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First Tunes For Anglo Beginners?

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O Shanendoah,


Buffalo Skinner's Blues,


(I almost hate to make mention...) The theme from Gilligan's Island.


These last two might be more familiar to Americans than to those across the water, but they are all well known and dead easy, so you can tell when yer wrong, and are seperate enough in style and rythm to give a little taste of different sounds one can make.



And Gilligan's Island is a perfectly good little hornpipe, Skipper! :P

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Beginning anglo concertina players often ask me what tune they should start on? Would anyone care to share their opinions? What were the first three tunes you learned when you began on the Anglo?

My first three (on the anglo) were Morris tunes, but there was reason. ;)


But my recommendation would always be, "A simple tune that you know well without the concertina."


All those suggested so far would be fine, if the student is familiar with them. But the student should first learn to associate the concertina buttons with musical sounds they're already familiar with. Once they have a little experience with that, it can be turned around to get them to use the concertina to show them what unfamiliar tunes sound like.


I think a simple round, such as "Three Blind Mice" or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" would be especially good, because once it is solidly learned, it can be used to introduce harmony and playing with others. It's a rare student who won't already be familiar with how it's supposed to sound when played as a round, so they should be able to tell when they need to make corrections, without you having to tell them.

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I thought that the concertina was only for ladies to play.

It is for ladies.

I'd not recommend adults to start with nursery tunes. There are plenty of good simple tunes adults can play without going back to Kindergarten.

For English oriented: Winster galop is very good. It was my first tune too, because I started with Watson's brochure. The next one was "the Star of the County Down" (I think). For non-English oriented - they're in bonanza, there are thick tutors in Italian, French, Russian, German - all have familiar tunes, arranged for various keys, with harmony etc.

You can also suggest Dave Mallinson's D/G melodeon books, transposed to C/G. It'll last them a life time. Actually Mallinson's tutor for very beginners uses only first octave of one row, so fingerings will suit the Concertina (only Dave suggests Right Hand, and you'll use Left Hand), and, if played in G row, you can even use the companion CD for tunes in G.

Or, if you are so inclined, you can suggest beginners to order "Anglo Concertina Demistified" and forget about the trouble.

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The first thing I try on any instrument is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", followed by "Baa Baa Black Sheep" & then when the "Saints Go Marching In". The advantage in starting by playing very simple tunes is that you can turn all your attention to learning to play the instrument without having to worry about also learning an unfamiliar tune.


Dave Mallinson's book 101 Easy Peasy Tunes is a very good resource. Starting with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and then "Baa Baa Black Sheep" it's a very clever idea. All the tunes in the book can be played by knowing 14 notes, and with each song you learn something which is the foundation for the next one to learn (e.g. consider the similarities between "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep") and you're soon playing tunes that come up in sessions. There's a nice spread of tunes & to give you more of a flavour here's the first 20 you learn...


Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Coulter's Candy

D’ Ye Ken John Peel?

Shepherds’ Hey

Skip to My Lou

Polly Put the Kettle On

Little Brown Jug

Bobby Shaftoe

Loch Lomond

Good Night Ladies

Winster Processional

South Australia

Country Gardens

British Grenadiers

In and Out the Windows

Donkey Riding

Bluebells of Scotland

Red River Valley

Egan's Polka

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I'm in agreement with the suggestion to try simple known tunes. That way I' wasn't hunting around for an unkown.


Pop Goes The Weasel

Mary Had a Little Lamb is close to Merrily We Roll Along

Yankee Doodle


Are three that come to mind on this side of the Pond. Doesn't matter that they're childrens tunes or not. The object is to find the keys, so they become familiar.




Edited by Leo
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As it happens my first tune was Lass O'Dallowgill, which was a bad choice because it is one of the few tunes that you play the same way on both anglo and melodeon (I was a longsword musician at the time), so it gave me a quite unrealistic idea of the relationship between the two instruments. Still it got me enthused and my next tune, Monk's March, was a much better choice.



Edited by Chris Timson
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I begin to learning concertina, and I'm agree to say it's important that the song was well known. It's more dificult to learn a tune which is impossible to find a recording on the net.


I have 3 methods concertina :

- "When the saints" is the first tune for the Wim Wakker method ;

- "Cock of the north" is the first tune for Didier Jaffrédo method ;

- "Óró" is the first tune for John Williams DVD.

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Dave Mallinson's Easy Peasy Tunes is a great start source as already mentioned. I would also suggest some of the progressive tune books for Descant recorders; there are several which work through Playford dance tunes, increasing the number of notes needed as you progress through the book.


Further, having found a tune that you think you would like to learn, it can help to 'Google' it as the tune + 'abc', locate the abc file and paste it into Tune-o-tron on this website and listen to the midi playpack! Try and avoid Irish tune websites.... their versions often have more twiddly bits in them which can be confusing at first!

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I'm not at all sure I'd recommend any specific tunes!

If asked I'd say "A tune you really want to play" It doesn't even need to be particularly easy, just one you know well. One of the first tunes I played was "maggie in the woods" hardly the simplest tune but it was one I wanted to play.

(My first tune was "amazing grace")

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It seems clear to me that you first have to learn the keyboard. So any tune might do for that.

For where the notes are I'd teach a simple tune they already know- such as a simple nursery rhyme.

After that, the first tune they learn specific to a genre would depend on the kind of tunes they wanted to play:

Zulu bop, contra-dance, Irish trad, Quebecois, morris dance zydeco.

Not that I play all those kinds, but that's the first question to be addressed.

Edited by cocusflute
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My first box was an East German G/D and I was playing morris on it (I'd damged my knee so was off dancing at the time). Monks March, Shepherd's Hey and Beansetting would have been early tunes (all in G). My first D tune was Foxhunter's Jig. I then upgraded to a C/G Lachenal and had to start again.



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I have not heard of Winster Gallop or Winster Processional. Are they English pieces or am I just unaware?

English standard repertoire, as well as being easy tunes to play.


For where the notes are I'd teach a simple tune they already know- such as a simple nursery rhyme.


Well, everyone is different. Personally I never dreamed of playing nursery rhymes etc because I just don't like 'em (excepting Off She Goes, of course :) ). Simple tunes, yes, but tunes you want to play definitely. And if that's nursery rhymes, fair enough. But don't feel you have to play tunes you don't like as some sort of rite of initiation into the mysteries of the instrument.



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The first tunes I learnt on the Anglo were Jamie Allen and Salmon Tails for the reason others have mentioned earlier - I already knew them. They also seemed to fall nicely under the fingers. I learnt both mostly on the C row which meant I was crossing the rows right from the start. Winster Gallop also seems a good choice as it runs up and down the G row. Another one which works well on the G row is the Northumbrian jig Lamb Skinnet which is largely arpeggios so doesn't involve awkward bellows reversals, though you do have to find C# at one point.


I have Dave Mallinson's book, Easy Peasy Tunes and an excellent book it is. Most of the later tunes are good [English] session stalwarts. Another book I found useful is "Piping Hot". It is a collection of tunes for the keyless Northumbrian Pipe Chanter so all the tunes are in an octave range, G to g and nearly all in the key of G or related modes and the tunes are graded. There is an interesting mixture of tunes, by no means all traditional Northumbrian pipe repertoire. I don't know how readily available it is as I got my copy in the Morpeth Bagpipe Museum.



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