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Newby practice advice and a Christmas Carol

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I have a new skype student who wants Christian hymns and Carols. Try this "Away in a Manger" Christmas carol arrangement I made for him in Gary Cover's tab… not so fancy and good for a beginner in the harmonic style… Good luck.


Remember… how you practice is key. We all have busy lives. Here’s what I do for learning with maximum improvement vs. minimum time investment.


30 minutes of dedicated and focused practice every day works wonders. If you have time for a full hour every day, well, that’s even better. Learning this concertina stuff is not easy and it takes time. It’s like a body building regimen for that special connection between your fingers, arm and brain muscles. You are slowly building the connections between muscle groups that are not used to working together. You have to learn to pat your stomach and rub your head at a steady tempo. You must be persistent and consistent in you practice schedule to make progress as you work out in the concertina gym.


Chip away at it, learning tiny chunks and repeating and looping the bits you know in time. Only then can you connect the pieces into actual music.


Practice makes perfect… and if it’s not perfect, you’re probably playing it too fast. Slow it way, way down until you can play just one phrase or measure or even two notes right. Your first goal is to learn to play in time, giving each note its full rhythmic value. The slower the better.


In practice, you are free to turn your little bit of a loop into a whole song and own it. Explore the groove. Get into the rhythm. Get up and dance around!


Keep a background beat by tapping your foot. Better yet, learn to use a metronome. Be sure to have one handy at our first lesson because it’s a great tool for practice and I can show you how to use it effectively. Free metronome downloads are available on all devices.


When you are confident that you have your selected bit correct… repeat the measure or phrase over and over to teach your fingers and indeed your whole body how to play it. The only way to learn this stuff is by repetition at a strict tempo.


Next, move on to another bit and then do the same. Bit by bit, you can teach your body to do this seemingly impossible concertina task. I’ve been there myself, and it’s really so hard and also such fun to observe myself dramatically improving day by day!


Once the bellows direction and fingers have learned what to to do…
only then can we start to make real music… Music which lies in the mysterious and detailed nuance of the bellows action.


I'm so excited that you are taking lessons with me on your C/G concertina.



Away in a Manger.2.jpg

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Jody, don't get too excited as  I am not taking your lessons  because I play one of those alternative English layout models. However I found your advice both encouraging and stimulating.  I'm sure brain muscle stimulated by your repetative system is the main ingredient.  I say this because manual dexterity, provided there is no physical impairment, is not a limiting factor, especially if one accepts that extra high speeds on a keyboard, for instance, do not immediately or necessarily transfer to fast speeds on a concertina - I wish they did!


Thanks for all your god advice, here and at gatherings.


Les Branchett


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