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Author Topic: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?  (Read 2371 times)

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Eshed

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Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« on: January 26, 2018, 03:02:00 AM »

Short version: I'm having issues playing and I don't have a good box. It is not exactly possible for me to get a good box at the moment. Should I try to power through difficulties? Should I try and work with what works better?

Long Version (feel free to skim):
When deciding on a melodeon to buy as my first box I've made an ok-ish decision of buying a cheap-but-new one. It's most probably the same make of wood Scarlatti (Similar to the one in this thread) but a different brand.

While I've fixed some glaring issues (replaced gasket, pinged some reeds, bent the air-valve rod), some are above my pay grade and some are not worth the risk when I don't have a fallback box.
What's worse is that while some issues (e.g., tuning) I know objectively to exist in the box, other difficulties I encounter while playing (the ability to sound fast notes clearly) can well be attributed to my lack of experience. For instance, after replacing the gasket, my bellows control improved considerably, but obviously as a fumbling player it may be safe to assume I'm responsible for many of the faults. As the saying goes, the cacophony of a new player and a mediocre box is greater than the sum of its parts.

Unfortunately, there is no melodeon scene around (believe me, I asked!), so I don't have any good box to compare to.
Furthermore, as my funds are limited, I wouldn't want to buy a good used box in the near future, even though it sounds like the best solution to my problem.

After this rather long exposition, I'd like your advice.
I'll use my inability to sound fast notes clearly when changing bellows direction as a case-study. Let's say I have three consecutive notes on the same button push-pull-push, and I try to play them staccato, lifting my finger a little bit between each note.
When doing this often the middle note, and I think sometimes the third note as well (maybe depending on the next note?) sound cut off (I'm not sure how to describe it in other words, English is not my native language).
I can usually fix it with deliberate bellows emphasis - maybe it's due to playing louder which improves the attack, but maybe it's more to do with better synchronisation of the bellows movement with the button press?
Now I'm faced with three options:
1) Try to play it quietly until it sounds good (or until I give up).
2) Practice louder and buy earplugs for my flatmates.
3) Play legato, it's not like I lack challenges at the moment.

My natural inclination is doing (1), but maybe I'm just trying to tackle too much at the same time?
Maybe even if it's a lot to do with the box (1) is still the way to go? As the saying goes: train hard, fight easy.

What would you recommend in this case? In general? Am I wasting my time worrying when I should be playing instead?

P.S. Recommending a better box is a legitimate answer, but it will make me a little bit sad  (:)
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jorden

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2018, 07:10:39 AM »

but maybe it's more to do with better synchronisation of the bellows movement with the button press?

I think so. From the video you posted in the ToTM, your box sounds fine to me. So practice a fast run of notes in isolation a few minutes a day for some time. And see if it improves or not.

Quote
Now I'm faced with three options:
1) Try to play it quietly until it sounds good (or until I give up).

This seems like a different question. Of course you should learn to play with different dynamics including playing quietly, but not for this reason. The aim of your musical practice is to improve your playing. The amount of repetition involved will surely make anyone else but you hate it. Pacification of neighbours, wives and flatmates is a different topic altogether!

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Tiposx

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2018, 07:39:07 AM »

In the video you look like you know how to play, (better than me anyway!) and the box looks and sounds like it is working efficiently.  It looks in the video that you aren't using the shoulder strap- if I do that the box wiggles too much for the faster stuff. It needs to be well anchored on my knee and held against the strap to work properly.
Regards and keep it up
Tiposx
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Theo

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2018, 08:55:04 AM »

There is a fourth option - practice the fast notes more slowly!   Obviously that means playing the whole tune more slowly.  All teachers recommend this.  Playing slowly means you can work on tiny details of timing and coordination between bellows changes and button presses that would be impossible when playing faster. That should help you get the best out of the box you have.  It will also help you develop a great technique so that when you do get your hands on a better box you will be flying.  You can hear a good number of more experienced players who have not done this sort of practice enough, and as a result their playing of fast passages is messy. 
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Eshed

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2018, 11:38:59 AM »

First of all, your responses make me very happy, as continuing to practice is something I can definitely do!

There is a fourth option - practice the fast notes more slowly!   Obviously that means playing the whole tune more slowly.
When you say playing fast notes more slowly, do you mean keeping the duration of notes the same but changing the bpm so they are more spread out, or should I scale everything the same?

Something that does bother me about playing slowly, is that once I cross some threshold, my ear stops perceiving it as a flowing tune and more as a sequence of notes (does that make sense?).

In the video you look like you know how to play
Remember that uploaded videos are curated. They represent how I play 1/20 of the time at best.
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Stiamh

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2018, 01:04:18 PM »

IMO two things are necessary for fast in-and-out passages: 1) a stable treble cabinet (on a 2-row without thumb strap) and 2) bellows control.

In your video of Weaver's March, I think 1) needs fixing. 2) seems good, but I wonder how supple your bellows are. I tried a couple of Chinese boxes a few years ago where the bellows were far too stiff to play at any kind of speed without injuring yourself somehow.

As for the flowing tune/sequence of notes issue, the method of systematically lifting the finger off the button between notes makes no sense to me. First because I. don't. want. my. music. always. to. have. gaps. in. between. all. the notes. (:) and second because I can detach/bounce (to my satisfaction anyway) by controlling the airflow with the bellows.

Having said all that, just keep at it. All these teething troubles will melt away as you get better and soon you'll wonder why they ever caused you a problem.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 01:07:14 PM by Stiamh »
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Steve C.

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2018, 01:17:19 PM »

אולי שמעת על הלהקה הזאת? קצת את הנושא!
"mames babagenush"
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2018, 01:32:24 PM »

First of all, your responses make me very happy, as continuing to practice is something I can definitely do!

There is a fourth option - practice the fast notes more slowly!   Obviously that means playing the whole tune more slowly.
When you say playing fast notes more slowly, do you mean keeping the duration of notes the same but changing the bpm so they are more spread out, or should I scale everything the same?

Something that does bother me about playing slowly, is that once I cross some threshold, my ear stops perceiving it as a flowing tune and more as a sequence of notes (does that make sense?)...

Try just playing just slowly enough to be able to form all the notes clearly. I find it most useful to change the bpm I am playing at. I get definite benefits from slow practice when I play at tempo.
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Steve C.

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2018, 03:42:45 PM »

Besides that my 5 years of Hebrew sucks, I was suggesting along the lines of Greg. 
The melodeon player they have (it's a contemporary Klezmer band) usually plays, to me, particularly slowly and cleanly.
Klezmer around here us (usually) PA so the diatonic is a treat.
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Tufty

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2018, 03:47:14 PM »

Like Theo said. At present I am working on some Kerry tunes, (Irish music is outside of my comfort zone) and the best method I have found is to play the whole tune slow enough to ensure all the notes are there. Next step is to gradually speed up to full dance speed. Slowing down the recordings and playing along with them also helps.
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Theo

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2018, 04:45:23 PM »

As others have clarified, What I was suggesting was the  slow down the whole time.  If when played slowly the tune sound unmusical then you need to work on phrasing, style etc until it does sound musical at that speed. as Steve says playing staccato all the time is never going to sound good.  It is good to be able to play staccato at will,  but choosing when to play staccato is part of playing the music rather than just playing the instrument.
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george garside

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2018, 05:02:39 PM »

as others have said take time to make a tune sound musical  i.e  sort out the dynamics (volume variation - on individual notes if necessary) and phrasing ( playing the gaps between notes) whilst keeping the speed down . Only increase speed when the aforementioned dynamics aand phrasing  are sorted and above all never play faster than you can.  Playing faster but not musicaly iis of no value as it will sound crappy!

george
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2018, 05:30:57 PM »

This is my current state, with some tempo failures, a terrible camera angle and other issues, but I think it's passable.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_KK79Gwvqo

I know this is a quote from the Tune of the Month thread, but, wanted to post here as I didn't realise you were were having this kind of struggle. It wasn't until your video submission that I felt like Weaver's March was a tune I would like to learn, and I particularly enjoyed the bass work you put into this performance.

My story for context: I've been playing for about a little under a year and a half (but don't have any flat mates to upset). After buying a 2nd, nicer box (Dino Baffetti Black Pearl 2) I loaned out my original one (Scarlatti Nero) to people to see if they'd like to play melodeons, and just recently got it back again and have had another play on it. The main thing I notice when playing it now is the weight of playing it, like wearing heavy shoes and walking around almost (although some of the boxes friends I know are playing, wow even this is still so much nicer than what they're playing, for sessions even) and how the melody side upper notes are not as keen to speak and especially struggled with tunes that crept up into the upper octaves of each row past the change over point. It was very physically confusing back when this was my primary box, especially as I was just starting out and having the instrument respond different ways on the lower notes versus the higher notes was a big stumbling block.

When I play the Nero now, without adjusting my technique, which is to say, playing it as I would play my BP2 when at home (so basically on the quiet end of playing) I found that some notes in faster, higher pitched runs almost don't sound at all. Slowing down and/or dropping out bass helped me get them to sound again without particularly adjusting technique, but this still suggests the issue is at least related to the instrument and my familiarity with it, rather than with specifically me. Playing a tune with similarly paced runs but using the lower pitched buttons didn't seem to present the same challenges at all, which I've tried recording and present here: Rakes of Mallow inside row vs Morpeth Rant outside row (a tune I still struggle with). Note though the high G in Rakes is almost absent, and that same effect meant I kept throwing myself off in the B music of Morpeth rant, so much that I repeated it and still wasn't happy with it - I don't particularly like either recordings but, I figured I'd present it anyway since it's a bit more of an honest look into where I'm at. I do realise now that Rakes doesn't actually include any fast push/pull/push sequences on the same button really, so, maybe this was all a bit of a poor comparison.

As to why I'm posting any of this. Well, does this sound, or does this description sound, anything like the problem's you're facing with your note runs?
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Eshed

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2018, 09:08:31 PM »

I'll reply in order.
Quote
A bunch of replies telling me to slow down
The message is quite clear! I'll do my best. With the few tunes that I'm learning, I did start slowly, although I may have sped up before it was time. I'll try to be more conservative about my tempo and see how it works!

As for the flowing tune/sequence of notes issue, the method of systematically lifting the finger off the button between notes makes no sense to me. First because I. don't. want. my. music. always. to. have. gaps. in. between. all. the notes. (:) and second because I can detach/bounce (to my satisfaction anyway) by controlling the airflow with the bellows.
Now I'm a simple person, once I understood that sometimes you do want to lift your finger, I tried it, and while it was harder to play, I liked how the tune sounded more lively. It seemed like something that I'd want to practice early, since it appeared to be a major factor in how a tune sounds which I'd like to decide myself rather than have the circumstances decide for me. I don't do it in all 4.5 tunes I can play, only in the 2.5 or so where it fits. Unfortunately I'm nowhere near being able to bounce (what does detach mean btw? (musically)) using only the bellows.

The melodeon player they have (it's a contemporary Klezmer band)...
I've searched youtube a bit and while they do sound quite nice, all I saw was a PA?

Only increase speed when the aforementioned dynamics and phrasing are sorted
My issue is that at the moment speed and dynamics feel intertwined and my attempts to work on them separately weren't successful. Not to mention that dynamics in general is something of a mystery to me.

I know this is a quote from the Tune of the Month thread, but, wanted to post here as I didn't realise you were having this kind of struggle. It wasn't until your video submission that I felt like Weaver's March was a tune I would like to learn, and I particularly enjoyed the bass work you put into this performance.
Thanks! I do spend a lot of time on figuring out Bass (:) (according to some really interesting discussions here, this may be because I've been playing the guitar for quite a while!?)

My story for context... As to why I'm posting any of this. Well, does this sound, or does this description sound, anything like the problem's you're facing with your note runs?
Yes, it does sound similar! Thank you so much for taking the time to record this  :|||:
While your struggle is audible at times, you sound so lovely, which means that even if the box doesn't make it easier, I do have hope!
In a more practical level, how did you deal with the different response on notes?
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george garside

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2018, 09:16:48 PM »

Gena,your playing sounds pretty good to me for someone with only 18 months experience.  As to morpath rant  , whilst I  normally prefer to play 'on the row' on a DG  box morpeth rant  is  a bugger to play on the row at  speed   but is fine using both rows

It is only to be expected that the more expensive box will respond better    and sound better - but - the relative ease of playing compared with the Scarlatti  can result in too much speed  and less precision  making it even more important to build up speed for a fast tune like morpeth rant  in  stages.

george
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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2018, 09:24:12 PM »

Eshed, 'dynamics'   means varying the volume  ... push/pull  harder =louder.  push /pull less hard = quieter.  With practice the volume can be  changed for just a single note  or for several notes  (bars or phrases) or gradually  increased or decreased whilst playing a series of notes .
(crescendo or diminuendo in classical speak)

It all about fine/delicate bellows control rather than using them as a bloody great air pump!

george
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Stiamh

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2018, 09:30:16 PM »

Perhaps "detach" isn't the right word - if not, I apologise. My English is contaminated by French, where playing détaché means separating the notes, not tying them together (which is what the Italian legato means).

Eshed

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2018, 09:36:43 PM »

It all about fine/delicate bellows control rather than using them as a bloody great air pump!
What? I can't hear you over the melodeon!  :||:

Seriously though, I've figured the fact that I control the volume with my left hand, but at the moment it is hard enough to make the notes have similar volume, that varying the volume sounds like pure science fiction.
Since we're already there, what exactly do you mean when you say "phrasing"?

Perhaps "detach" isn't the right word - if not, I apologise. My English is contaminated by French, where playing détaché means separating the notes, not tying them together (which is what the Italian legato means).
Ah, this makes perfect sense, thanks! Also, don't worry about English, with all the native speakers in this forum it is easy to forget that the actual official language of the internet is Broken English (where I'm surprisingly fluent).
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I'm slowly improving.
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george garside

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2018, 09:52:15 PM »

Eshed. " phrasing '' is effectively breaking a tune up into chunks or another way to think of it is as being like punctuation is for the spoken or writtenword.  Pauses for full stops, commas, etc  make the spoken word much more effective than  just 'gabbling' non stop until you run out of breath!  Similarly music needs  dividing into  chunks to give it emphasis just like sentences in the spoken word.

As far as I am aware there are no hard and fast rules on phrasing  i.e where to put in the gaps or how long they should be (but obviously thet are very short)  For starters if working from written music you could try a little gap  every two bars just to get the hang of it.  With most tunes  it is quite easy  to experiment  to decide where a phrase should end and another start, the key being that it sounds natural. If it sounds wrong it probably is.

george
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Eshed

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Re: Is it me or the box and what if it doesn't matter?
« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2018, 09:56:59 PM »

Thanks George, That's a very good explanation!
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I'm slowly improving.
If I've posted a video and you have advice that could help me improve faster, don't keep it to yourself! That's what replies and PMs are for :)
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