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I'm a beginner and am learning with an Anglo C/G 30 button Rochelle.

 

I have many of the books and DVD etc, but am otherwise self taught.

 

I play from sheet music and find myself able to play slow airs, etc, but

what I am now finding is that I am hitting the "wall", concerning speed.

 

How do you ever get fast enough to play jigs and reels ??

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How do you ever get fast enough to play jigs and reels ??
What speed are you trying to play them at?

I.e., can you play them rhythmically at less than lightning speed, or are you finding it difficult to keep an even rhythm even at a relaxed tempo?

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Keep in mind that the Rochelle might not be the best instrument if you want to play 'at speed', although I'm sure someone like Noel Hill could! Beside practice, a more responsive concertina will help you play faster.

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I can play them at an even slow speed, but my thinking time is preventing them getting quick enough.

Thinking? What are you thinking about? You need to know your instrument and the tune you're playing well before you can play it at speed. Think of touch typing at a keyboard. You don't think about where each letter is.
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I assume you're playing Irish trad. from your description. You don't mention whether you already play trad on another instrument.

Assuming not, you have two tasks 1) to learn the music and 2) how to get it out on your instrument. To play anyway fluently, you need first, to have the tune 'in your head' and then know which fingers/ muscles move to hit the notes in the right place. You might or might not learn a tune from paper but any trad player I've seen would not play at speed from paper. They commit it to memory - in fact, most would learn by hearing the tune played a few times and being able to 'sing' it in their head - the way you pick up a pop song or an advertising ditty.

Try slower dance tunes first; waltzes, barndances, hornpipes, set dances etc. Then jigs - reels are usually played quickest. Don't always go either by what you hear on CD's etc. - some people play ridicuously fast. Many tunes have similar phrases which you learn the movements for and the more you play, the easier it gets. A slow & never ending process.

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I can play them at an even slow speed, but my thinking time is preventing them getting quick enough.

Thinking?
You have to learn to stop thinking.

Quite seriously, if you need to think about individual notes, you will have to get that process "up to speed" before you can get your playing up to speed.

 

Better is to be able to feel the tune, in your fingers, hands, and arms (the latter for bellows movement).

 

Here's how (one method, at least).

  • Take short pieces of a tune -- for starters, half a measure at a time on jigs and reels -- and play it over and over again, without any pause between repetitions. Do this until you are no longer thinking about the notes, but about how it
    feels
    ... the flow of movement of your bones and muscles.

  • Gradually increase your speed on just that snippet. You don't have to keep at it until you're lightning fast (that can come later), but make sure that you've at least reached a noticeable increase, while still controlling it through the way it
    feels
    .

  • Now do the same with another bit of the same tune, then another, and another. You don't need to take them in the order they appear in the tune. In fact, it's better if you don't. That way you can learn to feel them as independent building blocks (which they are), most of which you will almost certainly be able to use at other times in other tunes.

  • After learning each new "chunk", go back and refresh your muscle memory of those you previously learned.

  • Once you've learned several such chunks -- not necessarily a whole tune's worth -- start putting them together into larger pieces of the tune, and repeat the above process with those larger pieces.

  • At that point you could work on gradually increasing speed, making sure that at each level of speed you maintain control of tempo, rhythm, and flow.

  • Repeat the process with ever larger chunks, going back to the levels of smaller chunks to fill in any missing pieces. Eventually, you should find yourself working with an entire A part, B part, etc., based on how it
    feels
    to play them.

  • Once you've worked on several tunes this way, you can try starting with chunks of a tune longer than half a measure. At that stage, the individual chunks don't have to all be the same length. More difficult sections should be broken into smaller pieces, which can be put back together, once learned.

Give it a try, and let us know how you're progressing.

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This is my 4th year playing an Anglo. I play a lot faster now than I did last year, primarily due to having a much better concertina.

 

What I enjoy doing is warming up for 20 to 30 minutes playing scales: C Scale, G Scale and D Scale. Maybe later I'll work on the A Scale.

I play up and down the scales, first slowly and evenly with the same volume of sound. As my fingers warm up, then I try playing faster.

 

Once I've warmed up, I find it much easier to play the tunes that I'm working on at a faster pace.

 

Yvonne

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Slow playing of the Anglo for beginners is sometimes due to the way each note is played,particularly on the pull. If this is the case forget the tune pick one button and push and pull with sharp but soft pressure on the bellows. Then practice with two notes and upwards to four. Left hand and right hand. This is not a five minute exercise and should form part of your regular concertina practice.

Al

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I've been 'learning' for what seems like forever. Nearly 3 years now...still feel like a beginner though.

I sorta read music but not properly....I'm kinda midway between playing by ear and reading....I find it works for me.

 

1. [in the words of hitchhikers guide to the galaxy] DON'T PANIC!

2. Don't run before you can walk or you fall flat on your face. (as I discovered)

3. I found scales helped (I don't understand 'scales' but if I'm told which buttons to press and that make a scale its good enough for me) get the fingers and brain working in unison.

4. Get a handfull of tunes you ant to play stick em on your mp3 player on a continuous loop. Will drive you mental, but helps with getting the tune in your head.

5. Think of progress in terms of years not weeks and set reasonable goals.

(I can go faster on concertina on some tunes but on others the melodeon beats concertina. As I'm not a speed lover, this doesn't bother me. I'd rather play slow with bounce and feeling than fast and morse code like. I've found I've speeded up a little each year.)

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What I enjoy doing is warming up for 20 to 30 minutes playing scales: C Scale, G Scale and D Scale. Maybe later I'll work on the A Scale.

I play up and down the scales, first slowly and evenly with the same volume of sound. As my fingers warm up, then I try playing faster.

 

Once I've warmed up, I find it much easier to play the tunes that I'm working on at a faster pace.

Scales are an excellent exercise, but they shouldn't be the only one.

Very few tunes are composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence. Tunes have gaps, jumps, reversals.... That's why I suggested taking bits and pieces of actual tunes as practice exercises. Firstly, there's the motivation of working toward a "visible" goal... the tune itself. In addition, it exercises a greater variety of musical and muscular patterns, patterns which are clearly useful, because they are being used in tunes you're trying to learn.

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I can play them at an even slow speed, but my thinking time is preventing them getting quick enough.

Thinking?
You have to learn to stop thinking.

Quite seriously, if you need to think about individual notes, you will have to get that process "up to speed" before you can get your playing up to speed.

 

Better is to be able to feel the tune, in your fingers, hands, and arms (the latter for bellows movement).

 

Here's how (one method, at least).....

 

.....Give it a try, and let us know how you're progressing.

 

This list
(omitted in post)
was excellent advice. I am putting it to use as part of my regular practice. Thanks, Dave.
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Scales are an excellent exercise, but they shouldn't be the only one.

Very few tunes are composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence. Tunes have gaps, jumps, reversals....

 

Jim,

Sounds like the only scale you know is doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, 'doh! ohmy.gif

Practice scales are quite different. They are almost never "composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence," and have "gaps, jumps and reversals." At least, the way singers use them to warm up they do!

 

A simple one (ascending) would be: doh, mi, re, fa, mi, so, fa, la, so, ti, 'doh.

Another nice one (descending) would be: 'doh, la, 'doh, ti, so, ti, la, fa, la, so, mi, so, mi, so, fa, re, fa, re, mi, (low)ti, re, doh.

You can think of various ways of negotiating the scale up and down, with two steps forwards and one step backwards, or three forward and two back, or a little riff executed on each note of the scale in succession.

 

This gives you, methodically, the practice in hearing and executing different intervals that tunes only give you by chance.

The key to confident playing is hearing in advance what interval (a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc.) is coming up, and having that inteval at your fingertips.

 

Practice does include playing tunes, of course, but here the effect is different. Within your favourite music genre, there will be certain figures that occur again and again (like the descending triplets in an Irish hornpipe, for example), and learning these en bloc will greatly facilitate learning similar tunes.

 

Cheers,

John

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Scales are an excellent exercise, but they shouldn't be the only one.

Very few tunes are composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence. Tunes have gaps, jumps, reversals....

 

Jim,

Sounds like the only scale you know is doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, 'doh! ohmy.gif

Practice scales are quite different. They are almost never "composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence," and have "gaps, jumps and reversals." At least, the way singers use them to warm up they do!

 

A simple one (ascending) would be: doh, mi, re, fa, mi, so, fa, la, so, ti, 'doh.

Another nice one (descending) would be: 'doh, la, 'doh, ti, so, ti, la, fa, la, so, mi, so, mi, so, fa, re, fa, re, mi, (low)ti, re, doh.

You can think of various ways of negotiating the scale up and down, with two steps forwards and one step backwards, or three forward and two back, or a little riff executed on each note of the scale in succession.

 

This gives you, methodically, the practice in hearing and executing different intervals that tunes only give you by chance.

The key to confident playing is hearing in advance what interval (a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc.) is coming up, and having that inteval at your fingertips.

 

Practice does include playing tunes, of course, but here the effect is different. Within your favourite music genre, there will be certain figures that occur again and again (like the descending triplets in an Irish hornpipe, for example), and learning these en bloc will greatly facilitate learning similar tunes.

 

Cheers,

John

 

Hi Jim and John,

 

I think you are both right. Exercises like John is talking about are very good. Practice books are full of them but you can make up your own as you describe. What Jim outlined in his eight bullet process is what I recommend to my students though. Exercises do cover a general and wide reaching world of melodic possibilities, but what I usually want to do right now is to LEARN THE TUNE. Breaking the task up into tiny bits that are repeated over and over, then putting the bits together into larger groups... that is the way that makes most sense to me, especially if the bits and chunks are played musically (don't bang away, but rather play lightly with varied dynamics.) If you are trying to self-accompany the tune with harmony then this bit by bit approach is even more important and even key to rapid improvement.

 

My experience has been that the music I want to play at first seems impossible, but with Jim's guideline, you can do almost anything. The only thing I would add is already said in bullet #2 "Gradually increase your speed". The corollary to that is to start v-----e------r------y slowly. No, slower than that. Even slower. Still not slow enough. Nope. Do it so slow it does not even sound like music but rather just a series of events played in time and at a tempo with each finger finding it's place at exactly the right moment but with plenty of time to think and get the muscles to do what you want them to. I often tell my students, "If you can't play it just the way you want it and in perfect time... then you are playing it too fast. Slow down." Do they listen to me? NO! Everyone is in such a hurry. I don't get it!

 

At first you have to think. Later on, when the patterns become ingrained, then you can stop thinking and pay closer attention to the important stuff... like "How about another beer?" "What's that pretty girls name?" and "How can I politely avoid sitting next to the bodhráin player?

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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indent]Scales are an excellent exercise, but they shouldn't be the only one.[/indent]

Very few tunes are composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence. Tunes have gaps, jumps, reversals....

Jim,

Sounds like the only scale you know is doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, 'doh!ohmy.gif

Practice scales are quite different. They are almost never "composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence," and have "gaps, jumps and reversals." At least, the way singers use them to warm up they do!

Sounds like yet another linguistic difference here.

You're using the word "scales" to include what I call "exercises", while in the usage I'm familiar with it's the other way around, i.e., "scales" can be used as one form of "exercise". To me that's like a previous discussion in which I learned that some folks use the word "song" as a synonym for "melody" or "tune" (e.g., a jig played on a concertina), while in my experience for something to be a "song", it must involve words and a human voice. Different "dialects", I suppose. And it's not just "singers" vs. non-singers, because I have sung in more than one formal choir (classical, pop, etc.), in folk ensembles, in church choirs, and none used the word "scales" for those more complex exercises.

 

To me -- in all my 60+ years of both singing and playing music, classical and folk, and in at least two different countries -- playing "a scale" has always meant playing "the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence". In all my experience, those other "scales" you mention are called "exercises", and classical musicians have entire books of them. I have a few of those books, myself. None of them label themselves as "scales".

 

Such exercises can indeed be useful, and I considered mentioning them in my post, but I decided not to, because I felt that presenting too many options would be confusing. Besides, the method I did present addressed Barry's immediate needs more directly than such formal "exercises", which can always be added later.

 

As for "scales" as I understand the term, I am indeed familiar with others than the well-known "do-re-mi-..." diatonic scale. Aside from the basic major and minor scales and the other Greek modes (simply using different starting points in the "do-re-mi-..." sequence) and gapped versions of the same (hexatonic, pentatonic, etc.), classical music also has the melodic and harmonic minor scales, and of course the chromatic scale. Then there are various scales popular in klezmer and East European traditions, which have intervals not found in the diatonic scale. There are others, even more complex, in almost unlimited variety, in various cultures, including in Sweden. That might be a good topic for a separate discussion.

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indent]Scales are an excellent exercise, but they shouldn't be the only one.[/indent]

Very few tunes are composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence. Tunes have gaps, jumps, reversals....

Jim,

Sounds like the only scale you know is doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, 'doh!ohmy.gif

Practice scales are quite different. They are almost never "composed entirely of the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence," and have "gaps, jumps and reversals." At least, the way singers use them to warm up they do!

Sounds like yet another linguistic difference here.

You're using the word "scales" to include what I call "exercises", while in the usage I'm familiar with it's the other way around, i.e., "scales" can be used as one form of "exercise". To me that's like a previous discussion in which I learned that some folks use the word "song" as a synonym for "melody" or "tune" (e.g., a jig played on a concertina), while in my experience for something to be a "song", it must involve words and a human voice. Different "dialects", I suppose. And it's not just "singers" vs. non-singers, because I have sung in more than one formal choir (classical, pop, etc.), in folk ensembles, in church choirs, and none used the word "scales" for those more complex exercises.

 

To me -- in all my 60+ years of both singing and playing music, classical and folk, and in at least two different countries -- playing "a scale" has always meant playing "the notes of a scale in unbroken sequence". In all my experience, those other "scales" you mention are called "exercises", and classical musicians have entire books of them. I have a few of those books, myself. None of them label themselves as "scales".

 

Such exercises can indeed be useful, and I considered mentioning them in my post, but I decided not to, because I felt that presenting too many options would be confusing. Besides, the method I did present addressed Barry's immediate needs more directly than such formal "exercises", which can always be added later.

 

As for "scales" as I understand the term, I am indeed familiar with others than the well-known "do-re-mi-..." diatonic scale. Aside from the basic major and minor scales and the other Greek modes (simply using different starting points in the "do-re-mi-..." sequence) and gapped versions of the same (hexatonic, pentatonic, etc.), classical music also has the melodic and harmonic minor scales, and of course the chromatic scale. Then there are various scales popular in klezmer and East European traditions, which have intervals not found in the diatonic scale. There are others, even more complex, in almost unlimited variety, in various cultures, including in Sweden. That might be a good topic for a separate discussion.

 

There is an alternative to practicing scales in all their forms for those like me who play entirely by ear and instinct with no recourse to musical 'theory'. It is called 'trial & error'. Not such a bad way to become fully aquainted with all the possibilities of an instrument like the Concertina ?

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You want the music to breathe. Speed chokes the music.

 

"If you can't play it just the way you want it and in perfect time... then you are playing it too fast. Slow down."

 

Just one mistake means you're playing it too fast...

 

"...that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." At least as regards playing music.

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