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Re-Learning Finger Position To Add Chords?


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I'm confused about the way you learn a tune and add the chords.


I'm painstakingly trying to remember the chords (and so also have to understand the different keys), that's one thing.


My problem is more with fingers...


For me adding anything out of the melody line means re-learning a different fingering.


For simple tunes probably not, and even less so with simple octaves... but what about complicated pieces? For example I'm working on a classical piece and my fingers, all four of them, are already all over the place! High E can be played by four different fingers...I sometimes had to write down which finger went where to make sure I could continue the phrase.


So what does this mean? Will I have to learn everything twice, with two different fingering? Or do I have to be so good that I can already imagine the fingers I'll need in the future? Or so comfortable that really it doesn't matter where my fingers are (actually I can see that happening at some point).


I apologize if my formulation is unclear. I've already written five or six messages that I never posted because I wasn't even sure of what I was asking...



FYI I have a Jackie and high notes are much much weaker than the other notes.


A lot of advice has already been given to me on this forum - but it takes its own route in my brain. Things that I mentally thought were great hadn't sunk in, then resurface later and it clicks "yeah, that's what I have to do!". I'm confident it will be the same with chords.


PS: I want to work on this chording/accompanying/enriching the melody...I've seen videos of Danny Chapman (Prof Rat on youtube) and he made me think that maybe I didn't need to try the duet system after all :D






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For my part I prefer to learn a complex piece "all in one mouthful " ... meaning Bar by Bar I'll add all the notes, melody and chords (if you want to look at it that way) and then I find that there might be only one way that a certain note can be played... So, I'm saying that a Bar might need to be played in a certain way because of what happened in the previous Bar or the following Bar...


But then I have many years experience of playing that keyboard and even then I might need weeks and weeks of work to get all the notes and finger movements into my head. I spent two years, an hour each day, on a piece of well known Ragtime... and I would need to play it every day after that to keep all the finger gymnastics in my head.


If I wish to 'enrich' a piece ( with chords) that I have learned as a single line melody then a simple approach of adding thirds, fifths , sevenths etc.... mostly under the melody is what I begin with... add one or two harmony notes... usually just fiddling around until I find something that sounds good to me... again lots of experience of doing this without even knowing if any of it is 'correct' in theory.


The one thing I will say, and I have alluded to this before, the Jackie's keyboard is truncated, not enough notes to allow a great choice of keys or harmonies.

I'm sure it is harder work to produce a complex arrangement on such an instrument and although it can be done well on the English Concertina there are also advantages , for certain types of pieces , to use a Duet.


If you can tell us what it is you are leaning, even post a score so people here can make some suggestions , I think it will be easier to help you.


Try a 'less is more' approach... perhaps ?

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Hi Geoff,

the Jackie's keyboard is truncated, not enough notes to allow a great choice of keys or harmonies.

Good point in terms of sound, but when it comes to figuring out working with "extra" fingers, I guess I can start right away?

a simple approach of adding thirds, fifths , sevenths etc.... mostly under the melody is what I begin with...

But could you please clarify something : when you add to a simple melody, do you find yourself changing your initial finger position or can you find the right chords with the remaining fingers?
If yes, it must be that my initial positioning is already wrong...

I can't give you a pdf as the complex piece I was thinking about was only as an example (it's a Larghetto piece by Albinoni) and I wouldn't change anything to it.
It's just that if on top of such complex finger positions I had to find chords well...as you said:

then I might need weeks and weeks of work to get all the notes and finger movements

Ok, in a way I am relieved. Or not.

Thanks a lot Geoff,

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Perhaps sometimes the fingering of the basic melody may need to change when adding harmonies... I've not really thought about that .


One way that I would recommend to practice is to play the melody using only one finger on each hand... Start with your strongest finger say the one nearest you thumb or the middle finger ... now play the melody just using it... the idea is to get you to think about the patterns and positions of buttons not of fingers. When you can do this with one finger try it with another... perhaps the first two fingers are most agile for this exercise .This also gets you into the idea of jumping over buttons and moving about more quickly on the keyboard.


Also keep in mind when listening to someone play really well that they did not become that good overnight... a fine recording might have been made after a great deal of work to practice and many 'takes' at the recording stage.


A Concert Pianist, travelling the world playing with different orchestras, might only be playing one Concerto this year, having spent months of work on the piece.


So, don't beat yourself up for not getting where you want to be straightaway.... enjoy the learning process and work constructively and if you feel you are serious about the concertina then buy a good one....

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Hello Tim Tim,


It's nice to know you seem to be fairly serious about learning to play the (E) concertina, what with attempting a complex piece. No you won't have to learn everything twice but you will keep learning if you keep putting in the effort. I'm assuming you are fairly new to concer since you only have a Jackie, not meaning to demean the Jackie, a great starting instrument, but a with a better quality instrument (as Geoff suggests) you'll learn to fly. Consider saving those pennies.


I'm guessing you are concentrating on instrumental pieces so I'm not sure I can help a lot since I mostly use the concertina for song accompaniment, (with lots of chords), which I think our instrument is just wonderful for. But my method can be used for instrumental music, I do it when I insert instrumental parts in my songs. Basically I learn the melody line first and then I learn the chord progression and use different inversions of the chords to decide upon the most satisfactory fingering to my ear. Others may not agree with my chord choices at all! Once I've got these two different aspects of a song learned I just sit down and try to meld them into a "melody with chords". Most often the melody notes are part of the chord with occasional "passing" notes which are actually just part of another slightly different chord. As for fingering, well yes it varies. You do have to learn different ways of playing, but that's a good thing. No one way is necessarily the right way.


It's really good to have a repertoire of the basic chords (in various inversions) in the basic keys. This is relevant for instrumental music but perhaps more relevant if you're into song accompaniment, then you can sing hundreds (thousands) of songs with just a few chords. Don't tell me you can't sing, (almost) everyone can sing a bit, especially if they're a player of an instrument.


Anyway whatever sort of music you're interested in, the concertina is a great little instrument for it. Not perfect all the time but pretty good. Keep at it. The better you get the more you'll enjoy it.




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Hi Steve,


thank you for your kind words! What kind of music? I have no idea. I didn't even know I'd like playing at all before I got my concertina. I only turned to classical pieces out of boredom and would love to learn more about that too, but I think I'd love to play "popular" songs for my own enjoyment as well. I've noticed that the songs that stick with me usually have some harmonica or accordion in it.


I'm afraid I have to log off already as a friend has just returned from holiday but I'll keep your advice in mind.

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