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Kurt Braun

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  1. I hesitate because I'd rather continue my "advanced" status and don't want to become "chatty." I usually play the chords in closed position as far up on the left as I can. My instrument only goes up to the G above middle C on the left side. My previous instrument extended to the next C, and I still played up as far as I could on the left side. I like this because it allows me to do rather mindless chording -- only one inversion for every chord and it generally avoids parallel fifths which sound odd to most western ears and certainly to mine. Another advantage is that if one is playing chords (especially sustained at volume) in closed position, they will sound muddier the lower you go. I could leave a note or two out, but I like the richer harmonies particularly with tin pan alley sorts of stuff (7th, 6th and diminished chords). So keeping them up on the keyboard helps. Yet another advantage accrues when alternating chords with base notes for a stride effect. Concertinas, even duets, don't have that great piano range, so putting the chords up maximizes the stride effect by increasing the distance between the chords and the bass notes. I play melodies generally on the lower end of the right side. Going above the staff is relatively rare for me -- especially doing the sorts of tunes one would sing. I guess that makes me guilty of having the melody go below the upper parts of the harmony a good bit of the time. Actually, I've never seen that written down as something one should avoid and it certainly has never struck me as in any way unusual or "bad." I should also note that none of this is hard and fast and I like to try other stuff, but these sorts of default patterns make things easier when you have enough on your plate (new songs, a long day, playing with others, etc.) With regard to singing, I'm a poor baritone. On a good day I can reach the first E above middle C. My range extends, not necessarily reliably, about two octaves and a note or two downward from there. I'm not a strong singer, but I do sing quite a bit and I really love to sing, especially with the concertina. Without the concertina and in my church choir, I like to be between two other people singing the same part I sing or I'll just sing the melody. When I learn a new song on the concertina, I play the melody on the right side at a supportive volume. That would mean the melody is played at least one octave higher than my singing and the harmony can also easily be above my voice. As I learn the tune (by lots of repetition) I can back off on the volume. With even more repetition, I can muddle through with just the chords (autoharp is great for practicing this). Finally, there are songs that I've been playing and singing for years that I can finally sing unaccompanied or even with counter melodies. It is very very rare for me to sing with my concertina in public and never doing these advanced tricks. In other words, I sing unaccompanied or with counter melodies in a room alone. I do enjoy myself. There are lots of better players and singers, but you can get an idea of the sorts of fun I have from listening to me mess around at: scraggy.net/tina/playlist.htm Thanks, Kurt
  2. There is nothing like the Palestine Festival! The town, the musicians, the food, the flowers, the company and the music were all outstanding. Many thanks to Dan, the Wrights, Mark, Jody and all of the other fine folks and musicians who showed up. I can't wait until next year.
  3. Larger? Do you mean by physical dimensions? Number of buttons? Range (number of distinct notes)? Put another way, which is larger, An instrument measuring more across the flats? Number of studs or keys? Uninterrupted chromatic range? My bias would be for uninterrupted chromatic range with no less that a 5th and no more than an 8va overlap between the left and right sides. Just counting studs doesn't do it for me. Kurt
  4. I thought that Dirge's post was excellent. I'll just add a couple of things. When you get to the keys farther from C on the circle of fifths, you will absolutely need to shift your hands now and again. Indeed, when you get far enough away, you will be shifting from one outside column to the other and only occasionally be playing in the middle three columns. I can't recall using my pinky on the furthest (inside) column. But I have used every other finger there at some time or another. The same holds true for the outside column -- I can't recall ever using my index finger there. I only sometimes use one finger for two notes (in the same column but never across rows). This is not a rule nor even a recommendation, just the way I play. Usually, I try to avoid playing two notes with the same finger ant the same time, but it can be very convenient and at other times it helps position the fingers for the next note or chord coming up. I just feel more in control when each stud has the undivided attention of one finger. Anything else I have to add would just repeat what Dirge has already said. Especially about playing the same note repeatedly with the same finger. Kurt
  5. There is a picture here: http://www.scraggy.net/tina/ There is no strap. I used to play a 55 key marching in parades, again no straps. I could send a picture if you like. Kurt
  6. Hymns. Not just the tunes, but in the four parts (SATB on the tina -- a duet) Standards from the 30s and 40s from fake sheets (I used to be in a big band.) Simple classical stuff mostly beginning piano and guitar transcriptions. Folk songs, mostly American or the English stuff that came over -- much of this is now considered "Old Time" or even Blue Grass. A smattering of blues. Novelty stuff (Tom Lehrer, and the like) Children's stuff, though as mine get older, that is going away. Christmas (December is a big month for concertina at my house) Anything fun
  7. Here is a duet perspective on Palestine. The very few duet players I have been privileged to meet appear to my eyes to be more eclectic musically than the anglo and English folks. Two years ago, Jim Baylis and I spent about an hour sharing and reading songs at Palestine. We surprised each other because we both knew and played that sappy 50’s song “Venus.” Gary got lost and didn’t show up until late in our mini session – but he could do some interesting things on his duet also. I think Jim is comfortable playing more traditional (Irish and Morris). I’m really not. This year, Steve and I (step in here Steve) shared a couple of pieces and perspectives. He was working on “I’m Confessing That I Love You.” Now I am too. It is not what you would consider a typical concertina piece – so that might be what Dan means by “different drummer.” Old Time Music is fun. I used to play dulcimer and autoharp so I know some of the tunes. Old Timers also share my like for old time southern hymns. The shaped note singing was a blast! My main problem with old time music is that the songs seem almost too easy and I get bored. One of the good things about Palestine is that the string players are good at making the songs interesting and anything but boring. Enter Jody! I got a lot from Jody. Here are three things: 1. He mixes things up and never seems to play the same thing the same way the next time through. 2. He does this fantastic pulsing thing that I had previously thought was an artifact of anglos changing bellows direction. 3. He (and other old time players when playing with others) are very sparse in their harmony. This makes learning a new song, at least compared from the way Steve and I were approaching “I’m Confessing That I Love You,” much easier. Jody is the consummate music educator. No matter how down into the notes we went, he would always bring us back to the music. There was some English playing going on. Not much mention here, but Mark Gilston is a remarkable player and incredibly knowledgeable musician. Palestine was really fun and enlightening.
  8. I'm pretty sure that Geoffery Lakeman has one and showed up with it at the Northeast Squeeze In in 2004. Kurt
  9. Does someone need to inform Willie Nelson that he deserves and can afford a better guitar? Do you think his values are messed up?
  10. I thought Mr. Thornett's playing was both interesting and musical even if it wasn't pushing the duet envelope. I enjoyed listening to these. I don't have to do the work so I'd vote for a 20 CD set and then I'd probably ask to hear the rejects as well! If someone saw fit to record a duet concertina, it would be worth it to me just give it a listen.
  11. The duets are also fully chromatic (with a couple of "missing" chromatic notes for the smallest versions) so technically could be played in all keys, though my experience (much on Hayden, little on Maccann and Crane, none on Jeffries) is that practically speaking it's very reasonable to play in all keys on Maccann, a bit harder on Crane, very easy to play in 6 or 8 keys on Hayden and very hard to play in the rest, and I've only heard that it's very difficult to play outside a Jeffries "home" key. I play a Crane. I also have played saxophone and oboe and a little of a variety of other instruments including piano. My experience on the Crane is that no key is substantially more difficult than the next. The keys I find easiest are the keys I play in most often. Over time, that shifts. I used to play with a guitar playing friend that preferred sharp keys. Back then I preferred and was most comfortable in sharp keys. Lately, I've been playing hymns and have learned to love flat keys and find myself avoiding sharp keys. This is consistent with my experience with other instruments. The more you play in a key, the more comfortable it becomes and of course, the other way around. If you always play in C, Cb or C# will seem impossible and F or G more friendly. I think it says more about your experience than the instrument. This is not to speak for other systems.
  12. I play a Crane and from time to time this question comes up. I remember asking Neville Crabb the same question before I bought my first duet. I can't quote him, but essentially he said that if you are buying your first duet, it really doesn't matter. After nearly 30 years, I have never come across anything, including this thread, that makes me think that Neville Crabb had it wrong. The advise I give is to be flexible so you can get started sooner rather than later and get the best instrument you can. Of course if you are buying your second, it would matter a great deal.
  13. Try mudcat.org. Also look around with the title "Rambling Bob."
  14. Richard, I'm confused. I thought the great advantage of the Hayden system was that it was just as easy to play in one key as another. Kurt
  15. Rhomylly and others interested in the trip t Palestine. . . I went last year and really had a good time and until my niece announced her wedding that weekend, I've been looking forward to a repeat visit. Here is my two bits worth. The site was absolutely charming. It is an old school building, three stories with big halls in the center and lots of large classrooms with high ceilings. The old auditorium is a real trip. The name pretty much tells it all. That is, Old time music and Dulcimers. The dulcimers (both kinds) were in large numbers. The Old Time part was mainly string band stuff. Lot's of fiddles and banjos and of course the ubiquitous guitars. The people were great, the music was great, and the weather was fantastic. Personally, I found it hard to take it all in. Like Dan said, the concertina people were very interesting and ultimately I didn't get much of an opportunity to tear myself away from the concertina crowd. We spent much of our time hanging out together. On the other hand, Baton Rouge has a pretty good dulcimer weekend too, so that helped. But take your Red Book and anything else. Bring it next year too. I'd like to see it. Kurt
  16. I love playing church hymns and other four-part pieces on the concertina (Crane Duet). I also have a copy of the Salvation Army Tutor, which does cover some of the aspects of playing four-parts on concertina. To my knowledge, it is not in print. However, it is not that useful anyway. There is a recording of "My Country ‘Tis of Thee" on the tunes page. This is in four-parts, from a hymnal and played on a concertina. I find old hymnals in abundance and for a song at used bookstores. Shaped note hymnals also have some really interesting stuff (though there are times when the melodies are in the inner voices making a nearly impossible challenge for the concertina). There are also hundreds of Bach Chorales that are absolutely stunning. The four-part literature is truly vast and could take several lifetimes to explore.
  17. The tunes page is good testimony of the need to share sound files among C.net members. It is too bad that it can't be done inside the fora. One could imagine discussions about different ways of playing something with members attaching mp3 files as examples. Since the concertina is a musical instrument, it seems that would be more useful to be able to attach mp3 files than jpg files. Wouldn't we want to hear each other rather than see one another or one another's concertina? Anyway, if this were possible wouldn't people be open to attaching files with questions like Is this too fast? or Which sounds better this a.mp3 or this b.mb3? and so on? Wouldn't that give the novice something back for the risk of "sharing?" One hesitates to suggest such a thing in a free forum where eople already work hard to provide free service, but the vision seems compelling.
  18. I don't play fiddle tunes, etc. so I really like this right hand. These instruments gain overlap by extending the right hand downward rather than by giving up range on the low end of the left hand. Given weight and size, overlap and range are compromises, as Jim points out. Overlap is convenient. Range is more absolute. That is, overlap is nice because it gives you the flexibility of deciding what hand to play a note in the overlap range. However, if you give up a note of the bottom of the left hand or the top of the right for that flexibility it more than inconvenient to play the note you gave up -- it is now impossible! The duet can be designed to play the staff -- bass clef on the left and treble on the right. You may want to consider starting the left hand on E, F or G at the bottom of the bass. Those notes will occur often enough in most borrowed arrangements that you will not regret having them even though they will contribute to the size and weight of the instrument more than any other notes. And as David B points out, it is nice to get under your own voice if you sing (or play with singers). The upper limit on the left will probably determine the size and much of the weight of your instrument. The right hand plays the treble clef. Many duets start on middle C. Once the left hand is configured for going well into the base clef, there is no real need to limit oneself to middle C on the right. Going down on the right to Bb, A or G will extend your overlap and come in handy. The upper limit on the right is mostly the size of the end. The upper notes may not be used much, but you already have the space and the little reeds and shoes won't add that much weight so you may as well go for them. These thoughts are making me appreciate my instrument more, so I might be simply rationalizing my current state and helping myself more than you. Then again, Mr. Crabb designed it for himself and he did have a lot of experience and probably gave it quite a bit of thought. Perhaps you would do well to connect with Geoffry Crabb who has made more Cranes than anyone I know of. Edit to add: I posted this not seeing Rich's post and now worry that the referral to Geoffery Crabb might be seen as a slight to Rich. That was certainly not the intent. I know that Rich has built a large number of duets and has much too offer as well.
  19. Well that depends on what you want to do with the instrument, doesn't it? I currently have a largish 59 key Crane. The left side range is from F just below the bass staff extending upward two octaves and a second to the G on the second line from the bottom in the treble staff. The lowest F# was modified to play the C, two octaves below middle C. The right side of the instrument has a range of two octaves and a fifth; or from the Bb below the treble staff to the F on the third line above the treble staff. It is a marvelous instrument to my mind and suitable for all sorts of music. It really shines when playing 4 part hymns. The left hand encompasses, almost exactly, the range from the bottom of the bass to the top of the tenor on the left and close to the bottom of the alto to well beyond that of what is usually written for the soprano voice on the right side. The literature here is enormous. Plus, it is great for just messing around with fake books, folk songs, standards and so on. That said, I used to have a 55 key. I think the 55 was no less marvelous than the 59. The left side range was from C below middle C to the C above. The right side was from middle C to the F on the third line above the treble staff. For messing around with fake books, folks songs, standards and so on it was just as good as the 59, though doing stride type stuff on the lower left side of the 59 is more dramatic than on the 55. There was more overlap on the 55. That was really good to have. The instrument was smaller as well, mainly because it didn't need as much air to feed the lower notes. I managed to learn to read guitar music with the 55 and found lots of interesting stuff to play most of which didn't transfer over to my current repertoire (I traded the 55 as part of the payment for the 59). It would be nice to have one of each I suppose, though that might mean one fewer Crane player in the world. But I'm not pining for a 55 and if I had one I don't think I'd be pining for a 59. They are both great. One could have the best of both by adding an additional 5 notes to the top of the left hand and I have seen such instruments. They are bigger than I'd like -- unless I was going for three instruments! That probably didn't help you a bit, but it is all I have.
  20. Hmmm. That does sound good. If you do it, don't tell me. I'll be jealous.
  21. Durability, reed quality, keys, color, weight, action, tone, age and expense are all important when considering an instrument of any kind. Just about everyone agrees, no matter what instrument you are planning on buying, get the best possible instrument that you can afford. While almost a cliché, it is very good advise. The issue with the Crane as Bruce looks at it; it seems to me, is the cost of waiting. That is a terrific cost. There is always more money. There is never more time. I would pay more for a year of playing the concertina than I have spent on any of the many musical instruments I have bought in my life. I have a wonderful new (four years old) saxophone. It is bright and shiny, no scratches, no dings, plays beautifully. Even the case and neck strap are pristine. My concertina is good shape. But it is not new (55 years old). It is in hand and way better than me. I played it yesterday. I played it today. Tonight I'll play at a Christmas party. I'll play tomorrow. If it breaks I'll fix it or have it fixed. The biggest problem getting it fixed will not be finding a repair person or paying the bill. It will be doing without for however long it takes. My advice is to get the best instrument (new or used will be incidental) you can afford today or very, very soon. And, if you have to wait, take up something else in the meantime.
  22. I can't figure out if this is relevant or off topic, but: The actual quote: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." From "The Mourning Bride," Act I Scene 1 by William Congreve (1670-1729) Nothing here about beasts.
  23. Folk music is wonderful stuff. A big part of the wonder of it is the simplicity and availability. But let’s not pretend that folk music is something it isn’t. It is like a canoe. An "ignorant" native can build one. Needless to say, most any college educated person with a penchant for being handy can too. They can even pull their home computer into the design, read scads of technical stuff and so on. Still, we will never resolve who makes the better canoe, the college amateur (even if he or she makes a living selling them). But let’s not get lost here. It is a canoe not the Queen Mary. If I could build the Queen Mary, I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to build a canoe as well as the best of them down at the wooden boat club. It isn’t the same thing. At the same time, if I could play a folk tune and get someone excited, there is this kick that is much the same as playing a concerto with an orchestra. But again, it isn’t the same thing. It is clear that canoes and folk music can be built with or without theory or lots of recondite knowledge and it would be more theoretical for my taste to try and answer the aesthetic question of which would be “better?” So, I’ll not argue that it is “better” to know theory. On the other hand, my respect for native canoe builders and musicians is a respect of their knowledge and skill. The same holds true for the worlds best cruise liner builder or symphony orchestra. The best people in all of these worlds will hold the others in high esteem. Forgive the double negative, but there is no pride to be taken in not being able to read music, play by ear, blend with the ensemble, understand chords or tune structures, play the song over and over the exact same way so the dancers don’t trip up or have their thunder stolen, understand how ones instruments works and too many more things to mention. And Percy Granger has much to be proud of and a great way of showing his love some of the same music I love. He wouldn't write what he does if he didn't have respect for folk artists. He listens. At the same time, if we don't see that Granger knows so much we don't know, we aren't listening.
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