Friday, 29 January 2010

The G Major Scale


G major is a very easy key to play on a melodeon which has a G row! All that is required is learning the push/pull pattern which gives the notes in the right order.
The scale will start on button 3 of the G row. 

To play the scale you must play: 

Button 3 on the push (G3)
Button 3 on the pull (G3')
Button 4 on the push (G4)
Button 4 on the pull (G4')
Button 5 the push (G5)
Button 5 on the pull (G5')
Button 6 on the pull (G6')
Button 6 on the push (G6)

Notice that the push/pull pattern reverses for the last two buttons!

Once you can do this pattern ascending, try it in reverse.

Eh' Cumpari

This traditional Italian tune, made famous in 1953 by Julias La Rosa, is a really good beginners tune for the melodeon.

Begin this tune by placing your right hand fingers on the G row in the home position; your first finger on button 3, second on button 4, third on button 5, and fourth on button 6.

The whole tune can be played using these fingers to operate its specific button.

Pay attention to letting fingers fly away once they have played their note; they should stay on the button or hover just about it.

To read the notation: each number corresponds to a button on the melodeon's G row. G5 would mean play the 5th button of the G row on the push (closing the bellows together). G6' would mean play button 6 of the G row on the pull (opening the bellows up) etc.

If you find you are running out of air make sure you use the air button to refill or empty the bellows.

Friday, 22 January 2010

John Playford Mandolin Set - Drive The Cold Winter Away/Kettledrum/Maiden Lane

This is a great set of tunes taken from John Playford's collection of English dance tunes. Most recently printed in Pete Coopers 'English Fiddle Tunes' adapted here for the mandolin.

Written for one of my students, the tutorial is aimed at players who have grasped the basics of the instrument and is intended to clarify the slightly technical parts, look at some basic double stopping ideas, and indicate a style and tempo which suits the tunes.

Drive The Cold Winter Away

Playing a tune like this in the key of D minor allows for some good double stopping (playing 2 or more strings at once). Because all of the open string notes appear in the key it is possible to play any open string along with the melody line, but using the open A or D string works best.

A good example of this is bar 1 of the B section where the open D string can be played against the descending melody line played on the A string. This can then be repeated at any point where notes are played on the A string.

This can be heard in the video where all three tunes are played back to back.

The original tune is written in 6/4 which explains the dotted rhythm which occurs when moved to the easier to read 6/8. The trick to playing this lumpy pattern is to keep the middle note of each group of three as short as possible.


Again, playing in Dm allows for the same double stopping ideas. In Kettledrum, since the melody is often being played on the E string, it allows the open A to be played.

The best opportunity for this occurs in the first 4 bars of the B section. These bars create tension around the high A note (3rd finger, 5th fret, E string, shown as the note on the first ledger line).

The melody runs up and down from this high A. By playing the open A string (which is an octave lower than the melody A) along with the changing melody notes it provides a good accompaniment.

In the final bar of the B section, playing the open D string along with the high D note is a good way to add interest and help to resolve the piece back to the root note of D.

It is important to practice the fast runs between the E and A string using alternate picking (strictly down/up/down/up) to allow the flurry of note to sound.

Maiden Lane 

First, a nice snippet of background from the wonderful Fiddlers Companion

"The Maiden Lane section of London, near Covent Garden and the River Thames, has been alternately a diminished, dissolute area, and one of high fashion—sometimes at the same time!  In Playford’s day it was the site of “mean houses,” but by Georgian times, elegant properties were built whose garden walls outlined the lane, and forming the southern boundary of architect Inigo Jones’s proposed Italiante Piazza. Gradually, however, the area drew theatres (it was near Covent Garden), taverns and coffee houses, and disrepute began to again set in. Round Court, at the western end of the narrow alley, was described as “…one of the Rookeries, full of town-Pyrates and a hotbed of Robbers.”"

We have a key change here from Dm to G, giving the set a bright, major, lift at the end.

The double stopping here changes slightly. At the start of bar 2 it is possible to 'rake' the strings of an open G major chord (frets 0 0 2 3 played low to high). This emphasises both the key change to G major and the high G note. 

In a similar fashion to Kettledrum where an open low string was played with a fretted note one octave higher to end the tune, the same can be applied here. The A and C sections both end with a G note (5th fret D string). This can be played along with the open low G string to provide a good end to each section.

The Video

The video contains the three tunes played at a reasonable tempo. Each tune is played separately followed by the transition between the tune and the next. At the end all three tunes are played not necessarily dance speed, but one which fits the tune when played in isolation.

The transitions tend to be the areas where it is possible to loose the rhythm (or the melody entirely!) so it is important to pay attention to the changes in time signature, tempo and key. Practice these changes separately by playing the B section of one tune into the A of another, and then with the whole of both tunes played back to back.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Michael Turners Waltz - Mozart K536

Here is the waltz in one of Mozart's set of German dances.

The melody come in around 40 seconds in. Notice how the basic melody is slightly different from that in Turner's manuscript, but it is never the less the same. The classical ornamentation around the melody also helps to give it a different feel.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Michael Turners Waltz

As promised, a tune from scratch. Michael Turners Waltz is a very nice Sussex tune from Michael Turners own manuscript. I got my version from the local sessions, which play it the same way as written in the Lewes Favorites and the Sussex Tunebook. The same tune also occurs in Mozart KV 536 (Six German Dances). I'm guessing that these six dances were German country dance tunes adapted for the orchestra, so it's probable that the waltz is a traditional German one. I'll post a link to the tune when I find a version online.

 The Tune

The tune sits very nicely on the G row of a DG melodeon. The finger notation is written assuming this button layout - low notes with the G scale starting on button 3.

IF you do not have these low notes just replace the G1' with another G2, it works just the same but is not quite as economical with the bellows direction changes.

The given fingering also works for all standard one-row layouts, but the tune will end up in a different key if you are not playing a G box.

The fingering chart above shows which button to press and the bellows direction. For example, G3 would mean press the third button on the G whilst pushing the bellows together. G6' would mean press button 6 on the G row whilst pulling the bellows apart. The use of an apostrophe ' indicates a note played on the pull.

In contrast to the previous tune, this does not cross rows at all.

The trickiest part of the tune comes in bars 1 and 5 where the low D note (G2/G1') should be played on different buttons to keep the bellows direction constant from the previous notes. This allows the tune to flow more lyrically and for some interesting chord/bass accompaniments I will look at in a future lesson.

The Chords

The framework for the chords is a standard waltz where the bass note is played on the first beat of every bar and the chords are played on beats two and three.

Hopefully the video will explain this more visually/aurally, but for those who would like it explained in writing:

The first two notes are a lead in and do not require accompaniment.

The tune starts with a B note (G4 using your first finger). At the same time of playing this note, briefly press the G bass button on the left hand side of the melodeon using your little finger.

The next melody note is the same, but this time it is joined onto a low D (G2). As you press the B with your right hand first finger briefly tap the G chord with the left hand third finger.

This is then followed by your right hand first finger playing the low D (G2). This does not have any accompaniment so the left hand can have a moments rest (but don't allow your fingers to fly away - they will be needed in just a second!).

The 4th note in bar one is a C. This is played by pressing G4 and playing the note on the pull (G4'). At the same time as this you press the G chord button again with the left hand third finger. Being a clever instrument, the melodeon changes the chord depending on the bellows direction, this time giving you a D chord.

The final note in bar one is another low D, but this time played on the first button of the G row, on the pull (G1'). Again, this doesn't need accompaniment so you can let your fingers rest. If you do not have this low D on the pull, just replace it with a low D played on G2.

This is a basic chord progression, a more advanced version will be coming shortly.

The Video

A quick apology here - my melodeon has extra buttons! The sharp eyed will notice that on my box, the fingering I have given is all moved up one button (G3 would be G4). This facilitates some extra low notes, but since we don't need them just ignore the lowest note on the G row (indicated in the video).

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Valse Olive

So, here is the first lesson! Valse Olive by Oliver Gautier. The video shows the parts broken down into the A and B sections and the respective bass parts for each one. I have prepared this for a specific pupil and as such it is not a 'from scratch' tutorial (but some of those to come!)

This is a French tune, and because of this, it is played across the rows of the Melodeon. This leads to smoother basses and a more interesting harmony.

Now, I'm not a 'French' player, but I do like the French style tunes. I have played this on a DG Melodeon in the key of G, but the original is played in C on a GC, as many French tunes are.

Playing on a DG compared to a GC means that it is better to play in the lower octave as opposed to the higher octave on a  GC where Mr Gautier plays it. Here is the original.

Why am I here?

First, a little about myself. I am a musician and I do a lot of teaching. I am often asked if I can provide recordings of which ever piece we are working on to provide them with some material to use at home.

The aim of this blog is to collect up all these little sound clips, annotated score and videos and put them all together under one roof.

There is no overall theme to these lessons. Some are for beginners, some for more advanced players. I think that mostly Melodeon lessons will end up here, and possibly some Mandolin or Bouzouki ones too, due to the fact there are plenty of really good Guitar and Fiddle demonstrations out there in the wide expanses of the internet and these don't really need to be repeated.

I am quite happy for requests if there is something specific I have done or not done which you would like to look at.

Almost all the work here will be my own original teaching content. Please feel free to redistribute with acknowledgment!