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Author Topic: Getting to the next level of (in)competence  (Read 9356 times)

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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #40 on: August 23, 2018, 09:26:53 AM »

right hand playing is fine for session playing  so just get on with it and enjoy!         If you are in or around the beer tent at 12.00  I will have just finished my morning workshops  and would enjoy a pint!

george
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boxer

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #41 on: August 26, 2018, 04:21:39 PM »

in answer to the original question, three light-bulb moments transformed my playing on the semitone keyboard:

1.  I stopped trying to use the left hand buttons (two days after starting on B/C)

2.  I stopped using my right hand little finger to press keys (six months after starting)

3.  I realised that playing a semitone keyboard is pretty much like playing a one-string fiddle (about one year in)

I never had a light-bulb moment when I played D/G
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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #42 on: August 27, 2018, 07:23:43 PM »

in answer to the original question, three light-bulb moments transformed my playing on the semitone keyboard:

1.  I stopped trying to use the left hand buttons (two days after starting on B/C)

2.  I stopped using my right hand little finger to press keys (six months after starting)

3.  I realised that playing a semitone keyboard is pretty much like playing a one-string fiddle (about one year in)

I never had a light-bulb moment when I played D/G

I would, by and large ,agree with (1)  but would not recommend rigidly sticking to (2)  as sometimes the little finger can be quite handy.  It all depends on the particular bit of a particular tune. Sometimes just 2 fingers will do the job fine, in other  situations 3 is better and  there can be occasions where the pinky comes in handy!  Even in the same tune  2,3 or 4 fingers can be beneficial.  so do what  suits you best for now but don't entirely rule out other methods of fingering.


for what its worth for 'harvest home'  played at a fair lick I use 4 fingers for the first part i.e  up to the fast run down but only use  3 to get the  required speed and precision for the run down.  But then I am far from being expert in the playing of ITM.

george
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boxer

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #43 on: August 27, 2018, 08:57:08 PM »

on my right hand, the fourth finger can't strike the keys with the same crispness and precision as the other three.  Perhaps it's because I'm left-handed, although I've always found that playing the box right-handed feels quite a natural as playing my stringed instruments left-handed does. 

I wish the fourth finger was up to the job, but it's not, and deploying it occasionally means deciding in an instant, as the tune proceeds, whether it will be able to do the job on a particular note, or not.  I find it easier to take out the unknown and just use three fingers all the time.  Others produce sickeningly magnificent results with their little fingers, I can't.
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Little Eggy

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #44 on: August 28, 2018, 04:29:57 PM »

I've been playing about two years and have about 50 tunes I can play reasonably well when I'm at home, fingers loose, feeling relaxed.  I need to get more polished in my performance as I tend to get bored with tunes I've just learned.  There's a pattern which goes 1. Oo that's a nice tune!      2. Spend time learning tune     3. Think I've got it       4. Try it at folk club     5.. Doesn't go too well      6.  Oo that's another nice new tune       7. Spend time learning new tune....etc etc
Don't think I've had a breakthrough moment, but one recent specific thing that has helped is trying really hard to hit each note snappily a la Ed Rennie, rather than letting the in/out of the bellows make the notes.  Ed calls it 'finger hammering'.
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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #45 on: August 28, 2018, 04:56:41 PM »

John Kirkpatrick also teaches this. In his workshops he suggests practicing in an exaggerated staccato way to form the habit of getting each note to stand out, rather than all blur together into sound porridge. After a while even your normal playing changes.
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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #46 on: August 28, 2018, 06:20:18 PM »

...Don't think I've had a breakthrough moment, but one recent specific thing that has helped is trying really hard to hit each note snappily a la Ed Rennie, rather than letting the in/out of the bellows make the notes.  Ed calls it 'finger hammering'.

While realising that using the bellows to generate slurred notes and chords is a really useful technique , in its own right (:)
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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #47 on: August 28, 2018, 07:51:56 PM »

its worth keeping in mind that the buttons ( treble and bass) are simply 'on/off' switches and the operation thereof does not in any way control the volume which is the preserve of the bellows, which contrary to the way some play is not just a bloody great air pump!.  The bellows are the very soul of a box  and practiced use of will enable  anything from a whisper to a shout to be produced  as required including increasing or decreasing volume on a single note wtc etc.

As to playing crisply or staccato  it is simply a matter of getting some space between the button and the finger on every note. The amount of 'staccatoness'  can easily be regulated by the distance the fingers are lifted off the buttons between stikes.   I advocate this as the sort of default method of playing as it requires some practice. Playing legato - running notes more or less into each other  doesn't seem to need anything like as much practice and comes more or.less naturally players

Obviously in the real world of tune playing  both staccato and legato  will be used in combination with emphasis on dynamics and phrasing.  i.e. controlling and varying volume by fine bellwos control  and breaking a tune into 'chunks' or 'phrases' in much the same way as an orator takes full advantage of full punctuation for the spoken word.
  george
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Julian S

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #48 on: August 28, 2018, 08:05:28 PM »

I definitely agree with George. Something I've learned over the years is the importance of adapting ones technique to the tune. 'Lumpy', bouncy, snappy, staccato -and also smoothing out the tune by cross-rowing - all important for me particularly as I love European music as well as English, slow airs as well as fast dance.
And staccato practicing - good advice from JK I think. Whilst I have never been to one of his workshops, I reckon I learnt a lot just from playing alongside him in my Border Morris dance years. Just wish I'd got a tenth of his talent !

J
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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #49 on: August 28, 2018, 09:17:35 PM »

at risk of putting the cat amongst the pidgeons  tunes can be 'smoothed' whilst playing entirely 'on the row'  or  ' bounced'  when playing across the rows.  Whether to play on the row or across the row for 'treble ' or 'melody ' led tunes, be they haunting slow airs  or  bouncy jigs and reels is simply down to personal choice whereas on  'bass' led tunes cross rowing is essential to get something like reasonable harmony between  both ends of the box



george
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Anahata

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #50 on: August 28, 2018, 11:12:13 PM »

tunes can be 'smoothed' whilst playing entirely 'on the row'  or  ' bounced'  when playing across the rows. 

Yes! Learning to do both of those 'against the grain' actions as well as possible is a valuable exercise in playing technique and musicality.

(rather like the way my cello teacher recommended trying to play something with the bowing back to front, because one day you'll meet a piece that needs you to be able to do that)
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Julian S

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #51 on: August 29, 2018, 06:58:32 AM »

Yes George - didn't mean to imply that cross rowing is the only way of smoothing out melody. Every day I realise that learning a tune is a long way from learning how to play it well...and that there is never a finished article, just an ongoing work in progress...And to think that when I first picked up a box all those years ago I thought it was a case of picking up a melody and shoving a few basses in ! ::)

J

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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #52 on: August 29, 2018, 10:39:56 AM »

s never a finished article, just an ongoing work in progress...And to think that when I first picked up a box all those years ago I thought it was a case of picking up a melody and shoving a few basses in ! ::)

J

Hi Julian, hope the finger is improving!.  What you say about when you first picked up the box is indeed true of  perhaps the majority of  ''players''.  I certainly started that way   and it was a long time before the penny dropped and it was in a session when I had played one of my 'sunday best' tunes. Sat next to me was a very well known 'professional' player  who whispered in my ear  '' you weren't phrasing that tune george''.   I said something on the lines of 'Oh right'   and spent the rest of the session wondering wha;t 'phrasing' was but not liking to show my ignorance by asking.!

That terse comment marked the start of learning to play music on the box rather than a conglomerate of the right notes in the right order with some random bass shoved in or heavily um pa-ing.That was about 40 years ago and made me realise that I couldn't play the box as a musical instrument.


I gradually got the hang of what I still consider to be the basic essentials of  converting a string of notes into  ''music''  be it a slow air or a fast jig or anything in between.  They are, to me, and in no particular order as all are essential  - rhythm, phrasing and dynamics and when teaching I use a small nunber of carefully chosen tunes that enable me to pass on the skills requird for RPD.
   

Learn to play the instrument and master its idiosyncracies   and only then think about for ever learning new tunes. and never move on to a new tune before you have made the present one sound 'musical'

Others may of acourse disagree!


george
 
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #53 on: August 29, 2018, 10:56:35 AM »

Reading Julian's comment, and George's reply could bring us right back to Julian's original question:
'How do we improve?'
I think this thread shows that thinking about what we're doing, the nuances we wish to put into a tune, the phrasing, getting 'into' the tune, asking questions, attending workshops - all go to show we are heading in the right direction.
Because we all want to improve.  8)

Just blasting away with the notes in roughly the right order and the odd bass thrown in is *not* the way forward  >:E.
Q
ps....yes, I hope the digit is improving too!
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Thrupenny Bit

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

Julian S

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #54 on: August 29, 2018, 02:27:18 PM »

Thanks G+Q - finger on the mend, managed a few tunes over the weekend - having to use only two fingers on left hand and think about it was itself a good exercise !
And I too have had that experience George...Listening and talking to Andy Cutting brings home how much time and thought he puts in before bringing tunes to performance level. And each new tune can offer new challenges, no matter how well you know your instrument.

J



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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #55 on: August 30, 2018, 07:18:47 PM »

"....simply on/off switches.."?

I don't completely agree with you on that particular point, George.  How the button's attacked - hard, softly, or somewhere in between, influences the sound at the beginning of the note - admittedly not to quite as much as the amount of muscle you're putting into the bellows does, but still significantly, because it influences the speed of transition from zero air flow over the reed, to maximum.

I read a book by a Russian bayan virtuoso (his name escapes me) who went on as some length about the subject, and I took it to heart.
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george garside

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #56 on: August 30, 2018, 07:53:49 PM »

I would see it as a combination of the two which is why I advocate 'staccato' as the default method of playing and 'lagato' only being done on purpose'

To play staccato requires not only the button to be swiftly 'tapped'  or 'attacked' but also  that the bellows   are 'pre-presurised'  to provide the required volume instantly.  Even for quiet ?legato playing  the requisite pressure is required in the bellwos prior to pressing a button  '  Trying to gradually or sharply press ?or attack a button will have little or no effect on the volume as once the pallet is off  the soundboard  the volume is controlled by the air pressure ( or pullsure? ) in the bellows'


Others may disagree

george
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Dick Rees

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #57 on: August 30, 2018, 09:50:35 PM »

Staccato...or extremely beat-focused attack...is a good practice technique, sort of "hi-rez" playing.  Beyond that, having a complete palette of key-touch is an integral part of expressive playing along with bellows control.
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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #58 on: August 31, 2018, 07:56:25 AM »

If I understand Dick correctly, he has mentioned an interesting thing that was mentioned on our recent workshop weekend.
How do we make the sound of a note?
i.e. it is more than pressing a button and emitting the sound, how do we 'make' the sound?
Do we start quiet then swell then reduce the volume; maintain constant volume; make it short and crisp; fade the sound....etc.

It was pointed out that other instruments such as woodwind, you have to make the sound whereas ours is ready made by activating the reed *but* you can still be creative and thoughtful about how the note is produced by, as Dick says, bellows control, button attack and think about what sound you wish to make.
As he says, be expressive in your playing.
Q
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I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

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Re: Getting to the next level of (in)competence
« Reply #59 on: August 31, 2018, 08:27:56 AM »

If I understand Dick correctly, he has mentioned an interesting thing that was mentioned on our recent workshop weekend.
How do we make the sound of a note?
i.e. it is more than pressing a button and emitting the sound, how do we 'make' the sound?
Do we start quiet then swell then reduce the volume; maintain constant volume; make it short and crisp; fade the sound....etc.

It was pointed out that other instruments such as woodwind, you have to make the sound whereas ours is ready made by activating the reed *but* you can still be creative and thoughtful about how the note is produced by, as Dick says, bellows control, button attack and think about what sound you wish to make.
As he says, be expressive in your playing.
Q
The analogy with woodwind (and brass) instruments is a good one. With those you have have your tongue to control the stopping and starting of the airflow and hence the sound. The air pressure is controlled by your lungs and diaphragm muscle, which together are capable of a full and variable range of air pressure from zero to a huge maximum.

On a free-reed instrument the buttons or keys correspond to our tongue, the bellows to our lungs and our arm muscles to the diaphragm muscle.

With both types of instrument, it is then up to the player to determine what sort of sound is needed and to be creative and expressive with it.

I would carry the analogy one stage further and include that ultimate wind instrument - the human voice. If we can vocalise the music we want to play, then we have a far better chance of being in control and playing expressively on our instruments. I sometimes get my students to 'sing' a tune (as in 'rum-tum diddle-diddle' etc. or make up other words) and get them to really think about (a) how they are singing it, and (b) how to transfer that to the melodeon or whatever instrument.
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