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Concertinas for the blind


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Years ago I had a student who was sight impaired. Her sight was diminishing over time and by the time I met her she could barely see the notes on a page. We wrote our scales and finger charts very large but she had a great ear for music and developed her own style and way of playing. Last I heard she married and Irish fiddle player and was playing with a contra dance group.

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There is a standard that you can get to where you rarely have to look at the buttons at all when playing. For full concentration many , including me, play with their eyes closed, or looking at some point in the room so as not to be distracted.

I think the concertina no matter what system would be excellent for a partially sighted or blind person.

Al

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Most instruments are played without looking at them. The big issue for those with poor eyesight is being able to see the dots. That's why I'm trying to learn how to play by ear. So far I find that easier on a fiddle (which I've been playing for 55 years) than on a concertina (which I've played for 6). If the family eye disease holds off for a few more years I should have enough tunes in my fingers to keep me amused by the time I go blind. Or maybe I'll just keep my vision, so far so good.

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Turlough O'Carolan, the famous Irish harpist and composer, was blind. Had the concertina been invented in the 17th century, he may well have taken it up! A few years ago, a blind chap used to come to the Islington Folk Club, fairly regularly for a short time. He sang and also played some nice tunes on the Melodica. Our resident MC always asked him to do a floor spot or two and he was happy to oblige. He was excellent. I enjoyed listening to him and admired him for performing.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Drinkwater
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Turlough O'Carolan, the famous Irish harpist and composer, was blind. Had the concertina been invented in the 17th century, he may well have taken it up! A few years ago, a blind chap used to come to the Islington Folk Club, fairly regularly for a short time. He sang and also played some nice tunes on the Melodica. Our resident MC always asked him to do a floor spot or two and he was happy to oblige. He was excellent. I enjoyed listening to him and admired him for performing.

 

Chris

 

 

 

 

Those of us who have always played entirely by ear have no need to ever look at the buttons. With experience the process of finding the appropriate notes and chords soon becomes totally instinctive.....does it not ? It does in my case.

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Those of us who have always played entirely by ear have no need to ever look at the buttons. With experience the process of finding the appropriate notes and chords soon becomes totally instinctive.....does it not ? It does in my case.

 

It's not a skill reserved only for playing by ear. If you're tied into reading music you can't afford to start looking at your instrument!

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Those of us who have always played entirely by ear have no need to ever look at the buttons. With experience the process of finding the appropriate notes and chords soon becomes totally instinctive.....does it not ? It does in my case.

 

It's not a skill reserved only for playing by ear. If you're tied into reading music you can't afford to start looking at your instrument!

 

I can't understand how looking at the buttons of a concertina would be much help for anyone, mainly because the ends face in opposite directions, so you can only look at one end at any one time. Very restricting, especially on an English :lol:

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Those of us who have always played entirely by ear have no need to ever look at the buttons. With experience the process of finding the appropriate notes and chords soon becomes totally instinctive.....does it not ? It does in my case.

 

It's not a skill reserved only for playing by ear. If you're tied into reading music you can't afford to start looking at your instrument!

 

I can't understand how looking at the buttons of a concertina would be much help for anyone, mainly because the ends face in opposite directions, so you can only look at one end at any one time. Very restricting, especially on an English :lol:

Once I know I've got my fingers in the right place at the start I don't look at the ends....I can even play with it balanced on my head.

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It was quite common for children born or made blind by accidents or diseases like smallpox (like Carolan) to be 'put to' a musician, often as a helper or money collector etc , then graduating to a musician.

 

Blues men, fiddlers etc.

 

In Sheffield in the late 1700s into the 1800s there was a group apf famous blind fiddlers who had a well respected role in the community. They played everything from pubs, in the street and in concerts and church music. sometimes tey got into scraps over territory and were great parctical jokers.

 

I'm sure they's have welcomed a concertina for convenience and durability. It would tuck into the big inner pockets of a tail coat!

 

There's a nice piece by fiddler Paul Davenport of Hallam Traditions

 

http://www.hallamtrads.co.uk/BlindF.html

Edited by michael sam wild
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Very interesting.

 

In the north of Spain - particularly Galicia - and in the XVII - XVIII centuries blind musicians used to be fiddlers or, more commonly, hurdy gurdy players, travelling usually with a child that both guided them and collected the money.

 

Precisely because of that, hurdy gurdy (zanfona, in spanish) has long beea a dismissed instrument in traditional music and only recently has been re-discovered and got again its status.

 

Cheers,

 

Fer

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My mum learnt several tunes from a blind travelling musician in West Cork in the 1920's and 30's. Apparently to drum up business, he used to play the pipes when travelling through the countryside and then switched to an accordion in the towns.

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It was quite common for children born or made blind by accidents or diseases like smallpox (like Carolan) to be 'put to' a musician, often as a helper or money collector etc , then graduating to a musician.

 

Blues men, fiddlers etc.

 

An example: Doc Watson, a bluegrass/country/folk guitarist of nearly legendary skill (also plays banjo and harmonica), lost his sight as an infant and took up music as a traditional occupation for the blind--this was in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1920s...though when he was 14, his father did take him out in the woods and put him on one end of a crosscut saw to show him that he wasn't useless (professional musician presumably not being at the top of the elder Watson's list of good ways to make a living).

 

As far as I know, the harmonica is the only free reed instrument he's ever played--no sign of concertinas anywhere near him...never having played the guitar or the banjo (and never having been blind), I don't know whether he'd have had an easier time of it if he'd picked up a Wheatstone instead of a Martin.

 

jdms

Edited by jdms
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I can even play with it balanced on my head.

 

I look forward to seeing the video. :)

 

Well if you've got the music balanced on your lap where else are you supposed to put your concertina when your arms get tired?

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I can even play with it balanced on my head.

 

I look forward to seeing the video. :)

 

Well if you've got the music balanced on your lap where else are you supposed to put your concertina when your arms get tired?

 

I understand that there's a new invention, called a "music stand", or some such title. It's probably not much good for the concertina, but sounds ideal for resting your music.

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