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What Other Instruments Inform/influence Your Concertina Playing?


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Recently a musical colleague who plays Irish Anglo had referred to Duet concertinas as being "without a tradition", in terms of cautioning another friend considering concertina that Duets lack a "default" repertoire and style. I responded that I think of that as one of the advantages of Duet, that I'm not locked into a "that's not how you play that". Further, I don't feel a lack of Duet learning materials, since I just figure out how to play notes in general on Duet, and then puzzle out how to apply techniques and color from other instruments and styles.

 

That got me to thinking, what instruments inform the "vocabulary" of your concertina music? Fiddle double-stops, uilleann pipe regulators, jazz saxophone riffs, piano left-hand vamping?

 

 

I did some pondering, and for me the two main things that influence my Duet playing are organ/keyboard music, various bagpipes, and certain genres of vocal music. For organ, I've always really liked Indian harmonium music (the little hand-pump harmoniums) as well as the small foot-pump harmoniums used in Scandinavia. I've been trying a few tutorials on YouTube from Indian folks who teach mini-lessons on harmonium, and been able to puzzle out some pieces albeith with some somewhat unusual scales. Also really loving the drony feel of Norwegian harmoniumist (?) Sigbjørn Apeland, which another member here recommended. I've been listening recently to the clavichord and organ music of Spanish composer Antonio de Cabezón (early 1500s), and starting to arrange those on Duet.

 

That same drony side is what I also derive from various bagpipes. I'm still trying to figure out how to use the Duet left hand to rhythmically blast out an I-V chord to back up Irish tunes, using it sparingly like they do rather than oom-pahing it. My playing on Swedish bagpipes also influences my playing, with in places holding long single notes on the left and hitting dissonant half-steps on the right against it.

 

For singing styles, the one that most influences me is Sacred Harp, or Shape Note music. A mid-1800s US genre of polyphonic acapella singing, really heavy on harmonies on the 4th/5th vice third, and I've arranged a number of such tunes for concertina, and one was the first tune I ever recorded myself playing, when I was teaching myself on an Elise in Afghanistan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djQCJqOSA-U

 

So those are what I reckon my main non-concertina influences. What axes have shaped the sound for y'all?

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Well, I have mentioned this in my various previous posts, but my style is influenced mostly by accordions (regarding using of accompaniment and some melodic passages) and brass sections of rock bands in its entirety (due to nicely replicable deep sound of melody played on 2-4 reeds at once). I also arrange a lot of vocal lines on a concertina. One thing I'm constantly struggling to achieve is inspired by a guitar beat feel - "arpeggiated" chord playing with my right hand, with smooth progressions and filling up the melody "on the fly".

 

And I completely agree, that having no traditional Duet repertoire is liberating. But on the other hand, it is a lonely way and I often feel jealous of e.g. Anglo, accordion or piano players, that they can simply go and take lessons on their instrument.

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I have almost no music background since starting up on a whistle four years back.

One of the great attractions of ITM is that there is so much material for learning.

Give me a super highway to travel as I'd be lost on anything less obvious.

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I see no reason why any musical instrument should be locked into any sort of so called ' established tradition or repertoire or style ' Anything should be possible until the instruments limitations prove otherwise. That is my basic approach to my Anglo.

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well....I am a melody-music person, and melody playing happens to be where I think free-reed instruments really shine and sound most beautiful, particularly when it comes to the concertina family. though, ha, I know there are gobs of folks who come to the concertina family for its chordal possibilities....so, my most influential instruments for anglo and ec would be fiddle, flute, pipes...for duet, all of the above, plus bandoneon and accordion for modeling and inspiration as to the left side....

Edited by ceemonster
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I see no reason why any musical instrument should be locked into any sort of so called ' established tradition or repertoire or style ' Anything should be possible until the instruments limitations prove otherwise.

I absolutely agree.

 

Me too! And of course this exploring the possibilities of one's instrument can be a matter of influences and "hearing" other types of instrument (as it is in my case).

 

And yes, it can be an issue to frequently meet a lack of understanding with developing one's personal style... (with the possible benefit of feeling urged to double-check if I'm really sounding like I'm hearing...).

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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...Fiddle double-stops...

 

are doing it for me in fact! With the open fifth being the basic interval of the EC keyboard this approach is appearing quite natural to me.

 

Furthermore, the open fifths are reminding at pipe drones which had turned out to be another compoment of my adding harmony... As to the melody, it seemed natural to aim at some whistle or recorder (beside the pipes) pattern...

 

Throwing in bits of organ music, et voilà - that's how I'm inclined to treat my (English) concertina.

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"and one was the first tune I ever recorded myself playing, when I was teaching myself on an Elise in Afghanistan:

"

 

Too cool. I'd like to try that on my Anglo. Do you have dots or ABC or a reference?

 

Thanks. Good stuff.

 

I just arranged it by ear, but for dots the nice thing thing is that Sacred Harp tunes by definition are available as sheet music and out of copyright. Here's the 4-part harmony for David's Lamentation.

 

If you like that kind of slow/dark/drony tune, other good Shape Note ones you can find online are "Detroit" and the utter classic "Idumea" ("oh am I born to die?"). All these sound great on concertina; Detroit we played at the DC Squeeze-In earlier this year.

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I'd say that no tradition is both a blessing and a curse.

 

But back to the topic, I used to play saxophone in a big band. With the right hand doing the melody and lots of chord changes in the left, the duet can remind me of a big band sax section.

 

When singing or jamming, I try to emulate a guitar (bass line on the left while strumming chords on the right).

 

Surprisingly, the ukulele has also influenced my playing and singing. The uke does lots of rhythms and quick chord changes to jazz up songs. This can be done by playing chords on both sides with independent rhythms. Just chords will also help with learning tune or song structure.

 

I do sacred harp (shape note) singing, but I can't say it has influenced my concertina playing. Sacred harp is kind of a thing unto itself for me.

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Matthew,

I find that each of my instruments teaches me to play each of the others!

 

It's not so much that I use techniques from one instrument on another instrument, but rather that each instrument gives me a different slant on the music theory of a given tune. There are aspects that are obvious on the 5-string banjo that aren't on the Crane Duet, for instance, and vice versa. Just "giving one instrument it's head" can lead me into neat harmonic or rhythmic elements that I can then apply deliberately to another instrument.

 

The Crane Duet has no tradition, you say? What about the Salvation Army, with their tradition of singing in pubs with concertina accompaniment! I'd tell your friend that it's the "Irish Anglo" that doesn't have a tradition - from what I've heard of "Irish Anglos", they just try to replicate fiddle music! <_<

BTW, if I were interested in Irish or Scottish dance music, I certainly wouldn't transfer any fiddle technique or "feel" to the concertina - I'd still be playing the fiddle!

 

Seriously, though, each instrument, with its different capabilities and limitations, gives you a different window on general musicality that can only benefit your playing generally.

 

Specifically with regard to the Duet concertina, I'm very much influenced by the piano accompaniments of Franz Schubert. He could run the gamut from austere simplicity to florid elaboration. I don't play the piano myself, but the ideas that Schubert brings across can be emulated on the Duet concertina.

 

Cheers,

John

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Recently a musical colleague who plays Irish Anglo had referred to Duet concertinas as being "without a tradition", in terms of cautioning another friend considering concertina that Duets lack a "default" repertoire and style. I responded that I think of that as one of the advantages of Duet, that I'm not locked into a "that's not how you play that". Further, I don't feel a lack of Duet learning materials, since I just figure out how to play notes in general on Duet, and then puzzle out how to apply techniques and color from other instruments and styles.

 

That got me to thinking, what

 

So those are what I reckon my main non-concertina influences. What axes have shaped the sound for y'all?

 

 

As someone who used to play guitar in a dance band, I still find myself thinking like a rhythm guitar player, looking for the pulse in the music, doing a lot of bass runs, etc. Sometimes that focus, which seems to be in my musical DNA, is helpful when I"m playing for dances, and sometimes it's a hindrance because it keeps me from effectively exploiting the unique rhythmic potentials of the Anglo concertina.
Regarding a "default" musical tradition - your friend makes no sense to me. What is the default tradition of an Anglo? Certainly IRish isn't the only possibility.
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Specifically with regard to the Duet concertina, I'm very much influenced by the piano accompaniments of Franz Schubert. He could run the gamut from austere simplicity to florid elaboration. I don't play the piano myself, but the ideas that Schubert brings across can be emulated on the Duet concertina.

 

I think some individuals are influenced by what they perceive as particular sequences of notes (possibly including grace notes and other ornaments), some by something more nebulous that they perceive as "style", and some by more abstract concepts or "ideas".

 

These influences are not mutually exclusive, nor is that likely to be an exhaustive list, but they can all be connected to any particular instrument. E.g., in being "influenced" by the piano, someone might try to play Bach 2-part inventions as written (that would require one of the 80-button jobs); or they might try to emulate in some way the playing style of Arthur Rubenstein, or they might try to construct an arrangement around certain ideas of chording and harmony that they hear used on the piano. Similarly for emulating other instruments and the individuals who play them or compose for them.

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This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

 

I also get great inspiration from playing tunes on multiple instruments. What is easy and obvious on the guitar might be hard, but with a little work, quite possible and delightful on the Anglo etc... etc...etc.

 

Also, I often work out my arrangements of songs and tunes after listening to others play and sing, mostly old recordings. I don't directly copy or transcribe, but rather I take the feel of the performance I admire and try to get my concertina to recreate that feel. Sometimes it's a melodic phrasing, sometimes it's a rhythmic groove, sometimes an interesting chord... or the equally interesting choice to not play interesting chords. My playing always comes out sounding different than what I'm emulating, but it's the process and goal of trying that leads me to new sounds on my Anglo. I especially listen to guitar and piano players like John Hurt and Fats Waller and old-time fiddle players like Melvin Wine and John Salyer to name just a few.

 

When I first joined Grand Picnic, the two fiddlers in the band both helped me by patiently teaching me their tunes. Learning tune after tune by ear from an expert fiddler was how I learned rhythm and style as well as the notes. I would ask them to play certain passages very slowly and try to match the sound exactly. When you listen that hard, you start hearing nuances in the music that are not obvious at first, but prove to be essential to the music.

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I only play by ear and I do as much rehearsing in my head and my imagination as I do with the instrument in my hand. In fact probably very much more. It all starts when I wake up in the early hours of the morning. So what, I hear you saying ! Perhaps everybody does ?

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