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Little John

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  1. Interesting discussion, indeed! as @hjcjones and @David Barnert also indicate. A lack of formal training doesn't mean Kimber didn't have innate musical sensitivity. The Beatles famously had no musical education, nor even the musical language to describe what they were playing, but look at what they achieved! And remember the academics of over a century ago marvelling that the untutored peasants from whom they were collecting folk songs could sing in modes that even their own scholars didn't understand. To judge from the musical examples (nos. 9 and 10 in Dan's article) Kimber displayed an intuitive understanding of many styles and tricks for which he is not being given credit. I agree they were his "drum section" in the sense that he was using his left hand to emphasise the rhythm and, probably, to mimic the double stopping of a fiddle or the tabor in the pipe and tabor combination. But if that was all what he was doing, he could done it much more simply; for example by keeping his left hand fingers on the same two or three buttons and providing either the tonic or the supertonic chord (according to press or draw); similar to what some melodeon players do vamping either the tonic or the dominant on the same two buttons. Fortunately Kimber was not in a position to be influenced by bad melodeon playing, nor by the tonic, subdominant, dominant seventh combination almost ubiquitous in 12-bar blues. In consequence he used all the chords available to him. And he used them thoughtfully. The two examples given in the article show that Kimber employs a number of devices to make the accompaniment interesting and not merely functional. In example 9 (Haste to the Wedding) bar 3 beats 4 and 6 [3(4,6) for convenience] he could have played the same chord each time. He doesn't. He plays a root G triad followed by a single B note. Is he doing that because he knows instinctively that it leads nicely into the C on the next beat? Similarly at 4(4,6) he could have kept the same notes but doesn't. In consequence the lowest notes of A and C lead into the following D. Vamping (oom-pah) on a melodeon consists of a bass note followed by higher notes from the chord of which that is the root. Without the restrictions imposed by the melodeon system, Kimber frequency employs vamping - as long as we allow 'vamping' to refer more generally to a low note (not necessarily the root note) or notes followed by higher notes from the same chord. The first bar of example 9 contains two examples 1(1,3) and 1(4,6); also 5(1,3). The four bars of example 10 (Constant Billy) contain five examples: 1(1,3), 1(4,6), 2(1,3), 3(1,3) and 3(4,6). There is also one example of parallel playing in example 9 bar 2. In conclusion it seems to me that, although untutored in musical theory, Kimber had a good intuitive understanding of which tricks to employ to achieve a good effect. In fact I'd suggest his playing shows more imagination and variety than many modern players. I can only agree with Dan: LJ
  2. Thanks. I followed the link and read it with interest. I was struck by the discussion of Kimber's harmonic style and by the discussion around example 9. The author refers to Kimber's "surprising chord choices", and compares them to a typical "standard" chord structure (example taken from a New England contra dance chord book). To me there is nothing surprising about Kimber's chord choices. At every point they are musical - chosen to include the notes in the melody and not to clash with them. That's very much what I do myself. The "standard" chord progression, on the other hand, seems to ignore the melody altogether. At one point it gives a D7 chord (consisting of D, F#, A and C) to accompany three notes in the melody of B, G and E. It couldn't be worse! The "standard" accompaniment doesn't even have the saving grace of being interesting in its own right. It consist of just three chords - G, C and D7. Kimber uses five chords G, C, D, Am and Em. It seems unfair to characterise Kimber's harmonic choices as in some way rather odd when in fact he is simply being sympathetic to the melody and producing a musical arrangement. Isn't that what we should all aspire to? Is it just me that disagrees with the author's assertion "Kimber’s chord selections are often quite surprising and unusual. His overall harmonic style is like nothing you would hear in a polished folk group, or even from most other accomplished Anglo players."? LJ
  3. I, too, have osteoarthritis including my thumbs. I play stringed instruments as well as concertina. Funnily enough, some 15 or 20 years ago I though of changing from Crane to Anglo for the reasons mentioned by others - relatively little finger movement - and also generally lighter than other concertinas. But then I came across a better solution - oily fish. I eat it two or three times a week, mostly smoked mackerel. It doesn't cure the arthritis but it almost eliminates the symptoms. Last night I spent two hours playing fretless bass with no trouble. The fish solution allowed me to drop the Anglo idea and continue with the Crane.
  4. Greater air flow doesn't equate to higher or lower starting pressure. I don't pretend to understand all the variables that go into making all reads speak at the same pressure, but I know from experience that it can be done. Both my Holden Crane duets pass the test I describe admirably, and so do my Wheatstone baritone English and my Wheatstone single-action bass (both from around the 1900s). My modern CBA passes too. Obviously the latter uses accordion reeds. My hybrid miniature anglo fails. I don't see why the test is cruel. It seems to me not only reasonable to expect a set of reeds to start speaking at the same pressure, but actually pretty much essential if you are to be to play with expression and dynamics, or quietly to accompany singing.
  5. I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to these questions. What I do know from experience of traditional concertina reeds is that having an instrument set up properly makes all the difference to playability. You will have to ask the maker/maintainer specifically to do this but you can easily check before whether it's the problem and afterwards to see if it's been done properly. Just choose a random pairs of notes, one high and one low. With no pressure on the bellows depress the two buttons. Now slowly start to put pressure on the bellows and increase it. The two notes should start to sound at the same time if it's well set up. The likelihood is, though, that the low note will sound first. Increasing the pressure will make the high note sound too, but increasing the pressure also makes the low note louder so it still dominates the sound. From my experience of four or five Crabb duets they are usually well set up. I suspect this is because the Crabb family actually played duets so understood both the problem and the solution.
  6. This is a separate issue from airtightness, but one that seems often to affect duets. A well set-up duet (or any other concertina, but it seems to be more critical on a duet) will have all the reeds start to speak at the same air pressure. When they don't it could be the set of the reed tongues within the frame or the wrong sort of valve leather.
  7. Quite so, but the table indicates that in this case the wolf is actually G# - Eb; despite Eb and Bb being wrongly labelled as D# and A#. I, too, have an enharmonic Eb/D# button although if I were to opt for just one it would be the D#; because a C minor chord with a D# is surprisingly acceptable; whereas a B major chord with an Eb is simply unbearable!
  8. This is interesting. It shows that meeting ET at D rather than A gives the same spread of deviations. The difference is that the note with the biggest discrepancy becomes G# rather than Eb. These two cannot both be true! In fact the table is misleading. The note labelled A# is in fact Bb. In ET they are the same pitch but in mean-tone tuning they are noticeably different. Likewise the note labelled D# is in fact Eb. The wolf fifth is at G# - Eb - considerably wide of a perfect fifth. The instrument doesn't have a D#, but if it had then G# - D# would be an (almost) perfect fifth.
  9. By coincidence, or probably following the same logic as @adrian brown, I too have a button which plays D# on the push and Eb on the pull. That's on a Crane duet.
  10. No. you've got this back to front. In 1/4 or 1/5th comma MT tuning the major third will be flatter than ET; but 'pure' in 1/4 comma and close to pure in 1/5 comma. Again, wrong. Interesting to note that one-row cajun melodeon players often have the 3rd and the 7th tuned down 14 cents to make them more musical.
  11. There are 100 cents to a semitone, so it's reasonable to think that a note that is, say 8.4 cents flat is flat by 8.4% of a semitone. Not sure what you're saying here. What matters is the individual note. If one note in MT differs from that in ET by 8.4 cents, it's not likely to be noticeable, but MT tuning differs from ET by varying amounts according to how far round the 'circle of fifths' they are from the point at which they agree. Look at the table I posted earlier. The practical point is this: if the mean tone tuning agrees with ET at A (i.e. 440 Hz) then it's unlikely any note will be so far out as to be noticeable. I've played my 1/5-comma duet in various ensembles and it's never been a problem.
  12. I agree with everything in this post except for that last paragraph, quoted above. 440 refers to the frequency in Hz (or cycles/second). 5.6, 8.4 etc. in the table refers to cents, i.e. hundredths of a semitone. They don't mix. The first row shows that if G (in meantone tuning) is tuned to be exactly the same frequency as G in Equal Temperament tuning, then A will be 5.6 cents flatter than the A in ET. If you tune all the notes up 5.6 cents to make the A in meantone match the A in ET you simply end up with the second block in the table. The purpose of the table is to illustrate that matching A to the A in ET minimises the discrepancy between mean-tone tuning and equal temperament in the keys from two flats to four sharps.
  13. It's true that the two questions are separate but both need to be addressed. This is slightly misleading. With 1/4-comma, 1/5-comma or any other -comma there are six keys that are equally favoured and six that are not. See the bottom two rows of my table above. Shifting the wolf fifth changes the favoured keys. So, for example, shifting the wolf to D# - Bb you would lose Bb major and gain E major.
  14. To illustrate my earlier comments, here is a table I constructed when I was considering fifth comma meantone tuning for my Crane duet. It compares aligning G with ET with aligning A with ET. It shows how if G is aligned, the commonly used C# and G# are starting to differ from ET by amounts that could be audible in some circumstances; and D# is even worse. [Less than 10 cents difference is generally considered not noticeable whilst 20 cents is considered noticeable. Opinions differ as to where in between it starts to become noticeable. No one has ever commented on the tuning my fifth comma tuned concertinas aligned ("centred") on A.] The wolf fifth is assumed in this table to be at Eb - G# (so you wouldn't have the D# except on an English concertina). Shifting the wolf fifth to Bb - D# would give a D# at the expense of an Eb.
  15. The answer is "something else". Reference everything to A=440Hz, whatever instrument you're playing (even B/C melodeon David!) or whatever keys your anglo has. Why? Firstly because in the keys most commonly used for folk music, this will minimise the difference between 1/4 comma (or 1/5 comma) tuning and Equal Temperament. Secondly because when you're giving an A for other instruments to tune to it will be exactly the pitch they are expecting. (If your reference is any other note, A will not be at 440Hz.)
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