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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

    Hornpipe and polka rhythms?

    Well, yes, it is possible to play a tune in different ways. For example, there are some 4/4 or 2/4 tunes that can easily be converted to 6/8. One of my Morris friends delights in taking simple 4/4 tunes and converting them to waltzes and even to 5/4. Thing is, if I want a particular tune, written in straight 4/4 or 2/4 to come out like either a polka or a hornpipe, I need to feel clear in my mind what a polka or hornpipe should sound like. The furthest I've got by observation and inference is that hornpipes should make me want to do a heavy footed one-hop two-hop step and polkas should make me want to do a lighter 123-hop. The "tiddle-iddle om pom pom" hornpipe ending is apparently less diagnostic than I had thought. I am reassured by the Mudcat thread that shows I'm not the only one who has struggled with this question. These rhythms are no longer part of the wider culture around me, but merely something within the community of folk enthusiasts, so I haven't grown up knowing the difference. (Indeed, some would say that I haven't grown up.) For those who think it should be obvious, put yourself in the position of defining the differences between rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. The song Blue Suede shoes can be rock and roll (Elvis) or rockabilly (Carl) but the two styles, although similar, are different things.
  2. Mikefule

    Hornpipe and polka rhythms?

    That's exactly my problem. I hear these tunes played in a pub session environment where speed is often prioritised over accuracy and nuance. When a hornpipe is played slowly, I know it can be identified by how readily you can decorate it with occasional triplets (Tum tum-ty | Tum tum | tumty tiddly | tumpty tum...) When they're all played fast and smooth, with very little dotting or emphasis, I really struggle to know which is which.
  3. Mikefule

    Hornpipe and polka rhythms?

    Hi folks. I described a tune as a "hornpipe" to someone yesterday and he was most insistent that it was a polka. As he was a far more experienced musician and more knowledgeably folky than myself, I assume he was right. I had identified the tune as a hornpipe, apparently incorrectly, because it is in a fairly heavily accented 4/4 time, with a heavy stress on the 3rd beat, has one short sequence of notes that reminds me of a well known hornpipe, and ends with 3 crotchets, tum - tee - tum! I'm familiar with normal music theory in terms of bars, beats, time signatures and note lengths well enough to write a tune down, or to learn a simple tune reasonably quickly from the dots alone. However, my background in music, pre-concertina, is listening to rock and roll and dancing the Morris, so the exact distinctions between some of the folk dance rhythms is not ingrained in me. Where I get lost is those folk tunes that seem to me to stray somewhere between a 1 2 3 4 count and a 1 & 2 & count, and which are played differently according to whether it is a solo musician or the dreaded "Hohner wall of sound". So, I am completely happy with what a jig is, or a waltz. I understand what 2/2, 2/4, 4/4, 6/8, 3/4, and even 9/8 mean, and could describe 5/4 in theory if not play it in practice, but my problem is understanding those nuances that make one tune a polka, another a hornpipe, and another a reel, when those last 3 types could all be written with the same time signature. Who can elucidate? Thanks.
  4. A great afternoon. I think there where were 19 people present, including one who was knitting, one who was taking notes, and one who played flute rather than concertina. In fact, we had two flutes in the room. Concertinas included 5 baritones, numerous trebles and one (my) piccolo Anglo. There were English, Anglo and duet boxes, with at least two people present who played on two different systems during the afternoon. Music played included the usual selection of English Morris, Northumbrian pipe tunes, Scottish and Irish tunes, one Israeli tune, novelty songs (Teddy Bear's Picnic), music hall, WW1 songs — and a short piece of tango music played on 5 concertinas and one flute. Our resident trio, "Behind the Times" (who called them "Out of Time"? Go on, own up!) played, then we had anEnglish/Anglo duo, an English/flute duo and a duet/flute duo. Various people played well known tunes and people joined in, singing, humming, or playing, as took their fancy. Once again, an inspiring afternoon with a range of people showing what these incredibly versatile instruments can do if you practise hard. I think we had a total of 4 first timers, which is pretty amazing. The turnout would have been over 20 but for two or three of the regulars having to make their apologies at the last minute due to a range of illnesses. Next meeting, approximately 6 months' time. Details to follow in approximately 5 months' time!
  5. Hopefully we'll see some of you there this afternoon. I'll provide a short write up after the event, and possibly some video.
  6. Mikefule

    New British £50 note.

    It's not often I stray into anything remotely resembling political correctness but, much as I'd find it satisfying to see the inventor of the concertina on a bank note, I think "for the greater good" the Treasury should look at other options than white males. British female scientists: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dorothy-hodgkin-and-the-most-inspirational-british-women-scientists-9353921.html
  7. Mikefule

    30 button Anglo fingering

    One step at a time. :) Firstly, you do not need to use any of the extra notes on the 3rd row. They are a facility, not an obligation. Everything you can already play on your 20b will transfer to the 30 with identical fingering. (Slight exception: the lowest pull note on the left hand on the inside varies a bit.) Introduce those extra buttons one at a time as you need them. You don't need to use all of them just because they're there. There are two sorts of note on the 3rd row and they are there for different purposes: Opposite direction duplicates. Accidentals: notes that are not available on the 20b. Opposite direction duplicates — some starting points: Duplicates be used to allow smoother fingering of melodies. You can play most of the scale on the push, or on the pull — that is, without changing direction part way through. This allows you to play faster and more legato when you want to. Duplicates allow a choice of harmonies for the most important notes in a tune. The most important notes harmonically in the major key are the tonic and the dominant (5th). Playing in C on the standard 20b layout, you can find the tonic, C, in each direction: C push on the C row and C pull on the G row. In G, the tonic is G, and in C, the 5th is G. On a 20b C/G, you can find the G push on either the C or G row, but it's not there on the pull. This is where the 30b offers an advantage: the G pull falls easily to hand on the 3rd row. This will be the note on the 3rd row that you use most often. Find it and learn it, on each hand. The 3 most important major chords in a major key are I, IV and V. In C major, they are C, F & G. On a 20b, you have the bass notes C and G readily available, but the lowest F is an octave higher. On a 30b, the bass F is pull on the lowest left hand button on the 3rd row. Use this and you immediately give more "beef" to your accompaniment. Learn this one and get used to using it. Playing in C, you can often add flavour to a simple tune by substituting A min chord for the C maj chord when playing the melody notes C or E. In order to do so, you need the note A on the push. It occurs twice, an octave apart, on the left hand on the 3rd row. Find them and get used to making that chord. Accidentals: extra notes — some starting points: Some tunes have one or more rogue "black notes" that are not available on the 20b. Some tunes modulate up or down a key and need one black note per key change. You may want to play in keys other than C/G. 1 & 2 are often more or less the same thing. The most common accidentals in any simple tune are the ones needed to modulate one step around the circle of 5ths. Easy example: If you are playing in C major, you may find you sometimes need the F# as the tune dips into G for a bar or two. If you are playing in G major, you may need the F natural as the tune dips into C for a bar or two. You can do both of these on the standard 20b C/G. However, if you are playing in C and need to dip into F, you will need the B flat. If you are playing in G and need to dip into D, you will need the C#. They are therefore the first two "black notes" you need to find and learn on the 3rd row. Fingering generally: On a 20b CG, a single octave of the C major scale can theoretically be fingered 128 different ways. This is because all of the notes except F are each available in 2 places. 2C x 2D x 2E x 1F x 2G x 2A x 2B x 2C = 128. On a 30b, there are even more ways to play that one octave scale because some notes are available in 3 different places. Of course, not all of these theoretical options are used, and if a tune includes a complete 8 note scale, it will always fall readily to one of the more obvious fingerings. However, in the context of a tune, you always need to think what came before and what comes after, and how fast you want to play, and whether you want to play legato or staccato and what harmonies will fit. Experiment with different ways of finding the run of 4 notes G A B C (in each octave, using all 3 rows) and the run of 4 notes D E F# G. Be aware that those options are there, and try different approaches when learning a new tune. Do not be dogmatic: (Well, I say don't be dogmatic, but some people may disagree and I could be wrong... 🙂 ) Although you will find that in the normal course of events, certain fingers will operate certain buttons, this is not an absolute rule. Sometimes you will need to use different fingering because of context. Although it is usually best to change finger when you move to a different button, there are occasions when it is preferable, or even unavoidable, to use the same finger consecutively on different buttons. The same sequence of notes can often be harmonised different ways according to mood. Playing solo, there is no single "right" arrangement for a melody. If anyone shows you their "method" treat it with respect because there will be good reasons behind it, but remember that it is only one method among many. A method that works well for fast fiddle tunes may not be the right one for richly harmonised music hall songs, and vice versa. The Anglo was invented to make music readily accessible without a lot of theoretical knowledge. The more you play it, the more sense it makes. You will find that the most useful of the buttons on the 3rd row "just happen" to be exactly where they fall to hand. Enjoy exploring the options, a bit at a time.
  8. My understanding is that Kimber refused to change his 20b arrangements of the Morris tunes, but was happy to use the 3rd row for other popular tunes that required it. Less is sometimes more, especially with music, but sometimes it is fairer to say that "enough is sufficient". When you need those extra buttons because the tune modulates through 3 keys, less isn't more, it's a handicap. However, that doesn't mean that you have to use every full chord and bass run you can find, every time, on every tune, because that can lead to a "death by chocolate" style of music.
  9. That's an interesting comparison. Thinking also of (?) the Plymouth Philharmonic (?) which many years ago did some experimental thing where they did minimal rehearsal because that's what orchestras had to do back in the day when the score arrived with the ink still wet on the day of the concert. Thinking also of recordings of William Kimber, whose playing sounds odd and crunchy to modern ears, and not at all like the style that many people now call "English". Every generation, including ours, is part of the folk/popular process. It's not an us and them situation. Just as the Victorians did, we play the music that is known to us, using techniques and harmonies that we hear around us. We are able to listen to a wider range of music and styles, and have far greater access to theory. This has many advantages, but the disadvantage is that some of the simplicity and soul of the music may be sacrificed to sophistication and smoothness. "Handicapping" ourselves by playing the simpler instrument forces us to find what is already in the tune, rather than showing what we can put into the tune.
  10. A waiting list for Dippers? I think the waiting list is already 100 years long! Why is the 20 key so special? Because the 20 button layout is the heart of every Anglo. All Anglos are a 20 key plus extras. Each one of those extras makes it more versatile or easier to play, but at the expense of the essential purity of the instrument. When you only have 20 keys, you need to play push pull most of the time. When you have a 30, there are many ways to play short runs of notes in the same bellows direction. It becomes faster and more legato. When you have a 30, you have more chords, or richer versions of the chords available on the 20, and different inversions. It becomes more like a pocket piano and less like a pump action harmonica. Every improvement makes it a better and more rounded musical instrument, but at the expense of the simple charm of the basic layout. This is true of so many products. Manufacturers bring out something that fits a clear design brief, then spend the next few years improving it until it is something completely different, often "better" on paper, but somehow less characterful. My first Moto Guzzi had only 5 gears but they were exactly the right ones; my latest has 6 gears and that means I have to change more often. The first Ford Ka was glorious in its unpretentious simplicity; the current one is prettier, more complex, better in every way except it's less practical and more expensive to repair. Who can deny that a 21 speed bicycle is more versatile and practical than a fixed gear? Yet a fixed gear is somehow more rewarding to ride. Add your own examples here: I love my 30b Dipper and play it every day. I recently traded a 38b Jeffries because I seldom played it, despite it being a beautiful instrument. I found I was playing my cheap and cheerful 20b Lachenal more often. I also found that the extra work required to fit some tunes on a 20b with an imaginative accompaniment has made me a better player all round, and has helped me to move away from the temptingly easy bass options that the 30 offers.
  11. Hi, Paul. No, people gather at the hall from about 13:00 and there is a period of nattering and informal playing before the first "once around the room" starts. Tea/coffee and biscuits are on constant supply but there's no meet up for lunch before hand.
  12. Tradewinds Ted: That's my thoughts, although versatility is at least a consideration. I turned down several 38b concertinas, including at least 1 Jeffries, because I preferred the 30b Dipper that I bought. I tried 5 or 6 20b Lachenals on the same day and one stood out: it wasn't the recently restored one with the longer bellows, but the one that felt right in my hands. A concertina is easier to practise when you need to be reminded to put it down, rather than nagging yourself to pick it up. The best concertina "on paper" isn't always the one I'll choose. I'll choose the one that feels like it will be my voice when I play it. As for simplicity and limited range of notes, I started on the diatonic harmonica, which is effectively a "one row" melodeon without the complication of bellows and bases.
  13. In the melodeon world, there is a thriving sector of people playing beautiful craftsman-made single row boxes. These people don't think, "It's only a 1 row." They work with the single row that's available and play some amazing music in the traditional style. In the concertina world, there is a little bit of an feeling of "it's ONLY a 20 b." This may be because the biggest group of Anglo players is the people who play Irish fiddle tunes cross row in D (and other keys) on CG 30b boxes. If the biggest demand is for 30b, that's where the specialist makers will concentrate their efforts. I very much enjoy playing my 20b. Furthermore, trying to work out tunes on 20b with out the "easy option" of a duplicate note in the 3rd row, has made me a better player. I would love a 20b as nice as my 30b Dipper. (Although I will almost certainly never have the funds to buy yet another concertina.) Such an instrument would be a joy to own. That said, the rugged simplicity of the Lachenal with its bone buttons and clicky action is part of what gives it is character.
  14. Mikefule

    Writing a tune on concertina video

    Interesting, and lovely. If I have one suggestion, it's buy a stool! Funny how your tune turns out sounding authentically Scottish. After more than 30 years as a Morris dancer, most of mine sound very like English Morris tunes. The real trick is to find what to change to make the tune less obvious. I could write a generic and forgettable tune a day, but if I can find the little twist or change that makes it less obvious, it tends to take on a life of its own. I think you achieved that here. Thanks for sharing. Here's a link to one of mine, chosen because my dear wife said it sounded like a "Scottish maritime tune."
  15. Mikefule

    Playing along with Guitar

    The Anglo is designed to make 2 major keys easily accessible with chords. In addition, it makes the related minors and modes easily accessible. With sufficient buttons, practice and skill, you can add further keys, but the further round the cycle of 5ths you go, the thinner and less intuitive the chords become. A capo shortens all of the guitar's strings by the same amount, effectively retuning the guitar. If the guitarist puts the capo 2 frets up, then uses the same fingering as before, only moving his hand 2 frets up, he will be playing in a key a tone higher than before. The Anglo player's equivalent of a capo is to pick up a different Anglo. If you play single note style, it is easier to extend into further keys.