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Doug Anderson

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Posts posted by Doug Anderson

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Again, I want to point out that a Rochelle is a great value for the money and so I don't expect them to perform like the considerably more expensive instruments. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to new players that are looking to try out the Anglo without investing $1,000 or more for the opportunity.

    I agree. If not for the Rochelle I would not be playing the Anglo today. I began about 12 years ago with an English concertina. My frustration with not being able to play melody and accompaniment (my problem, not the instrument's) led me to switch to a Melodeon about six years ago. That was better, but I was still limited to just bass notes and chords for accompaniment. I was tempted to try an Anglo, but after two false starts I was hesitant to put even more money into the search for THE instrument. Finally, some positive comments here about the Rochelle convinced me to give it a try. I was accustomed to playing good instruments (Wheatstone, Castagnari, Saltarelle, Morse) and was pleasantly surprised by the playability and sound of the Rochelle. It's a tremendous value. I would probably have stayed with it longer if it was available as a G/D. I found that playing melody and a low harmony on the C row of the Rochelle was fine but the G row was impossibly squeaky to my ear. I ordered a G/D Morse Céili. It arrived a week ago and I've barely put it down since. Keep in mind that the following observations may be partly the result of the change from C/G to G/D, and not just the change from a Rochelle to a Céili.

     

    The first revelation was the air button. A quick tap on the Céili air button at the end of a musical phrase is enough to correctly position the bellows to begin the next phrase. On the Rochelle it takes more like a complete measure to do the same thing. The result is that the Céili always has more air available.

     

    The next difference I noticed was the balance between the low and high notes. On the Rochelle, when a chord on the left hand contains the same note as a melody note an octave higher on the right hand the melody note almost disappears. This effect is more noticeable on some notes than on others. It might be something that a good tuning could improve - at a price. In contrast, a right hand melody note on the Céili seems to have more of an "edge" than the same note an octave lower on the left hand. It stands out more clearly.

     

    The last difference I've noticed so far is more subtle and may well have more to do with the pitch than with the instrument. On the Rochelle. the two-note chords that I prefer sound thin. That's fine for ethereal pieces in minor keys but it doesn't work well with the hymns and American folk tunes that I mostly play. Switching to three or four-note chords exacerbates the air and balance issues I mentioned above. On the Céili, two-note chords have a fuller sound which creates more opportunities for interesting harmonies and moving bass lines.

     

    To sum up, buying the Rochelle worked out very well for me. But even if the result had been deciding that it was not for me, I'd have felt that I'd given the Anglo a fair chance. I would encourage anyone considering taking up the Anglo to buy a Rochelle and give it a squeeze.

  5. Thanks from me too for the EasyABC link. I upgraded to Lion so I could provide better phone support for a relative who just switched to a Mac. I hoped that I'd find a replacement for Barfly and this looks promising.

     

    I sing in a church choir. I can't imagine using anything but dots (standard musical notation) for sharing music in that context. I can sight read choral music pretty well. But dots don't work for me for playing the Anglo (or the melodeon). I play the melody by ear and improvise the accompaniment in both instances. I gave up trying to play from dots because the accompaniment drives the choice of buttons and reversals and I found it too confusing. So I use a pad of blank staves, a pen and a scanner to suggest harmonizations to our choir director and abc to share tunes with other instrumentalists.

     

    --Doug

  6. Phil-

    Bear in mind that Duets are similar to melodeons, and melodeons were designed to be easy to play.

    No they aren't. That's rubbish.

     

    I'm not sure which of the two assertions you disagree with. I spent a couple of days with a borrowed Stagi Hayden and only succeeded in reminding myself of the problems I had coordinating my two hands when I took piano lessons as a child. Shortly after that I tried a borrowed melodion for a couple of hours and found myself playing simple with a rudimentary bass accompaniment - the first time I'd accomplished that on any instrument in almost 60 years. Based on my experience, duets are not similar to melodeons, and melodeons are very east to play. I now have two G/C melodeons and two EC's and I enjoy switching among them.

  7. Not counting two horrible years of piano lessons when I was little, my first foray into instrumental music involved a guitar and the folk music scene in New York City circa 1960. I went through a series of fretted instruments over the next 40 years, without much success.

     

    Sometime in the early 80's I heard a concertina player on the street in Red Bank, NJ. To this day I don't know what system it was. I do know that since that day I was fascinated by the idea of playing a concertina. I didn't follow up on the idea for almost another 20 years because concertinas were expensive and I doubted I'd do any better with a squeezebox than I'd done with fretted instruments.

     

    Finally, a friend showed me an ad in an old magazine (it might have been in Sing Out) that said Button Box rented instruments. Within a week, I'd called them, arranged to rent a Stagi, and started playing. Within another week I found I'd made more progress with the EC than I'd done with fretted instruments in 40 years. That was almost 10 years ago. I now have three EC's - a lovely old Wheatstone, a Morse and the Stagi, which I periodically loan to people who express an interest on playing a concertina. (I also have a couple of melodeons, but that's a story for another forum.)

  8. Mine is a little ceramic figure of a flop-eared rabbit playing a concertina. I helped a friend take things that hadn't sold at her yard sale out to the curb for a bulk trash pickup. I set down a big cardboard box of glassware and pottery and took a quick look. There was Concertina Bunny looking up at me. He's been sitting on my music bookshelf ever since.

  9. My first squeezebox was an EC. After playing the EC for several years I was attracted by the ease of playing chords on a DBA. I was advised to consider a CBA instead, because of the push-pull business. I briefly tried a borrowed CBA and was overwhelmed by the size and weight. I bought a smallish DBA and an instruction book, set the EC aside for a couple of months, and taught myself to play rudimentary tunes and accompaniments on the DBA. The real test came when I picked up the EC again. I had no trouble with the fingering, but I found myself trying to fit the bellows direction to the note being played. That gradually went away as I started switching back and forth between the two instruments. Five years later, I take both the EC and the DBA when I go out to play with others and switch back and forth with no difficulty. I've never played an Anglo for more than a few minutes but I'm confident I could learn to play it alternating with the EC too.

  10. I've played the English concertina for about six years. My only opportunities to pick up another EC and play it are at the once-a-year weekend of the Northeast Squeeze-In, but I enjoy following discussions here and elsewhere that relate to the standard EC button layout.

     

    About a year ago I also started playing the D/G melodeon. Modifications of the standard two-row melodeon button layout (to add low notes, accidentals, reversals and chords, etc.) are common, and some of them are tempting. But many experienced players recommend leaving the "core" buttons on both the treble and bass side alone, even when this results in inefficiencies like duplicated notes and awkward reaches. This make it possible to pick up any melodeon tuned in fifths and play it, and it means one can benefit from all of the method books, tutors, DVD's, tapes, etc. and the advice of fellow squeezers from all around the world via the internet

     

    Even for someone in my situation with little or no opportunity to play instruments other than my own, I would think long and hard before turning my back on what everyone else is doing.

     

    (Having said that, I do enjoy designing wierd and wonderful virtual melodeons, including the klezmelodeon that only plays in various modes of the harmonic D minor scale.)

  11. I've been singing on stage and later in choirs for more than fifty years. I've been playing the English concertina for six or seven years. I found it easiest to mimic the phrasing and articulation of my singing if I concentrated on the button pressing and bellows pressure and held off reversing the bellows until a logical pause came along, just like taking a breath when singing. I started playing the melodeon last year and quickly ran into the issues being discussed here.

     

    At first I thought the solution was to buy a melodeon with more buttons to get more reversals so I could play longer phrases completely on the push or on the pull. But several people pointed out to me that no matter now many buttons you have on a push-pull instrument there will still be some bellows reversals needed so I might as well learn to do them cleanly (and save the expense and weight of a more complex melodeon).

     

    The solution I am still working on is to try to make my note changes with a bellows reversal sound more like my note changes without a bellows reversal, and at the same time try to make the changes without a reversal sound more like the changes with a reversal, and all the while trying to maintain a semblance of musicality. The hardest thing has been coordinating the button presses and bellows reversals when the bellows direction changes but the button doesn't. An interesting side effect of all this is that I find I am paying more attention to articulation in my singing and I think it is improving my EC playing as well.

  12. It was a wonderful evening - splendid performances of beautiful music - and a bit thought provoking as well.

     

    Walking back to Penn Station after the concert I mentioned to Cynthia that the audience had been politely attentive to all of the performances until Jin-Ok Lee began playing the "Nocturne-Rêverie" at which point all movement and sound in the auditorium ceased. The audience was spellbound. The back to back comparison of the same piece on a gentle period guitar and a powerful Steinway concert grand had me wondering if Regondi might have reached a wider audience as a composer if he was a pianist, rather than a guitarist and concertinist. Perhaps it is just as well he was not, because it would have been a significant loss to the classical concertina repertoire.

  13. For playing with others, or playing along with the radio, I prefer my English concertinas. I can play them in more keys than my D/G melodeon, the sound blends better with most jazz instruments, and I have no need to provide my own bass accompaniment. For playing alone I prefer the melodeon. The multiple reeds produce a "bigger" sound and I can play a bass accompaniment, which I've given up being able to do on the EC. And for what it's worth, there are times and places that I prefer my mandolins and/or recorders to any of my free reed instruments.

  14. I'm curious what fingering you -- and others -- are using in B measures 1-2 and 5-6.

     

    I hope I got this right (the notation, not the fingering):

     

    measures 1-2: R1 R1 L2 R1 | R2 R1 R1 L2

    measures 5-6: R1 R1 L2 R1 | R2 L1 R1

     

    It's the fifth jump from A down to to D that I stumbled over for a while. Using the same finger for both notes limits how quickly I can play the whole tune.

  15. For anyone that wants it, here is the abc code:

    David,

     

    Thank you for posting the abc code. I've been using abc a lot recently for learning tunes. I find that reading the standard musical notation while I play along with the audio helps a lot.

     

    There's an interesting little bit of right hand fingering (on the EC) in the B part. A good exercise - and a pretty tune!

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