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Author Topic: A  (Read 5617 times)

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Jack Campin

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A
« on: August 30, 2015, 11:45:15 PM »

I am a non-melodeon player, and this question has had me puzzled for a long time.

A large proportion of Scottish tunes are in A.  Often with only two sharps, which should mean a G/D melodeon ought to be capable of playing them.  Nonetheless, if I start one I will never get an English melodeon player following me, however universally familiar the tune.  I've given up trying; at places like Whitby this feels like playing with one hand tied behind my back, since so much of my repertoire comes from the pipes.

Is there a technical limitation behind this?

Is it true of all English G/D melodeons?

If not, how do I identify which ones (and their players) are capable of playing in the pipe scale, for A mixolydian or B minor?

Any chance you guys down there could wear badges to show which keys you can play in, or put appropriate stickers on your melodeons?
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Re: A
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2015, 12:35:07 AM »

You are right, Jack. With the exception of one or two tunes that seem to have been accepted as 'playable' by most D/G melodeonists, such as Atholl Highlanders in A major and Sportsman's Hornpipe in A minor Dorian, most English melodeon players seem reluctant to venture outside the keys of D, G and E minor. It is a shame because they are denying themselves access to many fine tunes, which they could play relatively easily, some without ever touching the accidental notes on their boxes.

In some cases, they transpose non-English tunes that are played in different keys in their 'home' countries into the keys that are easiest to play on the D/G melodeon, e.g. several popular French tunes that are played in A minor in that country are transposed into E minor by English melodeon players. Sessions would be more interesting, in my opinion, if more tunes were played outside the keys of D, G and E minor.

In theory, there is no technical reason why they can't play in different keys because most melodeons have accidentals on their keyboards, but they are not as easy to reach on two-row melodeons as the notes in the home keys, which is why melodeons tend to drive sessions towards playing most tunes in D, G and E minor
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Mike Hirst

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Re: A
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2015, 12:54:13 AM »

Speaking from a purely personal perspective, I take great pleasure in playing Scots and Northumbrian repertoire in A on my D One Row. By contrast I am more likely to play Kerry polkas in G on the same instrument. Kerry slides tend to be in D or A mixolydian. Southern English dance tunes an pub singalongs are mostly D.
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Ebor_fiddler

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Re: A
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 12:55:10 AM »

I think that the main reason why A is not popular with some people is that such tunes are often hard to play using the common LH Basses. They feel uncomfortable playing without, and so tell everyone that it is not possible to play these tunes on a D/G box.
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Re: A
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 01:12:12 AM »

I will confess that I find playing in A major on a D/G box awkward, mainly because I'm lazy and haven't really got familiar with the fingering patterns in that key. I suspect I'm not alone. I am aware that some players fly along with such tunes as Atholl Highlanders in A and I really should practice it. The other issue with A major is the G# if and when it occurs. On a two-row melodeon it's at the chin end of the D-row, which can be awkward to get to in a fast tune. Again it's just practice...

Playing in A minor (dorian) on a D/G box is easier than A major. It's pretty much like playing in E minor, except based largely on the G-row, not the D-row. I agree with Bob - 'Sportsman's Hornpipe' sounds much better in Am than Em.

B minor (dorian) on a D/G box is a wonderful key. It can involve some cross-row fingering patterns which are slightly unfamiliar at first, but not too hard to pick up. The rewards of playing tunes like 'If you will not have me...' in the proper key are definitely worthwhile. E minor is far too low-pitched and growly for that tune and it goes out of range.

Some people on the forum attended my 'passion and darkness' workshop at Witney last November, experiencing the joys of playing in Am and Bm.  8)
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Theo

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Re: A
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 08:15:54 AM »

I like playing in A on my DG, but then I'm happy playing a minimal left hand, whereas many DG players seem to want to have a constant oom-pah bass going on every tune.  You also have to learn a different fingering pattern which some never do.
Athole Highlanders is a good examle.  It can be played more fully on a DG box in A than it can in G.  If played in G it needs an F chord in the 4th part.  In A that becomes a G chord. And there are no G#s.  To my ear it sounds dead played in G, so why do DG players not learn it in A? It's a mystery.
It's not just box players either.  I remember a session in Suffolk where the one fiddle player had to go a long with the dominant key if G from the boxes. I felt sorry for him so I played something in A and he put down his fiddle! I was amazed.  I have sometimes attempted to play fiddle, and I always found G fingering more awkward than D or A.
It's what you are accustomed to I suppose.
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Chris Ryall

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A Major
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 09:14:05 AM »

Apologies to Jack - I'd picked up more on the follow ons and his OP was more about the sociology of melodeons in A. As above: basically it takes some work - whether that is in minor or major and you need to think about modal scales and practice a bit. Not all melodeonists have done that and a lot enjoy the safety of playing essentially 'in chord' against push G, D or pull Em oom-pah.

Playing in A means taking some risks, as a C# in a minor A tune, or Gnat in a major can be a shock. But it is as much about 'avoid' notes as anything else and as such a shame that more of us don't have a go.

I'd laboured (pre coffee ::)) out some 'tricks that helped me to play in A' but have moved these to a new thread as it wasn't really addressing Jack's point. I think the real answer is that … we are a bit scared of it.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 09:33:08 AM by Chris Ryall »
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Mike Carney

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Re: A
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2015, 09:34:40 AM »

Without forcing myself to go to the next workshop that offers playing in A, I think this thread has come up at a good time in my playing development, giving much to think about and work on. As one of those who got a lot out of the passion and darkness workshop with Steve Free_reeder last November, I am glad of the challenge to move out of my comfort zone. This may give us a lead-in to a Tune of the Month chosen from four A keyed tunes, or a simple recommendation for one or two tunes in A [that are not Atholl Highlanders].

Very interesting also to read Theo's comment about players who want to keep up the oompah on all tunes. I think this connects well with the points made on the Whitby thread about a room-full of melodeons and the effect that it has on tunes. On reflection this may be one of the several key stages of development in playing, when you realise that the guitars, bodhran and acoustic bass have got the rhythm covered and it doesn't help to have all boxes playing basses and you are able to savour the tune with just the melody side of the box.  I suspect it is because of the fiendish challenge of stringing it all together on the melodeon that once you have mastered playing a tune with both sides and the role that automatic or learned movements play in this it is hard to give that up and risk just playing the tune.
Mike  :||:
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OrchardAshley90

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Re: A
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2015, 09:40:58 AM »

You can solve this with just using an ADG box for the sake of an extra row you can play in the home keys of ADG. A minor on the G row
E minor on the D row
B minor on the A row
Even E in various modes comes quite easy

Plus ADG boxes usually comes with two octaves of F and the accidental on the d row you can change to get rid of the G# to a low C cause you already have G#s on the A row. Then the key of C is more available and even f with the Bb you have with the accidental on the D row. And you still have to octaves of Eb where you Fs are.

Fair enough you do have to mess around with getting notes changed but it's just the one....

Granted you will have trouble with standard left hand bass but most tunes in all those keys except F are all there just need to juggle with cross rowing and bellow directions will have it sounding great
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 09:43:08 AM by OrchardAshley90 »
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Chris Ryall

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Re: A
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 10:41:17 AM »

Oysterboy: yes, to play in D or G is to play 'in' chord and is stable. 'A' as a cross rows key offers instability (as per above)

OrchardAshley90: Of course an ADG solves all this but a 3rd row of accidentals/helpers takes you further for the same weight/outlay
                           However if you play only in folk key circles it could be a shrewd choice. Again offering intrinsically stable harmony :|glug
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Theo

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Re: A
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2015, 12:32:21 PM »

This may give us a lead-in to a Tune of the Month chosen from four A keyed tunes, or a simple recommendation for one or two tunes in A [that are not Atholl Highlanders].


A really good one to start with is The Britches Full of Stitches, It has no G# but gets you into the fingering pattern.  I also like Bill Malleys Schottisce in A, though it is a little more demanding.  Then just for getting the hang of it try any fairly simple tune that you know in G and play it in A. 
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Sebastian

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Re: A
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2015, 01:03:43 PM »

Is there a technical limitation behind this?
Yes. There is no dominant chord in the left hand.

This applies to tunes in A major. Don't know about mixolydian chord accompaniment, 'cause I don't do those.

baz parkes

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Re: A
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2015, 01:35:59 PM »

I have a 1 row in A gifted by Brian of this parish....is that cheating? >:E
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Mike Carney

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Re: A
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2015, 05:24:22 PM »

I have a 1 row in A gifted by Brian of this parish....is that cheating? >:E
Yes.
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Re: A
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2015, 05:37:22 PM »

Is there a technical limitation behind this?
Yes. There is no dominant chord in the left hand.

This applies to tunes in A major. Don't know about mixolydian chord accompaniment, 'cause I don't do those.

Should work - you would prominently need Emin and Gmaj chords, as well as some Dmaj and Bmin (which would have to be faked then) - IOW: it's simply a mode parallel to Dmaj... (:)
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Re: A
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2015, 06:12:20 PM »

getting the hang of playing in A is not difficult once you move away from the thumpy bumpy bass idea and  concentrate,as do semitone players, on the melody.  Alternatively treat the box as mainly melody instrument like a fiddle, whistle or whatever.

Its simply a question of learning the A scale starting on the 6th button on D row on standard DG 2 row.

A B C# D E F# something/nothing  A

There are  loads of tunes eg pipe marches that just don't require the ''something/nothing alias G#'' in which case a bit of faking is not requird

The simplest fake is to play either the note before or after the G sharp twice (lightly).  Otherwise just root about at random to find a quick note that sounds ok. If playing with eg guitar. piano, keyboard drum etc leave the 'dunt' to them and play ''nothing'' - keeping time with the foot gives the correct length of 'nothing'.

In playing in A ( intermediate) workshops I use the very well  known non A tune winster gallop as it saves teaching a new tune anad wasting half the workshop.  The A part is G#less so is quite intuitive- the B part is a bit of a bugger to begin with until a suitable 'fake' is found and so provides a very good learning experience

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Re: A
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2015, 08:30:21 PM »

once you move away from the thumpy bumpy bass idea and  concentrate,as do semitone players, on the melody.  Alternatively treat the box as mainly melody instrument like a fiddle, whistle or whatever.
Than I would better have chosen the recorder, not the melodeon.

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Re: A
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2015, 08:44:24 PM »

Is there a technical limitation behind this?
Yes. There is no dominant chord in the left hand.

This applies to tunes in A major.

Who needs chords? There's an E bass, and if you have no LH thirds, or a switch to cut LH thirds, you can use the bare fifth as an E chord as good as any chord you're going to get without thirds.

I have no trouble with playing in A/Amix on a D/G melodeon because many years ago I used to have a B/C/C# box and playing in G on that is mostly the same pattern as playing in A on the D row, so my fingers are already trained in the patterns. It's not quite the same because you need the pull A on the G row to get the basses right, and there isn't a high G sharp, but for many Scottish (pipe) tunes you don't need that anyway.
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Re: A
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2015, 08:53:19 PM »

Air control can also be an issue.  Both the A and the E chords are on the pull, so you can end up getting more and more extended until an all-too-brief opportunity to play a few notes on the push comes along.  This can be reduced with careful air button control but it needs thinking about.

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Re: A
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2015, 09:16:58 PM »

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