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English V Anglo For Song Accompaniment


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It's often suggested that the English system is better than the Anglo system for song accompaniment, but would English players care to spell out why?

 

Obviously the English system can be played in different keys more readily, but are there any other reasons? And, broadly speaking, how would the use of an English system differ from the use of an Anglo in this role?

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It's often suggested that the English system is better than the Anglo system for song accompaniment

Really?

 

I can't give you pros and cons because I don't play both. All I will say is that I found it straightforward working with the anglo to devise song accompaniments, and my partner Anne came up with some nice accompaniments for the English. My personal take is that they are probably about the same in terms of capability, and that the way to approach it is to decide which system you are most comfortable with, then see how far you get with that.

 

Chris

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It's often suggested that the English system is better than the Anglo system for song accompaniment...

"Often"? Really? By whom?

 

I play English, anglo, and duets (don't forget duets), in that order of competence. I use them all for song accompaniments. Each has its pros and cons for particular kinds of accompaniment, yet every one is capable of far more stylistic versatility than most of us have ever heard.

 

None of the systems is inherently better for song accompaniment across the board. And one doesn't have to be a virtuoso to take advantage of the versatility of any of the systems. Often all that's needed is a willingness to experiment.

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Jim: Could you please elaborate on the "particular kinds" please?

 

I play English, anglo, and duets (don't forget duets), in that order of competence. I use them all for song accompaniments. Each has its pros and cons for particular kinds of accompaniment, yet every one is capable of far more stylistic versatility than most of us have ever heard.
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I play English, anglo, and duets (don't forget duets), in that order of competence. I use them all for song accompaniments. Each has its pros and cons for particular kinds of accompaniment, yet every one is capable of far more stylistic versatility than most of us have ever heard.
Jim: Could you please elaborate on the "particular kinds" please?

I won't be elaborate in my elaboration, but here are a couple of things:

... As I mentioned in the companion thread, steady rhythmic chording (what I know a "vamping") simultaneous with playing melody is generally considered a lost cause on the English.

... Certain chords just aren't possible on a standard anglo, nor are many cases of holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it.

... On the Maccann duet (admittedly not the instrument I'm best at), I've had difficulty playing simple 4-part hymn arrangements, because they had too many notes and sequences that seemed to all want the same one or two fingers. Yet I found the chord changes in some barbershop quartet arrangements that I had were far easier to accomplish.

 

BUT, similar feelings can still be achieved if one isn't too rigid. Leave out a few notes, and in context most people won't notice. Sometimes if you ask them, they'll even claim they heard them. E.g., if a tune is in C, you'll hear B-D-F as a G7 chord, even though it doesn't contain a G at all. Similarly on the English, keep a steady pulse while playing only some of the basses and chords, and most people will only notice that it's rhythmic, not that it lacks totally rigid repetition.

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I find that English allows intuitive, relaxed legato capabilites not available to me on the Anglo. I can sustain/suspend notes to transition between chords. Check what Keith Kendrick can do with that concept !! He does marvelous work with Anglo/chunk-chunk, too BTW !~

 

Riggy

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It's often suggested that the English system is better than the Anglo system for song accompaniment, but would English players care to spell out why?
A note of caution here.... I think that most English singers are using tenor or baritone Englishes. The "standard" treble English goes down to the G below middle C which is not very low - and most people seem to prefer boxes that support (accompaniment primarily below one's voice range) singing.

 

So comparing a C/G anglo to tenor English - the range is very similar - down to the C an octave below MC - BUT! The English is fully chromatic and the anglo is not down there. Indeed, the anglo doesn't even have a low D (of all notes, such a common one to be missing!).

 

There's also the issue of what keys you're comfortable singing in.... No problem with English (or duet!) as it's pretty easy to play in all keys but the anglo is more difficult in some keys. Seems like a few anglo players I know travel with a couple of boxes, some (like John Roberts) travel with three (he plays both English and anglo).

 

Of course if your favorite keys are what anglo you have - you're in very good shape! I've heard several times that some people prefer singing with anglos in their "home" keys because they're mindless to play accompaniment whereas Englishes take more brainpower to back up with. If you stick to the row you're singing in key with, it's pretty hard to hit an off-note. If you do you usually get a harmony note anyway. Just about ANY wrongly fingered key on an English will be... wrong. Though this probably isn't much of an issue with a person who's comfortably proficient with a system.

 

Another consideration is the texture of sound. Englishes tend to be rich and smooth sounding and can sustain notes while sounding others (like a run). Anglos tend to be brighter, crisp and louder - it can take more effort to control an anglo when singing or it'd overpower your voice. But this is also just a matter of choosing what box is right. There are many quieter, smoother sounding anglos and some really bright, crisp Englishes out there.

 

-- Rich --

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But this is also just a matter of choosing what box is right. There are many quieter, smoother sounding anglos and some really bright, crisp Englishes out there.

And of course modern makers have made the baritone C/G anglo far easier to get hold of than it used to be. I think baritone anglos are a brilliant choice for song accompaniment if you're going the anglo route.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Timson
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[

... Certain chords just aren't possible on a standard anglo, nor are many cases of holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it.

 

Up to a point...

 

Firstly, you just have to accept that the anglo is limited in terms of keys, certainly when it comes to song accompaniment, and particularly when you are accompanying your own singing (it is essential that you can play the accompaniment without too much thought, so that most of your attention is on the song). This means sticking to the home keys - trying to play in an obscure key is hard enough, but when you're trying to sing as well it's virtually impossible, either the playing or the singing will suffer. If you're accompanying someone else you can be a bit more adventurous, but you still need to be able to play confidently and without hesitation or you'll put the singer off.

 

In the home (and related) keys the anglo should be able to play most of the chords you need, but if necessary you can always fudge! This does however mean finding an instrument in keys you are comfortable singing in.

 

Regarding holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it, I don't find this is a problem. By crossing the rows long runs can be achieved without a change of bellows direction (I find I can play a full C scale on my 40-key on either push or pull without changing direction, and nearly all in the right hand, and only one note (F push) uses a button not found on the standard layout). It's not often you need to play a whole scale, and most shorter runs can be achieved without a change of direction - and if you really have to, it's usually possible to find a natural point in the music where this can be done.

 

All the systems have their strengths and weaknesses, it's a question of playing to the instrument's strengths so you're not having to fight it at the same time as putting a song across. There are numerous examples of fine song accompanists on all three systems, and sometimes it can be hard to tell just from listening what type they're playing.

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... Certain chords just aren't possible on a standard anglo, nor are many cases of holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it.
Up to a point...

Isn't that what I said? The word I used was "certain", in the sense that it means "some", as opposed to "all". So what "point" are you "up to"?

 

Firstly, you just have to accept that the anglo is limited in terms of keys, certainly when it comes to song accompaniment, and particularly when you are accompanying your own singing....

You seem to be saying that the anglo is far more limited than what I claim.

 

...(it is essential that you can play the accompaniment without too much thought, so that most of your attention is on the song). This means sticking to the home keys...

NO! It means becoming familiar with your instrument, at least with those capabilities of the instrument that you want to use. Many "difficult" things can become not only "easy", but "automatic" through practice. Please don't confuse "don't want to bother" with "can't".

 

Regarding holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it, I don't find this is a problem. By crossing the rows long runs can be achieved without a change of bellows direction (I find I can play a full C scale on my 40-key on either push or pull without changing direction, and nearly all in the right hand, and only one note (F push) uses a button not found on the standard layout).

I think "the standard" layout is generally considered to include only 30 buttons. And there are even two "standard" versions of that. But you said "a full C scale". What about a chromatic scale? What about accompanying songs like "Misty" or "Up a Lazy River" or "Scotch and Soda"?

 

Still, I wonder what you're trying to argue. First you seemed to say that one can't do a good job on the anglo except in a few keys, and now you seem to be saying that there are no obstacles. Are you trying to advise the relative beginner who asked the question, or simply argue for argument's sake?

 

All the systems have their strengths and weaknesses....

That's what I thought I said. And yet, in my experience the weaknesses are ultimately more often in the players than in the instruments or their keyboard layouts.

 

...it's a question of playing to the instrument's strengths...

Of course, it helps if the instrument's strengths include those things you want to be able to include in your accompaniment.

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... Certain chords just aren't possible on a standard anglo, nor are many cases of holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it.

Up to a point...

Isn't that what I said? The word I used was "certain", in the sense that it means "some", as opposed to "all". So what "point" are you "up to"?

 

 

(Dammit, I can't get these quotes to appear properly :angry: I hope by using colour this will make some sort of sense!

 

I was trying to say that if you stay in the instrument's natural keys then this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

 

Firstly, you just have to accept that the anglo is limited in terms of keys, certainly when it comes to song accompaniment, and particularly when you are accompanying your own singing....

You seem to be saying that the anglo is far more limited than what I claim.

 

I think we would all accept that the anglo is strongest in certain keys, and that playing in other keys can become increasingly complicated, especially if you are trying to add chords. If you accept this and work within it, then there is plenty you can do in terms of song accompaniment

 

...(it is essential that you can play the accompaniment without too much thought, so that most of your attention is on the song). This means sticking to the home keys...

NO! It means becoming familiar with your instrument, at least with those capabilities of the instrument that you want to use. Many "difficult" things can become not only "easy", but "automatic" through practice. Please don't confuse "don't want to bother" with "can't".

 

The important thing is the SONG. The accompaniment is secondary. If you are distracted from putting the song across because you are struggling with the accompaniment, then you have failed. The level of difficulty at which this will occur will depend on the skill of the player, but for song accompaniment you should play within your comfort zone or you'll risk ruining the song. If you're good enough, then you can accompany a song in say Bb on a C/G anglo, but in my opinion you'll get a better result if you play it on a Bb/F instrument, or transpose it into another key

 

Regarding holding one note while playing a sequence of other notes against it, I don't find this is a problem. By crossing the rows long runs can be achieved without a change of bellows direction (I find I can play a full C scale on my 40-key on either push or pull without changing direction, and nearly all in the right hand, and only one note (F push) uses a button not found on the standard layout).

 

I think "the standard" layout is generally considered to include only 30 buttons.

 

Agreed. My point I was trying to make was that even with 30 keys only one note would need a bellows change. On the pull the full (diatonic, to pick up on your next point) scale of C is available

 

And there are even two "standard" versions of that. But you said "a full C scale". What about a chromatic scale? What about accompanying songs like "Misty" or "Up a Lazy River" or "Scotch and Soda"?

 

Still, I wonder what you're trying to argue. First you seemed to say that one can't do a good job on the anglo except in a few keys, and now you seem to be saying that there are no obstacles. Are you trying to advise the relative beginner who asked the question, or simply argue for argument's sake?

 

No, they're two different points. My first point is that you will get the best results from an anglo if you stick to certain keys. Provided you have an instrument in keys which suit your voice, that isn't necessarily a problem.

 

My second point is that long runs against a held note or chord are possible (in the home keys). I take your point that I was only talking about a diatonic scale, and I'm not familiar with the songs you mention. Chromatic runs are of course more difficult, especially with the basic 30 buttons

 

All the systems have their strengths and weaknesses....

That's what I thought I said. And yet, in my experience the weaknesses are ultimately more often in the players than in the instruments or their keyboard layouts.

 

Very true. This comes back to my previous point about playing within your capabilities. If you want to push the boundaries of your playing, don't try to sing at the same time

 

 

...it's a question of playing to the instrument's strengths...

Of course, it helps if the instrument's strengths include those things you want to be able to include in your accompaniment.

 

Well, yes. If you want to play a lot of chromatic music in different keys, then the English or duet might be better choices than the anglo.

 

Apologies for the appearance of this post, I hope the sequence makes some sense, even if my arguments don't ;)

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Apologies for the appearance of this post, I hope the sequence makes some sense, even if my arguments don't ;)

Makes a lot more sense than when somebody gets the quotes wrong, but doesn't use color. Very creative... and helpful, to boot. Who knows, maybe you'll start a trend! :D

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I'm with Howard on the strengths and limitations of the anglo, particularly with his advice about putting the song first, and staying within your comfort zone. An experienced player could do something pretty complicated on auto-pilot and still be able to concentrate on the singing, but I would always advise a less experienced player to keep it as simple as possible - which would in practice mean staying around the home keys.

 

Obviously for the anglo player, the more buttons you have, the more is possible. Even so, unless you have a lot of opposite-direction duplicates there is likely to be a problem with air control, especially on slower songs where the chords have to be sustained and thus use up more air. In certain keys there is an imbalance between pushes and pulls. For instance, if you're going to play in F on a C/G anglo (which works well for my vocal range), there will be a lot of stuff on the pull unless you have extra buttons that permit a pushed version of the F chord. Quite apart from this, any long, sustained chord is likely to have you running out of air. And drones are pretty tricky, too.

 

I bought my first anglo because I liked the sound of English country dance and morris music. Only later did I think about accompanying songs on it - and at first I stuck to songs like "Strike the Bell" which are near enough dance tunes anyway, and don't require a different approach. If I'd wanted an instrument specifically to accompany songs I might well have chosen English - and quite possiby a lower-pitched one - but being stuck with a C/G anglo it then became an irresistible challenge to accompany songs on it that were going to require a bit more thought.

 

No-one has yet made the point that you don't actually have to play all the notes in the melody on your instrument. Your voice is making those notes already. A unison melody accompaniment can be effective in a few cases, but more often that not what you're going to want to play is a chordal backing. So having every sharp and flat doesn't matter too much unless you're determined to play the song melody entirely accurately as an instrumental interlude. But you don't even have to do that. Your instrumental could be a simplified version of the melody, a riff or merely a chord sequence.

 

Several people have already made the point that there are great song accompanists who use any of the main concertina systems, work within their limitations and in some cases (apparently) defy them!

Brian

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