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Everything posted by Mjolnir

  1. My obsession in life is contra dancing. I dance, I call, I organize events. Playing music was the only aspect I was missing, but I wasn't entirely confident that I had the dedication to try picking up fiddle as an adult. A concertina seemed like a nice alternative. Something that I could just pick up and play. Maybe not play well at first, but at least play in tune, and without sounding like a dying cat. I love that it's an instrument that I can just keep by my couch, and start playing whenever the mood strikes. No assembly, no tuning, and no swabbing out spit.
  2. When I upgraded from a Rochelle, I think the most immediate difference I felt was the lack of resistance. With the Rochelle, I did feel like I was having to push and pull the ends to get a sound. In comparison to that, the more expensive instrument practically felt like it had no bellows at all, and I was playing "air concertina" - it was just that smooth. I think part of that was that the Rochelle is a bit bulky - 7 1/2 inches across rather than the more usual 6 1/2 - and I think part of it is the cheaper bellows.
  3. If you're in the SF area, Smythe's Accordion Center in Oakland should have a Rochelle you can try out. It's a pretty good instrument for the price, and if you ever decide to upgrade further, I believe Concertina Connection, who makes them, has a trade-in policy.
  4. I've had it for around four years, and no real quality issues in that time (though it doesn't get much use these days since I upgraded). There's maybe a note or two that sounds a little raspy, but if you're not listening for it, you probably wouldn't notice.
  5. I can't speak to the Weltmeister, but the Rochelle is a great instrument. Now the reasonable price does come at a cost. It's kinda bulky, the bellows are stiff, and the tone is nothing special. If you compare it to a $1500+ instrument, it's going to feel a bit like a toy. But that's in comparison. If you don't know what it's like to play on the expensive instrument, then you find you don't notice the bulk and the stiffness of the Rochelle after awhile. You start accounting for it automatically, and you can play fast jigs and reels along with the best of them. And it is nice to have the full 30 keys - it opens up a lot in terms of the tunes you can play, and the chords you can add.
  6. I think a lot of the joy of the Anglo is in using it to play tunes it wasn't even remotely designed to play. Even Irish music isn't really what it's "for" - that's just what people use it for because once upon a time, it was a cheap and plentiful instrument, and now it's "traditional". So now you've got a bunch of people using a diatonic instrument in C and G to play fiddle tunes in D and A. It's absurd, but that's just a part of the fun. It's chromatic for enough of a range that you can play all manner of things - sometimes you just have to be a bit clever about it.
  7. I'm kind of curious what the difference is between the clover and the minstrel w/ all the various upgrades. I think the end up pretty close in price at that point.
  8. Re the Rochelle, it is a bit bulky, but it's something you notice more when switching between it and a more expensive hybrid. If you're just playing the Rochelle, you get used to it's own particular weight distribution fairly quickly. Actually, they main thing that annoys me about the Rochelle is that the hand straps are ridiculously loose, but that's easy enough to fix.
  9. Gary Coover's books are hard to beat. I think they're all technically for 30-button, but most the tunes in Civil War Concertina are playable on a 20 button, and the basic principles in Easy Anglo 1-2-3 will still apply - just skip the pages that say "and this is how to play a C#..."
  10. Hmm, well the note chart on their website seems to match what you were expecting: http://www.concertinaconnection.com/jackie layout.htm But if you got it used, maybe one of the previous owners made some modifications? When you say there are two G#'s, is one of them where the high C "should" be?
  11. For that price, the Concertina Connection Minstrel wouldn't be a bad bet. I haven't played one myself, but I've heard good things. You might also luck out and find mid-range vintage instrument for sale somewhere. Barleycorn Concertinas has a pretty large selection of vintage instruments, though they're based in the UK, so you'd have to consider shipping and import taxes when working out the final price.
  12. I mostly play contra dance tunes, which constitutes a mix of Irish, Scottish, old time, and really just about anything else that sounds vaguely folk-y and fits into 64 beats. I'm not yet good enough to play for actual dances, but some of the people I jam with are in contra dance bands.
  13. I haven't been playing as long as most of the people on here, but in my relatively short experience, a large part of the joy of a 30 button is working out optimal fingering 'paths' on the fly. For the most part, I'm going to play C#/D# with my index finger. There might be occasional exceptions, but not many. The trick then is arranging things so that you can get your index finger there on time. If I've got the note sequence G - E - C#, I'm going to play the G with my index finger, the E with my middle finger, and then while I'm playing that E, I'm going to move my index finger up to the C# so it's ready for that next note. On the other hand, if the sequence is B - C# - D, I'm going to play the B with my left hand middle finger, so my right hand index finger is free to move to the C#. And then for the D, it would probably depend on what comes after that, but I'd likely go with the left hand index finger so that all three notes are on the push. For the most part, you can find paths such that the same finger never has to play two different buttons in a row. Not always. You might have a C# followed by an F#, and then it's really down to the particular tune and personal preference whether you want to try and move your index finger from the accidental row down to the G row in the space between notes, or whether you want to try and twist your hand a bit so that you play the F# with your middle finger. If you want to give your right hand a workout, the B part of 'Wizard's Walk' makes you get creative.
  14. Smythe's Accordion Center has a cheap 20 button. I'm afraid I don't know if he ships, but if he does, it looks like a decent deal, and I believe he goes over all cheap instruments that come in, and makes sure they're in solid working order.
  15. Gah, wish I could attend. Unfortunately, I'm going to be down at a dance weekend in SoCal. Though maybe if I'm lucky, there'll be some concertina players there. One of these days I'll make one of the bay area meetups.
  16. Eh, everyone has different preferences. A left handed carpenter would be perfectly justified in blaming a tool made for right handed people. I haven't personally had issues with delrin, but I prefer larger buttons with domed tops, while other people prefer small buttons with flat tops. You could probably get used to delrin with practice, just as I could probably get used to narrow buttons. But if there are other options out there, like brass buttons that are more sticky, there's no harm in trying them and seeing if they feel better.
  17. If you're playing in C major, you should find that the direction of the notes often correspond to the direction of the chords you need, and that's by design. The first tune I tried to work out a score with accompaniment for on my own was Redwing / Union Maid. In G major, it would have been tricky, but I transposed up to C major, which put the melody mostly on the right hand, and magically made most of the chords fall right into place. Had to get a little creative when the melody crossed back down to the left hand, and made use of the G/A reversals on the accidental row in a few places, but the nice thing about the home keys is that you actually do have multiple options for most of the notes you need to play. Apart from F/F# basically every note in the C major and G major scales are available in both directions, at least for the octave and a half-ish of range where a lot of tunes spend most of their time.
  18. If you're just doing melody lines, most anything will work on anglo - it's got a pretty wide range. I've yet to encounter a fiddle tune that wouldn't be possible on the concertina, even if I have to get a bit creative with the fingering sometimes. Now chords of course will make things trickier, as you're limited in what notes you can actually play simultaneously - no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to play a C# at the same time as an F. But if you're willing to be creative, you can still manage quite a lot. Maybe you can't play a particular minor chord, but you can play it as an open chord, and that might be good enough. Or maybe you drop the chord briefly while you reverse the bellows to get the note you need for the melody. Or maybe you can get really creative, and throw in a new chord that wasn't there in the original score, but still sounds good. Or if all else fails, transpose the whole piece to a new key, and the chords might become easier.
  19. As a general resource, check out thesession.com for scores of various Irish pieces. If you have a program like MuseScore on your computer, you can copy over the ABC notation from thesession, and play the tune back at whatever tempo feels comfortable. I always find it helpful when trying to get around a new piece.
  20. Do you dance at all yourself, by chance? Way back in my youth I used to play clarinet, and always found it a bit tricky to really get the rhythm. But then over the last several years, before I picked up the concertina, I started going to contra dances, and it's done so much to improve my sense of rhythm. Now when I sit down to play a jig or a reel, I just imagine that I'm dancing to my own music, and everything just kind of falls into place - my feet know where the beats need to be, and they communicate it to my hands.
  21. Hey, welcome to the club! The Rochelle is a great instrument to start with. On the subject of theory and learning the instrument, I'd say that you should treat the tablature as suggestions for how to get started, and that it's incredibly useful in that respect, but you shouldn't be afraid to deviate. Coover's books are excellent, and for someone starting out, they really get you used to the idea of having alternate fingerings for different notes that vary from tune to tune depending on the key and what notes are played around them. Sometimes it makes more sense to play a B on the G row than on the C row, because you need your right hand pointer finger for a C# a beat later, and Coover's tablature will point in the direction of those more efficient fingerings. If I try to sight read a piece that I've never looked at before, I'll probably make poor choices for some of the notes, and it's nice to have someone who's figured it all out beforehand and written it down. But sometimes you might disagree, and that's OK. Once you've got a decent handle on a piece, start substituting notes here and there - play the E with the right hand rather than the left, or make use of that draw G on the accidental row. See if you can play a tune entirely on the G row, and then entirely on the C row, and then with as many swaps as possible. Figure out what feels comfortable for you. Also, while you're playing, try to keep in mind what note it is that's being played, and not just which button. It's easy to fall into the habit of just thinking about them by the row and number. Let the numbers guide your finger to the right place, but then as you sound the note, think to yourself "D", "F#", "A", etc. edit: About the running out of air, I remember having that issue myself for a number of the earlier tunes in Coover's harmonic style book. They've got a lot of C chords happening on the left hand, so get in the habit of pressing down that air button whenever he gives you an F or G chord. Adjusting the pressure just the right amount to keep the volume the same takes practice, but after awhile it just becomes habit, and you'll find you don't even need to think about it any more.
  22. I can give you my thoughts as another reasonably new player (since last fall). I don’t think a 20 button would be any easier to learn on than a 30 button. The extra 10 buttons are up on their own row, and you can effectively ignore them if you really want to - it’s not comparable to a clarinet, say, where a beginner player might forget which of the right hand pinky keys they need to press to make it a high C rather than a high C#. The accidentals are just there if you need them. Conversely, I also don’t think that starting on a 20 button would be a bad choice if you later want to go to 30. There are still benefits to playing cross rows on a 20, so you’ll pick up that skill regardless, and even if you have a 30, it’ll probably be awhile before you start venturing onto that top row on a regular basis. Really depends on what you want to play, and who you’re playing with. I mostly jam will fiddlers who play contra dance tunes, so the C# is absolutely essential, and the G# comes up a fair bit too, though much less frequently. Of course it’s also good to have a C there (for tunes in G), but I probably use the C# just as often, if not more, at least when playing with others. When I’m playing on my own, I do a lot more with that C, but then that’s because I have a C/G concertina, so I’ll naturally gravitate towards those keys. Now I love my C/G, and will probably always keep it as my main instrument, but if I ever got a second concertina, I’d be highly tempted by a D/A, just to make some of those fast fiddle reels a bit easier. Well, “tuned to D/A” is a tricky concept, and kind of depends on how you’re playing. If you’re reading sheet music in C, and playing your D/A as though it’s a C/G, then that could be a problem if you go to play with other people, in the same way it might be a problem if you try to play an Bb clarinet reading from a score for piano - you’re treating the concertina as a transposing instrument, and your sheet music needs to be tailored for the instrument, otherwise you’ll be a half step off from the piano player and it’ll sound terrible. On the other hand, if you play your D/A as though it’s a D/A, and treat the first button of the right hand D row as an actual D, and not a C, then you’re probably fine - the instrument is then for all intents and purposes still actually tuned to C - it’s just missing a few notes from the C scale, and you can still play from any sheet music written for a C tuned instrument. So yeah, to sum up, so long as you and the other people you’re playing with agree on what frequency a particular dot on the staff means, there shouldn’t be a problem.
  23. Was a bit confused at first, but then realized Randall had set it up to use Troughton's Second Variation (with rule 7A suspended, as per usual), and had a blast. I'm actually kind of curious how he got it to handle the diagonals correctly - I thought that was still an open computational problem for Troughton's.
  24. On a related note, I recently got a new hybrid. It plays like a dream, but I've noticed that the push C5 (right hand index finger) doesn't seem as 'clean' as the notes around it - like the overtones are stronger. Actually, the C# has a similar quality to it, which makes me wonder if it's just some combination of the pitch and the location of the reeds (which are right next to each other) in the instrument that's emphasizing certain frequencies, but now that I've noticed it, it's annoying me a little, and I'm not hearing it in any of the other surrounding notes. Is that a common sort of thing?
  25. I'd say that trying to play an Anglo legato is no crazier than trying to use an Anglo to play Irish fiddle tunes in D and A. My understanding is that it was mainly designed to be cheap and easy to play. Of course now they're incredibly expensive, but that just adds to their absurdity, and it's an absurdity that I kind of love. Trying to work around the limitations of the instrument to do things that it was never designed to do is part of what makes it so fun to play.
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