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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Julian S on August 20, 2018, 11:53:06 AM

Title: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 20, 2018, 11:53:06 AM
Given that learning and improving skills doesn't go in a straight line - there are ruts,plateaus and set backs - it would be interesting to hear other players experience in perhaps making a big leap forward. Maybe particular tunes which in themselves have made a difference, changes in learning or practise routine - or inspirational teaching...
We might be covering old ground of course but I think this is a worthwhile discussion.

I've been to lots of workshops this year and it's time to think through what I've learned...and how to make the most of it all. One personal goal is to play more slowly so I might put a sticker on the top of my instrument with a suitable pithy reminder  ::) And if I can nail the Leveret tunes Rain on the Woodpile/Terminus I think that would be a great leap forward for me.

J
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: nigelr on August 20, 2018, 12:29:33 PM
I think I've told my tale here a few times, but I first picked up a box in late 2013 and by the following April was seriously hacked off with it.  I'd tried Mally's book and not made progress, did much better with Ed Rennie's book but was still frustrated.  In May 2014 I signed up for lessons with Mel Biggs and things started to motor from this point and whilst lessons are now less regular, I still check in with her if I'm attacking a particularly tricky tune.  She has made the rest possible.  The second leap forward was in late 2014 when I joined a local Morris side and was able to sit alongside players far better than me (Jimbo and DTN).  This has really helped, although I know I will never be up to their standard but some of it does rub off given enough time.  This season has been the first year I've led the band on a few dance outs, which has been a real confidence boost.  So, lessons and Morris for me.  N
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Gena Crisman on August 20, 2018, 01:43:46 PM
Having tangible (and a few intangible) goals for yourself and acknowledging your victories when you have them - that's what I've found rewarding. There will always be something new to learn, it's easy to miss the things you have made progress with.

I don't have as much time to practice as I would really like to, but I try to do 'homework' between them, where I guess I study and pull apart a tune I'm trying to learn. I either do this through messing around with ABC, or, I bought an iOS app (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/diatonic-button-accordion-free/id1074109980?mt=8) for an iPad that I use quite a lot to (it seems it may be available on android, too). I figure things out sometimes with that - it's not perfect unfortunately as if you diverge from the layouts it presents there's no recourse to adjust it, but, it lets me easily remember when there are note duplicates or what I might be able to sub a chord I can't play with.

I watch quite a few of the more prevalent youtube melodeonists (such as Paul Young and Anahata) play, as well as a lot of X of the month performances, too, and pay as much attention to their choices regarding how to actually go about playing the tune as possible. I remember Banish Misfortune came up as a possible tune for TotM and although it lost out, it's probably my current 'this is a tune within my ability to play that I should learn', and there's a lot of ways to choose how to play it. That tune goal used to be The Carpathian Tune, then the Morpeth Rant, then Seven Stars, then the Morpeth rant again, When Daylight Shines/Dingle Regatta, the Bluebell Polka, William Taylors, The Origin of the World, Tripping Upstairs, The Serpent with Corners, Day Trip to Bangor, Danbury Hill, the Bluebell Polka again, A Night on the Gin/The Bed breaker... I know all that because I can see them as a list in my ABC file, and there's a few more on that list still - these aren't just tunes I have in there but are specifically ones I've messed with the arrangements for to work out how I want to be able to play them.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 02:07:05 PM
I suspect Julian and I are trying to learn the same tunes, as we both attended the same DG workshop recently.
My progress since the workshop has been slow due to 'life' things such as being knackered at the end of a long year; stupidly hot weather resulting in difficulties finding the time to prperly practice and then booked holiday without the box.

Now I am back in harness, I'm up againstk the ever present problem of when learning new tunes, the old ones become forgotten.
I find the balance between learning new but keeping old ones going the biggest obstacle whilst having to work so time is an issue.

I haven't progressed much with using a metronome, as recommended on our course, but have been aware of speed of tunes. My metronome app was used the other day and the results surprising.
The difference between whizzing through a tune and blasting through the difficult bits  (with variable results ) and slowing it down so those bits are played sounding each note was possibly 2 beats per minute.
Yes, I need to play at that slower speed to improve my playing.ŵ

I will stop there as I appear to be having problems editing this post using my normal iPad.
...but you get the idea!
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Gena Crisman on August 20, 2018, 02:19:05 PM
I suspect Julian and I are trying to learn the same tunes, as we both attended the same DG workshop recently.

Would that be the tunes presented here: http://robertharbron.com/?p=270 (http://robertharbron.com/?p=270). If so, are you playing them transposed to a different key signature, or playing them as presented on the web here?
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 02:30:00 PM
Apologies.... Looks like the piskies bit into the iPad and played about......

Gena - Julian might be trying them, but these are not the ones at the workshop. We were given a great tune from Andy Cutting to learn, and a couple from Hazel Askew the main one being in 3/2 time that I'm just getting my head round.

The general points made to us was to slow down especially at sessions, and to use a metronome.
All 3 tutors were exceptionally gifted players and all said the thing that we all suffer from -speeding up over the tricky bits - they too suffered from doing it too. They all advised using a metronome to maintain a constant speed and *not* speed up over the tricky bits.
Andy described it like a plane taking off, you speed up over the tricky bits, come back to the normal part of a tune and lo and behold, you are playing fosters.
Having a liking for quirky tunes with odd accidental runs, I need to take this on board.
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 02:34:22 PM
Gena: not sure about Julian's approach, but if it was me tackling these, I'd put both into an abc file and see how they looked transposing it into D or G using abcexplorer ( my preferred one ) or easy abc.
That's my normal way round tunes in other keys.
I 'spec Julian will ve along soon to shed light on his approach
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 20, 2018, 03:01:54 PM
I suspect Julian and I are trying to learn the same tunes, as we both attended the same DG workshop recently.


Would that be the tunes presented here: http://robertharbron.com/?p=270 (http://robertharbron.com/?p=270). If so, are you playing them transposed to a different key signature, or playing them as presented on the web here?

N
Yep - those are the tunes - slightly different from the dots helpfully provided in the Leveret 'Inventions' cd (highly recommended !!!!)
 Andy Cutting taught 'Rain' in a workshop at Halsway last year, transposed a tone up so I play it in Bm. I've also bumped up Terminus by a tone - means there is an Eb in bar 4 of part A and bars 2 and 4 of the B. As Q says, the challenge - apart from hitting the right notes of course - is not letting the tune run away. For me 'Rain' means I really have to concentrate on keeping the notes regular so the metronome is a great tool - and I gradually increase  tempo as fingers warm up.
Whether I'll ever be happy enough with the tunes to perform them is another matter !
Btw the other tune Q referred to is 'Lola Flexen'...wonderful...

J
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 03:24:56 PM
Thanks Julian for the heads-up.
Haven't really looked at those tunes but now will do as you say regarding transposing  and have a listen.

Yes Lola Flexen is a beautiful tune and I'm working on it!

Just had a relevant thought ( that's miraculous in itself  ;D )
Before I take a look at the tunes mentioned here, I need to finish what I'm doing.
I am currently brushing up a couple of 'nearly learnt' tunes, that I never quite hammer home, but leave...only to return a time later, re-visit, leave until next time etc.
It is a really bad habit, often brought on by someone posting a tune and it sounds good so off I go, easily distracted.
Focus on something!
Almost by way of contradiction - I realise some tunes are too difficult to just keep banging away at, and leads me to a rapidly diminishing return so I leave them, but *must * remember to return to them later. Another thing I don't always do.

I am but a simple human with failings......  ::)
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: nigelr on August 20, 2018, 04:39:22 PM
Oh, and Julian Sutton's workshop at Witney in 2016 learning Way To Wylam... and, and, and ...  (:)
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Dick Rees on August 20, 2018, 05:21:23 PM
...if I can nail the Leveret tunes Rain on the Woodpile/Terminus I think that would be a great leap forward for me.

J

Great tunes.  This is where I find "saturation listening" to be a great time saver in the long run.  I put the Leveret video on repeat play while going through my morning wake-up hours until I knew in my head and heart how it flowed.  When I got time to sit down with a box I had enough of a feel to stay on it while working out the mechanics.  An hour of listening meant 20 minutes on the box to get the layout.  Now it's filed away enough to just play until comfortable.

I'll return to the video and repeat the process to make sure I've not missed out anything and to soak up the ensemble sound, but it's basically done.  If I'd just sat down with the box in the first place I'd still not be much beyond square one.  As it is, I can enjoy the tune "in flow" while committing it to muscle memory.

I'll 'fess up that this is after several decades of playing, but time spent has taught the inestimable value of listen, listen, listen.

Good luck.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Martin P on August 20, 2018, 07:23:04 PM
Approaching this question from a different angle, my “problem” is that because I play for two Morris sides and I have limited practice time, I have to concentrate on perfecting the tunes I play for Morris so rarely have time to work on new tunes unless needed for a new dance. The plus side of this is that I get lots of practice at playing this limited repertoire. However, my challenge is that at home I can play these pieces wonderfully with fancy bass runs and ornaments, but at a dance out it all seems to get simplified, mainly because my memory is terrible. So is playing out for dancers a good thing or not? On the whole I would say a good thing, otherwise what is the point of playing Melodeon? I should point out that for Otter Border Morris we play a lot of hornpipes at full speed, so really good practice.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Winston Smith on August 20, 2018, 07:29:13 PM
"otherwise what is the point of playing Melodeon?"

That reads like if it's a bit sacrilegious! It's just for the shear pleasure of it, for me.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 20, 2018, 07:44:21 PM
The brain can sometimes do 'magic' things with tunes that are proving difficult to get the hang of and possible get worse the more you try.  Stop trying  tp playparticular tune  that is proving problematic  and move on to something different .  Forget all together about the 'difficult' one  and its surprising how often weeks, months or sometimes even years later you can pick up the box and play the " problematic" tune you have put aside more or less perfectly. Its happened to me several times over the years and hopefully will continue so to do.

Perhaps its something to do with sometimes trying too hard!

george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 08:33:34 PM
George, yes trying too hard is a perfect way to describe it.
Leaving it and returning to the tune later does work for me too.
I just gave to remember which tube I need to get back too  ;)
Cheers
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Dick Rees on August 20, 2018, 09:35:07 PM
I just gave to remember which tube I need to get back too  ;)
Cheers
Q

One word:

Playlist
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Martin P on August 20, 2018, 09:38:49 PM
Mind you, as our dance out use gone was Beautiful Days Festival in Devon and we were competing against rock bands using Mega-Watt sound systems, just being able to play loud was main requirement. Horror of horrors we were using small portable amps. Sorry, bit of topic drift here, but when you can’t hear what you are playing, subtle playing is not possible. Worse for that are Morris Processions popular with event organisers but generally disliked by dancers and musicians.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 20, 2018, 10:14:11 PM
Dick - I have playlists!!!
I also have a 'Tunes to learn' folder and those working on go there.
Despite this, there are still some tunes that somehow do not stick in my mind. It might not necessarily because they are difficult, they somehow take on a Teflon coat for my brain. They are non-stick  :D
It's these I keep going back to.

About Christmas time I went through tunes that I can play, or should be able to with a quick brush up.
I then converted all the times to abc format, ensuring the version found was the one I play, or tweaking it to reflect my version, and now have my personal repertoire. As it's an abc file, I am able to print them off so I have an A4 folder of the dots to refer to should I need it. I found this a really good thing to do.
After doing this I found my tunes were there in my fingers, but as said, an extended learning period means I need to get back to this list and brush them up again.
Bit like the Forth Bridge, you have to keep going back over the tunes to keep them up to snuff.
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 20, 2018, 10:23:17 PM
George, yes trying too hard is a perfect way to describe it.
Leaving it and returning to the tune later does work for me too.
I just gave to remember which tube I need to get back too  ;)
Cheers
Q

I find that sometimes a tune I have given up on and completely forgotten ( consciously) about can suddenly  be sent down my arm from the depths of the brain  leaving me saying to myself ''that's a cracking tune - whats the bugger called!  .  so in those circumstances a play list would be of no value !

george ;)
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: malcolmbebb on August 20, 2018, 10:28:45 PM
Dick - I have playlists!!!
I also have a 'Tunes to learn' folder and those working on go there.
They get added faster than I can learn them  :(

Despite this, there are still some tunes that somehow do not stick in my mind. It might not necessarily because they are difficult, they somehow take on a Teflon coat for my brain. They are non-stick  :D
It's these I keep going back to.

Including some that I need for Morris that just will not stick. Leaving a gap then revisiting seem to help, but some are seriously long term. And even when I've learnt them they can slip out just as quickly.

And then I saw the dots for Harper's Frolic, heard many times but never attempted to play, and within an hour I could manage a pretty good stab at it.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 20, 2018, 11:45:45 PM
I am astounded by how much of what has been said here resonates with my experience.

From Gena's playing around with analysing abc of tunes,  to work out how I'm going to play them, to having a "tunes to learn" folder, like Q, via the
forgetting one tune to make room for another and all the rest of it, I do it all.

I actually have tunes in a number of folders:

1. Melodeon.net TOTM. I have learned to play all of them for the past 3 years, or so. I can actually play about 8, now.
2. Tune Library. Pretty much every tune I have ever been interested in Probably about 600
[Edit, actually, doesn't include loads of tunes, never got round to putting them in that folder.].
3. Tunes Practice List . What it says. About 350 tunes. Trouble is, I don't.
4. Tunes To Learn. About 250 tunes.
5. Morris. A lot of tunes I can (mostly) play, and a load I've never got round to. No idea how many.

I've stopped fretting about it. Putting my effort into playing by ear, instead.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned, directly,  is that relearning a forgotten tune can be just as hard as learning a tune from scratch.

Am I on a learning plateau. Erm, I think so.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Eshed on August 21, 2018, 12:13:58 AM
I'm probably a few years behind everyone here in playing, so this may not be entirely relevant.
For the past 2-3 months I've focused mostly on 2 tunes (first one, then the other), barely spending time practicing anything else. I do noodle quite a bit, which is very enjoyable but I doubt whether it helps me improve. In both tunes I've had specific goals that I focused on.
The first was Oakleigh, which I used mostly to practice steady rhythm (still not entirely there, but it's getting better) and fast-ish runs.
The second (that I'm still working on) is Road to Poynton, where I'm focusing on right hand chords and harmonics.

The interesting thing is that during this period I've noticed my ability to learn new simple tunes significantly improved. Relearning tunes I forgot, however, is for some reason excruciatingly difficult.
Another thing is that whenever I record myself (even not for uploading) I find more things that need fixing; this really helps with prioritising.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 21, 2018, 08:09:07 AM
Thanks Malcolm, glad it's not just me that find Teflon tunes.

George: yes, I've experienced jack in the box tunes that appear from the subconscious.
With this ability, and also to learn/process a tune despite you not actively practicing it, I find it all goes to prove that the brain is quite an amazing thing.

Going back to Dick's ' one word' I think mine should be "discipline".
I need to improve my discipline to focus on the problem bits of tunes rather than have a quick go, then head off and just play some tunes.
Q
The Undisciplined!
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 21, 2018, 08:44:51 AM
Reviewing the discussion so far I realise I could easily quite Greg's last posting in entirety and say 'me too'. Apart from the fact that I have no idea on numbers of tunes (other than the very simple list of ones I play every week for Morris - no practice needed- and the band list - mostly ok apart from new ones and those that need polishing after last gig). And as for all the tunes I'd like to learn - certainly hundreds - I should have given up work years ago if I'm to have any chance!

Talking to one or two top players I have realised that the big difference - if you ignore native talent - is the ability to focus and concentrate. Learning the dots is one thing - which might include spending a lot of time on specific passages, but really working out how to play it in performance is so much more. Having a goal - which is performing (dance, concert, tune of the month, session - whatever) is bound to help. For many of the tunes I'm learning, I don't have that goal and just playing for the fun of it means I simply don't work hard enough. Perhaps I should record myself more to add pressure ! And I take on board Eshed's comments and approach - Oakleigh rings a bell btw but I can't bring it to mind - dots or recordings anyone ? Damn, distracted yet again !

I like the concept of saturation listening until the tune is embedded, and very much agree with George about the benefit of putting down tunes and revisiting - I've also found that applies to listening to recordings.

Picking up Winston's comment - yep - I too play for sheer pleasure. And I'd give up if it ever wasn't so. But most of the tunes I play are dance tunes - whether Morris, Ceilidh, French, Breton - and for me using the tunes for their purpose is wonderful in itself - and is also a great learning experience.

If I practice a French mazurka I occasionally check that I can actually mazurk to it...and if only I could master the five time waltz I'm sure I would be able to play them better !

J

Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 21, 2018, 08:54:34 AM
just a couple of random thoughts on 'learning new tunes'. 

1. First learn to play the box! small number of relatively simple tunes ,preferably that you can hum   whistle,  Concentrate on  getting the hang of the basics of good music  -timing,  phrasing, dynamics and rhythm,  Stick with these tunes until they sound realy good and can be played withut conscious thought,


2.  ' practice fine bellows control  eg keeping bellwos tight so fast series of ins and outs can be played without effort or mushiness.


3. practice  lightly and precisely tapping both bass and treble buttons. (its easy to hold them down for longer if a genuine long note or chord is required,


3.  avoid tune hopping  i.e I can play that one ( when perhaps you can only play the right notes in the right order) so I must learn another (so that I can play the right notes in the right order!!)   


4. incorporate a veriety of types of tune  eg reels, marches, hornpipes,  waltzes, slow airs  laments  as so doing adds enormously to playing skills.


5. Follow your instinct - if you can 'feel' a tune coming down your arm and wanting to get out have a go at it   - you may only play a couple of bars of it  but its all your own work and can perhaps be developed

6. dont set aside practice times ( that can get put off if something else needs doing) just keep the box handy and pick it up for a few minutes ( which may turn into an hour)eg while  you are waiting for the kettle to boil

7. dont try to run before you can walk so to speak!
george >:E :||: :|||: ;)
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 21, 2018, 09:04:03 AM
After thinking about my one word - "discipline" I've thought that
1. I mustn't speed in a built up area ( difficult bits )
2. I should use cruise control to limit speed ( metronome )
3. Make journeys either to a single destination ( play tune ) or a circular tour ( return to the tune later )
4. Ignore deviations ( keep on the tune and don't ping off on others )

.... Then eventually I'll be an advanced driver ...errr, player.
Possibly  (:)

I too am relieved that my mistakes and lack of discipline seem to be a common thing. At least it's not just me, and yes maybe these undisciplined moments are where the fun creeps in.
....and we need fun. Without it playing becomes a drag and that's when the melodeon gets put in its box and the tv turned on.
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 21, 2018, 11:44:47 AM
I too am relieved that my mistakes and lack of discipline seem to be a common thing. At least it's not just me, and yes maybe these undisciplined moments are where the fun creeps in.
....and we need fun. Without it playing becomes a drag and that's when the melodeon gets put in its box and the tv turned on.
Q

Absolutely!  .  I can't see any reason for or point in playing the box if its not 'fun'


george ;D
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: nigelr on August 21, 2018, 01:32:07 PM
Approaching this question from a different angle, my “problem” is that because I play for two Morris sides and I have limited practice time, I have to concentrate on perfecting the tunes I play for Morris so rarely have time to work on new tunes unless needed for a new dance. The plus side of this is that I get lots of practice at playing this limited repertoire.
Definitely an issue for me as well - my repertoire is pretty woeful having spent so long concentrating on a smaller number of quite complex tunes played in a specific style.  I need to broaden my horizons but there are only so many hours in the day.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Lester on August 21, 2018, 03:17:46 PM
I mustn't speed in a built up area ( difficult bits )

This made me smile, probably the thing I bring up most at the slow and steady I run locally.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 21, 2018, 04:27:11 PM
Glad it hit the spot Lester  (:)
At the recent DG Weekend at Halsway, Andy Cutting was mentioning it a lot. A
All the tutors agreed they had to consciously keep steady over the tricky bits and I think we all found it reassuring that even vastly experienced players suffer the same problems as us mere mortals.

His other similar themed tip was to slow down in sessions, people play too fast. Something I wish I could instill in my regular sesh
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Calum on August 21, 2018, 05:01:55 PM
The one thing I get my students to do when they're starting to think about improving practice efficiency is to keep a notebook, and at the end of each practice session, write down three things they need to practice next time.  At the beginning of a practice session - yep, do those three things.  Rinse and repeat. 

For example, my fiddle notebook has these three items from today's practice:

- continue practicing 3rd position scales against drones
- Work on treble playing in Johnny Finlay
- Work through bowing patterns of Sleep Sound Ida Mornin

Nothing exactly revelatory, and one of those items has stayed the same for a while, but if I didn't write them down, there's a fair chance I'd do one or none of them. 
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 21, 2018, 05:36:02 PM
well, it'll keep you on track..... that's a good little tip!
cheers
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Eshed on August 21, 2018, 07:51:33 PM
And I take on board Eshed's comments and approach - Oakleigh rings a bell btw but I can't bring it to mind - dots or recordings anyone ? Damn, distracted yet again !
Sorry for distracting  ;)  Just don't play it now and save it for later!  :||:
No dots, but it's a bonus track on Leveret's Inventions. There's one recording that I've found on youtube here https://youtu.be/HT47Vu-8G0I?t=695 starting 13:37 or so.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Dick Rees on August 21, 2018, 09:35:02 PM

Going back to Dick's ' one word' I think mine should be "discipline".


Disciplined listening perhaps...
Title: Leveret - The Piggery/Oakleigh
Post by: vof on August 21, 2018, 10:32:43 PM
And I take on board Eshed's comments and approach - Oakleigh rings a bell btw but I can't bring it to mind - dots or recordings anyone ? Damn, distracted yet again !
Sorry for distracting  ;)  Just don't play it now and save it for later!  :||:
No dots, but it's a bonus track on Leveret's Inventions. There's one recording that I've found on youtube here https://youtu.be/HT47Vu-8G0I?t=695 starting 13:37 or so.
Bonus track apparently only available via MP3 and streaming. Not on the CD - at least not on mine  :(
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 22, 2018, 08:56:50 AM
And I take on board Eshed's comments and approach - Oakleigh rings a bell btw but I can't bring it to mind - dots or recordings anyone ? Damn, distracted yet again !
Sorry for distracting  ;)  Just don't play it now and save it for later!  :||:
No dots, but it's a bonus track on Leveret's Inventions. There's one recording that I've found on youtube here https://youtu.be/HT47Vu-8G0I?t=695 starting 13:37 or so.


Yep - that's the tune ! Many thanks. I have a recording of Andy playing it last year but wasn't certain of the title. I presume he wrote it.
On the topic, I think writing a few comments and aide memoires after playing is a really good idea and one I shall implement immediately
J
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 22, 2018, 09:48:33 AM
I have a recording of Andy playing it last year but wasn't certain of the title. I presume he wrote it.
On the topic, I think writing a few comments and aide memoires after playing us a really good idea and one I shall implement immediately
J

I am pretty certain Andy wrote Oakleigh. I know I've seen him credited for  it somewhere, but I can't remember where.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Lyra on August 22, 2018, 11:34:25 PM
Yes, Andy wrote it. I have the dots. In the interests of not further defocusing this thread I'm not posting them but if you want them, PM me. When you've done the practice you were supposed to be doing.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 23, 2018, 07:38:29 AM
Managed to cut a finger quite badly yesterday (just in time for Shrews Fest -grrr) so restricted playing for a while, and right hand only. :'( On the positive side I think I will attempt to sort out the tune lists, taking a leaf out of Q's book. That should occupy a few days...
And thanks Lyra -will PM

J


Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 23, 2018, 08:00:53 AM
Oh that's a b*gger Julian  :(
Hope it starts to knit together quickly enough to get a tune in at the festival.
Good luck organising the tune lists
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 23, 2018, 09:26:53 AM
right hand playing is fine for session playing  so just get on with it and enjoy!         If you are in or around the beer tent at 12.00  I will have just finished my morning workshops  and would enjoy a pint!

george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: boxer on August 26, 2018, 04:21:39 PM
in answer to the original question, three light-bulb moments transformed my playing on the semitone keyboard:

1.  I stopped trying to use the left hand buttons (two days after starting on B/C)

2.  I stopped using my right hand little finger to press keys (six months after starting)

3.  I realised that playing a semitone keyboard is pretty much like playing a one-string fiddle (about one year in)

I never had a light-bulb moment when I played D/G
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 27, 2018, 07:23:43 PM
in answer to the original question, three light-bulb moments transformed my playing on the semitone keyboard:

1.  I stopped trying to use the left hand buttons (two days after starting on B/C)

2.  I stopped using my right hand little finger to press keys (six months after starting)

3.  I realised that playing a semitone keyboard is pretty much like playing a one-string fiddle (about one year in)

I never had a light-bulb moment when I played D/G

I would, by and large ,agree with (1)  but would not recommend rigidly sticking to (2)  as sometimes the little finger can be quite handy.  It all depends on the particular bit of a particular tune. Sometimes just 2 fingers will do the job fine, in other  situations 3 is better and  there can be occasions where the pinky comes in handy!  Even in the same tune  2,3 or 4 fingers can be beneficial.  so do what  suits you best for now but don't entirely rule out other methods of fingering.


for what its worth for 'harvest home'  played at a fair lick I use 4 fingers for the first part i.e  up to the fast run down but only use  3 to get the  required speed and precision for the run down.  But then I am far from being expert in the playing of ITM.

george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: boxer on August 27, 2018, 08:57:08 PM
on my right hand, the fourth finger can't strike the keys with the same crispness and precision as the other three.  Perhaps it's because I'm left-handed, although I've always found that playing the box right-handed feels quite a natural as playing my stringed instruments left-handed does. 

I wish the fourth finger was up to the job, but it's not, and deploying it occasionally means deciding in an instant, as the tune proceeds, whether it will be able to do the job on a particular note, or not.  I find it easier to take out the unknown and just use three fingers all the time.  Others produce sickeningly magnificent results with their little fingers, I can't.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Little Eggy on August 28, 2018, 04:29:57 PM
I've been playing about two years and have about 50 tunes I can play reasonably well when I'm at home, fingers loose, feeling relaxed.  I need to get more polished in my performance as I tend to get bored with tunes I've just learned.  There's a pattern which goes 1. Oo that's a nice tune!      2. Spend time learning tune     3. Think I've got it       4. Try it at folk club     5.. Doesn't go too well      6.  Oo that's another nice new tune       7. Spend time learning new tune....etc etc
Don't think I've had a breakthrough moment, but one recent specific thing that has helped is trying really hard to hit each note snappily a la Ed Rennie, rather than letting the in/out of the bellows make the notes.  Ed calls it 'finger hammering'.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tufty on August 28, 2018, 04:56:41 PM
John Kirkpatrick also teaches this. In his workshops he suggests practicing in an exaggerated staccato way to form the habit of getting each note to stand out, rather than all blur together into sound porridge. After a while even your normal playing changes.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 28, 2018, 06:20:18 PM
...Don't think I've had a breakthrough moment, but one recent specific thing that has helped is trying really hard to hit each note snappily a la Ed Rennie, rather than letting the in/out of the bellows make the notes.  Ed calls it 'finger hammering'.

While realising that using the bellows to generate slurred notes and chords is a really useful technique , in its own right (:)
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 28, 2018, 07:51:56 PM
its worth keeping in mind that the buttons ( treble and bass) are simply 'on/off' switches and the operation thereof does not in any way control the volume which is the preserve of the bellows, which contrary to the way some play is not just a bloody great air pump!.  The bellows are the very soul of a box  and practiced use of will enable  anything from a whisper to a shout to be produced  as required including increasing or decreasing volume on a single note wtc etc.

As to playing crisply or staccato  it is simply a matter of getting some space between the button and the finger on every note. The amount of 'staccatoness'  can easily be regulated by the distance the fingers are lifted off the buttons between stikes.   I advocate this as the sort of default method of playing as it requires some practice. Playing legato - running notes more or less into each other  doesn't seem to need anything like as much practice and comes more or.less naturally players

Obviously in the real world of tune playing  both staccato and legato  will be used in combination with emphasis on dynamics and phrasing.  i.e. controlling and varying volume by fine bellwos control  and breaking a tune into 'chunks' or 'phrases' in much the same way as an orator takes full advantage of full punctuation for the spoken word.
  george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 28, 2018, 08:05:28 PM
I definitely agree with George. Something I've learned over the years is the importance of adapting ones technique to the tune. 'Lumpy', bouncy, snappy, staccato -and also smoothing out the tune by cross-rowing - all important for me particularly as I love European music as well as English, slow airs as well as fast dance.
And staccato practicing - good advice from JK I think. Whilst I have never been to one of his workshops, I reckon I learnt a lot just from playing alongside him in my Border Morris dance years. Just wish I'd got a tenth of his talent !

J
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 28, 2018, 09:17:35 PM
at risk of putting the cat amongst the pidgeons  tunes can be 'smoothed' whilst playing entirely 'on the row'  or  ' bounced'  when playing across the rows.  Whether to play on the row or across the row for 'treble ' or 'melody ' led tunes, be they haunting slow airs  or  bouncy jigs and reels is simply down to personal choice whereas on  'bass' led tunes cross rowing is essential to get something like reasonable harmony between  both ends of the box



george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Anahata on August 28, 2018, 11:12:13 PM
tunes can be 'smoothed' whilst playing entirely 'on the row'  or  ' bounced'  when playing across the rows. 

Yes! Learning to do both of those 'against the grain' actions as well as possible is a valuable exercise in playing technique and musicality.

(rather like the way my cello teacher recommended trying to play something with the bowing back to front, because one day you'll meet a piece that needs you to be able to do that)
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 29, 2018, 06:58:32 AM
Yes George - didn't mean to imply that cross rowing is the only way of smoothing out melody. Every day I realise that learning a tune is a long way from learning how to play it well...and that there is never a finished article, just an ongoing work in progress...And to think that when I first picked up a box all those years ago I thought it was a case of picking up a melody and shoving a few basses in ! ::)

J

Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 29, 2018, 10:39:56 AM
s never a finished article, just an ongoing work in progress...And to think that when I first picked up a box all those years ago I thought it was a case of picking up a melody and shoving a few basses in ! ::)

J

Hi Julian, hope the finger is improving!.  What you say about when you first picked up the box is indeed true of  perhaps the majority of  ''players''.  I certainly started that way   and it was a long time before the penny dropped and it was in a session when I had played one of my 'sunday best' tunes. Sat next to me was a very well known 'professional' player  who whispered in my ear  '' you weren't phrasing that tune george''.   I said something on the lines of 'Oh right'   and spent the rest of the session wondering wha;t 'phrasing' was but not liking to show my ignorance by asking.!

That terse comment marked the start of learning to play music on the box rather than a conglomerate of the right notes in the right order with some random bass shoved in or heavily um pa-ing.That was about 40 years ago and made me realise that I couldn't play the box as a musical instrument.


I gradually got the hang of what I still consider to be the basic essentials of  converting a string of notes into  ''music''  be it a slow air or a fast jig or anything in between.  They are, to me, and in no particular order as all are essential  - rhythm, phrasing and dynamics and when teaching I use a small nunber of carefully chosen tunes that enable me to pass on the skills requird for RPD.
   

Learn to play the instrument and master its idiosyncracies   and only then think about for ever learning new tunes. and never move on to a new tune before you have made the present one sound 'musical'

Others may of acourse disagree!


george
 
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 29, 2018, 10:56:35 AM
Reading Julian's comment, and George's reply could bring us right back to Julian's original question:
'How do we improve?'
I think this thread shows that thinking about what we're doing, the nuances we wish to put into a tune, the phrasing, getting 'into' the tune, asking questions, attending workshops - all go to show we are heading in the right direction.
Because we all want to improve.  8)

Just blasting away with the notes in roughly the right order and the odd bass thrown in is *not* the way forward  >:E.
Q
ps....yes, I hope the digit is improving too!
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 29, 2018, 02:27:18 PM
Thanks G+Q - finger on the mend, managed a few tunes over the weekend - having to use only two fingers on left hand and think about it was itself a good exercise !
And I too have had that experience George...Listening and talking to Andy Cutting brings home how much time and thought he puts in before bringing tunes to performance level. And each new tune can offer new challenges, no matter how well you know your instrument.

J



Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: boxer on August 30, 2018, 07:18:47 PM
"....simply on/off switches.."?

I don't completely agree with you on that particular point, George.  How the button's attacked - hard, softly, or somewhere in between, influences the sound at the beginning of the note - admittedly not to quite as much as the amount of muscle you're putting into the bellows does, but still significantly, because it influences the speed of transition from zero air flow over the reed, to maximum.

I read a book by a Russian bayan virtuoso (his name escapes me) who went on as some length about the subject, and I took it to heart.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 30, 2018, 07:53:49 PM
I would see it as a combination of the two which is why I advocate 'staccato' as the default method of playing and 'lagato' only being done on purpose'

To play staccato requires not only the button to be swiftly 'tapped'  or 'attacked' but also  that the bellows   are 'pre-presurised'  to provide the required volume instantly.  Even for quiet ?legato playing  the requisite pressure is required in the bellwos prior to pressing a button  '  Trying to gradually or sharply press ?or attack a button will have little or no effect on the volume as once the pallet is off  the soundboard  the volume is controlled by the air pressure ( or pullsure? ) in the bellows'


Others may disagree

george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Dick Rees on August 30, 2018, 09:50:35 PM
Staccato...or extremely beat-focused attack...is a good practice technique, sort of "hi-rez" playing.  Beyond that, having a complete palette of key-touch is an integral part of expressive playing along with bellows control.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 31, 2018, 07:56:25 AM
If I understand Dick correctly, he has mentioned an interesting thing that was mentioned on our recent workshop weekend.
How do we make the sound of a note?
i.e. it is more than pressing a button and emitting the sound, how do we 'make' the sound?
Do we start quiet then swell then reduce the volume; maintain constant volume; make it short and crisp; fade the sound....etc.

It was pointed out that other instruments such as woodwind, you have to make the sound whereas ours is ready made by activating the reed *but* you can still be creative and thoughtful about how the note is produced by, as Dick says, bellows control, button attack and think about what sound you wish to make.
As he says, be expressive in your playing.
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Steve_freereeder on August 31, 2018, 08:27:56 AM
If I understand Dick correctly, he has mentioned an interesting thing that was mentioned on our recent workshop weekend.
How do we make the sound of a note?
i.e. it is more than pressing a button and emitting the sound, how do we 'make' the sound?
Do we start quiet then swell then reduce the volume; maintain constant volume; make it short and crisp; fade the sound....etc.

It was pointed out that other instruments such as woodwind, you have to make the sound whereas ours is ready made by activating the reed *but* you can still be creative and thoughtful about how the note is produced by, as Dick says, bellows control, button attack and think about what sound you wish to make.
As he says, be expressive in your playing.
Q
The analogy with woodwind (and brass) instruments is a good one. With those you have have your tongue to control the stopping and starting of the airflow and hence the sound. The air pressure is controlled by your lungs and diaphragm muscle, which together are capable of a full and variable range of air pressure from zero to a huge maximum.

On a free-reed instrument the buttons or keys correspond to our tongue, the bellows to our lungs and our arm muscles to the diaphragm muscle.

With both types of instrument, it is then up to the player to determine what sort of sound is needed and to be creative and expressive with it.

I would carry the analogy one stage further and include that ultimate wind instrument - the human voice. If we can vocalise the music we want to play, then we have a far better chance of being in control and playing expressively on our instruments. I sometimes get my students to 'sing' a tune (as in 'rum-tum diddle-diddle' etc. or make up other words) and get them to really think about (a) how they are singing it, and (b) how to transfer that to the melodeon or whatever instrument.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 31, 2018, 09:07:20 AM
It suprises me that a great many players  always play at one volume which is usually as loud as it will go!  A simple exercise is to hold a note and push hard for maximum volume then gradually ease bellows pressure until the note is down to a whisper ( if the note stops that is a bit quieter than a particular box will sound at).  It is then easy to establish the mid volume of a particular box  and to play the at around that volume so that you can go louder or quieter as best befits the tune  i.e putting some 'dynamics' into the proceedings. So doing improves most tunes  and is particulary beneficial for haunting slow airs.  With practice it also enables the volume to be increased or decreased on a single note or perhaps for a couple of bars or whatever.  To me the bellows are the very soul of the instrument.

. As Steve has said that's what singers do with the lungs!

george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: WestOz on August 31, 2018, 10:54:32 AM
"As to playing crisply or staccato  it is simply a matter of getting some space between the button and the finger on every note. The amount of 'staccatoness'  can easily be regulated by the distance the fingers are lifted off the buttons between stikes.   I advocate this as the sort of default method of playing as it requires some practice."

Is it possible to define "some space" - it has been pointed out to me that I lift my fingers too high (and liable to lose control/accuracy)- I practice playing with little space, and find it difficult!
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 31, 2018, 11:06:44 AM
"As to playing crisply or staccato  it is simply a matter of getting some space between the button and the finger on every note. The amount of 'staccatoness'  can easily be regulated by the distance the fingers are lifted off the buttons between stikes.   I advocate this as the sort of default method of playing as it requires some practice."

Is it possible to define "some space" - it has been pointed out to me that I lift my fingers too high (and liable to lose control/accuracy)- I practice playing with little space, and find it difficult!

Keep practicing and it will become easy. Melodeons are like that. Impossible today, absorbed into the subconcious tomorrow (well, eventually).
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on August 31, 2018, 11:29:15 AM
Interesting that Steve sometimes gets his tutees to sing the tune.
That too was mentioned several times - 'sing it like you want it to sound...'
I have been doing this before playing a particularly awkward tune I need to get to grips with.
It seems to help me, and it's such an obvious thing to do that I'm staggered I haven't thought of it before!
Q
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: george garside on August 31, 2018, 12:24:39 PM
getting some space between the buttons and the fingers ( on both ends of the box)  should become automatic if enough of it is done !  The only time I don''t use it is on purpose!

With practice it is easy to alter the length  of an individual note by the distance the finger is lifted off the button i.e. the higher the finger the shorter the note whilst still retaining the desired rhythm and speed.  i.e. the time a note is 'struck' remains the same  but the gap between it and the next note etc etc  varies by the amount of finger lift.  i.e higher  = larger gap. lower = smaller gap.

To quote a well known concert pianist '' the notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes - Ah, that is where the art resides''

on a melodeon the way the 'pauses' are played comes entirely free of charge being governed simply by varying the amount of fresh air between the fingers and the buttons


george
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Julian S on August 31, 2018, 12:40:20 PM
Singing it like I want it to sound would be a really bad idea in my case...! (Though might try it this afternoon alone in the house apart from a deaf cat...)
Of course, if you possess a number of different boxes with different responsiveness, then it might well be necessary to adapt technique to suit.
My Dino super 3v is difficult to play quietly (it probably needs fettling), whilst being great for playing loud for outdoor dancing. My Dony on the other hand is quite the opposite, much easier to vary volume, and perfect for mazurkas, and slow airs requiring more subtlety. My Pastourelle offers the best of both worlds.
Lots to think about...

J
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Dick Rees on August 31, 2018, 12:41:50 PM
If I understand Dick correctly, he has mentioned an interesting thing that was mentioned on our recent workshop weekend.
How do we make the sound of a note?
i.e. it is more than pressing a button and emitting the sound, how do we 'make' the sound?
Do we start quiet then swell then reduce the volume; maintain constant volume; make it short and crisp; fade the sound....etc.

It was pointed out that other instruments such as woodwind, you have to make the sound whereas ours is ready made by activating the reed *but* you can still be creative and thoughtful about how the note is produced by, as Dick says, bellows control, button attack and think about what sound you wish to make.
As he says, be expressive in your playing.
Q

 I would add that notes/tones have a stop as well as a start and the silences between the notes (negative space?) are more important than the notes themselves.

Or not...

Edit:

It's possible to "bend" the notes on a box just like you do on a mouth harmonica.  Bellows pressure control and extremely precise touch are required.  I can do it for effect, but not in the flow of a tune of moderate/fast pace.
Title: Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
Post by: Tone Dumb Greg on August 31, 2018, 12:53:39 PM
I am reminded that a favourite technique of Leveret's for coming up with new tunes, and remembering them, while out walking, is to sing them into their phones etc..
Andy played back his latest mutterings. He is definitely not a chorister. But it was a cracking tune.
Never lose hope.