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Morse Beaumont Duet Concertina: Initial Impressions

duet wicki hayden morse review

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#1 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 08:34 PM

I first bought a duet concertina in 2010; purchased the recently-introduced Concertina Connection Elise and had it shipped over to me in Afghanistan (here's my old thread that led me to choose it). I played it casually for a few years, finding it satisfactory for my purposes despite its limited scale, since I largely play trad music in the "people's keys" anyway. It wasn't until 2013 when I started playing duets with a guitarist for house-parties that I started to notice the limitations of the Elise. Hayden duets are great for transposing, but on a semi-chromatic instrument I can only transpose to a few select keys. Further, the more I played the more I noted how the limits of the action were slowing me down; it was time to upgrade. I sold a motorcycle and a few extra musical instruments to gather the $3800 sticker price, and placed my order with Buttonbox in late October. I received the 52-key Wicki-Hayden duet on the last day of the year.
 
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I've played the box for nearly a week now, and thought I'd share some initial impressions since I haven't seen anyone else on the forum mention having bought one. I was initially apprehensive about the investment, given that it costs nearly ten times what my starter cost, and practically speaking I can't expect it to be ten times better, so there's some expected diminishing returns as price climbs. I fretted I'd feel I overbought, or maybe that I'd feel I'm just not good enough at concertina to justify buying a pricey one. I suppose my current state is "cautiously pleased".

The box is largish compared to an Anglo, but no larger than the 34-key Elise, so no problem there. Also as noted by owners of other Morse models, it feels very light in the hands (3.1 pounds); not flimsy, just it is quicker in the hands than the size suggests. I don't feel ready to compare tone yet, since I've only heard it through a "player's ears" so don't know how it sounds compared to an Elise on a recording or to an audience. Further, my Elise has been "played-in" for a few years, which I imagine has helped developed the tone, so hard to get apples-to-apples. I might need to do a double-blind test with friends to ask which they think sounds "better", though some forum members have mentioned their bandmates prefer the sound of their Stagi over their Wheatstone, so subjectivity.

The upgrades that led to the purchase, however, are immediately apparent. The action is way crisper on the Beaumont, keys bounce back much faster, and the reed response is much faster and smoother. And it is convenient to be able to be able to play in Bb and A as easily as I played in C before. That said, even an expanded keyboard has its limits, as I found when I tried to work out a tune off a recording (May Blooming Fields, done by Cordelia's Dad), only to find it's in F# and so requires bouncing a finger all the way across the keyboard to get the one note (Bb/A#) I don't have on the far right. But F# is not among my favored keys, so I'll survive. The width of the keyboard does take some adjusting to: with the straps snug I can't reach everything, so I have the straps a little loose and "cup" my hands to take up slack when I'm not reaching for far notes. The straight (rather than canted) keyboard is taking a little getting used to, but it does indeed make it easier to reach the sharp side of the keyboard.

The bellows are of course way nicer than the Elise, though mine are going to take some breaking in. My Elise feels loosey-goosey when played back to back with the Beaumont, both in the good and bad way, but presumably the Beaumont will take on more of the good-loose and little of the bad-loose as the bellows break in. I'm finding the air button on the handrail to be a fun change, but the airhole is very small: while holding it down it still takes a few seconds of pressure to fully open or close the bellows, it's not a big gulp of air like on an Anglo. I presume this is deliberate, and it is to some degree helpful since I can take a quick breath to set up my bellows for a long push or pull but use so little air that it's easy to keep it from affecting the notes underway.

This is what's popped to my attention over the few days of playing; I'll probably have more realizations as I mess with it. I do feel that this decision is helping me to double-down on learning duet, to the point that I'm selling off some excess gear since I'd rather invest the time in learning concertina than in improving my limited clawhammer banjo skills, etc. I like the sound of concertina, it gives me a lot of the traits I would've bought an organ to get, and I think it's a great instrument for song accompaniment. I'm coming to the conclusion that I want to get better (or if not better, at least more confident) at singing, so I can make good use of the concertina as accompaniment.
 
This was a big step forward in terms of both price and quality, now I just need to make it worthwhile.


#2 Jim Besser

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 10:11 PM

 

I first bought a duet concertina in 2010; purchased the recently-introduced Concertina Connection Elise and had it shipped over to me in Afghanistan (here's my old thread that led me to choose it). I played it casually for a few years, finding it satisfactory for my purposes despite its limited scale, since I largely play trad music in the "people's keys" anyway. It wasn't until 2013 when I started playing duets with a guitarist for house-parties that I started to notice the limitations of the Elise. Hayden duets are great for transposing, but on a semi-chromatic instrument I can only transpose to a few select keys. Further, the more I played the more I noted how the limits of the action were slowing me down; it was time to upgrade. I sold a motorcycle and a few extra musical instruments to gather the $3800 sticker price, and placed my order with Buttonbox in late October. I received the 52-key Wicki-Hayden duet on the last day of the year.

This was a big step forward in terms of both price and quality, now I just need to make it worthwhile.

 

 

Congratulations. The Button Box people make superb instruments, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

 

Hope to see it on Jan 19 at the DC area Squeeze In!



#3 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 01:09 PM

It is indeed my plan to bring it to the Squeeze In.

 

I checked around on measurements, and this Morse is markedly light. It's only about 1.5 ounces heavier than my Elise, despite having half again as many reeds. It's also apparently only a few ounces heavier than a Kensington 30b Anglo. EDIT: Apparently Kensington's are slightly heavy for an Anglo, but the Beaumont is in that same weight class, and same as a Herrington 30b Anglo, which a lot more reeds. For comparison, per http://www.concertin...de_weights.html , the Morse Ceili is 2.15 pounds, lighter than most any 30b Anglo save a plastic cheapie. So this lightened design they do does seem to trim a lot weight.

 

 

If anyone has anything they particularly want to see a demonstrated on it, or comparison photos or something, let me know.


Edited by MatthewVanitas, 10 January 2014 - 01:16 PM.


#4 Marcus

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 01:54 PM

I have to say I love the lack of weight with the Morse instruments.  I recently played instruments by a few other builders and the difference between the Morse and all the others was incredible.  On paper it doesn't seem much but every ounce counts.  Of course there are alway those that think if an instrument has weight it feels more substantial - I'd take a Morse thanks!



#5 Jim Bayliss

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 01:24 PM

I've tried out the Beaumont and would offer these comments.   First of all, it's great to see Morse getting a Wicky-Hayden on the market.  They are solid, skillfully crafted instruments and I think it's good that they come without the slant.  I would offer two criticisms.  First, I really missed the D-sharp button on the left.  The many fully chromatic tunes I've learned on the 46 key can't be directly transferred to the Beaumont without having to change the fingering to pick up the D-sharp as an E-flat.  This is going to be a problem in going to this instrument from a 46-key, and it effectively trades the key of E for the key of B-flat.  The second criticism is that the hand rest seems to me to be too close to the lowest button row.  I'm ~6 feet tall, and I guess my hands are larger than average.  My Wakker W-W1 duet has the hand rest about 5 mm further from the center of the buttons on the lowest row (~48 mm), and this is more comfortable for me.           


Edited by Jim Bayliss, 18 January 2014 - 01:29 PM.


#6 David Barnert

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 08:29 PM

The second criticism is that the hand rest seems to me to be too close to the lowest button row.  I'm ~6 feet tall, and I guess my hands are larger than average.  My Wakker W-W1 duet has the hand rest about 5 mm further from the center of the buttons on the lowest row (~48 mm), and this is more comfortable for me.           

 

There is no standard here. Brian Hayden specified the dimensions of the slanted keyboard, but when Wim Wakker and others started making horizontal ones (and calling them Wicki, before anybody noticed that Wicki's system, unlike these, has a mirrored left hand) there were no rules to go by, so it can hardly be surprising that different manufacturers came to different solutions.

 

 

I think it's good that they come without the slant.

 

You are saying you prefer the horizontal layout of the W-W1 to the slanted Wheatstone 1H (both with 46 buttons)? Care to elaborate?



#7 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 20 January 2014 - 05:08 PM

I tried a Tedrow Hayden at the DC Squeeze In this weekend; great chance to feel out another high-end hybrid. In contrast to mine, the Tedrow was notably bigger, notably heavier, but the button action was pretty good, though the bellows seemed stiff (or maybe that's just how I interpreted the heavier weight). The Morse EDIT: Tedrow was notably louder, and I think more resonant too, either due to the weight or larger ends, or to whatever degree from having been played for a year or more vice mine which I'm still "opening up" by playing in.

 

One small thing I'm not thrilled about is the case that came with it only has one latch. For a concertina of this price (or really of any price) I'd like to be totally sure it's not going to accidentally open and dump my gear on the ground. So I'd like doubled latches of hard-to-dislodge design. So I'm going to end up either adding a latch, or getting one of those cinch straps to wrap around around it to keep it closed during transport. Plus I need to find some cool stickers to put on it.


Edited by MatthewVanitas, 21 January 2014 - 08:30 PM.


#8 Patrick Scannell

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Posted 20 January 2014 - 07:39 PM

I find the horizontal arrangement of the Beaumont's buttons lay under my fingers more easily than the slanted rows of buttons on the Elise. 

I'm using the smallest hand-strap hole on the Elise, and the largest hole on the Beaumont.  If you have big hands and are ordering a Beaumont, you might want to let them know.

Unlike the Elise, the Beaumont bellows have a break in period.

 

I'm a beginner and have only the Elise to compare it to, but I'm very happy with the Beaumont.



#9 ceemonster

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 07:36 PM

[The Morse was notably louder, and I think more resonant too, either due to the weight or larger ends, or to whatever degree from having been played for a year or more vice mine which I'm still "opening up" by playing in.]

 

did you mean to say, "the TEDROW was notably loder...either due to the weight or larger ends, or.....from having been played for a year or more...]

 

?? i thought it was the TEDROW that was heavier and had been played for a year or more....???

 

so which one was notably louder?



#10 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 08:34 PM

[The Morse was notably louder, and I think more resonant too, either due to the weight or larger ends, or to whatever degree from having been played for a year or more vice mine which I'm still "opening up" by playing in.]

 

did you mean to say, "the TEDROW was notably loder...either due to the weight or larger ends, or.....from having been played for a year or more...]

 

?? i thought it was the TEDROW that was heavier and had been played for a year or more....???

 

so which one was notably louder?

Good catch; the Tedrow is the one that is louder, as well as larger and heavier, and has been played more (mine played just three weeks).

 

I still found the Tedrow slower responding, in terms of body motion, than I expected, either due to weight, bellows, or some combination.

 

 

I've having a little intial breakin issue of one sporadic and one total reed stoppage on the Beaumont; I emailed the shop and they said it's likely some bit of fluff caught in the reed, so they can either talk me through it, or I could send it up for a checkup. I'll probably Skype them sometime so they can look through the camera and take a squint, and advise me what to do to clear out the reed. I have some similar-but-worse minor reed finnickiness in my Elise, so hopefully once I learn the safe way to clear a reed a bit, I can open up the Elise and do likewise.


Edited by MatthewVanitas, 21 January 2014 - 08:34 PM.


#11 ceemonster

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 11:46 PM

hmmm....all very interesting.  i can't remember which thread, but i read one not long ago where a poster opined that a teddrow hayden they had tried felt like "a toy."  if that person thought the heavier, larger, louder hayden hybrid felt toy-like, what would they think of the lighter, less-loud one, i wonder...


Edited by ceemonster, 21 January 2014 - 11:55 PM.


#12 David Barnert

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Posted 22 January 2014 - 10:12 AM

i can't remember which thread, but i read one not long ago where a poster opined that a teddrow hayden they had tried felt like "a toy."  if that person thought the heavier, larger, louder hayden hybrid felt toy-like, what would they think of the lighter, less-loud one, i wonder...

 

That was me, and I've already weighed in on the Beaumont. It does not feel like a toy. I prefer the Hayden "slant" (not available on the Beaumont), but it is a decent instrument.



#13 Jim Bayliss

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 06:22 PM

You are saying you prefer the horizontal layout of the W-W1 to the slanted Wheatstone 1H (both with 46 buttons)? Care to elaborate?

 

 

The main reason for not having the slant is that it seems unnecessary, arbitrary, and complicating.  The only reason I've seen for justifying the slant is that it, theoretically, makes the enharmonic notes on the treble side of the instrument the same distance from the hand rest.  However, the slant just exaggerates the disparity on the left hand side.  You've mentioned that it seemed easy to get lost on the 82 button Hayden, and I believe the slant is a major factor in this.  The slant crowds the little finger and makes the pinky have to stretch further to reach the top.  I suspect that Stagi's odd, asymmetric button arrangement came about as a  reaction to the slant.   Both arrangements work, but I prefer the simpler "no slant" option.        



#14 David Barnert

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:04 AM

Thanks for getting back to this, Jim.

 

With almost 30 years experience playing the slanted Haydens and a few hours playing the horizontal Wickis, I am more comfortable with the slant, although that may be due more to the time differential than any actual quality of the layout.



#15 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 08:27 AM

...

With almost 30 years experience playing the slanted Haydens and a few hours playing the horizontal Wickis, I am more comfortable with the slant, although that may be due more to the time differential than any actual quality of the layout.

 

Despite nearly all of my 4-year concertina experience being with the slanted Elise, I'm finding the straight layout of the Beaumont comfortable. I think the stretch would be unpleasant on the sharp notes if they were slanted further away from my ring and pinky fingers, given the Beaumont's larger number/breadth of keys.

 

 

Still finding the Hayden system intuitive, though I'm becoming more cognizant of its tradeoffs. For tunes outside of Western classical or trad, you occasionally have three half-step notes in a row, which in some keys requires bouncing the full width of the keyboard on a Hayden. Further, fifths and fourths are really easy to finger, but switching between major and minor thirds can be a little vexing because minor thirds fall to the left of the root button, while major thirds fall to the right. Every duet layout is going to have pros and cons, and even on a Hayden playing in B♭ minor (the relative of D♭ major) takes some brainpower.


Edited by MatthewVanitas, 03 February 2014 - 08:36 AM.






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