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Size Isn't All That Matters...


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#19 Clive Thorne

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 07:23 AM

My apologies for being lazy, but this is a copy of my posting from another current thread:

"We had a fairly long thread about button sizes about two years ago, and some argued (me included) that 'large buttons' were not appropriate on concertina except perhaps on 20 key instruments. It all comes down to finger size, button size and key to key centre distances.

Computer keyboards and (for different reasons) even melodeon keyboards are not comparable to concertina keyboards."

I would add, of course, the overall span of the keyboard resulting from the above factors.

I thought that the above was established and generally accepted in that earlier thread (with the one obvious exception!), so it doesn't seem worth repeating all the arguments (on both sides) here.



Clive.

Edited by Clive Thorne, 04 December 2003 - 07:26 AM.


#20 JimLucas

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 07:42 AM

I would add, of course, the overall span of the keyboard resulting from the above factors.

That is an important point. On my 50+-button Crane/Triumph duets I struggle to reach the "uppermost" buttons with my little fingers. While I might fantasize about owning something like the 80-button one in the Horniman collection, I suspect I'd find more than the price to be "out of reach". ;)

#21 goran rahm

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 08:00 AM

QUOTE (goran rahm @ Dec 4 2003, 03:30 AM)
Ergonomic principles may differ less than you guess between different types of work....

Jim:Or they may differ more than you guess.

Goran now:It was YOU Jim who guessed...:-)

Jim:Real "ergonomics", however, is ultimately about the effectivenes of design for human use.

Goran: For your usual semantic ambitions a very limited use of the term and not what is generally meant by it in science (if you wish to be 'scientific'...)

Jim:E.g., there are so many major differences between computer keyboards and concertina keyboards and the way they are used that any study of one should be considered completely inapplicable to the other unless and until equivalent studies done separately on both demonstrate similar results. If that has been done, neither I nor you are aware of it.

Goran:That is a fairly correct way of putting it and one consequence is that there
is no comparison speaking for possible advantage with the 'traditional concept' either....
The only sensible thing to do is practising to find out.....

QUOTE (Goran)
In any field you will likely find that major steps of progress are related to some kind of 'cross-over'...

Jim:Ture in some cases............It certainly says nothing about whether some sort of crossover between our concertinas and typewriters -- or even bandoneons -- would be beneficial.

Goran now: It doesn't....but YOU insist on rejecting the possibility before exploration of the matter..and continue advocating for the 'tradition'....
Such an attitude might be called regressive or contraproductive....

Jim:A further comment/observation on comparisons between computer keyboards and concertina keyboards: Anyone wishing to make such a comparison compare how many notes per minute they play on their concertina with how many characters per minute they type on their computer.
Do we have any concertina-playing professional typists in the audience? If so, what do you think of the comparison?

Goran:I'd say it is pretty meaningless...conditionally that the mechanical circumstances are roughly the same you expect about equal results. With old
typewriters I think common figures used to be 300+ characters/minute for
'professionals'. A computer keyboard thus ought to admit even more and a quick calculation seems to give that playing eights in prestissimo could be something alike.
If you on the other want a useful comparison of course you have to make two 'instruments' (test dummies would do I think..) differing only regarding the button characteristics and check the results.

I hardly think short time 'speed' is of much value regarding button shape/profile
- 'endurance' could be more interesting as an indication of 'comfort' or 'efficiency' apart from subjective judgement
- the 'musical' factors ought to be more interesting like 'confidence' or 'precision' or
'expressive options' or 'polyphonic capacity' . The first two maybe 'measurable'.
50 years ago or more 'competitions' were common in the *Accordion World* - no doubt it had 'some' value in development of instruments.....

Concerning total impact of *buttons* I think subjective comfort is the main issue along with technical precision and individual 'feel of expressive capacity' i.e that the mechanism (buttons in this case..) does not obstruct the musical intentions.

The instruments are mostly limited to their 'traditional design' and as long as you
don't cross the borders you will never find out if it is better on the other side....

Goran Rahm

#22 JimLucas

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 08:32 AM

[................]

Groan! I'm outta here.

#23 Dave Prebble

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 08:47 AM

The instruments are mostly limited to their 'traditional design' and as long as you
don't cross the borders you will never find out if it is better on the other side....

Hi Folks,

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', or should that be 'If it ain't broke, fix it till it is '

Yer pays your money - Yer takes your choice !

Regards

Dave

#24 goran rahm

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 10:32 AM

QUOTE (goran rahm @ Dec 4 2003, 08:00 AM)

The instruments are mostly limited to their 'traditional design' and as long as you
don't cross the borders you will never find out if it is better on the other side....

Hi Folks,
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'......
......
Dave

Goran now: A little ethnical provocation:
I was once told that the above was an "American" saying ...to me a bit surprising since in Scandinavia the common view on 'the American way' use to be more something like :
'If it can be done, do it'.....
.....but according to the alien view on Brits the proverb might fit better on the insular tradition....By all means don't take this personally Dave! and whatever... trust that I will be stoned by your compatriots anyway for repeated desacration of his holiness Sir CW.....:-)

From sounds to things....the 'musical World' is fascinating as being so tremendously progressive, changing, 'trendy' at the same time as so extremely conservative. Regarding 'instruments' the latter is not surpsrising since it takes considerable time and effort to learn a musical instrument and most people do not voluntarily go through the strenous process again....maybe because musical performance usually is a continuous 'learning process' occupying a great deal of sacrifice anyway...and maybe due to emotional relations to the instrument...
In my view however two basic human instincts ...curiosity and idleness....ought to stimulate interest for any 'novelty' that may offer easier learning and greater comfort....
'If there is a better world find it'
'I only regret what I didn't do'

Goran Rahm

#25 Paul Groff

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 12:06 PM

Goran,

I found your last posting very positive and uplifting. The opposing tendencies toward conservatism and toward innovation (whether balanced in one individual or fought out in controversy ) are both essential to a living musical culture, and to the evolution of musical instrument design. * The history of the flute (especially in the 19th century) shows this very clearly. On the one hand, tradition and continuity are required for musical performance (and instruction) to achieve a high standard, and for craftsman to perfect the execution of particular designs. On the other hand, innovation and re-invention are needed to stimulate the imagination, motivate the adventurous younger generation, and bring the tradition into contact with fresh sources of inspiration so that it doesn't spiral inward and decay. We live in a time of such rapid and dizzying change that I confess a need to lean toward the traditional, if only to serve as ballast in the community. But even I have many ideas for (minor) changes and improvements in the way concertinas are made, and I'm always interested to entertain the suggestions of others I encounter.

A forum such as this has limited persuasive power. Words will rarely convince a serious musician that some design change in a musical instrument has value. Dedicated musicians are motivated to adopt a change when they hear a dramatic improvement in the music, or when they feel a dramatic improvement in the behavior of the instrument. Even then, for the reasons Goran mentioned, they can be reluctant to give up their hard-won facility on the old instrument. Amateurs and beginners have less to lose (and perhaps a naive hope that they can "out-think" the process of learning to play), and have been the source of (and the principle market for) many wild inventions through organological history. Almost all of these were ridiculed by (at least some of) the good players, and perhaps most WERE ridiculous, but a small percentage of the inventions of so-called crackpots and tinkerers turned out to be really useful, and were taken up by a later generation of professionals. Rockstro, Baines, Montagu, Libin and others have discussed many cases of this social phenomenon (e.g., Libin, "Instrument innovation and William Sidney Mount's 'Cradle of Harmony,' " about an amateur-designed "improved violin"). The history of the english-made concertinas began and continues to this day to progress in this very way -- a collaboration of the visionary, the nutty, the mercenary, the super-rational, the craftsmen, the engineers, those who managed to make music on the things....

I feel that all contributors to this topic, especially Jim who introduced it, have made very useful observations. It requires much patience and good will to really consider the ideas of another person, especially when each of us is flushed with our own enthusiasm for the opportunity to share our own views on a subject that is so little understood or respected by the wider culture.
Goran has taken a lot of heat for his style of argument. Without defending this I will say that I admire his persistence in attempting to understand the concertina, from his perspective, and that he may show the most patience of all of us in working from another language. Like Lester, I find his postings (in fact all the postings here) well worth reading.

Paul

* Also "delicately balanced," opposing tendencies are those toward the customized, hand-built instrument on the one hand, and on the other hand toward the standardized instrument (often made in larger numbers or even mass-produced) with its potential for standardized tutors, group music classes, etc. Individual musicians often move back and forth between these categories, trying to find the best vehicle for their expression... the blues musician starts on a wire "one-string," then graduates to a good factory-made guitar.....the flute student starts on a factory flute, but graduates to a uniquely "optioned" hand-made one....

Edited by Paul Groff, 04 December 2003 - 12:11 PM.


#26 Dave Prebble

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 03:34 PM

Goran.... not to worry!
You have done no lasting harm to my 'English sense of humour'

I can still derive some mild amusement from your total inability to realise that, after the production of some hundreds of thousands of concertinas and a hundred and seventy years of their enjoyment by players ranging from the musically un-gifted up to the unbelievably proficient, the instrument is not in fact some absurd unplayable ergonomic joke perpetrated on millions of gullible folk by CW and all those who followed him.

If you really want a new ergonomically designed instrument, go ahead with your designs and development and convince a manufacturer of its merits. If encouraged by his response and any marketing trials, go into production and make your fortune.
Though a self confessed sceptic, I give you my word that I would give such an instrument an extensive and fair trial and an absolutely honest review.

Until then I for one would be much obliged if, despite your obviously genuine beliefs, you would desist from implying that every concertina in existence is, in one way or another, second rate to some 'instrument' that exists, up till now, only in your mind.

In the faint hope of hearing something new, I shall endeavour for as long as I can, to 'stiffen my upper lip' and continue to read your postings, though increasingly it appears that some folk find are finding it hard sustaining such high levels of dedication.


Goran - 'If there is a better world find it'
Dave - Be my guest Goran, and please, do hurry up old chap!


Dave

#27 Clive Thorne

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 05:08 PM

I don't want people to be left with the impression that I am against inovation in anything, least of all concertina design.

My points about button size are not based on the fact thats its not traditional, but on the fact that I cannot see how it can sensibly work.

As others have said above, perhaps it needs large button concertina to be built for it to be assessed, but you cannot expect one of the established makers to put that effort into an instrument that he probably won't be able to sell.

Goran, As people have noted, your dedication to, and knowledge of, the concertina is commendable. Your ideas on handles is commendable, although I've not tried them. Its just this thing about button size that I cannot agree with.


Clive.

#28 goran rahm

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 07:20 PM

Dave:I can still derive some mild amusement from your total inability to realise that, after the production of some hundreds of thousands of concertinas and a hundred and seventy years of their enjoyment by players ranging from the musically un-gifted up to the unbelievably proficient, the instrument is not in fact some absurd unplayable ergonomic joke perpetrated on millions of gullible folk by CW and all those who followed him.

Goran:Certainly a tempting thought..but keep in mind Dave that it also is the historically most common argument against 'changes'. The 'scissors' were 'sheap-shears' for a couple of thousand years before someone put a rivet in them. 'Other' squeezeboxes (with 'comfortable buttons' :-)) outnumber(ed) 'British style concertinas' with a factor of 100 or more and survived a bit longer too....

Dave:If you really want a new ergonomically designed instrument, go ahead with your designs and development and convince a manufacturer of its merits. If encouraged by his response and any marketing trials, go into production and make your fortune.

Goran:Another considerate idea of yours but you ought to know the answer(s)
1) The existing "manufacturers" can not live on the small market for new instruments as is (possibly Stagi...I don't know...) 2)"Marketing trials" - one would have to be even more stupid than myself to do that....3) "fortune"....why?:-)
4) The basic "ideas" are possible to try at least in their fundamental form *with* existing instruments and models and basically by efforts available for anyone with a little handiness and at very low cost
The options to 'learn' about it are open for You and everyone else....A few hours work and materials for say £10-20 is all you need...

Dave:Though a self confessed sceptic, I give you my word that I would give such an instrument an extensive and fair trial and an absolutely honest review.

Goran: If you are the least curious go ahead and find out according to the above or have a little bit of craftsman assistance if you hesitate....There is no need to start an enterprise or 'marketing a product'....some minor modifications of the existing instruments are enough to explore if there is anything in it for yourself.
The funny thing about it is that IF some successful performing 'star' were using a 'novelty' a lot of players would not hesitate a second to follow without understanding 'anything' of the potential (or lack thereof...) for themselves....

Dave:Until then I for one would be much obliged if, despite your obviously genuine beliefs, you would desist from implying that every concertina in existence is, in one way or another, second rate to some 'instrument' that exists, up till now, only in your mind.

Goran:Without any direct comparisons with myself would you say to the astronaut returning from a certain trip that you rather not will listen to his beliefs regarding the spherical shape of the Moon....?

Dave:In the faint hope of hearing something new, I shall endeavour for as long as I can, to 'stiffen my upper lip' and continue to read your postings, though increasingly it appears that some folk find are finding it hard sustaining such high levels of dedication.

Goran:I simply tell you what I know..it is your own choice to believe if or not and to find out if you have reason for either which....I am not interested in prooving anything for you...I could have kept it for myself but if it could be of some benefit for others....be welcome...
( I also enjoy stirring up pots now and then...:-)


Clive:I don't want people to be left with the impression that I am against inovation in anything, least of all concertina design.

My points about button size are not based on the fact thats its not traditional, but on the fact that I cannot see how it can sensibly work.

Goran:It IS a matter of conflict as much else and you have to examine individual and circumstantial 'demands' to have a chance to evaluate the benefits of this or that 'concept/solution'. It ought to be selfevident that different existing 'models' of instruments are differently suitable for varying pieces of music or performance methods.
Button size ( in some conjunction with shape) variation will have implications for the keyboard layout, measures and for note range. With the Anglo you may without any changes of other measures increase the button diam at least to 8-9mm. Fairly easy to find out what is preferred...
With Englishes or Duets which have more 'compressed' keyboards you face some reduction of note range if buttons are considerably wider. (6mm ones cause no problems except possibly if having extremely wide fingers) So you have to decide whether you can sacrifice some notes at the top or the lower end or for the Duet in the overlapping octave(s) for the benefit of more confident and comfortable 'fingering'.

Clive:As others have said above, perhaps it needs large button concertina to be built for it to be assessed, but you cannot expect one of the established makers to put that effort into an instrument that he probably won't be able to sell.

Goran:True like I replied to Dave above....so you are left to find out by your own trials, costs, or comparisons with existing variants. Ever tried a Bandonion/Konzertina....? Button accordion? "Stradella bass"?

Clive:Goran, As people have noted, your dedication to, and knowledge of, the concertina is commendable. Your ideas on handles is commendable, although I've not tried them. Its just this thing about button size that I cannot agree with.

Goran:The issue about 'greater *comfort* with wider buttons' should be competely uncontroversial and rather selfevident. The 5mm 'traditional' concertina buttons simply are an implement of torture and unfunctional in the meaning that the confidence in hitting them is low. (If you miss their centre by 2mm you are OUT....if you miss the centre of a 13 mm one by 2mm it doesn't matter at all)

The controversy (which is REAL) is the relation to keyboard measures and the optimal solution no doubt will be related to individual and circumstantial variables
NO fixed measures are generally ideal...either you would like to find options for individual choice OR one might find some additional variant more suitable for a fairly large population of ...being 'better' than the traditional.
One suggestion of mine has been that for the 'folk music segment' of English players for example a treble with about 40 buttons of about 13mm diam and slightly more spread than the usual measures would not have too small a range
(for the common use in the idiom) but be more efficient and comfortable.

Despite it may not suit You Clive... is it still so hard to accept that possibility?

Goran Rahm

#29 Dave Prebble

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 10:51 AM

Hi Goran,

For a change to be successful and accepted it must address a need and provide clear improvements which meet that need, thus providing advantage for the person who will be expected to adopt it.
That every concertina player is likely to have some individual issues or problems, be it with the particular design of their instrument, the hand of finger size nature has given them or with muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, or skin sensitivity disorders is a perfectly reasonable assumption.
That we are all afflicted or affected by the same common set of problems is I think clearly unreasonable.
Again, you are to be commended for your work towards addressing particular needs and for making the results of your findings available to all. What you seem unable to accept is that the large majority of players do not share your difficulty in holding the instrument nor do they find 5mm buttons to be non-functional ‘instruments of torture’.

Your ideas and proposals are formulated from, and tailored by, your own individual experiences, perceptions and problems. Your solutions have hopefully made a big difference to you playing and personal comfort and will likely benefit those others who share similar difficulties.

I have my own set of quite different issues and preferences. I have large hands and fingers but comparatively short little fingers. I have no problems holding the concertina and my favourite instrument is a Bb/F Jeffries fitted with original 3mm (1/8”) buttons which I find that I prefer over their 5 and 6mm cousins. To compensate in part for the little finger problem the palm rests are very slightly angled and I can play for hours and experience no discomfort from the buttons. Given your difficulties with 5mm buttons, playing this concertina might well give you great problems in accurate note location and clearly have you writhing in agony!
As I said, we are all different and the above suits my particular needs admirably.

I wonder if I am correct in assuming that you have converted your collection of Aeolas and Edeophones and the like to 10 or 12mm buttons, with restrictions to the range and altered spacings and layouts.
If not, I don’t think that you are in any position to suggest to me that I thus convert my Jeffries instruments in order to try out solutions to your problems.

Given that we are all different, (that surely must be beyond dispute), unless every concertina is tailor-made to the individual’s anatomy and preferences, then some compromises must be accepted. It is very much like the difference between a bespoke tailor-made suit and one mass produced to a ‘standard’ pattern and sold ‘off the peg’. The experiences of players and makers alike over many, many years have resulted in a range of quite reasonable ‘one size fits nearly all’ compromises. This can be improved on for the individual by buying ‘off the peg’ and having minor alterations done to improve the fit.
The unfortunate minority who, in some way, fall beyond the common parameters must either accept a less than optimum fit, pretty major alterations to the instrument or be prepared to pay for bespoke hand made goods.
Where concertinas are concerned I fall into the first group and where clothes are concerned, having a ‘non-standard’ 54” chest, decidedly within the latter category.

A far more important concern for many folk on this forum is the shortage of reasonable quality starter particularly intermediate grade instruments. There are folk out there trying their best to address this issue be it by outsourcing parts and labour, the use of modern ‘alternative’ materials and production methods or by innovative changes in design, they deserve and have my greatest respect. I am not against change if it fulfils a useful purpose and is effective.

As Paul Groff pointed out :
<A forum such as this has limited persuasive power. Words will rarely convince a serious musician that some design change in a musical instrument has value.>

Again, if you truly believe that that your ideas are of universal benefit to all , then I suggest that it is today’s makers and tomorrow’s designers that you will have to convince if your proposals are ever to be truly tested in the field.

Unless such initial development were to be made to order or otherwise underwritten by someone, makers would, I suspect, require an awful lot of convincing before embarking on a project for which, as Clive points out, they might never see a return.
That, my friend is your dilemma not ours.

That your problems are not shared by many others on this forum would appear to be well supported by the fact that of 3885 forum posts in total, the Ergonomics Forum has attracted 25 replies to 6 postings, three of which were started by yourself.
I hope I have made my viewpoint clear to all and reckon that's about all I wish to contribute to this issue.
I must now take the only means available to me of ending my involvement in this thread that is to leave the field clear for you Goran to have the last and un-contested word.

Regards Dave

Oh no I don’t. I’m back !

As a post Script and of no direct relevance to the above argument :-
I kept a small flock of sheep until the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. This is not to be confused with Foot In Mouth disease, a different ailment endemic in this forum and to which I have occasionally succumbed.
I used to shear by hand using traditional bow sprung shears which gave the sheep an efficient if, in my unpractised hands, somewhat rough and ready, ‘haircut’.
On one occasion I had I had to dag (shear round the tail end) of several sheep to control an outbreak of ‘Fly Strike’ (believe me you really, really don’t want to know!) With no shears available, I resorted to an emergency alternative and used heavy upholstery scissors.
The resultant nerve damage in my thumb caused a complete loss of feeling from the root to the tip for very nearly six months.
So if that old ‘Shears/Scissors’ analogy is dragged out yet again I shall not be held responsible for my actions…..

pps.
Surely everyone (except perhaps you Goran??) could see with their own eyes that the moon was round?
I confess to having had some difficulty accepting that the Astronauts saw Earth as a Circle and not a Hexagon…….. But I’m over it now….I think……?

Dave ;)

Edited by Dave Prebble, 05 December 2003 - 12:28 PM.


#30 Clive Thorne

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 12:49 PM

Goran,

I do not want to get involved in point scoring, which I dislike so much, but I must respond to your comments on button size as I believe you have made a fundamental error in your logic.

You say that, with 5mm buttons, if you miss the centre by 2 mm then you are 'out'. You seem to be forgetting the size of the end of the finger!! My finger tip (which I presume is fairly average) is about 15mm wide by 10mm deep, therefore I can move my finger up to 10mm side to side and still have full contact between my finger and the 5mm button. By contrast, with 15mm buttons if I move my finger by 10mm to one side then there is every likelyhood that I will also be pressing the adjacent button, so in this sense larger buttons are positively disadvantageous!!

Personally I have never found missing a button to be a problem - getting the finger to it quickly enough, yes, but missing it , no.


More generally:

Why is it that you have such problems with 5mm buttons? As Dave says, no one else seems to have this problem, and I personally have never experienced any pain from pressing the buttons. It leads me to wonder if you are simply pressing too hard and too far. All the discussions about springing pressure and comfort are irrelevant if you press the buttons right to the end of travel and continue to press! All this will achieve is little 5mm depressions in your finger tips. Perhaps this is your problem rather than the button size?.

I have done some checks on my own playing, by trying to freeze at a particular point (difficult I admit), and generally find that there is still about 1mm travel left in the button. Ie I do not push the buttons right against the end stops.

Is it possible that the mechanics of your style is causing the problems rather than just the buttons size, or rather that the two are incompatible?.


Also Yes, I have played button accordian, and as stated by others the difference is that with button accordians the hand is mobile, so span of the keyboard is not the problem it is on a concertina.

I have not played a stradella bass, but looking at my wifes old piano acordian I see that the buttons are about 7mm, on 15mm centres - not 15mm or even 10mm buttons. In any case, am I right in believing that with a stradella bass you are normally pressing only one button at a time?

I have never held or played a chemnitzer so cannot comment.




Clive.

#31 JimLucas

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 01:30 PM

If you really want a new ergonomically designed instrument, go ahead with your designs and development and convince a manufacturer of its merits. If encouraged by his response and any marketing trials, go into production and make your fortune.


Another considerate idea of yours but you ought to know the answer(s)
1) The existing "manufacturers" can not live on the small market for new instruments as is (possibly Stagi...I don't know...)
2)"Marketing trials" - one would have to be even more stupid than myself to do that....
3) "fortune"....why?:-)
4) The basic "ideas" are possible to try at least in their fundamental form *with* existing instruments and models and basically by efforts available for anyone with a little handiness and at very low cost
The options to 'learn' about it are open for You and everyone else....A few hours work and materials for say £10-20 is all you need...

As I believe someone else has already said, then why don't you do it, Göran? Don't tell us, show us! I know that in the past you have brought modified instruments (with your own handles) to Witney. I tried them. If it's so cheap and easy to do the same with large buttons and/or other modifications you think are improvements, why not just do it?

On the other hand, since you don't seem to be concerned about making a fortune on the design, you could equally well pay one of the existing makers to implement your design. Colin Dipper springs to mind, since that's exactly how the Franglo came to be. Someone had an idea and paid Colin to build it. (I don't know if his County Clare model had a similar origin, or if he took on the risk himself. I should remember to ask next time I see him.) If the idea intrigues him, he might even do it before his regular queue. (No guarantee, of course, but I'm sure he'd tell you, one way or the other.)

Though a self confessed sceptic, I give you my word that I would give such an instrument an extensive and fair trial and an absolutely honest review.


If you are the least curious go ahead and find out according to the above or have a little bit of craftsman assistance if you hesitate....

"If you are the least" sure of what you recommend, you should build such an instrument and ship it to Dave for his evaluation. This would also insure that there would not be some discrepancy between what you espouse and what he tests, which could happen if he or his "craftsman" misunderstood some of your specifications.

As others have said above, perhaps it needs large button concertina to be built for it to be assessed, but you cannot expect one of the established makers to put that effort into an instrument that he probably won't be able to sell.

Sell, schmell! You can't expect anyone -- established maker, hobbyist, or whatever -- "to put that effort into an instrument that" (s)he doesn't already believe to be worthwhile. But it makes me wonder why the one person who does proclaim its value doesn't produce one and pass it around for evaluation, like Bob Tedrow did with his anglo design and I did with an Albion (I didn't build it, but I convinced Rich Morse to provide me with one, and I passed it around, because I believed in its value).

True like I replied to Dave above....so you are left to find out by your own trials, costs, or comparisons with existing variants. Ever tried a Bandonion/Konzertina....? Button accordion? "Stradella bass"?

I don't know about the others, but in my case the answer is "yes" to all three. And I much prefer the English-make concertinas, with their small buttons. In fact, I love my Dipper County Clare, but I really wish it had 5mm buttons instead of the 6mm buttons it does have.

The issue about 'greater *comfort* with wider buttons' should be competely uncontroversial and rather selfevident.

"Should be"?! I personally find it to be demonstrably false.

The 5mm 'traditional' concertina buttons simply are an implement of torture...

That is not my experience at all. I find them to be quite comfortable. While you may have found some who share your experience, I have also found many who share mine. This suggests to me that either there is a relevant difference in the way we depress the buttons, or that there is some neurological difference between us (or both). Either way, your unqualified statement should not be unqualified.

...and unfunctional in the meaning that the confidence in hitting them is low. (If you miss their centre by 2mm you are OUT...

On my standard Ĉola treble English the buttons are 4mm in diameter and separated by a minimum of 6mm (more in other directions). That's a center-to-center distance of 10mm. I find that I can miss centering my finger on the button by up to 4mm and still both depress the correct button and not depress any other button, even in that minimum-distance direction. (I do not have unusually small fingers.) I further find that I don't miss the center by more than 1mm when playing. I suggest that anyone who misses by more than 2mm should practice improving their accuracy. (If the shoe fits....)

...if you miss the centre of a 13 mm one by 2mm it doesn't matter at all.

First of all, it's not possible to have 13mm buttons with centers closer than 14mm (or perhaps more; there needs to be enough end material between buttons to hold the buttons in position), where 5mm buttons with centers 14mm apart have at least 9mm of space between them. If we assume a 14mm center-to-center spacing in both cases, the distance from the center of the 5mm button to the edge of the nearest adjacent button is 11.5mm, while in the case of the 13mm button that same minimum distance is only 7.5mm. Which gives the most leeway? (That is a rhetorical question.)

Oh, you're concerned about missing the button altogether? I'll suggest again that practice would be in order, but I'll also point out that on my Ĉola with the 4mm buttons the diagonal distance between button centers is 16mm, yet I can -- if and when I wish -- depress two of them at the same time with one finger. It takes special skill and precision to strike a finger among the buttons and not depress any of them. On a standard English-made anglo it's easier, but still difficult. (By the way, my fingers aren't unusually large, either.)

One suggestion of mine has been that for the 'folk music segment' of English players for example a treble with about 40 buttons of about 13mm diam and slightly more spread than the usual measures would not have too small a range... but be more efficient and comfortable.

Despite it may not suit You Clive... is it still so hard to accept that possibility?


Dunno about Clive, but I can certainly "accept that possibility" that "it may not suit" me!

#32 dbowers

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 01:45 PM

This discussion has raised a more general question: how do major changes in musical instruments take place? I can think, offhand, of 3 such changes:

1) The change in the neck angle of the violin (around 1800, I believe). Even pre-exisitng Strads were modified to the new standard.

2) The addition of valves to the "Franch" horn. This took place in the mid-19th century. Dukas' "Villanelle" was written for the first part to be played on a natural horn and the second on a valved horn.

3) The change from rotary to piston valves on brass instuments. Late 19th century, I think. The horn has never adopted them; orchestras in Germany and Austria still use the rotary valve trumpet.

Each of these changes is at least as sweeping as a change to the button size, "handle", etc. of the concertina, and the first involved major surgery to existing, valuable instruments.

How did the change start and what motivated nearly all players to undertake the upgrade? How long did the changeover take?

Edited by dbowers, 05 December 2003 - 01:46 PM.


#33 JimLucas

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 02:40 PM

This discussion has raised a more general question: how do major changes in musical instruments take place? I can think, offhand, of 3 such changes:

I think a couple more could be added to your list, one major and one "minor":

4) The Boehm system flute almost completely supplanted the older keyed flutes. (I understand this had a secondary effect of flooding the market with used old-style wooden flutes, making them cheap, and this is said by some to be responsible for the flute becoming widespread in Ireland.)

5) The sousaphone (essentially a tuba with its "tube" coiled around the player's body and supported by his/her shoulders) has largely replaced the upright tuba for marching band use in the US, though I think not in Europe.

How did the change start and what motivated nearly all players to undertake the upgrade? How long did the changeover take?

I consider it likely that the motivating factors were different in each case. The only one I feel I have a good guess for is the sousaphone. It was invented by a famous and much-admired American band leader, John Philip Sousa, and used in his very-popular band. Others copied him. It didn't hurt (pun acknowledged) that the instrument was much easier to carry and play while marching, but that alone doesn't seem to have been enough to give it the same popularity in Europe.

#34 David Barnert

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 11:48 PM

And another: The invention of the nylon string reinvented the classical guitar in the early 20th century. Metal frets were also added (previously frets were gut strings tied around the neck of the instrument, the way gambas and lutes are still built). And I won't even go into what happened when steel strings and electronic pickups came around.

#35 JimLucas

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Posted 06 December 2003 - 06:47 AM

And I won't even go into what happened when steel strings and electronic pickups came around.

And those affected all stringed instruments (at least those that weren't trying to remain archaic).

#36 goran rahm

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 01:49 PM

Dave, ("DP")

DP:That we are all afflicted or affected by the same common set of problems is I think clearly unreasonable.

Goran(GR):Right and wrong....In the individual case there may be many individual factors to consider...right of course...but 'human nature' however is also 'common' in many respects...you have to sort out what aims you have 'at present'...

DP:What you seem unable to accept is that the large majority of players do not share your difficulty in holding the instrument nor do they find 5mm buttons to be non-functional ‘instruments of torture’.

GR: Joke aside....The general public hardly ever does "share a difficulty" in imagination... That would be quite surprising too...!....a small part of it may... do due to interest or some extra imagination or 'real' experienced problems
What you are saying is important though...and one interesting matter is *why* the "majority" comes to a change *when* it does. Seldom due to rational decisions
more often by copying idols or following the fashion which mostly basically is the same....

DP:Your ideas and proposals are formulated from, and tailored by, your own individual experiences, perceptions and problems. Your solutions have hopefully made a big difference to you playing and personal comfort and will likely benefit those others who share similar difficulties.

GR:Right and wrong again...'My ideas' were present even when I saw the concertina and consequently I had absolutely NO experience or problem from it.
Concerning the buttons two of the three first owners of concertinas I met had problems with them...one had stopped playing completely due to sore fingers..( I replaced his buttons with 6mm flat ones and he started playing again).
The 'ideas' regarding keyboard location and a reformed 'handle' were formulated by William Wheatstone 1861 !! (but I didn't learn about them until about 5 years ago) and Michael Bell had come to basically the same view independently when
working on his handle. (No surprise he is a professional ergonomist).

DP:I have my own set of quite different issues and preferences. I have large hands and fingers but comparatively short little fingers. I have no problems holding the concertina and my favourite instrument is a Bb/F Jeffries fitted with original 3mm (1/8”) buttons which I find that I prefer over their 5 and 6mm cousins. To compensate in part for the little finger problem the palm rests are very slightly angled and I can play for hours and experience no discomfort from the buttons. Given your difficulties with 5mm buttons, playing this concertina might well give you great problems in accurate note location and clearly have you writhing in agony!
As I said, we are all different and the above suits my particular needs admirably.

GR:Well....?...We are different and needs are different. I have never denied that..on the contrary underlined it! One difference is that YOU likely have had no reason or interest in finding the possible general implications while I have been working on the issues as much as possible from a 'common' aspect. My own satisfaction with the 'reforms' to me is merely a support for the practicality of the changes and since my use ofthe instruments are not very exceptional from the mainstream it is not unlikely that the same changes could be beneficial for a greater population. You can not 'know' unless trying....that is it....

DP:I wonder if I am correct in assuming that you have converted your collection of Aeolas and Edeophones and the like to 10 or 12mm buttons, with restrictions to the range and altered spacings and layouts.
If not, I don’t think that you are in any position to suggest to me that I thus convert my Jeffries instruments in order to try out solutions to your problems.

GR:On most instruments (Englishes) I use I have converted 4,5 or 5mm buttons to 6mm bone or PVC ones. Anglos and Duets too ( I only tinker a little with these) and I have tried up to 9mm buttons with an Anglo. I made an English dummy with 13mm buttons.
Change to 6mm buttons is uncontroversial since you don't have to make the endplate holes any wider. I think everyone who is curious about the effect could do it just to find out what it is about...and changing to 3mm ones as well of course...:-)

DP:The experiences of players and makers alike over many, many years have resulted in a range of quite reasonable ‘one size fits nearly all’ compromises.

GR:This is hardly a historic fact I'm afraid since the measures of the keyboards and the buttons hardly have varied at all during these "many,many years" (your 3mm Jeffries style buttons being one of rare exceptions)

DP: This can be improved on for the individual by buying ‘off the peg’ and having minor alterations done to improve the fit.
The unfortunate minority who, in some way, fall beyond the common parameters must either accept a less than optimum fit, pretty major alterations to the instrument or be prepared to pay for bespoke hand made goods.

GR:Certainly that is what we may have to accept. Only.... that 'we' do not know the motivations for the 'traditional' measures...they likely were not founded on any 'ergonomic field research' or 'marketing survey' and it is not unlikely at all that
the traditional concept does NOT suit *the majority* optimally DESPITE having been accepted for 150 years. Was the Wheatstone concertina designed for the C Wheatstone daughters??? Regondi??? Himself???

DP: I am not against change if it fulfils a useful purpose and is effective.

GR: With the greater resources in communications today and greater knowledge about significance of 'good adaptation of the tool to the man' (instead of the reverse) I think that any contemporary attempts to design/construct/produce anything beside the 'traditional concept' ought to consider wider ergonomic factors including buttons, handles, weight, balance,support...and so on

DP:Again, if you truly believe that that your ideas are of universal benefit to all , then I suggest that it is today’s makers and tomorrow’s designers that you will have to convince if your proposals are ever to be truly tested in the field.

GR:This could be partly true when you are dealing with industrial mass production and in a financial sector with great resources and profit expectations.
The concertina makers of today are not of the kind and they have resources only to make things on order...hardly to afford experimenting at all.
The 'customers' have to be convinced (or stupid...) enough to pay for it themselves and to get to that conviction they have to find out for themselves!....it is simple as that...It is up to YOU...I am not going to do it for anyone except possibly for another one or two close friends of mine.

DP:Unless such initial development were to be made to order or otherwise underwritten by someone, makers would, I suspect, require an awful lot of convincing before embarking on a project for which, as Clive points out, they might never see a return.
That, my friend is your dilemma not ours.

GR:Sorry you make me laugh for myself....:-) I have no "dilemma" at all...according to the paragraph above....fix it yourself if you are curious about it......but don't say that I am wrong until you know anything about it (=at least about as much as I do....).....:-)

DP:That your problems are not shared by many others on this forum would appear to be well supported by the fact that of 3885 forum posts in total, the Ergonomics Forum has attracted 25 replies to 6 postings, three of which were started by yourself.

GR:I don't count the distribution of topics but it is fairly clear from the 5+ years Ihave been active in various discussion groups that *ergonomic* problems belong to the most common ones in one way or other and for those who don't know it certainly could be an eyeopener that in inquiries physical problems use to be experienced among 30-70% of musicians. There are no known surveys on 'concertinas' specifically but there is little reason to belive (altough we would like to..) that they are much different.

DP:With no shears available, I resorted to an emergency alternative and used heavy upholstery scissors.
The resultant nerve damage in my thumb caused a complete loss of feeling from the root to the tip for very nearly six months.
So if that old ‘Shears/Scissors’ analogy is dragged out yet again I shall not be held responsible for my actions…..

GR:THAT is no surprise at all Dave!! There IS a cause that *sheep-shears* have been used for sheep until you got machines for it despite the "scissors" have been around for I believe about 500 years.
Have you tried to have your haircut done with sheep-shears too ??

DP:Surely everyone (except perhaps you Goran??) could see with their own eyes that the moon was round?

GR: NO Dave they could not and neither I...we all *knew* from our experience until 1969 (or a little before..) that the Moon is/was a *hemisphere*....:-)


Goran Rahm




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