I’m very pleased to be playing at the Bradfield, UK weekend in
England on the second weekend of August. It’s a great festival run
by Mark Davies. On Saturday the 9th, 2008, I’ll be conducting a
workshop, "COOL AMERICAN STUFF ON THE C/G ANGLO" at 4:00 pm in the
If you are planning to attend, you might be interested in seeing
and hearing, before hand, just what we will be working on... bluesy
grace note slurs as an American sounding ornament. Other genres of
music employ this device too, so you may find it useful for
whatever music you play.
There are a number of things I do which make my Anglo concertina
playing sound particularly American. One of them is to emulate the
sliding up to pitch as a fiddle, sax or vocalist would do. This
works on any fixed pitch instrument and jazz pianists do it all the
time. The concertina also has fixed pitches so you don’t really
slide but rather, slur two notes. If they are played in rapid
succession and the interval is a half step then the brain hears it
as a slide or glissando. I like to think of this as a slurred grace
note preceding a pitch in the scale being used. In practice, an
instrument or singer might not quite reach the second note and
these deliberately flat pitches are often called “blue
The technique risks sounding kind of lame on the concertina in part
because the instrument cannot play a blue note for it's life (at
least I've never heard it done), yet, if you do all of the things
in the list below, it can still be very effective. As in all
things, let your ear be your guide.
• If the first pitch (the grace note) is usually played very short,
the second note is placed squarely on a beat with the grace note
just before the beat.
• Sometimes the first note can be played as a full length eighth
note, a sort of pickup that precedes a phrase.
• The two notes are played in the same bellows direction.
• The second note is louder that the first.
• The best interval is a rising half step.
The most common pitch to slide to is the third note of the scale
A little of this stuff goes a long way. Just a hint of the first
note is often enough.
I mostly use this effect sparingly when I play, but for teaching
purposes I wrote a modal tune that has three different examples of
these pseudo slides. It ends up sounding like a fiddle or cross
harp harmonica blues tune and included below are the dots and an
mp3 of me playing Crank It Up solo on my Jefferies C/G Anglo.