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Jim Besser

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About Jim Besser

  • Rank
    Heavyweight Boxer

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  • Gender
  • Interests
    Contra and English ceilidh dance music, Morris music, traditional French dance music, playing for any and all dancers.
  • Location
    Washington DC metro area

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  1. Jim Besser

    Christmas songs... in Yiddish

    Cool story. My own experience with stagecraft and concertinas was more theater of the absurd. A few years ago I was asked to teach an actor one tune for a stage production. Sure, I naively said, so I drove 90 miles to do the deed, only to find out that they intended for him to learn and play - in a week - a long and complex classical piece in Eflat. On the cheap 20 button C/G anglo they found in a prop room. I told them there was no way an experienced concertinist could master this in a week, and no way it was going to be accomplished on a 20 button C/G . They thought I was kidding, and were adamant that he play it note for note. But their model was a full orchestral version. What were they thinking? What I ultimately did was 'compose' something that faintly suggested the classical piece, in C, using an absolute minimum of buttons. The actor was happy, but I don't think the producer shared his joy. They offered me tickets to the play, but I thought it wise not to witness my handiwork.
  2. Jim Besser

    Microvox mics and foot pedals

    Wow, that actually looks like a good option, but I just placed an order for something else. After a long talk with a sound consultant, I'm going to try this - a muting DI box with preamp, very basic EQ. My reasoning: it should solve the muting problem; it provides a small measure of the sound customization that Jody talked about; and it has a second output that can go to my Hotspot personal monitor. Aside from the muting issue, my biggest problem on stage is hearing myself amid the clamor of a very loud band (drums, electric guitar, a horn section and an accordion generally playing in the same register as me). If this works, I can have a direct feed from my Microvoxes, thru the Tonebone DI box, to the personal monitor, mounted on a stand right next to me, and maybe actually hear myself for a change! In the meantime, I am still hoping to buy the Orchid power supply for the Microvox, which appears to be a little more solid, but they're not responding to my emails, and there are no dealers in the US. I have 3 sets of perfectly good Microvox mics, and three dead or dying power supplies.
  3. Jim Besser

    Microvox mics and foot pedals

    Thanks, Jody, that's helpful. I hadn't planned on going to processing, but I can see the advantages, and if it also allows for muting, all the better. Do you find that sound techs are able to deal with your setup without too much angst?
  4. Jim Besser

    Microvox mics and foot pedals

    Wow, the replacement Orchid box looks like what I need, but it doesn't look like they sell these in the US. I'm wondering if there are any alternatives.
  5. Jim Besser

    Microvox mics and foot pedals

    Ha, that's all I need. Actually, we already have a wah wah on the accordion, and a tangle of pedals on the 'zouk and electric guitar. Think I'd better limit myself to just volume!
  6. After much agonizing, I am going back to my Microvox concertina mics. We're doing a return engagement at a big venue, and the last time we played there, mics on stands didn't have sufficient gain, and I had to pull out the Microvox to get adequate volume I've had 3 Microvox setups in the past, and they've all failed in the same way. After a while, the volume control starts making static noises when adjusted and the on-off switch makes a popping sound. This is unacceptable when playing on a big PA, but I do need to shut off the mics, or at least turn the volume all the way down, because I switch instruments a lot, often in the middle of medleys. The sound of velcro ripping is not a good thing when highly amplified! My question: has anybody used a foot volume pedal with a Microvox? If so, what should I be looking at? All I want here is a way to mute the Microvox while switching instruments, without any pops or static when making the switch. And - demonstrating my ignorance about pedals - how is it set up? I use the standard Microvox setup - belt pack --> quarter inch cable --> DI box --> XLR to the system. How does a pedal figure into that scheme? Thanks in advance!
  7. Jim Besser

    Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

    Amen to what Bob said. Concertinas with different sounds played together can produce something extraordinary. As an aside, last night I played at a contra dance in a mass band setting, and I chose to play my CG and GD hybrids. The more complex tones seem to blend with the big band better; the light weight of my Morse concertinas and the very easy action makes for less sore arms and wrists the next day; the big PA system doesn't really convey the sound qualities that I love when playing solo on a traditional concertina. So: hybrids are not inferior. They are different. We are extraordinarily lucky to have access to both wonderful traditional instruments, old and new, and more affordable, fine-sounding and easy playing hybrids.
  8. Jim Besser

    Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

    I should add that a lot of the differences in sound between traditional an accordion reads disappear when playing through a big sound system.
  9. Jim Besser

    Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

    My own experience as someone who plays both hybrids and "proper" concertinas: The biggest difference is sound, and that is subjective. I play with some people who prefer the sound of the hybrids, with others who prefer traditional reeds. Personally, I strongly prefer the sound of traditional reeds, especially for lower-register boxes - a CG hybrid, in my experience, sounds much more concertina-like than a GD. Still, a good GD hybrid can sound superb in its own right. Just not like a GD Jeffries: different. Responsiveness: as Dana said, it depends on the quality. I own Morse hybrids, and the reeds are every bit as responsive as my vintage concertinas, with one caveat: it seems to me that the traditional reeds have a significantly greater dynamic range. It's much easier to play quietly with my Jeffries GD than with the Morse GD; you need more air to drive the hybrid reeds. I am not an expert in design and construction; this is just my own observation as a player, and experts like Dana or Greg may take issue with that. Loudness: this can be deceptive. Traditional concertina reeds produce a purer tone that can cut through background noise better than the more overtoney tone produced by accordion reeds. I remember doing a sound comparison at a Morris event years ago. At a noisy pub, I played a Morse GD hybrid and a friend played a Jeffries GD. Mine sounded louder to both of us - but the dancers could hear the Jeffries much more clearly in the extremely noisy environment. As far as upgrading goes, it depends on what you want and what you're looking at. An excellent hybrid like the Morse will be as responsive as the best vintage instruments, except at very low volume. An excellent hybrid with riveted action is mechanically better than lower-end vintage instruments. Overall, I find my hybrid instruments a little easier to play, but prefer the sound of the vintage boxes. So I guess my answer to all your questions is "it depends."
  10. Jim Besser

    20-Year Anniversary of Concertina.net

    Congrats, Paul, and once again, thanks for all your work in providing this wonderful resource. I think I was in at the beginning, or very close to it, and have enjoyed all 20 years.
  11. Jim Besser

    been away for a while

    I switch back and forth between a GD and CG all the time. If I understand your question, you're asking: when switching to a GD, should you play familiar tunes in the same positions as you would on the CG - meaning that they will be in a different key? Or should you play in the 'as written' key, meaning that you're learning entirely new fingering patterns? If that's the question, it depends. If you're playing by yourself, you can play any tune in whatever key you want. On the other hand, I believe it is extremely helpful to my playing to being able to play a tune in multiple keys, and not becoming locked int to a single pattern. So when I've encountered this issue, I play the tune in the as-notated key. Switching between a CG and GD is perfectly doable, but it has its challenges. For example: some tunes in the key of G work better for me on the CG, some better on the GD. Most tunes in D work better on the GD, but there are a few I play that I prefer to play on the CG. It's a matter of fingering patterns, chords and basses; experimenting is the only way to figure it out. Em and Am - depends on the tune. As an aside, another challenge is remembering which instrument you're playing when you switch regularly (playing for dances, I'm always switching, and sometimes in the middle of a 3-tune medley). Once, I was on stage with a big choral group; as they were about to start a song, they asked for an A. I was holding the GD, but spaced out and somehow thought I was holding the CG, so I gave them a D. It wasn't pretty.
  12. Jim Besser

    Tangling With The Tango On The Anglo

    Outstanding performance!
  13. Jim Besser

    Tangling With The Tango On The Anglo

    Sorry, no formal arrangement - it pretty much changed every time we did it. I'm playing a baritone Anglo, mostly using it like one would use a sting bass.
  14. Jim Besser

    Tangling With The Tango On The Anglo

    This is a few years old. English concertina, D/G melodeon and C/G Anglo baritone.
  15. Jim Besser

    Anglo players: great left hand exercise

    There are enough differences between bandoneon and Anglo that I'm not sure it's a factor. The in-out pattern isn't particularly difficult; it's the pattern of the melody, and how it centers on the last fingers of the left hand. And, of course, getting the pattern into your head.