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Posts posted by LR71

  1. [Am I wrong in saying that Simon Thoumire learned to play without any information or guidance about how the instrument should be held and played?] Yes. You are incorrect about that. Per interviews I've read with him, Simon Thoumire was well aware of how the EC was "supposed to be" held and played. He took responsibility for his own development as an artist and made his own decisions as to what worked for him.


    Actually, no: Playing the English Concertina--My Technique


    How did your technique come about?


    I think it came right from the start when Edinburgh player Tom Ward got me the 48 key wooden ended Lachenal. He didn't teach, but he gave me a copy of Alistair Anderson's beginners instruction book "Concertina Work Shop" and I taught myself from there. As far as I can remember, there were no pictures in the book to show how the instrument should be held, so, instead of holding it straight down with the buttons going horizontal to my leg in what I later learned was the conventional manner, I started off holding it at an angle of 90 degrees so my hands were quite far up. Six months later, when I got my 56 key Wheatstone Æola, I got into the habit of holding it with my hands at 45 degrees, probably because it was a heavier instrument. Also, I decided to not use the pinky holders because I felt that it was really restrictive and stopped me getting down to the notes.



    He persisted with holding it instead of relearning to play in the conventional manner for whatever reason: inertia, sloth, artistic basis; but the initial reason was simply lack of guidance.


    Most good button accordion players make a veritable art form out of fingering, with no end of finger swapping, sliding, crossing over; and also, paradoxically, eschewing the pinky, even though you'd figure that losing a finger would hamper your abilities; but in busy music it's actually more helpful to be able to hop over other fingers than always be utilizing the little digit. Playing the EC with fingers parallel might necessitate the same kind of ability to hop and skip around.

  2. Ah, but duet layouts are 6+ buttons wide, depending on how you look at it - most layouts have the rows at 45 degrees to the player's hand, it looks like. The Hayden maxes out at 8, and it's supposed to be rigorously thought out, no? The "Early Wheatstone Double System" has 4 rows arrayed vertically, I wonder if they didn't intend the fingers to be perpendicular there.


    The alternating between sides always made me think that the orientation wasn't such an issue, maybe the fact that the duet has the hands playing mostly independent of each other made sense for the fingers to be parallel. I wonder how rigorously these notions were tested when these instruments were invented. Certainly having the fingers held 90 degrees from each other makes these very different instruments to play, without much crossover in technique. Comparable to the difference between violin and cello, perhaps?


    My Lachenal winged its way across the US in one flight so it'll be on my doorstep today, and I'll be able to test things out for myself much sooner than I'd thought. Found out that a friend has no less than 2 of the things, and had meant to sell them too...only remember him having a hopelessly out-of-tune Wheatstone. Will have to try his out as well, and compare these handholds out. Another guy I know has an 80 key McCann duet. Looks like the beginning of a concertina band! B)

  3. By "sideways" I mean that the fingers are held perpendicular to the rows of keys, unliked the anglo, the duet, the accordion, the piano, the typewriter...this was discussed in a thread on English Concertina Finger Position, with much ensuing confusion in the written part of the debating; this simple chart explains things infinitely better:



    "Simon" refers to Simon Thoumire, who holds his fingers 90 degrees to the norm.


    My question is why wasn't this orientation of the fingers also used for the anglo and duet instruments? Is it because the duet is larger and the anglo push-pull, thus necessitating more force than the thumb and pinky could impart?


    Incidentally I'm waiting on arrival of my first concertina, an 1890s Lachenal; the straps are shot and I plan to slap on blocks and hand straps like you get on an anglo or duet. Having the fingers perpendicular to the rows just seems bizarre, like playing music on one of those old telephone switchboards. ;) No thank you! I already play button and piano accordions and also the piano per se, so am married to the whole fingers-parallel aspect.

  4. That's pretty funny, sidesqueeze. Reminds of a fiddling friend who takes the occasional lesson from Kevin Burke, on one occasion he says "Now really lean into the bow for that high G, it sounds grand that way." OK, lesson learned. Next time the student does the same thing in another tune. "Oh, never lean into the bow for the high G, that sounds awful!" :rolleyes: The student never got to the bottom of what Kevin was getting at here, maybe he thinks it sounds good in one tune and not the other? Teachers are musicians, which is to say odd ducks.


    Azalin - I meant F# there, sorry about the confusion.

  5. Oh, I see that I was misled by this a bit:



    Which would let you play D-E-F all on the pull. But that contradicts this:



    Was the first layout also offered by Wheatstone? I see they had a couple of different Duet layouts. With either the D and E are on the push, at least, and that F# is the only bump in the road in the D scale. Or the G scale.


    Doing a bit more reading I see that Paddy Murphy, who inspired or taught Noel Hill, picked up the C/G to try and keep up with William Mullaly's old 78s, he needed to cross the rows somehow to play at that speed. If I were to play 'tina I'd get a G/D - I don't like B/C accordion, pulling for the first note, ecch. G/C is the concertina equivalent. It just doesn't seem very "accordion," when you play on the row you can make the music much more thrashy and violent, or lively, or whatever you call it. It's a real kick! And of course no one wants G/D's, just like no one wants the French simple system flutes I play, because it isn't what Matt Molloy has, so I save a bundle as well.

  6. I play Irish music, on a variety of instruments including accordion, and was curious about bellows changes on the concertina. Looking at fingering charts I see that you could play an awful lot of the scales all in one direction if you so desired; do players look for the fingering pattern that fits the tune the best, that accents the rhythm to its fullest? That's basically a rhetorical question, I suppose. Do you sometimes deliberately use a fingering with more bellows changes in it to punch things up? Have players always shied away from playing too smoothly, have there been players who were chastised for not being punchy enough?


    Incidentally I tried the C#/D box at first as my favorite players used it, but gave it up after a while, it was irritating to have to change the bellows at such-and-such a point, when the tune seemed to want to keep going, if you know what I mean. To play the D scale on the D row it's push-pull-push-pull-push-pull-pull-push. A B-A-G triplet would be three bellows changes, and that's it - the C# row has no notes to help you out there. Looking at the usual C/G layout I see you can play such a triplet on the push or pull, with a few alternates for fingering too.


    The B/C accordion is a bit more streamlined, but I just went my own way and bought an ADG box - which isn't an Irish music thing at all, but I just like to have fun, eh? There are no end of options for fingering on those, much like the concertina. When I first got into it I vaguely knew concertinas were a lot more flexible in re: bellows. Of course my box playing friends all look askance at my choice of instrument, but no one thinks concertina players are failing to get the job done, right?

  7. Last week a friend passed on story to me originating with John Kelly of Clare, about how in the old days a collection would be taken up for a wake to buy a concertina for the dancing; these instruments were so cheap they were only up for a single night of playing before falling apart! I thought that sounded a bit extreme, nothing could be that flimsy.


    Curiously enough last night I found the very same story in an old issue of Ceol Tíre, the Journal of the Folk Music Society of Ireland: Ceol Tíre 19, March 1981. Here is the relevant passage, taken from a brief article about John:


    The half-crown instruments available in Clare, generally bought from drapers in the town, were of poor quality with paper bellows and bad keys, and were often finished after one night's hard playing. But their sound was preferred by dancers to that of the fiddle. Some dancers even preferred lilters.
  8. Caoimhín Mac Aoidh's biography of James O'Neill, The Scribe, mentioned above, documents the tunes the O'Neills swiped from Howe/Ryan's "Eastern publication," as the Chief termed it, in the once instance where he even alluded to their work. The Bernardo title is pretty funny, also the Reconciliation becoming the Olive Branch, or the Oriental hornpipe becoming "The Boys from the East."


    Pat Sky also edited an earlier work of Howe's, Howe's 1000 Jigs and Reels, for reprint by Mel Bay. Wholly new typesetting here instead of the facsimile used for Ryan's. It's a much broader work than Ryan's, with every manner of tune imaginable presented here; also complete chaos as regards organization. It's much like the Kerr's Merry Melodies books, which seem to have lifted a good few selections from Howe - and Ryan? The KMM and Ryan were published around the same time, though - 1880's.


    I love these books, and have come across a good few tunes for myself. There's lots of mundane stuff as well, of course.

  9. Hi Geoff,


    Was snooping around here and noticed this thread. Perhaps you remember Ramon Martin, a client of yours from about `10 years ago - Houston Texas, nickel silver B set, mammoth ivory mounts? Well he picked up a MacCann Duet last year; thinks they'll be the Next Big Thing. He wanted me to front the money - and offered up the Wooff chanter as collateral! No thanks, but he scraped the money together anyway. It's an old 'un, Lachenal or Jefferies or the like. Not a Wheatstone.


    He's moving to Portland Oregon next year, and will be arriving this week to set things up; I'm after him to bring the Duet as I'd like to get a partnership going playing stuff from Kerr's Merry Melodies etc - schottisches, clogs, straight jigs etc, in whatever key, I play heaps of these tunes, on fiddle or silver flute; or Irish pipes, if they fit. Haven't heard Ramon play but on the phone he did describe the bizarre experience of having 8 fingers moving once and not a break so sounds like he can do something with the thing. He is good on the melodeon.


    Kevin Rietmann

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