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Posts posted by MJGray

  1. I've gotten a ton of mileage out of Gary Coover's books, and I like the structure of "1-2-3" a lot. That being said, I certainly didn't learn all of the 1- and 2-row tunes before moving on to 3-row ones, and have now largely abandoned that book in favor of his "Harmonic Style", which focuses on playing both melody and accompaniment at the same time, (what I like best about the anglo). The books are tools. I dare say that however you use them to accomplish your goals is fine.


    (My experience with music tutorial books - guitar, banjo, now concertina - has been that I get the most use out of the first half or so, which teach the fundamental techniques. It's a very rare tutorial where I've actually worked through it cover to cover. My goal is more to learn the most useful basics so that I can then spend my own time playing around with them.)


    Have fun!



  2. Ron,


    As a fellow long-time guitar player and new concertina guy, I had much the same problem trying to translate what I know about chordal accompaniment on string instruments to the concertina. It just doesn't work very well, and that push-pull dynamic really is a big issue. What's helped me is that I've realized is that you simply can't hold down a chord shape on the concertina for any length of time. It's all rhythmic pulsing, even if you're using the exact same chord shape.


    In fact, the shorter I go with sounding individual chords, the better it seems to sound, especially against a melody line in the right hand. That might have to do with the fact you (or at least I) can't really separate the volume of what each hand is playing, so keeping the accompaniment notes short compared to the melody notes helps keep the melody from getting overwhelmed. (I feel like maybe I read that on this site somewhere, actually.)


    Now what I haven't figured out is how to accompany myself singing on the concertina, although I know there are plenty of folks on here who have that pretty well mastered. Luckily, I have a guitar for that, so it's not the highest thing on my priority list...


    Hope that's slightly helpful.



  3. Fair enough. That was a clumsy way to say what I meant, which is more like: If you enjoy doing something, you'll spend more time doing it, and therefore you will inevitably get better at it. (With the corollary that spending time doing things you don't enjoy is less fun, and therefore you are less likely to want to do it.) Being "good" seems to me to be largely not about how many years you've been playing, but how much time playing you've spent during those years. But that's true of everything. (It's also kind of a value judgement, which I want to avoid. "Good enough" is also OK!)


    Obviously for any particular activity, there are specific skills and knowledge that are essential to performing that activity. Everything is more complicated when you dig down into it far enough. And that can be a lot of fun, too.



  4. Adrian,


    Again, if my goal was to become an expert in the shortest possible time, no doubt you are right. That is not my goal. My goal is to have fun playing music. I don't think scales and exercises are fun. Therefore, I don't do them, because they are diametrically opposite to what I'm trying to achieve. I'm not trying to "reduce the hours I put in." I like the hours I put in. That's the whole point.


    On the other hand, the specifics of what you're proposing are somewhat different, and I certainly will play through unfamiliar passages or new tunes endlessly until I get them "right" (or as right as I feel up to in the moment). That seems to me to be a different thing. Shrug. Perhaps we're talking past each other. All I wanted to do was provide an alternative perspective, and let the OP know that there's no need to practice scales if you don't want to. You can just play music and have a good time, and that's enough for some of us.


    If I wanted to take myself seriously all the time, I'd play the bassoon. ;-)

  5. And if that's what's fun to you, by all means! I do not mean to make any judgement either way, just to let the OP know he or she is not alone.


    And now I'm going to go and play for a while. Perhaps I'll even run a few scales up and down, just to see how I feel about it. :-)



  6. Interesting insights, folks.


    Perhaps an alternative perspective: I am like the original poster. I have never found scales all that helpful, and get much more value out of practicing tunes. I think this is mostly because scales bore the pants off of me, and I have very little patience for doing things that are boring in my "hobby" time. I'll happily sit and noodle around with tunes for an hour, but 5 minutes of scales makes me want to stab myself in the leg with a fork. And learning to play an instrument really is about putting in the hours, more than anything.


    All of things everyone says above about the value of playing scales are no doubt true, but if they're not fun, what's the point? I, at least, have no intention of becoming a professional musician. I do this for my own amusement. :-)



  7. Still very much a beginner, but things that have helped my playing:


    1. Learn to play a melody in octaves on both sides of the instrument, both along the row and across them. Not only does it get both hands working, but it sounds surprisingly good, both for entire tunes and for occasional embellishments.


    2. Learn to separate the rhythms on the left and right hands, so you are not always playing in unison. Merrill's Harmonic Method (available on archive.org) has some great beginner-level exercises for this.


    3. When playing in C, the E/F button under your left middle finger almost always harmonizes nicely. :-)


    (I am aware that 1 and 2 are kind of contradictory, but being able to play both in unison and not has made my playing much more flexible and interesting.)

  8. It's a long time ago, but I remember the same problem with jigs.


    My solution was a very simple exercise.


    Assuming you have a CG box:


    On the right hand, play the notes CDE CDE CDE CDE repeatedly in triplets. It helps to play it slightly accented, with more emphasis on the C.


    Now bring in the left hand:


    Play low C in time with the C of the triplets. ("Oom") Use the left little finger.on button 1.


    Play EG with your first two fingers of your left hand, buttons 4 and 5, in time with the E of the triplet. ("Pah")


    So on the right hand, you have "DI du lee, DI du lee" etc. and on the left hand you have "Oom (and) Pah, Oom (and) Pah" etc.


    When that starts to work, develop the right hand into CDE EDC, CDE EDC etc.


    This gives you the basic timing and coordination without the confusion of (a) playing a full melody and ( B) having to keep changing chords to fit the melody.


    Once you have the timing, it will be much easier to start to use the 3 chord trick with simple jigs. After that, there is a whole world of more interesting things to do, but you need to get this basic thing right first.


    Good luck.


    Thank you! This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Much appreciated.


    I'll give this a shot and report back.




    EDIT: That did the trick! Once I found the feel for the bounce in the left hand, it falls into place. Knowing how it's supposed to be counted did wonders. Thanks for the tips!


    As a side note, I'm finding the rhythmic separation of left and right hands to be the most challenging and interesting part of learning the Anglo. I'm coming from a background string instruments where the two hands are almost completely dependent on each other, so this is definitely laying down some new neural connections for me. Tons of fun.

  9. This may be a specific question for Gary Coover (I know you're out there), but I am entirely open to suggestions from anyone.


    I've been working my way through "Anglo 1-2-3" and "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style", and am entirely befuddled by the way those books add accompaniment to jigs. It's written as a more or less "oom-pah" 1, 2 kind of beat, but laid underneath the triplets of jig time. I'm a more kinesthetic learner, so not even listening to it played (see video here for "The Beaver", from the second of those books) is helping me much, although I have a vague idea that maybe the "oom" is 2 eighth notes and the "pah" is the third of each triplet. I am struggling mightily to replicate what's going on with the left hand there.


    Does anyone have any helpful tips for how I can teach my left hand the feel for this rhythmic accompaniment? I'm doing reasonably well with left hand chords in 4/4 and 3/4, but since "The Beaver" is only the fourth tune in the book, I feel like maybe I'm missing something fundamental...


    (Heck, any exercises or tips people have found useful for training their right and left hands to play distinct rhythmic parts on the Anglo would be very welcome, no matter what the time signature!)


    Thanks in advance,



  10. For the Anglo, Gary Coover's method is really good and easy to follow. I also like the method used in Merrill's "Harmonic Method" (linked here), which just puts a "v" over notes to be played on the push. No symbol means pull. (And only a little mental gymnastics needed when switching from one book to the other... :-) )


    Since there are only two choices, only marking one direction prevents a lot of clutter on the staff. Not much help if you need a third symbol for "whichever direction you like", though...

  11. 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. :-)





    it's easy for me to know, for example, how "Yankee Doodle" is supposed to sound, even if it's a little corny.


    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.



  13. Thanks Mike


    I will check it out. trying to work with Alan Days site now. Do you find it better if you know how the song goes first? How do you go about hearing them? Can you suggest a song title or two that you find good to play? Thanks again Ron


    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.

  14. 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):




    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:




    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!



  15. 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.)

  16. 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.



  17. I'd like to put in a good word for H.T. Merrill's 1872 "Harmonic Method for the Concertina", found here:




    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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