Author: Gwad Moc'h

Music, Sound & Video

The forbidden 3rd

Most breton tunes cannot be played on a piano. Why ? Because they have “commas” (as it is often the case in oriental musiv for example). See the fret setup of a guitar below :


Fret spacing is regular, whereas if you take a look at a turkish saz :


Fret spacing is not regular, which enables to play notes with the so-called “commas”, and that cannot be played on a piano for instance (see this older issue for further details : Bağlama’s pitch). In other words, a third can be slightly higher than the minor, but much lower than the major, which means its pitch is somewhere inbetween…

Ok, now what happens if you play a tune on the turkish saz with a high third degree as we commonly have in breton music, together with a guitar ?? If you play a grid with a usual minor third, it may sound like this :

Well, I think it sounds a little bit weird, or even out of tune since a third with two different pitches gets played simultaneously… And especially, Simone doesn’t like to sing when I play this kind of chords !

So, I made a grid, trying to find “3rdless” chords, in order to avoid this “forbidden third”, this is what it sounds like :

I do think it sounds better, but you may find it’s even worse than in the first attempt ! If so, please let me know ! :))


DIY hardware, Musicians' Diary

Building a USB footswitch…

Actally, updating / upgrading the home-made footswitch, that I made a couple of years ago… (see previous posts there and there…). I use this footswitch to control my looping software “Live” on stage, since my hands are generally busy with a stringed instrument ! I must say that as far as I know, this kind of USB hardware doesn’t exist !

Pedalier - 03

As I wanted to get a more reliable hardware, and also more compact so that I can fit in my suitcase… So I started from a cheap USB keyboard…


After finding the suitable combinations of connectors (i.e. keys, actually), let’s design the stuff with a nice and clear sketch…


Then time has come for soldering…


The tricky part, soldering on the keyboard core :


Yes, this is a hard work :))


And after many tests and controls, the final result :




astrakan breton world music on facebook


What the hell is the time signature ?

We have already been talking about rhythm, here for example. Let’s go further with rhythm with this song sample that Simone quickly recorded a couple of days ago :

According to me, most parts time signature is 5/8. But what about the middle part ? Any suggestion would be warmly welcome ! You can also here Simone clapping her hands, this might be the right clue to find the answer !


Musicians' Diary

A curious rhythm notation…

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Last week as I was in Istanbul for a little concert, I was taught this by Richard Laniepce from Kolektif Istanbul :


This is the notation widely used in Bulgarian music to write down their complicated rhythms, he learned this from the Gaida player Siyka Katzeva. To better understand how it sounds like, you can count this way : 123-12-12-123-12-12-12-12-12-12-123-12-12, which makes of this a 29/8 rythm ! Some more examples below :


Interesting isn’t it ? Then I thought about my own not very optimal system to write some complex rhythms we may have in Breton music, and my conclusion is that my system is fully obsolete ! 😉

So I started to write our rhythms using this very efficient notation, this what it looks like for our song 1932 from our first album.


With the following structure : AABA.

The rhythm from our song “Erwanig Skolan” from our last digital album “Within the Circle“:

5-8, which is very commonly used in Balkans and Turkey. To finish off, let’s see then what I am working on for the next album :


If I get lost, the closest Bulgarian border is only 80km away :))


Music, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Same tune before / after

When arranging a traditional tune, the result can have extremely different flavours depending on :

– Your mood when you were composing…
– The instruments you chose to play the tune…
– Where you are, what your environment is…

Here is an example of a traditional breton tune arranged in two different manners. I made the first sample about two weeks ago before we moved out of Istanbul.

You can mostly hear guitar and turkish saz “Bağlama”. I made the second sample this week, two days after we had settled in Northern Greece…

I used ‘ud and derbuka. I really like the second one !! 🙂