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Does the duet have a great future... discuss?


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#1 Irene S.

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 08:56 PM

Al Day posted the following on a thread started by Ralphie Jordan with some demos of Maccann duet playing newly prepared by him :"The Duet has a great future. Any recently converted Duet players agree with me. Please start a separate page for discussion."

I thought I'd have a bash at starting this off - but on reading it through most of it is not about the future, more the present. However, the future is inevitably grounded in the present and the past, so I make no apologies. I'm a recent trainee Duet player with big L plates up. I'd considered taking up concertina some 18 years ago, but had only known about two types - the Anglo, which I discounted (reckoned that the push-pull principle would fry my brain) and the English, which I was told would be suitable for accompanying song, and gave the same note on push/pull. Right ... sorted! However, for many and varied reasons I never followed through. A chance meeting with a tall thin musician at the Bismarcks' last gig in Godalming in late 2006.who later suggested expanding my talk with unaccompanied songs on Lucy Broadwood into something with addition of concertina backing (it's now a bit more than that),finally brought me into touch with the instrument which another musician recently jokingly described as being "of the Dark Side" :ph34r: The musical beanpole was Ralph Jordan, and the tina was the Maccann Duet .

Up until then I had never heard of a duet (of any sort) and what it could do. I was given the chance to try one out and it was at that point that I became hooked. The L plates are still up, and are likely to be for quite a time, and I'm sad in a way that I've probably come to it too late in life to become really good at it. I shall, however, be giving it a damned good try and enjoying myself.

On the basis of my limited experience as a player of only one type of Duet I have one or two observations about the situation as it is now . Encounters with other concertinists over the last two years suggest that the duet is viewed in a rather odd light by more than a few people. One question crops up frequently - "Which system are you learning - Anglo or English?" The response "Maccann duet" usually achieves an air of shock, indrawn breath ... and on several occasions "Wow, you need two brains for that!". Although I take a certain perverse delight in that reaction, it strikes me as very odd. In my teens I learned to play piano (admittedly not to a very high standard), and used to sight read three lines of music - two for the piano, and one for vocal line, and sing to my own accompaniment. As far as I'm aware no-one says that to piano players!! I've more than once been told that the Maccann is an "illogical" system. I learned to touch type in my teens - the qwertyop keyboard has NO logic at all that I can see. I can identify a certain degree of perverted logic in the Maccann fingering system - in fact far more than in the typing keyboard! All of which suggests that a duet is viewed and promoted by some as difficult to learn to play. Maybe it is - I shall never know, since I never tried any other system than the Maccann. Comments like these seem to be fairly persistent ... so when considering what system to take up potential players are likely to be put off by negative word of mouth or indeed, like me, lack of knowledge of any alternative to the English or the Anglo. I was fortunate in that,having never heard of either duet or Maccann, I was "educated" by an experienced player and never heard a word about "the difficulties" until it was too late (thank goodness for that).

For an Anglo or an English learner, there seem to be masses of people you can turn to for tuition if you want it, not to mention modern instruction books written specifically for the instrument, and dedicated workshops at folk festivals. As a duet player what few tuition books there are are mostly rather out of date and somewhat staid (useful though).Unless you know someone living close to you who plays the instrument the chances of discussing it/obtaining lessons are limited in the extreme - and even then you have to hope that the tutor is a good communicator and able to teach !! So in the absence of a teacher and motivator I suspect you may need a fair amount more determination to persist in self-tuition than with other systems ?

I wonder if another barrier at the moment to taking it up may be the fact that duet players are not exactly immediately evident in huge numbers.I found it interesting that at a gig that Ralphie and I had in Birmingham recently one other Maccann player, Pam Bishop, turned up ... three Maccann instruments in the same room !! As he said at the time, critical mass or implosion might have been on the cards .... but you'd never say that if you saw three Anglos in the same place. It's clear from the research that Al has been doing that there are a number of players who are not known to each other, simply because they practise their Dark Art in secret - for personal pleasure, or, indeed, in a totally different area of music from the majority. So again, the profile of the instrument is perforce low, as there are few obvious exponents of the Art who can inspire and promote in full view.

Then of course, there is the matter of the cost of taking the instrument up which in itself can be prohibitive, not to mention finding a reasonable quality instrument of this type on the market as well - or is that just a misled perception on my part? Interestingly enough I know of at least two people who own Maccanns that don't play them - in this case not because of any intrinsic investment value, they just gave up on them.How many others are loafing around in similar situations or sitting forlorn in a loft?

So I wonder if this means, at the end of the day, that people who have already taken the thing up are dedicated nutters? At the moment there are so many things apparently going against it - perceived difficulty of system , lack of contact with other players and lack of immediate availability of current recordings with which to inspire new potential players, difficulty in obtaining any tuition etc etc.

None of this answers the question - has the duet a future? Well, it's already got a distinguished past - you only have to look at the likes of Al Prince, Rutterford, Honri, Tommy Williams - more recently (and still with us of course) Michael Hebbert, Gavin Atkins on Jeffries, Tim Laycock on Crane, and the likes of Iris Bishop and Ralphie Jordan on Maccann . There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't have a far more shiny future than in the recent past.... I suspect that what is necessary and lacking in more recent times is positive publicity to counter negative word of mouth/perceptions , improved contact between players maybe, and a more public awareness of what the instrument can do. Maybe not an easy task in view of the apparent low numbers of good players with their heads over the parapet at the moment.Hopefully 2010 and beyond may counter that with some quality CDs to provide evidence of what can be achieved by good exponents from the Dark Side and also flush some of them out into the open :ph34r:

Sorry about the length of this, and the inordinate ramblings of a humble student ... I should have been practising ... and going to bed in that order !!! I'd be interested to see what anybody else has to say (hopefully more cogently)....

Edited by Irene S, 11 January 2010 - 11:42 PM.


#2 Irene S.

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 08:57 PM

Darn - put this in the wrong place!! Seeking relocation now!

#3 Ken_Coles

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 09:29 PM

Topic moved at request of original poster.

While I'm here, my impression is just that duet is a bit steeper learning curve right at the beginning. In the end, all concertinas require hard work (and reward it) to play well.

Ken

#4 Irene S.

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 11:51 PM

Topic moved at request of original poster.

While I'm here, my impression is just that duet is a bit steeper learning curve right at the beginning. In the end, all concertinas require hard work (and reward it) to play well.

Ken

Thanks for shifting it Ken - much appreciated. On re-reading it, I'm aware that some of my comments regarding players/circumstances etc are UK-centric, which is inevitable - apologies if necessary. And that, as usual it's long winded.My immediate reaction on re-reading is "Hmm ... who does she think she is?" :huh:

Crawling off into snow-bound hibernation now, and awaiting any repercussions .

Oh, and I do agree that hard work is required to obtain reward and to play well, whatever instrument or musical pursuit anybody takes up - even singing (I had many years of tuition at school and beyond as a choral singer ... still learning new techniques and tweaks !!)

#5 Ralph Jordan

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:14 AM

Topic moved at request of original poster.

While I'm here, my impression is just that duet is a bit steeper learning curve right at the beginning. In the end, all concertinas require hard work (and reward it) to play well.

Ken

You're absolutely right Ken.
Give someone an Anglo and in 10 seconds they can play 2 chords...person jumps about shouting I can play!
Give someone an English and they'll find the little triangles that make chords quite easily and will shout I can play!
Give them a Duet and you'll get an hours worth of strangled cat noises before you can stand it no longer and take it off him/her.
So, yes the learning curve is far steeper to begin with, But. with an Anglo or an English It can get highly complicated the more you play, The Duet gets easier!
And Irenes quite right...The speed that some typists type at is amazing..I can't do it. 2 fingers me. But, I never trained to type.
Anyway, as Irene says lets hope that the Duet International set changes attitudes. I can't wait to hear it, I've beeen told a few names that are on it, and to say I'm salivating at the prospect is an understatement.
Oh and that bloke Jordan might throw something out later in the year too!

And to answer Irenes question. I see more Duet players around nowadays here in the UK than ever before. Apart from the playing side, I think that it's just a lack of instruments particularly at entry level. I don't know if any of the cheaper makers of English/Anglo have dabbled in Duets (anyone know, because I've never seen one!), so, you have to make the expensive leap into the high end old boxes (or a new Hayden)which could be very off putting to do so on a whim.
I'm always happy to talk and demonstrate my box, and other Duet players are the same! (we might play the instrument from hell, but, we're quite nice and normal in other ways!

Duets are also about at Music stalls at festivals, but, just mucking about for 10 minutes would probably just put people off the idea.
There isn't an easy solution.

Anyway my 2 pennorth
Ralphie

Edited by Ralph Jordan, 12 January 2010 - 02:19 AM.


#6 fidjit

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 07:57 AM

Agree with you Ralphie.

Borrowed a Duet from Jim Lucas (I'm sure he'll be on here later) Couldn't get my head round it. I take my hat off to all Duet players.

Tommy Williams of course.

Edited by fidjit, 12 January 2010 - 07:58 AM.


#7 LDT

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 08:08 AM

I think that it's just a lack of instruments particularly at entry level. I don't know if any of the cheaper makers of English/Anglo have dabbled in Duets (anyone know, because I've never seen one!), so, you have to make the expensive leap into the high end old boxes (or a new Hayden)which could be very off putting to do so on a whim.
I'm always happy to talk and demonstrate my box, and other Duet players are the same! (we might play the instrument from hell, but, we're quite nice and normal in other ways!

I kinda fancied trying duet when I first was looking at concertina's but several factors put me off.
a) it was my first go at squeezable instruments with buttons so I was inclined to be clueless so went for what I thought would give me the most chance of finding teachers, plus I liked the bouncy sound.
B) I had no idea where (in my ignorance) I could find a new 'cheap' duet as I had a habit of picking up instruments getting bored/fustrated after a week and putting them in the back of a cupboard.

I'd still like to have a proper go on one as there's something that just appeals to me about them.

And Irenes quite right...The speed that some typists type at is amazing..I can't do it. 2 fingers me. But, I never trained to type.

never been taught to type but I can go superspeed when typing my own thoughts...hence the speedy replies on forums. lol!

#8 Alan Day

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 08:31 AM

A wonderful posting by Irene. The ICA should store this for the future.
As for Duet International it is slowly shaping up.It had a very depressing start, a few good players ,but I wondered at one stage whether I could even get one CD of playing. As Irene says Duet players are scattered and many unknown to us all.The delay in bringing this collection out has been a blessing because it is certainly different and more interesting than it would have been a year ago. This has taken a lot of time,I am not rushing it and waiting for a few players that will be worth waiting for.
I have always been a lover of this instrument, to listen to someone like Tommy when I was younger and Iris from almost the day she started playing has been a great experience. A brilliant player can make the instrument sound as if three or four players are playing at the same time. An instant multi tracker. Many Anglo players have tried to emulate the Duet sound and it is certainly one of the reasons Anglo playing in Duet style has developed so much over the last thirty years or more. JK of course is another. My feeling is that the Duet seems to be taking off, there is excitement about the instrument which I have not seen before. As Irene rightly says there was a certain worry about learning the Duet from scratch, it was far too difficult even to attempt, but those taking up the instrument now are showing that it is far from the ogre it was made out to be.From single line melodies, to chords, to full accompaniment to wonderful song arrangements,it is the total package.
Good luck to you all.
Al

#9 Irene S.

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 09:56 AM

None of this answers the question - has the duet a future? Well, it's already got a distinguished past - you only have to look at the likes of Al Prince, Rutterford, Honri, Tommy Williams - more recently (and still with us of course) Michael Hebbert, Gavin Atkins on Jeffries, Tim Laycock on Crane, and the likes of Iris Bishop and Ralphie Jordan on Maccann .


Whoops - there was one other name that I meant to mention - Reuben Shaw ... probably forgot him because he hailed from a different style and type of music than that which my brain usually runs along most of the time these days.

Thanks for your kind words regarding my rambling late night ruminations Al. No thanks for the fact that the gauntlet you flung down ended up with me being a couple of hours late getting to bed !!

"Good luck to you all" ... LOL. That sounds a bit like Mr Grace from Grace Bros, or a salutation to someone about to embark on a rather daunting and possibly well-nigh impossible task!!

Ralphie

with an Anglo or an English It can get highly complicated the more you play, The Duet gets easier!

Sigh ....... any clues as to when??? :blink:

Edited by Irene S, 12 January 2010 - 12:15 PM.


#10 michael sam wild

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 11:38 AM

Nice interesting posts. I was inspired by duet on Mike Hebbert's LP in the 70s and couldn't find anyone local who played one. So I stuck with melodeon . I picked up a 46 button Maccann on eBay, nice and cheap, the other year. At Whitby Iris Bishop gave a great workshop with Martyn Wyndham- Reed on Australian bush tunes which gve me a kick-start. Luckily Jon Boden comes to our sessions at The Royal and he showed me the basic 'crawl' up the buttons but I still find it a devil. Anybody out there give lessons not too far away??

I haven't got a low D on the RHS sadly so I am looking for a 51 button Maccann some time.


It's good to hear that perseverence may pay off!

Have you any recommended beginners' tunes? A clip would be nice to play along to

Edited by michael sam wild, 12 January 2010 - 12:24 PM.


#11 Alan Day

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 11:53 AM

[quote name='Irene S' date='12 January 2010 - 09:56 AM' timestamp='1263308184' post='106727']
[quote name='Irene S' date='12 January 2010 - 01:56 AM' timestamp='1263261369' post='106695']
None of this answers the question - has the duet a future? Well, it's already got a distinguished past - you only have to look at the likes of Al Prince, Rutterford, Honri, Tommy Williams - more recently (and still with us of course) Michael Hebbert, Gavin Atkins on Jeffries, Tim Laycock on Crane, and the likes of Iris Bishop and Ralphie Jordan on Maccann .
[/quote]

Whoops - there was one other name that I meant to mention - Reuben Stanley ... probably because he hailed from a different style and type of music than that which my brain usually runs along most of the time these days.


I think you mean Reuben Shaw (I think Stanley was his friend who he did Dueto's with)
Al

#12 Irene S.

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 12:17 PM

I think you mean Reuben Shaw (I think Stanley was his friend who he did Dueto's with)
Al


Whoops again :huh:... I certainly did mean Mr Shaw ... the Mr Stanley I was thinking of was somebody I had just been writing to (at least it started with S!) and has nothing to do with tinas at all ... maybe I do need two brains???

I've just edited the posting to save confusion. Thanks Al.

Edited by Irene S, 12 January 2010 - 12:18 PM.


#13 Dirge

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:49 PM

I think you mean Reuben Shaw (I think Stanley was his friend who he did Dueto's with)
Al


Whoops again :huh:... I certainly did mean Mr Shaw ... the Mr Stanley I was thinking of was somebody I had just been writing to (at least it started with S!) and has nothing to do with tinas at all ... maybe I do need two brains???

I've just edited the posting to save confusion. Thanks Al.

I thought you must be thinking of Mr H Stanley, prolific music arranger, without who the ICA library would be somewhat sparse. He must have been a decent player of (almost certainly) a 71 key Maccan, judging from the music he has left us.

#14 Irene S.

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 02:35 PM

I thought you must be thinking of Mr H Stanley, prolific music arranger, without who the ICA library would be somewhat sparse. He must have been a decent player of (almost certainly) a 71 key Maccan, judging from the music he has left us.


Aaargh!!! My error has already been pointed out, thanks! Of course I was already aware of the gentleman in question.When looking for educational material in earlier days I came across his handwritten tuition manual here http://www.concertin...-Duet-Tutor.pdf and gave up on it - too difficult to read with any ease.

... but I certainly wasn't thinking of him at the time of posting above ! The gent that I was thinking of is certainly still with us and wouldn't know one end of a concertina from the other.

#15 m3838

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 02:36 PM

Give them a Duet and you'll get an hours worth of strangled cat noises before you can stand it no longer and take it off him/her.
So, yes the learning curve is far steeper to begin with, But. with an Anglo or an English It can get highly complicated the more you play, The Duet gets easier!



With all due respect, the above is 100% incorrect. Duets (Bandoneons and Chemnitzers aside) are spectacularly easy to pick up melodies with. As with anything, if you've got talent and stubbornness, the more you play anything, the more complicated the music gets, the more easy it is to a player to get deeper. I tried three types of duets and am quite surprised at the ingenuity of their designs, intuitiveness, with which one can figure out melodies and chords. But Duet naturally takes player into fuller accompaniment and many jump into more complex music they can manage. That's it. I tried three types of duets and am quite surprised at the ingenuity of their designs, intuitiveness, with which one can figure out melodies and chords. But I like English the best - it forces one to be selective and deliberate, while giving lots of harmonic opportunities. An amateur's safety valve that Duet doesn't provide.

#16 Ralph Jordan

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 04:45 PM

Give them a Duet and you'll get an hours worth of strangled cat noises before you can stand it no longer and take it off him/her.
So, yes the learning curve is far steeper to begin with, But. with an Anglo or an English It can get highly complicated the more you play, The Duet gets easier!



With all due respect, the above is 100% incorrect. Duets (Bandoneons and Chemnitzers aside) are spectacularly easy to pick up melodies with. As with anything, if you've got talent and stubbornness, the more you play anything, the more complicated the music gets, the more easy it is to a player to get deeper. I tried three types of duets and am quite surprised at the ingenuity of their designs, intuitiveness, with which one can figure out melodies and chords. But Duet naturally takes player into fuller accompaniment and many jump into more complex music they can manage. That's it. I tried three types of duets and am quite surprised at the ingenuity of their designs, intuitiveness, with which one can figure out melodies and chords. But I like English the best - it forces one to be selective and deliberate, while giving lots of harmonic opportunities. An amateur's safety valve that Duet doesn't provide.

Hey m3838
This isn't a war!. As I've said many times, it's horses for courses. You like the English, I like the Duet. Problem? Don't think so. But this thread is about Duets, do they have a future. Nobody has made a snide remark about other systems. It's just that for us Duet players, we have a system that suits us.
It's a cerebral thing as to why. I stand by my statement that it's pretty easy to get a tuneful sound out of an English or an Anglo within a couple of minutes. Not so with the Duet. You really have to want to learn to play the Duet, and it takes a very long time. After 35 years, I haven't sussed it yet! That is the joy of the beast.
The thread is more about the availability of Duets in the current market place.
So back to the main theme of the discussion. Does anyone know of new cheap Duets (any system) out there. I have a few people who might like to take the plunge but don't have 1000 sovs to spare (who does!)

#17 m3838

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 06:07 PM

Hey m3838
... You like the English, I like the Duet. Problem? Don't think so. But this thread is about Duets, do they have a future. Nobody has made a snide remark about other systems.I stand by my statement that it's pretty easy to get a tuneful sound out of an English or an Anglo within a couple of minutes. Not so with the Duet...

Snide????Posted Image

You do mention other systems in comparison with Duet and your statement may be persuasive to potential takers, and the statement is untrue. I didn't say I don't like Duet, I said I like Duet. All systems' layouts are brilliant!
I got a tuneful sound out of Hayden (Stagi), Crane (Lachenal) and McCann within a few minutes, it's actually easier than on English, if to compare ergonomics and left/right zig-zag of a scale. Slightly illogical push/pull of an Anglo may be a hindrance too. Duets have the most logic and convenient keyboards so far. Not at all they have steeper learning curves. What they have is an illusion of such curves because one picks up a Duet for piano-like playing and the music often picked up is arranged for higher level. MUCH higher. So if you have trouble with learning curve, you need not to despair. The problem is easily solved by selection of pieces. Why don't you pick the music arranged for English? For a Flute or Violin? Or best of all, for flute or violin duets?
As for cheap Duets for beginners - very bad direction. Cheap Duets lose air and don't have enough range, they don't sound good, esp. on the right side high notes, and to play left against right you need good range on the right. Low left reeds don't sound on the pressure that's enough for right high reeds. But when they sound, they drown squeaky powerless high notes on the right. It's been discussed many times and the conclusion is: One can use inexpensive 20 button Anglo, but Duet must be of higher quality and range. So it's expensive. CC's Elise perhaps is better answer to this plea, but it's range is something like 2/5 octaves.
The biggest problem however, is the concertina sound itself. It's great for folk music, more difficult for classical. A Duet player, who learns from piano scores, must keep in mind that played note-for-note his Duet may not produce much besides noise. Concertina reeds are often stringent, "straight to your face" and need greater care for the music to be made. Unfortunately, most, if not all, Duet players begin at an advanced age and feel urge to start playing big pieces. So those essentials of music are never covered. Concertina is not forgiving instrument: press a button and it plays.

#18 Dirge

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 08:25 PM

Hey m3838
... You like the English, I like the Duet. Problem? Don't think so. But this thread is about Duets, do they have a future. Nobody has made a snide remark about other systems.I stand by my statement that it's pretty easy to get a tuneful sound out of an English or an Anglo within a couple of minutes. Not so with the Duet...

Snide????Posted Image

You do mention other systems in comparison with Duet and your statement may be persuasive to potential takers, and the statement is untrue. I didn't say I don't like Duet, I said I like Duet. All systems' layouts are brilliant!
I got a tuneful sound out of Hayden (Stagi), Crane (Lachenal) and McCann within a few minutes, it's actually easier than on English, if to compare ergonomics and left/right zig-zag of a scale. Slightly illogical push/pull of an Anglo may be a hindrance too. Duets have the most logic and convenient keyboards so far. Not at all they have steeper learning curves. What they have is an illusion of such curves because one picks up a Duet for piano-like playing and the music often picked up is arranged for higher level. MUCH higher. So if you have trouble with learning curve, you need not to despair. The problem is easily solved by selection of pieces. Why don't you pick the music arranged for English? For a Flute or Violin? Or best of all, for flute or violin duets?

I'm afraid I agree with him, Ralphie. I don't think it's a difficult instrument, just down to expectations being much higher. Sorry...

As for cheap Duets for beginners - very bad direction. Cheap Duets lose air and don't have enough range, they don't sound good, esp. on the right side high notes, and to play left against right you need good range on the right. Low left reeds don't sound on the pressure that's enough for right high reeds. But when they sound, they drown squeaky powerless high notes on the right. It's been discussed many times and the conclusion is: One can use inexpensive 20 button Anglo, but Duet must be of higher quality and range. So it's expensive. CC's Elise perhaps is better answer to this plea, but it's range is something like 2/5 octaves.
The biggest problem however, is the concertina sound itself. It's great for folk music, more difficult for classical. A Duet player, who learns from piano scores, must keep in mind that played note-for-note his Duet may not produce much besides noise. Concertina reeds are often stringent, "straight to your face" and need greater care for the music to be made. Unfortunately, most, if not all, Duet players begin at an advanced age and feel urge to start playing big pieces. So those essentials of music are never covered. Concertina is not forgiving instrument: press a button and it plays.

Again I think he's right in saying tiny instruments aren't what duets are about (although not sure I agree with the reasoning). The piano equivalent would be starting out by buying a stylophone; bound to lead to the Grieg piano concerto, wouldn't you say? The last lines describe me I'm afraid; 'advanced age', 'big classical pieces' so I hope he's wrong about that bit. I'll tell you later.

I think you over-rate the expense bit. If someone wants to play that badly, they will usually find the money. A friend's child took up the bassoon. A splendid instrument but there you start at several thousand pounds, once again there is no beginners model. There is a shortage of bassoon players, yes, but nevertheless people continue to buy them, and I'm sure others will name other instruments where the situation is similar. It also means that Charlie is under severe pressure to succeed with his bassoon, and I think the same effect helped me keep my nose to the grindstone through the moments of deep discouragement when I started the duet. I bought my first duet on the principle that if I didn't take to it, well I would just have to sell it again to get my money back. I sold a motorbike to pay for it, as I remember.

I actually think duets are the concertina bargain of the moment; you can buy a professional player's instrument for a couple of grand with care. A gift! I'll take 6. (And if I had the cash spare I would too, because it won't last forever; watch prices rise after Duet International, for starters.)




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