Having arrived at the age where one can explain away a momentary lapse as an expected event, I am comforted in recognizing such a feeling earlier in my career as a concertinist. The”concertina moment” comes suddenly in the height of passion when improvising or venturing on unfamiliar territory in a session during a solo. Everything is going along great; everything is fitting perfectly when suddenly a phrase jumps out with a figure that is totally absent from your move- library. You stop and die or worse, play something from the musical tower of Babel. With time one develops one’s wits and can substitute a chord in place of the mystery phrase. The goal, of course, is to be able to play the whole phrase on the fly and this requires an intimate knowledge of the clavier in both directions. I am amazed now how, once developed, those………what were we talking about……..”concertina moments” become infrequent.
My new tutor presents a method to develop this skill and will be one of the subjects covered in my workshops.
Playing in D and A on a 30 button C/G need not be feared. Playing in D actually is as natural as playing in G, both of which in a strange way are more natural than playing in C. Why? Because there is only one C and one E in the middle octave while there are Ds and Gs in both directions. True the F# is only represented on the out but that is no more an obstacle than the “in” E. In addition, in both D and G the dominant chords (A7 and D7) are in the opposite direction to the tonic chords (D and G). This allows for replenishment of air in most tunes just as the G7 in the key of C. In the key of A the challenge is one of air since the dominant E7 is in the same direction. As a result one must careful arrange the piece to find spots to open the instrument. This is one reason why myxolydian (flatted G) Appalachian and Irish tunes work easily in A – the G chord is opposite to the A.
The most important guideline when constructing scales and phrases in any key is that the leading tone and the tonic should be in the same direction this is what I call the pairing principle and is essential to playing phrases with the correct intention. For example in “shave and a hair cut – two bits”, the “two” is the leading tone to the tonic “bits”
For D, the leading tone is C# in which the C# is on the right top row (R1 or R2 in the Jeffries) and the D on the lower row left (L15). Also in the Jeffries one can play the C# on R1 and the D on R6 on the in. In G the leading tone F# and the tonic G are both found on the same side (lower Row III and Row I respectively) in the opening position in both octaves. For the key of A it means playing the G# and A on the top row. The left is easy L5 to L4 while on the right they are found on the top row R3 to R2 in Wheatstone and R3 to R5 in Jeffries. In the key of F the leading tone E (L15) to F (R7) only works in the middle octave.