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Playing tips for duets and other systems


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#1 Stefan

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 01:11 PM

Hello  everybody,

first I want to thank all the concertina players who posted on this forum and elsewhere, also Robert Gaskins for concertina.com which is such a helpful source of knowledge. Without you all, my fascinating and addictive journey witht he concertina wouldn´t have been possible. After getting so much from you, I feel that it´s time to give something back. 

This thread is inspired by Geoff Wooff who shared so much of his valuable knowledge and had the idea of swapping playing tips.

Maybe I should introduce myself: Since April 2009 I play the Maccann, currently a 46key Wheatstone made in 1925 (by the way – I´m still looking for a good 57key – anyone has one?). I´m a part-time professional musician, my main instrument is (or was?) electric bass. I also play saxophone, guitar and a little bit of everything. Also, I did a lot of recording work and mixing. 

I try to play contemporary music with the concertina, in the direction of Pop Rock and Blues, mainly to accompany my singing, therefore my approach might be different to yours. I will give  some playing-tips about what was helpful to me, but be aware that I´m a mere beginner and if you more experienced players disagree with me, please post your comments. 

Here are some random tips:

Chordplaying:

When I started, I first wanted to be able to play chords. For the Maccann, these chordcharts where helpful: http://www.concertin...oncertina-3.pdf

The fingering is good because it leaves free fingers for extra notes, mainly the7ths of the chords. I disagree though with the fingering of the A-chord (or similar), because there, one finger is used for two keys. I still find it difficult to control the sound or play um-pah chords like that. Also I find it strenuous for the hands. Even though it´s kind of difficult, I finger (A-chord,left hand): A-ring finger, C#-index, E-middle finger. 

Scale playing:

Even though I´m no fan of too much scale playing, this little exercise was helpful (scale of C): CDEC-DEFD-EFGE … and so on. Then the same downwards, then the otherside, then both sides simultaneously, legato, staccato ……

Instead of practicing the scale of C, I often play this tune (Tune2, Family Jig) or my version of it: http://www.concertin...mples/index.htm  . It is also very helpful for practicing fingering of consecutive notes on the same button, I mean not using the same finger twice on one note. I´m sure you have your own favorite tunes.

Finger bodybuilding:

Sometimes,I still find it hard to get an even and smooth sound. The concertina feels wobbly and I hit wrong notes. That´s mainly because the fingers don´t exactly know where to move and some are too weak (or I had a beer too much). Two exercises helped me lately:

Practicing without a sound: When I cannot play loud or sometimes when I watch TV, I have a little exercise. I play a tune or a scale, only by placing my fingers, not even pushing the keys down. I place the fingers slightly above the key and pull the key towards me (not too hard though), that gives me a feeling of control. It helps me for my “micro-fingering”.

Strength:  Another exercise is, to play, by pushing down the keys real hard and holding them down. You should do that very slow though because it can harm your hands. 

I like to play standing, mainly because I want to be able to move on stage but also because I have the feeling that I get a “livelier” sound. The above exercise helps me here: try to play standing, while holding down one key on each side. If you hold down the keys firmly, you can also hold part of the weight of the concertina with the keys. To avoid an ambulance you probably should not try this with an 81 key. 

For playing standing up, I use my handstraps like this:

Handstraps.jpg  

 
My thumb goes under the strap. It´s a little strange first and the airbutton can only be reached with the index finger, but I got used to it. Like this, the thumb helps for stability and to carry the weight.

Reuben Shaw video:

For the Maccann players (and of course everybody else) there is a video of Reuben Shaw available here: http://www.garlandfi...reubenshaw.html.  It costs 11,50 pounds and is absolutely worth it. 

Mr. Shaw talks about his beginnings of concertina playing and how he thought it was “impossible to master” this instrument (he even sent his first Maccann back to Wheatstone). He demonstrates his concertinas and some recordings. Then he plays tunes, mostly from Henry Stanley. The music sheets he is playing from are available here: http://www.concertin...anley/index.htm (also Stanleys tutor). So you can watch and hear Mr. Shaw playing, while reading the very music he is reading. Thank you Mr. Gaskins, sometimes the internet is great.

 

Maybe you have some playing tips too?

 

 

#2 Larry Stout

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 07:04 PM

I'm not trying to hijack this thread. Help on how to play our chosen instruments is one of the really helpful aspects of this list.

My primary instrument used to be fiddle with an increasing focus on English concertina. I also have a 48 button Crane (a Wheatstone from 1942). I used past tense in describing my instrument choices because I'm fighting stage IV lung cancer and have a lot of weakness and some paralysis in my left hand. I can still play a few tunes on EC but I wonder if I should make a shift to the Crane, where I could do melody with my (much less disabled, but still not strong or agile) right hand.

So some advice I seek: should I spend my time and (very) limited energy trying to recover my EC playing or should I try to master the Crane one handed? I know that several members of this list have overcome disabilities like strokes and use injuries. There aren't a lot of Crane players out there (I've never met one), but I think I could profit from the experience of those who play both EC and Crane.

#3 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 04:11 AM

Stefan,
in your A chord (left hand) fingering... is there a mistake ? Surely you would use the Little finger for the C# ?

Regarding playing two buttons with one finger; coming from the EC, where this is a very common device, I find it most usefull on the Duet... not that I am very good at doing it with my little fingers yet.

Regarding the reiteration of notes by changing fingers; this is often suggested by keyboard players but I find that it is a device that can lead to a very smooth and equal note length triplet or quadruplet (or plus) which is not allways desirable.
I tend to play these repeated notes in dance music (ITM) using the one finger because then it is possible to change the weight emphasis of each note. If, of course, the reiteration is long and needs to be perfectly stable then yes the finger swapping action will come into its own.

#4 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 04:42 AM

I'm not trying to hijack this thread. Help on how to play our chosen instruments is one of the really helpful aspects of this list.

My primary instrument used to be fiddle with an increasing focus on English concertina. I also have a 48 button Crane (a Wheatstone from 1942). I used past tense in describing my instrument choices because I'm fighting stage IV lung cancer and have a lot of weakness and some paralysis in my left hand. I can still play a few tunes on EC but I wonder if I should make a shift to the Crane, where I could do melody with my (much less disabled, but still not strong or agile) right hand.

So some advice I seek: should I spend my time and (very) limited energy trying to recover my EC playing or should I try to master the Crane one handed? I know that several members of this list have overcome disabilities like strokes and use injuries. There aren't a lot of Crane players out there (I've never met one), but I think I could profit from the experience of those who play both EC and Crane.



Larry,
firstly we must all want and wish for a full recovery for you.

What I suggest as a learner of the Duet, albeit Maccann, and having played the EC for many years;
I stopped playing the EC for about 8 years at one stage, due to playing other instruments, but when I took it up again everything came back as good as before after a couple of months.
I've been at the Duet now for 8 months and I notice that I am doing a lot more work with my left hand because I am trying to add lefthand chords to a mostly single line melody on the righthand. That does not appear to be of any help with your problem but I feel sure that the time and effort that you put into practicing the right hand of your Crane would serve you well as you recover the strength of your left hand. It is just a personal observation on my need to improve my right hand on the Duet because it is lagging behind the abilities of my left.

Well, that does not sound too usefull I guess but it cannot be a bad thing to take up a new keyboard because we all need a reason to look forward and have something to work on. It is good for the spirit.
Best regards,
Geoff.

#5 Stefan

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 12:06 PM

Geoff,

of course, you are right. The little finger for  the C#. Sorry, I´m not a native speaker and got it wrong.




Two buttons with one finger: I guess it always depends what you play. I first learned these chords with one finger for two buttons, but when I want to play staccato chords for example or other rythmic stuff, I find it hard to press three keys down at the exact same time.  Maybe my finger tips are too small, because I have to bend the fingertip and after a while it hurts. 




Reiteration of notes by changing fingers: I did not do that first, but now I find it quite useful. I practiced it at very slow speed, to make sure that I can press the buttons with the same intensity as the first finger. It felt hard to do, but now it´s better and I can play some tunes faster with more control. I think the logic behind it is, to get the hand into the right position for the following notes. Of course one finger can do a lot amd in your case is even better. I believe anglo-players don´t change fingers at all, or? 



#6 Stefan

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 12:13 PM

Larry,

I too, wish you all the best for your recovery, get well soon.

I have no experience with the EC, but I think you can do a lot on one side of a duet. Also, every instrument that I learned helped the other ones too. That should especially be true for two systems of one instrument.

All the best

Stefan



#7 Waltham

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 08:44 PM

Larry,

I've been playing one-handed Crane for a few years now, mainly for Morris dancing, it certainly can be done. I play left-handed as a neurological condition means I don't have much strength with my right. The blank end of my instrument straps to my thigh. Chordal accompaniment is obviously limited but it's not impossible, it helps to leave a bit of space in your tunes while keeping everything rhythmic. Octaves can also help add emphasis. Very best of luck with your explorations.

#8 Hallamtrads

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 02:07 PM

Hello  everybody,

first I want to thank all the concertina players who posted on this forum and elsewhere, also Robert Gaskins for concertina.com which is such a helpful source of knowledge. Without you all, my fascinating and addictive journey witht he concertina wouldn´t have been possible. After getting so much from you, I feel that it´s time to give something back. 

This thread is inspired by Geoff Wooff who shared so much of his valuable knowledge and had the idea of swapping playing tips.

Maybe I should introduce myself: Since April 2009 I play the Maccann, currently a 46key Wheatstone made in 1925 (by the way – I´m still looking for a good 57key – anyone has one?). I´m a part-time professional musician, my main instrument is (or was?) electric bass. I also play saxophone, guitar and a little bit of everything. Also, I did a lot of recording work and mixing. 

I try to play contemporary music with the concertina, in the direction of Pop Rock and Blues, mainly to accompany my singing, therefore my approach might be different to yours. I will give  some playing-tips about what was helpful to me, but be aware that I´m a mere beginner and if you more experienced players disagree with me, please post your comments. 

Here are some random tips:

Chordplaying:

When I started, I first wanted to be able to play chords. For the Maccann, these chordcharts where helpful: http://www.concertin...oncertina-3.pdf

The fingering is good because it leaves free fingers for extra notes, mainly the7ths of the chords. I disagree though with the fingering of the A-chord (or similar), because there, one finger is used for two keys. I still find it difficult to control the sound or play um-pah chords like that. Also I find it strenuous for the hands. Even though it´s kind of difficult, I finger (A-chord,left hand): A-ring finger, C#-index, E-middle finger. 

Scale playing:

Even though I´m no fan of too much scale playing, this little exercise was helpful (scale of C): CDEC-DEFD-EFGE … and so on. Then the same downwards, then the otherside, then both sides simultaneously, legato, staccato ……

Instead of practicing the scale of C, I often play this tune (Tune2, Family Jig) or my version of it: http://www.concertin...mples/index.htm  . It is also very helpful for practicing fingering of consecutive notes on the same button, I mean not using the same finger twice on one note. I´m sure you have your own favorite tunes.

Finger bodybuilding:

Sometimes,I still find it hard to get an even and smooth sound. The concertina feels wobbly and I hit wrong notes. That´s mainly because the fingers don´t exactly know where to move and some are too weak (or I had a beer too much). Two exercises helped me lately:

Practicing without a sound: When I cannot play loud or sometimes when I watch TV, I have a little exercise. I play a tune or a scale, only by placing my fingers, not even pushing the keys down. I place the fingers slightly above the key and pull the key towards me (not too hard though), that gives me a feeling of control. It helps me for my “micro-fingering”.

Strength:  Another exercise is, to play, by pushing down the keys real hard and holding them down. You should do that very slow though because it can harm your hands. 

I like to play standing, mainly because I want to be able to move on stage but also because I have the feeling that I get a “livelier” sound. The above exercise helps me here: try to play standing, while holding down one key on each side. If you hold down the keys firmly, you can also hold part of the weight of the concertina with the keys. To avoid an ambulance you probably should not try this with an 81 key. 

For playing standing up, I use my handstraps like this:

Handstraps.jpg  

 
My thumb goes under the strap. It´s a little strange first and the airbutton can only be reached with the index finger, but I got used to it. Like this, the thumb helps for stability and to carry the weight.

Reuben Shaw video:

For the Maccann players (and of course everybody else) there is a video of Reuben Shaw available here: http://www.garlandfi...reubenshaw.html.  It costs 11,50 pounds and is absolutely worth it. 

Mr. Shaw talks about his beginnings of concertina playing and how he thought it was “impossible to master” this instrument (he even sent his first Maccann back to Wheatstone). He demonstrates his concertinas and some recordings. Then he plays tunes, mostly from Henry Stanley. The music sheets he is playing from are available here: http://www.concertin...anley/index.htm (also Stanleys tutor). So you can watch and hear Mr. Shaw playing, while reading the very music he is reading. Thank you Mr. Gaskins, sometimes the internet is great.

 

Maybe you have some playing tips too?

 

 



#9 Hallamtrads

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 02:13 PM

hi Stefan,
Just an observation here. When I started playing the MacCann system I had been playing a G/D melodeon with the thirds removed from the basses. Now this is common practice among melodeon players because it frees up the left hand end of the instrument. So, when, like you I wanted to play left hand chords on my MacCann, I worked out what two note chords fitted most easily under my fingers. This meant that I could then add the additional note in either hand creating a style which relies heavily on suspended chordal playing but which meant that I could accompany my songs fairly easily. I stayed clear of chord charts for this reason. They are only another person's take on what works for them.
I tend to play the melody in the right hand but, having learned on a 46 key I notice that speed and precision are easier on that instrument than on my 58 key Wheatstone which is bigger and heavier and more difficult to play standing. If playing for dance I suspect that the 46 key is much better whilst for more orchestral stuff 58 keys and above seem to be the way to go.

#10 tony

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 06:40 AM

hi Stefan,
Just an observation here. When I started playing the MacCann system I had been playing a G/D melodeon with the thirds removed from the basses. Now this is common practice among melodeon players because it frees up the left hand end of the instrument. So, when, like you I wanted to play left hand chords on my MacCann, I worked out what two note chords fitted most easily under my fingers. This meant that I could then add the additional note in either hand creating a style which relies heavily on suspended chordal playing but which meant that I could accompany my songs fairly easily. I stayed clear of chord charts for this reason. They are only another person's take on what works for them.
I tend to play the melody in the right hand but, having learned on a 46 key I notice that speed and precision are easier on that instrument than on my 58 key Wheatstone which is bigger and heavier and more difficult to play standing. If playing for dance I suspect that the 46 key is much better whilst for more orchestral stuff 58 keys and above seem to be the way to go.


This is precisely the way I went with my 46 key Maccann, however I can’t comment on the 58 key as I’ve never played one bigger than 46 keys. I did try a 48 key Crane once but didn’t get on with it. I have also considered getting a bigger Maccann but as I would have to sell my 46 key to finance it I am undecided.

#11 JimLucas

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

...I can’t comment on the 58 key as I’ve never played one bigger than 46 keys. ... I have also considered getting a bigger Maccann but as I would have to sell my 46 key to finance it I am undecided.

My impression is that there are Maccann players scattered (albeit sparsely) throughout England and quite a few events where one might be encountered. Why not try to find someone (or more than one) with a bigger instrument who will let you "try it on for size"?

#12 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 03:26 AM

I am in agreement with Hallamtrads and Tony on the use of two note chords on the left hand, or one note of a chord followed by the two note chord as a rhythmic device. I did start by down loading the chord charts from concertina.com and they are a usefull starting point but have found it better to seach for part-chords that have the 'right' sound for each situation.

Another usefull thing, for Dance music, is to hold one note of a chord and reiterate the other note to emphasise the rhythm.
These rhythmic repeated notes can come from either hand and they give the impression that more than one note is being tapped to the beat.
The next stage I am working on is to reiterate one note against one held chord note and play another of the chord notes in syncopation to the reapeated note that is on the beat... this is easier if the beat note is in one hand and the syncopate is in the other..... just mucking about with the freedom that the Duet gives by having the independant keyboards.... perhaps it is easier to do than to describe .

On the Size issue; I started on a 58key so it feels normal to me. I do have a 70key here at the moment, belongs to a friend, and after playing one of that size the 58 feels very small and manageable... So it must be a case of "what you get used to".

#13 Stefan

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:58 AM

Yes, I think playing without thirds on one hand is a good idea. Adding other notes on the right hand also spreads the chord, because sometimes it doesn´t sound too good, if the notes are very close. I learned from chord charts in the beginning, so that I have  "standard chords" that I can play imediately without having to think about them. Now I find, that if I want different voicings, I have to re-learn the chords. But that improves with practice. 

My first concertina also was a 46key and I still like the size very much. Since a few weeks, I have a 55key that goes down to C on the right side (Lachenal, New Model). That one is a little smaller and lighter than a 58key, and has some nice extra notes. I like the low D especially.  Still I find it difficult to play standing for a long time, so I am thinking about adding wriststraps and a thumbstrap. That means that I would have to replace the handles, but it could be good, also because I could fit in small microphones that I need for playing on stage.  Here is a video that shows what I mean: http://www.youtube.c...h?v=dmEPTosZ44g






#14 felix castro

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 10:42 AM

I am in agreement with Hallamtrads and Tony on the use of two note chords on the left hand, or one note of a chord followed by the two note chord as a rhythmic device. I did start by down loading the chord charts from concertina.com and they are a usefull starting point but have found it better to seach for part-chords that have the 'right' sound for each situation.

Another usefull thing, for Dance music, is to hold one note of a chord and reiterate the other note to emphasise the rhythm.
These rhythmic repeated notes can come from either hand and they give the impression that more than one note is being tapped to the beat.
The next stage I am working on is to reiterate one note against one held chord note and play another of the chord notes in syncopation to the reapeated note that is on the beat... this is easier if the beat note is in one hand and the syncopate is in the other..... just mucking about with the freedom that the Duet gives by having the independant keyboards.... perhaps it is easier to do than to describe .

On the Size issue; I started on a 58key so it feels normal to me. I do have a 70key here at the moment, belongs to a friend, and after playing one of that size the 58 feels very small and manageable... So it must be a case of "what you get used to".


Two note chords accompaniament, with the third one removed are now very common in the playing of diatonic accordions (melodeons), as it gives much more harmonic possibilities for playing in several keys, i.e. in a D/G melodeon, for the accompanyament when playing in E minor. It is very common also in guitars and bouzoukis. I think that people call them modal chords ? (I play mainly by ear).



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