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What are concertina arrangements?

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16 hours ago, Rebecca Kelly said:

I have just started playing the concertina and I am wondering what are concertina arrangements? Could you please provide me with some examples of concertina arrangements. How do you compose an arrangement?

You don't say what type of concertina you have - Anglo or English, or w.h.y.


If it's an Anglo, I suspect that folks with more knowledge/experience than myself will be along

to answer your question 'real soon now', but I wonder if what you are talking about isn't (more

or less) what is being discussed in this thread. Whatever, it might at least 'get you started'...


There's some good advice in there, quite a lot of it coming from the general directions of

Lincolnshire and Worcestershire...

Edited by lachenal74693
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17 hours ago, Rebecca Kelly said:

what are concertina arrangements


In the main, an 'arrangement' is a piece of music that already exists, rewritten and rearranged to be comfortably playable by an instrument or group of instruments it was not originally written for. 


A concertina arrangement will fulfil a few different criteria depending on the type of instrument it is intended for.


It will;


- not have any notes beyond the playable range


- not have conflicting, therefore unplayable note combinations (relevent to Anglo particularly)


It should;


- take advantage of the characteristics of the instrument to best effect


- be ergonomically minded as to not involve not combinations which feel uncomfortable or un-natural


It can;


- be either very similar, or completely different from the original character of the composition


- be simplified


- be virtuosic


- be transposed into an entirely different key



Edited by JimmyG
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Hi Rebecca, for the English concertina you’ll probably be looking at keys C D or G major and their relative minors, Am,Bm and Em. along with the melody plus bass lines -notes a guitar might use when accompanying in the same key. A very simple example could be playing four low C notes per measure while you play a melody in the key of C major.

Here are some:



notice that when a C major chord is playing in a measure the accompaniment is often C E or G notes ie. 135.  
Try learning the names of notes in each chord.


Good Luck! :)

Edited by simon ds
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I call an "arrangement" when I think about how I am going to play a tune on the concertina (in my case 20b anglo).


Any style/genre of playing can involve arranging tunes.


What is the mood of the piece (or within the piece how does the mood change?), how fast am I going to do it, what sort of articulation (do I want a section smooth or articulated differently? Am I going to highlight a repeat section by treating it differently?  Might that mean a choice of buttons to use and whether on the push/pull.) How will I use the bellows in different sections to bring out phrasing/dynamics/feel.  Will I do it all the same tempo throughout?  Am I going to do it exactly the way I have heard someone else do it, or the way it is traditionally done in a particular area, or do I have some different ideas according to how it makes me feel.?  Will I do five times through the piece, each one different, or shape my version so that it has a climax in the middle or near the end etc.


Beyond that, am I going to add in some harmonies, countermelodies, do it in octaves, add some chords, is it all going to be made out of chords (like some organ music), some rhythmic stuff (technical term that!)  If you like harmonic treatments 


Gosh there is so much you can do with a piece, isn't there!  


What sort of music do you like playing or listening to/what would you like to play?  Maybe we can be a bit more specific then in our answers :)

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To be specific

(I generally play harmonically on 20b anglo)


When I came up with one of my first tunes, it started as a single line melody (they dont always.  I love the shapes of chords you can get on the anglo!  So some things might come from wanting to explore a chord shape and what happens when you move that shape on different buttons).  I wanted to have a quieter slower, more thoughtful version (with smoothness so fewer bellows changes but also quite a bit of freedom in the tempo, slowing down or getting a bit faster).  I wanted that bit to reflect how one might sing it (as it was based on a poem).  However I also wanted a dancey, upbeat version of the tune (with more bellows rhythm, articulation, bellows accents etc, a bit more like I imagined Morris dancing).


I then was listening to a nice video someone had done and decided I would have a go at their style of countermelody.  So I invented a left hand part that sounded nice with the melody being played on the right hand.    What sounds nice?  Well, press a few buttons and see!  But generally it is nice to do things like contrary motion - where the melody goes up, try going down - and various other techniques composers use to write countermelodies.  Trial and error is a good way though as you learn about what would suit an anglo.  


Then I thought "how about doing the tune an octave lower on the left hand..whilst doing the tune" and "maybe I dont need to play _all_ the notes in the left hand - just the occasional one.


I liked how you can get two notes a fifth apart by playing the same vertical column on the c and g rows.  And that is two notes of a chord (without the third) so used that, in a fun rhythm that worked with the tune, for one of my versions of the tune.


Those are just some ideas.

Edited by Kathryn Wheeler
I thought of some more stuff!
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Hi, Kathryn.


An "arrangement" is basically a tune with a specific accompaniment of chords, bass notes, or other harmonic decoration.


So you could choose a simple tune that "everyone knows" like When the Saints Go Marching In and, on a 20b C/GAnglo you could:

Just play the simple melody on the right hand in C, or in G along the row

Just play the melody on the left hand in C or in G along the row

Play it in parallel octaves, either note for note, or only playing the lower octave on the main beats

Add block chords

Play bass notes on the left hand, under the melody played on the right hand

Or any of a number of other approaches to make the tune more interesting than just a single line of melody.


Then you can look at which chords to use.  The simplest answer is to use the "3 chord trick" but there are other chords you could choose for certain parts of the melody.  Indeed, you might play it differently each time through.


So all of the above are "arrangements".


You asked what is a concertina arrangement?  It is simply an arrangement that is put together with the concertina in mind.

On an Anglo, a concertina arrangement will:

Fall within the range (highest and lowest notes) available on the instrument.

Take into account what buttons are available at all.  I play some tunes differently on my 30b instruments or my 20b instruments.

Take into account bellows direction for general convenience and ease of playing.

Take into account bellows direction for staccato or legato passages.

Take into account bellows direction for availability of chords.

Take into account which fingers can easily move together, or need to work independently of each other.


Most of all, the arrangement needs to sound good on concertina.


There is no single thing that is a "concertina arrangement" and any one tune or piece may have several possible arrangements.


I suspect that most of us from the folk/dance area of the concertina world usually develop our own arrangements by practice and finding out what works for us, rather than following someone else's written arrangement.  As you develop, you learn tricks and techniques that easily transfer to other tunes with similar characteristics.

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Some interesting ideas, thanks.
I’m thinking of mandola and octave mandolin, there’s definitely a jump in thinking between playing a straight melody and then adding rhythm or singing. 


Learning solid simple bass line accompaniments can be valuable.


For the English concertina, from what I’ve heard it’s the ability to sing, and throw in precisely timed melodic riffs that often reply to the main melody or play a third above, and then the occasional alternating bass to hold the structure together.


A lot of it seems to be what you don’t play, and the silence between riffs. An arrangement in this case would be a balanced collage of the different techniques.


Edited by simon ds
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