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Poll: The Future Of The Totm

Jim Besser

TOTM's future  

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For the most part, cnet participants are a supportive enthusiastic bunch. While we may have a divergent experiences, opinions, technical and musical skills, and age ranges our raison d'etre remains the same. It is gratifying to hear someone play any tune and especially TOTM which gives beginner and technically savvy alike the chance to hear our members and envision what and how they play. I do not always post anything but am excited to hear anyone and everyone who shares their music.



Edited by Randy Stein
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I have really enjoyed the TOTM (and ThOTM...theme of the etc.). My drop in participation has mainly to do with my my hands/fingers suffering especially in the winter. I have stretches of time when it's difficult to press the buttons, at least not if I intend to do anything else I have to get done that day.


Also, sometimes I just don't want to get comments or critiques or carry on discussion for whatever reason (...just as, in 'real' life, I often just simply don't feel like chatting with people but not because I dislike them or anything). But, there's no option to turn off comments, due to the type of forum set-up. Not a big issue, really, just saying.


Either way, I still print out the tune and add it to my notebook, and I try to listen to the recordings posted.

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Feedback is a tricky thing. I do often feel moved to comment but sometimes worry about appearing creepy in my praise or patronising in my advice! Unlike Tona, I think immediate feedback is preferable . Listening to others' contributions is fascinating and often very instructive/inspiring.


A separate beginners' thread might work if it attracted more participation. Otherwise, it would just split the already limited number of contributions. We might be surprised by players' assessments of whether their playing belonged in the beginner or experienced category ;)?


I'd be sorry to see it go as I've have learned some great tunes. For example, just two days ago I was teaching my arrangement of Packington's Pound to an appreciative band workshop whose participants hadn't come across it before but loved the tune. So whether or not I post a recording, I certainly enjoy the motivation to really concentrate on something different from most of what I play. I haven't posted a recording this month. TOTM didn't grab me especially but I'm still hoping to post a classical piece before the end of the month.


It is disappointing that more don't participate. (Presumably many of them are not participating in the vote either). But different people get different things from the forum. I steer clear of the technical discussions but others revel in them.

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IMHO only immediate feedback can truly help with learning/arranging. Some people have often posted a various takes on the same tune, which makes it a great learning material for others regarding accompaniment or ornamentation construction and gives a real (but too often neglected) opportunity to pass some interesting points to the posting player. Otherwise TOTM becomes even more a "showcase" for different entries which don't interact with each other. Like a playlist on soundcloud or YT (which, BTW, have one huge advantage over TOTM forum - you can comment/like/discuss each entry separately, not "taking over" a current discussion with a newly posted entry)

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Gosh, I feel like I'm just getting ramped up with TOTM and am still excited at finally having posted something in the past couple of months after 2 years of practice. It's been a goal for some time now.


A couple of thoughts come to mind:


- comments or not, posting is a very useful and interesting exercise to demand of oneself. As others have said, I often don't comment due to lack of having much to say beyond, "I enjoyed that!" I certainly don't have the knowledge to provide a useful critique of other folks' playing...I think much of the gratification from posting comes simply from the work put into the process. I know I'm a novice and enjoy the process of doing something to improve my playing, which leads to the second thought....


- I would argue against splitting into a beginner and regular thread - there just aren't enough posters of any kind to justify it. I was a bit saddened by the movement of the Beginners Forum at Melnet. The rationale is understandable; however, it tends to segregate novices from the more experienced players in terms of discussion, audience, etc...also, how and when does one decide to promote oneself from the beginner forum to the regular forum???


- on the notion of voting to like or dislike a piece without a narrative, please no. Just knowing that someone disliked something I posted without some constructive commentary would just be depressing. I'd rather remain in blissful ignorance. Now if there was only a LIKE button, that might be different!


- Jim B: understandable that TOTM and ThTOM is a lot of work for the low number of submissions. Nonetheless, I will be sad if it goes away. I am working on September pieces now. I honestly won't have them ready by the end of the month, but won't let that stop me. As Jim Lucas said, the door doesn't close at the end of the month. Some of us can learn a tune in a week, other take a couple of months (yours truly) - that shouldn't be a factor in anyone's decision whether or not to submit a piece.

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There are very relevant words from many of us... but It should be also considered that Jim B. asks about the future ot the totm because we had only four (not five) contributions this month even if it is not over. Two from Jim and two from mine. With two tunes because of the tie. So two real contributions. And no beginners... Jim seems to associate the future of the totm with the number of contributions and everyone can understand him given that the lot of work to moderate this part of the forum... So what can we do?...

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Many years ago I wrote a tune called the Connet Waltz for players to do a multi track recording.Sadly it did not work and I had very few if any players having a go.The work of Jim has been much more successful.Just look at the number of visitors to the monthly pages.There are many who are silent participants,watching quietely from home.playing the tunes and never posting on the site.Many years after I wrote my tune someone wrote in and said how much they liked it.The same goes for your work Jim,it is well liked ,appreciated,we have heard some truly wonderful recordings and appreciated the players that are new to the concertina.I missed out the word beginners as we are all learning all the time.You are doing a fine job,stick with it,the odd easy tune to bring the shy out to have a go may be worth a try,but on the other hand you do request tunes for selection.



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I have only been playing the concertina for 8 months.


I think that the TOTM has helped to improve my playing tremendously. It is very useful to have to play something and record oneself . Less stressful than performing live, but requiring more diligence than just playing around alone.


I also have been exposed to music that I was not familiar with .


I think people have been very supportive with comments and advice and hope we can continue it. It is a great leaning tool.

Edited by Daria
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Thank you Jim and everyone for all your efforts.


TOTM is very important to me. I"m just beginning to learn concertina and TOTM is a big part of my education.


I voted for "All of me" not appreciating how ambitious that was, but since tona's contribution I'm hooked on "Girl in Clover". What a great forum.


In the second poll question I selected "I don't have the time", but really "I don't have the ability". Yet.


Each month I dive into the current TOTM with the goal of having a presentable contribution by months end. Mostly I don't make it. But....


Next month for sure!

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I can add to this discussion that Jim B. and I had a chat about this last week at the Squeeze-In. I then talked to Paul and he and I agree that Jim has (and has earned) the lead in choosing which way to go with Of-The-Month activities. I could envision, for example, continuing theme of the month because it gets a lot of participation, and doing Tune of the Two-Months: more time for us shy folks to learn and decide to post recordings. There's nothing sacred about a month as a length of time. As for getting feedback, I don't know what to tell everyone; folks on this forum speak when so moved and stay silent for the same reason. As an admin I admire and appreciate how often folks don't jump in on certain debates, helping us maintain decorum as often as we do. Reversing that (usually helpful) habit in this context may take more time and practice. My guess is folks can learn to do it.


Another impression: I hosted a folk show on a public radio station for a number of years and noticed that a typical host lasted 3-5 years (usually the time to work through all the music they knew well). Then they needed a break. So I'm grateful Jim B. is doing all this work, but do consider how you can help, now or later. We can all suggest tunes, for example.


Me, where are my posts? Well I'm spread thin musically, don't have a printer at home (though we may finally get one soon) and (believe it or not) do my C.net work over a 56K phone modem, which means no video or audio viewing or posting - that goes so slow you give up. But by words and small pictures only one can still glean a lot!


Have fun whatever you play,


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Timing---are you sure it isn't a "summer hols" phenom?


Tech--i'm one of the posters who don't have and are not going to acquire any time soon, the equipment set-up and technical know-how to post. but i've gotten a big kick out of listening to the submissions and messing with the selections that i liked.


Taste---RE "the selections that I liked," truth is, it's not that many. i think the OP hit on a big factor in the possibly low participation....it's the bind of, while it's totally fair and understandable that tastes vary widely and not everybody is going to like all the selections....folks are usually only going to bother with pieces they really like. so that's a dilemma.


Taste, Two---i'm also a melody player like the poster earlier in this thread, who said they like concertina for itm and other melody muslc. over time, i've come to understand that many concertina players particularly with duet and even the ec, are into it for its chordal and/or counterpoint capabilities. i really enjoy all the different sound posts, but at the end of the day., i'm not gonna bother much with that stuff. come to think of it....i guess, if participation were more robust, one thought would be, forums re different interests. a "classical" emphasis, or a "world folk genres" focus, etc.


Training: I personally would not use an activity such as this in the context of an internet forum, to get "feedback" on playing technique, or teaching. i want "feedback" from documented master artists and/or master teachers. with everybody else i just want to have fun sharing. on the other end, i would never offer it on an internet forum unless there was a specific request stating it was wanted. and even then.....True, true, Concertina is such a specialized instrument that lots of beginners don't have teachers accessible, and they really need help. But seeking it on an internet forum should be done with a big ole caveat emptor. [For Anglo at least, there are fantastic people now giving Skype lessons.] If splitting into different forums or threads isn't something folks find appealing, perhaps "feedback" could become optional, with the beginners or folks who want "feedback" free to solicit such, and again, caveat emptor.


Titillating Thought: What about a shift to making it, "MY" TOTM? Like, "Monthly Tune Show-and-Tell?" A deal where everybody just shared a tune THEY had selected and worked on to share for that month? People could post about the backstory for the tune, where they sourced it, why it drew them, etc., along with their sound clip. And then the next month, everybody would pick another one and share-and-tell about that one...... :rolleyes:

Edited by ceemonster
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Much of what I feel has already been expressed. I'd like to emphasize a couple of things. I haven't posted a tune so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.


1. I'm a melody player. I can use chords and do from time to time, but my interest is playing with others, not working out intricate arrangements of tunes. This is counter to what most of the posters do, and in comparison the melody alone can seem empty and not adding anything to the discourse. I can't easily get a group together to record what I do so...


2. That said a beginners' section would not be at all useful to me. I'm not a beginner, just someone who views concertina as an ensemble instrument that either plays melody or adds chords, and is far more interested in musical phrasing than multinote things.


3. Please don't misunderstand this statement. It is not meant to be critical. But it appears to me that the majority of the posters come from traditions that I am not interested in. I don't play for Morris. I'm not very interested in that sort of thing, nor am I interested in what I hear as a rather thick and sometimes unmusical sound caused by chordal tones overpowering the melody. Different strokes...


4. Perhaps we need to find a more eclectic way to pick the choices to vote on. I've suggested many tunes but never received any comments about the suggestions. They have, apparently, been ignored. One can't complain about the diversity in the options though, but I do note Morris tunes seem to win the vote often. I suspect that is the fault of those of us who have not voted, not the people who did.


5. I agree about the lack of comments. I posted a couple of things on theme of the month, and except for one very kind comment nothing was said. I'm not looking for "great job " things, just indication that notice was taken. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there.....does anyone care?


All that said though I very much hope tune and theme of the month will continue. I've enjoyed the postings and the discussions they invoke.


Thanks for reading.

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Some of us can learn a tune in a week, other take a couple of months (yours truly) - that shouldn't be a factor in anyone's decision whether or not to submit a piece.

...Jim B. and I had a chat about this last week at the Squeeze-In.


I could envision, for example, continuing theme of the month because it gets a lot of participation, and doing Tune of the Two-Months: more time for us shy folks to learn and decide to post recordings. There's nothing sacred about a month as a length of time.

That was also one of my thoughts as I was falling asleep last night. In fact, I propose it as an experiment.

With only a week to go before the new month, having Jim B. digest this very lively discussion and at the same time come up with a new poll for ToTM (I think it's clear that the consensus is that it should continue, one way or another) seems a bit much. So I propose that he/we extend the September selections -- there are two, after all -- through October. That will give some of us the time we need to come up with contributions and give all of us more time to continue this discussion before coming to a "final" decision.

And to give Jim a bit of a rest (or time to consider all the posts in this thread), maybe we could/should even try the same with Theme of the Month?


Without starting a new poll, what do you all think?

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Dear Jim B,


many of us realise just how much effort you have been putting into TOTM but please don't take the recent low number of posted recordings as an indicator of lack of interest by C.neters.


Personally, not being a high tech wiz, each of my submissions took up most of a day to organise... that is after learning the tune and practicing for a few days before;

between multiple 'takes'... listening back very crittically, trying to improve my playing... then the wrestling bout , for me, with the computer and getting the chosen track onto Soundcloud... is all quite an effort that not everyone has the time for each month.


I can imagine that at least ten times the number who do post a recording are busy learning the tunes each month and enjoying the process... giving people something to focus on. Many of us are here on Cnet because we live in 'concertina isolation' so TOTM can be like a window into the world of other players .


Lack of ITM on TOTM ; one might say 'why is it that Cnet ( appears) to have been initially set up to cater for concertina players of Irish music but now the main body of posters are from other genres ?' Perhaps ITM is well catered for on the web, Skype,Youtube, etc and in real life sessions, summer schools and the like.


Melody only; after more than 40 years on the EC I find most of the tunes chosen for TOTM would be a 'walk in the park' as a single melody line... so to chalenge myself I've tried to play the English like a Duet... and then,more recently, play the Duet like a duet too. We all have our personal musical directions but we can stymie our own advancement by being intimidated by others, in either direction. It is hard not to be affected by the offerings of other posters but we'll none of us get any better if we let that happen.


Feedback or critique can be very usefull, I have tried it a couple of times and it is so hard to do in a positive way without hurting the feelings of the person you are trying to help.... easier to say nothing, which is even less helpfull most of the time.


So, I think TOTM is very usefull and apprieciated by a much larger audience than we might imagine and I for one will support any adjustments 'fine tuning' to the current set up.


Thanks again Jim B for a fine job so far !!!



Edited by Geoff Wooff
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[[[for example, continuing theme of the month because it gets a lot of participation]]]


i think this is so because under the umbrella of the chosen theme, one is free to pick something one likes, rather than choose between slugging away at something that leaves one cold, versus not participating at all.


ha, i, too, have Morris right below "chordal" on my list of stuff to give a "pass" to....but the issue isn't that there's anything wrong with the decision-making or the choices. the issue is just the human reality that folks are gonna do stuff they like, and give it a miss otherwise. that is why the "theme of the month" gets more participation.

Edited by ceemonster
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What would there be to read if we did'nt have TOTM .I use my anglo for singing and Morris .I would love to play fine harmony but I am unable to reach a performance standard for posting. If you enjoy setting up the tunes and don't mind spending time on them .Then please continue.They encourage me to improve.Thanks Bob

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I think the suggestion of TOTwoM is a great idea and that we should try it for October.Leave September's choice up for another month.Like some of the other non techie posters, it usually takes me quite a chunk of time to record and post and I was unable to participate this month, although I played around with the selections.

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