Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

I went to a session last night, not one my regular ones, and I didn’t much enjoy it. The music seemed lifeless and insipid, and I spent some time thinking about why that might be.

After a couple of pints and some careful listening I came to the conclusion that the concertina was the villain of the piece. It wasn’t being played badly as far as I could tell, the problem was with the nature of the instrument. Every tune, no matter what the time signature, was heavily infused by the rhythm of the squeezing action - a long drawn out phrase, then a short shriek as it quickly inhales, then another long phrase, repeat until end of session. It seemed to give everything this boring bounciness that made it all sound the same.

Has this occurred to anyone else or is it just me?

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Before we go any further, let’s just get you safely behind this handy sheet of bullet proof glass. Thaat’s it. Right, carry on.

Posted by .

Reuben …

Interesting approach. Standard "thesession" scapegoat for a bad "session experience" is the goat-beater (or egg-strangler).

Is that bullet-proof glass bomb-proof to boot, Q?

Aidan

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Nah, that’d spoil all the fun!

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Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

What keys were you playing in?

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Hey, I wasn’t looking to cause any controversy or to scapegoat all concertina players! Don’t read it that way. I was just airing a little independent thought about one particular configuration of players on one particular night, that’s all. There’s a million other reasons sessions can suck that have nothing to do with concertinas. I just felt like soliciting views on this particular one to see if anyone agreed or disagreed.

What on earth is an egg-strangler??

Reuben …

Ah … the egg-strangler … appears in many guises … may turn up one night as the hide-flailer, on another as the rain-maker, on another wielding castanets and finger cymbals. You couldn’t up to the egg-strangler! The same baste is a shape-shifter and an imp. Sometimes he’ll even have an instrument with him … but it will trefuse to play in any ket except C! There are those who say that the egg-strangler is not, in fact, one of us and is some category of a s

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Heh, sorry Reuben.

We’ve not had a box played at our session (while I’ve been there anyway), but on recordings I have noticed that a concertina does change the character of the Music quite a bit. But not necessarily for the worse, IMHO.

Posted by .

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

(Rueben … sorry for the wee bit of fun above … this whole vague area has been a source of some (fairly, generally) good-humoured banter over thesession’s lifetime.

Have a wee gander at this, for example …

https://thesession.org/discussions/1889 )

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

There is a mournfulness to the sound of the concertina which can colour a session, but I like quite like that meself.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Actually, I’ve been in sessions as described by Reuben. Could you move along the plate glass a bit, please, make room for me? Thanks. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the yoke itself, but simply how hard it is squeezed, ie, the player.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Oh those funny little eggs! I’ve never seen one at a session, only in music shops. Great thread there btw Aidan. :-)

Geoff: the keys were mostly the usual G, D, and A.

Maybe it was the slower pace overall that killed it for me, or the combination of that and the constant squeezy sub-beat. I’m used to things at warp speeds, but even I could have played along at this one.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Aw come on!

Are concertina’s really that bad? - no of course they’re not!

They, like many other traditional instruments impart their own style and colour onto the grand canvas that is Irish Traditional Music.

In the words of the great Rolf Harris "Can yer tell what it is yet?"

………….I’ll get me coat :)

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Like I said, it’s probably not the instrument but the player…don’t think I can say the same for shakey eggs though.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Well ReubenH, I agree with you. There’s a good English session that I go to, as a visitor only and on the weeks where concertinas dominate (4 or 6) it sounds as if all tunes played are polkas, which are very nice but only in small doses. However, when that same session is dominated by either accordions or fiddles, the sound is much more varied and melodic, it might come down to taste at the end of the day but one concertina per session is quite enough.

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Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

A session I go to regularly has a very good concertina player with a vast repertoire of not only Irish but English and Scottish tunes. He plays in a band with three of the other session regulars, and so everything works well together session-wise. His sound never dominates except of course when he plays solo.
Trevor

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Maybe you just don’t like the concertina, ReubenH.
I use a shaky egg here and there for some sets at my session.
It adds a real lift to the melody. You’ve just got to know what rhythm to play.

Posted by .

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Yow, if you do that in Chicago, your egg will likely be boiled! :-)

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Speaking of Chicago, if you should come here and attend the Sunday session at Tommy Nevin’s Pub (or the ocassional Wed. nite session at The Grafton, or Tues. eves at Ballydoyle) you’ll quickly see that the problem was clearly with the specific player and not the instrument.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

I love the concertina, myself, and have never noticed that it makes everything sound the same. (Except for in those particular situations I know of where for instance the player usually only plays the same kind of tune — in this case, jigs — on the instrument and picks up another instrument for everything else. I don’t know why and have never asked in case she tells me.)

Anyway, it’s almost never the instrument, it’s almost always the player. GIGO, after all. (For those of you who became geeks after, say, 1985 or so, it’s an old programming catch-phrase — Garbage In, Garbage Out.) My teachers always taught me that the first person to start with when trying to find a scapegoat for a bad night is oneself. That also goes for when you’re listening — what we hear is always colored by the inside of our heads while the sound is bouncing around in there…

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Is it me? No one seems to have read all of Reubens first post.

He seems (correct me if I’m wrong) to be pointing up a particularly badly intrusive technique by this individual concertina player.

Are we talking English concertina? My missus plays english concertina and another regular at our sesh plays anglo, and neither seems to let the bellows action intrude into the playing - which seems to be what Reuben is describing. English concertina you just push and pull to keep the air flowing - there should be no difference between the sound on the "exhale" and the "inhale".

2p

Dave

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

I know nothing about concertinas and couldn’t tell an English one from any other variety. It’s since occurred to me that the concertina player was the player seated nearest to me, so maybe it was just proximity that led me to find it’s sound overwhelming. Next time I’ll try moving to the other side of the room!

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

I think it’s you, Dave. *grin* Just kidding. No, I think he was asking if concertina is always played like that, do I have that right, Reuben? The answer is of course "no."

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Oh, and BTW, welcome back, I’m glad you’re feeling better, dude.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Can’t see how an English concertina would cause the problem described, except out of pure perversity - all the buttons produce the same note going in & going out, so there’s never any reason to run out of bellows.

Posted by .

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Sounds to me like the concertina in question was an Anglo that WAS being played badly. When played well, the inhalling and exhalling of air should not be notiable at all.

Cheers
Morgana

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

PS So the answer is no, it’s not the concertina’s fault, but perhaps the fauly of the concertina player :)

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

I reckon it’s an English concertina (and probably an old one in need of a bit of attention on the reeds).

Because they have the same notes push pull it’s very easy to overdo the vamping chords making everything sound like a Morris dance.

An anglo is much more suited to Irish music - for any concertina fans out there, try listening to some of albums of the younger players:

The Nervous Man - M

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Ach. all the thudders (would be bodhranai) and other such bad players … they’re all unseelie wights. Take some Iron and Salt with tha next time.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

"Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?"

No.

Dont sit next to the concertina player

If you sit right next to a concertina or melodeon you will get a distorted sound because you hear the end near to you much louder than the other. Always try to sit in front of or behind the concertina or box.

The result of this is that concertina players always end up sitting at the other end of the room from everyone else. Between the second Bodhrans and the Shaky Egg Quartet.

Dave

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Perhaps it was as much the fault of the other musicians for not being sensitive to the nuances of the concertina or its player - or perhaps it was just a bad player.

I think the English concertina probably has potential as an ‘Irish’ instrument. I suspect its lack of popularity is in part due to the popularity of its counterpart, the Anglo-concertina, whose characteristics have played a part in defining the way traditional music has been played over the last century and a bit.

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

In my experience the concertina player really has to push in order to be the alpha instrument in a session with the same or more experienced players. In most cases the concertina seems to add body and can compliment the lead instrument. So maybe the mix of musicians was not the best. A rhythm instrument that is out of tune or playing some wrong chords can make the lead instruments sound bad or make the tune sound wrong. Of course I am biased since I play english but learn most of my tunes from listening to Irish fiddle and anglo concertina. So I try putting a lot more notes and bellows action in the tunes

Re: Bad session experience - is it the concertina’s fault?

Defintiely not the concertina’s fault. I find sessions bifurcate along the lines of "help the novices along" or "leave the novices behind". Wednesday’s session was defintely the former. Friday night’s session in the Holly Tree was much livelier, involved the same core players including the same concertina player and was much more enjoyable all around for experienced session participants.

Both types of session are important.