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46 button Duet quality and desirability ?


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#1 new english

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 04:49 AM

As Iím now totally obsessed with duet concertinas and with the help of a more knowledgeable member I am compiling a sort of wish list any suggestion corrections ,comment welcomed


46 button McCann duet concertinas
In order of quality and desirability

Wheatstone Metal nickel plated ends
Wheatstone Ebony ends
Wheatstone Rosewood ends
Lachenal Metal nickel plated ends
Lachenal ebony ends
Lachenal rosewood ends
Lachenal mahogany ends
The buttons also graduating in quality from metal domed tops then metal finally bone
As to reeds internals bellows Etc Iím assuming the more expensive the concertina the better equipped it would have been ?

As the golden age of concertina production seems to fluctuate, possibly depending on the year the person concertina was manufactured thatís suggesting the date LOL among the suggestions are
1890/ 1910 or 1900/1925 or just the 20s ? any information would be most appreciated

ďI do have a little insight as Gibsonís quality dropped during the mid fifties due to union issues and a buyout
Iím sure Wheatstone would not of had union issues in the 1900 probably 16hour days for a bowl of gruel and corner to sleep and that was management LOL
Tony

#2 Theo

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 08:08 AM

While your list will be helpful as a very general guide don't treat it to strictly. The best Lachenals New Models, and Edeophones can be on a par with the best Wheatstones.

Even more important is to allow for the history of the instrument, how much work has been done on it, and how well has that work been done. Some apparently simple refurbishment if not done carefully can convert a great instrument into a lemon. For example I was asked to do some work on Wheatstone Aeola last year, which had supposedly been "restored", but the work had been done very badly, and in particular the valves were made of thicker heavier leather than they should have been and it was not very nice to play - slow to respond and uneven volume across the range. With the right valves fitted it was like a different instrument. Fortunately replacing valves is not difficult, if the reeds had been abused by clumsy tuning then the instrument would not have been so easily put right.

So identifying the make and model is really on a very preliminary step, each individual instrument must be taken on its own merits.

#3 new english

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 09:42 AM

Hi theo itís not really my list itís there to be completed by competent people like yourself LOL
I have had a lot of information from several members and a restorer specifically concerning the action on the respective manufactures instruments and obviously this was in a ďlike for likeĒ comparison not individual instruments
Iíve been told (rather strongly LOL) that the Wheatstone has a superior action? Obviously Iím here to learn and I was hoping for some input to maybe clarify a few things and as I only have a single Wheatstone mcann concertina ďso farĒLOL I donít really have a comparison
So the best Lachenals and the best Wheatstone would be of comparable quality and playability? Is the action thing a bit of a gimmick then and more a manufacturing preference than say better design or construction ?
Iím also a little bemused by the various valuations,I have encountered it would appear that the entry level mahogany ended ,bone button Lachenals are valued at around £750 restored and the mid /top range Wheatstone rosewood ended metal button concertinas restored are a similar price? In fact all the 46 button McCann duet concertinas I have so far encountered irrespective of age quality ,maker, finishes are all around £700/£800 LOL to a novice like myself this would imply that the Lachenals are in fact a superior instrument ?
As to sound quality Iím assuming that metal ended versions are brighter than wooded ended ?
And that Steel reeds are brighter than brass?
And last but not least was Mr McCann Drunk when he designed the duet fingering positions
Because I seem to play better after a few glasses of wine LOL
tony

#4 inventor

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 09:46 AM

My advice is that you should avoid 46 button Maccann concertinas. They start much too high on the right hand side and are missing an essential low D above the tenor C on the left. It doesn't matter what quality or how cheap, compared with other concertinas with a similar number of buttons they may be. If you wish to learn a Maccann don't consider anything with less than 57 buttons starting on middle C on the right hand side.
I have taken many beginners classes over the years for "All Systems" Duets at Kilve for the WCCP. I have been forced to tailor my classes to take this into account; so that the Beginners who turn up with the smaller Maccanns are not at a disadvantage compared to the Crane and Hayden Duet beginners. (45 button Cranes, and 46 button Haydens do not have the two problems mentioned above). My advice to these people is always the same; "if you like the Maccann system part exchange it for a 57(+) button instrument as soon as you can afford to do so". A 57 button Maccann is very unlikely to be a poor quality instrument no matter what the ends are made of, or how many sides it has.
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#5 inventor

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 10:31 AM

I see that new english has added more during the 4 minutes that I was checking my post. I don't know if "Professor" Maccann was drunk when he devised his duet, though I think you may be right; close study of his provisional and final patent suggests that he may have revised his ideas at the last minute.
Mr Butterworth (Crane) cannot possibly have been drunk as his system was widely taken up by the Salvation Army.
It is said that the Jeffries Duet was thought up overnight, perhaps at the end of a drinking session.
Whilst I had been studying the best way to arrange the buttons on a Duet for over a year, the final best solution came to me in a flash whilst walking along the Front at a Sidmouth Festival. As I wasn't drunk at the time,I didn't go running round the streets naked shouting "I have found it" (or eureka in Greek), but rushed back to the Hut where I was sleeping in, on the floor to write it down.
Inventor.

Edited by inventor, 21 February 2012 - 10:43 AM.


#6 Dirge

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 03:51 PM

And last but not least was Mr McCann Drunk when he designed the duet fingering positions
Because I seem to play better after a few glasses of wine LOL
tony


I am still amazed at how well the system works. The thing that people who don't understand hate about it, the way the layout changes in different octaves, becomes one of the most elegant parts of the system when you start to play a bit. Not having octaves stacked one above the other is often a boon from a fingering point of view. On the bigger instruments, the keyboards are more or less square meaning that when you are starting to stretch for chords all the notes are as close as they can be to each other. Maccan is the musicians' layout with no compromises.

I have no idea how you come up with this brilliant layout out of the blue. It is anything but obvious, I freely admit. It continues to fascinate me. And the few recordings I've heard of the Prof don't seem to be of a player that's using it to the full either, even more remarkably. Maybe he was drunk and being guided by Supernatural Forces? He died in penury, didn't he?

I used to subscribe to the '46s are too small for anything useful' school of thought. But I've changed my mind, having acquired a little brass reeded Lach recently. This is my 'rough and tumble' instrument and it often goes to my (part time)work as a tour guide to amuse the punters. If what you want to do is self accompany, a 46 is fun. If you are picking the range where you play the tune yourself, having middle C on the RHS is irrelevant, you just play up an octave. At least that is what I do. Or modulate. The main downs for me are the smallness of the bellows X section meaning that you haven't much air to pull chords so you pump a lot and the lack of low bass D. You can help the air by making sure it all goes out through the reeds and not being too sloppy about play (and Mike A is making me a new bellows set at the moment with an extra fold in) and I have a bass D in the Csharp slot on mine, so that dealt with that one once and for all. So I'm converted; I now think they have their place.

#7 tony

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 04:20 PM



And last but not least was Mr McCann Drunk when he designed the duet fingering positions
Because I seem to play better after a few glasses of wine LOL
tony


I am still amazed at how well the system works. The thing that people who don't understand hate about it, the way the layout changes in different octaves, becomes one of the most elegant parts of the system when you start to play a bit. Not having octaves stacked one above the other is often a boon from a fingering point of view. On the bigger instruments, the keyboards are more or less square meaning that when you are starting to stretch for chords all the notes are as close as they can be to each other. Maccan is the musicians' layout with no compromises.

I have no idea how you come up with this brilliant layout out of the blue. It is anything but obvious, I freely admit. It continues to fascinate me. And the few recordings I've heard of the Prof don't seem to be of a player that's using it to the full either, even more remarkably. Maybe he was drunk and being guided by Supernatural Forces? He died in penury, didn't he?

I used to subscribe to the '46s are too small for anything useful' school of thought. But I've changed my mind, having acquired a little brass reeded Lach recently. This is my 'rough and tumble' instrument and it often goes to my (part time)work as a tour guide to amuse the punters. If what you want to do is self accompany, a 46 is fun. If you are picking the range where you play the tune yourself, having middle C on the RHS is irrelevant, you just play up an octave. At least that is what I do. Or modulate. The main downs for me are the smallness of the bellows X section meaning that you haven't much air to pull chords so you pump a lot and the lack of low bass D. You can help the air by making sure it all goes out through the reeds and not being too sloppy about play (and Mike A is making me a new bellows set at the moment with an extra fold in) and I have a bass D in the Csharp slot on mine, so that dealt with that one once and for all. So I'm converted; I now think they have their place.


Spot on Dirge. Just one small point about not going down to middle C on the right hand, I transpose to G on the fly, I do this by thinking of the instrument's home key as being in C, in fact when I bought my Maccann concertina I found the F and F# in the right hand had been switched (the shoes are the same size) so I assumed the player who owned it before me had played it in a similar manner. Fits in nicely with the harmonica I have which is also in G.

#8 Dirge

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 05:23 PM

Spot on Dirge. Just one small point about not going down to middle C on the right hand, I transpose to G on the fly, I do this by thinking of the instrument's home key as being in C, in fact when I bought my Maccann concertina I found the F and F# in the right hand had been switched (the shoes are the same size) so I assumed the player who owned it before me had played it in a similar manner. Fits in nicely with the harmonica I have which is also in G.


I'll have to think about this one!

#9 JimLucas

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 07:43 PM

And last but not least was Mr McCann Drunk when he designed the duet fingering positions
Because I seem to play better after a few glasses of wine LOL

I am still amazed at how well the system works. ...

I have no idea how you come up with this brilliant layout out of the blue. It is anything but obvious,...

I think you're both selling its "logic" short. While perhaps not "obvious", I think the Maccann layout makes considerable sense, IF viewed from the right perspective. As with the anglo, I believe that the Maccann system has evolved from a simple idea to one more complex -- in several conceptual stages, -- but my hypothetical "history" is both long and unnecessary. There is a logic which can stand on its own merits:
  • Firstly (visualizing a 58-button, i.e., with C the lowest note in either hand), the diatonic C scale appears to be laid out as a side-to-side alternation within four "columns": left-most, forward two, back one, forward two, start over in the next row.
  • Oops! Close, but not quite. In that second row (dare I call it "the G row"?), the A is where the B should be, and the B is where the next C should be (and where they are in Wheatstone's early Duette). But that brings us to the second principle: Notes should appear in the same column, regardless of the octave.
  • A third principle: The additional notes of the chromatic scale -- the "accidentals" -- should be placed in their own columns, outside of the central four.
  • And yet a fourth principle: The button for an accidental should be physically adjacent to one of its musically adjacent natural notes.
The result seems clearly a compromise among those four principles.
  • Principle 2 dictates a "dummy" or "filler" button in the 8-button pattern of the two rows of Principle 1.
  • While it might seem sensible to make the last button of the above-suggested pattern the dummy (C-E-D-F, G-B-A-X), that would leave a button in an "accidental" (outer) column with no adjacent natural note, thus violating Principle 4. This problem is solved by putting the dummy in one of the two innermost columns. There's more than one possibility, but (C-E-D-F, G-A-X-B ) is the one that was chosen. (I think this is also the most comfortable of the possibilities for playing a scale, but that's a personal perception and not necessarily true for everyone.)
  • Principle 3 breaks down because there are 5 accidentals in a chromatic (even-tempered) octave, but only four buttons in the 2 outer columns of the 2-row array to comprise an octave. The compromise is obvious: The "extra" accidental note is placed on the "extra" (dummy) button in the "diatonic" part of the array. And the choice of which accidental to place on the dummy button is unambiguously determined by our choice of its location. If the D#(Eb) were placed in one of the outer columns, it would violate Principle 4, but if it's placed on the dummy button, it satisfies it.

I am still amazed at how well the system works. The thing that people who don't understand hate about it, the way the layout changes in different octaves, becomes one of the most elegant parts of the system when you start to play a bit.

If that kind of "shift" occurs more than once in a given hand, then Principle 4 must be abandoned. That's seems to be why on larger instruments there's only one such shift (which represents a dominance of Principle 1), with Principle 2 taking precedence in all octaves both above and below the shift. (In the "Chidley" variant, Principle 2 always dominates Principle 1.)

Not having octaves stacked one above the other is often a boon from a fingering point of view.

It's not my intent to get into a general comparison of the different duet systems here, but that's one of the things I like about the Crane/Triumph system... the octaves are never "stacked".

But from a "playability" standpoint, I think one of the most important features of the Maccann system is the side-to-side movement in playing a scale. It's not a geometrically rigid alternation, but it helps to insure that there can be (with judicious choice of fingering) at least one finger free to move in the direction of the next button. :)

#10 Irene S.

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 07:00 AM

I may be wrong, but I think that Tom Bliss uses a 46 key for his song accompaniments.It doesn't seem to have held him back. It's OK to advise people that they should only consider instruments of a certain size ... but what really matters is what they actually want to use it for, and perhaps ,pertinently, how much they can actually spend since the 46 keys obviously come in at the lower price range ?

#11 tony

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 08:36 AM

This may be of interest:
http://www.concertin...-duet/index.htm

#12 maccannic

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 07:42 AM

Well, I've never really had a problem with the supposed illogicality of the Maccann layout. But then I am also a guitarist, so I am used to notes and chord shapes just being where they are rather than where I might want them to be. Also, as you can tell by the fact that I am typing this, I can cope with the hardly-logical QWERTY keyboard.

Two exceptions though . . .

The Eb/D# button - I have never understood why it comes below the adjacent D rather than above it. To this day I tend to avoid flat keys, and even a simple up-and-down scale of Bb-major or C-minor I find tricky. Perhaps someone can explain.

And the way the layout changes in different octaves - I'm still waiting for this to become 'elegant'. I presume this is done in order to fit the asymetrically arranged scales into a neat and tidy button pattern. I just wish they left the buttons where they should be at the top end of the scale, even if it meant gaps and irregularity in the button pattern. I changed from playing a 64-key to a 67-key box after about twelve years, and 18 months later I'm still getting the high notes wrong. As a result, I don't go up there as much as I should do.

Still, I guess it's all part of life's rich pattern.

#13 wes williams

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 03:14 PM

...Mr Butterworth (Crane) cannot possibly have been drunk as his system was widely taken up by the Salvation Army....

John Butterworth Senior was a publican at one stage, and John Butterworth Junior lived in the pub. Unfortunately I don't know which JB was the inventor :(




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