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The Ballad of the Button Box


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I’m sorry I’ve been away from c.net a couple of weeks and left this hanging. While I’m glad I sparked the discovery quest that Don followed, I did not mean to say that I keep my fingers over the “home row” typewriter-like when I’m playing in other keys. It’s just that as a Morris, Contra, and English Country Dance musician I spend a lot of time playing in G, so when I pick up the instrument, that’s where my fingers fall, as testified by the wear patterns on my buttons and faceplates. Then, if I want to play in F, for instance, I move my hands one notch to the left and play from there. As to the question of translating notated music to finger action, there is no simple answer. I guess it has to do with intimate familiarity with the notes in the various keys and how they relate to each other (both by intervals and by position in the scale) that comes with years of both playing and serious study of music theory. So if I’m playing in the key of A and I see an A and then a C#, I don’t think “OK, I’ll play an A and then I’ll play a C#,” but rather “Here comes a major 3rd starting on the root note of the key I’m in. I’ll play the A and then the note a 3rd higher.” Sorry, Don.

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