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bellowbelle

Are You Particular About Choosing Either Sharp Or Flat Button (English

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I'm just curious about what other English concertina players do when it comes to playing in keys where your fingers could choose one of the two same-sounding notes, like C# or Db, G# or Ab, etc..

 

I was playing something in the key of C# this morning, a simple tune, and if I was 'correct' and strict about what note to play, I had to consciously be careful to choose a d# (d sharp) when I encountered that note. What my fingers naturally wanted to play was actually the eb (e flat). At least in this case.

 

I know it doesn't really make a difference, as far as how it sounds. And I'm guessing that if I were playing something very classical or complex, I'd probably find it more normal to play 'correctly.' But, with a simple tune, I find that my fingers just want to balance the distribution of buttons between my left and my right hand.

 

Any thoughts on this?

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Well, when the concertina was invented, before today's dominance of equal temperament, the two 'same-sounding notes' on many concertinas would probably have been tuned differently. This gives purer-sounding chords in common keys, as the mathematical ratios between the frequencies are closer to simple fractions, and the brain seems to like that. This was done as part of a 'just' or 'meantone' temperament tunings. It is still done occasionally today, particularly for people who play solo, or play with fiddles who (often unconsciously) adjust the pitch of these 'enharmonic pairs' according to the key. However most concertinas these days are tuned to equal temperament so that they fit with other instruments like pianos, and don't have preferred keys to play in.

 

So, assuming your instrument is in equal temperament (the enharmonic pairs sound the same) then you have no musical reason to choose a D# or an Eb, so go for whichever is easier for you. However my choices are affected by at least two factors:

1) finger ergonomics - it's often easier to reach one of the two than the other, because of fingers needed for preceding or following notes. So use the button under the easier finger.

2) brain power - if I read a D# from the music, it takes extra brain power to do the translation and think that I could be using an Eb - it's easier on the brain to play the D#.

 

So, it's a balance - I more often play the note 'as written', but if the finger ergonomics are a problem I switch to the enharmonic pair without worrying.

 

Does that help?

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Well, when the concertina was invented, before today's dominance of equal temperament, the two 'same-sounding notes' on many concertinas would probably have been tuned differently. This gives purer-sounding chords in common keys, as the mathematical ratios between the frequencies are closer to simple fractions, and the brain seems to like that. This was done as part of a 'just' or 'meantone' temperament tunings. It is still done occasionally today, particularly for people who play solo, or play with fiddles who (often unconsciously) adjust the pitch of these 'enharmonic pairs' according to the key. However most concertinas these days are tuned to equal temperament so that they fit with other instruments like pianos, and don't have preferred keys to play in.

 

So, assuming your instrument is in equal temperament (the enharmonic pairs sound the same) then you have no musical reason to choose a D# or an Eb, so go for whichever is easier for you. However my choices are affected by at least two factors:

1) finger ergonomics - it's often easier to reach one of the two than the other, because of fingers needed for preceding or following notes. So use the button under the easier finger.

2) brain power - if I read a D# from the music, it takes extra brain power to do the translation and think that I could be using an Eb - it's easier on the brain to play the D#.

 

So, it's a balance - I more often play the note 'as written', but if the finger ergonomics are a problem I switch to the enharmonic pair without worrying.

 

Does that help?

 

Yes, thanks!

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Fifteen-odd years ago, Ed Delaney, who lives near Indianapolis, sold me my first EC, a cheerful but working Lachenal Paragon model. I enjoy playing it when I get tired of anglo! He is an accomplished player; I've heard him do both contra dance tunes and Irish music very well. He told me that sometimes you could use the alternate, enharmonic (in equal temperament) button. "Colraine is one such tune," he said. (There is a G# or two, if you don't know the tune.) A year later, I found myself sitting next to John Roberts in the pickup band at Pinewoods before a dance. I had AC and he had his EC, so I asked him about this, did he ever use the Ab button on Colraine? "No," he said, laughing.

 

Ken

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I play what, or which ever en-harmonic that fits with my fingering position at that instance, or perhaps what ever fingering I will need next. What I do find is that the the fingering & key selection becomes habitual for that tune. so choose wisely.

 

Dave

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As a long term user of Meantone temperaments on the EC my tendance is to stick with the harmonic choice for the key signature. This usually keeps the logical fingering movements , and chord shapes fairly standard through four keys flat and four sharp of C maj. I find this makes transposition easier because my brain has assimilated the pattern strategy. As a 'for instance' ; some people like to change the low G# on a 48 Treble to an F natural... now this would bother me if I was playing in A because I would need to go 'out of pattern ' to use the Ab button for the missing G#.

 

When playing in keys further away from C or when the music is very chromatic and one needs to substitute , C# for Db for example, then complexities of fingering might call for a 'best option' fingering.

 

So, as a basic approach I find myself using the G# and D# buttons in all Sharp key signatures and the Ab and Eb buttons for all the Flat key signatures. If your sheet music says play an Eb I think it is a better policy to do that and not substitute the D# because it might be easier.

 

An example piece with difficult single line melody where I could substitute but do not:

 

Bourrée from the French suite in Eb by JS Bach ( BWV 819). In the B part second bar there is a downward run G,Eb,Db,Bb which one could play as G,D#,C#,Bb for a nice alternating right-left-right-left fingering but my personal rule ( and the need to keep harmonically 'in the arpeggio ' with my Mean Tone tuning) makes me play G,Eb,C#,Bb.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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"Bourrée from the French suite in Eb by JS Bach ( BWV 819). In the B part second bar there is a downward run G,Eb,Db,Bb which one could play as G,D#,C#,Bb for a nice alternating right-left-right-left fingering but my personal rule ( and the need to keep harmonically 'in the arpeggio ' with my Mean Tone tuning) makes me play G,Eb,C#,Bb."

 

Geoff:

 

When playing an instrument in meantone tuning and you need to play a note that is out of key and is one the now non-enharmonic pairs, such as the C#/Db in your example, how do you choose which note to play? Is there a rule other than whichever sounds best?

 

Thx. Don.

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Well Don,

 

in reference to C# /Db these are the same note in Equal Temperament and unless one created a keyboard with separate buttons for these two notes and used an altogether more complex tuning system we can only use the C# button for either note. In the example I have given (G,Eb,Db,Bb) Bach gives us an arpeggio of Eb7 in which the C# ,in 1/5th Comma Meantone, is perfectly sweet as a replacement for his written Db... So although I had no possible alternative the 'whichever sounds best' rule has applied itself. When discords do appear they show us the extent of the possible use of a Meantone tuning and we should perhaps retreat to a more useable key or go for Equal Temperament.

 

One clarifying point to Bellowbell's question; choosing the wrong enharmonic ( which is usually the one that is out of pattern on the EC, unless you are in a really far out key) can negate the ability to easily transpose the tune to another key .

 

 

If we take the Hayden duet, as an example of which enharmonic one would choose , notice that the Eb's and Ab's are on the left side of the keyboard and the G#'s and D#'s and on the right.....and it follows that when one is playing in keys like F# and B it naturally follows that G# and D# would be used and when one is playing in Bb and Eb it is the Ab and Eb that are used. I can see that Bach's G,Eb,C#,Bb arpeggio is quite a stretch on the Hayden.

 

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Thanks Geoff, very insightful as always.

 

(Greg J is tuning an Excelsior for me in 1/5 comma mean tone per your specs).

 

Don.

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Thanks Geoff, very insightful as always.

 

(Greg J is tuning an Excelsior for me in 1/5 comma mean tone per your specs).

 

Don.

It's what I like about C.net ..... how people respond to each other and say thanks... it is so polite. On certain other forums one would be lucky to get any response to a detailed answer to a question... as if it is the right of the inquisitor to obtain knowledge freely!

 

Cheers Don and hope you enjoy the Excelsior. :)

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.....................................When playing in keys further away from C or when the music is very chromatic and one needs to substitute , C# for Db for example, then complexities of fingering might call for a 'best option' fingering..................................

 

 

Aha, yes... that clears up some of my question. Thanks.

 

Thanks everyone for your answers!

 

Edit added...

Geoff, all of your reply is a very informative answer...but I just mean that that bit in particular was very helpful re my own questions while muddling through something.

 

I made myself some 'crazy little charts' that at the moment I don't want to present or explain (will get to that someday), but they kind of have to do with playing intervals. Does involve patterns, in a way. As I go along, using my own charts, and trying to figure out what I want to say about them, I am coming up with all kinds of questions. Like the one which prompted this thread.

Edited by bellowbelle

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