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I'm right handed and play in the "English" harmonic style, and I support the instrument on my right knee and use the left hand to drive the bellows.  I think many other players in this style do the same, although there are many who use the left knee. I'm not sure there's a particular reason for this, except that with this style the melody is mostly played with the right hand whereas the left is playing simpler chords, so it makes sense to support the hand which is doing the most complicated work. I played concertina before I took up melodeon, so I can't blame it on this.

 

With the Irish style the melody is more evenly divided between hands.  In this case it might make sense to support the left hand, which for right-handers (ie most people) is usually less dexterous.

 

I can see the analogy between bellows use and fiddle bowing, but unless you are taking this extremely literally I don't see why it should matter which hand is doing it.  However it cannot be denied that Noel Hill knows what he is doing and is probably worth listening to!

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I'm going to throw in here just because I do it differently. I'm left handed and play English concertina. When I learned, I wanted to be able to play anything (I play a bunch of other instruments, a lot from reading music) and so I learned by reading music. It was convenient for me to place the music on my coffee table in front of the sofa and couldn't have the instrument in the way,  so I positioned the left end of the concertina on my right knee, and pumped with the right hand. I can play comfortably with it in front of me, on the left knee, or in front of me in the air but usually don't. 

 

Edited by mdarnton

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4 hours ago, hjcjones said:

that with this style the melody is mostly played with the right hand whereas the left is playing simpler chords

 

I‘m a bit puzzled by this as

 

1. almost any given melody will engage both sides IMO, as will the harmony, often on the respective other side

 

2. if we consider Cmaj and Gmaj (and maybe Dmaj as well) as them “main“ or „basic“ keys in the treble range, it‘s just opposite sides, whatever you might want to play in either key

 

best wishes - 🐺

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8 hours ago, hjcjones said:

With the Irish style the melody is more evenly divided between hands.  In this case it might make sense to support the left hand, which for right-handers (ie most people) is usually less dexterous. 

 

Having discussed the question of "handedness" with players of other instruments, I would say that dexterity has nothing to do with which way round you hold your instrument. A pianist's hands are equally dextrous, and it is arguable that a (right-handed) guitarist's left hand has to be a good deal more dextrous than his right. And yes, I know that "dextrous" comes from "dexter", which is Latin for "right."

To take the example of the "English" style you describe: does it really require less dexterity to form chords than to play a single melody line?

The truth of the matter seems to be that the right hand of a right-handed person always takes on the tasks that are in some way dominant, the left hand those that are more subservient. With stringed instruments, the dominant task is to actually produce the sounds, shaping them and making them loud or soft. The left hand assists by preparing the strings for the use of the bow, plectrum or RH fingers. We get this in two-handed, non-musical activities, too. The left hand supports the rifle barrel, but the right hand decides when to press the trigger. The smith's left hand wields the tongs that hold the iron for forging, but his right hand wields the hammer that actually shapes the iron. 

There are other activities that call for equal strength and skill in both hands - weight-lifting is one, sculling is another. Playing the piano or the English concertina are musical examples.

In the Anglo, we have both types of joint activity: the left and right hand have to be equally deft at pressing buttons, whereas one hand determines the volume and rhythm, and shapes the notes, by working the bellows, while the other hand (often together with the corresponding knee) merely provides a stable basis for the bellows work. I believe this is why the air button is on the right - to put the air under the control of the dominant hand of the majority of players, who are right-handed.  

I personally, before it occurred to me to think about "handedness", instinctively rested the left end of my first Anglo on my left knee and worked the bellows with my right arm. (Well, that was a long time ago. Perhaps, at the start, I did hold the concertina in front of me and work both ends of the bellows in and out. But I very soon found out that resting the left end and moving the right end worked better.)

Cheers,

John

 

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I've played Anglo for about 12 years now, based on Noel's methodology after attending his workshops several times from the very start of learning the instrument. 

 

I'm a left-side anchor, right side "bow hand" player, with one of the instrument left side corner points on the inside of my left leg.

 

One enhancement I've made on his left side anchoring, and probably related to that I also play the Uilleann pipes where we use a leather "popping strap" on the leg to seal the bottom of the chanter, is to use a piece of leather on my left leg (about 8" square) to keep the left side from sliding around on my pants.  I don't know why everyone doesn't do this. It absolutely keeps the instrument from slipping around and is very comfortable.

With the leather square in place, I can remove my left hand from the instrument and it will not move on a push. 

 

The goal is to absolutely minimize the tension and energy in the left arm that one might waste stabilizing the instrument. I find it allows me greater accuracy and speed on the left side as well.

 

It's also a lot more comfortable to use the leather if you're wearing shorts. I handed out a bunch of these a few years ago to the other students at Noel's West Coast workshop.

 

All the rhythm and dynamics are done with my right arm. The only energy in my left arm is stabilizing the instrument on a pull.

 

I also use my right little finger against the right side (something else I see Noel do at times and that he recommended to me) to provide additional right side stability to insure symmetrical and parallel bellows pushes without rotation about the right side center axis if unstabilized.   Without the pinky stabilization, it's very easy to have the top of the bellows tilt in on a push as a result of the right thumb energy against the hand rail while the bottom which is unsupported tilts out. The two motions end up canceling each other out, essentially creating a zero pressure change for a fraction of a second and result in slower and less efficient and precise playing.  I spent a lot of time working with Noel on fixing this early defect in my technique.  I have some early videos on YouTube of tunes I posted before I fixed this issue in later workshops with Noel, it's almost embarrassing now to watch them, the top tilt on push was so bad. 

 

Additionally, if you watch Noel's playing in detail from many angles, you will also see that he puts a little inside bow in the bellows which provides additional stability and efficiency, along with almost a lifting motion when closing the bellows.  Think of a Slinky (i.e. an instrument with very supple bellows). If you hold it straight across with no bend it will just sag and wobble unpredictably when pressed or pulled. Put the tiniest bit of a bow in the arc of the Slinky and now it moves much more predictably and with total control.

 

I'm a huge advocate for Noel's playing methodology and ergonomics, they absolutely work for me. Everything he does, he does for a reason and, if you ask, he will tell you exactly why.  Everything is about control and precision, and having a solid platform and absolutely rock-steady and predictable bellows motion is critical to play quickly and accurately.

Now, could this all be done with right side anchoring?  I don't know.  Noel's techniques and ergonomic choices work well for me so that's what I advocate and teach.

 

 

 

 

Edited by eskin

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15 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

I‘m a bit puzzled by this as

 

1. almost any given melody will engage both sides IMO, as will the harmony, often on the respective other side

 

2. if we consider Cmaj and Gmaj (and maybe Dmaj as well) as them “main“ or „basic“ keys in the treble range, it‘s just opposite sides, whatever you might want to play in either key

 

best wishes - 🐺

 

Hi Wolf,

 

I think that Howard is referring to playing an Anglo, not an English when he says he plays 'in the "English" harmonic style'. Does that help?

Cheers,

A.

 

To go slightly off topic on this thread: I've never seen an ITM player play standing up - has anyone ever tried? Is it simply a tradition thing or are there technical reasons why it's not done? I appreciate that ITM is often a lot faster and more intricate than the "English harmonic style" but when you see the things Cohen B-K can do while playing the Anglo standing, I can't see why it couldn't be done?

 

Adrian

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2 hours ago, adrian brown said:

I think that Howard is referring to playing an Anglo, not an English when he says he plays 'in the "English" harmonic style'. Does that help?

 

 

I am indeed. In this style, the melody is mainly played with the right hand, with the left hand providing chords.  This contrasts with the Irish style of Anglo playing where the melody is shared by both hands, or of course the EC where this is a consequence of the keyboard layout.

 

14 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

To take the example of the "English" style you describe: does it really require less dexterity to form chords than to play a single melody line?

 

 

I think it does.  Admittedly you have to move several fingers simultaneously to form chords, and this is a challenge for beginners (as it is on guitar and other instruments) but once you have overcome that the left hand is far less busy than the right,  which is usually having to play lots of notes while the left hand is holding down a single chord. Of course, you can make the left-hand accompaniment more complicated once that hand has acquired more dexterity through practice (or should that be sinisterity?) 

 

As you go on to say, with stringed instruments the left hand fingers the notes, and while this might appear to be the more difficult task what the right hand is doing is providing the musicality, through fingering or bowing the strings.  This requires more sensitivity and control, in order to transmit this to the strings.  I'm not entirely sure how this translates to the concertina - perhaps Noel's logic is that fine control of the bellows is better achieved with the dominant hand, which for most people is the right.

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I think it’s because with his scale patterns the majority of notes used in Irish traditional tunes are played on the left side, combined with the air button being on the right. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him.

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16 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

 And yes, I know that "dextrous" comes from "dexter", which is Latin for "right."

 

 

Must be a sinister plot! 😄

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10 hours ago, adrian brown said:

I think that Howard is referring to playing an Anglo, not an English when he says he plays 'in the "English" harmonic style'. Does that help?

 

Indeed it does, Adrian - and please accept my apologies Howard :)

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On ‎2018‎-‎09‎-‎06 at 5:28 PM, Dana Johnson said:

In Noel’s style of play, one end of the concertina is held in a way that eliminates most movement.  The other hand then is under complete control of bellows variation / reversals.  By giving the air button hand the job of bellows control, all the air jobs are in one hand.  The job of backstop to the bellows to the left hand, simplifies the work your brain has to do.  Brains being what they are, they will accommodate just about any circumstance, but I have had students who  push or pull the bellows with whatever finger is pressing a button at the time.  (Anglo’s only).  They never develop the bellows control of the ones who choose a fixed side.  Noel has taught a generation of concertina players, and is not a stupid person.  My much more limited teaching experience has taught me that bellows control is very important and habits that don’t support that limits what you can get out of this amazing instrument.  

My comment about having heard "some people mention Noel ..." was intended as a joke.  I hope nobody thought otherwise.

 

Actually, I fully agree that anchoring one end helps with bellows control, but I just didn't see why the end which moves should necessarily be the same end as the air button, to get that benefit.  A comment or two in this thread since then have suggested reasons why anchoring the left on the Anglo might be a better choice, so that is something to think about, thanks!   For myself, I find switching to anchoring the left at this stage feels rather awkward, and I think my efforts are better focused elsewhere.  At least I am anchoring one end!

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On 9/9/2018 at 2:43 PM, hjcjones said:

As you go on to say, with stringed instruments the left hand fingers the notes, and while this might appear to be the more difficult task what the right hand is doing is providing the musicality, through fingering or bowing the strings.  This requires more sensitivity and control, in order to transmit this to the strings.  I'm not entirely sure how this translates to the concertina - perhaps Noel's logic is that fine control of the bellows is better achieved with the dominant hand, which for most people is the right.

In a previous post, I tried to relate this to the Anglo, pointing out that the pressing of buttons is demanded of both hands, whereas the bellows control - which has to do with artistic expression - is the domain of one hand. And in this, I follow the same logic that you attribute to Noel.

 

Cheers,

John

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Playing some tunes last night, I was thinking about this thread. For the majority of trad Irish tunes I’m using primarily two fingers on the right side but all four fingers all the time on the left side. It makes sense to me to have the most stability on the side that does most of the work.

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Comparing bellows action to violin bowing goes back to the 19th century, thanks to Signor Alsepti. In fact, his part in the creation of "bowing valves" was inspired by the analogy.

See attachment.

Signor Alsepti Tutor.JPG

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I play anglo concertina mostly in the harmonic style, I'm right-handed, and I currently anchor the right side of the instrument. This is what feels most natural to me, but I'm not sure it's best. I intend to put in the work to switch to anchoring the left side at some point (maybe at the end of the year after Christmas) and find out for myself.

 

A lot of good reasons for preferring to anchor the left side have already been shared, and those factor in to my desire to make the change. But one that I don't think has been fully articulated is that in the harmonic style on anglo, the left hand generally makes fuller use of the buttons, and you have to stretch those fingers a lot more. This is because 1) very low notes see more use than very high notes, and 2) the left hand often hits multiple notes for a chord while the right hand mostly hits single notes for the melody. The left hand pinky gets a lot of use, so it can't be effectively used for stabilizing the free end of the instrument. The right hand pinky does get used, but it's much less frequent. Oom-pah patterns also tend to make the left side want to bounce up and down (but maybe I'm doing something else wrong). It's not that the left hand side has more complicated fingering patterns -- it doesn't -- but rather that the nature of its patterns make stabilization in mid-air more difficult.

 

I'm not expecting this change to make some astounding improvement in my playing. But I figure people play music I like both ways, so it probably won't hurt. If it makes playing a little easier in the long run, then it's probably worth the trouble. It will be an interesting experiment in any case.

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11 minutes ago, schult said:

I'm not expecting this change to make some astounding improvement in my playing.

You'd be surprised - don't knock until you've tried it!😎

Banjoists, like concertinists, also have thighs, and these come into play when performing seated. For many, many years, I propped my banjo in my lap - i.e. between my thighs - where it didn't roll about or slip off. I became relatively proficient this way.

But when I seriously started playing classic finger-style, i came across a tutorial video that started by showing you how to hold a banjo: on the right thigh, tipped back against the chest, and with the right forearm firmly on the armrest. I tried this, and it was amazing how stable the banjo suddenly became. My left hand no longer had to do anything to stabilise the neck - it could focus on just fretting the strings.

This change did, in fact, make my playing better by making it easier.

 

Why wait until Christmas to change your anchor end? Try it now, and see if it works.

 

Cheers,

John

 

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14 minutes ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

Why wait until Christmas to change your anchor end? Try it now, and see if it works.

 

Thanks for the encouragement! The main reason I'm waiting is because I expect that sort of change to come with a temporary regression in my playing, and Christmas is the earliest that I'm sure I'll be willing to suffer that. I have tried it briefly, and I agree with the sentiment that it feels awkward compared to what I'm used to. But maybe the transition won't be as bad as I'm expecting...

Edited by schult

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When I’m playing my single acting Wheatstone English bass/baritone, it’s so heavy that I usually sit down and put an end on each thigh. My legs go in and out as I play: slowly in as I push, then quickly out as I refill with air. I’ve never seen it from the audience’s viewpoint, of course, but it must look a bit odd.

 

If the seat I am on is a bit high, my thighs slope downwards and the concertina tends to slip downwards. I keep a piece of non-slip material in the case to prevent slippage.

 

Any “bowing” action probably comes from both hands: I’m not aware of my legs providing any of the pushing.

 

I have played it standing up in the past, with my left foot on the box, so I probably used my right hand to do any “bowing”. I’m too old for such capers now.

 

Steve

 

 

 

 

Edited by Lofty
Minor changes

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