I'm very confused about something. I listen to a lot old recordings of Cajun music, and much of it was played at over 200 beats per minute (two steps).
The question is, if people currently don't like to dance Cajun to this speed, how did the dancers do it back then? I personally like playing faster, it's more exciting to me. I'll have to try my best to slow down tonight, not the easiest thing to do when you've learned from FAST players.
I can't imagine Iry LeGeune playing any slower live, than on his recordings.
I also wanted to mention, I really don't understand why people have to be Nazis about speed at jam sessions.
For instance someone smirking and saying, "this is dance music, you're playing too fast." Yet there's NO one dancing and that same person loves Iry LeGeune, Marc Savoy, etc.
Is it only that the Gods of Cajun accordion can play fast at jams?
Don't get me wrong, I can understand playing slower at dances, but at jams?
ray abshire told me one time that there were a number of different speeds he utilized wjen performing. the 2 i remember him mentioning were "dance speed" and "festival speed".....festival speed was really fast and more geared to people listening and not necessarily dancing. perhaps you'd have a different opinion regarding speed if you danced alot.
I don't dance at all to be honest. Like I said, I can understand why dancers like it slower.
But why would people be against it at certain jams? Doesn't make any sense to me.
i think 195 to 200 is a pretty good two step
zydeco, contrary to what people usually think,
180 would be mid-tempo for zydeco.
200 is very fast
160 is pretty slow.
keith frank plays every song at 170 :)
at a dance he does anyway
I thought 200 was good too, personally. Stuff like Bayou two-step (or anything remotely Amadie Ardoin style) I like at 205.
I play more than I dance, but have noticed that recordings I've made always sound faster than I remember playing at the time. To me, groove is more important than speed, regardless of the type of music, but especially for Zydeco.
regarding "it don't mean a thing if it don't got a groove"
I'm not making any claims for myself as a player, but as a dancer I've noticed:
> louder doesn't make you want to dance more
> faster doesn't make it more inviting to dance
tight makes you want to move!
That, and a little syncopation or swing in the right places, depending on the style of music.
I often play too fast: my Ray Abshire story is:
"you play a lot by yourself, don't you? People who play by themselves always play really fast"
Anyway, not to dampen your spirits Jim: zoom away if you can handle the curves!
Now I gotta slow down to sit in with Roger next month
Why would someone call for dance speed at a jam with no dancing? Maybe because they are practicing for a dance?
I remember one musician telling me that Ambrose Thibodeaux was the only player he ever heard criticize Iry LeJeune, on the basis of being too fast for dancing (and Ambrose was a good dancer). Another critiqued Austin Pitre saying he was a good musician but undanceable because of his odd rhythm.
Just my two cents since I don't jam.
Well, it was like this. One night I was playing accordion on the porch at Augusta. Another cajun musician came up and sat down to jam. I got a complaint that it was too fast, this is dance music. I was playing about 200 beats per minute on a two step.
I said to him, "I don't see any dancers" and I didn't want to get into it so I just left the jam
I think it may have something to do with why one plays the music in the first place.
Some people play fast just to show off.
Sometimes it sounds like just a flury of notes without heart or soul. This is unfortunate.
I sometimes see this at jams. Someone playing fast for no other reason except that they can.
(Just because my car can go 120 MPH does not mean I need to drive it that fast. :)
Sometimes it's worth slowing down to smell the flowers.
(But I always drive fast past the cattle farm on I5! :)
I have noticed that some beginners start playing too fast while learning. Then once they get better, the tempos at which they play are so fast that they never end up being able to play the orimentations that make Cajun music what it is.
I remeber discussing speed and ornimentation with Dirk Powell at Augusta one day. He pointed out that removing notes instead of adding notes is just as exceptable during a second or third melody turn as a variation.
Just two more cents,
No one that I have ever talked to enjoyed dancing to Iry. They always extol his very passionate singing and I am told he would often bring listeners to tears. But as far as I have heard, no went to see or hear Iry because they wanted to dance, according to those who lived then that I have talked to, Iry did not play the greatest music for dancing. They draw by his passionate crying vocal style and his accordion "acrobatics"...but it was never really geared toward dancing. The dance king back then was Lawrence Walker...he drew the dancing crowds around the Lacassine/Jeff Davis area.
By the way, there are a number of two steps Iry played slow...like Jolie Catin and Teche Special...there are some fast notes in there, but the beat is slower than the way most people play today. Not everything that he did was breakneak speed.
To me the speed has changed because of the dance styles changed. When I started out I played two steps a lot faster back then and the dance step people did seemed to fit it just fine. Today I find I must play two-step a little slower to really pack the floor. I think you have to just watch the crowd and see what gets the best dance response if that is what you are going for. The comment about the "groove" is really the most important, however. If the band is grooving, I have never heard anyone complain...fast or slow...also if the beat (tempo) is a bit slower, you can put in more ornamental notes and trills and things like that...so sometimes, it acutally sounds like the accordion is playing faster notes...kind of like the band is in third gear on the bicycle and the accordion player is in first and pedalling quickly but the whole band is moving ahead together at the same ground speed...(a wierd analogy, hope you understand)...
I agree with a previous post that most Zydeco is slower in tempo even though there is an illusion that it is faster than Cajun music...It just comes from the syncopation and internal energy that is in the style, not from playing faster.
Wow, this is the kind of local knowledge that really gives us some major insight on things.
Roger ... that is an interesting perspective .. re: speed and all, depending on the type of audience.
I see how that ties very well... I mean the differances in a dancing crowd and that of just a listenging crowd.
I too have noticed that when you have a predominate listening audience (festival) they snap too when the music starts hopping (two step or driving zydeco beat). Especially an audience that has very little knowledge of this genre. But dancers are a form of the the total entertainment for many.
When I finally placed a dance floor at a festival, a big transformation occured, whereby any speed seemed to be attractive to the audience by virtue of the dancers that simply wanted to dance..they likewise were part of the entertainment for the sitter-downers.... it was the best $600 I ever spent on tounge and groove and a gob of 2x4's and screws! Just about every band that played could feel the audience for what they wanted and mixed it up very well crossing many speeds, it was cool... To me, that is the upper level of band experience, reading the audience and knowing how to get the juices flowing (so to speak) enough to have folks (that want to dance) mark their territory on the floor.
I must have it good. No dancers and no one to jam with. Thankfully the accordion is a band rolled into one box! It all sounds good to me.
Hi...interested in reading the postings on "speed at sessions" (Don't use it myself have enough problems playing !!)
Here in UK there is a real mentality around which can be very destructive to new players. It's the smirking comments..."this is the RIGHT way to play this tune/etc"
Some people appear to want to hold music in a time warp (usually Morris players)...I wonder how music evolved if these people had been around !!
Of course there are correct speeds for specific dances and it is good discipline to play them BUT lets remember that American Old time/etc came from a pooling of many older English/Irish/etc tunes which were either half remembered and redesigned for local tastes and dancing.
We can still keep the "traditional tunes" BUT we must experiment surely.
You didn't sound too fast to me when I heard you this fall at the jam at Half Moon. Good luck with your gig!
The gig went fantastic. We were a little shakey at first but people danced and enjoyed it. I'm happy. Got a good chunk of change out of it too.
Anticipating our second gig TBA!