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wunks

Fiddlin' around with the concertina.

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A general remark on this topic:

As a multi-instrumentalist (including the voice!) I'm a great believer in skill transfer between instruments. Something that comes quite naturally on one instrument may be more difficult, and not as obvious, on another. Nevertheless, it may be worth the effort to attempt the transfer, because of the desirable effect. My standard piece of "skill transfer" is to play a tune as I would sing it. This can very much improve the phrasing, making the tune more interesting - perhaps less predictable - to listen to. I've even made up words to instrumental pieces (e.g. to Carolan's Eleanor Plunkett) and "sing" them in my head as I play. The phrasing then comes naturally.

Another example: I started "concertining" on the Anglo, and later took up the Crane duet. And I do find that changing bellows direction on the Duet at places where the Anglo forces me to do so helps to structure an instrumental on the Crane. (The Crane has the advantage that I'm not forced into a bellows change where the Anglo would demand one - but very often an Anglo-like bellows change is a Good Thing.)

As to the fiddle - I played that as a boy (up into my student days, actually, and even after that for a short time with a skiffle group), and what remained of that when I took up the Crane, was the concept of the "long bow" and "short bow" - sometimes sequential notes are played in one bellows direction, sometimes the bellows direction changes for each note.

 

(BTW, fiddle vs. violin: my father, from whom I learnt the fiddle, was an Irish countryman. He played a violin tuned GDAE, but he had no shoulder support, holding the violin against his chest, and held the bow with parallel fingers well away from the frog - precisely the way you see it done in paintings of 17th century violinists! And he used the terms "fiddle" and "violin" indiscriminately for one and the same instrument.)

 

What bugs me in this thread is the attempt to transfer physical concepts from bowed strings to free reeds. The "noises" that come out of violins and concertinas are, in a way, similar. But the physics of the bowed string and the free reed are totally different. A string needs a resonator - wood, in the case of the violin or guitar, or skin, in the case of the banjo - but the free reed is loud enough on its own, as is the stopped reed of a clarinet or oboe. The "environment" of a reed has only a slight, qualitative, effect on the sound - it does not contribute to volume.

 

The Good Lord has given us all sorts of different instruments with which to express ourselves. I reckon we should just make the best of each one!

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

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John

 

I don't disagree with your philosophy of letting a concertina be a concertina, it is just  that I came to music very late in life and realized pretty quickly that it was too late to learn to play fiddle and I turned to the concertina as an 'easy to learn' substitute. 

 

But I still want to make at least some of the sounds that I hear coming out of a fiddle.  For me, there is nothing that comes close to the emotion that a good fiddler or violin player can get out of their instrument.  Well, maybe a piper but I seriously doubt my marriage would survive trying to learn the pipes!

 

Don.

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Thanx.  Reed frame or shoe.  Is the reed pan the same as what Alex is calling the action board?

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The Action board is where all the pads and levers and buttons are located.

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Don, you‘re perfectly mirroring my own feelings about concertina and fiddle. What can be done with the English: Applying double stops (including ornamentation), both below and above the melody, relying on open fifths a.s.f. - but I guess we’ve already discussed all that in the past, and I don‘t see how to take this a step forward without input from a fiddler, or rather fiddler-concertinist.

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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15 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

Applying double stops (including ornamentation), both below and above the melody, relying on open fifths a.s.f. 

 

To be quite blunt about it, the violin or fiddle - in the right hands - is a microtonal instrument. It doesn't oblige you to choose between equal temperament and meantone. If the tonal situation calls for "a rather sharp B-flat" (as a choirmaster of mine once required of us singers), a violinist can do that, too. A concertinist? No!

The nearest you can get to that is off-tuning the redundant enharmonics on an EC, but I believe you have to decide on the degree (comma) of meantone you want, and you're stuck with it.

 

Double stops, trills, sforzando - all violin tricks that are doable on a concertina. Trills are probably easier in an EC or duet than on an Anglo (unless you've got the two notes for the trill in one bellows direction). But sliding up to the intended note, as especially American fiddlers tend to do, is not concertina territory.

 

In the fretted-strings fraternity, the guitarists tend to think that mandolins, banjos, citterns, etc. are just rather quirky guitars. They're not! Each can do lots of things that the guitar can't. Let's not fall into the trap of thinking that the concertina is the "egg-laying wool-milk-pig" as we Germans say! 😮

 

Cheers,

John

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John, of course I can't object to your pointing to the impossibility of performing slides with a concertina (pity!).

 

However, I once approached an Appalachian fiddle tune and quite liked the outcome, replacing "happy" slides with the next best thing: a "blue" grace note...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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One further observation.  I played viola last night for a contra dance because we had 2 fiddlers, button accordian and a piano.  With box and bow cornering the lead, and piano below, it was a delight to fill the gap.  It struck me while playing that I was in exactly the same range as is most comfortable on my duet centered in C.  However the fiddle comparison may work for other configurations,  for my C box viola seems best.

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wunks, re the ordinary 48k treble English the fiddle comparison is inevitable insofar the lowest note (without altering) is the G of the G-string. A tenor or tenor-treble might lead to a "viola comparison" (lowest note, unaltered, is the C of the C-string). However, my own playing a TT has instantly developed into still playing in the range of a violin and then adding "bass" notes; I really came to like the "treble" range, which is just lacking a grounding of some sort at times - but the pure treble sound is still very attractive to me - and this approach allows for switching between the two types easily with just adding or omitting some lower notes (instead of transposing, which would be a no-brainer with a so-called F-tenor but not exactly so with the ordinary tenor or tenor treble).

 

best wishes - 🐺

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

wunks, re the ordinary 48k treble English the fiddle comparison is inevitable insofar the lowest note (without altering) is the G of the G-string. A tenor or tenor-treble might lead to a "viola comparison" (lowest note, unaltered, is the C of the C-string). However, my own playing a TT has instantly developed into still playing in the range of a violin and then adding "bass" notes; I really came to like the "treble" range, which is just lacking a grounding of some sort at times - but the pure treble sound is still very attractive to me - and this approach allows for switching between the two types easily with just adding or omitting some lower notes (instead of transposing, which would be a no-brainer with a so-called F-tenor but not exactly so with the ordinary tenor or tenor treble).

 

best wishes - 🐺

 

Before posting this I sat down with my boxes and worked on some G and D fiddle tunes.  They landed nicely in the lower treble range and the overlap on duet is very useful.  My preference for the tenor end of things is of course subjective, and I'll be coaxing my ear up the scale.  It's interesting that you comment on "switching between the two types" because it really does feel like I'm holding two instruments; as if I have a viola in the left hand and a violin in the right.  It dawned on me while playing the viola last night that it is indeed an entirely different beast than the violin.  I just acquired it but can play fiddle tunes simply by reverse(?) transposing....playing in G by fingering as if in D on fiddle and stretching out a bit.  one must go up the neck into 2nd or 3d position to complete the tune however.  playing in C keeps one more in the center of the range.  So when you're playing a fiddle tune what are you doing with the lower notes for harmony/rhythm?

Edited by wunks

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8 hours ago, wunks said:

It's interesting that you comment on "switching between the two types" because it really does feel like I'm holding two instruments; as if I have a viola in the left hand and a violin in the right.

Well, it's not called a "duet" concertina for nothing, you know! Violin right, viola left, or cornet right, euphonium left, or female voice right, male voice left, etc. etc. - all these are combinations that you'd term a "duet," and that you can emulate on the duet concertina.

 

Interesting point about transposing on bowed strings! A long time ago, when Irish musicians played jigs and reels without guitar, bouzouki or bodhran, I witnessed an old Irish fiddler and a young Irish piper rehearsing. With one tune that didn't seem to be working out all that well, the piper asked the fiddler if he could "play it one sting higher." (Meaning transpose by a fifth, e.g. from G to D.) In the case of the 20-button Anglo, "playing it on the other row" is also  tantamount to transposing up or down a fifth.

 

Cheers,

John

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On 8/14/2018 at 8:29 PM, wunks said:

I have a 51 button Jeffries duet and a 53 button Wheatstone Jeffries pattern duet both of which I purchased (separately) in the late 60's early 70's both metal ended.  Both are centered on C but the Jeffries is apparently in old philharmonic, a tad below modern C#.  The Wheatstone is from around 1930 and maintains the Jeff pattern except for the low end and in having more overlap.  

Maybe strident is the wrong word.  It's loud enough.  I hesitate to use "dog whistle" but it's a thinness of tone similar to what you get from a poorly made violin.  I may catch it for this but I suspect the wood and other materials used in concertina construction are too dense to resonate much with the higher register.  Good fiddles are constructed with carved spruce tops that have the growth rings oriented from wide at the low end to narrower under the highstrings.  The feet of the bridge are honed to an exact match for the top and a new one is meticulously eased at it's corners and edges.  There is a sound post carefully fitted to tie it all together.  As I write this I'm more certain this is the problem.  Remove the sound post from a violin and it sounds flat as an unplugged Stratocaster.....or the highest notes on a concertina.  I think the concertina resonates wonderfully  in the range of a viola; with the higher notes on a fiddle... not so much.  Has anyone tried introducing an internal spruce resonator board?

Now that I've bashed it, as to expressiveness,  I find the concertina extremely so.  Is it better than the violin?  Different is a better word.  It can oom pah or play a slow air.  It excels at vocal accompaniment.  I love wandering around a usually acapella tune exploring rhythms and harmonies to go with my voice.  a nice slow version of "Rolling Down To Old Maui" is an example.  I even bent a note like on a harmonica by accident while torturing a passage on "The Spring Of '65".  Has anyone ever used this in their playing?  So yes, I think it's on par with a fiddle for expression.

 

Wood species and density have strong effects on reed tone.  So do things like chamber depth, but concertinas are not like violins or violas (which I used to make before falling in love with ‘tinas.).  Where the vibrating violin plates are the primary source of sound in that instrument, as they respond to the energy from the strings filtered through the bridge,  Concertinas have no analogous structures.  The contact between the reed shoe and the reed pan functions similarly, though in reverse to the string / bridge connection,  but beyond that they have more in common with wind instruments, though even there  the parallels are minimal.

   On another note, being able to port over all my fiddle ornamentation was what made concertinas attractive for me.  I started really with Hayden duets happy to be able to accompany myself.  ( I am not a highly social person ). But switched to anglos for their excellence in phrasing and ability to carry over all my ITM  fiddle ornaments as well as phrasing.  Sounds like you are doing great with your duets.  You are still allowed to play your fiddle.  I still do.

Dana

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13 hours ago, wunks said:

So when you're playing a fiddle tune what are you doing with the lower notes for harmony/rhythm?

 

I would in fact add "bass" notes, like from another instrument if you will.

 

However, at times I'm loving to just stick to the fiddle range, to keep things simpler and lighter...

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Dana Johnson said:

Wood species and density have strong effects on reed tone.  So do things like chamber depth, but concertinas are not like violins or violas (which I used to make before falling in love with ‘tinas.).  Where the vibrating violin plates are the primary source of sound in that instrument, as they respond to the energy from the strings filtered through the bridge,  Concertinas have no analogous structures.  The contact between the reed shoe and the reed pan functions similarly, though in reverse to the string / bridge connection,  but beyond that they have more in common with wind instruments, though even there  the parallels are minimal.

   On another note, being able to port over all my fiddle ornamentation was what made concertinas attractive for me.  I started really with Hayden duets happy to be able to accompany myself.  ( I am not a highly social person ). But switched to anglos for their excellence in phrasing and ability to carry over all my ITM  fiddle ornaments as well as phrasing.  Sounds like you are doing great with your duets.  You are still allowed to play your fiddle.  I still do.

Dana

 

Two things I've noticed when playing the viola.  First when I play a higher C the open low C sounds noticibly as well.  Do you feel this is entirely from the common bridge plate connection?  I'm curious because I recently acquired a Tromba Marina (medieval drone/harmonics instrument I'm guessing that as a luthier you know about) It has a main string about 5 feet long that is bowed as harmonic increments are touched with the thumb.  It crosses a semi-floating small bridge (one end curves down like a witch's nose and hovers just a tad above the sound plate to create a buzz) well down at the bottom end.  There are two shorter sympathetic drones adjacent to but below the plane of the main string where they cannot be reached by the bow.  They sound as the main is bowed.  Given the tiny and remote bridge contact of the main to the sound plate, it seems intuitive to me that they are picking up the main vibes through the air by virtue of their proximity to the main.  

 

Second, to play the higher notes of fiddle tunes on the viola I have to get up the neck into 2nd and 3d position.  Even though the notes are the same as on the fiddle the tone quality is much richer.  I attribute this to the slightly longer scale, slightly thicker string and slightly larger box.  Is any of this applicable to the concertina to enhance tone?

Thanx. 

Edited by wunks

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On 8/14/2018 at 4:47 PM, Don Taylor said:

Danny Chapman says that his cello is better for expressive music than his concertina, maybe David has some thoughts on this topic?

 

Coming late to this thread...

 

I agree with Danny. I think it is remarkable what one can get away with on concertinas, given that they are relatively recently invented contraptions designed to mimic what a violin can do, but it’s nothing compared to what an instrument with many hundreds of years of tradition (both in building and playing) behind it can offer. Playing other than equal temperament has already been mentioned. Add to that vibrato, glissando, and greater dynamic range, and there’s really no comparison.

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Posted (edited)
On 8/23/2018 at 4:27 PM, David Barnert said:

 

Coming late to this thread...

 

I agree with Danny. I think it is remarkable what one can get away with on concertinas, given that they are relatively recently invented contraptions designed to mimic what a violin can do, but it’s nothing compared to what an instrument with many hundreds of years of tradition (both in building and playing) behind it can offer. Playing other than equal temperament has already been mentioned. Add to that vibrato, glissando, and greater dynamic range, and there’s really no comparison.

 

Frets and buttons have their advantages, but perhaps the Slide Whistle (modern version, English around 1840)is was more successful?  😉 

Edited by wunks
humor?

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