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Simon H

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  1. For vintage Wheatstone owners - I found a fascinating way to connect with the times of your instrument. First find your instrument in the Horniman ledgers http://www.horniman.info/INDEX.HTM from the serial number. I'm sure you already have done this before. Note down the date and then enter that date into Google.Then when you've exhausted that, keep Googling, use the year and month and the word "diary" "journal" and see what you find, You will find all sorts of amazing stuff. Today I have read letters written by Canadian and English soldiers from the trenches dated on the very day. I've discovered so much about the First Battle of Ypres that I never knew. (I visited Ypres a few years ago before I got my concertina - unforgettable) I have printed off a sixteen page facsimile of an edition of a magazine called the Youth's companion, issued the same day as my concertina was sold. I've found relevent Wheatstone price lists, I've found the diary of a woman living in the hills in a remote part of the US. Short terse entries, killing hogs, gathering corn etc. Using search engines in this way, following off into all sorts of sites, seeing the wealth of information available is fascinating. But for me thinking of those soldiers writing home about the shell holes, and the sights and sounds of the first battle of Ypres was a sobering thing. What was happening in the world when your concertina was sold? Simon
  3. A few years ago when wrapping up my parent's affairs after their passing on, I took one of the old items that had been stored away, to sell, an old wind-up gramophone from the late 1920's. Turned out it had little value as my parents generation had kept such "valuable" items stored away in vast numbers and the market today had little need for them, only rarer ones being of value as decorative items. Now we keep nothing valuable, the recycling centres are full of CRT monitors and big TV's as the affluent world changes over to flat-screens. Because of this throwaway society we live in some 1980's computer gear is already gaining value swiftly. Anyway enough context. Concertinas clearly fell into the category of things to store away for our parents and grandparents generation, and due to many factors we are all aware of and care about on this forum retain a high level of desirability right through to the present day. Has anyone done a research project on concertina survival rates? With serial numbering available for key makes, the wheatstone ledgers etc it must be possible with a bit of statistical analysis to make a stab at the survival to the present day of different types. For example I'd imagine that Aeolas, Edeophones, Jeffries etc have a higher survival rate than old german honkers. As an example would it be a valid project to collect Wheatstone serial numbers from this group and any other known sources, photographs, Ebay, sessions, festivals, workshops etc and tick them off the ledgers? I'd be fascinated to see what sort of stats that would give - survival by type, geographical location, age etc. I'm sure I've read a percentage survival estimate somewhere in my reading when I took up playing but couldn't find it. I'd be interested in some of the experts' thoughts on this and any pointers to research (probably extensive) already carried out in this area. As an aside : It would be great after a survey to find out your own instrument has siblings and organise reunions or photosessions !!! Simon
  4. Ok here's a way, I don't have a problem with this but I thought of this, tried it and it works. It won't damage your instrument and unlike talcum and deodorant there should be no particles that might get in the instrument. Get some pva glue. Perfectly safe and non toxic. Apply smoothly to your fingertips. Allow to dry. This will form an invisible and ever-so-slightly tacky film on your fingers. Play instrument. Peel off/renew as necessary. This works on my nickel plated buttons. Different button materials may have different coefficient of friction with pva. If you want ultimate grip use copydex instead which is pure latex. also non toxic. Dont use superglue/cyano or you and your instrument will be even closer bonded than before. Peeling copydex off your hands is almost more fun than playing.
  5. Looking for some advice from seasoned Youtube concertina performers. I decided to take the plunge but am having limited success. I have a selection of digital cameras I can use to capture video - Pentax Optio, Lumix none of these have external mic input. To get a decent sound to the camera about 8 feet away from me, (my first failure was in thinking that the sound would carry well enough unaided), I rigged up a decent mic and practice amp, dialled in a tiny little bit of reverb to lift the sound after much experimentation and recorded away. I soon found that one of my cameras gave better sound quality than the others. So I stuck with that. Couple of problems though, even with the amp about 3 feet from the camera, the sound was pretty low level and lacked realism, sounding flat and tinny with little bite. Subjectively while playing it sounded pretty good. But the result didn't do the instrument justice. Then it was transferring to the video suite to add a caption, saving in different formats, (some horrendous file sizes for a couple of minutes of filming.) Finally I got a version I was happy with that looked reasonable and the sound quality was acceptable. It came out at 90 MB - took ages to upload to YouTube and I left it to upload. I came back an hour later to find that the Youtube conversion on upload had degraded the sound quality to a metallic grating, warbling shriek. Rather than have ghastly comments I took the video down. So the end result of about 3 evenings work was zero. Given that it had taken a while to figure the best camera and sound setup then the best part of twenty takes to get one without any playing errors, to get to this stage and find the end result on Youtube was unplayable was disappointing to say the least. The prospect of going through all that again for two minutes of video is a bit daunting. So calling all YT concertina experts: What are your tips for a good result on YT? -Camera -Getting the sound to the camera in reasonable form -File formats/ conversion software/file sizes etc -Youtube upload I know this can be done - I've seen some great results from other players, it can't just be hit or miss. I don't expect everyone is using studio grade equipment/software. It would be great to have a thread of best tips for getting the sound of a concertina onto the web in reasonable order. Perhaps there already is one. I don't intend going out to get a new video camera for the purpose unless someone knows of a very cheap one that does the job eminently well.... Simon
  6. See the graphs further up the thread, the variation in bellows pressure to achieve this amount of pitch bend is very slight and easily accomplished with EC
  7. Since getting my wheatstone treble a couple of years ago I've done a fair bit of work tuning and investigating reed characteristics. I don't consider myself any sort of expert in this but I have found the tool AP Tuner 3 (free) very instructive when looking at the characteristics and harmonics etc of individual reeds. The two graphs below are annotated screenshots from AP tuner 3 of the A4 reeds of my EC, both push and draw. As you will see from the first graph the draw reed is about 2 cents sharp. The second graph shows how much this really makes a difference in real life, the pitch changes quite significantly over quite limited changes in bellows pressure. So as you play softly or loudly in line with the requirements of any particular piece of music it is quite clear, (at least for this instrument) that the pitch will vary quite considerably from the target pitch. It is in fact a real challenge to play a note to pitch for more than a very few seconds. I have used this dynamic display to look at the note characteristics in tunes played different ways, and its fascinating to see how much using expression in bellows control can affect pitch. For playing slow airs for example, I think the changes in pitch in sustained notes and use of varying pressure are a large part of what adds emotion and colour to a tune. To summarise - best if the reeds are tuned as close as possible, but in actual playing the pitch will vary quite considerably through expressive control of the bellows. Simon
  8. Nice, though looking at the photos the nickel plating is pretty worn in places. The bellows aren't in their first prime, it may need bringing to modern pitch, as it doesn't look like its been opened. So someone bidding and getting it for say £2000 may be looking at another £500 plus to fettle it and then there is the auction 17.5 % commission so one could be shelling out the neck end of £2800 for an unheard instrument based on photos. I think I'd be heading for the saleroom first to see it in real life if I was interested in spending that sort of money... It is tempting though but I can imagine the reaction if that appeared through the post. "Why did you get another one?" "HOW MUCH?"
  9. I do Fergus, though since taking up concertina I've tried to keep to the one instrument, nonetheless I do have a piano in the house and sometimes find that it helps me with some tunes. Certainly as you say I probably have the intervals fairly well. I've found I play low whistle better since taking up concertina, so I think my general musical understanding is improving, nonetheless it is these sudden leaps into intuitive playing and falling back again that fascinate me. Simon
  10. I'm at the stage, 2years in on English Concertina where I can pick up tunes reasonably quickly, in the course of an hours practice I can have the A&B parts worked out by playing along, and partly by picking up from the dots. Then over the course of a week or two practicing the new tune along with others on my learning list, the tune gets hard wired. But I've noticed a new phenomenon, which is both encouraging and discouraging (see below) in equal measure. During a practice session a tune will come, unbidden, into my mind, a tune I know well, but have never tried on the concertina. It will immediately run straight through to my fingers and I will play it note perfect right through, usually with far better phrasing, emotion etc than any of the tunes I'm practicing. This happened to me with Si Bhaeg Si Mhor a couple of days ago. Encouraging - as it feels like there is a better musician in me that I just need to unlock more, which raises the question, do these moments come more and more frequently until the facility to play like this becomes commonplace? Discouraging because this doesn't happen often or consistently, the day after, the tune doesn't come back easily and has to be learnt by the normal methods. I know and have read about being "in the zone" and recognise that this is what is going on, that whole wide-mind awareness and connectedness. What I'd like to really know is methods to promote it and depend on it, as I know - inside me is a much better musician than I am most of the time and I want to make the steps to being that all the time. I'd appreciate your thoughts and experiences with this. Simon
  11. Optical Music Recognition is the musical analog to Optical character recognition. I played around with programs that purport to do this one rainy day about a year ago. I can't remember which particular program I persisted with but it remained installed on my PC only for that day. Whatever settings I tried on my scanner, I couldn't get the thing to identify anything useful, apart from odd phrases despite the blurb saying how it could separate multiple staves into separate midi voices and identify all sorts of notes and symbols. I had hope of transcribing old manuscripts and using it to find nice tunes to learn out of piles of sheet music. Here is a page of such programs, I think some are shareware. http://www.music-notation.info/en/compmus/omr.html Aim for a rainy day when you don't mind wasting time on fruitless but interesting work.
  12. There is an interesting distinction coming out here that hasn't been made explicit and may skew peoples perceptions around this. The distinction, between playing and practising. For accomplished session players and people who take their instruments out to play with others or to perform in public this distinction can be very clear, and practice is exactly that, it is practicing for the end purpose of being able to accomplish certain playing goals in a different setting to that in which the practice is done. For beginners, people who do not wish to play music with others, and those who have no outlet for their playing, the process of practice and playing are essentially the same and are carried out in the same environment, which may not be supportive. This is all there is. This tends to be less goal-centred (getting the new tunes off for a session) and requires an internal rewards process. For experienced players used to playing in sessions bands and performing, practice is simply practice and can be very focused.For those that play alone in an unsupportive environment, there is nothing else but you and the instrument and the small praise you can give yourself. For a beginner struggling with a difficult instrument the drivers to improve can be quite daunting. I have found the challenge presented by learning concertina orders of magnitude greater than I expected at the outset. Thankfully I've stuck at it, something I could easily have not done. I'm only 18 months in and know there are years ahead before I can conssider myself particularly proficient. I do have places I can go to play with other people so practice can have a purpose. All that said, I love to play for myself as well when I have a tune right.
  13. There isn't any "there." This, now, is all you have. If it's torture to practice or if you don't enjoy it and find yourself whining about it and not looking forward to practice, then my advice would be to find another instrument or to forget the whole thing. It shouldn't be work (though it can be purposeful). Your attitude should not be "Oh no, I still have to practice today," but rather, "Great. I have some time and I can play for a while." This is true for all of life's journey, whether it is"I'll be so happy when the mortgage is paid off" or "once I can play really well, I'll be happy." Life is about enjoying the journey not looking forwards to the destination. My parents tought me that, going on holiday, the whole family squashed in the car, heading for the seaside. We used to play games on the journey, I-spy and so forth. we enjoyed the journey, the holiday began the moment we left our driveway. I feel bereft if I can't play my concertina even if I miss a day. It isn't about how hard and difficult it is and how understanding theory is so complex. Its about how challenging it is, how exciting it is to master a difficult tune, or even a phrase, and how interesting music theory can be (though my rose coloured specs might be distorting things a little - music theory has to be paced with the practical learning otherwise it can be very difficult.) Simon
  14. I am lucky enough to have a couple of "friendly Sessions" where my efforts are tolerated, but it must be difficult for many learning players to find such sessions to develop in. This, for me, has been one of the biggest eye openers in the learning process, just how difficult making the transition from practice alone to playing with others is. It really makes me respect the easy and relaxed deftness of the players around me, and the effort they must have put in to get to their skill. Simon
  15. Not sure how much of what I'm going to write I really believe but here is another perspective. Few would argue that the pace of change in the world around us has quickened and various catastrophes, if we believe some of the stories in the press, await us. With the teetering failures of naked capitalism and the attempts of governments to patch the burst balloon, I see the signs of some trends that may re-envigorate traditional values, community living and a potential new life for concertinas, a life for which they were eminently designed and one which they are so suited to. I see a future, not too far away, when communities will re-engage with themselves, where power, as well as coming in from the grid, will be locally produced, where transport becomes a shared luxury with everything from electric bicycles to community vehicles, where food is grown locally, and imported food is far less the norm than it is now. Communities with common values, with a level of growing self-sufficiency. Where celebrity culture is seen for what it really is. Communities where children learn at the sides of their parents, and in community schools, learning the skills of sustainable living. Where children are not cast aside to fend for themselves, but are seen as the heart, the future life blood. I imagine communities where some of the best entertainment comes from the people who live there, where modern and traditional music meld and transform with local and regional evolution. I see the concertina and a host of other instruments becoming treasured parts of the community life. I see their longevity and maintainability being valued. I see every concertina that makes it through the transition years as having a new life assured, treasured in the community. They may still be owned by individuals, but the music they make will be shared in pleasure. Their value will once again be intrinsic rather than based on rarity or financial consideration. Brave new world? maybe, but many, many people I speak to now are seeing this sort of society starting to form. Already my opportunities for playing music in my community are increasing. New sessions are starting, community allotments are starting off again, little wind turbines keep appearing all sorts of changes that central government are simply not a part of. We are heading into some amazing times, and I am starting to believe that playing a beutiful concertina is going to be something that will be a welcome skill of the future. As to what type? All types.
  16. Gum Arabic will glue it in, as for the rest it's about time you invested in a copy of Dave Elliott's book and all will be revealed. ...or follow the thread "HOW I DID IT" which shows in detailed pictures how the bushings are done.
  17. I bought a couple of new strap buttons for my wheatstone from David Leese, (I didn't want to damage the originals) and got them engraved, one with my name, the other with my phone number. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3381/341090..._ee2a2835a7.jpg Simon
  18. My strategy for this has been to purchase a fisherman's smock and go and sit on a bollard in a local touristy fishing village harbour and practice a few times. I'm hoping this will build the confidence. I'm at the stage where I have good and bad times at our local friendly session, if a couple of new faces or talented musicians turn up, my playing suffers from nerves. If the friendly faces are there, I'm encouraged and things go better.
  19. Music, Physics and Engineering, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Music-Physics-Engi...1077&sr=8-1 has the likely explanation that free reed instruments carry a lot of high amplitude ultrasonic overtones. Whatever one of our cats leaves the room the moment I pick up the instrument, the other hangs in for a few minutes but usually gives up if he thinks the practice is going on too long.
  20. I find Paul Hardy's Session tunebook at http://www.pghardy.net/concertina/tunebooks/ invaluable, prints out nicely in pdf, and there is an ABC file with all of the 270 tunes which if you have a programme like ABC explorer http://stalikez.info/abc/abcex.php , you can play easily at any speed. Good to hear recordings of the tunes played live too, but ABC is very good for getting the tunes and building up speed to.
  21. I like to vary my practice so that, as well as learning the instrument, I'm broadening my knowledge of music. So I might spend a few minutes on scales, chords, arpeggios etc. Then I might work on a new tune. Another practice might concentrate solely on getting to grips with a difficult piece from a previously learnt tune to refine it. Then it might be finding tunes in ABC and following them on the concertina picking out phrases, it might be finding a tune in one of my music books and spending a solid week working at it. Or it might be working at the piano, getting a better understanding of note relationships, intervals etc. Lastly it might be reading on this site, soaking up knowledge about the beloved instrument, doing some maintenance, or looking on ebay at other concertinas and looking at vids on Youtube, perhaps playing along. Whilst not classed as "practice" all these things ultimately must help become a more rounded musician and keep away the boredom.
  22. Whilst learning the letter names can be important in music theory and important when talking about notes, the letters actually impose a translation level between the note as written, the sound, the button it translates to on the instrument, and the sound of that button. That is a lot of steps for a young mind that thinks music is about sound, to interpose. Any but not all these steps can be dispensed with, and the quickest and most intutive route for a child might be to simply match sounds and buttons, and as interest in the instrument develops, to re-introduce the dots and the letters. Or use the approach of the old tutor instruments and letter the buttons. But whatever, I'd agree with backing off and not sweating the detail.
  23. I've been mulling this over a little and thinking how knowing the unwritten rules without committing a faux-pas is one of those societal tests we all have to pass from time to time, working out the office culture, the pecking order in a street gang, the order of business in an amateur dramtic society. In the case of sessions there is this whole dynamic of - who is the leader, what do they play, how do I join in etc etc which adds enough stress for most visitors or beginners to make the experience very fraught. Then there is the issue of dealing with over-confident visitors, or inappropriate instruments etc. Wouldn't it be nice if you could hand out a little piece of paper to visitors. I've created below the sort of thing I mean - loosely based on a fictitious session not unlike one I go to locally... "Welcome to our Friday session. Bob, the guy with the beard is our session lead. Here are a few ground rules which we use to help visitors understand how we make the evening enjoyable for ourselves. Mostly we like what is loosely called traditional music. As we are in Scotland many of the tunes we play are Scottish, though a few English and Irish tunes and even transatlantic tunes creep in. We like to play tunes we know, at an easy pace and sometimes work a tune round a few times so that we all get used to it. This can be very enjoyable. Sometimes a member of the group will tell a tale, recite a poem or sing a solo song or even a chorus chanty for us all to join in. Beginning musicians can join in but should play quietly along and not expect to be able to play all the time. If you can’t pick up a tune – don’t play it with a bunch of wrong notes. If you are a visitor, rather than jump in with a tune which may not be appropriate, why not sit and wait, listening to the music before jumping in. Feel free to introduce yourself at a pause. Our leader will likely invite you to play something before too long. Not everything played at our sessions is for joining in, many of our players like to play slow airs and solo pieces. Give them the respect and silence they need for these. Sometimes we will play “Whiskey in the Jar” or “House of the rising sun.” for more than a few minutes, this is a chance for anyone, however much a beginner to join in the fun. If you have been nervous of playing or joining in, now is your chance. Don’t fear the wrong notes. If you are a piper, or accordion player, be aware that your instrument can become tiresome to many of our members if you play many sets of tunes one after another. Go easy. Unusual instruments are unusual for a reason, we like to see and hear them for a short while, but not all through the session. A bodhran, if played sensitively and with restraint can add a pleasant percussive rythym to many tunes. Not all of them though. Welcome ! " Is this a way to get over session snobbery?
  24. At our local friendly session I'm the only concertina player and as I'm learning I tend to play slow airs, but my jigs reels etc are not up to speed so I often get left behind when the others join in. But they always say they love the sound of the instrument. We often get an accordion player comes along and drowns everyone out so they like the concertina. I recently sat on a local harbour wall playing and got lots of smiles and kind comments from passing couples, some even stopped to listen for a minute or two. Nobody pushed me in the water which, for me, clocked it up as an achievement !
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