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Bob Michel

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Everything posted by Bob Michel

  1. In the price range you mention, I think I'd be looking out for a used hybrid concertina (Morse, Edgley, Tedrow, etc.) with the Wheatstone layout. These are fine, durable instruments that use accordion reeds. As for concertinas of Wheatstone manufacture, you'd be unlikely to find even a passable postwar one in that range. What do you mean by "travel size"? The dimensions of a typical Anglo are pretty travel-friendly, though smaller models have been made throughout the instrument's history. A concertina of reduced size, if that's what you're after, will probably be harder to find. Bob Mixhel Near Philly
  2. Thanks, Steve. I'm feeling a little sheepish, actually: the idea all along was to keep two (a main instrument and a spare) and sell one, and I may well end up doing that. But--what do you know?--when the moment of truth arrives it's a little like Sophie's Choice. Greed may be just the ticket here. Bob Michel Near Philly
  3. Thanks, Jim. Sounds like you and I followed similar lines of reasoning. I never wanted a sports car anyway. Rod, that's kind of you to say, but the way I look at it, the guitar is just there to distract from concertina mistakes! Bob Michel Near Philly
  4. Adrian-- Thanks! Yes, it's the BB Jeffries, but not the 45-button behemoth that's been there for years. I don't think this one had been on the site for more than a couple of weeks when I pulled the trigger. Based on the photos I was a bit concerned about the condition of the bellows, but happily it's in fine shape. I agree with you about that draw D, which has always struck me as a wasted note. But I'm used to it from my Lachenal (my Wheatstone has the draw A, which I much prefer). For me the indispensable feature of the Wheatstone layout isn't the way it handles c#2--I've played enough Jeffries-type boxes to know that I could make that switch easily--but the a2/g2 button on the right hand accidental row. I don't think I could live without that. As to whether the atypical layout on this one is original, I have no clue. But I really like its combination of familiarity--I can play it in 30-button mode without having to rethink anything--and intriguing new options for the accidentals. What with having to reach for push-f2 and draw-g#2, I can already feel my right pinky strengthening. Bob Michel Near Philly
  5. Thanks, Hereward! Don, that's funny; I had exactly the same thought when I was recording it this morning. The concertina is a 38-button C/G, with the "23 Praed St." mark. It came--delightfully for me, since it's what I'm used to--with the Wheatstone layout, though the "extra" buttons are different enough from my 40-button boxes that my muscle memory will need a bit of reprogramming. Most notably, the draw C# that I instinctively reach for with my left index finger must now be played on the right. As for which concertina to choose...I can't imagine ever parting with the Lachenal, and will always find reasons to play it. Apart from being my first "real" concertina, it has a distinctive voice and is very responsive even with its hook-and-lever action--plus I love hearing people say, "Wait...are you sure that's a Lachenal?!?" I'm of two minds about selling the (postwar, but with improved action) Wheatstone. I enjoy playing it the least of the three, but it records beautifully, and blends very well with singing. So I'm deferring a decision about that for at least a few months. As for the new Jeffries...I'm just beginning to find out what it can do, but one thing it can do incomparably well is play Irish tunes, so it's going to be my session companion from now on. One thing's for sure: I feel incredibly fortunate to have all these choices (though in all fairness it took quite a long time to acquire them!). Bob Michel Near Philly
  6. Or, well, as new as an instrument can be after 100+ years, anyway. Brand new to me, certainly. What with the completion (for now, at least) of my WWI song project and the lack of a periodic prod from TOTM, I haven't put anything on YouTube for a while that features concertina prominently. But a friend asked if I'd post a video of the Jeffries I've long coveted but just finally acquired (in lieu of a red sports car, as one might say). So here it is. https://youtu.be/cg5wBQ6UuXw "Con Cassidy's"--one of at least two completely different jigs that go by that name--is a much-recorded standard. "Parnell's March" isn't as commonly heard at sessions hereabouts as I'd like it to be; it's a tune I've loved for a long time. I probably first learned it from the playing of Father Charlie Coen, but it's been ages since I heard his version, and I suspect mine has wandered a bit from that setting. Bob Michel Near Philly
  7. I think I made that demo video for Liberty Bellows (the link doesn't work for me). At any rate, I remember handling a B/C Stagi Anglo--the only one I've ever seen or heard of--in one of the sessions I did for them. It was presumably a one-off; I can't remember whether it was new or used, or why the shop had it. The novelty intrigued me, but I wouldn't care to own one. I do play a bit of semitone button box (C#/D, not B/C) as well as Anglo, and I relish the contrast between the two: the ways they nudge a tune in different directions, and the musical cross-fertilization that seems to happen when I put one down and pick up the other. On the other hand, if you lack the time or inclination to undertake learning a new system, why not consider a compact single-voice button box along the lines of the Castagnari Lilly? Its sound approximates that of a concertina (particularly a hybrid), it's nearly as portable, and its layout is already familiar to you. Bob Michel Near Philly
  8. At the risk of being party to a blatant thread hijack, I'll risk just one more comment on this tangential topic. The whole business of names has been discussed repeatedly and exhaustively at melodeon.net (e.g., at http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,1959.msg19508.html#msg19508). In Britain I believe that "melodeon" vs. "accordion" is, among musicians at any rate, a useful way of distinguishing between diatonic instruments with buttons and chromatic ones with (usually) piano-style keys. Not so in the U.S.A., where we tend to default to "accordion" for practically any free-reed instrument (at the airport I even call my concertina that). As for "melodeon," in my own experience (for what it's worth) people who play Irish music very rarely refer to the one-row instrument as anything else--but that usage, however local or widespread, clearly reflects Irish influence. Interestingly, my own melodeon (as we all blithely call it) was sold to me explicitly as a "Cajun accordion," despite its equal temperament and relatively dry tuning (the basses are equally limited, whether the box is tuned Cajun or Irish/québecois). I think that's just a matter of finding some kind of cultural reference point in a country where button boxes of any kind are fairly exotic. As a player I know the difference, and no doubt the folks at Weltmeister do as well, but they're content to employ a term that will suggest a mental image to at least some Americans, even if it means fudging a few cents of tuning here and there. Okay; enough pedantry from me. I'm off to play across-the-rows. Bob Michel Near Philly
  9. I think most Americans who use the term "melodeon" at all, and who aren't directly involved in Morris or other traditional English music, tend to restrict its application to the single-row instrument, as the Irish do (though we often call even that a "Cajun accordion"). "Button accordion," in my experience, is the preferred Yank term for a box with two (or more) rows. For example, have a look at the inventory lists at The Button Box or Liberty Bellows. They'll occasionally call a one-row instrument a melodeon, depending on its provenance--but never a two-row. Of course, I may just be reflecting the bias of the Irish music subculture! I'd be interested to learn of any regional (say) difference in usage. Bob Michel Near Philly
  10. Like a lot of people I took up the Anglo to play Irish music. I knew practically nothing about the instrument, and a glib salesman talked me into a G/D Stagi (coincidentally, all he had in stock) using the Argument from Intuition ("Think about it: aren't most of the tunes in G or D?"). I tried; really I did. But very soon I was playing (solo, obviously) my D tunes in A and my G tunes in D, just to try and wrap my head around the cross-row style. After six months I made the switch to C/G and never looked back. You can play that repertoire on a G/D instrument, and I've heard that there are people who do it to a very high standard--just as there are people who manage Irish tunes beautifully on a D/G melodeon (as we don't call it on this side of the pond). Had the instrument been designed from scratch for Irish tunes--in the keys, and the multi-instrumental social settings, that have prevailed in recent decades--its inventor (using the Argument from Intuition) might well have set it up in G and D. On the other hand, had we all approached the business of language in that same rational and prescient way, I might be writing this in something like Esperanto. It's a matter, first, of availability--you use the tool you can get your hands on--and, later, of idiom--over time, the tool's limitations and possibilities come to shape the craft it's used for. Irish music (at any rate) has been played overwhelmingly with the fingerings and phrasings possible and/or necessary on a C/G instrument, and if you want to be part of that ongoing conversation, C/G is the obvious choice. It's worth pointing out, though, that the conventions of cross-row Irish playing on the C/G Anglo are a comparatively recent development (within my lifetime, say). Earlier players played more intuitively, up and down the C and G rows, and let the keys fall where they may. Lots of contemporary players honor that older approach as well, at least some of the time. Traditions are rarely as old as they seem. Bob Michel Near Philly
  11. Thanks, Rod and bellowbelle. Rod, I don't really count overdubbing tricks as one-man band artistry; they're too easy. Keeping both hands going on a keyboard is more than enough of a multitasking challenge for me. But I've encountered the real deal now now and then, and I take my hat off to people who've actually mastered the act. There was one fellow I saw in New Orleans about twenty-five years ago who still makes me shake my head in disbelief. Bob Michel Near Philly
  12. The last few WWI-era songs I've worked up haven't involved concertina, but as this one does I thought I'd post a link here: https://youtu.be/HWVTU73bF_g "He'd Have to Get Under Get Out and Get Under (To Fix Up His Automobile)"--yes, that's the actual title of the song--was published in 1913 by Maurice Abrahams (music), Grant Clarke and Edgar Leslie (lyrics), and was subsequently a hit for Al Jolson, Billy Murray and others. As mildly suggestive technological metaphor goes, it's about on a par with "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine," published four years earlier. I give it a modest one-man band treatment here, but with Anglo front, center and on camera. Bob Michel Near Philly
  13. I acquired my Weltmeister 510 (similar to a Corso) some years ago under similar circumstances: the price was too low to pass up, and I figured I'd civilize the wet MMM tuning at the first opportunity. Naturally I procrastinated--and what do you know? I gradually learned to love the sound. Or maybe it just drove me insane... Anyway; I'm glad I put off making the change (I did eventually have the thirds removed from the basses). Your experience may be entirely different, of course, but I thought I'd make the case for letting your ear adjust to the initial outrage of the musette. The way I look at it, when I'm not in the mood for tremolo I can always reach for the concertina. Bob Michel Near Philly
  14. Like many of us, I was inspired early on by Alistair Anderson's (EC) playing. But in the mid-'70s I had other musical interests, and practically no money, so I put off purchasing an instrument for a couple of decades. By the time I finally took it up, I was an Irish session regular and caught up in that musical ecosystem, so naturally I chose the Anglo, which is what I still play. In recent years I've had great fun expanding my repertoire and challenging myself to use the Anglo for other genres and styles of music (though I still play plenty of the diddly). Conversely, I love hearing Irish music on an English or duet box in the hands of a good player. I still wonder at times whether an EC might have been a better fit for my range of tastes and interests. I hope to pick one up someday (maybe a duet too!). So if you should hear me advocating for the Anglo's versatility, or for its special qualities, no criticism of any other system is ever implied. If I had enough time and cash, I'd probably play them all. Bob Michel Near Philly
  15. I know that feeling very well. 'A' is tricky, largely because you have to play so much on the push. It requires you to rethink your air management strategy. As for fluidity, each key on the Anglo has its own flow (or lack thereof!). This assymetry drove me nuts when I was first learning to play, but I've come to accept it as one of the instrument's signature charms. I don't know whether you play Irish tunes, but if you know the Foxhunter's Reel, try playing it both in G (the usual key) and in A (which fiddlers sometimes like). It's a good way to get a sense of what you can and can't do to coax fluidity out of a tune in A. Bob Michel Near Philly
  16. Well...it depends. Rather than laying down a rule, it's probably better to make that kind of fingering decision on a phrase-by-phrase basis. For example, if you're playing the common sequence F#-G#-A, you're stuck (on a 30-button instrument) with a bellows reversal between F# and G# whether you want one or not. So the question becomes: do you want another one to follow it? If you do, then play the pull A on the middle row; if not, play the push A on the accidental row. It's a matter of style more than technique: either choice will give the phrase a distinctive rhythm that's slightly different from the other. When I'm working out a tune I always try as many possibilities as I can think of. Often I'll make a point of learning more than one way of phrasing the passage, just for variety. And often I'll discard a fingering I've been using for years in favor of one that's smoother (or less smooth, if that's what the tune needs). Adopting a single standard fingering simplifies matters, and in the early going (if that's where you are) you may want to do just that. But keeping all your fingering options open encourages you to think creatively about how you want to phrase the particular tune, and makes your playing more supple and interesting. Bob Michel Near Philly
  17. I'm going to guess English. It's beautifully played, and the ornamentation is very idiomatic. Still, there's something--I think it's a signature contrast, in Anglo playing, between legato and staccato phrases--that I'm not quite hearing. The effort to reproduce it is effective and convincing--I'd love to share tunes with this player in any context--but I'm also hearing (unless I'm imagining it, in which case I'll gladly eat crow) the effort. Bob Michel Near Philly
  18. Well, folk songs can work well on any sort of concertina. Though as a point of historical interest, the Anglo (along with the 20-button German instruments from which it developed) has a special affinity for folk material; that's what it was originally intended to play--whereas the English and different duet systems were more musically ambitious from the get-go. The Anglo is the least fully chromatic of the systems, though a 30-button Anglo still has a respectable range of 2 1/2 chromatic octaves for playing melodies (harmonic arrangements are easiest in the home keys, and grow much more challenging as you move away from them). The constraint of not having every note available on both push and draw is its great weakness and strength. Some people chafe at the limitation; others find themselves more than compensated by the bounce and drive that seem hard-wired into the Anglo's layout. So it might be worth giving a close listen to that system--or, better, trying one out--as well. Bob Michel Near Philly
  19. Hi, Kevin. Welcome to the club. Each system has its advocates, but there's no bad choice. You'll likely find more instructional material--and more support from fellow players--if you play Anglo or English, but chances are you'll be doing most of your learning on your own in any case. The best approach to the decision, I think, is to listen to a number of players--on commercial recordings or YouTube, or--best of all--in person, and to get a sense of who inspires you and whom you'd like to emulate. If it's duet concertina music that you find the most appealing, then that's one very solid argument in favor of one or another duet system. But do check out players of the other systems as well before committing yourself. And keep in mind that your choice, whatever it is, needn't be a life sentence: if your tastes or needs change later on, you can add another system, or switch entirely. What sorts of music do you like best? Do you read standard notation, or play any other instruments? Some people claim (for instance) that beginners with previous formal training tend to get on better with English, while those who are self-taught and ear-trained may find Anglo a better fit. So it would be helpful to have a slightly better idea of where you're coming from. Whichever road you take, you have a lot of fun to look forward to. And there are many knowledgeable and encouraging people on this forum to lend a hand. Bob Michel Near Philly
  20. All, or nearly all those chords are indeed available on Anglos with 30 or more buttons. I use them all the time. Now for the qualifications. Your options for voicing a particular chord can indeed be limited--the more so as you move away from your instrument's home keys. The inversion you end up using might not be the first one you'd choose on a more fully chromatic instrument: voice leading is a challenge. And it is sometimes necessary to play a partial chord, for want of a particular note in the direction you're going. (All of these difficulties are less pronounced on a 38- or 40-button instrument, by the way. I'm a big fan of these for song accompaniment.) To my way of thinking, these parameters are a big part of what make an Anglo sound like an Anglo. Working up an accompaniment can force the imagination to provide suggestions of, and substitutions for, those harmonies (fewer than you might think) that really aren't available. As you move beyond straightforward 1-4-5 songs in C and G, there are lots of problems to solve, and the solutions will be different in each key. These are limitations, if you will, and I can understand that they might be off-putting. In many ways the English system is probably a better fit for the requirements you specify (though frankly trying to play chords on an English gives me a headache!). But limitations can also be opportunities. I get lots of enjoyment out of mapping songs onto the Anglo's quirky layout--and I draw inspiration from Count Basie's great guitarist Freddie Green, who's said to have pared down his spare vamping style until by the end of his career he was mostly playing two-note "chords." The Anglo is always teaching me what I really need and what I can dispense with; it encourages subtlety and resourcefulness. And when I do want simple harmonies and full-fisted chords, I have those too. Anyway; sorry to go on about this, but I do think there are some misconceptions about that are worth correcting. If you want to hear examples of what I'm talking about, here's an anthology of 50 early Tin Pan Alley songs I completed not long ago. The keys range from D (or maybe A; I can't remember) to Eb. I make no great claims for the arrangements (or performances), but they might give you an idea of what you can do, especially in the more remote keys. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGBWgBMt3xfeh1ox7Hp-3d32PGAeIPaxH Bob Michel Near Philly
  21. Either English or Anglo is an excellent choice for song accompaniment, but it's worth pointing out that a 30-button Anglo is by no means limited to a couple of keys. This is particularly true if you follow Matthew's good advice of keeping the arrangements simple--but even more ambitious harmonies are quite possible outside the home keys of C and G, once you learn the fingerings. I routinely accompany myself on Anglo in at least half of the twelve keys, and can manage the others if necessary. (I play 40-button instruments, but most of what I play could be adapted to 30.) The more I learn about the Anglo, the less restrictive I find it. Bob Michel Near Philly
  22. There are two used hybrid baritones currently on offer at The Button Box, one of which features the low F. I don't know whether they fall within your budget, but I doubt you'd find a vintage baritone (in this country, anyway) for less than what they're asking. The Button Box (I have no connection with them, apart from being a sometime customer) is a great shop to deal with, and even fairly close to NYC. Bob Michel Near Philly
  23. I was hoping the film might turn up on YouTube eventually. It didn't take even a week: https://youtu.be/3u4u90iCuSk As a rule I don't much care for reenactment in historical documentaries, but I find McKenna's approach here very effective. It's a moving memorial, and I'm humbled to have played a tiny part in it. My little bit is at about 1:10, but don't just scroll there; if you can make the time, watch the whole movie. It's a powerful experience. Bob Michel Near Philly
  24. No worries; the demonstration certainly didn't come across (to me, at any rate) as an apology for e.t. Its limitations, too, ring out loud and clear. Different repertoires and different aesthetics call for different approaches, and short of having multiple instruments in different tunings (the ideal solution), one chooses one's compromises. You've simply helped me to clarify why I choose mine. Bob Michel Near Philly
  25. This is excellent; thanks. The selections and commentaries do a very effective job of highlighting the differences between the tunings. And of course the playing is delightful. As a generalist with a penchant for wandering away from the home keys on my own 40-button Anglos, I've long been resigned to equal temperament, and your video is a vivid reminder of why that's the best choice for me. Still, the sweetness of your Suttner's harmonies is a strong argument for having a dedicated instrument just for playing core Irish repertoire with a select few pipers, fluters and/or fiddlers. I must remember to buy a lottery ticket. Bob Michel Near Philly
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