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About Mikefule

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    Author of Bridge of Otherwhere, 2018, available on Kindle/Amazon. Dancer and occasional musician with Dolphin Morris Men of Nottingham, UK. I play Anglo concertina and harmonica and occasionally a bit of 1 row melodeon. My concertinas are a B flat/F Jeffries, a G/D Dipper and a G/D Marcus. I write a few simple tunes and also write songs for occasional performance at Morris events. Other hobbies include cross country unicycling, motorcycling (BMW F800S)and other outdoorsy stuff.
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    Lincolnshire, UK

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  1. Mikefule


    Fair point, but players who prioritise speed over other considerations tend to play badly. The very best players can play accurately, sensitively, and yet still be fast when it is appropriate.
  2. Mikefule


    In Morris music sessions, there used to be a Hohner Wall of Sound. These days, Castagnaris and Dino Baffetti melodeons are de rigueur, but the principle is the same. The alpha musicians set the pace as fast as they can. Anyone who leaves an expressive gap finds it filled with someone else's flutters and trills. Start singing a song in F or A and someone with a G melodeon will start playing along to "guide you to the correct key". To my mind, it is not musical, and it is often done rudely. If a tune is played well and at a proper pace, each note will have its correct value, and each gap between notes will add to the listening experience. A jig played steadily may have a nice "Did der ly did der ly" rhythm. Each triplet has a shape. A person doing a proper Irish step can fit in a complete "One two three and". (I used to do Irish dancing many years ago and learned some of the proper steps. Play a jig too fast and the audience hears only "DID (ly) DID (ly)". The triplets have no shape because so much emphasis is on the first note of the three. A dancer can only do stompy stompy step. This may be acceptable at a barn dance for people with no background in folk music, but it is short changing the experienced dancers. Playing very fast is difficult — it's a skill I've never tried to learn — but many bad musicians achieve the speed by bluffing. I know one melodeonist who strongly advocates a beginner in a session putting down two or three buttons of the most likely chord and releasing the two that are wrong. Music like this becomes a sterile technical exercise in keeping up with the fastest and at best will get people tapping their toes for a while before they become bored. Playing slowly is also very difficult. If you break down half way through a tune at very high speed, you may earn cheers and whoops for having tried. Playing slowly is less showy, less spectacular, sounds to the non-musician as if it must surely be easier to do, and exposes every wobbly note or hiccup in the rhythm to scrutiny. If you go wrong playing slowly, it may be interpreted as evidence that you are not very good. Strangely, in English folk song circles, the converse applies, and many singers can convert the most cheery and optimistic song into an interminable dirge. I have said before that the two rules of English folk are "Play as fast as you can, sing as slowly as you can — and the only exception is if you are singing and accompanying yourself on an instrument!" I know I tend to practise Morris tunes faster than they would be danced, but I never aim for speed as an objective in its own right. If a tunesmith has carefully crafted and shaped a beautiful melody, it is wrong to hammer it flat.
  3. Mikefule

    synonym for "concertina player"

    He fingers and squeezes, The ladies he pleases He smiles as he plays them his song When his instrument's short they don't give him a thought But you should hear them gasp when it's long
  4. Mikefule

    New to concertina

    For the original poster, asking about the 20 button C/G Anglo that he actually has, rather than the 30 or 40 button that he doesn't... I have owned 7 Anglos over the last few years, and currently own 4. I started on a 30 button. I can honestly say that the biggest step forward I made was when I got my 20 button, which was the 4th concertina I owned, and some 10 years after the 1st. I don't play it as often as my favourite 30, but I find four things about it: 1) The limitations of the 20 button layout create a real sense of satisfaction when playing simple tunes and finding harmonies and alternative fingerings, although those tunes might be trivial to play on a 30 button. 2) The limitations of the 20 button layout was the biggest encouragement for me to start playing in the higher of the 2 keys (G on a C/G) because of the additional cross row options and harmonies. 3) The lack of a 3rd row adds a delightful sparseness to the sound. It gives it that proper Anglo sound. On a 30+ button, there is a temptation to do full and rich chords whenever you can, and "over use" (I am being highly subjective) of the extra buttons can take you too far away from the core of what makes the instrument an Anglo. 4) When chords are not available, the octave always works, and playing in parallel octaves is a skill in its own right, and a link with the sound made by the untutored traditional musicians of the past. (This is a sort of point 3A as it is closely linked to 3 above.) Point is, don't think of it as "only a 20 button". Think of it as what it is: the heart and soul of all Anglos, but with no frills. The layout of an Anglo seems random at first. On a 20 button, nearly all the notes appear at least twice, sometimes in the same bellows direction. The push/pull thing confuses people unless they are used to the diatonic system. In fact, it is completely logical, in the sense that the more you play, the more you realise that the notes appear exactly where they are needed — at least for popular simple tunes. Take the C row push. Ignoring the bottom 2 buttons on the left hand, you just have a repeating pattern of the notes of the C major chord: C E G C E G C E. That means that any 2 or more push notes will automatically be part of the C major chord. Some combinations will sound better than others, but they will all harmonise. Of course, you don't necessarily want to play chords, but you will find that a lot of tunes rely heavily on sequences of notes from the same chord. You will also find that the notes C E and G tend to be on the beat when you're playing in C, so they sit nicely "on the push". There are 7 letter names available: A B C D E F G. If only 3 of them (C E G) are "allowed" on the push, then that means you need to fit the other 4 (A B D F) on the pull. This introduces one of the quirks of the Anglo layout: the fact that the scale goes << push, pull, push, pull, push, pull, pull again, push >> The knock on effect of this is that the fingering of the first octave of the scale (left hand) is different from the fingering of the second octave (right hand). Left hand goes (starting on button 3) <<push, pull, push the next, pull, push the next, pull" Right hand goes (starting on button 1) <<push, pull the next, push, pull the next, push, pull the next...>> It takes some getting used to, but it soon comes with practice. I said above, "ignoring the bottom 2 buttons on the left hand." The standard pattern is a repeated CEG. However, those 2 buttons give you C and G. There is no E. This is simply because there is only room for 2, and the E is the least useful of the 3. because the G is so useful, they also put one on the bottom button, pull. This means that the bottom 3 buttons, pull, will give you a G major chord, and the bottom 4 buttons will give you a G7 chord. All the same rules apply to the G row, the push notes being the 3 notes of the G major chord: G B D repeat. Also, some builders substitute different notes on the pull the very lowest button, taking advantage of the fact that the pull D is readily available on button 3 of the C row. As all the notes appear twice on the instrument, once on each row, except for the F/F# which appear once each, there are over 100 ways of playing a C major scale. You don't need to learn all of them, but you will find that some specific runs of notes "across the rows" will be really helpful. Here's one to start with. On the right hand, play C D E F (push, pull the next, push, pull the next) then transfer your fingers to the G row and repeat the fingering to get G A B C. You say you want to play "pirate songs" and Irish session tunes. Pedantry alert: the concertina was invented long after the so called golden age of piracy had ended. However, simple chantey type songs will fit the Anglo well. Tunes such as Blow the Man Down, Sam's Gone Away (aboard a man of war), and so on will be easy to pick out by ear, or you can find the dots/ABC file with a quick Google search. I don't play much Irish, but Dingle Regatta and the Irish Washer Woman both fit a 20 b and will challenge you to cross the rows. In fact Dingle Regatta, in particular, is a good tune for helping you to understand the quirky logic behind the layout, and why the manufacturers put the two rows a 5th apart. As a complete beginner, though, you may be better off playing some simple tunes by ear such as Donkey Riding, British Grenadier, Camptown Racetrack, When the Saints, and some slow waltzes such as Michael Turner's. Look for alternative cross row fingering patterns, and try different options. Listen to other players. If you're on Spotify, you can find some of the "old dead guys" such as William Kimber and Scan Tester, and plenty of the living players who have a more modern style too. There's also plenty on You Tube, and an almost infinite supply of free music and sound files if you search on abcnotation.com .
  5. Mikefule

    High jacking threads..etiquette

    On the whole, once a thread has been started, some deviation or tangental discussion is just the way that conversation flows. Generally, it is a Good Thing unless there is a tendency for all threads to end up circling on the same subjects. In the specific case of a bona fide established C-net user advertising an item for sale, I'd consider it poor form to criticise the vendor's price, either directly ("That's way too much!") or indirectly ("I've seen a better one at half the price here: [link]") or, worse, "I can under cut that price with mine: [details]." However, we all know that there are many scammers out there using "borrowed" photos and making false advertisements. In such cases, a regular C-net user may be directly qualified to intervene ("Hey, that's my concertina and it isn't for sale!") otherwise, rather than risk making a false accusation in good faith, it may be better to raise their concerns privately with the moderators. I think this forum tends to regulate itself pretty well most of the time. I go in another — non music — forum where the moderators have to police inappropriate posts so often that there is a sticky "gibbet" thread where details are posted of members who have been barred or suspended for breaching the rules. We neither want no need that sort of thing here.
  6. Mikefule

    DG Melodeon to GD Anglo?

    An Anglo is like a melodeon inside out. The right hand of each row is equivalent to the top octave of a melodeon. That means the right hand buttons have the pull note lower than the push. Also, where a melodeon is DG (D is lower than G, a 4th apart) the Anglo is GD (D is higher than G, a 5th apart). Many people can play both. I personally found that I forgot how to play melodeon as soon as I got deeply into Anglo.
  7. Mikefule

    Playing Position for Left Handed players

    There seem to be people seem to think there is a single right way, and that it just happens to be their way, and that they can teach it to you for a fee. I personally prefer to sit, resting both ends of the box on my lap. However, on my lighter boxes, I sometimes find myself resting the middle of the bellows on one knee. When I'm playing in a more relaxed manner, I sometimes find that I'm lifting one end of the box while supporting the other. All these things work in the right context.
  8. Mikefule

    Playing Standing

    I have always struggled to play standing up without resting the concertina on my knee. I tend to use my hard case as a foot rest when I do this. I can play several tunes in the "single line of melody" style by bracing the ends with my little fingers. However, my preferred style is harmonic, and relies heavily on the left little finger for bass notes. A member of our Morris side has constructed a strange bondage-style harness which straps one end of his concertina firmly in place. Seems t work for him.
  9. Mikefule

    What is folk music today? UK and USA

    I've never heard of that happening in England with folk clubs. We have laws requiring venues to be licensed for the performance of music, and there is a Performing Rights Society licence system relating to royalties. However, folk clubs are usually a very informal affair in an upstairs room (or back room). Very often, the pub does not charge the club for the room, knowing that they will make beer sales from the club members (or the pub may make only a small charge). The club itself is non profit making, with any proceeds solely for the benefit of members, helping to fund later club events such as guest bookings. On non-guest nights, many clubs ask for voluntary donations rather than an admission fee. I've had the most enjoyment from Morris sessions. English licensing laws have an exemption for unamplified singing and music associated with Morris dancing, so the pub doesn't even need a music license. The sessions are "all mates together" with no charge for admission and no formal structure. As for copyright law, many folkies inadvertently introduce sufficient spontaneous variation in the words or tune that many songs unintentionally count as a new composition.
  10. Mikefule

    What is folk music today? UK and USA

    Folk music is now a misnomer. It used to be the music of the folk: music that was endemic in mainstream working class culture. Now what we call "folk" is a minority interest, no longer mainstream. I have met people born in the 1970s who could sing every word of most of Buddy Holly's hits, and yet they had never been fans, and were born years after his death. That music was endemic in their culture. They had heard it so many times that they had just picked it up and they assumed that everyone knew it. My personal opinion is that if the expression "folk music" retains any meaning at all in England, at least, it is to do with the context in which it is played. A group of friends in a pub singing or playing collaboratively for their shared enjoyment are engaged in "folk music" whether they are singing broadsheet ballads about bold whale fishermen and coal mining, or performing a rousing rendition of "Delilah", or "Lily the Pink" or even a medley of Beatles songs. On the other hand, when Thin Lizzy recorded Whiskey in the Jar, great record as it was, it was not folk music despite the traditional origin of the song. Folk, traditional, and acoustic are not the same things, although there is considerable overlap. In England, we have a thriving "folk scene" with the overlap of the Morris world, the folk clubs and folk festivals, and many people live in that bubble for so much of their lives that they forget what a minority interest it is. Nevertheless, the folk community is thriving, changing slowly, and includes a lot of young and highly talented musicians, dancers and singers.
  11. Today was the 6 monthly meeting of Midlands Concertina Group, in a church hall in Wollaton, Nottingham. I counted 18 people present, 13 male, 5 female. 10 played Anglo, 4 played English, 1 played Hayden duet, and 3 were there to listen. I roughly counted 28 instruments, with some people bringing 3 or 4. There were at least 4 baritone Anglos, 1 baritone English, and 1 piccolo Anglo. (I played a couple fo tunes on this, which is quite a shrill instrument, and someone commented, "That sounded good — and if you don't believe me, ask any of the dogs in Wollaton." The standard of playing ranged from nervous beginner through to good enough to be professional, and everyone was equally welcome to play. The music included: English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditional dance tunes. At least one own composition, in a folky style. Some Romanian dance tunes. A Swedish waltz. American tunes. Some Mozart. A song, self accompanied on Anglo. The song was about Captain Webb swimming along a canal. Scarborough Fair played as a 4 part arrangement, followed by some o'Carolan played as a 4 part arrangement. One regular duo and some impromptu duos. Our resident 3 piece band (2 Anglos, 1 English) who are called Behind the Times and not Out of Time.😀 A medley of simple tunes (Donkey Riding, Clementine, Oh Susannah etc.) for everyone to join in. Finishing with John Tallis' canon for as many as wanted to play. A great afternoon, with 4 hours of concertina music and chat. Theres no charge, although donations to cover the cost of the hall and the newsletter are welcome. Next meeting: Saturday 2nd November 2019 13:00 to 17:00 Arnold United Reformed Church Hall 37 Calverton Rd Arnold Nottingham NG5 8FF
  12. Mikefule

    What our concertinas look like?

    Just re-photographed my instruments as my insurance is up for renewal. Lachenal 20 button piccolo in C/G, 6 fold bellows. "L & Co" incorporated in the fretwork on the right hand end. (See close up.) This one is a hoot to play for a few minutes at a time, but it needs a light touch on the left hand. The right hand is very squeaky indeed at the top end of the G row! Lachenal 20 button in C/G, 5 fold bellows. This is one of the nicest standard 20 button boxes I've played. Not the very nicest, but it's a good 'un. Dipper 30 button G/D with amboyna ends and 7 fold bellows. My pride and joy. (See close up.) Lachenal 30 button baritone in C/G with 6 fold bellows. Lovely rich and responsive left hand, although the right hand is less warm sounding. This one is responsive enough to play Morris tunes harmonically at normal dance speed.
  13. This Saturday. See details in the original post.
  14. Mikefule

    Anglo playing guidance needed

    For a lively dance rhythm on Anglo, common choices are: Bass note on the on beat, chord or part chord on the off beat: Oom-PAH Oom-PAH Oom-PAH Oom-PAH Silence on the off beat, chord or part chord on the off beat: ( — ) Pah ( — ) Pah ( — ) Pah ( — ) Pah Bass notes on the on beat, silence on the off beat Oom ( — ) Oom ( — ) Oom ( — ) Oom ( — ) These are only common choices. They have the benefits of being easy and obviously rhythmical. The bass notes on the on beats drive the tune forwards, and the chords/part chords on the off beat give it lift. However, if you do these things all the time all the way through every tune, it can become bland and repetitive, especially as many folk tunes have the same 5 chords (for any given key). The first simple change to make is not always using the root of the chord as the bass note. Oom (pah) etc. can become C (eg) E (eg) C (eg) C (eg) etc. The next change is to think about what chord is coming next, so that the bass walks in the right direction to get there. Fr example, if the tune has the chord C major followed by F major, you may play an oom (pah) accompaniment: C (eg) E (eg) F (ac), because the F is on the same button as the E, and the bass sound is moving upwards C, E F. Another nice change for a short passage of music is full or part chords on the beat, especially if there is a run of chords: play "chunk chunk chunk chunk" rather than simply "oom-pah oom-pah". Other options include playing the open fifth for the on beat, then filling in the missing third on the off beat. Another is to find the pedal points: notes that are common to two consecutive chords, and ether hold them down or repeat them as the chord changes. There should be no artificial limits to what you try, and no limits to your invention, but it is usually a good idea to have something consistent and simple happening (chords on the off beats) that you can then choose to vary for effect. The combination of bass note on the on beat, chord or part chord on the off beat, is a good foundation to build on, and the first thing to learn if you want to play harmonic style. Of the two, I certainly found it easier to get the chords on the off beats working before I managed to get the bass notes on the on beat working — but perhaps that's just me. Now I find that, whatever I'm playing, and however well I know the tune, nearly all my thought and expression goes into the left hand (accompaniment) and I accompany each tune slightly differently each time, sometimes changing the finger of the melody to get a different accompaniment.