Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wheezy bellows

At the end of the last of my three lessons LB asked to look at my melodeon - saying that it sounded a bit 'wheezy'. Investigation showed a long split where the bellows had parted company from the plastic bit (no idea what this is called) which plugs into the wooden ends of the melodeon. It was easily fixed but LB said that he would need to keep the bellows in a press overnight for the glue to set.

I went back the next day to find my melodeon smelling strongly of Evostik - and working far better. A lot of the problems that I was having with running out of air just vanished. I've now got much less need to use the air button, and where I am using it it tends to be at very different times to previously. Some tunes that we had marked up as needing air at certain points just don't need the air button at all now.

EDITED to add:

Suddenly I'm finding it easier - I don't have wheezy bellows any more (goodness knows how long that problem was there). I've lost my fear of moving my hand about the keyboard, and everything is much easier. I'm even trying to do some bass with some of the tunes. I'm really starting to feel like I'm making some progress now.

Some Lessons now that I've retired

As retirement approached I realised that I needed to take some proper melodeon lessons. We will be going out for several weeks boating, and I know that I have a number of problems to deal with. In particular:
  • air button
  • bass
  • not keeping the bellows 'square' 
  • general reading music problems
I also thought there might be some more things I didn't know about. I wanted to start to work on these before we go away.

So, I looked out LB, who sold me my melodeon last year. He was playing melodeon for a local morris side at a canalside pub in my hometown. Would he be interested in giving me some lessons? Yes, he could do that. So we arranged to meet at his home, as I have young adults doing noisy things here.

The first lesson showed up some definite problems. Yes, all of the things I had already identified, which I was given advice about, but also a big problem to do with fingering. I touch type, so I'm very aware of the need to keep your fingers on the 'home keys' of the typing keyboard. I'd asked around a bit with regard to keying the melodeon to find out if it mattered which fingers you used for keying. No, was the general answer, use any fingers. So, I went with what seemed right to me - have your hand over a set of 'home keys', and stretch for any buttons that aren't under your hand. LB pointed out that this tends to give a choppy sound, some stretches are too far to be able to handle smoothly - the timing between some notes is just wrong - especially when I was using the same finger for subsequent notes.

I needed a radical rethink. Subsequent notes played on different buttons needed to be played with different fingers and I had to relearn any fingering that I had already got 'sorted'. However, I found immediately that playing some tunes was much easier.

The next problem, for someone who doesn't really understand music, is that just because something looks to me like it is in the key of G, it isn't necessarily - it could be E minor. That means it isn't played on the G row, but the D row. Ah, another mistake. Funny, I'd originally learned 'Bear Dance' on the D row, but decided that I would get the basses wrong, so relearned it on the G row. Time to go back and try again.

I learned a huge amount in the lesson, and followed on with two more lessons, each of which expanded my knowledge enormously. I have actually found re-learning the fingering far easier than I originally thought I would. I could never just shunt my hand up the typing keyboard a couple of keys and expect to hit the right keys.  I've made a lot of progress with the basses and I've improved on avoiding'rotating' the bellows - and keeping the bellows square. I also know a bit more about music theory and a little bit about chords. I now feel in a much better position to go off boating and practice while I'm away.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Retirement approaches - lessons seem like a good idea

As I will be retiring soon I will have more time to devote to other things. Boating, walking the dog, learning Welsh, playing melodeon.

Last week I went to watch a local morris side dancing out at our local. I was interested anyway, but I thought there might be an outside chance that the man that sold me my melodeon might be playing there, and I thought he might be prepared to give me a lesson or two before I disappear for the summer on my boat(s). I want some help to iron out some poor habits I am developing before they become entrenched - which is quite likely given how long I will be away for, especially as I will have more practice time than previously.

Well, I struck lucky. He was there, he was prepared to give me some lessons, so I'm now trying to practice a few key tunes before I see him next week.