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Please, no more 'Hot cross buns'!..

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What am I talking about?!...

Well it's simply that beginner's book [publishers] habit on musical instruments to naturally start on a simple level, to get people going of course, if they are just beginning to read music at all.

I do not argue on beginning to encourage on very basic terms, because music language looks very difficult on first seeing it; because it a sort of cipher, or code in itself.. However, sometimes I see someone begin explaining their musical methods, with a jolly smile stating 'let's try 'hot cross buns' or some similar little tune!

Maybe 'three blind mice' or London's burning, and so on.

There's so many basic musical pieces can be freely adapted to help beginners, and which will encourage very nicely, for all instruments; and they need not be difficult, Just a little more than baking hot cross buns! Folk, or classical treasures are easily adapted and made easy to follow on a page.

Hot cross buns are tasty to eat; but please let's not over bake them in teaching music for everyone, or may very well burn the enthusiasm for music for all beginners for evermore.!



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When my wife acquired her first (English) concertina, after showing her where the C major scale went, I started her on 'Parsons Farewell' in A minor.  After about an hour she was sight reading it, slowly but error free.

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I agree to some extent with Simon's point that boring and childlike tunes can be off-putting for some new musicians.  However, there is definitely a place for them.


Some people come to concertina with a background in playing other instruments.  They may already have a repertoire that they know and understand and can translate to a new instrument with relative ease.  For these people, learning concertina is like learning to drive a different type of vehicle from the one they are used to.  They already know the rules of the road, and the basics of steering, braking and so on.  They have skills they can apply.


Some people come to concertina with no experience of playing an instrument, but with a good background knowledge of a particular genre of music.  They know what Dingle Regatta, or Princess Royal, or Gathering Peascods sounds like, even if they cannot yet play it.  For these people, learning concertina is like taking driving lessons after many years of being a passenger in cars.  They are aware of many of the rules of the road, and they know more or less what driving should feel and sound like.  They have a head start.


However, some others come to the instrument with no experience of playing, and a very limited experience of listening.  They may well have been bewildered by badly-taught music lessons at school, and intimidated by hearing highly skilled musicians playing complex music at high speed.  For these people, learning concertina may feel like wanting to learn to ride a bicycle and being handed the keys to a Honda Fireblade.  They have none of the skills, background, or "understanding by osmosis" that might give them the confidence to climb into the saddle.


For this third category, being shown how to play something simple but easily recognisable from their childhood may be a big step towards gaining the confidence to try something more difficult.  It helps to learn a tune if you can already confidently hum or whistle it.  For some people, that means Hot Cross Buns, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or When the Saints, or Oh Susannah, or Red River Valley.


Once they know that they can make the instrument work, the next step to a simple "trad" tune such as Winster Gallop will be less intimidating.



There is another distinction.


Some concertinists, on Anglo or English, aim to play a single line of melody: playing the concertina as a fiddle or flute.  Although technique, touch, and nuance take a long time to develop, it is a fairly simple thing to learn to press the buttons and move the bellows in the right sequence to learn a basic tune.  It may well be that case that something like Hot Cross Buns is too trivial for many, or even most, new musicians in this style, although not all.


Others (including probably all or most duet players) play melody and accompaniment, treating the concertina as a "thinking man's piano".  They need to learn the complex motor skills to coordinate the "independent" movement of left and right hand.  "Independent" in quotes because, of course, the accompaniment is linked structurally to the melody.


Learning to accompany a melody may well start with the  3 chord trick, played underneath a simple and intuitive melody such as Hot Cross Buns.


Later, that 3 chord trick can be applied to more complex melody, and the 4 chord trick and 5 chord trick can be introduced.  However, as a starting point, having the simplest and most trivial of melodies will free processing power for the complex skill of coordinating the accompaniment.

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5 hours ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

Whilst I can see the use of having tunes that people already know, it would also make a lot of sense to have easy tunes that lie well under the fingers and are concertina- istic (if that’s even a word 😆)

There should be such a word.  Some tunes just sit comfortably on the (Anglo) concertina and some were apparently designed to be difficult for the sake of it.  It is presumably the same for English and duet systems.


"Tinaphilic"?    ("Anglican" is already taken.)

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15 hours ago, Jody Kruskal said:

The only thing that bothers me about Hot Cross Buns is how much do they actually cost? is it one a-penny or two a-penny? Really, please!

At the currant rate, they'll soon cost an arm and a leg.

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20 hours ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

concertina- istic (if that’s even a word

Well, I've heard the term "violinistic" used in academical musical circles. A violinistic piece is one that sounds spectacularly difficult to the uninitiated, but is relatively easy for a competent violinist. Like the familiar "Czardas."

So a "concertinistic" piece would be our equivalent of that.

OTOH, it could be that players of different concertina systems would show off with different tunes ...



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That’s what I was thinking of, yes, violinistic.  In the sense of “lies under the fingers, feels good to play” sort of way. However the concertina version sounded strange hence having a laugh!

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Going back to my original thought, but apart from those tasty thoughts about hot cross buns.. there's some lovely little miniature tunes I play a lot by our Mr. Henry. Purcell, which were created to teach students music. Called Music's hand maid..

Starts off with extremely accessible melodies ( called lessons)..and these suit concertina very nicely, I have found over the years. And a beginner would manage the first lessons in no time.

And at least it is also something of more ( substance) than hot cross buns; they are perfect miniatures, some only a dozen or so bars in length.

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It occurs to me as a dance/folk musician that some of the objection to such simple tunes comes from taking them out of context.  Many of these tasty little dittys come from what we would call play party tunes for children's dances, parlor games or skip rope.  There's songs for sitting to spin or knit, milking cows and other repetitive hand work, square dance tunes and changes from the old quadrilles, work songs for heavy work like lining track, working timber or cutting cane.  I'm sure as concertinista(o)s none of us would spurn yet another chorus of "Haul away Joe! ".  And what would we of small talents do to get our point across beneath our fair one's balcony or through the whisper tube under the Squire's baleful gaze?

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Funny thing is that when great musicians/singers/performers like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, got together for a live show, they sang the simple songs they knew and loved: I Saw the Light, May the Circle Be Unbroken, I Fly Away.  There was no sense of these being "only" simple songs, or trivial.  Similarly with many great jazz musicians: When the Saints, and so on.   Many (but not all) Morris tunes are simple to learn, but the skill is in playing them well.


Simplicity plus talent and passion can make great music.  Complexity is no more a guarantee of great music than is the raw speed you find in some sessions.

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