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Kathryn Wheeler

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Posts posted by Kathryn Wheeler

  1. “Folks can devise a system that suits them”


    Exactly! That’s what I’m doing :)


    And it is only for tricky little passages where I need to remember what I’m doing because I’m using non obvious (to me) fingering.   I have come up with a way and it looks like it’s fine.


    When I say non obvious I mean it feels really natural and right for that context. Bur when I examine what I did I realise that I need to make a note of it because I reckon I won’t remember if I haven’t practiced it in or haven’t played the piece for a while.  


    Thanks for all your replies, especially to those of you that have shared what works for you.


    My main point of posting was to just make sure there wasn’t this universally known way of doing it that I hadn’t come across because I write my own music.  And because someone else might suggest a nifty way.


    • Like 1
  2. 3 hours ago, Leah Velleman said:

    Bertram Levy, in his bandoneon-inspired book about fiddle tunes, uses this kind of intense system where roman numerals tell you which row, combinations like L13 tell you which hand and button, the letters C and A stand for, uh, push and pull in Spanish, and little bold numbers tell you which finger. Also, he numbers fingers like a piano player, so the index finger is 2, not 1.




    I never really got my head around it, but I imagine if I ever did it would be useful. (That goes for the whole book, honestly.)

    I did wonder whether to number fingers like a pianist or not - I reckoned not because I don’t use the thumbs except on the air button of course. But that said, i guess I have too much keyboard playing in my background because it just feels weird to call my middle finger 2!

  3. It is lovely to develop your own way of relating to an instrument, yes.


    I still like to write things down though, not only because I get asked for dots and people ask how particular bits are played but because it’s really nice for me to have - and if I forget some details in future I’ve got it there.


    So if anyone else has any nifty ways of clearly showing finger choices without them getting confused with numbering for buttons that’d be interesting!

  4. 42 minutes ago, Clive Thorne said:

    I play a melodic english style, and contrary to what most people imply or state above I hardly ever consciously think about which finger to use, and consequently have no "Button X" means  "Finger Y"  rule. It all depends on what notes precede and follow the one(s) I'm playing.  Obviously as a general rule the bigger fingers tend to play the notes nearer the chin and the little fingers tend to play the ones nearest the feet, but beyond that it's a case of what fingers are available in the required vicinity.


    Quite possibly it would fall to pieces if I were to try Irish trad type tunes & speeds.


    Yes, I’m finding that you develop in built ways of playing certain runs or common figures, often things that occur in scales and arpeggios.  Once I’ve worked out a way, I then find these patterns occur again and I no longer have to consciously think.


    I’m currently trying something with more buttons so it is yet to become second nature. 

  5. 3 hours ago, lachenal74693 said:

    I'm pretty sure that it is (or used to be) the case that 'Country Dancing' was one of the options available in the Physical Education syllabus in some Scottish schools, so, folks used to take that option, and knew the dances. As a Sassenach who hadn't had this opportunity, I was completely stuffed. Even though I 'knew' quite a few of the dances, I 'needed' a caller to give the 'prompts'...


    When we (occasionally) get the audience up to join in a social dance at the end of one of our Morris dance-outs, we restrict ourselves to Circassian Circle (and occasionally Abram), and make sure that the dancers are heavily salted with our own dancers...

    My mum used to teach primary age school children country dancing during lesson time and this was in England in the 70s-90s. And it wasn’t just her school - they’d meet up periodically with other schools to have an afternoon of dancing.


    Whilst out and about watching or doing dancing (border Morris) I’ve heard some lovely wistful comments from people who had done this as children in school including some very burly lads to their mates, which is great!


    I didn’t have this in our school though and I was in primary in this period, so maybe it wasn’t all schools! It wasn’t until I went to uni that I came across dancing societies (I don’t remember country dancing or Morris in Cambridge then but maybe it existed - but did remember going to some Scottish ceilidh dancing. Some people there were terribly serious about it and probably did all sorts of more serious Scottish dancing.  I gave up because there’d always be some dreaded dancers you’d see coming who’d outdo each other in how hard they could whirl you round or grab your hand. Ugh!! 😆 

    • Like 1
  6. How do you make a note of what finger to use where? There are times where it is useful to have a reminder especially when you’re working out a tune or coming up with an accompaniment for it.  Or those times when you’re writing a tune down for others to learn


    At the moment I’m writing a finger number in a circle (because occasionally I also use numbers to indicate a button choice).  So there are two things here that need numbers!

    In my playing I occasionally feel the need to make a note of what fingers I would like to use, because good fingering choice can make all the difference can’t it!  Some things just feel right whereas other choices are all wrong for a particular context.  And these patterns of notes or runs occur time and time again, so your fingers remember that pattern.


    On a 20 button anglo this issue occurs from time to time eg a shift of hand position down on the left side when you want to navigate the lower reaches in certain contexts. And sometimes you need to change the finger you usually use on a note here and there.

    When coming from a 20button to an Anglo with more buttons then what finger to use where becomes even more of an issue - what fingering should I use in this phrase or run to feel most comfortable, to incorporate buttons on the top row (or wherever extra buttons are on the instrument). 

    When you search for fingering on the internet you will get lots of “fingering charts” that actually are just what notes occur on the pull and push for each button.  That’s not what I’m talking about!  So, if some people call this fingering,  what do they call “what finger to use where”.  On every other instrument I’ve played _that_ is called fingering, haha!


    what do you do?

    • Like 1
  7. Yes diatonic instruments do lend themselves to modal music don’t they! 

    I first came across modes in medieval music and then realised we use them unconsciously a lot in folk and other popular music.  They’re great!

    On bowed strings, because you don’t have buttons for notes or even fret’s indicating where to put fingers, you can play any pitch - even notes that don’t exist in our scales.  

    But let’s assume we just restrict the ones we do use - then you can be restricted by how the notes lie under the fingers, changing strings (using patterns that feel nice or interesting), or whether to change position. You can impose restrictions. And that’s not even going into what bowing options to use.  

    It can seem really overwhelming but imposing restrictions can help.  So it’s refreshing to pick up the 20 button anglo!

  8. That was a fun listen, thankyou, and a gorgeous background picture.  The landscape looks familiar but I can’t place it.


    I find it fascinating how the different modes affect the opportunities for accompaniment.  I also like how some are more sparing because that gives nice contrast.  There are two instruments going on in that recording by the sounds of things.


    I’m actually now tempted to play around with the idea on a different instrument too because how the notes lie under the fingers will be different.  This was after jamming on viola last night in an impromptu session after a dance out (it’s a side where all the music is on bowed strings).

  9. 2 hours ago, James Fitton said:

    Lovely tune that, Kathryn - thanks for posting. I do love the way in which tunes can sometimes move very subtly between modes - one of the many joys of apparently "simple" diatonic instruments....

    Yes! And such interesting modes come out don’t they! Actually wouldn’t that be a fun exercise - a tune in each mode.


    And yes there are many joys in exploring this instrument aren’t there - I think not having things that more buttons give you makes for working with what you do have.  And a restricted palette can lead to creative choices!  You can also see that with melodeon chord basses and buttons, resulting in people using some gorgeous unexpected harmonies.

  10. Whilst I'm on the subject,

    I've found when writing tunes for dances that it is much appreciated if it is based as closely as possible on the structure of the dance and make it feel like it feels to dance it, if that makes sense.  I've come across quite a few tunes that don't do that and it actually frustrates me when I dance them!  A good tune choice can really add extra energy!

    • Like 1
  11. I must say I resemble a concertina-playing pixie in amongst the speedwells here haha!


    This jaunty, puckish tune is one of those that just happened whilst absent mindedly noodling about.  Just as the speedwells popped up unexpectedly when I stopped mowing a patch of lawn.  It's all based around a repetitive riff or rhythmic figure, if you prefer, which uses notes that occur on both the push and pull. 


    Here it's a D and A alternating with a D and G and then, in the middle section, a B and F# alternating with a B and G.  


    There's something very mesmeric about these sorts of riffs, where you alternate the same note on push and pull. You can get quite a few of them on the 20 button anglo.  I might do something on that subject soon.  It also makes a change from chordal accompaniment.  


    The melody in the right hand also just happened - I'd recommend anyone having a go and seeing what falls under the fingers and sounds good.  


    What's fascinating is the mode that the piece is in - it's a D-ish kind of tune (like a D major scale but with a C natural on the seventh). D mixolydian mode I do believe! And then in the middle section it goes into what sounds like B minor. But! Very unusually it has a C natural on the second of the scale (B phrygian mode). But actually it's a lot simpler really - these scales are what happens when you try to play D major and B minor on a C/G 20 button anglo! You don't have any C sharps!




    • Like 10
  12. On 8/26/2023 at 5:19 PM, Geoffrey Crabb said:


    Gary, your probably right but looking back 100 years plus, the following break-down of the 114 Anglos made in the  Crabb workshop between September 1889 and December 1891, shows how things have changed.

    Anglos made:

                              G & D.  - 32 Button (1). Total 1

                              Bb & F. - 31 button (12). 32 button (5).Total 17

                              B & F#. - 20 button (20). 26 button (11). 31 button (22). 32 button (22) Total 75

                              C & G. - 31 button (13). 32 button (7). 40 button (1) Total 21


    Apologies Jodie, not really relevant, but may be of interest to some.

    Good luck with the Book.





    This is fascinating, thankyou!  I am suspecting that who and what you want to play concertina with is having a big influence.  

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