Jump to content
Wolf Molkentin

considerations re the idea of a Duet concertina

Recommended Posts

I‘ve been talking of a new journey beginning somewhere else - and I‘d like to share my initial thoughts and experiences with the Duet community here.

 

I should possibly start with saying that the Crane has been my obvious choice here as it can be regarded as a transformation of the Wheatstone keyboard (with which we are familiar from the EC), just omitting the alternation between the two sides.

 

Of course this alternation is an essential and greatly appreciated element of the English concertina, and I‘m far from just changing sides (pun noticed) insofar. However, there are things that seem to be prompted by the Duet system, and I‘m eager to explore them.

 

That said it might be obvious that I‘m seeking neither LHS accompaniment plus RHS melody (still doesn’t sound good to my ears) nor just spreading harmonies (melody included) over the two sides (which I have inevitably to do, and love to do, with the English).

 

So here‘s my point: from initial trying and practising scales, soon expanded  to parallel runs of thirds, sixths and octaves and of course playing and enjoying sweet spread harmonies on either side I‘m thrilled by how much can be done just with one hand or the other.

 

I recalled (and re-read) a statement by Geoffrey Crabb then, saying that the Duet was considered to be two instruments in one: a Baritone on the LHS and a Treble in the RHS. That definitely rang a bell, this is where I want to go...

 

Apart from the obvious „Call and Answer“ I then tried combining three-part-harmonies with the left hand with melody plus one double-stop-drone (so-to-speak) with the right - sort of playing a small reed organ and a fiddle at once...

 

What do guys make of that? I could easily go on but guess I should leave it at that in the first place. Any reply will be appreciated!

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

...  I‘m seeking neither LHS accompaniment plus RHS melody (still doesn’t sound good to my ears) nor just spreading harmonies (melody included) over the two sides ...

 

I must say I'm a bit perplexed by this! If you take away (1) the standard right-hand-melody-left-hand-accompaniment style and (2) spreading-the-harmony-over-both-hands what are you left with? Your preference seems to be to use it as "two instruments in one: a Baritone on the LHS and a Treble in the RHS" but that's just (1) with a single line accompaniment. I've tried that, but I don't think it works as well as fuller chords. You might not agree, but listen to this comparison.

 

Of course it will be great if you develop your own unique style of duet playing and I look forward to hearing it; particularly as a fellow Crane player.

 

LJ

Edited by Little John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

I‘ve been talking of a new journey beginning somewhere else - and I‘d like to share my initial thoughts and experiences with the Duet community here.

 

I should possibly start with saying that the Crane has been my obvious choice here as it can be regarded as a transformation of the Wheatstone keyboard (with which we are familiar from the EC), just omitting the alternation between the two sides.

 

Of course this alternation is an essential and greatly appreciated element of the English concertina, and I‘m far from just changing sides (pun noticed) insofar. However, there are things that seem to be prompted by the Duet system, and I‘m eager to explore them.

 

That said it might be obvious that I‘m seeking neither LHS accompaniment plus RHS melody (still doesn’t sound good to my ears) nor just spreading harmonies (melody included) over the two sides (which I have inevitably to do, and love to do, with the English).

 

So here‘s my point: from initial trying and practising scales, soon expanded  to parallel runs of thirds, sixths and octaves and of course playing and enjoying sweet spread harmonies on either side I‘m thrilled by how much can be done just with one hand or the other.

 

I recalled (and re-read) a statement by Geoffrey Crabb then, saying that the Duet was considered to be two instruments in one: a Baritone on the LHS and a Treble in the RHS. That definitely rang a bell, this is where I want to go...

 

Apart from the obvious „Call and Answer“ I then tried combining three-part-harmonies with the left hand with melody plus one double-stop-drone (so-to-speak) with the right - sort of playing a small reed organ and a fiddle at once...

 

What do guys make of that? I could easily go on but guess I should leave it at that in the first place. Any reply will be appreciated!

 

Best wishes - 🐺

As I'm just learning my instrument myself,  coming from fiddle, guitar, banjo, I can't give specific advice to an already accomplished concertina player.  I think I can make some general observations though that may be helpful.  First of all the overlap of notes in the mid range not only allows for a seamless transition from the left hand instrument to the right but also makes possible all manner of grace notes and other types of embellishments.  I play by ear and tend to improvise and I'm finding that playing in the middle of the instrument is very rewarding. An approach from guitar seems to work well for me and that is what some would call "cross picking".  When using thumb and one finger or a flat pick, instead of trying to keep the base line and melody separate, one develops the melody from the chord structure and invades the harmonies when the melody allows.  Some tunes are too "notey" for this of course such as fast reels and jigs played in the higher register which need a separate accompaniment (if any).  Some keys are not as easy as others.  With the Jeffries Pattern centered on C the keys of F,G,Bflat and of course C are delightful and the relative minors come easy.  A and D are resisting my efforts so far.  I practice this "mid box" approach with slow airs and such like Shenendoah and Da Slocket Light but lots of sung tunes have enough room in the melody for this approach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

What do guys make of that? I could easily go on but guess I should leave it at that in the first place. Any reply will be appreciated!

 

honestly, the first thought that entered my mind was that you are in desparate need of CAS treatment...

 

(just kidding).

 

But no, as Wunks pointed out: Whenever you think you've seen (heard) it all along comes somebody who reinvents an instrument and comes up with something completly different, so go ahead and post sound samples, we'd love to hear it!

 

My (current) view as a duet only player is this: There are only so many conceptually different things you can do with a duet, namely:

 

1. Play melody only, so leave one hand idle  (normally melody on the right hand side although sometimes it works to do that on the bass side. The real sleaze comes into the game when you turn the instrument around and keep playing with the melody hand but low notes. A duet lets you do that). I normally do that whenever a new tune comes my way which I can't decipher in real time from the score (I'm not a good sight reader).

 

2. Play accompaniment only, so leave the other hand idle. This is called "faking" but can be very effective. It works for me because I come from a guitar background and understand chord symbols, so when is a session, enough melody instruments carry the melody, you can chump chords as a guitarist does and pretend like you know the piece.

 

2a. Do 2. but distribute chords over both sides, eg do Ohm (left hand side)- Pah (right hand side). Works really well, at least on a Crane, but there is little point in doing so because the right hand interferes unpredictably with the melody line, so it's fun for the player, but not necessarily for the rest of the world.

 

3. Play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously. Normally this means Ohm-Paing chord shapes on the left while playing the melody on the right. This is very easy on the Crane system, in particular because power chords lie under the fingers for free, so you can add groove effects easily (apparently the Hayden has similar features but I wouldn't know).

 

Of course, 3. can become arbitrarily complex; you can add counter points, inner voices, complex chord shapes, even temporarily move one hand over to the other side and so on.

 

It's a little bit like a piano, I guess; think about the right hand serving (normally) the high side of the key board and the left hand  serving (normally) the low side.

 

After having discussed this with Adrain, I tend to believe (although I don't know a whole lot about Anglos) that many of the concepts of "harmonic playing" on the Anglo translate relatively directly to a duet with the only notable (but in practice marginal once you get to a certain level) difference being that the duet is unisonoric.

 

I have a lot of respect for people who manage to switch back and forth between different concertina systems, but I don't know anybody who does so on a regular basis. One of my musical heroes, Jochen Riemer, wouldn't have any problems doing so, but whenever he needs a bisonoric or diatonic instrument, he picks up a Chemnitzer or a Melodeon instead of his McCann.

 

I tend to believe that a good concertina player can pretty much get anything out of any system, so my strategy would be to learn to play one system well and not try to shift back and forth between systems. But I may be wrong there.

 

 

 

Edited by RAc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What you said RAc  but I play a lot of Quebecois stuff and I'd go A.W.O.L. from duet for a bit  if I found a nice 20 button anglo.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am just so happy if I can get anything going on the left hand that sounds good with the melody on the the right.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, wunks said:

What you said RAc  but I play a lot of Quebecois stuff and I'd go A.W.O.L. from duet for a bit  if I found a nice 20 button anglo.

 

Very true; what I wrote earlier doesn't mean that the differences between the systems are there for no reason (otherwise there wouldn't be distinct systems). Some layouts work better for some musical landscapes.

 

6 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

I am just so happy if I can get anything going on the left hand that sounds good with the melody on the the right.

 

I can well relate to that, Don. Even though I have a guitarist's background and am therefore (theoretically) familiar with the idea of my two hands doing independent things at the same time, it literally took me years before I could play a single measure of one piece two handed. And it still feels much easier for me to stick to one hand (left or right), in particular with new pieces (eg technique 2a listed above seems so much more demanding than 2 even though it's not very different). I'm sure brain researchers have a plausible explanation but that doesn't help a lot. All the labor involved (hours over hours of repetitive disciplined practice, in a second stop under metronome control ) can't be substituted. Yet I consider the reward worthwhile (still a long way to go, but it's the single steps that count) .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Little John said:

 

I must say I'm a bit perplexed by this! If you take away (1) the standard right-hand-melody-left-hand-accompaniment style and (2) spreading-the-harmony-over-both-hands what are you left with? Your preference seems to be to use it as "two instruments in one: a Baritone on the LHS and a Treble in the RHS" but that's just (1) with a single line accompaniment. I've tried that, but I don't think it works as well as fuller chords. You might not agree, but listen to this comparison.

 

Of course it will be great if you develop your own unique style of duet playing and I look forward to hearing it; particularly as a fellow Crane player.

 

LJ

 

Hi John, thank you so much for taking up the discussion of my, possibly all too cryptic, remarks - I hoped that you, among others, would chime in!

 

Maybe I should start with your comparison of four different approaches - from which I seem to prefer the third and fourth - as they're sounding really sweet to my ears I may have to reconsider the discarded (1) approach - in the meantime I noticed that my own instrument is providing strong tones on the RHS as well, albeit unfortunately I can’t hear them too well whilst playing with the instrument on my right thigh.

 

I further agree that just two lines don’t seem to work too well - however when I have a Baritone and a Treble in mind I figure them being played in a fuller harmonic style (like mine) each. So I‘m trying to somehow generate the sound of two different instruments being played together (as said, basically with a spread triad left and a thinner two-part-harmony - or at times octave playing - right).

 

It should be pointed out that this approach is not in any way deemed superior, au contraire it’s a highly personal thing - I‘m aiming at what the Duet might let or even „want“ me to play beyond my current EC capabilities.

 

Maybe it could also be put this way: As my playing is and has always been rather intuitive, I‘m not inclined to laboriously arrange what comes naturally with the (non-overlapping) EC anyway. So I would love to be free to actually duplicate notes (either strictly, within the overlap range, or as octave duplication) just like two seperate players would do, being content with synchronizing their harmonies, but accentuating the rhythm in their own way each.

 

I hope this has shed more light on what I am trying to say, and thank you again for your helpful and interesting hints!

 

Best wishes - 🐺

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
typos corrected, clarification

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, wunks said:

As I'm just learning my instrument myself,  coming from fiddle, guitar, banjo, I can't give specific advice to an already accomplished concertina player.  I think I can make some general observations though that may be helpful.  First of all the overlap of notes in the mid range not only allows for a seamless transition from the left hand instrument to the right but also makes possible all manner of grace notes and other types of embellishments.  I play by ear and tend to improvise and I'm finding that playing in the middle of the instrument is very rewarding. An approach from guitar seems to work well for me and that is what some would call "cross picking".  When using thumb and one finger or a flat pick, instead of trying to keep the base line and melody separate, one develops the melody from the chord structure and invades the harmonies when the melody allows.  Some tunes are too "notey" for this of course such as fast reels and jigs played in the higher register which need a separate accompaniment (if any).  Some keys are not as easy as others.  With the Jeffries Pattern centered on C the keys of F,G,Bflat and of course C are delightful and the relative minors come easy.  A and D are resisting my efforts so far.  I practice this "mid box" approach with slow airs and such like Shenendoah and Da Slocket Light but lots of sung tunes have enough room in the melody for this approach.

 

Hi Wunks, thanks a lot as well for your insightful remarks, to which I can very well relate.

 

First: You‘re actually forcing me to reconsider playing melody notes in the overlap zone with heavier use of grace notes asf., which would be a core technique of playing the EC, but could interest me in combination with another Duet-typical approach I guess.

 

Second: What you‘re citing by the name of Cross-Picking is very familiar to me, basically from my own playing the guitar, but also as an essential element of my personal approach to the EC.

 

Re the Duet I could be inclined to either replace or expand this approach, the latter without losing the spontaneity which has been connected with it so far for me. I‘m not sure as of now what will work...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rüdiger, thanks a lot for chiming in, which is much appreciated. Your explaining the pros and cons of different approaches is quite illuminating (and funny as well).

 

I'd like to take up two points (no surprise as to both of them I guess):

 

15 hours ago, RAc said:

honestly, the first thought that entered my mind was that you are in desparate need of CAS treatment...

 

You're not the first one to mention that 😇 - but (as you say you're just kidding) seriously: My thinking about taking up the Crane has accompanied my entire "career" as a player of the EC, for a long time reined by my satisfaction with the EC, but never discontinued completely. This is leading me to the second point:

 

15 hours ago, RAc said:

I have a lot of respect for people who manage to switch back and forth between different concertina systems, but I don't know anybody who does so on a regular basis. One of my musical heroes, Jochen Riemer, wouldn't have any problems doing so, but whenever he needs a bisonoric or diatonic instrument, he picks up a Chemnitzer or a Melodeon instead of his McCann.

 

I tend to believe that a good concertina player can pretty much get anything out of any system, so my strategy would be to learn to play one system well and not try to shift back and forth between systems. But I may be wrong there.

 

I'm not saying you're wrong here, and I perfectly agree that nearly anything can be done with any of the established systems. But my thoughts are leading me beyond this point I reckon: I'm of advanced age, and highly occupied jobwise. So further progressing with the EC will be restricted. All the more I'm searching for expanding capabilities in different ways, and even more so to being prompted by different combinations of buttons, notes and technical requirements.

 

This has, at least for me, already worked with the basic 20b Anglo, even within some weeks. Albeit I'm well aware that taking up the Crane will be much more demanding (all the more as I'm not seeking for basic things here) I'm nevertheless confident that it will come to fruition as well for me. In that I'm including feeding back in support of my playing the EC (as, again, my Anglo excursion already appears to have done for me).

 

I may quote from a recent PM I wrote: "I've always been into (rapidly) learning to play new-to-me instruments. Playing different instruments enhances my capabilities with all these instruments" - be it guitar, piano, melodeon, recorder, whistle or a somewhat different concertina.

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

Hi Wunks, thanks a lot as well for your insightful remarks, to which I can very well relate.

 

First: You‘re actually forcing me to reconsider playing melody notes in the overlap zone with heavier use of grace notes asf., which would be a core technique of playing the EC, but could interest me in combination with another Duet-typical approach I guess.

 

Second: What you‘re citing by the name of Cross-Picking is very familiar to me, basically from my own playing the guitar, but also as an essential element of my personal approach to the EC.

 

Re the Duet I could be inclined to either replace or expand this approach, the latter without losing the spontaneity which has been connected with it so far for me. I‘m not sure as of now what will work...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

I really don't think any one technique is superior.  The duet allows for many different approaches and so places an onus on the player to choose anew for each sitting.  Limitations and constraint can yield flavor and character (lots of great music coming from single row melodeon) but by picking up the duet you've lost your innocence and must sally forth to return again in Triumph (pun intd.).  Beware the Jabberwock, but I think you're up to the task!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, wunks said:

by picking up the duet you've lost your innocence and must sally forth to return again in Triumph (pun intd.).  Beware the Jabberwock, but I think you're up to the task!

 

I should think so - that's very well put!

 

And I completely agree re welcoming restrictions (I love to play the single row as well, and have much fun with my 20b Anglos too) - all the more I appreciate the encouragement to nevertheless explore the wide horizons of the Duet!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As an accomplished EC player you are adept at playing multiple parts on the right hand.

 

Most duet players (and Anglo players in the harmonic style) play mostly, or only, the melody line on the RHS.  Maybe you could adapt your EC right hand dexterity to the duet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hallo, Wolf!

 

I have a philosophical answer to your questions.  The Crane Duet is an established instrument that has proved itself to be more than a passing fad. I'd like to compare it with other established instruments, for instance the piano and the volin. Both composers and performers have done very different things with these two instruments.

The piano emerged around Mozart's time, and  was used by the Viennese Classical pianists like Beethoven and Schubert, then by the Romantics like Schumann and Bahms,  then the Impressionists like Debussy and the modern composers like Tati.  All very different concepts, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. Then came Joplin's Ragtime and the later jazz (trad. to modern) and boogie pianists, and the piano still has a place in contemporary pop music - not to mention the pub piano bashng out accompaniments to popular songs. Someone taking up the piano today has all those possibilities at his or her fingertips. Some of them call for hard work and dedication, others can be achieved more easily.

The violin is similarly versatile, though the contemporary styles are more folk than pop-oriented, but American, Irish, Scotttish, Scandinavian and Balkan fiddlers use the same instrument for their different musics.

 

HOWEVER, piano music will never transfer to the solo violin, or vice versa!

 

So what about the Crane?

 

Remember, it was soon adopted by the Salvation Army, whose main use was in leading hymn tunes in SATB settings (SA on the right, TB on the left, like the pian). or accompanying folksy Gospel choruses (just chords, or chords left, melodies right). As former Forum member "Dirge" ably demonstrated, piano literature can be performed on the duet, too. Basically, a lot of the piano's versatility can be had on the Crane. Depends on what style of music resonates with you!

But the differences between piano and violin are also echoed in the comparison between the Crane Duet and other instruments. I'm not familiar with the EC, but I do know that there are arrangements that I play quite easily on the Crane but have difficulty reproducing on the Anglo, if at all. And, conversely, the Anglo can be a lot more sprightly because its push-pull calls for less finger movement. When the key of Eb major is called for, then the Crane is ready for it, but the C/G Anglo isn't. And so on.

 

No-one tells a pub pianist that he should be playing four-part harmony, or a Ragtime pianist that he should be playing Rachmaninov - each just does what the piano lets him do. I reckon the Crane Duet lets you do quite a lot - probably more than you personally can think of! Do it - and let's hear it!

 

Cheers,

John

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

As an accomplished EC player you are adept at playing multiple parts on the right hand.

 

Most duet players (and Anglo players in the harmonic style) play mostly, or only, the melody line on the RHS.  Maybe you could adapt your EC right hand dexterity to the duet.

 

Thank you Don - yes, I guess that will be part of what I‘m attempting; maybe this concept is partly prompted by the instrument, which provides beautiful spread harmony on the LHS (frequently including one baritone note) which seems hardly to be balanced with just a single note on the RHS - and doing more feels like playing two ECs at a time...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

Remember, it was soon adopted by the Salvation Army, whose main use was in leading hymn tunes in SATB settings (SA on the right, TB on the left, like the pian). or accompanying folksy Gospel choruses (just chords, or chords left, melodies right). As former Forum member "Dirge" ably demonstrated, piano literature can be performed on the duet, too. Basically, a lot of the piano's versatility can be had on the Crane. Depends on what style of music resonates with you!

 

Hi John, thanks a lot weighing in! The playing of Dirge was surely an inspiration for taking up the Duet for me (in fact I PMed him to discuss the questions raised here).

 

However I don‘t think I‘ll be playing much literature any time soon, albeit I figure sight-reading to be much easier translated to a Crane than the EC, at least speaking of myself. 

 

What I have in mind is the slower stuff in the fields of folk and baroque - droney, ornate, improvised and meditative. Well, sort of...

 

I appreciate the encouragement!

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

What I have in mind is the slower stuff in the fields of folk and baroque - droney, ornate, improvised and meditative. Well, sort of...

Like, do your thing, man! 😎✌️

 

I must say that my Lachenal Crane/Triumph is not at its best in the folky, meditative area. Being a chromatic instrument, it's tuned to equal temperament, which makes richer harmonies rather "edgy" or "uneasy," unless you're careful to avoid certain intervals. I find my Anglos (a Dallas/Crabb and a Stagi) a lot more pleasant to listen to when I'm just improvising with full chords. With your disciplined approach and experience of the EC, Wolf, you'll probably be able to identify and avoid those "sour" intervals on the Crane.

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John, the chords I‘m drawn to as a start are spread, such as 5 - 3 - 1, 3 - 1 - 5, 1 - 5 - 3 (and the instrument with 30b on the LHS provides them for me; otherwise I‘m relying on open fifths again), and thus have the sixth predominating. They do sound sweet to me even in ET - am I deadened here?

 

What I always have avoided, apart from some runs and ornamentations on the quicker side, are thirds, particularly major thirds. With the EC I‘ve found some more use for them lately as I occasionally add the major third to the root when needed at the end of a section. But I would never plunge into that sound for longer periods...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×