A Thumbnail Classification of Concertinas
By Dan Richardson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Note from Paul: this was in response to an email about how and why he starting playing the McCann duet system.)
I picked up a Hohner Stagi anglo, which I still quite like.
Became instantly obsessed, couldn't walk past it without picking it up.
After a few months of the Irish tunes that come so easily to the anglo,
I started thinking about bebop jazz piano and sax stuff.
OK, that's not going to happen on 20 buttons.
Got an upper end Stagi, but didn't like fighting with the instrument layout
to get to this note or that one. There's a lot of people that can make
odd key signatures work on the anglo, and God bless 'em for it.
Me, I'm lazy. Figured I needed a box that was inherently chromatic.
I live a few miles from the Button Box, so I tried a lot of lovely boxes.
I really tried to like the English system, but that didn't get it either.
Too much left brain/ right brain crossover for me, I think.
I didn't like having my thumbs pinned.
Then Doug got in this 60 button Lachenal Edeophone McCann,
about the same age as the Titanic, and it was all over. My pride and joy.
However, it's a bit heavy and intimidating, and I'd be nervous
bouncing it around the country to this bar and that festival,
so later I got a little basket-case as is 46 button Lachenal McCann.
Remounted the reedpan blocks, tuned all 92 reeds up from SA pitch,
and I play it all the time. I take it everywhere.
I'm told my duet playing is pretty irregular.
I work the bellows like an anglo, gets me that bark and accent.
>Any comments on playing the duet? [...] There seems to be growing interest (and
>curiosity) surrounding the duet system.
Oh, oh, now you've done it.
Never ask a duet player about instruments.
You can't get them to shut up.
You really want to talk to Dave Barnert (Hayden) and
David Cornell (McCann) for the experienced lowdown on duets,
but I'd be happy to share what I've fumbled across.
Here's my thumbnail classification of concertinas.
The Anglo's the king of intuitiveness.
You pick it up, mash down a bunch of buttons
and squeeze. Sounds great. Tunes pour out.
Two notes on each button covers a wide range,
with a minimum amount of finger moving needed.
Want to play in F# on your C/G? Ummmm.
The English is all about logic.
The layout is clear and efficient.
Sheet music is tablature for the English.
Unfortunately, I don't play music with my logic side,
and I haven't really read music in many years.
The Crane system is sort of an English/Anglo hybrid.
It's got the left hand low/ right hand high thing like an anglo,
and the ease of playing in the home key signatures,
without worrying about which way the bellows is going.
You can think of it as an English that's been moved all to one side.
It's very logical and regular, you can look at it and understand the scale.
It's fast to pick up. Unfortunately, logic isn't always ergonomic.
On the English you've got 3 fingers on each hand to reach notes with.
On the Crane, you've only got 4 on one hand. In many key signatures,
you find yourself having to either cross one finger over another
or move a finger between two buttons in succession, and that's awkward.
It has the same key signature drawbacks as the anglo,
and it needs twice as many buttons to get there.
The Hayden rules for those as need to transpose.
That fearsome F# from before? Effortless, might as well be C.
It's mathematically beautiful, and it's great for chords.
A given chord is always the same shape.
I don't do chords.
I think of the McCann layout as being akin to the QWERTY keyboard,
which I understand to be layed out so the most frequently used letters
are far apart. Keeps the hammers from banging together.
The McCann's like that, it keeps your fingers from tangling.
Intuitive and immediately gratifying, though, that it's not.
It literally took me a couple of weeks to play a decent scale.
Once you get up the first hill, it moves right along.
9 months later, I'm not afraid to tackle anything.
It's quirky, irregular, and wierd, and it works really really well.