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Vivienne Dunstan

Long time accordion player learning concertina

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Hi folks,

 

New member here. I’ve played the piano accordion for over 40 years, since age 4, but recently bought a concertina to learn. My Yorkshire granddad (son of an Irish Mum) played the concertina, and I thought I’d like to give it a go. I have a 30 button Anglo C/G Rochelle. Very pleased with it for fit, feel and sound.

 

I bought Sherburn and Mallinson’s guide for absolute beginners, and have been finding that gets me up and started quite quickly. I also really appreciate the historical notes in there about each tune. I’m now very comfortable playing the middle rows, but still learning to play the outer ones. And the push/pull action with different notes is quite a mind challenge for an accordionist!

 

I also have some of Gary Coover’s books, the harmonic style, and pirates, and I’ve just ordered the sailor songs book. I really like these, though the button numbering is a little different, and thus the tablature, so it’s a bit of a mental switch needed between the two.

 

I suppose what I mainly wanted to ask especially former accordion players or other people who could read music before learning the concertina is do you learn which notes on the sheet music relate to the buttons, and if so how long does it take? At the moment I’m happily following the tablature, but would want to learn the notes better. I guess it’s probably a matter of time and practice.

 

I’m really enjoying playing my new concertina. It’s a much more compact instrument than my 72-bass piano accordion, so I can get it out and be playing very quickly. It’s also good for my MS-like illness: less of a physical challenge when I’m weaker. Though quite a mental work out with the push/pull action. But remarkably satisfying.

 

Thanks all.

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Hi Vivienne, welcome to cnet and our quirky concertinas!

 

I come from a background in piano and organ, and quickly found that none of the different types of concertinas have the linear regularity of a piano keyboard - the duets require a fair amount of zigging and zagging to play a scale, the scale on the English concertina bounces from side to side, and the Anglo scale requires alternate pushing and pulling (like a harmonica) that also has a fair bit of weirdness thrown in. But once you add more than one row to an Anglo, plus the extras and accidentals on the top row of a 30-button, finding all the notes is more akin to learning to play a typewriter (with the extra "in-out" thrown in for more confusion).

 

The Anglo becomes more intuitive over time, but can be really daunting at first. I read music on my EC, and usually grab it first when learning a new tune that's written out. It's only in the past couple of years of playing Anglo that I have been able to associate most of the buttons with notes of the musical scale. It's very much an ear-players instrument, and the fact that some notes appear in multiple places and sometimes in multiple directions makes it difficult when reading music as there might be several buttons to choose from that would coincide with the written note on the page.

 

I find the tablature I use to be a good crutch for initially learning, and through repetition and concentration and often checking the button layout diagram the relationships between the buttons and musical notation slowly start to get imprinted in my head. And yet, I've met beginners who manage to learn all the notes and their multiple locations just fine.

 

Hope you enjoy your voyage of discovery!

 

Gary

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Posted (edited)

I learned to read music in piano lessons, subsequently reinforced with playing horns in band and orchestra when in school, as well as singing in various choirs.  Now playing Anglo, I prefer to play new melodies from written notation, not from any of the various tabs.  Where the same note is found in more than one place, and perhaps in more than one direction, then the button option chosen during the initial sight reading may not be the one I ultimately choose when developing my arrangement, since finger availability coming from or going to neighboring notes, or bellows capacity in a given direction, or phrasing, may be better with one choice.  Tabs can be a useful way to precisely convey such button choices, but I don't read tab at speed, just laboriously use it to slowly work out the details of some else's written arrangement, to see if I like those choices.  From then on I either go back to the standard notation, or eventually learn the tune properly so I can play it without reading.  I never write anything in tab, but sometimes in written notation I will draw a line over all the notes I want to play on the draw, to indicate the changes in bellows direction, as a gentle reminder for next time of the button choices I found will work better.

 

So I definitely learned early on which buttons and directions correspond to which notes.  As for how long it takes, that is really a matter of how you choose to learn new tunes as you play.  If you do a lot of sight reading from notation, as I did, then it happens very quickly, although it can be frustrating at first.  If you usually learn new tunes from tabs first, then learning to associate buttons and direction with the notation takes much longer, since that isn't what your mind is doing while you learn.   I started with a 20 button instrument, and therefore could (generally) play only in the home keys. That provided me with excellent training in what the core of the instrument could and couldn't do, but now learning to automatically find the accidentals in the outer row on my other instruments has taken longer, since that isn't what I was practicing until more recently.

 

Many people regard the Anglo as an instrument to learn by ear.  I don't often learn that way, but I agree that it makes sense, at least while playing in the home keys and some nearby keys.  Again, if this is what you practice, then this is what you will learn. When I participated in a bit of session playing a while back, I did pick up a few tunes by ear soon enough.  While playing along a row in one of the home keys, the instrument will guide you to likely notes, and even likely harmonies, making playing by ear much easier in that situation.    Of course learning to play across the rows can be more useful than playing along the rows in the long run.  

 

 Most folk tunes when written will not show a harmony line, but just melody and some suggested chord changes, so for those melodies in the home keys, I generally select harmony notes somewhere along the same row, with occasional harmony notes played cross row where appropriate to fit the indicated chord.  (such as while playing in the key of G, and the melody note is an F# on the G-row, I would pull a D note off the C-row to get part of a D chord)  I try to keep a nice smooth harmony line going and avoid irregular jumps.  If playing something with more accidentals, or if the tune is in a key away from the home keys, creating a harmony line becomes much more difficult and requires careful planning, since some note combinations simply are not available in the same direction.  In these cases I will often write out the harmony and melody line together in notation.

Edited by Tradewinds Ted

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Posted (edited)
On 7/1/2019 at 5:51 PM, Tradewinds Ted said:

 .........Now playing Anglo, I prefer to play new melodies from written notation, not from any of the various tabs.  Where the same note is found in more than one place, and perhaps in more than one direction, then the button option chosen during the initial sight reading may not be the one I ultimately choose when developing my arrangement, since finger availability coming from or going to neighboring notes, or bellows capacity in a given direction, or phrasing, may be better with one choice.  Tabs can be a useful way to precisely convey such button choices, but I don't read tab at speed, just laboriously use it to slowly work out the details of some else's written arrangement, to see if I like those choices.  From then on I either go back to the standard notation, or eventually learn the tune properly so I can play it without reading.  I never write anything in tab, but sometimes in written notation I will draw a line over all the notes I want to play on the draw, to indicate the changes in bellows direction, as a gentle reminder for next time of the button choices I found will work better.

 

So I definitely learned early on which buttons and directions correspond to which notes.  As for how long it takes, that is really a matter of how you choose to learn new tunes as you play.  If you do a lot of sight reading from notation, as I did, then it happens very quickly, although it can be frustrating at first.  If you usually learn new tunes from tabs first, then learning to associate buttons and direction with the notation takes much longer, since that isn't what your mind is doing while you learn.   I started with a 20 button instrument, and therefore could (generally) play only in the home keys. That provided me with excellent training in what the core of the instrument could and couldn't do, but now learning to automatically find the accidentals in the outer row on my other instruments has taken longer, since that isn't what I was practicing until more recently.

 

Many people regard the Anglo as an instrument to learn by ear.  I don't often learn that way, but I agree that it makes sense, at least while playing in the home keys and some nearby keys.  Again, if this is what you practice, then this is what you will learn. When I participated in a bit of session playing a while back, I did pick up a few tunes by ear soon enough.  While playing along a row in one of the home keys, the instrument will guide you to likely notes, and even likely harmonies, making playing by ear much easier in that situation.    Of course learning to play across the rows can be more useful than playing along the rows in the long run.  

 

 

 

I can repeat almost exactly what TT has said there, except I started on a 30 button Anglo after many years playing English treble (which I still do).

 

Having tried most of the main Anglo tutor books I found the Gary Coover tab very much the easiest to use, and was pleased find at Swaledale Squeeze that Jody Kruskal used it in his excellent workshops too.

 

I never write tabs either but on new tunes use coloured highlighters to indicate merely push (green) and pull  (pink) plus the odd bit of orange to emphasise an oddball note or 'unusual' accidental button. The colours are enough just to confirm button choices and readily overwritten when you feel a change is needed from your original choice. This came from some 25 years of playing and learning tunes on diatonic Melodeon. Attached is an example of what I mean (yes, I know Bob Michel adds a few chord fill-ins on YouTube but I am still experimenting with that).

 

However, as I am mainly following an 'Irish' traditional route rather than a harmonic route I find Heather Greer's 'Concertina Diaries' the most useful, and her tab is equally logical and easy to follow, though not everyone agrees with her fingering (do they ever !).

 

Best Wishes

 

Rob

 

 

 

Parnell’s March (R Anglo tab).pdf

Edited by Robin Tims
Adding a file and associated comments and typo error.

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Hey Robin, nice rainbow colors, also coincidentally appropriate for the month's cultural/political theme!

 

And here's how pretty much the same notes would look in the tab I use (see attached). Sorry it's a bit tight, the final version might expand to 8 staves. I also find the "button map" to be really helpful in showing what buttons you need to care about, and more importantly for the beginner, which buttons you don't need to care about for the particular tune.

 

Looking at both methodologies, perhaps it makes the most sense for ITM to learn the actual notes, which is how it is usually taught. Which brings us back to the Vivienne's original question!

 

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

ParnellsMarch-G-ANGLO.pdf

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Posted (edited)

Thanks Gary.

 

Yes I do have your excellent Irish tunes book (along with '1-2-3' and 'Harmonic') but got hooked on the particular version of Parnell's that Bob Michel plays although there are not that many differences it's true. I do really like your button maps though, seriously useful in all your books.

 

For ITM, knowing the notes is right and I have pretty much mastered that. The 'rainbows' are mainly an aide memoire as to choice where there are button options, the rest sort of crept in.

 

Best Regards

 

Rob

 

PS Sorry Gary I find it was not your Irish tunes book where I found Parnell's March initially,  so your kindly added new tab above is very helpful and interesting, thanks again. (BTW like you, I have a Wolverton Anglo C/G)

Edited by Robin Tims
PS added

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Wow, so many helpful replies. Thank you all! And very encouraging too. Much appreciated.

 

I'm starting to associate the sound of the notes with individual buttons, so I think I will increasingly work on reading the music as well, to try to associate the notes visually as well as by sound.

 

I have also started to play some tunes by ear, where I don't have any sheet music or tablature to hand. For example some of the traditional Common Riding songs from my home town Hawick in southern Scotland. It's often rather chaotic, as I miss the right buttons, but more often than not I am hitting the right ones, and the right direction.

 

I'm going to view this as a slow process. First step feel comfortable with the instrument and the push/pull action (pretty much done). Next step learn the sounds of the notes (underway), and after that the sheet music versions, while continuing to work on learning tunes by tablature. And try playing other tunes totally by ear.

 

Can I also say thanks very much @gcoover as another fan of your books. I'm particularly enjoying the pirates one, but also very much appreciate the harmonic style one, as an accordionist who wants to play more than just one melody note at a time. I also have the Irish tunes one, though that's a little bit more advanced than I am at the moment.

 

Thanks all! Great forum :P

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