Substitutions!

On Monday we explored the idea of substituting melodic figures for others that appear elsewhere in the tune. Sounds a bit complicated, right?

By melodic figure, I mean a short pattern of notes that makes one particular tune to sound like that particular tune. For instance, in The Big Ship there is a melodic figure at the end of the first bar that we ended up calling a ‘tick’ (because if you were to connect the dots, you would create a tick shape):

This shape also features in its inverted or upside down form, for instance at the beginning of bar 4. We can drop this figure into other places in the tune, as shown below. As you can see, I’ve used both a ‘tick’ (red) and an ‘inverted tick’ (blue) and I’ve just put a couple in in each section, so that it doesn’t get too repetitive.

These substitutions work well because they are similar to the basic version of the tune, follow the same direction as the basic tune and don’t change the harmony, as the extra notes come on the quaver off beats. They will also fit if some people use them and others don’t, allowing substitutors and non-substitutors to play together!

We can also apply this substitution to Reel de Gaspe – since this figures comes at the beginning of bar 4, it won’t sound out of place. Here, the ticks and inverted ticks can be used effectively in the B section.

Some tunes have more opportunities for substitutions than others, but you might want to try this one out on The Buffoon in particular – there are many other instances of this figure popping up in tunes we have learned, with some having more space to experiment than others (if you want a heads up, you could try using it in bars 13-14 of Mount Hills, in bars 10 and 14 of Lollipop Man to name but a couple!).

Author: debfiddle

Deborah is a violinist and violist specialising in English folk music. She trained in viola and Baroque viola at Birmingham Conservatoire, before returning to her first love of traditional music, song and dance. She is a member of Stepling, a band performing English music, step-dance, song and percussion. She also plays for a number of function bands, performing at barn dances and ceilidhs across the UK. Deborah has played with a number of folk artists, dance and theatre projects. She plays with Folk Dance Remixed, a dance company combining traditional dance with hip hop and street dance styles, performing as such events as Car Fest, the Southbank's Festival of Love and Glasgow's Commonwealth Games Festival. She records on a regular basis for a number of people, including The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra, and for Laurel Swift's 'Travelling with Thomas' musical. Deborah teaches music, song and dance regularly for The English Folk Dance and Song Society, as well as on a freelance basis for various workshop series, festivals and music services. She is currently studying on The Teaching Musician MA degree course at Trinity Laban.

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