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Author Topic: A/D for G versus D/G for A?  (Read 1077 times)

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David Colpitts

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A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« on: May 31, 2019, 04:12:42 AM »

I have MAD. Luck and curiousity have pushed me to 3 semitone boxes (Baldoni D/C#, Beaver Brand now set up B/C, and NOS Pokerwork with NOS extra reed block easily flipped from A/D to C#/D in about 2 minutes, when I want.  I am struggling (as a lifelong harmonica player and 8 year Anglo ‘tina player) with anything not along the home rows.  I will continue trying, and will even take lessons in the semitone-for-Irish world.

Meanwhile, I can play with good facility and even modest speed along any of those rows, and will continue while I go through “parallel development” on the semitones. So, do people think it makes sense to play (for Irish, Quebecois, Old-Timey, Gospel types) my along-the-rows in A and D with a little re-learn for G with the top accidental, or would it be easier on a D/G to find A?  I am totally ear learning, and don’t even know the names of the notes, unless I look at an app or printout.  I guess I wonder if people have experience using either of these boxes as I describe?  In fact I have bought for fall pickup a Corona in ADG, so will be able to try both approaches in a few months, but I know it will be way heavier and bigger than my two-rows (save the Baldoni, which is near 12 pounds.)

Any experience you’d like to share?

Thanks, and regards,

David


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Theo

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2019, 08:15:33 AM »

On a DG I find A easier than C,  but that’s mainly because fiddle players I know play in A a lot, but C is used less.  So I’ve had more practice in A.

There is some crossover with semitone systems too so A on DG is similar fingering to G on BC, just the 7th note is in a different place.
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Gena Crisman

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2019, 09:28:50 AM »

How are you getting on with your bass end?

In my opinion, for boxes like a DG/AD etc, the biggest barrier to playing outside of your home row keys comfortably is having support for the chords on your bass end. If you eschew playing your basses though, it can be reasonably comfortable to play both a key sharper and a key flatter than your box is set up for.

It's important to bear in mind the position of the single instance of the accidental that your box (hopefully) has that makes playing in these keys viable. For playing A on a DG, the absent note from the scale is the leading tone, the note just before the home note - G#. The G# that is present on a standard 3rd button start DG with accidentals is G#4, which means that, because you also do not have a low B note, you do not technically have a complete A to A octave of this scale. Your range looks a little bit like this:
Code: [Select]
   X  V-----------A--H--------------V  X
A  B  C# D  E  F# G# A  B  C# D  E  F# G# A  B  C# D  E

However, this usually ends up being very fudgeable. Firstly, many tunes that crop up that are in "A" are actually in a mode of A that uses the notes of the 2 #s (key of D) rather than 3 #s (key of A) called A mixolydian, so we didn't need a G# anyway. The reverse, consistently using an extra sharp, eg playing in C but using the notes of G, called C lydian, is vanishingly rare. Secondly, it's often possible to melodically 'dodge' this note, and some tunes simply don't even include the note to begin with. Thirdly, and finally, this A scale is still positioned where a fiddle player would play in A, and A on the fiddle gives you a similar range below your home note, just like this scale does, and that may perhaps correlate with why the tune is played in A to begin with.

For playing in G on an AD, the absent note is C natural. C is the fourth note of the G scale, and the one that you have as an accidental button is C5. Interesting to consider, C4, the octave below this, is usually not present on a DG melodeon, so many live without it. I feel this gives you slightly more useful/complete coverage of G, and because the box is an AD, it will be pitched such that this scale won't sound a little bit too squeaky (unlike playing in C on a DG). But, because of how important the forth can be (melodically), you may find yourself constantly reaching for that accidental button.
Code: [Select]
         X  V--------H--------A-----------------V  X
G  A  B  C  D  E  F# G  A  B  C  D  E  F# G  A  B  C  D

One thing to consider though is that, while A crops up frequently, I don't hear much talk about its relative minor, F# minor, which uses the same notes. I do hear a fair amount of of A dorian (same notes as G major) and A minor (same notes as C major), though, and these could present a more difficult prospect on the A/D.

If you want to use your chords for the above, you'd really need to have their thirds taped off for either case - this is the process of (reversable in the workshop) disabling one of the reeds that makes up the chords so they can pass either their major and minor variants, and gives you enough chords to give decent coverage for either way of playing. With an 8 bass, I personally think it's a little easier to play flatter than it is sharper (so, I think playing in G on an AD is easier than playing in A on a DG) - your chords will sound slightly better for playing sharper (A on a DG), but too many of them are on the draw, so you usually end up with pretty full bellows.

You can get instruments set up to make playing outside of the home keys easier, or have existing boxes modified to do so - I think a New-Old-Stock pokerwork is probably not the ideal instrument for that, though.
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Howard Jones

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2019, 10:37:25 AM »

The root of your problem seems to be your inability to play across the rows, but to play in all three keys on a 4th apart box (whether on A/D or D/G) will require you to cross the rows for some notes.  If you want to play up and down the rows, and already have an A/D box which means cross-rowing to play in G, there seems little point in getting a D/G only to have to cross-row in order to play in A.  If you want to do it all on one 2-row box you will have to learn to cross the rows, but then I wonder whether trying to play both semitone and 4th apart boxes will only confuse you?  Most players stick to one or the other.

It would make sense to get a D/G, or a one-row in G, to play up-and-down in those keys.  However you would have to carry two boxes around, but this option would give you all the appropriate chords.   

The A/D/G you mention will of course combine them all in one box, with the chords, but with a trade-off in weight.  It will still probably be lighter to carry around than two instruments, but may be less easy to play, especially for up-and-down playing with a lot of bellows movement.

If I were you I'd wait for the A/D/G and see how you get on with that, and in the meantime try to learn to play across the rows.  If you don't get on with the A/D/G then it's a perfect excuse to buy a D/G.





george garside

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2019, 10:51:59 AM »

On a DG I find A easier than C,  but that’s mainly because fiddle players I know play in A a lot, but C is used less.  So I’ve had more practice in A.

There is some crossover with semitone systems too so A on DG is similar fingering to G on BC, just the 7th note is in a different place.

as a 4th apart and semitone player I also find playing in A on a DG quite easy particularly if as with many pipe tunes there is no G#.   
AS to the 'crossover' with semitone systems  the 3 row BCC# , which can be as small as a corona i.e. trichord  enables  Ab and F# to be played with  more or less sthe same fingering as G..  etc etc. 

there is  however a lot to be said for a simple lightweight 8 bass DG box  for session , morris etc   which is probably why I play both systems

george

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Stiamh

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2019, 11:17:30 AM »

You have a C#/D, you say. Both keys are easy on that. Minimal cross-rowing - only one note that you have to get from the other row in each case. A is particularly easy. G a tiny bit more tricky because it's a pull key, meaning there are a few more stretches and jumps involved, but really no problem. What is your problem?

Edit: what I mean is, in the kindest possible way, stop dithering! Pick a system and get down to learning it properly. A two-row box not a harmonica, why keep wanting it to be one? If you want to be able to play in G and A... the choice is clear.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2019, 11:23:31 AM by Stiamh »
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Theo

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2019, 11:42:38 AM »

Howard I must slightly disagree with you about row crossing.  All but one of the notes for A are on the D row likewise for C on the G row. 
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David Colpitts

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2019, 01:07:10 PM »

Thanks to all!  I knew I’d get thoughtful and constructive feedback, with the occasional admonishment.  You are a great group here!

Basically, as Howard points out, and Stiamh reinforces, “the root of your problem seems to be your inability to play across the rows.”  That’s the bald truth.  Obviously, if I could readily get to the point where tunes flowed from all spots, I’d be better off.  Hence my recent addition of two modest semitone boxes, and my daily sitting down with them and playing scales in the main keys I need, the afore-discussed A, D, and G.  But, I face what feels like a  neurological challenge whenever it’s time to try a tune.  It’s as if one could sing any phrase one heard, and then had to re-learn the pitch of each and every note after some untoward event like an accident.  So, the choice is a bit more loaded for me than to simply “pick a system and get down to learning it properly.”  For me, it feels like I would need to stop playing at sessions for years, while struggling to relearn all tunes one note at a time, rather than playing as I do, with modest success and progress.

But...I didn’t mean to re-start the “push-pull vs cross-row” discussions, which I always read with great interest and from which I have learned much.  Rather, I could have more succinctly said something like: “Is it easier for an along-the-rows player to get the three keys A,D, & G from an A/D or a D/G?”

And, from feedback here, it seems like A/D has an easier time finding G than D/G finding A?

But, of course, C#/D needs only one note each off the row for G and A, as Stiamh reminds me, and until my ADG experiment in September, it’ll be that box, either C#/D or A/D with the reed swap.
And, Gena, thanks for your very thorough response.  I need to learn about modes and keys, but as I mentioned, am an old ear learner with no formal musical training, at least not in the last 55 years.  And to answer your point about the bass end, “the next time I use a bass or chord will be the first,” quite literally.  Everywhere I play, there’s a surfeit of large hollow curved wooden boxes with metal strings and long necks, and they, for better and worse, handle chords and bass without me.

Time to go swap the C# block into the Pokerwork, to hunt for A and G! 

Thanks again to all, and regards,

David


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Gena Crisman

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2019, 03:06:46 PM »

And, Gena, thanks for your very thorough response.  I need to learn about modes and keys, but as I mentioned, am an old ear learner with no formal musical training, at least not in the last 55 years.  And to answer your point about the bass end, “the next time I use a bass or chord will be the first,” quite literally.  Everywhere I play, there’s a surfeit of large hollow curved wooden boxes with metal strings and long necks, and they, for better and worse, handle chords and bass without me.

Well, if you are disinterested in your bass end, then I can heartily recommend further investigation of the semitone systems - it's main strength is simply that it is actually chromatic on the melody side, with its weaknesses being it's bass accompaniment abilities. The reverse if true for fourth apart systems - where even with 8 basses, they give you solid diatonic chord versatility, but, only for the specified keys, but as a result they are harder or impossible to play usefully outside of their native keys.

The reality though is, obviously: you have a box already: If you want to try playing in G on your D row, you can just have a go! You can also try playing in E on it as well to get a feel for what people are doing to play in A on a DG - you can definitely stay on the row to do it if you're not worried about basses. To play in G on your D row, on your inside row, start your scale where you normally would, counting your home note as 1, start going up the D scale until you get to 4 (1=D, 2=E, 3=F#, 4=G) and then you just... make that your new home, your new 1. Then, you can start again with the major scale in your head again, counting up or down from there until it sounds wrong. If you count that up to 4, (1=G, 2=A 3=B 4=C!), you'll find that you need to use your inside row's (probably) push accidental button for this scale's 4. It may feel strange at first because your home note is a pull note and the 'hump' is in a new place. You can do this with the C# row in place, so you can try it both ways - using the on-row C accidental, or, using the C# row's C notes, which'll find very close by where you were playing on the outside row, rather than at the chin end.

If you want to try playing the way a DG player plays A without the chords, you can try that with the semitone block in, too. Perform the same exercise as above, but, count up to 5, instead of 4. That will put you on an A on your D row. Then if you make that 1, and try and count up or down to a major scale, you'll find you're missing a correct sounding 7th note, but, you'll only be able to find that on the C# row, or your not-installed A row. While A DG player would do this on their outside row, there's no reason you can't take it for a spin on your inside row for a bit.

I mean, ok, the reality is that a semitone box player generally wouldn't play in these scales this way, and instead would likely find many reversals across both the rows, but, to get started and make use of your existing skill set maybe it makes sense to start here? I am not a semitone player, though.
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Stiamh

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2019, 04:18:27 PM »

I mean, ok, the reality is that a semitone box player generally wouldn't play in these scales this way, and instead would likely find many reversals across both the rows, but, to get started and make use of your existing skill set maybe it makes sense to start here?

While semitone systems are, in a very real sense, all alike, the approach you take to some particular scales is different. The reason why I think C#/D makes very good sense for someone who is used to playing up and down the row (especially someone who is not much bothered about using basses) is that the key of D is a given for anyone who has played D/G or A/D.

(Whereas on B/C, the key of D is most definitely not a given for anyone used to playing on a D row. G is pretty simple, but A for an on-the-row player is even stranger territory than D.)

And the reason why I suggested to David earlier that he settle on one system is that it will make everything simple. You can play C#/D in G and A with no cross-rowing to speak of. Your brain doesn't have to keep adjusting to the same buttons making very different sounds, as it does when you swap between systems. And as you get used to the C#/D system, you can use what reversals you have to add a measure of fluency, and ultimately you can play in several more keys without much bother. (Or all of them, with considerable bother.)

When I decided to take up the box 15 years ago, I hesitated between C#/D and B/C, and then having taken up C#/D wondered whether I should have gone for D/G because of the cross-rowing (and hence phrasing) possibilities, and whether C#/D/G might tick all the boxes (as it were) for me. I asked a question about this on the old aimoo forum that predated this one and received a very valuable piece of advice (from Jeff aka melodeon) to stop dithering and knuckle down to learning the system I had. Which I did, and am forever in his debt. Hence my attempt to nudge David in the same direction.
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gettabettabox

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2019, 05:00:02 PM »

Well said Stiamh! That would be me as well, though nowhere near your standard of playing.
I have lost count of the number of Hohner D/G boxes that I have bought over the years...and then sold on because they are just a distraction for me.
C#/D is a great system and also allows me to shift G tunes into A using my old B/C brain. (:)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2019, 05:05:40 PM by gettabettabox »
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David Colpitts

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2019, 11:48:41 PM »

And, thanks again!  Gena, I’ll try your suggestions, and Stiamh, I am just nearly convinced that I should, as you have suggested more than once, concentrate on my C#/D.  I certainly qualify as a push pull player with little concern for the basses.  It still seems tempting that the A/D offers both legs of the trifecta of keys “straight up,” and offers G with only one stretch for the chinward accidental.  That seems like slightly less brain-work than learning the other two keys with a cross-reach each.  But that’s splitting hairs, and ignores the other key part of your advice:  simplicity, regularity, and growth to other keys and phrasings as I improve.  And, the old B/C sounds so sweet and cost so little, it stays around for C, if nothing else.

David
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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2019, 08:44:05 AM »

Ill also endorse Stiamhs advice to make a decision and focus your efforts on one system.
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richard.fleming

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2019, 08:55:23 AM »

On a C#/D I think you will find that both G and A are quite comparably easy to learn, whereas I seem to remember from when I played B/C that A was quite a difficult key.
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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2019, 08:59:28 AM »

Hi. You already have the future answer as a row player.Its coming in the fall.If it a two voice you will soon not notice the weight Corona 2 or 3? The 2 is quite lighter. You can cross as well when no one is looking. You have mad so learn them all or go for a twelve step and sell all the others.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 09:01:24 AM by folkloristmark »
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george garside

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2019, 10:35:32 AM »

Ill also endorse Stiamhs advice to make a decision and focus your efforts on one system.

Definitely agree.  fully getting the hang of playing a semitone box  be it BC .C#D or whatever  requires learning and practicing scales for the keys you will be using and once this is done the semitone systems are easy..  As to playing a DG  you will be able to play the treble without further learning if you have got the hang of playing in  C on a BC or D on a C#D

I started on a BC  and along with a mate with a similar box we played on the row in B or C  progressing to playing in other keys  (mainly FGDAE) some time later.   When much later on I started playing for a morris side  and in 'english' sessions  playing a DG  didn't require any 'new' learning  for 'on the row' playing  and  a bit of cross rowing soon fell into place.

For DG etc players taking up a semitone  box  (as well rather than instead of) a DG I  teach and strongly recommend  getting fluent in scales  GDA in that order.

george
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Gary Chapin

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2019, 03:12:08 PM »

particularly if as with many pipe tunes there is no G#.   
george

The piping repertoire is a wonderful well to draw from!
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george garside

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2019, 03:15:47 PM »

Intit just!

george
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Stiamh

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #18 on: June 01, 2019, 03:25:05 PM »

I seem to remember from when I played B/C that A was quite a difficult key.

 (:)

Whereas on B/C... A for an on-the-row player is even stranger territory than D.

 :|glug

It is strange, for someone used to going up and down the rows, but when you get into it it's fun. I noticed that Jackie Daly played one of his signature airs (Tir na nOg) in Bmaj on C#/D, and there's a clip of YouTube of Dermot Byrne playing Bunker Hill in Bmaj (actually Bmix). Equivalent to A on B/C of course. Try those tunes in those keys and you'll see why. This is of no interest to David, though...
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David Colpitts

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Re: A/D for G versus D/G for A?
« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2019, 09:13:42 PM »

Awe, cumon Stiamh, now you’re pushing my leg!

I am, of course, both interested and amazed by such fluency; just slightly pessimistic regarding my own prospects.  But as I mentioned earlier, the A/D is back to C#/D, and I’ll be borrowing your YouTube instructional stuff.

So, thanks again, all.

David
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