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Everything posted by Anglo-Irishman

  1. Kathryn, thanks for the reminder! In the Scottish Psalms we have an example of two distinct musical cultures in close proximity. I spent the Sundays of my childhood in Church of Scotland services in the Western Highlands, where we sang the Psalms in SATB settings to the organ. My first Sunday on a holiday on the island of Tiree was a complete surprise - no organ, and no four-part harmony! (But I can't for the life of me remember whether the Tiree folk sang their Psalms in English or Gaelic. At that time, back in the 1950's the adult population there was much more comfortable conversing in Gaelic than in English.) Cheers, John
  2. When you get down to basics, music is built up of several elements: melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. These are always present, but in different cultures each element has more or less emphasis than elsewhere. For instance, Wagner has a lot of harmony but hardly any rhythm, and his melodies are so-so (I say that as a singer!) In Scottish pipe-band music, on the other hand, we have a lot of melody, but harmony only in its most basic form, the drone; however, rhythm is important - the classic pipe band suite consists of March, Strathspey and Reel. The timbre of the modern orchestra is important for Wagner; the timbre of the snare drum and skirl of the chanter is important in pipe-band music. We find an almost total dominance of melody in areas where, until fairly recently, instruments of any kind were unavailable, and all music - even dance music - was vocal and solo. I'm thinking of the remote areas of the West of Ireland and the Scottish Hebrides. The technique of "lilting" - singing meaningless syllables - was used in place of the more recent fiddle, flute or concertina. But in Ireland at least, the music has remained very melodic. Even when you have a fiddle AND a flute AND a concertina, they all just play the melody, and make no attempt at polyphony. The rhythm is built into the melodies, so there's no need for percussion. (The bodhran is a modern fad - started in the 1950s or early '60s - as are strummed guitars!) Harmony is nevertheless implied by the use of grace-notes, which the melodic instrumentalists have taken over from the singers and lilters. You cannot sing two notes at once, but you can hint at a harmony note by hitting it for a split second before you land on the melody note. (Much the way J.S. Bach gets 3-note chords on the violin,which can, by the geometry of the instrument, only play two notes at once.) I'm a melody-first person, which I suppose is natural for a singer. I do, however, play several chord-capable instruments: concertina, banjo, Autoharp, Waldzither and guitar. But I seldom ask for the chords to a tune, unless I'm going to play it with other chording players, and we want to keep it uniform. For myself, I try to render the tune on the instrument, and use the chords that lie below the melody notes. There are often a couple of possibilities, so there's room for creativity. I seldom find the chords printed in songbooks completely satisfactory, anyway. One way or another, it is possible to play partial chords instead of "piles of notes", and to keep a chordal accompaniment rhythmically neutral and follow the soloist's tempo-changes. I find that strumming and frailing are very American elements - possibly encouraged by contact with Africans, whose music is predominantly rhythmic. Fine music, but a whole different culture to mine! Long live diversity - to each his own! Cheers, John
  3. Well, in my folk group, all of us are over 1.80m (6') in height except for the double-bass player, who is significantly shorter! FWIW, Cheers, John
  4. Sounds super - that transposing feature beats any Autoharp hands down! Their homepage says they don't answer casual e-mail enquiries, but they have a phone number. They're just over the border from where I live, so I could give them a tinkle, and ask about sending kits to the US of A. A show-stopper could be the instruction book, which will be in German (possibly even Swiss German). BTW, I'm a retired technical translator for German and English. I wonder if they get a lot of orders from the English-speaking world ... I'll try a phone conversation for a start! Cheers, John
  5. Robert, Interesting thought - turning to free-reed technology to find something easier-to-use than fretted strings! However, when I read your requirement, my first thought had nothing to do with concertinas. What I thought of was the Autoharp! I play several accompaniment instruments to my singing: Anglo concertina, 5-string banjo and guitar. But when I want to work up a quick accompaniment for an unfamiliar tune, and am not sure which key it will have to be in - that's when I reach for the Autoharp. One button, one chord. I,IV, V, V7 and vi chord buttons close together. What more do you want by way of ease of use? Perhaps someone could "invent" the "Free-reed Autoharp" for you! My performance Autoharp has 21 chords, the maximum practicable number. I have 6 major chords, 6 dominant-seventh chords and 6 minor chords, plus the 3 dim chords. Like most serious Autoharpers, I have a customised chord set, my set supporting the major keys of F, C, G, D and A, and the minor keys of D and A. (If I dispensed with the dim chords, I could add the key of E major or Bb major and one more minor key.) With these 21 buttons, I can play quite sophisticated accompaniments, albeit in a limited number of keys. And hey, the simplest concertinas have 21 buttons, if you count the air-button! All you'd need would be 3 or 4 reeds sounding for each button. That makes between 63 and 84 reeds. That's a lot of reeds - and you'd need as many again for the opposite bellows direction. The Autoharp has only 36 strings, but each string is used in several chords. And I'm sure the accordeon-makers have figured out a way to link multiple buttons to multiple reed pairs in their Stradella bass. And while you're waiting for the concertina developers to come up with something, why not just try the Autoharp? It's not much lighter than a guitar, but the case is certainly smaller! And it meets your "one button, one chord" requirement exactly ... Cheers, John
  6. I came to the Crane as a mandolin-player of many years' standing, and immediately recognised that the ascending scale is in principle the same on both mandolin and Crane: you finger the buttons/frets of one row/string sequentially until you run out of fingers, then start again at the beginning of the next row/string. In both cases, when you encounter an accidental, you finger an adjacent button/fret. So for me, the ascending scale on the Crane runs from right to left on each row. The low C is equivalent to the last (or leftmost) note of a non-existent row. (Interestingly, the low C on a mandolin is the last note of the bass G-string, and the scale of C major continues on the next string, which is D.) Speaking of the Crabb chevron layout, I have the feeling that it would enhance this feeling of the notes D, E, F and then G, A, B being in straight lines to a greater extent than the "Butterworth curve" of my Lachenal Triumph. Cheers, John
  7. Yes, and I like the idea of the concertina "occupying a position between the Mouth-organ and the Harmonium!" When I was a boy, my father had his mouth-organs lying handy in a sideboard drawer, and we had a full-size harmonium (a reed organ, not one of those Indian gadgets!) standing in the living-room. I loved both of them, and now I have an Anglo, a Crane and a Bandoneon. The bandoneon can come very close to the harmonium in sound. Fascinating, what turns up on eBay! Free reeds in general are fascinating. A friend of mine, who plays and collects barrel-organs, even has a cranked free-reed instrument, known as a "preacher's organ." Needless to say, the punched rolls for it are all American hymns! Cheers, John
  8. Never understimate an old man with a bike concertina! Cheers, John
  9. Perfectly logical! However ... If all the arranging were left to instruments, all Anglo arrangerments would sound alike, all Maccann arrangements would sound alike - and for that metter, all banjo arrangements would sound alike. It is the illogicality of the human element in arrangement that makes the music idiosyncratic. Cheers, John
  10. Good players, perhaps! But as a folk singer with adequate command of the 30-b Anglo for self-accompaniment, I took up a duet - the Crane. Right from the start, I played tunes on the Crane that I never had on the Anglo. Anglo more folky/nautical, Crane more Sally-Army/drawing-room. But I did work up one of my Anglo-nautical pieces on the Crane: "The Greenland Whalers." Same key, same tempo, same general expression, same chord structure - but the two arrangements are subtly different. I'm a lazy so-and-so, so I let my instrument do at least 50% of the arranging. And the Anglo and the Crane have different ideas on some poinst!😉 Cheers, John
  11. Nice! German traditional reeds, 10 to a plate - I bet it sounds nice and rich. Somebody has kept it playable by replacing the old, leather valves with plastic. Pity about the broken reed. Cheers, John
  12. Hi, @Arktrav, I seem to detect a certain affinity here! Like you, I've been playing mandolin, guitar and banjo (folk/classic style) for a very long time. I also had some experience with the mouth organ as a child. However, unlike you, I added the concertina to my musical toolkit at an early age. It was a simple, 20-button East German "Anglo." Perhaps it will help if I tell you how I "got into" the concertina - YMMV, of course. The combination of mandolin, guitar and OT banjo hints at a folkie who plays predominantly by ear or memory - certainly this was the case with me. When I had ordered my Anglo concertina, I resolved to catch up on the music theory I had missed hitherto, and learn to read sheet music, which I couldn't up to then. When the Anglo arrived, I unpacked it and the simple tutor I had bought with it, played the scales of C and G, and realised that this contraption was just two mouth organs cut in half and fitted to a bellows. I completely forgot about sheet music, and just started exploring. It's amazing how much more you can find do with a 20-button Anglo than with two harmonicas! Mandolin is good training, as it gives you a feeling for carrying a melody; guitar is good, as it gives yiu a feeling for the 3-chord trick and chord changes; and banjo is good, because it teaches you to use sparse, uncluttered chords. You'll do fine! Cheers, John
  13. Hello, OskariL, Your question is a difficult one for this forum, because most of us here play a British style of concertina, whether Anglo, English or some form of Duet. Some of us do play different types, and could tell you which type is more suited to a certain kind of music than another type. When we're talking about Chemnitzers and Bandoneons, however, we're into German concertinas. These are differnt from their British cousins in shape, size and construction. Notably, German concertinas (of all types) tend to have two or more reeds to each button, which gives more volume, and also allows special effects, like "wet" tuning (two reeds tuned slightly apart), or the Bandoneon's typical "dry octave" tuning (two reeds tuned precisely an octave apart). As @wunkssaid above: "Any instrument will sing with you." This is true to a certain extent, in that you can, for example, play all the notes of a bagpipe tune on an oboe - however, it will not sound like bagpipe music, though it may be attractive. Certain genres of music are to some extent formed by the instruments typically used to play them, and these genres sound most authentic when played on the defining instrument. With the Argentinian tango, the "authentic" sound comes with piano, violin - and the "dry-octave" tuned Bandoneon. Even when an accordeonist switches in his "dry-octave" register, we immediately think, "Tango!" British-made concertinas are all single-reeded, so this "tango effect" just can't be achieved (though a well-played tango on an Anglo or Duet may sound very nice). I must admit that I don't know much about the way Chemnitzers are tuned. I know that there are double- or triple-reeded ones, but I dont think there are "dry-octave" Chemnitzers. Another aspect that affects the typical msic for an instrument is the tuning. For instance, European and North American dance music is almost exclusively in the keys of G, D or A, because these are the open strings of the fiddle. The bisonoric concertinas all have a preference for certain keys: the Anglo and the simple German concertina in C or G, and the Bandoneon in G, A or E. These are dictated by the tuning of the two central rows of buttons of the old, German 20-button concertina (which gave its tuning to the "Anglo-German, or Anglo, concertina). The buttons outside of this central area of 20 buttons (10 on each side) vary a lot between the diferent types, and make certain musical effects easier or more difficult, thus influencing the typical tunes of the genre that the instrument is "responsible" for. I've never tried a Chemnitzer, but I play Anglo and a little Bandoneon, and my experience is that only very simple, rudimentary tunes with standard accompaniments are transferable. Hope this helps! BTW, although I have a Bandoneon, I never use it for tangos. It's a small model with only one reed per note, so it hasn't got the "tango" sound! Cheers, John
  14. Why should someone prefer a Duet to an Anglo? Perhaps for the reason that led me to look for a Duet in addition to my Anglo. And that was the freedom to play in any key that might happen to be preferered by singers, or required by wind players. Of course I thought about a small Duet that might fit a beginner's budget. Of course there would be limitations, and my study of the button layouts proved this. HOWEVER ... Study of the button layouts of the 35-b Crane and the Elise Hayden showed different limitations: The 35-b Crane is limited in pitch range - more specifically, the top notes of the bigger Cranes are omitted, and the overlap is less, by reason of the missing high notes on the left side. But even the 35-b Crane is fully chromatic from bottom to top note, as far as the range goes. So you can't play as high as you might like, but you can play in any key you like. LH chords are all available, though most of them in only one voicing. The Elise, on the other hand, is missing notes from the middle of its range, and the missing notes are sharps and flats, so their absence counteracts the Duet principle of full chromaticity. I decided that this wasnt' enough added value over and above my existing 30-b Anglo, so I plumped for the Crane. In the end, I bought a 48-b Crane, which can handle anything I care to take on, pitch-wise. Key-wise, I find myself playing mostly in C, G or F major - keys that suit my singing voice. Cheers, John
  15. 😄 That's a new one on me! Though beginners on stringed instruments sometimes get confused when their tuner calls the note we all think of as Bb, "A#". There's usually a setting that detemrines whether all the enharmonics are expressed as sharps, or all as flats. Most of us, I think, would want a tuner to indicate F#, C#, G#, but Bb, Eb, Ab. Db. We Autoharpers are an exception: on a chromatic Autoharp, the enharmonics are all labelled as sharps! So calling a note A# is OK with us - even though the chord that it's the root of is labelled Bb! 😝 Cheers, John
  16. Fascinating, indeed! By good fortune, my first contact with the sheng was live, at a concert of Chinese music in a hall near here. The concert was organised by the more classically-oriented side of our culture club, so, thankfully, there was no PA system to falsify the timbre of the sheng (or of the erhu, the two-stringed fiddle, which I heard live for the first time on that occasion). As I remember, I was very much struck by the sheng's similarity of timbre to the Crane/Triumph concertina that had so impressed me in my childhood. Cheers, John
  17. Count my Anglo in with those! It's 30 years old, was played regularly in the group, and is stil going strong. It had to have a new bellows, and I had to repair a broken air-button lever along the way - but the reeds are still in tune, and my bandmates preferred the sound over a raditional-reeded Lachenal! BTW, I bought it in a "normal" music shop in Stuttgart (i.e. not one specialising in free reeds), so there was no tweaking of the reeds before purchase. Cheers, John
  18. Hallo, Bernhard, Congratulations on your upcoming "freedom!" I've been a pensioner for almost 10 jears now, and enjoy having the time to improve my playing. I live near Stuttgart, by the way! That describes me pretty well! My excuse is that I have a good singing voice, and my instruments are mostly for accompaniment, so I don't have to be able to pay them like a virtuoso ... What instruments do you play? I'd say that people who play several instruments, and do it at home just for fun, are musical, even if they never perform in public. The concertina is one of the instruments I've been playing for a long time. My first concertina, back in the 1960s, was a Klingenthal with 20 buttons. I used it like other young people used guitars in those days: accompanying singing at camp-fires, in youth Church services, at parties etc. About 10 years later, I bought a small Bandoneon in a Berlin junk-shop. It had almost all its buttons, and was even in tune with itself! This could do everything that the 20-button could - and more, of course. But I never learned to exploit all its possibilities. I finally moved on to a 30-button Anglo - a Stagi with metal ends. I played this in a folk band for 20 years. It has a pleasant sound that blends well with the fiddle and guitar. Admittedly, I did have to do some work on the buttons when it was new, and modified the air-button, but it was good enough to profit from a new bellows. So it isn't really a standard Stagi. I had no problems with the reeds. They're still in tune after a quarter of a century. After I retired, I bought my first English-built Anglo, a Dallas-Crabb 30-button. It is better as a solo instrument. So what would I recommend as a starter? Some say, start with the best instrument you can afford. For me, that would be my Crabb, which is no more difficult to play than my earlier concertinas, and sounds better. On the other hand, I got a lot of enjoyment - and use - out of my old Klingenthal. I don't remember it as being difficult for me as a beginner. My Stagi turned out to be a very useful instrument after modification, and it's still going strong. So any of them would be suitable for a beginner. The Klingenthaler have only 20 buttons, whereas many Anglos have 30. The 20-button concertinas (wherever they were made) only have the notes of two major scales, usually C and G, so you're limited to these two keys. However, if you're playing just for yourself, and can choose the key to play in, that's no great problem. If you want to sing folk songs, you'll find that those you can't sing in C, you can sing in G, and vice versa. And if it's German folk songs you're thinking of, then perhaps a Klingenthaler with its warmer, fuller tone might be better for you than a vintage English-made 20-button. But with Klingenthaler as with all used concertinas, you have to find one that's in good condition. It would certainly be simpler to buy a Wren or Swan, but I have no experience with these. LG, John
  19. For self-accompanied singing, I use a Tascam recording device, which produces a WAV file that I can edit in Audacity. You may have to experiment a bit with whether the recorder should be nearer to your mouth or to the instrument, but there's no witchcraft involved! It's just like a self-accompanied gig. If you want two instruments, it gets more complicated, with multi-track work. Cheers, john
  20. Yes, there is sometimes a tendency to forget that a dance tune is not just a time signature and a tempo - in the same way as a dance is not just movements of the feet. I had this brought home to me when two German orchestra violinists I know asked me to help them work up an Irish tune, of which they had the sheet music. It happened to be "The Irish Washerwoman", probably the most widely-known jig in Ireland. So we tuned up, and off we went ... I'd never realised before what a lovely waltz the "Washerwoman" makes! When I asked what they were doing, the violinists said they were playing in the indicated 6/8 time. They were counting each bar "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6", with a secondary stress on the first note of the second half-bar, like you're supposed to. But what came out wasn't a jig, by any means. I tried to get them to stress the 1 and 4 even more, but that didn't help; it was just a more energetic waltz. Then I found the solution: "I know it's written 6 quavers to the bar, but think of it as 2/4 time, with the quavers played as triplets." So they did that, counting "One-and-a-Two-and-a," and immediaterly we had the typical "Diddely-Daddely" of the Irish jig! I think what happened was that the violinists now took each group of triplets in one bow-stroke, whereas they had previously taken each individual quaver on a separate bow-stroke. And this made the difference between a pedestrian one-note-after-the-other and a directed, overall movement with the lift of a dance tune. It's taking one note at a time that takes the "spunk" out of any music. Instrumentalists are perhaps more prone to this failing than singers, who have the grammar and syntax of the lyrics to guide them. Cheers, John
  21. Hi, LDT, Long time, no see! My take is that keeping instruments in cases is, on the whole, safer than keeping them permanently in gig bags. However, there are temporary constraints on the weight and bulk of the cased instrument, when using public transport or hiking, for instance. That's the reason I bought a gig bag even though each of my concertinas has its own hard case. I had a look at the knitting bag you linked to. It's wider and longer than my gig bag (28x30 cm vs. 23x25 cm), so it would have pleny of room for protective padding all round. And you wouldn't get even an inferior gig bag for that price! Cheers, John
  22. I have one arrangement where I have to press left-hand buttons 5 and 9 at the same time. I just use the flat of the top joint of my index finger, rather than the finger-tip. Hope this helps, Cheers, John
  23. I suppose so - my concertina gig-bag didn't take up any more space than his camera bag. And I played my concertina, and he took his photographs, on deck! Cheers, John
  24. To pick up this line of thought: I just recently had this YouTube clip pointerd out to me. It deals with my other instrument, the banjo, but I reckon the principles discussed are not instrument-specific. https://youtu.be/SZR-u9SF7-Y Cheers, John
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