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Playing In Octaves

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I've had a break from the concertina, but now am getting back to it (I was stolen away by the melodeon. lol). I've always found it awkward to play the concertina with other people as I find myself playing completely different tunes to everyone else. And what I find hard others find easy and vice versa.

 

So does anyone else here play in octaves? What instrument (key etc.) do you play? What tunes do you find easy and what do you find hard?

 

I have a C/G anglo.

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When you ask about playing in octaves, I'm taking it to mean either shifting the pitch of a tune by an octave, or simultaneously playing two notes an octave apart. I don't do a lot of it, but do play a few tunes in octaves. Most recently I learned to play Tom Ward's Downfall from one of Noel Hill's CDs and following his example, I often play some or all of the second part in simultaneous octaves and sometimes shift the single note pitch down an octave. I'm playing it in fingering for the key of G, but frequently use an A/E tuned concertina so the pitch is dropped. Don't dwell on that last part though, it isn't really a factor for this topic.

 

As to what is hard about octave playing, one has to stay in the range of the available tones and find fingering that flows. I don't think I currently play anything that drops below the lowest G for the low octave and I either skip certain notes or adjust the choice of buttons to fit the need. For example, I'd normally "pull" mid-range C's and E's on the G row, but have to shift to push them on the C row if I'm going to twin them with the lower octave. If I'm going to simply shift part of the tune down an octave and play in single tones then it doesn't make much difference.

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When you ask about playing in octaves, I'm taking it to mean either shifting the pitch of a tune by an octave, or simultaneously playing two notes an octave apart. I don't do a lot of it, but do play a few tunes in octaves. Most recently I learned to play Tom Ward's Downfall from one of Noel Hill's CDs and following his example, I often play some or all of the second part in simultaneous octaves and sometimes shift the single note pitch down an octave. I'm playing it in fingering for the key of G, but frequently use an A/E tuned concertina so the pitch is dropped. Don't dwell on that last part though, it isn't really a factor for this topic.

 

As to what is hard about octave playing, one has to stay in the range of the available tones and find fingering that flows. I don't think I currently play anything that drops below the lowest G for the low octave and I either skip certain notes or adjust the choice of buttons to fit the need. For example, I'd normally "pull" mid-range C's and E's on the G row, but have to shift to push them on the C row if I'm going to twin them with the lower octave. If I'm going to simply shift part of the tune down an octave and play in single tones then it doesn't make much difference.

 

I think of it like writing your name backwards in a mirror. So the left hand reflects the righthand.

I like to play in C mainly and also G. But its just finding tunes that don't go up to and beyond the high A on the right hand. Or so low that I have to drop onto the left hand.

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When you ask about playing in octaves, I'm taking it to mean either shifting the pitch of a tune by an octave, or simultaneously playing two notes an octave apart. I don't do a lot of it, but do play a few tunes in octaves. Most recently I learned to play Tom Ward's Downfall from one of Noel Hill's CDs and following his example, I often play some or all of the second part in simultaneous octaves and sometimes shift the single note pitch down an octave. I'm playing it in fingering for the key of G, but frequently use an A/E tuned concertina so the pitch is dropped. Don't dwell on that last part though, it isn't really a factor for this topic.

 

As to what is hard about octave playing, one has to stay in the range of the available tones and find fingering that flows. I don't think I currently play anything that drops below the lowest G for the low octave and I either skip certain notes or adjust the choice of buttons to fit the need. For example, I'd normally "pull" mid-range C's and E's on the G row, but have to shift to push them on the C row if I'm going to twin them with the lower octave. If I'm going to simply shift part of the tune down an octave and play in single tones then it doesn't make much difference.

 

I think of it like writing your name backwards in a mirror. So the left hand reflects the righthand.

I like to play in C mainly and also G. But its just finding tunes that don't go up to and beyond the high A on the right hand. Or so low that I have to drop onto the left hand.

 

Just keep going using one hand on the same end for that part of the tune that exceeds the limit of a particular end, and/or cross over to another row as necessary.

You could also try playing part of the tune with the left hand a third higher, or lower (one button up or down along the row) than octave playing. Your ear will tell you which works better.

Hope this helps,

 

Adrian

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For octave playing it's good to study the old players like Scan Tester, and you should definitely check out Dan Worrall's recent digital CD book "House Dance" which is full of tunes and music and history about playing in the octave style.


Gary

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I know that historically, guys like Scan Tester and William Kimber liked to play in octaves, but I don't see the attraction. Sure, it makes you louder/easier to hear in a crowd, but it doesn't add anything musically. I sometimes do it (say, for eight bars of a Morris tune) as a variation, but it quickly gets tiresome.

 

There are so many more musically interesting things that can be done with a concertina. Learn how to play in thirds or sixths or tenths.

 

Edited to add: I hadn't seen Gary's nearly simultaneous post when I wrote this one.

Edited by David Barnert

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Octaves can really drive a melody with more volume, and don't conflict with any other instruments playing accompaniments. Having said that, I mostly play by myself in a full harmonic style, but it drives me crazy if a guitar player jumps in with "their" version of accompanying chords, usually totally oblivious to the chords already being played on the concertina. That sentiment probably belongs in a different post on pet peeves!

 

Gary

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I'm with you David on your perspective of the value of octave playing overall, but will comment that a little of it in an occasional tune, perhaps a few measures as a variation during repeats, can add a little richness and fullness to the sound. Too much might detract, resulting in a louder but not necessarily more desirable sound. I'd be more inclined to do this when playing alone, and not when with a Trad session group unless they encouraged it. In the end I suspect the particular concertina, the tune being played and the setting are all weighting factors. I don't do it when playing my Dipper Clare, it seems plenty loud already, but the double reed sound is more pleasing on my softer sounding accordion reeded instruments.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey

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I play in octaves precisely because I can't make my own chords coz I'm too dumb (no matter how many times its explained) to do them. And when people talk 3rds, 5ths and 6ths I just glaze over. If I want chords I'll use the ready made ones on the melodeon. ;)

I don't think I play this note on the right so I play this one on the left because its mathmatically correct. I go I press this button on the right so I'll jab buttons on same row on the left and pick one that sounds nice.

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I'm with you David on your perspective of the value of octave playing overall, but will comment that a little of it in an occasional tune, perhaps a few measures as a variation during repeats, can add a little richness and fullness to the sound.

 

Exactly. Re-read my third sentence, above (and below):

 

I sometimes do it (say, for eight bars of a Morris tune) as a variation, but it quickly gets tiresome.

 

And finally:

 

I play in octaves precisely because I can't make my own chords coz I'm too dumb (no matter how many times its explained) to do them. And when people talk 3rds, 5ths and 6ths I just glaze over. If I want chords I'll use the ready made ones on the melodeon. ;)

I don't think I play this note on the right so I play this one on the left because its mathmatically correct. I go I press this button on the right so I'll jab buttons on same row on the left and pick one that sounds nice.

 

It's your instrument, and you can do what you like with it, for whatever reason you like. But if you want folks to enjoy hearing you play, you're going to have to learn a little about how music works.

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It's your instrument, and you can do what you like with it, for whatever reason you like. But if you want folks to enjoy hearing you play, you're going to have to learn a little about how music works.

 

 

I don't play for others to enjoy hearing if I did I'd have given up years ago. Coz I must have different ears to everyone else. What I like everyone else hates and what I hate everyone else likes.

This is another reason I don't play in public. I like what I play. Melodeon yep I'll play that in front of others but concertina....nah! That's just for me. :)

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For octave playing it's good to study the old players like Scan Tester, and you should definitely check out Dan Worrall's recent digital CD book "House Dance" which is full of tunes and music and history about playing in the octave style.

 

Gary

I was at ECMW when he did a talk on it. :)

I was the only one who could do octaves who didn't say I'd studied scan tester or players from the past. lol!

Edited by LDT

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If you play a long passage of music "parallel" then it can sound harsh or monotonous. That is the same whether playing in octaves or thirds or fifths.

 

LDT: a suggestion. As you describe yourself as "too dumb" to play chords here's a simple alternative. It's less "dry" than octaves and less complex than chords. Try playing melody and a single note bass accompaniment. I do quite a lot of this. I think of it as an "economical style" where the full chords are for occasional emphasis, and the bass notes give the tune some depth.

 

As a good starting point, choose the "octave note" on the left hand, then count up or down 2 notes.

 

So if the melody note is C, the octave below will be C. 2 notes up from C is E, and 2 notes down is A.

 

The C will never sound "wrong" although it may sound uninteresting. One of the other two will nearly always be "more right than wrong" and will sound more interesting.

 

For this, I mean on the first strong beat of each pulse.

 

So if you're playing a jig (did-dle-y dah-da) you play that bass note only on the "did" and the "dah" - or even just on the "did".

 

If you're playing in 4/4 (count 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4) then that bass note will be on 1 and 3, or even just on 1.

 

No musical theory here. Just a basic rule of thumb that may help.

 

Others: Yes, I know there is a lot more to it than that, but I'm suggesting it as an accessible first step to easy harmony.

 

LDT: I doubt you are "too dumb" to play chords. Many people happily play in the single note style, and many of them are better musicians than I will ever be.

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The design of the Anglo Concertina is such that it is ideally suited for simple chord augmentation to a melody line. To restrict play to 'single note' or 'octave' style is to seriously neglect the instruments full potential. Might as well play a Penny Whistle !

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Thanks for you idea Mike .I am privileged to play for a morris side and where I can ,I play cords on my C/G Anglo to accompany the melody. .Its not always possible to keep the melody on the R/H side,so sometimes use a G/D but the G/D does not carry the sound as well when playing outside.I will try your idea .Thanks.Bob

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I play a C/G 20 button anglo, and I prefer to keep the melody mostly in the left hand when playing in G. The right hand's range is just too high and too harsh for continuous play on the G row, at least indoors. Neither my wife nor my cat will tolerate it for long!

 

Occasionally I will double the melody line an octave above on the right hand, as a variation, just for one turn through the tune.

 

More often I'll simply play a harmony line 1 or 2 buttons lower than the melody line, which ever fits the chord changes better. Sometimes I'll take a note off the other row instead, if the chord notes aren't available within the same row. So generally a 3rd or 4th or sometimes a 5th below the melody line, but more importantly, within the desired chord for that part of the phrase. But even if you don't know which notes ought to be in the chord, playing the melody and the next button down is pretty easy, and I expect you can generally hear whether 1 button down is good, or 2 buttons down works better, and you might be able to hear if you need a note off the other row instead.

Edited by Tradewinds Ted

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Well here are that last videos I did of my playing (in what I call) octaves. ;)

 

 

 

really need to do an update.

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Lovely arrangements! You're selling yourself way too short. Your playing, much like Andy Turner's, is proof you don't always need fistfulls of chords to play beautifully. Simple can be quite effective, and your use of octaves helps keep the melody in the forefront. I sense a little hesitancy in your playing, so just keep after it with more and more confidence and expression - you've already got a great sense of accompaniment!


Gary

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