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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

    Hand Position

    How are you holding it? 4 fingers through the strap with the thumb on the outside. The strap goes across the back of the hand, not the wrist. The strap should be slightly loose. You can then add tension to it by gripping it with the thumb against the side of your hand. Play seated, with the ends of the bellows resting on your lap, one end on each thigh. This leaves your hands free to operate the instrument without also having to support its weight. Some people prefer to place the middle of the bellows one one thigh. This is not wrong but I personally feel it provides less stability, especially when you're learning or playing something tricky. You can achieve a lot by bracing the heel of your hand slightly when you need to reach or "crunch" to reach a particular note. Practise scales across the rows and practise playing along the near row as exercises, rather than just playing tunes. Do the things you find difficult, don't avoid them. It will get easier and one day you will probably wonder why it was an issue. However, if your fingers really are too long once you've tried all of these things for a reasonable period, it may be time to see about some higher palm rests. On average, women's hands are smaller than men's, and concertinas were designed and developed to fit human hands in the normal size range. (Pirates and clowns are not known for their digital daintiness.) There will be a few exceptions, but I suspect that very few people's hands really are too big for them to play a standard sized Anglo. An important part of playing is to relax. New musicians are often tense and focus their worries on perceived problems with the design or size of the instrument. It is a good starting point simply to have faith that the instrument is right and that you can learn to play it. For comparison, I am a unicyclist and in the unicycle forum, it is not uncommon for new riders to ask how they can modify their unicycles to make them easier to ride. When I was a fencer, the fencing forum had numerous queries from beginners who were very worried about the exact size and shape of the grip on their foils. As you learn an activity, the wisdom of the standard design tends to become more obvious, but there are occasional exceptions. Anglo is a wonderful, challenging, quirky, engaging instrument. Enjoy. If possible, spend some time with other Anglo players who can see what you're doing and give you tips. Good luck.
  2. Mikefule

    consecutive notes

    Ah yes, I forgot that aspect of it when I was writing my longer comment above. Certainly on Anglo, and I guess on English, there are many times when you can use two consecutive notes on the same button as an opportunity to swap fingers to help you move your hand position one button further up or down. On an Anglo, it is often (but not always) two different notes on the same button as you play part of a scale.
  3. Mikefule

    consecutive notes

    I play Anglo, not English, but the principles are the same for this issue. Using only the bellows for articulation does not produce a crisp start to each note. If you take your finger off the button and put it back on for the next note, then there is a moment as the bellows pressure builds up slightly before the valve opens and the note starts at exactly the right moment with a crisp attack. If you use bellows movement alone to produce consecutive notes in the same bellows direction it will be slow, clumsy and muddy. If you do the same with notes in opposite bellows directions it is not quite so bad, but it can still sound breathy. My view is that you should practise the more difficult skill of depressing and releasing the button once for each note. 9times out of 10, this will be the sound you want. 1 time out of 10, you may choose not to use the skill, either because you want the sound, or because that particular run of notes is tricky. Far better to have the skill and choose not to use it than to be unable to use it because you don't have it. Now, should you change finger for consecutive notes? There are two situations: consecutive notes on the same button, and consecutive notes on different buttons. In the case of consecutive notes on the same button, I have never used different fingers. I know some melodeonists use this technique for very fast triplets or grace notes, but they have big fat buttons. It would be a fine skill to learn on a concertina with skinny buttons, but I have never needed to. In the case of consecutive notes on different buttons, it is a good general rule to use different fingers. However, there are times when the digital gymnastics required are such a distraction that it is counterproductive. If you are to use the same finger consecutively on different buttons, it is usually best to choose carefully where to do this. For example, the last note of one phrase and the first note of the next phrase often provides sufficient punctuation that you can do this and make it sound right. A specialist English player may disagree with some of this.
  4. Mikefule

    What is Focused Practice? My New Student!

    I work towards getting my right hand/melody on automatic so I can think about the left hand. I tend to ring the changes a bit with the left hand, and the timing and emphasis of the left hand are what gives life to the piece. But back to the original question of practice for a new player, just learning to play the tune confidently on autopilot is a good objective, so they can then add techniques and variants in their next lesson. The student has to do most of the learning between lessons. A teacher in a lesson can show and explain, but only practice in the time between lessons can develop and embed the skill.
  5. Mikefule

    What is Focused Practice? My New Student!

    I have two students at the moment. I encourage them each to play a bit each day, even if it's only 10 minutes. A few minutes' practice a day is far better than one long session every few days. Structured and focussed practice is easier when you have a bit of a repertoire. Early in a player's career, I'd suggest they play their basic scale(s) then play the tune(s) they're learning and to stop when they start to make too many mistakes. "Ear fatigue" is a thing, as is "finger fatigue". Once the student has a small repertoire, I'd say: Warm up with a tune you know well. Spend a few minutes on the one you're just learning. Play another tune you know well, and maybe some scales. Spend a few minutes on one or more tunes that you can play but are still trying to get "up to speed" and smooth. Finish with something you enjoy. Think of the tunes you know well/enjoy as a sorbet to clear the palate between the more nutritious courses of hard practice on difficult stuff. The definition of "difficult" will change as the player improves. There should always be something they regard as difficult, however good they get. I'd say 3 x 10 minutes, or 2 x 15 minutes is always better than 1 x 30 minutes. Eventually, they may do 2 x 30 minutes, which is better than 1 x 60 minutes. The ideal situation is that they struggle to put the instrument down, rather than having to make time to pick it up. For that, they need a nice instrument, and some tunes they enjoy playing. I'd also encourage them to sit properly on an upright chair and play as well as they can. Lounging in an armchair can easily lead to slow and unstructured nurdling and poor technique.
  6. Mikefule

    Beginner articulation question

    It is a good discipline to take your finger off the button and put it back on for the next note. Later, there may be occasions when you choose not to. It's far better to learn the skill and choose not to use it than to not have the skill. The effect it creates is a crisp and "clipped" start to each note and a crisp and definite end to each note. Musicality is as much about the length of the notes and the gaps between them as it is about the sequence of notes.
  7. Mikefule

    Banks of the Dee

    Thank you. I enjoy playing what we call "the slows" — at least on some Morris tunes. They seem to fit he Anglo particularly nicely and sometimes offer more left hand options than the full speed A music.
  8. Mikefule

    Tune name ?

    This site has never let me down yet: https://www.folktunefinder.com
  9. Mikefule

    Concertina as dominatrix ??

    Also used to be "rum, bum and baccy".
  10. Mikefule

    Concertina as dominatrix ??

    I know a lot of folk musicians are into BDSM. Bodhrans, Dancing, Singing, and Melodeons.