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Author Topic: Buying advice for a beginner  (Read 5459 times)

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Theo

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2019, 10:58:52 AM »

Richard,  I don’t think sense or logic really come into it.  After all if we chose our instrument for its lack of limitations we would all choose CBA or piano box.  And then we wouldn’t have so much fun!  All push/pull systems have their limitations, it’s how you get round the limitations that makes the music.
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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2019, 11:03:21 AM »

Just a brief addition to what Theo and Lester have already said, and with which I fully agree.

The 4th-apart boxes, because of their pull-pull nature, have a tremendous in-built rhythmic drive which makes them superbly suited to the dance music upon which so much English (and other) traditional music is based.
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Helena Handcart

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2019, 11:06:31 AM »

After all if we chose our instrument for its lack of limitations we would all choose CBA or piano box.  And then we wouldn’t have so much fun!

Nope, but we'd probably have stronger shoulders and bad backs from trying to play a wardrobe  :|||:
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Andrew Wigglesworth

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2019, 11:39:38 AM »

If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.

If B/C is such a good system then why do B/C/C# boxes exist? If the Stradella bass system is so good then why do 8 button push-pull basses exist? If melodeons are missing so many notes, then surely we should be using pianos on Rapper tours? If transverse flutes are so good then why do people play tin whistles?

I'm not being facetious here, but if you can see or work out the reasons for the above ...

The B/C system is as much of a compromise as the D/G system. You win on certain aspects, you lose on others. Simply stating that a particular instrument has limitations is a non-starter as far as I can see. The Great Highland Bagpipes is a very limited instrument. It might be said to be crude and archaic compared to many other bagpipe systems. But, it is the inheritor of a rich piping tradition that is suited to and fitted to its chanter and is defined and enriched by those very limitations.

Why did all this happen with box systems? Historical accident as much as anything I think. In fact, pretty recent historical accident. We've discussed on here before about the introduction of the D/G system and what was often played previously. More often than not it seems that it was semitone systems such as D/D#, C/C# or G/G# besides the one-rows in C. The popularity of the B/C system is similarly relatively recent and depended on the playing of certain recording artists and the rise of ensemble playing and sessions (just as true for English players I think).

I learnt the D/G system because that was what everyone else I knew was playing (curiously there was a complete lack of accordion players of any kind in the Irish, English and mixed sessions I attended in those days). D/G plays in the common keys that the tradition uses, and makes use of its push-pull system for rhythm and lift. As a vehicle for playing English dance music it is fantastic, and John Kirkpatrick has commented upon how so much of the 17th and 18th century repertoire feels as if it was written for an instrument that didn't exist at that point.

However, I am pretty certain that English players could have just as easily gone other ways, with other compromises, and have ended up playing, say, D/D# or C#/D. Perhaps the thing that tipped the balance and propelled the D/G system to dominance was the need for Morris musicians to stand up and play the instrument with a (relatively) full bass accompaniment. In the end I cannot see why English Country Dance could not be played just as successfully on B/C boxes or, for instance, the Sliabh Luachra tradition on D/G boxes.

They seem to get on pretty well with C/G concertinas in Clare, which I think blows any assumptions apart.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 05:24:53 PM by Andrew Wigglesworth »
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The Oul' Boy

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2019, 12:09:26 PM »

Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2019, 01:12:06 PM »

I've never seen the sense of it.

For just a 2 row, 8 bass box, when it is set up as a forth apart, one big advantage is in chords for self accompaniment. It has been noted, but, not laid out ad nauseam, so, here I am! When considering diatonic chords (chords that are made up entirely of notes that are found within the diatonic scale that you are playing in, eg G major), the inside row has access to I, ii7, iii7, IV, V, and vi (G, Am7, Bm7, C, D, Em), and the outside row has access to I, ii, IV, V, vi7 (D, Em, G, A, Bm7). Both exclude the diminished chord, and the outside row doesn't have its iii (F# minor on a DG). So, you basically get almost complete diatonic chord coverage for the 2 main keys of the instrument. Naturally, this coverage extends to the modes of those keys, so on a DG, A and E dorian, E and B natural minor, D and A mixolydian - you can play rich, functional and interesting harmonies for any of these. The inside row also has access to its II and III, which are particularly useful chords - II is the secondary dominant (eg A major -> D major -> G major) and III contains the leading tone for vi (B major -> E minor).

Also, many of the diatonic chords, including the outside row's missing iii and both diminished chords, can be found and played on the right hand side - (F# minor F# A C#, F# dim F# A C, C# dim C# E G, if you wanted them). Having this kind of coverage allows you to make significant use of something called Functional Harmony, which allows you to craft interesting bass/harmony progressions and more easily 'tell a story' with your music without needing another instrument to fill in the role of harmonising/playing chords.

You don't need to go down this rabbit hole particularly for your playing to benefit from this nature, either - it's also fine to hang around the bass pairs for the most popular keys of D, G and Em and push and pull as the tune dictates, as you can receive a functional accompaniment from that alone.

Ultimately, the price that is paid on a chromatic 2 row is in having poorer accompaniment options for the keys you opt to play in. And, the price that is paid for stronger diatonic accompaniment is being more fixed into those scales. So, basically you'd have to start adding basses to a semitone box to get the same coverage, in just the same way some people add half rows to the melody side of fourth apart boxes. Both layouts are one of compromise, it just depends what you want your instrument to be. I do think about how nice it would be to use a system with a chromatic scale across a greater range of notes, but, I also know I'd miss the chords -  for me, my music just wouldn't feel complete without them.

Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?

Some people play instruments that combine both systems, eg, Tim Edey, and 3 row instruments such as the C#/D/G exist, so, some people do play both systems. I think it will depend to some extent on how playing music actually mentally works for you. I think I've also seen G/C/B layouts, under the guise of G/C/H? So, yes, there are some people definitely capable of playing both.
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Stiamh

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #26 on: January 05, 2019, 01:24:17 PM »

Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?

If you poke around the forum, you'll find a fair number of posts addressing this point. A regular contributor who rides both horses (and teaches riding them) is George Garside, who came to D/G after B/C and apparently has no problems keeping both systems on the go. (People who go in the other direction successfully seem to be thin on the ground - at least I'm not aware of any.)

@Richard, it quickly gets tedious when contributors keep insisting on the superiority of their own system or pointlessness of another (you're not alone in doing this, historically).  :|glug  :|glug

Theo is right about the limitations inherent in every system- you choose your poison and do the best you can with it. As I said in another thread some time ago, with apologies to Churchill: my system of diatonic accordion is the worst possible system - except for all the others!
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richard.fleming

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #27 on: January 05, 2019, 02:32:13 PM »

[quote author=Stiamh /quote@Richard, it quickly gets tedious when contributors keep insisting on the superiority of their own system or pointlessness of another (you're not alone in doing this, historically). 
[/quote]
A fair point, I  think, except that my suggestions on this subject are usually made when a beginner is asking for advice, and it seems to me they get advised to play D/G because most people on this site are D/G players (or not semi-tone apart players anyway) and that gives a false impression of the virtues of the DG system. Many of those D/G players started the system for similar reasons - D/G boxes were all around, and they never had any other advice to consider. I might decide that I don't mind if I bore people - my advice is intended not for most of you but for the beginner asking for advice.. Maybe I should pm the beginners instead?
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Steve_freereeder

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2019, 04:18:21 PM »

A fair point, I  think, except that my suggestions on this subject are usually made when a beginner is asking for advice, and it seems to me they get advised to play D/G because most people on this site are D/G players (or not semi-tone apart players anyway) and that gives a false impression of the virtues of the DG system. Many of those D/G players started the system for similar reasons - D/G boxes were all around, and they never had any other advice to consider. I might decide that I don't mind if I bore people - my advice is intended not for most of you but for the beginner asking for advice.. Maybe I should pm the beginners instead?

I think beginners tend to be advised to start on D/G or other 4th-apart tuning because of the music they want to play, and not just because 'most people on this site are D/G players'. If you look back through recent queries along the lines of 'which box should I get?' I believe you will see that many early answers try to ascertain what style of music the enquirer wants to play. If it's primarily Scottish or Irish style, I think that the advice swings towards a semitone-tuned box, B/C or C#/D. If generally English, then D/G; if French/continental, then the advice is often go for G/C.

It's horses for courses and I think most established/experienced players on here are knowledgeable yet humble enough to answer accordingly, and also to share their answers - something which would be lost if the only advice was via PMs.
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The Oul' Boy

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2019, 04:42:39 PM »

A really interesting conversation, so much knowledge, happy to get advice from anyone, thank you!
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Dick Rees

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #30 on: January 05, 2019, 05:07:34 PM »

I went through the typical school/church musical upbringing starting with piano lessons, school band (trombone, tuba, euphonium, etc), learned to read music and sing in a choir...a period of about 15 years.  Once I got out on my own I picked up harmonica and guitar, learning by ear and beginning to approach things from the music rather than the instrument.

In the next 15 years I un/re-learned everything I had ever been taught.  Once I had established an "interior library" of melodies/songs by heart, the mechanics of reproducing the desired sound diminished in difficulty in a quantum leap.  And I find the expression "knowing it by heart" more apt than "memorizing" or "knowing the dots".

Certainly the physical challenges involved are significant, but I will always maintain that learning to listen and discriminate is the most valuable time spent in advancing ones musical abilities, keyboard layout aside.

One thing, though, that I carry with me from the first 15 years is the phrase on the music room wall above the school band directors podium:

"Music is a picture painted on a background of silence."

I've learned to really appreciate this in the last 15 years. 

/sermon
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 07:41:59 PM by Dick Rees »
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Jesse Smith

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #31 on: January 05, 2019, 07:02:03 PM »

A regular contributor who rides both horses (and teaches riding them) is George Garside, who came to D/G after B/C and apparently has no problems keeping both systems on the go. (People who go in the other direction successfully seem to be thin on the ground - at least I'm not aware of any.)

The only one who springs immediately to mind is John Kirkpatrick, who started on the D/G melodeon, bought a B/C/C# accordion about four years later, and then about another four years later purchased his 40-button C/G anglo concertina.
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #32 on: January 06, 2019, 12:57:01 PM »

And then there’s Daddy Longles of widespread fame here and on YouTube who appears to be able to play more or less anything he can lay his hands on judging from the musical miscellanea in the background of his videos.
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The Oul' Boy

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #33 on: January 06, 2019, 01:39:05 PM »

And then there’s Daddy Longles of widespread fame here and on YouTube who appears to be able to play more or less anything he can lay his hands on judging from the musical miscellanea in the background of his videos.

I've been loving his blog videos, I've watched about the first half of them, but no semitone apart ones yet I think among the ton of melodeons he has!
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baz parkes

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #34 on: January 06, 2019, 02:16:46 PM »

If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.

, it is the inheritor of a rich... tradition.....and is defined and enriched by those very limitations.

AS is the humble 1 row... :|glug
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Peadar

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #35 on: January 12, 2019, 10:13:44 PM »

I read somewhere (cannot find the reference) that the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G, so your Dad's old accordion may well be D/G. 

Breandan Breathanach's "Ceol agus Rince na h-Eireann" of 1989, a reference book on traditional Irish Music and dance, suggests that the Chromatic (2 diatonic rows a semi-tone apart) became the Irish (folk) accordion of choice circa 1940- with tunings C/C#, C#/D or D/D#, though by the 1980's younger musicians were going for B/C.  "C/C#, C#,D agus D/D#, a bhiodh ag na ceoltoiri tuaithe roimhe seo ach is é an bosca B/C is mó a bhfhuil gnaoi ag na ceoltóiri óga air anois." (Ref: Ceol agus Rince na h-Eireann" Page 79, Breandán Breathanach, An Gùm, Dublin, 1989). 




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Steve_freereeder

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #36 on: January 13, 2019, 12:45:44 AM »

I read somewhere (cannot find the reference) that the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G, so your Dad's old accordion may well be D/G.

I'm not sure about "...the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G...".
It seems unlikely as it is generally accepted that the first D/G melodeons were commissioned from Hohner by English folk musician Peter Kennedy in 1949 with a second batch being made in the early 1950s.
See here for a summary.

Previous to that, 2-row melodeons were generally semitone tuned, as you've mentioned or, on the continent, fourth-apart tuned in G/C or the German Club system in C/F.

Edited to tidy up quotes.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 08:36:07 AM by Steve_freereeder »
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Steve
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The Oul' Boy

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #37 on: January 13, 2019, 07:39:31 PM »

Go raibh maith agat, a Pheadair. I'll check when I'm next back 'home', now that I'm a bit more clued up I should be able to tell whether it is semitone apart or 5th apart at least.
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Peadar

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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #38 on: January 13, 2019, 10:53:06 PM »

Thanks Steve,

Quote
It seems unlikely as it is generally accepted that the first D/G melodeons were commissioned from Hohner by English folk musician Peter Kennedy in 1949 with a second batch being made in the early 1950s.
See here for a summary.

That link is really interesting.

Reading it carefully there is more than a hint that the instruments commissioned by Peter Kennedy in 1949 were G/D  (5th apart) not D/G (4th apart). I could be totally wrong on this but to quote the wording from the EFDS journal.

Quote
The Society have been fortunate in securing a licence from the Board of Trade for a limited number of Club Melodeons, to be sold only to Members of the Society for Folk Dance work. These instruments are to be manufactured by Hagstroms, at Darlington, and will cost about £19. Many members have already placed their orders for these instruments, and it is suggested that any more people who want to order one should write to the Sales Department as soon as possible . . . These particular melodeons ordered by the Society have Italian reeds keyed in G and D ; these keys are considered the most useful for Folk Dance work. . . . PETER KENNEDY

I am approaching the  melodeon/button-accordion  from playing the fiddle ( albeit badly) and I began by looking for G/D instrument, an obvious tuning to me because G & D are the primary "natural" keys of the fiddle and (I am on the Isle of Skye) G is the key of the Great Pipe. Eventually it sank in that the normal tuning of a 2 row melodeon is a 4th apart i.e. D/G. At which point I settled for the one row as my "starter".

Peter Kennedy's 1949 batch was being authorised for a very specific cultural project and in that context G/D is a tuning which makes a lot of sense-but it would have been a "special".

In Ireland there was a different national economic dynamic. Ireland became a republic and left the commonwealth in 1937. She was a neutral country throughout the war and since the 1920's had been steadily developing economic links with Germany (e.g. Siemens were the construction contractor for the Ardnacrusha Hydro-electric scheme 1925-29). If 2 rows, tuned 4th apart,  including D/G instruments were being made by Hohner (or other German manufacturers) as a standard product by the 30's they may well have found their way into Ireland at an early date.

Just going back to 1949 Northumberland- as a student in 1983(ish) I met one of the Newcastle Kingsmen "Forty-niners" - in the context of country dancing/set dancing , he told me that from his memory of going to village hall dances in Northumberland circa 1950 that it was then normal for dancers to set continously during a whole dance rather than standing out waiting when they weren't actually on the move. (off topic but worth mentioning).
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Re: Buying advice for a beginner
« Reply #39 on: January 13, 2019, 11:22:40 PM »

#36 Failte Romhat  (:).
If when you next look at your Dad's melodeon/accordion you have/can borrow one of those electronic tuning devices fiddlers use these days instead of pitch pipes, it will instantly tell you what each individual note is at.
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