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Tradewinds Ted

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About Tradewinds Ted

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    Chatty concertinist

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  • Gender
  • Interests
    Folk Music, incl. Banjo, Whistle, Dulcimer, Singing, and Dance
    Anglo Concertina
  • Location
    Now in Wisconsin! formerly in Lancashire.

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  1. Tradewinds Ted

    Difficult Beast.

    On that last point of finding the key of a tune - I also find it difficult to pick up what key a tune is played in during a session. Nearly impossible when away from my instrument, but when actually there with my instrument there are some tricks that help. First of all, you mention ITM and the Keys of G or C, but I've found that D is even more common than C, and A is also possible. I'm sensitive to that fact because one of my concertinas is a 20 button Anglo in Cg, so it doesn't have that critical C# note for tunes in D. If you are lucky, people will mention the key before they start, but in reality that doesn't seem to happen much, or if they do you can't hear them - often not even possible to hear the name of the tune if mentioned. If you are starting off on harmonies, there is a method to the "discretely guessing and quietly noodling." Try lightly/briefly playing your best guess at the root notes of the chords, rather than the full chords. That won't cause as much interruption as a full chord if your guess is off, but it allows you to hear your instrument against what others are playing, so you can calibrate where you should be. Once you have found the key, you may still miss where the chords change, but this also offers some forgiveness within the I, IV, and V chords, since your intended root note may still fit in as the 5th of the real chord. Once you have found the key, and starting to find the chord changes, and start filling in the chords a bit; the layout of the Anglo helps with this, in the home keys. It usually isn't necessary or even desirable to play the full chord, two notes of a chord are often plenty, and that is less likely to step on what anyone else is doing. Paying attention to the rhythm, playing two or three note arpeggios, instead of two notes simultaneously can work well, and you will likely happen upon bits of the melody that way. Changing between playing root and 5th then sometimes root and 3rd also provides some variation, particularly in passages where the chord doesn't change quickly. The aim is to play your harmony notes briefly and quietly, while somehow not playing them tentatively, which is mostly a matter of timing. One trick often mentioned is to watch the guitar player, to see what chord shapes they are using. Of course that means you have to know at least some basic chord shapes for guitar, and you also need to know if they are in standard EADGBE tuning, or something else like DADGAD, and also note whether they are using a capo. If there is more than one guitar player, they may tune and capo differently in order to avoid duplicating the same part. Personally I don't play guitar, and I've had little success finding the key by watching for guitar chords, but I do find it useful to watch when the guitar player changes chord shape as a hint for the timing of chord changes, even if I can't really see which the new chord might be. If there is a whistle player playing a D whistle, I can sometimes tell whether a tune is in D or G by watching for a the distinctive fully open C# vs several mid holes closed on the C natural. I also can often get the key by watching which notes dominate, particularly at the end of the phrase. Even the melody notes are fairly easy to see on the whistle, since the fingering of the notes is mostly linear with the scale. But whistle players are prone to ornamentations, so that can obscure things a bit, and some will bring a quiver of whistles in different keys. Note that in ITM sessions often the melody instruments are playing largely in unison, although playing different ornamentations, and perhaps playing different variations across each other, rather than anyone playing full harmony lines. Quite different in that way from Old-time sessions, where tunes are played through many times, with musicians trading harmonies. It is generally still OK to start by picking out chords and harmonies in an ITM session, but be sensitive to the particular session you are in. All that said, picking up a tune in a session is still a struggle, and I haven't even been to a session lately, so you are quite possibly already doing better than I am!
  2. Tradewinds Ted

    MP3 & DOTS

    I listened to the recording last night, and it sounded good. The playing has a few hesitations, but overall very nice and clear. The recording sounds as if resonating in a large empty room, which gives it a far away feeling, quite appropriate for this particular tune, although perhaps it might muddle other more bouncy tunes such as a fast jig. The notation didn't appear to be correct. The note pitches and the lengths were all just fine, but the bar lines were off by one crotchet. (1/4 note) This tune ought to start with a pickup prior to the first full bar, so the first two quavers (1/8 notes) would be before the bar, with the downbeat of the full measure on the next note, and everything else shifts forward one 1/4 note to match. I can't seem to open the .pdf today though, and see that your post was recently edited, so I don't know if that file has since been changed.
  3. Tradewinds Ted

    Straps and shapes

    Welcome! I just recalled seeing a thread two weeks ago about a strap adjustment used by Herold Herrington, and also used by Dana Johnson on his Kensington concertinas. It would require making new hand rests, or modification to the ones you have, but doesn't require attachment to the edge of the instrument, or a buckle against your hand. New straps needed without the buckle too, of course. A much cruder but easier to build option would be to add a screw on one end of the hand rests to go through adjustment holes on the (new) straps, but that would mean removing the screw for each adjustment. (which is really what most of us do anyway, just the position of the screw is different.)
  4. Tradewinds Ted

    Starting again

    I don't play crane, but from piano a nice and fairly simple variation on the "oom-pah" portion of your accompaniment is to include some simple chord inversions if the same chord is required for a full bar or more. Not meaning to make it too complicated, just something to consider. So you might play the root of the chord on the first beat, and then 3rd and 5th together on the second beat, just as you have been doing. Then if the required chord hasn't changed yet play the 5th of the chord (perhaps in a lower octave than just played?) on the third beat, followed by the root and 5th on the fourth beat. Or mix it up and sometimes play the 3rd, followed by the root and 5th. The variation can be more interesting to listen to, and since the 5th of one chord will usually be the same as the root of one of the other two most common chords, it adds just a tiny pleasant bit of unconscious tension for the briefest moment while waiting for the upbeat to hear if the chord has actually changed or not.
  5. Tradewinds Ted

    New reeds

    You mention several other items that need repair, but not the reeds? I suppose the need to replace the reeds was implied by the original question, but what is their condition? Missing, broken, rusty, dirty, or just out of tune? I've not heard of anyone making traditional concertina reeds in shoes, except those builders who also manufacture their own concertinas. The concertina reeds are considered to be a significant portion of the total cost of the instrument. If you do find a source of reeds, make certain that they will fit your particular instrument. The reeds and shoes for each particular note are not all identical in size and configuration from one maker to another. I understand being intrigued by a particular instrument though, and it could be an interesting project. But if your reservation about a professional restoration is the cost, I expect that your best course of action would be to have a professional restorer take a look at the instrument, to see what is really involved to either just bring it to playable condition, or to fully restore it, and discuss what each option actually would cost, as well as what portions of that project are advisable for you to take on yourself, either for you to learn or save on the overall cost. You may indeed be advised that the instrument is a lost cause and not worth the expense, but you may find it will cost less than you fear, and in either case you should get some advice that aids your efforts or even prevents accidental damage from an ill-advised action. I'm nothing like an expert though, just interested. There are others who can much better advise you, including previous responders in this thread!
  6. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    So the plates are waxed in. Flipping the plates to reverse the direction as an experiment would require re-waxing. Possible, but not worth it, particularly since you will most likely want to flip them again after, to bring your instrument back to normal. But not expensive, unless you end up paying for a professional repair later. I think you are correct, the lifted valve on the far right is the E on the pull. Air pressure ought to be enough to pull that valve down into place, but perhaps it doesn't land quite where intended. The internal construction of your Wren is much more like an accordion, so someone experienced in accordion repairs would be appropriate, when you need them. You are in luck, a quick google search came up with "Musical Instruments of Canada" operated by the De Florio family in Toronto. Their website accordionscanada.com indicates that they do repairs on site, and also sell the beginner Concertina Connection instruments, so would certainly be familiar with concertinas similar in construction to yours. (The Rochelle construction also uses blocks with waxed in reed plates.) Perhaps four hours drive away, in Windsor Ontario, Frank Edgley builds more traditional concertinas, as well as hybrids. From what I have read on this site, it is certainly worth looking him up if you are considering options for an instrument you may want to upgrade to in future.
  7. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    Well, if you really want to try it, you may be able to do so for free: What make of concertina do you have? and how do you feel about opening it up and tinkering? If yours is a traditional concertina reed instrument, you likely could swap out all the reeds (keeping them in their reed shoes) to the opposite side of the reed pan, if the reed shoes for the push and pull reed under each button are the same size, or very close. Absolutely free to try, and completely reversible once you are done, as long as you have carefully marked where each one was originally! For any one button, the notes on the push and pull are usually very close in pitch so the reeds/shoes are likely to be very close in size. If it is a hybrid/accordion reed instrument, and the reeds are fixed in pairs to plates screwed to the reed pan, then it is likely very easy to just turn each of those plates upside down (inside out?) to reverse the reeds, and again, this is free and completely reversible. Again, be sure to carefully mark how they were originally. A friend of mine actually did flip the plate holding the reeds for the C#/Eb on the right hand of one of his Wheatstone system Anglo concertinas, to make it more similar to his other Jeffries system instruments, at least for playing in D. I changed it back, when I later bought his instrument, and it only took a couple minutes to carefully swap the one plate, so swapping thirty of them could be done well inside of an hour. On the other hand, if they are accordion reeds waxed in... while this is theoretically also reversible with new wax, it would be a terrible hassle, and an amateur attempt seems a catastrophe waiting to happen. I wouldn't do it!
  8. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    Ok, so my estimate of the average pressure difference as 1/60th, or 0.017 of atmospheric pressure, though admittedly small, was nearly 1.4 times bigger than your more informed estimate of 0.0122 of atmospheric pressure. I think I guessed pretty well then, and but more importantly I must admit you are correct that the difference is not likely to be consequential. I also forgot about the eventual practical upper limit of pads lifting if the pressure inside the bellows is too high, before the bellows blow out. Sorry to have side-tracked the conversation quite so much, as I do agree that ergonomic considerations are likely the real reason why most (not all) types of diatonic bellows instruments have been standardized to start the scale on the push (or blow, for harmonica.) And that in turn MAY lead to push notes more often on the downbeat, as discussed previously.
  9. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    That vigorous attack would be the reason a push might be useful on the downbeat of a bar though! As for the original premise of whether the push really IS more common on the downbeat, it does indeed depend upon the tune. But, I would suggest it is true when playing along the rows in one of the home keys of the instrument. These downbeats are somewhat more likely to be notes found in the root chord, and therefore more available on the push. Passing notes in the melody, which are not in the chord, are somewhat more often found off the beat. This falls apart for Irish traditional music commonly played in D major on a C/g Anglo, because many of the notes in the root chord are NOT available on the push in the core of the instrument, so starting a bar on the draw would therefore be required rather more often. Notice that I am specifying the start of a bar since that is what was mentioned in the original post, not the start of a tune which could be pick-up notes just before the first full bar.
  10. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    Hey Tom, Well yes, I agree that the ergonomic explanation is more relevant. But risking being pedantic, the push and pull are not quite symmetric from the point of view of physics. I know that a reed set for the pressure differential in one direction will respond the same way as an identical reed set for the pressure differential in the other direction. But the average pressure of the air that reed is surrounded by on the draw is lower than on the push, maybe by as much as 1/4 of a psi (1/60th of an atmosphere)? But that wasn't my original point. What I was trying to say was that there is a theoretical limit of one atmosphere pressure differential on the draw, as the interior of the bellows approaches perfect vacuum. Of course the bellows would collapse much, MUCH sooner. On the push there is no such limit, so a much higher pressure differential is theoretically possible, although you are of course correct that the bellows would blow out, again this would happen much sooner than a pressure differential of one atmosphere! I think considering the effect of the asymmetrical limits is interesting, even though we ought never be pushing or pulling at such extremes.
  11. Tradewinds Ted

    Push vs Pull - why?

    I'll offer my conjecture on why starting on the push is more common: As I understand it, downward bowing on the violin is the stronger direction ergonomically, so can provide a slight accent on the first note of a bar. With a bellows instrument, the push is the stronger direction ergonomically. Physics also assists, as the push provides a positive pressure inside the bellows to start the air movement, limited, while the pull can only create a relative vacuum compared to the atmospheric pressure outside the bellows, so that limits the pressure differential produced. (Practically, we never approach that limit, or the bellows would collapse!) So starting on the push for the downbeat would seem the preferred direction. The typical pattern for Anglo concertina, diatonic melodeons and most button accordions starts the root scale(s) on the push, probably for the reasons above. A similar preference is shown in the Richter scale harmonica where blowing on the harmonica would be the physical equivalent of the push on the concertina. (In practice that idea is complicated by the choice to play blues harmonica on the draw. Oh well.) I do see from the link Howard just provided that there is an early French Accordion as a counter-example, with the "draw-press" pattern to start a scale, but that is far less common. That last paragraph assumes you are talking about an Anglo concertina, or at least something diatonic. Of course the real choice of bellows direction will be determined by what notes fall on the downbeats of the tune, and limited by where those notes are available on the instrument, but since with folk tunes the downbeats are more likely to be notes within the primary chords, while upbeats are more likely to be passing notes, the pattern to start on the push often does hold. If you are also asking about the English and various Duet systems, these have full freedom to start in either direction, as does the violin for that matter. I don't play these systems, but vague memory of previous casual observation suggests that starting on the push is common practice for these also. So back to the earlier suggestion of physics and ergonomics for why that might be so.
  12. Tradewinds Ted

    Replacement straps

    I'm curious which was meant too. But I do know that uncured epoxy resin will partially react with moisture, even in the absence of sufficient curative. The resulting hardened material isn't quite as strong as the standard epoxy mix, and is cloudy, as it bubbles a bit, but would be plenty strong even so. The moisture would allow the cells of the wood to swell slightly and then would react with the resin, so it makes sense that epoxy would bond better to dampened wood surfaces than to dry wood, at least for this type of application. (I wouldn't suggest dampening a piece of furniture before applying epoxy finish!)
  13. Tradewinds Ted

    Long time accordion player learning concertina

    I learned to read music in piano lessons, subsequently reinforced with playing horns in band and orchestra when in school, as well as singing in various choirs. Now playing Anglo, I prefer to play new melodies from written notation, not from any of the various tabs. Where the same note is found in more than one place, and perhaps in more than one direction, then the button option chosen during the initial sight reading may not be the one I ultimately choose when developing my arrangement, since finger availability coming from or going to neighboring notes, or bellows capacity in a given direction, or phrasing, may be better with one choice. Tabs can be a useful way to precisely convey such button choices, but I don't read tab at speed, just laboriously use it to slowly work out the details of some else's written arrangement, to see if I like those choices. From then on I either go back to the standard notation, or eventually learn the tune properly so I can play it without reading. I never write anything in tab, but sometimes in written notation I will draw a line over all the notes I want to play on the draw, to indicate the changes in bellows direction, as a gentle reminder for next time of the button choices I found will work better. So I definitely learned early on which buttons and directions correspond to which notes. As for how long it takes, that is really a matter of how you choose to learn new tunes as you play. If you do a lot of sight reading from notation, as I did, then it happens very quickly, although it can be frustrating at first. If you usually learn new tunes from tabs first, then learning to associate buttons and direction with the notation takes much longer, since that isn't what your mind is doing while you learn. I started with a 20 button instrument, and therefore could (generally) play only in the home keys. That provided me with excellent training in what the core of the instrument could and couldn't do, but now learning to automatically find the accidentals in the outer row on my other instruments has taken longer, since that isn't what I was practicing until more recently. Many people regard the Anglo as an instrument to learn by ear. I don't often learn that way, but I agree that it makes sense, at least while playing in the home keys and some nearby keys. Again, if this is what you practice, then this is what you will learn. When I participated in a bit of session playing a while back, I did pick up a few tunes by ear soon enough. While playing along a row in one of the home keys, the instrument will guide you to likely notes, and even likely harmonies, making playing by ear much easier in that situation. Of course learning to play across the rows can be more useful than playing along the rows in the long run. Most folk tunes when written will not show a harmony line, but just melody and some suggested chord changes, so for those melodies in the home keys, I generally select harmony notes somewhere along the same row, with occasional harmony notes played cross row where appropriate to fit the indicated chord. (such as while playing in the key of G, and the melody note is an F# on the G-row, I would pull a D note off the C-row to get part of a D chord) I try to keep a nice smooth harmony line going and avoid irregular jumps. If playing something with more accidentals, or if the tune is in a key away from the home keys, creating a harmony line becomes much more difficult and requires careful planning, since some note combinations simply are not available in the same direction. In these cases I will often write out the harmony and melody line together in notation.
  14. Tradewinds Ted

    New to concertina

    The patterns of notes on the push and pull of the C and G rows are closely related to the patterns of notes on a C and G harmonica, and for the same reason of harmonizing while playing in the home keys. That doesn't necessarily mean you should just play any given tune up and down one row separately depending which key you are in, since there are advantages to crossing rows to get better fingering and phrasing. But it may help you understand the logic of the patterns. With the 20 button, you won't have the 30 button's outer row of accidentals and reversals which does seem more random. That also means there are a few notes which simply aren't available at all, and if you are looking to play Irish session tunes the first one you will miss will be the C# needed for tunes in D major. But no worries, there are a great many tunes in C and G major, and the related minors, and modes, and if you have the option to choose the key to play in then you can transpose to a key for which you do have all the notes. That may not be so true for jazzy tunes with lots of accidentals and blues chords, but you can still play partial chords, if someone else is playing the missing notes at least part of the time. Most often a light touch on the harmony is better anyway. Finding your way around the combination of melody and available harmony notes is part of the charm of the Anglo. I love my 20 button.
  15. Tradewinds Ted

    Swedish fiddle tunes

    Arrived in the post from across the pond already yesterday, and it might even have been there a few days, as I had not even looked since Friday. While I haven't had a chance to play any of the tunes just yet, I read through several of them before bed and at least in my head they sounded wonderful. Sight-reading the peculiar rhythms and syncopations of Scandinavian music do give one pause though. (Ha!) I'm figuring that one concertina should be possible to play both the 1st and 2nd fiddle parts on some of these, although the lack of the low A reversal and the low Bb on my 26 button Anglo may complicate matters for a few passing harmony notes. I have this on the nightstand now ready to hand; my location for whatever one thing I'm most delighted to keep perusing at the moment. Very glad you let us know about it John!