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Cajun Triangle


Cajun Triangle

Christine Balfa Plays the Triangle

(c) Valcour Records, 2008
Definition: The triangle is the predominant percussion instrument found in traditional Cajun music. In the old days, before amplification made it possible for bands to have drums, Cajun bands would often simply consist of two fiddles and a triangle.

Traditional Cajun triangles are made by bending a cast-iron tine of an old broken hay rake (the kind that horses pulled) into a triangle shape, with curled edges. They are usually bigger and thicker than the triangles that are often found in the percussion section of orchestras and concert bands, and therefore have a deeper, richer tone.

The Cajun triangle is played by holding the triangle in one's fist, and clamping and releasing the instrument itself, while simultaneously striking the triangle with an iron beater (usually made of the same material, in the same thickness). The clamping and releasing action gives the triangle a bit of tonality, and allows the player to control the ringing. In a waltz beat, the standard playing method is [clamp, open, open, clamp, open, open] and for a two-step, it's [clamp, open, clamp, open]. In both cases, the triangle is struck twice during each clamp and twice during each open. To achieve proper rhythm and tonality on the triangle is no small feat - it's deceptively difficult.
Also Known As: 'tit fer or tee fer (from the French "petit fer," meaning "little iron"), bastringue (from the French "basse triangle," meaning "low triangle")
Though it's intended as a bit of a gag, if you want to hear triangle in its pure form (without those darned noisy fiddles and accordions getting in the way), a record does exist. It's called Christine Balfa Plays the Triangle, and you can buy it directly at the Valcour Records website. Like I said, the record was sort of intended as a joke, but Christine Balfa really is the most respected triangle player in Cajun country, and the concept was pulled off quite well in this case.

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