(Somewhat more) advanced engineering

Last night we worked on Down the Brae / Ballydesmond Polka #2 / Ballydesmond Polka #3.

All three tunes are in Am; Down the Brae is a march, which has a similar feel to the Irish polkas. The chord changes get a bit closer together as we go from tune to tune, and each tune also gets a little more note-y, and there’s some cool F chord substitutions in the last tune, so there’s an increase in energy just from stringing these three together in this order.

We spent a good bit of the evening finalizing our arrangement decisions; our arrangement is fairly busy, but we think the similarities of the tunes help keep it grounded.

Down the Brae starts with an intro of guitar fingerpicking, then a fiddle and dulcimer call and response, then both together — just twice through the tune. A set of fast dulcimer arpeggios leads into fiddle and guitar playing the A part of Ballydesmond #2, then guitar switches to backup and dulcimer joins the melody for the B part, and on into the second time through. Dulcimer and guitar start Ballydesmond #3 while fiddle plays some bass notes (how cool is that, fiddle playing bass!), then he joins the melody on the second A part. The second time through this tune dulcimer plays a harmony part, and we end with a bang.

Because the arrangement is fairly complicated, and because the dulcimer arpeggios and switch from finger-picking to strumming create a natural break, we tried recording Down the Brae and the Ballydesmonds separately. We started the Ballydesmond takes with the last two measures of Down the Brae, to allow for some overlap of sound, particularly the dulcimer’s sustain, and to allow for more elbow room for editing.

Today I hope to choose the best takes of each part and try the edit; I hope it works!