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Posts posted by MJGray

  1. 53 minutes ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:


    Agreed, but what you are describing is a choice of an instrument type, while I'm talking about the limitations imposed by the instrument model. I'm perfectly aware, that I can't ever pull off, e.g. a glissando on a Hayden, or that Arvo Part's Alina is not something that would sound properly on a free reed instrument. But duet concertina that lacks the ability to perform proper duet arrangements, and this is largely the case with any of the offerings from Concertina Connection, is not something I can find an excuse for. 


    Ah, I see. Yes, fair enough. 👍

    • Like 1
  2. 8 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

    ...this is however a very backwards approach to being a musician if your repertoire is dictated by the instrument instead your taste in music and inner desires.


    Well, to an extent, but every choice of instrument is also a choice of repertoire, and a musician's choice of instrument does reflect that taste and inner desire. A piano is not a sitar is not a kora is not an shamisen, etc. etc. I pick up the banjo for a very different set of tunes than I pick up the concertina, and those are both pretty solidly set in Western musical traditions.


    I honestly don't think it's a weakness of an instrument to be better at some things than others. Genuine virtuosos can transcend those limitations, but each instrument has strengths that lend themselves to particular kinds of music.


    So I suppose my answer to the OP's question is "I don't", and will either transpose into a key that works or play a different instrument better suited to that particular tune. I make no pretensions of virtuosity, though 🙂

    • Like 1
  3. Sadly, I've never known any substitute for repetition for instilling muscle memory. However, a little research suggests that there are ways to do a better job, largely by careful structuring of those repetitions. A couple of interesting links that have me thinking about ways I can improve my own practice:





    • Like 1
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  4. 2 hours ago, Steve Schulteis said:

    Ok, this totally nerd-sniped me. Here's the Ma Normandie arrangement from above rendered in my proposed minimalist system (I probably made some mistakes, let me know if you find them). For noteheads, I left the C row standard, and the G row uses a down-arrow, since I think about the G row as being below the C row. For a 30-button, the accidental/bonus row could use an up-arrow notehead. I didn't do anything extra to indicate which hand a note is on - I found that in this case doing so was more confusing.


    I haven't spent much time playing from this yet, but my initial impression is that it might be workable.

    Well, that's very interesting. I like it. I would probably add some button numbers, but it didn't occur to me to change the shape of the note heads. That would make it so you only needed numbers 1 - 5, even for a 3-row instrument.


    Just what we needed: another tablature system! 🙂

  5. Me too! The "notated clearly" is definitely a key part. There have been some real historical failures on that front. I've been digging through more old books, and Carlo Minasi (https://archive.org/details/imslp-book-for-the-use-of-learners-of-the-german-concertina-minasi-carlo/page/n19/mode/2up), while I'm sure he was an upstanding musician, used a truly baffling system of notation:




    Here you can see not only the cluttering problem and the utter failure of "p" and "d" as useful bellows direction indicators, but a weird sort of cross-hair to indicate when he thinks you should use the air valve and (worst of all, in my mind) using the numbers 1 - 5 for the buttons on each row, with an open circle (the same size as a note!) to indicate notes played on the G row. Oof.


    I guess the other thread has made clear that what's "intuitive" for different people is very different, but I like that this conversation is maybe helping to establish some kind of "best practices" in the community as it exists now.


    I'm starting to realize that clarifying what, exactly, people want out of tablature is also important. It seems like Roger is most interested in translating dots / ABC into tablature to more quickly be able to play new melodies, and has built an amazing tool to do that, while your goal seems to be documenting the details of a specific arrangement.  Both excellent goals, but ones that require different approaches!


    - Mike

    • Like 2
  6. 41 minutes ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

    I do a lot of harmonic stuff where there can be a variety of different accompaniment styles going on within a piece. As a result it’s important for me to show exactly what’s going on in both hands.  So I do something very like the first examples - both hands shown on the stave (on the same stave so far, although I can agree it can occasionally look busy or overwhelming).  The difference is I use the same way of indicating bellows direction (and any fingering necessary - I don’t indicate everything) as Gary Coover 

    Interesting! Would you be willing to share an example so we can see how it looks?

    • Like 1
  7. Interesting! By ABT, I presume you mean Australian Bush Traditions? I like that site a lot, and can definitely see the advantages of the system, although the symmetrical button numbering throws me off every time. Lower numbers = lower notes makes more sense in my head.


    Thank you for including the ABC code, too. Being able to encode tabs that way is huge!


    EDIT: Do you have any way to include harmonic accompaniment, or is that just something you don't worry about?

  8. 1 hour ago, Steve Schulteis said:

    I use Gary Coover's tabs, at this point mostly to remind myself of how I played a particular piece in the past, as well as to share that information with others. I hardly think it's a perfect system, but one thing I like about it (and that is common to many other systems) is that it indicates which hand plays a particular button with position rather than another symbol. I think it would be interesting to further explore the idea of expressing tabs with fewer symbols and to introduce more spatially mappable representations as well.


    The other thing I really like about Coover's system is that a decent collection of tunes in various styles are available in it. This means it's attractive for beginners to learn, and its popularity/familiarity makes it a good tool for communicating.

    Agreed! I think your second point is particularly important, and is probably leading the community towards it as a kind of standard.

    • Like 1
  9. Another thread has revealed unexpectedly (to me, anyway) strong feelings about the many different extant tablature systems for the Anglo concertina. There's clearly some space here for an interesting conversation. I'm branching off this thread as a place for folks to talk about what tablature system(s) they like, and perhaps more importantly, why. Perhaps we can come together and share the positives of the different tools available for learning this goofy little instrument, and maybe we'll all learn something new!


    I'll start, with a perennial offbeat favorite of mine: Merrill's Harmonic Method for the German Concertina (1846), which is a very early example of a tablature system designed for an instrument which had only been invented a decade or so before. In this system, the keys are numbered 1 - 5 for the upper row (the C row) and and 6 - 10 for the lower row (the G row) for each hand, with lower numbers corresponding to the lower notes in each row. A downward-pointing > indicates notes played on the press.




    So far, nothing too exotic, but what I genuinely like about the tablature in this book is that it is the only system I am aware of that presents harmonic arrangements in which all of the notes are shown. Sometimes on the same staff, as in this simple arrangement of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (where it gets pretty cluttered):




    But for most of the tunes in the book, on upper and lower staves indicating the left and right hands, respectively. Note that the numbers are only put next to notes that have changed from the previous note or measure:




    I find this remarkably clear, it makes an easy-to-see connection between the notes in standard notation and their fingerings, and it's the only tablature system I've run across that I can come close to "sight-reading", although it's not that close. (I'm not that good a musician, really. I have fun, though!)


    The downsides, of course, are that no one else has used this system in the last 175 years, it takes up a lot of space on the page, and it would have to be modified to represent arrangements for a  30- (or more!)-key Anglo. It also can't be represented easily in digital / pure text format, which I know is important for many people.


    If you use tablature, what system do you use, and what do you like most about it?

  10. Friend, no one is attacking you. We just disagree with you. We don't think the system you describe would be any more "intuitive" than what we already use, for us. I 100% don't want to be thinking about coordinate systems while I try to play a tune. My brain simply doesn't work that way. Sorry.


    If anything is clear from the discussion above, it's that what's "counter-intuitive" is different for everyone. Current tab systems are absolutely imperfect, but writing down music is fundamentally an impossible problem*. People have been coming up with ways to try for literally thousands of years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_notation), but even the best are no more than imperfect mnemonics.


    In the end, tab is just a tool to allow you to figure out how to get a piece of music to come through your fingers and the funny little squeezebox in your hands into the air and people's ears. If the tools that exist aren't working for you, that's fine, don't use them. If you don't like flat-head screwdrivers, use Phillip's head, or a hex wrench, or Robertson, but in the end, the goal is the same and the tool doesn't really matter all that much. And if you're the kind of person who enjoys making new tools, that's great! We look forward to seeing what you come up with, but we don't promise to sell all of the screwdrivers we've been happily muddling along with for all these years.


    What are your goals? Would you have an easier time learning from an in-person teacher or someone whose hands you can watch as they play? There are excellent video lessons available, and probably people who teach remotely, if there's no one in your area.


    * In the same way that writing down spoken language accurately is also impossible, but that's a different discussion for a different message board. 🙂

  11. 23 hours ago, lachenal74693 said:

    [2] Ah, there ya go - I don't like it - partly because it's 'consistent with that found in the historical tutors',

    (which I find really counter-intuitive). This just goes to emphasise what some-one already said - this

    business is largely a matter of 'different strokes  for different folks'...

    Indeed. I'm the kind of weirdo who thinks it's fun to try to replicate what was going on with the instrument when it was invented, so that's useful to me.


    I guess the end goal for all of us is to be able to turn music on a page into music in your ears, so the system that is the shortest path to that is what we should use. Is the best way to do that the same for everyone? Clearly not, based on this thread. Honestly, "translating" tab from one system to another is not a bad exercise, and has helped me figure out tunes now and then.

  12. I agree with much of what people have said above, although I can't say that the top/bottom row confusion ever occurred to me as an issue. Maybe because, as Howard says above, if you set your fingers on the table as though the concertina was unfolded in front of you, they sit neatly on the diagram. The problem is that inventing a new tab system only makes the problem worse, of course...


    I like the button numbering that Gary Coover uses, if only because it's consistent with that found in the historical tutors, but encoding 3 variables (hand, button, direction) in a single value is always going to be kind of a tricky problem, especially if you're limited in your typesetting technology. The historical tutors wouldn't have been able to get special type cast, most likely, and many of us would like to have ASCII / text-only representations. Gary's line above to indicate a pull, for example, is difficult to reproduce digitally with common software.

  13. 1 hour ago, John Wild said:

    At the beginning, try playing sitting with one end resting on one knee.  Experiment with which knee and which end suits you. Later when you have some expreience you may revisit playing standing if you wish. Many players, even with experience, always play seated with one end on a knee.

    Agreed! I always anchor the left end of the concertina on my left knee and only move the right end. This helps a lot with exactly the problem you mention.

    • Like 1
  14. Accompanying singing on the Anglo is an art I have not mastered myself (coordinating the bellows and my lungs independently is a challenge), so hopefully someone more expert in the art will chime in. However, both the F and G left hand chords can be done quite nicely on the pull, which may help you out some here. (Buttons 1a-4-5 and 1-2-3, respectively.)(Edit: There’s an Am on the pull, too, although it’s a little high: 8-9-10)


    It may also be useful to think about how many buttons you need to be pressing at any time and for how long. Brief pulses or oom-pah patterns take less air than held notes. Two notes can suggest a chord effectively.


    I like the sound of playing the melody without ornaments in octaves under a voice line, but that may be a slightly unfashionable opinion (and avoids your actual question).

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