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Anglo playing guidance needed


Fane
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Hello all, first post after lurking for a while...

 

I've had a 30-button Anglo for a few years and made some very half-hearted attempts at learning to play it. (It's a Scarlatti, all my millennial-living-in-Brighton budget will allow me, I'm some way off being able to justify shelling out for anything better) I've made a slightly early new year's resolution that 2019 will be the year I actually devote a lot of time and attention to learning to play properly. I did the same a couple of years ago with clawhammer banjo and I managed it!

 

The main thing I need is guidance. I've been basically teaching myself - I'm totally fine with theory from learning other instruments, I've got my head around the whole bisonoric thing, I know what notes are where on the concertina, I can hack out a few tunes without too many mistakes, but I'm not sure where to go from here to progress any further.

 

I'm mainly into playing fiddle tunes on it - old-time stuff, reels, airs, jigs and the like. My banjo repertoire is mostly American old-time tunes with a few Irish/Celtic and English ones thrown in. Purely in terms of what notes to play I can translate all these over to the concertina pretty easily but it's actually being able to play them where I stumble! I'm not too interested in doing chordy/Morris type stuff but it would be nice to learn how to do chord accompaniments with the left hand too.

 

So, any advice on how to progress? Any good books/online tutors people would recommend?

 

Thanks in advance!

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As far as the left hand goes, I've found Gary Coover's books invaluable for learning accompaniment and in general for sorting out useful fingering patterns I might not have come up with on my own. His books use a very clear and straightforward tablature system. Highly recommended! I don't have either his Irish Session Tunes or Civil War tune books, but I imagine their quality is just as high, and those might contain repertoire you'd be interested in.

 

I'll also put in my semi-regular plug for Merrill's Harmonic Method from 1869 (available at archive.org) as the only "first generation" concertina tutor I know of that teaches chords and accompaniment (with progressive exercises I found very helpful).

 

Mike

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For the type of music you are playing, I can't recommend Bertram Levy's "American Fiddle Styles for the Anglo Concertina: 30 Studies in the Art of Phrasing" highly enough.  Challenging stuff, but almost easier to do before you develop a lot of self-tutored habits.  The studies teach you how to construct a tune as a series of phrases, taking advantage of duplicate and reversal note buttons, and preparing hand position for each phrase.  As a fellow self-taught player, I wish I had come across his ideas a long time ago.  I wasn't able to play a fast reel convincingly until I started doing this.

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There are so many possibilities to the Anglo.  You can play single notes along the row or across the row, play in parallel octaves, play block chords and "oompah", or more complex harmonic accompaniments.

 

Assuming you buy CG, you will find the chordal options more varied in those 2 major keys.  If you decided to explore further, try one key at a time working around the circle of 5ths in one direction or the other.  So that's  F then Bb in one direction, and D A E in the other.  Most Irish tunes are optimised for fiddle and tend to be in the sharp keys rather than the flat keys.

 

Of course, for every major key, there are related minors and modes.  For example, C major is closely related to A minor, and to D Dorian.

 

Remember that there are many routes around the maze.  On a CG, 20 button, every note of the scales of C and G major appears twice, except F and F# which appear once each. On a 30 button, some notes appear 3 times.  You can do the maths, but it means there's well over 100 ways of playing the C major scale over 1 octave.  Some of these will be more useful than others, but the important thing is not to stick to a "one size fits all" approach to fingering.

 

Get used to playing across the rows from the very beginning.  Experiment, listen, watch, talk to other players, and remember that any book or "method" is only one way of achieving the desired result— probably a good one, but still only one approach.

 

Playing the Anglo is like using a Rubik's Cube in the dark: there are almost infinite possible solution!

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3 hours ago, Fane said:

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I think I'm going to try and get hold of Gary Coover's Irish session book and have a flick through the Merrill one - Bertram Levy's books don't seem easily available in the UK.

 

Have fun! The first half of Merrill's book is a truly opaque tour of 19th-century music theory, and can safely be skipped (except for comedy value), and most of the tunes have fallen out of what you might call "common use", but the exercises on pages 16 to 24 are well worth your time. 

 

Mike

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:D follow the advice of George Garside, a superb melodeon player and teacher ...... leave your instrument where you can pick it up easily as the whim takes you and play any tune you like for as long as you fancy ..... then relax and put the kettle on for a cup of tea ( or open a bottle of wine or beer :D)  

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On 12/24/2018 at 11:52 AM, Fane said:

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I think I'm going to try and get hold of Gary Coover's Irish session book and have a flick through the Merrill one - Bertram Levy's books don't seem easily available in the UK.

 

I think I may have a copy of Bertram Levey's book.    I'll check.

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Yes I have a copy of The Anglo Concertina Demystified by Bertram Levy, complete with two original cassettes!  £12 including UK postage.

 

I also have a copy of The Irish Concertina by Mick Bramich for the same price, or £22 for both,

Edited by Theo
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If you still want Bertram Levy's newer book on "American Fiddle Styles" Try the link to his website and then look at the "Concertina Tutor" tab.

http://bertramlevy.com/concertina-tutor

 

I bought this directly through his website when I lived in the UK a few years back, and it appears it is still possible to do so.  With shipping to the UK it will cost a bit more than his introductory book which you can get from Theo, but it is interesting and assumes you already have some familiarity with the instrument, so the two are complimentary - not overlapping.

 

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I've actually bought myself a copy of Mick Bramich's Irish concertina book (with staff discount from the shop I work in, very handy!) so going to stick with that for the time being until I've exhausted what I feel I can learn from it. Seems pretty handy so far even though I've not really moved off the G tunes. I've realised that what I really need is more repertoire to practice since there's only so many times I can play Squirrel Hunters... So if anyone's got any good suggestions for American or Celtic fiddle tunes that can be squeezed out of an Anglo without too much difficulty, let thyselves be known!

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I taught myself to play with Mick Bramich's book as guide .I then found the best thing for progress was to go to session and learn to play with other instruments..The way to get better is to play as much as you can I only started in 2004 but today feel I can play in Sessions .play for Dance  and Sing and play.The one thing I always do is practice as much as I can and read concertina publications for extra technique .Good Luck its a wonderful instrument  .Bob

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On 1/2/2019 at 12:09 PM, Don Taylor said:

Ted (or anybody else who owns the book):

 

How Anglo-oriented is the  "American Fiddle Styles" book?

 

I am intrigued by the idea of American fiddle styles on the concertina but I play Hayden duet, not Anglo.

 

Don.

The mechanics of it are very anglo-centric- a big part of it is using the reversals and duplicates to create push and pull phrases.  But I would think that the approach of phrasing and blocking hand positions for each phrase could work with the duet.  I don't think it would be very useful for English players, but I could be wrong.

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Yes Don, as Bill says, the "American Fiddle Styles" book is clearly written for the Anglo.  But the approach to using the reversals is specifically aimed at creating phrases, analogous to bowing of  fiddle.  So if you can ignore* the complication of the button positions for each direction on the Anglo, and instead pay close attention to all the comments on phrasing, I think that part could be excellent for a Duet player.   I think though that you would need to be willing to read/decode the Anglo button number tab system in order to know what harmony notes go where even though your fingers will be on different buttons, and of course pay close attention to the lines marking the bellows direction.  There is of course a guide near the start, showing the tab system used, and I'm assuming that as a Hayden player you do read/transcribe standard notation. I don't recall if all of the harmony notes throughout the book are also written in standard notation, or if only the melody notes are in the notation and the harmony notes in tab (button numbers, which you would then need to transcribe to standard notation), and I don't have the book ready at hand.

 

*By "ignore" the Anglo button positions, I mean pay detailed attention to them in order to transcribe to standard notation, and THEN ignore them, except of course to also note where the author has commented that the lack of an available reversal on the Anglo has imposed a compromise on the musical phrasing, since you won't need to follow such restrictions.  You would then need to work out for yourself whatever new compromises and finger tangles the Hayden layout introduces instead.
 

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