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The learning curve


Ubizmo

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1 hour ago, Ubizmo said:

Any guidelines on how tight the handstraps should be?

 

 

I'm making a bigger deal of the thumb in this video than I probably do in actual playing. I do use it for better security sometimes, but you don't want your hand to be constantly tense.

Edited by Steve Schulteis
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1 hour ago, Steve Schulteis said:

 

 

I'm making a bigger deal of the thumb in this video than I probably do in actual playing. I do use it for better security sometimes, but you don't want your hand to be constantly tense.

It's good for me to get a visual of that. My straps are certainly too tight. I'm in NYC for the day, so I can't play with the concertina, but when I get back my first thing will be too loosen them a bit. I have big hands, and they were feeling a bit like claws, especially trying to curl under for the G line of keys. 

 

Incidentally, and I'm sure you all know this, a striking difference between the Rochelle and the Rochelle 2 is the keys. On the Rochelle, they were fairly flat buttons; on the 2 they are little cylinders. Makes no difference to me at this point but it does make me wonder why they changed them. 

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I'm back home and starting to practice with a purpose. I'm using the Wakker book for the moment, and I've ordered the Coover "1-2-3" book, which should arrive today. I'll be having a look at the Caitlin Nic Gabhann lessons very soon. Yes, I want to get into the Irish trad stuff, but I think I should first master the "native" diatonic scales of the instrument. I also loosened the hand straps one notch, and that makes a nice difference.

 

First reactions:

  • It's hard. I can feel the furniture in my brain being rearranged.
  • It's fun. 
  • It sounds pretty good. I wasn't sure how I'd react to the actual sound of the instrument, played up close and personal, without accompaniment.

The first pages of the Wakker book cover 3 buttons and 6 pitches. I won't start the next page until I feel like I can do these six in any order. I know from experience that the actual learning takes place between practice sessions, more than during, so I'll break my practice into short but more frequent sessions. We'll see how that holds up.

 

I want to correct something I said earlier, about the difference in the buttons between the Rochelle and the Rochelle 2. The buttons on the Rochelle (I'm not sure if the term "keys" is used or not) are not necessarily "flatter". Keep in mind that when I picked up the Rochelle, it was my first time holding a concertina in my hands. The buttons felt somehow different than those on the Rochelle 2, which I was given to try out a few minutes later, but this may have been (and probably was) an illusion. I wouldn't want to mislead anyone who might read this thread sometime in the future.

 

Speaking of terminology, is there any settled view of what counts as a "row" on these things? Wakker refers to the "C row," the "G row," and the "Ac row." In my online reading, I think I've seen others who refer to these as "lines", using the word "row" for the other, um, rows. Nobody that I've noticed seems to use the word "columns".

 

I'm trying to discipline myself to do some long-note practice, as I'd automatically do with any wind instrument. I can see that I'm going to need this, to keep the sound clean and not shaky.

 

That's it for now. Time for another 15 minutes.

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I think what can confuse people when learning anglo concertina .. is the buttons layout.

I always see them as "rows" of buttons, to me visualised horizontally in my mind, and in rows of five (for the  30  button variety).. in similar number like your hands also have five  fingers. That is a very simple description but is how I thought of it when just starting out myself years ago.

Three rows ( horizontally speaking) each side of instrument ( left and right). 

Edited by SIMON GABRIELOW
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3 hours ago, Ubizmo said:

Speaking of terminology, is there any settled view of what counts as a "row" on these things? Wakker refers to the "C row," the "G row," and the "Ac row." In my online reading, I think I've seen others who refer to these as "lines", using the word "row" for the other, um, rows. Nobody that I've noticed seems to use the word "columns".

 

"Rows" is the most common terminology that I've seen used. Whatever you call them, the line of buttons that belong to a key are the main thing worth talking about, because that's the one place you can find a relatively consistent relationship between buttons, other than the fifth between the adjacent buttons of the C and G rows. Even those relationships break down a bit at the ends of the rows. The accidental row (which isn't just accidentals), is what's left on a 30-button when you take away the C and G rows. That row is a bit more haphazard (there's logic to it, but it's more about what's useful for playing rather than following some mathematical pattern), and that's before you consider the multiple different configurations that exist for that row.

 

Rather than making a grid of rows and columns, most people seem to just number the buttons within each row or within one side of the instrument. That's generally sufficient for tablature and talking about where to put fingers. There are a lot of different, incompatible tablature systems. This is probably the most common numbering system:

image.png

In this diagram, buttons 1-5 belong to the C row, 6-10 belong to the G row, and 1a-5a belong to the accidental row.

 

I've seen a few people who prefer to think of the rows as columns instead. It's all about how you orient the instrument in your mind, and there's not an inherently correct perspective. But most people will understand what you mean if you talk about "the C row" or "the G row".

Edited by Steve Schulteis
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Its always good thing I found when starting out to not restrict yourself to using only one row, becaus it is based in a particular key; try to get to know many other notes in other rows also, and get used to expanding the  range of your fingers to move about.. Because when you advance in time you will be glad to have practiced in all button combinations, when music demands more complex stuff.🌝

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I've done four or five practice sessions today, and it's slowly, slowly coming. For motivation, I wanted to try to play at least one tune that I actually like, and not just "Hot Cross Buns," and "Twinkle, Twinkle." So I chose the A part from "Leaving Stage Harbor," https://thesession.org/tunes/14820

 

It's not too hard, and sounds nice, and the only tricky bit is the C#. I'll get back to drills, but it's nice to play a nice piece like this too. The B part will take a bit longer. I don't have those high notes in my head or hands yet. And as I'm playing it, this is a morosely slow waltz, but fortunately no one's trying to dance to it.

 

I still have a maddening tendency to expect a sound when I take my finger off a button--like uncovering a hole on a whistle. I hope that goes away soon. Also, I find myself needing to use the air button to keep things going from time to time. The Wakker book hasn't yet said anything about this, but I imagine it just depends on the tune. The Rochelle 2 has seven folds in the bellow--not a huge wingspan. At the moment, this use of the air button pretty much wrecks my timing, but it's day 1 so I need to cut myself some slack.

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1 hour ago, Ubizmo said:

Also, I find myself needing to use the air button to keep things going from time to time. The Wakker book hasn't yet said anything about this, but I imagine it just depends on the tune. The Rochelle 2 has seven folds in the bellow--not a huge wingspan. At the moment, this use of the air button pretty much wrecks my timing, but it's day 1 so I need to cut myself some slack.

 

As you get tunes up to speed, you'll use less air, making this less of an issue. You can also press the air button a bit while playing a note, allowing you to adjust the bellows without interrupting the rhythm. It takes practice, but it's well worth the effort.

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On 10/14/2023 at 1:18 PM, Ubizmo said:

Any guidelines on how tight the handstraps should be?

Very much a personal thing depending on the instument and your physique, your style, and what you want to play. Do you rest it on a thigh, or support it just btween the hands? Too tight and it can restrict the movement of the fingers to the outlying buttons. Too loose and you're worried it might fly off across the room!

 

I have had some lessons with John Kirkpatrick (ie English harmonic style), and one of the first things he got me to do was to loosen my straps. It made it so much easier to get the fingers where I wanted them to go, especially on the left hand chords, and I soon regained the feeling of it being under control - so much so that I have subsequently loosened them off further.

 

Strap ension is about the easiest thing to adjust on a concertina, so try out lots of different settings to see what works, and be opening to changing it as your playing develops.
 

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3 hours ago, Clive Thorne said:

Very much a personal thing depending on the instument and your physique, your style, and what you want to play. Do you rest it on a thigh, or support it just btween the hands? Too tight and it can restrict the movement of the fingers to the outlying buttons. Too loose and you're worried it might fly off across the room!

 

I have had some lessons with John Kirkpatrick (ie English harmonic style), and one of the first things he got me to do was to loosen my straps. It made it so much easier to get the fingers where I wanted them to go, especially on the left hand chords, and I soon regained the feeling of it being under control - so much so that I have subsequently loosened them off further.

 

Strap ension is about the easiest thing to adjust on a concertina, so try out lots of different settings to see what works, and be opening to changing it as your playing develops.
 

 

At the moment, I have about a half inch between my palm and the hand rest, and that feels okay. When I took it home from the shop, my hands were flush against the hand rests, and that didn't feel right. I liked the security of the contact with the hand rests but, as I mentioned earlier in this thread, that position gave me a claw-like feeling that was too tense. So, for the time being, I think I'm okay with one stop looser. I do play with the instrument resting on my right knee.

 

You know, part of the learning curve is discovering how versatile this instrument is. As I said at the beginning, my initial idea was that I'd play the Irish trad tunes that I already know, having listened to a bunch of that kind of playing on Spotify and YouTube, and in person at sessions. But now that I'm browsing this site and hearing about "English harmonic style," and seeing people playing lots of other interesting things on the Anglo concertina, I feel like I want to play it all.

 

Working within just the notes that I'm currently comfortable with, there are a couple of nice Breton tunes that are good practice pieces. One is "St. Patrick's An Dro" and the other is...hmm, dunno the name. These two, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pbRSJHQpYk but in E dorian. And a lot slower.

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So, I'm crawling along, using both the Wakker and Coover books, and I'm at the point where I can do a bit of sight-reading, at a snail's pace. But at least my fingers have some idea where to go, so that's okay for four days in. What I don't have yet, and probably won't for a good while, is that solfege sense of where the notes are under my fingers, without having to think of their names. All in good time.

 

The two books have different tab systems, but since I'm ignoring that, it doesn't matter. I like Coover's grouping (and selection) of tunes. And since I'm dipping into my own print tunebook from thesession.org, I'm getting pretty comfortable with the D major scale and its derivatives, including a few alternate fingerings. But that lone C# on R1! That seems like a real bottleneck when you need to move between it and B, which happens all the time in Irish music.

 

I've started using a metronome, set to a glacial tempo. Jigs are like funereal waltzes. But it's too easy to get into the habit of pausing to find the next note. I think it's better to fumble at tempo and start over.

 

And that's today on the learning curve.

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1 hour ago, Caroline said:

That lone C# is the reason why Irish traditional players favor the Jeffries configuration where you have the C# on both the push or pull.

Ah, this is interesting. All I know about the Jeffries layout is that it's fairly uncommon, at least from what little I've read. I suppose the left-hand B in the G row could also be a help for Irish music. 

 

 

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I think that the Jeffries configuration is actually pretty common among those that do primarily Irish Trad.  If you ever decide to order a concertina from the maker, you usually get your choice of layout.  You can also decide to have some of the buttons customized to absolutely fit what you are looking for.  Carroll Concertinas have a layout which has even more choices for C#s:

https://www.carrollconcertinas.com/images/CarrollButtonConfig.jpg

 

 

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10 hours ago, Caroline said:

I think that the Jeffries configuration is actually pretty common among those that do primarily Irish Trad.  If you ever decide to order a concertina from the maker, you usually get your choice of layout.  You can also decide to have some of the buttons customized to absolutely fit what you are looking for. 

 

This is so interesting. I won't be upgrading for a while, but this is good to know. Meanwhile, each day I'm gaining a little more comfort and confidence with where the notes are, including duplicates/alternates. 

 

I still have no sense of what to do with the "bass" notes, but I feel okay about the C, G, and F major scales. The more I see what the Anglo concertina can do, the more I want to do it all. 

 

I'm less than a week in. When I first looked into the concertina, the Anglo system seemed insane, but I got it anyway. Very gradually, I'm starting to sense why it is the way it is. There's something very satisfying about that. 

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Today marks one week of learning to play. My greatest enemy is my own impatience. I've been flitting around, trying to play things that are well ahead of my skill level, because I'm able to fumble through them. This is not the way to do it. So, I'm going back to earlier sections of the "1-2-3" book and working on playing things smoothly, with even tempo, trying to match the instructional videos. My only indulgence is continuing to play "Leaving Stage Harbour," since I have it well memorized and can play it fairly clean now. But apart from that, I need to stay with basics and work my way forward.

 

And I need to leave time for learning more session tunes on the whistle!

 

And I'm interested in learning more about the concertina family of instruments, their history, and so on, so I'm doing a lot of reading here and elsewhere. It's a whole new world.

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4 hours ago, Ubizmo said:

Today marks one week of learning to play. My greatest enemy is my own impatience. I've been flitting around, trying to play things that are well ahead of my skill level, because I'm able to fumble through them. This is not the way to do it.

 

This might be a good time to mention a valuable book by my friend, Judy Minot.

 

Best Practice: Inspiration and Ideas for Traditional Musicians

 

Practical Advice for Adult, Self-Taught Musicians

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