Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by wayman

  1. The International Concertina Assoc's website also has a page on Concertina World Magazine, which it looks like they do not publish themselves. Likewise, CWM's page does not give any indication that it is actively in print (by mentioning any recent or upcoming issues, offering any archives, or giving any submission dates including the year), but it also doesn't clearly give any sign that CWM is defunct. Does anyone know for sure? While the ICA's home page does include a few recent entries in their blogroll, it doesn't seem to be updated frequently or give the impression that much is happening in the concertina world :-( And not having the reviews publicly available doesn't serve the public. I understand that they are a membership organization / journal, but as such they are not providing the service to newcomers to the instrument -- the ones who are the key audience for these tutor books and most need to see the reviews, as well as a clear index of the many, many tutors on the market to help guide them to one that is right for them!
  2. Bad reviews are every bit as important as good reviews, so long as all the reviews -- bad and good -- are well-reasoned and well-written; give some perspective through identifying the author and the author's experience; and remain civil in tone. I don't think reviewers should feel bound to give a "neutral" review of a tutor book they feel is, frankly, bad ... so long as the reviewers say *why* they think the tutor is bad, so long as the reviewers tell us where they're coming from in writing this review, and so long as they're polite about it even while stating what may be strong opinions. We, the community of concertina players, should have a strong interest in guiding newcomers to the instrument towards a learning path they find fulfilling and fun. A single bad tutor book could frustrate a newcomer to the point that they say "well, the concertina's not for me" and give up when a good tutor book could do just the opposite! When negative reasoned opinions are held back, a newcomer won't necessarily be guided away from a tutor book that just won't provide what they're seeking, as there's a very small difference between a neutral review (that strains to find some nice things to say about a bad book) and a genuinely positive review (which may, in striving for accuracy, point out a few weak spots of an otherwise great book). I'm aware of the awkwardness that may arise from the authors of several tutor books being members of this forum, but I think the community does itself (and its future) a tremendous dis-service by squelching negative reviews wholesale. And I understand the potential value of anonymous reviews or poll ratings as a way of avoiding this awkwardness, but I think that too does a dis-service -- if you don't know who a negative review or rating (or a positive one!) comes from, you have no way of evaluating that review or rating. My two cents (but are they two cents flat, or two cents sharp?)...
  3. I guess that means that if Jim Besser's concertina playing is a bit wonky the morning after a long session with plenty to drink, it's hard to say whether that's because "the hair of the dog" has bitten Jim, or the hair of his dogs has gotten into his concertinas :-)
  4. I started playing G/D melodeon in 1999, and adopted two young kittens in 2002. So they've known the sound of accordion reeds for pretty much their entire lives. Random (who passed away two years ago) was less averse to the melodeon than Finster (who's still around). I wouldn't say Random *liked* it, but he didn't run away and hide the way Finster always has. I wish Finster would sit on my lap while I practice! Recorded concertina or melodeon doesn't phase him at all, though. Just live.
  5. Blue Eyed Sailor mentioned that his cat doesn't much like the sound of the concertina, and neither does mine! He recognizes the case and looks angrily at me whenever I pick it up, especially if he is sitting comfortably in a nearby chair. Then, when I open it, he runs away. He doesn't object to some other musical instruments -- guitar or piano. I will try french horn sometime soon (and could report the results). He also hates button accordion. So it would seem it's something about the free reed sound in particular, but what is it, I wonder? I gather from Blue Eyed Sailor's report that this is true of concertina reeds just as it is of accordion reeds (my concertinas are hybrids, so I've never tried concertina reeds on my cat). Is this a universal among cats, that they hate free reeds? Do free reeds have very high-pitched overtones which annoy the cats, while other instruments have fewer overtones? Is it something else? Any ideas? Do any of you have cats who don't object to the concertina? What about dogs -- do they hate concertinas too?
  6. Concertinas are extremely durable. Take common sense precautions to avoid extreme heat, use an umbrella in the rain, and don't play it immediately after taking indoors when it's very cold outside, and you'll be fine. Oh, and avoid getting on Fiona's bad side (she probably hates concertina players, too): (I cried at this scene, the first time I saw Shrek!!!)
  7. Others have mentioned Jody Kruskal and John Roberts. I'm also fond of Jon Boden -- many of his "A Folk Song A Day" podcasts featured just his voice and concertina (a MacCann, I think?). "Fakenham Fair", "In the Shade of the Old Harris Mill", "Water is Wide" to name a few, but I don't think these are available free online any longer (they are available as albums/pay downloads, though, I think?). I didn't know about Andy's podcast -- thanks! "My Darling So Far Away" on Frost & Fire's new album features Hayden duet, but not as the sole instrument. I've heard Aaron accompany other songs on Hayden in concerts, but none are on the album.
  8. Gary, what a splendid idea! Something to brighten my December mornings and give my fingers a bit of inspiration.
  9. Here's a piece of advice I learned yesterday, for transatlantic travel: if carrying an instrument fiddle-sized or a bit larger, Icelandair is a very good choice. Not only do you get 2 free checked bags, but the airline is extremely accommodating of musical instruments (fiddles and nyckelharpa at least) in the cabin as carry-on. By contrast, do NOT take Scandianavian Airlines as they will not carry your instrument and may force you to ship it separately! Again, not a big deal for concertinas as they're so small, but it's certainly worth knowing. I also had good experiences traveling with a band (concertina, nyckelharpa, banjo) on Aer Lingus, taking all instruments as carry-ons on both the transatlantic flight and the little 40-seat turbo-prop from Dublin to the Isle of Man.
  10. I tried out a few iPhone apps, and settled on the succinctly-named "Metronome" (whose icon shows "120 allegro" in teal digital font, if you're confused about which one to download). I forget whether it was free or $0.99, but it's worth every penny either way I like this app mainly for exactly the reasons Adrian likes that Seiko: it has a dial and the dial makes satisfying clicks as you spin it to change the setting; and it's actually loud enough to hear over my Morse concertina. You can also set the meter and then independently set the volume or tone of each beat in the measure to emphasize or de-emphasize (or even mute) certain beats, if you find that helpful. And it also has the great feature that there's a square on the screen you can tap, and it will determine the tempo of your tapping and set itself accordingly. So, if you're curious about exactly what tempo a tune is being played at a session, pull out your iPhone and discreetly tap along for a few bars (the app doesn't make noise when you're doing this) to find out. I've done this at dances, and I find I'm often surprised: one band may sound very, very rushed while actually dragging the dance down at 112 while another band may be in a very relaxed groove while clipping along at 130 (as Geoff described above).
  11. Today's xkcd comic could just as well be about "the need to think ahead for using the air-button whilst playing anglo concertina" as, well, what it's actually about Note, it has "adult language": http://xkcd.com/1290/ (For language geeks, see http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/schlenker/ENS-LN-1.pdf#page=3 (bottom half of page, and onto page 4) for more about this.)
  12. Yes, my sense is that if you've never played a duet before, and it's your first exposure to the Hayden/Wicki system, the Elise is mind-blowingly cool, and the low cost-of-entry (and high trade-in value later on) more than makes up for the ... well, I've heard it described as "wading through a swamp" when compared with the feel of playing higher-end concertinas. If you're coming from having played any concertina better than a Concertina Connection, a Stagi, or a vintage instrument whose bellows produce a nice cooling breeze on your face as you play, then you might find yourself a bit frustrated with the Elise, but the coolness of its duet system may still overcome that, and the security that you can actually think of the Elise as a down-payment on an upgrade makes it an extremely low-risk investment (compared with, say, the Stagi Hayden duet). It's true, practice will make any duet system playable in a variety of keys (each fingered differently), just as it will make a piano playable in a variety of keys ... and just as it will make an English or Anglo playable in a variety of keys. The advantage a Hayden/Wicki has over all of these is, those keys aren't fingered differently. That means it takes a lot less initial learning time to be able to play in C, D, F, and G over multiple octaves because ... learn C in one octave, and you've learned everything. For some folks, having a lot less to memorize or learn up front is a tremendous advantage; it also means that you can start digging into those more obscure chord patterns earlier -- the Sus-4th, the 6th, etc. And, get a larger instrument later on, and you instantly can play in A, Bb, and so on with no additional learning time; you instantly can play in any higher or lower octave, likewise. That's simply not true of other duet systems. Is it an advantage in the long run? No, not necessarily. But in the short run, for a beginner? I think it's a huge advantage there. Does that mean every beginner should get a Hayden/Wicki, instead of, say, an Anglo or an English? No, I don't think so. Each of the three makes something easier to do while not being quite as intuitive or natural at doing something else; each has some association with a different sort of, or sound of, or tradition of music (though obviously with the Hayden/Wicki these associations are pretty weak, comparatively, as it's a relatively young instrument); and each favors a different learning style and way of thinking about music. Matthew, I don't think you're being glib: I think the Hayden really is itself a tutor for the musician looking to gain a better grasp of music theory. I've handed one to several music majors and composers with no explanation of what it is, and after five minutes of playing around with it their reaction has been not only one of immediately being able to play a tune or two, but also "wow, what a great teaching tool this would be for music theory classes!". That website with the chord layouts and video is great! Brilliant and elegant! I did notice two small typos -- in the Sus-4th chord and the Perfect-4th interval, "F5" should read "F4".
  13. David, I can't speak with experience about Irish Gaelic, but as for Manx Gaelic, yes, quite a number of the teen and twenty-something Manx musicians and dancers seem fluent in Manx Gaelg and speak it amongst themselves as their primary language (but readily switch to perfect English when speaking with adults who don't speak Gaelg, or with foreign visitors). Since 2003, there's even been an immersion school where Gaelg is the sole language of instruction. Needless to say, I've been studying up prior to my next visit
  14. Good grief, I typed a reply, navigated away from the page, and it was gone :-( Okay, a second go at this... David, yes, I need to work on getting rid of that "concertina face"! I'm focused intently on a dot on the wall, can you tell? :-) But yes, I agree that it's nice when videos include the player and not just the instrument, even if the face is a bit odd. Robin, I don't have transcriptions of either tune, but yes, those would be nice. I can try to make them. For "Allen Barbara" I'll start with asking David Kilgallon if he already has and would share such a pdf. For "Billey Keirn", well, that's a more interesting story. The tune *is* printed in Leighton Stowell's collection of Manx dances, but what's printed is ... well, sort of dippy. I initially tried playing the tune as written for And Sometimes Y (the American Manx dance group), and ... it was not a good fit for the dance, probably because they learned the dance from Perree Bane and Perree T, contemporary Manx dance groups who may dance it with greater vigor than in days of yore? Or just a different sensibility? In the recordings I have where PB and PT dance it, it's to a very different tune than the printed one. The first two bars of the B part in Leighton Stowell become the first two bars of the A part of the new tune; and pretty much everything else is different! So I learned that tune off video recordings of those dancers, with the band King Chiaullee playing. One version (with Perree Bane dancing), KC are playing the "new tune" straight -- that is, five times through the tune, all the same as what I play the first time through in my recording. The other version (with Perree T dancing a sort of "fools dance" interpretation of the dance), KC plays with the tune a lot ... with a minor here, and a mixolydian there, here a modulation, there a tempo change, everywhere a quack quack... which is what I do in my recording. Last night I asked Adam Rhodes, KC band member, about the tune -- did it have a different name, or attribution? and he replied "it's the tune we've always played for Billey Keirn, but we spruced it up a bit! It's normally in Em and Gmajor, we messed around with it and changed keys etc. ... I'm sure the guys wouldn't mind not getting a credit as such, it's a trad tune and the arrangements were just us fannying around years ago!" Perhaps this new tune just totally supplanted the one Leighton Stowell notated, assumed the title "Billey Keirn", and had already done so decades ago? Because Adam suggests "the tune we've always played ... a trad tune" was already this "new tune". Where that new tune came from, or how it may have evolved out of just two bars of the Leighton Stowell tune, I have yet to discover. (I've looked through some Manx tune collections, and I haven't spotted any tune that resembles it closely....) (Ian Radcliffe, can you shed any light on this?) It's definitely worth notating this one, and I'll do so. Will
  15. I thought I'd start recording some videos and getting a bit of a concertina presence online. Here are two tunes (one trad., one more recently written) from the Isle of Man, played on my 32-key Morse C/G Céilí: "Allen Barbara", written by David Kilgallon (as learnt from the Barrule album) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5DgQ-Oc02Y "Yn Billey Keirn" (The Rowan Tree), trad. (arrangement inspired by King Chiaullee playing for Perree T) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxv2Vqez_9Y (Yes, 32-key. It's unique.) More to follow, perhaps even soon, now that I have a home recording set-up!
  16. My first concertina was a G/D Morse (Wheatstone layout) which I played heavily in the "harmonic style" (Jody, Gary Coover, etc) primarily for morris dancing. My initial choice of the G/D was based on the same thinking as you have as a D/G melodeon player (which I was as well prior to concertina) -- that the G/D concertina would be more intuitive given that background. I found it partially true. The fingering on the right hand of the melody on the concertina is the same as in the high octave on the melodeon (where I rarely played) -- so I was familiar with it, but it was still a bit of retraining my fingers. But the basic ideas that "on the press, you get G, B, D, G ... likewise, on the press you get your G chord, and on the draw you get your C chord, and you get your D chord both ways" are absolutely the same, though, so from that standpoint, it's a very natural and intuitive concertina to choose. A year or so later, I inherited a C/G Morse (Jeffries layout) which had been well-loved and heavily played by a dear friend for nine years. For a while I was carrying both around in a padded camera-case backpack well-suited for carrying two concertinas, but after six months or so I got lazy and wanted to just carry one concertina around. I chose to focus on the C/G, for several reasons -- which may or may not be applicable to others: * the bellows on my C/G are so much more supple -- but that's more a factor of age and breaking-in than anything else, so it has only to do with my two particular instruments compared against each other, and not any G/D versus any C/G * a Bertram Levy workshop, in which I was intrigued by the challenge of learning to play my C/G in a wide variety of keys ; also, the "Farewell Manchester" track on Brian Peters' Anglophilia album, showing off the beauty of playing a tune in four different keys on a C/G (and how each key suggests a different character to the accompaniment based on available notes / chords) -- but this has more to do with personal aesthetics and interests than with the innate qualities of a G/D versus a C/G ... and you can, of course, play in just as wide a range of keys on a G/D as on a C/G, so unless you're really keen to play often in keys like Bb/Gm (which I find comfortable on the C/G but outside my comfort range on the G/D), or E (which would be comfortable for me on a G/D but outside my comfort range on the C/G), this shouldn't be a make-it-or-break-it factor in your decision. Particular keys will sound/feel different on one instrument or the other, though -- G has a very different character on a C/G versus a G/D, etc. (I happen to really, really like G on a C/G (played in the octave starting with the left hand ... but still in the harmonic style) better than G on a G/D (played with the melody all on the right hand) ... but I might be in the minority on that!) * convenience of playing in workshops where a C/G is the expected instrument ; also, convenience of playing along with a few particular morris musician friends (John Dexter, Peter Klosky) who play C/G -- but, if I were spending more time around morris G/D players like Robin Harrison or Tom Kruskal instead, I might have focused on my G/D more, so this really comes down to "if there are other musicians whose playing you want to emulate or directly learn from, what do they play?" * I eventually came to prefer the Jeffries layout for the accidental row, and my C/G is set up that way but my G/D isn't. If/when I eventually get around to changing my G/D to a Jeffries layout, that won't be an issue for me anymore. Of course, if you're getting a new concertina, you can get whatever you want in either C/G or G/D. * I feel like the C/G carries better outdoors, but as I'm never hearing it from thirty feet away it's pretty hard for me to judge that :-) The G/D reeds, being lower, take a bit more air, and if you're playing in the harmonic style (several notes at once) rather than just playing melody, this can affect your volume (you'll run out of air much more rapidly, playing at full punch on a G/D as compared with a C/G ... and thus you'll want to pull back a notch or else use the air button more heavily to compensate). This won't be so much of an issue if you're primarily playing melody. I'm very fond of my C/G's sound, though every now and again when I pull out my G/D the variety is delightful ... and much of my fondness could be that when I play my C/G, I remember Roger (from whom I inherited it). But then again ... if I were choosing solely based on "how do the main few keys sound, to my ears (and also with my voice ... which could be part of why they sound sweeter to my ears?)", and not based on any other criteria ... I might go with Bb/F, given the few I've played! I guess that suggests, you really just have to get your hands on several instruments -- and let your ears hear several instruments -- for a real comparison, which perhaps isn't very helpful at all in the end :-/
  17. There's also an iPhone app, Hexjam, which is billed as a hexagonal jammer keyboard (doesn't use the words "Hayden" or "Wicki" anywhere in the app description, as I recall) which is a simple Hayden jammer keyboard. One-hand only, of course, but great for demonstrating the concept to anyone, anywhere, when you're not actually carrying a concertina with you.
  18. Aaron Marcus uses two Audio Technica PRO-35s, which come on a flexible stalk with a sturdy clip on the other end. He clips them directly to the bellows (!) on the fold closest to each side, with the stalks curled so the microphones point inwards towards the fretwork from slightly above (and out of the way of) the fingers. I was very skeptical when I first saw this, but it works great; and I played his concertina briefly on-stage while everything was set up, and I couldn't tell by feel that anything was out of the ordinary; the amplified sound was clear and even; and it didn't appear to me that this was adding much extra wear to the bellows leather. The one downside is that this gives you two XLR cables to plug into the mixer, unless you have some sort of personal mixer which can reduce them to a single cable that goes into the main mixer. The nice thing about the MicroVox system is that it takes care of that for you.
  19. Fascinating! Was the "two buttons to one chamber" accomplished by each button being connected by its own lever to its own pad (the pad pan having two holes adjacent to each other both above this chamber, each covered by a separate pad) or by some mechanical linkage where there was a single pad which could be lifted by either of the two buttons? If the former, is there ever an intonation difference (as the two pad positions would result in different airflow through the chamber)? I know the ideal pad location is over the rivet end of a reed, not the tip end, and (at least with accordion reeds, not sure about with concertina reeds) this can make an enormous difference in the sound quality. (Of course, with a 45-key, there are also some reeds under the action board as opposed to around the perimeter of the instrument -- possibly including the chamber in question -- which, as I recall from a previous discussion between Robin Harrison and Adrian Brown and others, results in tonal differences ... which might be be greater than any difference caused by pad location over a chamber?) If the latter (a mechanical linkage of some sort), I would love to see photographs of the lever arms of such an instrument as well as hear whether both buttons feel similar to each other and the other buttons on the instrument -- in terms of pressure needed to move the pad, resistance from springs, motion lost due to mechanical transfer, and the like. (On my customized 32-key Morse C/G, my left thumb has F#4/C4 and I've given up the duplicate G4/A4 reeds on the "G row" in favor of a F4/E4 reeds for that button -- all four of those notes are extremely useful in my playing style! I've also -- on the right side -- got an F#5 on the press in the exact same location as on this 45-key, and an F5 in nearly the same "pinky finger" location. ... At some point I'll just start a thread on locations of various "alternate notes" on different anglos of different numbers of buttons, and various custom layouts folks have developed, but before I start that thread I want to organize the data I've collected thusfar a bit more. As you might guess, this is a particular interest of mine, both theoretically as a player and practically as a concertina builder for R.Morse&Co.) I'm actually more than mildly interested in this instrument, but given the (totally reasonable given the instrument, to be sure!) price it is of course a consideration not to be taken lightly (also, as sound and feel can vary widely among Jeffries, it's hard to really know how I'd like the instrument without handling and playing it, no easy feat for me, living in America). One further question: I've seen another Jeffries 45-key anglo where the buttons are of very small diameter (perhaps 3mm?); here in these photographs, they appear to be a bit larger (more like those I've seen on some 31-key Jeffries (perhaps 6mm?). Could you give their actual measurement? Thank you!
  20. Does it really have no F4 on the press, and two C4 drone buttons? Or is one of those buttons possibly erroneously notated?
  21. Well put. I have a piano accordionist houseguest at the moment, and I was trying to explain to her why I was not immediately playing back (on my anglo) the phrase of a tune she was teaching me -- that I had to do a bit more and different thinking with an anglo than she does with a piano accordion (especially for a tune in A on a C/G). I tried explaining it, but the concept that I had to think about bellows direction and buttons and fingers was not getting through. Then I thought of a new way to explain it: "Imagine you have a computer keyboard which needs bellows to work, ok? And when you squeeze the bellows, the keyboard has a QWERTY layout ... but when you open the bellows, the keyboard immediately switches to a DVORAK layout." And I saw the lightbulb go on over her head, followed by a look of sheer horror. I just grinned.
  22. Now this is an interesting (and to my mind, astute!) observation. It reminds me of a workshop Bertram Levy gave in Amherst last year, where he spoke about how he uses different muscles in isolation to accomplish very specific aspects of playing the anglo. Press buttons by finger movement alone (not in conjunction with any hand or wrist movement); limit hand movement to repositioning the fingers over different buttons; expand and contract the bellows by shoulder movement and using the back muscles (not elbow movement or arm muscles); and accentuate the sudden dynamics -- that is, the anglo punch -- with the wrists. (Did he use his elbows or arm muscles for anything? I forget.) It felt a lot like concertina yoga, or concertina belly dancing -- learn to isolate different muscle groups and move them, and only them, very intentionally. One of Levy's big points was that reserving the wrist movement for that anglo punch was key. And Chris's observation that this is just not doable in the same way with an EC is quite interesting to me. (Of course, that's just Bertram Levy's style; others may have entirely different approaches to creating sudden dynamics and punch on the anglo, and of course anything that works and is comfortable to play is just as "correct" as any other!)
  23. Someday I hope to make it to one of your gatherings, Jim, even though I *barely* qualify as Washington area. (I claim to barely qualify as "in the area" by the technicality that we're both in Amtrak's Northeast Zone so it's a very cheap Guest Rewards redemption for me to get to DC!) Who knows, some future year perhaps.
  24. Robin, your notation looks good. I think I often play more triplets (in other situations which are similar to where you noted them), but those seem to me like the sort of ornamentation that doesn't have to be notated precisely or played the same way every time through. There's also basic notation here: http://manxmusic.com/learn_page_144681.html (it's several pages into the PDF). Many of the harmonies and bass runs I play come from trying to follow Jamie Smith's piano accordion and Adam Rhodes' bouzouki chords in the Barrule video and emulate them as best I can on the Anglo. They've got a wide variety of different rhythms and changes in the accompaniment (some of which I would never have come up with on my own), and it's fun to try each of them. Just last Saturday was the first time I played the tune for a dance performance in D on the C/G, and I was really chuffed that afterwards our team's dance leader (the one who has studied these dances on the Isle of Man) said "wow, that sounds a lot more Manx now!" And ... well, those bass runs make extensive use of that unusual left-hand customizations I made, Robin. I know it's really weird... but it really works for me, especially for harmonies in the key of D.
  25. That's coming along VERY nicely, Jim and Randy! I'm sorry I won't be able to get down to see this on 2 June. I hope you'll be able to send me an audio or video recording of this tune in performance -- And Sometimes Y (my western Massachusetts-based Manx dance team) and the Manx Heritage Foundation (sort of their CDSS or EFDSS analog) will both be thrilled. And I'm excited to get to play this with Jim (and Robin I hope, if you want to add the tune to your repertoire!) at the Marlboro Morris Ale this weekend! (Well, and Gus -- does he play along on this when Squeezers perform it, or is it just a concertina duet?) Randy's counter-melody is great. What was the source/inspiration for that? Jim, I've changed how I play it since I made you that first recording (in D on your G/D Morse). I now play it in D on my C/G Morse, with ornamentations and chords that are closer to how the Manx themselves play it in recordings I've heard. It's a great tune for bass runs on the Anglo, and you can throw in some juicy dissonances (inspired by the Manx band Barrule's recording). There may be only two Anglo concertina players on the Isle of Man, incidentally; I've been corresponding with both in the run-up to my visit in July, and I'm very curious to hear how they approach these tunes.
  • Create New...