melodeon help requested

melodeon help requested

Hi,

I’m almost entirely clueless (as will become apparent) when it comes to melodeon being a whistle and flute player. Having always liked the sound of the melodeon I had the opportunity to lay my hands on what turned out to be a C/C# hohner from around 1930. I was aware that this wasn’t the most useful but fell into the age old trap of buying it since it was in front of me. It wasn’t expensive so I’m not overly concerned (its really quite pretty!) but would like to get some use from it.

My question is this: can i usefully learn anything on this instrument before eventually acquiring one in a more logical key without learning bad habits that will be hard to break?

I suspect after a bit more research that i will want a D/G as despite loving ITM on flutes/ whistles its the English folk tunes I’m drawn to on the box (sacrilege here i realise) would D/G be the right call if this were the case? (Tim Edey, John Squires? I know both play lots of instruments but am I right in thinking D/G would be home for them? thats the style I enjoy)

Could I treat it simply as an instrument to learn some basic skills on one row? total beginner so im already getting the impression that some serious work is to be done before anything more than this is possible anyway!

Can anyone advise?

Re: melodeon help requested

Certainly you can learn some basic skills on one row. Get stuck in and make use of what you have. Nothing you learn will be wasted, whatever system you end up with.

D/G would be the right choice if you want to be able to do everything that good D/G players do.

But while you have your C/C# you could also learn a lot about playing half-step boxes in more useful keys, namely B/C and C#/D. Just pretend that the instrument is tuned a half-step lower for the former and a half-step higher for the latter.

If you find you enjoy your experiments on the C/C#, C#/D would be a useful a nice compromise, giving you a D row for melodeon-style playing and also allowing you to play Irish style, and a bigger variety of tunes than you can on a standard D/G. B/C is rather a different animal - harder to get to grips with initially, but obviously a very capable system.

Re: melodeon help requested

The vast majority of English players do play the D/G system for 2 rows, but some have added half rows for extra accidentals or a full A row. Tim Edey has my huge admiration for being able to play D/G AND C#/D - and all in one box! Others have spare boxes using the same interval between rows, such as C/F, or Andy Cutting has a Bb/Eb box that he made himself.
Btw, I think you meant John Spiers, not Squires? (Pron: Spires)
So maybe talk to a few other players, and think about what sort of music you want to play, and the keys in which you want to play. I play a B/C, but don’t often play in C, and very rarely in B: most often in G and D like everyone else, but it is good for playing in A as with a lot of our Scottish tunes (mainly transposed into G by English D/G melodeon players - oops, sorry, couldn’t resist that wee dig!) And, with a B/C you can play in any key right hand if you know your scales!

Re: melodeon help requested

Tom, you can’t go wrong with a D/G [and yes there are plenty of A tunes playable on it] but you can learn the old 1 row style on your C/C# by playing straight up and down the C row. I guess C/C# would be fully chromatic so theoretically you could play in any key but the fingering would be devilish!

Re: melodeon help requested

"Scottish tunes (mainly transposed into G by English D/G melodeon players - oops, sorry, couldn’t resist that wee dig!)"
Dig away Trish, my pet hate this, especially when they turn to me and say I’m in the wrong key, Grrrr!

Re: melodeon help requested

"mainly transposed into G by English D/G melodeon players "

Actually, it’s not only in England where "A" tunes are often transposed into "G". It happens a lot in Ireland too… e.g. Miss Macleod is an obvious example while(I think) "The Blackthorn Stick is the other way around(Originally Irish?) i.e. "G" in Ireland and "A" in Scotland.

I’d imagine the reason for this in Ireland may have developed because of the different tuning of the Uillean pipes as opposed to the Highland pipes? Playing tunes in "A" would generally be less common.

Re: melodeon help requested

No need to play just in the "1 row style". A C/C# enables you to play with B/C fingerings to any recording by Dervish, and join so-called Eb sessions (where every tune is a semitone higher). Good luck.

Re: melodeon help requested

As for the right tuning for a particular style, there are plenty good Scottish/ITM players using fifth apart boxes, and the grandaddy of English melodeon, John Kirkpatrick, plays a B/C/C#.

Get stuck in, I say. It’s not that hard. It probably would make sense to treat it as a B/C or C#/D box and play it that way, but there are no Melodeon Police waiting to take your licence away if you are caught cross-rowing in C/C#.

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Re: melodeon help requested

Thanks for your help everyone. Really useful input.

I did mean Spiers (spellcheck is having fun so it could have been worse!)

I will get stuck in and see how I get on

Am I right I’m assuming then, that c/c# boxes are not that useful to most which may be why I was able to pick this one up so cheap?

Re: melodeon help requested

The fingering is completely different from the quint boxes (D/G etc), so learning on a C/C# would not help you here. On the other hand, you do have a fulll chromatic box, albeit of an unfashionable layout. A D/G will give you the keys of D, G, Am, Em, Bm and A, though the A basses don’t exist - but you don’t necessarily need to use basses in every tune!

Re: melodeon help requested

<<though the A basses don’t exist>>

If you get yourself a D/G two and a half row box with a stop for taking the thirds out of the chords, you can use them for major or minor. So you can play in A minor and A major. Mind you, the easiest fingering for A major is nearly all on the draw so you need very long arms! Played Guid Man of Ballangigh (sp?) at a ceilidh last night going from G into A. My left arm nearly fell off.

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Re: melodeon help requested

‘A basses don’t exist’? Ebor, my Cairdin D/G has an A bass without the 3rds, facilitating major or dorian tunes - I think most modern melodeons are built like that, its only Hohner and some of the cheap Far East brands that persist in keeping that annoying c#