Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I see a lot here and elsewhere about concertina workshops (Noel Hill, etc.) that look interesting. And I had previously thought about attending some of the various workshop opportunities for other instruments I play (Django Camp, etc.)

 

But in the end, I'm just not so sure what I'd get out of them. Isn't a week--or even an intensive weekend--simply a lot of material to process in a very short amount of time? Seems like it would be, to quote one my old instructors, "like drinking from a firehose".

 

For all that time, money, and effort, and in the end, how much really "sticks"? I can't help but feel that I'd be better off spending the same amount on something like a series of private lessons over a longer course of time, with "space" in between to process/practice the things I learn and integrate them a bit into my playing. Sometimes you've got to let the concrete set before you build the next floor on top of it, ya know. B)

 

So what are the experiences and general thoughts of those who go to these various workshops? I'm sure they're a lot of fun. But do they tend to be worth it from an instructional standpoint? How much do you really take back home with you?

 

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife got a lot out of the Kaufman camp years back on her mandolin playing, me not so much for the banjo. I went to a one night workshop by Brian Peters down in Cinnci and got a lot out of it. I also got a lot out of NESI the two years I attended, though that is a far piece for me, and farther for you. I know a lot of folks here swear by Noel's camp, but as I am not really interested in playing Irish music, I never felt the need to go. My first concertina influence was Peter Bellamy. If Irish is what you want to play, I say go for the Noel Hill camp.

 

Alan

Link to post
Share on other sites

What I get out of intensive schools does seem to vary. It is mostly about me - am I into that style/instrument at the time, is the teacher a good personality and philosophy-of-teaching match for me, what is my level of rest/distraction, etc. It can be great, definitely consider it. I need to revise the schools list for North America, but here is a link to the old one.

 

Ken

Link to post
Share on other sites

As someone who has been going to Noel Hill's summer classes for eighteen years (yes I know that's a bit over the top), I get my concertina batteries recharged each time. The value of this motivation should not be underestimated. But each year I also find that I am technically challenged by Noel's selection of tunes that require me to expand my fingering abilities or expose me to music I might not otherwise discover. Then there's the comraderie with other folks who share your love of the music and the instrument.

 

However, do keep in mind that you only get a benefit from attending a class if you put in the effort, so it is a cooperative effort!

 

Ross Schlabach

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it is like school and homework. The teacher introduces the concepts and you get homework to take home and practice the skill or concept. Might take a whole year or more to absorb and/or put into practice.

 

I am looking forward to going to the Noel Hill school for the first time this year. I know it will be hard but fun work, and I'm sure there will be many thing I will not master in the week but again I am looking forward to working on some new ideas through the year and appling what I learn to my playing.

 

Doug

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, they work if go home and keep practicing every single day what you learned at the workshop.

 

I've been to Noel's workshops three time so far and I highly recommend them. Not sure if I'll be able to get away from work to go again this year, unfortunately.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For all that time, money, and effort, and in the end, how much really "sticks"?

I take the attitude that if I learn one really valuable thing from a workshop that I can take away and use in my every-day playing, then the workshop has been worthwhile. I still play a particular ornament on the flute a certain way thanks to Brian Finnegan taking it to pieces twenty years ago and explaining in minute detail exactly what was happening and why at every nanosecond of the roll. On the concertina (English) I can still feel the gentle and kind disapproval of Rob Harbron every time I play a run of notes without using the bellows to shape and structure each note.

 

Get one thing of value, and the rest of the time ( meeting fellow instrument geeks, learning new tunes, devoting some time purely to thinking about a particular aspect of your instrument, putting human beings to avatars on CNET, sessions and beers and chats and so forth) is all added value. What's not to like?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, here's what I think. Group classes and workshops are good. Individual lessons are better. Spending an extravagant amount of time to work it out on your own is so very valuable. The best, when you're ready, IMHO, is playing with helpful and local friends, who you meet with regularly and will help you on your way... but to join them, first you need to be able to play at least a few tunes. It took me two years of steady work to get to the point where I knew 10 tunes, slowly... that was when I was just beginning my Anglo adventure.

 

I think that the hardest part is motivation. At first, it is not easy. That's why I rank at the top... regular sessions with one or two players you like and admire and are just a bit better than you. If you have a few tunes and can find a social element to play music with, to encourage you and set you right, then you will grow. That's what motivated me when I was just starting out learning the Anglo and learning the tunes I wanted to play with the people I wanted to play them with. If I hadn't fallen in with fiddlers Michael and Sam and Paul.... well, things would have been different, and I would have been much the poorer for it.

 

BTW, I do not play ITM Anglo in the Clare style like Noel. There are lots of other ways to play the Anglo, but ITM is way cool too. Best of luck!

Edited by Jody Kruskal
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

That's why I rank at the top... regular sessions with one or two players you like and admire and are just a bit better than you. If you have a few tunes and can find a social element to play music with, to encourage you and set you right, then you will grow. That's what motivated me when I was just starting out learning the Anglo and learning the tunes I wanted to play with the people I wanted to play them with. If I hadn't fallen in with fiddlers Michael and Sam and Paul.... well, things would have been different, and I would have been much the poorer for it.

 

 

 

Agree with this. I've experienced the biggest boosts in competence when thrown into regular situations with musicians who were more advanced than me - in sessions, in bands, etc.

 

Workshops can work. About 15 years I experienced the Noel Hill weeklong concertina boot camp, even though I did not aspire to play in the Irish style. I did this because there were no lessons offered locally (and this was before the possibility of individual lessons via Skype, as Jody offers) and because I wanted to be pushed to improve my basic skills.

 

Noel's style, at least at the time, offered a blend of encouragement and intimidation, and I came home both exhausted and a better player (but still not a player of ITM). I'm guessing the reason Noel's classes work so well is that the focus and intensity are relentless; you go there to really get pushed, and if you resist you end up looking like a knucklehead when it's your turn to play the day's tunes.

 

But long term, the most effective learning tool for me has been playing on a regular basis with other musicians, preferably those with skills greater than my own.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my experiences, if you can find a good tutor (possibly taking lessons over skype?), then that probably will benefit you more at first because you are right, a workshop will give you an awful lot to process in a single week. That being said, workshops do have certain advantages that might be hard to match.

 

1. At the better ones, you often have some of the most highly regarded musicians in the world to learn from. Noel Hill is just one example; I have taken lessons from Mícheál O’Raghallaigh, Edel Fox, Tim Collins, and Gearoid O'hAllmhurain at the Catskills Irish Arts Week (okay, technically I didn't take Tim Collins class, but the last class of the week was joined up between him and Gearoid O'hAllmhurain. Unless you happen to live in Clare, it is hard to imagine access to players of such quality where you are are.

 

2. They can give you insight in how different styles of the music are played.

 

3. The workshops are fun. I can't speak about Noel Hill's class since I have never been there, but if you like a good party, Irish Arts Week certainly applies. Informal sessions start up all over the place, and often there is at least one session that goes far too late for people who have a 10:00 AM class to stay at... but you do anyway because the music is just that good. About the only thing I regret about being married and having kids is that I have not been able to make it for the last 5 years.

 

Ultimately, I generally have lots of pointers away from these workshops and between that and my earlier knowledge of the Button Accordion, it has enabled me to learn to play without a regular teacher. That being said, I think I would have learned faster from a regular teacher :). Of course I am in no rush, I am doing this for fun, not profit.

 

--

Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of the insights, folks! Sounds like I might not be in a spot in my development where I would really benefit from, say, the upcoming Noel Hill workshop outside of Cincy (and it's over my wife's birthday besides). Although it I'm sure I would enjoy the concertina camaraderie. There's always next year.

 

So maybe shorter workshop might be more up my alley, to sort of test the waters. There's actually going to be a one-hour "beginner's concertina" class in the area next month with John Mock that sounds perfect. Trouble is, it's part of a day-long Irish Music workshop where you sign up (and pay for) for the whole day. The one concertina class is the only squeezebox class they have on the program, the rest of the classes are for instruments I don't really play. I've emailed the folks running it to see if I can get a class "a la carte". We'll see...

Link to post
Share on other sites

What I get out of intensive schools does seem to vary. It is mostly about me - am I into that style/instrument at the time, is the teacher a good personality and philosophy-of-teaching match for me, what is my level of rest/distraction, etc. It can be great, definitely consider it. I need to revise the schools list for North America, but here is a link to the old one.

 

Ken

 

Good info, Ken, thanks! Are pages like the ones you linked part of the legendary "old site"? I wasn't able to find links to that sort of content on the site currently, but it look like it's hosted here somewhere based on the URL.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of the insights, folks! Sounds like I might not be in a spot in my development where I would really benefit from, say, the upcoming Noel Hill workshop outside of Cincy (and it's over my wife's birthday besides). Although it I'm sure I would enjoy the concertina camaraderie. There's always next year.

 

So maybe shorter workshop might be more up my alley, to sort of test the waters. There's actually going to be a one-hour "beginner's concertina" class in the area next month with John Mock that sounds perfect. Trouble is, it's part of a day-long Irish Music workshop where you sign up (and pay for) for the whole day. The one concertina class is the only squeezebox class they have on the program, the rest of the classes are for instruments I don't really play. I've emailed the folks running it to see if I can get a class "a la carte". We'll see...

But, but John does not play ITM!

 

However, I do love his style of playing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD1AGB9vWSc

 

This is more in the harmonic style - see Gary Coover's tutor and Youtube videos if this is what you like.

 

Or contact John directly, maybe you can take lessons from him. Again, if this is the style of Anglo concertina that you want to play, because it ain't Noel Hill.

Edited by Don Taylor
Link to post
Share on other sites

But, but John does not play ITM!

 

 

 

True, although for a "beginner's" class I'm not too sure how much style would enter into the equation. I'm at the stage where I'm delighted at getting successfully through "Hot Cross Buns". B) Maybe some fingering choices, even at the basic level, are more idiomatic of one style than the other?

 

In any case, I love the harmonic style too (great video there!) So that's all fine with me.

 

I suspect my concertina journey will be similar to my piano accordion journey, where I wind up tasting from all parts of the musical buffet. (But, to both extend the metaphor and bring things back to my original question... I can only eat so much before I have to digest a bit.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

But, but John does not play ITM!

 

 

 

True, although for a "beginner's" class I'm not too sure how much style would enter into the equation. I'm at the stage where I'm delighted at getting successfully through "Hot Cross Buns". B) Maybe some fingering choices, even at the basic level, are more idiomatic of one style than the other?

 

Well I am not sure it would be fair to say that there is even one ITM style... that being said, if you want to sound like Noel Hill (or any other particular player) its probably important to start learning his system early. Once you learn to play a tune one way it can be very difficult to train yourself to play them a different way. Further more, playing a tune one way will result in different phrasing and different possible ornaments and variations.

 

If you want to sound like a modern Irish concertina player, you want to start playing across the rows as soon as possible. If you want to sound like a more old school player (like Chris Droney), you will want to play along the rows.

 

 

In any case, I love the harmonic style too (great video there!) So that's all fine with me.

 

I suspect my concertina journey will be similar to my piano accordion journey, where I wind up tasting from all parts of the musical buffet. (But, to both extend the metaphor and bring things back to my original question... I can only eat so much before I have to digest a bit.)

 

 

Obviously there is no clear right and wrong in our musical journey. All any of us can do is show what worked for us, as none of us can say what will work for you :). Good luck.

 

--

Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

i like workshops for people who already know how to play to a good level of proficiency. unfortunately in the us, many american adults attending workshops thinks this means them, when it does not. i don't think workshops are terribly helpful for players on the yea side of a technique mountain which has yet to be scaled, unless they also have ongoing instruction in play...

 

i have gone to a number of irish concertina workshops, and would go again if a good opp arose, but i went because it would my only chance to be up-close-and-in-person with master players from ireland. you need lots of that to get good in a traditional style, and u.s. learners are extremely handicapped for not having access to it, though youtube is ameliorating that deficit somewhat, but.... my chance to be up close in the same room with the playing of people like mary macnamara, dympna o'sullivan, monsignor charles coen, gearoid o'h, etc., etc., was what i have derived from workshops.....

 

i also have a dim view of "mixed-level" workshops. beware of these unless the cost of travel, etc, is nothing or negligible....because concertina is less ubiquitous than fiddle, some programs staff their fiddle classes heavily at all levels, but pretend that for concertina it is great to put beginners/intermediates/advanced in the same class. the instructor then pretends that it's a great experience to spend a good chunk of the so-called class in a corner or off in another room, with other students, quote, "learning from each other and working on the tune together" while the instructor deals with the beginners or other levels.....that imho is not an experience a person should spend even a dime on, and is something to be avoided if it costs anything....

 

the one mixed-level class i've gotten a lot out of and would do again is mary macnamara's feakle-festival classes. that is because she doesn't send people out of the room while she's working with a level. she divides folks into groups and you stay in the circle while she takes one group through a tune. she doesn't have the groups play alone and is always herself playing and tapping the beat. so even if you're not in the group playing with mary right that second, you are hearing the music played correctly because she is providing the lead and the core of the rhythm, and you're tapping your foot along--- practicing and permeated with that east clare beat---and the beat, and the tap, tap, tap, are perhaps the core of mary macnamara's irreplaceable teaching....this way, you get nearly nine hours of it over three days and some seeps into your bones....

 

i'm also not a fan of paying to do classes that are nearly purely "ear-training." so-called "tunes classes." a lot of irish concertina players brought to teach these classes don't know anything about teaching, and pretend that that is "teaching." again--you can do this for free at home with a recorder and well-chosen traditional records, seriously. tim collins has said this straight out to his classes, and it is true. a box player in ireland who is a multiple senior all-iireland winner and a tech/science professional as well as a box teacher told me that workshops where they cram tunes into people by ear were "a 100% complete waste of your time," given that the human brain can truly assimilate about one new ear-learned tune a week, and i concur with this.

Edited by ceemonster
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...