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Doug Anderson

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  1. After playing just my Anglo concertinas since the covid lockdowns began I picked up my melodeon about a month ago and fairly quickly was playing some of my old favorite melodeon tunes. But after a week or so I found the limited bass accompaniment possibilities with just the eight buttons was keeping me from playing some of my favorite concertina tunes. I put the melodeon back on the shelf, picked up the G/D Morse and to my dismay found myself stumbling all over the place trying to play the intro to Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland. It's very chromatic part which means lots of row crossing and reversals, and it just wasn't working. (I was planning to accompany a friend singing Joe Hill's alternative lyrics.)


    It took at least a week to get back to being able to pick up a concertina and just start playing the intro without thinking about what I was doing or looking at my hands. Apparently being a multi instrumentalist with the squeezeboxes is not in my future. 

  2. I sing bass with a mixed professional and volunteer church choir. I have no trouble sight reading standard musical notation with the professionals. 


    I play concertina, melodeon and mandolin by ear, but I often learn a piece by singing the melody to myself several times from musical notation and then setting the music aside and working out the melody with "my" chord progressions on the instruments. 

  3. When I ship a concertina I photograph it from every direction, ship it by UPS, have them pack it, and insure it for the appraised insurance cost. I have not have occasion to make a claim but one box had a nasty puncture that fortunately wasn't deep enough to reach the instrument. 

  4. One complication I've found when trying to learn a LH part independently is that I don't know which bellows directions will be needed for the RH part. (I play a 31 button G/D Anglo.) Another issue is that the RH melody part sometimes strays into the highest notes on the LH side which ties up not only the key but also the finger playing it. 


    With a new piece, once I am really comfortable playing the melody part by itself I start tapping in time with the music on the lowest available note on the LH side that sounds good as the melody proceeds. That will be the one of the notes making up a suitable chord. If none of the low notes work for a particular passage I go back to my RH arrangement to see if a bellows reversal note is available. If that doesn't work either I just skip the offending tap.


    Once I can play the melody comfortably with a harmonic sounding tap-tap-tap accompaniment I have a usable arrangement to play with others. But I then gradually start replacing the taps with something more interesting. For a waltz tempo that might mean keeping the initial tap but replacing the second and third with two-note chords. By doing this measure by measure I keep a viable version of the piece in my repertoire as I continue to enhance it. 

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  5. I spent several months trying to play both my Morse with the Wheatstone layout and my Jeffries with the Jeffries layout - both are G/D Anglos. I eventually gave up and sent the Morse to The Button Box to have the reeds changed to the Jeffries layout. I had no particular preference for one layout over the other but switching the Morse was a much more practical solution. 

  6. I began singing in public at age 5, and am still doing so 65 years later. I currently sing first bass in a choir that concentrates on early church music in the English tradition. I have played for various lengths of time and eventually abandoned the piano, harmonica, recorder, guitar, penny whistle, mandolin, English concertina and melodeon. I currently play the first instrument I ever played, the ukulele, and the most recent, the G/D Anglo.

  7. As long as I'm at it, I've added another crucial criterium: "Supports the phrases and distinctive elements of the tune?" In theory at least, this item should be self-explanitory.

    Hi Jody,


    I'm working on an example of this right now. An arrangement of a hymn tune (Dundee) that I am trying to play in G (transposed from the Eb that my choir sings it in) has a distinctive switch to the key of C in the first line, but you would never know it from listening to the soprano/melody part (or the tenor part). The switch from the F# note to the F natural only occurs in the alto and bass parts. Without the change of key the whole effect of the musical phrase is lost. That means I have to find a way to work in an F natural on the left side. It's only available on the pull, and that complicates playing the melody on the right side.


    And it's just this sort of thing that makes the Anglo such a fascinating instrument, for me at least.

  8. The eight extra buttons give you more ways and sometimes better ways to solve the puzzle. A few of the 16 pitches you get with those 8 buttons, dont exist at all on the 30 button and the rest give you alternate bellows directions, and so, more options to maximize all the needs of the music and the instrument.

    Hi Jody,

    Thanks! That's actually kind of encouraging. It sounds like I'm on the right track. The more I find my way around the third row on the instrument the better I am able to experiment with the bellows direction and find partial chords or single accompanying notes that fit the melody line. I like your list of priorities too. Lots to think about!

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