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Author Topic: New to the melodeon, looking for some input  (Read 3244 times)

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Ribs

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New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« on: February 15, 2018, 02:41:36 PM »

Hello all! Firstly, I apologize if this is the incorrect place to post this. I'm new to this forum as well, and this is my first post.

I've recently acquired a melodeon, a German-made Hohner Pokerwork in G/C. I got it from a cousin who dug it out of his grandfather's attic and then stored it in his garage for years (don't have a panic attack just yet! lol). I have no idea how old it is, but it's in remarkably good condition, all things considered. It's scratched and dinged here and there, but the bellows don't leak and it's still well-tuned. I messed around with a keyboard accordion for a short time, and having researched proper accordion care back then, I new I had to rescue this thing from the neglect that so many old accordions and melodeons end up suffering. Upon getting it home and sitting down to play, one thing became quickly apparent: the melodeon is an entirely different animal than the keyboard accordion. So that led me here, with a couple of questions that I'm hoping you guys can help me with.

The first question is this... This melodeon is not set up with hardware for shoulder straps, but rather has a leather thumb strap. Being that I'm brand new to this and can hardly even stumble my way through a tune yet, is it advisable to learn with the thumb strap and get shoulder straps later, or would I be better off to get shoulder straps before even attempting to learn?

Secondly, do you have any tips or suggestions that will help me in my attempt at the melodeon? Are there any common mistakes or habits that I should avoid?

Thanks in advance.
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GPS

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 03:39:54 PM »

Hi, and welcome.  Nothing like starting your melnet career with a can of worms!  Opinions are firmly divided about thumbstraps; personally I never ever use one, and when I get another (not a "new" - gave up buying new years ago!) box the first job is to remove and throw away any thumbstrap. On the other hand, many melnetters swear by them.  The only really practical advice is to try it and see whether you find it suits you.

With regard to shoulder straps, I think you'll find the vast majority of us use them, so I think the sensible advice is to fit strap brackets. Then, of course, you'll find yourself caught up in the "one strap or two" discussion! Fortunately, discussions on here are always friendly, good-natured and positive, so you'll receive lots (and I mean lots) of helpful advice, which you'll find you have to sift through with reference to your personal experience as you progress.  For myself, I'm a no-thumbstrap one-shoulder-strapper.....

Common habits to avoid - I'll let someone else expand on those!

Enjoy your new box.

Cheers
Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

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Jesse Smith

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 04:08:35 PM »

Welcome! I am new to the melodeon as well (about three months and change now). There have been past threads on "bad habits" that you could search for, but it's always interesting to hear fresh ideas IMO.

As a folk instrument there aren't hard and fast rules as there might be in classical pedagogy. I think the beat advice is to try different things and decide for yourself what works best, understanding that this can change over time as you become more experienced or play different styles of music.

As for the thumb strap, I think most people use a shoulder strap (or two), especially for a new row box. But I would probably say playing the box as it is while you're waiting to get strap hardware installed is preferable to waiting!
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Stockaryd

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2018, 04:15:50 PM »

Lester show that you can do what feels best for you   :) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj1CtZ022rU

Thumbstraps. ?  ?   

I keep mine on -   use them sometimes, -   but mostly right shoulderstrap.    Play songs you like is my first rule.
I keep my melodeon in the TV sofa, -  so I always have to lift it to sit down on my favorite spot.  And then I play . . . . .

And Welcome !   
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 04:33:37 PM by Stockaryd »
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Fred

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2018, 06:17:32 PM »

As already pointed out by others, it's personal preference if you should keep and use a thumbstrap, but.....
Remove the thumbstrap, install a good pair of shoulder straps and have fun playing the melodeon!  ;)

How to start out?
-> Go to "Lester's tune-a-day" (http://lesters-tune-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/) and listen to the songs. Pick a few that you find interesting and start playing by ear or with ABC notation below the videos! :)
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GPS

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2018, 07:29:31 PM »

Lester show that you can do what feels best for you   :) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj1CtZ022rU


Ah, but can he do it standing up??  :D  Actually that video prompts me to point out that there is also some (friendly) divergence of opinion as to where to rest the instrument when playing sitting down.  Lester, as you can see, sits it well outside his body frame on his left thigh.  You can probably see from my avatar that I sit mine well within my body frame on my slightly raised right thigh. Others wear their boxes high up on their chests.  Some tip their boxes well forward while playing, others keep them upright. Once again, there's no right & wrong answer - you find a position that you find comfortable. What IS important, I think we will (nearly!) all agree, is that whatever position you settle on, the treble (melody) end should be as stable as possible.
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

Squeezing in the Cyprus sunshine

boxcall

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2018, 08:59:14 PM »

Lester show that you can do what feels best for you   :) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj1CtZ022rU

What IS important, I think we will (nearly!) all agree, is that whatever position you settle on, the treble (melody) end should be as stable as possible.
I would agree, but if your these guys playing one of these maybe not.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Baq9mb6D0q4

Welcome to the forum!

Edit to add: this is only doable with a thumb strap.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 09:01:03 PM by boxcall »
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Steve C.

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2018, 01:21:34 PM »

Straps and strap brackets easy to obtain.  Not expensive.  99 and 44/100's % players use them (sometimes).
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-Y-

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2018, 02:09:36 PM »

One of my advices to start would be, if you can, and if there are sufficient players in your area, to follow a few lessons. Melodeon is an instrument that is well-adapted to self-tuition, but a few lessons (or by having a lesson now and then) will stop you from developing unwanted habits, especially in the way you handle the instrument. And then you could go on with acquiring repertoire over time and strengthen your technique.
By experience, getting rid of bad habits is real pain, and if you can avoid these, then all the better !

Welcome in the accordion world, and good luck!
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Y.

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Anne Croucher

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2018, 04:29:37 PM »

I find the buttons where I expect them to be when I have as much help as possible keeping the box in position.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2018, 05:11:24 PM »

Hi Ribs, welcome aboard!
My original instrument was a concertina, held by thumb straps.
Having a melodeon held by two shoulder straps was a revelation as it means I can sit, stand, walk around or play in a Morris prossional with the weight of the instrument supported by my body. Great!
Whatever you decide, I'd recommend trying to keep your elbows, wrists and fingers as straight as possible, or more correctly, no acute bends or angles. Not rigidly straight, just ...not overly bent!
It just saves wear and tear on tendons in the long run.
Good luck!
Q
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Ribs

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2018, 09:09:24 PM »

Wow, thanks for all the advice! I didn't realize that I was going to start such a debate just over straps haha. From what I can gather, it seems to really be a matter of personal preference rather than one or the other being "better". That's definitely good news, because that means I don't have to wait to start playing. Oh, and in case anyone is interested, I have found a temporary solution to that particular issue. I played with the thumb strap for a while, but I found it to be extremely uncomfortable and pretty limiting as far as mobility. The solution that I came up with was to take a strip of strong, soft fabric and loop it through the thumb strap to make a wrist strap. It made a world of difference! After a day and ahalf of on-and-off practice, I'm already stumbling my way through a couple recognizable tunes.

I'm also getting the impression that the melodeon lends itself well to self-teaching and playing by ear. That's also really reassuring, as that's how I've learned to play every other instrument that I play. Unfortunately, the area I live in seems to be completely devoid of any sort of melodeon/accordion culture, so it looks like I'll be more or less on my own. I know that this should probably go in a separate area of the forum, but rather than start a whole new thread, if anyone could recommend a good set of beginner tutorials, it would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone. I'll be perusing the forums in an attempt to get better acquainted with things.
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Jesse Smith

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2018, 09:28:16 PM »

What kind of music are you interested in playing? For French music, there are tutorials for the G/C accordion by Milleret and Pignol that are highly recommended. For English music Dave Mallinson has a book that a lot of people have started with and George Garside (of this forum) also has a tutor book. Both of those are for the D/G melodeon but if you pretend your G/C is a D/G and play with the same fingerings it will come out fine, just in a lower key.
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Lyra

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2018, 06:34:38 AM »

There are other GC tutor books that take a less technical approach, depending on what you want to achieve. Not that M+P aren't fab, just possibly not everyones tasse de thé
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2018, 08:37:12 AM »

In DG land, Ed Rennie also has a book and accompanying cd available.
There are several learning videos and slowly played tunes to show you around the keyboard, made by members on here.
There are also people offering Skype lessons, and simply coming back here and asking questions is a good option, so there is a lot of help available at different levels.

Have you any thoughts on the direction you'd like to take in your music?
I.e. What do you like listening to?
A hint as to a general music direction will help us to guide you along the path.
Cheers
Q
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

baz parkes

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2018, 12:39:40 PM »

What kind of music are you interested in playing? For French music, there are tutorials for the G/C accordion by Milleret and Pignol that are highly recommended. For English music Dave Mallinson has a book that a lot of people have started with and George Garside (of this forum) also has a tutor book. Both of those are for the D/G melodeon but if you pretend your G/C is a D/G and play with the same fingerings it will come out fine, just in a lower key.

Ed Rennie's book is also highly recommended...
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2018, 01:55:04 PM »

Both of those are for the D/G melodeon but if you pretend your G/C is a D/G and play with the same fingerings it will come out fine, just in a lower key.

That's true in theory, but not quite what happens in practice, though. DG players play mostly in the lower octave. GC players play mostly in the upper. 
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Greg Smith
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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2018, 02:32:09 PM »

That's true in theory, but not quite what happens in practice, though. DG players play mostly in the lower octave. GC players play mostly in the upper.
I think it's more to do with the environment and the fact that boxes of certain keys are more abundant in places with appropriate music.
I've been playing a GC box and I mostly use the lower octave due to my tune preferences.

It's true that if I could choose now, I'd go for a 4th button start DG box, but if the choice of box is out of our hands, as in the case of Ribs, then they should go for the style that pleases them most or whatever tutorial they find most enlightening, even if it's not how their box is usually played.
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Jesse Smith

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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2018, 04:45:39 PM »

That's true in theory, but not quite what happens in practice, though. DG players play mostly in the lower octave. GC players play mostly in the upper.

Yes, I agree, but for the sake of working with instructional material that was written for the D/G, a G/C player can learn the tunes using the same fingering and it will sound fine.
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Re: New to the melodeon, looking for some input
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2018, 08:23:20 PM »

That's true in theory, but not quite what happens in practice, though. DG players play mostly in the lower octave. GC players play mostly in the upper.

Yes, I agree, but for the sake of working with instructional material that was written for the D/G, a G/C player can learn the tunes using the same fingering and it will sound fine.

True for some tunes, but a lot of tunes in the upper octave of a D/G head off into dogs-and-dolphins territory, and to be honest the very top end of a D/G can (not "always does" but "can") sound pretty uncomfortable on the ear. Then when you come to play the same tunes in the lower octave it becomes a bit of a pain in the proverbial to relearn the fingering.  There are, it is true, some tunes that sound perfectly OK in either register - for instance I play "The Battle Of The Somme" in both octaves (not simultaneously!) in G on a D/G and it works well, and was worth the effort of learning it in both octaves. 

Graham
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Among others, Saltarelle Pastourelle II D/G; Hohner 4-stop 1-rows in C & G; assorted Hohners; 3-voice German (?) G/C of uncertain parentage; lovely little Hlavacek 1-row Heligonka; B♭/E♭ Koch. Newly acquired G/C Hohner Viktoria. Also Fender Jazz bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Epiphone Sheraton, Charvel-Jackson 00-style acoustic guitar and other stuff..........

Squeezing in the Cyprus sunshine
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