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DAVE MALLINSON - Beginners’ Melodeon: Tunes And Techniques 

DAVE MALLINSON - Beginners’ Melodeon: Tunes And Techniques 
ISBN: 9781899512942 

There’s no man like Dave Mallinson for tutor books, and here is a couple of new additions to his catalogue. Dave is a self-taught player himself, so he knows how much hard slog it takes to master an instrument. Here he gives learners a pile of tricks, techniques and ideas to aid in their quest to learn the instrument (in this case, a D/G melodeon) and build up a core repertoire of material.

Instant Melodeon starts right at the start, and could be used by absolute beginners, or by those in the early stages of learning. He begins with a good introduction explaining the basic mechanics of the instrument, and goes on to explain the notation used throughout the book. As well as standard staff notation, Dave introduces a special melodeon tablature which shows what buttons to press, whether to press or draw the bellows and which fingers to use. There is also a tablature for the basses. So even if you can’t read music, there is no excuse!

There are 42 tunes in Instant Melodeon, all of which use just 14 notes. They are all in the keys of D and G and are either jigs or reels. None is too complex, and they are all fairly well known – Winster Gallop, Britches Full Of Stitches, Salmon Tails Up The Water being good examples. Dave has recorded a 48 track CD which comes with this tutor-book, which has all the bass exercises and practice scales to begin with, and then all the tunes, played through twice each. This is invaluable for playing along with.

Beginners’ Melodeon: Tunes And Techniques lays out 75 traditional tunes from all over the UK, Ireland and beyond, with full bass accompaniment. There are more different types of tune here than in Instant Melodeon (hornpipes, polkas, rants, mazurkas, slides etc. are added) and the melodies are a bit more complicated, progressing in difficulty as you work your way through the book.

Again, Mally starts with an explanation of the method of notation, which is usual staff notation this time, but with lots of extra symbols depicting bits of fingering technique (different patterns, changes, hand positions, slides) and bellow patterns. Chord suggestions are also given.

This book goes into far more detail than the first, with introductory sections on the melodeon in general, musical theory and different types of technique related to fingering, the use of basses and bellows, hand positions, and chords and accompaniment. If you understand some musical theory it will be easy enough to get your head around, but even if you don’t, the explanations are clear and easy to follow, so you will get there.

After the introductory section, all the tunes are laid out with their accompanying symbols, and following a bit of historical information about each tune (e.g. where it originates, and who collected it), Mally gives extensive instructions about the various techniques employed. Although this is reasonably complicated, and might put some beginners off, Mally reasons that it essential to get these basics right at the start so that bad habits are not formed in the early stages of learning, so it worth persevering and perhaps using in conjunction with the simpler Instant Melodeon.

For the more difficult phrases, Mally encourages breaking each of these down into a repeatable sequence to be played as a “mini” tune. Several of these feature, along with the whole tunes and introductory scales, on a 96-track companion CD which is sold separately (DMPCD1802).

Both these books are in A4 paperback format, easy to use, and clearly laid out. As Mally says, “For outstanding results, just add practice.” These tutor-books make that practice a whole lot easier.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.