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Bullethead

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Everything posted by Bullethead

  1. I second Janice. You've helped me a lot, especially in learning which button does which note . And Janice, welcome to the madness. I'm only about 2 weeks ahead of you. If you enjoy it half as much as I do, you'll never put it down.
  2. Well, I've never held an Anglo, just seen them at a distance, so we're in the opposite ends of the same boat . I wasn't intending to bring Anglos into this discussion because not only am I ignorant of them, but they have a fundamentally different design philosophy. So I was trying to say I was only talking about ECs, but rereading my last post I can see how it can be confusing. I'll have to fix that. But anyway, while we're on the subject, it is interesting to compare the design philosophies of the "user interfaces" of Anglos and ECs. Ignore for the moment that Anglos have push-pull notes and just focus on the common user tasks of pushing buttons and working the bellows. An Anglo's buttons are arranged similarly to the keys of a piano (rows of buttons) while an EC is like an adding machine (columns of buttons). This requires fundamentally different hand/finger movements from their users when playing runs of notes up or down the scale. With an Anglo, all the different fingers are used in sequence, as with a piano. With an EC (in the key of Cmaj) the whole run is played by only the 1st and 2nd fingers "walking" up or down the columns of buttons. Because of this, the Anglo player's hand doesn't need to move much if at all relative to the end of the concertina. This enables a more complete separation of the playing and bellows/weight-supporting functions to different parts of the body, so that the digits only have to push buttons. This should promote hand relaxation and eliminate many sources of fatigue and RMI, although the Anglo player should still be concerned with minimizing wrist deflection as much as possible. All in all, however, the Anglo appears to have a very ergonomic design. OTOH, with an EC, the fingers have to reach further, especially as you increase the number of buttons, because adding range to the instrument makes the button columns longer. Because of this, and because people's fingers are only so long no matter who you are, the hand has to move somewhat forwards and backwards while playing. This is similar to how the hand must move a bit to type the numbers and bottom row of letters on a QWERTY keyboard, or when using the numeric keypad or an adding machine. This is no problem with typewriters and adding machines because those devices are sitting stationary on your desk. A concertina, however, is up in the air so while moving relative to the ends to reach the buttons, the hand also has to support the concertina plus work the bellows in and out. With an EC, therefore, the hand can't be solidly attached to the end as that would preclude the necessary fore-and-aft movement needed to reach all the buttons. This leaves no recourse other than to hang the concertina on 1 or more digits, at least the thumb and often the pinky, the joints of which provide the necessary flexibility in the attachment of user to box. This creates an ergonomic conflict within the hand because the thumb and usually the pinky have to be tensed at least a little to hold and manipulate the box itself while the other fingers must be relaxed to play with speed and accuracy. There's no way to eliminate this conflict completely due to the design philosophy of the EC keyboard; the best you can do is minimize it to a background level you can live with. And here, IMHO, is where the geometry of the individual user's hand comes into play. It could be that the standard arrangement of straps and rests suits you just fine. But if not, then you have a choice. Either suffer along with more fatigue, a higher risk of RMI, and lower physical limits on how well you can play, or modify the attachment points to reduce as much as possible the ergonomic conflict built-in to the EC. All that said, I really love the EC (at least now that I've tweaked it to suit my hands). Its design philosophy makes it very easy (for me) to learn compared to all other instruments I've tinkered with in my life (trumpet, trombone, guitar, violin, harmonica, bagpipes, piano). For some reason, its button arrangement just suits the way my Neanderthal brain works (especially the 1-tone-per-button thing---I like consistency ). And it excels at rapid runs of notes even for beginners, and is fully chromatic so can play in any key. All very good features IMHO. But all this comes at the price of some basic ergonomic problems that Anglos don't have. So IMHO there's ample justification to modify an EC to fit the user, should that be necessary for a given user. NOTE: I'm sure Anglo players can recite various other ergonomic problems with their boxes that aren't evident to me as a non-user. But they at least don't have the particular issue that ECs do (or at least not nearly as much).
  3. Howdy Geoff- I bow to your vast experience. I'll never live long enough to match your current total, let alone what you continue to accumulate . I'm not out to change the concertina world here. What works for me in my particular situation probably won't work for everybody because we're all different.and, as you say, the Jackie only has 30 buttons. If I ever get more buttons, that will also be a different situation and that will require its own solution, which is a problem for another day. As to modifying concertinas in general, I wouldn't do that with an antique. These are "living museum" pieces to be treated with reverence and awe to preserve their historical (not to mention resale) value. But I see anything newly made as fair game. Nobody cares about cheap entry-level things and my mod to my Jackie made no irreversible change to the instrument anyway. I can always put the rest back in its stock position. At worst, the paint on the end will get marks from where the rest is now. So that leaves new mid-range and top-end boxes, the prices of which are not insignificant. The way I see it, if I'm going to spend that kind of money, it had damn well better be a perfect fit for my hand, like a tailored pair of gloves. Without a total custom rearrangement of the guts to move buttons around, which would be ridiculously expensive, the only option is to move and/or redesign the straps and rests. I'd definitely do that if I ever buy such a box. And the result would have about zero resale value because it wouldn't fit anybody else, but I wouldn't plan on selling it anyway It would be strictly for my own use and enjoyment. Now, as to why I feel the urge to speak my opinion unashamedly here, despite not having played concertinas enough to count... I have a degree in industrial engineering, a fair part of which involves the ergonomics of highly repetitive finger movements. I've also been typing for over 40 years and learned on a manual typewriter. So far, I find both of these experiences highly applicable to the EC. And if the ergonomics of the hand wasn't an issue with playing concertinas, this forum wouldn't have a whole topic devoted to it. So while I don't have any noticeable concertina experience, I do have a lot of experience with hand ergonomics so can perhaps offer a fresh perspective and some general guidelines for those unfamiliar with this field. (EDIT: rephrased the 1st sentence of the next paragraph to make it clear I'm only talking about ECs) So for the EC (I no nothing of Anglos), from the general guideline perspective, the main threat is repetitive motion injury (RMI), which can take a number of forms because the hand and wrist have so many moving parts. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most familiar but there are many others. A lesser threat is muscle fatigue, which shortens the amount of time you can go without a break. But while some of this will naturally occur in beginners (at least if they don't type much) until they develop the muscles used in concertina play, it can also be a sign that your ergonomics are wrong, which means they're a warning of impending RMI. Therefore, the goal is to position the hand and use its parts in such ways as to avoid anything that might trigger RMI or cause muscle fatigue. This means keeping the wrist as straight as possible at all times, with the fingers arched and the wrist some distance off the surface of the box, as with a manual typewriter. With a manual typewriter, this posture evolved specifically to satisfy the 3 needs of speed and duration of work while avoiding RMI. This need for a straight wrist means that bellows must be moved by the elbows and shoulders as much as possible, although the push-pull notes of an Anglo might require more wrist involvement in certain passages (I've never played one so don't know). The entire hand must be relaxed to avoid fatigue and to allow the fingers to be as nimble as possible. The hand must be positioned so that the fingers can reach all their buttons with as little movement of the wrist or hand as a whole.as possible, which both reduces fatigue and RMI risk, and also gives higher finger speed. This hand position, which will vary with the proportions of the user's hands and fingers, determines where the thumb straps pinky rests must be. And these attachment points must be designed and positioned so that the thumb and pinky sit on them naturally, without need of muscle tensing (to avoid fatigue and keep the fingers nimble), yet firmly enough to work the bellows by action of the elbows and shoulders without putting strain on the wrist. If you can arrange all this, then you should be able to play the concertina at high speed for long periods of time without either fatigue or risk of RMI. This outcome seems to me a worthy goal. I found that, with my own set of hands, my Jackie violated nearly all of the above guidelines. Therefore, I applied my knowledge and experience of hand ergonomics and typing to move the rests. Now all the above guidelines are satisfied and I'm reaping the benefits. I can't say that the above applies at all to Anglos or anything else but an EC, nor do I think that my own solution to my own problems will be of any use to others. However, I can at least point out the basic principles of hand ergonomics and let others apply them to suit themselves, or not. That's all I was trying to do.
  4. Update #5: The Neanderthal's modification of the pinky rests of his EC has proved a great success. The inability to hold the instrument properly with his lumpish hands was really holding him back and causing frustration, but now he finds playing the EC much easier than before. As such, he is making fairly good progress. He now can play about 20 tunes reasonably well and has several of them memorized. He is focusing on tunes he's heard all his life although he's also dabbled with a few that he's heard recently and likes. At some point, I might make a recording of one of these. ------------------------------------- The more I play the EC, the more I like it. And I've finally gotten the hang of the alien treble clef, and remembered how to sight-read, so have been playing all kinds of stuff. If I like how it sounds on the EC, I add it to my list and then play it regularly. Sheet music that's black with long runs of quavers and semis used to intimidate me but it seems the EC was designed especially to play such things, at least now that I can get a proper grip on it. Just let the fingers do the walking in many cases, without really having to think about where the notes are. And I've even started to be able to improvise a tiny bit thanks to knowing where the various tones are in relation to each other. The physical manipulation of the EC isn't the only skill I'm having to learn. I've had to learn ABC notation, how to write in it, and how to use various software to manipulate it. But it's worth it for the sheer utility and convenience. Where has ABC been hiding all my life? And also, I've had to learn the European language of music. All this talk of quavers and such. There's at least as much difference between US and Brit musical terminology as there is between their car terminology . Who knew? Music being so mathematical, I figured everybody used the same names for the same elements. Oh well, life is full of surprises. In any case, so far I've found that learning the EC is as much a mental as a physical challenge. I think the main reason I'll record myself playing next time is to get some feedback on volume. I find that I need more bellows force to make the notes on both the high and low ends of the EC's range sound the same volume as those in the middle, and I get the impression from reading this forum that this is somewhat common. However, I especially have to force the high-end notes and that raises a question. I've got a lot of high-frequency hearing loss from a war and a lifetime around loud machinery so I'm wondering how much of this extra effort on the high end is a real thing and how much is just that I'm deaf? IOW, when I play so all notes have the same volume to me, do I make the higher notes too loud for everybody else? I look forward to your comments on Cajun music and hope you post up some tunes. It's hard to find such stuff online. I was talking about the sound of the different types of concertinas. Sure, harmonicas are genetically/functionally closer to Anglos than ECs because their tones change depending on which way the wind's blowing. However, when listening to them, accordions are always playing chords/unisons because they always have multiple reeds going at once. While this is quite easy to do with the harmonica as well, often you don't want to, so I associate harmonicas with the sound of a single reed, the way an EC sounds. But with Anglos, I often hear multiple reeds at once, whether this is by accident or design.
  5. I don't think anybody really has a choice of how much of their thumb is in the strap. To me, it appears that unless you change where the thumb strap is attached to the concertina, the amount of thumb inside the strap is dictated by the proportions of your hands and fingers. This is because you have to position the whole hand where your playing fingers can easily reach all the buttons with minimal movement of the wrist (just like with typing). As you find this optimal playing position by sliding the hand forwards and backwards along the concertina, the thumb moves with the hand while the strap remains stationary. Thus, the overall hand position is determined by the needs of the fingers and the position of the thumb will fall where it may in relation to the strap. In my case, the palm of my hand is 10.5cm long but my middle finger is only 8cm, and when I lay my thumb along the edge of my hand (as if saluting), the very tip of my thumb doesn't quite come even with the basal joint of my middle finger. Thus, when my hands are positioned so I can easily play all the buttons, only the distal half of my thumb is in the strap. I have the straps as tight as they can go, wedge the thumb knuckle into the rear of the strap, and have about 0.5cm of the tip of my thumb protruding out the front of the strap. My picture of the original configuration in the 1st post was a bit contorted due to taking the picture myself. Thus, my thumb wasn't as far into the strap as it usually is. I've attached some new photos (which also show the modified position of the pinky rest) that are closer to my actual playing position (as modified by having the concertina vertical instead of horizontal). @Ardie sent me a PM pointing to a long-locked thread from 2003 where @goran rahm argues that standard position and design of the EC pinky rest is an historical artifact and was already considered obsolete by the 1860s. Thus, I feel no sense of sacrilege in moving the rest . As to ease of playing, I find this modification increases it greatly whether sitting or standing. What the modification does is to get my pinky involved in stabilizing the end of the box, especially when pulling the bellows. Before, my pinky had so little contact that when I pushed buttons while pulling the bellows, the ends of the box rotated due to the button pushes, resulting in incomplete button depression and gaspy, wheezy notes In addition, all the bellows force was on the thumbs and this pained them, and as my pinky struggled desperately to help, it caused much muscle fatigue in my forearms and tensed up my whole hand so the playing fingers weren't very nimble. In short, playing was both physically debilitating and musically bad. So it was either change something or abandon the instrument. Now that I've moved the pinky rest, all is good. My pinkies now easily provide proper support without any effort at all, just due to being in their natural position. As a result, moving the bellows is MUCH MUCH easier in both directions, I always get total button depression, and my hands are totally relaxed and my fingers as nimble on the EC as they are on my typewriter. And my ring fingers are now free to play the accidentals instead of having to help the pinkies hold the box. Observe the attached photos. Note, however, that my hold of the concertina depends on gravity, whether sitting or standing. When sitting, gravity holds the box on my knee so my hands can just move laterally. I as yet lack a shoulder harness (I've only been playing the EC about 2 weeks now) so when I stand up, I hold the concertina up at the level of my throat. hands pointing up, so that gravity holds it down on the tips of my thumbs and pinkies. So again, my hands only have to move laterally. I wouldn't hold the box down at my waist without a harness.
  6. I have very wide hands and very short fingers and as such found it very uncomfortable to hold, let alone play, my Jackie EC. The very tip of my pinky just barely caught the back corner of the rest. Here's what it originally looked like: I found myself having to use my ring fingers on the pinky rests to help move the bellows in and out, put a lot of excessive wear and tear on my thumbs, and in general had a miserable time. So I started thinking about modifying the box somehow, but was unsure how to proceed and didn't want to open the box up just to look inside. However, after a couple days, my Jackie developed a rattle, which turned out to be one of the tiny nuts holding on one of the thumb straps, so I had to open the box up anyway to put it back. Once I had it open, I could see how the pinky rests were attacked so decided to move them while I was at it. The pinky rests are normally held on by 2 screws. What I did was move them back so that now they're held on only by 1 screw, the former rear screw is now in the front hole of the rest. I also cocked the rests at an angle so they're parallel with a row of sound holes in the corner instead of leaving them parallel to the button rows. I put the unused screw back in its hole so it wouldn't get lost and also so as not to have an extra hole in the box. And I made sure all the strap and rest screws at both ends were well tightened so as not to have to open the box again. Here's what it looks like now: I'm VERY glad I made this change. It's seriously the difference between night and day. Now it's very easy and comfortable to play the box. So if you've got hands like mine, you might find this modification helpful. NOTE, however, that making the change requires taking the end cap off the reed/action pan. While that's easy enough, getting the cap back on over the buttons is much easier said than done. The buttons all have to be vertical to fit simultaneously through their holes in the end caps, and some of them have very small amounts of wiggle room before coming loose from their rocker arms. Thus, you'll probably spend a lot of time trying to get all the buttons back on their arms and pointed the right way. Fiddling with one will often make another come loose, and if they're not perfectly vertical, attempting to put the cap back on will also knock them loose.
  7. Oh yeah, that's what I had drummed into my head in marching band back in high school. But that was long, long ago, so I'm rusty at that.
  8. There are some amazing craftsmen here who make beautiful things out of fancy materials. I marvel at their talents because I utterly lack them myself. So here's how I would make my own "campaign" concertina. I would actually make all my concertinas this way, and their being suitable for campaigning would just be a byproduct of my lack of proper tools and talent to make anything fancier. First off, I would make the ends entirely from polyurethane. Rather than machine it (which is possible but a bit tricky and requires tools I don't have) I would build the ends up out of sawn sheets same as with wood, held together with a suitable adhesive. Other than sawing strips to dimension, the only other machine operations would be drilling the button and sound holes. Rather than get fancy with F-holes and scrollwork, I'd just drill a bunch of round holes so the ends would look like Swiss cheese. So that's the face pieces and reed pans. I"d make the buttons by sawing polyurethane rod stock to length. For the bellows, I'd use flex duct of diameter appropriate to the ends, probably held on by hose clamps. For the actual noise-making parts, I'd buy accordion reeds off-the-shelf, leaving just the action to deal with. The action is a bit more of a challenge. The pads would obviously be polyethylene or polyurethane foam to avoid rot. To rust-proof the action itself (and to avoid all the fiddly work of cutting and bending levers and springs, then mounting them), I'd try hard to devise some pneumatic valve actuation system so the whole system could be made off-the-shelf tubing and fittings. The pneumatic valve system (I'm typing this as I.m thinking it up) would function similarly to air brakes on a truck. You'd have an air reservoir kept at higher-than-ambient pressure by the normal motion of the bellows during playing. This pressure would keep the valves seated when the buttons were not pressed. Pressing a button would vent air on 1 side of the valve to ambient, causing the higher pressure on the remaining side to push the valve open as long as you had the button depressed. When you release the button, the system returns to equilibrium with high pressure on both sides and the valve closes. Would need a spring to help with this, but that would be a simple, off-the-shelf thing instead of hand-made. Also, before playing, you'd have to give the concertina several pumps to charge up the valve system reservoir . Note that by typing the above, I just destroyed the patentability of pneumatic concertina valve systems. It's a public domain thing now, so feel free to use it .
  9. @mrubin: Moshe, I salute your endeavors and look forward to the results. I can't answer all your questions am no expert on the rest but can toss in something that might be work considering. This is a complex question.... First off, let's consider the end product. If you want to post videos on YouTube, understand that system pares down quality to below what any decent modern video camera is capable of recording. Thus, there's no need to get any fancier than any decent modern video camera with built-in microphone. Even a little GoPro will be more than enough for the job. Which brings up the next point. The quality of the recording is dependent on the hardware used to record it. The sound system of your computer only matters for playback of the finished product. And I HIGHLY recommend using a video camera with its own microphone (built-in or, if you want to spend the extra money for not much return on quality) a plug-in microphone for it. That way, the video and audio tracks are synched up properly and automatically, without you having to fit separate video and audio tracks together during editing. As to recording venue, that's personal preference. I prefer the great outdoors myself. That way there's no echo. If it's windy out, however, you'll need a wind shield on the microphone. And if the camera is in the shade pointing at sunlight, or you're in the shade with sunlight behind you, you'll want a polarizing filter on the camera lens. If you're indoors, you won't need either of those attachments, but you'll have to find a room where the sound seems best to you. Folks here make videos in their kitchens a lot . But really, making the recording is the easy part. The tricky part is editing the recording prior to publishing it. But OTOH, that's not really a big deal, either, because the editing software that comes with modern cameras is pretty easy to use. Besides, you shouldn't be having to make any major changes. Just cutting off the ends where you're leaning over to turn the camera on and off, maybe increasing the volume of the sound track if you find it too quiet in places, etc. Where should I upload audios / videos to? concertina.net? YouTube? An online audio distribution web site like soundcloud.com? Flikr does a good job with pictures. It also does videos but I think specialized video-hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo make the videos more accessible. For PDF files, I recommend Dropbox. Don't put videos or sound files in Dropbox, however.
  10. Thanks. Do you see any obvious problems I need to correct before I enshrine them as muscle memory? Use a cattle prod to point them out . Hehehe, my mental image of concertinas is that, because of their portability, they were found in the hands of soldiers, sailors, pioneers, and travelling preachers in Wild West times. So they've always got a Sergio Leone background to them . Then there's the sound of them. To me, Anglos sound like accordions and ECs sound like harmonicas or saxes. I associate accordions with Cajun, Mexican, and Texas German/Bohemian music which typically have rather sanitized lyrics even when dealing with risqué subjects. OTOH, harmonicas are with the blues, prison songs, etc., and usually the lyrics are explicit, and saxes play pure sleaze
  11. Update #4: The test subject is making reasonably good progress so, like in Young Frankenstein, I took the Neanderthal out in public to gauge the reaction. While he made several mistakes both in playing and in his memorization of the tune, I think he did reasonably well. The audience neither ran away in terror nor attacked, but they did keep their pitchforks and torches ready just in case. All in all, not a bad show. The cat was glad to have the Neanderthal and his concertina out of the house, too. I wanted to show off my "progress" so here's my 1st recording of a concertina tune. It was a lovely afternoon and I don't think I totally ruined it with this squawking . If you see anything amiss other than just sheer newbishness, please be as harsh as possible. It's best to correct problems with the fundamentals up front rather than let them become bad habits. I've started to get blisters from the straps on the insides of my thumbs. While I'm waiting for them to become calluses, I've put some thin medical tape on them, which unfortunately makes them slippery. So, while I was playing, my thumbs were sliding out of the straps, which caused a few problems. https://youtu.be/8-IbL-DfjoU
  12. Aha, Chrome works for both quotes and pasting. Thanks. Although I hate Chrome......
  13. @StuartEstell So, the higher notes being quiter than the lower ones is normal? I was afraid I was doing something wrong .
  14. I'm accessing this forum from a Windows desktop and have 2 problems: 1. Can't Paste Anything Whether I try to paste the normal way using CTRL-C and CTRL-V, or whether I use the various "Paste From" buttons at the top of this window, nothing happens. As a result, I have to type everything in manually. 2. Can't Quote When I click on the quote button, the forum thinks for a little while (green bar at top with animated white dots), and then the reply window opens with no quote shown in it. Are these problems common to everybody? Do I just have to get through some newbie probationary period before these features start working? Or is there some setting I have to change to make them work? Thanks.
  15. Update #3: Today the Neanderthal spent his time refining his competence of tunes he'd already seen before, reaching the point where he could play, after a fashion and usually with many mispressed buttons, things like "Scotland the Brave" and "Atholl Highlanders" from memory. But the Neanderthal spent a lot of time tinkering with the guts of the concertina using borrowed metal tools because his own Chatelperronoian toolkit did not contain jeweler's screwdrivers. In the end, he reassembled the concertina in a different form than before and claimed it worked better for him than previously. Meanwhile, the cat spent most of the day at a vet that was open on Sunday, to be treated for severe respiratory congestion. Coincidence? ------------------------------------------------- While playing today, I noticed my Jackie had developed a rattle so I turned it end-over-end until a tiny hex nut fell out one of the sound holes. So then I inspected the box and discovered that the right thumb strap had beome rather loose. There was then nothing for it but to take the machine apart and put the nut back where it belonged. and mine was no different. However, what he didn't mention was that when you undo the 2 tiny screws that hold the reed/action assembly to the outer end cap, the buttons all want to come off their rockers and you'll have the Devils own time getting the end cap back on top of the buttons while all the bottons are still properly connected to their rockers. But the thumb straps and pinky rests are attached to the inner surfaces of the end caps so if you have a malfunction there, you've got to take the end cap off the action/reed assembly. Needless to say, I made sure ALL the thumb strap screws were good and tight while I had it open---I had to tighten most of them. So ye be warned----expect these to come apart. So, having disassembled the box to that point, I decided I might as well try moving the pinky rests while I had the opportunity. On the Jackie, the pinky rests are attached by 2 screws (with washers and nuts on the inside of the end cap above the action). What I did was to move the pinky rests back so that what had been the rear screw was now the front and only screw, and tighten it down at an angle to the button rows. I reinstalled the now-unused front screw in its hole both to prevent losing it and to stop that hole so as not to affect the instrument's sound. The result is shown in the attached pic. Note that I then had to take the left end apart to do the same modification there, and it was MUCH harder to put that end back together. The buttons have a tail that goes into a tiny hole drilled in the reed pan, and have a hole in their stems that the rocker arm goes into. On the left end, the rocker arms were so short that the buttons had a strong tendency to fall off them if you nudged the reed pan at all while trying to fit the end cap back over the buttons. It was a total pain, but I eventually got both ends back together. And it was all worth it. Now that I can get a proper grip on the box, the instrument is MUCH easier to play. It has broken in some, in that when I pick it up out of its bag it stretches a bit, but now I can actually work the bellows without needing to involve my ring finger in pushing and pulling, because my pinkies now sit comfortably on the rests and thus can assist my thumbs.
  16. @Jack Campin: Ah, the sadly sweet pentatonifc scales..... In a previous version of myself about 20 years ago, I was a blues guitarist. But even with pentatonics, you still have to follow the key or it sounds horrible, and I've come to believe that the key is just there for the benefit of the underlying mode, of which both blues composers and players are almost universally ignorant . I'm with you on the way that mode has nothing to do with the various pitches (=tones) used by a given tune. It just says where the half-steps fall in relation to the notes of melody. Mode is a melodic thing, so can be used with any given set of pitches, using any combination of white and black piano keys that result in the the half-tone steps being in the appropriate places for that mode. At least in Western music where octaves default to having 2 half-tone steps in them no matter what key they're in. I have less than zero knowledge of the parameters of the music of other ethicities. So it seems to me that if you define a scale based on anything Western, you're stuck with 2 half-tone steps which are a fixed distance apart, and can vary the pitch up or down as needed to make any of the modes with Greek names. Thus, it seems that the only way to get more than 7 modes is to define the scale differently. Which isn't conceptually that difficult given that it's just a question of units of measure, all of which are totally arbitrary.
  17. I'm finding this topic fascinating because I've never had to mess with modes at all prior to getting into concertinas in the last few days. Thanks for all the info. I think I'm beginning to understand the concept of how mode and key are related so now here's how it looks to me at present. Please bear in mind that I know essentionally nothing of musical theory, just the minimum needed for bare survival, so please correct me where I'm wrong. OK, here we go.... Mode seems mostly to describe what I call the "character" of the melody, i.e., where within the range of notes in the tune you find the 2 obligatory half-tone steps in Western octaves (I'm sure there's a technical term for this amongst music theoreticians). The position of the half-tone steps in relation to the lowest note of the melody can make the tune sound happy, sad, or whatever, or give it a stereotypical geographic or ethnic flavor. There seems to be a strong connection between mode and genre. So it seems to me that most (maybe all?) tunes will be in some mode or other, as a natural by-product of how Western octaves work, even if the author is completely ignorant of the whole mode concept and the mode is never specified on the sheet music. IOW, "mode" seems to be a descriptive term, a way of dividing tunes into groups simply on where their half-tones fall in relation to their lowest notes. But it has nothing to do with the specific tones used in the melody, which potentially could be anything so long as the relative positions of the half-tones are maintained. However, most musical instruments and human voices have limited ranges, and sometimes tune authors want melodies in a specific range of notes because they like/need that sound. So you have a tune, which has its (often unknown) mode encoded in it automatically by the "character" of the melody, and you want to write it within a certain range of tones. But in Western music, we're stuck with the half-tones defaulting to B/C and E/F. If these half-tones aren't in the correct position for the tune's (secret?) mode, then you have to add sharps and/or flats to move the half-tones to where they need to be to make the melody sound right. IOW, you have to specify a key that supports the underlying mode of the tune. So it seems to me that mode is a sort of fingerprint of a tune's tones relative to each other, and is a product of the authoring process, whether this is done deliberately or instinctively. If all you ever do is sing or hum the tune, then it's not tied to any specifc range of tones and so you can describe it simply by its mode. But when you write it down or play it on an instrument, you "open the box of Schroedinger's Cat" by pinning the melody down to a specific range of tones. Which means you now have to specify a key to preserve the tune's mode. Which means that key is not an independent variable, but is just explanatory informaton made necessary by constraining a given mode to a specific range of tones. If this is view is correct, then I can see why modes have disappeared from common knowledge. Over time, vast corpi of many genres of music have accumulated and most (all?) of them have some mode associaed with them. At the same time, most instruments have "favorite" keys, either because those are the only keys possible for them, or it's just physically easier to play those keys. So these days, if you want to write a certain genre of music for a given instrument, you tend to write it your "favorite" key, and because you're writing a specific genre in that key, the mode happens of its own, and it fits the key because the key was invented to allow that mode to be played within that range of tones. Then the sheet music gets distributed to people who only play tunes, not write them. The key signature tells the musician what note to play when to make the tune "sound right", which is all he cares about. Thus, even though the ancient mode is reverse-engeered by writing a specific genre in a specific key, neither author nor player need know it exists at all. How's that?
  18. @Defra: Thanks. For most folks, music is entertainment so I'm trying to keep in that spirit. Besides, it's easier to keep myself from becoming frustrated if can laugh at my difficulties . Now, I'm certainly no expert on concertina history, but according to the dubious source Wikipedia, the EC was patented in 1829 while Queen Victoria didn't begin her reign until 1837. So it seems to me the EC was originally intended for the more bawdy times prior to the Victorian Era .
  19. Update #2: The Neanderthal spent several periods of 1-2 hours each with breaks between practicing on the EC. He has moved from using tabs to reading the alien treble clef. He spent most of his time sight-reading new tunes and repeatedly practicing troublesome riffs. Surprisingly, he still cannot name a given note on the staff without pausing to recite a mnemonic device learned in his childhood. The cat is still suspicious of the concertina but curiosity is causing it to hang around more and more. ------------------ It's a strange thing and speaks to the genius of Wheatstone that I can actually do this. I never have understood the treble clef. I really don't associate a dot on the staff with a note name nor even a specific button. Instead, I can tell lines from spaces so I know which end to grope, I associate the dots with tones, and I can recognize intervals between dots. Then I just let my fingers do the walking. This is truly a brilliant invention. I stumble a lot, I can't play anything with any speed, and I'm still having trouble holding the thing, but I can actually play tunes and recognize them under all the mistakes and slow tempo. Without even having to think too much, the music just flows out almost by itself. The EC is an amazing creation. It allows even Neanderthals to pretend they can make music after only a couple of days. I'm surprised it ever went out of fashion. I suppose back in the day (and even now), they just can't make enough of them for them to become mainstream. I did find it a bit easier to keep a grip on the box today. I was even able to sit up straight without relying on gravity to keep the straps on my thumbs. Maybe that's developing the proper muscles, maybe the new concertina is starting to break in and become more flexible. In any case, it was much less of a struggle than before, although there's still a ways to go there.
  20. I don't see any Cajun music here so to give something back to this community for all the help I've already received, I figured I'd post some of my local musi, for variety. This is a VERY simplified version I worked up for what is currently considered the "Cajun national anthem", "The Back Door" by D.L. Menard (1962). Pretty much every band hereabouts plays this. It actually sounds fairly good on a concertina with accordon reeds . This is my 1st attempt to work out the .abc for any tune and I'm pretty deaf so what sounds right to me probably won't to you. Also, for some reason I can't paste text in here, nor insert the special characters required by the French language. So when you see `e in "arri`ere", it's actually supposed to be an e with a left-pointing accent on top. X:to taste T:The Back Door T:La porte en arri`ere C:D.L. Menard O:South Louisiana 1962 M:2/4 L:1/8 Q:120 Z:Bullethead K:G (although it might as well be C or some mode thing I don't understand) z G ED | B2 B2 | AG ED | B2 BG- | GG ED | B2 B2 | AG ED | B2 BG- | GG ED | c2 c2 | AG ED | c2 cA- | AG ED | B2 B2 | AG ED | B2 BG- | GG ED | B2 d2 | A4 | B2<d2 | B4- | BA GE | G3 B | dc BA | G z3 :|] And a video, complete with an English summary of the Cajun French (not to be confused with French from France) lyrics: https://youtu.be/AazJUQIEqNM
  21. No worries there, Les. I'm sure you'll hear more about how I'm doing than you want to
  22. Update #1 The Neanderthal test subject has, after a couple hours of effort, reached the point where he can play "London Bridge" from memory, hitting the correct buttons about 75% of the time and occasionally with legato all the way through. The Neanderthal reported that so far, he was finding that learning the EC wasn't as hard as learning to flintknap with the Levallois technique, which took him several years. However, the concertina practice was intensely unappreciated by a cat which had the misfortune to be shut up in the lab with the Neanderthal. The cat will not be included in future experiments. --------------------- Anyway, I seek advice on holding the box. I'm having trouble coming up with a technique that works for my Neanderthal hands. My wide palm won't fit in anything less than a size XL glove but my wrist-to-fingertip length falls in the range of size S. Thus, my hand doesn't fit the end of a concertina very well. The thumb strap and pinky rest are way too close together for me. Thus, I've had to improvise. The attached pic shows what I've come up with so far. I have the straps cinched up all the way so that I can only insert just the tip of my thumb, about to the quick of the nail. I insert my thumb with the nail to the box, which position allows my palm to arch up high enough above the buttons that my 3 middle fingers can angle in to the button rows, with the same sort of curve to them as used for a manual typewriter. The arch of the palm then brings my pinky in so that its tip just barely catches the rear corner of the rest. As you can see in the picture, however, I'll probably have to play the top row buttons near the strap with my middle finger. Often, the pinky is only touching the box at all when that end is pushing in, and my wrist is several inches off the surface, so the thumbs bear the whole weight. Which is OK because they're strong but because I'm essentially using the straps as thimbles, there's a tendency for the concertina to want to fall off my thumbs. So, my posture when sitting to play is leaning way back in my chair so I can rest a foot on the edge of a table with my knee up near eye level. Then, with the concertina on my knee, gravity keeps the straps on the ends of my thumbs. I haven't tried standing yet because I don't have a harness and I'm sure I'll drop the box if I don't have one. So, is there anybody else out there with retro-styled hands (or just big hands in general) who has come up with a better method? If so, please tell me. While my laid-back playing posture is actually quite comfortable, it does tend to limit me to playing only in places with the necessary furniture, and where house rules don't frown on feet on the table . In the alternative, I'm considering modifying the box. I'd move the pinky rest back and perhaps rotate it so the curved end points down somewhat. Also maybe moving the attachment point of the thumb strap up and back. But I'd rather not do that unless absolutely necessary. I'm no carpenter and besides, there are all the inner workings to worry about.
  23. Howdy All- I'm a complete and utter beginner with this whole concertina thing (totaly playing time so far about 1 hour) so I joined this forum to learn from you all. Glad to meet you all. I've got me a brand new Jackie and hope to get the barest rudiments of playing it down eventually I learn best via negative feedback and have the scars to prove it so please feel free to beat me about the head and shoulders when I need it. Which brings me to the "Neanderthal" part of the thread title. About 1/2 my bones are diagnostically Neanderthal according to paleoanthropologists and my brain seems to work the old way, too. Just as Uncle Neanderthal chipped his rocks the same way for a quarter million years, and was considered avante garde by Grandpa Erectus who was stuck in his ways for over 1 million years, I have neither imagination nor capacity for innovation. But I know a good idea when I see one.so slavishly copy the inventions of today's new-fangled H. sapiens in my crude, unskilled manner. You could classify me as a Chateperronian Neanderthal, I guess. I have a bit of history with musical instruments. I played trombone all through school (and haven't touched it since), taught myself a tiny bit of harmonica (but had severe problems with the inhale/exhale thing), utterly failed at the bagpipe due to being left-handed, and reached my Neanderthal physical finger and mental creativity limits with a Stratocaster, I have never been able to make sense out of a piano and have a 1-(MIDI)-track mind anyway. But I can type 60 words per minute, learned on a manual typewriter. Thus, of all types of concertina, I seem most suited to the English, so I'm going to give that a go. Anyway, I look forward to this adventure and hoipe to learn much from you all.
  24. @Daddy Long Les Just wanted to say thanks for all your videos and tabs. I'm just starting with EC myself and am finding your information quite useful. I've been making myself tabs following your system and it's taught me not only the buttons but also how to read the treble clef (I grew up playing trombone so only messed with bass clef). And along the way I've also learned how to read and edit .abc files, to get from them to sheet music and from that to your tab format. All this knowledge gained in the week between deciding to buy a Jackie and waiting for it to arrive. I feel this has given me a bit of a head start with it. So thanks again.
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