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  1. @Notemaker I can see where you're coming from - the simplicity of learning the basic tune, then leaving it up to you to embellish, as opposed to being "locked into" a particular teacher's style. However, here are a couple of thoughts worth considering. You mentioned you grew up in an immigrant Irish community and heard/ learned the music as a child. This immediately puts you at an advantage above the typical adult beginner who is picking up the instrument late in life. The typical late learner may not even have had a wide exposure to the genre to even get a feel for what embellishments are common and how they're used - certainly not to the same extent as a child absorbing the music in his/her environment. So, extra guidance is welcomed on how to do ornamentation, how much, and where to insert it. What seems obvious to you isn't obvious to another. So yes, learning 1 tune in the teacher's style is likely to lock the player into doing it in the same way - but - the overall goal is to train the player in how to do the embellishment so for other tunes learned independently, the player can embellish in any way that pleases him or her.
  2. I own a used Minstrel and it's a good fit for women's hands as the distance from the hand straps bit to the buttons isn't a big stretch. Some other models eg Norman do have a wider distance there. If you have long fingers, this is something to think about. The Minstrel is comfortable to play, responsive enough for an advanced beginner/intermediate player but there are other models that are more responsive. I recently held a Phoenix and it had a smoother, sleeker button profile and the responsiveness of the buttons seemed to be a tiny bit faster. The sizing of the gap between hand straps and buttons was similar to the Minstrel, so maybe not for someone with long fingers. While I only held the Phoenix for 5 mins, it seems to be a nice instrument with easy bellows.
  3. I attended a workshop taught by Niamh Ni Charra last year and she stressed the importance of taking care of your hands, wrists and arms. We went through simple massage techniques to relieve tension.
  4. I find bellow rolls on the LH side much easier to do than on the RH. Silver Spear & Dinkey's are 2 such egs of reels where a bellows roll can be done in the LH side easily. My RH side bellows rolls are weak and need work. I follow Caitlin's teaching - the roll is for 3 of the same notes: play the note once, then a quick jerk of the bellows to make the note sound again, then release and tap the note again for the 3rd note. Caitlin's arrangement of Silver Spear also has these short bellow rolls played in the RH in the B part and I find these ones much more tricky to pull off - my bellows jerk there is not very convincing. But when you get these rolls right and the tune is playing at a good speed it does make a good pulsing rhythm (achievable even for a very average player like myself). Playing a triplet of the same note in a staccato fashion by using different fingers is my current challenge. I find the terminology for ornamentation in Irish music confusing as it seems to differ between players with no standard names agreed upon - I don't understand the difference between a cran or a long roll, or a cut and a grace note for eg.
  5. I live in Texas & would be interested in attending a workshop in June.
  6. what great advice given in this thread! My only 2 cents would be when it comes to training your ear to pick up tunes, don't just confine it to music practice focused on learning a selected tune you want to add to your repertoire. Find tunes on youtube or from mp3's you have downloaded, slow them down a bit and try to play the melody - a phrase here and there etc. These tunes can be anything you've heard before. This is noodling around - playing for fun - and not seriously trying to learn a tune so you are putting no expectations on yourself to learn that tune, but you are still building up the skills of learning to play by ear and recognizing musical patterns.
  7. If it's a session you attend frequently figure out the better places to sit in the room and who not to sit next to. I've found being near a wall is helpful. Like you, sometimes I can't hear myself - a sign I'm playing the notes correctly but it's disconcerting as I rely on the instant aural feedback as I play. I also play in an old time band and sometimes in our performances I can barely hear myself - I take absence of hearing me as a good thing and a sudden note popping out as usually a bad thing. And yeah, don't sit next to a fiddle player - especially one that is a beginner and likes to play notes in the scale as something to do as they can't keep up with the melody - it's hugely distracting. Even sitting next to another concertina player is distracting for me as usually the versions we have learned are not exactly the same.
  8. If you are right handed, then the left hand will be hard to get the hang of as it's the weaker hand. Play the left hand only many times until you are more confident. Count out loud 1-2-3-4 to get the oom-pah rhythm going. When it comes to putting the 2 hands together, don't try and get through the entire tune, break it into sections. eg, the pick up and then 2 measures. Then move onto the next 2 measures (which completes the melody phrase). Then just work on that phrase. In this way you'll learn the muscle memory for coordinating both hands.
  9. I second the Edinburgh University's music theory course as a self-paced course. For learning and memorizing tunes I also recommend Brainjo - Josh Turknett is a neurologist who also took up banjo while a medical student and became fascinated with how we learn music. All the advice about playing in different environments is spot on - you have to get past the distraction of strange environments - other people, noises etc. Someone coming into the room while you are playing is the distraction. Playing in a park will be a challenge due to being outside your home, and random people around etc, but over time it becomes a little easier and less distracting. But you also need to encourage automacity to happen- (internet definition below) "Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice." Using a metronome while learning a tune will tell you if you're reaching the stage of automacity or not. If you can focus on the sound of the metronome and successfully play the tune, you've hit automacity. If you have any hesitancy in your playing, you're not there yet. So don't wait to use a metronome until you've got it perfectly memorized and just want to increase speed - start using it earlier. I recommend reading through his series called "The Immutable Laws of Banjo". The earlier chapters are especially helpful. Scroll down to bottom of the page for the table of contents for each chapter. https://www.banjohangout.org/blog/35794 Also, freebie ebook here (tho I haven't read it, as I just read the online content): https://clawhammerbanjo.net/smartpractice/
  10. Gentry, I don't know how far north you live in the DFW are, but in Mansfield there is a monthly slow-ish session for Irish music, held the 3rd Friday of each month in the evening 5-7pm at Dirty Jobs Brewing. (10/15/21 - is this month's session date.) There can be up to 3 concertina players who attend. Send me a message for details. I know someone who attends regularly has a Rochelle that he no longer uses and he probably would let you try it out at the session for you to get a feel. You're also welcome to try out mine - I have a Minstrel. I was thinking of a Wren last year and decided the Minstrel was a better buy. I've not played a Wren but I'm happy with my Minstrel and it will take a long time for me to outgrow it.
  11. Hi Gentry, there is a concertina maker in the DFW area, Seth Harmon. His concertinas are not in the beginner budget price range though, but something to aspire to. Where abouts in Texas are you? There's a handful of concertina players in the DFW metroplex. Are you familiar with the Old Pal festival held in Palestine each year around Easter? It's an old time acoustic music festival (concerts, workshops, jams) with a concertina component. It is going to be held next year - and you should definitely attend. See Dan Worral's posts in this forum for more info and get onto his email list.
  12. I bought a used Minstrel through the Button Box & I'm happy with it. Being female I have smaller hands and had found the Rochelle too big for me and cumbersome. Bellows are easier to manipulate than say a Stagi, but still a little on the stiff side - the only other one I have to compare is a Herrington that has easier bellows. The buttons are smaller and aren't as high (sticking up height) as others. This may make it a little more tricky for larger fingers. Whenever I try to play another person's concertina, this is what's most obvious to me. As for action, it seems fine to me and I can do ornamentation (beginner level rolls/triplets/cuts) without problem. I'd say that when trying to go fast I've noticed the notes get clipped & don't sound fully - a partial skipping sound. That's me really pushing the speed though for me and not playing realistically at my skill level. For moderately lively pace it seems to play fine, going faster is probably a lot to do with my level & not the mechanics alone.
  13. I can add my 2 cents worth as I started on G/D. I bought a concertina on Ebay and discovered it was a G/D. I enjoy the chording harmonic style but also wanted to play Irish trad. I discovered some Irish tunes can be played and some not as well. You'll end up doing a lot more fingering on one side than the other, meaning everything is mostly happening on the right hand side, with only an occasional dip to a note on the left hand side. I used to try and figure out how to involve the left hand more as I didn't want the choppy in-out bellowing all the time. (Just my preference) I was deliberately trying to play cross rows as much as I could even though some tunes automatically fall along the rows. Last year I bought a C/G and started over from scratch learning on that. While I've learned brand new tunes on the C/G I have transferred over a few Irish tunes from the G/D. Some proved to be easier on the C/G than the G/D. EG, I could never get the hang of Off to California or The Butterfly on G/D, but they were easy tunes to learn on C/G.
  14. Apologies, the link I provided is to his subscription course - which only whets your appetite of course unless you play a secondary instrument - fiddle or banjo. This is the better link- it breaks down his theory of learning to be a musician into digestible chunks. https://clawhammerbanjo.net/the-immutable-laws-of-brainjo-deconstructing-the-art-and-science-of-practice/ Index to all the lessons: https://www.banjohangout.org/blog/36259
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