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Fast single-line melody on duet concertinas


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I'm starting a new web site! It will be about my experiences learning to play concertina, and I'll discuss ideas, tricks, techniques, or whatever. Each topic I post will link to a thread here on concertina.net, where people can add their own ideas and experiences. I especially want to make things more "real" by including videos or other examples with each post. This is my first one! Check out the website at: http://www.ConcertinaCorner.com

 

 

One of the most common topics on concertina.net is weighing the relative merits and weaknesses of the various concertina keyboard layouts. It can get contentious as people defend their own chosen system, or over-react to other people's generalities. It seems to me each system has tendencies, but many of them can be overcome if one makes the effort.

 

One commonly-heard idea is that the English Concertina layout has the potential to play single-note (or lightly embellished) melodies at a quicker tempo than the other systems. This may be true, as the work is shared between the hands, and long runs of notes can be played without changing the bellows direction. Duets may have the reputation of being the most difficult to play up to speed, since generally one hand has to do all the work of playing the melody. But clearly any system can potentially play up to "session speed." It seems that most people seem to get on well with one layout or another, and struggle with others, and it seems difficult to predict which one will work for you. Having played both Anglo and Hayden (Wicki) duet, I feel I can generally play quicker on the duet. Many runs fall along the rows neatly.

 

I recorded this video partly because of a thread, in which was posted:

i actually would consider a duet, but not sure they loan themselves to very fast single melody-line playing.

So here's a video of me playing "Rickett's Hornpipe" (taken from the accordion playing of Dwight Lamb) at three different speeds. This tune, especially the first part, falls easily under my fingers on the concertina. The first speed is about how fast I'd generally play it, I measured it at approximately 117 beats per minute. I then play it quicker (and more sloppily) at 132 BPM, then a silly version at 145 BPM or so.

 

I don't know if this "proves" anything, but I thought it might be useful to give folks an idea of how one non-expert player sounds playing quick tunes on a Hayden (given a few extra takes). Any comments or responding videos encouraged!

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Hi

Good start. I look forward to dropping in from time to time.

Tho' I only play the one system I have had a go at anglo and MacCann (not with any real success) but I do believe that we should be able to learn from discussions about other systems - even if only to try something different on our 'own' system

chris (English player)

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I'm starting a new web site! It will be about my experiences learning to play concertina, and I'll discuss ideas, tricks, techniques, or whatever. Each topic I post will link to a thread here on concertina.net, where people can add their own ideas and experiences. I especially want to make things more "real" by including videos or other examples with each post. This is my first one! Check out the website at: http://www.ConcertinaCorner.com

 

 

One of the most common topics on concertina.net is weighing the relative merits and weaknesses of the various concertina keyboard layouts. It can get contentious as people defend their own chosen system, or over-react to other people's generalities. It seems to me each system has tendencies, but many of them can be overcome if one makes the effort.

 

One commonly-heard idea is that the English Concertina layout has the potential to play single-note (or lightly embellished) melodies at a quicker tempo than the other systems. This may be true, as the work is shared between the hands, and long runs of notes can be played without changing the bellows direction. Duets may have the reputation of being the most difficult to play up to speed, since generally one hand has to do all the work of playing the melody. But clearly any system can potentially play up to "session speed." It seems that most people seem to get on well with one layout or another, and struggle with others, and it seems difficult to predict which one will work for you. Having played both Anglo and Hayden (Wicki) duet, I feel I can generally play quicker on the duet. Many runs fall along the rows neatly.

 

I recorded this video partly because of a thread, in which was posted:

i actually would consider a duet, but not sure they loan themselves to very fast single melody-line playing.

So here's a video of me playing "Rickett's Hornpipe" (taken from the accordion playing of Dwight Lamb) at three different speeds. This tune, especially the first part, falls easily under my fingers on the concertina. The first speed is about how fast I'd generally play it, I measured it at approximately 117 beats per minute. I then play it quicker (and more sloppily) at 132 BPM, then a silly version at 145 BPM or so.

 

I don't know if this "proves" anything, but I thought it might be useful to give folks an idea of how one non-expert player sounds playing quick tunes on a Hayden (given a few extra takes). Any comments or responding videos encouraged!

 

 

Why such emphasis on speed ? Speed can so easily be at the expense of quality.

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Thanks for that Boney,

your new website wil be very usefull, I am sure, for many people.. well done!

 

As for your Hornpipe... well you certainly get some speed up although I feel your slowest version is still too quick for my taste... but it proves a point.

 

I will now have to try increasing my Maccann speed,which is far too slow but after the first three months what more can I expect.

 

Best regards,

Geoff.

 

PS: you say (Wicki) Hayden... is your key board parrallel to the hand rests, as in the Wicki option offered by Wim Wakker ?

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Well, I play Maccann duet (What? You guessed?), and much as I like it, melody speed can be one of the problems. It's not so much the runs as the arpeggios and broken chords, e.g. the first bar of 'Soldiers Joy', which I find tricky at session speed.

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Why such emphasis on speed ? Speed can so easily be at the expense of quality.

Doesn't the video demonstrate that adequately? Actually, I agree with you, speed is a useful tool to have, and good to work on, but there's often an over-emphasis on it. I think people are inspired by their favorite players, and speed is one of the easiest things to quantify and emulate.

 

Good start. I look forward to dropping in from time to time.

Tho' I only play the one system I have had a go at anglo and MacCann (not with any real success) but I do believe that we should be able to learn from discussions about other systems - even if only to try something different on our 'own' system

Thanks! I've certainly learned a lot from discussions about English and Anglo concertinas. And some subjects should translate quite directly to the English, ornamentation and bellows control, for example.

 

As for your Hornpipe... well you certainly get some speed up although I feel your slowest version is still too quick for my taste... but it proves a point.

Yes, it can be nice slower with a bit of swing. I tend to play a tune similarly to the version I learned, and in this case, Dwight Lamb played it a bit faster than my first version, and with very little swing. A "hornpipe" in the American old-time tradition is usually played quickly and with little swing, unlike in the Irish tradition, although the melodies usually have some hornpipe feel.

 

PS: you say (Wicki) Hayden... is your key board parrallel to the hand rests, as in the Wicki option offered by Wim Wakker ?

No, it has the "Hayden slant." I like to include "Wicki" sometimes because outside the concertina world, that's what the layout would probably be called, no matter what spacing or angles are used. So those looking for more general information should be aware of the term.

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Boney,

Looks like this is going to be another site to bookmark!

 

I also find the slowest version of your hornpipe too fast for pleasure, but I know it was just to prove a point.;)

 

We intellectualise a lot in this forum about which system is easier to play fast, easier to play with feeling, easier to learn, less limiting when you've learnt it, capable of more complex music, more logical, etc. etc. Recently I got a chance to do some empirical field work ...

 

The social club of the big company I used to work for had their summer fete, with a "treasure hunt" for the children - visit each section of the club, do some activity, and get a rubber stamp on your card. I'm responsible for the music section of the club, and I had to think of something. So I laid some of my instruments out on tables, and let the kids choose what they wanted to try out: a large and small autoharp, a 5-string banjo, a Thüringer Waldzither, 3 different mandolins, a ukulele, a low whistle, and an Anglo and Crane concertina. Most of the children were primary-school age, so the ukulele and the small autoharp were popular, because of their size. Actually, the most frequently requested instrument was the one that the last child had tried! (Herd instinct?):P

 

One little girl - 10 years old - wanted to try a concertina. I asked the standard question: "Do you play an instrument?" - "Yes, the piano!" So I picked up the Crane and gave her a crash course: "The middle three columns are your white keys. This is middle C, the D is opposite it, the E is the middle one, and then you skip to the next row." I played an octave scale of C and gave her the Crane, which she had to set on her lap like a Bandoneon. The handstraps were pretty loose, so she didn't get up much speed, but she played a nice, steady scale of C - and then kept on going into the next octave! I praised her, and told her that the left hand was exactly the same, only an octave lower, and she played the scale of C all the way up with her left hand, with no further prompting. I was impressed, and said, "Now both together!" and she played a nice, steady scale of C in octaves with both hands. (By this time, I had fallen completely in love with her. The dream grand-daughter!)

 

I don't know what this proves, except that this was a very musical young lady. I think it also proves that the Crane system is intuitively consistent, because she was able to play more than I showed her - the scale in the upper octave on the right and on the left. It may also prove that the Crane is accessible to people who are trained to think in terms of white keys and black keys, i.e. in staff notation.

 

All in all, it was an interesting exercise. The club committee thought that the music section could offer some percussion for the kids to "work out" on, but it turned out that my concept - letting them try "real" instruments that produce tuned notes - was fun. (Who needs Orff instruments when they can find two sticks and an old bucket?) One little girl had me slightly worried. She had a mandolin slung round her neck and was strumming the open GDAE endlessly with a glassy stare ... And a little boy was at work on the big autoharp, strumming the open strings and then pressing a chord bar. Just like I did at his age ...

 

It was a wonderful experience. The look of awe in the children's eyes as they produced real notes on real instruments. The delicate or firm touch that some of them had on first acquaintance with a real instrument. If you have children or grandchildren, or count children among your friends, let them have a go at your concertina and whatever other instruments you have. They are just like we are. There's music in them.

 

Cheers,

John

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PS: you say (Wicki) Hayden... is your key board parrallel to the hand rests, as in the Wicki option offered by Wim Wakker ?

No, it has the "Hayden slant." I like to include "Wicki" sometimes because outside the concertina world, that's what the layout would probably be called, no matter what spacing or angles are used. So those looking for more general information should be aware of the term.

 

 

I asked about this because it looks as if the keyboard is slanted away from ones shortest fingers. I find that reaching the very outside corner buttons of my 58 Maccann is a bit of a stretch.

 

Could you, or anybody here, comment on the pros and cons of the "Hayden slant" , suitability for people with short fingers etc. etc?

 

Has anyone here played both the slanted and the straight versions of Wakker Haydens and what do they think ?

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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...it was just to prove a point.

Sorry, but what is the point? How to play without lift, feeling, or grace?

The point is the point that he said he was making - to show that it's possible to play fast single-line melodies on a duet. And what is your point?

Edited by Daniel Hersh
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...it was just to prove a point.

Sorry, but what is the point? How to play without lift, feeling, or grace?

The point is the point that he said he was making - to show that it's possible to play fast single-line melodies on a duet. And what is your point?

Yes, I posted it in the "Teaching and Learning" section, not the "Videos and Music" section. It's not at all meant to be a demonstration of HOW to play, just to show that raw speed is tecnically possible on a duet layout. If it also shows that someone playing as fast as they can is unmusical, maybe that's a bonus. I've started recording a few other snippets to show some things I'm working on, and they include starting and stopping, mistakes, and the like -- quite unmusical! But that's the point of that channel. I post music to my JeffLeff channel, which I also don't claim is anything but an amateur's dabblings, but at least I'm trying to make something to listen to there.

Edited by Boney
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ha, well, since a quote attributed to yours truly is being held up as the raison d'etre for this (delightful) endeavor, i think i'll add some self-quoting from that same thread:

 

[i'm not being critical of duets. i'm fascinated by them and would love to have one as a unisonoric concertina, provided what you see again. and again. and again, on this site regarding them being less optimal than the ec for single-lkine melody playing, proved to be inaccurate. whether you call it a party line or call it conventional wisdom, it has recurred in duet/ec discussions here. additionally as it happens, a very nice person from this site emailed me privately during the discussion on this thread to talk about some of the points being discussed, and when i mentioned being open to considering duets, the person replied, nope. won't work for fast single-melody playing. and i'm not being critical of that person either. i've thoroughly enjoyed our correspondence. i'm just saying, it is said and it is said frequently, that what they really work for, is melody-on-right-bass-chords-on-the-left arrangements, versus the EC working better for melody playing. it's not a criticism. this is what's out there. it may be just a case of, people not having accurate information on everything duets can do, or it may be that this conventional wisdom is true. the record is unclear. more will be revealed.]

 

and lo, more IS being revealed! nice playing, boney. it sounds more like a reel than a hornpipe, but you are certainly making your point. is that a wakker hayden? it has a wonderful tone.....

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i guess i'll also add that i don't understand the off-point snark-about regarding tempo. boney was not making a point that irish music must or should be played at high speeds. boney was making a point about the hayden duet in reply to my own query as to whether duets could be used effectively to play fast single-line melody music given the stereotypes that abound regarding their limitations....i think it's a neat project and hope to see more....

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Point taken. Sorry to be so critical. I do think the point would have been better made had the hornpipe been played more slowly, at a tempo which would have been appropriate for the tune and still have shown the capabilities of the instrument. A reel might have been a better choice.

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Point taken. Sorry to be so critical. I do think the point would have been better made had the hornpipe been played more slowly, at a tempo which would have been appropriate for the tune and still have shown the capabilities of the instrument. A reel might have been a better choice.

Well, it essentially IS a reel, or a "breakdown." As I posted earlier, this is from the playing of an elder statesman of American old-time music, and tunes that are called "hornpipe" in American old-time are usually played fast and with no "swing" or "dotted" rhythm. It is NOT an Irish hornpipe. I suppose it would have been less confusing for many if I would have picked a different tune. You can hear a bit of Dwight's version here, which is of course played for listening by a better player than me, so it has much more lift and grace than my "experimental" video, but you can hear what I mean about it not being a hornpipe in the sense an Irish player would use the term.

http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Coated-Fiddle-Accordion-Plains/dp/B00000JMCF/

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