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Author Topic: Making the most of your Limitations  (Read 7702 times)

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Owen Woods

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Making the most of your Limitations
« on: March 29, 2012, 07:33:33 PM »

There have been a few topics recently on the effect of expanding the scope of the melodeon. I've posted a few times about this in the past, I've just put together a blog post expanding on this. I'd be interested in knowing what you all think.

http://ukebert.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/making-the-most-of-your-limitations/
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Pete Dunk

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2012, 08:17:12 PM »

I enjoyed reading the blog, there's sufficient core information given to engage interest in the subject and it's presented in a very readable manner. All instruments have limitations as you say, but our beloved melodeon belongs in the group marked "created with more impediments than most - enjoy!"  :|glug

Most early keyboard instruments are far more hamstrung than the modern pianoforte btw and some modern performers have developed special techniques to overcome the problem of reaching lots of notes at once>:E
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pikey

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2012, 10:16:09 PM »

Truly great players understand the limitations of their chosen instrument, and play to the limit of those limitations, and can still produce amazing music.

qv one string fiddle players, those strange african instruments with very few twanging metakl keys, brendan powers on diatonic harmonicas, and one of the most amazing irish melodeon players ever, Bobby Gardiner on a Hohner 4-stop 1 row:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhOj9vCR0cQ

or this amazing playing on a 1 and a bit row:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDMhFTiBpC0&list=FLKhMCsH6Xs4bOabTueiND2A&index=2&feature=plpp_video

Conversely, you wil find plenty of videos where the limitation is with the player, not the instrument :-)  Why have a 3 row, 18 bass box and play 'Jimmy Allen' in one key with no accidentals?  ;D

 
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Mutt

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2012, 12:29:26 AM »


  Why have a 3 row, 18 bass box and play 'Jimmy Allen' in one key with no accidentals?  ;D


Because everyone else in the session is?  ;D
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Marje

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2012, 08:23:40 AM »



Conversely, you wil find plenty of videos where the limitation is with the player, not the instrument :-)  Why have a 3 row, 18 bass box and play 'Jimmy Allen' in one key with no accidentals?  ;D

 
[/quote]

Because it's a tune that has no accidentals and sounds best without strange chords, and because introducing gratuitous key-changes risks making it sound like an X-factor song? Some tunes sound best if they're not messed with, and respecting this does not necessarily indicate a limitation on the part of the player.

I often think that's a danger with piano accordions - they introduce key changes and fancy chords just because they can. It doesn't always enhance the tune - in fact it can rob a good tune of its strong, simple beauty. Sometimes less is more.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2012, 09:27:17 AM »

Ukebert, yes I agree with what you've written.

The only thing I would add is that the trend (I don't think I'd use the word 'fad' because I doubt it's going to be temporary) is probably the result of improvements in technology, which have meant that heavier boxes can be very responsive, and therefore the benefits of reduced limitations can now be achieved without losing too much playability.

I also have to say that my experience is that (surprisingly) extra weight is something you can actually learn your way round.  My rough and ready concept is that broadly speaking, if the reeds sound with half as much air pressure, then doubling the weight of the left hand end will (very roughly speaking) give you a box that is just as easy to play.   And the benefits of larger LH ends are not just to be found in having a bigger range of buttons, they also usually bring a bassier tone to the basses.
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pikey

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2012, 10:41:50 AM »

 my point, which I didn't make very well, is why purchase a box with lots of notes that you never use? It's a bit like haing a ferrari and never getting out of third gear!
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Mike Hirst

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2012, 11:21:23 AM »

my point, which I didn't make very well, is why purchase a box with lots of notes that you never use? It's a bit like haing a ferrari and never getting out of third gear!

This is how I view the D/G. There are a lot of extra buttons, that do nothing to add to the versatility of the instrument. One Row makes sense, one and a half row is more versatile, three Row'll do anything you want, but two row - I just don't get it.  ???
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2012, 11:31:05 AM »

I agree, pikey.  

Although anyone using a big box, but not all of its capabilities, might say they brought it along because it's their main box, or they use it for other more complex tunes, or they're still learning, or they like its tone, or its colour, or whatever, they may not actually be showing off.
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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2012, 11:36:03 AM »

my point, which I didn't make very well, is why purchase a box with lots of notes that you never use? It's a bit like haing a ferrari and never getting out of third gear!

This is how I view the D/G. There are a lot of extra buttons, that do nothing to add to the versatility of the instrument. One Row makes sense, one and a half row is more versatile, three Row'll do anything you want, but two row - I just don't get it.  ???
2 row is so you don't have to lug round 2 one rows ;)

Mike Hirst

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2012, 12:04:33 PM »

2 row is so you don't have to lug round 2 one rows ;)

When I do a show I use only the D one row. I play in three major keys ( G,D,A) and sometimes use Em or Bm. True, there are some tunes which can't be forced onto the instrument, but with a potential repertoire extending into many thousands of reels, jigs and hornpipes I do not feel limited in any way. If I cant play a particular melody there are always a dozen more which will do the job just as well.

In the past I have struggled - loading the van with two or more melodeons (plus PA for those awkward keys), but over the last 10 years I've realised that it is not important. I play one instrument all night. People dance to the music and listen to the songs. They leave with a big smiles on their faces. IMO job well done. ;)
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Howard Jones

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2012, 12:57:43 PM »

This is how I view the D/G. There are a lot of extra buttons, that do nothing to add to the versatility of the instrument. One Row makes sense, one and a half row is more versatile, three Row'll do anything you want, but two row - I just don't get it.  ???

Assuming you're being serious, the answer is that a two row does add versatility.  It's not just a question of being able to play in more keys - as you say, a one row can do that (up to a point).  What a 2-row offers is greater range of chords, and extra buttons you're so dismissive of allow the option to play legato or not, as you choose and not as the instrument dictates.  You concede that a one and a half row is more versatile, well a 2 row is even more versatile. 

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2012, 01:31:33 PM »

It's not just a matter of playing in different keys, whatever the key a diatonic instrument can only play music of a very limited chromatic nature, not the greater variety of melody and decoration available to a chromatic instrument. Don Worral's excellent ' History of the Anglo German Concertina' charts the demise of traditional music at the beginning of the 20th Century, a possibility of history being repeated ?
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Marje

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2012, 01:54:32 PM »

my point, which I didn't make very well, is why purchase a box with lots of notes that you never use? It's a bit like haing a ferrari and never getting out of third gear!

Ah right, I geddit now. I misunderstook your point. Yes, I agree, no point in having a box with lots of fancy features you don't use.
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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2012, 03:29:20 PM »

As someone whose main boxes are both D/G plus a row of accidentals and reversals (a Castagnari Benny and my self-built 'Ellis Pariselle' with 12 and 14 basses respectively), it makes perfect sense to me to play standard tunes like Jimmy Allen on these boxes without using accidentals, reversals or unusual basses. Such tunes fit nicely within the limitations of a D/G two-row or even a one-row box and showcase well the distinctive 'melodeonicity' of the instrument. However, the extra row and the additional basses provide a level of versatility that also enables one to play complex tunes in unusual keys.

One reason I have the accidentals, reversals and additional basses on my instruments is so that I can play tunes that would be difficult or impossible to play on a standard D/G box (e.g. French tunes in C, Gm and Dm). I don't want to carry around with me several boxes in different keys; it is much more convenient to carry one box that will play in all the keys I desire. This does not mean that I lose the punchy melodeon sound - merely that the fingering patterns to produce that sound in other keys are different from those we are familiar with in D and G. But there are some tunes that sound awful when played in a punchy in-out style (e.g. In Dreams from Lord of the Rings). Reversals help one to play smoothly when it is appropriate, but they do not dictate that you must play that way.

Reversals are also useful when it comes to playing grace notes. For example, some tunes I play sound nicer with E grace notes leading into D notes at certain points in the melody. Since these notes are always in the opposite direction on a D/G box, this is very difficult, but not if you have reversals on a third row, enabling you to flick the E a couple of milliseconds before hitting the D!

Additional basses can also provide a richer palette of sounds from which to select. Some tunes sound better with the standard eight basses, but others are enhanced enormously by employing non-standard basses. For instance, In Dreams, although played predominantly in D, sounds so much more ethereally beautiful with F, B flat and E flat basses at the appropriate places and Jump at the Sun, when played in Dm, is enriched substantially by playing G# basses to enhance the G#s in the melody in bars 1, 2, 5 and 6 of the A music.

One final point: there is an assumption in Owen's otherwise excellent blog and in some of the subsequent posts in this thread that three rows plus 12 or 14 basses automatically equates with excessive weight and size. My Benny and my Ellis Pariselle are both lightweight three-row boxes, one with 12 basses and the other with 14. Anyone who meets me in a session or at a festival is welcome to try them to verify how light and responsive they are.
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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2012, 03:30:52 PM »

What a 2-row offers is greater range of chords, and extra buttons you're so dismissive of allow the option to play legato or not, as you choose and not as the instrument dictates.

Chinese one row in C.

http://libtrad.eu/mp3/Fields_Of_Athenry_loungecore_remix.mp3

Not so much legato - more legatissimo!
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 03:58:46 PM by Mike Hirst »
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Owen Woods

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2012, 04:21:39 PM »


One final point: there is an assumption in Owen's otherwise excellent blog and in some of the subsequent posts in this thread that three rows plus 12 or 14 basses automatically equates with excessive weight and size. My Benny and my Ellis Pariselle are both lightweight three-row boxes, one with 12 basses and the other with 14. Anyone who meets me in a session or at a festival is welcome to try them to verify how light and responsive they are.


There was a slight criticism of large, heavy, 3 row 18 bass boxes, but that wasn't meant as a criticism of 3 row 12-18 bass boxes because they are heavy! Personally I would love a Benny and I am aware of how light and responsive your box is.
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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2012, 07:48:53 PM »

... but two row - I just don't get it.  ???
Two row G/C is exactly the right amount of versatility for me and the repertoire I play.
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2012, 08:03:56 PM »

... but two row - I just don't get it.  ???
Two row G/C is exactly the right amount of versatility for me and the repertoire I play.

I think the exchange, above, demonstrates really nicely that there is no objective standard for limitation, but rather a relationship between limitation/versatility, on the one hand, and the kind of music one envisions, on the other.  I said "envisions" rather than "plays" because I think that once one imagines some aspect of music that is impossible on the system one plays, that will mark the point at which the system seems "limited."  This can be as simple as that G# that I don't have on my D one-row, but it can become much more complex than that when one tries to decide whether to cope with the limitation by 1. not playing a given tune or 2. playing it with some change to accommodate the limitation or 3. to play it, on a different box... that one might not yet possess... hence MAD...

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Re: Making the most of your Limitations
« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2012, 08:37:19 PM »

Chinese one row in C.

http://libtrad.eu/mp3/Fields_Of_Athenry_loungecore_remix.mp3

Not so much legato - more legatissimo!

Nicely played.  However the effect of the changes of bellows direction is still audible - the notes are clearly articulated and start with a bit more attack.  I suspect it would be even more noticeable with a faster tune.  Nothing wrong with that, if that's an effect you want, but there are situations where something smoother, perhaps even slurring the notes together, might be wanted.   The reversals on a 2-row allow you to avoid that - or not, as you choose.
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