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Anyone Prefer Morse Instruments To Vintage/trad?

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#19 Jim Besser

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:01 AM

There are plenty of poor Morris musicians about - some are dreadful - just as there are plenty of people who play Irish tunes as a monotonous diddlydiddlydiddly as fast as they can, speeding up on the easy bits.  But a good musician plays with plenty of dynamics whether it is Irish, Morris, Scottish, blues, ragtime or any other style.  It's far too easy to dismiss Morris music out of hand and assume without evidence that Irish is somehow inherently more subtle.

 

The point I was making - volume is particularly important to Morris musicians, striving to be heard above the clashing sticks, jingling bells and adoring crowd noises. When I play performance music or in my ceilidh band, dynamics are much more important, and I always play traditional reeded instruments; for Morris, the tremendous volume of my hybrids is useful, and the diminished dynamics not as much of an issue.

 

Totally agree that there are some dreadful Morris musicians out there. But also some incredibly good ones, concertinists and otherwise.

 

I often feel that the beauty of many Morris tunes is obscured by other factors - the need to play very loud and to tailor the rhythm to the dancers, the everpresent background noise, etc. Some of these tunes are just wonderful when played in a different setting that allows for more dynamics. Great examples: Orange in Bloom and Old Molly Oxford.


Edited by Jim Besser, 17 August 2014 - 07:16 AM.


#20 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:51 AM

Being hardly experienced with Morris music in terms of both playing tunes and watching the sides, I'd nevertheless doubt the significance of just loudness in place of dynamics regarding the audibilities of the music with its bounces and lifts, be it indoors or outdoors...



#21 Jim Besser

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:06 AM

Being hardly experienced with Morris music in terms of both playing tunes and watching the sides, I'd nevertheless doubt the significance of just loudness in place of dynamics regarding the audibilities of the music with its bounces and lifts, be it indoors or outdoors...

 

I expressed myself poorly.

 

All I'm talking about is the dynamic range of an instrument in terms of ability to control volume.

 

There are lots of nuances in playing Morris.  I've been doing it for maybe 18 years and still learning a lot every day. While the tunes are generally simple, playing well for Morris - meaning, playing in a way that facilitates the dance - is a real challenge.

 

But the ability to vary volume is not nearly as critical to a Morris player as it is to musician in many other genres, since we're almost always playing as loud as we can in order to be heard above the clatter!  



#22 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 04:36 PM

Micro-dynamic variation adds lift to any music and loft for morris dancers even at top volume, IMHO. When I say Micro-dynamics I mean the shaping of attack envelopes for each note that add up to musical phrasing and punchy rhythmic playing that can cut through the noise of live dance situations. The use of micro-dynamics is not the only tool for doing this but it's a good one.

 

Yes, I've also heard the quiet end of AC reeded hybrids sounding curtailed compared to traditional concertina reeds. I miss it when playing my Morse. What makes my Jefferies such a joy to play is how the reeds continue to sound, right down to a whisper. The quieter the whisper available.. the better I like it. Often I'm just dipping into that whisper for the merest of moments during play, but I'm doing it almost every other note. The willingness of traditional concertina reeds to speak at all volumes, makes playing them a joy... a sort of a buttery feeling that I love in the best instruments. Not having that whisper available makes my playing on the Morse only just a bit less joyful. With other cheaper Anglos I sometimes play, the low end of the dynamic range is even more curtailed. The playing experience and the music suffer, but they are still fun too and great music can be played on them as well.

 

A beginner or even an experienced concertinist could play for many many years and never miss this ability to get down to a whisper. Making use of it requires a high level of bellows control that few players achieve or even want to achieve. So many other musical elements are much more important to master first. 


Edited by Jody Kruskal, 17 August 2014 - 04:39 PM.


#23 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 04:41 PM

Micro-dynamic variation adds lift to any music and loft for morris dancers even at top volume, IMHO. When I say Micro-dynamics I mean the shaping of attack envelopes for each note that add up to musical phrasing and punchy rhythmic playing that can cut through the noise of live dance situations. The use of micro-dynamics is not the only tool for doing this but it's a good one.

 

This is exactly what I had in mind here (and use to apply myself) - thank you for the fine explication Jody!



#24 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 06:27 PM

Matthew, I'm surprised your Beaumont is quiet. My Morse boxes are incredibly loud. I wonder if something in the design of their Hayden mutes sound. Or maybe you're just hearing it as quiet. Come over sometime and we'll do some side by side tests. (I have a decibel meter iPhone app).

 

Just downloaded the Decibel Meter Pro app for 99¢ (using iPhone 4S, afaik the lowest model capable of using it right), and here's my rough assessment with holding the end of the instrument 12-20" away from the phone:

 

2013 Morse Beaumont 52b Hayden Duet:

 

Lowest pitch button: 79db peak

 

Highest pitch button: 80db peak

 

Playing a tune w/ 2 notes on bass, 1 on treble: 86db peak

 

 

For reference, 75db is singing from 3ft away, 80db is an automobile at 25ft, 90db is a motorcycle 30ft away. Though I always have a little trouble visualizing decibels since it's a logarithmic scale, so small changes in numbers mean much larger increases than if it were straight-line.

 

I dunno, should we set up a thread somewhere just for people to report in on phone-app decibel readings for their various models?



#25 Jim Besser

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 06:51 PM

Micro-dynamic variation adds lift to any music and loft for morris dancers even at top volume, IMHO. When I say Micro-dynamics I mean the shaping of attack envelopes for each note that add up to musical phrasing and punchy rhythmic playing that can cut through the noise of live dance situations. The use of micro-dynamics is not the only tool for doing this but it's a good one.

 

Yes, I've also heard the quiet end of AC reeded hybrids sounding curtailed compared to traditional concertina reeds. I miss it when playing my Morse. What makes my Jefferies such a joy to play is how the reeds continue to sound, right down to a whisper. The quieter the whisper available.. the better I like it. Often I'm just dipping into that whisper for the merest of moments during play, but I'm doing it almost every other note. The willingness of traditional concertina reeds to speak at all volumes, makes playing them a joy... a sort of a buttery feeling that I love in the best instruments. Not having that whisper available makes my playing on the Morse only just a bit less joyful. With other cheaper Anglos I sometimes play, the low end of the dynamic range is even more curtailed. The playing experience and the music suffer, but they are still fun too and great music can be played on them as well.

 

A beginner or even an experienced concertinist could play for many many years and never miss this ability to get down to a

whisper. Making use of it requires a high level of bellows control that few players achieve or even want to achieve. So many other musical elements are much more important to master first. 

 

Agree re: micro dynamics in Morris.  The better traditional instruments have one more advantage - better bellows, making those micro dynamics easier.  My Jeffries G/D came with a badly worn and not great quality replacement bellows, and it was much harder to have nuanced bellows control than my Morse hybrid.  Then I had them replaced with a Jowaisas bellows, and the difference was incredible. Now it's much easier to achieve fine control than the Morse.

 

One other factor: in my experience, at least, even the best G/D hybrids, have lower reeds that tend to respond a little slowly. When I switch from my traditional to hybrid G/D, I have to adjust my playing somewhat to compensate for the lag in the lower registers.

 

The issue of playing quietly - my sense is that the Morse boxes, at least, are improving in this regard. I remember playing one of their early C/Gs, and thinking that  it just had two volume setting: loud and louder.  The one I bought several years ago has more range in terms of volume, but still not as much as a good traditional reeded instrument.

 

I agree with you that the good hybrids are terrific learning instruments; you have to be pretty far along in your playing to be held back by one. And I find them to be outstanding Morris boxes because of their strong volume and light weight, not an insignificant factor when you're on your feet playing all day.

 

But there's nothing like the smooth, responsive feel and the great honk of a Jeffries.


Edited by Jim Besser, 17 August 2014 - 06:54 PM.


#26 Jim Besser

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:34 PM

 

Matthew, I'm surprised your Beaumont is quiet. My Morse boxes are incredibly loud. I wonder if something in the design of their Hayden mutes sound. Or maybe you're just hearing it as quiet. Come over sometime and we'll do some side by side tests. (I have a decibel meter iPhone app).

 

Just downloaded the Decibel Meter Pro app for 99¢ (using iPhone 4S, afaik the lowest model capable of using it right), and here's my rough assessment with holding the end of the instrument 12-20" away from the phone:

 

2013 Morse Beaumont 52b Hayden Duet:

 

Lowest pitch button: 79db peak

 

Highest pitch button: 80db peak

 

Playing a tune w/ 2 notes on bass, 1 on treble: 86db peak

 

 

For reference, 75db is singing from 3ft away, 80db is an automobile at 25ft, 90db is a motorcycle 30ft away. Though I always have a little trouble visualizing decibels since it's a logarithmic scale, so small changes in numbers mean much larger increases than if it were straight-line.

 

I dunno, should we set up a thread somewhere just for people to report in on phone-app decibel readings for their various models?

 

 

Well, as a quick and dirty test using the same iPhone app:

 

On my Morse C/g, the lowest note registered 85 db, the highest 91.

On my Morse G/D,  almost exactly the same, surprisingly.

 

On my Lachenal/Dipper C/G: 89 and 93.

 

I'm not sure exactly how meaningful these numbers are, but there you have it!



#27 Steve Mansfield

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 12:56 AM

We probably need to page Mr Terry McGee at this point, as he seems to understand these things, but I've used a decibel meter to compare fifes before now and found it don't mean nothing.

After a happy morning carefully measuring two instruments on an iPhone decibel meter (don't know which one, not my phone) followed by an afternoon swapping between the two out With the Morris side, I found that the fife that the Decibel meter reckoned was the loudest just doesn't carry outdoors, while the one that was supposedly much quieter had people hiding under tables and thinking Armageddon had started.

So of course I always play the Armageddon one :)

It must be something to do with the harmonics, or the partials, or the acoustic oojamaflip, at which point this Arts graduate retires from the field and calls on someone who actually knows something about acoustics to take over ...

[my iPad autocorrect consistently tries to replace Armageddon with Agamemnon. What a classically educated device ]

Edited by Steve Mansfield, 18 August 2014 - 12:57 AM.


#28 Rod

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 01:33 AM

Plenty about Agamemnon on the internet but nothing to say he played Concertina.

#29 ceemonster

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 02:07 AM

[[[dynamics really bring the rhythm of Irish music to life.]]]

 

actually, i forget which of the old-line trad masters it was, but one of them famously stated that "there are no dynamics" in irish music, and that if you were doing that, you were not playing in the traditional style. this was repeated to me by my own teacher, who was in a position to know both the quote and the principle behind it. the rhythm of irish music is brought to life per what i was taught, more by the timing distribution of your syncopation (swing), by your phrasing and articulation choices, by stacatto-versus-legato choices, than by dynamics, which the irish masters would have viewed as being more the purview of classical music.


Edited by ceemonster, 18 August 2014 - 02:16 AM.


#30 Rod

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 08:09 AM

DYNAMICS. Classical musicians are under pressure to follow the instructions decreed by the composer on the original printed score. The rest of us have the freedom to decide for ourselves and, up to a point, so does a conductor. All part of the fun.

#31 Jim Besser

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:34 AM

We probably need to page Mr Terry McGee at this point, as he seems to understand these things, but I've used a decibel meter to compare fifes before now and found it don't mean nothing.

After a happy morning carefully measuring two instruments on an iPhone decibel meter (don't know which one, not my phone) followed by an afternoon swapping between the two out With the Morris side, I found that the fife that the Decibel meter reckoned was the loudest just doesn't carry outdoors, while the one that was supposedly much quieter had people hiding under tables and thinking Armageddon had started.

So of course I always play the Armageddon one :)

It must be something to do with the harmonics, or the partials, or the acoustic oojamaflip, at which point this Arts graduate retires from the field and calls on someone who actually knows something about acoustics to take over ...

[my iPad autocorrect consistently tries to replace Armageddon with Agamemnon. What a classically educated device ]

 

An anecdote: A few years back I was sitting in the outdoor terrace of a pub in London, Ontario with another c.net member, comparing concertinas. He was playing a Jeffries G/D, at the time and I was playing a Morse G/D hybrid.

 

We did a sound comparison.  Sitting in the pub, there was no question my Morse hybrid was the louder instrument.

 

But later, playing for the Morris on a crowded street, his Jeffries could be heard clearly above the din, the clear tone penetrating,  while my Morse was very hard to hear.

 

'Loudness' isn't the only factor in audibility!



#32 ceemonster

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 03:37 PM

re being louder on a terrace versus above the din on a crowded street---very interesting.  the morse I am playing just now is very loud in the house, in the garden, in the office. it has TAM reeds in it, which are brighter than the stock factory-durall reeds usually in morses, and it has a nice bark to it provided there is no "din." it was in the pub, with din aplenty, where it was not cutting through, and where wood-end concertina players who heard it and then tried it themselves compared its capacity to a brass-reeded concertina....one of them plays a late-30s aeola treble, and the other a wally carol anglo, both of which cut really well amid "din," better than i would have thought without metal ends.  I have gotten quite attached to this morse, I must say....



#33 Jim Besser

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 06:00 PM

re being louder on a terrace versus above the din on a crowded street---very interesting.  the morse I am playing just now is very loud in the house, in the garden, in the office. it has TAM reeds in it, which are brighter than the stock factory-durall reeds usually in morses, and it has a nice bark to it provided there is no "din." it was in the pub, with din aplenty, where it was not cutting through, and where wood-end concertina players who heard it and then tried it themselves compared its capacity to a brass-reeded concertina....one of them plays a late-30s aeola treble, and the other a wally carol anglo, both of which cut really well amid "din," better than i would have thought without metal ends.  I have gotten quite attached to this morse, I must say....

 

Well, it's interesting, and I leave explanations to those with more expertise in the physics of sound than I have.

 

What my own experience suggests: the 'cutting power' of accordion reeds in hybrid concertinas is most diminished in the lower registers, less noticeable in the higher.

 

In my practice room, my G/D Morse sounds louder than my C/G.

 

Outside, the C/G - with its higher register - is much more effective at cutting through background noise than the G/D, almost as effective as my very good vintage C/G.

 

I'm curious, ceemonster: are you planing a Morse English or Anglo?  



#34 ceemonster

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:25 PM

morse english, Geordie EC Tenor.  But long history with anglo, including a metal-=ended Dipper County Clare.



#35 Jim Besser

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:37 PM

morse english, Geordie EC Tenor.  But long history with anglo, including a metal-=ended Dipper County Clare.

 

INteresting. The reason I asked - I'm hearing more and more that the Morse English concertinas are quieter than the Anglos. Wonder why that is.



#36 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:54 PM

 

morse english, Geordie EC Tenor.  But long history with anglo, including a metal-=ended Dipper County Clare.

 

INteresting. The reason I asked - I'm hearing more and more that the Morse English concertinas are quieter than the Anglos. Wonder why that is.

 

 

And apparently the Duets quieter as well; who's the Buttonbox member of Cnet who we can ping on this?







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