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"playing In Any Key"


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Instead of going OT in the "chosing a system" thread I'm starting this new one:

...plus, i love the way you can play EC in any key.

 

You read this all over, and of course it's true - in a way. But it should be mentioned that playing the EC "in any key" will be increasingly difficult if you're playing in sort of a "harmony style" like I do. I know Jim's reports that he doesn't find it that hard but from my experience everything beyond C/Am - G/Em - F/Dm (with the parallel modes and secondary dominants up to B7) will turn out to be difficult if you want to employ all six harmonic steps to a given scale.

 

I had to explore D for the first TOTM tune - The Fiery Clock Face where I didn't have to apply F#m, but actually backed off from A until this very day. There's one song which simply doesn't sound well in G and is way too high for my voice in C, so it's A or Bb... For A, which I choose, you need (if not C#m) F#m and as a "fortified" secondary dominant to B even F#7, and you'll find the keyboard lacking the A# button (and the enharmonic equivalent - Bb - is located on the other side).

 

Of course this can be rehearsed, and within a few days one might be safe in one additional key, but - long story short - as to easy access it's more that you have all the accidentals for the melody or certain modulations, whereas the choice of keys farther "away" from the home key (which is of course C/Am) will demand breaching the general pattern which is disturbing, at least at first...

 

Instant access to playing in any key will be the main advantage of "isomorphic" Duet systems (although there seem to be some limitations with smaller keyboards where the player has to "jump" from one end to the other). The EC has a diatonic "core", and that I greatly appreciate!

 

What do you think?

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What do you think??

 

I think that I do not know what "isomorphic" means in this context, nor do I know what TOTM means - again in a musical context (I do have daughters :( ), so I don't understand the post, sorry Wolf.

 

D

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What do you think??

 

I think that I do not know what "isomorphic" means in this context, nor do I know what TOTM means - again in a musical context (I do have daughters :( ), so I don't understand the post, sorry Wolf.

 

D

 

David, with "isomorphic" I mean a self-repeating or endlessly continuable pattern of allocating the buttons, which to my (mis?) understanding is a signature feature of particularly the Wicki/Hayden layout (and Chromatic Button Accordion)....

 

"TOTM" reads as "Tune Of The Month", which had thankfully been established on this board by Jim Besser in April 2013...

 

Sorry for apparently having been cryptic here..

 

Best - Wolf

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I don't have any experience with EC, but I did recently switch to a Hayden/Wicki Duet from a 40-button Anglo. So far, I love it. It is much, much easier to play music in the styles I favor, specifically for situations of harmonic playing, and also pieces that fall into the southern hemisphere of the circle of 5ths (or pieces that change keys frequently). The convenience of having standard chord forms that are transportable from key to key is wonderful.

 

I'm playing a fairly small 42-button "Peacock" from Concertina Connection, and I do frequently run into situations in which, as you mention, one has to "jump from one end to the other," but I find it a minor inconvenience compared to the strange fingerings and bellows-reversals that were necessary for me to play harmonically in, say, the key of C# on my Anglo.

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yes, i am largely a melody player on EC, so that Rubik's Cube isn't looming large on this end. for melody playing and light double stops as harmony touches a la fiddle, EC has an impressive facility at a wide spectrum of keys.

 

there is a school of thought (to which i subscribe) that the supposed "isomorphic advantage" is great for the initial learning curve of getting your note locations down, but not huge when it comes to figuring out permutations/arrangements for chordal playing....i play CBA, and it is not an "instant plug-in" to transpose. you're still kind of working it out. hayden folks also note that at the end of the day, chordal arranging is still a job....

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there is a school of thought (to which i subscribe) that the supposed "isomorphic advantage" is great for the initial learning curve of getting your note locations down, but not huge when it comes to figuring out permutations/arrangements for chordal playing....i play CBA, and it is not an "instant plug-in" to transpose. you're still kind of working it out. hayden folks also note that at the end of the day, chordal arranging is still a job....

 

This may very well be so, I can't judge on that, apart that of course music-making is never generated automatically, or at least shouldn't be like that. Chords have to be spread and inverted, the melody has to be taken in account in order to create non-redundant harmonies a.s.f., and a steep "initial learning curve" might even turn out as disadvantage when the player will be sticking to just basic triads á là Stradella bass...

 

As always, it's all a matter of personal dealing with the possibilities provided...

 

What I want(ed) to point out is that the EC is, like the piano and (because of the lack of some accidentals on the usual side) even more, not an instrument where you will play your notes and harmonies arbitrarily in any key, like "o.k., might sound nicer if I transpose it just a semitone downwards", it has a home key and some easy ones, and you will get used to them, with progressions coming quite natural, whereas you will have to put more work into playing in other keys.

 

I can't imagine this gap comletely vanishing at some point... However, conquering a territory like A/F#m is a thing to concentrate efforts on because it fills a gap and supplies a musical demand - my aim is being able to play a given tune resp. accompany a given song in any register suitable (with the treble EC providing enough space for any of them if you don't stick to a certain octave), with reasonable steps of maybe up to three semitones between the keys at choice...

 

Session playing, or even playing along with recordings of e Eb/A/b Anglo as discussed in another recent thread, is of course a different thing, but we're talking about just sinlge line melodies then, aren't we?

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well....on ec....all the tones are there for you. and you can play all of them in both directions. it's not that big a deal to play lots of your notes on the outside rows when doing an a-flat melody or a d-sharp melody... again, speaking as one who is using EC like a fiddle, for melody playing with some double stops...

Edited by ceemonster
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I'm playing a fairly small 42-button "Peacock" from Concertina Connection, and I do frequently run into situations in which, as you mention, one has to "jump from one end to the other," but I find it a minor inconvenience compared to the strange fingerings and bellows-reversals that were necessary for me to play harmonically in, say, the key of C# on my Anglo.

Steven, would you then say that you have to and do get accustomed to certain "odd" keys over time?

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well....on ec....all the tones are there for you. and you can play all of them in both directions. it's not that big a deal to play lots of your notes on the outside rows when doing an a-flat melody or a d-sharp melody... again, speaking as one who is using EC like a fiddle, for melody playing with some double stops...

 

no big deal, that's right, but even with a melody in Ab you'll have to play either 3-4-5 on one side (other than usual) or play 3-4 on one side and then 5 again (deliberately) on the "wrong" side in order to switch at least at this point (which would be quite disturbing I'd guess)...

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Just the other day, I heard a radio broadcast that has a bearing on this topic. It was Beethoven's piano concerto no. 1 in C major (nice easy key for your first concerto, OK?).

Apparently, the score was finished very late for the premiere, so there was little time for rehearsal, and to make matters worse, when Beethoven arrived at the concert hall to perform the work, he discovered that the piano was tuned a semi-tone lower than the orchestra instruments (including trumpets and woodwind).

 

So Ludwig just sat down and played the piano part in C# major on the fly. That's seven sharps, as opposed to none!!!

 

Which I suppose goes to show that anything is possible - if you can do it!

;)

 

Cheers,

John

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Thanks for the nice story John, made me smile...

 

Yeah, that's Luigi and the likes, genii as they are...

 

For ourselves ordinary mortals (and without the chance of practising on a 16/7 basis) the possibilites will remain limited to the practicable and reasonably achievable, I'd guess...

 

:D

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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there is a school of thought (to which i subscribe) that the supposed "isomorphic advantage" is great for the initial learning curve of getting your note locations down, but not huge when it comes to figuring out permutations/arrangements for chordal playing....i play CBA, and it is not an "instant plug-in" to transpose. you're still kind of working it out. hayden folks also note that at the end of the day, chordal arranging is still a job....

 

Yes, I spend enough time among pianists for contra and English dancing, and church pianists and organists, observing their playing and talking to them that I understand this to be true. At a certain level, different keys are just different -- not easier or harder. My piano teacher in college told me that in time "C" would no longer be the "home key" of a piano. I never progressed that far on the piano, but I have played and seen enough to thoroughly believe this. "Oh, I'll just play this transposed up a half step, then" isn't limited to the miniscule handful of Beethovens in the world; it's a bit more common than you might think. I suspect most music majors at my college could do this with some proficiency, and I know several dance pianists in my community who can do this.

 

I also remember a story about Kathy Bullock sitting down at a piano to accompany some folks singing Gilbert & Sullivan at a folk music camp where she was on staff to teach a gospel class; after a moment, she just started playing a full arrangement with them. A trad fiddler asked her "what key?" and after a moment she hollered back "four flats!" When the fiddler's mouth went agape, she replied "honey, if you want to play piano in a black church, you don't get to tell them what key to sing in; you've got to be able to play in whatever key they choose!"

 

And with a piano, the keys remain in a strict low-to-high left-to-right sequence, no matter what key ... whilst on a Hayden, they do not. For this reason, I think when you hit a certain point of proficiency, it might actually be just as easy, and perhaps easier??, to do those transpositions on an EC than on a Hayden.

 

And whilst likewise for these reason I know it will never be as easy on an anglo, I practice this to some extent because it's good exercise. Take a tune in C, then play it in C#, then in D, then in Eb.... Harmonies change by necessity and become more or less limited because certain chords or inversions simply aren't available at all, but the tunes are still there as are some harmonies ... and one of the things I like most about the anglo is that each key has a much more distinct sound and color because of each key's particular options or limitations, quite different from an EC, Hayden, or piano. This is something that wouldn't matter to those who stick to melodies, but as a harmonic player this is the heart of the anglo for me.

 

If your repertoire never takes you beyond three flats or three sharps and really focuses on the range between 1 flat and three sharps (say, contra dance music), then a Hayden is really well-suited because all of those keys completely fit the isomorphic pattern. From beginner to extremely skilled playing, with this repertoire the Hayden remains a perfect fit. But I suspect that even for an extremely advanced Hayden player, C# will remain more difficult than C.

Edited by wayman
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For ourselves ordinary mortals (and without the chance of practising on a 16/7 basis) the possibilites will remain limited to the practicable and reasonably achievable, I'd guess...

 

What is "practicable and reasonably achievable" depends a great deal upon practice... and not just amount of practice, but what is practiced and how it's perceived.

 

E.g., if you approach every key as an independent pattern -- rather than as similar to other keys but with slight differences -- then I'd say you're placing artificial obstacles in your path, impeding your own progress. On the English concertina, going from C to G (or F) involves shifting one note of the scale (in each octave) from an inner column to an outer column. That might be considered a conceptual leap.

 

But if you then want to learn to play in D (or Bb), I'd say it's counterproductive to develop a new paradigm for going from C to D (or C to Bb), when you could -- assuming you're now comfortable with G (F) -- simply apply the same C-to-G/C-to-F procedure to progress from G to D (and from F to Bb). Apply it again to go from D to A or from Bb to Eb, and once more to progress from A to E. (Oops! Doesn't work to go from Eb to Ab. Well, I'll postpone discussion of those "out of pattern" keys for later.)

 

With a bit more practice -- and conceptual consideration -- you should be able to learn to shift from any of those "simple" keys to any other.

 

Now about Beethoven: What too many people -- even and especially pianists -- don't seem to be aware of is that at the "back" of the piano keyboard all the keys are of equal width, and all the notes of the chromatic scale are therefore equally spaced. So if one plays with the fingers always on or between the black keys, the distances between the fingers will be the same in all keys, though some keys (the black ones) will be slightly raised above the others. I don't know whether Beethoven ever practiced with that specifically in mind, but I do suspect that if he practiced regularly in all keys, he would have learned to feel both the subtle differences and similarities among the keys to the extent that he could use them "automatically".

Edited by JimLucas
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I'm playing a fairly small 42-button "Peacock" from Concertina Connection, and I do frequently run into situations in which, as you mention, one has to "jump from one end to the other," but I find it a minor inconvenience compared to the strange fingerings and bellows-reversals that were necessary for me to play harmonically in, say, the key of C# on my Anglo.

Steven, would you then say that you have to and do get accustomed to certain "odd" keys over time?

 

I never got used to tougher keys on the Anglo, partly because there was such a disincentive to play in them due to harmonic limitations. The 40-button was better than the 30 in this regard, but it didn't solve the problem for me. The Peacock, by contrast, is much easier, and the regularity of the keyboard (and unisonority) is wonderful for experimenting with changes to chordal accompaniment. Even keys that require frequent "jumps" from the far end of one row to the near end of the next aren't too terrible, because the jumping is part of the regularity of the system. (That said, I'm still thinking of "trading up" to the next model in the Concertina Connection heirarchy for some extra notes!)

 

With Anglo, when I finally figured something out it was "set" forever---even changing a single note could sometimes muck everything up. But with the Hayden/Wicki layout of the Peacock I find myself experimenting a lot more, and refining my arrangements.

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[[you'll have to play either 3-4-5 on one side (other than usual) or play 3-4 on one side and then 5 again (deliberately) on the "wrong" side in order to switch at least at this point (which would be quite disturbing I'd guess)...]]

 

the difficulty is not in anything being on the "wrong" side or in any big scary deal having notes on the outside rows. the "difficulty" is the mental paradigm of conceptualizing EC as "home key" versus "outlier keys"....it really, truly, is not a big division, at least for melody playing. one's conceptual biases make it so.

 

RE Anglo: I agree that it is a fantastic exercise to practice it in the limited or awkward keys. I just don't want to try to express myself that way. I was all set to get a 38-button with a custom design, but it dawned on me there is a REASON Irish virtuosos with 39-key instruments STILL switch to a "flat" one to play in those keys. then there is also the issue of, even if you get really fluid, low passages on the lowest buttons always remain tough. more than one of the irish virtuosos avoid performing/recording tunes with stretches below "middle C" for this reason. and putting all that together, i got to thinking....hmmmmm, really, now.....

Edited by ceemonster
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I may as well quote my recording of Parsons Farewell ( to be found on page 2 of Tune of the Month for May 2013) as an example of transposing on the fly. This is a 2.11 minute track played on EC in seven minor and seven major keys ( the tune having sections both maj and min)... this in the 'still logical' keys... with very short breaks at each key change to re-position the fingers.

 

You can also access this recording by going direct to soundcloud.com and searching "geoff wooff" then find "playford tune".

 

With out some sort of harmonisation this exercise would be very easy on an English.

 

This was not as difficult as I imagined, the tune is simple and I did not try to move up and down a Semitone but followed a sort of cycle of fifths. It proved something to me at the time but I wonder about its relevance to this topic.

 

However, since starting to dabble with the Hayden I have realised that Isomophism does not donate an instant ability to change keys any more than does the EC. There are instruments in our house which would require me to accompany in the more unusual keys... like B maj. and F# maj. Back to basics then and no automatisicm available.

 

Whilst I do not see a problem with learning a tune in 'any key' I would suggest it is probably best to learn a tune in the key you intend to play it. Currently I use the key range from 3 flats to 4 sharps and play pieces in all those keys on the EC but I don't generally play any one tune in many keys... Oh, swaping from G to A occurs from time to time in Irish sessions to accomodate fiddlers but shifting from D to Eb would take a fair amount of practice.

 

So, even on the Hayden I feel it is better to learn a new tune in the key that you wish it because unless you have a very large model then some re-thinking of the arrangement will be needed especially any left hand harmonising.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Well, lots of interesting stuff and thoughts to consider..., can thus only start picking up single points:

 



...if you then want to learn to play in D (or Bb), I'd say it's counterproductive to develop a new paradigm for going from C to D (or C to Bb), when you could -- assuming you're now comfortable with G (F) -- simply apply the same C-to-G/C-to-F procedure to progress from G to D (and from F to Bb). Apply it again to go from D to A or from Bb to Eb, and once more to progress from A to E. (Oops! Doesn't work to go from Eb to Ab. Well, I'll postpone discussion of those "out of pattern" keys for later.)

 

Jim, I guess this is a very valuable remark, just to keep within the progression (be it clockwise or counterclockwiwe) of the circle of fifths in order to gradually employ accidentals. In fact shifting a tune from C to G is pretty simply despite the changing of sides whereas the shift from C to D (or in my actual case from G to A) takes much more consideration despite keeping the side (but swapping left and right on each side).

 

BTW, I now see the fitting irony in your suggestion of shifting not the key, but the chosen subforum... B)

 



Whilst I do not see a problem with learning a tune in 'any key' I would suggest it is probably best to learn a tune in the key you intend to play it. Currently I use the key range from 3 flats to 4 sharps and play pieces in all those keys on the EC but I don't generally play any one tune in many keys... Oh, swaping from G to A occurs from time to time in Irish sessions to accomodate fiddlers but shifting from D to Eb would take a fair amount of practice.

 

Geoff, even swapping from G to A turns out to be not so easy in my case, most likely for both reasons mentioned: I'm very used to play the tune in G (which, as you say, I shouldn't, because this is two semitones too low for my voice, not as to the notes in general, but regarding this particular song, as it has turned out too late. so to speak), and I have not explored the D/Bm "world" on all the steps I need here (in A then): three major, three minor "chords", and some of the latter "fortified" to major in certain progressions or turnarounds. So I can't follow Jim's advice at the moment either..., just have to practise (because I shall need the accompaniment as early as tormorrow!)...

 



the difficulty is not in anything being on the "wrong" side or in any big scary deal having notes on the outside rows. the "difficulty" is the mental paradigm of conceptualizing EC as "home key" versus "outlier keys"....it really, truly, is not a big division, at least for melody playing. one's conceptual biases make it so.

 

I believe this would in fact be an oversimplification as soon as we're talking about playing with harmonies. As mentioned, there are lots of chords and even additional accidentals then, and already in the key of A you will have to transcend the basic pattern...., all the more in really "outlier keys". And as to the sides this is in fact a problem. Ornamentations I play with switching between the sides, and when you have two notes of a scale (unregularily) on one side you can't play this ornamentation in the EC style, and maybe you will continue the irregularity therefore, which is confusing just because it makes the key special, separates it from the usual (= more often used) ones...

 

Phew! I'll pick up more later on... :)

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I play the English system and other than listening to or playing with other concertina or melodeon players have little experience (or at times understanding) of the diatonic and duet systems.

But I know that I warm up in scales and arpeggios in every key. I can play traditional Irish or Bach or Ellington on my box.At last nights concert we played a piece by Orit Perlman with a phrase of a melody of the chords A-Bm-Cdim-C#-A. I do not know how that would translate to a different system but no issues on the EC.

However I am constantly amazed at the musicianship and abilities of the players of any system who are members on this site. So I while I enjoy the academic discussion...sometimes a concertina is just a concertina.

 

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