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Pushing/Pulling the Anglo from both ends


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I've read a few quotes here and elsewhere along these lines:

 

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Its hard to explain in writing Noel's emphasis on rhythm and lift, he'll talk about the right hand as the bow and the sheer physicalness of playing the instrument.

Or

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I believe Noel's idea is to make the right hand act like the bowing hand of most fiddlers.

That one continues:

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Both Noel and Wally do a wonderful job with fast reels, which demands good technique. (In contrast, John Williams with a melodeon background but certainly a formidable concertina player, has a different bellows orientation.)

I wasn't sure what that meant - maybe it had to do with how John drapes the bellows across his left leg.  

 

Not at all, it turns out - on his DVD he talks about restricting yourself to using just one arm to push/pull as a serious error committed by button box players trying the concertina.  Coming from the box and not knowing any better, and reading quotes like these, I figured there wasn't any point in using both arms, that the correct approach was one sided, like the fiddle.  But I recently picked up a copy of John's DVD, and gave a try at powering things from both sides, and what do you know - it's like I'm suddenly twice as strong; and have that much more control over what I'm playing, too.

 

Is this explained in other tutors, or just glossed over?  It's by far the most important tip I've ever gotten for playing these things.  Does Noel - or other good musicians - really play like that?

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I think it is somewhat individual (as these opinions demonstrate). Another consideration is that some (but not all) folks who move both ends may wear the bellows over their leg faster. Some repairers I've talked to say they can tell when this happened. Others say the concertina is a tool, so use it.

 

Have fun,
Ken

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Yes, I agree .. its individual choice as to how bellows are held.

I sit with concertina on my right leg and bellows to left side goes in and out. But if standing, then I  tend to use both sides ( left and right)!

With my ( late father's accordion) I (use occassionally) then of course method is variation on same carry on. !🌝🌝

 

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It is advisable to fix the concertina in such a way that it becomes comfortable for you to play accurately consistently.. This can be on one leg with the concertina framework on your left, or right leg and use the free arm to push pull the bellows. Some players prefer to rest the concertina on both legs and using both hands to fan the bellows out from a two ended fixed position. (see an Edel Fox Video ). Others who like standing hold the concertina, in a praying position, with the corners at the bottom hexagonal sitting in the base of the hand, just above the wrist. If you play across your lap remove all loose change from your pockets ,across a belt buckle or anything sharp as one session will make a hole in your bellows.

Easy to demonstrate but not so easy to explain.

Al

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I think I've read about Edel keeping an end on each leg; I tried that at first but gave up eventually.  I'm still keeping the left end on the left leg, though, to the best of my ability anyway, but just feeling free to squeeze things together here and there makes such a difference.  Watching videos of a few players I do see them occasionally shifting, or perhaps pushing the stable side.

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Noel anchors on the left leg, with the right arm doing all the bellows work.  

Since I learned to play from Noel, I play that way as well with the addition of a leather square under the instrument to provide additional resistance to the instrument moving around and reduces the need to dig a corner into your leg. This removes any need to put any energy into the left arm to stabilize the left side of the instrument on the leg, reducing arm and hand tension and makes it much more comfortable if you are playing wearing shorts.

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One of the most dedicated and skilled Anglo players I know, who plays in a complex harmonic style,  sits almost perfectly still with one end resting on each thigh.

 

Another great player I know with a more robust and performative style, stands or sits, and pumps the tune out with great vigour.

 

You might as well ask whether the best way to hold a guitar is like Bert Weedon or Jimi Hendrix. Whatever works for you.

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The ergonomic requirements for harmonic style playing, where, unless I'm missing something, both sides of the instrument are used nearly equally for tunes, are very different than for traditional Irish playing. 

In traditional Irish-style playing, at least using Noel's most common scale fingerings, the majority of the work is being done on the left side of the instrument so having a stable left side of the instrument is optimal.   It really doesn't make sense to me when I see Irish-style players with a right side anchor, seems like being able to have a relaxed left arm to allow for minimal tension in the fingers would be preferred, but that's just my take on it.  Certainly many excellent players play with a right side anchor, I have to wonder how they arrived at that solution.

Both Irish and Harmonic styles have their own optimal anchoring requirements.

 

Edited by eskin
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2 hours ago, John, Wexford said:

I play "right side anchor" and it is no hindrance to me whatsoever.

 

When you first started playing, what lead you to this choice of anchoring? 

It is interesting how there are many solutions to the same set of challenges on the Anglo.

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I tried right side on right leg for a while, too.  Worked OK, and after a bit I was surprised that I could switch to the other side without it being a complete disaster.  But when I began to stick to left side on left leg it really helped with making things feel more solid/anchored, especially that pesky F#, or the low notes.  

 

Watching a lot of videos I see varying degrees of movement on the left side.  Noel indeed doesn't seem to move it around much, although as leaky as his instruments are a bit seems to happen no matter what he wants.  Mairéad Hurley looks like she keeps things rock solid, too.  But Brenda Castle or Micheál Ó Raghallaigh seem to be shoving it around a bit.  Maybe it's just those "thump" rolls, or whatever they're called.

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Go for the method that suits YOU best of all; and do not get too concerned over how others may approach the subject of holding concertinas... There's never one particular way of doing this; just numerous techniques developed over time by each individual musician.

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I played the B/C button accordion before the concertina. I decided then to dispense with the accordion altogether, particularly as the notes F# and C# were generally in the opposite directions on the concertina.

 

I decided that the benefits to re-learning how to control the bellows from the right hand side outweighed the effort and so I stuck with operating the bellows from the left hand side. There is an incredible, innate kind of co-operation that goes on between the left "bellows" hand and the right hand side air button. It is a bit like playing the tin whistle with the tips of your fingers, where, ordinarily, there should be more sensitivity, and using the flats of your fingers to play the chanter on the uilleann pipes. You just simply get used to it.

 

 

 

 

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