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Kathryn Wheeler

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Posts posted by Kathryn Wheeler

  1. Playing and dancing! Does anyone have any experience?
    I never set out to do it consciously, but whilst we were playing for a dance, recently, I ended up dancing at the same time. It's only a single step, but it's a start! It felt very natural indeed.
    I've seen some musicians dancing Cotswold jigs whilst playing a fiddle or melodeon and that looks pretty full-on! I'd love get a feel for Cotswold stepping and how that "feels" to play and move to, but there are no sides closer than 50 minutes away that I could dance with. We are definitely in the middle of deep deep Border country 🙂
    Holly is behind me, here, on fiddle. We were moving around, engaging with the audience and generally having a fun time.
    The concertina is well suited to dancing, I think, because it's relatively small and light. I need to think a bit more about what works and doesn't, musically, when dancing (and when playing standing up), but it's encouraging.
    This is at Compton Verney, the impressive 18th century building/art gallery a good hour or so east, in Warwickshire - Bow Brook Border Morris were dancing there as part of an early Wassail evening. Unusual for us to dance inside for a Wassail! (Some musicians were escorting the public around the trees outside too)
    It was quite a full-on performance, as we were the only side dancing and in between dances the musicians and those of us dancers who were also musicians, took a turn to play tunes. I did get to sing a couple of mid-wintery songs too. Revving up for Wassail season coming soon!



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  2. As you no doubt have, I find the C/G anglo right hand side particularly can sing out over the top of other instruments.  I find that all the time playing live and when I've layered anglo with piano accordion.  I've also found this with melodeons, which can be loud and dominant instruments.  A fellow piano accordion playing friend, who also writes tunes, said that he'd thought the anglo would have got lost in with the piano accordion, resulting in a big sort of free-reed "mush".  But he was surprised how distinct the timbre was.


    Here's an example of anglo/piano accordion writing.  This one only uses the anglo as a single-line melody/countermelody instrument. So, it's a simple way to start.  The piano accordion has a lot more variation in how it plays and what role it takes when. Since then I've played with a piano accordion by using the anglo as a more rhythmic instrument and also playing smooth, interesting chords underneath a single line on the piano accordion.   The trick with accordionists is that they often like to do everything on their instruments (I can say this, because I play it and know the urge!), so it can be hard to get them to pare things back.  It's knowing when to take turns by doing single line melody, countermelody, when to do rhythmic jabs, when to play smooth washy synth-like chordal accompaniment.  It's also knowing when you might overwhelm the other instrument - how to give it space.



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  3. Just as you can get interesting chords and combinations of notes using certain patterns of frets on, say, a uke, you can have great fun exploring what interesting combinations of buttons sound good together on the anglo!  And how that changes with bellow direction.  It might be interesting to compare how the Anglo’s layout feels after the uke - what is challenging, what is transferable.  And of course what you can do to add rhythm and movement with the two instruments.


    It also depends what type of music you’re interested in having a go at on anglo 

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  4. I come up with pieces for 20 button anglo, often with a lot going on in both hands at the same time.  Harmonies, countermelodies, imitation, melody sometimes in l hand with r hand accompaniment, as well as standard chordal stuff.  So, a type of harmonic style playing.

    Because of this I use a slightly non standard modification of the sort of notation Gary Coover uses, but with left hand fully notated on the same stave as right hand notes.   Left hand notes have stems going down.  Too much going on to do otherwise I’ve found.


    Yes, used to using a lot of ledger lines if using the top end.  I do go up there for effect (one piece in particular in one section springs to mind!)

    I think the way the buttons lie under the fingers, the patterns that are produced and how that changes from push to pull is very important.  In other words something that is idiomatic, anglo concertinistic.  Of course this stuff is important whatever instrument you write for but maybe more so when the instrument has certain combinations that won’t work together and others that work like a dream.


    Another issue to consider is the rhythmic/articulation potential of the instrument - it’s capable of so much movement and drive. Or depending on your instrument and style of playing, great melodic flow. You can contrast flowing sections all in one direction with in and outy bits.  But the flow depends on availability of notes in one direction.  Because there are several options for certain notes, you have a choice of how to articulate using the choice of button/bellows direction.  And of course how you use the bellows as well.  

  5. 13 hours ago, Leah Velleman said:

    Obviously I don't get to decide where the thread goes.


    But I'd like to put in one more little plea for the topic to be "When people modify tunes like this, how do they do it?"


    (If you want to argue about 20 buttons vs 30, session keys vs transposing, or C/G boxes vs others... well, honestly, I don't think there is a right answer to those questions, because it all depends on what you play, with who, and why. But in any case, there's plenty of other threads about them.) 

    Hi Leah,

    It sounds like, like me, you’d find this a fascinating exercise as well as useful.  I call it "embroidering around the C sharps".


    It occurred to me that things were veering away from what you want to know and I’m sorry if I had any part in that.


    If you’d like to chat about this using actual examples of a specific tune feel free to message me. 


    All I can say is what works for me in the situations I play in.  


    After a while it becomes almost second nature and you find yourself using work arounds that you’ve used before.  So it can be hard to explain! 

    Also how I’d explain it depends on how much knowledge of music theory terms you already know.  And how you learn tunes (by ear, from dots). Looks like dots are ok since you shared some sheet music.


    -  have a friend play the C sharp-ish section of tune slowly or play a YouTube video at a slower playback speed.  Try out different things - be playful, open minded, don’t be afraid to make a terrible sound. Record yourself or get the reaction of a friend over which was the best option. 


    - sing the tune slowly whilst playing your concertina version. See if it goes (not everyone can do that but hey worth a try!)

    - input the tricky bars into Musescore (which is free) or similar sheet music writing app/program.  It can play it back to you.  Input one of your ideas into another staff beneath so it plays at the same time.  Does it sound good? Tweak it .. rinse and repeat 


    - Look at the function the C sharp has in the bar - is it part of a run up or down to another note?  In which case we are going to have to get to that note in some other way.  Does the note you’re going to have to be in the same octave?

    Is there an underlying harmony of an A chord (A C# E) or A seventh (A C# E G) often used to lead back to a D at the end of a phrase.  If so could you substitute one of those other chord notes.


    Ideally try to come up with a workaround that fits the character of the piece and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.


    Gosh there’s a lot more that could be said - maybe do research into writing countermelodies and harmonies if you want some tips eg contrary motion, using thirds or sixths.  What’s appropriate for one style of music may not be for others though.  eg in some traditions and in history it was the practice to play or sing different versions of the same tune at the same time (heterophony). 


    It’s far easier to work with an example and not have to put this stuff into words isn’t it! 













  6. I agree!  No qualms except that it can make it tricky for others to join in or cause consternation when their favourite tune they love to join in with in a session isn’t in the key they’re used to or can cope with on their own instrument.      

    I’m used to having to transpose so often but would actually love to hear people play in some different keys.  And I love thinking about how I might play in a trickier key.

  7. I think trying to see what you can come up with, just using 20 buttons, in this key could be a fun, interesting and informative exercise - if you like that sort of thing of course!  No surprise, but I love that sort of stuff!  And who knows you might find you get into arranging pieces and writing stuff of your own through it.


    Transposing is of course an option (and I do especially love that there is a related piece already in existence that is in a very suitable key) - but of course isn't much use if what you want to do is play with someone else e.g. in a session.   (Of course it utterly depends on the culture of the particular sessions that you go to and whether it's ok to play anything other than the usual!)


    It absolutely depends on what floats your boat at the end of the day :)

  8. 3 hours ago, Leah Velleman said:


    The original thought that inspired this was "How on earth would you play Road to Lisdoonvarna without the C#," and I was getting nowhere just tweaking a note or two, but your approach seems like it could work. I'll do some tinkering and see where I get to.

    I would say that I have no experience of playing Irish tunes or Irish styles of playing anglo, so it may be that my suggestions may not be deemed appropriate in this context nor welcome! 


    However, if I had to, I’d start by seeing if any of the Csharps are quick passing notes in runs eg B C# D quavers - if so you could try missing that sort out and for example substituting a quaver rest or holding the B for the extra quaver.



  9. 1 hour ago, wes williams said:

    Follow the link and you won't need to imagine....

    I wasn’t able to earlier but now have and there are so few of those notes she substituted, that they sound like a bit of added spice here and there :)


    I do love that she’s using what she has to hand to make music 

  10. 19 hours ago, Leah Velleman said:

    Occasionally I see someone say "Of course, you can play D Major tunes on a 20-button C/G — you just have to avoid the C-sharps." The idea being, well, some tunes don't have them, sometimes you can skip them, sometimes you can edit the tune, etc.


    I'd be curious — does anyone here actually play that way? How's it working for you? Have you learned anything from experience about when to attempt it or how to do it well?


    (If you don't play this way and think it's stupid/untraditional/annoying/a bad investment/a waste of time/a heresy against the One True Fingering System, please have that fight in another thread! There are plenty!)



    Hi Leah!


    I don't just play the melody without the C sharps in - there are various strategies that I'd use.


    It's very dependent on tune, what I do, and very dependent on the context within which the Csharps occur. 


    Also what I do in sessions and/or accompanying others may well be different to when I'm choosing to play on my own.  



    I think having a good grasp of the underlying harmony (the important notes in the melody in each bar) will really help, whatever you do. This is so that, even if you are not able to play the melody, you can play a note that will go well with it.   If you're not sure about that, find a piece of music with chords written on it.  Or look for the important notes in each bar.  Or just try things and see how they sound!  Recording yourself is always useful.


    - So, you could come up with a harmony part/countermelody for that section:

    Here's an example:  the melody does a run of AB C#D E.   Basically this run is describing the chord of A major (A C# E) - the other two notes are just filler!  You could just play A E E (with the middle E coinciding with the melody's C#). Or you could start that section on the top E  and play E, F# E E  (with the Fsharp coinciding with the D in the melody) or E AB A A ...  This is more complex to write down than to demonstrate.  Maybe I need to do a video on this sometime!  The more you do this, the more you'll recognise the same patterns in melodies and know a little workaround.


    Another example C# D E - you could start on the A above and descend: A F# E.  Or if the underlying harmony is a A7 (as you're going back to a D chord next) you could do A G F#.  


    It might be an idea to take a tune you know that is in D major with C sharps and work some alternatives out when you're not in a session and doing this stuff on the fly.


    - If playing with others, you could do some kind of rhythmic accompaniment instead of playing the melody.  e.g. Open chords (with no third in) are a good option when you can't play a C#  and want to play a chord of A.  Just play A and E together.  


    I'll probably remember a few other things no doubt later!



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  11. This is such an unusual and gorgeous sounding traditional tune, with a fascinating history.  Makes for a fun time exploring what can be done on the anglo with it!  



    For once this isn’t a tune of my own, but I couldn’t resist adding plenty of new stuff inspired by it in there!

    If you watch to the end there’s a little dance tune based on it that’d do well on its own, too.

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  12. On 11/3/2023 at 1:50 PM, Mikefule said:

    I have always liked the idea of getting the most out of the minimum in many areas of life.  In the context of the Anglo, this means that I developed a fascination with what could be achieved on the basic 20 button layout.  The simple 2-row Anglo is at the heart of what the Anglo is all about.  It imposes limitations and challenges, but these very limitations are what gives it its distinctive sound.


    Undeniably, more buttons will give you more versatility, and some tunes simply will not fit on a 20b.  However, to my mind, the extra versatility of 30b or more buttons must be balanced against the purity and simplicity of the 20b.

    Thank you for reviewing this instrument!


    Unsurprisingly, I share your outlook, here!  And I also prefer wooden ends :)


    I also like playing in G higher than the melodeons on a C/G 20 when playing morris music.


    The Marcus instruments I have played have always felt so immediately playable and I obviously felt so comfortable with them that I instantly felt like improvising.  Tunes would just fall out of them.  The Traveller was surprisingly loud and very much liked playing Morris-like tunes!

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  13. Yes, it all depends on the context of the music (and also the key) and whether you're wanting to do something else as well in the left hand (e.g. if you want play accompaniments/harmonies).  As long as it doesn't feel awkward/disrupts the flow of what you're doing, there's no harm in having a preference.  It can be nice to use alternatives to add variety too (e.g. first time through nice and flowing, second time alternating push and pull etc)

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  14. On 8/22/2023 at 8:18 PM, Peter Smith said:

    I should have mentioned that I had a chance to play Andrew Norman's bass anglo, when visiting him a while back. It sounded just like it does on his video an dseemed quite responsive - though I'm no expert!


    Aah yes, good fun wasn’t it!

  15. This week I had the pleasure of trying a bass anglo by Andrew Norman - I was really delighted with how responsive it was and also how natural it felt to play, coming from a standard anglo of normal, higher pitch.  What luscious deep beautiful chords were possible :)

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