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owlgal

Duet Concertinas?

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I rented the Elise last week, to see what the Hayden system was like, and it really appeals to me as a simple and logical way to play at least 4 different keys for the kinds of music I play, which is, like Mr. Vanitas here, mostly Americana ,folk, some hymns, gospel, and the like. I have spent perhaps 8 hours with it, and am so encouraged as to want to learn from other Elise players how far they may have "pushed" the instrument, and in what directions? For instance, has anyone kept up in a session, in D and G, particularly? Any quick fiddle tunes? How about ragtime? It seems to me that it should be pretty facile in these types.

 

Though I play some ITM session tunes just on my own and home for fun, at least at my skill level and with an inexpensive box like the Elise I'm not sure session speed is viable. Check back when I get my Morse Beaumont in another year of practice!

 

So far as what I use it for, this week I took it to one folk jam and one practice for my friend's acoustic rock band. For the folk jam, where volume mattered and on some songs I had to demonstrate the chord progression for folks who didn't know the tune; on that I largely just did root-fifth chords on my left hand, and would play a complementary higher note on my right. Once a song got rolling and we didn't need something so heavy (or had a song everyone was familiar with) I'd back it off and largely play melody on my right while playing one note (usually root or fifth) of the current chord on my left.

 

For the band practice, I'm playing with an acoustic guitar and electric bass, so the low and harmonic aspect is covered by them, so I largely do high countermelodies on the right hand, which helps add to the "psychedelic" sound of the tunes, largely dark and flowing songs of moderate pace. With the encouragement of the guitarist, I've been working a lot at adding dissonance, particularly intervals of a 2d. This is really easy on the Hayden layout, since if I'm playing a D and want that dissonant 2d I can just slide my finger a bit so it's sitting on both the D and the E. When I use the left at all, it's to do octave effects mimicking the right hand (particularly if I'm trying to do a loud dissonance or drone), or at some points where we need less high deedley-dee notes, I use the left hand root-fifth chords, and just slowly swell in volume, trying to vary the effect by dynamics rather than notes.

 

 

So that's what I'm doing so far. After two years of just casually playing the Hayden at home alone mostly, playing with others regularly has taught me a lot. Both the dynamics/dissonances utility, and also simple things like "don't try to hit two consecutive notes with the same finger" since it does really noticeable slow the reaction time on the chord change. Also I used to use two fingers to finger 2-note chords, but found that slow and unnecessary, so building the habit of doing two buttons per finger on accompaniment if I need a partial chord. That said, I'm also using chords less since after recording myself I realized that a big resonant root-fifth chord when I'm playing solo really drowns out my melody, so even solo I'm more frequently just hitting one note of the chord for sparser accompaniment. I'm still unsubtle in the timing though, just hitting a chord and holding it until the next chord, so I really need to work on applying rhythm to my left hand, and yet further pursuing the "less is more" of accompaniment.

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@David: you can hear two of my arrangements on the Elise here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-bySYW3XVA and here:

I do mostly self accompanied singing of modern songs (or accompany singing of small groups of people), so I do use a lot of full triad chords and rhytms (but I'm familiar with drone or countermelody LH playing), with or without melody line on the right hand. I often do an "arpeggiated" accompaniments, where left chand plays chords in the plain om-pah rhytm and the right hand plays the 3-4 note arpeggio of a same chord.

 

With such small overlap that Elise offers playing fast ITM is a very challenging task as you can play it both hands as you would on an English only within a single octave.

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Thanks for the replies, Matthew and Lukasz, and for the link, Lukasz. You sound great on the Elise, and I am hoping to sound as good after some work. Matthew, I suspect my aspirations are similar to yours, for playing with others. I am a regular at a folk jam, where the level of acceptance is high, and my modest Anglo skills have been appreciated. I think the Elise will be similarly appreciated, especially since it will be less burden on the other players to cater to my limited keys. And, I think the potential for building rapidity for at least the slow session and song accompaniment part of my local ITM session is good. And, the fiddle folk are also very accepting, although I won't be doing much in key of A very soon.

 

All in all, I like the thing, and hope it doesn't twist my brain so I can't play the Anglo without confusion. Any experience switching between?

 

Thanks again, and regards,

 

David

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Hi David - Have a look at the videos I posted last week on the video forum thread - I know it is a Crane duet , not the Hadyn system, but it might give you ideas of how to use duet concertina for song accompaniment. Keep at it !

"Let the music keep your spirits high"

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Thanks, Mr. Lakeman. Very nice stuff. I am of the opinion that singing and pushing and pulling hands at the same time is virtually impossible, and am so impressed with your natural, yet polished abilities in that regard. I hope my experiment with the Hayden will open that up somewhat for me, since my problem singing with the anglo is more difficult whenever I switch directions, and unwittingly switch singing notes...a mess, as you might imagine.

 

At any rate, thanks again.

 

David

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[i am concerned (as Dirge has so compellingly argued) that the upgrade path is expensive and episodic]

 

less episodic with the advent of the morse beaumont, and i predict that the beaumont will not be the last of it. as for expensive--yes, expensive. however, bear in mind that hayden is less of a standout among the duets in that department with every year that goes by, due to the fact that prices for quality duets of any kind have really gone up. nice maccanns and cranes are by no means cheap these days, particularly if you get to wanting a duet in the mid-50-key range or over....

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All in all, I like the thing, and hope it doesn't twist my brain so I can't play the Anglo without confusion. Any experience switching between?

 

I have some experience switching between... English (my main squeeze), anglos (with varying note locations outside the "core 20"), and duets (mainly Crane, but also Maccann, a unique Pitt-Taylor layout, and brief episodes with both Jeffries and Hayden). I never experience "cross contamination" between the major types, and on the very rare occasions when it happens between different anglo (e.g., Wheatstone vs. Jeffries) or duet (e.g., Macann vs. Crane) layouts, it disappears after only one or two errors.

 

Your mileage may differ. Different folks have reported different susceptibilities to such problems.

 

But the differences between the anglo and the duet (any of the systems) is at least as great as that between the banjo and the guitar. In spite of gross similarities (buttons and bellows, or strings and fretboard), they're completely different instruments. They "feel" sufficiently different -- to most folks, I think, -- that it's difficult to confuse them unconsciously. There are many individuals who play only banjo or guitar, but also quite a few who play both with no confusion. The same is true with different kinds of concertina.

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I only seriously play anglo, but I'm gaining competency on the Hayden and I can squeeze a few tunes out of an English. While I've rarely messed up on the buttons and fingers when switching between Hayden and anglo, at first I found it really difficult to *not* use the bellows as if for anglo when playing a Hayden. That is, I would squeeze on the notes and chords which one would squeeze on anglo, and pull on the notes and chords which one would pull on an anglo, while playing a Hayden. Yet I had no problem at all with the buttons and fingers, just the bellows. I've *mostly* gotten over that, but it still happens whenever I try to play anything "jaunty" on Hayden with the hands both doing a lot of movement. (Usually on the Hayden, my left hand is playing a contrapuntal bass line or open-fifth chords, completely separate from my right hand playing the melody, while on the anglo, I have the melody and harmony moving back and forth between my hands -- for some tunes, the whole thing, melody and harmony, winds up mostly on my left hand!)

 

My thoughts are different, too: on the Hayden, I think of melody notes and instinctively play them with my right hand while my brain is trying to think one step ahead of the melody to direct the left hand ("ok, IV chord coming up, but scale tone four is in the melody so I want the bass to be either six or one, so let's try six"...); and on the anglo, I just think of shapes and patterns of sound I want to make and my fingers just somehow know where to go. And on the English, there's still a lot of "oh wait, F#, not F ... oh, that note is on *that* hand ... oh, hey, I actually got through that phrase, that sounded good!" :-)

Edited by wayman

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I am concerned (as Dirge has so compellingly argued) that the upgrade path is expensive and episodic, but for now am really curious about just how this interesting little machine has been utilized.

 

On a minor sidenote, I'm not totally convinced on the concern that having Hayden starter boxes instead of, say, Maccann starter boxes is an impediment to the future of the Duet.

 

If someone starts off on a Hayden, and wants a larger/nicer box and positively wants vintage Wheatstone, I don't think that switching to Maccann is some massive detriment. I've frequently changed tunings on string instruments, as over time I find that I prefer DADGAD on guitar, or that dropping from GDAE to GDAD on bouzouki helps with reach on the high notes. This involves "changing my fingering" but isn't a huge setback. If some young fellow learning Hayden today is destined to become the great Savior of the Duet, I don't think that a lack of 1903-vintage Haydens is going to be his great downfall. Now that the Peacock and Beaumont are out, a 52-button Hayden for $3800 is not significantly worse in price than a $2500 55-button Maccann. And if Duets maintain any momentum in popularity at all, it's quite likely that in 20 years a vintage Maccann will be well pricier than any hybrid Hayden even of pro-quality, and possibly close in price to a new trad-reeded Hayden.

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I am of the opinion that singing and pushing and pulling hands at the same time is virtually impossible [...] I hope my experiment with the Hayden will open that up somewhat for me, since my problem singing with the anglo is more difficult whenever I switch directions, and unwittingly switch singing notes...a mess, as you might imagine.

 

 

My experience in years past with teaching song accompaniment at the Swaledale concertina weekend and elsewhere is that most, if not all, relatively inexperienced players can build up a level of independence between box and voice relatively quickly. It can help to start very, very simply - singing against a drone note or an open fifth and just concentrating on the balance between the two initially.

 

Don't lose heart with the anglo - it's a funny machine, but as accompanying yourself on the Hayden begins to feel more natural, you may well find that the mechanics of doing it on the anglo also become less challenging.

Edited by StuartEstell

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Hello! Thanks for the complimentary mentions on this thread. I indeed haven't been checking into concertina.net regularly for the last few years. I've been making music with my band Skitnik - www.SkitnikMusic.com - which includes a fair bit of concertina work.

 

The type of concertina you play does make a difference, but 90% of what's needed to get a good sound out of any instrument is determination, knowing how you want to sound, and pushing your boundaries over and over again.

 

I do like the Wicki layout. It's trickier than an accordion for playing a melody with simple backup, but easier for that task than an Anglo. Where a duet shines the best, I think, is freely-harmonized two (or more) voiced pieces, with independent counter-melodies and the like. For most things, an acccordion is easier, and you can even get some nice independent bass runs with the bass buttons.. But the concertina does have that special sound to it that an accordion doesn't really replicate.

 

The 46-button instrument I play is limited, but I like the size and portability. It's fun to try to arrange for the limitations of the instrument. But it's demanding to play complex pieces...I haven't practiced my solo stuff much, and I can't play most of it any more! I didn't read this whole thread, but if there are any specific questions still begging for answers, maybe I can help.

 

I should start a separate thread, but I'm planning to go to Ireland for the first time next year! I'd like to make it to the Kilfenora traditional music festival at the end of April, and compete in the All-Ireland bones competition at the beginning of May in Abbeyfeale. I'd love to hear a few tips on where to stay, what to do, any concertina-related spots, maybe. I'm thinking of flying into Dublin and staying a few days, then drive to Galway, Kilfenora, and Doolin before going to Abbeyfeale. And maybe squeeze in a round of golf or two, if there's a way to do that without it costing hundreds of dollars. Any suggestions?

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If it's adds anything to this conversation, I'm in my mid thirties and just started out with a duet (my single xmas present), on a 46 key Lachenal Maccann. I read around various places including this forum before I committed to it, so you should know you have all had an influence on my decision. I also read a comparison on concertina.com between a 46 key hayden by Stagi and Lachenal 46 key Maccann and decided I would rather have the vintage sound and build quality over the more learnable/logical? hayden layout, there is no way I could justify spending over a grand for a concertina at this stage, even for christmas where some of the cost is covered!

 

So far very impressed with the instrument, the sound quality is very good and I obtained it for a little under £500, I think it's a great starting point and will allow me to play more easily (hopefully) some old music my grandmother used to play on the piano, and some other pieces i'm determined to learn. I will probably not be able to recreate some of the more complex music due to the range and properties of a piano, but i'm sure I can adopt a lot of it. If I graduate to level I feel I am being restricted in a few years I may then consider an upgrade to a bigger instrument, but for now I think i've got more than enough on my hands.

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If it's adds anything to this conversation, I'm in my mid thirties and just started out with a duet (my single xmas present), on a 46 key Lachenal Maccann. I read around various places including this forum before I committed to it, so you should know you have all had an influence on my decision. I also read a comparison on concertina.com between a 46 key hayden by Stagi and Lachenal 46 key Maccann and decided I would rather have the vintage sound and build quality over the more learnable/logical? hayden layout, there is no way I could justify spending over a grand for a concertina at this stage, even for christmas where some of the cost is covered!

 

So far very impressed with the instrument, the sound quality is very good and I obtained it for a little under £500, I think it's a great starting point and will allow me to play more easily (hopefully) some old music my grandmother used to play on the piano, and some other pieces i'm determined to learn. I will probably not be able to recreate some of the more complex music due to the range and properties of a piano, but i'm sure I can adopt a lot of it. If I graduate to level I feel I am being restricted in a few years I may then consider an upgrade to a bigger instrument, but for now I think i've got more than enough on my hands.

 

That's all good stuff and your enthusiasm is great!

 

Your beast's range may make the piano music frustrating, you'll have to move the bass up a lot. Don't dismiss kids' music. The convention for writing it seems to be that children don't have big reaches so the music stays closer to the middle of the keyboard. Although a lot of it is painful 'Faeries Dancing In A Ring' stuff it isn't all like that. I've done well from 'Classics for the Very Young' sort of books. Then don't forget to look at guitar and, it appears now, banjo music too, as well as any other chording instrument just in case. (you too can learn to swear fluently at 'tabs'). There's no real repertoire for a duet so you have to find it.

 

Great Xmas present. Lucky man.

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[i should start a separate thread, but I'm planning to go to Ireland for the first time next year! I'd like to make it to the Kilfenora traditional music festival at the end of April, ] and, [Any suggestions?]

 

There is a concertina weekend going on in Ennis, County Clare in April. What about THAT??? I think you're going to have to adjust your April dates a tad to fit this in!---

 

Update and links to event site here:

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=16090

 

 

Maccanns: There is a right slew of them on the Hobgoblin Secondhand listings at present...

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