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Posts posted by wayman

  1. Out of curiosity, can we collectively name more than five people in the world who are known to perform concertina and harmonica together?


    Ken Sweeney (harmonica, English concertina)

    Joel Anderson (harmonica, English concertina)

    Rick Epping (harmonica, English concertina)


    ... Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller? ...


    All three of the above are world-class professional musicians (two of whom work for harmonica companies).


    First, are there any others?...

    (I'm going to guess that Will Pound will get honourable mention here for playing melodeon chords with harmonica, just because it seems like the sort of thing he would do, though I can't recall seeing it myself; but that's still not concertina and harmonica!)


    Second, has anyone seen anyone do this with an Anglo, or any other system besides English?


    And third, even the three musicians above do this as an occasional well-rehearsed piece in their concert sets, not as any kind of regular thing they'd just do in a session. My sense is that it's a very different sort of thing than playing harmonica with guitar (playing a melody against strummed chords), and not a skill a musician can just apply to a new tune without intensive practice.


    So ... my two cents would be, if you've never played concertina at all, just select a system - Anglo or English - that works for you. Even if you become a world-class professional, harmonica plus concertina is unlikely to be more than a party piece or an encore in your concert set, so don't base your decision of what instrument to buy on that. Just think about what concertina seems best (or is most readily obtainable, given where you are), and enjoy it! :)

  2. Everyone picked the tunes up on the fly. In doing that I found myself just listening the first time through with perhaps a note or two played quietly. Then the second and third times, I would play just one or two note chords to figure out the harmonic structure. No need to play Um Pa with the bass and guitars taking care of keeping the rhythm going. Then I would add in bits of melody as I learned them and only then could I start with the thirds and octave playing that became most of what I was doing for the remaining times through.


    This is why I don't get on well at all with Irish sessions - it tends to be twice or three times through the tune and never ever more, at the ones I've attended. That's barely enough for me to get beyond "bits of melody" before the tune is over; I haven't gotten the tune, gotten a chance to enjoy it, or learned anything at all that carries over to the next time the tune might come up in a future session.


    English sessions or Manx sessions, by contrast, tunes go on for six or more times through, sometimes lots more. Actual learning happens! To the point that it's FUN!

  3. When I've played Haydens (I had a Stagi for many years, and then 'played in' the first thirty or so Beaumonts), I found it very difficult to break away from using the bellows as I would for an anglo playing in a specific given key, and I found that doing this made my playing sound jerky and odd, not actually 'anglo-like' in any positive way. It was only when I got myself completely out of this mindset that the power and benefits of the duet were at my control.


    I find anglo and duet no more alike than guitar and banjo. Sure, they both look similar-ish, and they've both got strings that resonate at different pitches when you finger different frets ... but that's the end of the similarities. Different arrangements of buttons / strings, different tunings for the buttons / strings, and different playing techniques (nobody really frails on a guitar or strums a banjo with a pick unless they're intentionally doing something very unusual).

  4. And, all that curmudgeonliness has led me, for my instrument, to use a simple velcro strap - which accomplishes the goal of good bellows maintenance - which is glue-ed inside a cheap insulated lunchbox, on the theory of many morris musicians that the thing that doesn't look like a nice instrument case is far less likely to wander off (which to me is the greatest concern). I look at Simon's craftsmanship and think if I ever become serious about performance, I'd better get one of his so I look presentable!

  5. I'm all in favour of buckles, as every latch I've ever had on any case has come open at least once unexpectedly (and only having multiple latches or good fortune has prevented disaster!). I think that was definitely a good call.


    I hope my criticism didn't come across as overly harsh. It comes from having done a lot of custom case blocking for six years (and having seen, from the repair side, a lot of instruments that had been in unblocked cases) so I guess it's one of those topics I've gotten curmudgeonly about at a young age :unsure:


    I know Simon in real life and have seen and admired some of his work up close, and know of his extensive training and expertise. He is an astonishingly good craftsman, and I think this is only a "case" (... ;) ) of not being familiar with what happens many months or years down the road to concertinas stored or carried in various sorts of cases.


    The case should have some blocking to hold the concertina securely so it does not rattle around.

    It’s actually custom made to perfectly fit so no need for blocking :)



    The photo of the instrument in the case shows otherwise ... unless that's a photograph before the blocks were put in? The bellows are open, loose, and uneven. A properly-fit blocked case means the bellows are snugly closed, compressed, and even.

  7. Anyone had a go at this?




    Fun for all the family,



    Wow, excellent fun, this!


    I could reliably hear differences of .5625 Hz from 500 Hz (87th percentile) ... about 1.9 cents off at this range. So one eighth of test-takers could reliably hear differences of 1 cent, or even 0.5 cents, at 500 Hz!


    I'd say an experienced concertina player could well have a legitimate desire for better than 1.5 cents tuning accuracy. But with real free reeds (instead of computer tone generators), there may well be a whole cent of variability in a given reed depending on how it's played ... so the question of precision in tuning is not necessarily reducible to a single number. Dave's 1.5 cent standard appears, by this, to be pretty good, for balancing idealism with reality. Not perfect, but in this case "pretty good" may be a perfectly fine goal ... for 500 Hz! I'd love to take this test in other octaves and see how the results compare.


    The other thing this test doesn't get at is how well my ear can tell if a pitch is off when played simultaneously with another pitch - judging intervals such as octaves or fifths. I'd guess (from years of experience tuning reeds, though not from scientific testing) that I'm much better at this than at judging two consecutive pitches. Is there a test out there for this?...

  8. Interesting what one can learn from the bidding history, given information from another recent thread (identifying 1***1 as Chris Algar)... on this instrument, he placed his initial bid - more than double what was then the top visible bid - six seconds before close of auction. Chris didn't win, because the person he was bidding against was willing to pay more.


    From this, I assume Chris uses an auto-bid programme to place a closing-seconds initial bid which, while not against the rules, does strike me as both unsporting and unnecessary (given how eBay works), not to mention in some cases ineffective (as here) unless his object is to prevent other people from getting bargains while not actually caring whether he wins auctions....

  9. Did Jeffries themselves use non-black leather such as this concertina has? I've never come across that before, so my assumption was (between colour and bellows condition) that it's a replacement bellows. Closing price about $5600 (US) or £4200 for the buyer (do we really know it was Chris Algar?) plus shipping and import duty.


    Not a bad price if it turns out to be in pretty good shape and you're the end buyer intending to tune it up and then play it, but I wouldn't think the seller would get a very great return on investment if the goal is to tune it up and put it up for sale for a profit... especially if it needs more than a little work.


    Chris Ghent, did the seller say what he paid for this at the flea market? Or will we faint dead away or have heart attacks if we hear?

  10. I've never read a positive review of one of those tracking systems that relies on other people having an app on their phones. Nobody has the apps or lets them just be on all the time, and a phone has to be very close to the object in order to pick it up.


    If you put an actual GPS tracking device in the concertina (like what's in your iPhone), and were able to use "find my iConcertina" (akin to "find my iPhone") to track the blue dot on a map on your laptop, that would be useful. There, you're looking at a lot of money, some weight, and the need for a battery you'd have to keep charged... but it would work, so long as its battery did.


    When wireless charging technology gets smaller and better and cheaper, you could put a wireless charger in your concertina case and plug your case into a power outlet every night, and your concertina's GPS tracker would recharge with the instrument just sitting in the case.... I could see that working five years from now.

  11. I'll echo the above: I find (on any anglo, but perhaps particularly so on G/D?) that it's all about


    1) playing fewer notes than you think you need to


    2) "left hand short, right hand long"


    Training your hands to hold or release the buttons at different speeds takes a little bit of brain-hand coordination at first, but it soon becomes second-nature. Then look at the chords you think you want to play on the left, and figure out how few notes you can play and still get the right effect. Can you play an open fifth here? Can you just play the single note which tells you (in conjunction with the melody note) that this is a vi instead of a I, or a IV instead of a I, or that gives you a nicely contoured phrase that complements what's going on in the melody, etc?


    This has the huge advantage of giving you a wider range for expression by letting you play more notes or longer notes selectively for variation or emphasis, and not just using more or less air.


    One thing Jody does to great effect is figuring out when he can shift some of the accompaniment on the right hand ... but that seems more advanced to me, because I've never really been able to figure it out and make it work the way it works when I hear him do it :)


    I think the best key for accompanying morris is ... C, on a C/G. The tunes are in the right range to travel much further when played outside than G on a G/D, and much better sounding than G on a C/G. Tell the melodeon players to go have another beer, you'll handle this one, because playing in C on a C/G, you don't need a back-up band to get the volume and the punch B)

  12. I'd be quite interested in finding one of those MacCann players who is willing to teach. My wife recently bought a fine reconditioned MacCann from a good shop in England, but I seem to be the one fiddlin' with it.

    I'm in Denver, Colorado, but with the modern tools for online video connection, I would not expect geography to be much of a problem.


    So how do I find one of these MacCann players who might teach?




    I'd have a go at contacting Matt and Ollie through their websites, describe what you've got and what you'd like to learn, and see what they say about the possibility of video-over-internet teaching. They're both better known for their melodeon workshops, but that's just because there's so much more demand for it than for duet concertina teaching.


    Here's Matt playing Maccann, performing with Dovetail Trio.

    And here's Ollie playing Maccann, just a rough home video for Facebook (appears to have global permission; not the best video, but most of his Maccann videos appear to be friends-only).

  13. Hmm. I wouldn't say you'd need noticeably less finger dexterity for Anglo than English. Yes, you're also using the bellows in a different way, but that doesn't mean your fingers get to move less often, or move less quickly or dextrously when they do move.


    Finger dexterity can be improved. I'd have a look at (or a talk to) guitar and violin teachers about this, as you'll find a lot more of them about on the internet or where you live. They'll have simple exercises they give their students to increase finger dexterity and finger strength, and these are just as useful -- tremendously useful -- for concertina players. I still use finger exercises I learned thirty years ago from my childhood guitar teacher.


    That path could save you considerable money and time, compared to buying and learning another instrument, and it costs you nothing to give it a go :) As Dave said (and others can no doubt provide examples to watch / listen to), there are some great musicians out there who play Irish tunes on an English concertina. The only name I can give you off the top of my head is Simon Thoumire (whose repertoire is more Scottish than Irish, but still gives you a real sense of the possibilities).


    The money you save can go towards saving up for an improvement on your Jackie -- a concertina with better bellows and better action will (for a five-years-experience player) give you a substantial boost as well. It may be a ways off, but I'd guess the ~$400 you save plus the trade-in of your Jackie gets you 30% or more of the way to a better instrument right there!

  14. Rich Morse designed a D-ring precisely for this purpose, ideally sized for unobtrusive but sturdy concertina use. It might save you looking around for suitably small, aesthetically fitting, sturdy hardware. It's minimally obtrusive, and maximally reliable, but it does require actual attaching into the instrument: drilling a small hole in each end frame (not the fretwork) adjacent to the strap screw.


    The main benefit is that you avoid the worst-case scenario: your instrument slipping out of a mounting system not physically attached to the instrument, whilst you're standing and relying on your strap!


    So, that's a solution if that's a direction you're willing to go. (Depending on where you're located, you might want to acquire parts and have a local professional install them.)

  15. I watched the jig competition live (it was streamed on Facebook) as I had numerous friends competing this year.


    Many of the dances were outstanding, but the big surprise and genuine treat of the entire competition for me was this John Watcham performance. A great tune, a lovely arrangement, and brilliantly played.

  16. I have never heard of using hot glue for any parts inside a concertina, and would not recommend it! PVA for attaching pads to the washer/gromets on the end of levers. Hide glue is used for many wood joints in a concertina (and other things, like valves), but that's entirely different from hot glue.

  17. Low reeds were problematic in that way (my recollection is that with the BBox set-up and hybrid reeds, "low" started around the F below middle C? but this is a hazy recollection). The reed would be a little slow to speak and flat, and then the pitch would move up gradually over the course of the five-ish seconds that the bellows dropped.


    Two ways to mitigate that somewhat. One, for the low reeds, instead of letting the weights drop the bellows (somewhat inconsistently/unevenly) pull down evenly and firmly on the bellows just as if you were playing the note, which gives a much steadier reading on the tuner. Two, after a while, you can get a pretty good knack for where/when to take the tuner reading for your particular tuning set-up, which gets you pretty close; then you're just fine-tuning it towards perfection once it's in the instrument (same as all the other reeds). But tuning low reeds on their own, on the tuning bellows, was never an exact science.


    Lack of workshop space may have been a factor in the BBox not using a blower. I don't know -- we never talked about it in the six years I was there. It may also be that Bob (a piano tuner by training) is just really good at tuning and never felt a blower would make things better.

  18. You can try that bellows, but I had trouble with a similar one getting reeds to speak using it. Rich Morse used to bring something about that area, but only 2 or three folds between two boards that worked fine with concertina reeds. You'd only lift one end of the board to sound the reed. ( I think the huge volume of the accordion bellows creates a kind of acoustic black hole for the reeds. Not really sure except that one thing worked well and the other didn't work at all.). You could find a crappy east European concertina and use the bellows from that. Geoff Crabb had a good pic of the simple set up the Crabb's used with a old concertina bellows. You don't need anything fancy. It is in some thread here, can't remember where. Looked like you clamped the board it was fastened on to to a table, with the bellows out board. Don't know how they had it rigged, but I'd use a weight to pull the bellows down and a foot pedal with a pulley and cord to pull it closed. That way the force in operation is pretty constant and can be adjusted with weights. The Crabb's had one slot in the board adjustable for different reed sizes, and a second fit the corresponding master reed so both could sound together.


    Dana, you've just about exactly described the Button Box set-up as well, and the sort of thing I plan to build for myself when I have the time. An old concertina bellows under a board hanging over the edge of (and clamped to) the workbench; a solid bottom end and weights inside the bellows so it drops nicely. A small hole in the board, over which we put an adjustable jig for hybrid reeds or a different jig that holds several sizes of concertina reeds. We didn't have a separate slot for a master reed. That's clever! Instead we used a tuner on a little stand that let it sit at a good spot just near / over the reed but out of the way of tuning scrapers / hands.


    Most of us just pushed the bellows back up by hand or knee, but Judy eventually built the very sort of foot pedal system you envision. Great minds ... :)

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