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Posts posted by StuartEstell

  1. Irene, thanks for the moral support :)


    The Jeffries system, or the "demented typewriter" as I like to call it, is a peculiar beast - and has a character all of its own. On paper the layout admittedly does looks crackers; regardless of its back-of-fag-packet "let's reuse anglo end plates" origins, I find it much more manageable than the Maccann keyboard in remoter keys. The Maccann makes me think, the Jeffries just lets me play.


    Mine is a 56-key with an overlap of only a 7th (middle C to the Bb above). A 49 would be too small for me otherwise I'd be jumping at the chance to keep this one away from the anglo-conversion-brigade :)

  2. Although F sounds lovely on guitar. If I need to play in F, I'll either drop the bottom string to D and then play in D with a capo on 3rd, or open tune to C major with capo 5. My very favourite guitar tuning, though, is open Bb - from the bottom, F - Bb - D - F - Bb - D; it has a really beautiful resonance to it.


    I have no real idea of the ratio of guitarists who use alternate tunings to those who don't, but I would have thought that the majority of more experienced players will have done a degree of experimentation. Regardless of the instrument, I think it's always a good to find different ways to do things.

  3. On the same subject playing in different keys, The easy or common key for Guitar is E .Of all the three more common anglos that have been mentioned ie C/G G/D Bb/F .Has anyone an oppinion which would be better for playing in E? Bob (Ps I wish this site had a spell checker)


    Of the three, G/D is "sharpest" - so E is closest around the circle of fifths to one of its home keys. Playing in E on a G/D is like playing in A on a C/G.


    However, playing in E on a C/G isn't too bad (if a bit fiddly), particularly if it's a Jeffries layout and you have a C#/D# both ways in the right hand. For chords you've got E and C# minor on the push, A either way, and B almost either way. The Wheatstone layout is a little more limiting from a harmonic perspective.


    You can always get a guitarist to tune down ;)

  4. Roger, the brief answer is yes. But...


    Personally I wouldn't get too hung up on keys relative to Playford - there are plenty of tunes in there that are in G minor, F etc. It's probably more useful (and cheaper!) to learn some basic transposition skills so that you can put the tunes into the keys that will fit on the instrument(s) that you have.

  5. (apologies for the thread drift)


    Absolute pitch is just a particular form of very strong aural memory, Wolf. Microtones etc. are fine in a microtonal context (set as they usually are against an equal temperament framework), and I've trained my ear to have a "Baroque pitch" setting which I can adjust to quickly so that "almost D flat" gets interpreted as a D.


    If an instrument "falls in the cracks" but is consistent with itself, the effect of the tuning is mostly determined by the complexity of what I'm trying to do - e.g. playing rhythm guitar it doesn't really bother me too much, whereas playing Stockhausen or Elliott Carter on a piano that's a quarter-tone out is extremely disorientating. My ear will be constantly attempting to resolve to the nearest "known" pitch.


    I've experimented with other temperaments - e.g. in the context of Arabic maqqam scales - and as with microtonal Western classical music, that doesn't seem to be discomfiting.

  6. For those of us blessed/cursed with absolute pitch (I hesitate to call it perfect pitch), playing a transposing instrument involves constant mental transposition back to concert pitch.


    Playing E flat tuba as a treble clef transposing instrument (i.e. C major treble clef = Eb bass) isn't too bad as the notes are at least on the same staves. It's merely a case of adding three flats. Others are harder - I never liked playing Euphonium from a transposing score as it involved transposing everything down a major 9th, which gets a bit tedious after a while, although it's good for the transposition-at-sight skills.


    All this is by way of saying that I have no choice but to play C/G and G/D thinking of the pitch with its real name for each instrument.


    Absolute pitch is a very useful thing in some circumstances - particularly for transcription - but makes other things more difficult than they might otherwise need to be.

  7. So much depends on your goal - and therefore on the idiom in which you're working.


    If you want to be able to give a note-perfect performance of a challenging classical piece then a different approach to practice is required than if you want to, say, improvise around a song accompaniment. Knowing what you want is sometimes harder than working towards it.

  8. The comedian Stewart Lee stood in for Stuart Maconie on his "Freak Zone" programme on BBC Radio 6 last night, and he played my recording of "Just as the Tide was Flowing" from the Fire Records compilation "Shirley Inspired", which was initially released digitally to supporters of the Kickstarter campaign for the film "The Ballad of Shirley Collins".


    If you're interested, the programme is online here and can be heard via iPlayer/iPlayer Radio:



    (I'm about 45 minutes in).

  9. Hello all,


    I have just recorded and released a new album, "Seas of Doubt and Rocks of Repentance" - which features seven traditional songs of the sea, 6 of which are accompanied by concertina.


    It can be streamed for free or downloaded for £5 here: https://lachenaliamusic.bandcamp.com/album/seas-of-doubt-rocks-of-repentance-2


    Here's some more information from the Bandcamp page:


    1. On Board a '98 (3:43)
    2. Canadee-i-o (3:07)
    3. Shallow Brown (3:17)
    4. Sally Free and Easy (9:41)
    5. Polly on the Shore (5:00)
    6. Young Sailor Bold (3:01)
    7. Sir Patrick Spens (16:07)

    An album of traditional songs of the sea, performed by Stuart Estell on
    G/D anglo concertina (1, 3)
    Jeffries duet concertina (2, 5)
    Maccann duet concertina (3, 6)
    piano (7)

    All songs trad. arr. Estell, except track 4, composed by Cyril Tawney, arr. Estell.
    These recordings use very little compression and were recorded live with no overdubs or editing. They may seem quiet compared with other more compressed modern recordings. Please make appropriate use of the volume knob on your amplifier if necessary. If doing a retake risked the overall feel of a performance, minor errors/throat frogs/mic stand wobbles have been left in.

    I've long wanted to record "On Board a '98" to mark my indebtedness to the singing of Peter Bellamy - I hope I've done it justice. Canadee-i-o comes from the singing of Harry Upton, with a slight nod to Bob Dylan's version on his album "Good as I Been to You". Shallow Brown comes from a variety of sources and the version here seems to obsess more than it used to on the notion of the narrator being sold for a dollar.

    Sally Free and Easy is of course by the amazing Cyril Tawney - here instead of Tawney's chugging guitar imitating a submarine engine I've opted for something altogether more sombre; it is, after all, a suicide song. Polly On the Shore is from the Trees version, and is different from the way Stewart Lee and I have performed it together - again, I've slowed it down here.

    Young Sailor Bold is a version collected in the midlands by Roy Palmer and Pam Bishop. The arrangement of Sir Patrick Spens here is completely improvised, while the tune is a slightly mangled reworking of Martin Carthy's.


  10. Hello Mike,


    It's partly to do with tone, and partly to do with the nature of the arrangements.


    The first part, on which I play my Wheatstone Maccann, makes great use of the fact that my Maccann has an octave and a half of overlap between the hands, so I have both hands doing textural things in the same register (think "In Paradisum" from the Fauré Requiem - it's a similar sort of accompaniment). That's simply not possible on the Jeffries duet as the overlap between the hands is only a 5th.


    I tend to think of the Jeffries duet as being a bit more rock'n'roll, hence using it for part two - and I needed its more plaintive tone for the final part, which uses the tune for Lord Franklin, unaccompanied, at both ends. The Wheatstone is wooden-ended and a bit less melancholy-sounding.

  11. Hello all,


    I'm pleased to announce my latest release, which is a collaboration with the poet Lucy Newlyn, and is a setting of her long ballad, "The Wreck of the Hera", recorded in the chapel of St Edmund Hall, Oxford.


    Part one is accompanied on my 1927 Wheatstone Maccann duet, parts two and three on my Jeffries system duet.

    It's available as a download with digital booklet, or in a limited edition of 100 physical copies - book & CD with immediate download.

    You can listen to the whole of part two on Bandcamp - the source of the tune for this is Nic Jones's "Clyde Water".


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