Saturday, May 28, 2011

Old waltzes

     I never get tired of old waltzes. I learned the first one from Rejean Simard, who taught it at La Grande Rencontre in Montreal in 2004.  Monsieur Simard is from Chutes-aux-Outardes or Sept-Iles, I believe, in any case way up in the North.  He builds one-row accordions and plays in a solid, forceful style.  Several years ago I played this tune for Pete Sutherland, who said, "Oh, yeah, that's the 'Old Timer's Waltz.'"

     The second waltz is "Valse des bébés," which was recorded by Alfred Montmarquette.  I got my version from Denis Pepin.

A modern take on an old method to learn tunes

     When I learned to play diatonic accordion, after about a year of self-teaching, I found myself taking a series of lessons from a master player near Quebec City.  His teaching method was simple.  We sat in chairs facing each other and he played a tune (on a one-row box in D).  He then turned the low and high reeds off on his box, and I did the same.

     He played the first phrase of the tune slowly.  I repeated it.  If I made errors, he isolated the part and repeated it, slowly, again and again, until I got it.  Then we returned to the first phrase.  When I played it error-free, we moved on to the next phrase, and so on. At the end of the lesson, we recorded him playing the tune, full speed, medium speed, slow speed.  When I returned for the next lesson, he checked my (full-speed) playing of the tune before we moved on. We usually covered two tunes per one-hour lesson.

     In the absence of a master teacher, you can use a computer with some readily available software and a recording (a CD).
     For years, I used Seventh String Software's "Transcribe!"  You can download a demo and try it out for a month before deciding whether this method works for you.  The software allows you to slow down the playback of a tune without substantially sacrificing sound quality, and it allows you to shift the pitch of the playback.  This makes it an excellent tool for someone with a C one-row wanting to learn a tune played on a D one-row.  You can also "fine-tune" a recording to your box, which is helpful if you are working from historical recordings like John Kimmel or Alfred Montmarquette.
     Audacity is another piece of software that you can use to emulate the master teacher's "slow-down" playing, but the software is not specifically designed for this, so I have found it less user-friendly than Transcribe.  Still, it is available gratis, so it is an option for those who do not wish to invest in Transcribe.

     For one-row players wishing to learning French Canadian tunes, I recommend starting with recordings that feature solo accordion, or accordion with piano accompaniment.  A good place to start is Philippe Bruneau's album, Hommages.
     This computer-based method lacks the element of human contact, of course.  However, it has some very pedigreed lineage -- in a documentary about Philippe Bruneau, he is shown to use a reel-to-reel tape player to slow down historical recordings, repeat phrases, and learn from them!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Grumbling, grumbling

Here is a "crooked tune" that I learned in Quebec City during the summer of 2002.  It is one of several tunes bearing the name "La Grondeuse" ("The Grumbling Woman"?).  I'm playing 3 parts of it, varying the length of the middle part.  I've heard fiddlers play a fourth part. It's a fun tune to play in a session but there needs to be some agreement how many times to repeat the parts!

An odd tune -- and a favorite!

This is my rendition of "Le Talencourt," which I learned from Laura Sadowsky and Guy Bouchard in Val-Belair, near Quebec City, in the summer of 2002. To get the "full" tune, I need to be accompanying a fiddle or other instrument -- I'm substituting some notes on my one-row in D. (This is a typical one-row practice.) Also, my kids are playing (and sneezing, apparently) in the background. (This is a typical practice in my house.)
An old recording of the tune can be found on "Virtual Gramophone."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some Canadian tunes

Here we have Guy Loyer's "Hommage a Philippe Bruneau" as well as a standard, "Valse du Coq," which is one of the first tunes that I ever learned on the melodeon. (There is an early recording of Joseph Allard playing "Valse du Coq," but I am not sure whether he composed it.)
It's also the first time I've managed to post an MP3 of my playing -- hat tip to Accordeonaire for "bailing me out" of my hopeless ignorance when it comes to computers!
P.S. almost forgot to mention, played on a Melodie in D, LMH. I'm not sure why I had the M+ reed turned off, but it happened to be that way when I recorded these tunes!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Improv on standard 3-row

Again, Joel Guzman (from YouTube).  Notice how easy he makes it seem?

"Standard" 3-row emulating chromatic accordion

Here's a clip (from YouTube) of virtuoso Joel Guzman proving that a standard three-row box (G/C/F, A/D/G, F/Bb/Eb etc.) is certainly more than just three one row boxes.  Note the fluent use of the "accidentals" buttons, this time using the thumb (as opposed to the "crab walk" technique using the index finger).