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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. The "three chord trick" is the most basic chord progression, and guitarists will be familiar with a number of more complex (and arguably more interesting) "standard" chord progressions. Progressions are used to add harmonic movement to a piece and do more than just sympathise with the melody notes - indeed at times they may clash with them, but that provides tension which should then be released by the next change of chord. A "polished" folk group with some knowledge of music theory would probably look to these standard chord progressions when arranging a tune. Even where players don't know music theory they have probably absorbed these progressions from listening to a wide range of music and will use them because that is how their sense of harmony has been formed. Kimber probably had no knowledge of music theory, and when he was developing his playing he would have been far less exposed to music which might have allowed him to build up an understanding of it through osmosis. Instead, his approach is a very natural and intuitive way to play the instrument, but whilst they are sympathetic to the melody his chords often don't provide harmonic movement, which an organised chord progression would. It is not only the chords he uses, but when he uses them. They are of course musical in the sense that they accompany the melody very effectively, but his chord choices are possibly not ones which a trained musician would make - which is what makes his playing so refreshing.
  2. My first concertina wasn't the most airtight. It taught me how to use the air button so not to run out of air.
  3. Have you tried musicians earplugs? These reduce the volume without muffling or distorting the sound
  4. Learning an instrument isn't easy, and isn't always fun, especially when you find you're struggling. It's important to remember that progress doesn't come at a steady rate, there will be times where you don't seem to be getting anywhere and perhaps even seem to be going backwards. That's entirely normal, but it is frustrating and can be disheartening. Just remember what attracted you to the instrument in the first place, and hold onto that. I wonder if you're taking on too much by trying to learn to play from memory at the same time as trying to learn the instrument itself? There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't play from music or have a music stand in front of you. The idea that it's somehow not appropriate for concertina is, with respect, simply mistaken. It's true it is not ideal to rely on written music in sessions and sometimes in performance, but you don't seem to be at that stage, and when playing for yourself it is absolutely fine. I suggest you continue to focus on learning to play the instrument, and if in future you find yourself in situations where you want to play without the music then that is the time to focus on learning that skill. What you might find helpful is to make playing by ear/from memory just a small part of your practice, perhaps at the end. You don't need to put much time or effort into it, it should just be a few minutes of exploring the instrument and finding out what happens. Rather than trying to memorise an entire tune, just try playing a few bars of anything which comes into your head. Keep it simple, and don't be afraid to hunt around to find notes by trial and error, or to change the key if that is easier. It's about building different connections, to connect sounds to buttons rather than notes on a page to buttons. Don't worry about making mistakes, that's how trial-and-error works., and don't take it too seriously, think of it as playtime at the end of more serious practice.
  5. Never having had formal music lessons on any instrument I don't really know what "practice" should involve. I have Judy Minot's book, but I didn't find it as helpful as I thought I would because although it is intended for self-taught musicians she still assumes some familiarity with the concept of "practice". For example, she suggests developing your own exercises for your particular instrument, but as I don't know what "exercises" should look like or what purpose they are intended for I don't know how to go about this. Playing scales when I only need to play in a few keys seems pointless. I just play. I play to add to my repertoire or remind myself of material I already know. Sometimes I just play tunes I feel like playing. I'll work on sections I find difficult and perhaps try to find alternative ways to play them, or ways to add more interesting harmonies. Unless I have a gig to prepare for I don't usually have any goals in mind or even know what I'm going to play before I sit down, I just play whatever comes to mind. I don't believe this playing is not useful or productive, but it doesn't feel like "practice" in the sense that (I imagine) a trained musician thinks of it.
  6. These seem to be issues arising from the history of your particular instrument rather than an inherent design fault, and possibly fixable by a competent repairer. I have no aesthetic objections to alternative bolt types, and there are far more (and more effective) options available than there were to the early makers. We all need to get inside our instruments from time to time, and I agree that when multiple adjustments have to be made this can be a faff. I can also see the benefit of being able to apply a consistent and correct pressure. However I find it difficult to envisage how quick-release mechanism could be designed which was neither visually intrusive and would not add substantially to the cost of a new instrument. Bolts are cheap and simple.
  7. I am certainly not an impeccable craftsman, although I do keep my concertina tools separate from the rest (which doesn't mean they don't sometimes get grabbed for other jobs). I can't say I've found it difficult to avoid damaging the endplates, it just takes a bit of care and patience. A plastic tube over the shaft of the screwdriver may help, but can also be a hindrance and I don't always bother with it. Of course if you do fear causing damage this way then an alternative bolt type may ease your concerns. My worry would be that I might need to make a running repair during a session or gig and might not have the specific tool with me. It is nearly always possible to borrow a flat-head screwdriver from someone (usually from another concertina player) but other types might be hard to find.
  8. I don't have my own instrument to hand to check how this works in practice, so I am relying on Anglopiano.com's 30 button Wheatstone layout, but couldn't you play the C6 pull on the same button as D6 push? That only requires two fingers. It requires a bellows reversal, but you have to do that anyway as the C#6 is also on the pull? Or cheat, and modify how you play the trill. The piece was written for an instrument where these notes are all next to one another. It seems reasonable to me to make some adjustments to reflect the nature of the instrument you are playing, and this is only a decoration, it doesn't change the melody. Perhaps a Bach purist might object, but they would probably also object to your transposing the key, and probably to playing it on concertina at all.
  9. This is mentioned in Simon's FB post, but not everyone can view that.
  10. I have those, but I'm not a good enough reader to make sense of them. Sometimes the 'shape' of the notes is a prompt, but often I can't recognise even tunes I know well. I use Mobilesheets on my phone which allows me to store not only sheet music but also actual recordings. However it's not always possible to listen to a recording in a session. I should make more effort to read music and find out where the notes are on my instruments.
  11. For me, the way to get a tune into my head is by repeated listening. Often this will be a recording or YouTube video (although it can then be difficult not to mimic that arrangement). If I have to learn from written music, I will copy that into ABC (other score writers are available) and play it back - this can be a bit wooden, but it gives me the idea of the tune. Once I have the tune in my head I can then work out how to play it, using the trial and error method I outlined above. This now isn't usually too difficult for me as I have built up a mental library of fingering patterns I can call on for most phrases. I may need to work harder on some sections and possibly adapt my default fingering - here the ABC or a slowdowner may help me to work out how it goes. (This also allows me to pick up an unfamiliar tune in a session, where I can simply gloss over any phrases I can't work out on the fly) Once I have figured out the best way to play it, this is then embedded in memory through repeated playing (which might reveal some better ways to do things). I might make a note of how I play some tricky sections, possibly using tab although I don't usually write out the whole thing. Then my biggest problem is remembering how a tune starts. I'm not good at linking tune names with melodies, and even when I have the music in front of me I'm not a good enough reader to make sense of it. However once I have a cue, I can then usually remember how to play a tune.
  12. You may not be able to remember how to play "Hark the Herald.." but I would guess that you haven't forgotten the tune. In that case the problem is connecting the tune in your head with the instrument. If you are reliant on playing from music you probably haven't had to build this connection - your connection will be between the note on the stave and the button on your instrument. You haven't said what mental process you are using to try to recall how to play the tune. Are you trying to remember the sequence of notes, or sequence of fingerings, or visualise the sheet music, or something else? There are at least two possible approaches to this. One is the approach used by classical musicians when they have to play from memory - and these are usually longer and more complex pieces. I can't offer any advice on this, but there is plenty available on the internet and elsewhere. The other is to learn the tune in a completely different way, the way those who play by ear do. For me, this involves first getting the tune in my head by repeated listening, and then finding the right sound on the instrument by trial and error. Initially this will mostly be error, but with more experience you will find the right button more easily (this was probably your experience when you first began to play from music). As David has pointed out, most music is made up of patterns, and those patterns tend to occur in many different tunes, so once you have become familiar with those patterns you will have a mental library of fingering patterns and will be able to call on these to play not just an individual note but an entire phrase. With time and practice it should become possible to play almost any straightforward tune once you have it in your head, with only occasional stumbles at particularly tricky sections, just as a fluent sight-reader can play almost anything put in front of them. This all takes time, just as learning to play from music takes time, but it becomes easier. Take a tune you know well in your head. If it is one you already play from music then forget about whatever method you are currently trying to use to recall how to play it (it might be better to start with one you don't already play). Instead, start from the beginning by searching out the buttons by trial and error.
  13. Don't get too confused by the diatonic/chromatic distinction. What is far more important is that there are three main types of concertina, and although they look similar they have very different keyboard layouts and are very different to play. The English concertina is fully chromatic, and the buttons play the same note whether you are pulling or squeezing the bellows. The scale alternates between left and right hands. It can play both melody and chords, although it seems to be a bit more difficult to do both (at least, comparatively few players seem to do so). This may be a good choice if you already read music, since each button represents a single note on the stave. The Anglo is based on the diatonic scale, but those with more buttons have the additional notes which make them chromatic. The buttons play a different note on push and pull, like a harmonica. The low notes are on the left and higher notes on the right. Again it can play both melody and chords, and playing melody on the right hand and chords on the left is fairly straightforward. There is also the Irish style which is largely melody with only occasional chords. Many find the anglo is more intuitive and easier to play than other systems for someone with no previous musical experience. The Duet is fully chromatic and plays the same note in both directions, but with low notes on the left and high notes on the right. This allows full accompaniment without the bellows changes of the Anglo. If you have previously played piano you might find this system relatable. However there are several different duet keyboard layouts. Your choice may also depend on the style of music you want to play. For example, for Irish music the Anglo is the usual choice. To play classical, English or Duet would probably be better. The question which system to choose often comes up, and you should find plenty of answers on here. Of course, the overriding factor may be what is available to you - I became an Anglo player simply because that was what was in the shop.
  14. And in England at least (I can't comment on elsewhere) it is often played too fast, which I think is what Clive was alluding to. That's certainly been my experience, which is that it's fairly unusual to come across an Irish session played at the tempos illustrated in Peter's video links, which is one of the reasons why I don't often play Irish music these days. Perhaps I've been unlucky, but very often breakneck speed is the norm. English music by its nature tends to be slower, but there is nevertheless a tendency among some to play that too fast. Fast is exciting, and can be fine where the player has the technical ability to still retain the musicality. The problem is often that musicians are playing faster than their ability allows. Even if they are able to get all the notes out the musicality is lost. I think its a phase that many players go through once they've achieved a certain standard of playing, and fall into the trap of thinking that fast = good (I know I did, when I was young and even more foolish than I am now). It takes a degree of musical maturity to understand that playing more slowly can be actually more difficult, as you then have to bring out the music rather than simply play the notes.
  15. That includes VAT, their premium net of VAT is 25% which is not untypical. For example, Gardiner & Houlgate who often auction concertinas charge 22% + VAT. Then they also charge a fee to the seller. Nice work if you can get it.
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