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Concertinas and other instruments - which are the dream partners?


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On the recordings part of this site, there's currently a new (and lovely) video and recording of a concertina and bagpipe playing together. It led me to wonder about other interesting and unusual partnerships for a concertina, almost in the style of those sites which recommend the best matches for Leos or Geminis or whatever. Which matches do people really like, and which work less well? I'm fond of concertina with other free reeds, piano and guitar, but they all feel a bit obvious. Other dream partners? 

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29 minutes ago, wunks said:

My favorite combo is a fantasy (because I don't have one) of Concertina and Bass au Pied or foot bass.  Harry Guens makes new ones and they were popular into the earlier 1900's.  Some day....😏

Oh, there's a thought! I do have a foot bass, but don't play it often, as it's so difficult to find a comfortable playing position. But I like the idea....

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11 minutes ago, James Fitton said:

Oh, there's a thought! I do have a foot bass, but don't play it often, as it's so difficult to find a comfortable playing position. But I like the idea....

Mr. Guens makes a double row which is doubly tantalizing!

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I’m surprised, that no one mentioned drums yet. It is very easy on any free reed instrument to flood the rhytm with drones, multiple voices chords etc. It all sounds nice, organ like and all, but what I really miss is deep low drum rhytm. Or banjo/mandolin/guitar, but each if those defines a tune so much for me, that neither is s universal choice. Other than that, I only like combinations of multiple free reed instruments if they are complimentary, not overlapping. So a foot bass or a bass concertina is great, but a duet of two identical concertinas usually sounds cluttered. If the piece requires multiple legato voices, I really prefer combining concertina with fiddle. 

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23 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

I’m surprised, that no one mentioned drums yet.

Well, considering that the concertina is a very British-Isles thing, this is not really surprising. The ubiquitousness of drumkits in many music genres - jazz, pop, rock, Latin, what have you - tends to obscure the fact that, in a specifically British context, drums are traditionally associated with war and death. Take the Scottish pipes and drums: that's pure military music, aimed at raising the adrenalin level in the troops. And the Irish Lambeg drum is similar in effect. The concertina is more at home in the domestic drawing-room or the convivial pub, where hatred, bloodshed and drums would be foreign bodies!

But, some might object: What about the bodhrán, which is played in convivial pubs along with concertinas and other peaceful instruments like fiddles and flutes? Traditionally, the bodhrán, which came into use in Irish traditional music in the 1960s, as I remember, was a cult instrument, played by small boys ("Wren Boys") in folk ritual processions. So it was never a "weapon" of war!

 

23 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

If the piece requires multiple legato voices, I really prefer combining concertina with fiddle.

I quite agree! In my group, we always did our Carolan arrangements with that combination. A guitar and a bowed double bass provided the accompaniment (AKA basso continuo).

 

Interestingly enough, I played my trusty, 1990s-vintage, metal-ended Stagi Anglo in those days. When I bought a Lachenal Crane, and had learnt the concertina part of Planxty Irwin, I tried it out at a rehearsal. The unanimous decision of the bandmates was, "Take your old concertina - it blends better!"

 

Cheers,

John

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Instruments can be described either melodic or polyphonic, depending whether they can play more than one note at a time or not; and also as staccato or legato, depending on whether the note tends to be sustained after the initial attack. In theory, the combination gives you four categories of instruments, but in fact, nearly all fall into one of just two categories:

A. Melodic, legato: Voice, bowed strings, winds.

B. Polyphonic, staccato: Piano, guitar, harp.

 

Nearly always, if you are choosing exactly two instruments for a duet, you want one from list A and one from List B. Voice and guitar complement each other well, as do violin and piano. Voice and violin tend to fight and clash, likewise guitar and piano, so they are very unusual combinations.

 

Concertinas and similar are oddballs: naturally legato but polyphonic. So the above rule doesn't help much. I tend to think that the thick, rich sound of the concertina needs to be accompanied by something pure and bright with a sharp attack: harp, mandolin, or hammered dulcimer would go well, I reckon.

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For me, concertina and fiddle blend so seamlessly. They both reinforce each other and make something that is greater than the sum of their parts. That’s my favorite.

 

But I am also very happy with the sound of a grand church organ paired with concertina that I used on my album “Sing to Me, Concertina Boy” for the Unitarian hymn “Unrest”.

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I've played (fiddle) with a whistle player for dances on occasion and I think it would sound great with a concertina.  I like to play (duet) in a lower register and I've recently found a beautiful rosewood (ebony?) example with a silver (adjustable?) mouth piece.  Makes me contemplate one of those rare one sided boxes.  I wonder if that might have been one purpose for those.

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