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andrewjohnsson40

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I've heard from a pianist that traditional folk music is played on a piano like you do on the accordion but I never undwrstood him.. He played Swedish music but I guess it applies to other traditions as well.
Has anyone tried playing traditional folk music on the piano?
What did you do with comping?
Did you play bas, chords or second melodies under the real melody (in Sweden they call it andrastämma for the violinists).
 

JerryPH

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If you are asking how to play folk music on a piano, that might be a question best answered on a piano forum, but IMHO, music is music and my theory is that one can pretty much play anything on any instrument.

It's kind of like the old Bruce Lee adage: "Before starting martial arts, a kick was a kick and a punch was a punch. Then I learned that a kick was much more than a kick and a punch was much more than a punch. Now after years of study, I have learned a truth... that a kick is a kick, and a punch is a punch..."

Music is music, no matter what it is played on. As far as accompaniment (I don't like the word "comping", it doesn't mean anything to me), same principal... it's all basically up to the player and their level of skill. Any instrument can accompany another, all it takes... is skill. :)

You ask how to do this? That is a huge question with a one word answer... "practice".
 

Tom

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No, I am sorry I do not play the piano, but to continue the existing divergence, have you ever noticed the difference in people's reaction to where the "traditional folk music" is from? Like play one from your own country or area, people will have a certain notion. But, if you play a simple tune from Sweden, Italy, Kazakhstan, or wherever, all of a sudden it's way different. Go figure!
 

JerryPH

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Of course it would be different... to them, because they have never heard it before.

Play a Swedish folk song to a swede, and it's not all that different, right? It's all relative to what you are listening to vs where you are from.
 

Anyanka

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I usually dont like piano accompaniment in folk music - it tends to be heavy, plonky chords banging away underneath the melody. I wont give any specific examples or links to avoid upsetting/insulting anyone!

However, the specific mention of Swedish folk on piano brings to mind the exquisite 1964 recordings by Jan Johansson, known to me as Jazz pa Svenska. Heres one of the best-known pieces:

 

TomBR

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In the folk traditions Im interested in, Britain and Ireland, Western Europe and Eastern USA, piano is mainly an accompaniment instrument when it does appear. A lot of that is bass/chord vamping. As Anyanka says, this can be too heavy and repetitive - but just like too much bass/chord on accordion basses!

On the other hand there are some accompanists whos playing is a delight, while generally playing in that format. Charlie Lennon in the Irish tradition comes to mind.
Charlie kicks off at about 38 seconds here

Both tune and accompaniment can be done on piano in the Irish tradition.
Heres Patsy Broderick
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgiWQRj94wM

In the States George Winston has a style hes named rural folk piano - its a nice listen, but does it fit the label?
Significantly, hes self taught on piano.

Heres a lovely trad English tune on piano,
Folky in its way but also somewhat reminiscent of the pre-WWI English pastoral composers, who used English folk tunes of course. Full circle?

Im no pianist but I like playing traditional tunes on piano. I just tend to do a mixture of arpeggios and spread and block chords in the left hand, often using the keyboard three chord trick, ie in C major fingering CEG BDG CFA, plus minors.
But practicing CBA takes priority!

Id say piano can certainly be used in a folk context, but I dont think it makes it a folk instrument.

OTOH, there are plenty of videos on Youtube teaching chord piano and therefore players whove come to the instrument without notation, but via chord shapes, and by ear tunes. Is that a folk tradition in a digital age?
 

jozz

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No place for pianos at clog dances..we use the barrel organ
 

jozz

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More seriously..in Holland we have 'levenslied' a kind of subtler version of 'schlager', which heavily relies on piano where it will almost always play second melody and the accordion plays lead. Other occasions it will play afterbeats. If it solos..the piano will play a dramatic accompanyment to the melody/vocals.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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It all depends on the dynamics of the folk music venue you play in. In all the Folk Clubs I know, one player starts off a piece of music. If others know the words, they join in. Similarly, if another player wants to accompany the principle player, he or she may do so. As ad-hoc as this may sound, it often has pleasing results.

Structure kills spontaneity, and spontaneity is a lot of fun. My accordion playing has been accompanied by Lutes, Guitars, Mandolins, Banjos and even Wind Machines. (When I played "The Wayward Wind") It is just my personal opinion, but I am not convinced that the Piano is entirely suitable for folk music.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

Glenn

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I don’t see any musical reason why a piano cannot be used in folk music. Any instrument played badly or not in style is a bad folk instrument. The piano is a highly complex mechanical instrument, just like the accordion. Where it differs is in portability. Can’t lug a piano to a gig unless you have a team of roadies. Accordions in folk music are generally small instruments. A 5 voice Morino could hack it but you don’t really see such combinations. Could it simply be the size of the instrument? ;)
 

jozz

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Modern day stage piano's or the old Amylette are only slightly less portable than accordions :D and if I have to believe movies, there was a piano in every saloon in North America.

But I think the question is not to have a piano in the arrangement, but to replace the accordion with the piano and what would you do then.
 

TomBR

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Glenn post_id=55841 time=1520148439 user_id=61 said:
I don’t see any musical reason why a piano cannot be used in folk music. ... The piano is a highly complex mechanical instrument, just like the accordion. Where it differs is in portability. Can’t lug a piano to a gig unless you have a team of roadies. ...... Could it simply be the size of the instrument? ;)
Yes, absolutely. You do mostly need a piano to be there. Once upon a time there were more pianos in pubs and public spaces and they got played for singalongs etc. True folk piano?

The portability issue varies.... The keyboard player in our barn dance band is a piano tuner and restorer. He will sometimes turn up to a gig with a (smallish) piano in the back of an estate car. He generally refuses help and the way he maneuvers it around on a little four wheeled truck, with skill of many years experience, is something to see!

As I understand it in Finland and other parts of Scandinavia harmoniums were often used where other countries had pianos. Theres a strong folk harmonium tradition.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Hello Glenn,

You are absolutely right ....... it is largely a matter of logistics. You are also right about the suitability of smaller accordions for folk music.

In my own experience of folk music, pianos have never featured prominently. In fact, I am racking my brain to think of one occasion in which a piano has featured at all.

I like the piano very much, but have never seen it as a "folky" instrument.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

andrewjohnsson40

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Isnt piano really best for playing a fiddle with RH and bass with LH?
I though peole who played piano accordion were pianists as well but at least youve played with pianists.
Isnt the piano too percussive sometimes?
TomBR post_id=55829 time=1520109769 user_id=323 said:
In the folk traditions Im interested in, Britain and Ireland, Western Europe and Eastern USA, piano is mainly an accompaniment instrument when it does appear. A lot of that is bass/chord vamping. As Anyanka says, this can be too heavy and repetitive - but just like too much bass/chord on accordion basses!

On the other hand there are some accompanists whos playing is a delight, while generally playing in that format. Charlie Lennon in the Irish tradition comes to mind.
Charlie kicks off at about 38 seconds here

Both tune and accompaniment can be done on piano in the Irish tradition.
Heres Patsy Broderick
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgiWQRj94wM

In the States George Winston has a style hes named rural folk piano - its a nice listen, but does it fit the label?
Significantly, hes self taught on piano.

Heres a lovely trad English tune on piano,
Folky in its way but also somewhat reminiscent of the pre-WWI English pastoral composers, who used English folk tunes of course. Full circle?

Im no pianist but I like playing traditional tunes on piano. I just tend to do a mixture of arpeggios and spread and block chords in the left hand, often using the keyboard three chord trick, ie in C major fingering CEG BDG CFA, plus minors.
But practicing CBA takes priority!

Id say piano can certainly be used in a folk context, but I dont think it makes it a folk instrument.

OTOH, there are plenty of videos on Youtube teaching chord piano and therefore players whove come to the instrument without notation, but via chord shapes, and by ear tunes. Is that a folk tradition in a digital age?
That drummer sounded weird. I rather have pianos than weird drums. In Sweden the drummers really only follow the accordion bass comping with some phrasing added so this weird Irish drummer sounded too much.
 

andrewjohnsson40

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henrikhank post_id=55848 time=1520156305 user_id=2321 said:
Isnt piano really best for playing a fiddle with RH and bass with LH?
I though peole who played piano accordion were pianists as well but at least youve played with pianists.
Isnt the piano too percussive sometimes?

Harmonium is interesting...but not as popular as it should be. They were used only in the older days I guess when school teachers played hymns, eg Din klara sol, on them.
TomBR post_id=55829 time=1520109769 user_id=323 said:
In the folk traditions Im interested in, Britain and Ireland, Western Europe and Eastern USA, piano is mainly an accompaniment instrument when it does appear. A lot of that is bass/chord vamping. As Anyanka says, this can be too heavy and repetitive - but just like too much bass/chord on accordion basses!

On the other hand there are some accompanists whos playing is a delight, while generally playing in that format. Charlie Lennon in the Irish tradition comes to mind.
Charlie kicks off at about 38 seconds here

Both tune and accompaniment can be done on piano in the Irish tradition.
Heres Patsy Broderick
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgiWQRj94wM

In the States George Winston has a style hes named rural folk piano - its a nice listen, but does it fit the label?
Significantly, hes self taught on piano.

Heres a lovely trad English tune on piano,
Folky in its way but also somewhat reminiscent of the pre-WWI English pastoral composers, who used English folk tunes of course. Full circle?

Im no pianist but I like playing traditional tunes on piano. I just tend to do a mixture of arpeggios and spread and block chords in the left hand, often using the keyboard three chord trick, ie in C major fingering CEG BDG CFA, plus minors.
But practicing CBA takes priority!

Id say piano can certainly be used in a folk context, but I dont think it makes it a folk instrument.

OTOH, there are plenty of videos on Youtube teaching chord piano and therefore players whove come to the instrument without notation, but via chord shapes, and by ear tunes. Is that a folk tradition in a digital age?
That drummer sounded weird. I rather have pianos than weird drums. In Sweden the drummers really only follow the accordion bass comping with some phrasing added so this weird Irish drummer sounded too much.
 

TomBR

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henrikhank post_id=55848 time=1520156305 user_id=2321 said:
That drummer sounded weird. I rather have pianos than weird drums. In Sweden the drummers really only follow the accordion bass comping with some phrasing added so this weird Irish drummer sounded too much.
Different traditions! I havent gone back to the clip yet, but in traditional Irish drum playing, the bodhran (pronounced bow-rawn - rhyming with now-lawn) the drum follows the rhythm of the tune, it doesnt just play a backing pattern. Its often said that the bodhran player must know the tune as well as the tuned instrument players.
 

Anyanka

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TomBR post_id=55829 time=1520109769 user_id=323 said:
In the States George Winston has a style hes named rural folk piano - its a nice listen, but does it fit the label?
Significantly, hes self taught on piano.

George Winston is one of my very favourite pianists, and has influenced my own piano playing more than anybody else, but I wouldnt call his style folk! I often improvise around folk tunes, but the outcome is really closer to something else, possibly some kind of jazz....

None of the other links do it for me; I feel that they could all be vastly improved by replacing the piano with an accordion or even a guitar (an instrument which Im not fond of at all when strummed). I love solo piano, but not in folk. In an accompanying role, it doesnt blend with the fiddle or the concertina or the Northumbrian smallpipe, but cuts through and stays separate.

However, that is (as always) just my opinion.
 

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I guess it depends on which folks folk music youre talking about.

Piano is a key part of the traditional music of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, for example. The type of piano accompaniment has evolved into a unique, energetic style that you really dont hear anywhere else:



And yes, the electronic keyboard is often the instrument of choice there. Not just for the portability (although thats probably how it started) but also because the bright, amplified sound is able to cut through all that fiddling.
 

jozz

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TomBR post_id=55850 time=1520160955 user_id=323 said:
the bodhran (pronounced bow-rawn - rhyming with now-lawn)

well good to learn this finally :ugeek: I never knew
 

george garside

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many ''folk dance' bands include a piano and this applies particularly to Scottish bands. Sir Jimmy Shands band consisted of himself on the Shand Morino box, Fiddle with only these playing the tune , the other band instruments were second box playing chords on treble and bass, acoustic double bass, piano and drums. John Kirkpatrick top English folk singer, musician and box player described Shands line up as ''an absolutely inspired combination - wonderful time keeping and exiting at the same time''


Several you tube sound tracks of original recordings and some vids of him playing in his eighties with his sons band.

Jim Mcleod, another well known Scottish band leader actually lead his band with a grand piano + 2 boxes, fiddle and drums.

on the rare occasions when I have had a pianist ( electric veriety) it as added greatly to the band ( pianist playing rhythm with both hands and more or less keeping below middle c withboth hands - wonderful stuff!

george
 
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