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Solo Concertina Vs Member Of The Band


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Inspired by Jody's current thread but from a different angle, could experienced players give advice to a newbie on contributing to a band with a concertina.

 

When practicing contradance tunes, I usually play an um-pa (1st-3rd&5th) chordal left hand to fill out the sound. But in a group that seems messy. A sharp block chord chop, perhaps on the up beat seems better.

Does that seem right? Any other tips on how to make everyone happy that a concertina joined the group?

 

I'm struggling, so I'd like to be practicing the same way I'm going to perform.

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Your ear is your best guide, and it sounds as if your ear is already guiding you very well.

 

The trick in playing with others is to avoid redundancy--unless redundancy is the particular effect you're after. Find an acoustical space that isn't occupied by another instrument, and make your home there.

 

And less really is more. Freddie Green, Count Basie's indispensable rhythm guitarist, famously simplified his style over time, stripping away everything he didn't *have* to play, until he was mostly playing two-note "chords." But they were exactly the right notes every time--and in perfect time.

 

As far as practice goes, when I'm playing by myself I tend mostly to play like a soloist. Then when I join a group I subtract whatever I can. Alternatively, practice playing along with recordings until you have a sense of what enhances the sound and what muddies it up. Another useful approach is to record yourself and overdub individual parts, whether on concertina or on another instrument, if you play one. This can be a great way to attune your ear to what does and doesn't work in a group setting.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Inspired by Jody's current thread but from a different angle, could experienced players give advice to a newbie on contributing to a band with a concertina.

Most important: Pay attention to what the others are playing, and don't interfere with it. If you can assist, all the better.

 

What you contribute and what you leave out must depend on what the others are doing. E.g., if nobody is playing chords, you might try doing some chordal backup... and nothing else. If more than one are already playing chords, you probably shouldn't... or do so only sparsely, rather than all the time. Then you could try harmony, or even just melody if others are doing harmonies.

 

You should also be asking the others in the band what they might like you to do. They should have a much better idea than we do of the sound they want to share. Different players/instruments taking turns with different roles helps keep the music interesting. If the band is willing, you could take turns playing harmonies, or playing chords, or even sitting our for a while, so that there's variety in how the band sounds

 

When practicing contradance tunes, I usually play an um-pa (1st-3rd&5th) chordal left hand to fill out the sound. But in a group that seems messy. A sharp block chord chop, perhaps on the up beat seems better.

Does that seem right?

I would say no, but let me be more specific in order to help you find something that's "right":

  • The first thing that seems "wrong" to me is the implication that you -- or anyone -- should be doing the same thing all the time. Variety is important.
  • Since a band includes other instruments, it shouldn't be necessary for you to be playing both melody and chords or other "accompaniment"... certainly not all the time. (That shouldn't necessarily be totally forbidden, though. For short stretches it can provide a contrasting change in the sound.) As Jody described in his thread, it's important to learn how to improve the music by not trying to include too much.
  • Similarly, if you are playing chords, it shouldn't necessarily be the same all the time. E.g., either um-pa or chop may be fine for a while, but then do a bit with the other, or maybe chop for a while on the beat, then off the beat, or do only the basses without the full chords.
  • Similarly, greater variety in chord inversions, or use of incomplete chords can be used to keep the music interesting, whether that's done by yourself or by one or more of the other musicians.

Any other tips on how to make everyone happy that a concertina joined the group?

Not "other", but repeating what I already said. (An old Russian proverb translates as, "Repetition is the mother of learning." ;)) Discuss it with and work it out with the group. You can try to work up something at home, but it's only when you try to fit it into the group that you'll be able to tell whether it works.

 

I'm struggling, so I'd like to be practicing the same way I'm going to perform.

A good idea, but the best way for that to work is to record the band and then practice along with the recording.

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Don't forget about drones, either just a single note or an open 5th. And once you've got that down, see if you can expand it to what I call "DADGAD Concertina."

 

--------

Edited to add:

 

I just noticed your sig, Patrick: Pressabimus Diem

I love it. Literally laughed out loud.

Edited by David Barnert
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Inspired by Jody's current thread but from a different angle, could experienced players give advice to a newbie on contributing to a band with a concertina.

 

When practicing contradance tunes, I usually play an um-pa (1st-3rd&5th) chordal left hand to fill out the sound. But in a group that seems messy. A sharp block chord chop, perhaps on the up beat seems better.

Does that seem right? Any other tips on how to make everyone happy that a concertina joined the group?

 

I'm struggling, so I'd like to be practicing the same way I'm going to perform.

 

Bob's answer pretty much reflects my own experience. Let your ear be your guide, and less is often more.

 

For contra dance playing, I spend a lot of time practicing to recordings. I don't have much trouble taking leads except on the very fast and very notey tunes, but I'm not as skilled at playing a backup role, and that's what I work on the most.

 

I do a lot of drones and bass lines. Sometimes countermelodies and harmonies. I try to mix it up a lot. Sometimes just rhythmic pulses.

 

And while I mostly play melody plus left hand accompaniment, I don't do much of that in a band situation, especially when there are strong rhythm players; on a 30 button Anglo, I can't possibly match the chordal richness of the piano, the piano accordion or the guitar.

 

It seems to me that one of the most important skills to learn is what to leave OUT in a band situation.

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Very much agreed, Jim. Learning when to play nothing is a valuable skill -- musical absinence, if you like, versus being over-keen and plastering oneself liberally all over everything. (I've been guilty of this myself, so I'm not throwing stones from a glass house :))

 

Even if you're not playing jazz it can be instructive to listen to what some of the really great jazz pianists (e.g. McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans) do when 'comping (accompanying), either in the left hand while soloing with the right, or with both hands while filling in the sandwich between the bass and soloist. Unless you're aiming specifically for thickness of texture from duplicated parts, less is emphatically more, especially if there are rhythm instruments whacking out the pulse alongside you.

Edited by StuartEstell
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Don't forget about drones, either just a single note or an open 5th. And once you've got that down, see if you can expand it to what I call "DADGAD Concertina."

 

Hi David, care to elaborate? What is DADGAD Concertina? Is this something you play? Examples we can hear?

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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A Google search on DADGAD found this https://www.guitarlessonworld.com/lessons/dadgad/, which describes an alternative guitar tuning suitable for chords with lots of open strings. Maybe he means a style using simple 2-button chords and open 5ths?

 

Perhaps you are right!

 

Hey Dave, do you retune your concertina to play this style?

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Don't forget about drones, either just a single note or an open 5th. And once you've got that down, see if you can expand it to what I call "DADGAD Concertina."

Hi David, care to elaborate? What is DADGAD Concertina? Is this something you play? Examples we can hear?

 

A Google search on DADGAD found this https://www.guitarlessonworld.com/lessons/dadgad/, which describes an alternative guitar tuning suitable for chords with lots of open strings. Maybe he means a style using simple 2-button chords and open 5ths?

 

A Google search on DADGAD found this https://www.guitarlessonworld.com/lessons/dadgad/, which describes an alternative guitar tuning suitable for chords with lots of open strings. Maybe he means a style using simple 2-button chords and open 5ths?

Perhaps you are right!

 

Hey Dave, do you retune your concertina to play this style?

 

That's pretty much it. No retuning necessary (unlike on guitar). What DADGAD guitar is to chordal guitar playing (heavy emphasis on open harmonies and unresolved suspensions) I try to imitate on the Hayden Duet Concertina, and ironically call "DADGAD Concertina." A simple example would be a row of parallel fifths moving up the scale. Sometimes (in a 32-bar tune) I'll play two measures each of I/V, II/VI, and III/VII and then one bar each of IV/I and V/II to harmonize the first 8 bars, pretty much no matter what the melody is doing. Then repeat for A2 and then switch to a chordal accompaniment for the B section.

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Examples we can hear?

Do you already have an example in one of your Youtube or Soundcloud recordings?

 

Well, I didn't until just now, when I whipped this together. A simple, familiar tune, Jamie Allen. Twice through, once straight and once in DADGAD Concertina style (I would never begin playing a tune in that style—it's something to use after the tune has been heard in a more traditional vein first).

Notice that when I play the V/II in the accompaniment (bar 8), implying a dominant chord, the melody has already resolved to the tonic and it doesn't matter: the progression is so strong it just rolls over the melody and creates its own space.
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Oh wow! I am not sure what to make of that.

 

The first 3 full measures of the DADGAB section sound good, but then the next two measures sound, well, weird. Almost like a recording artifact - sort of out of phase. Then I hear two measures that are OK before another measure that is strange, almost muted, before another normal sounding measure, one more strange measure, one more OK and then another strange one.

 

I am going to have to listen a few times to see if the strangeness goes away but the amplitude of the strange measures seems to be less than the normal measures. Is this psycho-acoustical or are you muting those measures?

 

Added the following day after a few more listens and some time has elapsed:

 

It does not seem so weird now and it is an interesting sound. I am still a bit bothered by the apparent changes in volume.

Edited by Don Taylor
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Interesting issue David, although I'm widely sharing Don's impressions...

 

My first thoughts on this matter: To my knowledge the guitar chords in question are way richer, and the appeal comes widely from those with a minor third (particularly on the third level which is also quite prominent with the "Celtic" harp).

 

Maybe just open fifths don't do the trick anyway (you all know how much I myself use to rely on open fifths, but in a different manner, harmonically complementary to either bass or melody notes, as I tried to demonstrate at last year's SSI).

 

However, regarding "Jamie Allen" the scheme as applied here doesn't work to my ears (and I wouldn't expect it to work in any more adapted way either at the points desribed as "weird" by Don).

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Cool topic.

I am a member of a 10 piece Folk Band, Ein Lanu Z'man (CD available on CD Baby). The leader and I do most of the arranging but we are fortunate that the members are all accomplished musicians so much how a song finally sounds sometimes happens organically.

In playing with the band we have several instruments that only play single lines so often we build on their accompaniment by arranging as a sort of "orchestral background" in chording and interwoven counter melody.

With the EC I blend chordal patterns and rhythm as much as possible often using as my guide what the bass is doing (he is usually play the root note of a chord). While I have the advantage to do full chording I usually play the dominant pattern so as not to impinge on what the vocalists are doing. Rhythm and chording allows me to not only increase the sound and feel of a song but also helps me lead the band's instruments in making definite the chord changes. An example is a piece we play that has a chord pattern of Am, Bm, Cdim, C#. with the beginning of each phrase happening on the 3rd of the 4/4 beat.

Hope this sort of makes sense.

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the progression is so strong it just rolls over the melody and creates its own space.

 

Great description. A little tension between the two spaces too, I like it.

 

Glad you like the sig. - couldn't resist.

 

This thread had been wonderfully fruitful. Thanks everyone for your contributions.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First visit back to c.net since posting the above. I will try to respond to Don's comments.

Oh wow! I am not sure what to make of that.

The first 3 full measures of the DADGAB section sound good,...

 

The first three (four, actually) measures don't introduce anything unfamiliar. A G chord and an A minor chord (5ths in the accompaniment, 3rds in the melody) against a tune that fits well with those chords. I don't know if your "DADGAB" was a slip of the finger or a misunderstanding. It's DADGAD. I call it DADGAD Concertina because I've heard pianists call a similar technique on the piano "DADGAD Piano," and they are both attempts to emulate the kind of playing you can do on a guitar with the strings tuned to D2 A2 D3 G3 A3 D4 instead of E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.

 

...but then the next two measures sound, well, weird. Almost like a recording artifact - sort of out of phase.

 

This is where the strength of the progression overpowers the implied progression in the tune. The melody has G's in both octaves while the B minor chord in the accompaniment has an F#. The uncomfortable stress is intentional. That's the whole point. What is music but a progression of stresses and releases?

 

Then I hear two measures that are OK before another measure that is strange, almost muted, before another normal sounding measure, one more strange measure, one more OK and then another strange one.

 

Stress, release, stress, release.

 

 

...the amplitude of the strange measures seems to be less than the normal measures. Is this psycho-acoustical or are you muting those measures?

 

It's not intentional, and to be honest, I'm not sure I hear what you mean. The volume drops a bit at the 9th measure (the beginning of the A repeat) and that may have been intuitive if not intentional. But I don't hear the other amplitude variations that seem to bother you.

 

But I did all this because Jody first asked for an example. Jody, you're not usually one to be shy. Let's hear from you. Be honest. You've no doubt heard your share of "DADGAD Piano" at contradances.

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