Traditional Irish music on the melodica
March 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm #4519
I am a brazilian piano player and I have been trying out some tunes on the melodica for the past few weeks. Yesterday I went to an Irish music session here in Brazil and had the best time. I watched your video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDs2_pirUmM) and read the topic about it in The Session, so I was wondering if you could help me as to where to get general info to learn more and get better at this. I understand there are a lot of specifics and details when it comes to style and ornamentation in Irish music but I couldn’t find some tutorials or basic guidelines on it. If you could point me in the right direction (sites, videos, books, CDs, anything really), it would be great!
Thank you very much and congratulations on your playing!
Best regards!March 27, 2015 at 1:53 pm #4521
This was just the position I found myself some years ago! As you’ve probably discovered, there isn’t a great deal of instruction on playing Irish music, and certainly nothing specific in regards to the melodica.
I use a combination of methods. One is going to the Irish sessions in London, where there are some fantastic players, and listening to and absorbing the music there. When there’s tunes I like, I record them on my phone, so I can work out how to play them when I’m back at home.
When I first became interested in Irish music, I became friends with a lovely Irish flute player, who used to teach me how to play tunes authentically in return for food and wine! This was often a matter of me playing something, and her shouting ‘no’, until I eventually got it sounding right.
The third way, which I still use a lot now, is listening to recordings of great players, and analysing how they get their sound. The melodica sounds remarkably similar to the concertina, so I’d recommend listening to concertina players on the internet. I particularly like Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh, whose physical albums you’ll have to order online. But see who you’re drawn to on youtube, and then buy a couple of albums to listen to in more detail.
You can learn a lot about style from listening to other instrumentalists as well, like the fiddle, flute, and accordion. Here’s a few of my favs to get you started:
Jimmy Keane (piano accordion)
Tim Collins (concertina)
Martin Hayes (fiddle)
Have a listen, to my examples, and to whatever you discover. Pick out players you like, find one tune, and work out how to play it exactly as they are. It’s hard work, but you will learn so much this way. There’s software/apps you can get which will slow the recording down for you as well, which might be handy for seeing exactly how the ornaments are played.March 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm #4523
Thank you very much for your attentive response!
The videos are amazing, thanks. I love the sound of the concertina, and this Tim Collins is great.
More specifically, I’d like to ask you something about technique. Do you use double/triple tonguing in the melodica when playing fast tunes or peharps for ornamentation? I’ve been trying some double tonguing but it sounds a bit awkward.
All the best!March 29, 2015 at 5:50 am #4537
Yes, i use triple tonguing. I found it awkward at first, but the trick is to practise it slowly and acurately, and it eventually becomes second nature. In Irish music, these are referred to as ‘triplets’ (not an accurate description, but near enough!). You also have the option to play them with the fingers, as do the accorionists. It creates a slightly different effectMarch 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm #4543
Nice, thank you very much!March 30, 2015 at 7:07 pm #4544
No problem Gui, let me know if you need any more helpApril 2, 2015 at 11:49 pm #4566
Hm, I have a question. Why do you say it’s not actually a triplet?
I’m sort of confused now – sometimes I hear it and think it is a triplet and sometimes not. Haha!
In the video that you’re playing the Old Red Lion you use a lot of triple tonguing, right?
And about circular breathing, does it take long to master? I’m still having a hard time imagining when will I be able to do all the gymnastics involved in the process and still be able to play music on top of all that.April 3, 2015 at 9:43 pm #4575
When Irish musicians refer to ‘triplets’ they normally mean a specific effect, where two semiquavers and a quaver are played in rapid succession. But sometimes these can become more triplet like, especially at fast speeds. They’re very different in feel to the evenly spaced ‘classical’ triplets.
Yes, circular breathing takes a long time to master! Give yourself a few years of practising every day. Take your time and stay relaxed. Practice slowly and accurately, and it will eventually become second nature. Just like learning to drive 🙂April 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm #4597
Great! Thanks a lot, Daren!October 6, 2015 at 6:28 pm #5999
So recently I’ve been working on playing some Irish tunes on the melodica and it’s going well, I think, but I have some doubts. They’re mainly about repeated-note ornaments, which I find very hard to do.
I understand there are two ways of doing them: 1) holding the note while tonguing and 2) playing the note repeatedly, right?
My question is about tonguing. When I do it slowly it seems to work, although not as clear as I think it should be – the notes seem to sound a bit softer then the other “untongued” ones. When I speed up, it sounds like the melodica can’t keep up and the notes start to fail, so I get a bunch of “dead” notes which just don’t really sound. I’ve never played wind instruments, but what I’ve been doing is just using a t-k-t-k articulation. Is that the way it goes and with practice it’ll get better or is my melodica not so good? Or am I doing something wrong maybe?
Thanks a lot in advance!October 7, 2015 at 1:27 am #6000
What melodica are you playing? Have you gapped it lately?October 9, 2015 at 10:44 am #6007
Sounds like gapping to me. Does it happen on every note you try?October 13, 2015 at 9:45 pm #6019
Hi! Thanks for the responses!
I play a melodica by a Brazilian factory called Universal.
Excuse my ignorance, but what is gapping?October 14, 2015 at 9:58 am #6027
Gapping refers to adjusting the gap between the tongue of the reed and the reed plate to adjust your playing style. Its also called ‘reed offset’. If you play very loudly, you’ll need a larger gap. If you play softly or need to make delicate articulations, you’ll need to close the gap. Many melodicas come from the factory with too large a gap.
Open your melodica and see what the reeds look like.
Watch this – its for harmonica players, but you’ll get the idea:October 18, 2015 at 10:08 am #6055
On the irish triplet with breath/tongue – is it possible to get this happening with the tube, or are you limited to doing it with the fixed mouthpiece?
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