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Where to put left-hand notes


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I want to add light left-hand harmonies to full right-hand melodies - i.e. thirds, fifths, the odd chord etc - rather than regular oom-pahs, but can anyone offer any guidance on exactly where to fit these in relation to the rhythm etc?

 

For one particular, slow song I've added chords where the melody notes are particularly long and that seems to work, but it's not generally applicable. I've also looked at a few arrangements such as Dick Miles' Song Accompaniment for English Concertina, but I've yet to discern the logic.

 

Richard

Edited by frogspawn
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I'm surprised nobody replied to this as I would have thought a discussion about arrangement would be of general interest, and cross-system!

 

I'm currently experimenting with arrangements that don't use oom-pahs (i.e. alternating bass note and chord in 4/4 time) but something looser, partly because too full an accompaniment drowns out the melody on my duet as was recently discussed in another thread.

 

For one particular song I'm playing three- (or two-) finger chords, but on the first and third beats, i.e. the strong beats. I'm not playing any left-hand accompaniment on the weak beats. This seems to work but it's really only an oom-pah without the pah. I'd like to develop something freer.

 

When looking at the notation of other people's arrangements, I'm finding it hard to understand why they have thrown in the accompanying notes where they have. I trust that in time this will all become instinctive, but as my life affords more time for theory than practice I'd be interested in any comments.

 

Richard

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I'm surprised nobody replied to this as I would have thought a discussion about arrangement would be of general interest, and cross-system!

 

I'm currently experimenting with arrangements that don't use oom-pahs (i.e. alternating bass note and chord in 4/4 time) but something looser, partly because too full an accompaniment drowns out the melody on my duet as was recently discussed in another thread.

 

For one particular song I'm playing three- (or two-) finger chords, but on the first and third beats, i.e. the strong beats. I'm not playing any left-hand accompaniment on the weak beats. This seems to work but it's really only an oom-pah without the pah. I'd like to develop something freer.

 

When looking at the notation of other people's arrangements, I'm finding it hard to understand why they have thrown in the accompanying notes where they have. I trust that in time this will all become instinctive, but as my life affords more time for theory than practice I'd be interested in any comments.

 

Richard

 

I'm not there yet because I'm still trying to learn the basics of the basics. However, this would interest me too.

 

Ian

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Sorry I haven't a clue what kind of music you play, so I don't know if this will be of any help to you. I play Irish music, so maybe some elements of that might be applicable. When Irish musicians use left-hand chords, their reason for doing it is primarily to help accent certain notes in the melody. It's the same with cuts. You don't just cut any note - you want to be cutting to emphasise certain notes. It's the same principle with bass notes and chords, and that may be so for other types of music as well, apart from maybe songs where the harmonies you're creating with chords are probably more important than creating a danceable rhythm.

 

So if it is this that you want to achieve, then I would begin not by stressing about what harmonies you're going to use, but rather by going right back to the tune itself and deciding which notes in the tune are begging to be emphasised. A lot of the time you might decide that the emphasis belongs on the backbeat, but sometimes when there's a long note at the start of a bar, for example, it needs a chord or something to help emphasise it.

 

When you've decided which notes you wish to emphasise, then it's just a case of dropping in any bass note that will fit. A lot of the time a simple octave bass note sounds best, but sometimes others work better. Big fat growly chords often work on those long notes on the downbeat. If you mix up downbeat and backbeat emphasis, then you'll end up with a freer, more creative accompaniment. On the other hand, if you over-emphasise the downbeat, then you'll get a very steamrollered sound, and if you overemphasise the backbeat, you'll get a horrible, disjointed, reggae-like sound. If you emphasise both all the time, then you'll get that oompah effect that you don't want either. The trick is striking a balance, I think.

 

What concertina masters like Micheal O'Raghallaigh have done is taken this to its absolute limits. He is able to play all of a tune - or at least most of a tune - in unison octaves, so that he can then pick and choose freely which ones he wants to emphasise out of the whole set at his disposal.

Edited by Dow
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When I started Anglo, I made a policy decision to learn the instrument rather than just a lot of tunes. I play in the style that mainly has a single note melody on the right and chords on the left. The following may or may not help on other types of box.

 

I have found that I have gone through a series of stages.

 

Stage one was mainly adding the "pah" (off beat) with a couple of fingers on the left. Simple, crisp and lively, but irritating after a while.

 

Stage 2 was a fairly primitive "oom pah" mainly using the root of the chord as the "oom".

 

Stage 3 was "oom pah" but sometimes using the third or 5th as the as the "oom". For example (in G), instead of G-pah, G-pah, C-pah I would play G-pah, B-pah, C-Pah. At this stage, it is starting to sound like music.

 

Stage 3A was realising that you can use the root of the chord as the "oom", but an octave higher.

 

Stage four was realising that sometimes, instead of just doing the "pah" (stage 1) you can occasionally do a run of two or three "ooms". A bass run.

 

Stage 5 is making the oom with two notes (1 and 5 of the chord) and filling in the 3 on the pah.

 

Stage 6 (especially in waltzes) is to play the arpeggio from time to time.

 

 

Obviously the sequence wasn't quite so formal and planned as all that but that is the way that it has gradually come together over a couple of years of hard work. In reality, some tunes lend themselves more to a simple accompaniment; others need something more complicated to bring them to life.

 

Remember each chord can be played in several inversions, or broken into an arpeggio.

 

 

Choice of chords is following a similar progression. I started with the simple 1, 4, 5 trick; then started to substitute 2minor for 5 sometimes; 6minor for 1, and occasionally 3minor for 1.

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I want to add light left-hand harmonies to full right-hand melodies - i.e. thirds, fifths, the odd chord etc - rather than regular oom-pahs, but can anyone offer any guidance on exactly where to fit these in relation to the rhythm etc?

...

Richard

 

Some of the most memorable accompaniments are rather melodic in their own right and provide counterpoint to the main melody line. When used with discretion until just the right moment they can be devastating (in a good way). Sorry that I can't be more specific than that. I haven't heard enough concertina music yet to be able to recommend a good example, but you could listen to Samuel Barber's "The School for Scandal" or David Raksin's "Forever Amber" suite to hear what I mean.

Edited by Frederick Wahl
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Many thanks for the responses. This is exactly the sort of detail I was seeking. I play English folk music with a few Irish songs and tunes. The accompaniment is for singing. When playing tunes I have enough trouble just keeping up with the melody. I inflicted my singing and playing on a small audience for the first time last night. The organiser advised me to concentrate on my unaccompanied singing! But I'm not giving up just yet...Although I'd be the first to admit that there is always room for improvement, I don't find singing in itself very challenging. Operating machinery at the same time is another matter!

 

Richard

Edited by frogspawn
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I don't find singing in itself very challenging. Operating machinery at the same time is another matter!

 

Richard,

 

I suppose this belongs in the "Playing and Singing" thread, but it's relevant here, too:

 

Get to the point where you can leave the operation of the machinery to your fingers, and just sing. You have to reach this point with each song individually, though of course the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Even though your fingers may be on autopilot, I think you'll find that they won't sound "mechanical" - they'll take their expressiveness from the voice. I.e. when you sing faster or slower, louder or softer, your hands will follow suit.

 

And there's nothing to be ashamed about in making your accompaniments less technically demanding than your instrumental solos. This applies at any level of technical competence.

 

Cheers,

John

 

Edited for typo

Edited by Anglo-Irishman
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