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Domed Buttons Or Flat Buttons?


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#1 Steve Wilson

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 06:38 AM

I'm not sure if this is an ergonomics topic or a general concertina one but I have the option of domed or flat buttons on a new concertina I'm ordering.  What's best? Why?  I currently play a Wheatstone with slightly domed buttons.



#2 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 07:29 AM

Hi Steve, for me it's positively domed buttons! I just had another try on a Wheatstone with flat, edgy buttons and found them quite irritating. Maybe this is because I have not every finger in a 90 degrees angle over the button, but that's how I'm playing the EC then... i was very happy with the domed buttons of my Excelsior from day one!

Best - Wolf

#3 RP3

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 07:40 AM

Hi Steve,

I imagine that an argument can be made that it doesn't matter. But I have played concertinas (Anglos) with flat buttons, fully round tipped buttons and slightly domed buttons, and there is no doubt in my mind that slightly domed buttons are by far the most comfortable. And for me, what is most comfortable helps me play at my best. However, this is just one man's opinion.

Good luck with your new concertina -- whenever it arrives.

Ross Schlabach

#4 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:55 AM

I have both. Normal slightly domed buttons on Vintage Englishes and  flat buttons on the Wakker Duet.  I can see the point of the flat buttons on the Hayden keyboard, so as to slide across to adjacent buttons and perhaps it works well with slightly larger button diameters, but if (when) I order a new Duet or EC I would go with the domed  ended buttons.

 

If you are used to the domed ones and especially on an English , where approaching the buttons at accute angles when playing wide spread chords or moving a finger from one end of the keyboard to the other in a single leap  then I'd go with the domed jobs.



#5 spindizzy

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:04 AM

I started on a student lachenal with flat buutons, and I was happy enough with with the way that felt that  I was reluctant to move to domed buttons, but now I'm equally happy with the slightly domed buttons on my Edeophone. I has played (briefly) an EC with what I thought were almost pointy buttons and that made my fingers feel a bit tender, very quickly, and I would avoid that that, though I suspect fingertips would harden up to meet the challenge.

 

Chris



#6 Pete Dunk

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 01:34 PM

This has to be a personal choice but along with others here I have a preference for domed buttons (and raised ends!).

 

Pete.



#7 JimLucas

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 02:16 PM

I'm not sure if this is an ergonomics topic or a general concertina one but I have the option of domed or flat buttons on a new concertina I'm ordering.  What's best? Why?  I currently play a Wheatstone with slightly domed buttons.

 

This has been discussed before, but I'm not going to take time to search for that thread (those threads?) now.

 

Most of my instruments have slightly domed buttons, and I find them quite comfortable.  But I've also played instruments with flat-topped buttons without the difference intruding on my attention.  Also more highly domed ones, with one exception that I would describe as "almost pointed", and even then I was able to play without particular difficulty.

 

Another factor, though, is button diameter.  (Also discussed in the past.)  Some folks prefer buttons of greater diameter, and at least a couple have suggested that buttons the same size as on melodeons would be better (though that would also require greater inter-button spacing).  I myself prefer the smaller-diameter buttons, i.e., 3 to 4 mm, though I don't refuse to play an instrument with larger buttons.  Variation in button size tends to be greater on anglos than on duets or Englishes, and only on anglos is it not extremely rare to find instruments with different spacings between the buttons.



#8 Jim Cush

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:35 PM

The topic was addresses under a general Concertinas in July 2012 in a post I started. Attached below is a response from Wim Wakker which gave the history.

Button basics
The keyboard dimensions for concertinas are more or less standard. You cannot change the spacing of the buttons without affecting playability. The diameter of a concertina button is primarily determined by the space available in the action. Anglo concertinas have fewer keys per sq. inch than english and duet and because of that can have a relative simple action and larger buttons.

Button size and action material were determined by production cost/method, not ‘playing comfort’.
Low end vintage instruments had bone buttons and wire action levers. The standard wire was ca.2mm in diameter and needed a lever hole in the button of 3+mm (room for the bushing). The walls needed to be c. 2mm to provide the necessary strength around the hole. Because of this, anglo buttons on instruments with wire levers were c.7mm in diameter. This was possible because of the low button count per sq. inch. The end plates are not bushed in these instruments.

Low end english and duet models also came with bone buttons, but because of the limited space in the action, they only came with the standard button diameter (c. 4.8mm). This required the much more expensive brass sheet levers rather than the crude wire levers. They used the same buttons and action in the ‘next step up the quality ladder’ anglos.

Better quality instruments came with metal capped/wooden core buttons (Wheatstone) or solid metal buttons (lachenal, etc.), sometimes with a silver tip. Early instruments had ivory buttons.
Deluxe models could have glass, silver or gold plated buttons. The quality of these instruments was the same as their standard counterparts. The exclusive button material just added a considerable premium to the price….

Early instruments (english) had flat ivory buttons. They were flat because of the production method they used. These flat tops allowed players (e.g. Regondi) to develop advanced techniques such as changing fingers on a (pushed down) button, playing fifths with one finger, etc. These techniques also show up in the concert repertoire of the day.

Around the 1880s Wheatstone started with domed metal caps. These are much easier to produce than flat tops and keyboards are much easier to regulate.
Flat top keys have a larger surface and allow for more advanced playing techniques. To illustrate, try this: play a button with your index finger (index finger= 1, middle finger2, etc.) on your concertina. Replace your index finger (1) with your middle finger ( 2) while you keep the button pushed down. You can also try replacing finger 1 with 3, 1 -4 (pinky), 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc..
If your repertoire/playing skills don’t require flat tops, domed ones work just as well. The extra surface of flat tops can be nice on duets or englishes, but don’t expect them to improve your playing skills… If you play anglo, don’t worry about button shapes… Button shapes don’t have anything to do with ‘speed’. Keyboard responsiveness is determined by key travel, airflow and key pressure.
All our Wakker models are available with flat or domed keys.

A concertina action should never hurt your fingers…Key pressure on a concertina should be around 70-80 grams. The key pressure needs to be around 200-300 gr. Before it will hurt your fingers. The problem is that some players keep pushing the button. It is the same principle as writer’s cramp.
Try this: push a button just hard enough for it to go down. Hold it in the down position and reduce pressure as much as possible without letting the button come up. You’ll notice that you hardly need any force to keep the button down.

Wim Wakker
Concertina Connection Inc.
Wakker Concertinas

#9 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 01:09 AM

Interesting insights, Jim, thanks for reposting that.

As to the aspect of advanced playing techniques, the flat buttons might ease rapid single line playing rather than adding full harmony IMO.

#10 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 03:21 AM

Around the 1880s Wheatstone started with domed metal caps. These are much easier to produce than flat tops and keyboards are much easier to regulate.
Flat top keys have a larger surface and allow for more advanced playing techniques. To illustrate, try this: play a button with your index finger (index finger= 1, middle finger2, etc.) on your concertina. Replace your index finger (1) with your middle finger ( 2) while you keep the button pushed down. You can also try replacing finger 1 with 3, 1 -4 (pinky), 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc..
If your repertoire/playing skills don’t require flat tops, domed ones work just as well. The extra surface of flat tops can be nice on duets or englishes, but don’t expect them to improve your playing skills… If you play anglo, don’t worry about button shapes… Button shapes don’t have anything to do with ‘speed’. Keyboard responsiveness is determined by key travel, airflow and key pressure.
All our Wakker models are available with flat or domed keys.

Concertina Connection Inc.
Wakker Concertinas

This is a most usefull point, and having just tested the difference I concur that moving hand position by swapping fingers on a held down button is much more successfull with the flat keys.  This is certainly worth considering if such moves are envisaged.

 

On an EC I still prefer the domed keys both for accute angle fingering and for playing two notes with one finger, sometimes rocking the end joint of a finger that is engaged on one button so as to touch an adjacent note. Playing between the buttons in effect.

 

I notice , however, that there are often occasions on the Hayden keyboard where sideways hand shifts aid the flow of fingering and finger swapping on held notes is an ideal moment to do this.. so perhaps I'll reconsider my preference of domed tops for  everything.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 29 April 2014 - 03:23 AM.


#11 Steve Wilson

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 05:42 AM

Thanks all for the input.  I think I'm convinced domed buttons are the buttons for me.  I'd already told Wim I wanted them but then asked about flat buttons and he informed me about their use for advanced playing techniques.  So I thought I'd gather a few thoughts from different people.  I think the domes have it.

 

The new concer is.....the Parnassus.  Arriving some time in July I hope.



#12 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 05:49 AM

The new concer is.....the Parnassus.  Arriving some time in July I hope.

 

Wow, that's great Steve - the Parnassus being the only newly built EC that might - or even would almost certainly - tempt me to swap my vintage EC for it; my congrats in advance!

 

Best wishes - Wolf



#13 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 06:09 AM

Looking forward to your review of the Parnassus and a few videos  !!!!!!! :wub: :) Worth swinging by your place when I'm next visiting downunder ?


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 29 April 2014 - 06:11 AM.


#14 Alan Day

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 07:22 AM

I agree that the domed buttons are the best for me.I like to slide across from one button to another and flat buttons would make this uncomfortable.

Talking of uncomfortable there are a few vintage concertinas about with small diameter buttons,almost pins.If I play one of these for even a short while the tips of my fingers go black,not with dirt but bruising.think again when you get offered these, or where gardening gloves whilst playing.

Al :)



#15 JimLucas

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 10:32 AM

I agree that the domed buttons are the best for me.I like to slide across from one button to another and flat buttons would make this uncomfortable.

Talking of uncomfortable there are a few vintage concertinas about with small diameter buttons,almost pins.If I play one of these for even a short while the tips of my fingers go black,not with dirt but bruising.think again when you get offered these, or where gardening gloves whilst playing.

 

I myself quite like the 3 mm, flat buttons on some Jeffries.  So if you have one that you don't appreciate, I'd be happy to give it a good home.  :D



#16 Alan Day

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 11:23 AM

 

I agree that the domed buttons are the best for me.I like to slide across from one button to another and flat buttons would make this uncomfortable.

Talking of uncomfortable there are a few vintage concertinas about with small diameter buttons,almost pins.If I play one of these for even a short while the tips of my fingers go black,not with dirt but bruising.think again when you get offered these, or where gardening gloves whilst playing.

 

I myself quite like the 3 mm, flat buttons on some Jeffries.  So if you have one that you don't appreciate, I'd be happy to give it a good home.  :D

 

Lovely try Jim.Certainly made me smile.

Al :lol:



#17 Dana Johnson

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Posted 30 April 2014 - 08:40 PM

This is an odd question, perhaps because of the limited choice involved. Contrary to what Wim says, I find 70-80 grams not particularly comfortable for extended playing of fast Irish music played relatively staccato. Then you are tapping the buttons down and the added resistance begins to hurt after a while. There certainly isn't any problem pressing the buttons down at those pressures, so a less percussive playing style would probably be ok.
As far as the button top profile goes, I find even small changes can vary the comfort and ease of use. Flat is great except for the corners. It spreads out the force on your finger tips nicely. But sliding from one pressed button to one that isn't pressed is difficult if you run into a corner. I do this often in my playing and I've found a more or less elliptical profile works and feels best to me. The long slightly curved side of the ellipse comes close to flat at the center, but creates more of a ramp near the edges. And a comfortably rounded corner that is both comfortable to slip off of and onto so sliding your finger tip sideways starts to press the button down as it slides against the ramped surface. The actual curve of the top needs to be shaped so there is equal pressure on your whole finger surface. To much curvature and you feel the pressure in the center of the button. To little and you begin to feel the corners.
I've made die sets for drawing button caps and had no difficulty with either form. Perhaps the drawing technology had changed in the interim between the first efforts and the writing of the die design books I used, but neither style or anything in between should create much of a problem. Cartridge casings are drawn with relatively square corners prior to the final shaping and they've been making them for a long time.
As important as the feel of the buttons is the travel. I've seen a lot of concertinas even new ones with way too much button travel. You need a certain amount of pad lift to get the pad out of the zone where it impedes the air flow, but much more than that serves no purpose. It takes longer to get the button down and as important, back up. It makes sliding from one button to another more difficult as you begin to hit the side of the button. Appropriate pivot point location can give enough lift with minimal button travel even with concertinas that have small pad holes compared to reed size that are most influenced by pad proximity. I like 1/8" , 3 mm. Anything over 4mm ( even 3/16 is a bit much ) is excessive. You get used to anything, but it is amazing what a difference the right button travel makes.

#18 Katie Mary Mac

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 10:33 AM

My concertina has domed buttons and I find my fingers sometimes slip off if I'm stretching to get a note, say if it's my little finger. I did have an English concertina with flat topped buttons but they were smaller.






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