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How best to learn harmonic Anglo?


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I've been playing the Anglo concertina for a few months now, using Chris Sherburn and Dave Mallinson's excellent "Anglo Concertina Complete Beginners" tutor book. I started with a Stagi concertina and have recently bought a lovely 1920s Lachenal Anglo from Chris Algar at Barleycorn.
 

I can now play some really nice tunes from this book quite competently, but the book only teaches you to play in the single-note melody style. Obviously it's essential to learn to do that, but I feel that now I'd like to learn to "jazz up" my playing and perhaps move towards more of a "melody on the right hand and extra notes and chords on the left" style, which I believe is often called a "harmonic" style of playing?

 

I've bought Gary Coover's "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style" book. Would this be a good book to use to learn to make my playing a little more sophisticated?

 

All advice would be very welcome,

 

Thanks,

 

Chris

 

 

Edited by Cheshire Chris
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42 minutes ago, Devils' Dream said:

Chris, I like all Garys books.

Don't get too ambitious with "Harmonic Style" right away. 

Start at the beginning.  Pick one tune you really like. 

Gary has great YouTubes for nearly all  of them.

Once you get the hang of it, it is fun....

Thank you! Good advice.

 

Chris

 

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Same thing here Chris, been playing a few months and am starting to dabble with adding harmonic notes. I have been having a blast, and am also about move up to a better box.

Karl

I will add, Coover's books have been fantastic for me. I am only playing 20 button, and at this time plan to keep it that way. I know, this could change someday.

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I myself found Gary Coover's "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style" a bit too challenging for me. I then purchased his "Civil War Concertina," which was written for 20B Anglo. After I made some progress with the latter, the former became a bit easier.

 

Both are good books. In fact, all books from Gary are great.

Edited by pentaprism
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I set out from day 1 to learn "the harmonic style" and now tend to feel that there is no single "harmonic style"  There are techniques and approaches that work for different types of tune.

 

However, you need to make a start with a basic style and the develop techniques as you go on.

 

The two things to work on are:

  1. The physical coordination required to play 2 things at once.
  2. The intuition of which notes to play.

The simplest harmonic styles are based on octaves.  Here is a link to an excellent article on the subject:

https://www.concertinajournal.org/House_Dance_Text/ch_12.htm

 

A popular starting style is loosely based on the "oom pah" (bass note, chord) that you hear from melodeonists.

 

The timing for this is a bit of a hurdle at first.

 

Think of a jig rhythm.  "Tid-der-ly tid-der-ly."

The base note goes on "Tid" and then you play one or more higher notes from the same chord on the "ly".

 

A simple exercise to get the timing is to play (on a CG) the notes CDE CDE repeatedly on the right hand in a slow jig rhythm.

The bring in the left hand: C gap G, C gap G.

Then instead of just playing the G, play EG together on the left hand.

Then experiment with playing with the OTHER C on the left hand.

(Hint: your left little finger is your busiest finger in the harmonic style.  It owns the bottom 2 buttons on all 3 rows.)

 

Now, choosing the chords.

 

The 3 chord trick will provide a basic simple harmony for any tune in a single major key.  That is why country music was famously called "3 chords and the truth" and why dads the world over criticise their son's music as "It's only 3 chords".

 

A chord is 3 notes counting up the scale: the root note, then note 3, then note 5.

So if you count from C, that means CEG.

 

The 3 chord trick, in this order of importance, uses these chords:

Chord I (C in the key of C)

Chord V (G in the key of C)

Chord IV (F in the key of C.

 

C is CEG

G is GBD

F is FAC.

 

You will see that each letter name appears at least once, so at least one chord will fit any note in the melody.

 

The 5 chord trick is common in folk music.  It is the 3 chord trick plus

II (minor) which is A minor (notes ACE) in the key of C.

III (minor) which is E minor (notes EGB) in the key of C.

 

These two extra chords will add flavour to most tunes in the major key.

 

Any note of any chord can be duplicated (e.g. Low C and high C together) and any note can be missed out.

 

Find one simple tune that you know well enough to play on autopilot (something as simple as Oh Susannah) and experiment.

 

Remember you don't have to harmonise every note, and gaps in the accompaniment are part of what makes the Anglo special.

 

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2 hours ago, Mikefule said:

I set out from day 1 to learn "the harmonic style" and now tend to feel that there is no single "harmonic style"  There are techniques and approaches that work for different types of tune.

 

However, you need to make a start with a basic style and the develop techniques as you go on.

 

The two things to work on are:

  1. The physical coordination required to play 2 things at once.
  2. The intuition of which notes to play.

The simplest harmonic styles are based on octaves.  Here is a link to an excellent article on the subject:

https://www.concertinajournal.org/House_Dance_Text/ch_12.htm

 

A popular starting style is loosely based on the "oom pah" (bass note, chord) that you hear from melodeonists.

 

The timing for this is a bit of a hurdle at first.

 

Think of a jig rhythm.  "Tid-der-ly tid-der-ly."

The base note goes on "Tid" and then you play one or more higher notes from the same chord on the "ly".

 

A simple exercise to get the timing is to play (on a CG) the notes CDE CDE repeatedly on the right hand in a slow jig rhythm.

The bring in the left hand: C gap G, C gap G.

Then instead of just playing the G, play EG together on the left hand.

Then experiment with playing with the OTHER C on the left hand.

(Hint: your left little finger is your busiest finger in the harmonic style.  It owns the bottom 2 buttons on all 3 rows.)

 

Now, choosing the chords.

 

The 3 chord trick will provide a basic simple harmony for any tune in a single major key.  That is why country music was famously called "3 chords and the truth" and why dads the world over criticise their son's music as "It's only 3 chords".

 

A chord is 3 notes counting up the scale: the root note, then note 3, then note 5.

So if you count from C, that means CEG.

 

The 3 chord trick, in this order of importance, uses these chords:

Chord I (C in the key of C)

Chord V (G in the key of C)

Chord IV (F in the key of C.

 

C is CEG

G is GBD

F is FAC.

 

You will see that each letter name appears at least once, so at least one chord will fit any note in the melody.

 

The 5 chord trick is common in folk music.  It is the 3 chord trick plus

II (minor) which is A minor (notes ACE) in the key of C.

III (minor) which is E minor (notes EGB) in the key of C.

 

These two extra chords will add flavour to most tunes in the major key.

 

Any note of any chord can be duplicated (e.g. Low C and high C together) and any note can be missed out.

 

Find one simple tune that you know well enough to play on autopilot (something as simple as Oh Susannah) and experiment.

 

Remember you don't have to harmonise every note, and gaps in the accompaniment are part of what makes the Anglo special.

 

Thanks, Mike, that's great information.

 

I play the piano, so I'm quite accustomed  to doing different things with each hand (plus, of course, I know the chords), so in theory that should be a big help. I'll try the simple exercises you suggest and see how it goes.

 

Thanks again for your extremely helpful response.

 

Chris

 

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Agreed on Gary's books, and his "1-2-3" book in particular does a nice job of ramping up to fairly complex arrangements.

 

I'd also second what Mikefule said about playing in octaves. This is an excellent way to enrich the sound of your playing, and gets both hands involved quickly. New forum member Kathryn Wheeler recently posted a lovely arrangement of a tune (in the General Discussion forum) where she uses octave playing extensively. It's an old-fashioned, but very effective style, and personally, I love the way it sounds.

 

-Mike

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On the octaves thing, it is (in my mind) important not to play simple octaves note for note all the way through.  If you do this, you may as well get a single row 2 voice melodeon.

 

Instead, I tend to play the lower note of the octave only on beats 1 and 3 (in 4/4) most of the time, occasionally playing every beat of a bar, and sometimes lingering on one note for longer, perhaps if it is a pedal point (a note that is common to two or more consecutive chords).

 

From here it is a simple extension to vamp pairs of notes (the octave and the next button up or down) some of the time.

 

This way, the left hand brings light and shade to the right hand melody, rather than simply copying it.

 

In all of the various harmonic and octave based approaches to playing Anglo, it is incredibly useful to develop confidence playing across the rows.

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12 minutes ago, Mikefule said:

On the octaves thing, it is (in my mind) important not to play simple octaves note for note all the way through.  If you do this, you may as well get a single row 2 voice melodeon.

 

Instead, I tend to play the lower note of the octave only on beats 1 and 3 (in 4/4) most of the time, occasionally playing every beat of a bar, and sometimes lingering on one note for longer, perhaps if it is a pedal point (a note that is common to two or more consecutive chords).

 

From here it is a simple extension to vamp pairs of notes (the octave and the next button up or down) some of the time.

 

This way, the left hand brings light and shade to the right hand melody, rather than simply copying it.

 

In all of the various harmonic and octave based approaches to playing Anglo, it is incredibly useful to develop confidence playing across the rows.


Developing the mental flexibility to play across the rows is the challenge I’m facing at the moment, Mike. I can confidently play along both the C and G rows, but I’ve not yet reached the point at which I know when it’s best to cross the rows. I’ll get there! Chris Sherburn’s book which I’m learning from is giving me lots of practice at it.

 

Chris

 

 

 

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51 minutes ago, Cheshire Chris said:


Developing the mental flexibility to play across the rows is the challenge I’m facing at the moment, Mike. I can confidently play along both the C and G rows, but I’ve not yet reached the point at which I know when it’s best to cross the rows. I’ll get there! Chris Sherburn’s book which I’m learning from is giving me lots of practice at it.

 

Chris

 

There are many many routes through the maze.

 

On a 20 button CG, in the main octave used for melodies in C (starting on the C on button 1 on the right hand) every note is available twice except the F.  That means that just for that one octave C-c  there are 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 x  2 x 2 x 2 

 x 2 = 128 different ways of playing the scale.

 

Of course on a 30 button, there are even more options.

 

Of course, in real life, you don't need to learn them all, but you will find yourself using short runs of 3 or 4 notes along various routes.

 

Assuming your box is CG (otherwise, you can work out the equivalent for your keys) and using underlining to indicate a pull note:

 

The standard C major scale along the row is 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 4.

 

As a starting point, learn to do the necessary finger swap on the two consecutive notes on button 3.

 

Now using bold  to indicate a button on the G row, and still using underline for a pull note, here's your first simple cross row scale:

 

2 2 3 2 2 3   See, it's the same fingering pattern on 3 buttons, but moved to the G row.

 

The next useful variant is

2 2 3 2 2 4   Look at that carefully: you're borrowing off the G row for 3 notes, but crossing back for the push top C.

 

This is important because C is the tonic and because it can harmonise with the chord C major (push chord) or F major (pull chord) so sometimes you need the push note, and sometimes the pull note.  It will also harmonise with A minor which is available in both directions on a 30 button.

 

A useful "way back down the scale, using the bold and underlined as before is:

3 5 4 3  which gives you 3 consecutive notes CBA on the pull which will fit with a nice rich F major pull chord.

 

Remember that all of these patterns need modifying for the left hand because the two octaves are offset.  By that I mean that where the right hand tends to go "push, pull the next, push, pull the next" the left hand tends to go "push, pull, push the next, pull."

 

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As someone who loves playing harmonically and who is relatively new to it -

I made a note of whose playing (or which pieces) really stood out for me as something I love and (at first) literally played videos at a slower speed and noted down what was going on.  That helped me but I’m experienced at that and it’s one way I’ve always learnt music - copy it, internalise it, learn the grammar of it, then play with it and modify/adapt to suit whatever I’m doing.  Then play with new ideas

 

There are many different options and ways of doing it.  Lots and lots to play with.  
 

Ive started writing out tunes and accompaniments in a way that’s sheet music plus tab like Gary Coover’s system  (of various sorts - countermelody/equal parts, countermelody plus chord like rhythm, octaves, thick chords, oom pah or a mixture) 

Edited by Kathryn Wheeler
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7 minutes ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

As someone who loves playing harmonically and who is relatively new to it -

I made a note of whose playing (or which pieces) really stood out for me as something I love and (at first) literally played videos at a slower speed and noted down what was going on.  That helped me but I’m experienced at that and it’s one way I’ve always learnt music - copy it, internalise it, learn the grammar of it, then play with it and modify/adapt to suit whatever I’m doing.  Then play with new ideas

 

There are many different options and ways of doing it.  Lots and lots to play with.  
 

Ive started writing out tunes and accompaniments in a way that’s sheet music plus tab like Gary Coover’s system  (of various sorts - countermelody/equal parts, countermelody plus chord like rhythm, octaves, thick chords, oom pah or a mixture) 


Thanks, Kathryn. I play the melodeon already, so "um pah" accompaniments are something that's very familiar to me. On the melodeon you have separate bass keys for the purpose. Have to work out how best to fit them in with the melody on the Anglo. Presumably you use the low-octave of whatever key you're playing in?

 

Chris

 

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1 hour ago, Cheshire Chris said:


Thanks, Kathryn. I play the melodeon already, so "um pah" accompaniments are something that's very familiar to me. On the melodeon you have separate bass keys for the purpose. Have to work out how best to fit them in with the melody on the Anglo. Presumably you use the low-octave of whatever key you're playing in?

 

Chris

 

 

Assuming you are playing the melody mainly on the right hand, you have 2 octaves below your tonic.

 

So if you're playing in C on a 30 button CG, you can use any of C (E) G c e on the left hand as bass notes for any part of the tune that needs a C major chord.  (E) is button 1 on the accidental row.)

 

A simple but effective technique is to play an Oom accompaniment, rather than "oom pah".  Play the bass note once or twice per bar (depending on the time signature) on the "on beats".

 

That bass can alternate between 2 notes a 5th apart (C G, C G) or stick on one note, or alternate between 2 notes an octave apart (C c, C c), or walk about the chord in any pattern that feels right.

 

There is then nothing to stop you using an occasional single note (or pair of notes) as an occasional "pah".

 

When I started, I had in mind a rigid "Oom pah, Oom pah) and felt that I was somehow failing if I could not keep the Oom pah going relentlessly through the tune.

 

Now, Oom pah is only a small part of what I do.  I probably do "Oom" on its own almost as much.

 

Another favourite is to play the 1st and 5th of the chord (C and G for C major) on the on beat and then fill in the 3rd (E) on the off beat.

 

 

 

Another useful trick is the 3 note block chord.

 

Playing in C major on a CG 20 button Anglo, you can make

C major 3 buttons in a row

D minor same 3 buttons in a row pull

E minor (a triangle of 3 nearby buttons from the C and C row)

F major (the same 3 buttons, pull)

G major (3 button in a row on the G row, push)

A minor (the same 3 buttons, pull)

 

There are other patterns and versions, and more options on a 30 button, but the point is that there are some very simple patterns of 3 buttons.  You basically learn 2 "shapes" with your fingers and move those two shapes about the keyboard and you can make little snappy block chords.

 

You can either use these to follow the melody "chunk chunk chunk" in time with the notes of the tune, or you can give a little "(and) chunk" on the off beat to brighten the tune.

 

 

 

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I use a 20button Anglo so there aren’t so many very low notes 

 

What I tend to do at the moment I’d to work out a nice countermelody on the left hand and then add in the occasional chord notes to add rhythm - that way some notes in the  countermelody act as “bass” notes 

 

I don’t always use the root of each chord in the “bassline” - whatever makes a nice run of notes, so it could be a root, third or fifth of a chord

 

I guess all my years of playing chords on electronic organ in various inversions have stood me in good stead!

 

Aaa, it’d be so much easier to show you than describe it! 

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