Archive for April, 2007

The Britches Full of Stitches

Posted on April 7, 2007, under creative commons, general, music.

The first traditional tune I ever learned was a great polka called “The Britches Full of Stitches”. I learned it when I was 7, on the Fiddle, from a great man called Des Carty, there’s now a school of music named in his honour in Tallaght. It’s a very simple tune, I learned it after Twinkle Twinkle, and it took about 2 weeks of practise.

Because it’s a starter tune, there are very few recordings of it, so I’ve decided to make at least one. I’ve chosen a really simple tune because I want to record something which gets across how important accompaniment is in traditional music. I play the melody pretty straight, with cuts, the occasional roll and slurs being the only forms of ornamentation (I’m no Seamus Egan), and I’ve left a piece without any accompaniment at all, so that you can tell just how primitive my melody playing is under it all.

But the accompaniment itself is where the magic is, and trust me, playing like that is hard. Despite playing the tune 7 times over, the accompaniment is never the same, and for the most part it’s syncopated and the right hand is doing a lot of work. The aim is to lead the beat, to make it easier to dance to, or rather to want to dance to. When I play polkas like this, a lot of people remark that it’s similar to the playing of Steve Cooney or Jim Murray, but personally I don’t it much resembles it (apart from being 2/4 and fast). In parts, it can sound like Donogh Hennessy’s style, but I guess really it’s my own.

What I find most fun about being able to play accompaniment is that you can light up even the simplest or dullest of tunes (or players, being honest!) if you do it really well, you can layer enough interest and dynamism into the harmonics to achieve an awful lot! It’s brilliant fun.

direct mp3 link.

Anyway, both the guitar accompaniment and melody were recorded in the DADGAD tuning, with the capo at the 7th fret to put it in A (the tune is in A major). The Bouzouki is tuned ADAD, with a capo at the 7th fret again. The backing was recorded very first (accompaning nothing) and then the melody played over. I cheated and used a metronome to count out the gap though. Like everything on my blog, it’s CC licenced (Attribution 2.0)

Let me know what you think. It sure is lively!