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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 8:12 pm 
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Thank you Dale or whatever cosmic powers started an accordion forum!

So anyway, I notice that there are many questions from box newbies, most of which I was also asking when I started a couple years back.

Since I am lazy and also feel like pontificating, I will cram all my button box wisdon into just one post.

Here's what I worried about when I got started:

The B/C vs. C#/D question...

Scary! It's scary because it seems like a huge commitment to one system or another, often (as in my case) without much opportunity to borrow an instrument and try it out. It felt like having to choose a religion or a mail-order bride sight unseen.

I went with B/C simply because I found a good price on a Castagnari. It was reassuring that some great players like John Williams and Mick McCauley are B/C players, but then again Jackie Daly is the first one I ever heard live, and he is C#/D.

My own opinion is that it comes down to the individual tune; some moves are inconvenient in one tuning and fit handily in the other. The opening riff of "Music for a Found Harmonium" will take a long time to get right on a B/C due to the quick bellows changes. But the very next section is wonderfully easy on B/C, and hard as heck on a C#/D. So there it is.

Irish style box is weird because the notes change as the bellows change direction. You can approach this by either:

A. Thinking about it all the time, or

B. Just practicing until things become rote.

I recommend B. Go very slow and repeat things many many times. The hardest part is getting the bellows to behave, and not have to thing about it.

A good trick I learned was leaving out any hard notes (esp. F#'s between D and A, due to bellows direction) until I knew the rest of the piece really well. After that it's easier to introduce the hard note.

Also, getting a steady rhythm is even more important (dare I say this?) than playing the right notes. I was at Yale Univ. back in February and got to play in a session with John Whelan. He let me borrow his old Cardin B/C box. Well, he soundly rebuked me for playing too fast and not rhythmically enough. Point taken.

And what about the bass side? The bass side is really cool, and John Williams has some great demonstrations on his video, but you should really wait until the tune side is comfy before worrying about it. I listened in one time when the box player from Teada was teaching this little boy a jig, and he said he didn't touch the bass side for years when he was young.

If you feel daring, you might take the thirds out of your chords, especially E and A, which you will want as either major or minor (without thirds they can serve as either). This can be done with a screwdriver and masking tape. Again, you'll hear this sound on John Williams' video.

Another cool thing is to learn simple primary chords (I IV and V) in a few different keys by combining a few tune side notes with bass side notes. Then you can accompany vast numbers of songs without having to learn the tune. It is also an opportunity to enjoy the marvelous legato sound of the box when it isn't changing bellows direction every eighth note.

That's about all I know.

You can hear a sound clip or two in which my Castagnari is audible (dry tuning by the way) at this address if you want:

http://people.cedarville.edu/employee/m ... merits.htm


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 4:16 am 
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morgan wrote:
The B/C vs. C#/D question...

Scary! It's scary because it seems like a huge commitment to one system or another, often (as in my case) without much opportunity to borrow an instrument and try it out. It felt like having to choose a religion or a mail-order bride sight unseen.

I went with B/C simply because I found a good price on a Castagnari. It was reassuring that some great players like John Williams and Mick McCauley are B/C players, but then again Jackie Daly is the first one I ever heard live, and he is C#/D.

My own opinion is that it comes down to the individual tune; some moves are inconvenient in one tuning and fit handily in the other. The opening riff of "Music for a Found Harmonium" will take a long time to get right on a B/C due to the quick bellows changes. But the very next section is wonderfully easy on B/C, and hard as heck on a C#/D. So there it is.



Agreed, this was the #1 panic for me, and I had to choose between those two options and D/G, which is the primary choice for English players playing English music. Being English, and living in England, I ended up with D/G, after toying with B/C.

morgan wrote:

Also, getting a steady rhythm is even more important (dare I say this?) than playing the right notes. I was at Yale Univ. back in February and got to play in a session with John Whelan. He let me borrow his old Cardin B/C box. Well, he soundly rebuked me for playing too fast and not rhythmically enough. Point taken.



John Whelan is a lovely bloke. Avanutria and I met him on the ferry from Long Island, and after a nice chat he gave us a free CD!

morgan wrote:

And what about the bass side? The bass side is really cool, and John Williams has some great demonstrations on his video, but you should really wait until the tune side is comfy before worrying about it. I listened in one time when the box player from Teada was teaching this little boy a jig, and he said he didn't touch the bass side for years when he was young.




For Morris playing, my practise is to at least familiarise myself with the possible bass chords while learning the melody. If you don't (on a D/G) you may find you have to re-learn the melody later to get the right bass chords going. The reason is that most notes are available on both push and pull, depending on which row you're playing, but most basses aren't. Thus I learn both at the same time. It takes longer, but once you've got it, you end up with a better tune.

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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 8:36 am 
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One other thing that is fun on the bass side: mixing chords with the wrong bass notes.

For example, if you hit the G major chord button and the E bass note, you get a lovely E minor 7 chord. D major chord with G bass note creates an amazing G major 9 chord.

Sadly these are not available in both bellows directions, so they must be sprinkled in here and there.


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 1:14 pm 
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morgan wrote:
That's about all I know.


I don't believe you... Welcome, Morgan, and thanks for chiming in with your tips.

Now, how about playing "The Devil among the Tailors" in A on that B/C box of yours? :devil:

Steve


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 4:01 pm 
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That tune is new to me. Thanks for mentioning it. I just looked it up and it doesn't look all that bad for B/C box. The little quarter note endings are unusual in a reel--almost seems Appalachian.

About the worst thing that can happen (to me) on B/C is getting a D chord in (what we classical musicians call) an Alberti pattern: D A F# A, or some variation of same, over and over. The F# is on the push, the others on the pull. In a fast reel the direction change is difficult.

I have one really good cheat for that. There is another Devil tune, this one called Devil's Dream (American, I think) that does F# A D A a few times in a row. Instead of playing the F# I just get a D chord from the bass side on that beat, which can be had on the pull. Result: the whole passage can be done in one direction, and the strong beat gets an extra punch. You can hear it on the website I listed above in the live version of "Floating Crowbar," about halfway through.

Cheers...


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 7:18 pm 
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morgan wrote:
There is another Devil tune, this one called Devil's Dream (American, I think) ... You can hear it on the website I listed above in the live version of "Floating Crowbar," about halfway through.


That's the one I meant - I listened to the clip. I'm pretty sure it was originally Scottish, and Devil among the Tailors is the name used for it in the British Isles. Of course it's really a fiddle tune and the usual fiddle key for it is A major, hence my little dig. :)


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PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2006 8:18 am 
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I am appropriately dug.

Sorry--I am slow and thick-headed sometimes. Good joke, though.

Yes, Devil's Dream is one of the core tunes in the American fiddle music, and has even migrated into the Texas fiddle style.

In that clip we had two fiddles going, along with the box. It's really a cool sound because they blend so well and create this amazing edgy punchy sound.


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