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Yes Or No: Does Violin Sheet Music Work For Anglo C/g Concertinas?

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In principle, violin sheet music works for Anglo concertina. Particularly if you really mean, "fiddle" sheet music, for folk genres in keys amply endowed on the Anglo concertina.


In practice--If the violin sheet music in question is in keys, and/or covers octave ranges, well endowed on the violin but not on the Anglo concertina, you'd want to transpose and/or rearrange. Like, the melody line of a Chopin Waltz in D-Sharp Minor, or something. Or, better yet, get an ENGLISH concertina. The "Treble" EC's note range matches that of the violin, by specific design. But ABSOLUTELY you can use violin/fiddle sheet music with Anglo concertina.



If you examine a PDF or other diagram of the Anglo layout, you'll see what I mean, particularly if you are talking 30-button Anglo. Some notes do not appear in both directions--i.e., one someplace on the pull, and one someplace else, on the push. In those keys, it might be annoying to play violin sheet music, though if it is very melodically simple folk-dance music, it might not matter. You also don't have all the notes even once in some keys, particularly on the left-hand side. If you are trying to play classical stuff that goes way above "High C," you won't have much range on the Anglo. None of these problems exist with EC.


But if your sheet music is largely melody-line folk music in Anglo-friendly keys, or classical melody music in Anglo-friendly keys, you're fine. You can also do SOME bass-side effects on Anglo, something I have not bothered much with, because I find concertina most beautiful as a melody instrument.. I have used Paris musette, klezmer, and tango sheet music for violin or other melody instruments on Anglo and it worked great. I'm liking EC better, but it worked fine and dandy on Anglo.


It works best if you learn to play ALL the notes on your Anglo, and consider them ALL potentially in play when deciding how you want o finger a given passage in your sheet music. Strategic choices are there to be made, particularly in keys where most main notes appear twice, but one or two main notes only appear once. Such as, G-minor, where you only have one B-flat. You would then make strategic choices as to the notes you DO have in both directions, to facilitate approaching or leaving that annoying solitary B-Flat in your passage.


Playing melodies from sheet music on Anglo is also very good for your brain.

Edited by ceemonster
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Or do you have to transpose?


If you're simply asking about transposition, the answer is that a C/G anglo is not a transposing instrument; the note known as "middle C" on the anglo is the same as that called "middle C" on the violin and written as middle C in standard music notation... for fiddle, flute, etc. And the same is true for all the other notes.


C/G anglos are currently the most common and for Irish music, the most popular. However, there are anglos constructed/tuned in other keys. To play a "concert" C -- which to a fiddler is "C" -- on a G/D anglo (the next most common), you would have to use the button-and-bellows combination that would give an F on a C/G instrument. And of course, everything else would be similarly shifted. I think Bb/F anglos are next most common after G/D, but you're unlikely to have one unless you deliberately go looking for one.


So, assuming that you have a standard C/G anglo, the simple answer to your question is that no, you don't need to transpose in order to play the same notes as the violin reading from the same music.


ceemonster has raused a different issue: Tunes that are written in keys with more than a couple of sharps or any flats at all are often transposed by session players into "more friendly" keys. When that happens, the fiddlers also have to play the transposed version, and for folks who play from "the dots" those are generally rewritten in the tranposed keys, so that one doesn't have to transpose "on the fly".

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This is just meant to complement ceemonster's and Jim's excellent replies:


I'm not a fiddler--well, barely--but I do play mandolin, which is a very close relation of the violin. So I'll make that the basis of my comparison. I can and do use the same sheet music for that instrument, when I play from written music, as I do for concertina. As long as the melody is within roughly the same range (a mandolin, or fiddle, can be played higher), there's rarely any problem.




On a mandolin, to the extent that you avoid playing open strings (hold that thought), your patterns--scales, arpeggios and chords--are movable. Need to transpose from C to C#? Just move everything--any pattern you need to play--up one fret, or one half step. It will all sound, and feel, more or less the same (apart from pitch, of course). You don't need to relearn--or rethink--a tune, in order to play it in a different key.


That's not true on an Anglo concertina. (Let's assume, in what follows, that we're talking just about a C/G box.) Each key has its own patterns. Moving a tune from C to C# means reimagining it from scratch (and, in this case, making it a whole lot more difficult). Each key has its own personality. Some are dead easy, enabling you to play quite fast with little trouble, and add a rich accompaniment: chords, bass lines, countermelodies, what have you. Others are more challenging, and lend themselves to a sparer, subtler, more considered approach. As you move around the Circle of Fifths, your phrasing will change. *Everything* will change. Yes, you're playing a "chromatic" instrument (within its effective range of about 2 1/2 octaves--about that of a saxophone). But with an asterisk.


Now: within the typical folk repertoire--and certainly the Anglo-Irish-American part of it--the fiddle's specific capabilities have been hugely influential. And folk fiddlers--with lots of exceptions, but never mind--play mostly out of the "first position," and use open strings quite freely and to great effect. Since a fiddle is tuned EADG, this means that a great deal of the folk repertoire is in the fiddle-friendly "sharp" keys of G, D and A (not so much E--that's the highest string, and it doesn't allow as many opportunities for drone harmony--although Scottish fiddlers do play in that key quite a bit). Happily, these are not difficult keys on a C/G Anglo concertina: G can be played up and down the G row (though it accommodates other patterns, too); D, at least as played these days by most Irish-style concertinists, involves a slightly weird cross-row pattern that very quickly becomes second nature. A is a bit trickier--air management is an issue, since you play a great deal on the push--but manageable with practice. So fiddles and concertinas tend to get along quite nicely, at least in the core repertoire of instrumental folk music of the British Isles and its North American counterparts.


The takeaway: if you want to play the typical "fiddle music" of those places, and you have a C/G instrument, you should be fine with written music intended for the violin, and you should seldom if ever need to worry about transposing anything. If you want to venture into other musical traditions, however--or if you're primarily concerned with accompanying the range of a particular voice...well, that's a topic for another discussion!


Bob Michel

Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel
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Y'all are the best. Thank you for your thoughtful and informative answers. My boys play Irish and Cape Breton fiddle and their hands never leave first position. So it looks like I'll be able to play with them with my Anglo. When I get it. And learn the notes.


Thanks again.




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