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New Duet Player

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I recieved my first concertina over the weekend, an Elise. I 'm having a great time with it. The trick will be teaching my brain to move the left hand in sync with the right. For now I can play melody or harmony, but not both. Any tips, other than put in the practice time?


While it will be some time before I can play anything of substance, I am amazed how easy it is to play simple tunes on it. Really, just pushing random buttons almost always produces good combinations.


Very different from playing bagpipes, which is my normal musical interest.

My dogs like it MUCH beter than the pipes too.


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I suggest taking your simple mélodies and trying to play them 'in octaves' using both sides together. This will, get your two hands coordinated somewhat.


Next step is to take a simple melody which has a straight forward rhythm, perhaps a Waltz would be ideal, a March or a Christmas carol, but something that you know well. Play this on the right and work out some simple chords on the left that can be played 'in time' with the melody... start slowly and , yes , put in the hours but perhaps play for half an hour and stop. Doing this three times a day, every day, I think is better than spending all day once a week.


Take one tune at a time and try to get it right before moving on to the next tune.




Good luck with your duet learning, :)



Edited by Geoff Wooff
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You can approach this in many different ways.


As Geoff said, playing in octaves synchronizes your hands perfectly (even to perfectly) and is the simplest form of using your duet. From there, you can start to skip some notes on the left side, keeping others longer and accenting right hand passages this way, gradually building a form of simple countermelody.


If you learn something from fake sheets, you can play LH accompaniment with single note drones instead of rhytmic chords - again, this is simple and sounds like a simple countermelody.


When you're comfortable with single note accompaniments, you can add some rhytm to it, some fifths or full triads.


And then you can try one of those two approaches on full hand-independent rhytmic accompaniment (basically the same, but starting from a different hand):


1. (it's best for tunes you have a recording available): teach your fingers a few of those http://idiotsguides.com/static/quickguides/musicperformingarts/common-chord-progressions.html playing full triads in some basic rhytms. Once you have a natural ability to follow most common transitions, you can try to play a chordal accompaniment with your desired tune playing from the recording. If Elises allows it, play both hands together (chords in octaves): at first keep it simple, playing full chords only. Then add rhytm. When you finally can play LH only to tempo and without thinking about it, then you're ready to focus on RH side, your LH will do rhytm and chords automatically. You will see, that in many, many cases RH melody is just some added movement to the same basic chordal pattern. The added bonus of this approach is that you're learning to be your own metronome :)


2. learn a melody to a point, when it is perfectly smooth. Then practice your accompaniment (without melody) for a short time, playing it as rich as possible. Then slow down to a note-by-note tempo, and build your phrases with both hands together, simplifying accompaniment when it's too complicated or too heavy. This is especially usefull if accompaniment doesn't follow melody exactly (more like a countermelody than playing in octaves). When you can play it slowly without mistakes, gradually increase the tempo.


You will probably use a mix of those techniques depending on what exactly you're playing.


And finally - don't give up :) Hands independence practice takes awfully lot of time. After getting my first Hayden it took me an evening to learn my first LH om-pah acoompaniment, couple of hours to play a melody without mistakes but about a year of playing couple of hours a week to be able to play them both together smoothly. Playing simple drones or countermelodies is a lot easier and takes days or weeks only. But it gets easier with every new tune you try.


One last advice - you have chosen a system great for improvisation (scales form closed groups of buttons) and jaming (chords look the same in any key), so practice it. Even a 5 minutes of chord vamping to a tune on YT gets you more familiar with your keyboard. Play a lot of chord progressions without any particular tune in mind, trying different rhytms and arpeggio patterns - this trains your fingers to play common phrases faster and smoother. Playing long, fast sessions on a concertina is in fact hell of a workout for your forearm (comparable to some light climbing) so you won't be able to do so without proper training :)

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I'm working through the tutor. I figured I would use it to start and at least learn all the button/note placements and once through it I'll see if there is any instruction to be had on Skype.


I read music, but really only what I needed to play bagpipes, which means only nine notes, so now I have to learn the rest of the scale as well so that's slowing down my sight reading quite a bit, but I'll be better for knowing it.


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I strongly recomend getting both hands on the concertina at once, right from the very beginning. If you look in the other concertina (Maccann) website, you will find a set of very beginer lessons that I wrote a number of years ago. It starts with only one finger on each side, then two and three on each side and so on. I used to teach absolute beginners (all systems) duet concertina at the West Country Concertina Players weekends. In a weekend I usually managed to get all my pupils to the stage of 5 or 6 buttons in each hand by the end of the weekend.



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Hello Joe,

Scales, scales, scales in all key signatures - first major, then minor.

Simultaneously, with both hands, progressively play and master the following:

First - five-note scales ascending and descending (do, re, mi, fa sol, fa, mi, re, do) with both hands playing in the same direction, then with each hand playing in the opposite direction of the other.

Then - eight-note scales (one octave) ascending and descending (do, re, mi, fa sol, la, ti, do, ti, la, sol, fa, mi, re, do) with both hands playing in the same direction, then with each hand playing in the opposite direction of the other.

Then - two octaves each ascending and descending (do, re, mi, fa sol, la, ti, do, re, mi, fa sol, la, ti, do, ti, la, sol, fa, mi, re, do, ti, la, sol, fa, mi, re, do) with both hands playing in the same direction, then with each hand playing in the opposite direction of the other.

Then - progressive 4-note arpeggios ascending and descending (do, mi, sol, do, sol, mi, do) with both hands playing in the same direction, then with each hand playing in the opposite direction of the other.

Chords will likely follow quite easily and naturally, now.

Then - contrapuntal exercises, especially the contrary and oblique forms.

Get a metronome if you don't already have one and start with simple straight quarter notes in strict time around 60 beats per minute maximum speed to begin.

SLOWLY increase your speed with no errors or delays.

Once you've mastered straight time, add some syncopation for variety always keeping both hands playing in unison until your reach the contrapuntal stage.

When you've mastered these, your brain and your fingers will be well synchronized and you will not have to "think" about the relative positions of the tones. Your fingers will just "know" where to go.

Hope this is helpful.

Be Well,


Edited by danersen
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