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Starting Out - Notes Or Chords?


Ishtar
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Morning everybody :)

 

I've had my English concertina for about 6 weeks now, and I'm loving it. I met one at a barn dance and it was love at first sight, had to have one!

 

But here's the rub...... I bought it when I was living somewhere with lots of pub/session/barn-dance music (I played fiddle there).

 

Now I'm somewhere else, with a different musical tradition, so until further notice I'm on my own concertina-wise.

 

I'm getting to grips with melodies, and can do a passable imitation of the Cameron Highlanders, the Trumpet Hornpipe, Mon Amant de St Jean, and so on.

 

My question - finally! I'm worrying now about chords! Should I be putting chords into tunes like the Trumpet Hornpipe, or would you expect them to be just the notes? I think that if I was in a session the notes would be fine, but maybe my lone concertina is just sounding a bit...... lonely! :) By itself, with just the notes, it does sound a bit like a child learning to play the piano one-handed.

 

When I finally get back to musical civilisation :lol: I want to be able to hit the ground running! :D

 

Thank you very much.

 

MJ

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By itself, with just the notes, it does sound a bit like a child learning to play the piano one-handed.

I think you just answered your own question! Get some harmony in there. Learn to stand alone. Then you can do little concerts for your mum. I still have to.

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By itself, with just the notes, it does sound a bit like a child learning to play the piano one-handed.

I think you just answered your own question! Get some harmony in there. Learn to stand alone. Then you can do little concerts for your mum. I still have to.

 

Oh goodness, how scary! :D

 

Yes, you're right.

 

So, ummmmm.........how do you do harmony? For example, how would you give the Trumpet Hornpipe more depth?

 

I know that once I get a few tunes under my belt I'll be fine, but this initial leap into the world of harmony is very difficult for me. I'm not one of those natural "play by ear" people. I guess it's daunting for me because I've never done harmony - the instruments I've played have all been single-note.

 

I've met some accordionists here, but they just look at my concertina like it's from another planet! But I love it, and I'm so enjoying playing it. I just want to do it better!

 

Thank you! :)

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There aren't many 'naturally play it by ear' folk. Most of us do it the hard way, so don't let that idea dismay you.

 

If you want to do it by ear then you need to experiment and try things, find tricks that work; I don't play English, I play duet, which is laid out very differently, so I hope someone else will come up with some focussed 'English' comments but I do know one trick you can use is to keep a note of the tune singing under subsequent notes for a bit to give a harmony, or even build a chord.

 

If you keep your harmony minimal at first, one other note, perhaps, you'll rarely come up with something that really jars, even if it's not the best sound; it's the third note that will give you opportunities for discord, but it is that third note that really fills out the chord...but stalk them carefully for a bit.

 

Trying to make a sort of 'counter-tune' of your accompaniment adds interest.

 

Don't forget, that your harmony notes don't have to be continuous or the full note length; it's easy to overpower the tune. And you don't have to accompany the whole tune; harmonised highlights sounds very good. You could put a toe in the water by working out just the final chords for your pet pieces.

 

It's a big question; hope that helps at least slightly?

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Yes, thank you very much, Dirge, it does help. A little bit of positive encouragement goes a long way. :)

 

Since my last post I've found a couple of fiddle tunes with double stopping here and there, and that's a start, it does make them sound more interesting.

 

For the moment I'll keep the Cameron Highlanders as notes-only, it's enough of a challenge as it is!

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Fine choice of instrument Isthar!

 

I would echo what others have said. For myself, I learned the keyboard very well and played just melody. The chords and passing tones will unfold as you become comfortable with the scales.

 

Could I suggest, concentrating on the rhythm? When it's clean and steady, nothing sounds more beautiful on English than an un-adorned melody. The ornamentation and chording will follow.

Edited by Mark Evans
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I agree with Dirge: even a single extra note really helps round out the music.

 

When I hear people playing , and I think it sounds good, its almost always smooth rhythm with a steady melody, or a harmonized piece with occaisonal stabs of chords or parts of them.

 

The fifth is such a safe interval it couldn't hurt to try to throw some in once in a while. Some accordions have stops to pull out the 3rd, or don't have them at all in the chord keys.

 

I'm trying to learn how to play the MacCaan duet, I find it difficult to actaully get one side to play a full chord and hear the melody on the otherside, either too much air gets used, or the combined volume drowns out the other reed. This kind of coincides with the concertina playign I have heard, only occaisonal use of full chords.

 

I actaully got my Duet so I could play chords to accompany singing, it seemed to me it would be easier than on the English. I had bought an English for the same purpose since I ahd read it was good for chords, but gave up on the instrument in favor of the diatonic button accordion and the Duet. I got the idea after seeing a woman play and sing to a concertina in a penny opera, which i'm sure was an English.

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Then there's the steady recording of videos on Youtube and the like that Leo conscientiously maintains, he'll point out something else soon if you can't latch on to his previous postings; he's been running the same thread for ages; it still wishes you 'Happy New Year'...but there's lots of concertina playing action. (Of variable merit, it has to be said)

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I've had my English concertina for about 6 weeks now, and I'm loving it.

 

I'm getting to grips with melodies, and can do a passable imitation of the Cameron Highlanders, the Trumpet Hornpipe, Mon Amant de St Jean, and so on.

 

My question - finally! I'm worrying now about chords!

 

I'd say, it depends on the music you like to hear and play.

From your list I conclude it's mostly Irish/english folk tunes, so you are free to do whatever you like: play from memory and experiment, or play from fake books and transcribe the chord symbols into notes, or play only chords.

If you were into classical or jazz, or more sophisticated arrangements - you'd be playing whatever is written, and it's often written with harmony, so there you go.

I think there are two ways of learning things. Learning from theory and apply in practice, and learning from practice and apply to theory. My beleif is when you play enough from the scores, you will eventually learn to intuitively play harmony. Some people like to learn theory first and practice later. Fine too. I personally found it cumbersome and ineffective.

So the number one problem is to find appropriate sheet music.

Majority of tutors suck, those that don't - are marginally better. So you need to go to workshops and join the group. That seems to be the best teacher ever. If they need you to play chords - you'd be playing chords!

But you seem to be a musician, so how come you can't answer this question by yourself?

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But you seem to be a musician, so how come you can't answer this question by yourself?

 

Yeah, good point! :D

 

I was working away from home for a 6-month contract, and very luckily fell into that English thing of pub sessions and barn dances. I was out playing/squeaking my fiddle at least 3 nights a week. As an adult learner I'm still not very good, but people there are just so encouraging and welcoming, and I was sooooo happy and motivated.

 

A couple of people brought their concertinas along to a barn dance one evening, and that was it, I bought my own, and here I am, back at home, complete beginner, knowing NOTHING about how it should be played. When I first got it (by post) I thought it was out of tune because I was trying to play a scale of C - starting on G. Where's the blushing smiley? :D

 

Obviously there are musicians here, but there's not the same pub culture or spontaneity, so for the moment I'm on my own. And those who do recognise a concertina associate it with clowns, which is a bit of a culture shock to me! :blink:

 

All your replies are helping me to formulate what I want from my concertina though, and are giving me the confidence to believe that I can do ANYTHING I want with it, and all are much appreciated. For the moment I'm sticking to my Scottish and English music, because that's what I'm most familiar with from the UK, but it's good to embarrass my 12-yr-old son by trying to play Stairway to Heaven along with him on his electric guitar.

 

Do I talk too much? No, don't answer that one........ B)

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For the moment I'm sticking to my Scottish and English music, because that's what I'm most familiar with from the UK, but it's good to embarrass my 12-yr-old son by trying to play Stairway to Heaven along with him on his electric guitar.

Maybe that's the way forward; a few items which you can play with your son. I can hear it now; "Stairway to Heaven" on concertina and guitar. It would work well just as a concertina single line melody with the guitar filling in the chords, or doubling the melody.

 

Meanwhile you could think about other tunes (as discussed previously in this thread) for solo concertina.

 

Regards,

Peter.

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The fifth is such a safe interval it couldn't hurt to try to throw some in once in a while. Some accordions have stops to pull out the 3rd, or don't have them at all in the chord keys.

 

After some searching for suitable music (here, for example: http://accordion-note.narod.ru/catalog.htm), I found the idea of leaving out the thirds not that appealing.

Sometimes I see passage, where the only difference 'is' the third. Or more often, where the third stays the same, but the chord's root and 5th change. Try to leave it out and you the charm of the arrangement. Not using thirds may not be the option for much of written music.

At least for mere amateurs.

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