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Jim Burke

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  1. If you are an absolute beginner at Anglo, I think the first and most important thing to do is to get some help. Easier said than done in these days of C-19, but if you're reading this, you have internet. This means that you have access to Skype or Facetime lessons with some great players. Brenda Castles does Skype lessons, Edel Fox offered them at one time and might still, Chris Stevens the same. There are others. Without guidance at the very start, you will almost certainly "learn" some habits that will (1) seriously slow your progress and (2) be almost impossible to break later. Skype lessons are very reasonable, but if you feel you can't afford them, sign up for Caitlin Nic Gabhann's online beginner Anglo course at irishconcertinalessons.com. It isn't free, but it might as well be given the wealth of help available there. If you start at the beginning of Caitlin's beginner course and take the tunes and lessons in order, she will steer you through the minefield.
  2. The advanced course, when it comes, should be terrific. I have sort of assumed, without any basis at all, that she has been too busy touring to get it done. If true, she might have plenty of time in this age of C-19 to get the advanced course out the door.
  3. If by "sessions" you mean Irish Traditional Music (ITM) sessions, then in my experience the answer is no. I don't think this is due to some idea of social hierarchy or an initiation requirement; it's just that fumbling around looking for sheet music and trying to read it at pace is just not workable in that setting. In just about any ITM session I have every seen (many hundreds), the only requirement for instant participation is the ability to play the tunes by ear at pace. There are lots of other kinds of traditional music sessions, jams and gatherings of course, and as the previous comments suggest, dots can play a role.
  4. I was fortunate enough to start on a Thomas (#5). It was not, however, a “beginner” instrument. The workmanship was excellent, and the sound and action were very good too. I had the thing on loan from my brother who also owned a beautiful Jeffries and didn’t miss the Thomas too much. I returned it to him after a few months and bought a Carroll, a decision I have not regretted. I know a couple of excellent players who have Thomas instruments, and they are happy with them. The Thomas I had really projected and could easily cut through the din of a big session. This has been true of the other Thomases I have heard. They have a big sound.
  5. You need an orthopedic surgeon/neurologist/concertina player to opine on this, but while you wait for such a person, I’ll chime in. I took up the concertina in the first place because I had so much shoulder pain playing fiddle. From the start, I was able to play the concertina with no shoulder/upper arm pain at all. I think this is because I don’t use my shoulder at all to move the bellows. All the movement (and there isn’t much) is in the elbow and wrist. From what I have seen, most Anglo Irish Trad players do the same, with shoulders very relaxed and elbows resting on (or close to) the hips. If this describes you, then I doubt that your concertina playing is at fault here. It seems especially unlikely if your playing doesn’t bring on or exacerbate the pain. This is my unschooled, completely anecdote based opinion, worth possibly less than the price.
  6. Reading through this thread inspires me to use my Low D drone. Until now I have used it as a pitch reference for piper friends. This is why I know it works. I obviously need to broaden my outlook.
  7. I agree that it is important to learn some new tunes completely by ear. I assume that up to this point you have learned the tunes you now have by reading abc or some kind of notation. It is easier to do it this way in the beginning for sure; but as you have seen, it can create some limitations. To learn your next new tune completely by ear, you might want to try this approach: First, select a simple tune that you don't play at all. Listen to it, maybe very slowly at first, five times, ten times, maybe fifty times--However many times it takes so that you can sing the tune in your head (you can sing it using your voice too; but the key thing is to be able to hear the tune in your head). Once you can do that, you know the tune: maybe you can't play it; but you know exactly how it goes. The idea is to so deeply embed the tune in your brain that you can't get it out. Now, pick up your concertina and try to play the first few notes, using only the sound of the tune in your head to guide you. Hopefully this will go along OK if you keep it slow. If it does, then you can learn the various phrases of the tune, assemble them, and before you know it, you will be playing the tune by ear and picking up the pace. If you find the second part of this process impossible, then you likely do not yet know in advance what a given button will sound like until you play it. Put another way, you hear the note in your head, but you're not sure which button, played in which direction, will produce the sound you want to hear. This is where the tedious business of practicing scales and intervals, and singing the notes as you play them, can be just the thing. I apologize if this is really off the mark. I hope it helps.
  8. I got a copy of Elizabeth Crotty's recording from Ossian USA some 8 years ago. https://ossianusa.com/. If you don't see it on the site, contact the owner, MaryLou Philbin. She might be able to get it for you.
  9. Easy answer: Yes. More detailed answer: I have been to two of Noel's camps--one when I first started about 8 years ago, and another 3 years later. I got a great deal from both. Noel does indeed ask everyone to use his fingerings, and I found it very useful to learn his system. Probably it will require you to modify how you do things now, but it definitely will help you play better, more smoothly, and with better phrasing. Don't worry too much about First, the new system will likely take much longer than a week to get really in hand. Second, if you don't come away with anything else, you still will have received a benefit for your music that will keep paying dividends as long as you keep playing.
  10. I had the pleasure of taking Brenda’s class in the Catskills a couple of summers back. It was excellent. Brenda is warm, funny, and a terrific teacher. She is also (pretty important) a terrific concertina player. Her CD, “Indeedin You Needn’t Bother” is great too.
  11. Mr Hill is once again bringing his terrific week-long Anglo tutorial to East Durham, NY this summer. It starts on July 21. For costs and details email noelhillclass@gmail.com. Just about anyone will take something valuable from these classes, but if you’re struggling at all with phrasing or fingering options, this class can be especially useful.
  12. Ann, a few thoughts: This can create problems. In my opinion, the primary contact point for pressing should be where the thumb touches the hand rest. I think you want the pressure points for in and out contact to be on the same vertical plane. This allows you to keep the two sides of the instrument more or less parallel as you operate the bellows (or if not parallel, at least on the same attitude pushing and pulling). If you press with the heals of your hands, the bellows rocks back and forth on a vertical axis, as well as in and out. This cuts down on speed and control and is inefficient. Your wrists, muscles and tendons are working harder than they need to. Here is a clip of Michael O Raghallaigh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7elrAvT-_mI He doesn't keep the faces parallel, but the comfortable angle he favors does not change with direction. I don't think this is a mistake or a bad idea, for reasons stated above; and I don't see any problem with allowing some of the inward pressure to be shared between the thumb and the button finger. This contributes to keeping the faces of the instrument parallel. In my own playing, I find that my palm comes in light contact with the hand rest on the push (I play with loose straps); but it doesn't really bear any inward pressure. That is all the thumb and the button finger. If you break your wrists with every bellows direction change (which I assume you are doing now), your thumb will rub along the inside edge of the thumb contact point on the hand rest. If you are really keen, and you're playing a lot, that is bound to hurt. If you play with your wrists straight, your thumb will stay in one place on the rest bar. What I am saying here is just my opinion, of course. It is based on a lot of time spent watching good players, and on my own trial and error. Others might have different ideas. I hope it helps. If you have any questions, PM me. Good luck.
  13. Susan, I have this DVD and I would be happy to send it to you. I just need your address.
  14. You say that you are struggling to land the pads of your fingers on the buttons. That might be part of the problem. My own preference is to contact all of the buttons, regardless of the row, with the tips of the fingers. The fingers arch and the tips come down perpendicular to the face of the instrument. I have pretty large hands and long fingers, but I don't have to slide my hand under the straps. I do move my hand back and forth a bit, but the straps are loose enough so that the point of contact with the hands doesn't actually shift. The straps rock back and forth just a bit as needed.
  15. I'm a fan of playing along with recordings to get the hang of a tune. Metronomes are fine for helping you maintain a steady pace, but they don't have much to offer when it comes to capturing the phrasing and the "lift" of an ITM tune. They don't phrase; they don't "lift." If you get a good quality computer playback program designed for musicians (Amazing Slow Downer or Anytune Pro + to name a couple), you can put up a recording of your favorite player, loop any part of the tune you want, and slow it down a lot while keeping the pitch.
  16. Well you certainly have a good few questions here. No doubt others will chime in, but I'll give it a go. What is a good structure for a practice session? Sounds like you're on the right track here, but I would not spend too much time playing faster than you can. That can just build mistakes into your muscle memory. Should you be working in music theory time? I don't know what music theory time is. If you mean playing the notes with the exact same time values as written on the page, then the answer (for Anglo/Irish Trad, at least) is more often than not no. In jigs, not all of the eighth notes have the same time value (the first in any set of three is longer, and the second is shorter). In hornpipes, many of the notes are actually played as dotted. Exactly how much liberty is taken with the time values as written can vary with the player and regional style. A good teacher can work all this out with you. Will tablature hurt you in the long run? As to tablature, i don't know that that is. I don't think I have ever seen concertina tablature. How do you not run out of air? Depending on the key, you might be ending up too "closed" or too "open." There are a couple of ways to deal with this. First, you can substitute the push D on the inside row, left hand for the pull D on the middle row, right hand. If you are like many beginners, you are using the pull D, and this change to the push D can pave over a lot of "air trouble." Second, you can try to find that happy place in depressing the air button while playing a note that allows you to get the necessary bellows position to play the rest of a phrase. This can be very tricky, especially on an instrument that is not of good quality. How do you compensate for the lack of air pressure when using the air button during a note? This might be a problem with your concertina. A teacher can say whether in your case it is the instrument or the player. That said, you should not be needing your air button on the overwhelming majority of the notes you play. If you find that you are running out of air no matter what fingerings you are using, you might have bellows or valve leakage problems. A few minutes alone with a friend's good concertina might answer your questions here. As to the last question, it sounds like your instrument has some mechanical issues. A competent repair person could say if they are reparable. On a decent instrument, buzzes can usually be fixed with some attention to the offending reed or valve. Good luck.
  17. Hello Ada, I'm a bit late to this thread, but my suggestion is that you single out Doug Barr's short, excellent advice and follow that first. If you want to avoid acquiring bad habits, your best bet is to get one-on-one help from an experienced, competent player. The Anglo is not intuitive, and without help it is easy to adopt approaches that feel “natural” but make things much more difficult in the long run. Get yourself a guide. This is the first thing I did when I started, and now, years later, I benefit from that decision every day.
  18. Both of these tunes are Christmas related. The second, in an obvious way, and the first not so much: The tune sometimes goes by other names, but it is often called "Christmas Eve." The concertina player is Brenda Castles. She is currently touring the Eastern US, and this summer she taught concertina at Catskills Irish Arts Week. She is a great player, and her first CD is a thing of beauty. If you like this clip, you'll love the CD, "Indeedin You Needn't Bother." You can get it on Itunes among other places.
  19. Here is a link to a free OAIM video clip with Edel Fox. For most of this clip Edel is holding the concertina on her left knee to keep it stable and using the right hand to move the bellows in and out. Ignore the part where she crosses her legs and puts the concertina on her right knee. I think she is just doing that to make sure the concertina is captured in the camera shot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axi6TrtNd_4 You might also consider making a clip of yourself and posting it here. There are many experienced players on this forum who could help you.
  20. I had classes with both teachers last week as well, though maybe not the same classes as beryl. Either Brenda or Caitlin would have been well worth the 8-hour drive to East Durham, and the chance to learn from both for a whole week was fabulous. Tons of very solid content delivered with patience and good humor. Awesome. BTW, if you happen to be in the Maine/New Hampshire area, Brenda will be in Portland, Maine tomorrow night (at Blue) along with Caitlin's sister, Bernadette (fiddle) and Eileen Gannon (harp). The three are in Durham, NH Thursday night.
  21. I'm not sure about free-standing recorders. I record on my phone (there are several free or almost free apps for both iPhone and Android) and then use separate software to work with the recording. If you are a PC user, you can transfer the phone recording to your computer and use Amazing Slow Downer. It is excellent and costs around $40 to $50. If you use an iPad (or an iPhone, I think), you can use Anytune Pro+. It is very good and much less expensive. Both Amazing Slow Downer and AnyTune Pro+ will slow the music down and keep the pitch, and do lots of other excellent things too.
  22. Halifax, since you mentioned The Kesh: Assuming a simple arrangement, if you employ the rule I described in the previous post you'll play the entire A part with only your first fingers, except for the F# on the G row in the last measure. As for the B part, all of it will be first fingers except for the high A and B (second finger, right hand) in the last phrase.
  23. I have been to a couple of Noel Hill camps, and as I understand him, he favors using the stronger finger where you can (in order of priority, the first finger, then the second, etc.) If you do this, you'll be pushing the D on the G row with your first finger almost all the time, instead of pulling it on the C row on the right side. You'll also usually be pulling the E on the same G row button instead of pushing it on the C row. I do this in my own playing unless I need to depart from the rule to avoid hopping. I find that it helps a lot with phrasing, contributes to a staccato feel (which I personally like), and enables me to play within a fairly narrow bellows range (you can recover a lot of air and stay in pretty close if you consistently push the first finger D).
  24. I have one of these Claire, and it is spectacular. I got it in August of 2014. I have owned two other Carrolls, and though both were very good, the Noel Hill model is better. Enjoy.
  25. Susan, I have been playing now for about three years and nine months. I still play some of the tunes I learned early on, but now I play them with very different fingerings. In some cases, I deconstructed the fingerings and put the tunes back together, played they that way for a few months, and then based on some new revelation, I tore them apart again and put them back together. I think (I hope) that this process ends at some point. The point of this is that with a new fingering, even if you are just altering a single phrase, it can feel like the tune is a shambles. It can take a while to get back into the feel of the thing. J
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