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English Buyer's Guide Posted


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#1 Ken_Coles

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Posted 06 December 2004 - 08:54 PM

I have had this draft Buyer's Guide page for English concertina and a page on playing both anglo and English kicking around for a year and a half. I finally ignored all the other pending tasks here to get them in a condition to post. The English Buyer's Guide will of course benefit from your additions, expansions, and suggestions. Imagine what you would like to read there if you were a prospective first-time buyer and then send it in. (Opinion, on the other hand, always has a place in the Forums!) :P

Seriously, I am excited by this overdue addition. Next I hope to reorganize the Learning page, adding anglo tutors like those by Alan Day and Simon Wells, and moving the English tutors to a separate page with recent additions there also. And who knows, maybe a Concertina.net T-shirt and mug one of these days with an English concertina on it!

Also, please note that it is now much easier to get to the new (really, the current) Forums from any of the original ("static") pages - the link at the top of those pages brings you here. A direct link to our sponsoring advertisers has been added at the top of the Forum pages. Paul took time from his two jobs to revise this in the dynamic code - thanks!

Ken

#2 Stephen Mills

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Posted 07 December 2004 - 11:43 AM

Thanks, Ken, for doing this. A few comments.

TUTORS:
I think a new and complete review of the tutors is called for. Since no one person is familiar with them all, perhaps some solicited reviews from members could be cobbled together. I personally would like to see a table of contents, where such exist, and critical comments for each tutor. The Anglo list should minimally include the tutors by Edgley, Levy, Bramich x 2, Watson, the Alan Day and John Williams tapes and the Vallely CD. A pointer to Simon Wells, too. The English list should include table and contents and critical comments of the out-of-print-but-occasionally-available-on-ebay tutors by Butler and Carlin, which are both excellent, the Atlas book and Pauline de Snoo tutor, which I’ve never seen reviews of, and the Dick Miles books.

What people need is a good idea of what skills they will learn with each book, or whether it’s just tunes. I think the table of contents is nearly essential for this, and a few judicious critical comments can add a lot.

ENGLISH vs. ANGLO:
This is a particular interest of mine. Your article is of course just the tip of the iceberg. I would like to see a lot more input from those who play both systems. Michael Reid and Tom Lawrence started on English and have switched, or at least play a lot of Anglo. What drove those decisions? What about others who have gone the other direction.

I’m always a little surprised when an Anglo player says the side-switching of an English scale is off-putting. Maybe I would have found it so, too, if I had not practiced pulled-only scales on the Anglo before beginning English. This has been particularly helpful for rapid scalar passages on the Anglo; it made a huge difference for me in a passage in the strathspey “Neil Gow’s Wife” transforming it from a trouble spot to a strength. Do these Anglo players play these rapid passages with bellows reversals?

I started on Anglo and still play both systems. The crux for me was that I would hear in my mind some things I wanted to play on the Anglo, usually sustained bass notes or fills, but could not play because of a mismatch in bellows direction. (Believe me, I substituted alternate notes whenever possible). I have found it easier to play what I hear on the fly with the English, although not always.

My preferences for the Anglo include the following: (1) I like the musical feel brought about by the more frequent bellows reversals. In fact, I reverse on the English more than many would recommend. (2) For what and how I play, I like lower notes than the tenor English. I would need a tenor-treble for my taste. I also find it fairly easy to take the melody and move it up an octave on the Anglo. The chromatic notes on the English can constrain its range, although clearly you can choose a model that suits your taste. (3) I do find the Anglo more “intuitive” to play, especially by ear, which seems strange since its keyboard was designed by committee. I also find it more pleasing to play in an organic sense, by which I mean it’s satisfying in a physical sense like kneading bread. The bellows reversals seem like more a part of the tune, rather than just a phrase demarcator.

I find it easier to add accompaniment to the melody on the English, although not always. This is not everyone’s experience. I certainly find it easier to play tunes outside folk traditions. Let’s not even talk about jazz on the Anglo (although I can think of at least 1 tune that seems to lie better there).

These are my personal experiences. An Alan Day, John Nixon, or Pietro Valente gets more out their boxes than I could get out of either system with 14 fingers, so I would not suggest my impressions are universal. I play both, enjoy both, and will continue to do so about equally (at least until my duet arrives).

#3 Ken_Coles

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Posted 07 December 2004 - 06:07 PM

Thanks, Stephen, great suggestions. I have in fact been hoarding reviews in my "drafts" file and have enough for a skeleton page. No doubt it will be a little while. I'm trying to enjoy the accomplishment of what I just finished! ;)

Personal opinions and experiences are just what all the good advice here is assembled from, and the more the merrier!

#4 Tom Hall

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 04:57 PM

Well done, Ken !

Right off, I can't think of anything to add, but as I have more time, I will send some commentaries, mainly about my own personal quest and resaons for same.

Now, when I am askd about taking up the English, I will have a site to send folks to. Your erudition wil save me a lot of expaining time.

BTW, that Lachenal New Model looks awfully familiar -- Tom

#5 Ken_Coles

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 09:56 PM

Tom, your personal observations would be a great addition. And if it hadn't been a year or more since the pictures were submitted in response to a request I made (I think two of them came in over two years ago) it would be easier to remember how they got here! :)

I've had some offers of pictures off the forum also, so will start collecting again, but won't wait so long to add them, I hope.

#6 spindizzy

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 04:24 AM

TUTORS:
I think a new and complete review of the tutors is called for. ....The English list should include table and contents and critical comments of the out-of-print-but-occasionally-available-on-ebay tutors by Butler and Carlin, which are both excellent, the Atlas book and Pauline de Snoo tutor, which I’ve never seen reviews of, and the Dick Miles books.

I've got book 1 of the Pauline de Snoo book and can put together something on that eg contents and a few comments. BTW I've not seen a book 2 though it's implied by book 1. I've also got the Butler book - which I haven't looked at in ages - I don't think I've ever really looked through in fact.

Also you could add the Alistair Anderson tutor/LP to the English list

Chris Jordan

#7 Ken_Coles

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 08:52 PM

Well, I myself started with the Ali Anderson tutor and recording. I have (and used) Anderson's tutor, as well as the books by Butler and Miles. And I kept a copy of the review of Pauline's book by Del Blacketter back when it came out. So we can add those impressions in too.

Ken

#8 John Wild

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 07:40 PM

Well, I myself started with the Ali Anderson tutor and recording.

In conversation at Witney earlier this year, Alistair Anderson said that his approach to the concertina had evolved over the years since he wrote his tutor, and if he was to produce a new tutor (that IS if not when) it would probably emerge significantly different in parts.

- John Wild

#9 Michael Reid

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 01:49 AM

ENGLISH vs. ANGLO:
This is a particular interest of mine.  Your article is of course just the tip of the iceberg.  I would like to see a lot more input from those who play both systems.  Michael Reid and Tom Lawrence started on English and have switched, or at least play a lot of Anglo.  What drove those decisions?

I started on English 20 years ago, and have played anglo for just over a year. These days, 100% of my practice time is on anglo. But at our local Irish session, I mostly play English, because at this point I can't play anglo well enough to keep up with the faster tunes.

Why did I take up Anglo? I suppose it was equal parts of (1) curiosity, and (2) desire for a new challenge. I was curious to find out if anglo was really better suited to Irish traditional music, as some people say. And I was curious to see if I could coax sounds of out a concertina at least somewhat like Micheal O'Raghallaigh, whose album "The Nervous Man" excited me unlike anything else I had heard in years.

Turning 50 last year, I felt the desire to commemorate this milestone by trying to learn something new. I had also been working on C#/D button accordion for 5 or 6 years, and had reached a point of diminishing returns -- I wasn't getting a heck of a lot better at it and began to wonder if I would ever fulfill my expectations for that instrument.

While arguably I might be a better musician had I not introduced yet another instrument to the mix (I also play piano), I'm totally happy with my decision to learn anglo. It has renewed my motivation: I've probably put in more practice time over the past year than in several prior years added together. And I like the way it sounds. While I have always strived to play my English in a "punchy" style, the enforced rhythmic nature of anglo playing really fits what I want to be doing with the music.

At least for now. ;)




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