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Reviews of tutor books would be a great thread - I just got one in the mail today that is absolutely awful (and shall remain nameless).

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Reviews of tutor books would be a great thread - I just got one in the mail today that is absolutely awful (and shall remain nameless).

 

 

erm...

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Reviews of tutor books would be a great thread - I just got one in the mail today that is absolutely awful (and shall remain nameless).

erm...

 

Right. If we can't warn folks off the bad ones, we lose much of the value of reviews. I can understand the reluctance to putting one's name to a bad review, and moderating responses could be more work than Paul and Ken can handle.

 

But here's a "crazy" idea: Start a "Reviews" subForum, where each tutor book (or DVD, or whatever) gets its own thread and poll. Then ratings could be anonymous (as "votes" in the poll), though individual comments still wouldn't be.

 

For this to work, those starting "new" polls would have to take care that they're not posting duplicates.

 

What do you folks -- especially Paul and Ken -- think of the idea?

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I think that's a really good idea - there's a couple of tutors I'd very happily vote up and one I'd be only too happy to have the opportunity to vote down multiple times!

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I would like to see a thread/topic/sub-forum/??? associated with each tutorial where folks who are using it can ask questions and get answers from other students and maybe the author of the tutorial. Braver students might even submit samples of exercises and tunes from the tutor for friendly critique.

 

This has happened informally for Bertram Levy's "Concertina Demystified", but I am thinking of a more systematic and focused home for each tutorial.

 

Don.

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All good ideas. What I was thinking was a general collection thread so people know what books are out there. :-)

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I like the notion of their being a repository of commentary on the various tutors available, but would have some concerns. The concertina community has only a few points of online connection, and I'm under the impression that this forum is the largest of those. I've no notion as to what percentage of the potential tutor buying market might visit this forum (member or not), but I fear that a few bad reviews of a particular tutor here might have considerable adverse impact on its sale.

 

Certainly it's appropriate that a poorly written or otherwise "bad" tutor not receive favorable attention and representation, but reviews and ratings are very subjective. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm of the opinion that by nature, people with a negative view of a product are more inclined to write a review than those that feel indifferent toward it or even view it in a mildly positive light. As a result, I fear that a few negative views might not be well representative of the overall reaction of those familiar with a particular tutor.

 

Of course that might be the case with anything considered by small community with limited avenues of expression, and I'm not advocating that reviews shouldn't happen or that opinions not be expressed. Positive or negative, the opinions of experienced players are a valuable resource. Along with that, I find that context is an essential aid in determining how someone's opinions might be useful to me. The more I know about a reviewer and where they coming from, the better I can relate to what they have to say. As I write this I'm reminded that my wife sometimes comments that context aids her in deciding whether someone is offering experienced and useful insight or "just spouting off."

 

Is the person commenting someone with a lot of experience with a particular instrument, or just starting out? Both perspectives could be of interest, but depending on the target audience of the tutor (experienced vs. beginning player), I'd get a better read on how successful the tutor was at reaching the intended student. Have they tried other tutors on the same subject or is this their first foray into this method of learning? Have they attended any workshops that might give them a broader perspective on effective teaching approaches?

 

Also, if someone is going to publicly assess and comment on the published work of another, I'd like to hear a considered overall evaluation and not just comments on a few narrow elements. I don't have an agenda, but things come to mind like content, scope, clarity of text, notation, rate of advance, that sort of thing.

 

Depth of a review is important and can offer great insights. For example, on the subject of "clarity of text," did you feel you understood and connected with the author and that they were guiding you down a path, or did you feel uncertain of the approach and confused by the progression? If the latter was the case, what do you think the problem was? Do you think the author assumed too much prior knowledge on your part, failed to clearly express or explain important concepts, or moved forward too quickly?

 

My point here is just that if there is an effort made to generate and group a body of tutor reviews, I think some general guidelines for content and expression might be beneficial in establishing overall balance and scope. Perhaps a suggestion as to the principal points one might consider and offer comment on, and that reviewers include some indication of their playing background, experience level or other factors that might offer readers insight into the basis of their perspectives.

 

In addition, good or bad, I'd prefer to see reviews written with neutral tone rather than a negative ones. For example, I'd prefer to see someone comment "I found the author's method of notation confusing and very difficult to work with" and cite some examples rather than just say "The author had a lousy method of notation."

 

Just one person's opinion, and my apologies if my comments have gone beyond the intended scope of the thread.

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Bad reviews are every bit as important as good reviews, so long as all the reviews -- bad and good -- are well-reasoned and well-written; give some perspective through identifying the author and the author's experience; and remain civil in tone.

 

I don't think reviewers should feel bound to give a "neutral" review of a tutor book they feel is, frankly, bad ... so long as the reviewers say *why* they think the tutor is bad, so long as the reviewers tell us where they're coming from in writing this review, and so long as they're polite about it even while stating what may be strong opinions.

 

We, the community of concertina players, should have a strong interest in guiding newcomers to the instrument towards a learning path they find fulfilling and fun. A single bad tutor book could frustrate a newcomer to the point that they say "well, the concertina's not for me" and give up when a good tutor book could do just the opposite! When negative reasoned opinions are held back, a newcomer won't necessarily be guided away from a tutor book that just won't provide what they're seeking, as there's a very small difference between a neutral review (that strains to find some nice things to say about a bad book) and a genuinely positive review (which may, in striving for accuracy, point out a few weak spots of an otherwise great book).

 

I'm aware of the awkwardness that may arise from the authors of several tutor books being members of this forum, but I think the community does itself (and its future) a tremendous dis-service by squelching negative reviews wholesale. And I understand the potential value of anonymous reviews or poll ratings as a way of avoiding this awkwardness, but I think that too does a dis-service -- if you don't know who a negative review or rating (or a positive one!) comes from, you have no way of evaluating that review or rating.

 

My two cents (but are they two cents flat, or two cents sharp?)...

Edited by wayman

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I couldn't agree more with Wayman. The trick will be how to ensure reviews are mostly substantive and informative. Same problem Yelp and Tripadvisor have, but it's usually fairly easy to whack either end off the bell curve and get to the real reviews in the middle.

 

But I must admit I used to really enjoy the highly opinionated reviews in the old Folk Roots magazine. Once I got to know the various reviewers and their styles, I could then tell whether I would like something or not regardless of whether they gave it a good or bad review.

 

But there is a virtual minefield of concertina tutors out there that we should be weighing in on if we are to help others learn and enjoy. I don't want to even think about how many dollars (and hours, and bookshelf space) I have wasted on tutors that were essentially worthless. I've probably got most of them by now, and it's definitely a very mixed bag. There are also some online that we should be commenting on.

 

I suppose I'm one of the authors that Wayman refers to, and I welcome any and all comments, since the intent is to make it as useful to as many people as possible. I never intended to write a book, but I was really frustrated with what was out there, and learned to play anyway in spite of having a pile of confusing and complicated tutors.

 

Not every tutor will fit everyone's learning style, but if we can help beginners figure out how to get a good start then that's an excellent service this forum can provide. Now if we can just figure out the best way to do it!

Gary

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Hmmm. There is already quite a good review service operated by the ICA, via the annual Papers of the International Concertina Association journal.....quite a nice publication, edited by Prof Allan Atlas at CUNY. Roger Digby heads the reviews, and either personally reviews new CDs and books or assigns a qualified reviewer. They are good, objective and thorough reviews, as a rule, although not all or even a majority of new concertina CDs get reviewed, by any means - but significant ones tend to be. I recommend that all new authors send the ICA, via Roger or Allan, a copy of their work to be reviewed. All my various books and CDRoms have been reviewed there.

 

That is a membership journal, of course. Are you a member? Consider joining and supporting their effort; it is the only scholarly journal for our instrument.

 

Other than that, I'd say I always consider the source in reviews. In a website where most people are nameless, one never knows who is speaking about a work, and what their background and experience level is. I personally find the PICA approach, of having a designated reviews editor who works at his craft, generally more credible and useful than the anonymous wild west of the internet, but to each his own.

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Dan--

 

Is PICA still active? The ICA web site doesn't seem to show evidence of publication since 2008: http://www.concertina.org/papers-of-the-international-concertina-association-pica .

 

Hmmm. There is already quite a good review service operated by the ICA, via the annual Papers of the International Concertina Association journal.....quite a nice publication, edited by Prof Allan Atlas at CUNY. Roger Digby heads the reviews, and either personally reviews new CDs and books or assigns a qualified reviewer. They are good, objective and thorough reviews, as a rule, although not all or even a majority of new concertina CDs get reviewed, by any means - but significant ones tend to be. I recommend that all new authors send the ICA, via Roger or Allan, a copy of their work to be reviewed. All my various books and CDRoms have been reviewed there.

 

That is a membership journal, of course. Are you a member? Consider joining and supporting their effort; it is the only scholarly journal for our instrument.

 

Other than that, I'd say I always consider the source in reviews. In a website where most people are nameless, one never knows who is speaking about a work, and what their background and experience level is. I personally find the PICA approach, of having a designated reviews editor who works at his craft, generally more credible and useful than the anonymous wild west of the internet, but to each his own.

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The International Concertina Assoc's website also has a page on Concertina World Magazine, which it looks like they do not publish themselves. Likewise, CWM's page does not give any indication that it is actively in print (by mentioning any recent or upcoming issues, offering any archives, or giving any submission dates including the year), but it also doesn't clearly give any sign that CWM is defunct. Does anyone know for sure?

 

While the ICA's home page does include a few recent entries in their blogroll, it doesn't seem to be updated frequently or give the impression that much is happening in the concertina world :-(

 

And not having the reviews publicly available doesn't serve the public. I understand that they are a membership organization / journal, but as such they are not providing the service to newcomers to the instrument -- the ones who are the key audience for these tutor books and most need to see the reviews, as well as a clear index of the many, many tutors on the market to help guide them to one that is right for them!

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