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Anyone for Bb ? (EC that is).


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I  noticed recently  that  Barleycorn Concertinas  are  advertising  a  Treble  English  in  Bb    and  saying    Bb tuned  EC's are not  so  uncommon  because  Salvation Army  concertina players  often  used  then  to  ease  playing with  their  Brass  bands.  How  true  this is  I  do  not  know  because  it is  not  so  hellish  difficult  to play  the EC  in the  Flat  keys.  Brass band  sheet  music  might of  course be  written  in  C  when  the  brass  instrument  will produce  Bb  when  reading the score. So  the  sight reading Salvationist  does not have to  transpose in their  head  when handed  a  Brass band  score.

 

This  got me  thinking   about  a wee problem  that  crops  up   from time to  time.  I  have  two  major  situations  for  playing   the EC  with  other  musicians, one is  in  Irish traditional  sessions  and  the  other  with  the  local   'Bal Trad'  band  here  in France.  So,  for  Irish sessions  the  keys of  G  and  D  and related minors  and  a  normally   tuned  Treble  English  is  my  usual  instrument  BUT  now  and again a  'Flat'  session  is  encountered.  When  a  flat  session is  in C  I  can  transpose  G and D  to  C  and F  but it is  not  always  easy  to  remember  the  fingering  even  when I  can  shift  position to  make the finger patterns  similar,  flattening  Sharps and  sharpening Flats.  The  Anglo players  just  reach  for  their  Bb/F  instrument.  If, however  I  was to  utilise  an  EC  tuned  a  whole tone  lower  I  could  enjoy  a  C  session  without  further  difficulties.

 

With  the  Bal Trad  band  where  most of  the tunes are in C, some  in G ,  and  the  related  minors, I  have  often  felt I'd be  happier  if the  band played in  D  rather  than  C.  Ok people  usually  feel that  C  is  the easiest  key  on the  English  but  it  can get  tiring  when  playing  for  hours in a dance band  just  using the  two  central  rows.  D  and  A  spread  the  load  more naturally over three  fingers.  So,  with  a Bb  tuned  EC  I  could  play  the  C  and G  tunes  in D  and A.

 

Just  how  common  are these  Bb  tuned  EC's  I  wonder?

 

 

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I have an ex-Salvation Army Treble English Lachenal in Bb. I bought it about 30 years ago to play along in sessions with Northumbrian pipes, which are usually Bb instruments. The person selling it had several Bb concertinas, including a Bass, which had all apparently come from the same band. 

 

But, not long after buying it I totally drifted away from involvement with Northumbrian pipe music, and have hardly played the concertina since.

 

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Please excuse my ignorance… 

 

I just don’t know how this works. 

 

are the middle rows tuned to Bb instead of C? So, you would hit what would be a B and a Bb would sound. and then to hit a B you would press a Bb button?

 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/22/2021 at 1:45 PM, seanc said:

Please excuse my ignorance… 

 

I just don’t know how this works. 

 

are the middle rows tuned to Bb instead of C? So, you would hit what would be a B and a Bb would sound. and then to hit a B you would press a Bb button?

 

Yes the middle  rows  would  play  the  scale  of  Bb,   a  whole tone  lower than  normal.  So  you'd  hit  what  would  normally  be  a  B  and an  A  would  sound.  Re reading  your  question Seanc,  I  realize that  I  was  less than  clear.   I  think  the  Bb  tuned  EC  will  have  the  C  scale  in Bb  , so, all the  C  buttons  will  give  the  note  Bb.  The  complete  keyboard  will give  notes  one whole tone  lower  than  normal.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
To Clarify my description.
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Randy Stein said:

Why not just learn the various scales and play in those keys. The advantage of the EC, no?

In  theory  this  is  the  right way  but  with  Irish  trad music, where one  has  imprinted   hundreds of  tunes  into  the memory  along with  a  specific  style of  ornamentation  I  find  it  difficult, on the  fly, to  transpose  tunes  from  G  to  F  or  D  to C.  This  means  the  fingering  becomes  reversed  or  'mirror imaged'.... one  would  need to  learn  many of  the  tunes  again.

I did  this  on one of the  'Tune of the Month'  series,  the  recording is on  my  Soundcloud page,  where  I  play  a tune  in seven  different  keys  during one  2 minute  take  ( Parson's  Farewell  STE007).  But  the  tune  was  fairly  simple.

 

To  play   everything in  an  Irish  session  one tone  lower  would  be  akin  to  transposing a Bach  Bourrée  on the  fly,  yes it  could  be done  with  practice.

 

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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On 8/21/2021 at 7:31 PM, LesJessop said:

I have an ex-Salvation Army Treble English Lachenal in Bb. I bought it about 30 years ago to play along in sessions with Northumbrian pipes, which are usually Bb instruments. The person selling it had several Bb concertinas, including a Bass, which had all apparently come from the same band. 

 

But, not long after buying it I totally drifted away from involvement with Northumbrian pipe music, and have hardly played the concertina since.

 

Any  thoughts on selling that  Bb Lachenal ?

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Geoff,

If you can afford it, and you think it would bring you ease or pleasure, I say get a Bb EC.

As you mention, Anglo players do this. So do harmonica, recorder, viol, lute, guitar, and other players. Sometimes it is for sonority, sometimes (as you mentioned) it is for quick transposition without having to learn new fingering. My favorite example of transposing in this way is the "transposing piano."

 

For those who have never heard of it, a transposing piano is essentially a regular piano with keyboard and hammers attached to a contraption that can be cranked from side to side. In standard position, when you press a C key the hammer hits the C string(s) inside the piano. If you crank the contraption a little bit to the right, when you press that C key, the hammer hits the C# string(s). Crank it a little farther to the right and when you press the C key the hammer will now hit the D string(s). The same thing happens when you crank to the left. With a transposing piano you could learn everything in your favorite key, and just crank right or left whenever you wanted or needed to have the music in a different key. The only downside is that, unlike a regular piano, a transposing piano is too heavy to throw in a bag and take with you to gigs. 

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23 hours ago, robert stewart said:

Duh? "unlike a regular piano a transposing piano is too heavy to throw into a bag and take with you to gigs". Am I missing something in the pianistic world now?

That was my obviously failed attempt at humor.

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