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About Mikefule

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    Heavyweight Boxer

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    Author of Bridge of Otherwhere, 2018, available on Kindle/Amazon. Dancer, Fool, and occasional musician with Dolphin Morris Men of Nottingham, UK. I play Anglo concertina and harmonica. My concertinas are a Dipper 30b G/D, Lachenal 30b C/G baritone, and Lachenal 20b standard and piccolo. I have composed a few tunes and also written songs for occasional performance at Morris events. Other hobbies include sailing my Cornish Cormorant (12 ft balanced lug), cross country unicycling, motorcycling (Moto Guzzi V7) and other outdoorsy stuff.
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    Lincolnshire, UK

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  1. This seems to be the right general approach. Ask for advice, listen carefully, but understand that everyone has their own experience and preconceptions that will influence the advice they give you. You're not choosing a car, where you might prioritise speed, or fuel economy, or luggage space, or social prestige, or some compromise between these factors. You're choosing something that has one purpose only: to make you enjoy playing it. It has to feel right for you. Concertina players are generally a lovely and welcoming bunch, but perhaps a little obsessive about one detail or another that particularly matters to them. Given that there are several distinct styles of playing each system, there are bound to be different opinions about any individual instrument.
  2. I'm not the biggest expert here by a long way, but I can advise on the basis of decisions I have made. I've owned a Rochelle, Marcus, Jeffries, Dipper, and 3 different Lachenals over a period of 12 years, and I currently still own the Marcus and the 3 Lachenals. I play as near as possible every day. Maintenance in the sense of taking action to repair and maintain (rather than just looking after and storing carefully) has never been an issue. Each used purchase has been given a once over by a friend who plays for fun and restores concertinas as part of his business. I invested £100 or so in each "once over". After that, little or nothing has gone wrong. I had a spring go on the Rochelle which I temporarily fixed with one improvised from a safety pin until I sourced a new spring. I had a valve fall off the Marcus and I stuck it back on. That's the two "modern hybrids" which I bought brand new. I have needed no repairs to any of my older ones, other than the once over and tweaking of the tuning when I bought them. There are some very nice modern instruments available, as well as some very poor ones. I won't name brands, for fear of misremembering details and causing offence, but I have seen some that I would passionately love to own, and some that I wouldn't give house room. Price has seldom been a reliable indicator of which would be good or bad. There are some very nice vintage instruments out there, and some that are in a dreadful condition. In either case, try before you buy. There is more to this than choosing one that will be easy to maintain. Does it feel nice in your hands? Does it sound nice to you? Will it make you reluctant to put it down, rather than reluctant to pick it up? The choice is not entirely rational. When I wanted a 30+ button G/D Anglo, I tried half a dozen on one afternoon and fell in love with one that had exactly 30 buttons and a non standard layout. It felt right and sounded right to me, and it is still my absolute pride and joy years later. When I bought my Lachenal 20b, I sat and tried about 7, and there was no doubt which one I wanted. In both cases, the vendor expressed surprise at my choice, but I knew which one would be my "voice". For comparison one of the finest players I ever met had several instruments from one modern manufacturer. He could play them better than I will ever play nd they sounded wonderful in his hands. I tried them all and struggled to get them to sound nice. They worked for him. Try every concertina you can get your hands on, take a knowledgeable friend with you if you're unsure, and never buy a used one "sight unseen". Don't be drawn into any sort of hybrid/vintage snobbery or Top Trumps; find one you think you can love, then play it. It won't be your last.
  3. I keep mine in the case with the lid closed and latched, even between tunes if I'm in a session in the pub. Good discipline. It would break my heart if a drink were spilled on the bellows, or the case were to be knocked to the floor and the concertina fell out. At home, the instruments are in their cases, stored on their sides, not on their ends, in a cool part of the house away from direct sunlight or radiators. I practise in the kitchen (upright chairs and good acoustics) but never leave the box there (condensation and cooking smells).
  4. Midlands Concertina Group: an informal group of concertina enthusiasts who meet twice a year in Nottingham, UK. We had a meeting yesterday. There were 17 present, of whom 15 had brought instruments to play, 1 was a former player, and 1 was a long suffering spouse. We had five "apologies for absence". Also, sadly the ranks of our older members are reduced a little each year. On the other hand, we do have some keen new members. The balance of the group has moved from about 50/50 Anglos/English with occasional duets, to probably nearer to 80/20 Anglos/English, with an occasional duet. I'd guess that with 15 players present, some of whom had brought 2 or more instruments, we had around 30 concertinas in the room. The range of music was as wide as usual, with some people playing Morris tunes, others playing common session tunes, one who specialises in Northumbrian pipe tunes, another who played a country tune often used for line dancing, and two who sang. The biggest surprise of the afternoon was first time visitor, Ed, who self-accompanied as he sang a Half Man Half Biscuit song that rhymed "acolyte" and "ammonite" in the first two lines. Our resident trio, Behind the Times, played an arrangement for baritone Anglo, Anglo, and English. There was a duo playing English and Anglo, and another duo (well, there was some overlap in personnel!) playing Anglo and fiddle! In the interval, a few of the members got together to work on a simple tango which they then performed for the delight of the rest of us. Styles of Anglo playing included single line of melody along the row, single line across the rows in the two main keys of the instrument, single line across the rows in a different key (e.g. A on GD, or D on CG), single line with occasional double-stopping like on a fiddle, simple oompah accompaniment, and more complex chordal accompaniment. Those playing the English system showed a similar level of versatility, with some concentrating on the melody, some on the accompaniment, and some managing both (witchcraft, I tell you!). The duets, as always, did pretty much anything, in a range of keys. This is a friendly group, and all concertina enthusiasts — whether players or not, and regardless of your level of ability or experience — are welcome to come and play, listen, watch, learn, and share. The next meeting is likely to be in late March or early April 2020, details to follow.
  5. Sorry for your loss, Lynda Bass. A Dipper is an exceptionally fine instrument and they do not come up for sale often. Take advice from a number of independent sources if you are considering selling it and take your time to decide. To find the keys, press the third button in the middle row on the low end (left hand) and squeeze the bellows. Compare this note to a piano, or any other instrument, or an electronic guitar tuner, or a tuner app. Whatever note you get is the key of that row. It is most likely to be either a C or a G, although other keys are sometimes found. If that button is a C, then you have a C/G box. Popular for Irish music. If that button is a G, you have a G/D box. More popular for English/Morris music. Other key combinations, rather less popular, include D/A, or B flat/F The fingering for the middle row will almost certainly be standard for the key. The fingering for the nearest row to the hand rests (the "inside row") is typically standard but there is some variation at the very low end (left hand, little finger). I once had 3 boxes, and the pull note on the lowest button on the inside row was different on each. The fingering for the "accidental row" (the one furthest from the hand rests) is where you may find the most variation. Chances are it is more or less standard Wheatstone or Standard Jeffries. However, many people ask for their own quirky selections of notes for one or two of the buttons. The easiest way to find out is get someone who plays one to have a go and see how confused they look after 2 minutes.
  6. There are two ABC files of the tune here: https://www.ucolick.org/~sla/morris/music/abclib.html There is a link to the ABC and PDF and MP3 versions here: https://themorrisring.org/tradition/winster
  7. I have only admiration for those who play the single line of melody style well. Without all the fancy tools of bass, arpeggios, chords, counter melodies etc., they have to play that melody very well to give it lilt and lift. Less complex does not mean simpler. I certainly can't do it well.
  8. Being a Morris man, I tend to default to G and D. I learned music first on harmonica, which I often play in the higher octave to avoid the "missing notes". Years ago, I could knock a reasonable Morris tune out of a DG melodeon, but mainly in the lower octave. Then I got into Anglo, and the more committed I got to that, the harder I found it on melodeon. For a while, however, I had a 1 row melodeon and I played that in the top octave for 2 reasons: To avoid the missing notes Because the fingering was more similar to the Anglo Perhaps if I had played the melodeon more or had one in lower keys, I may have played it in the higher octave more. As an Anglo player who prefers a harmonic style, I play GD Anglo mainly in G major and D major and almost never in A major. However, as I understand it, those who play Anglo in the "mainly a single line of melody" style often play a CG in D and may therefore play a GD in A. Apart from G and D major, of course, there are the related modes, and occasional bits where a tune modulates from D into A or from G into C.
  9. The 2 main rows of the Anglo are each like one row of a melodeon. However, a DG melodeon has the D row (nearest to the hand) is LOWER in pitch than the G row (nearest to the finger tips). On a GD Anglo, the D row (nearest to the hand) is higher than the G row (nearest to the finger tips). So a DG melodeon is tuned a 4th apart, and a GD Anglo is tuned a 5th apart. That means all the cross row fingering is different. Now, take that two row (20 button) melodeon and cut it in half across the keyboard. The high end becomes the right hand of an Anglo; the low end becomes the left hand of an Anglo. Most people play a 2 row melodeon in the lower octave most of the time. Most people play most of the melody on the right hand of an Anglo. That means that playing along the row, most of your simple tunes on a a melodeon are on the octave that starts: Push, pull, push the next, pull, push the next, pull. Most of your simple tunes on an Anglo are on the octave that starts Push, pull the next, push, pull the next, push. That means that not only is the cross row fingering "inside out" but so is the along the row fingering. Then there is how you play the two instruments: Most people play a DG melodeon mainly in G or D, and the associated modes. Many people play a GD concertina in A (or, more commonly, a CG concertina in D) using the additional cross row options that the "accidental row" makes possible. The similarities are misleading. The differences are at least as important.
  10. In comic announcements for our Morris side, I will sometimes refer to one of the musicians as an "accordion operator" or a "concertina owner".
  11. I either play or sing in public, but never both together. However, when experimenting in the privacy of my own home, I find a simple technique that works nicely for a slow and thoughtful song. It is simply play two notes a fifth, or an octave, or a tenth apart, then, still holding them down, fill in the in between notes on the later beats. So I might Play [G and b] then add [D and g] in between = g major Play [A and E] then add the C in between to get A minor. The two outside notes sort of act as a mellow drone, and the timing of the in fill (which can be pulsed on the beat if preferred) adds to the sound of hte chord and helps with the rhythm. This is a crude basis for starting to build a simple accompaniment. It is not the be all and end all, but it sounds better to me than an Oompah, or just block chords, or playing the same tune as I'm singing.
  12. I agree. This is one of several reasons why I tend not to play in big sessions.
  13. As I have developed as a player, I have come to find more satisfaction and sometimes more musicality, in playing in D on the GD. It's harder work, but it introduces some harmonic options and a different way of thinking about a tune. I don't just mean transferring the same fingering across from the outer row to the inner. I mean reconfiguring the fingering to make the most of the cross row options. It follows from this that playing in in G on a CG is similarly more satisfying. However, moving one key further round (A on an GD, or D on a CG) is a tad trickier in the major keys if you play harmonically. It's far from impossible, but you're moving further from what the Richter tuning system was devised for.
  14. There's some sense to playing a single line of melody in an English session. I learn tunes on Anglo with carefully worked out arrangements, often only to find that some melodeon players pump out a I, IV, V (or even I, V) accompaniment to nearly everything, while the better melodeon players have worked out different arrangements. You can end up with clashes of chords as each musician has chosen different underlying harmonies. Also, where one musician leaves a gap for expression, someone else fills it with a cascade of decoration, and where one musician dots the rhythm, another plays a blurry legato. Sometimes, just playing the tune means you are highlighting the core of the music, without adding to the cacophony that surrounds it.
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