a highly respected 19th century firm that made flutes of the highest quality. You may decide that your lack of experience in repairing flutes merits taking this instrument to someone who has worked on a Rudall and Rose. However, say you have a German flute stamped Sears and Roebuck (believe me, they do exist). If the repairs don't seem that extensive, you might gain some satisfaction by repairing it yourself. The crucial point is to be aware that if you have a very rare and possibly very valuable instrument, please don't run the risk of ruining it by attempting to repair it yourself unless you have the appropriate expertise.
Second: There are three basic principles I use when restoring instruments. These are always foremost in my mind when I look at work that needs to be done.
1) Any repair work done should be reversible if at all possible. Some future restorer may come up with a brilliant way to repair something. Make it easier for him/her by making your techniques possible to undo. Realizing that those who may come after us may know more than we do is a healthy attitude.
2) No alterations to make the instrument "better than the original" should be attempted. A major problem in restoring old flutes has been their poor intonation. Some of this is because someone else tried to adapt the instrument to changing pitch standards, or tried to get a bigger sound out of it, without any awareness of the physics of the instrument. The result was commonly poor intonation, lack of balance, and worst of all, poor response.
3) All repairs to be done, especially if radical, should be undertaken only after sufficient practice on test pieces, or, as is the case at my shop, a junker instrument. For instance, I had one flute in the shop that played excellently, with the exception that the bottom notes below E were very sharp (70 cents or more). Before I extend the instrument by grafting additional wood onto the lowest tenon area, I did a dry run on my junker flute to determine if it would work structurally. The repair was very successful, and I avoided a few mistakes by working on the test piece. Had I made those mistakes on the flute, I would have ruined it.
Third: Have all the necessary tools and equipment on hand. This, fortunately prevents most of us from being too eager to work on our treasures. Most people don't have a fully equipped woodwind turning shop in our garages. Some of the repairs I will describe don't require this; some, like the tenon graft mentioned above, do.
I would like to say a word about Superglue. Although it, and the acetone used to unglue it, is very poisonous to work around, it is commonly the restorer's best friend. I use two kinds, one with very high penetration and low viscosity, and one with gap filling properties and higher viscosity. Both are available at hobby shops, where I recommend purchasing them. The ordinary hardware store varieties just don't seem to work as well and are much more expensive. DON'T BREATH THE STUFF and avoid getting it on your body, anywhere.
The most common problem with old flutes is checking or cracking. Most of these will be minor and local. Some will extend the length of the joint, usually the headjoint. One will often find old cracks that have been pinned along the length. I avoid pinning, although I have a word to say on that matter, shortly. Most cracks can be dealt with and rendered stable by simply filling with a small bead of superglue along the length. It is a good idea to mask the surrounding wood with masking tape beforehand, or you may have an additional problem. Go slow and glue a small section at a time, rather than the entire length. You will breathe less glue this way. It will also leave an unsightly dried bead of Superglue that can be worked off with a xacto knife (be very careful not to cut into the wood), scrapers or tiny files, and lastly, fine sandpaper. I recommend leaving the glueline, as filing and sanding will require that the area be refinished, which I will discuss later. Problems also occur when the cracks are in the sockets or tenons, across holes, keyblocks, or the blowhole. Then it is best to seek some advice or help. Some cracks, such as at tenons, may be made strong and stable if the surfaces to be glued are painted with a dilute solution of baking soda water, which makes the Superglue stronger. Tenons with many cracks require radical treatment: if they are not too thin they can sometimes be turned thinner and an overlay of matching wood may be applied. Sockets crack because the tenons fit too tightly (the cork lapping sometimes swells if it isn't greased well), and sometimes require pinning. If pinning is to be done, I select the spot(s) where pinning will be most effective. For pins I use hardened brass wire (from hobby shops) glued in with penetrating Superglue. I try to make the pin shorter than the hole and I tuck it in so that the ends don't show. The holes can then be filled with Superglue and wood dust made from lightly sanding the area glued, or better yet, from a scrap of the same wood. I do not recommend pinning if you have had no experience at it.
If keyblocks are split off and missing, new ones may be fashioned from matching wood and glued on. Drilling pin holes is very delicate work, however, so I won't discuss it much here. If the original blocks are present, glue them back on after painting both glue surfaces with the baking soda solution and allowing it to dry. Sometimes they will still come loose; in this case, the pieces need to be reinforced with pins glued to the body and the block. If metal posts are loose they can be glued back in place (after careful realigning) and will hold well if their bases are packed with dry baking soda.
Perhaps the biggest source of frustration with old flutes is leaks. If there is a leak anywhere, the lowest notes will be weak or will not respond at all. Mickie suggests finding headjoint leaks by immersing the headjoint in water and blowing through it (seal the blowhole with your finger) and this works pretty well, especially if you don't immerse it too long. Leaks come from many sources, usually cracks, ill fitting pads, springs that don't work (usually solved by rubber bands) and a variety of other subtle causes, such as loose tenons, old tenon grafts where the glue dissolved away, etc. Sometimes, oiling the bore is all that is necessary. Old pads may sometimes be rejuvenated by applying olive oil. Sometimes, the pad seats are dirty and require cleaning with a fine brush. Most of these repairs will be obvious and/or annoying. There should be no leak at the headjoint cork. Sometimes cork greasing is all that is necessary. The obvious course to correcting a leak is to eliminate it. Sometimes repadding is necessary. If this is all that is to be done, a regular repair person may be able to do it effectively and without risk. Sometimes the pads and seats are fine, but the keys work sloppily. Shimming the sides of the keyblocks with very thin brass is an old and effective remedy, as well as the less effective but more common rubber band.
Cosmetic defects are sometimes best left alone. Some scratches and nicks may be sanded away or filled with Superglue. If there are areas that are sanded, such as crack repairs, they will appear dull or matte compared with the rest of the instrument, which was varnished. French polishing with seedlac solution and lots of oil (almond or mineral) works well; a violin maker or repairer may be able to offer some help with this. The goal is to attempt to match the original varnish.
If your flute has intonation problems, DON'T attempt to modify it. That is my best advice. If there is an isolated sharp note, you can, of course, flatten it by adding a little wax to the hole. Usually, intonation problems result from improper cork positioning, leaks, which must be dealt with first, or previous tampering. Some notes were commonly tuned flat as compromises, such as the low D on many London made flutes. I have raised the pitch of these by adjusting the height of the c# and c keys. On many flutes used in Irish music, these keys will be missing. A radical method which I have successfully used has been to alter the sounding length by shortening the next to last joint, but this I do only if there is no alternative and the instrument does not belong in a museum.
The Care And Feeding Of The Irish Flute by Mickie Zekley
"When I was a young man, before I would play the flute, I would put it in the rain barrel over night. But don't you know that one day it just fell to pieces."
Quote from an old time player from Clare.
Many an Irish musician has destroyed his fine old instrument by pouring Guinness or "Paddy's" through it to make it play better, and in the process, turned a fine 150 year old treasure from a master craftsman into tinder for the fire. With proper care, these fine old wooden flutes can be a joy for many lifetimes.
Each time before playing, each joint of the flute should be greased with cork grease. Once each month, the flute should be oiled with woodwind bore oil inside and out but not on the pads or inside metal liners. The bore of the flute and tone holes should be cleaned regularly. The cork in the head joint should not leak. If it does, it should be properly replaced. A leaky cork can make a great instrument play weakly and out of tine. The end of the cork should be five eighths of an inch from the center of the blow hole on most flutes. It should be taken out regularly and greased to keep it from shrinking and leaking. The cork can seek in and out to improve intonation.
The best swab is a long stick with a hole in the end to thread a silk scarf through. This should be used to dry the inside of the flute after each use.
Any loose joint, leak due to a crack, loose liner, or poorly seated key will turn your joy to frustration. Proper repairs are hard to find due to the lack of experience of most repairers with old instruments.
Remember to always protect your instrument from extremes of temperature and repairs by an inexperienced person. Feed it well and it will give you a feast of music and joy.
The term Irish flute is not a proper term. The type of flutes we have been talking about are English, Irish, or American made flutes made circa 1820-1860 with 4-8 keys and six open holes and for the most part, the keys are block mounted. Happy fluting.
Everything That You Wanted To Know About The Alphorn by Christian Schneider
History of the Alphorn
The blowing of tube instruments has been practised for a very long time. Already the people of the Stone Age blew into hollow bones (warning whistles).
We know cave-drawings of the Australian Didgeridoo still being blown the present days; they have an estimated age of 100'000 years. The Jew have known the "Schofar" already for 2000 years - the "Trumpets of Jericho"!
The Gauls must have known a similar horn too! Once they had impressed Julius Caesar with this horn: within a short time they were able to make known dates of war and short messages by a signal over a considerable territory! And in the second century a.D. at the Swiss Vaud a scene of a shepherd with an instrument like an Alphorn, named LITUUS has been discovered on a roman mosaic.
Long ago the special instrument with its peculiarity has already been estimated. In the year 1563, Prince Leonor of Orleans has taken an Alphornblower from Schwyz in his service. Because blowing on the nature trumpet was very difficult and much knowledge was required, the blowers in the 16th and 17th century have been highly respected people and have been closed together in a own guild.
We know from the history of Switzerland how in critical times the "bull from Uri" (a long curved grown horn of a bull) brawled to the battle and how in the Peasant's War (1653) the peasants from the mountains in the "Entlebuch" assembled under the sound of an Alphorn and prepared for war.
From the Middle Ages we know long straight wind-instruments which have got larger a wounded form (nature trumpets). Until the 15th century only nature instruments have been made. Our Alphorn therefore is a nature wind-instrument hold in good repair from ancient times that has not taken part in the development to a well tempered instrument.
Asking for age and origin research workers are in doubt about, if the "Cornua alpina" of the southern Teutons of the mountains of which the Roman Tacitus is reporting, already has been the Alphorn of the present time. Furthermore we have to consider that the wooden or cortical shepherd's horn is not at all found only in the occidental Alps. Similar types of this instrument can be found in many foreign countries.
THE HISTORY OF THE ALPHORN IN SWITZERLAND
In the 9th century the monk Balbulus from St. Gallen has made notes to sequences that are very similar to dances of Alpine cowherds.
1527 for the first time it has been written about Alphorns occurring in Switzerland. In an arithmetic book of the monastery of St. Urban the following notice had been made: "Two coins for a Valaisan with Alphorn". In these decades the Alphornblowing was misused for begging.
1619 a learned man of music described how begging blowers were lolling about in the cities and begging for food. These begging blowers were in most cases Alpine cowherds, who did not earn enough money for their livelihood in winter.
1653 the Alphorn blew the persons together for war, when the reserves were called out for the Peasants' War.
In the 18th century learned travellers began to write down melodies for the Alphorn. A famous person who did so was Johannes Brahms: On 12 September 1868 he had heard near the Stockhorn a melody being blown with an Alphorn; he made a note of that on a postcard which he sent to Clara Schumann. At a later point of time he integrated this melody into the Symphony No. 1 in c-moll.
Leopold Mozart has written the well-known Symphony Pastorella.
Also poems have been written. But for centuries the government had tried to suppress a self-reliant national culture. Prohibitions of songs, dances and festivals have not proved ineffectual. The Alphorn was blown only rarely. But now the national culture began to reconstruct: festivals were celebrated, songs were sung, people enjoyed and danced. By that the Alphorn fell a bit into oblivion.
On 17 August 1805 at the meadow named "Unspunnen" near Interlaken a festival of shepherds took place with the motto "For the honour of the Alphorn" which had been coined onto medals in memory of the festival. For this festival a competition for blowers had been organised, but only two Alphornblowers took part there.
Things could not go on like that! Therefore the village mayor of Bern in those days gave to a music teacher from the Institutes of Fellenberg the following order: "Mr. Huber (that was his name), you are blowing the Alphorn, as I have heard. Now I would like to prevent that this wonderful national instrument will disappear from our mountains and valleys. I shall have made half a dozen new ones of them, if you would engage in going in the upland, looking there for six young people and teaching them in blowing the Alphorn, and I think, Grindelwald would be the best place for doing that."
No sooner said than done! In the years 1826/27 Mr. Huber realised during the summer his courses in Alphornblowing. This impulse gave a fresh impetus to the Alphornblowing; the original shepherds' instrument was growing to a Swiss national symbol that could not anymore be imagined as absent.
1805 the great shepherds' festival Unspunnen took place, that has been perpetuated by the coloured etching of J.G. Volkmer.
1826 the first course in Alphornblowing managed by F.F. Huber took place in Grindelwald. At the instance of the cantonal president of Mülinen six Alphorns were handed over to young people who were obliged to practise active blowing outside.
1827 the second course in Alphornblowing managed by F.F. Huber took place in Grindelwald. Again free instruments were handed over. The Alphorn was blown in 2 or 3 parts on divers hills.
1869 Festival of Swiss cowherds at Siebnen. Noted down are 15 - 20 blowers. Report by Hch. Sczadrowsky.
1876 Fair of alpine cowherds in Wäggithal. Six persons participated in the competition of blowers.
1881 First competition of blowers in Muotathal. Report by Ernst Heim.
1885 Second competition of blowers in Muotathal. Report by Ernst Heim. Final picture: Seven Alphorns blowing together.
1910 Foundation of the Swiss Federal society of yodelers.
1921 First Alphorn-day at Trueb, managed by J. R. Krenger of Interlaken. 12 participants. Owing to a donation of several thousand francs ten instruments could be handed over to young blowers.
1924 Alphorn-day at Interlaken. Handing over of 13 Alphorns to young blowers.
1938 The musician A.L. Gassmann enlivens the scene of the Alphorn lastingly with his working and his booklet "And blow the Alphorn once again for me".
Various Alphorn Types
Fundamentically the pitch of an Alphorn is defined by its length.
Fis-Alphorn: 3.40 m (is standard pitch in switzerland)
F- Alphorn: 3.60 m
E- Alphorn: 3.90 m
As-Alphorn: 3.00 m
B- Büchel: 2.70 m
C- Büchel: 2.20 m
The alphorn in Fis-Ges pitch is the established one in switzerland. The reason why, may be because of the fine sound of the Fis-horn. It's clear and resonant, but also typically soft. Sure, it's length plays a role as well. 3.40 meters is yust handy enough. In its three part construction it matches well into a car's boot. Fis-Alphorns are well suited for concerts in churches, together with the organ. There exists also a handfull of music notes for alphorn with organ. Music notes for brassbands and Fis-alphorn you will find as well. The Fis-alphorn sometimes is used in a very attracive way in classic orchestras.
Philosophy about the Alphorn
It's just because of its overwhelming simplicity that the Alphorn is a very pretentious instrument.
The Alphorn can be compared with the originality of a simple pencil. We all remember how hard it was to learn writing with the pencil. Over a long time in our precious early days we had learned the handling with the pencil. It has been a long way from the first character "A" to a good written letter of application. But a simple pencil and a piece of paper are enough for a good writer to mediate his feelings, tell about his experience or show his knowledge. And just all these you may also express by blowing your Alphorn.
Even with a simple wooden instrument as the pencil is we are able to express feelings, enjoyment, temperament as well as silence and piece and bring over to other people.
If we compare the Alphorn with other music instruments it seems totally to be out-of-date. Even a piano is a much more extraordinary instrument, a product of scientific research and also of long investigation of people of more than one generation. It needs years of education to become a perfect player of this instrument.
The Alphorn is a simple instrument. You even do not need "finger-acrobatics" for blow-holes. Nevertheless it is one of the instruments that make the most claims on its user. The conical pipe is only an amplifier; it needs the blower, the surroundings, the power, the balance to produce the typical sustaining sound of the Alphorn. The Alphorn-blower does his exercise not only for having done it but also for meditation, he likes to be in harmony and balance. He learns from being in harmony with the nature at a woodland or maybe in the mountains.
But he also has to be willing to learn further through his whole life from this instrument. The nature tones on the wooden conical pipe are very difficult to get by blowing so that it needs much training, if possible every day, to be able to be master of it. Equivalent to these efforts the Alphorn presents such an absolutely solitary brilliancy of sound and fantastic possibilities of dynamic creativeness. Beyond that it is also necessary to have knowledge of all other elements of creativeness in music as there are articulation, phrasing, tempo and its variations. Alphorn-blowers are masters in producing sound. Blowing the Alphorn is meditation, a style of life.
Blowing the Alphorn may also be a kind of therapy or simply a compensation to hard business. Who knows well blowing this instrument cannot have lost balance.
Maybe it sounds a bit surprising but although we live in a sometimes very hectic time the Alphorn may bring to a growing number of people about a real help for having a higher quality of life.
How Tones are Produced in the Alphorn
What's going on when blowing the Alphorn? The out-breathed air is blowed by pressure of diaphragm through the instrument. By vibration of the lips the passing breath is brought to oscillation. The air inside the Alphorn is being agitated by that. According to a physical law the air in the Alphorn is vibrating in waves, which have a definite length.This wave-length is always a undivided numbered part of the length of the Alphorn. Slowly vibrating the lips is producing long waves and a bass tone is resulting. When quickly vibrating, high tones are arising. Blowing into the Alphorn without vibration of the lips a sound is being formed with an undefinable pitch. The conical horn is serving in any case as acoustic amplifier.
To produce a tone not only the instrument but also the person is required.
The person is blowing and producing pressure and vibration - the generator.
The instrument is facilitating a long and vibrating air column - the resonator.
Fundamental Rules for the active Alphornplayer
1.Position behind the Alphorn for playing: standing upright, stretching, breathing through, find a self-confident and free personal attitude.
2.No pressure of the upper lips to the mouthpiece. The muscles of the lips should be able to regulate the straining of the upper lips without being squeezed by the mouthpiece.
3.You should avoid blowing up the cheeks. Air bolsters permanently are stretching skin and muscles.
4.No "nodding". For a flexible and slight play all tones of the nature tone scale should be blown with the same position of the head (flexibility). Variations should be made only with the lower jaw, the tongue, the muscles around the mouth and with the pressure of the midriff.
5.It is necessary to use the midriff for playing. At first the lung can better be filled with the help of this organ and second the high register can be played much better by using the midriff as pressure bellows for the lung. Therewith the dynamics of the tone may be regulated much finer and the breath in the lung can be used better.
6.Using of the musical ear and the soul at playing Alphorn. It is pity being master of this instrument only in technical respect. If we use our musical ear and our soul we are able to express our feelings therewith.
7.Regular working! The Alphornplaying depends much on the training of the muscles of the lips and the midriff. That is as it were first-class sport! Who is not regularly exercising (three to seven times a week), will not be able to get control over the regulating of these muscles.
8.Exercising outdoors as much as possible! First of all the concentration and also the positive engagement to the playing goes automatically easier outdoors. One should make good use of that! Also it is much more enjoying and learning goes much easier. Playing at a forest fringe during a sunset may not at all be bad and gives great pleasure and gratitude.
9.The apprenticeship for Alphornplayers runs to approximately two years. One should be able to concentrate oneself fully on that for this time.
10.You hardly can find something more beautiful than playing Alphorn!
Interpretation - Forming Elements
Tone Culture Sound Colour Designates the sort of sound Response Designates the fullness of the sound
Technique of Blowing Hit Certainty Designates the exact tone attack Agility The certainity in all tone pitches Intonation The exact tone pitch Ensemble Playing Precise timing in ensemble playing
Composer's Forming Elements Rhythm Different length of the tones Time Measurement Correct emphasis of the time measurement (meter count)
Interpreter's Forming Elements Dynamics The forming of the loudness (loud, faint) Partitioning of phrases How to arrange the musical phrases Pronounciation Way of sound attack Tempo Has to be adapted to the character of the melodie part Agogik Small fluctuation in tempo ( artisic feeling )
General Elements Choice of Piece of Music Degree of difficulty in blowing technique
Time Duration of a complete interpretation
Musikalität Inspiration of the musical sensation (listener)?
Aussage Deepness of the impression of a performance
Daily Training of an Alphornblower
1. Warm-up Begin of every training with at least 15 minutes of blowing in not over g', at first calmly, taking attention to good breathing, raising of the flexibility.
2. Tone exercises with much legato-playing (slur tones up and down) until e''.
3. Working in an Alphorn school-book or analytical working with a piece of music.
4. Training in the high register or playing exercises (only every second day).
5. Blowing out with long and low tones.
6. Massage of the lips by hand or under warm water and perhaps greasing.
How can I get a good embouchure
The best thing is a regular working. Essential thereby is a significant structure of the training. A book could be written only about these facts! I would say: the more chaotic and moody the more bad, the more calm and structured the better the training. Further one respect has to be considered: A good working may be at least as much enjoying as an important event. Maybe that the daily training will become a real requirement. It is important that we enjoy; it should not only be for attaining one's object but also become the very essential point.
Therefore: We should arrange our training as well as possible and not hurry until we find time to spend for it; it should be planned regularly and provided with high priority. We should be looking for a good and assured locality. It is a great advantage if there is at least one room (cellar) where nobody may be disturbed. We should really have the opportunity to make experiments with our instrument. The sound is perhaps not always well there, but it may be encouraging to have an undisturbed acoustic liberty.
Exercising outdoors is much enjoying. The wideness of the acoustic often leads to a different playing. Physical and psychical we feel much better in the open air and this effect obtains to a playing that is immediately more satisfying. It may not be an advantage to have a great audience at really practising exercises, because the tone exercises become often then performance exercises.
Basic Info for Mey or Duduk By David Brown
The Mey and Duduk are two closely related instruments of the double reed family. Perhaps best known in America are the duduk performances on the soundtrack to "The Last Temptation of Christ", where the mournful and plaintive tone of the duduk is used to great effect.
The Mey is the Turkish name, Duduk the Armenian term, for an ancient woodwind instrument that also includes the Balaban of Central Asia and the Chinese Guan among its varieties. The essential feature is a short cylindrical tube with 7 or more fingerholes and one thumbhole coupled to a very large flattened grass reed, with some sort of adjustable "bridle" affixed to the reed. Even though it is sounded with what looks like an inordinately large zurna (sorna, mizmar, raita, suona, shenai, shawm, etc.) reed, inviting classification in the oboe family, the double reed in question behaves more like a clarinet, in that unlike the zurna and other early and folk oboes, the mey/duduk is capable of dynamic shadings from a whispered pianissimo to a full forte- although it is not capable of the blasting fortissimo of the folk oboes, allowing the mey/duduk to be used indoors in intimate situations. It also is a significant voice in the Armenian orchestra, carrying significant melodic material. Several sizes are found, tube lengths ranging from 6 or 7 inches to over 16 inches.
Again acting like the clarinet, the cylindrical tube and reed function as a tube closed at one end, and thus play an octave lower than one would expect for a short tube. Bora Ozkok referred to the Turkish mey as the "grandfather of the bassoon", although the clarinet is a better analog. Indeed Turkish clarinet style is heavily based on the older styles of mey playing.
The basic 7 hole + thumbhole fingering is also the same as that of the zurna family; that is, it produces roughly a major scale plus one note above, the range of a ninth. "Roughly" a major scale because it produces a natural scale, not a tempered one, although the lip can bend a note enough to play any interval, plus half-holing is also used to fill in the many shadings of pitch used in Oriental musical systems. On the rarer models with more than 7 fingerholes, the additional holes are located at the lower end of the tube.
It is difficult to give a definitve pitch of the various sizes of mey or duduk as the same instrument may play as much as a whole step apart with different reeds. One can only be precise about the pitch of a specific reed and tube combination.
The following are some hints for setting up your mey or duduk:
First, the reed, although large, only goes in the mouth a short distance, something like a half inch more or less. The lips may be loosley drawn over the teeth, or even slightly forward as if saying the German (or Turkish) vowel "Ä". Do not use your teeth on the reed.
The reed must be wet; if the tip is closed it must be soaked until open. However, if the tip is too open, it will be almost impossible to play, so adjust the bridle to close the tip more. If this doesnÍt work, wet the reed and carefully press the tip of the reed closed; a gentle clamp of some sort, even a lightly sprung open paper clip will help.
The reed must fit the socket in the upper end of the mey/duduk. If it is too large as is often the case, gentle sanding or scraping on the base of the reed will adjust the size to match the socket. Wrapping the base of the reed with a bit of waxed dental floss or waxed hemp thread makes the fit exact and airtight, and minimizes the danger of the reed being accidentaly knocked loose while playing. Waxed floss or hemp is used in a larger amount to fit the smaller reed to a larger socket, if that be the case.
The reed must be free of cracks; the only exception is if the crack is directly along the crease dividing the two sided of the reed. I have played reeds with a split there and they continued to play well. It is notable that modern oboe, bassoon, shawm, bombarde and bagpipe chanter reed are made from two pieces of cane folded over. Thus the side-split mey or duduk reed would work, acting as if it was made in two parts like the modern cane reeds.
An emergency repair can sometimes ( and I mean SOME time only- not always!) be effected on a split reed by using Super glue; this is only a temporary solution and the reed should be replaced as soon as possible. Obviously one should be very sure the glue is dry before attempting to play the reed.
In many cases the reed must be tuned to the tube and its coupled air column. To test the internal tuning, play the lowest tone (all holes and thumbhole closed), then see how close the match is to the octave note (LH 1st finger only closed, thumbhole open. Then test the next octave pair, the tone produced with all holes closed but for the lowest, and its match, all holes open. If the higher octave notes are flat, then the reed must be shortened. Using a very sharp knife or scissors, trim a tiny sliver off the blowing end of the reed; test again. Continue little by litte until the octaves are accurate. I caution you to only remove a tiny amount of the reed tip at one time. You can always remove more if necessary, but it cannot be put back on.
In the traditional styles the mey/duduk is never overblown, but if it were, like the clarinet it would produce a note a 12th above the fundamental; without clarinet-like keywork there would be a gap in the scale. Playing is therefore confined to the fundamental range, and no overblowing used. Like the bagpiper, much use is made of a limited melodic range.
With care, the reeds can last for some time, but like all organic materials is unpredictable, so for the performing musician an extra reed, already fitted and tuned, is a must.
To care for the tube of the mey or duduk, regular oiling of the bore and the exterior is recommended. I prefer to use sweet almond oil, as it is human-friendly and unlike other vegetable oils resists rancidity.
FLUTES AND PENNYWHISTLES by Ian Law
•Where to get them and what to get •How to care for a Pennywhistle •Sanitation
•Wooden Irish Concert Flutes -
•Where to get them and what to get What not to get •Routine Maintenance •Problems and fixes
•Leaky keys •Hairline cracks •Enormous open cracks •Dried out, flakey cork, threads falling off the ends, •wobbly sections, pieces falling off, and unexplained leakiness •Intonation problems (parts 1,2,3, & 4)
•For players of Pennywhistles and Flutes -
•How to learn to play on your own •How to play with others
•Book List (collections of Irish music) - •Artists and Recordings of Irish Music with Flute or Pennywhistle
PENNYWHISTLES WHERE TO GET THEM and WHAT TO GET
Many music stores have a little display offering the standard, cylindrical Generation brand whistles in many keys (in G, Bb, C, D, Eb, and F). Sometimes you will see the conical Clarke whistle (in C or D) and frequently the Oak brand or the Feadog (green mouth pieces ). Conical Shaw whistles are available in most keys and also in the low D. LARK IN THE MORNING also carries a large, low D pennywhistles made by Brian Howard. Ralph Sweet makes a nice wooden "Flageolette" in D and C and O'Riordan makes a set of whistles containing one mouthpiece and two cylindrical bodies -- one in C and the other in D. The Oak and Feadog brands, like the Generation whistles, are cylindrical metal tubes of brass or nickel-coated brass with plastic mouthpieces. People value cylindrical whistles because they play easily, (most) are inexpensive, and most are within the realm of being in reasonable tune.
Many players consider the conical whistles (like the Clarke whistle, Shaw or the flageolette) superior in tone to the cylindrical kinds. One of the nicest I've seen is made by flutemaker Michael Copeland, it's tuneable and has great tone. It comes in brass and silver.
Irish music is generally in the keys of D, G, Am and Em and for that the D whistle works best. Some contemporary players play sharp (you would need an Eb whistle) and some pipers, looking for that mellow old sound, play flat (C or Bb). If you wish to play solo, the Eb or F tends to sound real good. The large octave D whistles have a mellow tone and are in the same register as the flute.
HOW TO CARE FOR A PENNYWHISTLE
Whistles are low maintenance instruments. The nickel and brass models don't even rust (the Clarke whistles do and they also seem to attract spiders) and the plastic mouthpieces can withstand a lot of chewing. You might like to run warm water through the plastic mouthpiece and use a Q-tip to clean out any accumulated gunk. But it's all optional and most experts find they lose their instrument long before it occurs to them to clean it. Or they put it in their back pocket and sit on it. Once in a while you will find a particularly wonderful specimen that merits special attention but by then you will have your own opinions. It is necessary, however, to blow out any accumulated lint and moisture from time to time. Just cover the holes as normal, put your pinky over the end and blow on the fipple hole.
You can frequently tune a Generation, Oak or Feadog pipe by loosening the mouthpiece, removing it, cleaning it, and then replacing it with a dab of cork grease on the tube. Then you just wiggle it in (to sharpen) or out (to flatten). I usually can't get the red plastic Generations to loosen but the blue ones come free when soaked in a little near-boiling water.
A clever trick is to play two whistles at once after taping up the top three holes of one whistle with masking tape. Another is to half-cover the second hole to play in D minor. Or taking the whistle with the three holes covered and playing Morris tunes with one hand (actually Generation makes a three-holed pipe on which the third hole is on the thumb side).
My friend Jose rushes to the sink to clean his whistle with warm soap and water whenever anyone borrows his instrument. It is worth remembering that colds, flu, and any number of rampaging bacteria and viruses travel on pennywhistles.
WOODEN IRISH CONCERT FLUTES: WHERE TO GET THEM and WHAT TO GET
You could acquire a vintage instrument or a newly-made one. For vintage instruments, you should talk to Mickie Zekley at Lark in the Morning. He plays himself, and is very knowledgeable about all aspects of wooden flutes. He is very generous and helpful. Mickie has told me that prices in Europe for these antiques have gone sky-high but some of them are truly remarkable. He can show you the the differences between the two Irish favorites, the Rudall & Rose and the Pratten. In the past I have owned vintage instruments but am reluctant to recommend them because they are expensive to be careless with.
Contemporary Irish flutes are being made by many makers. Ralph Sweet makes distinctive, inexpensive, keyless flutes with decent tone and good playability. A little more expensive are the Casey Burns flutes which are modeled after some of the finest older flutes that are still around. Casey's flutes range in price depending on the materials used but some are very inexpensive and I recommend them. I have also some Irish-made flutes that are very nice but it took many tries to get them "in one piece" through the mail, and if they did arrive, the San Diego weather frequently caused them to split. I now have one that is in very good shape.
I personally think that a flute should have a tuning slide and neither Ralph nor Casey offer that on the low-end flutes. They are, however, good sounding instruments and ideal to start on.
Lark in the Morning is always doing research on the newer flutes and can also make recommendations. Mickie, as a dealer, has seen and played more flutes than anyone could possibly imagine.
My best advice is to get a humbler flute to start with and acquaint yourself with as many players and instruments as you can. Borrow them, play them, experiment. It usually takes several weeks to get accustomed to a different flute and initial ease of playing is by no means a sign of good quality.
WHAT NOT TO GET
Most of the Irish players avoid the "German" style flutes which seem to lack the woody, harsh, strong sound of the "English" models. Only a very few Irish players use the metal Boehm (modern) style flute.
Caring for the flute properly will not only protect your investment (keep it from breaking) but it will actually make the flute sound better. Wood, as a natural organic material, needs help withstanding the repeated wetting and drying that occurs with playing. Commercial bore oils are OK, some are petroleum based and some are almond-oil based. In either case, a rather small bottle is unduly expensive. For less than the cost of a small bottle of bore oil, you can find a quart of real almond oil at a fancy nut or candy store and it works very well. Before playing, run a little oil (with a dropper or a toothpick) around each hole of the flute. The oil will mix with the condensing moisture from your breath and coat the bore. If you do this once a day, the oil will keep the wood healthy and conditioned. If you play less than that, or own several flutes, you may wish to pour several drops in the flute and turn it to coat the inside. As a wonderful side benefit, the oiled holes will make better seals with your fingers and you will sound crisper in your playing.
After playing, you should swab out your flute with an absorbant cloth or shammy to remove excess moisture. Commercially available plastic swab sticks are available for flutes. They are inexpensive (under a dollar), and they will not scratch the inside of the flute like a metal ones could.
Every so often, you should remove the headjoint from the barrel (carefully!!!), clean the metal surfaces (carefully), coat them with a generous amount of cork grease, and put the joints back together. This will keep the tuning slide in good shape and may keep it air tight if it is tending to be loose.
Cork grease is also good for corks and hemp, and makes it easier to assemble and take apart the flute without straining the thin wood.
PROBLEMS AND FIXES
If you have a problem with a premium instrument, it may always be best to send it to a knowledgeable craftsman or maker for repair. There are, however, some common problems and some generally acceptable fixes.
Leaky keys: could be caused by weak or broken springs, misalignment, or deteriorating pads. If it is the pad at fault, any woodwind repairman should be able to fix it. Otherwise, reinforce the key with rubber bands (unsightly but effective and adjustable) until someone can fix it. If you are certain you won't use the key, remove it (carefully! and save the little pivot pin), and tape over the hole with black electrician's tape. Some say that the mark of a quality in a vintage flute is black tape and rubber bands!
Hairline cracks: will show up eventually in most flutes and can cause great damage to the tone and playability of the instrument. They are caused by dropping the flute, weaknesses in the wood itself or changes in the weather. A fix for a hairline crack is, of course, beaswax or superglue. The wood should be dry and clean (dabbing the crack with acetone will suck out any moisture from the crack but it will dry out and could crack nearby wood). Then run the superglue along the crack, leaving the "bead" showing: it may be visible but will hold better if it shows. If you are uncomfortable with this repair, there is always the venerable black tape.
Enormous open cracks: happen especially in older instruments in the head and barrel joints (they're inevitable) for the same reasons as hairline cracks. An expert must repair the instrument, and you should call Mickie for help. In the meantime, use v.b. tape.
Dried out, flakey cork, threads falling off the ends, wobbly sections, pieces falling off, and unexplained leakiness: The joints are sometimes held together by cork. If the cork is deteriorating, you could get any wind repairman to replace it. Alternatively, you can remove the cork altogether and "wrap" the tenon with bagpipe hemp (Scottish pipers always have some). Run the hemp through some beeswax to make it sticky and, starting at one end, wrap it evenly from one end to the other, then back the other way, and back again, checking frequently to see if it "fits" snuggly yet into the female section. Most authorities recommend that the first "inside" layer should be wrapped looser than the covering sections so the hemp will have a little "give". The hemp can swell when it gets moist, so don't make it too tight. For the same reason, be sure to cover the wrapping with cork grease so that you'll be able to separate the sections after playing. Waxed dental floss could be used in place of hemp.
Intonation problems (part 1): ha, ha what's new? Just be glad you don't play bagpipes! Seriously, though, a great deal of flute evolution was inspired by intonation (how in-tune it is) difficulties. The old flutes generally have inconsistencies for which you must compensate in your playing.
It is not reasonable to take a vintage instrument and start filing away at the holes! Some older flutes show signs of that having been done. It's really a job for an expert (in old-style flutes, not contemporary woodwinds) and questionable then, too. It is far better to compensate in your playing or simply appreciate it as it is.
You can take a wooden flute and, without changing the tuning slide, play it a quarter tone sharp or flat by simply turning the flute away from you or toward you. As you play more and more, you will get more control over the intonation (be sure to read Quantz and others about Baroque flute playing for a discussion of this topic). When you are playing for volume, you may find yourself playing sharp and in other situations, flat. Try to match your companions.
If you find that the "top" notes ( A, B, C#) are flat to the "bottom" notes (D, E, F#), move the head cork in; if they are sharp, move the cork out.
Intonation problems (part 2): everything mentioned so far can affect intonation. If every note just sounds "out" you must consider two broad categories of reasons (other than an unplayable instrument):
(1) You don't have the technique to make it play in tune; or (2) You have a leak.
If the first case is possible, find someone to help you. Otherwise, start looking for leaks. The head cork could be loose (get a new one from a repairman). If you're sure the cork is tight, look for leaky keys, cracks, even little ones, loose tenons, and/or a leaky tuning slide. You can check quickly by covering all the holes, stopping the end, and blowing directly onto the embouchure hole (lips on the wood). You shouldn't be able to force air through. If you can force air through, you should be able to spot the offending leak (someone can "feel" for you as you blow).
Intonation problems (part 3): are your fingers really covering the holes?
Intonation problems (part 4) Your C# is flat, your C is sharp, your A is a little sharp, your low D is flat, and your F# is hopelessly flat. Congratulations! You have a traditional flute!
FOR PLAYERS OF PENNYWHISTLES AND FLUTES
HOW TO LEARN AND PLAY ON YOUR OWN
The key to learning to play is listening, listening to records, tapes, and people. Sony has beautiful little stereo recorders that are inconspicuous and record well. For really hearing the detail, almost nothing can beat a Marantz (SuperScope) tape recorder with the half-speed and variable-speed features. This allows you to slow the music down one whole octave so that it will still be in tune with your instrument.
If you wish to tape a session, be considerate. It can be a tremendous imposition to the other musicians' spontaneity to be aware of tape recorders and to hear the telltale clicks as the tape runs out.
My own feeling, and too few agree with me, is that if you hear a tune that is so good you must know it, find out its name, corner someone who plays it well, and ask that person to play it slowly for your tape recorder. This develops your memory, your ear, your taste, imposes on fewer people, encourages better music, and can be a little ego-boost to the person you hit up. If you wish to go for quantity, buy a few records.
HOW TO PLAY WITH OTHERS
A key to playing with others is listening. If you have a batch of new hot tunes ready to go, it is very hard to refrain from playing them at a session. But it is important. If you end up playing something solo (because no one else knows your tune), play it once and then go into a more common tune. If someone is playing nothing at all, find a tune for him/her to play. If you only know a few simple tunes and you're among monster players, play every so often but take advantage of the opportunity to hear some good playing. Listen.
Collections of Irish Music
Breathnach, Brendan, Ceol Rince na h'Eireann (Cuid 1,2, & 3), Oifig An tSolanthair (Ireland 1976). ***
Breathnach, Brendan, Folk Music and Dance of Ireland, The Mercier Press (Dublin 1971).****
Bulmer & Sharpley, Music from Ireland (vol 1,2,3,& 4), Bulmer & Sharpley (England 1976). *** (OUT OF PRINT)
Bunting, Edward, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Waltons (Dublin 1969).(OUT OF PRINT)
Deloughery, Sliabh Luachra on Parade, Bellarmine College Press (1988).
Feldman, Allen & Eamonn O'Doherty, The Northern Fiddler, Blackstaff Press (Belfast 1979). (OUT OF PRINT)
Hamilton, S.C., The Irish Flute Player's Handbook, Breac Publications (1990). ****
Krassen, Miles, O'Neill's Music of Ireland (New & Revised), Oak Publicatio
Levey, R.M., The Dance Music of Ireland, (First collection & second collection) Fodhla Printing Co. (Dublin 1965).
Lyth, David, Bowing styles in Irish fiddle playing Vol.1. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (Ireland 1981). (OUT OF PRINT)
McCullough, L.E., The Complete Irish Tinwhistle Tutor , Silver Spear Publications (Pittsburgh, PA 1976).
McDermott, Hugh, Allan's "Irish Fiddler", Mozart Allan (Glasgow).
Miller, Randy & Jack Perron, ed, Irish Traditional Fiddle Music, Fiddlecase edition, Fiddlecase Books (New Hampshire 1977).
Mitchell, Pat, The Dance Music of Willie Clancy, The Mercier Press (Dublin 1976).
Mitchell, Pat & Jackie Small, The Pipering of Patsy Touhey, Na Piobairi Uilleann (cassette available).
OCanainn, Tomas, Traditional Music in Ireland, Routledge & Kegan Paul (Boston 1978). ****
O'Malley, Luke, Luke O'Malley's Collection of Irish Music, Unity Publications (N.J. 1976).
O'Neill, Capt. Francis, The Dance Music of Ireland (1001 Gems), Fodhla Printing Co. (Dublin no date given). ***
O'Neill, Capt. Francis, Irish Folk Music, A Fascinating Hobby, Norwood Editions (PA 1973). ****
O'Neill, Capt. Francis, Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Norwood Editions (PA 1973). ****
O'Neill, Capt. Francis, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, no publishing credits given but available from Dan Collins, 1375 Crosby Ave., New York, N.Y. 10461. **, ***
O,Neill, Capt. Francis, Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody, Mercier Press (Dublin 1980).
Reavy, Joseph M., The Collected Compositions of Ed Reavy.
Roche, Frank, The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music, Oak Publications (N.Y. 1982).
* A very nice, comprehensive tutor to the tin whistle (appropriate for flute, too). It seems to be much better than the others I have seen so far. It includes a discussion of ornaments, practice hints, "dressing up" a tune, and a collection of tunes. A cassette is available.
** The "big O'Neill's", which contains 1850 tunes including airs, O'Carolan tunes, and dance music was recently revised and "corrected" by Miles Krassen with the inclusion of settings from some of the legendary 20th century recordings. In Krassen's version, many of the airs are missing (which he justifies in his informative introduction). However, the original "big O'Neill's" remains "the book" for many older players. It is first-hand material and I would recommend it over the Krassen version if you can only get one.
*** I find these collections most useful.
**** Not collections, but interesting.
All titles in print are available from Lark In The Morning
ARTISTS AND RECORDINGS OF IRISH MUSIC WITH FLUTE OR PENNYWHISTLE
Mary Bergin Feadoga Stain: Traditional Irish music on the tin whistle (Shanachie). Super tin whistle playing.
THE BOTHY BAND - several records available - with "the" flute player Matt Molloy. Malloy has redefined the limits of flute playing, adapting piping technique to the flute.
THE BOYS OF THE LOUGH - more than a dozen records available - with flute and whistle player Cathal McConnell who is also a beautiful singer.
The Breeze from Erin: Irish Folk Music on Wind Instruments (Topic Records), a collection of several musicians including Willie Clancy on whistle and pipes, Seamus Tansey on flute and whistle, Festy Conlan on whistle, and Eddie Corcoran on whistle .
The Tailor's Choice (Green Linnet): Joe Burke playing flute. Joe is a well-known accordian player. He plays several airs on this record.
Ah! Surely (Shanachie) Eddie Cahill on flute: old style Sligo playing, breathy with short phrases. The breathing, rather than injuring the rythm, actually defines it.
Traditional Music of Ireland (Master Collector's Series, Daniel Collins) Paddy Carty plays the Radcliff model flute (fully keyed but not a modern Boehm flute) in the Galway style: melodic, chromatic, medium-paced, and somewhat melancholy. This record is my personal favorite.
THE CHIEFTANS - many recordings available - the early records feature Michael Tubridy and Sean Potts on flute and tin whistle. The first four or five recordings are the most "traditional" with a minimum of the distinctive arrangements that have become the Chieftans' trademark. On later recordings, Tubridy has been replaced by the ubiquitous Matt Molloy whose power and style would (and has) benefit any band. Beware of the green James Galway and the Chieftans; for while James Galway is an acknowledged master of the classical flute, he is not considered a "traditional" player by any but classical musicians who view his flirtation with his roots as "quaint".
Willie Clancy, the Minstrel from Clare and The Pipering of Willie Clancy (Topic and Claddagh Records). Willie Clancy's playing on whistle defines the County Clare sound.
Traditional Music of Ireland (Shanachie) Seamus Egan (prodigy from Philadelphia) can play anything and plays some nice flute on this record.
Irish Pipe and Tin Whistle Songs, Uilleann Pipes, and Forty Years of Irish Piping (Olympic, Topic, and Green Linnet). Seamus Ennis knows far more about this Irish folk music than the old folks, Lordy, Lordy, themselves. There is some good whistle playing among the piping and songs. Ennis learned from his parents and spent his entire life collecting songs and tunes from all over Ireland.
Up and Away (Gael-linn) Frankie Gavin, the well-known fiddler in DeDannan, also plays a wonderful, bouncy flute style. I like it better than his fiddling.
DOLORES KEANE (Green Linnet) - on several records. Dolores Keane plays a breathy, almost sensual flute style on some of the tracks.
MAIREAD NI MHAONAIGH and FRANKIE KENNEDY (Gael-linn), and also some new band recordings. Frankie Kennedy is a super, powerhouse fluteplayer, loud and strong from Northern Ireland.
Ceol as Sliabh Luachra (Gael-linn) Billy Clifford plays flute with his mother Julia Clifford. Julia and her brother Dennis Murphy learned the Kerry style fiddle from the legendary Padraig O'Keefe.
Light Through the Leave (Rounder Records) several artists including Larry McCullough who wrote the tin whistle tutor and Noel Rice who plays Irish music on the regular metal flute (it can be done).
On Lough Erne's Shore and Cathal McConnell & Robin Morton: An Irish Jubilee (Flying Fish & Topic) Cathal McConnell from the Boys of the Lough plays flute and whistle on these records. Originally from County Fermanagh, Cathal has travelled extensively and his playing reflects a lot of different sources.
Mooncoin (Kicking Mule Records) Mickie Zekley honks away with verve and vigor on the flute on some cuts. Mickie is from County Mendocino.
Matt Molloy, Heathery Breeze, and Stony Steps (Mulligan, Polygram, & Green Linnet). Matt Molloy. Awesome. The first record is the least "produced" and I like it the best. Molloy uses every trick in the book and he wrote the book.
Matt Molloy, Paul Brady, Tommy Peoples and Contentment is Wealth (Mulligan, Green Linnet) Matt Molloy with just one or two other musicians; tight, articulate, and amazing stuff.
Tin Whistles (Shanachie) Paddy Moloney and Sean Potts from the Chieftans playing whistles.
Planxty: After the Break (Tara) Matt Molloy appears here, too.
Micho Russell (TRL) Micho Russell is a legendary Clare whistle and flute player. The whistle playing is great and the flute playing is crawling with character.
Memories of Sligo and Sean McGuire and Roger Sherlock: At their best (Inchecronin & Outlet) Roger Sherlock is a great modern Sligo flute player, smooth and accurate.
Best of Seamus Tansey (traditional Irish Flute) (Outlet) Seamus Tansey also plays in the Sligo tradition. Close listening shows that Tansey rarely plays the same phrase in the same manner - lots of variety.
The Boy in the Gap (Claddagh Records) Most records featuring flute players have accompaniment and it's rare to find a solo player playing by himself. Micho Russell does this on his record and so does Paddy Taylor on this record. I think his flute is a modern one or possibly a Radcliff like Paddy Carty's. In any case the style is distinctive: smooth and flowing. There are several nice airs on the record.
Traditional Irish Flute Music (Shanachie) Fintan Valley is from County Armagh and plays a rythmic, bouncy, choppy style of flute. All titles in print are available from Lark In The Morning
Chinese Flutes by David Brown
The Chinese have an ancient tradition of making and playing bamboo flutes. Although ocarina-like vessel flutes, panpipes, and endblown flutes have been used extensively in China, the most common type of flute found in the Middle Kingdom is the transverse flute with what is known in the West as "simple system" fingering, with six fingerholes. Chinese flutes have also been made of other materials than bamboo, including jade, ivory, metal, and bone, but bamboo is by far the most typical.
Many of the flutes called Dizi (Ti in the older transliteration), like the ban di, etc. have an additional hole between the embouchure (mouth hole) and the first fingerhole, which is covered with a special membrane (di mo) to produce a buzzing, kazoo-like element to the flute tone, adding a particular rich sound featured in Chinese flute playing. When this buzzing sound is not desired, this hole can simply be covered with cellophane tape and then the flute will make a clear basic flute tone. Our special quality bamboo flutes are also available without the di-mo hole.
often the Chinese flute has some additonal holes at the open end, which function as tuning adjustments and a place to hang a tassel. Don't try to cover these holes with your fingers! only the basic six holes are fingered.
Chinese musicians most often name a flute from the note produced when all three left hand fingerholes are closed, and all three right hand fingerholes are open. Thus, a flute marked "C" by the 3rd hole will have a fundamental of G, and be equivalent to a Western fife or flute at G.
A flute marked "G" by the 3rd hole will have a fundamental of D, and be in Western terms a D flute. Rarely, a Chinese maker will have both pitches marked, say in this case "G by the 3rd hole, and "D" at the 6th fingerhole. Usually, though, only the 3rd hole name is marked.
Table of Equivalents:
Chinese NameWestern Name For same flute size.(3rd hole)(6th hole)CGDAFCGDAEBbF
Chinese transverse flutes are rarely lower than Western G; for a low D (G in Chinese terms) flute one usually uses the xiao, an endblown flute. Thus a Chinese flute at the same pitch as an Irish flute in D (again G in Chinese terms) is very rare, almost non-existant.
A Chinese professional flute player can play in many keys on the same flute, by appropriate half-holing and careful embouchure control of pitch. Also, much use is made of rapid tonguing, flutter effects, pitch bends, bird imitations, and other special sounds in the solo music for Chinese flute.
Bamboo is a durable material, but occasionally a small crack may develop.... like if your buddy accidently sits on your flute! Not to worry, a small drop of high-quality superglue (cyanoacrylate) will seal the crack and have the flute playing like new again. occasional oiling inside and out with sweet almond oil will help keep your flute in top condition and protect against moisture damage.
Transverse Flutes: An Overview by David Brown
One of the most ancient and widespread of musical instruments is the flute. Almost every culture on Earth has some sort of flute; some like the end-blown reed flute ney or nai of the Middle East date back to the Ancient World, thousands of years BC. Some, like the instrument most people think of when the word flute is mentioned, the modern metal flute with many keys, can be traced to a specific place and in this case even to one man, Theobald Boehm, who developed it in the late 1840's. As a matter of fact, to distinguish it from other flute systems, the metal flute is called a Boehm System Flute.
A flute produces sound by means of a vibrating column of air set in motion by the player; splitting the air stream of breath does this, and can be accomplished by several methods. The air stream can be split by directing it through a duct and over a ledgelike windway, as in the recorder, flageolette, and tinwhistle. This makes it easy to make a tone, but restricts the dynamic range so shading of loud and soft are not possible on the same pitch. These are the fipple flutes, so named for the old English term for the ducted windway .
Some flutes are merely vessels, closed at the bottom and blown on the top; these sound haunting and rich (like blowing across a Coke bottle as we all did as children) but are limited in range. The pan pipe gets around this by using many tubes, each producing one note. Others have fingerholes to produce more than one tone. Some are also fitted with fipples, as is the ocarina family.
The aforementioned ney or nai is rim-blown, as is the Balkan kaval, using a technique of bilabial blowing, where the end of the tube rests obliquely on the side of both top and bottom lips. This is a difficult technique to master, but produces a special tonal color and great inflectional possibilities. One further refinement is the method of blowing the Persian Classical ney, which uses the toungue to direct the air stream into the tube set between the upper teeth and lip; this is taken from the Turkoman tribes and is called interdental blowing.
Another method is the end-blown flute, such as that used on the Japanese shakuhachi; the end of the tube is rested against the lower lip and the air is directed over a notch, indentation, or wedge-shaped area; the kena of South America is also end blown. Almost the same sound producing method is used for the transverse flutes of all types; the difference is that the flute body is sideways to the mouth and instead of directing the air over a notch it is split off the far edge of a round or oval hole at one end of the tube, which is closed at the mouth end. In India and China the transverse flute is of great antiquity; Krishna is traditionally pictured playing the transverse flute.
The basic form of these transverse flutes is a mouthhole, called the embouchure, and six open fingerholes. Since these flutes overblow easily and at the octave, the scale is complete with only these holes. Generally they are adjusted by size and spacing to play a major scale, starting from Do (it could be any actual pitch) with all 6 holes closed, and each successive note, Re, MI, etc., is obtained by opening the next hole from the open end of the tube. All six holes open gives Ti, and closing all holes and blowing more intensely give the high Do; and so forth up to the upper limit of the instrument, often a 2 1/2 octave range- sometimes more.
The Indian bansuri is made of thin bamboo in wide variety of lengths, generally North Indians play long, low pitched bansuri and Carnatic musicians of the south prefer shorter bansuri. Occasionally some are made with additional toneholes.
The Chinese Di is also made of bamboo, but thicker walled, and usually the tube is extended in the low end, the extra holes being for tuning and hanging a tassle, not fingering. Their tonal color is augmented by aa additional hole between the 6th fingerhole and the embouchure, which when covered by a thin membrane such as the inside of bamboo gives a buzzing element to the tone.
The Japanese have several transverse flutes, the Shinobue, similar to the Di but without a membrane hole; the Gagaku, Noh, and Kabuki have transverse flutes, and so do the Shinto temples. The Noh fue (flute) is unique do to a construction feature that flattens the overblown notes by up to a tone, matching the Noh singing.
Europe did not know the transverse flute well until after the Crusading period, when it was adopted from the Eastern Empire; it spread widely and quickly, though, and was so popular with the Germanic peoples that it was often known as the "German" flute. The Renaissance flute was made in several sizes, an Alto in G, a Tenor in D, and a Bass in G or A; it was a straight tube, small finger holes, and produced an expressive tone.
The Baroque period took the tenor flute in D, and made two important changes: the bore was made to taper narrower the further away from the embouchure hole, which helped intonation, and a single Eb key for the right hand little linger was added; this was the typical flute by about1680 or so.
By the Classical period, circa late 1700's to1800, the flute had 6, 8 or more keys, and many had extended lower ranges by lengthening the foot joint and using more keywork for the right hand little finger. Some German makers went even lower by using left hand little finger keys.
The Period between 1810 saw considerable innovation in flutemaking. New woods were available such as grenadilla, pallisander, and rosewood. Glass "crystal" was used in 1806 in France; the later 1800's saw the use of woods including blackwood and ebony, and the first synthetic, ebonite, was used in 1840.
One innovation was made by Charles Nicholson, a well-known flute virtuoso, in 1822, when he introduced the large-tone hole flute, producing a louder tone than the earlier flutes. Other makers adopted his ideas too.
Nicholson's work spurred another musician/inventor towards a new flute system. Theobald Boehm began experimenting in London in1831, and produced his first rationalized flute, with toneholes placed for acoustic reasons, not ergonomic ones, and using ring and closed keys. It was still made of wood with a tapered bore; by 1847, the flute as we use it today was born.
Boehm had completely redesigned the instrument, making a parabolic inner taper to the headjoint to improve intonation; making the body essentially a cylinder, no taper; the fingerholes wer not just placed for acoustic accuracy but were as large as needed for maximizing tone; there was a new type of keywork to manipulate so many keys with only eight fingers and the left hand thumb; it took a while to become universally popular- even in the 20th century some player still had their wooden flutes- but far and away most orchestras and bands are using Boehm flutes.
So much so that the earlier flutes almost became unknown, until the Early Music revival awoke interest in the Renaissance and Baroque flutes. After all, they are the instruments the composers of the time wrote for and understood.
The modern "Irish" flute is an interesting case. First, the flute is not native to Ireland, and the transverse flute was introduced most likely from England. Makers including Dollard of Dublin were in operation by the 1830's, for the classical market.
For traditional Irish flute the historical record is murky at best. Flute is little mentioned in the writings of the 18th and 19th century, although pipes and fiddles are ubiquitous in literary references. Also due to the poverty of the average Irishman of the time, these flutes were beyond the purchasing power of all but the wealthy amateur or professional.
By the end of the 19th century word of mouth suggests the flute was at least known and played in all of Ireland, but the counties of Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommom, Galway, Clare, and Limerick were the hotbed of traditional flute playing. Obviously, too, as Francis O'Neill himself was a flute player, as were several others mentioned in "Irish Minstrels and Musicians" the flute was a well known instrument; today it is as well thought of as the pipes and fiddle if less common, but in the 1800's it may not have had this high status..
Of course the adoption of the metal Boehm system flute caused many of the fine older simple system flutes to wind up in second-hand shops at low prices by the late 1800's and early 1900's- and thus affordable for the poorer Irish. Of course there are a limited number of fine old flutes, so simce the Celtic music revival since the 1950's more makers have begun producing "Irish" flutes. So what makes an "Irish" flute what it is? Wooden tapered bore, large toneholes, little use of the keys (many players don't use the keys they have, and most traditional music can be played easily with NO keys), and a particular playing STYLE using no tongue articulation but rather a wide arsenal of cuts, taps, pops, rolls, cranns, breath accents and pulses for articulation and effect. The tonal ideal is more breathy and reedy, less metalic and pointed than the modern flute ideal sound, and is accomplished by rolling the embouchure towards the lips and blowing in a more focused manner.
One other area of music that still favors the wooden simple system flute is Cuban music, as the preferred type is a wooden Classical flute from the French tradition.
Although outwardly similar to the keyed flutes used in Irish music, the large tone holes so needed for playing Irish dance music in the low and 2nd octave are not needed as Cuban flute players play little in the lowest register and mostly in the 2nd and 3rd register. and use all the tongue articulations of Classical music. Many older wooden flutes not suitable for Irish music- and as such available at a relatively bargain price- are ideal for Cuban music, such as the numerous German small tone-hole flutes. It is essential the keywork be in good repair, as all the keys are used and are needed for many of the 3rd register tones. The low notes below D are not really needed, so many players use 6 key flutes.
Some player now use a hybred flute- a wooden head joint on a Boehm body, but many stick to the old 6 or 8 key flutes. A few also have a flute pitched a minor 3rd higher, called a tercerola; this is used for facilitating playing in certain flat keys.
For further information look at the Lark in the Morning homepage, particularly the books on flute.
Ney The Middle Eastern Flute by David Brown
One of the oldest forms of flute is the ney, the endblown flute played in slightly varying forms from Morocco to Pakistan. The word is Farsi for reed, and indeed the nay is made in its traditional form from the Arundo Donax plant, the same as used to make oboe, saxophone and clarinet reeds. It is not made from bamboo, as the differing internodal pattern of the Arundo Donax is used in a specific fashion to make ney. Some modern makers have experimented with some success with replacing the reed by a metal pipe or a PVC pipe; however good-sounding, though, the finest sound comes from a well made natural cane ney.
The name ney (pronounced as in NEIGHbor) is used by Turks and Persians; many Arabs pronounce the word as Nai (rhymes with high); thus we can distinguish between the Turkish, Arab and Persian forms of the instruments.
The oldest form, shown on Egyptian tomb paintings as early as 3000-2500 years BC, is of a nine-segment section of reed, the first node at the wider mouthpiece end opened with a part of the node left making a small hole, and the other nodes fully opened, with an outside bevel around the embouchure. Six fingerhholes plus a thumbhole make for fully chromatic and quarter-tone scalar possibilities. Around 1200AD the Turks began using turned wood, bone, horn and now even plastic mouthpieces, really liprests, but otherwise kept the same fingering and lip technique. This embouchure is called bilabial blowing, as both upper and lower lip are used to partially close the end of the tube; this is not the same as blowing a shakuhachi, quena, flute, or even a bottle, but a unique method of its own.
Both Arab nai and Turkish ney are played with the pads of the fingers, not the tips, rather like a bagpiper's grip. They also come in different lengths, each one being tuned to a specific pitch, so that like a pennywhistle, if you know a melody in one key, switching to the appropriate ney or nai will then let you play the same melody but transposed to another key.
The ney/nai are pitched by the name of the note made with the 1st fingerhole open; thus the Arabic standard (Rast=C) nai is one at D. This means that all the holes closed render a C; the 1st hole open, D, then respectively Eb, E1/2b, F, F#, G. This is for the lowest octave and for the 1st register, differing by an octave; the 2nd register overblows a fifth higher, the same sequence of holes rendering the notes A, Bb, B 1/2b, C, C#, D; the 3rd register plays an octave above the 1st register, C, D, etc.
Other notes are made by partially opening a tonehole, changing the blowing angle or a combination of the above. Also not that the G note in the 1st register is the same pitch as the all-holes-closed note in the 2nd, as is the C in the 2nd reg. and the closed C of the 3rd; these alternate fingerings are used for musical purposes and to check internal tuning.
Arab style playing is generally more rhythmic, and reflective of the shepherd association, as the nai is commonly a pastoral instrument. The classical nai is usually longer, the folk models shorter. The Turkish style is more smooth and flowing, betraying the Dervish association. In Turkey, the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes) long ago adopted the ney as their main instrument in the sema, the spiritual service that includes the trance dancing spinning. The pastoral association is weaker in Turkey, the ney being a learned, urban Classical instrument; various types of kaval, smaller flutes of end and fipple blown types fill in the folk world.
Iran adopted the Turkoman interdental blowing method and altered the fingering pattern in the late 1700's, corresponding to a change in their musical style, and thus the modern Persian ney is of a different # of nodes, has a different embouchure, and has only 5 fingerholes and a lower-placed thumbhole than the Arab-Turkish types. The interdental blowing method is very difficult to learn but gives a much louder, reedier tone color ; in the lower range where the Arab/Turk flute is at its softest, the Persian ney produces a full, rich tone.
Oriental Oboes and Shawms by David Brown
The ancestor of the modern oboe is the baroque oboe; it is descended from the Renaissance shawm. All of these double-reed woodwinds share several characteristics; a conical bore, double reed, and a common ultimate ancestor- the folk oboe of the Orient.
These instruments are known under many names, often each region having its own terms, and come in three main types, namely the Middle Eastern, Chinese and Indian versions.
All of these folk oboes use a flattened grass stalk reed, not a hard cane reed like the Renaissance shawm or the Highland pipe chanter.
A small amount of air is being forced under pressure through a small metal tube called the staple which serves to hold the reed and match it to the bore. This requires the player to make sure, as in oboe playing, that one also empties the lungs of stale air when taking a new breath. All forms also use the same embouchure, that is, instead of putting the lips on the reed like an orchestral oboeist, the reed isplaced completely in the mouth, called free blowing. Often a lip ring is used to help prevent fatigue of the mouth and lip muscles in long playing session.
All play roughly a majorish scale from the lowest hole on up the register, and have a range in the fundamental octave of one octave plus a note above; most will over blow at least another 4th. Dynamics are not generally possible, the sound either being "on or off".
Although predated in the ancient world by reed instruments using single beating idioglottal reeds by several thousand years, by the beginning of the common era Roman and Hebrew coins have been found that depict folk oboes. Earlier it had been thought these were trumpets, but this was a mistaken idea based on the bell of the oboe and the freeblowing embouchure that often gives a superficial resemplance to a brass embouchure, particularly if the oboe is fitted as so many are with a lip ring.
The oldest form is most likely the Middle Eastern one, as the Iranian plateau is the most likely place of origin for these folk oboes. The Middle eastern form is characterized by a turned wood body of simple shape, with a heavily flared bell; 7 fingerholes plus a thumbhole between the 1st and 2nd left hand fingers; small holes between the lowest right hand fingerhole and the bell, which can be closed with beeswax to alter the intonation of the lowest note; a stepped conical bore, the upper part being stepped down by a clothespin-like piece called the capisto.
In many Arabic countries the shawm players are a low-caste group, often acting as barbers and performing circumcisions.
The names by country are as follows, but this is only the most common terms used:
Morocco, Maghreb- raita or ghaita
Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq- mizmar
Turkey, Greece, Armenia- Zurna
Balkans- Zurla (and until the 19th century was the Hungarian taragoto, later replaced by the wooden keyed single reed horn still used today)
Iran, Afghanistan- Sorna
Several sizes are in use. The most common is pitched at G for the lowest note; this is the Turkish orta zurna, the Egyptian mizmar al saidi, and the mostwidely used. Some area, Morocco, also use a horn pitched at F.
The Egyptians and Turks also have a larger oboe pitched at D, called kaba zurna (or zurla, as this is the most common Balkan instrument) in Turkey , and in Egypt the telt. The Egyptians also play a small oboe, pitched about a 4th higher than the mizmar al saidi, called sibs.
Playing styles are quite varied from region to region.
Morocco and Maghreb- played solo and in groups, including the 20-30 player band in Jajouka; circular breathing and tongueing both used; open and closed fingerings used. Often some players provide a drone for the others, and the note of the drone can vary in different sections of the same tune. Also used for snake handling. Similar styles in North Africa, but it must be noted that Tunisian zukra is often played alone, with drums, like the Turkish Zurna and often in a similar style.
Egypt, Lebanon, Syria; Arab style in general-often played alone with drums, except in Luxor and Qena, Egypt, where ensemble playing is well developed particularly among ther Ghawazee tribe. This tribe also uses the mizmar for belly dance accompaniment, whereas its most common use is for folk dance, processions and festivals, all outdoors.
Turkey- the zurna and davul oboe/drum duet is the mainstay of Turkish folkdance, except in the Black Sea region. The zurna is often played with circular breathing which requires the player to make rhythmic articulation in the same manner as a bagpiper, with cuts, graces, and other finger devices. Many Turkish players turn the reed vertically so as to allow the tip of the tongue to lightly touch the underside corner of the reed making a "yelping" vibrato that is often used in time with the beat of the tune.
Turkey is also the home of the Mehter, the traditional Janissary military band. The zurna has been the main melody instrument for centuries in this ensemble, which served as the inspiration for the European military marching bands, and the Classical "alla Turca" style.
Iran and Central Asia- Often zurnas are played in pairs, with a melody and a drone player. This drone may move to different notes during a piece of music, changing at prescribed places in the composition. Oddly, this is also typical of Balkan styles on the large zurla. In Iran the sorna was also used to play at the end of the day from the city gate or from the local administration building. This custom persisted in England until the 19th century, the town waits playing shawms to mark the hours.
In Gilgit, the central Asian game of polo, played with a goat as "ball" is accompanied by the sorna.
The Shenai and related North Indian instruments
The folk oboe of India is similar to the Middle Eastern type but several key differences should be noted.
The Indian instruments are true conical bores, including staple, and as such overblow more easily. Indeed, while most Middle Eastern shawm tunes are confined to the notes of the first octave, melodies on the shenai are often played across the register break.
Most shenais lack a thumbhole, and usually have no additional lower tuning holes. The bell is metal, often etched. Two main sizes are used, the smaller pitched around Ab from Pakistan, and the larger from Benares and pitched about D.
Until recently, this was a festival, wedding, and processsional instrument, and some courts copied the Persian bands playing above the city gates. Then since WWII the shenai has risen to the status of a classical instrument capable of playing the subtleties of ragas, now used to auspiciously open music festivals. The late Ustad Bismillah Khan was the best known exponent of this Benares-based style. In this way of playing, another drone oboe, the shruti, which is a shenai without fingerholes, accompanies the melody. Often student will also double the master's melody at the repeated sections, and rarely fill in the melody when the lead player allows- or needs to adjust the reed, which sometimes closes up under the demands of this playing method which uses much tongueing, portamenti, and even pulling back on the reed to lip it some and soften and shade the tone. Played sitting in tailor fashion, it is also common to put the bell of the horn into the knee to further shade the tone.
The trade route from Iran through Central Asia into Chinese Turkestan into China was a major source of musical migration. The Chinese wholeheartedly adopted the folk oboe, based on the Middle Eastern model, with the same fingering. The suona, as it is known in China, comes from "sor na" the Persian name. These differences from the Middle Eastern should be noted:
Large metal bell, not firmly attached as ia the shenai's, and metal staple with built-in lip ring and cork joint with some tuning capability. Body turned in "scalloped" pattern, no lower tuning holes. True conical bore, and range in some cases of over two octaves.
Chinese reeds are not tied with thread like the others but are held with a thin copper wire. In addition to the usual festival/procession use, the Chines often use the suona in funerals, and in regional opera like Peking Opera. It is also a member of some of the many regional Chinese orchestras' reeded wind sections.
It comes in several sizes, from low note at F or so on up to very small high pitched sounas. It should be noted that it was brought to Cuba by Chinese immigrant sugar cane workers and has been adopted into the street Carnival comparsas, and called trompeta de china.
Helpful Hints on Reeds
A fine Oriental oboe, like its Western descendants, is only as good as the reed. A fine horn with a poor reed will just not work properly, no matter HOW good the player. To add to this, a reed may work well on one oboe and not as well on another.
Of course professional players of all styles have access to reeds, but in the USA I have found Chinese reeds the easiest to find and most consistently good. Many Turkish and Pakistani staples have reeds already tied on; these reeds may work fine- if they do not, they can be untied and another reed put in its place. I have been playing a Turkish zurna, an Egyptian mizmar, and a Chinese suona for over a dozen years and mostly have used Chinese reeds.
Of course as the world trade situation changes we may find better access to Turkish and Arabic high-quality reeds.
When trying a new reed, first see if it is open at the end. If not, soak it a few moments until it opens. Then see if it will "crow" when placed in the mouth and blown. If so, it will likely be a workable reed.
Remember, unlike Western reeds this is a free blown reed and is completely in the mouth, the lips not touching the reed but rather resting on the lip ring. This can be an integral part of the staple, or often is a separate disc with a hole, many times a slot, that can fit on the staple.
The reed needs a good bit of breath pressure....not as much as a medium reeded Highland pipe, but much more than a flute. This backpressure, caused by forcing an airstream through a small tube, requires that a player let the stale are in the lungs out before replenishing the air supply.
If the reed doesn't sound very loud, gently squeeze the sides of the reed at the base, this should open the tip a bit. If the reed is WAY to hard, some gentle sanding on fine glasspaper may help.
These oboes need varying breath pressure through the range, the low notes needing the least, the higher ones the most. Breath must be supported from the diapraghm for proper tone control.
Some Middle eastern players use a lit cigarette or incense stick to burn tiny dots in patterns on the reeds, this is said to adjust the reed, but I have not worked it out consistently. Experimention is the best teacher here. If a reed works well but the high notes are flat compared to the low notes, carefully cut a very thin sliver off the top end of the reed.
Err on the side of caution-you can remove more, but can't put it back! Some players trim a tiny amount off the sharp corners of the reed.
In many cultures, the shawm player has many reeds and staples tied on a string or chain and hangs from the oboe while playing. Although picturesque and handy, this exposes the reeds to accidental abuse, so I keep my reeds and staples in a small metal box-not airtight, as this invites mold and mildew.
In many cities there are Shrine temples , and many of them have an "Oriental Band" of suonas. They may have acces to reeds, including plastic injection-molded reeds. Many bands are using a "musette" which is a suona body with a single-reed clarinet-like mouthpiece.
For Most Skin Head Drums
If your drum head is too tight, playing in too high a pitch, try putting it in a cold place and when the pitch is stable, wax with a thin layer of beeswax.
More likely you will have problems with your drum head being too loose, flabby and dead sounding. First try putting the head side down on a cloth heating pad on medium heat for 15 minutes. If this fails to tighten head to proper level it's time for more drastic measures. With a cloth or your hand, wet the skin head both inside and out, avoid getting the rim wet. Now place a wet 2-3 inch square of cloth in center top of head. Let dry in a warm place, keeping the wet cloth in middle of head (5-10 hours). Once the outer edge of head is dry lift your small wet cloth off the head and let the drum dry in a warm place another 5 hours or so. Never try to play your drum during this process.
Keep It Alive And Happy
Traditionally, the bodhran is a goatskin drum which lives in damp, green Ireland. However, since wandering Irish minstrels have spread the music all over the world, the poor bodhran often finds itself far from the cool green shores.
Bodhrans who live in hot dry places need special help to stay alive. If you have a goatskin head on your drum, and live in an area where the weather is very dry or hotter than 75 degrees for long periods, you will notice that the drum head becomes very tight. Drums have been known to split in extreme conditions. To prevent this, you can store your drum in a case with a humidifer or if you have no case, storing your drum in a closet or other small area with an even temperature. In really dry areas, you can put the drum in a plastic bag with a damp rag. Punch a few small holes in the bag to prevent mildew and store in the closet. When you travel cross country through different weather zones, you should provide a case or bag and try to keep the drum at a constant temperature. Wrap it in a thick blanket and set it under pillows. Never leave your drum in the back window of a car or in the trunk.
If you live in a very damp area and your drum always seems to be too soggy to play, it needs to be heated slightly and carefully. Rub vigorously or hold near a heat source until the skin tightens up properly. Playing the drum will also heat it up.
Sometimes, when playing on a stage or in a hot session, the skin will becomeoverheated. Pour a small amount of water inside the drum and rub it around until the drum loosens. It's a good idea to rub some water around the rim in extreme cases of dryness.
If a bodhran is always to loose you can thourghly soak the head on both sides than put about a 2" piece of wet cloth or paper towel on the center of the skin than let it sit over night than remove the wet cloth and let it dry all day and it should be tightened up.
The more your drum is played, the more alive it sounds, so play it often.
Afro-American Percussion Instruments by El Carmelito
With the forced of Africans to the Americas also came African rhythms and musical concepts. In almost all parts of the British colonies and islands no drumming was allowed; consequently these areas have lagged behind the more advanced regions in rhythm. The French colonialists in New Orleans allowed drumming every Sunday in Congo Square; hence it is no surprise that, given other factors too, jazz and its comparatively more syncopated rhythms sprang from the Crescent city. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, there was the most widespread allowance for enslaved Africans to continue making and playing drums and other percussion instruments. In Cuba , save for occasional reactionary periods which did little to stop the tradition, it was actively encouraged.
It is no wonder so many of the drums and percussion instruments in common use around the world originated in the Latin Americas, and by far the two most productive regions have been Brazil and Cuba. Notable contributions have been made in other regions, like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but the most common forms of the instruments are the Cuban and Brazilian variants. It must also be said that instruments are frequently ÒborrowedÓ from one culture and used in native ways; other times the playing technique has been borrowed too.
Reco-Reco- a scaper of bamboo or metal, sometimes with springs. ItÕs loud 8th note pattern is perfect in large bands or outdoors.
Ganza- also called cholaho, itÕs a tube filled with some small pellets, making a large rattle. Often it is played with two hands itÕs so big; most are metal and many are multiple tubes attached together.
Tamborim- small frame drum held in the left hand and hit with a stick in the right hand; the left hand fingers can mute and open the head, and the tamborim is often played with a ÒflippingÓ motion using rim shots and rebounding of the stick.
Pandeiro- a tamborine with jingles made to have a dry sound, not ÒringingÓ like most tamborines. It is played held in the left hand so that the thumb and heel of the left hand support it so the fingers can mute and change the sound of the head; the right hand strikes with the side of the thumb, the heel, and the fingertips, making for a wide variety of tonal colors and rhythmic effects, including a friction roll. In Carnival, pandeiro players also do juggling and manipulation tricks , making a fine show. Similar instruments are played in Cuba and Puerto Rico; the pandereta, with jingles, and the pandero without jingles.
Agogo Bell- 2 or 3 cone shaped bells attched to a flexible metal curved shaft.They are struck with a thin stick and also clicked together to make complex rhythms.
Caxixi- small basket rattles, used sigly with the berimbau or doubly as rattles, one in each hand. Turning them gives different sound, as the beads hit either the basket or the harder bottom gourd circle.
Berimbau- a musical bow with gourd resonator, it is played with a complex technique that includes the use of a stick to hit the string, a rock or coin to raise the stringÕs pitch, a caxixi to add a rattle, and the opening and closing of the resonator gourd on the playerÕs chest. It is an indispensible instrument in the capoeira ritual.
Cuica- is a friction drum in the same family as the rommelpot of Europe, but the stick attached to the drumhead is inside the drum, allowing the right hand to rub the stick while the left hand presses on the head to alter the sound. It is capable of playing a wide range of pitches and colorations, often comical and rustic. Most are metal shelled, occasionally with added resonator horns.
Afuche/Cabasa- originally a gourd with serrations and a bead webbing, when rotated it produced pleasant scraping sounds. More common is the modern version, a corrugated metal strip with metal beads, on a wooden handle, played the same way.
Triangle- a standard triangle, but played so as to use a muting technique in the left hand to produce rhythmic variation.
Whistles- a three tone whistle is used to signal a large group, and as a sound effect on its own. Made of wood or the louder metal version.
Claves- a pair of sticks hit together in rhythmic patterns also known as clave; the keystone ot he arch of Cuban rhythm. Even if no clave player is present, the clave pattern is always adhered to by all musicians. Two types, the more common is a pair of polished turned hardwood; the other has one much larger stick with a cut-out section to be held so that the hand adds a resonance to the wood. Clave patterns can also be played on woodblocks or the sides of a drum in a pinch.
Maracas-a matched pair of rounded pellet-filled chambers each mounted on a wooden handle; gourds were first used but increasingly other materials including leather, coconut shells, plastic and fiberglass are to be found. maracas are shaken in such a way as to control the sound of the pelletsÕ hitting the shell.
Guiro- a dried and hollow gourd, long and round, played by scraping a stick along cut-in grooves on the surface of the gourd. It is held vertically in the left hand and both hand are used to move the instrument in different directions. In Mexico theyu are made of turned wood, often in a fish design. Metal versions, based on a yucca grater, are in widespread use, and there is even a synthetic professional model.
Chekere-a large round gourd with a beaded webbing, with a opening on the narrow end. It is played by striking the bottom of the gourd with the right palm making a bass note, and almost tossing it between the two hands for the rattling sound. Also called agbe.
Caixa-simply a small marching snare used in samba schools
Repinique- a metal drum, played wth a stick in the right hand, usually bounced, and the bare left hand.
Surdo- a alrge barrel shaped metal bass drum, played with a covered beater and the bare left hand opening and closing the tone on the head.
Atabaque- although originally a straight-sided drum, today the atabaque and modern conga (tumbador) are virtually identical, if not the same. However the playing techniques for Brazilian and Cuban style are not the same.
Tumbadora- the less common Cuban name for the conga drum, a barrel shaped drum played with bare hands on the thick skins. First made of hardwood staves, it is also made of fiberglass. The name likely comes from an earlier version, the tambor de conga. Although some players use as many as 5 0r 6 drums, the early style (and most common for rumba) is to play on only one drum. The largest is called tumba, the smallest high ptiched solo drum the quinto; in between are the conga and segundo. Most often a band musician plays a pair. The main drum for rumba, it entered the bandstand with the son-montuno.
Bongo-two drums fixed together and played held between the playerÕs knees with the low pitch head on the right, they are possibly a distant derivation of the Moorish naqqarat. Played with the fingers and palms of the hands, the bongo can produce a wide range of sounds and rhythms. A bongocero also has a cowbell called cencerro or campana, and during parts of the music will set the bongo down and play patterns on the beel, using a heavy stick and both the rim and body of the bell for different tones. In some situations the bell is played alone. The bongo was the main drum in the son and changui.
Timbales-derived from the classical tympani, these are two metal shelled drums mounted on a stand with holders for cowbells, etc. Played with dowel-like sticks (and rarely the bare left hand). Traditionally the low pitched drum is on the left side, although some timbale players more comfortable with bongo reverse this to match the bongoÕs set-up. Much of the playing style involves use of the sides of the drum (cascara) and the cowbell and a suspended cymbal. Timbales were the main drum in the danzon and charanga bands. Today a modern Salsa band will have bongo, conga and timbale, plus hand percussion, the most common the guiro.
There are many other less common drums and percussion devices in Cuba and Brazil, but they are rarely found outside the folkloric groups they are used in. The instruments listed above, though, are now found almost around the world, and in many other styles of music than the ones that produced them.