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MJGray

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Everything posted by MJGray

  1. John, I think that's a useful perspective. I've thought for a while that each musical instrument (or tuning) is designed to make something easy, generally at the cost of making something else hard. For string instruments I know something about, guitar in standard tuning is remarkable at allowing rich accompaniments in multiple keys in first position, fiddle / mandolin tuning in fifths puts all the notes for most melodies right under your fingers in a predictable pattern, and clawhammer banjo builds a powerful rhythmic background right into every tune. Each of those instruments can do lots of other things, of course, but those are what they seem built to do. In my novice hands, the Anglo concertina seems designed to make harmony easy in the home keys. Initially finding the melody is not intuitive until you really wrap your head around the push-pull scale and figure out the zigs and zags where the scales aren't linear, but once you do find that tune, harmonizing is usually as easy as hitting a button or two in the same row somewhere. There's great enjoyment to be had in pushing any of those instruments past what's easy, of course, but I don't have any problem playing to the strengths of the instrument in my hands. Of course, I have the most fun with any art in the fast-learning beginner to intermediate stage and am not all that excited about "mastery", either, so your mileage may vary. :-) Mike
  2. A corny tune is still a tune, and learning to play it will make the next tune - which may be a little less corny - easier to learn. You'll be surprised how many tunes use the same little melodic phrases and chord sequences, especially in a folk context. Surely everybody knows lots of tunes before starting to learn an instrument. There are the nursery rhymes you heard over and over as a child, and if you're any way Christian (or at least attended church with your family), there'll be hymn tunes that you can hum or whistle. And I learnt a lot of folk tunes in music lessons at primary school - but then, that was in Scotland, where folk music is part of the national culture, because it differentiates them from England - your mileage in America may vary. Ha! Thanks, John. I guess all those variations on "Oh, Susannah" might end up serving me well after all. :-) A really high proportion of the tunes in the concertina tutors from the 1800's do seem to be hymns of one sort or another, which don't do me a lot of good, but I suppose it says something about what the instruments were used for back then. Between Howe and Merrill (the American 19th century tutors I've found) it seems to break down about 1/3 hymns, 1/3 patriotic songs, and 1/3 comic dance hall numbers, with a smattering of marches and "German" waltzes for flavor. Quite a different repertoire than the "modern" English and Irish styles. Regardless, lots of fun to be had all around. A little corniness never hurt anyone. Mike
  3. I generally search YouTube or Spotify for the tunes to try to get a sense for how they go and what tempo I should be aiming for, yeah. Usually you can find different versions, especially with the folkier tunes. Gary Coover has videos of all of his arrangements online here, which is super helpful. I have downloaded Mr. Day's tutorial, but haven't done much with it. I'm a very visual/kinesthetic learner, so I'm a lot slower to pick up tunes from an audio format. As far as tunes go, I'm not very good yet, so I've been playing a lot of very simple tunes and trying to add little bits of accompaniment and variation. That Australian tunebook is great for that, since a lot of the tunes are pretty straightforward. "Springtime Brings On The Shearing" or the "Mudgee Waltz" are sweet little tunes and leave a lot of space to play around with adding chords or octaves, etc. Elias Howe's book has a lot of old American standards, so it's easy for me to know, for example, how "Yankee Doodle" is supposed to sound, even if it's a little corny.
  4. Gary Coover's books are top-notch. I've been getting an awful lot of mileage out of his "Anglo 1-2-3", and am slowly becoming dexterous enough to attempt the early bits of his "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style", which is considerably more advanced. As far as free resources on the internet go, I've had a lot of fun with the Australian tunes at this link (plenty of jigs and waltzes): http://www.bushtraditions.org/tutors/tunelist.htm And if you want to dive straight back to the origins of the beast, check out Elias Howe's 1879 "Western German Concertina School", downloadable here: https://archive.org/details/imslp-western-german-concertina-school-howe-elias There are plenty of good online tutorials for Irish-style concertina playing, too, although they're often on fairly advanced topics (at least for me) and I am still flustered by the key of D (curse you, C#). The Online Academy of Irish Music (www.oaim.ie) has several series of video lessons. I haven't paid for any of them, but the free samples you can find on YouTube are solid. Good luck, and have fun! Mike
  5. That is really excellent. Thanks for posting it. (I saw Mike Agranoff perform in Ithaca, NY some 18 or 19 years ago, and haven't thought about him in ages. Great to see that he's still going strong. The show was in a beautiful old church-like building, and during the break he gathered the audience in the antechamber [nave? I don't know my church architecture] to all sing together, Pete Seeger-style. The acoustics were wonderful, and it was a lovely experience. I know he did one or two numbers on the concertina, but I don't recall what they were now.)
  6. I had the same issue, but I think all (most?) higher-quality concertinas have closer button spacing, if only to squeeze 30 buttons onto a smaller instrument. There's an left hand F chord on the pull that I can hit on the D40 but which I can't contort my fingers for on my Clover. I've been leaving out one note and it sounds fine. For single notes it just took a couple of days to get used to. Mike
  7. I'd like to put in a good word for H.T. Merrill's 1872 "Harmonic Method for the Concertina", found here: https://archive.org/details/merrillsharmonic00merr I found this a couple of weeks ago, and as a beginner, it's done wonders for my left hand dexterity. The first half of the book is a "musical catechism", which is hilarious, but not very useful. The next section of "Exercises" is gold, though. It builds up a lot of very rich accompaniment in a very straightforward, along-the-row style. The tunes are also fun. A lot of overlap with material in Howe's 1879 tutors, but much richer arrangements.
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