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#1 Don Taylor

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 09:30 AM

Safari_Steve recently posted a couple of links to YouTube videos of him singing and accompanying himself on concertina. I enjoyed them both, especially as we get few examples of song accompaniment posted here.

Which brings me to my question: how do you work out a song accompaniment on a concertina?

I don't mean how to work out a set of chords that work - I understand the three chord trick and can figure out a set of chords. It is the phrasing that I am struggling to find.

I have tried fitting chords underneath the melody line, but that is much too busy. Simple rhythmic vamping oomph-pah style is OK, I suppose, but not really what I want.

I like the sound of a fairly sparse accompaniment, mostly chords supporting, but not dominating, the melody voice. It sounds simple, and maybe it is, but I would really welcome some pointers on how to achieve this sound.

#2 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 05:07 PM

From my experience, I can advise practicing some common rythms (om-pahs) and fingering of chords as when fingering strings on guitar. A good example of what I mean is "The house of the raising sun", which can be played in simplified form with only major and minor chords played in melodic way. This way you leave main melody line for the vocals and accompaniment gives a "feeling" of the original. 

Other type of acompaniment I do (I play on Hayden Duet, so I have plenty of chords available) is an "accordion style" rythms built on 3-6 notes at once to make them "thicker", often with sustained bass notes or mix of rythm on the left and melodic fingering of the same chord on the right hand. This feels much like "campfire quitar" and is great for popular music, as popular music often have very simple melody and singers don't like "freedom of interpretation" :>



#3 LoiS-sez

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 10:56 PM

I'm still finding that when I sing and play I can't get too complicated, but playing a 1/3 above or below the melody is a simple way to give a "fairly sparse accompaniment" that supports without dominating the melody voice.  For my 30 b it's right next to the note you're playing from low A to high E on the left hand if you omit the accidentals and middle B to high A on the right hand.

 

It's the same principle as simple vocal harmony.  Maybe this is more basic than you want.



#4 Steve Wilson

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 07:17 AM

Hi Don,

Ah, song accompaniment, how many ways?  I guess it depends on the song and the singer. I'm no expert by any means but I'll try to tell you a bit of what I do.  I believe you're probably playing an english.

 

First, a song is a song, so the words are the most important part, you're telling a story, the accompaniment should compliment the story.

 

From sheet music I start from scratch. If there are recordings I usually listen a few different versions.  Often I'll record into a program called "Cool Edit" with which I can create a waveform.  Then I can loop the whole song or parts of and play along.  I can change the key too,  sometimes it sounds like chipmonks.  You can do heaps with these sorts of programs.

 

I'll decide what key is suited to my voice then I'll usually learn the melody.  Then I'll learn the chord progression using a different inversions and with this process I'll start to get a feel for the song. This can take a few days or a couple of weeks.  I'll play chords along to a recording over and over and over.  I found a great way to learn chords ( 3 to 5 notes usually) was to play along with 12 bar blues practice tracks, there's heaps on the net in all keys.

 

I do like a simple accompaniment but sometimes a fuller sound is required.  Mostly I sing along to chords or parts of chords and the voice provides the melody. Sometimes I just sing to the melody. With instrumental breaks I'll usually try put the melody over chords or parts of chords but I don't think the chords have to be continuous.  Sometimes the low note chords will swamp the higher phrased melody(solution,fewer low notes) but sometimes the melody can go underneath the chords.  This happens a bit in Honey Pie.  To get a rhythm during singing I'll often vamp on the off beat, like in bluegrass.  Sometimes I'll hold one or more notes of the chord and vamp the other notes.  This happens a little bit in Rainbow just before the chorus.  Other songs I'll use heaps more vamping and vamping sometimes causes the bellows to add to the rhythm.

 

Some songs come together quickly, others take a while.  Listening to different recordings I often pick up little bits to use.  With Cool Edit I can slow them down to figure them out.  Songs like Honey Pie with lots of chord changes I find more interesting, they work out their own accompaniment.

 

Thanks for starting this post , it's made me think a little about what I do.  And still learning. Yes the site is pretty much tune orientated.  I've started scouring the videos hoping to encounter others accompaniment styles but haven't found too much yet, nothing that's not traditional.  Yet in it's heyday the concer was often used for contemporary and popular song. 

 

Cheers Steve.



#5 Don Taylor

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 08:05 AM

Thanks Steve.

Much to think about. It sounds look like I have to do some work!

Since my original post I have been browsing YouTube videos on the topic. There are lots about piano accompaniment for songs and I wonder how much of this material is applicable to the 'concer'.

Don

#6 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 02:20 PM

 I admit to being one of the song (self-)accompanists on the Forum, as opposed to tune-players. Basically, all the instruments I play more or less competently started out as accompaniment instruments for my singing. That includes the Anglo, the 5-string banjo and the autoharp, and when I got a Crane duet for sentimental reason, it took a double line of development: as soloist and accompanist. I also do a reasonable guitar accompaniment, but I never got to the solo level with it. (The finger-style banjo is just so much easier, and also more of a novelty to audiences!)

 

I don't play the piano, but from my vocal training I'm accustomed to singing to the piano, and listening to what the pianist is doing while I'm singing. And one of my favourite genres just for listening to is Schubert Lieder. Take my tip: Schubert is the pick of the bunch when it comes to accompaniments. Anything from minmalistic through sparse to lush, melancholy to exuberant. Not too little, not too much - and sometimes totally different from verse to verse. (Look for "Der Tod und das Mädchen" on YouTube - preferably sung by a low voice - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau or Kathleen Ferrier are good search arguments!)

 

The first lesson we learn from Schubert is that one accompaniment scheme doesn't fit all songs - not even all verses of one song! So the more different ways we have of playing our 3-chord trick, the better our accompaniments get.

 

So, given our chord sequence, how do we get variety into it?

With the stringed instruments (e.g. guitar), we just hold down the appropriate, full chords with our left hand, and sound the notes in a fashion appropriate to the time signature with our right hand. That can be strumming, picking "oom-ta-ta" with thumb and fingers, arpeggios (plucking one string after the other, up or down), plucking just two or three strings (together or in sequence), etc, etc. We can also add a note to a given chord.

On the concertina, of course, "holding down a chord" would lead to sounding just one full chord after the other, which is not very artistic! So we must shift the paradigm slightly, and just position our fingers over the buttons that yield the desired chord. We can then press the thus selected buttons (notes of the chord) together, or separately in any sequence (arpeggios), or only one or two of them, or the lowest and then the rest (for an oom-ta-ta), etc. Basically, you can map almost any form of (finger-style) guitar accompaniment to a concertina.

 

Duet concertinas give you added capabilities, like adding bass runs independent of the chord you've just selected - in this respect, think "piano" rather than "guitar" paradigm. (Although I have a couple of Anglo arrangements with rather neat bass runs in them...but those are fortuitous cases.)

The ideal accompaniment will include two or more of these techniques at different points in the song.

 

Another rule of thumb about accompanying songs (which I got from an 18th-century tutor for English guittar) is not to play the melody as part of the accompaniment. This makes the voice have to compete with the instrument, which is not what accompaniment is about. You can and should play the melody as an introduction, and part of the melody as a bridge between sung verses. I think this advice is still valid for folkies even today.

One exception to this is when leading a sing-song or congregational singing in Church (been there, done that!), where not everybody is completely familiar with the tune, and you have to lead them. Here, you leave the melody line in, of course!

 

How I do such arrangements on the concertina(s) is pretty simple: I first work up a full instrumental version with melody and harmonies - and when I sing, I just leave out the melody on the concertina. I can then "switch in" the melody for intros and bridges. On the duet, this just means giving my right hand a rest while I'm singing; on the Anglo, it's not that clear-cut, but similar in principle.

 

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

John



#7 Steve Wilson

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 05:34 PM

Hello John (and Don),

 

Excellent post John, what I was trying to say above but you've said it more eloquently.  I've visited your website, very impressive, and listened to Sally Gardens.  Lovely playing but I was disappointed you didn't sing.  More coming I hope.

 

Along with an interest in song accompaniment and concertinas we share a birthday, although you have a few years on me.

 

There must be more singing concertinists out there, I'm hoping you all might add to this thread and post a few videos or audio clips as well.

 

Cheers,

Steve



#8 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 06:05 AM

Lovely playing but I was disappointed you didn't sing.  More coming I hope.

 

Along with an interest in song accompaniment and concertinas we share a birthday, although you have a few years on me.

Hi, Steve,

So you're a Geminii, too, eh? I reckon that's a good starting point for self-accompanied singing - we tend to be multiple pesonalities, capable of leading and following at the same time, and unable to decide for singing or playing!

 

Well, flattery will get you anywhere, and since you gently twisted my arm, here are a couple of workshop recordings about accompaniment. Not publishable CD quality, but they give you the general impression of what I do.

 

First, The Cruise of the Calabar in C, accompanied on my 30-b C/G Stagi anglo. This is a song that was very popular in Belfast in my young days, and it's a parody on seafaring songs, being about a barge on the Lagan Navigation Canal (now defunct), which linked the port of Belfast with Lough Neagh, and thus with the inland counties of Ulster.

It's also a parody on the old comeallye ballad form, which is often sung unaccompanied, so my accompaniment dispenses with any rhythmic elements, and just follows the voice, filling in the harmonic structure. The bridges between verses are purely melodic. To my mind, the concertina far exceeds plucked stringed instruments for this type of song.

 

 

Then I've got The Browns, an original song with lyrics by Rüdiger Asche (a member of this forum) that I set to music. I originally composed it on the 5-string banjo, and that's how I sing it at gigs. I later dubbed a guitar part over this recording, just to see what would happen. Finally, I recorded an anglo version.

I think it's interesting how different the three accompaniments sound, even though they were played by the same person within a short time of each other. The instrument or instruments do impose their own character on the piece, although the voice and the chord sequence are the same. I'll not say which I prefer listening to - that's up to you!

 

Cheers,

John



#9 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 06:10 AM

Double posting removed!


Edited by Anglo-Irishman, 06 October 2013 - 06:13 AM.


#10 Don Taylor

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Posted 06 October 2013 - 08:29 PM

John:
 
Thank you very much for these, I really enjoyed listening to them and learned a new word: galluses!
 
I have pirated your recordings so that I can study them and learn from your technique.
 
As for the Broons versions, well I have to admit that I prefer the banjo accompaniment - it seems to promote your voice better.  Nice tune and rather wry and all too true lyrics.  I am guessing that you translated the lyrics from German into Norn Iron?

I must also thank Steve, Lois and Łukasz for their suggestions.

It seems important to develop a variety of accompaniment styles and mix and match as appropriate. So all techniques are useful to know.
 
Don.
 
(Norn Iron = Northern Ireland, Belfast and surrounding counties)

Edited by Don Taylor, 06 October 2013 - 08:41 PM.


#11 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 04:54 AM

As I can read from all of you, we all have quite similiar approach:) That is to take and mix together what is best from guitar, accordion and piano styles of accompaniment and render them on concertina to the extent possible.

 

Here you have an example of my accompaniment and singing http://www.youtube.c...h?v=F9HH37QlVF8

The accompaniment on this one is a mix of accordion style om-pa with bits of melody line, quite closely resembling the original arrangement.



#12 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 09:10 AM

As for the Broons versions, well I have to admit that I prefer the banjo accompaniment - it seems to promote your voice better.  Nice tune and rather wry and all too true lyrics.  I am guessing that you translated the lyrics from German into Norn Iron?

 

Don,

Thanks for the choice! In theory, you must be right, because the banjo is the instrument with the frequency range farthest from my voice. So I will continue to perform it this way.

 

No, the lyrics are not a translation - Rüdiger's English is very good - all I did was edit it a bit to make it more consistently Scots in vocabulary (he heard the story in Scotland, and already had the word "bairns" in the text. The Norn Iron word for children is "weans" which is short for "wee yins" which is "little ones" in English. "Galluses" (UK: braces; US: suspenders) is common to southern Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

As I can read from all of you, we all have quite similiar approach:) That is to take and mix together what is best from guitar, accordion and piano styles of accompaniment and render them on concertina to the extent possible.

 

Lucasy,

Yes, I think that just puts it all in a nutshell. "... to the extent possible" is an important phrase!

 

Cheers,

John



#13 Steve Wilson

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:23 AM

As I can read from all of you, we all have quite similiar approach:) That is to take and mix together what is best from guitar, accordion and piano styles of accompaniment and render them on concertina to the extent possible.

 

Here you have an example of my accompaniment and singing http://www.youtube.c...h?v=F9HH37QlVF8

The accompaniment on this one is a mix of accordion style om-pa with bits of melody line, quite closely resembling the original arrangement.

Lukasz,

 

Unfortunately my Polish is none existent but I did enjoy your piece without understanding a word.  You say it's a cover so not a traditional song? Not many people play and sing songs on concertina that aren't traditional.

 

I sing some trad songs, mostly Aussie ones but I find modern songs more interesting to play on the concer.  When I find time ( difficult but perhaps before Christmas) I'll have to record and post my versions of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and "Chim Chim Cheree".  They have lots of interesting chords, would go well on Duet.

 

You fellas may not know the Waifs but here's my version of their song "Lighthouse"  http://www.youtube.c...h?v=1nFj5Mi5dc4   It's fairly sparse but has a lot of that vamping on the off beat that I spoke of in the post above.

 

Cheers Steve.



#14 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 07:54 AM

Glad you enjoyed it :) Yes, it's a cover of a song written in 1950s but performed just in '90 by a son of a composer. It's in the style of Warsaw street bands (losely resembling french street accordion tradition) and is about polish "real-socialism".

 

We have a quite messed-up history here in poland, so we don't have as strong influence of national folk music in our pop culture as other countries, exceptions only for street bands mentioned above (early XX century), folk of our mountain area and... ukrainian and belarus folk music - half of Poles were resettled from todays Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine and our country border is now completely different than throughout almost entire history... And we have no concertina tradition whatsoever... 

 

And playing modern popular music on concertina is difficult mostly because... it is often so plain and "dull" and simply sounds bad on this instrument. Obviously, songs written for an accordion will sound nice and I found that songs incorporating woodwind/brass section are perfectly suited for transcripiton. But "campfire guitar" songs and typical rock music require hard work to make them sound well. And there are usually no dots for them... Traditional music is easer to find written, more demanding on a player thus more rewarding and in countries like UK or Ireland it has so strong position in the culture, that there is very little urge to find another niche for concertina. 

 

But I agree with you that duets are perfectly suited for non-traditional music and I hope that one day they'll be more popular in modern music.



#15 Don Taylor

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 09:09 AM

Thanks Steve.

Much to think about. It sounds look like I have to do some work!

Since my original post I have been browsing YouTube videos on the topic. There are lots about piano accompaniment for songs and I wonder how much of this material is applicable to the 'concer'.

Don


This might be a stupid question...

On the piano I notice that accompanists use both left and right hand chords, and that the right hand chord dominates the sound with the left hand providing rhythm and bass. I think that the right hand chord always has the melody note at the top, and left hand chord usually does not.

Does this idea translate to the concertina?

I am presently spending my time learning Anglo and I have assumed that accompaniment should be on the left with the melody on the right. That seems to be the case for playing tunes, but maybe not for song accompaniment? Especially if there is not a very rhythmic accompaniment needed.

So, thoughts and advice about the handedness of chording?

I know that handedness on an EC has a different meaning, but I think that the idea applies?

Don.

#16 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 10:18 AM

@Don: speaking from duet world, which is somewhere between piano and anglo - sometimes accompaniment is built on melody enriched with chords, not the oposite way, depends on character of the song.

 

Also, often the melody line of the instrument is not exactly the same as vocal line. On a piano, you have all octaves at your disposal so you can build accompaniment across 3+ octaves (same goes with accordions) while on concertinas (even on duets) you have to "squeze" into 2 octaves at best (except for big duets). One example is "fake basses" on concertina in om-pah rhytms: it is root and chord on a concertina, but bass and chord on an accordion. This makes melody line often in the same octave as accompaniment, so it must be thinner not to sound "muddy" and not to overtake melody line. 

 

Another important matter when trying to imitate piano accompaniment on a concertina is key velocity on a piano vs bellows pressure on concertina (and accordion). We have on/off "binary" buttons so it is impossible or extremely difficult to play with different volume on melody and chords, which is easily done on a piano. We also have same number of voices on left and right hand side (unlike an accordion), so we can either baffle left side of a concertina / strip down chords to 2 or even 1 note / use sparse accompaniment / forget the melody line completely and leave it to vocals... On large enough duets baffling is a good idea, because one can still use the right side to play all the melody. On smaller instruments however, left hand side is often used for melody also, so cannot be "turned down" permanently...



#17 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 10:22 AM

And sometimes it is required to use up to 6 notes on a chord accompaniment to build up volume and density (in rock/punk music) by doubling chord in two octaves at once, so there is no place for added melody...



#18 Dirge

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 04:02 PM

@Don: speaking from duet world, which is somewhere between piano and anglo - sometimes accompaniment is built on melody enriched with chords, not the oposite way, depends on character of the song.

 

Also, often the melody line of the instrument is not exactly the same as vocal line. On a piano, you have all octaves at your disposal so you can build accompaniment across 3+ octaves (same goes with accordions) while on concertinas (even on duets) you have to "squeze" into 2 octaves at best (except for big duets). One example is "fake basses" on concertina in om-pah rhytms: it is root and chord on a concertina, but bass and chord on an accordion. This makes melody line often in the same octave as accompaniment, so it must be thinner not to sound "muddy" and not to overtake melody line. 

 

Another important matter when trying to imitate piano accompaniment on a concertina is key velocity on a piano vs bellows pressure on concertina (and accordion). We have on/off "binary" buttons so it is impossible or extremely difficult to play with different volume on melody and chords, which is easily done on a piano. We also have same number of voices on left and right hand side (unlike an accordion), so we can either baffle left side of a concertina / strip down chords to 2 or even 1 note / use sparse accompaniment / forget the melody line completely and leave it to vocals... On large enough duets baffling is a good idea, because one can still use the right side to play all the melody. On smaller instruments however, left hand side is often used for melody also, so cannot be "turned down" permanently...

If you want to talk duets

  • All but the very smallest vintage duets have 4 octaves or more,  unless you are talking 'per side' which I don't think is the right way to approach it anyway.  You need to get the idea of a continuous range in your head
  • When I'm 'vamping' I sometimes find myself playing chords across the melody when the RH dips low and I idly play my std LH chord (which are usually placed quite high on the LH register).  It doesn't seem to offend.
  • I fondly believe that a listener's ear will emphasise the melody line a bit for you before you do anything else about it. There are lots of tricks to help bring out the melody but a lot of the time I don't think it's worth the worry some put in. 
  • In my view,  putting baffles in one side of a duet is hamstringing it,  regardless of size.
  • Rock'nRoll keyboards seem to stay in a fairly narrow range (the bass does the low notes!) and they fit on a concertina fine,  because I've been doing exactly that with a band recently.  I seem to make a few tunes work solo but you need at least a guitarist with you to add the 'percussion' for convincing pop if you ask me.

Sorry Lukasz...





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