Melodeon.net Forums

Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Chris Brimley on April 30, 2015, 12:38:25 PM

Title: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on April 30, 2015, 12:38:25 PM
I've been thinking a lot recently about the learning process and how best to fit this with the diato design.  (I'm talking in D/G/Acc-speak.)

I like to learn to play a tune from stave music, starting from the chords, and it has long been a goal of mine to find a way of learning to play so that you can do this relatively easily from sight, while keeping a steady LH rhythm going.  The snag of course is that with diatos there are so many different ways of playing a given pattern of notes, and therefore when you're reading, it's an added difficulty that you have to remember which pattern works best.  If you don't, it's very easy to find yourself with tangled fingers.  Therefore I adopted a system of mnemonics on the stave, to tell me which pattern to use, and I posted about this some time ago.  (What I'd realised was that sometimes it helped to show push or pull marks, v and ^, and sometimes to show the row number to use (ie 1 for the D row, 2 for the G row, and 3 for the Acc row.))

To illustrate, suppose I'm playing part of a jig with the quavers F#, G, E, against a D LH chord.  I could play this in lots of ways, and I need to select which one to use quickly. The first options I would consider could be ^2, v2, ^2, or perhaps ^2, ^1, ^1, or maybe v1, v2, v3. (NB I have a D/E reversal on my third row).  All three of these allow a Dmaj LH bass and chord  against the first and third notes of the run, thus keeping the rhythm going. 

I would annotate the score ^v^,  ^ - -,  or v - - , or perhaps 2 - -, 211, or 123, depending on what seemed to guide me best while playing.   I only do this annotation occasionally, and only when it's not something that is obvious.

So the considerations in choosing which fingering pattern to use are:

1) Do I want to extend or close the bellows at this point in the music?
2) Do I want a bouncy or a legato sound (maybe emphasising the LH chord over all three notes)
3) How easy is the fingering?
4) How easily does the fingering fit with the notes before and after?

The point I'm leading up to is this - as I've got more experience of this, I've found that actually, I've learned to recognise more and more of the runs by heart, and don't need the mnemonics to spot them so much. (l'd still use the system for this run, because there are so many different ways to play it.)  So therefore, I've recently realised that the thing that messes you about most is being in the wrong position.  The more important mnemonic for me to use has therefore changed with experience - I need to show which finger to use so that I remember to change position at the right time.  So for example, if I needed to annotate the last of those ways of playing the above 3-note run. I would now probably just put down (3) above the F# note, which is my notation for indicating I should use the third finger.  I wouldn't need to show (2) and (1) above the next notes, because that's the natural way to play it.

This is all about giving yourself the right nudge at the right point in time as you're playing.  An advantage I've found with this is that if you use it sparingly, you can remind yourself of the patterns just before you actually play them, by previewing the score.

I expect I've lost most people with the explanation, but it's something I thought was worth sharing - I know others use annotations of one sort or another, so does this ring any bells with anyone?
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Matthew B on April 30, 2015, 04:38:07 PM
I don't use written mnemonics in quite the same way as you do, but I often think in terms of a "magic finger".  Many tunes have a fingering somewhere in them that helps every thing else along.  If the correct finger is on the button in the right part of the music then the rest follows.  If I get it right there are enough fingers left over in the direction I need to go to match the bellows direction the basses and the chords, and everything goes well.  The temptation I struggle with is to rely on the longer and stronger fingers to do the heavy work, and not to press the weaker fingers or even the thumb into service to extend the possibilities of the tune.   
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: emcintosh on April 30, 2015, 04:39:30 PM
My box is a BC, so most of my annotations are reminders rather than decisions (only B and E are available in both directions). But I have found that marking on bellows directions makes playing MUCH easier.

Because most notes only appear once, I haven't had to mark which row to use - even for E and B the bellows direction tells you. I mostly pick which direction the Es and Bs should go by whether the rest of the section is mostly on the push or pull. If it's not too extreme either way, I then consider which direction the bass I want is in (it's generally possible to play something vaguely appropriate for most common keys, but e.g. for CM on the pull I would play the G, for Em on the pull I would have to substitute GM), how to make triplets easiest and bounciness vs. smoothness. And then I look through to see whether I need to strike a different compromise to make it playable / musical.

Most of my annotations will not be the best way of playing on my big BCC# box, where I have all the chords and most of the notes in both directions, and I can attempt John Kirkpatrick's target of changing direction as frequently as possible : p.

I use BarFly to read ABCs, and have abused fiddle bowing marks u and v for the bellows directions.

I don't tend to mark fingerings very often - it usually seems obvious once I've tried the possibilities.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Stiamh - away for the summer on April 30, 2015, 04:43:33 PM
Hi Chris. I can't comment very specifically on your thoughts because a) as a 2-row semitone box player I have far fewer choices of r/h buttons (to suit either chords or phrasing) and b) when I do use written music I never annotate it.

Chords do dictate some r-h button choices but these are so few that the memory circuits are not overtaxed - in my case they only involve chords with F# or C# in them (mainly Amaj, F#m, Bm, occasionally Dmaj and rarely Bmaj and F#maj).

However this morning as it happens I was messing about with an unusual tune that involves many more choices than normal. This is because it's in Bm but with a gapped scale - the note D does not occur at all - and the chords are basically Bm, F#m and the occasional Amaj.

Working around the chords in this tune means fingering a few r-h passages in ways are not the easiest option. In the process I find myself making lots of annotations - but not on paper. "Little mental post-its" seems the best way to describe them. My aim is to get the tune sufficiently burned into the neural circuits that any other kind of memory aid is unnecessary. But as I said, I don't have all the possibilities that you do, and chords are not usually my starting point.  :|glug

[x-posted with emcintosh who as a B/C player says some of the same things]
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: boxer on April 30, 2015, 07:22:33 PM
When I last had students I messed around for a while with bellows/keys notation but it was cumbersome and not much use on B/C.  For people already struggling to read stave, it raised the bar higher.

More useful would have been a fast-to-read (and easy to amend) notation for fingering groups, because the grouping of keystrokes seems to have a big influence on the ease and fluency of phrasing on semitone boxes.  I suppose some form of numbering above or below the stave might be enough.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 01, 2015, 09:49:25 AM
I'm interested to see that most of the comments on this have been from semitone box players, because I must admit I'd thought of this as primarily a quint box issue, because of the larger number of repeated notes, and the increased use of LH chords in quint box playing.  I've never played a semitone box, but I always imagined that one of the advantages of it was the very fact that repeat notes are limited, and therefore it was ultimately easier to learn to play one 'automatically', as it were.  It seems from your posts that mnemonics may nevertheless still come in handy.

I've recently experimented a bit with the Atzarin layout, and one of the things it has given me is a different take on the DGAcc design philosophy.  I now have a hunch that the availability of lots of alternative fingerings on the DGAcc, which previously I've thought of as making learning more difficult rather than less so, is actually a hidden advantage that shows itself as a real plus after many years of experience, provided you can get these mnemonics right.   And those advantages I think have to do with the 4 'fingering considerations' I discussed in my OP - these are what create the immediately recognisable quint diato sound, feel and dynamics.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 01, 2015, 12:34:23 PM
I'm actually deeply immersed in such matters just now Chris. Just finished about half of Milleret/Pignol's 2 hour DVD "Aire et Geste"  and it's absolutely stuffed with tips on the physical side of play. So far it's been holding the box, steadying right end, bellows angle, straps, posture, breathing, air button, pressure change, avoidance of button noise, different ways to play notes, how to keep loudness steady, attack, nuance and ending notes, playing with air button haf open, whether to use it on bass or chord and how to let that not affect right end, how to play swing, cross -ow v on-row (both get tips) even ideas on design.

They refer forward to fingering issues (for both ends) and rhythm generation (+/- air valve) and quite a lot more (an hour to go for me). I am fairly confident it'll get to the issues you raise, albeit on a GC system - but all you have to do is transpose it …

I can promise excellent  ::) english sub titles - others are doing german and italian. They do talk Grenoble argot on occasion, and Norbert can be … very fast, but we're getting there. Think it is an idea whose time has come and have learned a lot myself already. 

Please consider this a recommendation rather than an 'ad' - I'm doing my bit de bono, though I might pull in a favour later in the year ;)
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: stevejay on May 01, 2015, 04:07:21 PM
I found all I really need to know is what row I want to be on, especially if the tune is in your ear.

If you know the tune, the push/pull decision is not hard since you have a "target" note.


So I just look at a phrase and think, this is mostly  on the G row, just  2 C row notes to concern with.
If a tune is mostly on one row, I'll mark my notes to cross over as a reminder.
Push/pull is usually implied by the chord.

Anyway.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 01, 2015, 04:50:40 PM
Both my main boxes are D/G/acc. with reversals for all the notes in the keys of D and G, so I always have two choices of button for each note and in some cases there are three choices. I have gone through much the same thought processes as Chris B and decided that I needed a system that reminded me (and my students) of which option seems best in each situation, so I opted for a line of notation above the stave that tells me the row on which to play the note and the finger to use.

Like Chris B, I also wanted to incorporate something that would alert me about where to change my hand position or fingering so that I don't end up with tangled fingers. Consequently, I use a range of arrows from Microsoft's Wingdings 3 palette to indicate such things as when to 'stretch' higher up or lower down the keyboard, when to 'close up' my fingering (e.g. by playing a note with my first finger followed by a note on the adjacent button using my third finger, rather than my second finger), when to swap fingers when playing two consecutive notes on the same button and when to slide a finger from one row to another. I have found this system works well for me and have received positive comments about it from several students and friends who have found that it helps them to see clearly my suggestions about how to play a particular tune.

Many of you will have seen examples of this notation attached to my earlier posts in other threads, but, for those who haven't, I have attached an example here. The example I have used is Andy Cutting's Flatworld because it uses a range of different arrow symbols. Feel free to PM me if you want further explanation of this system.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 01, 2015, 06:11:50 PM
Well that worked for me, Bob!  I managed to play the whole tune with chords from that, not having played it before - and I like your directional arrows too.  The only thing I wouldn't do myself is have every note annotated - just the ones that aren't obvious from the context.  However with students, it would probably help to have them all done?
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 01, 2015, 06:27:38 PM
I agree, Chris. If I were annotating the tunes just for myself, I wouldn't annotate every note, nor would be I be so prescriptive about the basses, but it helps students avoid misunderstandings.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Andymcmill37 on May 01, 2015, 07:53:37 PM
I've got to say, as one of Bob's students I've really benefitted from this system from starting off as a total newbie to 10mths later getting some pleasant'ish noises coming from my box. Albeit Bob's teaching style and patience also has a lot to do with it too. Cheers Andy
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 01, 2015, 10:48:46 PM
Flatworld is an interesting and maybe instructive example. I've played it for about 20 year and for me it is virtually all laid out in right hand chords. They correspond to to the left end chords on the whole, and it AFAIR the first tune I learned totally "form left to right" meaning work out chords first.

The actual tune then consists of - quite a lot of arpeggio, and twiddles on and off the RH chords. I find myself push pulling hardly at all. Yes there are choices eg D on a DG can be played either direction; but one works a dream, the other leads to hard work. And that isn't to me what the tune is about.

"What row is it on" works well in G or Em, very useful in D, but (singing) I am often keyed in C or Bm on my DGaccs, and the RH chords are the basis of that. And, along with A these are cross-row chords.

But that's not to play off written music. I'm not good at that and basically reach" the melody into my head, then use dots really only as an aide memoire.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 01, 2015, 11:53:14 PM
Thanks, Andy.  :|bl
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 02, 2015, 12:00:30 AM
I agree, Chris that the aim is to learn the tune and then use the sheet music as nothing more than an aide mémoire for the occasions when I have forgotten how I decided to play the tune (usually after not having played it for a while.)

I am not sure that your comments about Flatworld are all that relevant in this context because I included it merely to illustrate how I annotate tunes. However, I may have missed the point you were trying to make.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 02, 2015, 10:11:24 AM
I agree with you stevejay about some tunes - the issues don't really arise.  I originally started by adopting your point about annotating which row to use, because (except for very occasional boxes), the same note doesn't occur twice.  I went away from that as my only method when I realised that sometimes a more compact mnemonic was to indicate bellows direction, eg ^ - - - for all pull, and rely on your knowledge of the notes to get your fingers to translate that into action.  (The idea being to give one signal to the brain that defines a run of notes, rather than several signals, one for each note.)

Here's a tune I've learned to play recently using mnemonics, as an example perhaps of a trickier one with lots of alternative fingerings.  I've always liked it, and so I tried to learn it some years ago, before giving up as I found it was just too difficult to remember how to play it to be able to perform it reliably.  Here it is straight, with no mnemonics (and with the chords I've decided I want to play - bass notes in brackets following the chord name, where applicable).  I'm interested to know how others would play and annotate this, before submitting my mnemonics version.  (No fudges! - you've to play the LH as 'boom, - ,chink, boom, - ,chink'  all the way through, ie bass note on quavers 1 and 4, and the (correct) chord on quavers 3 and 6, of each bar.)

Apologies for the poor resolution, btw, I can't seem to find an easy way to attach decent scanned files within the 256KB limit.
 
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 02, 2015, 10:18:58 AM
Quote
I find myself push pulling hardly at all.

Just a thought on your comment on Flatworld, Chris - for me the subtle dynamics caused by the occasional push/pulling add hugely to the feel of Andy's great tune.  It's almost an object lesson on how choice of fingering can achieve a wonderful overall feel.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 02, 2015, 01:26:06 PM
By a happy coincidence, I have just worked out the fingering I intend to use for Morgan Rattler. Having heard Hugh Taylor play it a couple of times recently in sessions, I have been inspired to have a go at learning the tune.

I have attached my notation of how I intend to play it. I should perhaps have mentioned in an earlier post that in my notation I underline the notes and chords that are played on the pull, so by implication those not underlined are played on the push. In the bass line, I use lower case letters for fundamentals and upper case letters for chords. Lower and upper case letters together indicate block chords, although I haven't used any block chords in Morgan Rattler.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 02, 2015, 06:32:09 PM
Ah, that's quite a lot different, in terms of both notes and chords, isn't it?  Difficult to compare our playing styles, perhaps, because of this?

Anyway, here's my version with annotations.

My nomenclature involves v for push, ^ for pull, finger numbers have brackets, row numbers don't.

I suppose I should also explain that I'm taking certain things as read - as a general rule, I hear this as a bouncy sort of tune, so I'll automatically try to use 'airspring bounce' rather than legato.  This means in general I will be playing a run of three notes as either v ^ v, or ^ V ^, and I would only annotate if not, and if not otherwise fairly obvious.  I only put a few finger positions in, because those were the places where I found I kept going wrong when trying to learn to play it - the rest seemed to come naturally, so I assumed I would automatically remember them.  I do find that if you only put a few in, it helps in emphasising the critical points.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 03, 2015, 12:26:02 AM
Yes, there are significant differences. I can't remember where I found my version, but yours sounds closer to what I hear in sessions, so I shall have a fresh look at Morgan Rattler tomorrow and probably amend my version in the light of yours.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 03, 2015, 09:35:26 AM
Drifting a little because it was just for illustration purposes, but my version is basically from Jamie Knowles' book 'A Northern Lass', though I've changed some of the chords, mainly to get the descending and then ascending bass line in on the C music.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 03, 2015, 04:14:51 PM
Linking with Chris B's last post (but also heading back to the topic!), I have spent an hour or two playing around with Chris's version of Morgan Rattler and the one that I posted. I prefer Chris's version, but have altered the bass line somewhat. The biggest change I have made is to add a run of a bass fundamentals a third below the D, E, F#, G run in the fifth bar of the B music.

The attached PDF shows how I have used my fingering notation, complete with arrows, to avoid tying my fingers in a reef knot - or do I mean a grief knot?  ::) (Other knots are available.)

I hope that a couple of weeks of daily practice should enable me to start playing the tune in public.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 03, 2015, 05:36:36 PM
Bob, this is becoming fascinating!  We seem to have learned really quite different approaches to playing, probably both equally valid, and it will be very interesting to see how they pan out.  Studying your fingering, I notice that your approach, for the A and B music anyway, has been to use the G row notes as a base, taking other notes from other rows where necessary for playing with the chords.  Mine has been to play it mainly on the D row, picking notes from the other rows.  You perhaps have more legato passages than me - I tend to look for v^v and ^v^ patterns with jigs, though with many other tunes I like playing legato passages all pull or all push too.  It will be very interesting to compare the final results, but I'm guessing mine will sound choppy throughout, and yours more lyrical and varied in feel.

(Can I just apologise again for the poor resolution on my attachments - I've just updated to a newer eversion of MuseScore, and it seems not to be as easy to convert scores to pdf as it was with the earlier ones, so I'm having to scan, which is much less efficient.)
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 03, 2015, 10:31:56 PM
I agree, Chris, that our different approaches are very interesting and instructive. You are right that I tend to play jigs with each group of three quavers played in the same direct, where possible, rather than reversing the bellows for the middle note. However, there are exceptions to this. I play some tunes (e.g. The Sloe) entirely on one row and enjoy playing many tunes on my single row boxes, where there is no alternative to reversing the bellows.

You mentioned that my interpretation of Morgan Rattler is played mainly on the G row, drawing occasional notes from other rows, whereas yours focuses mainly on the D row. I hadn't even noticed this until you mentioned it. My approach is to choose notes from one row or the other either to facilitate the playing of the passage or to enable me to use particular basses. I don't go as far as Chris Ryall, who works out his bass line first and then fits the melody around it, but I do develop my bass line alongside my fingering for the melody, with each affecting the other.

I hope that my approach doesn't lead me to interpret jigs in too smooth and lyrical a manner. Although I cross rows a lot and play many sequences of three quavers without changing bass direction, I try to maintain the bounciness I associate with jigs.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 04, 2015, 09:53:29 AM
Quote
I hadn't even noticed this until you mentioned it

And funnily enough, I hadn't noticed I was playing along the D row mainly until then, either!  I do go along with Chris R in that I start from the LH, because it's more direction-limited. In fact I now try to refuse to learn a tune until it's been decided by someone what the accompaniment is going to be, on the grounds that relearning takes much longer than learning!
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 05, 2015, 03:24:12 PM
I managed to keep it together long enough to record this:  https://soundcloud.com/chrisbrimley/morgan-rattler

(I thought editing would be unfair given the context, so I avoided doing so - and so hopefully only took a few liberties with the tune as written!)
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 05, 2015, 11:33:44 PM
A nice jaunty interpretation, Chris. It will take me quite a bit longer to get to the stage when I can record a version, since I have only just begun to learn the tune and it takes me a while to internalise most tunes, but I will try to post a comparative video in a couple of weeks' time. It will be interesting to hear whether my greater use of cross-rowing affects the jauntiness of the tune.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 06, 2015, 10:39:25 AM
I always find that it's what you learn after you've learned a tune that's the most important thing!  I've just realised I have a playing problem at around bars 6 and 7, and I'm fudging it.  The issue is that the last note of bar 7 is a C#, which I only have on the pull.  Since I'm trying to play that against a D chord, I either have to leave out the chord, or swap to a pull D chord for that phrase (which would ease transition to the next G chord).  The trub is, if I do that, I've got bars 6 and 7 mainly on the pull, and I'm going to lose bellows position without an easy way out.  One possibility might be to change the previous bar to A push, and use a few more third row note reversals.  This means quite a lot of unlearning and a few more mnemonics, so I think I'll just carry on with the fudge solution.

I looked at your version, Bob, and noticed you're also doing quite a bit of pulling around bars 6 and 7, and you've swapped to an A chord for that note - but are you finding the same problem as me with all the pulls?
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Mike Carney on May 06, 2015, 03:20:36 PM
I always find that it's what you learn after you've learned a tune that's the most important thing!  I've just realised I have a playing problem at around bars 6 and 7, and I'm fudging it.  The issue is that the last note of bar 7 is a C#, which I only have on the pull.  Since I'm trying to play that against a D chord, I either have to leave out the chord, or swap to a pull D chord for that phrase (which would ease transition to the next G chord).  The trub is, if I do that, I've got bars 6 and 7 mainly on the pull, and I'm going to lose bellows position without an easy way out.  One possibility might be to change the previous bar to A push, and use a few more third row note reversals.  This means quite a lot of unlearning and a few more mnemonics, so I think I'll just carry on with the fudge solution.

I looked at your version, Bob, and noticed you're also doing quite a bit of pulling around bars 6 and 7, and you've swapped to an A chord for that note - but are you finding the same problem as me with all the pulls?
Don't know if I am setting myself up here, but it is fascinating to read the discussion between you two and this led me to have a look at the tune. Have played it in a band setting but on guitar. So I am working on it! Will prob take rather longer than Bob to produce it.  Chris, about your bars 6 and 7 issue, in bar 6 I am doing D bass and chord on the push until the last chord which becomes a pull A chord  for the C#. In bar 7 I am trying B bass, E chord,A bass, A chord. Both bars 4 and 8 I am using B bass and chord into the pull A. Hope I have reflected correctly what I am doing.
M
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 06, 2015, 03:35:11 PM
I'm interested to know, what guitar chords were you using for this bit? 

I must say I've always tried to match the band accompaniment on the box, which tends to make it more complicated to learn, but hopefully makes for a sweeter sound.  So for a G chord for example, I'd want to find the push notes, rather than using an Em or Em7 substitute - mainly because the LH E notes introduce a different character to the chord the others will be playing, though the B would usually fit OK.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Mike Carney on May 06, 2015, 03:42:57 PM
I agree about the consistency between chords but we still have to make the melodeon playable...
A/D/A/Bm
A/D/GA/Bm for the A part
These were written by someone else.

 For B part:
D/A/D/Bm
D/A/GA/Bm

C part broadens out a bit:
D/A/D/G
D/A/A/G. I like the way it saves the big G feel to the last part.

M
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 06, 2015, 04:09:12 PM
Ah, I've just realised a simple and playable solution to my own question is to shift to the G chord position in bar 8 a quaver early, so as to get the pull D chord against the final C# in bar 7.  Hmm, may need a new mnemonic here!
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 06, 2015, 08:29:50 PM
I've just read (about half an hour ago) today's posts on this thread, having been too busy doing my day job to log onto melnet earlier.

Until you mentioned it, I wasn't aware of a problem around bars 6 and 7, even though most of those bars are played on the pull, so I have spent the last half hour playing the tune over and over again, paying particular attention to those passages. I can play the tune more or less up to speed now, although not without looking at the music to remind me of the bass line and not without making mistakes. I have not noticed any problem with regard to bars 6 and 7 or over-extending the bellows, although I am tending to use the air button only on the push notes in order to compensate for the preponderance of pull notes.

I prefer the sound of an A chord against the C# at the end of bar 7, rather than a D chord, but that is just personal preference. I have tried it using a pulled D chord, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to the playability of the phrase or the position of the bellows at the end of it.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 07, 2015, 11:29:36 AM
I was about to make a comment that we seem to have all drifted a bit from the original intention of trying to find a way of remembering how to perform without tangling fingers, but then I thought about it a bit more, and realised that the sort of discussion we are now having, relating to ostensibly specific details of playing technique, is actually what it's all about.

I've long had hunches about the reasons for the often prominent place of a diato box in a dance band.  On the up side, it gives an efficient, fast, and bouncy way of playing melody, bass and chords together, and the bellows techniques available allow the dynamics of the sound produced to both follow and lead the natural movements of the dancers (as opposed to disco beat for example, which imposes strict rhythms on dancers).   On the down side, however, are the technical limitations of the instrument in terms of playable keys.  By using a three row with lots of basses, a player can overcome most of the limitations within the 'home' keys, and play almost anything the other chromatic instruments can.  But to do so, the player needs to know specifically how to play individual passages in advance, because of the often large number of possible ways of playing a sequence of notes and chords.  (Hence this thread).  So the second but less obvious disadvantage of the diato is that often they are not following what the rest of the band are doing accurately, and often clashes occur.  To some players, this is just part of the traditional sound of a folk dance band, but I'd rather avoid it if possible by focussing on each tune in detail and then remembering to play it that way.

I've noticed that many melody-only instrument players (and pianists, who have only one way of playing each note) can with a little training read quickly at sight - to them it's just a matter of reading, like text, and automatically translating that into learned finger motion.  But few box players can read that well, and I believe that actually it's much more difficult to do so on the box for the above reasons - it's not just because of player skill.  We are all taking some time to learn one tune here, because we are all doing this - trying to find optimum fingerings, and then commit them to muscle memory.

For me, my great interest in members' comments on this thread has been to try to understand the different approaches players adopt to the problem of learning to play a given piece reliably.  Bob's approach of using the G row as a 'home' row, and picking individual notes from other rows was a bit of a revelation for me - I'd simply never thought of it that way.  If a tune is in D, A, or Em, say, I would just use the D row as 'home'.  But I can see that Bob's approach could perhaps make sight reading easier, because it involves less switching of 'home' rows mid-piece.

Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 07, 2015, 02:59:30 PM
You have expressed very clearly, Chris, my own thinking about the relationship between reading music and playing a three-row melodeon. I also agree with your observations about why it is more difficult to sight-read music for the melodeon than, say, the piano and why it takes so long to internalise a tune.

It was specifically because of the need to work out a suitable fingering pattern, from the many options available on a three-row instrument, commit it to muscle memory and have a means of recording it so that I have something to refer to if my brain or muscle memory fails me, that led me to devise a means of noting down my preferred fingering pattern. My system may seem over-fussy to some people, but it works for me and my students, which is all that I require of it.

However, I am not sure that I agree with your statement that I use the G row as the 'home' row when playing in D. In the case of Morgan Rattler, I have done so without realising it as a result of the bass line I have constructed and wanting to play the sequence of notes in the first bar and a half of the melody on the pull. However, I think a closer approximation to my default position would be to use the G row as the home row when playing in G, the D row when playing in D, but transferring to the G row for the first half of the upper octave, and to play the bottom half of the Em scale on the D row and the upper half on the G row. Having said this, my choice of rows is influenced heavily by my bass line, in which the options are increased by having reversals of C, C#, D and E on my accidental row.

As for my approach making sight-reading easier, I couldn't really comment because I don't do much of it. I work out my fingering and bass line and note it down on the sheet music and then try to commit it to memory. I use the sheet music as an aide-mémoire until I have learnt the tune properly and then leave it alone unless I forget how a passage goes. There is not much sight-reading in this process - just as well, since I am not very good at it.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 07, 2015, 03:30:27 PM
Quote
However, I am not sure that I agree with your statement that I use the G row as the 'home' row when playing in D.

OK, Bob, fair enough - but I have to say it's still a very interesting idea! 

I find there's a tendency for me to run out of push puff on simple tunes, and to run out of pull puff on more complicated ones, particularly jigs, because of the runs I tend to remember being mainly pull ones.  I think I ought to train myself to learn to select a few more all push runs, so I can lose a bit of air, because there's plenty available, even without a reverse C#.

Quote
transferring to the G row for the first half of the upper octave, and to play the bottom half of the Em scale on the D row and the upper half on the G row.

You lost me here - do you mean you'd look to play upper D E F# G from the G row, A B C# D from the D row?  And for Em:  E F# G A from the D row, B C(natural) D and E from the G row?  For that Em run I think I'd usually just swap to the D row for the C natural - unless of course I was trying to play the whole thing legato, which would probably result in me doing a lot of pull fingering across the three rows.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 07, 2015, 04:24:25 PM
Sorry, Chris, that I didn't make myself clear over my default positions for the keys of D and Em.

In D, I would normally play most of the tune on the D row, if it doesn't go above the top D of the lower octave, picking just a few notes from the G row to smooth out a passage or to gain a reversal so that I can play basses that would not be available if I stayed on the D row. However, if the tune continues into the upper octave, I often transfer to the G row for the high D, E, F# and G notes because these feel more instinctive to me than the upper octave notes on the D row. For the top half of the upper octave, I might play the A on either row, but I usually play the B, C# and D on the D row.

However, I have reversals of C#, D and E on the accidental row and it is undoubtedly easier to reach notes on the accidental row from the G row than from the D row, so I will often play notes on the G row leading up to and following on from those I am playing on the accidental row that in other circumstances I would play in the D row.

In Em, my default position is to play E, F#, G and A on the D row and then change to the G row for the B, C, D and E notes, although the point at which I change rows can vary according to the requirements of each particular tune.

With regard to running out of air following long runs of pushes or pulls, I try to bear this in mind when working out my fingering. If I have miscalculated in this respect and can't easily rectify the situation using the air button, I revise my fingering to enable me to reverse the bellows for some of the offending notes.

I hope that makes what I do a bit clearer. I am not trying to suggest that this is necessarily the best way of doing it, merely that it feels natural to me, so tends to be my default position.

One other point: although playing a sequence of notes in the same direction by crossing the rows is the best way to play legato, I don't think it follows that a passage played like that has to be legato. It depends on how long you dwell on each note and whether you put gaps between the notes. If I want to play a passage staccato, I don't necessarily play it as a sequence of pushes and pulls all on the same row; I might choose to play it across the rows and achieve the staccato effect by brief stabs on each note with gaps between them.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 07, 2015, 05:11:37 PM
Thanks, Bob, for the explanation.

I also agree with you about the sound not necessarily being legato if all the notes are in the same direction - it's a different, and sometimes very useful, effect.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Stiamh - away for the summer on May 07, 2015, 05:18:14 PM
Ouf! You lads lead complicated musical lives. Even as a C#/D player (with only two reversals to choose from in each octave), I can understand the need to work carefully on a tune to find the optimum fingering. But does this really prevent you from sight-reading a tune, using "default" or basic fingering on one row or the other?

What about picking up a tune on the fly (a simple one that you've never heard, or a less simple one that you are familiar with but haven't tried) in a group setting? (Without worrying about a performance version with all the best basses etc.)

I know you have so many more choices on a quint box, but when reading or picking up a tune aurally there are certain passages or runs where I nearly always use the magic notes from the other row, and so I just do it without thinking. Does this not happen on D/G?
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 07, 2015, 08:16:56 PM
Sure, it happens - I mentioned earlier that I've managed to recognise quite a few little runs, and yes, throw them in where the bellows direction requires.  I think you may be right that C#/D players may not have these choices so much, but perhaps they have more chord matching problems?

But I must admit that I am reluctant to learn to play even a simple tune in a group setting on the fly unless the chords are in front of me.  This is simply because if I learn the wrong thing, it takes such a stupidly long time to unlearn.  Things like playing either a G or D chord against a D note are of course easy on the fly, but even that can prove a mistake - for example the very simple tune Li'l Liza Jane in G, where bar 4 is just the note D played against as D chord.  I reverse it using the third row and play it on the pull, simply because it's the only chance you get to open the bellows, and until I learned (and mnemonicked) that, I had real difficulty playing the tune with any oomph.

You mentioned the 'magic notes from the other row', and yes it would be a cinch if that was all you had to bother about, but I want to plan to play the same LH chords as the rest of the band (so they don't kick me out), and I'm afraid that will often dictate row swapping elsewhere in the tune. 
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 08, 2015, 07:34:33 AM
I'd like to thank Chirs B for reminding me of a lovely tune that so far I've only chorded to in sessions.

Challenge, isn't it? I think the "about" in this is that it spends about half its tine in tension, that is to say the note is "out" of the natural chord - therein its spirited nature?

Certainly, having a go on Tuesday I found a right finger on "other" row far more often than note, and (as per sessions) it doesn't "play by ear". My C#/D reversal helper got used a lot, a pull E would have been very useful. Gan get round that with a pull G bass, but it feels very new at speed.

Anyone else hear a C#min,b5 chord … resolving to A … resolving to D in there? As I say, tense. More practice needed!
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 08, 2015, 09:45:49 AM
C#mb5 immediately before bar 5 or before the first bar? It would give a semitone run of G to G# to A, which would be nice, but the C# and E notes against the melody D note at the end of bar 4 might be a little clashing?
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Bob Ellis on May 08, 2015, 10:10:18 AM
Stiamh raises a valid point about learning tunes by ear in sessions or elsewhere. Clearly, there isn't time to work out which combination of melody buttons and basses to use when picking up a tune in a session. This is where the default positions for each key come into play backed up by default chords that one can play almost automatically.

For instance, when trying to pick up a tune in G in a session, I will tend to stay on the G row except where the tune drops below the key note, when I will drop down onto the D row. I might also cross the rows to play a G, A, B run on the push or an A, B, C run on the pull. My default bass position for this is to stay on the G/D bass buttons, except for C and E notes in the melody, when I will move to the C basses.

If the tune is not too difficult, I can usually make a reasonable attempt at playing it on the fly using this approach, but, if I decide to add the tune to my repertoire, I will take it home and look more closely at the melody and bass options to produce an interpretation of the tune that I find pleasing. This is when the more analytical approach that Chris B. and I have been discussing kicks in. Sight reading using our analytical approaches is difficult, because we are exploring all the options available and making decisions between them. For me, sight reading would be much easier if I restricted myself to playing a tune using my default melody and bass positions, but that defeats the object of having a D/G/acc. three-row box. It is what I do with my one-row boxes, but that is another story.

In fact, I am not particularly interested in being able to sight read because there are few circumstances in which it would be of any real benefit to me. If I am playing in public, I won't be playing from the music and, when playing at home, it is sufficient for me to be able to pick out the tune from the dots. I use them as an aid to devising an arrangement and then learning the tune. Once I have learnt it, I dispense with the sheet music unless I need to remind myself about some aspect of the arrangement.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 08, 2015, 11:08:33 AM
I agree with pretty much all of that, Bob.  I think it's also possible to 'hear' more complex chord progressions in a session than the '3-chord trick', and automatically to adopt different fingering positions for them - G Em Am D7 is a good example, where I would be looking at G row, D row, G row, G or D row, automatically.  I think it's possible to teach yourself to do this on the fly to some extent, but swapping finger positions is less obvious, because it often depends on features of the particular tune for which there aren't any obvious musical rules, and so some pre-playing experimentation is going to be involved. 
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Anahata on May 08, 2015, 11:11:57 AM
Stiamh raises a valid point about learning tunes by ear in sessions or elsewhere. Clearly, there isn't time to work out which combination of melody buttons and basses to use when picking up a tune in a session.

Except that, as you then say, there are simple patterns where you can cross the rows. For me the same applies, except I seem to have a few more patterns than the two you suggest. If I'm following another melodeon player I'll try to match their chords. I won't get it right every time of course, and like you, if I take the tune home and work on it I'll almost certainly make a lot more changes.

For me, sight reading on the melodeon is not all that different from playing by ear, because I tend to hear the tune in my head when looking at the music and play what I hear. If the tune is too complicated to do that (doesn't take much...), I resort to mapping notes to places on the scale and it all gets slow and less sophisticated. This means I can transpose a simple tune at sight (using the "play what I hear" method) but if the tune's too difficult to hear in my head then transposing goes south rather quickly  :-[
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 08, 2015, 11:46:53 AM
C#mb5 immediately before bar 5 or before the first bar? It would give a semitone run of G to G# to A, which would be nice, but the C# and E notes against the melody D note at the end of bar 4 might be a little clashing?

C#mb5 immediately before bar 5 or before the first bar? It would give a semitone run of G to G# to A, which would be nice, but the C# and E notes against the melody D note at the end of bar 4 might be a little clashing?

Straight in at bar 1! If you play on the pull the first 2 bars run | C#Ø A(7) | D - | Not entirely folky but it works, and for someone else chording its basically about sliding from 4 fingers on D row (=C# half-dim) onto pull A7 (A on G row, C#EG on D)

It sort of fell at me playing G on bass pull (18 bass) as my C# is adjacent. N/A solo 2-row, but a duo could do it

I'm 'off-box' just now but will certainly give that chomatic run idea a try (next button from C#  (:))  as it sounds like it'd be even cooler.  :|glug
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 08, 2015, 12:14:41 PM
Ah, I see Chris, you're talking half-diminished, so G#'s all replaced by G's in the chord, in which case ignore my last comment - this chord nomenclature has always confused me, I confess!

Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 08, 2015, 01:42:47 PM
"minor" "7" and "flat 5th" - what's confusing?

Whereas "half-diminished" - er which half?   :|glug
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 08, 2015, 02:20:13 PM
It's just this -  in the chord nomenclature C#m6, say, there'd be the 1st, minor 3rd, fifth, and sixth notes.  Therefore by analogy in the terminology C#mb5, you'd expect the 1st, minor 3rd, fifth and flattened fifth notes, wouldn't you (maybe with the b5 an octave higher)?  Whereas in fact with a half-diminished chord, you modify the fifth to b5, you don't add another note to the chord (in fact isn't it often written C#m7b5 because you also have the minor 7th note B in the chord?)

The term 'half-diminished' to me makes more sense because you're only flattening the seventh note once, whereas with the (fully) diminished chord, it's flattened twice.  Though for some reason the term C#m6b5, which would seem to represent a fully diminished chord by analogy, doesn't seem to exist, does it?

 
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 08, 2015, 06:49:06 PM
Sorry, Chris, should have written C#m7,b5.

For any baffled melodeonista still tuned in, this is chord vii in the seven possible "alternate notes" chords available on your D scale and is "trivially" played. Just grab any 4 adjacent D buttons right end, and pull. It's rather more useful playing in the "related" key of B minor, as part of the minor ii,V,i progression.

Sus chords? Well I play them very flexibly. often simply laying a finger across buttons on D+G rows on the pull. Some of these things seem to be as much about attitude as anything else?

Chromatic run: cool as expected  ::) thanks for the idea  :D
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: GBbox on May 08, 2015, 10:41:36 PM
At a glance, an interesting discussion that I hope to find time to read carefully on Sunday.

Anyway, about original question Chis has made – how to notate a tune to avoid the tangling fingers problem -, I dare say that the obvious replay is to use a tablature. I don't think really the CADB system is easy to read, but the Corgeron System (one line for each row of the instruments), once you got the hang of it, is really showing the development of the tune on the treble keyboard. And you can add the fingers to use if you need to.

As an alternative, for those who can read music and know the keyboard layout of their instruments, a practical alternative using just the score is to change the colour of the note heads according to the row they are played on. Simple, cost effective and elegant!

For me, the score and the chords are enough. I've found that, most of the times, even after months or even years I've not played a tune, the chord progression is all that I need to recall the fingering. Most of the times obviously doesn't mean always, but on another hand I've also found that, when I start to play again a tune after having neglected it for a while, I tend to change the old fingering here and there anyway.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 09, 2015, 10:47:47 AM
Quote
I tend to change the old fingering here and there anyway

Exactly what I find! - then in my case I'll fall over when I get to the next bit, and get lost because I've lost the mental pattern.  I think of the problem like this - the brain modifies its long term-memory with new things it learns, so when you recall the old memory you can never be sure it hasn't got 'corrupted', for example by learning another tune that you hadn't realised was similar.  So at the crucial points where this is possibly going to happen (probably because you have to use an unusual fingering), you need to nudge it in the right direction with a mnemonic.  This is why I try to run through a tune a few hours before performing it, in hopes that the short-term memory will reinforce rather than confuse the long-term.

I've just had exactly this situation arise - I was rehearsing a tune for a gig tonight (Blarney Pilgrim) that I haven't played wrongly for a long time.  There's a few notes at the beginning that have been simplicity itself in the past, but suddenly I found I was playing them completely wrong, so much so that I couldn't for the life of me remember how I used to do it.  I had to go back to basics, try all sorts of alternatives till I found the right one, and then write in a mnemonic that distinguishes it from the other possible fingerings.  I think that I use those notes in another tune that I've been learning recently but play with a different fingering, and that's what messed me up.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: GBbox on May 09, 2015, 12:55:04 PM
Quote
I tend to change the old fingering here and there anyway

Exactly what I find! - then in my case I'll fall over when I get to the next bit, and get lost because I've lost the mental pattern. 

That might happen, but I really meant that usually I deliberately decide to change the fingering when I start playing again a tune that I have neglected for a while. Some times this is due to the request of another musician to change my old chord progression, but mainly it happens because the old fingering solutions, that seemed  to me as the most expressive ones when I learned the tune, don't sound satisfactory anymore to my ear.

I think this could be be partly explained telling that my way of playing is changing (thecnically) along the time, but I think that the tunes I currently play (at least  in terms of style) could have a role as well in the process, influencing me in an unconscious way.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Brimley on May 09, 2015, 01:25:45 PM
I wish I had that flexibility - it causes me a lot of trouble trying to change the way I've played a tune for years.
Title: Re: Tangled fingers
Post by: Chris Ryall on May 10, 2015, 07:16:13 AM
picking up on what g8box said above - down in Grenoble they (mostly) teach from the dots and that certainly did me good. Everyone has to find their own fingering - the spread of layouts is pretty large beyond a decent phalanx of Pignol/Milleret system, and "French" castas.

As for annotations - I write in the (right end) chords, though which tends to be a group decision as we are trying to support the improvisor.  If playing theme I might just write 'push  or 'pull 'over the stave (usually that specifies the actual buttons?) or an X or similar if it is a rock bellows note. Again that's enough?

Impro … well it tends to be just "dorian" "mixo" "phr.major" (again that's often group advice) as that's the way they teach it (yes, there are others). Beyond the mode defining your "set of notes" one is supposed to then order them on the fly, ideally paying respect to whoever went last ;)

So that's to say - go for the bigger picture - what chord a phrase are you on - or that it's a run of dorian notes perhaps against Em other end. Melodeons are actually built that way IMHO.

I think to do more is to move towards Tab, and we could argue whether  to follow Tab is actually  to play music.? I'd refer to "painting by numbers" analogy in other threads? :|glug
SimplePortal 2.3.5 © 2008-2012, SimplePortal