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Archive for October 2014


Here's the second tune of track 4, a reel more popularly known as 'Miss Thorntons'.

A few things I note:

The Cs in this tune generally sound closer to C sharp, rather than the C naturals one might expect of a tune in G major. This emphasises the slightly different melody that McKenna plays at the end of both 4-bar phrases of the first part.

The way he plays the start of the 2-bar phrases of the second part is nice... bg g(roll) agbg... and he reverts to the more standard melodic bit there for the third 2-bar phrase... bg g(roll) bgag... He varies that a bit though.

Some of the rolls on high G that he's doing in bars 4 and 8 of the second part sound very like double-cut rolls, that is, rolls with (at least) two upper grace notes instead of one. These almost sound like trills in a couple of places.

He lashes into a very articulated rhythm in places in the more notey and dynamic first part. I've tried to demonstrate something like that breath pattern at the end of the track below, but do bear in mind that I can't yet do this with anything like the fluency, speed, and seeming effortlessness, of McKenna.

Some people think McKenna's music is sort of wild and huffy. It's not. It is highly thought out and he is doing specific things for specific effects. Some people seem to think what he was doing was sort of primitive and easy. It's not. It is highly technical and he had developed techniques that a majority of contemporary players just don't have a clue about so as to be able to recognise and appreciate them.




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Moving on to track 4 of disk 1 of the John McKenna double CD...

This tune is a perfect example of the sort of classy, jaunty rhythm that McKenna could turn on in reels. Again, he's using articulation, and doing it very fast, but in a relaxed sort of way.

The tune itself is not widely played (I've never met anyone else who plays it) but, melodically, the first part seems quite close to a reel that Tommy Reck played called 'The Snow on the Hills', while the second part is close to the second part of 'The Liffey Banks'.

Besides the rhythm a couple of things that catch my attention are:

The C notes: The tune is in G major, but he's playing some Cs that sound like full C sharps, while others sound sort of in between. In the recording attached I play the Cs with the single fingered cross fingering, so they come out a bit sharp of the standard C cross fingering with two fingers.

Phrasing: ... or where he's taking breaths. Again, a very precise and tastefully chosen approach from McKenna on the CD track. One unusual thing is where he takes a big breath before the last run of the tune. He does it every time, so I approximate this in the recording.

The little 'gfe' triplet in the second last bar is nice. Quite a piping-suggestive touch to that.

I play the tune up to speed and then demonstrate the basic sort of pulse rhythm needed to get that sort of effect. It's worth noting on the original track however that McKenna varies the emphasis, and the amount of emphasis, in certain places so as to keep it fresh and interesting.




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