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How Possible Is It To Do Jeffries-To-Wheatstone Layout Conversions?

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#1 lshillman

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 02:52 PM

Long time lurker here, hope to post more in the future. I've been playing a C/G hybrid for about a year now and have come to the tentative conclusion that for my primary use case (Morris), I'd be better off with a G/D since I want to be able to play harmonies and chords with other morris musicians. I've gotten to a point where it's easy enough to play our repertoire tunes in C or F harmonically, but if I stay in G my options are much more limited and I tend to end up playing melody only, which isn't terribly interesting for me. Opinions on this conclusion are welcome, of course, but onto the main question:

 

Sometimes I'll see a used G/D for sale, but half the time it's got a Jeffries layout. I'm much more comfortable with Wheatstone, but I don't want to always be passing up a good deal if it would be easy/affordable to have it converted. So... would it be? I'm mainly talking about hybrids here since they're affordable and readily available; I understand the reed pans are a different beast from those in "nice" concertinas. But since I also want to invest in a nice one at some point, the question applies there, too.

 

Much obliged for any advice from all you sages on the forum.

 

Luke


Edited by lshillman, 03 March 2017 - 07:12 PM.


#2 Jim Besser

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 09:37 PM

Long time lurker here, hope to post more in the future. I've been playing a C/G hybrid for about a year now and have come to the tentative conclusion that for my primary use case (Morris), I'd be better off with a G/D since I want to be able to play harmonies and chords with other morris musicians. I've gotten to a point where it's easy enough to play our repertoire tunes in C or F harmonically, but if I stay in G my options are much more limited and I tend to end up playing melody only, which isn't terribly interesting for me. Opinions on this conclusion are welcome, of course, but onto the main question:

 

Sometimes I'll see a used G/D for sale, but half the time it's got a Jeffries layout. I'm much more comfortable with Wheatstone, but I don't want to always be passing up a good deal if it would be easy/affordable to have it converted. So... would it be? I'm mainly talking about hybrids here since they're affordable and readily available; I understand the reed pans are a different beast from those in "nice" concertinas. But since I also want to invest in a nice one at some point, the question applies there, too.

 

Much obliged for any advice from all you sages on the forum.

 

Luke

 

A while back I had my Morse G/D hybrid converted from Wheatstone to Jeffries (mostly), and it was quick and inexpensive - really, a matter of just a handful of reeds.  Best to check with your builder/ repairer before you buy, of course.

 

At the same time, I don't find it at all difficult to go back and forth between layouts. My Jeffries G/D is ...well, Jeffries layout; my Lachenal/Dipper C/G is Wheatstone/Lachenal, and for a vintage instrument with traditional reeds, the conversion is much more difficult and may reduce value, so I don't convert the Lach.  I just have to remember which instrument I have in my hands!

 

I play both C/G and G/D for Morris, but generally prefer the C/Gs because of the greater projection and - I believe - flexibility.

 

And as someone who prefers the sound of traditional reeds but generally doesn't take my vintage instruments on chaotic Morris tours, I believe the hybrid C/Gs sound much better and more like 'proper' concertinas than the hybrid G/Ds. That's highly subjective, of course, and I know people who don't agree.


Edited by Jim Besser, 03 March 2017 - 09:41 PM.


#3 aybee

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 05:23 AM

Hi Luke,

Like Jim, I think there's nothing wrong with playing on a CG for morris tunes, especially if you are part of a band, since you are going to be playing the melody an octave higher than most of the other instruments and as Jim says, this will give you greater projection. If you are playing alone, there's nothing wrong with simply playing the tunes in C, rather than G.

I don't quite follow why you say your options are more limited playing in G? G is after all one of the 'home' keys on a CG and in some ways is more flexible and gives you more options than playing in C, not least the fact that you can play the root chord in both directions. You will also find that for many tunes, you are able to keep more of the melody on the RH side if you play them in G, rather than C.

Unlike Jim, I don't find it easy to switch between Jeffries and Wheatstone layouts, probably because I don't do it often. I am however, a passionate advocate for the superiority of the Jeffries, over the Wheatstone layout, especially for the style you want to play. As I see it, the main failing of the Wheatstone layout is the lack of a high d draw which I find indispensable, followed by the middle c# reversal which is very handy on the Jeffries layout. The notes you get in exchange, the high e flat and high f are useful for the odd tune, and I'd certainly go for them on a 30+ layout, but to swap the draw high d for one of these is a very bad trade off. Another problem on some concertinas with Wheatstone layouts is the LH inner row's lowest button draw, which is sometimes tuned to a d rather than an a which again is a poor trade off, since the reverse low a is very useful indeed if you play your own accompaniment. Finally, Jeffries layouts usually have 31 buttons - a LH thumb button, which if tuned to push f, draw c, also gives you a lot of extra chordal and bass run possibilities.

If you use the anglo as a purely melodic instrument, there's probably little difference between the two layouts, but having recently transcribed a lot of my arrangements for players with the Wheatstone layout, I find the logic and ease of the Jeffries system a compelling argument if you want to play with chordal accompaniments.

Since you've only been playing a year, I don't think it would take you long to switch (maybe 2-4 weeks depending on the intensity of your practise?) and I think long term, unless you plan to subsequently get a 30+ layout, I think you'll be thankful you made the change.

I now expect to feel the full broadside of an equally convinced and impassioned Wheatstone layout advocate :-)

Adrian


Edited by aybee, 04 March 2017 - 05:24 AM.


#4 Jim Besser

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 08:02 AM

Unlike Jim, I don't find it easy to switch between Jeffries and Wheatstone layouts, probably because I don't do it often. I am however, a passionate advocate for the superiority of the Jeffries, over the Wheatstone layout, especially for the style you want to play. As I see it, the main failing of the Wheatstone layout is the lack of a high d draw which I find indispensable, followed by the middle c# reversal which is very handy on the Jeffries layout. The notes you get in exchange, the high e flat and high f are useful for the odd tune, 

 

That's undoubtedly because you play much more complex music than I do!

 

I mostly agree with you about the superiority of the Jeffries layout, which is why I've made the switch on my hybrids. I'd do it on the Lachenal/Dipper if I could, but I don't want to tamper with an outstanding vintage instrument, so I have learned to go back and forth.

 

And in the end, it probably doesn't make a huge difference for most players. Over the years I've read countless c.net postings on the superiority of one layout over another, or the need for an entirely new layout, but what I've come to realize is that no layout can be perfect for every tune even within a given genre, and that the search for a universally ideal layout is a waste of time that could be better used practicing.



#5 lshillman

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 11:18 PM

Many thanks for the detailed responses, Jim and Adrian.

Jim, good point about the projection of a C/G over the G/D. Our Morris band (Berkeley Morris) is relatively large -- we sometimes have more musicians than dancers, and I never play alone -- so it has definitely been useful to have a clearly audible instrument.

Adrian- I have admired, and aspired to your work from afar! If both of you are advocating Jeffries for harmonic arrangements, well then, I'll just have to switch.

As to why I've felt limited in G... for the longest time I couldn't get my hands to play melody and accompaniments at the same time, but after I picked up a D/G melodeon some months ago and learned the basics, chords on my concertina suddenly clicked into place and made a lot more sense. Which is to say, I've been playing in sort of a melodeon-like vamping style, mostly sticking to the C row but borrowing from other rows when necessary. But in my case this means I'm usually playing in C, and I still haven't quite wrapped my head around playing a G melody entirely on the RH side. I know I'm not really making the most of the instrument and I can tell I'll need to make another few cognitive adjustments to get where I want to be.  As an aside, I'm largely musically illiterate and playing entirely by ear.

 

I think long term, unless you plan to subsequently get a 30+ layout, I think you'll be thankful you made the change.

 

Though Morris is currently where I'm getting the most practice, I do ultimately want to be playing more complex music and have more options for expression. When I upgrade from my current hybrid (30-button Clover), probably soon if my progress is encouraging and if a suitable instrument can be found, I was thinking I'd look for a 38-button instrument. Seems like many on this forum find 38 to be the sweet spot. Does this change the Jeffries recommendation?  I have noted that all the 38-button concertinas I've come across have been Jeffries, but that could just be my luck.

Luke



#6 aybee

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 05:50 AM

Thanks Luke, I think you're taking the same route as most of us started with the anglo, and there's nothing wrong with playing by ear, so long as you are able to analyse and modify your approach as your playing becomes more complex. I completely agree with Jim that you can spend a lot of time trying to find the optimum system and ultimately, just getting down to working within the confines of the system you have, would probably be time better spent.
That said, I feel the change from a 30/31 to 38/40  button system is so huge that it would be worth trying to do it as early as possible. I apologise if you have read this before, because I've probably commented on it here in the past, but the advantages you get with a 38+ layout is that it opens up entirely new ways of playing the instrument. You can of course continue to play in the bouncy press/draw way you can on a 30 layout. But you can also play in a more connected (legato) fashion, playing longer phrases either only with press or draw, in the manner of a duet. Lastly and by no means least, you can impose a press/draw sequence of your choice, to enhance the rhythmical effect you want to achieve. For example, if a natural way of playing a sequence is: press,press,draw,press, you might like to 'mirror' the next sequence: as draw,draw, press,draw. On a 30 button layout, this might occasionally work, but depending on the key and the sequence, the fact that certain notes are only available in one direction will limit your ability to impose this structure, and you might end up with choosing to break the pattern, or end up with the wrong harmony on the LH side.
I think there is little to choose between the Jeffries 38 and the Wheatstone 40 in terms of what you can do with them, and vintage concertinas with the latter, seem to come up for sale more frequently and may well be a more logical and available choice. I think faced with the choice between switching to a Jeffries 31, or a Wheatstone 40, I'd definitely go for the latter, because of the aforementioned new pathways it will open up for you. One last though (postscript): While there are many Wheatstone layout 40's in CG around, I don't know if there are many in other keys? (Somebody here will surely know!) The Jeffries 38 you will find in CG, BbF, AbEb, GD and even FC - both originals by Jeffries/Shakespeare/Crabb and modern instruments by Jürgen Suttner. This might swing it for the Jeffries?

Adrian



#7 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 12:09 AM

For complex music in the harmonic style with other musicians, I also favor the Jefferies G/D 38 button. The C/G is surely brighter and might still be my choice for playing solo al fresco, but the G/D plays more naturally in the keys fiddlers love, the standard around here... G, D, A.

 

When I started out I had a C/G Bastari Wheatstone and played by ear. I knew lots of tunes in my head. All the morris and contra fiddle tunes I knew came out a fourth low when I learned them on the Anglo because that's where the instrument sounded the best to my ear and at the time I didn't care what key I was playing in. I was playing by myself in C and G plus modes in those early years, ignorant about the keys and context of the tunes I was learning and only going by my ear in pitching them. When I started to play with other folks I was shocked to find I had learned my tunes in the wrong key. Switching to G/D set everything right. At the time I had no idea that Anglos were even made in keys other than C/G. What a relief when I finally got a G/D, all at once the tunes worked and I was able to join the band.


Edited by Jody Kruskal, 09 March 2017 - 12:25 AM.


#8 hjcjones

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 10:36 AM

I don't agree that the Jeffries is necessarily better for English music. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses and you just find ways to work around them.  Aybee finds the high D on the pull 'indispensible', whereas I find the lack of it nothing more than an occasional inconvenience. I just use the push D and change the chord fingering to suit.   What I find to be indispensible on the Wheatstone layout is the easy run from G-A-B-C all on the push

 

The fact is that you will find superb players using either system.  The best one is the one that works best for you and the music and style you play.



#9 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 12:26 AM

Right Howard. Absolutely. Jefferies vs Wheatstone. Both 30 button boxes work fine and those few notes that make the difference are not likely to make any difference at all to a player like Luke who has only been at it for a year. Right?

 

Yes, I also like the Jefferies high D draw note because the D draw chord is so much more satisfying than the D push... however, if I played the Wheatstone system much, no doubt I would find cool things that it did better. 

 

Like Adrian, I've been spoiled by 38 button Jefferies instruments with their lovely options for smoother fingerings.


Edited by Jody Kruskal, 10 March 2017 - 12:32 AM.


#10 aybee

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 05:55 AM

My feeling about this is that in any system, it doesn't really matter where the notes are placed, since it is inevitable that you will have to negotiate tricky fingering passages in some pieces. The important thing is that the notes are there to start with, and in the same direction as other notes you want to play together. In your example Howard, I find playing the push a with either button 2a on the Wheatstone or 5a on the Jeffries, equally easy and accessible, and playing the same sequence as drawn notes, there's even less of a difference between the two systems. My problem is that I often want to play that high d against an F or a Bb chord, something which is just not possible on the Wheatstone 30. (Ok, admittedly with the Bb you can get around it with a press Bb and D, but I would miss the lower Bb)
Thinking about the draw notes you gain on the Wheatstone 30 in exchange for that high d and draw middle c#, these are a high f natural and a high eb. Granted, the first is very useful, but the high eb? I guess if I played more in E major it would be handy too, or perhaps just having it, would encourage me to play more often in E major?
I suppose the thing is that to a certain extent, the system you play is going to influence the range of pieces you'll have a go at, but in Luke's case, if he now plumps for a 38, or 40 button layout, he'll have the opportunity to tackle more complex repertoire down the line.

Adrian







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