Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Guilty as charged. Julie and I are doing a lot of pop songs with my duet, but with some exceptions they do tend to be older material... Though I would say that quite a lot of stuff from the 20s and 30s remained popular for many decades, and still gets a lot of respect even now.

 

There's a reason why we tend to favour the older material: it tends to have such gorgeous chords!

 

However, I would say that we're finding that the older material baffles younger people, who quite often ask where the songs come from...

 

Gavin

Edited by Gavin Atkin
Link to post
Share on other sites

Pop music is only recent folk music.

 

I'd put that the other way round: folk music is former pop music that has proved suitable for social amateur performance.

 

There's a reason why we tend to favour the older material: it tends to have such gorgeous chords!

 

We should bear in mind that the concertina is an "older" instrument, and was at home in the same musical environment as those older songs. I find that Victorian/Edwardian drawing-room ballads and gospel hymns suit the concertina particularly well.

 

I should imagine a lot of country and gospel should work. Anything where a folk tradition fed into popular music.

 

Ah, but what folk tradition? The American one, which is dominated by rhythm guitar and claw-hammer banjo, or the British/Irish tradition, where the dance tunes have the rhythm built in, and songs do not need rhythmic support?

The simple songs that get sung round camp-fires are often products of the 1960s Folk Scare, which came over from the US and brought the guitar with it. These really do benefit from a strummed guitar.

On the other hand, I've seen YouTubes of older traditional songs, for example, "Barbara Allen," in which someone tried to accompany the singer with a guitar picking pattern. It sounded excruciating! A concertina would have been infinitely preferable (or an accordion, or a harp, or anything that doesn't enforce a rhythm - even a classical guitar!)

 

If you're willing to work on your technique, I suppose you can tackle material from any genre (within reason) with your instrument of choice. Sometimes it works well, sometimes not at all. But there's usually a repertoire with which your instrument is really at home, and performs effortlessly. And in the case of the concertina, to my mind, that's pre-1950s popular music.

 

Cheers,

John

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Pop music is only recent folk music.

 

I'd put that the other way round: folk music is former pop music that has proved suitable for social amateur performance.

How about: Folk music is former pop music that nobody remembers who wrote it. [Awkward syntax, but you get the idea...]

Link to post
Share on other sites

How about: Folk music is former pop music that nobody remembers who wrote it. [Awkward syntax, but you get the idea...]

I'm thinking back about 20 years here (so more than half my life), but I recall reading some book about the early early folk revival in the UK where amidst all the maudlin romantic/nationalist blather one commentator had pointed out: "It's not as though one day a thousand years ago the entirety of England arose as one and started singing Summer Is Icumen In; somebody had to write the thing."

 

One of my Anglo concertina students was insistent that she sing and play this song as her first effort: Move Along by the American Rejects.

 

It's not my favourite song, but in concept I think that'd be great. If she does it, get her to put it up on YouTube. Or heck, if you help her puzzle out a good arrangement of it I'd love to see a clip of your playing it.

 

I've put it off a while to work on a proper full arrangement, but just for kicks I need to go YouTube my very rough initial versions of one song by the hip-hop singer Akon, and one by Judith Hirsch (formerly of the band Throwing Muses).

Edited by MatthewVanitas
Link to post
Share on other sites

I also participate with my Hayden duet in a "Rise Up Singing" singalong, which is a joint effort of a Unitarian and a Quaker congregation, currently being done twice monthly. It's a great opportunity to play and/or sing along.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been using my EC for years in our neighborhood's monthly song sessions. The sessions are open to anyone willing to play an instrument (any instrument, including triangle, kazoo or comb-and-tissue), or sing a song, or just listen. Anywhere from 12 to 20 people gather in a willing host's house and make music from 7 to 9:30 pm, followed by an hour or so of refreshments and blather. Choice of music - which could be a group song (accompanied or a capella), a solo party piece, an instrumental, whatever - is passed around the room, one by one in turn, so everyone participates. We use the book 'Rise Up Singing' as a song resource, but people also bring printouts of other songs they want to introduce.

 

Instruments have included guitar, mandolin, ukelele, banjo, fiddle, accordion, autoharp, string bass, piano, harmonica, electric bass, clarinet, oboe, saxophone and cello. Guitars, of course, dominate. The quality of playing ranges from rank beginner to professional, and that also goes for the singing. Newcomers and beginners are especially encouraged, and many have become stalwarts over time. Some people bring music they're still working on, and even if they only get partway through before falling apart, their efforts are appreciated.

 

Musical genres at these sessions can be anything - classical, jazz, klezmer, folk, pop, golden oldies, you name it. Even new songs by local composers, several of whom are pretty good. It is seldom that I get through a session without hearing something new and interesting.

 

Does this sound like chaos and cacophony? Well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it is comical. And sometimes it is beautiful, wondrous, inspiring. There are only two requirements: to share music with neighbors, and enjoy it.

 

So where does the EC play a role? 'Rise Up Singing' only has lyrics and guitar chords, and sometimes people aren't quite certain of the melody, so the EC often helps get a song started. Other than that, I play an occasional party piece or newly discovered (to me) melody, or duets with other instruments (guitar, banjo or clarinet), or do a little bit of accompaniment when appropriate, or music bridges between song verses. But often I just put the squeezebox aside and enjoy the singing.

 

We've been doing these sessions for about five years now, taking it in turns to be hosts, and everyone looks forward to them. It is the most friendly, tolerant, and delightful group of people, and a monthly reminder that making music is a natural part of everyone's life.

 

This type of group is available here, too... and uses the Rise Up Singing book. I think it's 'brought to you by' the ffsgb... Folk Song Society of Greater Boston.

 

I regularly get they're emails and say to myself, 'Gee, really ought to go, next time, again!'

 

But, I'm in central Massachusetts, not the Eastern section... that's a lame excuse, I know, but I don't always have any wheels, can't drive there.

 

Another problem for me, though, is that I seem to get a bit mildly claustrophobic these days, in any kind of organized arrangement of people and instruments. So, I admire from afar.

 

As for what I play....

 

I do sometimes look at the Rise Up Singing book, and practice with that. I have the set of CDs they put out that go with the book. Most of the songs, I only partly knew, if at all, so the CDs are helpful. So, when I finally do get to a group sing one of these days, I'll know some! When I did get to some sings, I brought my concertina sometimes and enjoyed playing... joined in with a harp player who was great, a guitarist or two, and a really good upright bass player.

 

I work out music for old church hymns, not so much because I'm religious or not, but because I have an archive of them in my head. I do this partly for the music lessons this offers, but also because I like the meditative quality of an old hymn. Can't say I bother much with pop songs (other than collecting old sheet music), on the concertina.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I like the idea that pop music is only recent folk music, basically because it hasn't been through the transformative, diversifying and selection processes that oral transmission imposes.

 

But I won 't say more as I'm very reluctant to get into definitions here - there are plenty of good ones around for those who feel the need.

 

What I am interested in is creating convivial environments - sessions and the rest - in which folk songs, or traditional songs, if you prefer the term, can thrive alongside pop songs, humour and the rest, in a full understanding that songs from different sources are themselves different. That, I think, is the way forward, and is the main reason why we try to operate the agenda I like to call trad, old-fashioned and entertaining in the events we organise.

 

I'd say that concertinas live very happily in that kind of context.

 

Gavin

Edited by Gavin Atkin
Link to post
Share on other sites

Playing modern rock songs and campfire singing sessions were the main reason why I've put my anglo on the shelve and bought Elise (I'm not trad player at all). But in my humble opinion most of modern pop-songs, based on same 3-4 chord progressions, usually souds poorly on concertina. I've found, that I get best results (and audience satisfaction :)) when playing pieces that were written either for a band including brass section or an accordion. This way I can play bass/rythm with the left hand, brass/accordion section with right (which is sometimes quite complicated and rich) and vocal line makes a third layer which gives better results, than playing exact melody of the vocals with right hand. We have some great modern bands here in Poland, that use instruments outside of "rock standard" (everything that was used by "street folk" bands of '20&'30) and playing their music on concertina sounds better than on just guitar, especially the solo parts.

 

But it sometimes happens, that someone hates the sound of free-reed instruments so much, that asks you to stop playing and let the guitar do all the work... :>

Link to post
Share on other sites

bellowbelle - You don't need to join an organized group; start your own! It's great fun to play along with other instruments, or accompany people singing their favorite songs. There must be people in your neighborhood, or acquaintances or family members who like to make music. Invite them into your own home or get together at a local pub. You don't need a whole big group - start with one or two, and see where it takes you. Making music can be an adventure, small or great, if you just go ahead and do it. :lol:

 

My personal definition of "folk music" is music that isn't copyrighted, and the composer is unknown. :ph34r:

Link to post
Share on other sites

We have a crowd of mates who like to get together and play old pop and rock stuff on guitars. I often join in on piano accordian, and sometimes on my Maccann (which takes up much less room, especially once it's out of its box). Mostly they like to stick to tunes in D, C or G shapes which is fine until they put the capo on fret 3, then they come out in F (which I can just about manage), E-flat and B-flat (which I can't). I guess a Hayden system would be better than the Maccann for this.

 

Still, as they say, it always breaks the ice at parties.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mostly they like to stick to tunes in D, C or G shapes which is fine until they put the capo on fret 3, then they come out in F (which I can just about manage), E-flat and B-flat (which I can't). I guess a Hayden system would be better than the Maccann for this.

 

Still, as they say, it always breaks the ice at parties.

 

Maccannic,

 

This surprises me somewhat! I've always been led to believe that the Maccann is the duet system for advanced music, giving you more capability than the Crane once you become familiar with it. Fortunately, I don't associate with inconsiderate guitarists who use capos on odd-numered frets, so I haven't been challenged to develop the flat keys on my Crane. But if I were, I believe the increase in difficulty compared to the sharp keys would be only moderate. At least, F major (one flat) is no more awkward than G major (one sharp) on the Crane.

 

You're thinking of the instant transposing on the isomorphic Hayden keyboard, I know - but you can forget the Elise for a start. It only covers F, C, G and D major scales, so you'd need to go to the expense of a fully-fledged, chromatic Hayden.

 

Perhaps the reason why the Salvation Army adopted the Crane/Triumph system (rather than the Maccann) is their heavy brass-band bias, which leads to most of their songs being set in flat keys. For the same reason, their earlier, standard Anglos were in Ab/Eb, rather than C/G. They must have considered Ab and Eb playable by an amateur "Craniologist" or "Triumphator!"

 

Cheers,

John

Link to post
Share on other sites

Anglo-Irishman is right - the Maccann is fully chromatic. However, as most of my playing has been in tune sessions in pubs, i.e. in D, G or E minor, and being somewhat lazy, I have allowed myself to stick to my comfort zone and have never really got comfortable in flat keys. This, combined with the fact that on the Maccann the e-flat button is in a rather weird place, means that even playing simple scales or chords in flat keys is something which I really need to work on.

 

One day, maybe . . .

Link to post
Share on other sites

Anglo-Irishman is right - the Maccann is fully chromatic. However, as most of my playing has been in tune sessions in pubs, i.e. in D, G or E minor, and being somewhat lazy, I have allowed myself to stick to my comfort zone and have never really got comfortable in flat keys. This, combined with the fact that on the Maccann the e-flat button is in a rather weird place, means that even playing simple scales or chords in flat keys is something which I really need to work on.

 

One day, maybe . . .

Tony can I suggest finding a tune or two in a flat key and deliberately learning them? Force the issue a bit, as it were. It made a huge difference to my playing.

 

Alternatively it's ever so much easier with a nice L/W 71 key...

Link to post
Share on other sites

In conversation with Ralph Jordan he said how nice the key of F was on the Maccann and what a shame that in the folk world not many people used that key.

I also notice that quite a few pièces played by Tommy Williams are in the flay keys.

 

GJ Coyne plays "The hole in the wall" in Bb on Youtube.... I did as Dirge suggested and learned it for the purpose of working in the flat keys.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...