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Fragile Muscle Memory

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After playing just my Anglo concertinas since the covid lockdowns began I picked up my melodeon about a month ago and fairly quickly was playing some of my old favorite melodeon tunes. But after a week or so I found the limited bass accompaniment possibilities with just the eight buttons was keeping me from playing some of my favorite concertina tunes. I put the melodeon back on the shelf, picked up the G/D Morse and to my dismay found myself stumbling all over the place trying to play the intro to Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland. It's very chromatic part which means lots of row crossing and reversals, and it just wasn't working. (I was planning to accompany a friend singing Joe Hill's alternative lyrics.)


It took at least a week to get back to being able to pick up a concertina and just start playing the intro without thinking about what I was doing or looking at my hands. Apparently being a multi instrumentalist with the squeezeboxes is not in my future. 

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Maybe you lost the trust in your unconscious ability to perform? Sometimes the lifetime skills can be taken for granted; and thinking too much on a subject can intensify the symptoms! The old British saying is "Keep calm and carry on".. keep at it, and all that experience should return soon enough. 

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  • 2 months later...

I used to be a moderately competent melodeon player and regularly played for the Morris.


Within a year of starting to play Anglo, I could no longer get the simplest tune out of a 2 row melodeon in my old style.


However, I could still knock out a tune in the top octave of a 1 row melodeon.


Even if you ignore the accidental row, an Anglo is an "inside out" 2 row melodeon.  Where the melodeon is DG (a 4th apart), the Anglo is GD (a 5th apart).  All the cross row fingering has to be changed.


If you play Anglo in a harmonic style, the melody is on the right hand and the accompaniment on the left.  The right hand is therefore the equivalent of the top octave of the melodeon, which is where you play least often.  "Push pull" in the usual octave on the melodeon is "pull push" on the usual octave of the Anglo.


It is not "fragile" muscle memory, but "conflicting" muscle memories.  The similarities between the two instruments combine with the fundamental differences to make it difficult to swap between them.


Some people can play both, some can't. I'm in the "can't camp".


Strangely, learning the Anglo has not affected my muscle memory for harmonica even though some of the same considerations apply.  The difference between "push pull" and "blow suck" is enough to avoid the confusion.

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