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mike_s

Why Give Up

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8 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

Sorry, but I am not sure what you and Mike mean by a 'bass jump'. 

 

Neither am I.  I was using the example given by the earlier poster, Accordian, as "an algebraic X" in my more general argument about practice styles.

 

I interpreted Accordian as writing about playing accordion at that point in his post.  I know roughly how the left hand works on an accordion, although I don't play one myself.  My general point is that any particular skill (which would include bass jumps on an accordion, or chord changes on a guitar, or tricky left hand fingering patterns on an Anglo (etc.) needs to be absorbed in small doses as part of each of a series of reasonably short (20 min) practices.  An hour spent on exactly one skill is unlikely to be an efficient or effective way of learning and may even be counterproductive.

 

Apart from that, with any musical skill, find several examples of tunes that require the technique, to give it context.  If you learn and practise a technique in isolation, it does not flow nicely when introduced into an actual tune.

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29 minutes ago, Mikefule said:

 

 

 

Apart from that, with any musical skill, find several examples of tunes that require the technique, to give it context.  If you learn and practise a technique in isolation, it does not flow nicely when introduced into an actual tune.

I find a good way to add interest when practicing is to multitask by playing tunes that modulate. The switch to another key snaps your brain back into focus.  lots of tunes adapted from 2 row melodeon have this feature.

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8 hours ago, McDouglas said:

Mikefule,  I wonder if you would say more about your "second possible answer."  I've been playing EC for a year now and really enjoy it.  I suppose I choose the EC over the Anglo because the unisonoric system made sense and I was a bit leery of the bisonoric bellows.  However I sat in on the Chiltinas session in the UK back in October and watched a talented Anglo player at work - and was fascinated - and curious too I suppose.  Will you tell me more about your experience in switching from an EC to an Anglo?

 

It's very much a personal thing, and not at all rational.

 

I started on harmonica, playing folk melodies in what we call "first position".  That means playing mainly C major on a C harmonica, G major on a G harmonica (etc.) and no bending of notes.  I got reasonably good at it, composed a few tunes of my own, and played regular floor spots at my local folk club.  I still play harmonica when I'm teaching Morris dancing because I can play, watch, stop, talk, and quickly blow a few notes of the tune as and when required.  However, I seldom play the harmonica for pure pleasure any more.

 

I then moved on to melodeon.  This was a sort of peer pressure thing.  The DG melodeon ( 2 rows with 4 bass buttons and 4 pre-set chord buttons) is the default Morris instrument.  It is essentially 2 harmonicas strapped together, with a bellows, so I found it fairly easy to translate much of my harmonic repertoire straight to melodeon.  All I had to do was become proficient in the basic oom-pah accompaniment and the 3 chord trick and hey presto:  Instant mediocre Morris musician.  Again, I never really enjoyed it.

 

Melodeon playing has improved in the Morris over recent years, with many players buying expensive boxes with fast light actions and responsive, nicely tuned reeds.  People have learned to combine the few notes and chords available on the left hand with a more sophisticated across the row style on the right hand, and there is now some very sophisticated melodeon playing in many folk/Morris sessions.  All that came after my time!  When I was playing, I felt that the simple oom-pah left hand was rather mechanical, and the two (or more) reeds per button on the treble side made nuance and subtlety impossible. It was, to me, just a box for cranking out tunes so that there was music for the side (team) to dance to.

 

I never made a proper effort with trumpet (my lip kept splitting), the piano (I only had an old electric keyboard to practise on), fife (I bought it because it was cheap, and never worked on the embouchure), guitar (I had a couple of lessons, but could never change from one chord to another as smoothly as I wanted to).  And so on: a litany of failed attempts.  I was "playing at music" rather than playing music.

 

I have no idea what suddenly inspired me to look up concertinas on the internet one day.  I can remember it happening, and where I was (Bratton Clovely, Devon) but not why I did it.  I didn't even like concertinas, because most of what I had heard had been poorly played squeaky and unrhythmical playing.  I knew one person who played accurately but without passion, so that it sounded like a cheap computer game beeping a tune.  I could vaguely remember that one old friend whom I had not seen for many years had played a concertina brilliantly at the local folk club, but I had no idea if it was Anglo, English, or duet, or what the differences were.  If you'd asked me the day before, I would have said that I did not particularly like the concertina!

 

Part of my motivation may have been my natural eccentricity.  I am the Fool of my Morris side; I ride unicycles cross country; I ride quirky motor bikes; I love 1950s rockabilly... if something is slightly unusual, and especially if it is no longer fashionable, it tends to appeal to me.  In the Morris world at the time, melodeons were ten a penny, but the concertina was a bit of a fringe instrument.

 

I did a lot of research, and began to understand the differences between the English and Anglo.   I developed a fairly good idea what a duet is, although I never really learned the differences between the various duet systems.

 

One aspect of harmonica, melodeon, trumpet (and even penny whistle, which I had once tried) was the lack of a direct link between the notes on the page and the instrument itself.  If you want to play a harmonica in D, buy a D harmonica.  There is no incentive to learn to sight read in one key when you can just pick up a different harmonica and play in a different key from the same dots.  The same applies to some extent with melodeon: it gives you G and D to work with, so if the tune is on the page in A or E, it still comes out in D or G.  The trumpet is even weirder because trumpet music is written transposed so that what a trumpeter calls a C is a B flat to non-brass players.  So Morris tunes appear on the page in a wide range of keys, but almost everyone plays them in G or D, and the trumpet plays a tone lower than you think it is... madness!

 

So what appealed to me about the English concertina intellectually was the direct 1:1 relationship between notes on the stave and notes on the instrument.  Play in C, modulate to F by flattening the B, or modulate to G by sharpening the F.  Every note and every key available with no transposing or pretending.  Brilliant!

 

What appealed to me about the English concertina musically was the impression I always had that an EC player presses the buttons gently to release the music that's in there waiting to come out.  I sort of felt that an EC player "released" the music, where the Anglo player "pumped it out".  I even posted something to that effect in this forum around that time and one or two people agreed with me.

 

So I borrowed a very nice EC from a friend, and practised for a few minutes every day for a month.  At the end of that month, I could confidently play a single octave of the C major scale, and a single octave of the G major scale.  However, as soon as I tried to play a tune, even one I knew well, and could play on harmonica or melodeon from memory, I just couldn't get it to work.  All that left hand/right hand thing felt strange, and I got in a real tangle if the tune had a series of notes on the same hand, especially if they were on the same "row".  Should I use the same finger 3 times on 2 different buttons, or should I twist and contort my hand?  It just didn't suit me and I became dispirited.

 

With hindsight, perhaps I should have sought advice, maybe some lessons, perhaps searched YouTube (I was unaware of YouTube at that time, if indeed it existed at all) and I should have tried different tunes, practised arpeggios, different scales, and trusted that it would come in time.  However, I just felt dispirited.

 

Then there was a fortunate coincidence.  On consecutive nights, I got to hear excellent players of both systems: Keith Kendrick on Anglo, and Dave Ledsam on English.  I chatted to both, and Keith let me have a quick squeeze of his Anglo.  Hearing both instruments played well on consecutive nights, I suddenly knew that Anglo was the sound I wanted.

 

I may to some extent have been influenced by the superficial similarity to melodeon and harmonica, but really it was the sound that grabbed me.

 

Following advice from this forum, I bought a Rochelle — ironically, from Dave Ledsam, who was the EC player mentioned above — and I managed to wangle some lessons from Keith Kendrick.

 

I remember turning up at Keith's for my first lesson, able to play Waltzing Matilda as a single line of melody.  I was proud but he was dismissive: if I wanted to play proper English style, I would need to learn chords.  I could have been put off by his brusque tone, but I took it as a challenge.  I learned a few simple accompaniment tricks from Keith over the next few months, and it was Keith who encouraged (persuaded) me to invest in a Marcus GD Anglo. He had trained me to believe that the Anglo is "the thinking man's piano" and that "it's all in there if only you know where to find it."

 

By now, I was playing every evening, and, living in a tiny modern terrace, I was usually to secluded spots to practise in the car.  However, I found it difficult to put it down, so I would get home at 9:30 p.m. from practising in a secluded spot, and then play for a few minutes in my living room until the neighbours banged on the wall!

 

The logistics of travelling to Keith's house for lessons made it impractical, and I found a new teacher nearer to home: Alan Davies.  He was the old friend I'd heard play concertina so brilliantly all those years before (25 years) at the local folk club.  (Alan now runs the Midlands Concertina Group.)  I had lessons with Alan, who was an inspirational teacher who allowed me the freedom to develop my own style, but would never let me cheat by avoiding the difficult bits, or fudging the melody.  Through Alan, I got my first vintage concertina.

 

So, what caused me to fall in love with the Anglo, but not with the English despite my "considered decision" that EC was the one for me?

 

 Who can say?  I've put 1,000 times more work into the Anglo than I ever did with the EC, and it has been a long story of slow progress to my present state of reasonable competence, but I have never doubted that I would stay the course.

 

Was it the fact that I had 2 inspirational (but very different) teachers?  No, because in both cases, I had to persuade them to give me lessons.  Neither of them  was keen to take on a student but I nagged and begged and pleaded.

 

I love to hear EC played well.  I envy the skill with which that marvellous instrument can be wielded, but I don't want one.  I can barely be in a room with an Anglo without picking it up and playing a few bars.

 

That's not really an answer, but it's the best I can give you.

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Thanks.  Loved hearing your story.  

 

I'll probably stick with the EC but I'm exploring buying a better instrument than my beginner Jackie (some may say the Jackie hardly qualifies but it's been a good EC to learn on).  As a pianist the chromatic possibilities of the EC make sense - though the duet system may be a closer to analog to the LH/RH of the piano.  

 

At the end of the day there are no shortcuts to playing well.

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9 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

Sorry, but I am not sure what you and Mike mean by a 'bass jump'. 

This is what is meant by a bass jump around here:

 

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I play several instruments and I have some experience on giving up. 

I have learned that there are reasons why you give up playing. Most of the time it is  is FRUSTRATION (apart from health issues). Playing an Instrument in general is a fun and fascinating thing - why should you stop doing that? There where times, in my Concertina playing too, when I noticed that I play less and less, don´t practice anymore and so on. What I do then is try to ask myself why I don´t want to pick up the instrument right now. The answer always is that I´m frustrated with something. Maybe I set my ambitions too high, maybe progress is too slow,...there can be many reasons. It helps me when I analyze why and then try to find a way around it  so I get back the fun in playing.

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On 12/2/2018 at 12:22 AM, McDouglas said:

As a pianist the chromatic possibilities of the EC make sense - though the duet system may be a closer to analog to the LH/RH of the piano. 

 

Albeit I‘m currently gladly exploring the wider options with a large Duet, I still don’t believe it to be any closer to to the piano than an EC (in a way it’s the other way around IMO).

 

This has been widely discussed in the past, so I confine myself to just suggesting that you might stick with the EC since this is apparently working for you.

 

Best wishes - 🐺

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
typo - again
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I suspect people give up because they don't have a reason to carry on. When I was young I played viola, French horn and piano but gave them all up as I wasn't really into the classical music with which I associated them. Alongside these I learnt (self-taught) guitar and bass guitar. I stuck with these longer but eventually gave up on them too. Then I discovered the concertina (English initially, then Crane duet). Although there have been periods of months when I've been simply too busy to play it, I've never actually given up because I just love the sound so much. Later on I picked up bouzouki and re-started bass guitar (after about a 30-year break). I played bouzouki a lot when I had a whistle-playing friend nearby to accompany, but now I play it only when there's a scratch band to play with. Similarly the fretless bass guitar, I play it only when there's a jazz or rock/pop band to play in. I really enjoy both, but don't practise them at all.

 

But the concertina I play daily, whether or not there's any particular goal in mind, simply because I love it.

 

LJ

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On 11/30/2018 at 3:44 PM, mike_s said:

1) ...The only person I know who played thought it was too difficult and took up melodian instead....

 

2) ...People often take up guitar thinking it will be easy only to quit in disgust...  

 

1) Different strokes for different folks - I think the melodeon is more difficult than the concertina...

 

2) Moi aussi - though it took me 40 years before the penny dropped, and I took up the concertina...

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I'm now retired and working on Piano. I gave it up twice, once as a child and once in my 30's both times because of pressure of work. It's not portable so I looked at guitar but that didn't work. Then I tried English concertina and it slotted in naturally. I'm more of a dots than an ear player and find the EC quite natural after the piano. (I play a lot of Baroque stuff so two hands working against each other isn't a problem).

 

Why do people give up? Time pressure is one good reason - you can't find time for the work needed to improve. I gave up guitar because It wasn't working for me. I couldn't get the sound I wanted and knew that however hard I worked it wouldn't happen. EC fits nicely for a pianist because you have finger dexterity and can read music.

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Giving up is not something I've ever done. But here's an interesting anecdote:

The fiddler in my groupdecided he wanted to learn the accordion. So he approached a Russian friend of ours who plays the bayan and teaches all types of chromatic accordion, B-Griff, C-Griff and piano-accordion. The first question was how to obtain a reasonably-priced accordion, to which our friend replied that there are lots of good, used PAs on the market, but very few CBAs. His reasoning was, that a lot of beginners have some knowledge of the piano or keyboards, and assume that the PA will be easy to learn. When they find out that it isn't that simple, many of them fall by the wayside, and sell their instruments. Beginners on the CBA, by contrast, realise that they're venturing into unknown territory, and only take it up if they have the resolve to persevere with the accordion.  So, basically, giving up the accordion has to do with false expectations.

My fiddler plumped for the CBA, and has kept it. However, he is very musical, and knows it, having learnt classical violin and taught himself the melodeon, so he was confident in his own learning abilities. For someone who has never played an instument before, the risk of disillusionment is much greater. And disillusionment is probably what feeds the used-instrument market (apart fron those who really have caught the bug and want to upgrade to a better intrument of the same type).

 

For me, life without an instrument wouldn't be worth living! I grew up in a house full of instruments, and saw how much pleasure my parents had in playing them. My father had a fiddle, a mandolin and a mouth organ, and at a very early age I learned to make music the way I learned to talk - by hearing and copying my parents. The mandolin was my first musical companion, its small size and slender neck being amenable to the hands of a small child. While still at primary school, I picked up the mouth organ, and when I was "sensible" enough, I was allowed to play the fiddle, too. My mother had an autoharp, and that was easy! When my father got a derelict banjo given to him, and renovated it, I started on that, too. I was about 10 at the time, and the frets were too wide for my fingers, but it waited for me to grow a bit, and then the fun started.

The first instrument that I actually went out and bought, without knowing anything about it, was in fact the concertina. The only one they had in the shop was a cheap, East German 20-button Anglo-German. I realised at once that my mouth-organ skills were transferable to it, and the fun started all over again!

I must stress that the above instruments did not succede each other - the later ones just joined the gang. I still play all of them, although the 5-string banjo and the Anglo are my main emphasis at the moment. I have phases for one instrument or the other, so none of them get really neglected, and if the situation calls for it, I can work up one of the less-used instruments quite quickly. Like cycling or swimming, you never really forget how to play an instrument, once you've got to know it.

In my view, wanting to play another instrument is no reason to give up the one you already play. Of course, I define myself as a singer, so I start off using most instruments for accompaniment. Some of them do develop into instrumental solo instruments, but as a singer, I have an excuse for not reaching the virtuoso level!

 

Cheers,

John

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Have to add.. I took piano lessons when young like many, and enjoyed it, reading and memorizing classical pieces. Yes, it's difficult, but oh how I wish it would have been an anglo concertina!! I would rate the difficulty of anglo well played, as difficult or more than high level piano playing. I've took up old time banjo now, and it has improved my concertina playing. You can't bend those notes, but it's the rhythm. If little children dance when you play...So, I would echo, falling in love, like minds, determination, does the instrument fit your personality. Find the rhythm, express yourself! And...a good instrument costs too #! $^×much:(

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To all this wisdom let me add another thought: those who give up often lack encouragement or worse, experience the wrong kind of critique.

 

Story: when I was a teenager I was the back up accompanist for a church youth choir. One day a soloist for a piece must have been absent and the director asked me to sing in his place. I attempted it, not really knowing the piece well and must have messed up royally..  I remember the laughter of my peers and the director.  Being an overly sensitive teenager I tried to hide my embarrassment - and going forward I thought, "Well, I'm not a singer; I'm a pianist."  It was not until I was in graduate school studying voice privately that I began to believe I could actually sing.

 

My point is sometimes people give up because they lack a mentor, a teacher, an encourager - someone to say, it's okay, mistakes are the way you learn.

 

 

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3 hours ago, McDouglas said:

To all this wisdom let me add another thought: those who give up often lack encouragement or worse, experience the wrong kind of critique.

 

Story: when I was a teenager I was the back up accompanist for a church youth choir. One day a soloist for a piece must have been absent and the director asked me to sing in his place. I attempted it, not really knowing the piece well and must have messed up royally..  I remember the laughter of my peers and the director.  Being an overly sensitive teenager I tried to hide my embarrassment - and going forward I thought, "Well, I'm not a singer; I'm a pianist."  It was not until I was in graduate school studying voice privately that I began to believe I could actually sing.

 

My point is sometimes people give up because they lack a mentor, a teacher, an encourager - someone to say, it's okay, mistakes are the way you learn.

 

 

 Good point well made.  Never tell someone they "can't sing" or they "have a horrible voice".  Encourage them instead to think of singing as a skill that can be learned developed like any other.

 

The same with playing instruments.

 

When I was 7, I played recorder at school.  I doubt I was any good, but I practised, and enjoyed it.  I was then moved from one parent to the other and my dad took one look at the recorder and said, "We're not having that bloody thing in this house!" and threw it away.

 

10 or so years later, I started to teach myself harmonica.  I got good enough to do occasional floor spots at the local folk club.  Then one day, after I had practised "Boys of Blue Hill" (hornpipe) well enough to feel confident, I foolishly allowed myself to be heard practising it at home.  The comment after maybe 30 bars: "OK, we've had enough of the Irish jig now."

 

It was then roughly 35 years until I felt confident enough to take an instrument seriously.

 

As for the singing, at 56, I am finally starting to feel that I understand how it works.  I sang a serious traditional song last Thursday and someone whose judgement I admire complimented me on it.  I felt like I'd arrived!

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I'm late to the party, but here are my two cents.

 

- people quit because they don't understand that learning to play an instrument well is not a linear process. Inevitably there are frustrating plateaus; in my experience, that's when many people quit.

 

- concertinas, especially Anglos, seem incredibly easy to play; a novice can pick up an Anglo and learn to play a simple tune more easily than almost any other instrument.  When they realize it takes hard work and focus to play well, the charm is gone for many

 

- concertinas seem to attract gadgeteers - people who are intrigued by the Rube Goldbergish aspects of concertina design. Eventually that wears off and they move on to the next gizmo.

 

- to the extent concertinas are folk instruments, they share something with others of that ilk: many players find it hard to focus on a single instrument.  Today it's concertina, tomorrow pipes,  and so on.  I have a hammered dulcimer on my wall to reinforce the point; luckily, I decided to focus, but wish I had done so much earlier.

 

-  as others have mentioned,  availability of affordable instruments.  If all you have access to is a hard to play cheapie, it takes incredible determination to keep playing.  

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On 12/4/2018 at 4:29 PM, Mikefule said:

 

 

As for the singing, at 56, I am finally starting to feel that I understand how it works.  I sang a serious traditional song last Thursday and someone whose judgement I admire complimented me on it.  I felt like I'd arrived!

Good for you for having the courage the pick up instruments in spite of the "discouraging words."  And double congrats for singing in public.  Singing is easy but singing well is an astounding feat.  Kudos to you!

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6 hours ago, McDouglas said:

Good for you for having the courage the pick up instruments in spite of the "discouraging words."  And double congrats for singing in public.  Singing is easy but singing well is an astounding feat.  Kudos to you!

 

Thanks for your kind words.

 

It's strange.  If you play an instrument and make a mistake, it feels "understandable", but if you sing "badly" then there's a feeling that it is something about yourself: that you have a "bad voice".  Playing a bum note can sometimes be embarrassing, but singing a bum note is automatically ten times worse because it is so much more personal.

 

I'm not a brilliant singer, but I can sing a few folk songs, and some of them well enough for a floor spot at a folk club, and a few more well enough for a session with Morris friends.  I write comedy songs which have the advantage of carrying the audience with you even if the voice could be better.

 

But of late, I've finished a few serious songs and thought to myself, "Not bad, Mike."

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