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Concertina & Fiddle together


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I don't know if this is an issue unique to my ears. I've noticed that whenever I'm listening to a tune with concertina and fiddle I have a difficult time picking out the concertina, until the concertina player adds some ornament or chord to the mix. But as soon as he or she is back to more-or-less straight melody, I can no longer hear the instrument. It is, to my ears, totally covered up by or blended-in with the fiddle. I've noticed this on CDs from very fine players. The two instruments don't conflict with each other, in fact, their voices seem to blend so much that I really have trouble picking out the concertina though I can hear what the fiddle is doing pretty well. I find I have to avoid these duets when I'm looking for a piece to listen to when I want to figure out what the concertina player is doing. Do fiddles inhabit the same harmonic frequencies (not sure if that is the correct term) as the anglo concertina? Or, are my ears just not trained enough, or is it possible they have lost their ability to discriminate between certain frequencies? My hearing is generally quite good, but loss of ability to hear higher frequencies sometimes increases with age. Anyone else notice this about the two instruments? If so, what is going on acoustically? Thanks

Edited by CaryK
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I've been listening a lot lately to Spiers & Boden on melodeon/duet concertina and fiddle respectively. When Spiers is playing duet concertina, I seem to hear what he's doing quite clearly and don't find that he gets lost in the sound of Boden's fiddle. Whether this is due to some quality of the duet as opposed to the anglo, or something to do with individual styles of playing (or something else), I don't know.

 

http://www.spiersandboden.com/index.html

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I love the sound of fiddle and concertina together, perhaps partly because they blend so well that it can be difficult to tease them apart.

 

 

I love the sound also, but I would love it more if I could distinguish the instruments separately. It is "difficult to tease them apart."

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As a pipe organ lover, I appreciate how the two instruments blend together to form a single, new tone quality.

I think that adding the concertina "mellows out" the relatively dry tone of the fiddle.

And since they can't be absolutely perfectly in tune, there's a bit of chorus effect, which also enriches the sound.

 

In general, when two or more isntruments are playing exactly the same melody line, the best compliment you can pay them is that they sound like one instrument. That's the sing of a "tight" jazz band, when the sax, trumpet, etc. first give out the tune in unison.

--Mike K.

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If, as you say, this is true: their voices seem to blend so much that I really have trouble picking out the concertina though I can hear what the fiddle is doing pretty well. then how do you know you're hearing the fiddle and not the concertina?

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If, as you say, this is true: their voices seem to blend so much that I really have trouble picking out the concertina though I can hear what the fiddle is doing pretty well. then how do you know you're hearing the fiddle and not the concertina?

 

I guess I would describe it as hearing the notes created by the back and forth draw of the bow. Sounds totally different than the concertina being played. The fiddle seems to stand out when the two instruments play, to my ears, but can seldom hear when the concertina is playing. Even on a video, when I can see the concertina being played I have a hard time picking it out of this twosome; Nothing wrong with the sound except I 'm sometimes disappointed not to hear the concertina alongside the fiddle. Again, may be something peculiar to me.

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It's been explained to me by hardcore Irish Traditional musicians that the blending is the important thing, including concertinas and fiddles. Being only half Irish, I respectfully beg to differ. I grew up hearing my Dutch Father playing Big Band and earlier jazz LPs and while I appreciated their fine ensemble "blended" playing, I definitely preferred the instrumental solos. When I was playing bluegrass music years ago in my pre-free reed days, I noticed the same "ensemble then solo" phenomenon. For me, when a fiddle and concertina are playing the same line, the concertina always loses out to the louder strains of the fiddle and might as well have just sat out the tune and enjoyed a beverage instead.

 

Cheers,

Henri, who always follows that different drummer as exhibited by being perhaps the only Crane Duet player in Florida

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i can usually hear the difference, though i used to not be able to. think of noel hill and tony linnane. when either of them play separately on the album, you can totally hear the difference. i agree that it might take some listening to do at first, but after a while it's pretty easy. now.... i think concertina and pipes is much more difficult, but still doable.

 

listen to this link: http://comhaltas.ie/music/detail/shannon_breeze/

 

can you hear the concertina? i can hear the concertina separately from the entire band. i'm not sure if i can hear the harp or fiddles (!), but i can hear the flutes, accordions, concertina, banjo, and bouzouki.

 

i think there could be several things going on here. one of the most important is that your ear is not developed enough. the concertina has a very distinct sound, but one that is very different acoustically than most instruments. so, even though it's distinct, it is not something you are used to, and therefore you do not have as much experience hearing it as you do other instruments. psychologically, one could say that your schema for the sound qualities of a concertina is very limited. this means that there are certain aspects of the sound that you just have not noticed yet, and when you notice them, it will be much easier.

 

another thing could be that you do not have a concertina-reeded concertina. i just got my first concertina that did not have accordion reeds, and the sound is very different. this would mean you have the most real-life experience hearing accordion reeds, and therefore you have trouble recognizing the sounds that you do not have that much experience hearing in real life. since i have gotten my traditionally-reeded concrtina just over a week ago, i have heard "concertina reeds" more in real life, thus giving myself more exposure/experience listening to them. i can say very certainly that this week it is MUCH easier to pick out a concertina from a fiddle than it was last week, or even a concertina from every other instrument (in the above link). to me, the concertina sticks out like a sore thumb. to me, the flute sticks out very much as well, as i am also a flute player.

 

i just listened to noel hill and tony mcmahon's album on amazon just to see what it sounded like. i can hear noel very clearly over tony, with no effort. however, i remember when i used to try to listen to the clips, i could only hear the accordion. things change with time.

Edited by david_boveri
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It's been explained to me by hardcore Irish Traditional musicians that the blending is the important thing, including concertinas and fiddles. Being only half Irish, I respectfully beg to differ. I grew up hearing my Dutch Father playing Big Band and earlier jazz LPs and while I appreciated their fine ensemble "blended" playing, I definitely preferred the instrumental solos. When I was playing bluegrass music years ago in my pre-free reed days, I noticed the same "ensemble then solo" phenomenon. For me, when a fiddle and concertina are playing the same line, the concertina always loses out to the louder strains of the fiddle and might as well have just sat out the tune and enjoyed a beverage instead.

When I play in unison with the fiddle and/or whistle (really a recorder) in our lcoal Celtic band, I don't want to stand out -- I just want to add to the richness of the ensemble tone. I get my share of solos, and being a Duet I can always throw in chordds, which nobody will confuse with the guitar or mandolin's chords!

 

But in the unison sections, if the audience could hear my concertina separately, I'd feel that I must be playing sloppy, or not in sync with the others. Or maybe that I'm tossing in ornaments that the others aren't, and yes I have asked myself whether or not I should do that. Usually I don't, till the fiddler starts hotdogging, then I take it as a free-for-all sign.

Cheers,

Henri, who always follows that different drummer as exhibited by being perhaps the only Crane Duet player in Florida

Otherwise known as the Triumph Duet -- but in Florida, aren't Cranes called Flamingos? Or isn't yours pink? I wouldn't want a Flamingo Duet playing on my lawn at sunrise, fer sure :lol:

(Seriously, I have tried Crane Duet -- it's a fine system!) --Mike K.

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Do fiddles inhabit the same harmonic frequencies (not sure if that is the correct term) as the anglo concertina?

 

 

I recall Noel Hill saying that when Charles Wheatstone invented the concertina, he was intentionally creating an instrument that would be in the same harmonic range in an orchestra as the violin.

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Do fiddles inhabit the same harmonic frequencies (not sure if that is the correct term) as the anglo concertina?

 

 

I recall Noel Hill saying that when Charles Wheatstone invented the concertina, he was intentionally creating an instrument that would be in the same harmonic range in an orchestra as the violin.

 

Now that you bring it up, I recall Noel saying something like that a couple of years ago also. That would certainly explain why they blend so well as to make it difficult to pick out the concertina. David Boveri's points made previously in this thread are probably correct as well. I suspect with more exposure to fiddle-concertina pieces and careful listening, I will get better at picking out the separate instruments.

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With my EC, I avoid playing the same melody line with a fiddle. The violin totally cancels out the Wheatstone's sound for me. Other people in the room say they can hear both instruments, but I can't - which means I'm 'flying blind' for those passages. B)

 

I agree, Mr. Clipper. Sure, if the concertina plays in unison with the fiddle then the result sounds like a fiddle on steroids more than it sounds like a warmer more human concertina, but both are possible textures if the players are listening and reacting to each other. I think that the fiddle sound is more compelling to our ear because of its wider variation in timbre, intonation and attack, so that is what we notice.

 

Part of the fun of playing concertina with just a fiddle is to work that effect to musical advantage. Parallel harmony lines, chords, bass lines, rhythmic figures, accents etc will all stand out against the fiddle. To use them for a time and then join the fiddle in unison makes a very nice contrast. Another way to make this duet work is for the fiddler to accompany the concertina and play no melody at all. That is what fiddler Paul Friedman is doing on Lilies of the Valley which you can hear here.

 

Also at that link are two other tunes we play. If you listen, I think you will hear the two instruments distinctly. In a recording it is possible to pan the instruments into the left and right and use EQ to help keep them from obscuring each other.

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My partner Anne is learning the fiddle and of course we have done quite a bit of playing together as it is helping her to learn to play in tune. I do think the two instruments blend beautifully together.

 

But

 

And it's a big but, if the fiddler plays even slightly off tune the effect is drastic and quite painful. In the early days I would sometimes abandon my anglo and pick up the Anglodeon instead. It's melodeon sound had far fewer problems. That may sound not a very galant thing to say about one's beloved, but her fiddle playing is much improved now. :)

 

Chris

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Do fiddles inhabit the same harmonic frequencies (not sure if that is the correct term) as the anglo concertina?

I recall Noel Hill saying that when Charles Wheatstone invented the concertina, he was intentionally creating an instrument that would be in the same harmonic range in an orchestra as the violin.

I'm not sure this is quite the right way to be looking at it. Range is one thing, harmonics is another. Wheatstone's 48-key English concertina has the same range as the violin: that is, they have the same lowest note and although the violin has no theoretical highest note, it generally confines itself to the notes that are also found on the concertina. But that says nothing about the sound of the instruments or how they blend. For that, you look to harmonics, which involves the shape of the vibrations, the presence of overtones, the timbre of the sound. Violins and concertinas have rather different timbres, so one might expect differences in their harmonic structure, although I have not seen a harmonic analysis.

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Do fiddles inhabit the same harmonic frequencies (not sure if that is the correct term) as the anglo concertina?

I recall Noel Hill saying that when Charles Wheatstone invented the concertina, he was intentionally creating an instrument that would be in the same harmonic range in an orchestra as the violin.

I'm not sure this is quite the right way to be looking at it. Range is one thing, harmonics is another. Wheatstone's 48-key English concertina has the same range as the violin: that is, they have the same lowest note and although the violin has no theoretical highest note, it generally confines itself to the notes that are also found on the concertina. But that says nothing about the sound of the instruments or how they blend. For that, you look to harmonics, which involves the shape of the vibrations, the presence of overtones, the timbre of the sound. Violins and concertinas have rather different timbres, so one might expect differences in their harmonic structure, although I have not seen a harmonic analysis.

I'm very comfortable that what you say is correct. What I wonder is whether it's also from a 21st century prespective. Today, anyone can play into a computer and do all sorts of harmonic and tonal analysis. Wheatstone wouldn't have had any of the electronic tools that let us do that. I suspect he would have been able to match the range and then experiment with reeds, bellows, action etc. and used his ear to refine his product. I wonder is he thought he had succeeded or even what he considered sucess. Maybe one of the historians knows.

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