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Are You Particular About Choosing Either Sharp Or Flat Button (English

English sharps flats

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#1 bellowbelle

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 11:57 AM

I'm just curious about what other English concertina players do when it comes to playing in keys where your fingers could choose one of the two same-sounding notes, like C# or Db, G# or Ab, etc..

 

I was playing something in the key of C# this morning, a simple tune, and if I was 'correct' and strict about what note to play, I had to consciously be careful to choose a d# (d sharp) when I encountered that note.  What my fingers naturally wanted to play was actually the eb (e flat).  At least in this case.

 

I know it doesn't really make a difference, as far as how it sounds.  And I'm guessing that if I were playing something very classical or complex, I'd probably find it more normal to play 'correctly.'  But, with a simple tune, I find that my fingers just want to balance the distribution of buttons between my left and my right hand.

 

Any thoughts on this?  



#2 Paul_Hardy

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 03:37 PM

Well, when the concertina was invented, before today's dominance of equal temperament, the two 'same-sounding notes' on many concertinas would probably have been tuned differently. This gives purer-sounding chords in common keys, as the mathematical ratios between the frequencies are closer to simple fractions, and the brain seems to like that. This was done as part of a 'just' or 'meantone' temperament tunings. It is still done occasionally today, particularly for people who play solo, or play with fiddles who (often unconsciously) adjust the pitch of these 'enharmonic pairs' according to the key. However most concertinas these days are tuned to equal temperament so that they fit with other instruments like pianos, and don't have preferred keys to play in.

 

So, assuming your instrument is in equal temperament (the enharmonic pairs sound the same) then you have no musical reason to choose a D# or an Eb, so go for whichever is easier for you. However my choices are affected by at least two factors: 

1) finger ergonomics - it's often easier to reach one of the two than the other, because of fingers needed for preceding or following notes. So use the button under the easier finger.

2) brain power - if I read a D# from the music, it takes extra brain power to do the translation and think that I could be using an Eb - it's easier on the brain to play the D#.

 

So, it's a balance - I more often play the note 'as written', but if the finger ergonomics are a problem I switch to the enharmonic pair without worrying.

 

Does that help?



#3 bellowbelle

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 08:54 PM

Well, when the concertina was invented, before today's dominance of equal temperament, the two 'same-sounding notes' on many concertinas would probably have been tuned differently. This gives purer-sounding chords in common keys, as the mathematical ratios between the frequencies are closer to simple fractions, and the brain seems to like that. This was done as part of a 'just' or 'meantone' temperament tunings. It is still done occasionally today, particularly for people who play solo, or play with fiddles who (often unconsciously) adjust the pitch of these 'enharmonic pairs' according to the key. However most concertinas these days are tuned to equal temperament so that they fit with other instruments like pianos, and don't have preferred keys to play in.

 

So, assuming your instrument is in equal temperament (the enharmonic pairs sound the same) then you have no musical reason to choose a D# or an Eb, so go for whichever is easier for you. However my choices are affected by at least two factors: 

1) finger ergonomics - it's often easier to reach one of the two than the other, because of fingers needed for preceding or following notes. So use the button under the easier finger.

2) brain power - if I read a D# from the music, it takes extra brain power to do the translation and think that I could be using an Eb - it's easier on the brain to play the D#.

 

So, it's a balance - I more often play the note 'as written', but if the finger ergonomics are a problem I switch to the enharmonic pair without worrying.

 

Does that help?

 

Yes, thanks!  



#4 Ken_Coles

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Posted 25 May 2017 - 07:58 AM

Fifteen-odd years ago, Ed Delaney, who lives near Indianapolis, sold me my first EC, a cheerful but working Lachenal Paragon model. I enjoy playing it when I get tired of anglo! He is an accomplished player; I've heard him do both contra dance tunes and Irish music very well. He told me that sometimes you could use the alternate, enharmonic (in equal temperament) button. "Colraine is one such tune," he said. (There is a G# or two, if you don't know the tune.) A year later, I found myself sitting next to John Roberts in the pickup band at Pinewoods before a dance. I had AC and he had his EC, so I asked him about this, did he ever use the Ab button on Colraine? "No," he said, laughing.

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#5 d.elliott

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Posted 25 May 2017 - 02:02 PM

I play what, or which ever en-harmonic that fits with my fingering position at that instance, or perhaps what ever fingering I will need next. What I do find is that the the fingering & key selection becomes habitual for that tune. so choose wisely.

 

Dave



#6 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 05:52 AM

As a  long  term user of  Meantone   temperaments  on the EC  my tendance is to  stick  with  the  harmonic choice for the key  signature.  This usually  keeps  the logical  fingering  movements  , and chord shapes  fairly standard  through    four  keys flat and four sharp of C maj.  I find  this  makes transposition easier  because  my brain  has  assimilated  the  pattern  strategy.   As a 'for instance'  ; some people  like to  change the  low G#  on a  48 Treble  to an F natural... now this would  bother me  if I was playing  in  A  because  I would need to go  'out of pattern '  to use  the  Ab  button  for the missing G#.

 

When  playing   in  keys further  away  from C  or when the music is very chromatic  and one needs to substitute ,  C# for Db  for example,  then complexities of fingering  might  call  for  a  'best option' fingering.

 

So,  as a basic  approach  I find myself using  the  G# and  D#  buttons  in all  Sharp key signatures  and  the  Ab and Eb buttons  for all the Flat key signatures.  If  your  sheet music  says play  an Eb   I think it is a better policy to do  that   and not substitute the D#  because  it might be easier.

 

An example  piece  with  difficult  single line melody  where I   could  substitute  but  do not:

 

Bourrée  from the French suite  in Eb by  JS Bach  ( BWV 819).  In the B part second bar  there is a   downward run  G,Eb,Db,Bb   which one could play as  G,D#,C#,Bb  for a nice alternating right-left-right-left  fingering  but  my  personal rule  ( and the need to keep  harmonically 'in the arpeggio  '  with my   Mean Tone  tuning)  makes me play  G,Eb,C#,Bb.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 27 May 2017 - 06:35 AM.


#7 Don Taylor

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 08:10 AM

"Bourrée from the French suite in Eb by JS Bach ( BWV 819). In the B part second bar there is a downward run G,Eb,Db,Bb which one could play as G,D#,C#,Bb for a nice alternating right-left-right-left fingering but my personal rule ( and the need to keep harmonically 'in the arpeggio ' with my Mean Tone tuning) makes me play G,Eb,C#,Bb."

Geoff:

When playing an instrument in meantone tuning and you need to play a note that is out of key and is one the now non-enharmonic pairs, such as the C#/Db in your example, how do you choose which note to play? Is there a rule other than whichever sounds best?

Thx. Don.

#8 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 09:44 AM

Well  Don,

 

in reference  to  C# /Db   these are the same note  in Equal  Temperament  and  unless one created a keyboard  with separate  buttons for  these two  notes  and used an altogether  more complex  tuning  system  we can only use  the  C# button for  either note.  In the example  I  have given  (G,Eb,Db,Bb)  Bach  gives us an arpeggio  of  Eb7  in which  the  C# ,in  1/5th Comma Meantone,  is perfectly  sweet  as a replacement for  his written  Db...  So  although  I had no possible alternative  the  'whichever sounds  best' rule  has applied itself.    When  discords  do appear  they  show us  the extent  of the possible  use of  a Meantone  tuning  and we should perhaps retreat  to a more useable key  or  go for  Equal  Temperament.

 

One  clarifying point  to   Bellowbell's  question;  choosing the wrong  enharmonic ( which is  usually the one that is out of pattern on  the EC, unless you are in a really  far out key)  can negate  the ability to easily  transpose the tune  to another key .

 

 

If we take the   Hayden  duet,  as an example  of which  enharmonic  one would choose  ,  notice  that  the  Eb's  and Ab's  are on the left side of the  keyboard  and the  G#'s  and D#'s  and on the right.....and it follows that when one is playing in keys  like F# and B  it naturally follows that   G# and D# would be used  and when one is playing  in Bb and Eb  it is the  Ab and Eb that are used. I can  see that Bach's G,Eb,C#,Bb  arpeggio  is quite  a stretch  on the  Hayden.

 

Geoff.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 27 May 2017 - 11:19 AM.


#9 Don Taylor

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 12:46 PM

Thanks Geoff, very insightful as always.

(Greg J is tuning an Excelsior for me in 1/5 comma mean tone per your specs).

Don.

#10 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 01:00 PM

Thanks Geoff, very insightful as always.

(Greg J is tuning an Excelsior for me in 1/5 comma mean tone per your specs).

Don.

It's what I like about C.net .....  how people respond  to each other  and say thanks... it is so  polite.  On certain other forums  one would be lucky  to get  any response  to a detailed answer to a  question... as if it is the  right of the inquisitor   to  obtain knowledge  freely!

 

Cheers Don  and  hope you enjoy the Excelsior. :) 



#11 bellowbelle

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 05:18 PM

 

 

.....................................When  playing   in  keys further  away  from C  or when the music is very chromatic  and one needs to substitute ,  C# for Db  for example,  then complexities of fingering  might  call  for  a  'best option' fingering..................................

 

 

Aha, yes...  that clears up some of my question.  Thanks.

 

Thanks everyone for your answers!  

 

Edit added...

Geoff, all of your reply is a very informative answer...but I just mean that that bit in particular was very helpful re my own questions while muddling through something.

 

I made myself some 'crazy little charts' that at the moment I don't want to present or explain (will get to that someday), but they kind of have to do with playing intervals.  Does involve patterns, in a way.  As I go along, using my own charts, and trying to figure out what I want to say about them, I am coming up with all kinds of questions.  Like the one which prompted this thread.


Edited by bellowbelle, 28 May 2017 - 05:37 PM.






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