Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cross Chords

It is possible to greatly expand the chord possibilities on a DG melodeon by combing a bass note and chord from any of the available left hand buttons. This technique is known as cross-chords or cross-chording. The chart below shows the most useful and musical chord possible on a DG melodeon with the Bm variation of the standard Saltarelle layout.

All chords are designed to be played with the 3rds removed, and as such chords are referred to by their name on this layout rather than their actual harmonic sound eg. the Em chord actually sounds as a neutral E chord, neither major nor minor, but is referred to as Em regardless.

Various combinations on the chart are available on a standard 8 bass DG box such as a Hohner Pokerwork/Castagnari Tommy/Dino Bafetti Black Pearl, and as such, can be used with these sorts of instruments.

This is not an exhaustive list, but one containing chords which could be used in every day playing. Some possibilities have been omitted due to sounding discordant, eg. B bass + C chord. These could feasibly be incorporated into a tune with careful thought and planning, but generally have little use.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Battle of the Somme

To the anonymous the person who requested Battle of the Somme for a G one row - here it is! I hope it's useful. If you register with blogger you can subscribe to the blog and keep track of updates etc (and it makes my life easier as I can see who is posting!).

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Melodeon Ornaments 2 – Replacing Notes

The second area of melodeon ornamentation is the replacement of melody notes with an ornamented phrase or variation. Numbered examples follow directly on from article one, starting with 4 (just in case it looks like there are diagrams missing!).
4. Trills
A trill involves taking any melody note and very quickly switching between the specific melody note and any other. Whilst you can trill between any notes, a certain few will always sound better.
In general: a scale note above, or below and an adjacent button in the same bellows direction will usually sound good and be easy to execute cleanly and smoothly. See example 4a.
In 4a button G3 is played with the first finger and alternated quickly with button G4 with the second finger.  This can be written, as in bar 1, by a G note followed by a B grace note, and the notation “tr.” or “trill” written above.
The exact make up of the trill is decided by the player, but bar 2 shows two options for the make up of the trill written in full. The first group shows 6 notes being played in the space of the single G, the second showing 4. Obviously the duration of the notes and perceived speed of the trill change between the two in order to facilitate fitting all the notes in the given space.
A trill like this is best placed on a long melody note which is not the final note of a phrase. Trilling on the late note of a bar or phrase can give an unresolved sound which is not pleasing to listen to.
A better use of the trill where a bar is ending can be seen in example 4b. Bar 1 shows the original melody, bar 2, with the trill. Here, the penultimate note of A is trilled between an A and a B before the final resolution to G. The notes a trilled across the rows on the pull, as indicated above the stave.
It is worth learning this trill if nothing else, as it can be applied to all melody phrases which descend the scale before resolving to a G.
An exception to the adjacent note trill is the octave trill. This is very common in Cajun melodeon playing, but less so in English and French styles. It is very easy to execute as it simply requires playing a melody note and then trilling between it and the same note an octave lower of higher. Example 4c shows four variations on this.
It is worth experimenting with different combinations of notes to trill between, and different trill rhythms, as almost all can be used to good effect in different tunes.
5. Triplets
A melodeon triplet involves taking any single melody note, or group of 2 identical notes, and playing 3 of the same note in their place. See example 5a.
The triplet its self can be slightly difficult to finger and there are 2 main approaches. 
Firstly using 3 fingers to play the three notes. Using a slight rotation of the hand (think of the Jedi mind trick motion from Star Wars…) the button in question (in this case G3 to play the G note) is played firstly by the ring finger, then the middle finger, then the index finger. In quick succession this gives three distinct notes.
The second method uses two fingers, and here button G3 would be pressed firstly with the index finger, then the middle finger, and then the index finger again. The same process can also be repeated with any other finger combinations such as middle/index/middle or middle/ring/middle.
The exact fingering will be dictated by the fingering requirements of the tune – an ascending melody might need an index/middle/index triplet to facilitate the subsequent higher notes played with the middle and ring fingers.
A descending melody might need a middle/ring/middle triplet to allow the first finger to then play a lower note.
A triplet to finish a phrase, perhaps resolved to a G as in example 5a, could be played many ways as there is no immediate following note to consider. A three finger triplet could be idea here.
A good triplet exercise would be to play up and down a major scale, on the row, with a triplet on each note. See example 5b for a representation of the first bar of this exercise. All different finger combinations can be practiced on each ascent/descent of the scale. 
6. Specific Phrases
Many different variations on tunes are possible, and the line where an ornament becomes a variant of the melody is very fine. One last note replacing ornament, which is important to mention, is the replacement of a single note with a triplet trill. This can be used on any ascending or descending melody line.  Example 6a shows this in practice.
The descending melody shown in bar 1 is replaced with a triplet between the original note and the scale note above. When used on consecutive scale note phrases it sounds very musical.
Because such phrases are fairly common it is a very useful ornament to know in order to enhance a normally boring phrase of tune. It could also be adapted for fewer or more consecutive notes by simply choosing the use of the triplets on the notes they are required on. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Melodeon Ornamentation

Melodeon Ornaments

The art of ornamentation is possibly the ‘black art’ of melodeon playing. Too many flourishes added to a tune can destroy the melody, but used the right amount, they can turn even the simplest tune into a masterpiece.
For the sake of examining the possible ornaments, they can be broken down into three families.

•Notes which come before or after a melody note – eg., leading notes, slurs, and cuts.

•Notes or phrases which replace a melody note – eg. trills, triplets, and
specific phases.

•Harmonic ornaments eg – right hand chords, bass runs, harmony runs, and replacement of melody line with harmony.

This article focuses on the first of the three families to give an overview of ornaments available before and after the stated melody note. In these examples the grace note/slur/leading note is notated by the use of a small note on the stave. Button numbers are written in where appropriate – G5 would mean playing the 5th button on the G row on the push. A comma after the button number denotes a pull note so D4’ would be the 4th button on the D row on the pull.

1) Leading Notes

This is perhaps the most instant and universal area of ornamentation, which can be applied to melodeon playing. In the simplest form, all a player does is play one note before another to produce a ‘leading note’ emphasising the melody note.

This is achieved by lightly glancing off a button onto the desired melody note, possibly by using one finger and sliding across the rows, or two fingers, one after another. The first note should be one scale note lower eg. F# slides into a G, as Example 1a. Both notes should be in the same bellows direction. Some notes are available in both directions eg. G and A as show in example 1b.
Example 1b shows many of the common leading note combinations on the lower end of the melodeon. All the notes are repeated in the upper register and can be used in the same way, only the buttons are different.

When ever the melody of a tune plays a note which can be lead into, the leading note is played briefly in between the two intended melody notes. Example 1c shows the first two bars of the tune ‘Princess Royal’. The first bar is completely plain, the second bar has a leading F# before the G. Button D4 is depressed very slightly with the 2nd or 3rd finger before finger 1 plays button G3 to finish the phrase.
In classical music these notes are often refered to as ‘grace notes’ and are always written in. In folk, most of the time ornaments such as this are omitted and it is down to the player to add them in from the many possible combinations.
2) Slurs

Firstly, these are not strictly slurs in the full musical sense, as they are harder to play and describe on the melodeon compared to other folk instruments (fiddles!), but the ‘slurring’ technique here is a step in the right direction.

The basis of the slur on the melodeon is to play a scale note between two melody notes. This is most often done (and to best effect) where the two melody notes and the slurred note are three consecutive scale notes. Example 2a shows the first phrase of ‘La Marianne’ .

The melody moves between a G and a B. The note A can be put into the phrase to give three consecutive scale notes G A and B. The A is played quickly between the G and B in order to give the phrase more fluidity and interest.
The slur can also be used with buttons on the row and notes in the same direction. Example 2b shows the first 4 bars of ‘Tralee Gaol’. Bar one uses the E pull on button G5’ and then the A pull on button G3’. In bar 3 the same phrase happens again, but as they are not consecutive scale notes, it is better to slur using the button on the row in between them (G4’).

If a tune plays a note on one button, and then in the same bellows direction and on the same row, plays another button two buttons higher, the button in between can always be used to slur from the first to the second. See example 2c.

3) Cuts

These are notes placed between repeated melody notes or in the middle of long sustained notes (more of that in the next instalment!).

Example 3a shows bars one and two of the melody ‘Schottische a Bethanie’. Bar two resolves to a B note played twice. This can be cut with the addition of an A grace note cut in between the two B’s.
Basically, any pair of identical melody notes can be cut with any other note, but a scale note above or below, or the note on a conveniently placed button will work best. Example 3b shows two possible variations.

Blog Updates/Computer Breakage

Just a quick note to apologise to anyone looking for blog updates - my Macbook has packed up on me leaving everything in the lurch. I have it (sort of) working again and will be posting some more articles whilst I procrastinate over the current Apple range and their exorbitant prices.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Saturday, 21 August 2010