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Anglo-Irishman

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Everything posted by Anglo-Irishman

  1. If a comparison with stringed instruments is permissable, then a "one-wood" instrument would not be optimal. Bowed and plucked instruments (at least, those in the European tradition) use a straight-grained softwood (mostly spruce) for the belly - the component that takes up and amplifies the vibration of the strings - and a hardwood of some kind for the load-bearing elements and the enclosure of the resonance chamber. Yes, panels of the same wood do differ. However, I've heard that a good luthier can tell the quality of a piece of wood by just tapping it, so the quality of the finished instrument is not just hit-or-miss. As to laminated vs. solid woods: as an Autoharpist, I have experience with both. In general, higher-quality Autoharps have solid spruce (or someties maple) sounding-boards; the less high-class ones are laminated. I personally had a favourite Autoharp that was 50 years old and had a solid spruce top. It sounded wonderful, although the sound-board was slightly wavy. Then, one day, it gave way under the tension of the strings! My replacement gigging harp has a laminated top, which (after 30 years) is still straight as a die, but just lacks that sweetness of the solid top. As I said, I don't know to what extent this applies to free-reed instruments. Cheers, John
  2. Very true! The true usefulness of the Anglo lies, not in fast, purely melodic dance music, but rather in the easy harmonisation of song tunes at singable tempo. Also, the Anglo is an obvious candidate for someone like you, who has expertise on the harmonica - the same Richter scale lies behond the button arrangement. So you don't have to learn scales or chords. The basic, 20-button Anglo has all the notes of two harmonicas, with the added freedom to play notes from both "harmonicas" at once. And the 30-button Anglo allows you to play chromatic passages as well. The only limitation is that full harmonisation is easy only in the Anglos two "home" keys, e.g. C and G or G and D major. Further keys get more difficult to impossible, and there comes a point when even a 30-button Anglo can only manage plain melody with a few double-stops. For free choice of key, the duet is, in fact, the way to go. But they're like the piano - to move on to the next key, you have to learn where the sharps or flats are. In this way, the Crane is like the English system: the sharps and flats are all in the outer rows. The Hayden' claim to fame is the fact that transposing is relatively easy - once you've learnt the fingering for a tune in, say, C, you just move your fingers to a different starting-point, and carry out the same finger movements. The difference between the Hayden and the other duet systems (Maccann and Crane) lies in the limitations imposed by smaller instruments with fewer notes. The Maccan has been described; the Crane also remains fully chromatic as far as it goes, and the smaller instruments simply lack a few of the very top notes. The limitations of the small Haydens, on the other hand, mean that some sharps and flats are missing, i.e. certain keys cannot be played. In any case, you should compare the limitations of a particular instrument with your requirements. If you don't need the missing keys on a small Hayden or the missing high notes on a small Crane, that's fine! Hope this helps, Cheers, John
  3. Well, feedback was asked for! And if the OP was intending to showcase a particular recording technique for traditional music and musicians, it was my opinion that he could have found more attractive examples. That's all. No offence meant; apologies if any was taken! Cheers, John
  4. Caitlin, It's a well-known fact that beginners on the Anglo make their handstraps too tight, so as to give themselves the impression that the instrument isn't "flopping about", and that they have it under control. With time, they reach the point you're at just now - the straps feel too tight, because you're fixing the concertina betwen the pressure of your palms on the end-plate and the opposing pressure of your knuckles on the straps. If you ease the straps off just a little, you should find that you can get the stability you need without strapping your hands down tight. Picking up and setting down the instrument will then be easier. You're on the right road - keep going, and have fun! Cheers, John
  5. Depends on what you mean by "this road." If you mean the binaural recording technique: no, I play acoustic music. If you mean taditional music on the concertina: yes, definitely. As a native Irishman who spent his childhood in the Highlands of Scotland, I'm a great one for slow airs. Mostly, I sing them, but I have a couple worked up on the concertina as well. Only my concertina is an Anglo. The EC recordings you link to strike me as, well, not all that great, really. There seems to be something about the EC that dampens expression, and although grace-notes should be just as feasible on it as on the Anglo, the linked recordings make little use of them. The lack of expression (and I'm going to duck and run after I've written this!) seems to stem from the tenuous connexion between the EC and the player, which seems to limit the dynamic range that an Anglo player, with his "stout" bellows and firm handstraps, has. The linked fiddling doesn't really impress me either - but that's not my speciality, I haven't played the fiddle for decades! I'll just say that the fiddling I heard in a Derry pub last summer - and in a pub in Fort Wiliam a few years ago - was preferable! Well, you did ask for feedback! Cheers, John
  6. Well done, Fanie! Have fun! By the way, have you checked the tuning with an electronic tuner? When I did that with my old Bandonion - which is wonderfully in tune with itself, even after over 100 years - I discovered that it was at the old German concert pitch of A=435Hz. In a way, it's nice to have a "voice from the past" on your lap - but on the other hand the possibilities of playing with others are limited. The only time I played my Bandoneon with my group, it was a duet with the fiddle. Violinists can retune quickly and reliably between numbers! But the Bandoneon can really make music on its own, and any singers you may want to accompany won't notice those 5Hz differnce😉 Cheers, John
  7. Interesting! What's the button between Bb and C# on the right-hand side? An air-button? Cheers, John
  8. This happened to me, too, when I started out on the Anglo. I regarded this as a result of having played the mouth-organ since childhood. I soon realised that my hands had taken over the function of my diaphragm, but the feeling for when to blow/press and when to suck/draw was already there, and so the Anglo was intuitive for me. One other thing I transferred fron the mouth-organ was the use of my nose (which, in the light of the present discussion, might be regarded as an "anatomical bowing-valve"). To prepare for a long "suck" phrase following a short "blow" phrase, you can expel more air than actrualy needed to sound the notes, thus creating adequate lung capacity. This technique transferred quite neatly to the air-button technique on the Anglo. Cheers, John
  9. I guess different people have different ways of interpreting spatial representations. My mother-in-law was the best mother-in-law a man could have, but she had one unsumountable weakness: if she encountered an unfamiliar electric cooker that had the control knobs on the front, vertical surface, she just couldn't correlate the symbols beside the knobs (you know, little squares with a small circle in one corner) with the hot-plates on the horizontal top surface of the cooker. If the knobs and their symbols were on the top of the cooker, she had no problem. As to button layouts: a 20-button Anglo is conceptually two mouth organs, tuned a fifth apart, sawn through the middle and built into a bellows. My graphical representation of the notes just reassembles the two mouth-organs, resulting in horizontal rows. Cheers, John
  10. As I understand it, "bowing valves" were an optional feature of some English-system concertinas. I suspect that they were copied from the Anglo-German air-button (which is an essential feature of a bisonoric instrument), but the bourgeois buyers of ECs would have been put off by a term borrowed from the proletarian Anglo. "Bowing" sounds nice and classical - it's what violin virtuosos do! Of course, any association between bellows and bow is metaphorical, and one must be careful not to overstretch one's metaphors. In a sense, I see more analogy between the bellows of my concertina and my lungs when I sing or play the mouth organ. More pressure=loud, less pressure=soft, varied pressure=crescendo/decrescendo/sforzando. However, someone who has never had the pleasure of playing the mouth organ might be pardoned for thinking that wind instruments are only blown - and might find the "bow" metaphor useful to address the bi-directionality of bellows movements. Where the bellows/bow comparison falls down becomes apparent when a violinist (or fiddler, which I used to be) finishes a downstroke and immediately shoots his bowing hand upwards to start a new downstroke. Fast bellows movement without making a sound is just not possible on a "normal" EC, so perhaps it's this aspect of "bowmanship" that is referred to in the term "bowing valve." Admittedly, even the Anglo's air-button does not permit fast bellows movement, but it does allow (more or less) silent movement. It does not allow the great gulps of air that I take before singing a run in a Handel aria, or that a fluter takes before a long phrase. It's more like a mouth-organ-player's nose. Interestingly, the air valve on the Bandonion and other Large German Concertinas does allow you to inhale or exhale a bellows-full of air very quickly. It facilitates the Bandonionistas' favourite ploy of playing long phrases on the draw only. Analogous to the fiddlers quick transition from one downstroke to the next. Cheers, John
  11. Yes. Harmomiums (reed organs) are of two types: pressure and suction. However, the player interface is the same on both; you simply push the pedals down alternately. Cheers John
  12. "Shouldn't" you try to play the Anglo legato? I must say, neither my Crabb nor my Stagi make funny noises when I do a legato scale passage without lifting the finger off the button on bellows reversal. On a staccato run, I suppose lifting the finger before reversal would be OK, even desirable, but not as the "default" technique. Or am I missing something? Cheers, John
  13. Could it be that you composed it without realising that you were doing so? That happened to me once, when I was trying to remember a chorale tune that I'd sung in a choir a long time ago. I thought I had reconstructed properly, and sang it to an acquaintance who is a church organist, and knows her chorales. She didn't recognise it, but said it sounded a bit like "Brich an, du schĂśnes Morgenlicht." So I looked up that tune, and found that it was, in fact, the one I'd been trying to remember! Cheers, John
  14. Hallo,@Adavis, Alas, that choking sound is familiar to probably all concertina players. It's the result of some (almost microscopic) detritus between the reed and its shoe. Try pulling a piece of thin paper through under the reed, and see what appens. I get the choking most frequently on my Bandonion, which I don't play as often as my Anglo, and often it goes away when I just play that note repeatedly, fortissimo but with feeling. Cheers, John
  15. I think the fiddle is THE instrument which varies most, depending on the skill of the player. Violin intonation depends entirely on the precision of the player's left-hand fingering, and the tone is very dependent on the force exerted by the bowing hand. I used to play a bit of fiddle myself, and I remember well the excrutiating noises that I made when I picked it up again after a longer break. But, like with your grandson, it only took me a few tunes to get my fingers spot-on again. With the concertina, the pitch is correct whoever plays it, and the tone is pretty constant. I suppose that's the difference between the two instruments: the concertina has read-made notes that you just have to select, whereas on the violin you have to make each selected note individually. Cheers, John
  16. Playing-in, as indeed just playing, involves two individuals: the instrument and the player. You may be in a position to maintain that you play a certain concertina type pretty competently, but no two Anglos are exactly the same, nor are two Cranes, etc. One instrument may be louder, another softer. One may have stiff handstraps, another sloppy ones. The volume balance between LH and RH may be different in different concertinas, as may the relation between high and low notes. Bellows may be stiffer or more supple. All this means that, when I've really optimised a piece on my Dallas/Crabb Anglo, exploiting all its strengths and avoiding all its weaknesses, I have to play the same piece through several times on my Stagi Anglo, to identify the drawbacks and advantages it offers - and these are different from those of the Crabb! So yes, even with a "matured" instrument that has no more teething problems, if it's new to you (e.g. bought used, or borrowed from a friend, or picked upo again after a long period of disuse) "playing-in" will result in an improvement. The improvement will not be in the instrument itself, nor in the player, but rather in the rapport between them. Cheers, John
  17. Indeed! I do it all the time when singing in the choir. This is usually classical music, where foot-tapping is a no-no, but "in-shoe toe-tapping" certainly does help to keep track of the bars where my voice takes a rest. Cheers, John
  18. What's the fuss about? The gentlemen cited above made correct use of the inverted commas, making it clear that they are not talking about Irish music as such, but about something played in other countries that is loosely termed "Irish." I had the delightful experience in these summer holidays of returning home to Ireland again after 25 years' absence. One of the highlights was an evening in a pub in Derry-Londonderry where I heard a good fiddler and a good tin-whistler accompanied by a very tasteful guitarist. The effect was very much the same as in the YouTube clips linked by Peter Laban - lightness without excessive tempo, and clear execution of every note. That was Irish music (without inverted commas!) as I know it. It seems quite reasonable to me that people who prefer to speak in a foreign language (unless they're very good at it) will have a funny accent - which often comes from their pronouncing words the way they think a "native speaker" would pronounce them. Why should the same not apply to musical languages? And then there's the nagging thought in the back of my mind: why do English and Froggies try to play Irish music anyway? Haven't they got music of their own? (Sorry if the question offends anyone - but I'd just like to know.) Cheers, John
  19. Simon, This is one of the situations where I'm glad I'm a multi-instrumentalist! Concertina springs are easy to make with two pairs of pliers - a round-nosed pair and a normal flat pair. The raw material? In my case, that's a used Autoharp string. Specifically the C# from the middle octave, which is the thickest of the plain steel strings. One used string yields quite a few new springs. Cheers, John
  20. As a dabbler in the violin and mandolin, I was quick to learn that, to recognise a fifth interval, I just had to sing "Baa, baa, black sheep." Cheers, John
  21. If by "solfège" you mean tonic sol-fa, I doubt whether that would help with the expression. When I was learning to sing, I had to take part in music festivals, where the singing was adjudicated. In the more advanced classes, sight reading was also tested, and competitors could choose whether to sing from staff notation or tonic sol-fa (this was in Ireland). Invariably, the sol-fa candidates sang the syllables (doh, mi, so, re ...), while the staff readers sang the words. The latter were more expressive, because they were affected by the joy or sadness or whatever in the lyric. A friend of mine, a tenor-banjo player, attended some classes in the West of Ireland, and reported that some instructors told him to regard, say, a reel as a sort of dialogue between two people, e.g. "How're you doing? Lovely day! - "I'm fine now but it could rain later." The idea is that each phrase is played with a different "voice", now optimistic, now pessimistic, now cheery, now doleful. Keeps you from playing just one note after the other. I've only tried this out on one tune_ Carolan's Eleanor Plunkett. I already had all the right notes in the right place, but the lyric helped me to phrase the melody better. Here are the words; as you said, @bellowbelle, not great poetry, but valuable nonetheless: It's a lovely day today! (emotional statement) Do you think so? (called in question by another "voice") Yes, I think so. It's a really lovely day. (affirmative reply, with more emphatic repetition) If it weren't such a lovely day, there'd be clouds in the sky, (complex dialectic discussion on the state of the weather) And the little rain-drops would keep on falling, And I'd be so sad. It's a lovely day today! (simple repetition of original statement, with even more conviction) It works for me. Another genre that I enjoy playing on the concertina and the banjo is Scottish Psalm tunes (and sometimes Welsh hymn tunes.) I have all the words of the well-know ones in my head, and as I play, I "think" the words. This means that I alter the melody accordingly: now tying two notes that are otherwise discrete, now playing two quavers where other verses would require a crotchet. With the Scottish Psalms this is most marked. Normally, songs are written to provide a breathing space at the end of each line, but in the Psalms, it often happens that a phrase of the text begins in the middle of a line, and ends in the middle of the next. The Scottish choir singer learns to allow for this, and go from one line of the text to the next without taking a breath. Take the probably best-known Psalm 23 (verse 1): The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want. He makes me down to lie In pastures green; he leadeth me The quiet waters by. Obviously, taking a breath at the end of each line would disintegrate the syntax of the text. The correct way would be to sing: The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want. (OK - One sentence, one breath) He makes me down to lie _ In pastures green; (main clause all in one breath; then take breath for next main clause) he leadeth me _ The quiet waters by. (all in one breath) Each verse of the Psalm is structured differently; if I played the tune (preferably the tune Crimond) through several times, "thinking" the text as I played, each iteration would be different. Yes, words are essential to understanding! Ceers, John
  22. Simon, here's my group's arrangement of Carolan's Planxty Irwin. As you'll hear, the bass is used sparingly, the rhythm guitar is not obtrusive, and the fiddle and concertina just sing! Fiddle plays intro and bridge, concertina takes the melody in the verses. Cheers, John
  23. Well, considering that the concertina is a very British-Isles thing, this is not really surprising. The ubiquitousness of drumkits in many music genres - jazz, pop, rock, Latin, what have you - tends to obscure the fact that, in a specifically British context, drums are traditionally associated with war and death. Take the Scottish pipes and drums: that's pure military music, aimed at raising the adrenalin level in the troops. And the Irish Lambeg drum is similar in effect. The concertina is more at home in the domestic drawing-room or the convivial pub, where hatred, bloodshed and drums would be foreign bodies! But, some might object: What about the bodhrĂĄn, which is played in convivial pubs along with concertinas and other peaceful instruments like fiddles and flutes? Traditionally, the bodhrĂĄn, which came into use in Irish traditional music in the 1960s, as I remember, was a cult instrument, played by small boys ("Wren Boys") in folk ritual processions. So it was never a "weapon" of war! I quite agree! In my group, we always did our Carolan arrangements with that combination. A guitar and a bowed double bass provided the accompaniment (AKA basso continuo). Interestingly enough, I played my trusty, 1990s-vintage, metal-ended Stagi Anglo in those days. When I bought a Lachenal Crane, and had learnt the concertina part of Planxty Irwin, I tried it out at a rehearsal. The unanimous decision of the bandmates was, "Take your old concertina - it blends better!" Cheers, John
  24. Hmmm .... Though a concertina often has elaborate fretwork, it is not a fretted instrument as such. Perhaps that's why some of us fret over it. 😄 A Shakespeare quote comes to mind: When Hamlet's friends Rosenkranz and Guildenstern were getting on the Prince's nerves to try and influence his actions, Hamlet said: "Though ye may fret me, ye may not play on me!" (If you think Elizabethan music, the the significance of "fretting" my become apparent!) Cheers, John
  25. There's a theory here on CNet that 1. You should learn on the best instrument you can afford (applies to most instruments, not only concertinas) 2. Buy cheap = buy twice (In your case, most probable, since you already play other instruments) 3. Vintage concertinas in good condition may be more expensive, but should you have to sell for any reason (including inability to learn to play), you can get most of your money back. I played a metal-ended, 30-button Stagi Anglo in my group for almost 20 years, and was very satisfied with the tone and the tuning. (Admittedly I had to replace the bellows, but this boosted the quality of te instrument t the extent that I never thought about upgrading.) Now that I'm solo, however, I need an Anglo with more power and "character," so I got a vintage Dallas/Crabb, which I'm very pleased with. To each his own way! Cheers, John
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