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Author Topic: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread  (Read 3336 times)

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Baron Collins-Hill

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Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« on: January 25, 2015, 06:23:44 PM »

Hi everyone,

I just received my first melodeon a week ago (Jan 19th, 2015), and wanted to start a thread so I can keep a record of my playing every couple weeks. If this is not acceptable or this is not the catagory to put it in, I'll happily put it somewhere else.

First off, I wanted to thank all of the extremely helpful and knowledgable folks on this site that have answered all of my questions as I did my research and purchased my instrument. You all are very helpful and this is an incredible resource!

A Quick History
I am new to the melodeon, but not new to music. I am a professional mandolinist and tenor guitarist living in the US and have about 15 years of music behind me. About two years ago I started getting interested in the melodeon through listening to Andy Cutting, Naragonia, Duo Brotto Lopez Martin Coudroy, Sabin Jacques, and more recently Kitus, Mr. Klof, Les Doigts De Carmen, and Corinne Renaud & Gérard Godon. I play mainly fiddle tunes, though I studied jazz and music theory in university. I also have been playing a little bit of English concertina for the past 6 months.

My Instrument
Once I started thinking about buying an instrument, I made a point to play every box I could get my hands on. For better or worse, I got to squeek around on Sabin Jacques's Castagnari Benny for a couple days at a fiddle camp where we were both teaching (Maine Fiddle Camp, you all should come!). I fell in love with the sound, playability, size, and ergonomics of the instrument, and hoped some day to find one. As I did more research, I started leaning towards a D/G/Acc box which would give me the easiest time playing in keys that are common in the US (mainly playing with fiddlers and guitarists), while also giving me the opportunity to get in to some other keys and get in to some of the cross row continental music I love to listen to. I kept an eye on the classifieds here, and when nothing materialized I put out a wanted post. I was lucky enough to find one of Bob Ellis's D/G/Acc Bennys from Pete and Jill of Acorn Instruments and they were great to work with on getting the box safely across the pond. In short, three cheers for Bob for the awesome layout and beautiful instrument, and three cheers for Pete and Jill for granting me my dream box!

Well, this is getting long, so on to the music
I'm looking forward to putting this box to work, and some of my goals are to learn the fiddle tune repertoire that I know from the mandolin as well as work on more melodeonistic pieces. I want to balance on row playing with cross row playing, and get comfortable with both styles of playing.

If anyone has suggestions on ways I can improve my playing, technique, style, musical feel, or anything else, I would love to hear about it!

Thanks very much for being such a wonderful community, video's will be posted soon! Sorry this introduction got so long!

Baron
« Last Edit: January 27, 2015, 01:45:23 AM by Baron Collins-Hill »
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2015, 08:20:40 PM »

Here we go:

First up is a tune, here's a tune I wrote on the mandolin. It was written in C, but works out well in G on my D/G melodeon. I've attached a PDF of the sheet music below.

This turned out to be a good introduction to getting my right and left hands working together, although there isn't anything particularly rhythmic going on in the left hand. All left hand work is chords only, no bass, with thirds removed. I added the G bass on the last note.

I need to work on relaxing my hands (and probably the rest of my body) and getting my right thumb down to the side of the board (and of course not botching the melody every time).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAbq0wX-SGI

Looks like I couldn't upload a PDF, but could post a screenshot of the PDF.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2015, 09:54:25 PM by mandobaron »
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2015, 10:05:09 PM »

Week One - Part 2: On the row tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3abU4NM5V1c

I remembered to get my left thumb down in this one, but do realize I am not very relaxed. I feel like this will eventually feel more natural as time goes by, but if anyone has thoughts on technique or otherewise how I could change things, that would be marvelous to hear.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2015, 10:10:38 PM by mandobaron »
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2015, 10:08:12 PM »

Last one for this week, a little fun with a Cyrille Brotto bass line:

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

Thanks,
Baron
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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2015, 11:56:00 PM »

Hi Baron,

It was great to hear and see my former Benny again and to know that it is in tender loving hands.

I like your tune Cosimo's Flight and it is clear from your rendition of it that you have already discovered the value of the reversals on the inner row for playing sequences of notes in the same direction whilst droning bass chords, something which I do on several tunes (e.g. Ashokan Farewell, Dark Island and In Dreams.)

Judging from the quality of your first recordings, you will soon be producing very accomplished performances on an instrument of which I have very fond memories.

If you have any queries about the layout or anything else to do with the Benny, feel free to send me a PM.
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2015, 02:33:28 PM »

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the kind words! Watching your videos of this instrument is what sealed the deal, and I really enjoy your playing! Princess Royal is on my short list of tunes to learn, your version being the one I will learn from. I spent a lot of time pouring over your layout that is available on the site, and have been enjoying the opportunities it presents immensely. I know I will get many years of joy from this box!

Thanks,
Baron
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John C

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2015, 07:57:35 PM »

Hi Baron,

I think you approach to Melodeon is very interesting and I will look forward to further videos showing your progress.

Are you playing scales and intervals as part of your practice or going straight to playing tunes.

John
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2015, 08:20:08 PM »

Hi John,

At this point I am going straight for tunes, though at some point I expect to work on some scales. I don't find playing scales as fun as playing tunes, though there is a lot of potential value in them. I guess my theoretical understanding of how D and G major scales lay out on the instrument, combined with the fact that many straight ahead tunes tend to make use of scale fragments, combined with my general willingness to hunt and peck for the note I am looking for lend themselves towards my lack of scale practice at this point. Once I get in to some improvisation and playing in other keys, I expect being comfortable with scales will become much more important. I've tried to squeak out an F scale, as F is one of my favorite keys, but it's pretty rough at this point.

Thanks for the interest,
Baron
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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2015, 08:38:39 PM »

Cosimo's Flight is a lovely tune and nicely played, especially for a first go on
your new box.

We followed your youtube channel and found your free mandolin lessons, Mandolesson.com.
My Mrs. plays and is now using the tuition.
Thanks!
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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2015, 08:46:08 PM »

Thanks JoeCooley!

I'm glad the mandolin site is helpful, it's a fun project and I love to do it. At this point my melodeon videos are marked as unlisted so they don't interfere with all the mandolin content. Maybe if I am feeling bold in the future I will un-hide them or start a new channel.

Baron
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Re: Mandobaron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2015, 10:13:21 PM »

I'm glad the mandolin site is helpful, it's a fun project and I love to do it. At this point my melodeon videos are marked as unlisted so they don't interfere with all the mandolin content. Maybe if I am feeling bold in the future I will un-hide them or start a new channel.
It is helpful, indeed. I learnt new chord voicings from your jazz chord videos.

Thomas
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2015, 02:46:34 PM »

Time for a Week 3 update:

Thanks to all the help here, I decided to plunge in to the world of left and right hand working together, getting some oom-pah basses going with one of my favorite tunes "Huntsman's Chorus". I found it interesting that in order to get it to work, I had to work everything out really slowly, note by note, beat by beat. It seemed like at the speed I started it would never feel natural or get up to a nice tempo. I'd say that playing oom-pah bass still feels fairly mechanical (just hitting the buttons I have trained myself to hit at the right time, with no freedom of choice involved), but I am seeing some progress, which is heartening.

http://youtu.be/jgiyYZh683g

I also continued with a couple new cross row tunes. I picked a couple andy cutting tunes that I already knew on the mandolin, Grinds Hans Jässpödspolska and Miss Lindsay Barker, and made them in to a little set. The left hand is still simple on these tunes, and perhaps a new focus will be spicing up the left hand on these tunes.

http://youtu.be/KSkp4vUaEYo

I am having trouble getting used to re-pushing a button when I change bellows directions, so I recorded a short video of where I am at with general left hand articulation at a slow speed. Re-pressing the button definitely adds more snap to the melody, but what I want to work towards is not having the tune sound too staccato. I think this will come with time and more practice, but if anyone has any thoughts on the matter they would be much appreciated.

http://youtu.be/0-9PLMA8OB8

As Bob pointed out earlier in this thread, I tend to pull back my third finger on my right hand, and after working with it some, I think it will take some time to fix that, as my guess is that it is connected to the way I hold a pick when playing mandolin and guitar. There's nothing like 15 years of hammering one idea in to your subconscious to make trying something new a tricky task!

My goals for the next bit of time are:
  • Continue learning new cross row and on row tunes, with left hand in both styles
  • Work on right hand articulation
  • Get better at not gulping air, and increase air button control
  • Learn more tunes in D

In terms of learning tunes in D, I have a specific question. Because I only have a G bass on a push, I find myself running out of air frequently, because the only time I have a pull is the V chord, A, unless I am pulling on the tonic, D, which seems silly (but maybe that is what I should do sometimes?). In the Key of G it is less of a problem because I have push and pull options for my IV and V chords, C and D. Am I missing something here? Is it a matter of better air button use, or using the D pull in the key of D, or something else, or a combination of everything?

Thanks very much, as always, I would love to hear feedback/critique!
Baron
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2015, 02:58:46 PM »

In terms of learning tunes in D, I have a specific question. Because I only have a G bass on a push, I find myself running out of air frequently, because the only time I have a pull is the V chord, A, unless I am pulling on the tonic, D, which seems silly

Not silly at all, if you mean using the Pull D bass/chord to go with F# and A on the G row. John Kirkpatrick has also said that you can use the G row a lot for playing tunes in D, which amounts to the same thing and includes use of the A chord with the A on the G row.

There's never anything 'silly' or 'not the done thing' on a melodeon. It already has so many limitations, the last thing you need to do is invent more.
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2015, 03:39:21 PM »

Well done, Baron! Excellent progress! Not only are you cross-rowing well, but you can also transpose down an octave - something a lot of more experienced melodeonists can't do.

You mentioned not wanting to make tunes sound too staccato. That comes from using less attack on the buttons and from subtle control of the bellows. I can see why you would want a smooth feel to the polska and Miss Lindsay Barker, but the melodeon, with its in-out configuration, is naturally a more staccato instrument than, say, the piano accordion. I would recommend you to celebrate this as a desirable characteristic of the instrument rather than trying to smooth it away - slow airs excepted.

With regard to your question about playing in D, in situations where you want to use G basses, you can, of course, transfer onto the G row, but there are times when that is undesirable for other reasons, in which case, I would usually consider whether Em might make a pleasing alternative to the G basses. More often than not, it does.
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2015, 03:49:57 PM »

I suppose silly is not the right word, and I totally agree that there aren't any "rules". I guess my thought is that with D's found only on the push, it lines the key of D major up in my mind as a fairly push-centric key. I suppose that only having the A on the pull balances things out some. I'm very new to all of this, so I think I was approaching the key of D as pretty much the same as the key of G, as the right hand rows are laid out similarly. Having a Push I and Push/Pull IV and V in G vs. a Push/Pul I, Push IV, and Pull V in the key of D really changes things up I guess.

One of the things I am really enjoying about learning this instrument is how it is making me examine the learning process. Because I have previous musical history, my brain is way ahead of my fingers and heart, and that get in the way of internalizing and understanding a new instrument. The more I play the box, the less I am thinking about it in terms of how it relates to the mandolin, which is good because in some (perhaps most) ways, they are fairly unrelated.

Thanks,
Baron
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2015, 03:54:02 PM »

Re-pressing the button definitely adds more snap to the melody, but what I want to work towards is not having the tune sound too staccato. I think this will come with time and more practice, but if anyone has any thoughts on the matter they would be much appreciated.

Dissenting from the majority view here: Working on the technique of re-pressing buttons can only be good. But I really question why you need to use it at all any time you don't want tunes to sound as staccato as they will when you use this technique, no matter how good you are at it.

That said, I think you'd get a smoother effect if your treble cabinet moved less every time you changed bellows direction. You might consider working on how you operate the bellows to improve this aspect.
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2015, 04:03:07 PM »

Thanks for the kind words, Bob! The more I play this box the more I love it! The ability of the instrument to get down to the low D is really nice, and I find the two voice MM low D more pleasing than any single voice L or three voice LMM that I have played on other boxes. It is such a lush sound, I love it! I wouldn't say I can transpose easily, as at thins point everything I do is calculated and practiced, and somewhat mechanical feeling. I'm hoping the more I do it, the more natural it will feel and sound!

I don't want to diminish the bounce of the box, I just want to be able to play with the amount of bounce I can add to a tune. With tunes like Huntsman's Chorus, the bouncier the better as far as I am concerned. With tunes like the French schottische I am working on as melody only, to me I would like it to maintain the bounce of the push/pull nature of the instrument while smoothing out some of the bounce.

On the mandolin, I do this by adjusting the length a note is sounded and the amount of dead air space between it and the next note, more bounce tends to be more dead air space and perhaps a shorter note value, while slightly less dead air space maintains the bounce but adds some amount of smoothness, and minimizing the dead air space (sometimes by string crossing and keeping fingers down, the equivalent of cross rowing on a box I suppose) lends itself towards a legato sound. My aim is to learn to play with the range of bounciness on the box that I have learned to work with on the mandolin.

Thanks again for all the help! I am having so much fun!
Baron
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2015, 04:10:08 PM »

No, D and G finger quite diffirently. You have I chord both ways in D so can so drone effects. The A chord on right end is also a true V dominant. But you can keep it as a triad if you are playing D myxolydian on the pull G-row.

Having your vi minor as push (Bm against B bass) also feels very different from the easier Em for G.

Once you have some tunes fluid try them deliberately on the other row. They sound, and feel different, you'll find some things just don't work - this is an instrument of compromise!

Playing outside the main row keys is perhaps more a party trick than a practicality on melodeon as you tend to be fighting the left end chords for direction. It's possible on a multi row, and often a mostly pull scale if that's X/Y/accidentals. The line of notes can be in strange places, but learning eg E or F# blues scale can be a useful source of "bits of arrangement" if that is your style.

http://chrisryall.net/chords/ is designed to help you find chords (you say to have some background) and scales, and defaults to DG

[edit] "melody only" may be a false path? It's generally easier to fit melody to chords than try to reverse arrange to what is a fairly restricted left end. If you are in home keys, or their modes (eg A or E dorian) the two hang together naturally. "go with the instrument"  ;) Great progress!
« Last Edit: February 09, 2015, 04:14:43 PM by Chris Ryall »
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Baron Collins-Hill

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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2015, 04:10:32 PM »


That said, I think you'd get a smoother effect if your treble cabinet moved less every time you changed bellows direction. You might consider working on how you operate the bellows to improve this aspect.

Yes! I've noticed that my treble cabinet is moving a fair bit, and I don't quite know how to fix that. I want to keep the box off my lap so that I can eventually add in foot percussion. I added an across-the-back strap to further secure the instrument and make playing more comfortable for me, but there is still a fair amount of wobble going on. Any suggestions on this front would be greatly appreciated!

Also, I agree with your re-pressing the button thoughts. My current plan is to learn the technique, and then use it when it suits my personal tastes. One nice aspect of re-pressing the button is removing the ever-so-slight moment of what I can only think to describe as "blunch" (though there might be a real word for this), which is the brief moment of the reed change that can be a little sloppy, more so on the lower end of the box and in the left hand.

Thanks,
Baron
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Re: Baron's Melodeon Progress Thread
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2015, 04:28:50 PM »

Yes! I've noticed that my treble cabinet is moving a fair bit, and I don't quite know how to fix that. I want to keep the box off my lap so that I can eventually add in foot percussion. I added an across-the-back strap to further secure the instrument and make playing more comfortable for me, but there is still a fair amount of wobble going on. Any suggestions on this front would be greatly appreciated!

Here's a clip of Sabin Jacques using the technique he taught me - moving your bass hand forward to give the bellows a concave curve. This allows you to exert pressure in a line running diagonally through the bellows, from your left hand straight through to your right thumb (in Sabin's case, right hand to left thumb). This will really help you to keep the whole thing stable.

I picked this video because unlike me but like you he holds the box off his knee.
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