Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About hjcjones

  • Rank
    Heavyweight Boxer
  • Birthday 07/15/1954

Contact Methods

  • Website URL
  • ICQ

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Interests
    Traditional music and song, especially English.

    I play Anglo: a C/G Crabb 40 key, a Dipper D/G 31 key, and Lachenal F/C baritone. Besides concertina, I play melodeon, guitar, hammered dulcimer and recorder, and sing.

    I used to be in the ceilidh band "The Electropathics" and now play with Albireo
  • Location
    Cheshire, UK

Recent Profile Visitors

790 profile views
  1. The most widely used format for sharing folk tunes is ABC. This is a text based method of representing music. There are free programs and online converters which will turn it into conventional notation, let you transpose into other keys, or play it back. If you Google a tune title and add "abc" eg search for "rising of the moon abc" you should get some results. A website called The Session focuses on Irish music and has a large collection of tunes.
  2. I'm just intrigued by your idea of "more modern" stuff. "The Rising of the Moon" dates from the mid-1860s. The better-known version of "Roddy McCorley" was written in 1898. How old do you want it to be? In ITM the concertina is played as a single-note melody instrument with just occasional chord embellishment, but this style isn't very well suited to accompanying songs. However there are other styles of playing for song accompaniment which use chords. Perhaps not very authentic, but the same could probably be said for banjo as an accompanying instrument. However many great folk revival bands aren't worried about sounding authentic. If in doubt, get both! But if you have to make a choice. think about what has inspired you to want to play these instruments. Which musicians most attract you and make you want to play like them? Don't choose an instrument just because it seems "Irish" if you're inspired by something different.
  3. That's fair comment, Dave, but the converse is equally true for ear-players in music-led situations. I can't participate in concertina band or ensemble arrangements because I can't read music. If I were to try, I expect I would find that few of the sight-readers would be prepared to make any allowance while I attempted to pick up the part by ear, and why should they? Different situations require different skill sets, and in order to participate fully in a session then being able to play by ear is an essential skill, just as being able to sight-read is an essential skill for playing ensemble arrangements. Neither seeks to deliberately exclude the other, it's simply due to the nature of these events. Being slightly mutton myself I sympathise with your hearing problems, but I doubt that most who bring dots to a session have that justification.
  4. A session may be a playground, but it is just as much the "real thing" as the examples you mention. I've done all of those and they can be pretty intense, and yet some of my most intense musical experiences have been in sessions. I still have memories of a near-perfect session in the Tiger Inn at a Beverley Folk Festival which took place well over 30 years ago, when everyone hit just the right groove, and everyone listened and responded creatively to what the others were doing. It was very special. The great thing is that, unlike the other experiences, sessions are open to anyone who is past the beginner stage and has at least some command of their instrument. They don't need to be a great player or even to know all the tunes, just enough to play along where they can and sufficient self-awareness not to intrude where something is beyond their level of competence. It does require the ability to listen not only to yourself but to the others, and to play to them rather than to what is written on a page. By all means take your music if it gives you confidence, and if the custom of the session permits, but the sooner you can do without it then the more you will get out of the session. As RAc correctly said, every session is different and the most important thing is to fit in with the customs and norms of behaviour of that particular session. I said earlier that I regard sessions which depend on music as something rather different from those which don't. I don't wish to imply that they are inferior, they provide a great opportunity for people to play together and to develop confidence in their playing, and most importantly to have fun. They provide their own rewards, and require a different set of skills, which I lack. I am certainly not putting them down. What I am saying is that anyone who wishes to move from those into less structured sessions (and not everyone may want to) will need to learn additional skills which include giving up, or at least substantially reducing, their dependence on written music.
  5. RAc posted while I was composing my last post. Yes, session skills do have to be learned in sessions, but you won't learn those skills if you're dependent on the dots. Tearing yourself away from them is difficult, and if it helps to have them nearby as a prop if necessary to help your confidence then so be it. However the aim should be to remove that dependence, so you can focus your attention entirely on what you and the other musicians are playing. Once you can achieve that, if only in one or two tunes, it is immensely liberating and satisfying, and that will give you the confidence to continue and to improve those skills. I've never been to a session where written music has been handed out to introduce a new tune. Someone introduces a new tune by playing it, and others join in as best they can (joining in with an unfamiliar tune is another session skill you can only learn by doing it). If they like the tune well enough, the dots may then help them to learn it outside the session, so they are better prepared the next time it is played. I'm afraid that there are key skills which you really have to learn in order to participate fully in a session, and doing without written music is one of them. It also works the other way - I am excluded from some types of event because I cannot read music, and I accept that if I wish to participate in these then I will have to make the effort to learn new skills. Why should session-playing be any different?
  6. Dots have their uses, and a tablet is a great way to organise them, far better than a multitude of folders with paper falling out of them. I use MobileSheets for Android which appears to be very similar to forScore. However I use it as a prompt to help me choose something to play, but I don't then refer to it while playing. I sometimes use it on stage (with the tablet attached to to mic stand, and which also serves as a digital mixer) to remind me of a band arrangement, but it requires only a brief glance occasionally and does not interfere with my playing or how I engage with the audience and fellow band-members. Memory is like a muscle, if you don't use it then it becomes weak. If you habitually play from dots you don't need to exercise your memory for music, so of course it becomes more difficult to remember tunes. Try humming tunes to yourself without an instrument in hand whenever you get a moment, so that the tunes become embedded in your head rather than your fingers. The only way to break the dependence on dots is to put them to one side and try to manage without. Start with tunes you know well and can play confidently from music, and know well enough to hum without music. It will be difficult at first, but remember that you don't have to join in with everything that's played, and you don't have to play every note in a tune, it's more important to keep up with the other players even if you have to fudge tricky phrases or bits of the tine you can't remember. In the heat of a session most mistakes will pass unnoticed, and even glaringly obvious ones which turn you purple with embarrassment are gone in a moment, and are forgotten by the end of the set. The reward will be to be able to participate fully in a "good satisfying traditional session".
  7. There are several problems with dots in sessions (I'm talking here about sessions which do not rely on a shared tunebook). First is the time taken to find a tune - by the time someone has identified the tune being played and leafed through their folder to find the right page, the session is ready to move on to the next tune. Secondly, the written version may not match the one actually being played - these are folk tunes and there is no definitive 'correct' version. Perhaps most important, relying on dots is a barrier to learning the skills of listening and ear-playing which are essential to participate fully in a session. As Theo has said, a session is like a conversation - imaging trying to join in a conversation if your every contribution had to be prepared beforehand and read out. The skills required to participate fully go beyond simply being able to memorise tunes. The only use for dots in this type of session is as an aide-memoire when choosing what tune to play. My mind often goes blank and I can't think of a tune to play, so a list of titles or a few bars can be a handy prompt. But once a choice has been made, the dots must be set aside. Gatherings which work from tunebooks share many similarities with sessions but are more properly thought of a form of workshop, in my opinion. Their dependence on written music prevents the spontaneity and interaction which is the hallmark of a live session. That is not to say they do not serve a useful function, and for many people they provide their best opportunity to play along with others, but if those players want to move on to play in full-strength session they will need to break away from depending on dots.
  8. Tutors are to tell you how to play. For song accompaniment, you need to understand what to play. First of all, you need to find a key which you can sing in and which fits comfortably on the concertina. Then start with chords. The basis for a simple accompaniment is the "three chord trick" based around chords I, IV and V. Look this up if you don't know what it means - there are plenty of websites explaining it, and although they're usually aimed at guitarists the principles apply to any instrument. In the key of C the chords are C, F and G (or G7). Mess around with these to get used to their sound, and use your ears to tell you when to change chords. You can get hold of "fakebooks" which will show you the chords for a tune, but you might have to transpose the tune into a concertina-friendly key (there's lots of free and cheap music software to help with this). Don't forget you can play chords with the right hand as well as the left, and don't feel you have to play every note. It's usually better to avoid playing the melody line at first and just stick to chords. As you get more confident, you can try making it more complex - add some more chords, play arpeggios instead of full chords, add passing notes or bass runs to move from one chord to another, add a counter-melody. Listen to accompanists you admire and try to figure out what they're doing. The most important thing to remember is that the song is the most important element, the accompaniment is only there to support it. Trying to play something too fancy will probably mean you are not able to give enough attention to how you sing, and will only distract the audience from the song itself. Save the flashy bits for between verses. A simple accompaniment played and sung well is better than a complex one performed poorly. Just have a go!
  9. I also own an early 90s model saltarelle nuage and I agree that the single-reed sound isn't really the same as a concertina, however I am accustomed to concertina reeds rather than hybrids and I've not made a close comparison with one of them. Most hybrids I've come across also sound slightly different from a traditional concertina (which is not to say they don't sound good, and I hear that Edgeleys are very good although I don't think I've come across one). In most cases the difference isn't enough to matter, especially in a session. I quite understand your desire to play concertina. I am less clear why you want to try an unknown and untested layout, at considerable financial risk, rather than persevere with the standard anglo. I think it is unlikely that you would be able to replicate the authentic modem Irish style of playing, which to a large part derives from having to play outside the home keys an a C/G. Some purists won't even agree that Irish music can be played on an English concertina. However if you are not concerned with that level of authenticity, then in the concertina world it would be worth trying an English or one of the Duet systems. It might also depend on which type of music is your priority. If it is Irish, it would be worth persevering with a C/G anglo, which is the standard instrument and for which there are plenty of learning resources teaching proper Irish technique. If you really can't get to grips with that, a G/D is great for English music and can also be played in A.
  10. At first glance what you appear to be proposing is two melodeon layouts (fourth-apart and semi-tone apart) in a concertina body. However the D and G rows are the opposite way round so cross-rowing would be different, and the scale is split between two hands, so it will not play like a melodeon. Neither will it play like a conventional concertina. You say you already play melodeon, so if you want it all in a single box then why not adapt one of those? I have heard of at least one C#/D/G melodeon. This would allow you to play English music in the usual style on the D/G rows, and semi-tone apart Irish style on the C#/D rows. However this would mean learning two entirely different styles of playing, in order to sound authentic. Or get a 3-row A/D/G,. or a D/G/acc to allow you to play in A. If it is the concertina sound in particular you are after, then some melodeons have stops to select only a single bank of reeds, and some smaller models have only one set of reeds. An Edgeley would use accordion reeds so there is no difference there, other than very slight differences due to the different construction, but this is probably not noticeable unless you are very picky (and no two instruments sound the same anyway) What you are proposing is a very expensive experiment which could turn out to be unplayable. If you cannot get on with standard C/G what makes you think you could master this, especially with no teaching materials available? Even if you could learn to play it, you will have tied yourself to a unique system and would be unable to play a different instrument, and your instrument would have no value except as scrap as no one else could play it. It is a big risk, simply for the convenience of having to carry around only one box. Furthermore, whilst you may be able to play both Irish and English tunes on it, I doubt either style would sound authentic. If you are set on a concertina, you might consider the "franglo", based on a 2.5 row melodeon layout http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php?topic=22623.0 However I don't know if anyone is currently making them.
  11. MIS and Newmoon seem to be the popular choices. I've found them both very helpful although I've only had to make a claim once, for a broken mic. If you're relying only on household insurance be aware that this probably won't cover you playing for gigs, and in some cases this might include unpaid performances. Every policy wording is different so you need to check.
  12. A little can go a long way. I think drones are most effective when used to provide a contrast rather than as the main feature, although this can depend on the tune. I sometimes start off a tune with just a drone accompaniment and then bring in chords the next time through. I suggest cross-rowing as much as possible In order to sustain the drone without breaking it up any more than can be avoided. Frequent bellows changes will disrupt the drone effect even if you are still playing the same note. Try to change bellows direction at a point where where the interruption to the drone can reinforce rather than disrupt the effect, such as the end of a phrase, or at least on a firm beat in the music. However, as Wunks has suggested, deliberately lifting off the drone at times can also be effective.
  13. Playing by ear is easy. I never think about the names of the notes or the chords I play, so I don't have to mentally transpose when I pick up an instrument in a different key. If you are playing from notes then of course it is different, and you will have to consciously learn a different keyboard layout. However I think you are right that is it just a question of practice. Recorder players have a similar problem, the fingering is the same on all the sizes but the notes produced will be different depending on whether the instrument is in C or F. Most serious recorder players seem to get the hang of this.
  14. An instrument which has been properly restored shouldn't need much doing to it, although an older instrument might need a bit more tlc than a new one. However they are mechanical instruments with a lot of moving parts, and things can occasionally need attention. Usually these are fairly minor things such as a broken spring or dust in a reed, which can be easily fixed, with a little knowledge without needing to go to a repairer. Dave Elliott's Concertina Maintenance Manual is well worth getting and well help you to diagnose problems as well as show you how to fix them. Apart from age, the only substantial difference between a hybrid and a traditional concertina is the reeds used and how they are mounted. Tuning should be left to an expert, but should only be needed very occasionally if the instrument is handled carefully. If you will be playing for morris and trying to maximise volume outdoors in adverse weather conditions then reeds may need more frequent attention! Worn bellows can also be a problem and best left to the experts (unless you are confident DIYer), but assuming the bellows are in good condition to start with it is far better to take care of them in the first place and play in a way which will minimise damage and wear. I think there are more important things to consider when choosing between a restored vintage and a new hybrid, the most important (in my opinion) being how it sounds and how responsive it to play. You will know when an instrument feels right for you.
  15. Neil, you need to understand there are a lot of scams around concertina sales, often using photos taken from a genuine sale, so people here are by default suspicious of any new advertisements which appear inconsistent or contain obvious errors, as this one does, and especially when posted by a new member who has provided no other information about themselves.
  • Create New...