There seem to be at least three sorts of suggestions here.
- Things the poster would like in order to (they hope) improve their personal concertina experience. These preferences can vary considerably among individuals, even to being direct opposites. ¨(Jake, I personally prefer the smaller buttons. )
- Things the poster believes will "improve" the instrument in ways that will render it more attractive and/or accessible (easy to get started on?) to a broad audience. E.g., lighter weight, smaller size, and less sensitivity to weather. (It seems to me that there are also some items that their proposers feel are in this category, but which I feel are more in the first category.)
- Pipe dreams. E.g., cut the price in half without adversely affecting any other property.
1. The only way to satisfy "everyone" with regard to the first category is to offer multiple designs or have ways to adjust those parameters. E.g.,
- Positioning of the hand rail on anglos and duets: Some like it high, some low. Some near the button array, some farther away. Some might want it angled with respect to the button array. I can even imagine someone wanting -- even needing -- it different for each hand. The "obvious" solution is to have a design that is adjustable in all of those dimensions. The problem seems to be designing such a mechanism that is still sufficiently rigid and rugged in use. Or maybe just doing so at a reasonable cost?
- Hand straps: We already have a separate thread to discuss adjustable hand straps. All the current designs (that I know of) can be adjusted, but not easily. And only a few can be adjusted continuously, rather than to a series of discrete positions. OK, inventors, here's your cue.
- Button diameter: As already noted, Jake and I seem to have opposite preferences. This might seem irreconcilable, but maybe not. Jake suggests a button design that resembles a mushroom-like stem and cap. Well, what about detachable caps? Something that could be pressed on similarly to the way rubber suction cups are popped onto plastic shafts to make darts for children's toys?
- Volume: Some want loud, some not so loud. An inherently loud instrument with baffles that are easily removed and re-attached seems one possible solution, though questions of tonality might prove an obstacle.
2. These are not necessarily independent. (I suppose the same could also be said of the above.)
- Smaller instrument: There have been a few reported instances of instruments in smaller-than-standard bodies, e.g., a treble-range English in a piccolo (octabe higher) body. Are these more difficult -- and therefore more costly -- to make? Do they sound different? I don't know.
- Lighter weight: In principal, one would expect a smaller instrument to weigh less. But other factors can also be adjusted. The instruments from the Button Box have a reputation for being much lighter than those of other makers. What are the differences which contribute to this? Rich Morse and his colleagues did a lot of research and experimentation to reach that objective. Can it be improved upon?
3. Modern makers have put a great deal of effort into developing a "best" compromise between acceptable quality and low price. Their solutions aren't identical, but indicate that it's not (yet?) possible to optimize both.
Great in depth reply. I suppose preferences are preferences when it comes to buttons, at its core playing an instrument is a personal thing. I like the suggestion of an adjustable hand rail. Interesting idea. I as you say the only problem with that would be weather people would be prepared to pay more for it or how easily it could be done.
@ button size&spacing: not much can be done here, I'm afraid. There are different button sizes with Anglos, but with Englishes and Duets you have to fit even twice as much buttons within comfortable reach. There is simply no way to make this happen on a 7"box - you need something the size of chemnitzer to do that. It is not only the size of the keyboard, but also minimum lever lenght and lever routing that play significant role here. Only Tona's Custom Dipper has bigger buttons, because his layout is arranged around the wrist pivot point.
@ my handrail/handstrap: I'm thinking about quite distinctive design here, but I will share it after building a working and proven prototype for my DIY.
@ adjustable handrail: I can think about at least a couple of robust, adjustable designs, of both height and distance to keyboard. And even slant. And I think that if there were demand on such solutions, modern concertina makers would include them. The problem here is that only few of us think in terms of adjusting concertinas to our personal needs. And there is one other limiting factor here: you can sell your instrument easier if it has common ergonomics and can be played by the new owner straight ahead.
And there is also one other question: how much change in ergonomics/design/layout will make the result to be a completely different instrument? Chemnitzers and bandoneons are also in the concertina family, but on this forum we don't treat them as such. There is one guy who makes rectangular "anglos" with large melodeon buttons...
That last paragraph really got me thinking....
I suppose the test of a different instrument would be if people would want to own one, if someone came up with a new system or design of concertina people might buy it or not. Its tricky territory here as to weather anything is an "improvement" as there are so many factors that might effect this, sometimes problems and solutions can be imagined... I remember seeing a violin with a guitar shaped body a while ago and thinking it looked rather ugly. Later I spoke to a man who's father was a Luthier and had given the subject of violin design great thought, he basically put it to me like this: "there is a physical object and its physical properties and then there is what those properties mean and represent to us". For me a violin without the traditional side cut outs looked like a half baked thing. When I thought about it though I realised the only reason that I didn't like it is because I wasn't used to it and there was nothing inherently wrong with the idea. (unless it adversely affected the sound, that is something I don't know about)
getting a bit more philosophical about it...when I compared this to a square concertina I had a good think about it and realised that actually for an accordion reeded instrument that shape makes perfect sense seeing as the reed blocks are rectangular, whereas a shape closer to a circle makes more sense for radially arranged traditional reeds. from that perspective it almost seems illogical to make an accordion reeded instrument 6 sided. Though it still looks a bit half baked to us as a 4 sided thing because you don't look at it and think "concertina". I feel like making a hybrid instrument 6 sided is sort of like a solution to the problem of making a "concertina" cheaply but ultimately putting those two extra sides don't make the instrument play better they just make us like it more. And still it makes me like it more. yet I am troubled by the idea that the design is physically logical.
Back to traditional instruments as I understand it is believed that the closer the shape is to round the better the tone. If that applies to hybrid instruments I am not sure, if it does apply then that gives a good and objective enough reason to stick with 6 sides. Did anyone ever test this theory of the relationship of the more circular shape to a better sound in the modern day? Either with traditional reeds or accordion ones. If no one has then I suggest making a few simple structures and testing it and then sharing the results, a waste of time or not, what would you guys say?
To answer the original question, how about:
. a facility to bend a note(s)
. to have notes that fade and to be able control sustain
. being able to adjust the volume of individual notes, or at least to be able to controllably quieten the bass notes
. being able to transpose the entire instrument to change its 'core key'. For example an Anglo that can play in C/G, G/D or Ab/Eb, etc... or a Hayden duet that can switch to Ab as its core key instead of D.
(I think the Hayden core key is D rather than C because D is in the middle of the button field and has more room around it. You could argue that the Hayden core key might be A, especially on a 65 button instrument. An EC or a Crane's core key would be C, I think. Make sense?)
Would love to see a concertina with the capacity to bend notes, unless anyone ever perfected the technique?
Edited by Jake of Hertford, 25 November 2014 - 04:06 PM.