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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Chris Brimley on September 11, 2017, 02:21:08 PM

Title: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 11, 2017, 02:21:08 PM
I was interested in the comments of those who responded to the recent thread about 'Practicing'. 

For several years I've been running an Open Mic stage at Woodfest, in NT Hatfield Forest, near Stansted, and it has struck me how excellent all performers (of all kinds of instrument and voice) seem to have become over that period, in presenting their music to audiences.  I'd like to understand more about what techniques box players use to practise their stuff so that it can be up to a high performance standard.  Unless I'm playing with a solid band that I know, I confess to lots of fluffs.

Does anyone else recognise this as an important issue to consider, when rehearsing?  If so, what's your take on it?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Joan Kureczka on September 11, 2017, 02:48:41 PM
Learning to get past fluffs with aplomb is one of the most valuable lessons I'm learning. We play almost weekly (myself and husband on 12-string guitar) in a Sunday afternoon slot at a tiny cafe that sponsors lots of live music. Sometimes it goes very well, other times.....  But it has certainly helped to make my playing better, as much as all the living room practice does if not more.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 11, 2017, 02:55:19 PM
Chris, you've asked an incredibly good question and one that I've often wondered about - how to organise and improve my practicing.
I need to hone my practicing skills, so will lurk on here and try and pick up tips.

My basic approach is a folder of 'tunes to learn' and a list of tunes that have been learnt. I find if I concentrate on a new tune for a length of time then my tunes already learnt need a good buff up.
I also recognise that I will often move on from a tune that's not quite committed to memory. Sometimes I find it is 'digested' whilst I move onto other things, and coming back fresh will give a learning spurt. It could be that in the mean time I've learnt and improved my playing skills that means a 'tune too far' is now in reach. At times just slogging away and getting nowhere I find offputting and depressing, so best leave it and come back later....
It also prevents me from getting too stale with a tune, and returning to it makes it seem fresh again.
I have seen Bob's comments on the other thread, but having to work seems to get in the way of such a good and regular practice regime!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on September 11, 2017, 03:06:04 PM
We all make mistakes when performing. I certainly do, and I've even seen John Kirkpatrick on stage crumble into a cascade of bum notes. He stopped, apologised: "Whoops! I'll just start that again" and then proceeded to give a faultless performance.  (:)

Mistakes don't really matter too much; it's how you recover from them and incorporate them into the overall flow of your music that is important. In my Sheffield orchestra, a former respected conductor used to say to us in the green room immediately prior to a concert performance 'Whatever happens, it will be right'. And there is a lot of truth in that.

So - don't get too strung up about making mistakes; mostly it will 'be right' one way or another. And if the performance really starts to go totally belly up, feel free to emulate JK and start again. No-one will mind. It will demonstrate you're human and not a machine.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 11, 2017, 03:20:24 PM
I find mistakes are far less conspicuous in a band situation than they are solo, you can just pause briefly,  then pick up at the next phrase, unless the others stop to see why you've gone quiet (which used to happen every time, at first)   :(
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Theo on September 11, 2017, 03:21:53 PM
We all make mistakes when performing. I certainly do, and I've even seen John Kirkpatrick on stage crumble into a cascade of bum notes. He stopped, apologised: "Whoops! I'll just start that again" and then proceeded to give a faultless performance.  (:)

Isn't that now an expected part of his performance?

Apart from how you play which is clearly important there is also the business of relating to the audience as a person. That includes how you speak, smile, use gestures, chat and banter and generally make the audience feel they are having a good time. The best entertainers make this look relaxed and spontaneous, but for most I'm sure it is a well honed skill.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 11, 2017, 03:30:55 PM
its also important to always remember that you are there for 'them' rather than them for ''you''. That applies whether 'them' are a hall full of dancers or a seated audience or whatever!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 11, 2017, 04:07:54 PM
I raised this because I've noticed how incredibly good at performing many of today's musicians have become - and I think that to do that has become natural to some people, for reasons I don't really understand.  Sure, it's good to have techniques to overcome the fluffs, but there's obviously something about a good performer's mind-set that allows them to be highly consistent.  Maybe it's some sort of quiet self-discipline, that can be learnt?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 11, 2017, 04:10:18 PM
Just to add, I've noticed that I can easily mess up a tune I have known for a very long time, so for me it's not really about practice time, it's about attitude, I think.

And after our frenetic weekend of running a music stage, many of us went on in the evening to a nicely-chilled session nearby.  I managed to play a tricky piece near-perfectly, despite (or maybe because of?) being completely exhausted.  I've had this experience before - now what's that all about?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on September 11, 2017, 04:17:38 PM
I raised this because I've noticed how incredibly good at performing many of today's musicians have become - and I think that to do that has become natural to some people, for reasons I don't really understand.  Sure, it's good to have techniques to overcome the fluffs, but there's obviously something about a good performer's mind-set that allows them to be highly consistent.  Maybe it's some sort of quiet self-discipline, that can be learnt?

I think that for any sort of performance, be it music, acting, dancing, etc. there has to be an element of showmanship and exhibitionism (both of these in a good sense, and not blatant ego-centricity). You have to want to do it, even though you might (like me) get very nervous and suffer from stage fright. Training at music/drama/dance schools can help nurture and hone your performing skills, and even help you discover those which you never thought you had. But overall, you must have that want or need to perform, which comes from within. People who don't have this urge, want, need, will not go on to perform (even though they actually might technically be competent enough to do so).
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 11, 2017, 04:30:41 PM
And after our frenetic weekend of running a music stage, many of us went on in the evening to a nicely-chilled session nearby.  I managed to play a tricky piece near-perfectly, despite (or maybe because of?) being completely exhausted.  I've had this experience before - now what's that all about?
Sometimes when you're really worn out, the autopilot is more reliable because your brain doesn't keep 2nd guessing it.
In the days of heavy drinking brass players - not now a feature of modern orchestras, a violin player asked the principal trumpet (no names) how he plays so well when he's p***ed. He said, it's simple I practise when I'm p***sed.

As someone who doesn't want to play in public, I practise specifically to learn tunes well enough to record them. I don't allow myself any editing at all, but may only play the piece once through for the camera just in case the wheels come off the second time through.
I know a lot of people say that they don't know what happens to their playing when the red light is on, and there is of course some truth that you play worse with that pressure, but there's also the fact that sometimes it's just not ready - for example if I fumble and restart a phrase, I might actually start up with a fingering that I can't get to from the previous passage without a hiatus - so I think I can get it right second time, but I'm actually not using the difficult fingering that I have to learn. The recording makes sure that I spend time sorting it out properly.
Then there's the disappointment in the recording sounding less successful than it did in my head.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 11, 2017, 06:29:38 PM
Oooops, sorry Chris, misunderstood the thrust of your thread hence my original comment.
In terms of performance, speaking from a Morris perspective, we try and smile and make the most of any cock-up, even act like it was meant to be. It holds true for playing, as said.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 11, 2017, 09:46:43 PM
Main bullet point: It's entertainment.
Try to keep that in mind at all times.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 11, 2017, 10:53:55 PM
seconded!

george ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on September 11, 2017, 10:57:19 PM
"It's entertainment"

I wholeheartedly agree with that, we're not sitting exams, neither are we getting loads of dosh (well, some of us obviously are, but not many I suspect!) for what we are doing. Let's just enjoy playing and performing, after all, most amateur dramatics aren't perfect, neither are most local folkies at the clubs, but they're still very enjoyable.

I'm at the time in my life where if I no longer enjoy doing something, I stop doing it! Life is too short to put in hours of arduous practice, or even practise! (Whatever, I no longer care.)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 11, 2017, 11:17:52 PM
"It's entertainment"

. Let's just enjoy playing and performing, after all, most amateur dramatics aren't perfect, neither are most local folkies at the clubs, but they're still very enjoyable.


I can heartily recommend playing the evil nasty bad person in  pantomime for helping you discover how to relate to an audience. Nothing at all to do with being word perfect, either. Doesn't half boost your confidence.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: boxcall on September 12, 2017, 01:18:41 AM
Another thing is this isn't the raceway were people are waiting for a crash ;)

My father told me remember that the audience wants you to do good, not always easy to do though.

It's always a good idea to have a couple of jokes to fall back on in a pinch.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: squeezy on September 12, 2017, 08:33:10 AM
My main bit of advice regards what happens when something goes wrong with your performance ... I see it time and again with people I teach ... the natural reaction is to stop and play that bit again.  This is what we tend to do when we practise to try and get that bit right ... but music performance doesn't work like that and it can be bad practice.

Keeping the tune in your head going at a steady tempo will allow you to re-join the tune in time after any fluff and the more you do this - the better and quicker you get at doing it until it can be pretty much invisible to all but the most attentive audience member.  Playing regularly for dancing where rhythm and continuity is more important than the right notes if you don't want everyone to grind to a halt is a great discipline that helps with this.

If you don't play for dancing then I would urge you to never stop mid-tune when practising it and only at the end should you pinpoint the bit you were having trouble with and go over that bit in detail.  Practice doesn't make perfect ... practice makes permanent ... and if you stop halfway through a tune and get out of rhythm then that is what your brain will learn to do!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on September 12, 2017, 08:43:38 AM
"Practice doesn't make perfect ... practice makes permanent ... and if you stop halfway through a tune and get out of rhythm then that is what your brain will learn to do!"

That seems to be very logical (and so simple it's eminently missable!) it could explain lots of long-term stumbling blocks! Thank you, squeezy.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: squeezy on September 12, 2017, 09:19:16 AM
You can have that for free Edward - life's too short not to share with others  ;-)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on September 12, 2017, 09:42:39 AM
That makes sense Squeezy, as Yann-Fanch Perroches says- " make sure you keep the rhythm going while you make your mistake and the chances are, no one will notice"!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: James Fitton on September 12, 2017, 10:00:18 AM
I saw two street theatre performers at a recent festival, with, on the face of it, similar juggling-based acts. Performer B was much more technically proficient than performer A, whose juggling was average at best (I can't juggle to save my life, I should stress....) But performer A drew the much bigger crowd, got a much better audience response, bigger laughs and applause, and I suspect had much more in the hat at the end. Performer A was simply miles better at working the crowd, interacting with us, making this a real "live" performance, not simply a demonstration of technical skill. It was all a very useful reminder that the contribution of personality and warmth is often a great deal more important than the contribution of other skills....
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on September 12, 2017, 10:00:28 AM
Some years ago, I worked with a young woman who aimed to become a concert pianist. She came to our house often, to practice on my wife's piano and it was interesting to see how she went about it. She rarely played a piece the whole way through, rather, she took difficult passages from it and worked on them, slowly at first and then gradually increasing the tempo to the correct speed. She did this for hours. In fact, I only heard her play complete pieces on one occasion, when she gave a 'mini concert' for all our invited neighbours.
Another thing she did, which I found very interesting....When she had to learn a piece by heart, she would do so, not at the piano but in an armchair with a cup of coffee. She said she learnt it as you would learn a poem, just by reading it over and over again, sometimes humming it and sometimes playing it with her fingers on the arms of the chair.
Then she left and went back home to Serbia and we haven't heard from her since. But I fully expect to see her on TV one day. She is extremely talented.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 12, 2017, 10:55:33 AM
two excellent bits of advice here
Squeezy: 'practice makes permanent', keep going don't stop and repeat.
I need to do this more often and maintain the rhythm. I do notice as I learn a tune I sometimes stop at the same place before a tricky bit.
I need to keep going.....

Arty: sitting down without the instrument.
I've done this with a tune, just humming it through, looking at the dots and realise it really helps to get the emphasis right on those tricky bits we all encounter ..... I shall do it more often!
Thanks both, good tips!
cheers
Q

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on September 12, 2017, 11:00:04 AM
Yes, thanks John, free's good. But the next time you're up our way, maybe you'll let me know, and I'll buy you a cuppa!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 12, 2017, 11:19:03 AM
I often practice a new tune in bed, gently dozing off while my fingers play the tune on the pillow.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve Coombes on September 12, 2017, 12:28:28 PM
I saw two street theatre performers at a recent festival, with, on the face of it, similar juggling-based acts. Performer B was much more technically proficient than performer A, whose juggling was average at best (I can't juggle to save my life, I should stress....) But performer A drew the much bigger crowd, got a much better audience response, bigger laughs and applause,
I have often thought exactly the same thing watching the buskers here in Bath. I try to compensate for lack of skill with the injection of exuberance and this is something that develops with performance time. Slowly emphasizing your own playing quirks over time and looking happy, Oh I'm now saying the same thing as Rees "It's entertainment".
Steve 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 12, 2017, 04:31:22 PM
it can also help to look as if you know what you are doing  - even when you don't on the ancient principle of ''bullshit baffles brains''!

george ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Theo on September 12, 2017, 04:55:15 PM
it can also help to look as if you know what you are doing  - even when you don't

So just like life really. ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 12, 2017, 05:29:03 PM
She rarely played a piece the whole way through, rather, she took difficult passages from it and worked on them, slowly at first and then gradually increasing the tempo to the correct speed. She did this for hours. In fact, I only heard her play complete pieces on one occasion, when she gave a 'mini concert' for all our invited neighbours.
That's a way of using pieces to tackle technique, and is crucial - although others have highlighted that you do eventually need to put it back in context.
  But I fully expect to see her on TV one day. She is extremely talented.
I find those two sentences rarely go together. Much better to see her play live.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Julian S on September 12, 2017, 05:33:37 PM
There is a fine line between playing a tune wrong and simply creating a new version. The 'folk' tradition after all...
However, someone I used to occasionally play in a band with, many years ago, pointed out that I was playing a wrong note in a tune. I replied - it's the way I play it...the response was something along the lines of 'well - it's not as how I composed it '
Thats me told !
As well as playing wrong notes, my other problem is speed control. For me, much easier when there are dancers to play for, but it's always been a struggle.

J
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 12, 2017, 08:02:51 PM
I have over the years trained by foot to act as a reasonably accurate metronome to facilitate keeping at  a steady speed  whatever I am playing

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 12, 2017, 11:26:48 PM
George this almost certainly doesn't apply to you but I  have found that people who use their foot as a metronome generally play perfectly in time... with their foot.

I should add that I don't play well in time on the melodeon but I hope that's because I'm not technically secure.I pplay best in time on the instruments I play best. It seems to be an early casualty.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Bob Ellis on September 13, 2017, 09:32:44 AM
After a conversation with Squeezy in the showers at Sidmouth (!), I have decided to make a stomp box (as used by Spiers and Boden) for use in keeping people to the same tempo in my Well Known Tunes at a Steady Pace sessions. This should ensure that everybody plays at the wrong speed!  :o
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 13, 2017, 10:56:26 AM
indeed!  I once tried in a workshop to get everybody keeping time(ish) with foot down for bass note and foot up for chord and in synch with my foot which all could see ( sat in semicircle)  It didn't work  - some were footing up when they should have been footing down and vice versa- some were doing two ups to one down  and some were just waving the foot around randomly and unrelated to what we were ?playing!


I gave up on that idea

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 13, 2017, 01:31:35 PM
I used to play with a percussionist who followed my foot rather than my melodeon - he was way out of time!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 13, 2017, 02:31:40 PM
After a conversation with Squeezy in the showers at Sidmouth (!), I have decided to make a stomp box (as used by Spiers and Boden) for use in keeping people to the same tempo in my Well Known Tunes at a Steady Pace sessions. This should ensure that everybody plays at the wrong speed!  :o

Did he say where the design could be found?

I suspect that this would take practice to play well. I read something  Eliza C posted, pointing out that Jon worked pretty hard at making it sound good.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Andy Next Tune on September 13, 2017, 03:52:58 PM
I explored stomp boxes a while ago for possible ceilidh band use. Google 'stomp box diy' and you'll find lots of different ideas. Alternatively ebay usually has some for sale from £20 upwards - don't get confused with guitar stomp boxes which are usually effects boxes.

Most however are really designed for someone playing sitting down, i.e. mainly toe tapping to make the sound rather than playing standing up and using heel or whole foot stomps. Most use piezo mic modules.

I seem to recall reading (S&B forum?) the Jon Boden set up was a custom build based around a large piece of wood raised off the floor, which he stood and stomped/danced on, and some effective placement and use of mics.

The challenge is once you start using it in a dance set,  you really need to keep it going despite what your leg muscles are telling you. If you are already a clog, tap or step dancer then you've definitely got a head start in terms of both rhythm and stamina.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: squeezy on September 13, 2017, 05:09:30 PM
The DIY one can be made from the contents of a B&Q quite cheaply.  A decent square of 12mm hardwood ply nailed to 4 bits of 2 by 2 give enough floor clearance to put a mic and create a boomy sound acoustically too (leave small gaps for the sound to escape and for mic leads to run through.  If you place felt or foam between them before nailing then it eliminates most creaking and clacking.

The expensive bit is the microphone when amplifying it - they're not all equal.  We've always used Audio Technica ATM87R boundary mics and they're fantastic ... but they don't make them any more ... doh!  A good boundary mic with a nice low end frequency response will do a good job.  At a pinch you can use any mic - even a Sure SM57 vocal mic will give a half-decent sound.

And yes ... it does really start to teach you about leg muscles you didn't know you had halfway through a really dancy set!  But you can swap foot.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Huw Adamson on September 13, 2017, 06:18:21 PM
In this age of carefully constructed and recordings and sound mixing on CDs, the mistakes can, in a weird way, almost become the best part of the performance, being the most unique.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 13, 2017, 07:14:09 PM
The pendulum seems to have started back, from immaculate but cold recordings to imperfect but alive and ephemeral performances. If you aren't there, you miss it.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 13, 2017, 08:54:23 PM
Funnily enough, I do find that being able to set down a steady beat makes it much easier not to fall over mid-tune, (and so is having a good rhythm a section in a band) so I agree that this discussion about stomp boxes is very relevant.  I would also like to find a good one - I have a stereo (heel and toe) 'Beat-Root', and it's surprisingly easy for the foot to use, but I can't really get on with it, because both channels require so much eq'ing that it's not all that practical. 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 13, 2017, 08:57:31 PM
And on the issue of steadiness, it's an awful lot better having one than not for keeping a good rhythm.  However if in a band with a good drummer, it still comes into its own in setting out a 'groove' when starting to play a tune, I reckon.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 16, 2017, 11:21:20 PM
when I was in my teens  I knew a bloke who played regularly for ceilidhs and Scottish country dances on a small 3 row box usually accompanied by a pianist. He also had a very accurate invisible drummer!  On one foot he wore an army surplus hobnail boot and kept time with it on the bass of the microphone  stand!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Little eggy on September 17, 2017, 08:59:55 AM
Very helpful topic. Agree totally with (1) starting slow and building speed;(2)  'carry on and recover - don't stop and start again';  (3) enjoy the performance.

May I add -

Use Youtube and CDs to get the tune totally familiar in your head (I have all my CDs in the car). 

Arrive early at folk club/folk session and warm your fingers up properly. I play a lot better after 5 minutes of playing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Clive Williams on September 17, 2017, 11:15:55 AM
After a conversation with Squeezy in the showers at Sidmouth (!), I have decided to make a stomp box (as used by Spiers and Boden) for use in keeping people to the same tempo in my Well Known Tunes at a Steady Pace sessions. This should ensure that everybody plays at the wrong speed!  :o

Did he say where the design could be found?

I suspect that this would take practice to play well. I read something  Eliza C posted, pointing out that Jon worked pretty hard at making it sound good.

There's a YouTube video on Jon Boden's channel where he shows the stompbox up close and what it looks like underneath. It's a pretty interesting set of videos where he covers all his instruments that he uses in his solo show.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: BJG on September 17, 2017, 08:08:55 PM
I agree that this discussion about stomp boxes is very relevant.  I would also like to find a good one - I have a stereo (heel and toe) 'Beat-Root', and it's surprisingly easy for the foot to use, but I can't really get on with it, because both channels require so much eq'ing that it's not all that practical.

I recently picked up a Horse Kick Pro (https://ortegaguitars.com/product-finder/percussion/percussion-produkt/show/Product/horse-kick-pro/horsekickpro/). (I generally struggle to play anything that doesn't take batteries.)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 17, 2017, 08:20:30 PM
that sort of ''clack clack'' comes entirely free of charge and effort with every hohner pokerwork, double ray and Erica! 

george >:E ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Ebor_fiddler on September 20, 2017, 12:16:30 AM
 ;D
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on September 20, 2017, 01:59:10 PM
A comment Dick Gaughan once made on a forum: "I've never yet done a show without fucking something up and never yet done one where the audience noticed".
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 20, 2017, 02:30:21 PM
indeed!, I often think we sometimes worry far too much about getting every detail ''correct'' - whatever correct may mean in the sense of playing trad folk music either for dance or as a 'performance'.  Its the overall efficacy that matters

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Stiamh on September 20, 2017, 02:40:15 PM
A comment Dick Gaughan once made on a forum: "I've never yet done a show without fucking something up and never yet done one where the audience noticed".

A slight exaggeration, surely. I saw him eff up the start of a song and have to start again, something that can hardly have escaped the notice of the rest of the audience. He was also prone to falling off the tunes he flatpicked at great speed - but maybe I was the only one who noticed there. (:) He is one of my favourite performers by the way. 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 20, 2017, 03:49:15 PM
On another forum (probably uk.music.folk newsgroup) I trotted out the old adage about an amateur practising till he plays it right, while a professional practises until he can't get it wrong, and Dick Gaughan picked up on this and pointed out that even a professional does get it wrong sometimes, and needs to acquire the extra skill of recovering gracefully when that happens.

I saw him break a guitar string during a song once. I wasn't sure what had happened, because he continued without missing a beat to the end of the song. Then without a break he started his verbal introduction to the next song which rambled off into a rather lengthy discussion about the differences between the Scottish and English education systems, and it was only half way though it I realised this was a slick distraction to cover the string changing routine. He didn't mention the string, unstrap his guitar or leave centre stage, nor even stoop to pick anything up: a set of spare strings were ready and waiting in his back pocket. I still wonder if he'd even rehearsed the whole routine at home to make it as smooth as possible.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 20, 2017, 06:09:30 PM
The thing is that the top performers at Festivals these days virtually never get it wrong, at least not noticeably.  And it is mightily impressive.  If there are mental skills that they have acquired to allow them to achieve that, what on earth are they?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 20, 2017, 08:29:37 PM
The thing is that the top performers at Festivals these days virtually never get it wrong, at least not noticeably.  And it is mightily impressive.  If there are mental skills that they have acquired to allow them to achieve that, what on earth are they?

Mostly, they are young  :-\
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Bob Ellis on September 21, 2017, 09:18:46 AM
The thing is that the top performers at Festivals these days virtually never get it wrong, at least not noticeably.  And it is mightily impressive.  If there are mental skills that they have acquired to allow them to achieve that, what on earth are they?

Mostly, they are young  :-\

That's no excuse! They need to understand that this is folk music and that it is an essential part of the genre to get things wrong on a regular basis. I've been playing like that for decades and I don't need some smart-arse youngsters coming along and playing without mistakes, as if that's the way you're supposed to do it. What is the world coming to?  :o
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 21, 2017, 09:54:42 AM
how true Bob!

 I sometimes wonder if the 'perfection'   achieved (?)  by some of the young 'high flyers' is aided and abetted  by modern digital  sound systems  that are constantly juggled with by highly skilled 'soundmen' who can turn shit into milk chocolate!

george ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Theo on September 21, 2017, 10:00:35 AM
Unfortunately not George. It’s more often that sound systems make live performance worse rather than better. Relatively few sound people really understand how to work with acoustic instruments. Thankfully there are some.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 21, 2017, 10:58:17 AM
I used to do a lot of juggling. Cheap trick for getting a clap was to drop a club or a ball deliberately. This gets a groan. Then you maneuver the dropped thingummy on to your foot and flick it back up into the pattern, without breaking rhythm, to thunderous applause. You have to do it right, though. Not sure how, or if,  this could transfer to a  melodeon performance.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Stiamh on September 21, 2017, 12:42:22 PM
The thing is that the top performers at Festivals these days virtually never get it wrong, at least not noticeably.  And it is mightily impressive.  If there are mental skills that they have acquired to allow them to achieve that, what on earth are they?

Mostly, they are young  :-\

That's no excuse! They need to understand that this is folk music and that it is an essential part of the genre to get things wrong on a regular basis. I've been playing like that for decades and I don't need some smart-arse youngsters coming along and playing without mistakes, as if that's the way you're supposed to do it. What is the world coming to?  :o

Quite agree Bob. Someone should tell them that not making mistakes is just unmusical.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: pikey on September 21, 2017, 12:45:37 PM
The thing is that the top performers at Festivals these days virtually never get it wrong, at least not noticeably.  And it is mightily impressive.  If there are mental skills that they have acquired to allow them to achieve that, what on earth are they?

Mostly, they are young  :-\

That's no excuse! They need to understand that this is folk music and that it is an essential part of the genre to get things wrong on a regular basis. I've been playing like that for decades and I don't need some smart-arse youngsters coming along and playing without mistakes, as if that's the way you're supposed to do it. What is the world coming to?  :o

But Bob , if you play a C drone all the way through every tune in G or D , then it's much harder to make a mistake
 >:E
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 21, 2017, 04:31:50 PM
The thing about being young is that you haven't had enough time for long experience.  Therefore, if they're getting it right and oldsters like me are not, they must have a secret of some sort.  Is it sheer focussed practice, or what?  Or maybe, and quite possibly, old players are just hopeless cases? 

Actually I don't really believe that things are hopeless, just yet, because I've noticed my reliability improving through much live performance, which tends to suggest that this focus may be the key.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Stiamh on September 21, 2017, 04:59:24 PM
Oldsters? I recently attended a concert of music of the sort I don't normally cross the road to hear (it was a benefit for an NGO that I support). Western swing, jazz standards, country and so on. The acoustic guitar virtuoso and the singer (no slouch on guitar himself) were both in their sixties and they played two sets of about an hour each, song after song after song, including requests (and thus presumably unrehearsed), truly sparkling musicianship, and not a mistake, hesitation, forgotten line or any kind of blip anywhere.

That's what they have been doing for a living for decades, of course. And I'd like to think that if I were a professional musician with decades of experience, I'd do the same. But I was still impressed.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 21, 2017, 05:05:22 PM
Greg - re: juggling skills.
A brilliant trick and yes worth thunderous applause.
I am NOT going to drop any of my boxes on my foot no matter how many mistakes I've made.
Just thought I'd point that out ::)
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 21, 2017, 06:08:34 PM
they played two sets of about an hour each, song after song after song, including requests (and thus presumably unrehearsed), truly sparkling musicianship, and not a mistake, hesitation, forgotten line or any kind of blip anywhere.

If you went to any of the BBC proms concerts,  or indeed any other classical music concert,  you'd see and hear the same, of course.
The same with an evening at any decent jazz club. Or rock concert... or anything that isn't "folk".

The problem some people have is the inverted snobbery that seems to insist that folk music must be played by musicians without proper training or skill. And then when somebody who has done the necessary graft plays folk music, they wonder how it's possible...
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: butimba on September 21, 2017, 06:38:05 PM
Interesting discussion! From my own experience I think the things that help are:

1) Being really comfortable with the music so you can play it on automatic pilot when your mind inevitably starts wandering in the middle of a performance. (This comes down to focused practising and a lot of it.)

2) Having the right mindset that allows you to relax and enjoy the performance. I think part of this just comes down to practice: the more performing you do, the less scary it gets. But it’s also about just having confidence in what you’re doing and wanting to share it with other people. And being able to focus your attention on the music rather than the audience.

Also, from experience I’ve learnt you can get away with a surprising amount of fluffs as a performer and as long as you keep going, most of the audience don’t notice. So re Chris’ comment that top performers virtually never get it wrong: I bet they actually get it wrong a lot more than most people notice. Which I think is a heartening realisation.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 21, 2017, 07:06:41 PM
Greg - re: juggling skills.
A brilliant trick and yes worth thunderous applause.
I am NOT going to drop any of my boxes on my foot no matter how many mistakes I've made.
Just thought I'd point that out ::)
Q

Don't blame you.
Bet you think it's a good idea to pick up a tune, after you lost it a bit, without losing the beat.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 21, 2017, 07:10:47 PM
On a less flippant note - there's no melodeon equivalent that I can think of.
It really dies come back to simply keep going!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 21, 2017, 07:18:48 PM
I suppose that when players fall over in mid-performance, there's two problems involved - the first and obvious one is that they have temporarily forgotten the necessary muscle memory.  But perhaps the second is that they don't know their instrument enough, theoretically, as say a classical violinist does, and therefore they don't have the immediate recovery skills which allow them a seamless continuation in performance to the next notes.  If this is the case, could it suggest that the traditional 'by ear' way of learning to play the button accordion/melodeon is a very bad one, because it avoids the discipline of learning the tune's structure?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on September 21, 2017, 07:27:24 PM
I suppose that when players fall over in mid-performance, there's two problems involved - the first and obvious one is that they have temporarily forgotten the necessary muscle memory.  But perhaps the second is that they don't know their instrument enough, theoretically, as say a classical violinist does, and therefore they don't have the immediate recovery skills which allow them a seamless continuation in performance to the next notes.  If this is the case, could it suggest that the traditional 'by ear' way of learning to play the button accordion/melodeon is a very bad one, because it avoids the discipline of learning the tune's structure?

I don't think that learning by ear particularly 'avoids the discipline of learning the tune's structure'. Someone who doesn't know the structure of a tune hasn't absorbed it thoroughly enough, regardless of whether they learned it by ear or from written music. It is only when the tune is completely internalised in the brain that the player can (a) seamlessly recover from errors and/or (b) play variations/improvise, as required. If you know the tune and your instrument well enough, the distinction between (a) and (b) becomes increasingly blurred.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 21, 2017, 07:57:29 PM
I think that there is frequently too much emphasis on learning 'new' tunes  and not enough put on  rally trying to master the instrument  and its built in idiosyncrasies.  Like any other instrument this requires a high level of manual dexterity on treble, bass and bellows     which does not come from solely playing tunes. 

 manual dexterity is a prerequisite to complete command of the instrument  and greatly facilitates cockups the seemless uncocking of!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 21, 2017, 08:42:13 PM
I think I fail in mid tune simply because the tune has gone from my head. Somehow I've snapped out of it.
It's not necessarily wondering which note to press, it's more 'how does it go?' in my head.
I think George's comments are sound. Not so much learning new tunes but really getting the old ones built in so they are part of you.
Something I need to do - *really* get them embedded in the brain.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 21, 2017, 09:28:11 PM
Of course I play from music, but that doesn't mean that I focus on it all the time. One of the biggest reasons for falling off a piece of music, assuming that it is not just that the technical requirements of the piece are at the edge of your playing skills, is the transition between auto pilot and aware playing. Auto pilot is good, but the awakening is a dangerous no-mans land of neither one thing or the other where the brain trips itself up - I guess they may even be different neural pathways or different sides of the brain needed.

One thing I used to tell people just starting out in the profession was that a small mistake is often the cause of a much bigger mistake, because your response to tripping up a bit can take more operating memory from your playing brain than it can really cope with.
Another habit to avoid is knowing that a technical passage is coming up, and in the mental tensing leading up to that passage we knock an easy phrase over.

Don't mess it up before you have to, is the sort of advice I give, so that you stay with the playing through the straightforward bits.
It is like actors forgetting lines - they are much less likely to forget lines if they are staying in character, really listening to the words from their fellow actors and responding as their character would, rather than switching off until they are the centre of attention again.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: AirTime on September 21, 2017, 09:55:12 PM
Interesting discussion! From my own experience I think the things that help are:

1) Being really comfortable with the music so you can play it on automatic pilot when your mind inevitably starts wandering in the middle of a performance. (This comes down to focused practising and a lot of it.)

2) Having the right mindset that allows you to relax and enjoy the performance. I think part of this just comes down to practice: the more performing you do, the less scary it gets. But it’s also about just having confidence in what you’re doing and wanting to share it with other people. And being able to focus your attention on the music rather than the audience.

Also, from experience I’ve learnt you can get away with a surprising amount of fluffs as a performer and as long as you keep going, most of the audience don’t notice. So re Chris’ comment that top performers virtually never get it wrong: I bet they actually get it wrong a lot more than most people notice. Which I think is a heartening realisation.

I think this is right on the money!  I suspect "professional musicians" have practised their tunes more times than we might realize. I recently had lunch with one of the pre-eminent violin players in Canada. I asked him how he was able to play flawlessly on command ... he said "practice". Playing the tune often enough that it becomes completely ingrained, so that while playing one is very relaxed & confident & able to concentrate on flow & expression. It takes me a (very) long time to reach that point, but I can see how it works. One might consider (for example) how many times Andy Cutting has played "In Continental Mood" - I'm willing to bet it's been thousands of times.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 21, 2017, 10:01:54 PM
Thanks p&t, some things there make a lot of sense, especially transition from autopilot to awareness.
I certainly relate to that.
in fact your post has a lot of excellent points to consider.
Thank you!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 21, 2017, 10:56:49 PM
one thing that I don't think has been mentioned in this thread ( unless I have missed it) is the importance of really listening to what you are playing rather than just depending on so called 'auto pilot' to sort everything out.  I think of it as a sort of 'feedback loop'  brain - arm -fingers -  box - ear - brain - arm- fingers -box -ear - brain etc etc. 

This entails listening not only to the notes but to how you are making the notes sound long/short/loud/ quiet etc. Phrasing - where to phrase rather than a continuous stream of notes.  In other words to add great dollops of 'musicality' to playing the notes (hopefully the right ones!) in the right order.

Some people have said that Sir Jimmy Shand never made a mistake in a tune but a more likely tale is the one that said something on the lines of   'if he made a mistake  in , say the A part of a tune he was careful to repeat the mistake each time the A part repeated so it would  sound like part of the tune!'  or something like that

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 22, 2017, 10:50:34 AM
I suspect "professional musicians" have practised their tunes more times than we might realize.

Spot on!
I've read in several places that all it requires to reach professional standard on any instrument is 10,000 hours of practice.
However you carve it up, that's a LOT of time and work.
10 hours every day for 3 years, or 3 hours every day for 10 years, or 1 hour every day for 30 years...
How many of us even get within an order of magnitude of that?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 10:52:16 AM
George, it is a difficult balancing act surely?
If you are listening intently to yourself, realise you've made a mistake then as p&t says it can escalate/deteriorate from a minor glitch into a 'oh no I'm messing up....' disaster.

I think that the balance between autopilot, where you're really relaxed, getting into the tune etc  and really listening to make sure you are 'getting it right'  is a knife edge.
I sometimes 'over-enjoy' a tune and get so carried away with it that I just snap out of the euphoria and enjoyment into a nothingness of notes ad blank mind!
Maybe? or am I off course here?
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 10:55:08 AM
Anahata.... I too have done the sums regarding practice time, taken a look at my birth certificate and got very depressed..... :(
As far as musicianship goes I'll have to settle for the 'just for enjoyment' category, which is fine really!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on September 22, 2017, 12:53:37 PM
Last Wednesday evening, I had a conversation with young Mohsen Amini, the brilliant Concertina player from Glasgow. He told me that he practices 8 hours a day and when I expressed surprise, he said - "it's my job and I treat it as such".
Says it all really. It's about putting in the time. 

If you want to see what 8 hours a day gives you ........ https://youtu.be/Am38t3DZiU0
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 01:17:47 PM
reported on here before, a young Mr Cutting did the same and practiced daily for a year before deciding it was something he could do....
and look where that's got him!  ;)

With reference to the youngsters: Perhaps we are seeing the results of the young blood coming through who have access to such things as university degrees that specialise in performance and folk things. A genuine attempt at teaching them things about our music and culture. Therefore I hazard a guess that they get the information, tips and performance skills etc that it takes others a lifetime to accrue.

And... using such 'cross over ' skills and knowledge from other areas of music, such as our friends here p&t, plus Anahata and Steve Freereeder has experience in from their classical music backgrounds.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on September 22, 2017, 01:43:53 PM
I am sure you are right Q, spending three years at music college studying your instrument is, if you don't squander the time, going to produce a competent, talented musician very often. But it must also depend on having a good teacher to nourish, encourage and give you planned direction.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 01:56:04 PM
I agree arty, but who on this forum could spend 3 years playing  and studying music when of a similar age?
It must have an incredible effect on them as performers.
It must condense a life time of other people's playing time who have to juggle between family, work, 'life events' etc into a concentrated 3 years, then they can improve and move on....whereas most of us after that amount of playing time won't still be here!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on September 22, 2017, 02:17:55 PM
Well, I don't even think about that. At my age, 68, I just want to play well enough to enjoy myself and, after 5 years of teaching myself I do enjoy myself now and again. It's good, it's fun and it's a lot better than watching the TV !
Never forget to enjoy it Q  (:)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 02:56:35 PM
I do enjoy playing and agree that just playing well enough for your own pleasure is a good achievement.
I realise that working out one of 'those' tunes is also enjoyable and a good mental workout at times. Trying to work out how to cheat properly on a limited instrument so a tune can be played is all part of the fun and games for me. As is the sense of achievement when you finally get there with one of  the awkward tunes.
I know I can never achieve the performance levels of those starting when young, as Anahata shows, there's not enough time.....but I still can get enjoyment and a sense of achievement at my level. Hopefully that's true at whichever rung of the ladder you're on.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 22, 2017, 03:34:53 PM
I am sure you are right Q, spending three years at music college studying your instrument is, if you don't squander the time, going to produce a competent, talented musician very often. But it must also depend on having a good teacher to nourish, encourage and give you planned direction.

It's not possible to practise for eight hours a day without something to inspire and encourage you to do it, whether it's an outside influence like a teacher or a player you admire, desperately wanting to impress someone or prove something, or just sheer bloody-mindedness. Or perhaps, having a natural aptitude that enables you to make good progress through that practice, which is always satisfying.

I've even found that the challenge of Melnet ToTM has sometimes made me work harder and spend more time practising that I would otherwise have done. And it's improved my playing all round, so I recently find myself enjoying the music that's coming out of my melodeon without seeming to have to make so much effort to produce it.

I just want to play well enough to enjoy myself
One of the beauties of music is that, with the right attitude,  that works at all levels!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 22, 2017, 03:44:19 PM
George, it is a difficult balancing act surely?
If you are listening intently to yourself, realise you've made a mistake then as p&t says it can escalate/deteriorate from a minor glitch into a 'oh no I'm messing up....' disaster.

I think that the balance between autopilot, where you're really relaxed, getting into the tune etc  and really listening to make sure you are 'getting it right'  is a knife edge.
I sometimes 'over-enjoy' a tune and get so carried away with it that I just snap out of the euphoria and enjoyment into a nothingness of notes ad blank mind!
Maybe? or am I off course here?
Q

I think the state you describe is the known as "being in the zone", when it all just flows from something inside you without the need to think consciously about it. Like driving a car. It relates to what sports people call "playing the inner game". Zen musicianship?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: nigelr on September 22, 2017, 03:50:54 PM
I think the state you describe is the known as "being in the zone", when it all just flows from something inside you without the need to think consciously about it. Like driving a car. It relates to what sports people call "playing the inner game". Zen musicianship?
Discussed at length in this book, which I found very informative (not that I'm competent enough or have enough time to put it all into practice!)

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-inner-game-of-music/w-timothy-gallwey/barry-green/9781447291725
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 22, 2017, 04:13:50 PM

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-inner-game-of-music/w-timothy-gallwey/barry-green/9781447291725

Thank you Nigel
That's my Christmas present to myself sorted (obviously, Christmas seaon has already started in the shops, so I won't have to wait (:))
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 22, 2017, 05:07:10 PM
George, it is a difficult balancing act surely?
If you are listening intently to yourself, realise you've made a mistake then as p&t says it can escalate/deteriorate from a minor glitch into a 'oh no I'm messing up....' disaster.

I think that the balance between autopilot, where you're really relaxed, getting into the tune etc  and really listening to make sure you are 'getting it right'  is a knife edge.
I sometimes 'over-enjoy' a tune and get so carried away with it that I just snap out of the euphoria and enjoyment into a nothingness of notes ad blank mind!
Maybe? or am I off course here?

The way I look at it is that if you are not listening to what you are playing you have no way of knowing if you are or are not making a half decent job of it.  Same goes for playing in a 'band'  you need a second feedback loop operating  to pick up exactly what other people and particularly the leader are playing.

This is not a contradiction  with playing on 'auto pilot'  as the feedback loop complements  and ?improves what auto pilot is dishing up!

george
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 22, 2017, 05:38:11 PM
fair enough George, will allow the autopilot to listen!

Yes, thank you Anahata ' in the zone ' is exactly what I mean.
It happens all across things. I remember my mountain bike days used to have periods when it all just flowed and I'd bounce home with a massive smile, and other times it was just hard work.
Same on the box!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Julian S on September 22, 2017, 06:05:53 PM
Damn. Forty years playing and still short at least 4000 hours...if only I'd played for five rather than three hours a day in the first couple of years - but I'd probably have been kicked out of my home ! And if only Melnet had existed back then !
Now I've got the time to play with, I'm sure I would benefit from concentrating and focussing on a couple of tunes over an hour, rather than the half dozen or more I noodle around with. And now I've got another bunch of tunes to attempt, courtesy of Leveret, Topette, and La Machine ! I think I know my way around the instrument, but each of these tunes can shiw how my technique is sadly lacking.
I know Andy Cutting spends an incredible amount of time perfecting each tune - and sometimes each phrase, and we see and hear the result. Ho hum.
I reckon attitudes have certainly changed over the years with more of a recognition that hard graft is necessary to perform traditional music to a high standard. And there are so many wonderful musicians to inspire us (and in my case sometimes depress me !)

J
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 22, 2017, 06:28:35 PM
I reckon attitudes have certainly changed over the years with more of a recognition that hard graft is necessary to perform traditional music to a high standard.

Yes, I think that's true.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 22, 2017, 08:00:19 PM
Damn. Forty years playing and still short at least 4000 hours...if only I'd played for five rather than three hours a day in the first couple of years - but I'd probably have been kicked out of my home ! And if only Melnet had existed back then !
Did you stop playing for a while? if you managed 2000 hours in the first couple of years, then you'd only need 35 minutes a day to rack up the 10,000 in that time.

Mind you - we are talking 10,000 hours of practice, not playing!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Julian S on September 22, 2017, 08:44:21 PM
Ha ! Keeping up the three hours a day proved beyond me. Work always got in the way. But I do wonder whether playing in a ceilidh band or for a dance side should count extra !

J
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 23, 2017, 12:11:42 AM
I'm very grateful for the huge number of highly thoughtful comments on this thread - I didn't realise it was such an interesting issue!

The only comment I'd want to make is that many people have honed in on 'hours of practice', and understandably so, because it's clearly important.  However my hunch was that we perhaps need to understand more about practising than just doing lots of it - how should practice be focussed, to best effect? 

The thing is that youngsters have on average not yet had the time to put the hours in as oldsters, so how come so many of them are so blooming good?  There seems to be something else involved.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 23, 2017, 12:35:22 AM
I'm very grateful for the huge number of highly thoughtful comments on this thread - I didn't realise it was such an interesting issue!

The only comment I'd want to make is that many people have honed in on 'hours of practice', and understandably so, because it's clearly important.  However my hunch was that we perhaps need to understand more about practising than just doing lots of it - how should practice be focussed, to best effect? 

The thing is that youngsters have on average not yet had the time to put the hours in as oldsters, so how come so many of them are so blooming good?  There seems to be something else involved.

Maybe it's just that they have less clutter taking up  space in their brain.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Julian S on September 23, 2017, 07:11:07 AM
I'm very grateful for the huge number of highly thoughtful comments on this thread - I didn't realise it was such an interesting issue!

The only comment I'd want to make is that many people have honed in on 'hours of practice', and understandably so, because it's clearly important.  However my hunch was that we perhaps need to understand more about practising than just doing lots of it - how should practice be focussed, to best effect? 

The thing is that youngsters have on average not yet had the time to put the hours in as oldsters, so how come so many of them are so blooming good?  There seems to be something else involved.

Maybe it's just that they have less clutter taking up  space in their brain.

I also wonder how the learning process changes as we get older. We know how the learning curve works, but I suspect starting early means more rapid progress up the steep part of the curve - simply getting to be a better player more quickly. Couple that with maybe being more prepared to experiment, think laterally, absorb other influences maybe ?
Another point I pondered overnight- I think there is now more appreciation that instrumental traditional music (and not just Celtic) can be great to listen to as well as dance to. But making the transition from playing for dance, enjoying sessions etc, to playing mainly instrumental music to audiences is another matter and that's where the ability of our best players is displayed. How to approach that ?

J
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 23, 2017, 09:02:04 AM
Chris has mentioned something that has often occurred to me - how to practice effectively?
With many of us having to juggle work and family commitments, we need to make the most of the precious time we have to practice and play.
I know this should be enjoyable so I split the time between playing tunes and enjoying that then reining back and concentrating on the new tune and phrases within it that trip be up..... I know little about the actual process or technique of learning and practicing. I enjoy the learning process, the thought behind selecting chord/bass accompniament and keyboard fingering to enable me to play the piece and the - hopefully - sense of achievement when the practice piece moves into the repertoire.... but I'm sure I could improve the technique, especially the cerebral aspect of it all.

I think 'effective practicing ' is a topic we all would like to know more about.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: butimba on September 23, 2017, 09:27:03 AM
The thing is that youngsters have on average not yet had the time to put the hours in as oldsters, so how come so many of them are so blooming good?  There seems to be something else involved.

My guesses would be:

1) a younger brain just learns quicker, so it’s easier to pick up an instrument when you’re younger than when you’re older

2) you can still rack up quite an impressive number of hours practice when you’re young, if you’re committed – if someone starts playing at 10, and does on average an hour a day for 7 years, that’s over 3,000 hours by the time they’re 18

3) they may well have partly come through the classical route and had weekly lessons. I think lessons can make a huge difference in improving your technique, challenging you to try new things and giving you goals to work towards.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: butimba on September 23, 2017, 09:50:24 AM
I think 'effective practicing ' is a topic we all would like to know more about.

Humbly suggested tips on effective practising (partly based on having learnt the piano to degree standard):

•   Focus on the bits of the tune you can’t play as well as the rest and practise them slowly, over and over again, until they’re under your fingers at a steady tempo. Also practise the joins – i.e. going into the bits you can’t play and getting out of them. Then gradually speed up.
•   Sometimes try playing all the way through the tune and make yourself keep going even if you mess up.
•   Occasionally play with a metronome to make sure you can actually play the whole tune at a steady tempo.
•   Make a conscious effort to play around with tunes and try new things – different chords, different rhythms in the left hand, improvised bits in the right hand, etc.
•   Spend some time thinking about the phrasing and dynamics – musicality requires practise in the same way that technique does – and practise bits of the tune over and over again until you’ve put the dynamics/phrasing into it that you want.

There is definitely a difference between sitting down to play through a bunch of tunes for fun, and sitting down to properly practise them. I am fully guilty of often not following through on my advice above – but it’s what I’m trying to do to work towards a more professional standard.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on September 23, 2017, 10:17:27 AM
Humbly suggested tips on effective practising (partly based on having learnt the piano to degree standard):

•   Focus on the bits of the tune you can’t play as well as the rest and practise them slowly, over and over again, until they’re under your fingers at a steady tempo. Also practise the joins – i.e. going into the bits you can’t play and getting out of them. Then gradually speed up.
•   Sometimes try playing all the way through the tune and make yourself keep going even if you mess up.
•   Occasionally play with a metronome to make sure you can actually play the whole tune at a steady tempo.
•   Make a conscious effort to play around with tunes and try new things – different chords, different rhythms in the left hand, improvised bits in the right hand, etc.
•   Spend some time thinking about the phrasing and dynamics – musicality requires practise in the same way that technique does – and practise bits of the tune over and over again until you’ve put the dynamics/phrasing into it that you want.

There is definitely a difference between sitting down to play through a bunch of tunes for fun, and sitting down to properly practise them. I am fully guilty of often not following through on my advice above – but it’s what I’m trying to do to work towards a more professional standard.

Absolutely spot-on advice! Your last sentence resonates with me too!  :|bl
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 23, 2017, 10:42:25 AM

•   Focus on the bits of the tune you can’t play as well as the rest..


Identifying these bits can be tricky. They are not always the bits you think they are. I find that, if I record myself playing and then listen back to it, I can't help doing this with a critical ear. Sections that I think are just what I want them to be  aren't. The notes may be the right ones in, more or less,  the right places but everything else can be wrong: Tempo, rhythm, dynamics. Even meter changes (my waltz a few months ago had acquired two bars of 4/4, that where the devil to get rid of). All the things that aren't just the notes. It's the main reason I rarely post in ToTM. It takes me all month to learn to make something sound even vaguely like I want it to sound. I console myself by thinking that it must be making me a better player. Progress is slow.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 23, 2017, 06:31:16 PM
Yes I'm guilty of just playing tune too, but appreciate the advice
It's that sort of thing that will really help me to improve my practicing.
Thank you!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: butimba on September 23, 2017, 06:34:40 PM
Absolutely spot-on advice! Your last sentence resonates with me too!  :|bl

 :D
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 23, 2017, 06:49:55 PM
Yes, that was all very good advice, and thanks, Butimba.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 23, 2017, 07:20:55 PM
I'd add:
separate technique from pieces (I would also insist on building technique from pieces - but I suspect we do that bit well).

In technical practise zoom in on detail: for example practise moving between two notes (either cross row or bellows change) with a variety of rhythms and attacks - practise crescendo-ing from one note to the other at a variety of speeds, then long note to staccato note, then with a gap (but where the bellows pressure is maintained and the finger is the tap to open the next note), you can imagine the rest...
Then add a third note and do it again as a three note motif.
I also recommend playing it a certain way perfectly 3 times in a row before changing the pattern or the tempo.
Concentrate on different things each time - maybe the hammer-ike finger attack, maybe the release of the key to abruptly stop the note.
You can play slowly with fast fingers, by the way.

I hasten to add that I don't approach my melodeon playing that way, but I would if I wanted to make the best use of time rather than focusing on writing tunes.

The big thing is to listen incredibly hard to the detail. There is a lot of note bashing in technical practice, but for me that misses the point. Playing scales is, beyond a relatively early level (in professional terms) not about getting the notes right or building finger speed - it is about control of sound and of attack and release.

I actually loved that sort of practice when I was a player. It takes you into a special state of focus. And you are always a better player at the end of the session than you are at the start.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 23, 2017, 07:22:19 PM
It seems to me there's two 'zones' for performers:

In the first, a musician is such a good sight reader that they have learned to concentrate like mad on reproducing the dots.  Many people say this loses the spontaneity, but it's not always so.  I'm myself not a good enough sight reader, but I certainly use this technique as a prop when I have only half-learned a piece, particularly if it's slow.  It's also possible to use the dots in a slightly different way - read them occasionally, to remind yourself of how the tune progresses.  This does work for me sometimes, but perhaps mainly because it gives me confidence.

In the second, the performer relies on mainly muscle memory, propped up by knowledge of musical theory and structure if they have it.  This is what I suppose I'm talking about most of all.  There seems to be technique involved in memorising hugely complex sequences of notes and accompaniment, which I have only partially acquired.  There's hopefully a point when I rehearse when suddenly it all comes together, and I can then play that tune without dots, or even thinking, and this is really the satisfying bit, allowing me to concentrate on the whole tune, as it were.  I find this is the time to practice like mad, because then you reinforce the right things, and from then on playing the tune is a bit like riding the proverbial bicycle!

But my current worry is that occasionally I fall over, even then, and it can happen without much warning!  For me, this is a bit like a 'tic', or more precisely, 'ontological insecurity', I believe it's called - I suddenly become detached from the performance (almost like an 'out of body' experience), and lose all groove and playing ease, and have to regain control like mad.  My take on it is that the conscious mind is becoming worried, and tries to control the subconscious too much.  My theory is that there is a mindset to successful performing.  I wish I knew what it was, but when I look at great performers - Andy Cutting, KT Tunstall, Steve Knightley, Eliza Carthy to name four at random, it's quite obvious they have it!  It's just supreme confidence in one's ability, I sometimes feel.

This is all strangely related to the perennial 'along or across the rows' debate, (or perhaps red herring!), I feel - if you play material that requires playing outside the theoretical boundaries of a diatonic scale, there's no obvious rules on the box, you have to make them up. Therefore it's difficult to play according to a musical theory, you have to use the muscle memory.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on September 23, 2017, 11:00:45 PM
This is an insightful piece:

https://bulletproofmusician.com/8-things-top-practicers-do-differently/

Quote
if you play material that requires playing outside the theoretical boundaries of a diatonic scale, there's no obvious rules on the box, you have to make them up. Therefore it's difficult to play according to a musical theory, you have to use the muscle memory.

That may depend on what your ambitions are and what instrument and material you play, but for me it would be disastrous.  I try to make damn sure that muscle memory NEVER gets in the way of perceiving the intervals in the tune.  It's occasionally a temporary last resort but if it's the only way I can remember the tune I know I've only half-memorized it.

e.g. try playing "Misirlou" in four different keys.  Unless you have a CBA you actually have to think about the intervals and how you do them on your instrument (or better, you need to be familiar enough with the instrument that you just do them and don't need to think about them any more).  If you simply remember where your fingers go when playing it on E, without any higher-level concept of what you're doing, you'll be snookered trying to do it on G.

BTW there used to be an article on the web which described Isolde Ahlgrimm's thinking about slow practice (which she used all her life).  She is not well known now, but was a phenomenal interpreter, based on what I've heard.  If anyone can find the article now I'd like to see it again.

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Ahlgrimm-Isolde.htm
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 24, 2017, 12:08:31 AM
In the first, a musician is such a good sight reader that they have learned to concentrate like mad on reproducing the dots. 

In the second, the performer relies on mainly muscle memory, propped up by knowledge of musical theory and structure if they have it. 
I don't agree with these two comments, Chris. A good sight reader doesn't concentrate on reproducing the dots - they're a good sight reader, which means that they have extra capacity for focusing on other things such as phrasing and ensemble awareness whilst the notes are taken care of.
And, as Jack has said, those who excel at playing from memory are normally fully equipped to hear the tune freshly in their heads - whereas the readers might need visual memory too once the sheet music goes.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: squeezy on September 24, 2017, 01:09:05 AM
That may depend on what your ambitions are and what instrument and material you play, but for me it would be disastrous.  I try to make damn sure that muscle memory NEVER gets in the way of perceiving the intervals in the tune.  It's occasionally a temporary last resort but if it's the only way I can remember the tune I know I've only half-memorized it.

e.g. try playing "Misirlou" in four different keys.  Unless you have a CBA you actually have to think about the intervals and how you do them on your instrument (or better, you need to be familiar enough with the instrument that you just do them and don't need to think about them any more).  If you simply remember where your fingers go when playing it on E, without any higher-level concept of what you're doing, you'll be snookered trying to do it on G.

Yes Jack Campin, yes ... this is absolutely the crux of what is being discussed.  Muscle memory is simply a way of accurately reproducing a series of mechanical processes with the hand ... it only has any musicality in it if it is first connected to a brain that understands music.

Whether you are a reader or a player by ear ... the thing you need to train first and foremost is your inner musician which lives in the brain ... the second thing you need to train is a way of getting the notes provided by that inner musician out on to a musical instrument (or voice) by mechanical means (the fingers and arms of melodeon players)

A mistake many make is to try and make the physical second bit the primary focus of music practice while ignoring the first until too late - a direct result of classical music dominating music teaching in the west.  The inner musician can practice simply by thinking about music, understanding the relationship between notes and chords and what that will sound like when played or sung.  This is the part that is important in folk music the world around, but deemed only for the special few by the classical music world.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 24, 2017, 07:58:56 AM
A mistake many make is to try and make the physical second bit the primary focus of music practice while ignoring the first until too late - a direct result of classical music dominating music teaching in the west.  The inner musician can practice simply by thinking about music, understanding the relationship between notes and chords and what that will sound like when played or sung. This is the part that is important in folk music the world around, but deemed only for the special few by the classical music world.

Only when classical music is taught badly, especially at school level, which unfortunately it is, often by teachers who are second-rate musicians and sometimes not particularly good teachers either. I'm not denigrating all teachers, by the way, before half of Melnet jumps on me....

I suppose there's an agenda to keep up a supply of rank-and-file orchestral musicians, who can sightread anything accurately and have enough technique to play music in whatever way a conductor asks for, instead of just imposing their own personal playing style on everything they do.

A more positive view (and I think this is actually closer to the truth) is that the focus on technique while learning is precisely so you DON'T have to think about it while performing.

What western classical music teaching currently doesn't have enough of is listening skills: playing by ear and improvising, for example. That used not to be the case: there are many areas of music where improvisation used to be normal.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on September 24, 2017, 08:14:59 AM
A good sight reader doesn't concentrate on reproducing the dots - they're a good sight reader, which means that they have extra capacity for focusing on other things such as phrasing and ensemble awareness whilst the notes are taken care of.
Seconded.
You only have to think of what happens when you read English - you don't have to concentrate on producing the sounds, and (usually) you don't have to read aloud to hear what you are saying. You can glance at a whole sentence and get its meaning. Good music sight readers can do the same - you don't see notes, you see whole phrases. A good test of that is whether you can recognise a tune that you know by just looking at the dots, or look at a tune you don't know and get a feel for whether it's a good one.

Quote
And, as Jack has said, those who excel at playing from memory are normally fully equipped to hear the tune freshly in their heads - whereas the readers might need visual memory too once the sheet music goes.
Hearing it in you head is something which I think you tend to learn if you can either sing at sight or play another instrument. If you only play one instrument you can get away with "this blob here means put my finger there", but that gets hard work when you have to do it all again for a second instrument. If you can read music "in your head" and you can play all your instruments by ear, then you can read music on all your instruments.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 24, 2017, 10:45:02 AM
I don't sing (voice like a crow)  and don't play other instruments  but can 'hear' a tune in my head and hum or whistle it . I visualise the process of playing by ear as much the same as singing. You think it and play it i.e. the instructions automatically go down the arm to the fingers to make the box reproduce the sound you have stored in the head.  This must in some way be akin to singing as to sing a tune/song you don't send any conscious instructions to the gob to make it happen eg open wider, purse lips, take a breatg or whatever - you just 'think' it and  the gob operates as required/

Those who  just think in terms of learning tunes  rather than learning to play the instrument are unlikely to develop that skill  and basic stuff like being able to play whatever scales the instrument is capable of  are essential.  A test of this is to be able to play a tune you have in the head in any of the instruments keys  i.e transpose on the hoof.

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Boxhead on September 24, 2017, 11:09:45 AM
It's interesting, I was discussing this inner musician thing with a very accomplished box player recently (who incidentally does not at all read music, and could wipe the floor with many who can, though thankfully this person lacks that competitive mindset)

On instruments I have been 'trained' on there is a certain amount of 'this blob means put that finger there' going on, though of course with say piano you have to consider fingering and on classical guitar not only would you have to consider fingering but also the multitude of places of playing that note.

But melodeon is different for me, I would be hard pushed to find any particular notes if you asked me, though I can read music fluently and have got a few hundred tunes down from memory. I cant really play the scales.

When learning from notation on box, I sing the tune in my mind from the dots and then transfer that onto the melodeon, it has to go through that additional layer of 'singing in the mind' rather than going directly through to the fingers straight away.

I have a quick ear ( even if I say so myself) and learn most of my trad tunes from sessions and recordings but often fuzz over the details and dusty corners of a tune, sometimes leading to 'malprogramming' which as we all know is a lot harder to undo. I'm learning to zoom in the harder bits first, making sure I get them straight from the get go. The easy bits are the easy bits, I don't worry too much about them.

 Breaking things down into sections and slow repetition usually works. I strongly need to hold the first few notes of a new tune in my mind so I can start it. A title helps a lot to enable me to drag it out of the memory banks.

I've been learning The Starry Lane To Monaghan by ear recently and it has taken about 5 days of hard work, zooming in and out of the tune. I found slowing this tune to half speed really helped me catch the details. Being an Ed Reavy tune it messes with your expectations and doesn't quite adhere to the usual trad cliches my brain would expect. Quite often we think we are hearing the tune but it's only when we start to play it we find out how much of it we are really hearing.

An upcoming gig or (even more so) a sit down concert where people are actually listening provides a goal and encourages focus as it is not much fun to mess up in these kind of situations

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Julian S on September 24, 2017, 04:01:54 PM
When I first started playing, I learnt virtually all my tunes by ear - maybe mislearning (or malprogramming!) sometimes, but somehow those tunes always have stuck better than the ones I have learnt from dots alone. Carrying the tune in the head is critical for me.
I'm currently working on the Rob Harbron tune 'Rain on the Woodpile '- which I originally learnt by ear in an Andy Cutting workshop, then acquired the dots, and finally listened loads of times to Leveret playing it. The challenge for me is to remain true to Rob Harbron's composition, but also put my own stamp on it -and of course the Leveret approach to tunes is pretty instructive !
The comments in this discussion have been incredibly helpful (and a great diversion from the questionable joys of an imminent housemove). Thanks to all ! Whether I'll ever get to perform Rob's tune is another matter - but if I do I want to do it justice.

J

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 24, 2017, 09:13:46 PM
Wow, lots of really interesting points coming out here.

Jack, I echo the comments about your insights, which are really helpful - I think the article about slow practice is particularly useful in getting a piece to performance standard quickly.

When I talked about good sight-readers, I was certainly not denigrating them - in fact I'm full of admiration for those who can assimilate so much data so quickly and interpret it at the same time.  Being able to impart feeling while doing this is certainly a greatly useful skill.   I was just saying that that was not really the thing I was trying to discuss in this thread. 

I'm also impressed by those who've discussed 'interval thinking', and clearly use it regularly in their playing.  I think in fact that many players, including 'players by ear', are doing it, perhaps even unconsciously. However again, this is a slightly different matter, unless those who use it claim that they are doing it every time they perform.

I suppose that the issue I'm honing in on is this - when you really good performers are playing, what are you actually thinking about?  My hunch is that actually you're not thinking about individual notes, or intervals, or memorising scores.  You don't need to, because you learned all that in practice and put it in your subconscious muscle memory, ready to bring out.  I'd go further and suggest that actually it doesn't matter a lot how you started off learning the piece - by dots, by ear, or by intervals, whatever - because by the time you've got to this stage you've reliably learned the muscle memory 'not to get it wrong'.  Sure the sounds coming out may well be interpreted by you as you play them in terms of intervals, or pure 'music', but that's not how you got there.

So for me a relatively recent lesson in performance skills is to rely on the subconscious - if it's not there, you shouldn't be playing the piece yet.  The place of the conscious is to concentrate on rhythm, tune structure and feel, but if as a result of nerves it gets to mistrust the subconscious, you'll trip over.  Your conscious and subconscious actually need to make a pact with each other. And this is where the confidence thing comes in, for me - if you believe that you can do it, and you start to enjoy and use that thing in public, then confidence will be breed success.  And I feel this is what sets the true performer apart - they have trained themselves to know they can do it, so therefore they can.

Part of this is to include the audience in your confidence - look at them, take them in, and you find that far from being a threat as the nervous self would have you believe, they're actually on your side, willing you to entertain them.

That's what it seems to me a good performer should perhaps concentrate on - overall effect.  And it's not simply because you need to do it, it's also because by doing so you magically find all the rest becomes second nature (assuming of course you've rehearsed it properly in the first place.)

However, I may be going up a garden path, perhaps it's the wrong direction?  Comments gratefully received!

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Boxhead on September 25, 2017, 10:26:48 AM
I agree, it's  about 'programming' the subconscious and being able to trust it.

By the time it gets to the stage of playing a tune to an audience Thinking Is The Enemy ! If the work has been done properly then (for me certainly) it is largely a matter of getting one's self out of the way. Whilst paradoxically somehow maintaining control and be able to meld with the other musicians in terms of groove, tempo etc.

 It's certainly not about spewing out a string of notes the same way every single time.

That comment about the pact between the conscious and subconscious rings bells for me, you have to trust it otherwise it all falls down!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 26, 2017, 12:44:56 AM
Last week was spent learning 16 unfamiliar, mostly Welsh and Irish tunes for our new ceilidh band "The Limestone Ploughboys". Learning tunes at 66 years is not the same as at 26! I did however persist and with no band rehearsal the gig was a tremendous success. That was a week's work.
This week I am rehearsing a one-man show for Corbyn Nights, a Labour Party fundraiser. Totally new set, a week's work.
Next week I am rehearsing some new Zydeco with the five piece band, Joe Le Taxi - a week's work.
That's entertainment.

People ask why I no longer take on tuning and repairs.
In my leisure time, I build melodeons.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 26, 2017, 02:38:42 PM
Last week was spent learning 16 unfamiliar, mostly Welsh and Irish tunes for our new ceilidh band "The Limestone Ploughboys".

Will you remember them for long if you don't play them regularly?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 26, 2017, 05:20:41 PM
I find if I learn something quickly it can go equally quickly, if I take a long time to learn something it will stick.
I noticed this trait when I used to teach sub aqua many moons ago, those that really struggled and got there in the end had embedded their skills, whereas the fast learners were also fast forgetters.
Curious thing memory and the learning process......
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Rees on September 26, 2017, 09:24:52 PM
Last week was spent learning 16 unfamiliar, mostly Welsh and Irish tunes for our new ceilidh band "The Limestone Ploughboys".

Will you remember them for long if you don't play them regularly?

Exactly my friend! The only way forward is to practice the whole set at least twice a week until the next gig.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on September 27, 2017, 12:45:37 AM
Quote
I'm also impressed by those who've discussed 'interval thinking', and clearly use it regularly in their playing.  I think in fact that many players, including 'players by ear', are doing it, perhaps even unconsciously. However again, this is a slightly different matter, unless those who use it claim that they are doing it every time they perform.

Pretty near all the time.  I play a lot of different instruments (melodeons not being one - I'm here because I like the repertoire and the culture) and very often learn tunes on different instruments than I will subsequently use to play them on.  For the Middle Eastern music I'm doing a lot now, I often learn it on the alto flute and subsequently play it on the cümbüs - it's easier to play the flute quietly and blend in until I get it right.  For bal folk I use the ocarina a lot because it's very dominant and assertive, but it plays at a fixed dynamic like a bagpipe, which means I usually wouldn't want to pick up an unfamilar tune playing it directly - so I use something else that blends in better, like a recorder or C melody sax.  And like any serious recorder player, I play several different pitches and don't transpose; I'll often learn a tune on one pitch and then use another for performance where it sits higher in the range and rings out better, with every note fingered differently.  For klezmer, I usually know how to play a tune on both a tarogato (B flat pitch) and C melody sax (C pitch) - the fingerings will be shifted one step, there isn't usually that much difference in difficulty but they don't play the same.  For any tune where I have the required technique, it makes bugger-all difference whether I'm playing it on a bass recorder, a tarogato or an oud.

I once heard a talk by Steven Isserlis where he described how he learns new pieces - on the piano.  It's much easier than the cello and he can figure out the cello-specific stuff once he's got the drift.

There are lots of instruments where there variations in fingering system, which, if you think about it the right way, are reasonably intelligible and easy to get used to and double on, but it isn't your fingers that are doing the thinking.  (Renaissance. vs. Baroque vs. German recorder fingering; Asian vs. Italian ocarinas; Boehm vs. several different "simple" clarinet fingerings).  Melodeons are certainly an example of that.

So muscle memory is at best an annoying interference.  I remember tunes intervallically, or maybe vocally might be a better word.

I rather like the approach taken by some traditional Japanese genres - a student is expected to memorize the entire repertoire through vocal instruction before they ever pick up an instrument.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Little eggy on September 27, 2017, 08:45:18 PM
Re something Theo said about actors and lines.....Peter Barkworth was asked how long he spent learning a part. He said it's more a question of how long you spend "having learned" the part.  How true.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 27, 2017, 11:42:25 PM
I am not convinced by the so called 'muscle memory' as the only organ with a memory is the brain  which twirls around so to speak  before sending the , hopefully, correct signals to the digits or whatever.

as music can only go higher or lower the brain in conscious or  autopilot mode  has only to remember/decide how much higher or lower the next note is in relation to the one being played and so on throughout a tune  (and for more complex playing which other fingers can prod other notes to form chords or bits of chords)

So, to me,  the most important way of enabling this is to become as fluent as possible in the scales you are likely to use  - yes including on the  rowing! - so that when the brain effectively says eg a midge or two higher or much higher  it effectively sends instructions  as to how to move the appropriate finger into the required position without any conscious thought  being required.

practicing scales effectively programmes the brain (not muscle memory) into being able to plonk a finger where it is next needed in  a tune that you are playing either from memory or a sheet of paper!

george

       
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 28, 2017, 12:36:27 AM
other notes to form chords or bits of chords)

...practicing scales effectively programmes the brain (not muscle memory) into being able to plonk a finger where it is next needed in  a tune that you are playing either from memory or a sheet of paper!

george
     

There are some excellent and well respected musicians who argue that playing scales only teaches you to play scales, not make music. I am not saying that I believe that (I don't have experience of whether it is true or not), just that I have seen it stated. In particular, on the Session site. It's a topic that often comes up and leads to a succession of predictable posts.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Stiamh on September 28, 2017, 01:18:12 AM
One of the main benefits of playing scales must surely be to help you hardwire a map of the keyboard into your brain. On a 4th-apart box, wouldn't you want to explore at all the ways in which runs of notes (including complete and partial scales) can be executed?

On a semitone box, you have more scales and fewer options, but I think scales are invaluable for learning the keyboard and knowing which buttons are used in which direction in which keys. Equally valuable, if not more valuable, IMO are arpeggios, since they form the building blocks of tunes to a greater extent than scales, really.

Not everyone who posts on thesession.org is an excellent or well respected musician. One of the most vocal of the anti-scale brigade was, though (he is now banished for life). But he is a fiddler, not a box player. Having played fiddle and whistle to a good standard and box to a medium one I would say that scales and arpeggios are far more relevant to box squeezers than to players of those other instruments.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on September 28, 2017, 01:27:18 AM
TheSession is mostly about Irish music, and Irish music is overwhelmingly made up of scales.  Play tunes at all and you'll be practicing scales willy-nilly.

An extension of arpeggio practice is "all-interval" practice patterns: rising and falling scales in semitones, tones, minor thirds... It would take a bit of thought to adapt that a diatonic instrument but it might be worth doing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 28, 2017, 01:57:23 AM

...Not everyone who posts on thesession.org is an excellent or well respected musician...

True. But the people I am thinking of are.

I don't know who you referring to but I think, maybe, I can guess.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 28, 2017, 09:13:35 AM
practicing scales is also an excellent way of developing  a good level of the manual dexterity required to play the box, rather like a sports person doing exercises that are not necessarily directly related to their sport but which nevertheless  tune up their bits!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 28, 2017, 10:11:19 AM
george, I'm indebted to you! - your last two points have made me think a great deal about this whole thing.

Do I agree with you?  I'm not actually sure!  I think that for some players, it is certainly true what you say, that effectively the brain can allow them to play in intervals automatically, through scales, and you may be one such player.

For my playing, I think the answer is that thinking in intervals (consciously or unconsciously) is certainly there as part of the learning process, and yes, I can just about play many tunes like that, particularly the simpler tunes that involve 3 or 4 accompanying chords in one of the home keys.  However, for performance of a piece, that process for me has been parked in a different part of the brain, in favour of patterns of positions, fingers, bellows directions etc, which (I think quite rightly) has been called 'muscle memory'.  Moreover, this is a good thing, because that's what enables the player to extract the maximum effect from the musical capabilities of the box and his/her playing skills - where the conscious mind is controlling the overall effect of the piece, leaving the subconscious to get the mechanics right.

However, there is something which I think your theory cannot alone cover, and that is the fact that on almost all boxes, certainly the bigger ones, there are several ways of playing the same note, and therefore the brain needs to know which to pick.  A few years ago, my playing went through a period where I often had this trouble, and I would end up playing a piece 'the wrong way round', and getting lost.  I posted a thread about using 'mnemonics' on scores to try to overcome the issue, and several contributors had obviously developed similar ideas in their playing.  I still use this notation, but as a rehearsal aid and pre-playing reminder mainly - the solution for me has been to concentrate more on developing muscle-memory to a stage where I don't need the score in front of me any more, when performing.  Another useful technique I found was to remember patterns of fingering and bellows directions that most easily cover particular runs of notes and accompanying chords.

I've learned a piece recently on my DGAcc box which I can use to illustrate this - it's called Green Loch, by PA player Gary Coupland, in Dm.  Playing a simple Dm arpeggio, 1,3,5 (D,F,A) can be done in several different ways on my box - though I have the F on pull only. However the accompanying (thirdless) chords for the tune, Dm (both ways), F (pull), Bb (push), C (both ways), Am (both ways), and G maj and min (push), dictate bellows directions and therefore fingerings.  Therefore learning to play it requires a lot of pre-rehearsal.   If I for example were to just think of playing that three note arpeggio against a Dm LH chord , I have 3 ways of playing the D, one way of playing the F, and 2 ways of playing the A - i.e. there's 6 different ways of doing those 3 notes.  Which one to select would depend on ease of fingering, feel of bellows direction changes and bellows position.  The brain just can't work all that out at once while playing the piece, it's too complex, so you either need the mnemonic, or simply, to learn the muscle memory.   I tried learning the mnemonics at one stage, to see if that would work.  Anyway the point is that with advancing years I have learnt that if I get to the stage in rehearsal of knowing how I want to play it, it's much quicker and more reliable if I then discard the score, and concentrate rehearsal on playing it from muscle memory.  It's also incidentally a smoother and hopefully more 'musical' performance that way.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on September 28, 2017, 10:30:24 AM
If nothing else, this thread is utterly fascinating! From it, I've learned that "Bears of little brain", like me, are truly blessed to have 1-row instruments where we really cannot go very far wrong.

To paraphrase a certain gentleman, "Blessed are the 1-row (by ear) players, for they shall receive satisfaction!"
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 28, 2017, 10:41:07 AM
for what its worth on the 3 row BCC# box ( on which all the accidentals are duplicated)  I practice scales  using all variations of fingering and bellowing.  This greatly facilitates  autopilot selecting the most appropriate button to facilitate bellows control, and/or, fingering.

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 28, 2017, 10:58:28 AM
Indeed, this may well be one of the particular long-term advantages of the BCC# concept, that you do have that near complete flexibility.  But, 'all variations'?  Even if you only have each note in and out with no repeats, that still means 256 different fingerings!  As EJ says, he's got just 1, and only 1 key to learn it for!  ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Boxhead on September 28, 2017, 01:15:57 PM
For me there are just a couple of tunes I need to play that don't seem to work so easily on b/c box. I draw arrows  (to indicate push/pull) on the printed score to help me learn passages with tricky bellows changes or that contain the 'magic notes' played in different directions within the same phrase. It really does help me get it right, and it is good to have when I come back to the tune after I haven't played it for a while and it has 'gone cold'
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 28, 2017, 02:31:05 PM
Indeed, this may well be one of the particular long-term advantages of the BCC# concept, that you do have that near complete flexibility.  But, 'all variations'?  Even if you only have each note in and out with no repeats, that still means 256 different fingerings!  As EJ says, he's got just 1, and only 1 key to learn it for!  ;)

in practice its nothing like that complicated!

george ;)



 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Gary Chapin on September 29, 2017, 12:01:14 AM
I find that interval thinking has allowed me to play from music written in any key. I used to transcribe music into the few keys that were natural for me (C and G), but now, in mainly diatonic music of course, I can find the intervals.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 29, 2017, 09:53:36 AM
I am impressed by you guys who have developed these skills on the box, because of course you can't immediately see or physically feel the intervals.  It's a whole lot easier on an isomorphic instrument such as a guitar, bass, Atzarin accordion (and probably keyboard, I guess?), where 'position' playing becomes second nature, as rock lead guitarists do it all the time.

However, the question I would ask is whether you're actually performing pieces in this way?

A similar question might be whether someone who learns a tune from dots, as I generally do, and then commits it to muscle memory through rehearsal, still remembers what notes they are playing.  I confess I usually don't bother to remember any more when I'm playing, it's just a succession of expected sounds.  I sometimes feel a bit guilty about that!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on September 29, 2017, 10:03:50 AM
... I confess I usually don't bother to remember any more when I'm playing, it's just a succession of expected sounds.  I sometimes feel a bit guilty about that!
Precisely! That's what playing by ear/from memory is all about. No need to feel guilty about it. The 'expected sounds' demonstrates that you have internalised the music in your head and your inner musician (see earlier in this thread) has come to the fore and is playing the music for you.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Bob Ellis on September 29, 2017, 10:13:50 AM
Learning to recognise intervals and practising them to keep the recognition current is central to how I learn tunes by ear. I also find that memorising tunes so that I can sing them helps with performance. I sing through the tune in my head while I am playing it, but the singing is just slightly in advance of the playing to remind me what note comes next and interval recognition helps me to find that note.

Somebody wrote that they thought that playing scales was of little value because all it teaches you is how to play scales. However, that depends on the purpose for which you are playing scales. I use scales to train my ear to recognise intervals. I play the scales very slowly and play a pedal note (i.e. the tonic) in between each note of the scale whilst saying to myself 'fifth', 'third', 'sixth' or whatever the interval is. Another technique I use to recognise intervals is to use tunes I know well as aides memoires for how certain intervals sound. The best tune I have come across for this is Harvest Home, which contains every interval in the diatonic scale except a full octave.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 29, 2017, 10:29:18 AM
Again Bob - an impressive and useful skill to have developed.  Yes, I suppose I can certainly 'hear' intervals internally, as it were, and could have some sort of stab, given the first note, of imagining where the second one will be on the box, which perhaps helps with rehearsing.  However for me it's nowhere near reliable enough to use while performing - do you use it at that stage, at all?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 29, 2017, 10:29:42 AM
I probably unconsciously do something on the lines that Bob says but without any   thought about intervals or third fifths sixths etc.

I see the instrument as simply a machine that if operated in a certain way will reproduce the sounds that  I am 'singing' or 'thinking' in the head so to speak.  Rather like the gob is operated when singing!

 george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 29, 2017, 10:44:04 AM

Learning to recognise intervals and practising them to keep the recognition current is central to how I learn tunes by ear...


I remember when I was a child, learning piano,  that interval recognition and singing was one of the compulsory tests. Given that I am extremely tone dumb, this was a sore trial. Probably the main reason I never got past grade 5.

Test yourself http://tonedear.com/ear-training/intervals
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Ryall on September 29, 2017, 10:51:07 AM
I am about halfway "ear trained" and can generally be aware of the "colour" notes in the present active chord - classically third and 7th. 9th is very important in blues and jazz

When you improvise, a technique is to target these notes, thinking adead by about 1 bar. The "journey" is then whatever you like, ending on a note adjacent to the target … and as the chord changes … that … magic resolution 😉

Things like "altered scale" achieve this automatically, so are prevalent in jazz. I do my best, and improvising "is" a performance. Though others might differ! 🤔

I recall Pignol's advice never to end on a tonic! Well I was headed there playing out "nobody loves you" in Chalap, remembered just in time and managed to get to a #4. But there was a little gap. The whole room had a good laugh, they'd been there too
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 29, 2017, 11:06:41 AM
Actually, Chris, having heard you play along with a tune and improvising, I would say you are the only person I have heard play the box who I would say is definitely thinking in intervals between notes as a practical aid to performing!  Whether it's something you would want to do generally as a performer, I wasn't sure.  Is it something you'd feel comfortable with in any key, or just the box home keys?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 29, 2017, 03:50:08 PM

Somebody wrote that they thought that playing scales was of little value because all it teaches you is how to play scales. However, that depends on the purpose for which you are playing scales. I use scales to train my ear to recognise intervals. I play the scales very slowly and play a pedal note (i.e. the tonic) in between each note of the scale whilst saying to myself 'fifth', 'third', 'sixth' or whatever the interval is.
And I used scales to focus on sound quality, quality of attack, smoothness of change, micro-movements, intonation. They are unfortunately identified as a grade requirement to prove you know what the notes are, when they are actually mirrors of your full range of technical and musical skills - if we accept that phrasing is a musical application of tonal control.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 29, 2017, 07:48:22 PM
I am   starting to wonder how I ever managed to achieve a half decent playing standard without knowing anything whatsoever about a great deal of stuff in this thread!  Same goes for others far higher up the pile  than me.
I also wonder  if seemingly ever increasing attempts  to''classicalify'' traditional music  will eventually  turn it into something that is neither fish, flesh or fowl!

george  ::)>:E ;) (ducking for cover!)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on September 29, 2017, 08:11:32 PM
I'm not saying that you have to practise that way, but that it is a fine way of taking control of your progress. Plenty of players are instinctive and build enough technique to get the music across. But there's no shame in working at it. It seems almost inverse snobbery (this is a written post where nuances are lost and I mean no harm here) to say I've never needed to work at it.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 29, 2017, 08:13:19 PM
Driving home one afternoon, listening to Radio 4, I heard a lady who had gone through the Yehudi Menhuin school of music and I think was now a concert violinist.
As a young thing she'd get up at 7am and have an hour of a tutor playing a note at her ( on the piano? ) and she had to identify the note. Then breakfast and on to other aspects and lectures as part of the daily music school life.
Message being - to be able to identify ( or for us mere mortals get close to ) a played note is a valuable tool in the armoury, especially if you learn by ear. It also gives you an ability to improvise over the player as you are aware of what they are playing so you can work around it.
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 29, 2017, 08:52:38 PM
...As a young thing she'd get up at 7am and have an hour of a tutor playing a note at her ( on the piano? ) and she had to identify the note. Then breakfast and on to other aspects and lectures as part of the daily music school life...

Maybe this is why I think folk musicians are generally more interesting to listen to than classical musicians. They don't usually do this sort of stuff.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Ryall on September 29, 2017, 09:29:15 PM
Actually, Chris, having heard you play along with a tune and improvising, I would say you are the only person I have heard play the box who I would say is definitely thinking in intervals between notes as a practical aid to performing!  Whether it's something you would want to do generally as a performer, I wasn't sure.  Is it something you'd feel comfortable with in any key, or just the box home keys?
Very kind. Not all keys, basically the ones I have practiced up. eg my box does not like Ab! The impro course will commonly play in Gm or Cm, F or Bb, so it isn't row keys. Except that my outer Db row, while used for accidentals, greatly facilitated such stuff on the pull.

The more off piste the key the less I think intervals.  Need to practice more!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 30, 2017, 10:38:20 AM
Greg: it came over as she needed to have a basic knowledge of notes and intervals as a fundamental concept before other knowledge is put on top.
From Bob's description earlier in the thread, he practices along similar lines, working out intervals. I've never had the pleasure of listening to Chris R play but it sounds like this is built into his ability to improvise.
If someone plays a tune at a session and I try and join in, I hope I can put my fingers on the buttons making some of that tune to enable me to get into it. Instead of a piano throwing random notes which I have to identify, it's a tune being played that I have to guess where it starts on my keyboard then identify the intervals they use to make the tune. I don't need to say what the notes are, merely press buttons to duplicate them.
To my mind that isn't a million miles away from the classical violinist and the piano previously mentioned surely?
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pete Dunk on September 30, 2017, 01:38:39 PM
I also wonder  if seemingly ever increasing attempts  to''classicalify'' traditional music  will eventually  turn it into something that is neither fish, flesh or fowl!

Whenever I come across pieces of music that I would consider to be 'folk' or 'trad', that is to say simple dance tunes etc, being played by 'serious' musicians with a high degree of skill that comes from 'classical' training I am always delighted by the experience. Here's a video that demonstrates exactly what I mean, the broad smiles show how much pleasure the musicians get from playing a delightful 24 bar tune to a very high standard.

The Downshire, Camperdown, Quickstep (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wv30g)
Save
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pete Dunk on September 30, 2017, 01:49:33 PM
I'm forgetting that the tune in the post above is actually only sixteen bars long played ABA to make 24 bars. If anyone is interested here's my abc transcription from a scan of the original.

Code: [Select]
X:49
T:Downshire, Camperdown, Quick Step, The
M:C
L:1/8
%%titlefont Helvetica, 22
%%subtitlefont Helvetica,16
%%partsfont Arial, 20
%%partsbox
%%gchordfont Arial, 16
%%barnumbers 1
%%staves [1 2]
V:1 clef=treble
V:2 clef=bass
Q:1/4=95
Z:vmp.Peter Dunk 2017
K:D
V:1
A/G/|{G}F[DD,][DD,][DD,] D/E/F/G/ Ad|{d}c[AC][AC][AC] A/B/c/d/ eg|\
!turn!fe/f/ (e/d/)c/d/ Bggf|[L:1/16](ef)ed (cd)cB (ed)cB (AG)FE|
%
F2DD D2D2 DEFG ABcd|{d}c2[AC][AC] [A2C2][A2C2] (AB)cd (ef)ge|\
[L:1/8]!turn!fe/f/ (e/d/)c/d/ Bggf|(e/f/)g/e/ !trill!dc [d2A2F2]D a/g/||
%
[fd][fd][fd][fd] f>g a/g/f/a/|{a}g[ec][ec][ec] [ec]>f (a/e/)d/c/|\
!turn!df/e/ (d/c/)B/A/ ^GBe>d|[L:1/16]ceBe Ae^Ge AeBe ceBe|
%
L:1/16
{d}ceBe Ae^Ge AeBe ceBe|dcde fefg agab afec|\
dcde fefg agab afec|dcdf edcB AdcB AGFE||
%
L:1/8
{G}F[DD,][DD,][DD,] D/E/F/G/ Ad|{d}c[AC][AC][AC] A/B/c/d/ eg|\
!turn!fe/f/ (e/d/)c/d/ Bggf|[L:1/16](ef)ed (cd)cB (ed)cB (AG)FE|
%
F2DD D2D2 DEFG ABcd|{d}c2[AC][AC] [A2C2][A2C2] (AB)cd (ef)ge|\
[L:1/8]!turn!fe/f/ (e/d/)c/d/ Bggf|(e/f/)g/e/ !trill!dc [d2A2F2] HD2|]
V:2
L:1/16
z2|D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D,|\
A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A,|\
D,A,F,A, A,,A,E,A, G,,D,B,,D, G,,G,D,G,|\
C,A,E,A, C,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,C,A,|
%
D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D,|\
A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A,|\
D,A,F,A, A,,A,E,A, G,,D,B,,D, G,,G,D,G,|\
C,A,E,A, F,G,A,A,, D,2A,,2D,,2z2||
%
DAFA DAFA DAFA DAFA|A,ECE A,ECE A,ECE A,ECE|\
[FD][FD][FD][EC] FDEC [^G,E,][G,E,][G,E,][G,E,] [G,E,][G,E,][G,E,][G,E,]|\
[EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,] [EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,]\
[EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,] [EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,]|
%
[EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,] [EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,]\
[EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,] [EA,][EA,][EA,][EA,]|\
[F,D,][F,D,][F,D,][F,D,] [F,D,][F,D,][F,D,][F,D,]\
A,B,A,G, [A,A,,][A,A,,][A,A,,][A,A,,]|\
[F,D,][F,D,][F,D,][F,D,] [F,D,][F,D,][F,D,][F,D,]\
A,B,A,G, [A,A,,][A,A,,][A,A,,][A,A,,]|\
[F,D,][F,D,][F,D,][F,D,] C,A,E,G, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,C,A,||
%
D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D,|\
A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A,|\
D,A,F,A, A,,A,E,A, G,,D,B,,D, G,,G,D,G,|\
C,A,E,A, C,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,C,A,|
%
D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D, D,,D,A,,D,|\
A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A, A,,A,E,A,|\
D,A,F,A, A,,A,E,A, G,,D,B,,D, G,,G,D,G,|\
C,A,E,A, F,G,A,A,, D,2A,,2 HD,,4|]
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on September 30, 2017, 02:11:30 PM
I have to admit to a certain amount of Philistinism, where serious (or classical) music is concerned. However, music is music, and it's played to be enjoyed by whosoever listens to it. Yes, we can all appreciate common people's music played by "high-brow" musicians, as we can also appreciate it the other way around. You should hear George Welch and Christine Jeans playing "serious" music on two ukuleles (or even guitar and banjo!) it's fab! The only problem is that a bit of snobbishness can sneak in, on either or both sides.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 30, 2017, 04:08:42 PM
It looks like these musicians are in the other 'zone' of perfomance - they're playing directly from the score,  and interpreting as they go (very successfully).  It would be interesting to know how much time they'd spent rehearsing this before performing it, but possibly not much at all.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Roger Howard on September 30, 2017, 04:48:59 PM


Whenever I come across pieces of music that I would consider to be 'folk' or 'trad', that is to say simple dance tunes etc, being played by 'serious' musicians with a high degree of skill that comes from 'classical' training I am always delighted by the experience. Here's a video that demonstrates exactly what I mean, the broad smiles show how much pleasure the musicians get from playing a delightful 24 bar tune to a very high standard.

The Downshire, Camperdown, Quickstep (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wv30g)
Save

Concerto Caledonia are a fabulous outfit - their cd "Nathaniel Gow's Dance Band" is an absolute trrrrreasure:

http://www.concal.org/albums/9-albums/1290-dance-band

No connection with them, but I love their music(ality).  (:)

R
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: AirTime on September 30, 2017, 04:50:36 PM
It looks like these musicians are in the other 'zone' of perfomance - they're playing directly from the score,  and interpreting as they go (very successfully).  It would be interesting to know how much time they'd spent rehearsing this before performing it, but possibly not much at all.

Yes. That really is wonderful & if they are "playing directly from the score" it's very impressive & a great reminder of my own inadequacies.   :-\   However, it also reinforces the reality that with enough training human beings are capable of developing quite remarkable skills.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 30, 2017, 06:34:05 PM
Greg: it came over as she needed to have a basic knowledge of notes and intervals as a fundamental concept before other knowledge is put on top.


I think that what I am ascribing to good musician's innate sense of musicality is really the triumph of perspiration over inspiration in many cases. Maybe I should have put the effort in when I was younger.

I am planning to have a last ditch try at learning to play by ear, on the fly by going along to Jimmy's slow sessions and not using any dots. See how many tunes I can actually get right.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on September 30, 2017, 07:22:02 PM
I think a combination of reading dots and learning by ear is the best way. Then you can hear if your dots you've read are making the right sound - that's what I do!
There are some great 'slow downer' apps available so you could start the learning process of 'how to learn by ear' in the safety of home.
I use 'Amazing slowdowner' on my ipad, it slows down a tune and can swap it between keys as well if you want. I slow down a tune to when I hear individual notes, listen to a few notes or phrase and then pick it out on the box. Keep going, repeat and commit to memory. It takes time but the more you do the quicker it gets as you recognise intervals etc.
If the Jimmy you refer to is the one I met in the spring at an Ollie King workshop, then wish him well from me, and I'd join you if it wasn't so far away!
Good luck with the learning.....
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 30, 2017, 08:44:50 PM

I
I am planning to have a last ditch try at learning to play by ear, on the fly by going along to Jimmy's slow sessions and not using any dots. See how many tunes I can actually get right.

There are two things that should facilitate  getting the hang of playing 'by ear' which is  shorthand for learning a tune by listening and then playing it from memory.

1.  Start  with tunes that you already have 'stored' in the memory i.e. ones you can sing, hum or whistle. Use slow tunes only as these will sound half decent when played slowly!

2.  When playing/learning a tune from the dots it is natural to start at the beginning and proceed from there.  When playing from memory  it can help ,if you are unable to get the tune started, to play random parts of a tune - little gingles - that are running round in your head from anywhere in the tune.  Then find other bits and build the tune up rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

Will leave it there as have no wish to cause thread drift!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on September 30, 2017, 10:15:45 PM
Mm, I know the ear/dots learning controversy always causes a lot of discussion - fine by me, though I'm not sure whether it's actually directly related to final performance skills, as I suggested earlier on.  I do agree however that really good sight readers can use it as one technique to prevent falling over.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: AnnC on September 30, 2017, 10:41:43 PM
.......broad smiles show how much pleasure the musicians get from playing ...


 A vital skill ......  ;D learning how to smile cheerfully while playing .... and keeping smiling and playing when things go pear shaped  :|bl ;D .... audiences are very forgiving, sometimes they don't even notice the mistakes if you smile, look happy and keep going rather than stop.  >: ;D 
 
 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Gary Chapin on September 30, 2017, 10:44:52 PM
.......broad smiles show how much pleasure the musicians get from playing ...


 A vital skill ......  ;D learning how to smile cheerfully while playing .... and keeping smiling and playing when things go pear shaped  :|bl ;D .... audiences are very forgiving, sometimes they don't even notice the mistakes if you smile, look happy and keep going rather than stop.  >: ;D

Yes. The compliment I'm most pleased to get is, "You looked like you were really enjoying yourself up there."
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on September 30, 2017, 11:20:06 PM

I
I am planning to have a last ditch try at learning to play by ear, on the fly by going along to Jimmy's slow sessions and not using any dots. See how many tunes I can actually get right.

There are two things that should facilitate  getting the hang of playing 'by ear' which is  shorthand for learning a tune by listening and then playing it from memory.

george

This might be a different thread and  has been in the past, but what I am talking about is something slightly different. It's joining in with tunes in a session and picking them them up before them up before they finish. I can can work most tunes out, more or less, if I am somewhere where I can take my time. I can't get this knack of hearing it once then joining in and I'm worried I'm to old to learn. My friend Sally (who can do this in her sleep) said just keep trying. It will happen, but I'm not so sure. That was three years ago.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on September 30, 2017, 11:47:58 PM
Greg, don't try to hard!.   in a session with a tune you don't know being played the first time though you may get the first and last notes of it but will also have subconsciously absorbed the rhythm etc. Second time through  you may just be able to join in with a bar randomly here and there. Third time through another may chuck in a nother bar or two. 

Next time you hear that tune in a session  you may well be able to join in with more or even most of it because there seems to be an unconscious process that will have been going on between sessions, perhaps aided be  a dabble at it by yourself.  Again  join in with the bits you can and don't worry about the bits you havn't quite got the hang of!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 01, 2017, 01:14:31 PM
Perhaps my biggest weakness. Philippe Bissiers runs the successful Beaumont en Die summer schools at his farm, well up a mountain in S France Vercors. The place is very «beau» indeed, with excellent cuisine under a massive Linden tree.

http://lapaixdemenage.fr/lapaixdemenage/Stages_dans_la_drome_accordeon_diatonique_clarinette_chant_tambourin_danse_zampogna_impro.html

Philippe's been a fan of my songs for 2years now, and this time insisted on taking photos of me singing at "aperitif time" back in August. OK, it was a blues … but my face looked like I was having a tooth extracted!

"Must do better" 😩
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: busbox on October 01, 2017, 09:39:16 PM
I have found this discussion very interesting. I do most of my performing when busking and many aspects you all raised rang true to me.
There is no doubt that I aim to get a tune into the 'muscle memory' stage so that I can play while keeping an eye out for likely donors.
I like to change to tunes I think that the very young and the very old might appreciate.
Long ago when playing in a recorder and viol ensemble, I was tied to the music, mainly so that I did not make errors which would spoil the overall performance.
Now, I can't imagine setting up a music stand. I am already cluttered enough with harmonica, whistle, melodeon and jig doll!
I always thank donors even if it means taking an instrument from my mouth, and playing by muscle memory helps there.
It is always interesting to 'discover' that a tune works better and flows more naturally on one instrument rather than another.
Anyway, thank you all for the surprisingly interesting discussion.
Cheerio
Tony, in drought stricken Australia
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pete Dunk on October 01, 2017, 11:06:35 PM
A vital skill ......  ;D learning how to smile cheerfully while playing .... and keeping smiling and playing when things go pear shaped  :|bl ;D .... audiences are very forgiving, sometimes they don't even notice the mistakes if you smile, look happy and keep going rather than stop.  >: ;D

A welcome comment from someone on the North Yorkshire Coast, I'm a West Yorkshire Tyke meself but it's lovely to hear from you lass! :D
Save
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 02, 2017, 05:34:50 PM
Tony, I really appreciated your contribution, it's just the sort of thing I think I was trying to understand, and you are clearly an experienced performer.

 It seems to me that 'muscle-memory', unless you are an amazing sight-reader, is an essential pre-requisite to good performance.

Many on this forum are not really in it for the performance - it's great fun to learn and play tunes with others, and I feel the enjoyment of that too sometimes.

However for those of us who'd like to take it further, I sometimes feel that to concentrate solely on learning to play a given tune precisely, which many of us are probably guilty of, is missing the whole point of performance.  Just like the early box players did, we need interest, fun, dynamics, great rhythm, audience empathy, drive, presence, and so on, in order to do this, and those are the things I'd like to work on at the moment.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 02, 2017, 05:54:42 PM
 
Quote
It seems to me that 'muscle-memory', unless you are an amazing sight-reader, is an essential pre-requisite to good performance.

It's not a pre-requisite, it's a liability.  It constrains you in a similar way to perfect pitch.  Change key or instrument and you're buggered.

Sight-reading is irrelevant.  Learning by ear, I normally use a different instrument to learn the tune than I'll subsequently use to play it.  What muscles are doing the same thing when I play a B minor scale on an alto flute and an oud?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 02, 2017, 08:05:33 PM
I agree with both Chris and Jack. 

With Chris is that learning to play a tune 'precisely', whatever that may actualy mean, is not the same as honing a tune to performance standard and  putting your own stamp on it rather than just acting as a machine to reproduce exactly what somebody else plays or has written the dots for.

With Jack re so called muscle memory . If you know (or can sight read) a tune you should be able to play it on whatever  instruments you  have learned to play properly irrespective of lack of operational similarity eg  Dg box, English concertina and whistle or in my case DG box, BC(C#) box , mouthie and continental box. All completely different to handle  so  where does that put muscle memory?

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: AnnC on October 02, 2017, 08:32:41 PM
 (:) not being a sight reader, more a learn by ear player I need to have the tune running through my head to get it out at the fingers  :|||:  ( and some tunes go in one ear and out the other without leaving a trace, even if they are popular session tunes  ;D) ..... however what seems to stick in my brain is the shape of the tune, the intervals between the notes, rather than the key I heard it played in so life can get interesting if my starting note for a melody is not the one everyone else is expecting, but it does mean that if someone starts a tune then once I've worked out which note starts a phrase then busking along and picking up the tune can be fairly easy  :|||: ;D
 Knowing when not to join in,when not able to get the tune, and to just sit back, listen and enjoy someone else's playing,rather than make a complete hash of a good tune, is another vital skill that has taken me years to learn  ::)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Mike Carney on October 02, 2017, 09:26:27 PM
Knowing when not to join in,when not able to get the tune, and to just sit back, listen and enjoy someone else's playing,rather than make a complete hash of a good tune, is another vital skill that has taken me years to learn  ::)
Well said. I know we're getting off the original theme a little but I think this is so important. I can recall one or two of my tunes played out for the first time being put at risk by really poor chord choices from one or two other players who dived instraigt away without listening really. I loved your playing at Whitby in The George.
M
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on October 02, 2017, 09:39:47 PM
I sometimes feel that to concentrate solely on learning to play a given tune precisely, which many of us are probably guilty of, is missing the whole point of performance.

Only because of the word 'solely' in that. There're's nothing wrong per se with precision. I don't see why people should pay to hear a performer who doesn't even know his music or can't play his instrument accurately. It's just like listening a singer who is stumbling and has to read the words - how can someone like that have got sufficiently inside the song or the tune to put on an involving perfomance? I don't mean lapses of memory - I mean never having learnt the ****** thing properly in the first place, frequently seen in folk clubs and singarounds.

Quote
we need interest, fun, dynamics, great rhythm, audience empathy, drive, presence, and so on
Yes, and there's nothing about playing accurately that precludes any of those things. In many ways, knowing the tune inside out (or possibly being a fluent reader) so you don't have to think about it frees you to concentrate on the music instead of how to play the notes, and that's surely a good thing.

Of course, folk music in some areas does make concessions to technique and accuracy if the performer gets sufficiently into the spirit of the thing, certainly more so than classical music does.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: butimba on October 02, 2017, 11:23:14 PM
I sometimes feel that to concentrate solely on learning to play a given tune precisely, which many of us are probably guilty of, is missing the whole point of performance.

Only because of the word 'solely' in that. There're's nothing wrong per se with precision. I don't see why people should pay to hear a performer who doesn't even know his music or can't play his instrument accurately. It's just like listening a singer who is stumbling and has to read the words - how can someone like that have got sufficiently inside the song or the tune to put on an involving perfomance? I don't mean lapses of memory - I mean never having learnt the ****** thing properly in the first place, frequently seen in folk clubs and singarounds.

Quote
we need interest, fun, dynamics, great rhythm, audience empathy, drive, presence, and so on
Yes, and there's nothing about playing accurately that precludes any of those things. In many ways, knowing the tune inside out (or possibly being a fluent reader) so you don't have to think about it frees you to concentrate on the music instead of how to play the notes, and that's surely a good thing.

Of course, folk music in some areas does make concessions to technique and accuracy if the performer gets sufficiently into the spirit of the thing, certainly more so than classical music does.

Very much agree with this. The two things are not mutually exclusive. I would argue that getting a tune to performance standard should first be about actually being able to play the tune fluently, then you can start to deviate from it by adding interest/putting your own stamp on it etc.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 02, 2017, 11:51:46 PM
I certainly wasn't trying to suggest concentrating on getting a tune isn't essential, and I don't quite know how I inadvertently gave that impression - just that there other important factors in performing well.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Edward Jennings on October 03, 2017, 12:03:35 AM
"It's just like listening a singer who is stumbling and has to read the words...............frequently seen in folk clubs and singarounds.
Yes, Anahata has been to our folk club! However, if he'd been on some other weeks, he'd have seen half a dozen regulars forget their words altogether, so much so that they even managed to unnerve the paid guest so much that they too forgot their lines too!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on October 03, 2017, 12:27:29 AM

... It's just like listening a singer who is stumbling and has to read the words - how can someone like that have got sufficiently inside the song or the tune to put on an involving perfomance? I don't mean lapses of memory ...

Quote

I am always prepared to make an exception for Nic Jones. Not so much lapses of memory. More total absence of it. Sings great when he has the words, though.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 09:59:24 AM
Jack, it does seem to me that you perhaps play music in a different way to most others, and it's certainly impressive - but one thing I don't understand about your technique - if you try not to use muscle memory, how do you cope with playing an instrument where there are so many different ways of playing the same notes?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 03, 2017, 10:20:49 AM
speaking as a  simple  BCCsharpist  with 2 of everything in each octave exept G, D & A  I can only assume that my brain has been programmed as   to where the fingers need to go for one or t'other of the alternatives  and also to make auto pilot decisions  as to which one to choose depending on bellows opening and simplest fingering and combinations thereof.  I f I try to think consciously about which button to go for it all goes pear shaped!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 03, 2017, 10:50:54 AM
I don't think Jack plays the melodeon, if that is your question, Chris.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on October 03, 2017, 10:53:47 AM

...it's a liability.  It constrains you in a similar way to perfect pitch...


I have not heard a musician describe perfect pitch as a constraint before, Jack. More the opposite. Luckily, it's not an issue that is liable to trouble me (:)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 03, 2017, 12:22:57 PM
Some people find perfect pitch means that if they've learned a tune in one key, that's they key it stays in forever in their heads.  Obviously, not everyone has that problem.

Birds are an extreme example.  They can't transpose at all and don't recognize pitch-shifted versions of their own songs.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 03, 2017, 12:39:08 PM
Quote
Jack, it does seem to me that you perhaps play music in a different way to most others, and it's certainly impressive - but one thing I don't understand about your technique - if you try not to use muscle memory, how do you cope with playing an instrument where there are so many different ways of playing the same notes?

Steve Dumpleton seems to think the same way I do and does the same sort of shifting between unrelated instruments, maybe he can comment.

All violinists have the same issue.  As a fiddler to play a tune an octave up and they can do it - none of the left hand fingers will be in the same place and most of the notes will be on different strings.  Ditto with a clarinet - go an octave up and it's as if you're playing in a different key (or maybe two different keys).  With the recorder, any player who uses different sizes (as anybody at all serious about it will) uses different fingerings for the same note on each - it isn't a transposing instrument.

This is an absolutely routine technique in traditional instrumental music.  Most people who play Scottish fiddle can also play the whistle, and all pipers can; doubling between fiddle/pipes/accordion/whistle is perfectly normal.  Most people who do that will have some tunes they can only play on one instrument, others where one works better, others where it makes no difference.

Learning the elements of melodic patterns - scales and arpeggios in different keys - is where the muscle memory comes in.  Learn how to play an ascending major scale from the tonic and you've got most of what you need to know to play the Barrowburn Reel.  It's normally in D but if you've got other keys under your fingers you can play it in G or A with very little thought.  You don't need to remember motor patterns specific to that tune.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 03, 2017, 02:32:09 PM
All is relative for me. Several songs I might do in C or Bb depending on what "mood" I and my vocal chords are in that day. I play a C#DG box, 18 bass and both keys are fairly fluent (especially chording for song).

They do however "sound and feel" rather different :|glug
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 03, 2017, 02:34:07 PM

...it's a liability.  It constrains you in a similar way to perfect pitch...


I have not heard a musician describe perfect pitch as a constraint before, Jack. More the opposite. Luckily, it's not an issue that is liable to trouble me (:)

I knew a woodwind player who initially started on the clarinet, but was never comfortable with it. After a couple of years he switched to the flute and became very good. It turned out he had perfect pitch and during the course of struggling with the clarinet, he realised that he was constantly having a conflict reading a written note, his brain telling him how the pitch ought to sound, and yet the clarinet giving him a different pitch (it being a transposing instrument and sounding one tone lower than written). It didn't make it impossible for him, but I guess it was always something of a handicap. Once he'd changed to the flute (a non-transposing instrument: what you see on the page is what you get in sound), he progressed rapidly and became a really good flautist.

Steve Dumpleton seems to think the same way I do and does the same sort of shifting between unrelated instruments, maybe he can comment.

I'm basically a woodwind player, not a melodeon player at all!  ;)

The 'shifting between unrelated instruments' which I do is actually shifting between closely related instruments, e.g. whistle, clarinet, saxophone, flute, etc. I found at a very early age (9 years) when learning to play the recorder that I could knock out a tune which I knew in my head without any need for written music; my brain and fingers just seem to work well together on this sort of instrument. Give me a tube with some finger holes in it and I can play it one way or another. There's actually not a lot of difference in the basic fingering techniques of any woodwind instrument. Obviously that is a big generalisation and there are some fingering details specific to individual instruments, and of course the blowing and tone production is another matter again, but hopefully you get the idea.

I had violin lessons for a year but never really got comfortable with it and gave it up; I used to joke that it was because I never found out where you were supposed to blow it. Flippant perhaps, but just another illustration of how me and instruments interact.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 05:55:14 PM
Oh. Perhaps I need to step back a step or two.

First, playing a single-line melody instrument, where in general there's only one way of playing a given note, is obviously entirely different to playing a 2+acc multi-bass box, or a BCC# stradella bass box, and I'm not sure that lessons learned on a single-note instrument are actually going to translate at all to the problems we box-players have when performing.  Sorry, Jack, the difficulties for us are that playing a melody and accompaniment on our chosen instrument is actually a different and unfortunately highly complex task, and I'm afraid to my mind developing muscle memory skill is absolutely essential to successful performance because of these issues.

Second, I'm somewhat surprised that a flute, with its really difficult unstable intonation problems, should be the chosen instrument for someone with perfect pitch.  I played with a flautist for many years, and this was a really serious problem for her, unless playing at full volume.  I know that it is possible to develop over-blowing technique to correct the issue, but we found it really difficult in music where soft playing was required.  A free reed instrument is by its nature highly pitch-stable, whereas a flute is often miles out!

And third, a violin is 'isomorphic', because of the constant relationship between strings.  Therefore, patterns of fingering will no doubt repeat, as they do on a bass guitar, and largely on a guitar too.

 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 03, 2017, 06:15:24 PM
Chris, there really isn't any real problem playing a flute in tune. Much less even than for a clarinet. And intonationis unpalatable for those of us without perfect pitch.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 06:25:58 PM
p&t, how's it done?  I never knew how to sort it out - my friend used to warm up the flute by blowing into it, continually adjust the tuning adjuster to reach a compromise, but whatever she did, it went significantly flat when played quietly.  And it was a good instrument!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 03, 2017, 07:02:32 PM
I don't have perfect pitch (except to a very limited extent, I seem to get reference pitches right most of the time when tuning things).

A flute is just a very handy thing to use when picking up tunes.  (Alto is even better because the range matches a violin).  A Boehm flute is reasonably controllable in pitch, my 8-key isn't too bad either.  Baroque flutes are a different ballgame (read Quantz) and the Irish-flute culture seems to think it's uncool to be in tune (cheap keyless flutes give them exactly what they want).

I don't really see any extra problem when trying to play a CBA (which I can't do well enough to try in public, but the problems aren't conceptual) - the Stradella layout is very logical.  And bisonorics do have their own logic.  I don't see why it should be such a huge problem to reproducibly play scales and arpeggios in all the likely keys without a fingering chart in front of you, and once you've done that you've got what you need to play by intervallic intuition.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 03, 2017, 07:21:00 PM
Chris, the first thing with intonation is to hear it - if you can't identify the direction and amount of the issue, you can't fix it. Beyond that there are things you can do - one is setting the pitch on a stable note - for example the tuning note on the clarinet is usually flat on a Bb clarinet, and sharp on an A clarinet - so if you tune to those notes you'll be compromising the rest of the scale. On a flute it's good to check both octaves and a different note. Then there are things you can do with turning the flute out or in - and if your friend is consistently flat unless she plays full tilt, then maybe a physical change to the length of the headjoint MIGHT be worth considering - only if there is a problem with it, not her. I had a couple of millimetres chopped (by a craftsman) off a clarinet - but that is something you really do need to know what you're doing before risking it.

Jack, I think - for me - the issue really is the push pull thing - intervals are differently achieved depending on what the chord is - especially if the chord changes with the melodic interval - that means there are at least 4 ways of playing that melodic interval - push push, push pull, pull push, pull pull - add to that the difference in the upper octave and it does seem more to take on board than just simply knowing where the notes can be found.
I went to the Newcastle playgroup thing last night, and although I picked up the tunes fine (I have no memory to retain them, but that's a different question) I really had to stop to think - what is the most likely chord to go with this phrase, before deciding which right hand buttons to use.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 07:29:07 PM
Sounds like I have much the same pitch feel as you then, Jack!

Look, I love the flute - my (sadly suddenly-departed) friend's was a good quality classical instrument, and it was a matter of real regret to me that we just could not get the intonation right enough for good performance together.

CBA's are not what I play, and my fingers unfortunately are not the right shape to work stradella basses, as I found with Atzarin. 

I guess you may not understand the issues for advanced diatonic-based layouts if you don't play them.  When you are discussing keys, you are simply talking about RH playing, but box-players like me are trying to use the instrument for complex tunes in the home keys, where the crucial thing is to select RH fingering that matches the available LH chords.  Sure, I have full RH side chromatic notes if  ignore the LHS, but that's not the point.  You may well say why restrict yourself to a fundamentally limited instrument?  The answer is that the relatively low LH weight allows a range of highly dynamic effects that stradella instrument players seem (as far as I can see) unable to match.

I started this thread with that context I mind, though I feel it is highly instructive to hear viewpoints from players of other instruments.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 07:31:58 PM
p&t, sorry, we went through all that with her flute - the inherent problem seems to be that when you play a flute loud and soft, the pitch changes, and significantly.  Regrettably she is no longer with us to discuss these matters!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 03, 2017, 07:47:28 PM
You adjust the pitch for variable dynamics on a flute by changes in embouchure. It's less of an issue with folk music because the required dynamic range is less.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 07:54:09 PM
The difference between soft airs and loud playing was highly noticeable, though she seemed a skilled musician to me.  How does the embouchure change work?

Though really, this is way off topic - forget it.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 03, 2017, 10:46:06 PM
How instruments get to play together has to be on topic - flutes and free-reeds have a mismatch that you need to deal with.  Squeeze a free-reed harder and it goes flat; blow a flute harder and (without conscious intervention) it goes sharp.  The flute player has to work extra hard to stay in tune with a free reed partner when things get exciting, since the free-reeder probably can't do a thing about it.

Long-note practice together (particularly playing hairpins) should get you there eventually.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 03, 2017, 11:32:55 PM
Pitch does also tend to rise during a performance (with some instruments - which might be why your friend was struggling even though she'd warmed up). This is also why many orchestral harpists tune sharp at the start - so they have a chance of sounding in tune as the pitch rises.
We also have a greater tolerance of a bit sharp to a bit flat - I can't remember why.
Flute players and clarinet players disagree to some extent on where the middle of the note is -which is why flute players might say the performance starts at 7.30 sharp and ends at 9.30 sharper).
Knowing each others problems and being aware of our own issues is a great deal towards playing in tune. If we don't think it's our fault no tuning machine in the world will put it right.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 03, 2017, 11:36:45 PM
I'm sure many box tuners will wish to comment on that, but I have to say that personally I've always found accordions to be quite stable in terms of pitch.  Is that not so?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2017, 01:59:43 AM
I'm sure many box tuners will wish to comment on that, but I have to say that personally I've always found accordions to be quite stable in terms of pitch.  Is that not so?
Yes, they are quite stable in pitch. But as Jack has hinted in his most recent post, there is a tendency for the reeds to go flat, typically by up to 5 cents when driven hard, especially the lower pitched push notes (the pull notes tend to be more stable - something to do with the more confined space in the internal reed chamber?)

But P&T has described some of the things which affect 'playing in tune' of other real instruments in real playing situations.

What do we mean by playing in tune? Unless you have an instrument where the sound is made by an electronic sound source - electronic keyboard, synthesiser, etc., the pitch of any particular note is always variable and it is up to the player to listen well enough to 'play in tune'. Obviously on a fretless string instrument such as the violin, the pitch is infinitely variable, but even on a wind instrument, you have to do more than put the correct fingers over the holes/keywork and then stick it in your face and blow it (as a woodwind tutor once said to me).

Playing in tune means constantly listening to your fellow musicians and being aware that you will probably need to adjust your embouchure/fingering/breath control, etc., for every note. Even on the very highest quality woodwind or brass instruments the player needs to do this. Furthermore, 'playing in tune' depends on the musical context of the note you are playing. For example, consider the note E5 (say) on a Bb clarinet (sounding concert D5). This will almost certainly need to be played at a fractionally different pitch in a chord of D major played by the woodwind section, compared to the D5 needed to sound in tune with the string section playing a chord of B minor. You can't just 'stick it in your face and blow it', you have to listen and adjust all the time. The best musicians do this constantly, almost subconsciously, on the fly. It's a musicianship skill, an art, which you come to perfect; it's part of what learning to play an instrument really well means. That's why a top professional orchestra will sound far more 'in tune', compared with a modest amateur orchestra where the players may be enthusiastic but haven't fully acquired the art of listening and adjusting every note as needed.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 07:30:52 AM
Good thoughts, Steve.
What can a box player do to help?  Perhaps not a lot during performance. I suppose you could conceivably select more pull notes in the lower registers if possible, but that seems a bit tricky.  The other thing is to have the box tuned relatively dry if playing with others in a concert setting. For two voices, the normal (I believe?) practice of tuning one voice slightly higher than concert pitch can give the instrument a sharp feel. When playing slow airs where intonation is critical in getting a sweet sound I often select the concert pitch voice only, as I expect many other players do.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2017, 08:54:21 AM
Good thoughts, Steve.
What can a box player do to help?  Perhaps not a lot during performance. I suppose you could conceivably select more pull notes in the lower registers if possible, but that seems a bit tricky.  The other thing is to have the box tuned relatively dry if playing with others in a concert setting. For two voices, the normal (I believe?) practice of tuning one voice slightly higher than concert pitch can give the instrument a sharp feel. When playing slow airs where intonation is critical in getting a sweet sound I often select the concert pitch voice only, as I expect many other players do.

The idea of Viennese 'Dedic' tuning, where one M voice is tuned flat from concert pitch and the other is tuned sharp, results in a perceived pitch which should be just about spot-on concert pitch, yet still having a degree of tremolo. This not only helps playing alongside other instruments, but also means that the RH side of the box is in tune with the LH side (assuming the basses and chords are also set up to concert pitch).

If the reed gap is set up properly in the first place, I don't think minor changes in individual reed pitches due to playing louder or softer are going to have a noticeable effect in normal playing conditions. Most people are going to be quite happy with pitch stability in the ± 5 cents range (including myself, and I'm very pernickety as Theo will tell you! ;) )

Viennese tuning will only be effective so long as both M- and M+ reeds are sounding together. Selecting a single reed will throw out the balanced intonation. So if you have a box with individually selectable M reeds it's best to ignore the above advice and tune one reed to concert pitch and the other reed sharp. As P&T commented a few posts ago, it seems acoustically and psychologically better for an instrument to be slightly sharp (= brightness) rather than slightly flat (= dullness).
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 04, 2017, 10:22:07 AM
I like the phrase ''  don't just stick it in your face and blow it'' with reference to woodwind etc instruments.  Perhaps the box equivalent should be  on the lines of ''don't just  treat the bellows as a bloody great air pump''

george ;)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Lyra on October 04, 2017, 11:42:08 AM
I like the phrase ''  don't just stick it in your face and blow it''
Definitely - true. When playing a blowy thing, you are part of the instrument, so a good flautist is constantly "lipping up" or "lipping down" depending which octave you are in (and whether cylindrical or conical bore, how hot it is, who you are playing with etc etc). Dryer tuning is easier to play with because you can "find" the centre, if you follow me. It's not just melodeons - I knew someone who had the honour to play with Sir Jimmy Galway and found it a nightmare as he plays with such huge vibrato you can hardly find the note! Don't get me started on people who tune to a machine instead of the instrument they are playing along with because that is "correct", regardless of what the other poor sod is stuck with.
The point about listening being as important as blowing or squeezing seems to be crucial - not just for tuning but for   tempo >:E and canny stuff like finishing at the same time.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 04, 2017, 12:09:06 PM
I like the phrase ''  don't just stick it in your face and blow it''
Definitely - true. 

The point about listening being as important as blowing or squeezing seems to be crucial - not just for tuning but for   tempo >:E and canny stuff like finishing at the same time.

I would say that 'listening' is in fact more important than 'blowing and squeezing'  as it is impossible to do the latter WELL without having mastered the former!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: JohnAndy on October 04, 2017, 12:13:58 PM
One of the joys of the melodeon, is that at least, you don't have to worry about being out of tune. The rest of the band just have to get in tune with you! (Well, if it really is out of tune, it might need to go on a trip to see Theo, but in any case there's nothing you can really do about it at the time of playing).

The flute, on the other hand, is highly liable to be out of tune but at least you can learn to correct it. Yes, it does tend to go flat when played more quietly, but this can be compensated for by slightly increasing pressure of lips/ smaller aperture of lips / extension of lower lip / plenty of support for air stream from diaphragm. Or something like that.

The tough one is the recorder. Try taking it out of your bag after arriving at a session and joining in a tune, after a long drive in a cold car. The blasted thing comes out a quarter tone flat! Even if you make some attempt to warm it up first! And there's no way of "lipping it up". All you can do to get it in tune is to play really, really LOUD. Which can be quite embarrassing. Though after a while it comes up to pitch and all is well with the world again. (If there are any expert recorder players out there who know different, please let me know!!!)

[Well, I suppose the answer is obvious when I think about it really, I just ought to stick the recorder under my top for 10 minutes to let it come up to body temperature before trying to play it. I'm probably just too impatient, but typically somebody starts up one of my all-time favourite tunes just as I arrive, and I just *have* to join in...]
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 04, 2017, 12:58:53 PM
I have sometimes played with a guy who has a melodeon tuned substantially sharp of normal (A=443 or maybe higher).  The idea is that he can squeeze the hell out of it on band gigs till it drops to standard pitch, and if he's still a bit sharp of everybody else, that's fine because he's the one that will get all the attention.

Unfortunately he brings the same box to pub sessions where that kind of playing isn't on.  The result is that he's shriekingly out of tune with everybody else - worst with moothies.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 04, 2017, 01:20:45 PM
This thread is coming up with such interesting stuff...... will relate flute info to flute playing daughter.
The idea of 'finding the centre' of a note is mind blowing for me.
Fascinating peeps, keep it coming!
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 04, 2017, 01:46:17 PM
interesting indeed  but just how much of it applies in the real world of ceilidh band  rather than classical playing I'm not entirely sure ? At one time I had a trombone and a clarinet  in addition to box, fiddle and drum  and it seemed to work very well with the trombone bumping up and down octaves ( he called it improvising!)  a bit like an acoustic double bass.

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 02:09:25 PM
George, do you know I think there's actually two 'real worlds' here - playing in a ceilidh band requires dynamics, and maybe wetter tuning on a box.  In the other world, concert (and maybe session) performance, is a place where listening between musos is the aim, drier-tuned boxes and subtlety, bellows-related feel, and sweet intonation are the ideal.  However, I'm not yet convinced that 'going sharp' is a good idea in either situation!  I would have  thought a proper musician would above all want to create a shared sound.  I have that as a bit of a musical aim for me as a box player - it is a proper musical instrument, even amongst the sniffier classical musos! 

I've been really interested in the comments from wind instrument players here, particularly Lyra and JohnAndy - there is a really interesting future thread there, about sharing accordion sounds with other instruments.  Someone like to start it?  JohnAndy, I actually thought the flute was worse than the recorder or whistle in intonation terms, so I was interested in your clearly knowledgeable comment.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 02:14:01 PM
Steve, re your interesting tuning comments, I'm not quite sure yet why it's a good idea to tune sharp deliberately - that may be good for oneself but is it good socially? - what do you do yourself?   
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: JohnAndy on October 04, 2017, 02:22:52 PM
Chris, a flute offers more control over intonation than either a recorder or a whistle, because you're directly in control of the sound production with your lips, you can change the angle, width and speed of the air stream hitting the lip plate, etc.

With a recorder or whistle, you're at one remove from the sound production - you blow down a hole, the air passes through a specially shaped airway and is directed onto the "fipple", a sort of blade that splits the airstream and produces the sound. As far as I'm aware, all you can really do to change the pitch is to blow harder or softer, which of course equates to louder or quieter sound as well as changing the pitch. Expert players may be able to use special variant fingerings to correct intonation of specific notes, but I don't believe you have the same level of overall pitch control as you do on the flute.

On the other hand, it may well be the case that when you first start playing a recorder or whistle, you get reasonable intonation straight away, whereas with the flute there's a longer learning curve - you need to learn how to exercise the control of intonation that the instrument allows you.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2017, 02:45:43 PM
Steve, re your interesting tuning comments, I'm not quite sure yet why it's a good idea to tune sharp deliberately - that may be good for oneself but is it good socially? - what do you do yourself?
I'm not saying I advocate it. It's just one of the compromises you need to make or accept with the melodeon/accordion. E.g....

1. Two-voice melodeon MM, (e.g. Hohner Pokerwork, etc.), no stops to control voices. Can be advantageously put into Viennese tuning M-, M+. Will sound good and at a pitch mid-way between the two voices.

2. Three voice melodeon MML, (e.g. Castagnari Tommy, DB Black Pearl III, etc), with a single stop to switch the L voice in or out. Can be advantageously put into Viennese tuning M-, M+, and with the L reed tuned to concert pitch L0. Will sound good and at a pitch mid-way between the two M voices. Will also sound in tune with the L voice when selected.

3. Three voice melodeon MML, (e.g. Castagnari Hascy, Mory, Saltarelle Nuage, etc), where the MM voices are independently selectable. If the M voices are Viennese tuned M-, M+, plus L0 the instrument will only sound OK when MM or MML voices are selected. However, selecting ML will sound horrible, because of the clash of either M- or M+ with the L0.

In this type of instrument it is far better to tune the M reeds to M0 and M+. This way, when M0L0 is selected ('bandoneon setting') the ML reeds will be in octave unison. M0M+ and M0M+L0 will overall sound slightly sharp, but it's an acceptable and practical compromise.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 04, 2017, 03:42:29 PM
I like the phrase ''  don't just stick it in your face and blow it''
I knew someone who had the honour to play with Sir Jimmy Galway and found it a nightmare as he plays with such huge vibrato you can hardly find the note! Don't get me started on people who tune to a machine instead of the instrument they are playing along with because that is "correct", regardless of what the other poor sod is stuck with.
Even great players can have bad habits. James Galway does play on the sharp side of the note (great player of course) - partly I suspect because of the 'brilliance' of the sound he wants to achieve. I feel slightly grubby criticising him, but it is relevant to the thread.
William Bennett didn't play sharp as a rule.
A well know harpist (I've probably told this story before) used to play the Mozart Flute and Harp concerto with them both, and also her husband who was a well known player. On radio she said, when I play it with Jimmy I tune a bit sharp, when I play it with WIB (William Bennett's nickname) I tune a bit flat, when I play it with [my husband] I don't bother tuning at all.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: JohnAndy on October 04, 2017, 04:06:28 PM
Oh dear, that must refer to Mr CHS.

I was thinking about him in the context of this thread, anyway, before you posted this, as to how we actually make those little adjustments to intonation, lipping it up or down, as Lyra put it.

These things are normally done unconsciously, and I'm not sure I know quite what is involved in lipping up or down, but I'm pretty sure that most teachers would recommend subtle adjustments around the embouchure rather than doing a wholesale rotation of the flute executed by the hands and fingers.

Yet I remember seeing Mr CHS playing a concerto in Leeds Town Hall back in the day, indeed it was the Mozart Flute and Harp with his wife. I was really struck by the extent to which he did rotate the flute around in his hands - I've never seen any other flute player do that to the same extent.

I have to say though, that I did enjoy his playing - very expressive, and I can't remember noticing anything bad about the intonation!

[Edited to remove the name of the flautist in question]
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: playandteach on October 04, 2017, 04:20:15 PM
I don't think his wife was overly serious. It might even be a compliment. He's just not the high profile player that Wibb or Jimmy is. My favourite flute players aren't recognised names.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: JohnAndy on October 04, 2017, 04:24:27 PM
Oh good, I'm glad to hear that, because I liked him  (:)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 05:37:18 PM
Steve, you talk about compromises that need to be made with the accordion in terms of tuning, but it does seem from your other comments that actually it's a relatively stable instrument, well able to hold its own against other wind instruments in terms of sound and intonation quality.

I don't play violin at all, but I do play fretless bass, and it's highly instructive to me that a very small (<1mm) position change on a bass string can make a significant change in pitch, particularly important if you're recording. I like to see visually what I'm doing in comparison with the fretline marks, and it makes me wonder how on earth violinists, with their tiny scale lengths, manage to stay adequately in tune.  I can only imagine that they develop the technique of fingering an initial position on each note as accurately as they can, and then learn very quickly to adjust fingers with a spot of vibrato to cover it up!

Generally speaking, when performing with others, I've learned that actually a finely-tuned box can be used as a reference point for the other musicians to tune to - it's generally pretty good! 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Stiamh on October 04, 2017, 05:54:21 PM
... how on earth violinists, with their tiny scale lengths, manage to stay adequately in tune.  I can only imagine that they develop the technique of fingering an initial position on each note as accurately as they can, and then learn very quickly to adjust fingers with a spot of vibrato to cover it up!

That's not really how it works, Chris... yes there is a constant feedback loop between ears and fingers, and sometimes you need to be able to adjust intonation on the fly, or to whoever you are playing with. But basically, in the normal course of events, you know where to put your fingers and you certainly don't need vibrato to fudge the issue.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 10:36:40 PM
Anyway, good intonation is certainly something else that is important when performing, I'd say.  If you're performing with other instruments, this may well be something that is worth discussing in some detail, because the sweet and accurate tone of many well-tuned accordions requires equally accurate performance by players of these other instruments, and they may actually not be used to this.

Something else that I'm only recently coming to understand fully is the ability of a button accordion player to use variations in the bellows pressure (short-term, long-term, or pulsating) to great effect, within a note, much as a classical musician does.  It really can be a very expressive instrument, but again, I must admit I don't often hear players who do that.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 04, 2017, 10:53:33 PM
the use variation of bellows pressure to great effect applies on all types of accordion/melodeon ( and closely related concertina).  The bellows are the very soul of the instrument and with practice the volume can be varied for a single note if required  and the dynamic range on most boxes can vary between a whisper and a roar. The bellows can also be used to gently pulse in an additional layer of rhythm  on top of the rhythm  generated by  treble and bass.  Sadly  many players just use the bellows as a bloody great air pump!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 04, 2017, 10:55:58 PM
Yep!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2017, 11:06:52 PM
Steve, you talk about compromises that need to be made with the accordion in terms of tuning, but it does seem from your other comments that actually it's a relatively stable instrument, well able to hold its own against other wind instruments in terms of sound and intonation quality.

I think there are two separate things here:
(a) The way in which the accordion/melodeon is tuned, e.g. Viennese vs non-Viennese, etc., which determines the overall perceived pitch of the instrument. Once this has been set by the tuning person, it is usually very stable and will only change relatively slowly over time (months/years) as the instrument is played.

(b) The way in which individual notes (particularly low push notes) change pitch slightly if the note is played with overly strong bellows pressure. Once the pressure is reduced, the pitch of the note will normally revert back to its usual value. This is a short-term temporary phenomenon only.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2017, 11:16:28 PM
the use variation of bellows pressure to great effect applies on all types of accordion/melodeon ( and closely related concertina). The bellows are the very soul of the instrument and with practice the volume can be varied for a single note if required  and the dynamic range on most boxes can vary between a whisper and a roar. The bellows can also be used to gently pulse in an additional layer of rhythm on top of the rhythm generated by treble and bass.

An absolute master of this sort of technique is the French melodeon player, Christian Maes. I always remember when he was a tutor at Witney a few years ago - he really made the reeds sing (just like a real singer). A few brief hours in his workshops had a profound influence on my own playing.

There aren't many good videos of his playing unfortunately, but here's one from that actual Witney workshop. Christian is demonstrating a tune/style playing on my Castagnari Lilium.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioCZZqnvwCk   
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Guy on October 05, 2017, 12:15:18 AM

I knew a woodwind player who initially started on the clarinet, but was never comfortable with it. .... struggling with the clarinet, he realised that he was constantly having a conflict reading a written note, his brain telling him how the pitch ought to sound, and yet the clarinet giving him a different pitch (it being a transposing instrument and sounding one tone lower than written). It didn't make it impossible for him, but I guess it was always something of a handicap.

Thank you Steve, you've just solved something that has been a mystery for me since I was in the school orchestra. I learned to play the clarinet for years, but it was always a struggle, even though I loved music. Then I was given a guitar, and you couldn't separate me from it....till I picked up a melodeon. It just felt natural...and the notes are in the right pitch.

Cheers,
Guy
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 05, 2017, 12:30:50 AM
The absolute master of bellows control among all things squeezy has to be the Russian classical bayan player Friedrich Lips.  Dunno how many of his ideas will transfer to a bisonoric instrument but it certainly couldn't hurt to try.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on October 05, 2017, 01:10:44 AM
Steve, re your interesting tuning comments, I'm not quite sure yet why it's a good idea to tune sharp deliberately - that may be good for oneself but is it good socially? - what do you do yourself?
I'm not saying I advocate it. It's just one of the compromises you need to make or accept with the melodeon/accordion. E.g....

1. Two-voice melodeon MM, (e.g. Hohner Pokerwork, etc.), no stops to control voices. Can be advantageously put into Viennese tuning M-, M+. Will sound good and at a pitch mid-way between the two voices.

2. Three voice melodeon MML, (e.g. Castagnari Tommy, DB Black Pearl III, etc), with a single stop to switch the L voice in or out. Can be advantageously put into Viennese tuning M-, M+, and with the L reed tuned to concert pitch L0. Will sound good and at a pitch mid-way between the two M voices. Will also sound in tune with the L voice when selected.

3. Three voice melodeon MML, (e.g. Castagnari Hascy, Mory, Saltarelle Nuage, etc), where the MM voices are independently selectable. If the M voices are Viennese tuned M-, M+, plus L0 the instrument will only sound OK when MM or MML voices are selected. However, selecting ML will sound horrible, because of the clash of either M- or M+ with the L0.

In this type of instrument it is far better to tune the M reeds to M0 and M+. This way, when M0L0 is selected ('bandoneon setting') the ML reeds will be in octave unison. M0M+ and M0M+L0 will overall sound slightly sharp, but it's an acceptable and practical compromise.

For me, this raises a couple of questions in my mind.
Chris,
the reason why flat sounds worse than flat sounds worse than sharp is that flat sounds duller and sharp sounds brighter so, over the centuries, generations of musicians have competed to sound brighter at the expense of standard intonation. Play sharp and most people will think it's everyone else who's out of tune. It's tempted generations of musicians, so why should we be any different?

Steve,
What is the effect of viennese tuning when a viennese tuned melodeonist plays with a bunch of people playing "standard" tuned boxes. Will he sound flat, or will he just add to the overall wetness?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Jack Campin on October 05, 2017, 01:27:53 AM
Quote
over the centuries, generations of musicians have competed to sound brighter at the expense of standard intonation

Not always.  For recorders, one of the commonest Renaissance pitches is A=466, and pitch went steadily down from there for a couple of centuries, bottoming out in late 17th century France at around A=392.  It tended to rise from there, around A=415 for a lot of Bach and Handel's performers, on up to around A=425 for Mozart, then up some more to around A=435 in most of Europe around 1850, then iregularly up in several places going as high as A=460 in central Europe in the early 20th century.  Then back down a bit to end up around A=440 in the 40s, then very slightly up to A=444 for some orchestras today.  Meanwhile Highland pipe bands have shot up to the 470s.

So, no very logical pattern.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 05, 2017, 07:52:52 AM
Steve,
What is the effect of viennese tuning when a viennese tuned melodeonist plays with a bunch of people playing "standard" tuned boxes. Will he sound flat, or will he just add to the overall wetness?
I think it depends on the context.

In my experience if you are in a session with lots of other people playing a variety of instruments - perhaps fiddles, whistles, flutes, as well as melodeons and accordions, the general intonation will be very spread out and blurry anyway. In this situation, generally people don't listen to their intonation or try particularly to correct it. That's just the way it is, and why sessions sound like they do. So I don't think a Viennese tuned box will stand out any more than a indifferently factory-tuned Pokerwork.

However, if you are playing in a more discerning combination - perhaps on stage with a couple of other musicians, one of whom has a 'standard-tuned' box like a Pokerwork, then yes - you will notice some difference between this and a Viennese tuned instrument played together. Whether the Viennese instrument is perceived as flat, or the standard tuned instrument is perceived as sharp is an interesting point. But remember that the Viennese tuned box will have both LH and RH sides in tune with each other all across the range - something which doesn't happen in 'standard' tuning. So the LH chords and basses of the Viennese instrument might provide an 'intonation reference base' against which the other instruments are played/heard.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on October 05, 2017, 11:11:01 AM
Also if one of the other musicians is playing a fixed pitch instrument like a keyboard or concertina, they and the Viennese/Dedic tuned box will have a majority pitch consensus.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 05, 2017, 05:24:01 PM
Christian Maes is a superb player, and although I suppose I tend more to French music than Irish, I have to say that in term of sensitive bellows technique, this did it for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe1EjTMPl0Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 05, 2017, 05:27:22 PM
And 'Majority Pitch Consensus' seems like a mighty good turn of phrase to me!  I think that is probably a pretty good skill to learn when performing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 05, 2017, 05:43:19 PM
Quote
Play sharp and most people will think it's everyone else who's out of tune. It's tempted generations of musicians, so why should we be any different?

Detecting tongues in cheeks, I'd say:  Because there's a better way, and that's to play sensitively to others - which of course, we both know!  I suppose that I'm queasy about the idea that just because a box player is loud, and wants to lead tunes, that's going to be OK with other musicians.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Cooper on October 06, 2017, 09:47:59 AM
Christian Maes is a superb player, and although I suppose I tend more to French music than Irish, I have to say that in term of sensitive bellows technique, this did it for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe1EjTMPl0Q

That is absolutely beautiful!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on October 06, 2017, 10:20:00 AM
Christian Maes is a superb player, and although I suppose I tend more to French music than Irish, I have to say that in term of sensitive bellows technique, this did it for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe1EjTMPl0Q

That is absolutely beautiful!

It is. You have to admire the way he switched the L reeds in on the fly, as well.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 06, 2017, 10:27:54 AM
Phew, the ideas keep coming.....
I'd love to hear a comparison between a Viennese tuned box against a 'standard' tuned.
Anyone know of any examples?

Pulsing the bellows is something I remember Ollie of this parish talking about ages ago.
I'd really like to understand how to achieve it as I've previously heard it in Ollie's playing and the subtle effect is excellent.
Any tips or hints?
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 06, 2017, 01:21:33 PM
an simple way to start pulsing the bellows ( which is not to be confused with 'bellows shake' as used by some piano box players) is to introduce it into a simple waltz tune. . Daisy Bell ( daisy daisy) played simply on the row is ideal as the first 4 bars are all push and all contain one complete 'um pa pa' of rhythm.  In exact time with the um pa pa's GENTLY pulse the bellows i.e PUSH push push in each of the first 4 bars and then try it whereaver the bellows are going in the same direction for  at least an Iumm pa pa's worth of rhythm.

It can of course also be done in 2/4, 4/4 and 6/8  by pulsing in time with the um pa of the bass.

It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it but it can provide a third layer of rhythm entirely free of charge!

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: arty on October 06, 2017, 01:39:57 PM
I shall be trying to get the shakes this weekend!

https://youtu.be/wlWzNBr2ju8
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 06, 2017, 01:40:58 PM
Pulsing the bellows is something I remember Ollie of this parish talking about ages ago.
I'd really like to understand how to achieve it as I've previously heard it in Ollie's playing and the subtle effect is excellent.
Any tips or hints?
Q
Here's a very old recording made by Dazbo of this parish, of me playing one of Oscar Woods' waltzes. I was putting quite a bit of bellows pulsing in to it, especially at the beginning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnNRC_Z2GJ4

 
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 06, 2017, 02:35:28 PM
I shall be trying to get the shakes this weekend!

https://youtu.be/wlWzNBr2ju8

bellows pulsing is different to shakes in that the pulses are all in the same direction and so do not alter the note.  The Shakes you mention of Bob Cann  involve a very fine but rapid back pull on the bellows ( I call it a back flick) that obviously brings in  the note on the other side of the button  eg G & A  would be G main note and a very slight touch of A as a wee grace note.

Both pulsing and 'back flick' have their place and of course could if desired be used in different parts of the same tune.

the thing is to practice both techniques so that can be used fairly sparingly  and only when  they can add something worthwhile to a tune 

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 06, 2017, 03:46:34 PM
Thanks Steve for the video, and George for the tips.
Will see if I can make a start with a waltz.
many thanks both
Q
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 06, 2017, 04:59:31 PM
Bellows control is surely something with a wealth of varied opportunities for musicianship, and we box players are very fortunate to have that emotional power in our playing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: stevejay on October 06, 2017, 07:23:18 PM
Might try more of that on a tune like "Never on Sunday"  at the end of a phrase.
Also Spanish and Mexican tunes like Celido Lindo.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 07, 2017, 12:56:40 PM
Bellows control is surely something with a wealth of varied opportunities for musicianship, and we box players are very fortunate to have that emotional power in our playing.

I share Chris's thesis. The air button is by far the most important one on a melodeon. All other buttons … you might substitute well chosen other and … most people might not even notice?
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pearse Rossa on October 09, 2017, 12:54:51 PM
... the Irish-flute culture seems to think it's uncool to be in tune (cheap keyless flutes give them exactly what they want)...

What a load of Bollix!
I have heard you play and I don't think you are in a position to judge Irish flute playing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Anahata on October 09, 2017, 02:56:56 PM
Bellows control is surely something with a wealth of varied opportunities for musicianship, and we box players are very fortunate to have that emotional power in our playing.

I share Chris's thesis. The air button is by far the most important one on a melodeon.

I might be wrong, but I think Chris B was referring to bellows pressure control as a vehicle for music expression though dynamics.
I would agree that mastery of the air button is a necessary prerequisite, but it's not the whole thing.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Chris Brimley on October 09, 2017, 03:54:48 PM
Thanks both for following our little discussion so closely!  Actually, Anahata was right, but I think Chris R's interesting point is equally valid - so I didn't feel any need to disagree!

I don't know about you two's experiences, but I have been rather surprised recently by finding myself able to make strides in new directions in playing the box, when I thought that age was going to make it all downhill from now on!  And it's all to do with expression.  I have long admired the sort of feeling that string quartet musicians manage to get into their playing all the time.  The bow is an expressive way of playing, because of the subtlety and control that you have over dynamics.  So given that you ought to be able to do that with bellows too, why is the box not accepted as the orchestral instrument that it deserves to be?  Probably simply because we players have never realised we have that control, or tried to use it.  I've been recently fortunate to play with a skilled woodwind player, and I've realised that it really doesn't take much effort to match the dynamics on the box - and you also have the strong vibrato effect available, which others don't.  And the highly accurate intonation is also brilliant.  We tried this out last night at a little session I'm involved with in NW Essex, playing a Scottish air, and it does work pretty well, in terms of total musical effect, and audience reaction.  I expect many of us at sessions have learned to accept that we're going to get an audience to think, 'Aye, aye, noisy and brash, but great rhythm, so we'll clap along!'  Box players have lots of performance skills that we've yet to unleash!

My hunch is that because of its humble beginnings, the bigger box is shunned by many orchestral musicians unfairly.  Using ears rather than prejudices might result in realising its huge potential, but we need the interpretative teachers to bring it all about, for the next generation.
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: george garside on October 09, 2017, 06:04:59 PM
the bellows is to the box player what the bow is to the fiddler!

and for what its worth I often play slow aires on treble only so as to get maximum dynamics and   'hauntingness'  which can sometimes be lost  in the bass

george
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pearse Rossa on October 09, 2017, 08:01:57 PM
... why is the box not accepted as the orchestral instrument that it deserves to be? 

You might be interested in these videos;

Beoga and RTÉ concert orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxhvlDobcwo).

Sharon Shannon and RTÉ concert orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRYDbRcNuMQ&list=RDzRYDbRcNuMQ&t=84).

Máirtín O' Connor and string quartet. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DxjCdW72WE)
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: gettabettabox on October 09, 2017, 08:38:08 PM
... the Irish-flute culture seems to think it's uncool to be in tune (cheap keyless flutes give them exactly what they want)...

What a load of Bollix!
I have heard you play and I don't think you are in a position to judge Irish flute playing.

I missed this particular comment and am surprised that it didn't prompt some earlier response on here?
I'm not interested in hearing the poster's standard of playing, but otherwise support your view Pearse.
Edited..Best for me not to say anything else.

Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Pete Dunk on October 09, 2017, 09:08:42 PM
Edited..Best for me not to say anything else.

Agreed, personal attacks get us nowhere. Ignore any perceived provocation and move on. Harmony is what Melnet is all about, if someone says something you think is out of turn give them the benefit of the doubt but don't ever prolong the agony or escalate any bad feeling. We don't do that, that's what makes this finest forum there is!
Title: Re: Performance Skills
Post by: Theo on October 09, 2017, 09:16:58 PM
[[ADMIN]]

An appropriate place to finish this wide ranging discussion.