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About RAc

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    Chatty concertinist

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    Acoustic music (guitar and concertina), paragliding, popular science
  • Location
    Southern Germany

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  1. we may be misunderstanding each other in at least one direction, Wolf - Were you under the impression that I attempted to draw analogies between guitars and concertinas? I wasn't, at least not here (it's a discussion that can be led, but for the sake of this point, I may as well have used flutes instead of guitars). The analogy is horizontal rather than vertical. My point is that switching from, say, Anglo to Duet is analogous to switching from a guitar tuned in "standard tuning" to one in, say, DADGAD. I argue from the perspective of a listener, not of a musician. Geoff (or rather, his wife) nailed down the issue perfectly: A concertina will always sound like a concertina, and the differences between one system and the other will normally reveal themselves mostly to the ear of fellow concertinists. That is NOT to imply that all systems were interchangeable, of course they aren't. But if one strives for sound scapes that extend beyond the "concertina sound," I'd recommend learning different instruments instead of different types of concertinas. Or did I misread your comment?
  2. Actually, we had this discussion many times before. The way I look at it is that different concertina layouts are a lot like different guitar tunings. You don't re-learn the guitar when you switch to a different tuning, but you have to find your notes and chords in different places. Playing the instrument itself - sound generation, sustain limitations, groove options etc - does not change, and you can hardly expect completly new revelations, just opportunities to make certain things easier (or possible, but again, it won't be a completly different instrument). On the guitar, there are many many examples of musicians who switch between many different tunings (in cases as many as 100) with seemingly no effort, but I'd estimate that 99% of all guitar players restrict themselves to at most 3 different tunings. To listeners that don't play the guitar, those many tuning guitarists tend to produce a less repetitive and more versatile sound space than those 99%, but even then it's essentially still but the sound of a guitar. Thus, unless I'm completly off with the analogy, you can gain additional sound effects (which may sound spectacular at times), but from the outside it'll still be a concertina, no matter which type. So if your goal is to cover as wide a range of sound spheres as possible, I think you'd be better off picking up an instrument from a completly different line (winds, strings, percussion or whatever) than just another type of concertina. But that's just my $0,02...
  3. RAc

    Why Give Up

    Another issue is that the voice is a microtonal instrument. At least in my case it would greatly help if the vocal cords were fretted...
  4. Hi everybody, I'll be in Lancashire early next February on music related business. Once there I'd love to hook up with other squeezers or folk dance groups, ideally participate in a little (private or public - doesn't matter) session. I play mostly English dance tunes and some bal folk. If any of you would like to meet up or know about goings-on, I'd be grateful for a PM. I'll have a rental car while there so will drive for music! 🙂 Thanks!
  5. Is it by any chance the same instrument discussed here ?
  6. My concertina socialization is via dance (function) music, so my take on this issue is somewhat, uhm, funneled through the ears of a dance musician. I fully understand and appreciate that there is more to music than playing for dancers. In my eco system, however, the following rules stand: We play music to support dancers, so the dance form, its rhythm and groove is the No. 1 concern. The melody line should be able to by itself carry the dance (so the melody players must already emphasize the dance groove in their playing), and everything else (including accompaniment) serves little other purpose than to help the dancers with the rhythm and lift. That said, we must also be able keep the same dance interesting for many repititions (some dances may go on for several ten minutes based on the same tune), thus vary everything as much as possible (of course always in accordance with the dance). Varying the accompaniment (for example by changing the harmonies or adding unexptected notes or frictions) is one way to accomplish that. Thus, harmonic concerns only play a subordinate role. Most of my playing (which of course is still nothing but amateur level) uses mainly Ohm-Pa in many variations to support the dance rhythm. Since the Crane system nicely supports Power Chords, most Ohm-Pa chord shapes involve only the root note and the fifth (which has the nice side effect that this can be used for both minor and major chords). Thirds, Seventh and other embellishments are fine as either transitionary bass run notes (an example can be heard here: Old Kiss my Lady , first of four sections) or paddings for full chords used to emphasize phrases (same recording, third section. I still don't use a full chord there mainly because of the frictional third in equal temperament tuning that Little John pointed out). A previous discussion on this forum about melody parallel 6th and 10th runs prompted me to incorporate that into a tune (Schottische Roquefort) which I think works quite well if used sparingly and deliberately. I think it's great to arrange tunes, and there are intriguing examples where even a very simple dance tune can be embellished to the max without losing its usefullness as a dance (Rob Harbron's recording of Young Collins comes to mind). Of course there is also a valid and just place for "concertant" concertina music in which the arrangement plays a major role. Other than that, however, as of yet I tend to think of the left hand mainly as a tool to support the dance rhythm. As I (hopefully) become better with the instrument, new roads will open to employ the left hand for more intricate accompaniment patterns and possibly even complex arrangements such as counter points.
  7. Very true; what I wrote earlier doesn't mean that the differences between the systems are there for no reason (otherwise there wouldn't be distinct systems). Some layouts work better for some musical landscapes. I can well relate to that, Don. Even though I have a guitarist's background and am therefore (theoretically) familiar with the idea of my two hands doing independent things at the same time, it literally took me years before I could play a single measure of one piece two handed. And it still feels much easier for me to stick to one hand (left or right), in particular with new pieces (eg technique 2a listed above seems so much more demanding than 2 even though it's not very different). I'm sure brain researchers have a plausible explanation but that doesn't help a lot. All the labor involved (hours over hours of repetitive disciplined practice, in a second stop under metronome control ) can't be substituted. Yet I consider the reward worthwhile (still a long way to go, but it's the single steps that count) .
  8. Hi Wolf - you're very lucky you got an instrument that has the B (in German notation H) below the middle C on the right hand side (I assume that's what the lowermost middle note on the RH is). That note is a part of many tunes (at least in the English/Bal Folk realm) but missing on most Cranes. I consider it very awkward to try to work around the missing note. Getting it from the left hand side to me is not an option because one, normally the left hand's job to keep the rhythm is distracted by trying to fit in the melody B from the left hand side and two, the two sides do have a significantly different acoustic effect, so transferring the melody from right to left always sounds funny, even to those sitting centered before the instrument. So in most tunes the only option is to substitute the B with a different note fitting the tune. To let the "secret" (is it really a secret anymore?) out: Alex's #3 is a Crane I commissioned, and I'm very happy that he managed to get the B accomodated - look at (2nd image) to get an idea about the magic involved.
  9. honestly, the first thought that entered my mind was that you are in desparate need of CAS treatment... (just kidding). But no, as Wunks pointed out: Whenever you think you've seen (heard) it all along comes somebody who reinvents an instrument and comes up with something completly different, so go ahead and post sound samples, we'd love to hear it! My (current) view as a duet only player is this: There are only so many conceptually different things you can do with a duet, namely: 1. Play melody only, so leave one hand idle (normally melody on the right hand side although sometimes it works to do that on the bass side. The real sleaze comes into the game when you turn the instrument around and keep playing with the melody hand but low notes. A duet lets you do that). I normally do that whenever a new tune comes my way which I can't decipher in real time from the score (I'm not a good sight reader). 2. Play accompaniment only, so leave the other hand idle. This is called "faking" but can be very effective. It works for me because I come from a guitar background and understand chord symbols, so when is a session, enough melody instruments carry the melody, you can chump chords as a guitarist does and pretend like you know the piece. 2a. Do 2. but distribute chords over both sides, eg do Ohm (left hand side)- Pah (right hand side). Works really well, at least on a Crane, but there is little point in doing so because the right hand interferes unpredictably with the melody line, so it's fun for the player, but not necessarily for the rest of the world. 3. Play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously. Normally this means Ohm-Paing chord shapes on the left while playing the melody on the right. This is very easy on the Crane system, in particular because power chords lie under the fingers for free, so you can add groove effects easily (apparently the Hayden has similar features but I wouldn't know). Of course, 3. can become arbitrarily complex; you can add counter points, inner voices, complex chord shapes, even temporarily move one hand over to the other side and so on. It's a little bit like a piano, I guess; think about the right hand serving (normally) the high side of the key board and the left hand serving (normally) the low side. After having discussed this with Adrain, I tend to believe (although I don't know a whole lot about Anglos) that many of the concepts of "harmonic playing" on the Anglo translate relatively directly to a duet with the only notable (but in practice marginal once you get to a certain level) difference being that the duet is unisonoric. I have a lot of respect for people who manage to switch back and forth between different concertina systems, but I don't know anybody who does so on a regular basis. One of my musical heroes, Jochen Riemer, wouldn't have any problems doing so, but whenever he needs a bisonoric or diatonic instrument, he picks up a Chemnitzer or a Melodeon instead of his McCann. I tend to believe that a good concertina player can pretty much get anything out of any system, so my strategy would be to learn to play one system well and not try to shift back and forth between systems. But I may be wrong there.
  10. I uploaded a recording of Ganivelle&Canal En Octobre onto my Soundcloud presence. I was surprised to find how difficult it is to get the simple (yet beautiful) tunes to recording quality (it's still far from being perfect, in particular the Canal). Recording Levi Jackson for some reason took much less time! I guess it's because in simple tunes, every note counts, so even slight errors will not be forgiven...


    Thanks as usual for listening!


    1. Devils' Dream

      Devils' Dream

      Very, very nice.  What is the instrument and key?

    2. RAc


      Thank you for the nice comment! 🙂


      I play a 55 button Crane Duet. The set is in the key of G - as a perceived 90% of all folk tunes in the English folk realm are, including derived keys such as A Dorian and E Minor, with variations over the D scale making up for 8% of the rest. Balfolk generally appears to be different, there is a more even distribution between C,F,Bb and occasional occurrences of G and D (none of ths scientifically backed, this is all extrapolated from the session groups I am involved with).


  11. RAc

    Cool Tunes; Practice Those Incidentals!

    Thanks David, very much appreciated. Yeah, speed. Gotta work on that one. I set the metronome to 160 bpm when I recorded it, would like to target 200 (some of the recordings appear to be even way faster than that), but my fingers&brain aren't 20 anymore... oh well. No whining. Will give it a shot. Mine's a Crane duet (Wheatstone 55 to be precise). Can't make sense of bisonoric and/or diatonic instruments. Actually, this tune got me back to my fingerstyle guitar roots, in particular ragtime, so I've resolved to trying myself at a few of those classic old time ragtime/cakewalk pieces (even though Levi Jackons, in spite of having everything that makes a ragtime, is an English tune).
  12. RAc

    Cool Tunes; Practice Those Incidentals!

    I'm resurrecting this thread to bring home the point that this dance, more than 40 years after it was written and 14 years after having been discussed here, is still a favorite in the folk dance scene. A few years ago when I began playing the concertina and got involved in the Ceilidh world, this was the tune dancers loved and musicians hated. Now it's still the one dancers will do almost anything to dance to. So here's my attempt: It would also benefit from more speed, and the B part is somewhat shaky at times. Yet a great and fun piece to play. It looks a little bit frightening at first, but when looked at structurally, a lot of it reduces to repititions (the A part consists of 4 subparts identical in rhythm, and the first half of the B part consists of the same music played twice, only 2 whole notes apart), so at least it is very easy to learn. As Pat Shaw has died less than 70 years ago, his legal successors still claim a right to his compositions. I'll try to get the permission to publish this recording from them (since there already are numerous renditions out there, I don't foresee problems); if denied, I'll remove the track asap. Thanks for listening!
  13. well, Chris wrote "15 or so years ago" (which would be around 2003 if my math doesn't fail me), so I selected at point of time a tad after that... interestingly enough, this "new forum" appears to have been archived in full (at least the few samples I clicked on were fully readable) whereas the "early version" didn't archive the contents as Alex pointed out.
  14. well Chris, as I'm sure you know, the internet doesn't forget anything (blessing&curse). You can browse your old content to your heart's delight in the way back machine, e.g. here: https://web.archive.org/web/20050208001320/http://www.concertina.net:80/forums/index.php?showforum=10 Just pick an archived point at the time beam on top to get closer to the snapshot time you're interested in.
  15. I uploaded a recording of Old Kiss My Lady to my Soundcloud presence:


    Coincidentally, this tune has also been added to Paul Hardy's tune book, 2018 edition.