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Cross Row Fingering


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#1 viejomc

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 11:54 AM

The cross row fingering that Noel Hill teaches is mentioned over and over here on the board. Can anyone explain this technique? I'm registered to attend the Midwest NHICS this summer and it would sure help if I didn't have to play "catch up" if I'm assigned to a group other than Beginner.

#2 Henk van Aalten

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 12:34 PM

The cross row fingering that Noel Hill teaches is mentioned over and over here on the board. Can anyone explain this technique?

Hi Gary

Just as an example... I have visualized two "fingerpaths" for the slip jig "To Limerick We Go". One is mainly on the home row (G row) and the other is cross row with the intention to reduce the change in bellow direction as much as possible. It's just an illustration and I hope it helps to get an idea of "home row" fingering versus "cross row".

Just look at/listen to the attachments

To_Limerick_we_go.gif

Attached File  To_Limerick_we_go.mp3   175.25KB   486 downloads

Have fun!

Edited by Henk van Aalten, 19 March 2008 - 03:17 AM.


#3 viejomc

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 01:20 PM

Thanks, Henk. I thought there was something complicated about this, but I see that I'm already on the right path. I've been totally self taught and logic has been my guide for fingering. This eases my mind about going to the school. I appreciate your help. If I find the time, I'll try to write out a tune that I play and post it in like manner for your comparison.

#4 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 01:25 AM

Bear in mind that Noel Hill (and some others) teach a very specific approach to cross-row fingering that may differ from one that you develop on your own. I found out at one of Gearoid's workshops a few years ago that my own self-taught cross-fingering method is quite different from what has become the "standard" one for Irish tunes.

Thanks, Henk. I thought there was something complicated about this, but I see that I'm already on the right path. I've been totally self taught and logic has been my guide for fingering. This eases my mind about going to the school. I appreciate your help. If I find the time, I'll try to write out a tune that I play and post it in like manner for your comparison.



#5 Henk van Aalten

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 01:39 AM

Thanks, Henk. I thought there was something complicated about this, but I see that I'm already on the right path. I've been totally self taught and logic has been my guide for fingering. This eases my mind about going to the school. I appreciate your help. If I find the time, I'll try to write out a tune that I play and post it in like manner for your comparison.


Hi Gary,

I'm glad it was helpful for you, but take in mind that I gave you just an example of cross row playing. It demonstrates the general idea of using all the rows to play a tune. Noel Hill is (as far as I know) using the same general idea, but has developed his own specific way (or even system) of cross row playing.

Have fun!

#6 Captain Mike

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 10:15 AM

Being totally self taught I find this discussion fascinating (I've learned that if you are self taught your teacher is an idiot)

Anyway, I was wondering if it is possible and/or desirable to practice scales such that you do a complete scale on a push or or a pull?

#7 PeterT

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 12:30 PM

Being totally self taught I find this discussion fascinating (I've learned that if you are self taught your teacher is an idiot)

Anyway, I was wondering if it is possible and/or desirable to practice scales such that you do a complete scale on a push or or a pull?

Hi Mike,

If you are self-taught, your teacher is not necessarily an idiot! You just have to accept that other, more experienced, musicians might have found other, or better, ways of doing things on the same keyboard layout.

I think that it is important to know where the alternative (repeated) notes lie on the Anglo. The "trick" is knowing when to use them. This is largely dictated by the style of music which you play. Also, someone who has (say) a 36 or 38 key instrument will finger some passages differently from someone who has a 30 key instrument.

One of the joys, or frustrations, of trying to teach a group of Anglo players is the sheer diversity of instruments with which you are likely to be faced. I can understand why, for example, the 30 key C/G has become the "standard" for Irish tuition, since it makes teaching a particular finger pattern a lot easier. That still leaves the different keyboard layout of Jeffries v Lachenal to contend with!

In Irish traditional music, the work which Noel Hill has done over the last 20 or 30 years has seen his style of playing come to the fore. Having heard him in concert with ten or so pupils playing note for note what Noel plays is an amazing experience. I guess than some of Noel's former pupils have gone on to develop their own individual style, which will be good for future diversity.

The beauty of self-taught Anglo players, in the "English" styles, is that since the tradition all but died out, we are "inventing" (or maybe re-discovering) a whole diversity of ways to play the instrument. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to play it, but experimentation outside the basic keys opens up some potentially interesting possibilities. Cross-row fingering aids this process, otherwise we would be just as well playing a basic 20 key instrument.

Regards,
Peter.

#8 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 10:51 PM

Anyway, I was wondering if it is possible and/or desirable to practice scales such that you do a complete scale on a push or or a pull?


Whether it's possible depends on the number of buttons on your concertina and the keys of the scales. Desirable? In my opinion, learning to use all of the options for each note where there's a choice of button/direction can definitely pay off, especially if you're trying for high speed or complex arrangements. (I'm basically agreeing with Peter's final paragraph here.) But my understanding of the Noel Hill et al method is that it takes almost the opposite approach, telling you the "right" button/direction to use for each note to get the Noel Hill-type sound.

Edited by Daniel Hersh, 21 February 2008 - 10:53 PM.


#9 tombilly

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 07:43 AM

I'm curious about this as I can see there are often various ways to finger a tune. But looking at the slip jig above which I don't particularly know, it strikes me that playing it mainly on the inside row would give the tune a bit more punch - the changing of direction gives a stronger pulse to the music. I see the downside is that it is practically all on the left hand so less sharing of work between the hands. The 'cross row' version shares out the work but there are long sequences of notes in the same direction - less work but reduced pulse?
Maybe this is similar to styles of box playing - i.e. the B/C box tends towards runs of common phrases in same direction (closer to emulating fiddle perhaps) whereas C#/D is more push & pull. I suppose it's very much personal taste - but I think I much prefer the bouncier push/pull style of playing.
Am I right in perceiving that tunes in D are open to more variation in fingering? I see I can play 'Connaughtman's Rambles' in it's normal session key more or less on the inside row. But I can also use the middle row for parts. Then it also comes out very nicely in a lower key all on the middle row: B,DD GDD etc.

edited: what would be useful is an .mp3 on concertina of the above tune played both ways rather than a midi computer file. Then we could hear the difference :)

Edited by tombilly, 23 February 2008 - 07:49 AM.


#10 Larryo

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 02:03 PM

With regards to what Daniel says regarding the Noel Hill method being about what is the "right " button to play, I couldn't agree more and if you turn up to his workshops and slavishly do as he says, it will go some small way, and it only a small way, towards giving you "that" sound. But I happen to have a lot of reservations about all of that which I have conveyed to viejomc in a pm. I was at a workshop some time ago given by someone who it turned out was a graduate of the Noel Hill school, and his unwillingness to consider any other style was frightening and so anti other style was he, that he declared that a lot of the kids were going "down cul de sacs" and were "going to be in trouble" ( his words) primarily because they played the high D on the middle row. That some of these kids were being taught by other very good players such as Micheal O'Raghallaigh seemed neither here nor there !
Some other teachers argue for as little bellow changes as you can get away with without sounding like an English concertina and one of the areas in which this rares it's head is in the use of ordinary D on the middle row as opposed to on the push on the G row. Chris Droney and those who play in similar style advocate the use of it on the push whilst to others this is sacrilege. But the use of it on the push can also give a tune that bounce. Having had a teacher who insisted on the D being played on the middle I got used to it but recently I have started to experiment and like the bouncier push/pull as Tombilly refers to and indeed the use of the D on the G row makes a lot of sense in tunes like East At Glendart and others where there is a lot of traffic between F# and D.
I wonder as well about tunes in D major. Do they lend to themselves to the inside row especially as a lot of them will go from D, through F# and A to a high D and sometimes to a C#. Seeing that it is better to use the high D on the G row when heading towards the C#, is it better to go to A on G row after the F# and then you are set up for the high D on G row and on to C# rather than jump fingers from A to high D on G row?
But this is the adventure I suppose of the concertina!!

#11 tombilly

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 04:43 AM

I was playing that tune above there last night to see what the story is. Nice wee tune - D mixylodian I think. Tried it on inside row and had a look at the 'cross row' recommendation but surely this sits easiest on the middle row - just plain and simple. What would be the advantage of crossing rows and making it unecessarily complicated unless perhaps to fit it triplets or 'rolls' more easily? Please enlighten me. Thanks

#12 Greg Jowaisas

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 09:04 AM

Phrasing. Musical phrasing.

I think we find styles and musicians we like because we understand or "feel" their music by the way they play it. We understand or agree with their musical phrasing.

Mary McNamara, Chris Droney, Michael O Raghallaigh, Noel Hill, Geroid O hAllmhurain all play good Irish trad. Their approach and technique differ to some degree. It becomes part of their musical phrasing.

After attending four Noel Hill camps (with a summer off for rebellion) I think I can safely say that Noel's main goal is to get us to play better music.
I've found he spends time explaining the historical and cultural background of the music and tunes as well as concentrating on the technique he feels will best serve us in playing the music. All this, of course, is filtered through Noel's perception and experience of the music. In the end it comes down to whether you agree with and like Noel's phrasing and interpretation of the music. If so, he strongly believes he has a path for you to follow and specific recommendations regarding technique.

I expect it would be similar in studying in depth with any of the above mentioned masters. If you wanted that "Mary McNamara rhythym" or that "Chris Droney attack" they would probably have their own specific approaches and techniques to help achieve that sound.

I had a week long class with Michael O Raghallaigh the summer I took off from Noel Hill camp. Lot's of fun. Great teacher and player. The first day someone in class sheepishly asked if we were allowed to pull the RH "D". Michael gave us all permission and it felt liberating. As the week went on I noticed something interesting. In helping us with our new class tunes Michael would often recommend techniques and button choices that were consistant with the "Noel Hill approach". Hmm! We were allowed to play the pull "D" but often encouraged to push the LH "D" in best interest of phrasing the music.

Not only did I enjoy Michael and his class and approach but unexpectedly I came away with a better appreciation of what Noel was attempting to teach with his "rules".

I see some folks attending Noel's camp to learn his "method". Some come to get insight into his crans, rolls and incredible technique. I keep trying to find my own way to absorb and replicate the way he phrases the music. There is a "madness to his method" but I believe it is his way to help us play the music as well as we can. (That said with an acknowledgement that there are certainly other valid approaches to Irish music on the concertina.)

Greg

#13 Larryo

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 08:45 AM

I think what Greg says makes perfect sense. If you would like to play in a certain style, and a practitioner of that style comes to place near you giving lessons or you can get to a school where he or she is teaching, there can be no better coming together of ideal circumstances.
What I am curious about is when Greg mentions Mary McNamara's rhythm or Chris Droney's attack, how would one describe Noel's playing? The reason I ask is because in Ireland (and it's all I can talk about) there is a certain school of thought which says "if you want to sound like a piper( as so many do) then go and get a set of pipes for gawds sake".
I think also that whilst there is no doubt that with the passing of time and the advent of recording /slow down devices combined with more learning opportunities, any one person's technique can be more readiliy accessed and that can be seen in the more and more widespread use of the "slap roll", the origins of which are hazy but which a lot of players are now using. And likewise what can be said is that possibly with the exception of Chris Droney, most of the top players teach a combination of buttons sequences. However the use of the infamous "high D on the left hand" is not something that can be classed as exclusively a Noel Hill technique or system seeing that Chris Droney has been using it for years. But what separates Noel from a lot of other teachers is his unwillingness to acknowledge any other way of playing other than his own where as Micheál in the example given was willing to let the pupils use whatever way suited their ear better, using his experience to suggest that possibly this way or that might sound better.
If you land into Noel's class and are only beginning then it is potentially a good start. If you have already been to his classes and play in the style he insists on and want to learn more tunes and or technique, then you are made up. However, if you already play in your own style( which after all is to be highly recommended regardless) or if you have had classes with Micheál or Chris or Micheal Rooney or Ernestine Healy etc etc and you go to Noel's class for say no other reason than it is all that is available, then you are in trouble. I personally know of two people and I believe there are many more, who went to Noel and who because they didn't want to or couldn't play as he dictated were told that they would never make a concertina player and were left very hurt.
I have no argument that Noel has done a lot for the teaching of the concertina and has given people especially outside of Ireland an opportunity to learn as he calls it "Irish concertina" and for those who are happy to turn up to his classes and do as he insists it must be as I have said a wonderful experience. And whilst I have no doubt that Noel is of the opinion as Greg says, that his way can help us play as well as we can, there is also no doubt in my mind that as he insists on pupils not passing on this information to others that he is also pursuing a business model in trying to ensure that he has a consistent flow of students for a system which he calls his. That his way is better and to be kept secret is a strange one bearing in mind that Paddy Murphy didn't insist on him not telling anyone of the "system " when he taught Noel.That he needs to dismiss others and their way of playing, thereby causing offence seems a strange thing to do when he is trying to help people play better. And doubly so when it was his own fellow county musicians who he originally offended when on going professional he started to dismiss all other Clare styles.
As I say, I agree with what the idea of what Greg has said but as someone living in Ireland and being exposed to this music from very young, I find Noel's arrogance and need to pursue "his way" to the expense of people's feelings and indeed the uniqueness of an individual's own interpretation of our music to be in complete contradiction and against the very nature of the music.
Last year when I was starting to play, I was unable for a number of reasons to get lessons. I wrote to a school of music where concertina tuition was available and asked could the teacher give me some assistance over the internet for which I was willing to pay.The reply I received was that he couldn't because he had been taught by Noel Hill and Noel wouldn't like him to be teaching "his system"over the internet. What can you say to that except that if Noel insisted in Ireland that his pupils didn't talk about "his system", he would be laughed at as the dogs on the street know that there is no system !
As Greg says, there are certainly other valid approaches to Irish music on the concertina; it's just a pity that Noel wouldn't take the same open minded outlook instead of using his influence to veto the hiring of the teachers of these other approaches at one particular summer school, and what is more goes into the classes on the first morning and reminds all that "the high D is to be played on the inside row". To which statement there is a collective throwing of the eyes to heaven !
Just another opinion !

#14 tombilly

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 09:34 AM

What's all this about then?! I seem to recall from looking at Kitty Hayes playing on Peter Laban's video t'other day that she is mainly playing on the middle row - well I don't think you can see her left hand but I think it's fairly clear she's playing high D's on the right hand. Can't say I examined in great detail, was more listening to the sound.

BTW LarryO, what summer school are you refering to? I think Noel does the Willie Clancy week - is that the story there?

Edited by tombilly, 26 February 2008 - 11:01 AM.


#15 viejomc

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 11:02 AM

I see there is a broad spectrum of ideas about this subject. Truth is, I've always been able to learn a little bit from every musician, from the masters to the beginning students. The style/method that I play on any instrument has been developed over time, and every tid-bit that others offered was either cast aside because I didn't like it, or I liked it so well that I adopted it. Music has never been a strict set of rules for me. I play classical guitar my way. I don't play a G chord the same as anybody else. Some of my fingers do not have the agility to play under a certain set of rules/standards. The concertina is a new challenge for me. If it feels right to play a high D on the inside row push or middle row pull, that's what I do. It just depends on the notes surrounding it, the phrase.

I haven't had any formal musical training since I played trumpet as a boy. So, this is an opportunity to learn how Noel Hill does it. Do I want to play like Noel Hill? Not necessarily. I just want to improve. I'll never be a master/virtuoso, but I sure do get a kick out of sitting in the kitchen and cranking out a jig while the little woman is cooking supper. As I told Ross in a pm, this will be an extravagance for me, a fun vacation. Nobody will ever pay to hear me play, although many have offered to pay if I would quit playing. Perhaps Noel will feel the same way. Regardless, I know I will come away with some additional knowledge about this fun instrument.

I do appreciate all of your comments and look forward to meeting those who will attend the Midwest NHICS this summer.

Edited by viejomc, 26 February 2008 - 11:07 AM.


#16 CaryK

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 12:40 PM


I don't have the knowledge to speak one way or the other about Noel's history in Ireland. I can tell you that as a beginner student, I found him to be an extremely pleasant, patient, encouraging, and inspiring teacher. He certainly believes in what he teaches. As I've used mostly cross-row fingering since his class, I have found times when the phrase (or my level of ability) called for a different choice of buttons to be played. Others have stated in past threads that Noel does the same himself. As a beginner, using his system makes a lot of sense and helps one concentrate on phrasing and rhythm because you have already decided how you're going to locate the notes in the key the tune is in. As one progress, one sees there are other choices which can make sense too; but the basic foundation I was taught allows me to see when this is necessary, and when it is not. Personally, I like his "piping" ornamentations. To my ear they add richness and layers to a tune. However, that is ornamentation, and one can still use cross-row fingering to learn to play tunes simply and develop a personal ear for the type of ornamentation one wants to add that may not be reminiscent of pipes.

#17 Dana Johnson

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 09:13 PM

I think there is a large difference between the Week long intensive classes Noel gives here in the states than the workshops other players give at things like Irish Arts Week or other venues. If you were to start out as a complete beginner with nearly any teacher, they would teach you their way of playing and the notes they used. If you go to Noel's school, presumably you want to learn what he has to offer. His "System" is not what you get the first year you are there, but the bare bones of it. It gives you a good foundation with the instrument which is not easy to get a handle on right away with all the choices of buttons and direction changes. Once you have a good foundation in any system, the next thing you do is to learn how to make it work in all situations. Now you start with a set of guidelines to choosing variations in fingering and branch out from there. Noel teaches many Middle row tunes to get you familiar with that type of fingering for it's particular effect. He uses the alternate notes constantly in his playing, but always for a purpose. Having taught for many many years he understands the importance of a good foundation and that is what he tries to get across in his classes.

One thing worth noting is that Noel didn't start out with the fingering he uses now. He developed it to accomplish certain goals that came from dissatisfaction with the earlier method and it's shortcomings. As such, he has solid reasoning to back up his choices. ( including the press high D on the left ) I've heard Noel "dis" some players, and praise highly others who played entirely differently. It had nothing to do with their fingering style, but with the Musical choices they make. If anything, what upsets him most is people treating the music with a lack of respect.

I have been playing and teaching Noel's "style" of playing for some years now and also have had classes with other teachers of different styles of playing the better to help students who were looking for something different. What I have noticed is that most of the styles are self consistent regarding phrasing and bellows direction. Styles that typically use the high draw D on the right as their primary D tend to be the inverse of Noel's regarding the notes on the scale close to that. They all make sense and are outgrowths of some principle of playing like doing G tunes primarily on the G row or some such thing. But each way of playing effects and colors the music one way or another. O'Raghaillaigh's (sp?) playing makes a certain set of chords the easiest to play and those are different from the ones Noel's system makes most practical. With a solid grounding in Noel's playing I found little difficulty in switching fingering to another system because I was already used to switching my fingering to get the effects I was looking for which is the whole point. I spend a good part of my classes demonstrating the different results you get by making fingering choices, and how to use them to best effect.

If you want to play like Noel, take his classes and listen to what he says. His "rules" eventually open things up, not close them off. If you want to sound like Mary MacNamara or O'Raghaillaigh, Chris Droney or Tim Collins or any of the other great players out there go to them and do what they tell you. Once you have a solid foundation then you can branch off. Without some solid foundation you will find it very hard to be a really good player.

Some people do find Noel arrogant. I don't happen to be one of them, If you are someone who wants to go to his classes and ignore what he has to teach you, he might rub you the wrong way. I've seen that happen too and it ends up being a waste of everybody's time. I also agree with Larry that there are some people who put Noel on a pedestal and mistake his insistence in class that you attempt to learn what he has to offer, for an assertion that there is only one right way to play. (instead of a right way to play in class ) But I have not found that to be his attitude.
Dana

#18 Bruce McCaskey

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 06:13 PM

I fear I've not taken the time to do a proper close read of this thread because as happens all to often lately I'm a little short on time and headed off to an airport within the hour. That said, I wanted to register a comment on the Noel Hill fingering topic. My intent isn't to agree or disagree with anyone, rather simply to pass on my own perspective.

I've heard Noel tell people in his beginning classes that his intent is to teach his system to those that have come to learn it. He expects people to use the fingering he teaches in classes because he believes he has good reason for his methods and he is there to pass on his approach. In the early phases of learning it may seem that his fingering approach is needlessly restrictive but as one progresses with him they find that he doesn't have a "set in stone" approach to which button to use for a particular note.

Rather he will explain that he makes his selections based on creating the sound he seeks (often involving intentional bellows reversals for the bounce), ease of playing at faster speeds, ornamentation possibilities, the potential for chording the tune and in some cases because he finds that certain notes sound clearer on a push or pull because of their physical position with respect to how one's hands position over the ends. I wouldn't be surprised if he considers other factors too, but I'm digressing from the point I intended to make.

I have found that Noel selects tunes with a purpose when he teaches classes. He looks at their structure and considers their potential for the purposes of whatever technique he wants to pass on to his students. In the early classes with students playing on a more basic level he is looking to establish a solid approach to bellows and fingering. In the more advanced classes he focuses on other things

I have also found that Noel has been very receptive to alternate fingering approaches to tunes outside of those he's taught in class. On several occasions I've discussed passages of various tunes and their fingering. Rather than take the position of playing things with a specific fingering or certain passages in a single way, he's contrasted various approaches; play a push here if you want to do a certain thing with the passage, play the same thing on a pull if you want to do something else.

Ultimately my impression is that he seeks to establish a default core approach to fingering, but accepts and endorses variations on it so long as one has the experience to recognize the benefit or limitations of the variations. I hope this adds something to the thread's perspective on the topic of Noel's fingering, and my apologies if my comments have been entirely redundant to others earlier in the thread that I didn't read in sufficient detail.

Time to head out the door...



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