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Author Topic: Sea shanties and forebitters  (Read 1213 times)

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Chris Rayner

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Sea shanties and forebitters
« on: August 17, 2017, 01:34:06 PM »

Hullo all.  Not sure if this is the right place for this, mods please redirect as appropriate.

First of all, let me introduce myself.  I am an aged retired doctor who has played various instruments, mostly in the folk tradition, on and off for over fifty years.  Mostly guitar, also 5 string banjo, ukulele, mandolin, flute, (I gave my flute to Oxfam recently in the hope that someone else will get better value out of it) and mouthorgan.  Work, life, my own indifferent talent, children and grandchildren have seen to it that I remain at the lower end of competence in playing these things.  I am also a keen sailor, and in 2001 I decided to try the melodeon as a reasonably straightforward compact and robust instrument for shipboard entertainment (of myself although possibly, even probably, not others).

I embarked on this with great optimism and a copy of the venerable Roger Watson Handbook for Melodeon.  I started with a Castagnari Lily (I think) but finding the lack of accidentals tiresome I traded it in for a Mengascini 2 1/2 row.  Both in D/G.  I made some progress, but I found the concentration of most tutorials and books on Morris and country dancing to be of little interest to me.  Bells and hankies are all very well, but the deck of a small sailing boat is no place for them; and you can barely stand in the cabin.  I carried on, but soon came to the conclusion that I was struggling to make headway alone and the instrument found its way back into its case where it remained for some years.

A couple of months ago one of my grandchildren asked me about it, so I got it out and tried to play it.  Sadly my rudimentary skills had more or less disappeared over the years.  Rather dismayed by this I debated with myself whether I should dispose of it.  But after a couple of days noodling about on it I felt all was not lost.  I have bought a copy of George Garside's excellent volume, thank you George, and have just today managed to play Harvest Home through more or less to my begrudged satisfaction.  Huzzah!

Now I have managed to work out a number of tunes by ear, including the Sailor's Hornpipe, Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend (thanks to the half row accidentals) and I'm struggling still with the Trumpet Hornpipe and the Trade Winds Hornpipe (Left hand down a bit number one).  I am now casting my eyes covetously in the direction of another instrument, not in order to hasten my development as a musician, I'm more than realistic about that, but in order to play shanties and forebitters.  I'm also struck by the charms of French musique d'accordeon, which I would like to give a go.  I'm wondering if acquisition of a C/F or G/C box with accidentals might be an advantage.  possibly with 12 or 18 basses.

I'd appreciate the wisdom of the inmates here.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Mengascini 21+ 5 262 D/G, recently joined by a rather breathless G/C pokerwork and a G/C Benny.

John MacKenzie (Cugiok)

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2017, 02:28:23 PM »

If you opt for G/C, then the French tradition is open to you, and I don't know about most folks, but they are also easier keys to sing with. There are excellent tutors available in French music, and in melodeon playing, available. I recommend Milleret Pignol, which is available in French and English, and you can down load sound files to go with them.



Sir John
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Roger Howard

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2017, 04:04:20 PM »

And music for sea shanties etc is readily available for GC instruments, especially from French sources. if listen to a group such as Taillevent (from Sarzeau), you'll get a feel for the possibilities.

GC is a great tuning! (Other tunings are available. Terms and condiitions apply - etc, etc.)

 :||:

Roger
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Jeremy Burnett

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2017, 05:00:45 PM »

Also being a keen sailor I usually take my C/F Pokerwork on board.I find it good for singing.
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Nick Collis Bird

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2017, 05:04:41 PM »

Also being a keen sailor I usually take my C/F Pokerwork on board.I find it good for singing.

And rust, I've been there  >:E
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Phil Howard

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2017, 05:36:33 PM »

Bells and hankies are all very well, but the deck of a small sailing boat is no place for them; and you can barely stand in the cabin.
...
I'd appreciate the wisdom of the inmates here.

I think it was Uffa Fox that said "if you want to stand up, go on deck" or words to that effect - anything with a cabin seems likely to have space for a one man jig in the cockpit (musician on the cabin roof, or in the companionway?)! I digress...

While D/G is fairly de-rigeur for Morris and, erm, sessions played mostly in/close to D and G, other keys open other possibilities and if you like the sound of them I'd say go for it - but it may "pay" to try to stay focused, I know my playing suffers from my tendency to spread myself too thin and trying to do many things slows progress in learning, so I don't do any of them as well as I'd like to (yet!).

Glancing in Hugill, a wide array of keys seem to be used, so without "one of everything" or something chromatic you're likely to find yourself transposing tunes to suit anyway.
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Walleye

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2017, 06:45:57 PM »

Greetings Doc and welcome!
I'm a semi-retired GP from across the pond and have found the forum a wonderful source of information and help.

Have you found:

http://www.shanty.org.uk/archive_songs/a-d.html

http://www.contemplator.com/sea/

http://theseashanty.net/The_Sea_Shanty_Shanty_Lyrics_and_Sheet_Music.html

http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/sea-shanty/0sea-shanty.htm


A few just for starters...


Maybe consider an Anglo concertina as well.

Walleye

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Chris Rayner

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2017, 08:14:30 PM »


I think it was Uffa Fox that said "if you want to stand up, go on deck" or words to that effect -

I think Uffa Fox was paraphrasing E. F. Knight in Falcon on the Baltic. ( http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/falcon.htm)
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Mengascini 21+ 5 262 D/G, recently joined by a rather breathless G/C pokerwork and a G/C Benny.

Phil Howard

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2017, 08:35:07 PM »

Who of course put it more eloquently:-)
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2017, 11:59:08 AM »

Thanks to all who replied.  Most helpful.  I am making progress with my D/G melodeon, so will persevere with that.  This Friday I dropped by Hobgoblin in Birmingham where they had a C/G Sherwood in stock.  I had a go.  I was sore tempted, lovely deep sound with a thirds out stop and LMM with a stop to take out the low reed.  However, having become accustomed to the availability of a half row of accidentals and reversals I think I'll hang on until a) I'm surer of what I would like in that connection, and b) I've developed my skills to a better level.

I also bought a book of music with contemporary French and British compositions.  I think I may be a hopeless case.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Mengascini 21+ 5 262 D/G, recently joined by a rather breathless G/C pokerwork and a G/C Benny.

lachenal74693

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2017, 05:30:48 PM »

...anything with a cabin seems likely to have space for a one man jig in the cockpit...
Ahem, I presume from the above that you've never seen the (small) 'cockpit' on one of Luke Powell's beautiful
replicas of Scillonian pilot cutters...

Being serious, I see some-one has already suggested that you try a 'tina. I'm biassed because I'm primarily
a 'tina player, but they do have the advantage of being even smaller and more portable than a melodeon (I do
covet a small German 'Sports' melodeon owned  by an acquaintance which is just the right size for taking on
a boat - maybe it's time I beaned him and ran off with it).

I'm taking a miniature C/G with me on my next trip, but a standard size instrument is more than practical.

If you're looking for audible inspiration, I recommend the recordings of Bob Roberts, one of the last of the sailing
barge skippers. Type 'bob roberts melodeon' into YouTube and you will get a few recordings. He's featured on
13/24 tracks on the compilation LP 'Sea Songs and Shanties' which has been around since Noah built the Ark. It's
a SayDisc recording, I don't have the number I'm afraid.

Roger
« Last Edit: August 21, 2017, 06:27:48 PM by lachenal74693 »
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Roger Hare
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Matthew B

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2017, 11:58:38 PM »

I'll second Chris's suggestion. Bob Roberts' music seems to be either in C or C#, possibly because he played a C/C# instrument?

You could either copy his choice of box, or find something with a C row and wing it. 

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Chris Rayner

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2017, 07:46:53 AM »

Thanks.  I'm having enough bother learning the melodeon without trying my limited capacity with the concertina.  I'll be 70 next year, and am conscious of the limits of my allotted span also.  I am tempted by the idea of a G/C Giordy for your actual seafaring.  Although not until I've got a bit better with my current instrument.

I remember Bob Roberts on telly, it must be over fifty years ago.  An admirable bloke he seemed then and now.  I don't possess any of his records, but there is one on my streaming service (Qobuz). It may be that his music prompted my interest in melodeons.  He has much to answer for.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Mengascini 21+ 5 262 D/G, recently joined by a rather breathless G/C pokerwork and a G/C Benny.

Jeremy Burnett

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2017, 11:18:50 AM »

I wouldnt worry too much about the"allotted span" bit. I had my 80th birthday party on one of Luke's cutters when the aforementiond C/F was in use, below and on deck. Re Bob Roberts who was a great singer. I never quite understand why people worry so much about which key to play in. Surely one of the delights of the melodeon is that once you know the fingering you can play it on any box. The thing is to find the key that suits your voice best.Jeremy.
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Anne Croucher

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2017, 01:18:21 PM »

I think that the instrument you are seeking is a fiddle - to be both traditional and practical.
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BJG

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2017, 05:22:01 PM »

Welcome aboard Chris.

When I go to a session I always do forebitters. Sometimes five.  :|glug :||:
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2017, 07:35:13 PM »

I think that the instrument you are seeking is a fiddle - to be both traditional and practical.

Never got on with a bow, I do play a mandolin though.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Mengascini 21+ 5 262 D/G, recently joined by a rather breathless G/C pokerwork and a G/C Benny.

playandteach

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2017, 09:38:37 PM »

The only thing about keys for French music is that I often play the highest notes on the instrument. This sounds fine on a GC, but can be squeaky on a 2 voice DG. I have a lovely 3 voice Castagnari Sander DG which makes them sound full and rich. Very glad I bought it from a chap on this thread. Hope you don't miss it too much.
I do find I need access to one accidental frequently, but no need for a 2 1/2 row for that.
You may have more variety of GC instruments on French websites.
If you read music, I'll happily send you some French pieces, or Arty will too, I'm sure.
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arty

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2017, 10:13:16 PM »

I have to confess, that I didn't know the difference between Sea Shanties and Forebitters. But I do now, because I found this really interesting thesis on the subject. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=csu1439294062&disposition=inline

Folk music is a wonderful way of learning about our Social History......who we are and where we come from really.


If you read music, I'll happily send you some French pieces, or Arty will too, I'm sure.

If I can help, I certainly will.
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rileycat

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Re: Sea shanties and forebitters
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2017, 11:01:43 PM »

May I also give honourable mention to John Roberts - mainly anglo concertina nautical music and song - and Bob Walser, who plays melodeon as well as anglo for his songs of the sea. CD's available from various sources.  Tony
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