Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Hello Folks,
I am a newbie here so am at your mercy!!
Just retired & am starting to want to learn the button accordion in b/c (if I’m able) Currently I am learning ‘Homes of Donegal’ in Letter Notes ie: GABBAGAB__GEDEGAG but (& here’s the but) I am having difficulty in getting the correct letter note for songs like, Liverpool Lou/Gypsie Rover/A Mothers Love is a Blessing/Muirsheen Durkin/Merry Ploughboy etc, etc, the internet generally seem to be listed for Tin Whistle etc but NOT Button Accordion.
I would love to be able to get some tunes in Letter format as described & much more if possible, I have no problem paying for them.
Any help in this direction much appreciated.
My contact joetravers2@gmail.com

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

If you’re describing some of the scores with the tin-whistle positions depicted below the note on the staff you might be referring to abc notation used in conjuncture with a format file that makes the little picture of the whistle. I’m not aware of any such format file for any of the accordion types (I’ve searched for them myself). The problem with a format file for a button accordion would be that on the box, your previous and following fingerings might depend upon the direction of the bellows action and how that leads to and from the note currently being played. It’s somewhat complex and format files aren’t configured for decision making. With a great deal of effort, some expertise in a graphics program, a good knowledge of which button needs to be played per bellows action and a whole lot of patience you could chart your fingering for the score but that time and effort would be much better spent just playing the notes and figuring out what finger positions work best for you. After that it’s practice, practice, practice. It would also benefit you greatly to find a teacher. I’ve been at it on my B/C box for just under six months myself and my first lesson was just two weeks ago. I received clear admonishments to slow down, learn the phrases correctly, correct my posture and practice, practice, practice. I now need to unlearn some poor habits that could have been avoided if I had found a teacher earlier in the process.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Hi Callison,
Many thanks for your good advice.
But what I need before I attempt a teacher is to practice some notes and that’s what I am finding difficult to find. A fellow gave me the Letter notes for Homes of Donegal example first line GABBAGAB__GEDEGAG and I am doing well but if I could get a few more songs in LETTER Notes format it would give me a great start.
How are you playing by music notes or letter notes or by ear?
Cheers

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Joseph, why not just use the ABC format tunes that are available here?

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Of course you’ll be wanting to play tunes as soon as you can, but when I started on B/C box, my teacher suggested that I learn various scales first: C, G, D and A, so that I’d get to know where all the notes were.
As I could already read music, I did not use ABC, but learned tunes both by ear and from notation.
But if you don’t read music, then using ABC could be useful - once you know where all those notes are (as per my first sentence.)

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

The letter notes can be found on this website by searching under the “TUNES” tab at the top of the page. The ‘letter note’ style of writing out tunes is more often called ‘ABC notation’ and that’s what this website uses.

You could search (for example) “Muirsheen Durkin ABC” and find tunes that way. I just did that and guess what? One of the top search results leads back to this website.

https://thesession.org/tunes/8516

ABC takes a little getting used to but it’s actually very simple. The top 6 lines or so

X:1
T: Muirsheen Durkin
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: D

…etc are called the ‘header’ and they just give some information on the tune. The actual music doesn’t start till after the K: line, which gives you the ‘key’ the tune is in. So, for Muirsheen Durkin, the first part of the tune goes

E | FF ED | EA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FF ED | EA AB | cA Bc | d2 d ||
A |dd ed | cA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FG ED | EA AB | cA GE | D2 D |

you can ignore the vertical “|” lines — they show where the measures fall but you probably don’t need that information right now. The letters with numbers after them like D2 just mean it’s a long note that you stay on for twice as long as the other notes. Hope this helps! Good luck.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Joseph, I keep an enlarged chart of the buttons by my computer where I have either the pdf or EasyABC score visible. I’ve finally learned enough staff notation to read the notes in the score and play them, referring to the chart as necessary. Between the notation, the chart, and my ear I loop endlessly through the tune until I don’t need the notes or the chart. After that, it’s just endless practice until I can play the tune correctly at a not very rapid pace. Unfortunately, this does not make my efforts session compatible. I’ll never play faster than a walking pace plus I have a great deal of trouble trying to play in concert with any other instruments. The one thing I do seem to do successfully is drive the cat out of the room when I play.

You could install EasyABC on your computer (it’s free) and then have both the score and the notes in letter format visible to play from. That’s actually how I learned to read the score, using the letters below until I didn’t need them (mostly) anymore. One thing that letters don’t tell you that a score does at a glance, is the key and all of the sharps and flats. In abc notation at least, the key is defined in the headers so subsequent notes in the text/code portion will not have sharps or flats preceding them. I only read simple one-note melodies and I didn’t learn to read those until I was in my mid-sixties. I should have learned to read notation sooner.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Joseph, beginners often think that they need to get something under their belt before they start with a teacher. This is almost always a mistake, for reasons that only make sense when you can already play. Teachers don’t need or expect you to have any knowledge or ability whatsoever: that’s why you go to see them!

Also, without wishing to trigger a discussion about the merits of music reading, I would gently suggest that learning to read music is not all that hard and worth investing a little of your time in.

Posted by .

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Hi Joseph. joe fidkid’s example is a very useful introduction to how to use tunes stored in ABC notation as "letter notes" - and it’s nice that he actually tried to answer your question, unlike everybody else ;-) (I’m not saying that their advice isn’t sound, mind you).

There are a couple of bits of information that you might need that joe fidkid didn’t spell out, though. The first concerns the K: or key information, in this case the key of D. callison touched on this in his reply above, but let me spell it out for you (if you know all this already, I apologise!).

What you may not realize, and what you need to know, is that in the key of D (major) all the notes marked F and C will actually be F sharp and C sharp. So if you are looking at that transcription of Muirsheen Durkin, every time you see an F, make sure you are pressing the button for F-sharp or F# shown on your keyboard diagram, and the same for c - the button you have to find is c-sharp or c#.

((( Theory sidebar: Every key has its own "key signature" and in the case of D major, it’s two sharps, F# and C#. In the case of the next most common key in Irish music, G major, the key signature is one sharp, F#. So when you play tunes that are in G, there is one note that is different from tunes in D. You will use a C natural (an ordinary C!) rather than a C sharp. )))

Whether the notes are upper or lower case (capitals or not, C or c) matters also. Capital letters are in the lower octave, small letters in the second octave, with the change happening on the note of C.

So where you see AB | cA in the above transcription, the c (actually c# of course) is just above the B. :-)

Hope this helps.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

"Joseph, beginners often think that they need to get something under their belt before they start with a teacher. This is almost always a mistake, for reasons that only make sense when you can already play. Teachers don’t need or expect you to have any knowledge or ability whatsoever: that’s why you go to see them!"

Completely agree with Calum. Get thee to a teacher!

Posted by .

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

@calum, @aaron are 100% right - get some guidance/tuition. Even a dozen will get you started in the right direction and likely prevent you developing bad habits which will have to be unlearned. You will be much further progressed in 1 and 2 years with some classes - much moreso than heading off solo.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

A big thank you to Michael Eskin, GByrne, Aaron, Stiamh, Calum, Callison, Joe Fidkid & Trish Sander for your very kind help so much appreciated.
QUESTION:
As I am using B/C Button Accordion what KEY in two row am I playing Muirsheen Durkin or Homes of Donegal, please?
E | FF ED | EA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FF ED | EA AB | cA Bc | d2 d ||
A |dd ed | cA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FG ED | EA AB | cA GE | D2 D |
I need to keep this very simple until I get an Accordion Teacher, in the meantime all ‘I think’ I need is a few Irish Song Tunes in LETTER Notes ie: WildRover/Gypsy Rover/Liverpool Lou, etc, that I can learn myself to play on a standard B/C Button Accordion.
Your help so far has been so much appreciated, you’ll never know how much, thank you very much.

What KEY

Beginners Silly Question? it means a lot though!!

The Homes of Donegal GABBAGAB__GEDEGAG played on a two-row b/c accordion.
Can anyone please help me here what KEY are these notes in, please.

Thank you,
Joseph

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

« As I am using B/C Button Accordion what KEY in two row am I playing Muirsheen Durkin or Homes of Donegal, please? »

The letter notes you have copied for Muirsheen Durkin are in the key of D major, which means that for all the Fs you must play F# and all the Cs you must play C#.

The notes for the Homes of Donegal that you gave in your original post are in the key of G major, which means that all the Fs are F#, and if you have any Cs (I think you will in the later lines - I recognise the tune, though not by that name) they will not be C# but just ordinary C (what we call C-natural).

On your B/C accordion, all the notes with sharps (F# and C#) are on the outer row of buttons, and every other note in those two tunes will be on the inner row. So now you have your work cut out for you! :)

By the way, those tunes can be played in those keys by just about any instrument used in Irish music. So the transcriptions, or sets of letter notes, are for any instrument, not just the box.

Also bear in mind that on most instruments you can play any given tune in more than one key, and in fact on the B/C box you can play any given tune in ANY key you like. But for now, keeping to tunes played in D and G, and especially in G, would be a good plan for you as you start out.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

OK, a "silly answer", perhaps?

I wasn’t familiar with the title "The Homes of Donegal" but I see that’s it’s another title for "The lakes of Ponchartrain " https://thesession.org/tunes/896 which is certainly not the same tune as you’ve got the "letters" for here!

To me, the snippet sounds very much like "Tramps and Hawkers" and the notes here suggest that it should be in the key of G"

This is the tune here https://thesession.org/tunes/7091 although there’s not a "G" setting. No reason why it can’t be played in that key though.

Of course, "The Homes of Donegal" may also be alternative name for this tune too but not one I’ve heard myself.
It’s usually more thought of as a song too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvPOTucka4w

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

I should add that "timing" and the actual pitch of a note i.e. high or low octave will greatly affect how a tune can be accurately interpreted. You need a little more than just "letters" to be sure.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

And, of course, whether the notes are natural, sharp, or even flattened!

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

You are right Johnny but I have a hunch that Joseph knows how those tunes go….

Now, if you do know how the tunes you want to play go, Joseph, I would normally encourage you to try them on the box by poking around and sounding buttons until you "find" the tune. Sort of playing by ear, or by trial and error with your ears telling you the errors!

On the B/C box, though, you have to be careful because it’s a bit of a special animal. Poking around to find a tune you would be tempted to use buttons on only one row, which would mean you would end up finding the tunes in C or B. Then when you come to play them with others, you’ll be in a different key from everyone else.

On the B/C, to play most tunes in common keys, you need to play "across the rows", using buttons from both rows, which is a bit counter-intuitive at first. This is why, for the B/C box in particular, everyone’s recommendation to find a teacher early on is a good one.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Hi Friends,
A Big Céad Mile Fáilte & thank you for your kind replies/help, much appreciated.

So I take it the Letter Note for the tune Homes of Donegal GAB BA GA BG ED EG AG are in the KEY G

What Key is Muirsheen Durkin in, please?
E | FF ED | EA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FF ED | EA AB | cA Bc | d2 d ||
A |dd ed | cA AB | cA GE | FD D2 |
FG ED | EA AB | cA GE | D2 D |

When I am searching for Letter Notes am I to understand it’s the Key of G I should be looking for?

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

"So I take it the Letter Note for the tune Homes of Donegal GAB BA GA BG ED EG AG are in the KEY G?"

I’m pretty sure that the notes you had there are in the "Key of G" whatever the actual title of tune.

Muirsheen Durkin seems to be in the key of "D" from the information you have given us there. Of course, the "F" and "c" are both played sharp.

In the ABC on this site and, indeed, on sheet music this is indicated at the start before the first bar…

However, if you are just writing out "fragments", this can be less obvious. So, unless you actually state the key, there can sometimes be confusion.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Sometimes I think that a bit of music theory would be helpful before learning an instrument…

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Friends thank you so very much for all your help.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Another vote for lessons if you can find a teacher. It definitely helped me.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

“When I am searching for Letter Notes am I to understand it’s the Key of G I should be looking for?”

Not necessarily. But G is a very common key in traditional Irish music, so you won’t go far wrong. I would just go after the tunes you want to learn, and take them in whatever key you get them.

I would also recommend a few lessons, at least to get you started. You might get so much out of it that you’ll stay with them, and quite possibly make much faster progress than you would just plugging along by yourself.

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

So Joseph,
Where are you located? That might turn up some recommendations for teachers not too far from you…

Re: Letter Notes for Button Accordion B/C (Newbie)

Googling a tune’s title together with "abc" will usually turn up an ABC version.

Take a look at melodeon.net which is a community for players of all types of button accordion/melodeon.