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English concertina Irish style Ornamentation

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#19 chas

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 07:34 AM

It is difficult to see why the Anglo is a proffered concertina for ITM

 

While the danger of playing too legato is one reason, I think the main prejudice is because English concertinas were not widely found in the tradition, for reasons that are probably too well known here to need reciting.  ITM afficionados want to emulate traditional players as far as possible and that includes choice of instrument.

It's a bit the same in the flute world:  trad. ornamentation comes easier on a wooden flute but there are some great Irish players on the silver flute (such as Joannie Madden), yet we all want to be like the old guys with our simple system wooden flutes.

Comhaltas dismisses EC in one sentence: "Wheatstone’s English System concertina (same note on the push and pull) did not suit the rhythmic nature of Irish music."  I myself harboured an anti-accordion prejudice for years (and for every Karen Tweed there are still hundreds of 1950's EFDSS-style players out there).  That video of bamboo harmonica should be compulsory viewing for anyone who dictates what can or can't be played!



#20 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 07:58 AM

This has been discussed before, but nevertheless I'd like to repeat here my belief that any traditional instrument will have defined the style of its tradition.

 

OTOH pretty much of our playing is emulating (for instance and in my case: fiddle, reed organ), and this might apply to the traditional 20b German-concertina players as well. They will have been acquainted to other then tradtitional instruments (such as flute or fiddle, or even the piano?).

 

It's all in all a lengthy process, in which nobody is that independent but free to introduce his or her own addition...

 

EC players might thus enrich even "ITM" rather then restrict themselves to disguising their instrument in the "true" sound of an Anglo.



#21 Alan Day

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 08:19 AM


 

EC players might thus enrich even "ITM" rather then restrict themselves to disguising their instrument in the "true" sound of an Anglo.

Agreed.

It only takes a brilliant player ,enjoyed by many, to change traditional views

Al



#22 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:18 AM

 


 

EC players might thus enrich even "ITM" rather then restrict themselves to disguising their instrument in the "true" sound of an Anglo.

Agreed.

It only takes a brilliant player ,enjoyed by many, to change traditional views

Al

 

I agree in return, regarding a single player who might be inclined to change "history" (of folk music).

 

But I don't believe the ways of influencing the process to be that limited. Every new notion, if even just a shade of it, might have an impact if only it is comunicated at all, then may be picked up by others a.s.f.



#23 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:38 AM

And as to the topic, it might have an impact all the more when quite a few EC players would pick up ITM (not that I'm counting myself among them; my aims are different even when playing Irish tunes).

#24 chas

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:47 AM

EC players might thus enrich even "ITM" rather then restrict themselves to disguising their instrument in the "true" sound of an Anglo.

 

Amen to that.  Reproducing some anglo techniques on the English shouldn't mean ignoring the instrument's inherent capabilities.

I don't know when Alan's retired EC-ist won her fleadh but I dare say the music was being played on English long before the arrival of the ubiquitous bouzouki, for example. 

One more thought - are there many ear-playing English players?  It's easy enough to find your way round an anglo, playing by ear.  But English lay-out is something of a mystery when you first pick up an instrument.  I recall it only made sense to me after having it explained how it related to written music.  Of course, advanced anglo playing finds the scale all over the instrument but at least the beginner can quickly play a basic scale.  Many in the ITM world insist on beginners learning by ear.  Could this be a factor?



#25 Azalin

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 12:05 PM

Beside what's been said, I've got another theory why anglo might be a better system for ITM. The fact that there are less buttons (because different notes on push and pull) allows faster playing as the fingers are travelling much less. It also allows the construction of smaller instruments, like the Country Clare Dipper, smaller size Carroll and Suttner, and so on. This is very handy for faster music. That's only a theory of course!

 

I used to think it was impossible to play good ITM on English. Now I know I was wrong. I heard some very punchy music from a few sources, like Henrik's playing. I think the 'problem' lies with the fact that many English players play many different styles and don't take the time to properly submerge themselves in ITM before playing it. Most English players I heard really sound like midi files to me. Good timing, the notes are there at the right spots, but no punch or soul. That statement is highly subjective so please don't hate me! ;-)



#26 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 12:39 PM

Most English players I heard really sound like midi files to me. Good timing, the notes are there at the right spots, but no punch or soul. That statement is highly subjective so please don't hate me! ;-)


I guess you might say some things (including critical remarks of your choice) about my playing but certainly not that it sounds like midi files... :D

Edited by blue eyed sailor, 31 January 2014 - 02:08 PM.


#27 Henrik Müller

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:00 PM

Hi, all -

 

I've been developing my style (Irish on the English) for about 6 years now and while a lot of my "discoveries" on the way

came out playing a different instrument (= more horisontal space between the buttons), no pinky rests and Anglo-type straps

(not EC-type straps), I realize now that a lot of the "tricks" can be applied to a standard EC.

 

The basic rule

- when it comes to fingering is "never the same finger twice": there's a lot of ITM phrases that contains and/or

end on the samme two notes. Being a good boy and using the "correct" fingers (index on second and first rows (from

thumb strap), middle finger on third and ring finger on fourth) will lead to a break in the flow on those notes.

 

A well-known example of this is cross-fingering, of course. ITM has a lot of fifth jumps, which obviously can't be done

with the same (index or middle) finger - it has to be index-middle or middle-index, depending on the side. Or worse: a 

fifth jump in Bmin (not the low octave): middle finger on the fourth row (F#) and index on the third ( B). Naughty!

 

Another rule is planning ahead: certain phrases that are played are straight forward with any fingering, can still end on

a button which makes the next button difficult - since it wants the finger you ended with. By using a "wrong" finger a little

earlier, you can end up with "next button"-finger free to go.

 

Dynamics

The danger, IMHO, of the EC is laziness with the bellows - I mean, it's just air isn't it? ;-). I probably use the bellows as a

bow - most notes are dealt with, with their own bellows pressure, and notes on the beat get an extra whack. I have no

pre-determined pattern of changing bellows direction - certain places, certain phrases seem to have their own preferences

when it comes to that. I don't try to emulate Anglo sound with certain bellows changes, either.

 

Recommended, inspirational listening, when it comes to bellows dynamics is Mary MacNamara, seeing her is even better.

 

Ornamentation

Cuts, rolls, long rolls, hmmm - long story. There are several ways to do most of them, depending on where in tune, and which

notes - some are straight forward, other more difficult and some impossible.

 

Starting tunes

Whatya mean 'start'?! You just start, yeah?! Try to make it habit to start too slow and let the tune "wind it self up" to a suitable

cruising speed, and use - maybe over-use - bellows dynamics in the wind-up part, to get into "the groove".

 

Recommended listening: Michaeál Ó Raghallaigh (and not only for the starts!) - I have a clip on YouTube, from a concert

at Éigse Mrs. Crotty 2008, listen to the start of "The Wind that Shakes the Barley":

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=7elrAvT-_mI

 

Learning

I learn by ear - in rare cases, I check a tune on session.org, only to find the it isn't really the same. If I fall in love with a

new tune, I brain-wash myself by having it looping in the background for hours and hours. In obscure cases (with an

difficult phrase, I cut the phrase out and slow down until the penny drops. Once you can lilt, hum, whistle the tune, it

becomes much easier to attempt to play it.

 

Sheet music in all respect - but it is only a skeleton. Even if you learn by sheet music, make sure to find a version to listen

to (even if the version may differ a bit), and do the brain-washing thing.

 

I could probably come up with examples (tunes, phrases) that illustrates the above, if the interest is there.

 

/Henrik

 

 

 

 

 



#28 eskin

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 06:47 PM

My bandmate John O'Hara plays traditional Irish tunes on the EC and if you did a blind test you'd never know he wasn't playing an Anglo. I agree with ceemonster, it's all about phrasing, legato vs. staccato playing, and treating the concertina as just a transducer to produce the effect that is in your mind. 



#29 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 03:56 AM

ITM on the English... yes I have been doing this for the best part of 40 years. Initially perhaps not that convincingly, or satisfyingly, but after studying the playing of that instrument in my avatar picture for many years and then moving to County Clare in 1989 I started to get stuck into the EC again and used it as my session instrument for the next 15 years. Going out to sessions four or five nights each week, searching out the old musicians and learning as much as possible from playing with them.

 

So, a study of the music more than of the EC . When one has the Gimp of the music it is possible to play it on anything.

 

Décorations and fingerings:  I gave up the idea of trying to finger Rolls back in the 70's, prefering Cuts , Taps, Bowing Over Notes and Reiterating Notes using the SAME FINGER. Very rarely using  triplets played by alternating fingers.

 

It is all a matter of having the internal rhythm of the music and the phrasing firmly in your head.

 

During that long period in County Clare we must have played with almost all the old concertina players  but it was just as much, if not more, that we learned from the Fiddlers and Fluters. I think of playing the EC more as if it were a mechanical fiddle.  Bellows movements are quite subtle and used to complete fingering accents.

 

One very important point about those Clare sesssions was that the vast majority of them did not contain a guitarist or other accompaniment instrument. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of this fact.  These days many people play sessions without enough internal rhythm and pulse because they leave that job to the Guitarist. Those old players created their own strong rhythms and it makes for better understanding in the learner.

 

Playing the EC by Ear:  yes  almost all my playing is picked up by ear.

 

From sitting next to Packie Russell in Doolin in 1974 and trying to learn a tune as he played it ( and failing miserably)  to playing Gigs with Jackie Daly in 2004... and all shades between  on the EC. :)

 

I'm happy to help anybody if I can,

Geoff.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 26 February 2014 - 04:07 AM.


#30 chas

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 08:27 AM

Delighted to see the thread contrinued with more food for thought.  As it's precisely immersion in Irish music that has distracted me from EC for the last 15 years, then it's good to hear it repeated that it's  <<a study of the music more than of the EC>>.

A query about your list of techniques, Geoff, specifically taps and bowing over notes.  I use taps a lot on flute but don't get how the same thing could be applied to concertina. I've no idea about the other one.  Could you explain please?

 

The repeated note thing seems crucial, though I see there are two schools of thought above.  It was just this that made me decide to try ITM on EC. I'd been "a good boy" for nearly 40 years, using the "correct" fingers for each row.  It was a remark by Dave Townsend at a West Country Concertinas day a year or so ago that made me go back and try different fingers on the same button.  It has made a big difference to my playing and the kind of tune I think I can tackle.

 

I, too, believe in starting slow and winding up, Henrik.  One risk is that a guitarist of my acquaintance picks up my initial tempo and refuses to budge from it!

 

One thing not mentioned is the use of octaves.  I often highlight a note by adding the octave below (as distinct from a chord).  Anyone else do that?



#31 Defra

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 08:52 AM

I too am very happy to read more on this subject. I'm far from exclusively an Irish music player, which is part of the problem as I don't immerse myself in it as I should, but I'm really interested in improving my abilities in the areas discussed above, such as ornamentation and rhythm. Rather than being influenced by Anglo players, though, I'm trying to take more of a lead from some of the excellent button accordion players I've been hearing in groups such as Beogha, Danu and Grada in addition to the more established players like Mairtin O'Connor. For some reason, I find them a bit more accessible, or maybe their sound just suits the accordion reeds in my Geordie tenor better.

To answer Chas, yes, I'm trying to work in octaves as well as double-stops in general.



#32 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 01:01 PM

Ok Chas,

I will try to explain my terminology:

 

Taps .  Well, this can mean anything from a ' Hammer On' ( something like that used by string players)  to an accent made by throwing a finger down onto the button to emphasize a note, to  just taping a button so that the note is extremely short..... the accent arriving as a 'tip' of sound. Another tap I use is really an appogiatura (think that is how it is spelt) where a note is accented by starting two notes at the same time and immediately stopping the one that is doing the accent, and a crushed-in note or a single grace note coming just before the melody note and which then takes a tiny amount of time from that melody note ( acciatura ?)

 

Bowing Over Notes;   this is where the Bellows get involved in a way to emulate the sounds that can be created by changing Bow speed on a fiddle. So, with a subtle momentary increase in air pressure  a group of notes can be linked into a sound like a Roll.  Often I use this when I'd expect to play a short Roll followed by a normal note on the Pipes. The bellows movement is not too abrupt, pressure is increased and decreased like a sped up version of a wave braking on a beach.

 

The   playing of reiterated notes with the same finger is something I find gives better control where I wish that each note has a slightly different length... I find the swapping back and forth using two fingers gives notes of too equal a length and it can sound too mechanical... but it is a personal view not meant as a dogma. Perhaps it is the length of the gaps between notes that are more important.

 

I don't like playing fast so I think your guitarist is on a good track there... start nice and steady and stay at that pace would be my choice.

 

Octave accents..... yes I do this too,.... and chords.

 

 

Last point;   all concertinas are not created equal.  The Anglo players of today are very lucky in that most of the current crop of makers produce these and mainly for the ITM market , so they hone their designs to suit a particular genre of music. The EC players are more likely to be playing vintage instruments and many of those were meant as drawingroom instruments to be played gently by amateur musicians, to sing to  etc. It is not that ITM demands a loud instrument but more one that responds quickly and has good dynamic abilities.

When I lived in Ireland I had aquired a fine Tennor Treble Aeola Wheatstone with Metal ends... thinking it would be ideal.... a year or two later I bought a very humble  48 Treble Wheatstone with Rosewood ends ( albeit in 'as new condition') from Stephen Chambers.... I so much prefered it for session playing that I sold the Aeola... Now I have a very specific instrument  for this purpose ,which has been discussed elsewhere .


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 27 February 2014 - 01:20 PM.


#33 chas

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 02:03 PM

Thanks, I really appreciate that.  Lots to work on.  People use terminology differently and ultimately it's what you do that matters, I guess, not what you call it.  Some of your taps are what I've seen called cuts from below (in a flute context where "taps" are something a concertina couldn't and wouldn't need to replicate).  Some of them are new to me and I shall certainly experiment with them.  Your description of the bellows technique is also really helpful.

As for speed, I agree that it's a mistake to play too fast but, however slowly you play a tune, it's still nice to play the first bar or two even slower and then wind up to the intended speed in the way Henrik describes, with exaggerated rhythm.

The choice of instrument is very important, as you say.  Having played a riveted-reed Wheatstone for the last 30 years or so, I decided to find an EC suited to ITM.  The concensus from players in this neck of the woods was that metal ends were a good starting point.  But then I saw a lovely (and powerful) wooden-ended Aeola advertised on this site last month and it's doing the job very nicely thank you (Simon). 

Well, I'd better get on with it!



#34 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 02:30 PM

Ah! Simon, yes me too.

 

A tune to try the singled fingered  triplets ; " Bunker Hill."



#35 ceemonster

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 11:11 PM

[all concertinas are not created equal.  The Anglo players of today are very lucky in that most of the current crop of makers produce these and mainly for the ITM market , so they hone their designs to suit a particular genre of music. The EC players are more likely to be playing vintage instruments and many of those were meant as drawingroom instruments to be played gently by amateur musicians] 

 

this is such an excellent point.  it is this issue that is driving me nuts in my EC journey. i'm not asking for something that will stomp all over all the other birds in the trees.  but given that i'm playing EC in the same settings i play anglo (and it's not the drawingroom), i need to make that now-quite-steep $$$ commitment on something that will sing out and cut as efficiently as the fullest-voice, biggest-voiced anglos (which themselves are easily enough drowned out, so it's not like it's much to ask).

 

it is true that many diatonics bark out more powerfully than many unisonorics by virtue of the engineering differences---but you achieve parity by design adjustments making the unisonoric more powerful overall.  PAs and CBAs are plenty loud enough for sesesions or band playing..  no reason it can't be done with EC design, but it is as you say--EC has not been widely enough in use or recent production, and has not (YET, i insist---i do believe it's coming) been viewed as the excellent dance/session/band instrument it can be...

 

an example of this conceptual block is, the stereotyping of the Tenor-range instruments as song-accompaniment or background instruments to be played "a fourth down" or whatever it is.  nonsense.  the note ranges on these instruments make them potentially incredible for playing dance-based world music in ANY key.

 

i do have to say that though a "fat" sounding, "flat-reed-pan" voiced EC is my ideal, i now like the Aeola sound so much it would be wonderful to have both. 


Edited by ceemonster, 28 February 2014 - 03:43 AM.


#36 Laitch

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 04:53 PM

Here is a skilled Irish tune player with plenty of internal rhythm playing his EC. 





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