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Author Topic: B/C - only for Irish ??  (Read 6382 times)

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Barry J

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B/C - only for Irish ??
« on: October 18, 2010, 08:04:31 AM »

I keep reading advice that the B/C is only suitable for Irish music and that players struggle to play other music with it.

I've looked at the keyboard layout and it seems to have the notes that I currently use on my anglo concertina, together with the added bonus of having the same push/pull note arrangement.

As I want to switch instruments with minimal brain re-wiring, I am attracted to the B/C.

I appreciate that it seems to be a minority instrument, but I don't want to play Morris, nor in a band.

Can somebody tell me what the limitations are of the B/C (for every positive, there has to be a negative)..
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Chris Ryall

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2010, 08:38:24 AM »

To be clear - I an not a halftone box man myself - but this is my 'widescreen' view.  A B/C (or relatives C/C# C#/D) can theoretically play in any key (some must be real  buggers!) and I understand the easier fingerings just 'fall into place' on common Irish keys and tune structures. I'll leave which, and how to the many halftone experts here.  

Should you think to buy buy one - you should perhaps regard it as a 'tune' instrument rather than a chord machine. And that may come as a shock if your brain is wired for an Anglo. You'll get the odd chord here and there, but these are essentially opportunistic.  They say your left hand gets very limited use. Good for sessions,  but think very hard if you are a south paw!

Beyond its fluidity for "Irish" the chromaticism of the box makes it absolutely super for altering notes and if you like to improvise/embellish that way it takes you a lot further than a D/G+accidentals. My own kit is a basically D/G, but has a C# row too = best of both worlds?  

Sticking to the its half toned rows it absolutely rolls Bb blues. Similarly - I'm not sure what Sharron Shannon plays (a whistle, when I met her!) but defo she's a halftoner.  I once noted that her superbly dexterous  Tune for a Found Harmonium was played in Eb! I see that as another opportunistic arrangement, although doubtless Sharron can play any key.  (The fast  blues scale on your B/C incidentally should be Ab)

So it has interesting possibilities in wider music.  And it's excellent for Irish.  Whereas yer D/G is much happier in its home keys - D, G, Em, Am, Bm - and in music that is laid out on a bed of chords. So it likes English and French stuff.  I'm still not sure if it's the box that isn't comfortable with Irish reels - or me.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 08:43:30 AM by Chris Ryall »
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george garside

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2010, 09:57:44 AM »

speaking as a player of both DG :& BC I would agree with much of what Chris has said.  The following are the significant differences & choosing which system is best for an individual is very much down to sort of ticking the boxes to see which comes out best for the individuals purposes

DG
more or less standard box for English sessions/ folk stuff so better chance of meeting up with others playing that system

played on the row in D or G  it is very easy to shove in right hand chords  & bass good for driving a rhythm.

In 2.5 row form more accidentals so more keys availble but each requires additional learning & even then rarely chromatic.  aa third C# row would make a DG chro, but not logically so ( see below for BCC~)


playing accross the rows to gain better bass harmony is more complicated & loses the on the row right hand chord ease of playing. but gives better baqss harmony.

All the above make a DG a better 'solo' dance music machine or as main melody instrument in small banad.

BC

chromatic - easily played in BCFGDA  more difficult in rest.



beecause ofabove can be more suitable for song accompanyment



bass useless! but 12 stradella as on hohner double ray delux tranforms the box.


handy as a sort of substitute fiddle!


I am aware that none of this answers the question as it just adds more questions!

george



for solo or at home playing the range of keys availble can be very satisfying or for playing in a band disposed to going beyond D & G

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Stiamh

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2010, 12:33:17 PM »

One of the "features" of the B/C is that F# is only available on the press while D and A are on the draw. I hesitate to call that a limitation, because it doesn't seem to limit good players very much, but it's something you have to get used to and which causes beginners to curse in disbelief. Although as a C/G player you must be used to having only one F# in an odd place  ;) The payoff for this awkwardness in arpeggios of D is that that you get the EF#G run in one direction. And ABC#DE in the other.

I'll put in a word for the C#/D system: you have all the notes, just like a B/C player; you get to play on the row in D, which is considerably easier than on B/C, at least in the early stages; and you can chord away almost as easily as a D/G player. (Except in the key of G, when the lack of a C chord in the standard 8-bass layout will stymie you.) You also get F# in both directions, allowing you that useful EF#G run. The main difference between B/C and C#/D is the ease or otherwise of playing in certain keys. But all the most common keys in trad. are doable on both without difficulty.
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Theo

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2010, 12:43:03 PM »

I think a lot of the time the choice comes down to social rather than musical reasons.  If your mates all play one system its much easier to choose the same. 
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Stiamh

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2010, 01:34:05 PM »

Looking back to the original - B/C is only rarely going to be played up and down the rows .. whereas a C#/D might  ::)

If you look and listen around you'll find a considerable number of Irish B/C players playing D tunes in C. I wonder why?

In fact quite a few of them in fact have gone over (or back) to C#/D after decades of playing B/C. Whereas I've heard of only one or two going the other way. So I'd say, start with C#/D and save time.  >:E

B/C is ideal for playing in D minor or D Dorian of course, and also F, easy once players sit down and tackle it.
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HallelujahAl

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2010, 02:02:13 PM »

Quote
I think a lot of the time the choice comes down to social rather than musical reasons.  If your mates all play one system its much easier to choose the same.   

I couldn't agree more - and the more help, advice and encouragement, you'll be likely to get from that social circle. I think just choosing a system on 'rational' grounds like having an F# in both directions etc is pretty daft really. I think the social dimension is so important.
AL
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nfldbox

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 03:40:21 PM »

Not switching but I am a BC player who is learning a D one-row. I haven't found the switch difficult. I think the reason is I was never used to playing up the row on the BC. Even playing in C I usually use the B and the E on the B row. Thus for me the one-row has been essentially a new instrument.

I agree some pieces/keys are difficult with the BC but I think that is true of any diatonic instrument. IMHO the BC is good for non-Irish tunes as long as you want the melody line. I had more than a bit of struggle with some Piazzola and I don't think the BC is ever going to replace the bandoneon in tango music but I can play the tunes in a somewhat recognizable fashion.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2010, 01:51:13 AM by nfldbox »
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Andrew Culwell

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2010, 05:29:46 PM »

Personally I took up the B/C simply because the only Accordion teacher within miles played that very system and I wanted to taek lessons from him.  I also was interested overwhelmingly in the Irish tradition.  The accordionist I listened to and were familiar with played in b/c (specifically Billy McComiskey and John Williams)  I since tried to switch to the c#d system but cannot get my head around the differences.  I wish I'd started with the c#d but now I am pretty much a b/c man.  I think that the b/c system can be used to play most music but bass accompaniment will be more limited. I use the basses more like a Pipe drone rather than the rythym accompaniment that d/g players are prone to.  Another reason I chose b/c was that I was told that it and the c/d were best suited to session playing.  Not sure if any of this helps.  I'm sure many more folks will put in their two cents.  I am though interested in trying my hand at the d/d# system, I'm told that if you limit certain tunes to each box that it's not nearly as hard to play both systems.  I don't hink this would work with b/c and d/g though.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2010, 05:32:21 PM by A.J. Culwell »
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Barry J

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2010, 07:18:53 PM »

Reading through the replies and trying to find some common ground in the comments, I would say this:

1. The suggestion of the C/G (G/C) is interesting as the G row at least is the same push/pull as the Anglo/BC. I can handle working cross row for F# but the limitation seems to be that there is only one C# (on the accidental key), so the other C# is missing. I mainly play in C Maj and G. D and A major keys.

2. I play relatively simple music and to my simple way of thinking, if the B/C can play ITM, then it should be able to cope with my simplistic music tastes.

3. I am concerned about some comments concerning the lack of Bass on the B/C. Why is this the case ? - the keys and layout on the left hand looks very similar to other keys. Also, the sound of melodic chords and the rich sound of the instrument are what attracts me to the melodeon, otherwise I might stay with the concertina. Is the left hand on the B/C really not able to pump out a chord or rhythm whilst the melody is played on the right ??
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DaveCottrell

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2010, 08:03:44 PM »

The BC bass is as good as you can play it. 

If you expect an oom-pah bass, with appropriate chords available for any note, the BC might not be your cup of tea.

There are plenty of examples of BC players who use the idiosyncracies of this system to a very musical effect.  I would encourage listening to some examples of these players.

Irish traditional style does not necessarily require heavy rhythmic bass accompaniment, and, in some situations, as when there is an adequate accompanist on keyboard or frets, frequent use of the bass is gently discouraged.

If you want to use the BC for other styles of music, it is slightly more versatile than quint boxes due to the more chromatic nature of the instrument.  On the right hand, the only limitation is that the number of two or three note chords is constrained by the "bisonoric" nature of the instrument.  However, as a one-note melody instrument, it will play whatever you want to teach it.

If your interests run to music outside of European folk dance traditions,  I would suggest trying the BC.  Chordal self-accompaniment is not always necessary for enjoyment of an instrument.   On  my BC, I play Balkan, Irish, contra-dance stuff, Scott Joplin rags, Quebecois tunes, and anything else I can learn.  I do not feel that I am limited by my instrument, only by my talent.
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Stiamh

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010, 08:10:18 PM »

I mainly play in C Maj and G. D and A major keys.

[snip]

Is the left hand on the B/C really not able to pump out a chord or rhythm whilst the melody is played on the right ??

If you play in keys with more than one sharp then a G/C is a bad idea.

There are plenty of good Irish B/C players who don't seemed to have noticed what people on here keep saying i.e. that the left-hand is useless  ;)

It depends what you mean by "pumping out a rhythm". Of those who do use the bass at all, most seem to go for a very light touch - occasional rhythmic emphasis. A comparison is often made between this style of bass playing and the use of the regulators on the uilleann pipes.

Here's a nice example, provided by one of our members here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgaHT8Bpiw8

Historically, basses on a B/C were of little use chiefly because the geniuses at Hohner and presumably P. Soprani had no idea what the hundreds or thousands of accordionists in Ireland and Scotland were doing with all these B/Cs they were buying in the 1940s and 1950s. Assuming that people were playing in B and C, they helpfully provided basses to suit those keys.

Finally they caught on to the fact that people were mostly playing in D, G and A and started providing more sensible basses. But with a mere 8 basses, of course, you aren't going to be able to accompany more than a small set of the keys that you might play on a B/C.
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Rees

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010, 11:46:50 PM »

The D one-row is now extremely popular in Ireland.
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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2010, 12:24:12 AM »

I can think of albums by the likes of Máirtín O'Connor and Luke Daniels that demonstrate that half-step boxes can work fantastically well for non-Irish music.  Even then, though, I seem to remember that such examples still required that additional players were used to assist with a suitable accompaniment.

Although it's not too hard to find YouTube that show excellent unaccompanied semitone system playing, I still get the impression that such instruments are most at home when played as part of a group.

 
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nfldbox

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2010, 01:53:57 AM »

Just to note that I edited my message from "Irish" to "non-Irish"
Even I don't think Piazzola is Irish
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Barry J

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2010, 09:21:21 AM »

I can see that the B/C has its keys arranged in a different layout on the right hand side which may make some types of music and keys, easier to play than others. I can appreciate that the highest/lowest range of notes is different on the B/C to say a D/G.

However, why do you say that the bass/chords are different - the number and labelling of left hand keys look very similar to the other types ??
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Barry J

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2010, 08:10:17 AM »

I'm still confused by the basses.

I have ordered a B/C Tuition book to try and get my head round the subject.
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george garside

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2010, 09:14:14 AM »

on a DG box it is possible to get , when playing in G on the row, the 3 chord trick  more or less automnatically. i.e. bottom 2 outside buttons play G in and D out so this will sort itself out. The inside 2 buttons play C in & out so that gives the third component of the 3 chord trick.

In D you get two thirds of the 3 chord trick!

If polaying acacross the rows it is possisble to arrange the push/pulls to give even better choice of bass harmony.

On the BC because playing in other than Cor B involves constant crossing of the rows (& this defines bellows direction, it is very difficult to get any sort of constant bass rhythm due to difficulties or indeed impossibnilities of synchronising the directional requirements of both ends!. The bass on BC tend therefore to be either not used or used to ornement a particular note(s) when th;is is possib le due to synchronisation of bellows direction to suit both ends!

not sure whether this makes it clear or sound more complicated

george
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Barry J

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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2010, 09:27:04 AM »

No thats great - thanks George.
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Re: B/C - only for Irish ??
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2010, 10:24:15 AM »

Hmmm...it's high time I built the fabled Loomes Chromatic 2 row.

4 fingerings for all 12 major keys, favouring/disadvantaging all keys equally. Ditto for minors, and no wasted notes.  I'll have to stick the layout up here at some point.

Cheers,
J
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