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Faded Ada

Bad Habits

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Hi all,

 

I'm new around here and I'm very new to the concertina. I have recently taken delivery of a lovely Jones 26 button Anglo from Chris Algar / Barleycorn. After wrecking my head for a week or so trying to understand where the notes are -- and why -- I can now just about play a few simple tunes. I've read warnings here and elsewhere about teaching yourself -- like, Don't do it, you'll pick up bad habits. Well, I'm afraid I probably am going to teach myself, with the help of various online and print resources. Could anyone tell me what the bad habits are that I should avoid picking up?

 

Many thanks,

Faded Ada

 

 

 

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A few things I wish I had done initially (also self tutored):

 

1) Get to know where all the duplicate and reversed notes are, and when learning a new tune try out different ways of fingering it until you find the best (for you and the tune) way of doing it. For instance, a particular phrase may work/sound better if all the notes are played on a push or pull, or alternately the music might be better expressed with a lot of bellows back-and-forth. Don't get stuck playing everything along the rows.

 

2) Practice playing as quietly as you can. I've met a lot of self-taught concertina players who only have one volume level: LOUD! (not you, Robin & Paul!) Variations in volume can add a lot to the expression of a tune.

 

3) If the tune calls for the same note in quick succession, try alternating index and middle finger (or 2 other convenient fingers) for each sounding of the note, rather than just pressing multiple times with the same finger.

 

4) Really explore the whole 3rd row, and both extreme ends of the other 2 rows. So many players habitually only use 10 or 12 buttons, leaving a lot of the instrument's potential untapped. When you look at vintage concertinas you can see evidence of this in the wear marks above the buttons.

 

5) Try to find good players in your area, and watch and listen! If there is a session near you go and lurk until you can play a few tunes, then join in! Nothing will advance your playing faster than hanging around better musicians!

 

6) Don't feel constrained by the home keys. It will be easy to play tunes in C & G ( I assume that's the tuning on your Jones), but D isn't too hard when you figure it out, and other keys and minors and modes are very possible (see #4). If you start learning where the buttons are for other keys early in your learning process, you will have much better command of all 26 buttons!

 

7) Try using both hands at once. You can usually play most of the melody on the right hand by using duplicates and reversals, which will leave your left hand free for chords, playing in octaves, and doing oom-pahs and bass runs (once again, see #4). It's not as hard as you think it will be, but it won't happen if you don't try. The sooner the better, I think.

 

8) Have fun. The concertina is an inherently joyful thing to play. Pick it up whenever you can. Don't practice- just play!

Edited by Bill N
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Use your little fingers. They may feel slow, clumsy and weak when you start out, but they will become much smarter and stronger in short order.

In the end you may decide to use them only in certain situations, or even not use them at all, but you won't be able to judge their utility without giving them a fair trial.

Enjoy your new concertina!

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Thanks very much for these tips; they are just the sort of thing I needed to know. And it's good to know that you were self-tutored, Heavyweight Boxer. As a natural 'ear player' I'm beginning to find that my fingers are finding the buttons they need without the interference of my stupid brain, and it's starting to feel like fun.

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Practice short note playing on both push and pull.Pull notes are more difficult.Pull notes should equal the push.

When playing notes in one direction, contnue to practice them as short notes .It is very easy to slur one into the other .

The worse bad habit one poor player had, when I did a beginners workshop, was that she was playing her instrument upside down,with the air button out of reach on the left hand. Sadly for two years.and she was playing tunes.

Al

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Hi Faded Ada,

 

I'm self taught too.

 

Bill, that's a good list there!

 

Here's a thought. Set up a mirror so that you can watch yourself play. Notice any contorted postures or weird things you do with your face? This would be extra effort that you don't need. Your body should look and feel relaxed and comfortable and your breathing should be normal. Play with your eyes open and a natural, pleasant expression on your face.

 

Also, here is another bad habit that most of my students struggle with, and that is playing in time. I suggest that in learning a new tune, as soon as you can, try to play without stopping and starting. When you get to the end of the tune, play it again without breaking tempo. Play at one consistent tempo. Play the hard parts of a tune at the same speed as the easy parts. Pick a tempo, no matter how slow, and stick with it.

 

Best of luck with your concertina adventure.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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You live in Ireland! Get some help right away. It should be easy to find someone that will get you going in the right direction.

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A few things I wish I had done initially (also self tutored):

 

1) Get to know

 

Thanks Bill N, a very well thought through and useful post. I'll take on board your comments as I progress on my anglo adventure with my newly acquired Kensington concertina. Hope Ada benefits from your experience.

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In my experience, the #1 problem w/ self taught musicians is that they don't substitute the outer ear they deprive themselves off. Seriously, I've seen so many that have spent decades making the same mistakes until those weren't ironable anymore (myself included).

 

So, everything that's been said about technique and using fingers and stuff may be good and right and everything, but, by ALL MEANS - make sure that you collect feedback from any source as early as possible. That includes recording yourself (changing places and become a listener of yourself), letting family members participate in your progress, putting things online (even though this way you'll very likey get very little feedback), go to sessions, find yourself little ensembles to play with, hook up w/ others via Skype etc.

 

So Jody's input is right on the spot - if you lack listeners and watchers, become one yourself. The rhythm issue is also crucial - play against a metronome as soon as possible (meaning as soon as you've internailzed the basic fingerings so your easy tunes flow reasonably well off the fingers). Now initially that'll be a traumatic experience; you'll feel that you won't be able to play a single note with the distraction. That's normal, but after a few hours of doing that, you'll get into it, and you'll find that 10 minutes of playing with a rhythmic accompaniment will get you further than playing an hour without (at least that's my impression. All the tracks I published were played with a metronome backing).

Edited by RAc

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These are all wonderful suggestions!

 

Like Faded Ada, I'm a newbie, and worried about picking up bad habits as I start. For lack of a better word, making sure my playing habits are "Ergonomic" from the start is definitely one of my concerns. I had 6 years of piano lessons as a child and about two years of voice lessons spread over many years. But other instruments (guitar, ukulele, melodica, ocarina) are "self-taught." I learned the guitar long before internet was available, and having a group of people to share the learning experience with was unbelievably important. There are now plenty of resources and group playing activities available for guitar and ukulele in my region, and excellent on-line teaching videos for ocarina. But in Western New York (Buffalo, Niagara Falls, NY and suburbs) the major concertina group activity I've found so far is a (Chemnitezer) Concertina Club of WNY that focuses on Polka music. Wonderful music, but not much help for an anglo player. There is are Irish sessions in the area, but the concertina is not a usual or accepted instrument in this setting, at least not in our neck of the woods.

 

If anyone knows of other group or in-person opportunities for learning the anglo concertina in the Western New York and Southern Ontario region (we live 5 minutes from the Peace Bridge that crosses over to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, for those not familiar with our geography), I'd love to hear about it.

 

In the mean-time, thanks to Ada for the question, and to everyone else for your helpful insights!

 

Dee

Buffalo, NY

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"If anyone knows of other group or in-person opportunities for learning the anglo concertina in the Western New York and Southern Ontario region (we live 5 minutes from the Peace Bridge that crosses over to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, for those not familiar with our geography), I'd love to hear about it."

 

Hi Dee,

 

  • There is a session every Saturday afternoon (4:30 start I think) at Nietzsche's in Allentown (downtown Buffalo). One of the session stalwarts usually plays whistle, but sometimes brings his Jeffries, and I have always felt welcome when I show up. It's a friendly, not super-fast session, and they play a range of music from the British Isles (not just Irish), with the odd song thrown in.
  • A super beginner friendly session happens every Tuesday night (8:00ish) at the Corktown Tavern in Hamilton. Same range of music as at Nietzsche's with the addition of some East Coast stuff. It's a big, noisy session, so mistakes go unnoticed!
  • A little further afield in Cambridge (about 1 1/2 hours from you) is a twice monthly Sunday afternoon session run by the Millrace Folk Society. I find the English repertoire at this one easier to learn than the Irish stuff ( a little slower, usually in G or D) and there are always concertina players there.
  • Ian Bell, a wonderful musician and teacher, has started teaching lessons in beginner concertina in Villa Nova, Ontario, which is about an hour from you.

Bill

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I am loving this topic! I'm making a note of all my bad habits that I've got to fix. At least I know I'm holding the concertina right-side up!

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Thanks so much everyone for your wonderful replies! There is a wealth of information in them. I'm amused by the comments about ergonomics etc. I decided to try the concertina partly because the fiddle, which I've played (fairly badly) for many years, has been causing such problems with my shoulders. The concertina is such a joy in comparison! Nevertheless the advice to play in front of a mirror and to record myself is very good advice which I'll make sure to follow, even though I'll hate both of them.

 

Many thanks, and I'm glad other people are finding the topic useful.

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Hello Ada, I'm a bit late to this thread, but my suggestion is that you single out Doug Barr's short, excellent advice and follow that first. If you want to avoid acquiring bad habits, your best bet is to get one-on-one help from an experienced, competent player. The Anglo is not intuitive, and without help it is easy to adopt approaches that feel “natural” but make things much more difficult in the long run. Get yourself a guide. This is the first thing I did when I started, and now, years later, I benefit from that decision every day.

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Just wanted to sound a word of caution to all this talk of bad habits - don't forget the anglo is such a fun instrument and it would be a pity to lose sight of that :-)

 

Adrian

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I like this topic and all these useful informations ! I am also a newbie player of anglo.

Terence

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Just wanted to sound a word of caution to all this talk of bad habits - don't forget the anglo is such a fun instrument and it would be a pity to lose sight of that :-)

 

Of course, there have been times when the mere act of playing the concertina - or the banjo, for that matter - was considered a bad habit in itself. But that was long ago, and it was just a silly notion propagated by envious people who had been forced to play instruments that weren't so much fun.

 

:P

 

Cheers,

John

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