Jump to content

Wrong instrument or just need more practice?


dmksails
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi all -

 

I'm a fiddle player that is just getting into the concertina.  On the fiddle I like to play slow tunes with long phrases - tunes like "In the Bleak Midwinter" - not into ompa music.  These are the tunes I would also like to play with the concertina.

 

I first started playing with an english version and found it to be fun, but exhausting.  The bellows were very stiff and did not seem to loosen up with playing - and I'm a big guy, so strength is not really the problem here.  I've recently exchanged the english for an anglo.  This one has bellows like butter!  I can play for an hour and not feel tired.  The problem is how to play the type of music I want - seems I'm always out of air!  Is this just a matter of practice?  I'm told that a player can use the air button to take quick sips of air as needed, but I've not figured that process out yet.  Are there any practice routines I can do to master this or videos out there that show how to go about getting more air?  Or do I need to go back to the english - but a better quality instrument.

Edited by dmksails
Link to comment
Share on other sites

hmm, its hard to say, what model of English did you have before? And what model of Anglo have you now? Some instruments are not as easy to play due to simply being made cheaply.

 

With air button use on an Anglo it is a matter of practice. When I first started playing I would work out a tune like this: 1. learn the tune 2. work out the chords or otherwise accompanying harmonies 3. work out the best points to use the air button in anticipation of which parts of the tune might be 'on the push' for example. then 4 - go back to chords and think about the chords in relation to the use of the air button as it sometimes changes your approach. In time this process became not quite so laboured and dictatorial as that described above and you just learn to do it a bit more quickly and fluidly which is one of the joys of regular practice. 

 

I wish you all the best on your musical journey, but as for staying with Anglo or moving back to English its hard to advise on that without knowing if it was actually just the particular instrument you had which was causing the problem. - If you let us know the make and model of both of the instruments you tried - English and Anglo I maybe we could better advise you.

 

But fair warning: sometimes English or Anglo questions are a can of worms, but its always worth discussing it in reference to your own particular desires as a musician. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

hmm, its hard to say, what model of English did you have before? And what model of Anglo have you now? Some instruments are not as easy to play due to simply being made cheaply.

 

With air button use on an Anglo it is a matter of practice. When I first started playing I would work out a tune like this: 1. learn the tune 2. work out the chords or otherwise accompanying harmonies 3. work out the best points to use the air button in anticipation of which parts of the tune might be 'on the push' for example. then 4 - go back to chords and think about the chords in relation to the use of the air button as it sometimes changes your approach. In time this process became not quite so laboured and dictatorial as that described above and you just learn to do it a bit more quickly and fluidly which is one of the joys of regular practice. 

 

I wish you all the best on your musical journey, but as for staying with Anglo or moving back to English its hard to advise on that without knowing if it was actually just the particular instrument you had which was causing the problem. - If you let us know the make and model of both of the instruments you tried - English and Anglo I maybe we could better advise you.

 

But fair warning: sometimes English or Anglo questions are a can of worms, but its always worth discussing it in reference to your own particular desires as a musician. 

 I went from a Jackie english to a Phoenix anglo

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A common beginner problem on the Anglo, not to worry, it will get better with time! Pretty much everyone (including myself) starts out pushing and pulling much too hard, trying to force the tune out, which of course eats up lots of air. And when learning a tune, one tends to stop and start and make little mistakes that also use extra air. I wouldn't worry too much about it until you can play the tune through without stopping. 

 

And as Jake says, the arrangements matter too - you can use alternate buttons in different directions or play more or fewer notes in certain directions to maximize or minimize air. I'm currently working on the bridge section of "Namida no Regret" by SCANDAL where pretty much everything is on the pull in the key of Eb (on a C/G Anglo), so it's taken a lot of clever searching for any notes that can be played on the push, sometimes playing no accompaniment, or short chords, or adding lower notes that also gain more air.

 

"In the Bleak Midwinter" can sound absolutely beautiful on the Anglo. Here's an arrangement with full accompaniment that you should be able to play through without ever touching the air button. I've also attached the sheet music with tablature.

 

 

Gary

51-InTheBleakMidwinter-C-ANGLO.pdf

Edited by gcoover
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you tested your Phoenix for air-tightness? 

 

Hold it vertically through the hand strap of one end with the bellows closed.  When you let the other end drop under its own weight (no buttons pressed) then it should take some time to fully extend - 20 seconds or more.  More is better.  If it drops open in a few seconds then it needs fixing. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this is almost certainly to do with technique rather than the instrument.  Even if it is a bit more leaky than is desirable, provided the instrument is playable it should usually be possible to compensate for this with the air button.

 

Most notes on the Anglo are duplicated elsewhere, so as Gary has said look to find notes in the other direction to even out use of the bellows.  You can use the air button at the same time as playing a note - you might need to slightly increase pressure to maintain volume, but this isn't a problem since the purpose of this is to open (or close) the bellows more quickly than in normal playing.  The idea is to set up the bellows ready for the next phrase - if you know there is a long section which will be all on (say) the pull, use the air button on the push in the phrase leading up to this to make sure the bellows are nearly closed.  This does need the ability to think ahead when playing, but it comes with practice.

 

It is often said that the air-button is the most important button on the instrument.  Working out when and how much to use it should be as much a part of learning a tune as the actual notes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, gcoover said:

s, or adding lower notes that also gain more air.

 

"In the Bleak Midwinter" can sound absolutely beautiful on the Anglo. Here's an arrangement with full accompaniment that you should be able to play through without ever touching the air button. I've also attached the sheet music with tablature.

 

 

 

Nice one, Gary.  I worked out an almost identical arrangement years ago for a public TV holiday special, and still like to play it. The Anglo works very well for this kind of tune.  (But for the filming, I had to wear a silly and embarrassing costume).

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Jim Besser said:

Nice one, Gary.  I worked out an almost identical arrangement years ago for a public TV holiday special, and still like to play it. The Anglo works very well for this kind of tune.  (But for the filming, I had to wear a silly and embarrassing costume).

 

Did it find its way to YouTube?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, David Barnert said:

 

Did it find its way to YouTube?

 

Nope. It was filmed by West Virginia public TV at the historic Wayside Inn in Middletown, Va; I was playing with a civil war dance band, but for some reason they hired us to do this non-dance event. We played "Bleak Winter' as a kind of processional tune.  They sent us DVDs or CDs of the show, but mine got lost a long time ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, dmksails said:

 I went from a Jackie english to a Phoenix anglo

Phoenix Anglo by Mcneela? I think that is probably a step up in quality from the Jackie which would explain you getting on with it better. Comparable English models in the same price category would probably be something like a Morse Albion or Andrew Norman English concertina. To be honest though  I would recommend just staying with the Anglo - you can play smoothly with practice on that system, you just have to pay attention to where the repeat notes are on the keyboard - many though not all of the notes are available in both directions, so you can adjust your playing of certain  passages for a more legato feel. But that is just my opinion as an Anglo player.

 

edit: in summary - I would say just more practice as opposed to wrong instrument. 

 

Edited by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As many have said above, finding the alternative notes on the anglo keyboard is going to help a lot.  There are ways to play almost all the most common notes on both a push and a pull.  As you get more familiar with the keyboard this will make sense. The lower F# and the middle C# are likely the only common ones with one button/direction since you are working with the Wheatstone keyboard.  I say common because I am thinking like a Irish Trad player.  You will find more single notes as you lean into the flats.  But here is where I play devil's advocate.  You have a Phoenix now and shifting back to an English may set you back a few bucks.  But if you want to find a quality English you will be able to get a nice quality vintage English for less than an equivalent quality antique anglo.  This is due to market demand.  The worldwide popularity of Irish Trad music has made nice vintage anglos scarce and prices rise quite high.  And while new makers of custom instruments need to charge about the same for an Anglo as they do for an English, an excellent English can be purchased relatively reasonably.  And for what you are attempting to do, an English might be just the ticket.  Check out the English concertina listings at The Button Box in MA, and feel free to call and ask questions.  They may have some great advice for you, whichever system you stick with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, LateToTheGame said:

And while new makers of custom instruments need to charge about the same for an Anglo as they do for an English, an excellent English can be purchased relatively reasonably.

 

As a maker of custom instruments, I would have to charge considerably more for a 48 button English than a 30 button Anglo, which is probably why nobody has asked me to make one yet. The market for duets is a bit different again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/2/2021 at 12:58 AM, alex_holden said:

 

As a maker of custom instruments, I would have to charge considerably more for a 48 button English than a 30 button Anglo, which is probably why nobody has asked me to make one yet. The market for duets is a bit different again.

That makes sense.  All those little bits take lots of time. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/28/2021 at 4:50 PM, dmksails said:

On the fiddle I like to play slow tunes with long phrases - tunes like "In the Bleak Midwinter" - not into ompa music.  These are the tunes I would also like to play with the concertina.


If this is what you want to play then the English was the right choice. But it begs the question “why would you just want to duplicate what you can already do on the fiddle?” The concertina opens up other possibilities such as adding accompaniment. On the English a simple but effective start is to add thirds or fifths below the melody. 
 

Don’t dismiss “oom-pah”. I did for many years but it was a mistake. For some tunes, even slow ones, it can be the best approach. It doesn’t have to be used exclusively; it can be interspersed with single notes or countermelodies in the same tune.

 

Finally, as others have mentioned, for a given budget you will get a better quality vintage English or duet (Crane is my choice) than Anglo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I started with a Jackie and found it physically hard work to play, my suspicion is the bellows are engineered more for strength than ease of playing.  The best advice I was given was to buy a better concertina (by Keith Kendrick) so I did (Lachenal c.1890's) and it transformed my playing. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Personally adding to the conversation, and on use of air valve with Anglo.. I like to think of how a woodwind player say flautist, recorder, player has to think about when to breathe in playing music; in a place where will not ruin the melody too much, and when convenient  to do so.  Remembering that a composer will expect  performer to take sensible steps in breathing [or they will pass out!] .. In fact think of when you would yourself in singing a tune wish to breathe and perhaps then apply this thought in using your Anglo [as it has its own lungs, its bellows to breathe with]. Some old music books show breathing places, for where instrumentalists can take breath, and are sometimes a good reference for this effect. But overall its about trying things out yourself to see ! Always I find have bellows around half way inflated at start of a piece seems best to begin with.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...