Bear Hug Contra Dance Piano Workshop

Notes on the notes


Each example is four bars long (one row).

The descriptions refer to the opening measure numbers (1, 5, etc.)

Note These are just notes! Don't play them this way -- they'll sound way too stiff! Each of the right-hand chords is closer to a staccato sixteenth than the eighth notes written here. The left-hand octaves vary from an accented quarter-note to a light sixteenth. The right hand is always punchy and percussive, and always staccato (short) unless leading immediately to a downbeat.

To understand how the lengths and emphasis on these notes can vary, especially the left hand, listen to the selections and particularly the opening bars of the two Edith Farrar examples.


1) Plain-vanilla backup in the key of D major. One bar of D, one of G, one of A, one of D. Observe the way the bass line maps out a little melody of its own. Notes only -- you'd never play this way.

5) Example 1, with an A chord substituted for the last D chord. Substituting the "five" chord here as a lead-in to the top of the phrase is nearly automatic.

9) Pounding on the balances. The first two bars of Example 1 are played with hands together ("block chords"). Remember to mimic the dancers: thump, Thwam; thump, THWAM!

13) Turnarounds. The last two bars illustrate a common ascending turnaround in a major key. The fact that a D chord in the last bar would better "match the tune" is irrelevant. (Listen to Edith again.)

17) Another turnaround, this time descending.

21) An ascending turnaround in a minor key. To my ears, the minor key turnarounds can be really dramatic. Listen to Edith play the Old Grey Cat for some more examples.

25) A descending minor key turnaround. Think of it as like four potatoes: accent and extend the last of the group of four.

29) The "loop", an eight-chord minor key turnaround. This turnaround can be stretched out (four counts per chord instead of two) to cover an entire B part (B1 and B2). The last extra chord is a bonus for even more dramatic build-up. The Strawstack example makes heavy use of this device.

Have fun!


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Last updated:
04 September 2003