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About hjcjones

  • Birthday 07/15/1954

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  • 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

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  1. I don't like flimsy straps, but on the other hand they should not be too stiff. When I had new straps recently I had them made from 3mm leather, but it has some give in it. If they are hurting your tendons they may be too tight. That may also be preventing you from reaching the air button properly resulting in it cutting into your hand.
  2. But limited more by what range of notes their instrument has. An instrument like this can play only a diatonic scale in one key, so any tune with accidentals may contain notes which the instrument simply doesn't have. Players can sometimes find workarounds to avoid the occasional accidental note, but more chromatic tunes, or tunes which modulate into different keys, are a problem and may be impossible. I have only listened to a brief section of Comptine d'Un Autre Été. From what I've heard the melody doesn't appear to have accidentals and may be possible on the flutina (although you might have to transpose it into the key of the instrument). However you won't be able to play the underlying chord sequence, as the instrument itself can't play these chords That isn't necessarily a problem, it should still sound musical, but what you play won't sound quite like the piano versions.
  3. David has beaten me to it. This is a flutina, an early precursor to the melodeon (diatonic button accordion). It is not a concertina, although it belongs to the same family of instruments and there are some similarities. A better place to ask for advice would be melodeon.net. However I don't think they are much played these days, as the melodeon took over. https://forum.melodeon.net/
  4. I think many would agree that the designs for holding concertinas of all systems are less than perfect. However no one seems to have come up with anything g better which is universal, as opposed to customised solutions for individuals. With modern techniques such as 3D printing it might be possible to make more sophisticated handles customised to the individual player, and it might be possible to retrofit them to existing instruments. However most people are left to play existing instruments with the traditional handles. It is possible that someone may have tried adding thumb loops to an anglo, although I can't recall ever seeing this. The buttons on an anglo are quite spread out, especially on those with more than 30 buttons, and it is often necessary to be able to move the hands inside the straps, not only to reach the more distant (or very close) buttons but also to shape chords. I have never felt that this would be made easier if the thumb were anchored down. I have just experimented with improvised thumb loops (using velcro cable ties), but I did not feel they added anything. They had to be quite tight for me to feel they gave me a proper grip which would have any effect on bellows movements, and this wasn't comfortable and I didn't feel it gave me any greater control over the bellows. If thumb loops were to be adopted I think they might have to be adjustable. They didn't restrict my hands as much as I thought they might, but I did find it harder to reach some positions. As I feared, it did restrict access to the air button, and on the left side to the drone button which is also operated by the thumb. Whilst I recognise that these improvisations are not the same as proper fitted thumb loops, it doesn't make me think this is an idea I want to pursue. Applying tension to the straps is just another skill which is part of playing the instrument.
  5. As a player in the harmonic style I would say that good control of the air button is absolutely crucial, and it is arguably the most important button on the instrument. I make almost constant use of it, little and often and usually while playing notes rather than trying to grab or dump air between phrases. However I cannot see any advantage to having one on both sides, one is entirely sufficient and to try to use two together would probably make it difficult to maintain fine control. I don't find the traditional air button awkward, but I know that some do. A lever may be better ergonomically, but my experience on melodeon suggests that it would need to be quite long to allow fine control. Geoff Crabb has designed one which will work both as a button and a lever, but that's quite complicated and no doubt more costly. The position and height of the hand rests is very personal and it is not uncommon for players to move them around to suit their hands. Likewise strap tension - you have to find a balance between having them sufficiently tight to maintain control of the instrument and sufficiently loose to reach all the buttons (novices commonly have them too tight). Personally, I like to be free to move my hands around within the straps, and I overcome the stability problem by supporting it on my knee. With looser straps tension can be increased when needed by adjusting the hand position, and for me this includes using the thumb, so I think a thumb strap might also restrict this, quite apart from interfering with the air button. Anchoring the thumb might also make it more difficult to reach all the buttons.
  6. I'm not suggesting that EC players can, or should, use the bellows the same way as an anglo player would. However I am questioning the premise of the thread, which is that EC players don't use bellows changes for expression, when you only have to watch a few expert players to see that they do. The difference is that using the bellows this way is a more advanced skill for EC players whereas for anglo players it is built in from the start. No one has mentioned the air button. This plays a huge part in anglo playing, not just for air supply to but to help with expression. ECs don't have an air button (is this what bowing levers were intended for?) and duet players don't often seem to use the air button the same way. This, perhaps even more than the way the instrument is held, accounts for the differences in the way anglo and EC players use the bellows.
  7. I think those discussions are taking place, but this particular thread is possibly not the appropriate one as it is about playing style. There have been other discussions on that topic, or perhaps you should start a new one. If the majority of players had found that the way the instrument is held prevents them from playing to its full capabilities then no doubt an alternative design would already have emerged. If nothing has changed in 150 years perhaps that suggests that it is not something most players are concerned about.
  8. HansQ, we may be at cross-purposes, unless I am taking your axe-handle comparison too literally. You appear to be arguing that any lack of expressive bellows changes in EC playing is due to the way the instrument is held. Perhaps this is a factor, but I am arguing that the reason is because of the unisonoric nature of the EC. When they first start playing EC players have no need to change bellows direction and tend to simply play until the bellows are fully extended and then until they are fully closed. As their playing develops, they learn to shape the notes and add expression through deliberate use of the bellows, rather than simply using them as an air pump (expression can of course also be added through fingering, but use of the bellows offers an additional tool). This is not individualistic compromise, it is simply achieving a more advanced level of playing. Anglo players have the opposite problem. Its bisonoric nature requires novice players to make frequent bellows changes, and consequently it is fairly easy for anglo players to add expression this way - it is built in. Their problem is playing smoothly, and they have to learn additional techniques in order to eliminate bellows changes where they are musically inappropriate. Again, these are not individual compromises but simply a more advanced level of playing. It is true that some players of all systems experience problems with the way the instruments are held, whether it is strain on the thumbs with EC or carpal tunnel syndrome and similar issues with hand straps. In those cases modifications do tend to be individual compromises to suit that particular person's difficulties, and might not be suitable for others.
  9. I'm afraid I don't understand your point. Why should overcoming the instrument's innate tendency towards playing smoothly be a compromise? If a technique works it should work for everyone, not just the individual who invented it - whether everyone can master the skill is a different question? And why are you denigrating copying what more accomplished players can do? Surely that is the very basis of learning any instrument, by copying what your teacher shows you, or what you see other players doing? Of course you can't escape the mechanics, but you can find ways to overcome them. The mechanics of the EC encourage playing smoothly, but it is nevertheless possible to introduce bellows expression. The mechanics of the anglo encourage bounciness, but it is possible to play smoothly without unnecessary bellows changes.
  10. There is a long-running debate about the way the English is held. Some players use wrist straps for additional support. However despite the apparent limitations of the thumbstrap and rest there hasn't been a widespread move by EC players to adopt hand straps, and it would probably make it more difficult to reach some of the buttons . There is another debate, almost as long-running, about the ergonomics of hand straps which can cause problems for some people. Whichever system you play there doesn't seem to be a simple or ideal answer. However while it might require more technique to obtain control over the bellows with EC, and working the bellows won't be the same as working them on an Anglo, it is not the case that they cannot be worked effectively and precisely, as many players can demonstrate. EC and duet by default are easier to play smoothly, being unisonoric, whereas anglos by default have more bounce due to being bisonoric, but this can be overcome. However the learning curve is different, and at beginner to intermediate level you'll probably find that more EC players tend to play smoothly and more angloists play bouncily. At advanced levels these differences disappear, and players of all systems are able to use bellows to add expression, or not, as they choose rather than as the mechanics of their instrument dictate.
  11. That is of course true. However most notes are duplicated somewhere, and in many cases all the notes can be found in the required direction and just require a more complicate fingering pattern. Part of the art of mastering anglo is using these alternative combinations, and this may include arranging things so that when you do meet a note which can be played only in one direction you are already set up to play the whole phrase that way. As you say, this does require some pre-planning and thinking ahead, but this gets easier with experience.
  12. I don't know which anglo players you've seen, but a "disciplined and well studied " anglo player will do just that. On any instrument a novice player will focus first and foremost on playing the notes. Expression comes later. On the EC it is natural for a novice to play without a change of bellows until they are fully open or closed, whereas on anglo changes are more or less forced on a novice player by the push-pull scale, whether or not it is musically appropriate. Adding expression through use of the bellows is a more advanced technique on EC which has to be learned. Anglo players have the opposite problem, and have to learn how to play legato (which may mean using different buttons to play a note without needing to reverse the bellows). It is not necessarily laziness which prevents this, but these are skills which have to be learned, and like any skill this takes time and may be beyond some players. Also remember that until quite recently, before online lessons became possible, many players on any system had no access to a teacher and had largely to teach themselves, perhaps with occasional guidance from a mentor or at a workshop. With respect to the OP, the whole premise of this thread is mistaken. Bellows reversals (and other techniques) are widely used to add expression to EC playing, although this is a more advanced technique which not all players have. However it is unfair to judge an instrument's capabilities based only on the playing of those who have not fully mastered it.
  13. Up to a point. Many melodeonists play chords on the right hand. I think there is greater similarity than might appear at first glance. If we regard the outermost row (ie the one furthest from the player's hand, disregarding accidental rows) as the tonic then the other row is the dominant. This seems an obvious choice since the relationship between tonic and dominant is the strongest of all the degrees of the scale. Both instruments place the second dominant row closer to the player's hand. The difference is that on the concertina the dominant is a fifth higher in pitch whereas on the melodeon it is a fourth lower. The equivalent to the C/G anglo is the G/C melodeon. They are both slightly different to play, but it is the tonic-dominant relationship which matters. As one who plays both I wouldn't say that one is superior to the other. They were probably developed entirely independently of one another, and the choice to go up or down in pitch when adding the dominant row may have been entirely chance. A different degree of the scale might possibly work, but probably not as well as the dominant. The most obvious alternative is to have the rows a semi-tone apart, which allows for chromatic playing and which is found on some melodeons. This would probably not work on a concertina, as playing chords would be limited.
  14. As I've described elsewhere, I was a teenager teaching myself to play guitar when a serendipitous discovery of a book of folk songs led me to folk music - these were songs I could play with my limited range of chords. I then heard Tony Rose playing concertina on an LP and thought it was a good folky instrument, so I bought a bright red East German anglo from my local music shop. It was only much later I discovered there are different types of concertina, and that Tony played EC. I struggled with it at first, and nearly gave up until I met another player at university and this reawakened my interest. Although I played mainly Irish tunes at that time I didn't associate the instrument with Irish music, and hardly ever came across it in that context either on records or in sessions (although I recall that one of the Chieftains occasionally played concertina). In my experience it was mainly used for morris and song accompaniment.
  15. My first concertina was East German, a scarlet 20-button thing with floral decoration around the bellows. I didn't know anything about concertinas, but I'd heard Tony Rose play one on an LP and thought it seemed like a proper folky instrument, and my local music shop had this in the window. It was only much later I discovered there are different types of concertina, and that Tony played English but I had an anglo. To be honest, I didn't get on with it awfully well. However at university I met the singer-songwriter Richard Plant who also played anglo, and that revived my interest. However the instrument wasn't really robust enough for vigorous playing, and I soon found myself wanting to upgrade. My next instrument was a 26-button Lachenal with brass reeds and rather leaky bellows, which at least encouraged me to develop my use of the air button. From that I stepped up to a metal-ended 40-button Lachenal which I bought from Neil Wayne. Unusually, it had fretwork around the edge of the action box, which I've seen in only one other instrument, and that only in a photo. On Colin Cater's recommendation I took it to Colin Dipper to be fettled, and it served me well for a number of years. However the sound quality, although good, was not quite up to the best instruments, and when the opportunity came along to acquire a 40-button Crabb I took it, knowing that this is what John Kirkpatrick plays. I still have this. I play mainly English music so I wanted a G/D, and acquired a 40-button made in 1924 by John Crabb. This was a very good instrument, but somehow I didn't get along with it, for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then fortune smiled on me, and I found myself the owner of a 31-button Dipper G/D Cotswold, which is a very fine thing indeed. Somewhere along the way I picked up a 30-button Lachenal baritone in F/C. Pedants have pointed out that this isn't properly a baritone, as there isn't a treble model in those keys. However it is larger than a treble instrument, and with very much larger reeds than those in the G/D which is only one tone higher, so I think it is reasonable to think of it as a baritone. The straps were a bit tight, and I only recently obtained custom straps which are longer than standard, which I've found have made it much easier to play. This, the Crabb and the Dipper make up my current stable of concertinas. I also have a flock of melodeons, a guitar, a hammered dulcimer and several recorders. The instruments I have tried out are too many to mention. Whenever players get together the first thing they do is compare concertinas, and when I visit a concertina stall at a festival I never miss an opportunity to fondle the anglos, although with no real intention of buying. A few stand out - Colin Cater's Bb/F Jeffries, which first made me appreciate what a good instrument can do; a miniature anglo with beautifully engraved end plates which I very nearly bought; nearly all the Dippers I've got my hands on; and John Kirkpatrick's surprisingly responsive bass anglo.
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