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Author Topic: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers  (Read 5132 times)

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Ash

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I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« on: January 23, 2012, 01:35:04 PM »

As the title suggests, I can get a tune easy enough out of the right-hand side of a melodeon, but the left hand just doesn't want to do anything independently.

I can play English concertina and mandolin and have plenty of experience with folk music but only playing instruments where the hands work together.

A search through the forum here revealed a few hand exercises for waltzes (to do without a melodeon) and I was just wondering if anyone had any tips on other similar exercises.

Also any recommendations for tutorial books / CDs / DVDs which deal well with this sort of thing would be greatly appreciated (preferably something with at least a CD as I don't read music and appreciate being able to hear what I'm supposed to do).

I'm not too fussed about quality of what's coming out on the left - I've got a cheap Chinese one-row and the basses don't sound too great anyway - as I'm not at that stage yet. I just need to get my brain to understand that my left hand is supposed to do something largely independently.

Any suggestions would be greatly received - I've just bought a 'proper' box and so anything I could be doing to improve my left hand before I get my hands on it in a few weeks time would be great.

Many thanks.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 01:44:02 PM by Ash »
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Theo

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2012, 01:37:59 PM »

How long have you been trying?  It can be a slow process to start with, you should be patient with yourself.
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Howard Jones

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2012, 01:44:05 PM »

The hands are still working independently on EC and mandolin.  This isn't really that different.

To start with, I'd concentrate on just the rhythm - don't worry about finding the right chords, that can come later.  Just try to get a steady oom-pah going in time with the right hand tune.  It will feel cumbersome to start with, but should come with time.  

This advice may be a bit late for you, but I think it's a mistake to learn the right hand in the hope that you can bring the left in later - much better to learn both together from the beginning.

Ash

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2012, 01:47:35 PM »

On and off, I guess it's something I try and then give up on. But I've never tried to approach it in a structured manner - I guess playing instruments where you don't really have any accompanyment (yes, I know you can do it on an English concertina...) gives me less patience, although I want to change that, hence the request for what direction to take things in...
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ladydetemps

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2012, 01:58:23 PM »

Tip: Go *very* slowly.
I played scales on RH and up-pahd basses on LH slowly and deliberately (i.e. when I press this button I press that button...hold down till air runs out) for months before it 'clicked'. And TBH it still feels awkward.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 02:05:43 PM by ladydetemps »
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Anahata

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 02:09:35 PM »


1) Think of everything that happens as one separate event, not right and left hand separately, and practice that. So if 2 hands play together at a given point, practice that event together, then the link to the next one etc.
(etc...)

Tip: Go *very* slowly.
I played scales on RH and up-pahd basses on LH slowly and deliberately (i.e. when I press this button I press that button...hold down till air runs out) for months before it 'clicked'.

Taken in combination, two excellent pieces of advice for getting over the initial hump of getting two hands doing things together.

It will take time, if you've never played a keyboard instrument like the piano. Keyboard players have already gone through that agony and don't have to do it again  (:)
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Marje

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 02:23:29 PM »

That's a good point, Anahata. I said in another thread that I didn't think learning piano had been of much relevance to melodeon, but it does get you used to doing something different with each hand. In fact, when I was learning to type on a computer keyboard, I was told that piano experience can make this easier too.

All of which is not very constructive help for someone who hasn't done piano - however, it suggests that it will just take a bit more patience to get the hang of working each hand and each finger independently but in a co-ordinated way.
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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 02:37:59 PM »

The way i learnt was to listen to my mp3 player in bed EVERY night and tap my 2  fingers to the rhythm untill i fell asleep, it sounds crazy but it worked after a week or 2
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summerstars

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 03:31:04 PM »

In my early days of playing, Pete Coe gave me some advice as below which I found very useful.

Set up a rhythym on the left hand and then introduce notes from the right - it actually doesn't matter what you play on the right - scales, nonsense, the same note repeatedly;  will do equally,  the idea is to keep going with the left and let the right hand catch up - then just keep doing it,  eventually try having the right hand play a tune you know........   
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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 03:42:39 PM »

Yes, what Pete calls the "Johnny Handle Method". I tried it too and it works. Thoroughly recommended.
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Myndmusic

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2012, 04:01:29 PM »

Face-to-face lessons have helped me a lot on this. Not convinced you get the same impact from DVD without the human interaction.

I wasn't getting anywhere until I started lessons with Ray Langton and he has now got me oompahing away, at least on 4/4s, onward to 6/8 and 3/4 in due course. Agree with the tapping left hand suggestion above - I used the steering wheel on the way back from lessons - and also playing the left hand on its own while humming the melody. It still doesn't feel natural but just occasionally I forget to think about it and get a glimpse of what it must feel like when it does become second nature.
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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2012, 04:09:59 PM »

..., but the left hand just doesn't want to do anything independently.
...I just need to get my brain to understand that my left hand is supposed to do something largely independently.


I'm not sure, but I may be rewording some of point #1 from IK Dairo Junior's comments:

From a fellow novice, one thing that is very important to my practice is HOW I think about the left hand. Rather than think of it as working independently (which it really isn't), I think of how every LH note relates to what's happening with the RH - every LH bass or chord will land either on or between RH notes and will last either less, same, or longer than the RH hand notes. When needed, I address one small passage at a time. Done slowly enough (per above recommendations) and repeatedly, my hands gradually learn to dance without stepping on each others toes and without the brain chattering about what to do.
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Brandon

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2012, 05:21:44 PM »

The way i learnt was to listen to my mp3 player in bed EVERY night and tap my 2  fingers to the rhythm untill i fell asleep, it sounds crazy but it worked after a week or 2
I remember doing exactly the same thing aged 11 when trying to learn the piano. I was away on a school trip and 'played' the tune with both hands on the bedsheets before falling asleep each night, and then I returned home after a week, sat down at the piano and played 'Home Sweet Home' straight off.
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NewShoe

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2012, 06:39:42 PM »

As a piano player who enjoyed playing ragtime pieces for many years I didn't have too much problem with accordion basses other than finding the correct buttons.  My difficulty comes with group play particularly with guitar.  Generally the guitar players I know have a much more developed sense of accompaniment than I do.  So I try playing without the left in groups to hear the better guitar version in certain pieces.   The right hand seems a little lost without the left keeping time and pointing to where the melody is heading next.
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Hasse

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2012, 06:57:16 PM »

The way i learnt was to listen to my mp3 player in bed EVERY night and tap my 2  fingers to the rhythm untill i fell asleep, it sounds crazy but it worked after a week or 2

The advice Dario Junior made was really good I think. As Gypsylad mentioned I also started out listening to a Walkman (remember those!) tapping my fingers, often on my school bag on which I had painted 8 black bass buttons. Don't now how much it helped, but I think it's a very good idea when practising new rhythms. I still do this if I got a certain passage to get brained when playing the double bass.

NewShoe, got a very good point about a 8 and even 12 and 16 bass button accordion. It's often (not always) a good idea to leave the bass side alone when playing together with an other chord friendly or bass instrument. Because weather we like it or not, the bass side on a melodeon works fine for simple rhythmic bass playing or some melodic structure, as a pure bass/chord instrument the melodeon doesn't always sound that great.
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CarolineC

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2012, 07:11:55 PM »

Hi there - as another relative beginner I will just say that you are definitely not alone. I had played wind instruments and guitar - but melodeon left hand is different in kind - like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time! I think that some of it may be about developing a muscle memory rather than "too much thinking" which can get in the way. What worked for me was playing the same tune over and over again with both hands until it suddenly came right - it is a bit tedious but it will click (although I still sometimes get a oom where a pah should be under stress).  Then I am told that when you can oom pah to anything you have to learn how to stop and do something different - but that's for later!  Good luck and enjoy
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Chris Ryall

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2012, 06:06:21 AM »

We've (mostly) all been there.  ;)  Where you'd really like to end up ...  is to put your right hand on autopilot for the tune and then play different basses against your tune, runs, crossed chords, whatever.

"In your dreams"! Well perhaps, but this is also to say that mastering the left involves good right end technique and being able to play there without consciously thinking about it. That's as much about practice on this instrument as any other. You want your runs of notes to become like phrases of words - we don't express those piecemeal do we?

The way I got left end basics mastered was to specifically separate the 2 ends.  To play right against something really simple like 'bass only'. You'll  also benefit from experimenting in playing segments of your tune in both directions. Then try to put these together, eg in many tunes a phrase works against either pull or push D. But keep practising until you can do either at will.  You'll find that tunes in G or Em are the most flaxible for this.

So that's the 'other' end. For your left:  Dont play the tune at all! Simply sing or hum it  (no fingers) and experiment in as many ways of playing chords against it as you can find. Decide which ones you like. Are any 'tense'? That's good - tension/relaxation is a big part of musical expression. If you  are learning from a Cd - play the track and 'accompany' - but importantly do left hand only.

Once both ways of playing become semi automatic you can set about integrating them. Neurologically you are (probably) programming your cerebellum to 'hard wire' patterns of movement. It's very good at that, and the reason we can do all sorts of physical things without thinking.

Chord alternatives - use these to explore the 'either way' play

C - plays both ways, same button
D - plays both ways - outer rows
G push and Em pull are very often interchangeable

In the end it's always 'practice', so I guess my fundamental tip is to separate the 2 sides in this
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Hello

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2012, 09:30:34 AM »

Some good advice on here.

There's really no magic fix.  The approach I used to get the 'bassics' was to take really simple tunes in each bass rhythm style, e.g. Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be, for the Waltz style; and play them over and over (sometimes a bar at at time), really really slowly and accurately, with both hands together.

Gradually it'll become second nature and you can start speeding up and/or experimenting.  There isn't any benefit to playing things fast but badly in the hope that one day it'll just click.  You need to start slowly, maintaining accuracy at all costs.

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Ash

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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2012, 09:54:53 AM »

There isn't any benefit to playing things fast but badly in the hope that one day it'll just click. 

The above quote probably sums up my approach to musicianship over the last 20 years, so trying to get the hang of this basses thing should help me get over that.

There's been some really great advice on this thread that is much appreciated. I realise whenever I tap the rhythm to music I am listening to, it's always been with the right hand, I'm now trying to change that in the hope it may have benefits.

Other tips and pointers have been really helpful / motivational. Many thanks to those who have taken time to give advice.

I've just ordered the Mallinson Melodeon book / CD as the contents list on Amazon seems to have tuition that goes from basics all the way up to where I hopefully want to be with the instrument some time in the future

If anyone's got any more advice / suggestions, I'd be happy to hear it...

Thanks.
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Re: I REALLY Can't use left hand basses... any pointers
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2012, 10:19:27 AM »

It took me months to learn how to use the basses. Eventually somebody taught me how the play Speed the Plough and it all clicked, probably because the bass notes seem to match the melody notes very well.
This has worked for other beginners I've suggested it to, so there must be something in it!
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