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Blues on the concertina


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#1 Marcus

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 03:38 PM

Thanks to my lessons with Jody Kruskal I've been exploring old time music and was given the website "Sugar in the Gourd" as a resource. One of the bands features on this web radio was Sheeshum and Lotus and I really enjoyed their fiddle and banjo album. I downloaded their newer album "Everytime!" and it's full of fantastic blues harmonica. I was wondering if anyone has experimented with the blues on concertina? I realize that any note bending would be impossible, but it might be interesting to try some basic blues. After all Bertram Levy did say that an anglo is really just harmonicas with a bellows in between!

#2 JimLucas

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 03:52 PM

I was wondering if anyone has experimented with the blues on concertina?

I'm pretty sure there has been at least one past thread on the subject.

I realize that any note bending would be impossible, but it might be interesting to try some basic blues.

Not actually impossible, but quite difficult (at least for most folks, it seems), and rarely heard.

#3 Dirge

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 03:57 PM

I routinely muck about with The St James Infirmery when not playing very seriously. Does that count?

#4 apprenticeOF

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 04:48 PM

I can get a little bit of bending out of a brass reed Lachenal EC with the small frame reeds (circa 1870), especially if I "hammer" a bellows change. It has the softwood baffles that naturally give it a subdued sound for bluesy tunes - but it isn't very loud. Nothing like I can do on a blues harp though. No luck with concertina steel reeds. I notice when doing some tuning that the steel reeds are much truer to frequency regardless of air volume, whereas the brass reeds have a more pronounced variation. That said it is only about 4-5 cents. For laughs I just played a blues harp into "AP tuner" and can easily get 50 cents variation when I bend a note.

#5 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:56 PM

I routinely muck about with The St James Infirmery when not playing very seriously. Does that count?

OK, I just mucked about with that tune and it works a treat, but I prefer "Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County" almost the same, but not.
Here is a nice example: https://www.youtube....feature=related

On a C/G you can play it high or low, that is, you get your choice of octaves if you play in the key of Am. Dm works well too and might be a bit easier but it's not so cool.

In Am then, the low way has a bit of left hand melody, but not too much. You can "slide" into the first note (not counting the two pickup notes), E button R2 using a quick D# button R1a before it, both on the push.

The high way is quite high but offers some nice harmony along the rows up there. The first three notes including the 2 pick up notes are c draw, d push, and e draw all up on the right hand G row on buttons 8, 8, 9.

The whole thing sounds really great, all you Anglo players should try it.

Chords:
Am Am/E Am Am/E
Am Am Dm Dm
Am Am/E Am Am
F E Am E

Edited by Jody Kruskal, 17 February 2012 - 05:57 PM.


#6 Leo

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 06:15 PM

Hi Marcus

Something like these?

http://www.youtube.c...g1JcJwZ8&fmt=18

http://www.youtube.c...Uqp9vA#t=05m35s

http://www.youtube.c...k70MM0Uw&fmt=18

Few and far between, but why not?

Thanks
Leo

#7 mthatcher61

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:56 PM

Boer Blues? Cajun?

#8 ttonon

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 09:20 PM

... an anglo is really just harmonicas with a bellows in between!

Hi Marcus,

Hardly. Don't fool yourself. Although both instruments use free reeds, they differ largely, with much musical expression having no overlap.

Concerning the blues, the biggest impediment the concertina (and accordion) has is that the musician has very limited, only remote access to the sound source, with a mechanical linkage in between. That is, if you want to play blues like a harmonica player. The piano has a similar limitation, but people work around that and have developed blues style piano playing that emphasizes other, advantageous, features. The keyboard of the concertina can also be made to play adequate blues, but the sound and expression is qualitatively different from that of a harmonica, especially a harmonica miked in the most effective way. One cannot overemphasize the contribution proper miking has made for blues harmonica playing.

Even my own invention of the pitch bending accordion does not allow the musician to access the sound source as completely as does a harmonica. But the extra dimension of pitch bending, I think, does propel the instrument much further towards the harmonica in this kind of music. In addition, the keyboard again allows musical expressions that are absent with harmonica, and so, a combination keyboard with pitch bending, I think, brings a genuinely new instrument into the mix.

But don't take my word for it. You can hear some "acoustic style" blues on my website, played by yours truly, on the world's first pitch bending accordion. Just click on the link, "Acoustic blues with vocal" on the home page. There are other sound files and videos there that you might also enjoy listening to. I invite you to have a listen and tell me what you think.

Best regards,
Tom
www.bluesbox.biz

#9 BertramLevy

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 11:47 PM

Hi Marcus It is true that the organization of the notes of C and G row are exactly the same as a a harmonica but as Tom says, the tonality is dramatically different.

I think the broader question is what style of blues do you want to play. If you want to reproduce the modern blues harmonica sound with bending notes and all the pyrotechnics that go with it , I think it is near impossible (though I am sure there is someone out there that has accomplished this). On the other hand that the concertina can not play a 12 bar blues or a pentatonic blues scale is just not true. I remember an early leadbelly recording I heard many years ago with a free reed backup. Very primitive but right on the money. Country blues from the 20s sound great on the concertina such as "left all alone again blues". In addition blues like PorkPie Hat by charlie mingus sound great on the concertina as well. I think the most important part of playing the blues is being able to play the minor and the major third in the same direction. For example in the key of D the F and F# are in the same direction (ROw II and III) and one can slide between them in the key of D very effectively to give the blues feel. If they are blended it can create a bending sound equally as interesting as the harmonica, just not the same There are lots of options.

Bertram

#10 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 12:01 AM


... an anglo is really just harmonicas with a bellows in between!

Hi Marcus,

Hardly. Don't fool yourself. Although both instruments use free reeds, they differ largely, with much musical expression having no overlap.

Concerning the blues, the biggest impediment the concertina (and accordion) has is that the musician has very limited, only remote access to the sound source, with a mechanical linkage in between. That is, if you want to play blues like a harmonica player. The piano has a similar limitation, but people work around that and have developed blues style piano playing that emphasizes other, advantageous, features. The keyboard of the concertina can also be made to play adequate blues, but the sound and expression is qualitatively different from that of a harmonica, especially a harmonica miked in the most effective way.
Tom
www.bluesbox.biz

Tom, I completely agree with you. Though the Anglo concertina really is like both fists full of harmonicas in so many ways, these concertina "harmonicas" are limited by the absence of the all-important harmonica ingredient, pitch bending and the ability to shade intonation. Still, many harmonica stylings are quite available on the Anglo like the chugging rhythmic/harmonic thing that harmonicas love to do and the use of thirds to harmonize a melody. Besides these harmonica-like abilities, the concertina can improve on the harmonica by adding a more complex harmonic capability and additional low bass lines all available on a single instrument.

Yes, you are so right in suggesting that the key to doing this on the Anglo is to think like a piano player. That is the proper analogy to get a blues sound and a full solo Anglo sound. Piano, in the hands of a master like Fats Waller, for example, does not seem lacking in blues capacity, yet there is no adjusting of intonation. He gets around that with half step glisses and the glory of a single instrument playing the whole rhythmic intention and contrapuntal fancy stuff in a single person, like a one man band. My next CD will explore this on the Anglo. I don't want to give too much away too soon, but I've been playing the blues, gospel, early jazz, jump and rock-a billy on the Anglo for quite a while now, and it sounds great. Really great. Like and unlike anything I've heard. I think it is a unique sound for that music world. Unusual? Yes! Totally handy and delightful? Yes! Thank you Carl Friedrich Uhlig for inventing this push/draw system that so many free reed instruments use.

In suggesting "Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County" or "The St James Infirmery" as being good blues songs for the concertina I mean what I say. They can be played on the 30 button C/G Anglo to sound quite like several harmonicas all playing together and quite effectively as a solo instrument or in a group. When I get a bit of time, I'll make a recording and let you all be the judge of how this sounds in practice. It's like the piano in arrangement, but the timbre sounds like harmonica (sort of), yet the aggregate is totally concertina.

Edited by Jody Kruskal, 18 February 2012 - 12:42 AM.


#11 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 12:47 AM

Hi Marcus

Something like these?

http://www.youtube.c...g1JcJwZ8&fmt=18

http://www.youtube.c...Uqp9vA#t=05m35s

http://www.youtube.c...k70MM0Uw&fmt=18

Few and far between, but why not?

Thanks
Leo

So sorry, but what I'm talking about sounds nothing like these.

#12 Rod

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:38 AM

Thanks to my lessons with Jody Kruskal I've been exploring old time music and was given the website "Sugar in the Gourd" as a resource. One of the bands features on this web radio was Sheeshum and Lotus and I really enjoyed their fiddle and banjo album. I downloaded their newer album "Everytime!" and it's full of fantastic blues harmonica. I was wondering if anyone has experimented with the blues on concertina? I realize that any note bending would be impossible, but it might be interesting to try some basic blues. After all Bertram Levy did say that an anglo is really just harmonicas with a bellows in between!


How do we define what we mean by 'blues' music,and to what extent is note-bending necessarily a vital or essential ingredient any way ?

#13 Ransom

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 11:22 AM

How do we define what we mean by 'blues' music,and to what extent is note-bending necessarily a vital or essential ingredient any way ?


Ha! C.net is not the place I expected to run into THIS can of worms. Usually we're more content to muck about with what makes Irish Traditional =).

Note-bending is the preferred method of generating a blue note on anything that will bend (notably guitar and harmonica). Necessarily vital? It's not so much a "thou-shalt-always" as a "don't-you-wish-you-could". But you do wish you could, and if you can't, then you start looking for ways around it.

#14 david_boveri

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:32 PM


How do we define what we mean by 'blues' music,and to what extent is note-bending necessarily a vital or essential ingredient any way ?


Ha! C.net is not the place I expected to run into THIS can of worms. Usually we're more content to muck about with what makes Irish Traditional =).

Note-bending is the preferred method of generating a blue note on anything that will bend (notably guitar and harmonica). Necessarily vital? It's not so much a "thou-shalt-always" as a "don't-you-wish-you-could". But you do wish you could, and if you can't, then you start looking for ways around it.


i agree totally. blues is a very distinct genre, characterize by a call and response format for lyrics and the accompanying musical style that developed alongside it. it has a unique set of scales, rhythms, and the blue note which you mention. it comes from the southern united states in the early to mid 20th century. some of its most famous exponents came from the mississippi delta region and moved up north to find factory jobs and make recording contracts. it was and continues to be very influential on jazz and rock and roll. originally blues was folk music, but with the changes in society that have occurred over the last 100 years, it is now an art form that is cultivated and appreciated rather than another part of the fabric of everyday life for people who grew up without radios and TVs.

#15 david_boveri

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:46 PM

I can get a little bit of bending out of a brass reed Lachenal EC with the small frame reeds (circa 1870), especially if I "hammer" a bellows change. It has the softwood baffles that naturally give it a subdued sound for bluesy tunes - but it isn't very loud. Nothing like I can do on a blues harp though. No luck with concertina steel reeds. I notice when doing some tuning that the steel reeds are much truer to frequency regardless of air volume, whereas the brass reeds have a more pronounced variation. That said it is only about 4-5 cents. For laughs I just played a blues harp into "AP tuner" and can easily get 50 cents variation when I bend a note.


i can bend notes on my expensive steel-reed instrument. it is quite the subtle thing and not something that you can pick up in an evening. i can't bend every note equally well, but i would say i can get some sort of bend on most of the notes on the left hand and a few on the right, but only at the beginning of a note and never at the end. it involves a very precise interaction between the pressure in the bellows and the amount of air you let through to the reed. i showed it to my maker, to make sure that i was UNDER blowing rather than OVER blowing the reeds, because the latter would cause irreversible damage. he confirmed that i was making the reeds flat from a lack of air and that my reeds would be OK.

ideally, one would need to invent a sort of rocking pad, because although i can do it when i want to, it requires such precision of button pressure that i haven't really put it into my "on stage" back of tricks yet. there was a point where i was working on it a lot and managed to pull it off during a competition, but it hasn't even been on my list of things to work on for a year or so. the basic idea is i want a way to have the pad help me out with what i'm already doing without interfering with regular playing. a man can dream, can't he? B)

#16 david_boveri

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:52 PM


... an anglo is really just harmonicas with a bellows in between!

Hi Marcus,

Hardly. Don't fool yourself. Although both instruments use free reeds, they differ largely, with much musical expression having no overlap.

Concerning the blues, the biggest impediment the concertina (and accordion) has is that the musician has very limited, only remote access to the sound source, with a mechanical linkage in between. That is, if you want to play blues like a harmonica player. The piano has a similar limitation, but people work around that and have developed blues style piano playing that emphasizes other, advantageous, features. The keyboard of the concertina can also be made to play adequate blues, but the sound and expression is qualitatively different from that of a harmonica, especially a harmonica miked in the most effective way. One cannot overemphasize the contribution proper miking has made for blues harmonica playing.

Even my own invention of the pitch bending accordion does not allow the musician to access the sound source as completely as does a harmonica. But the extra dimension of pitch bending, I think, does propel the instrument much further towards the harmonica in this kind of music. In addition, the keyboard again allows musical expressions that are absent with harmonica, and so, a combination keyboard with pitch bending, I think, brings a genuinely new instrument into the mix.

But don't take my word for it. You can hear some "acoustic style" blues on my website, played by yours truly, on the world's first pitch bending accordion. Just click on the link, "Acoustic blues with vocal" on the home page. There are other sound files and videos there that you might also enjoy listening to. I invite you to have a listen and tell me what you think.

Best regards,
Tom
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wow, tom, that is remarkable! the transition between bent note and regular note is not as "raunchy" as i would like, but it is definitely better than i ever thought possible. i can imagine that the limitations are in the mechanism for opening and closing the chamber that presents the impedance mismatch, which is really just an engineering problem and nothing else. kudos to you and i wish you the best of luck!

#17 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 04:39 AM

wow, tom, that is remarkable! the transition between bent note and regular note is not as "raunchy" as i would like, but it is definitely better than i ever thought possible.

I agree! Makes up a quite new and very interesting perspective for any (blues-addicted!) PA player (and thus myself as well).

Additionally, I'd like to remind of the "accordina" thread: another unique way to give a more direct access to tone production.

Nevertheless, the concertina with its strong tone is quite an experience...

#18 ttonon

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 11:01 AM

My next CD will explore this on the Anglo. I don't want to give too much away too soon, but I've been playing the blues, gospel, early jazz, jump and rock-a billy on the Anglo for quite a while now, and it sounds great. Really great. Like and unlike anything I've heard. I think it is a unique sound for that music world. Unusual? Yes! Totally handy and delightful? Yes! Thank you Carl Friedrich Uhlig for inventing this push/draw system that so many free reed instruments use....

.... When I get a bit of time, I'll make a recording and let you all be the judge of how this sounds in practice. It's like the piano in arrangement, but the timbre sounds like harmonica (sort of), yet the aggregate is totally concertina.

Hi Jody,
You have piqued my interest, and I'm in great anticipation to hear what you've come up with.

Best regards,
Tom




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