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Mikefule

Sweet Jenny Jones, Anglo

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Just writing to express a bit of enthusiasm!

 

The waltz/song/Morris dance tune, Sweet Jenny Jones. I learned it 35 years ago on harmonica then tried it on Anglo maybe 15 years ago and dismissed it at the time as slightly clumsy to play, and rather trivial.

 

This evening, I have sat for over an hour exploring the tune on my 30 button Anglo. I have been amazed by how many different approaches there are to such a simple tune, with radically different fingering across or along the rows, and loads of unexpected chord and bass options. For a tune that is so simple to whistle, or to knock out of a single row (harmonica, melodeon, Anglo), it has the potential for almost as much complexity as you could possibly want.

 

What a wonderful instrument the Anglo is capable of being. I know I've said it before, but it becomes more true with each passing year: it's the Rubik's cube you can play with in the dark. Or, as Keith Kendrick said to me, the thinking man's piano: it's all in there if you know where to look.

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One persons enthusiasm causes another’s depression!

Feeling pleased with myself at having this tune learnt in D, go to a session to be told it should be played in C.

Then this post enthusing about the bass and chord options which at this time are absolutely beyond me. Ho hum.

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Feeling pleased with myself at having this tune learnt in D, go to a session to be told it should be played in C.

 

 

I hate it when people say tunes 'should' be played in a particular key. Play it in what ever key you like the tune won't mind in the slightest. One caveat is for new learners who see a tune with one sharp and assume G when it's in Emin, OK if just playing the melody but really pants if they are playing chords as well.

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Feeling pleased with myself at having this tune learnt in D, go to a session to be told it should be played in C.

 

 

I hate it when people say tunes 'should' be played in a particular key. Play it in what ever key you like the tune won't mind in the slightest. One caveat is for new learners who see a tune with one sharp and assume G when it's in Emin, OK if just playing the melody but really pants if they are playing chords as well.

There are arguments both ways on the "particular key" thing.

 

I believe that in classical music, there is an association between certain keys and certain moods. However, as even most musicians don't have perfect pitch, I suspect this is a bit like the "language of flowers": a convention, and a shibboleth.

 

In folk music, choice of keys is often dictated by the preponderance of certain instruments, most notably the G/D melodeon (in English/Morris sessions). As most Irish Anglo players prefer the C/G box, this favours certain keys over others. Even the fully chromatic and versatile fiddle tends to favour the sharp keys, and brass instruments tend to favour the flat keys.

 

There is also local convention. "We always play this in D" is a very different thing from "This should be played in D".

 

Also, of course, some singers can only manage 1 or 2 keys.

 

On the Anglo, I play in the keys that the box offers. I have a C/G 20, a G/D 30 and a Bb/F 38. Certain tunes won't fit on the 30, and even more won't fit on the 20. A tune that sounds OK on the inside row on the G/D will be squeaky on the inside row of the C/G. Accompaniments in some keys tend to be more sparse than in others.

 

But no, I agree that "should be played in "is too prescriptive for folk music.

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One persons enthusiasm causes another’s depression!

Feeling pleased with myself at having this tune learnt in D, go to a session to be told it should be played in C.

Then this post enthusing about the bass and chord options which at this time are absolutely beyond me. Ho hum.

If you're a beginner, it behoves the more experienced musicians to make the effort to play in your key, or at least to listen politely while you do a solo.

 

You will find that simple bass and chord options will come quite quickly once you start to work on them. However, in 10 years' time, you will still be finding better and more imaginative solutions to tunes you've known forever.

 

Also, playing a single line of melody is a difficult skill in itself. Without the chords and complexity to hide behind, every note counts: the timing, the volume, the dynamics, the attack, the lilt. Listen to Anglophilia (Brian Peters) to hear him making the Anglo sound like a fairground organ and, on another track, like a solo violin.

 

When you can play a tune "on autopilot", don't! When you know the tune and can get it right every time, that's the starting point to making it a piece of music rather than a sequence of notes.

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This evening, I have sat for over an hour exploring the tune on my 30 button Anglo. I have been amazed by how many different approaches there are to such a simple tune, with radically different fingering across or along the rows, and loads of unexpected chord and bass options. For a tune that is so simple to whistle, or to knock out of a single row (harmonica, melodeon, Anglo), it has the potential for almost as much complexity as you could possibly want.

 

So... Let’s hear what you’ve come up with!

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So... Let’s hear what you’ve come up with!

 

Not up to performance speed on the variations yet. Still having fun with different approaches, though.

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I've played it for years for several dancers doing a waltz clog routine. It's a wonderful tune.

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I've played it for years for several dancers doing a waltz clog routine. It's a wonderful tune.

As a single line melody with a bit of vamping (as played on harmonica) I found it uninspiring. Ditto, playing it mainly along the row on Anglo. Now that I've "understood" the tune, there's a lot more to it than I thought.

 

My main point, though, is what a wonderfully versatile instrument the Anglo is. I've posted elsewhere: there are 288 fingering patterns for the G major scale, 1 octave, on the G/D Anglo. For each tune, the number of possible fingering patterns is enormous - although of course many of them are only theoretical and would never be used for real. Then with little snatches of part chords, whole chords etc., it can bring a tune to life. I feel it is the limitations of the Anglo — the finger gymnastics you sometimes need to do — that give it that special quality.

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