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English Concertina Finger Position?


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#19 BruceB

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 11:11 AM

Maybe this will clear things up. On the left is Simon, on the right is the traditional position. Below are schematics of the pictures above. Buttons, thumbstraps and pinky rests should be recognizable though crudely drawn. The direction of the fingers is represented in red.

Does everyone agree that a) the schematics accurately represent the finger orientation and b)Simon's fingers are perpendicular to the buttons while the traditional guy's are parallel?

Everyone,
I think the problem is we should say the players *HANDS* are perpendicular or parallel to the buttons. *Fingers* IS confusing. If you take fingers as a whole I'd say that Simon's run parallel to the buttons. His hands are perpendicular.

bruce boysen

#20 JimLucas

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 12:25 PM

I think the problem is we should say the players *HANDS* are perpendicular or parallel to the buttons.  *Fingers* IS confusing. If you take fingers as a whole I'd say that Simon's run parallel to the buttons. His hands are perpendicular.

I disagree with your terminology, Bruce, and that's why I think a more detailed description is needed than "the fingers". To me "the fingers", otherwise unqualified, means "the direction along the length of the fingers", or "the direction in which the fingers point". To you it appears to mean "the direction of the line tracing the sequence across the collection of fingers". Eh?

#21 BruceB

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 02:21 PM

I think the problem is we should say the players *HANDS* are perpendicular or parallel to the buttons.  *Fingers* IS confusing. If you take fingers as a whole I'd say that Simon's run parallel to the buttons. His hands are perpendicular.

I disagree with your terminology, Bruce, and that's why I think a more detailed description is needed than "the fingers". To me "the fingers", otherwise unqualified, means "the direction along the length of the fingers", or "the direction in which the fingers point". To you it appears to mean "the direction of the line tracing the sequence across the collection of fingers". Eh?

Jim,

My point is if you say fingers it can work either way. I just assumed the original poster meant that if you run a line through the fingertips, that line runs parallel to the buttons for Simon, the columns of buttons that is. Otherwise, what he wrote was backwards. Makes sense too to draw a line along the length of the fingers. For ME, it's clearer if we use *hands* instead of *fingers*.

BTW, I once used *columns* to describe the vertical rows of buttons on the EC, and that seemed to confuse several people on this list.

bruce boysen

#22 Nanette Hooker

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 06:00 PM

Maybe this will clear things up. On the left is Simon, on the right is the traditional position. Below are schematics of the pictures above. Buttons, thumbstraps and pinky rests should be recognizable though crudely drawn. The direction of the fingers is represented in red.

Well done David for your excellent picture – a picture says a thousand words. I think the use of words such as parallel, perpendicular, rows and columns leads to too much debate and confusion. Why can’t we all agree to dispose of these terms and simply use the following expressions for finger positions on the English Concertina:
The “Traditional” position
The “Simon” position

#23 David Barnert

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 08:49 PM

Well done David for your excellent picture – a picture says a thousand words.

Thank you, P.

I must say, however, that rereading Geoff's original post with the understanding of Bruce's ideas about what "the fingers" means (which hadn't occurred to me and I didn't understand until it went back and forth between Bruce and Jim) I finally see what Geoff was talking about.

As I suggested earlier, I guess we were talking different languages, but where I though the confusion was over "perpendicular" and "parallel" it was actually over the axis of the fingers (the direction each individual one points vs. the line through all the tips).

If I understand Geoff's point now, I believe that what he said in his original post was that it is (or might be) easier to play chords on the EC with the fingers lined up along the direction of the long rows of buttons (a la Simon) than with the fingers lined up across the long rows of buttons (a la the "traditional" picture).

He might be right. I'm not an EC player. Now that we have the geometry and semantics problems solved, I'm starting to lose interest. :)

#24 David Barnert

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 09:10 PM

Here's an updated version of the picture. Now Simon's fingers are parallel and the other guy's are perpendicular.

Attached Images

  • fingers.jpg


#25 BruceB

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 09:25 PM

He might be right. I'm not an EC player. Now that we have the geometry and semantics problems solved, I'm starting to lose interest. :)

Hey, why doesn't someone new to the EC start out playing like Simon (or Robert Harbron) and after several months report back to us?

I just tried loosening the thumbstraps on my Albion EC and playing it in the Simon position. YIKES! I had NO IDEA what buttons were which. I had to look at the buttons each time to find the right one to press. It felt just like the first time I played an english. Even bellows control seemed totally different. Maybe my brain's to ossified, but I gave up after five minutes or so. Man, did it feel good to tighten those straps up and put my little pinkies back in the finger rests. Ahhhh!.....back in the saddle!

Did anyone look at the picture of Barbara Bartell & her Golden Edeophone in PICA? It looks like she has two fingers in the finger rest, playing with just two fingers on the buttons. Interesting, kind of the opposite of the Simon approach. She uses hand straps too, so she's really connected to her tina.

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#26 David Barnert

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 09:33 PM

Hey, why doesn't someone new to the EC start out playing like Simon (or Robert Harbron) and after several months report back to us?

Who, Me?

Actually, your suggestion makes me think maybe I should get some thumb straps mounted on my Hayden Duet and try playing it sideways, so the rows of buttons line up longitudinally like and English.

Maybe not.

#27 JimLucas

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Posted 06 November 2004 - 01:56 AM

...your suggestion makes me think maybe I should get some thumb straps mounted on my Hayden Duet and try playing it sideways, so the rows of buttons line up longitudinally like an English.

Maybe not.

Interesting thought. Try thinking it further:
.. You would probably want to mirror one of the ends, otherwise the one hand will have the lower-pitched notes in each "row" toward the "top" of the row, while the other hand will have them toward the "bottom".
.. Which is not to say that one couldn't eventually get used to it and become quite fluent. The human brain/nervous system is amazingly adaptable.

#28 David Barnert

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Posted 06 November 2004 - 08:10 AM

Not really, Jim. Look at it this way. Unlike the EC, the Hayden has runs of notes separated by a whole step (and therefore likely to be played consecutively in any tunes, G-A-B, for instance) lined up in rows. I have no idea how I would go about fingering G-A-B in a quick sequence if they were lined up vertically, accessible by no more than two fingers.

#29 geoffwright

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 06:56 AM

We seem to be making progress now - however it was worded, my original question was - does anyone else play using the different finger position now well-described (and pictured)?
I will let you know how I get on with it (probably next year?)

#30 Mark Evans

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Posted 27 December 2004 - 12:25 PM

Have really enjoyed reading this thread and am curious about the phrase "in isolation" in reference to Simon's technique. His CD "Big Day In" is getting worn out in my car's player and I've worked very hard on that repeated note thing he does (even manage it on a tune or two).

I assumed most of us have learned "in isolation". On switching to EC, I got my hand on one never bothering to read a tutor or see any other players technique. I'll now have to pay more attention to what others are doing. Methinks I'm missing something!

#31 Mark Evans

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Posted 27 December 2004 - 12:34 PM

Ah!, The image of Simon's method verses the traditional just came up...man! I'm very traditional and didn't know it (how dissapointing).

I'm assuming Simon dosen't stand up much and dance around (unless those thumbs be mighty strong).

I think I now get an inkling of what was meant by "Isolation". Wow!

#32 JimLucas

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Posted 31 December 2004 - 08:59 AM

I assumed most of us have learned "in isolation".

Most? I wonder. And just how isolated is "in isolation"? I never took formal lessons, but I did see other people who played and paid attention to what they did and their occasional advice. Not that I always copied them exactly, but it did give me a basis for comparison when I did my own experimenting.

I've worked very hard on that repeated note thing [Simon Thoumire] does (even manage it on a tune or two).

Do you know if you're doing it the same way he does? I.e., do you know how he does it?

I'm assuming Simon dosen't stand up much and dance around (unless those thumbs be mighty strong).

Strength really shouldn't be a problem. It should be possible to develop sufficient strength with practice. Though I don't use Simon's grip, I often play even my contrabass English while standing. (And though I can't locate the link at the moment, somewhere on DoN Nichols' web site is a picture of me playing his contrabass. Though I'm seated, I'm holding it suspended above my lap.) No, the problem in using Simon's grip for standup playing is that twisting the thumb loops to get the rotated orientation exerts torques that work against controlling the orientation of the ends. Bracing the end against the leg counteracts this.

But I don't think even that is insurmountable. If the mountings of the loops were modified, so that they were fixed in a rotated orientation, then the destabilizing torque should be (largely?) eliminated. One might still expect difficulty in controlling the ends if there's only one point of contact (the thumb) on each end, but as I've demonstrated to myself when experimenting with my little fingers free of the plates, any finger which is pressing a button is also a contact point which can be used to augment the stability and control, and on an end where you're not pressing any buttons, you can still press one or more fingers against some part of the bare end. I still prefer to use the finger plates most of the time, as I feel it adds to my control. But they're not absolutely necessary to playing while standing.

#33 Mark Evans

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 11:59 AM

On that repeated note thing...I have no idea how he does it (particularly after seeing that photo). With my right and left hand I use my first and second fingers in quick succession on a single note to achieve an immitation of what I think it sounds like. I picked up the two Basque tunes (cut 6 on Big Day In) and used them as the template for this technique. There are two Old Time tunes I employ it on: Panhandle Rag and Down Yonder). Even tried it on The Blarney Pilgrim in the c part but was dissatisfied with the result.

Honestly Jim I did feel isolated. I bought my long gone Wheatstone 64 from Gray Larson after having taught myself to play on a secondhand Bastari (heavens what a trial that was). Gray had moved on to his Anglo by then (1979) and played a few tunes with me on his instrument as I tried out the Stone but offered no tips as to what I was doing (very nice gentleman though with a beautiful touch on the anglo). I pays me $500 bucks and runs fer the apartment door lest he change his mind. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina I was alone except for the occasional button box player.

Now 20 plus years down the road I play in a seisuin once a week with another English player. Our styles are very different though. His playing is very calm and classy, understated even. I jump about quite a bit more to the point that one of our assemblage (insanely good bodran player) assumed I played anglo. These cats don't seem to have a clue as to Anglo/English (good, I hope they don't figure it out).

My hat's off to you and Simon for gettin' the little fingers off the rest even if for a little while. I never move them away. Security blanket? Unfortunately with double jointed fingers my pinky on the right side can get locked down after playing for an extended time. I assume I've gotten in the habit of trying to support the instrument with that poor little pinky. Just don't seem to be able to stop myself.
Old dogs, new tricks and ne'er the twain shall meet?

#34 JimLucas

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 02:19 PM

On that repeated note thing...I have no idea how he does it (particularly after seeing that photo).  With my right and left hand I use my first and second fingers in quick succession on a single note to achieve an imitation of what I think it sounds like.

I believe that's what he does, and I know others who do the same.
I've heard a few say they've tried using three different fingers for a triple repetition, but I haven't heard them say they've gotten good at it.

I generally use 2 fingers for repeated notes. (For triplets a fiddler would do by rapidly reversing the bow, I sometimes use rapid bellows reversals. I don't know anyone else who does that. And it doesn't work on the anglo. :)) On the side away from the thumb I try to use my middle and ring fingers for the repetitions. It's not as fast as using the index and middle -- especially if the note is more than just doubled, -- but I'm getting better at it.

#35 Mark Evans

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 02:51 PM

Ah yes, middle and ring finger...can't make them work well at all for a triple and gave up on it altogether after several blue oaths that cost me dearly in my daughters eyes.

Now what's this about rapid bellows reversal on repeated notes? I often do it for a choppy (forgive me anglists) :rolleyes: anglo effect on certain Irish tunes, for example the Concertina Reel (thank you tune-o-tron) which seems flat unless you've bounced the beegeezus out of it.

#36 BruceB

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 05:32 PM

On that repeated note thing...I have no idea how he does it (particularly after seeing that photo). With my right and left hand I use my first and second fingers in quick succession on a single note to achieve an immitation of what I think it sounds like. I picked up the two Basque tunes (cut 6 on Big Day In) and used them as the template for this technique. There are two Old Time tunes I employ it on: Panhandle Rag and Down Yonder). Even tried it on The Blarney Pilgrim in the c part but was dissatisfied with the result.

Mark,

That's exactly how Simon says he does it. He doesn't use his third finger at all, just fingers one & two for repeated notes. I love Simon's playing and am working on it too, but I'm trying to use the second & third finger on some buttons. I thought it was a good idea to do this with the trad grip. With the Simon grip it's probably easier to reach all the buttons with the first two fingers.

bruce boysen

PS: I've played The Big Day In more than any other concertina recording. I love almost every track.




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