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Jeffries Duets


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#1 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 10:30 AM

A stretch of the "Learning" theme? I hope not too much so, because I believe it relates to questions of what we learn, why we learn what we learn, and also how we learn.

Why are not more people at least trying to learn to play the Jeffries duet? Is it 1)..., 2)..., 3)..., or ....? I'm not going to fill in those blanks. I do have some ideas, but rather than have you select from my speculative list of potenial reasons, I want to hear what you think.

#2 Dave Prebble

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 10:53 AM

Eh Up Jim!

I'll wipe No1 off your list straight away

I can't afford one !!

(nor as some might suppose,were I to find one 'going for a song', would I convert it to an Anglo. I have seen several such conversions and they have always been disappointing to me.)

Dave

#3 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 11:25 AM

I can't afford one !!

How much can you afford? How much do you think they cost?

#4 Samantha

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 11:38 AM

Perhaps most people start playing the concertina because they've heard someone else play and frequently go for that type of concertina. I've never stumbled across a Jeffries duet player (apart from you, Jim). Also Jeffries duets are "hidden" in the duet group of concertina types which obscures things still further.

What made *you* start playing it, Jim? Why would you recommend it to anyone else?

Samantha

#5 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 01:05 PM

I've never stumbled across a Jeffries duet player (apart from you, Jim).

Aha! See how rumors get started? First Paul Groff, and now you Samantha... assuming I play Jeffries duet. Nope. Not yet. But after just a few minutes with the one that I posted the pictures of, I was able to knock out "Off to California".

I already had theoretical reasons -- and some wonderful playing I heard at Witney -- for thinking it was a worthwhile system. Now I have some experience to reinforce that. And all the Jeffries duets I know of are made by Jeffries, with all that means for sound, etc.

Perhaps most people start playing the concertina because they've heard someone else play and frequently go for that type of concertina.

Undoubtedly. But quite a few of us try a second or even third kind. Many anglo and English players experiment with a duet, either Crane or Maccann or Hayden (and some from one duet to another), without ever having heard someone else play one, but I doubt I've met more than two who went looking for a Jeffries duet. Yet that's the one that's significantly related to/derived from the anglo. It makes (one kind of) sense that it would be the one easiest for anglo players to learn. (Gotta get that "learning" relevance in there. :) )

Now I could understand if they went looking and couldn't find one. It took me a good 15 years to get my hands on my first Crane. But as far as I can tell, people aren't looking. Why not?

#6 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 01:33 PM

Perhaps most people start playing the concertina because they've heard someone else play and frequently go for that type of concertina.

"Perhaps most", yes. But we've seen a number of folks lately coming to concertina.net to ask us what kind they should start with.

#7 Clive Thorne

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 03:14 PM

Jim,

I have been thinking of learning a duet for a while, and have thought about the Jeffries system since its supposed to be relatively easy for an anglo player to move to.


The only thing that put me off Jeffries was, as someone else said, that they were only built by Jeffries and thus I assumed that they would be pretty well unobtainable, and consequently also very expensive.

Then comes along Alan Turnbull with his instrument and suddenly there is one available and not (yet) at a silly price. This has got me excited for the moment, but if I do not end up with Alan's instrument (which is likely) then the idea will probably return to being a pipe dream.

So I suppose the short answer to your question is that I, for one, would am interested in taking it up, if only I could get an instrument.

If not a Jeffries than I would probably favour a Hayden due to the relative ease of playing different keys. Against this however is the lack of good instruments. I've been spoilt by having a Jeffries anglo, and suspect that if I went for a Bastari Hayden than I might end up judging the instrument rather than the system.


Clive.

#8 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 03:33 PM

I have been thinking of learning a duet for a while, and have thought about the Jeffries system since its supposed to be relatively easy for an anglo player to move to.

...but if I do not end up with Alan's instrument (which is likely) then the idea will probably return to being a pipe dream.

Have you tried looking for one? You shouldn't give up until you do.

I can't quote or name names, but in conversations with dealers I have gotten the impression that there are actually more of them out there, but that the dealers don't buy/bid on them, because they experience so little demand that they don't expect to be able to recoup their purchase price in a reasonable length of time. I can't promise, but if you agreed in advance that you would buy one of a particular quality at a particular price, a dealer might keep his eyes peeled for just that instrument which he could pass on to you at an immediate profit.

Of course I could be wrong, but I really do have the impression that dealers aren't "stocking" them, because no one is asking for them, yet the real reason no one is asking for them is because they don't think there are any to be had. Vicious circle.

#9 Paul Groff

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 03:36 PM

Hello,

Jim, sorry I presumed when I included you among the rare J. D. Players! I did qualify the statement with "I think" (I think), but made it because I stored one of these boxes for you for a few years and assume you still own it -- and because you seem to be able to get at least a tune out of every system.

Your main question is interesting. The system does have affinities with the anglo but for that reason might be easy to mix up with the anglo fingering if one tried to play both. I had that trouble a bit in my brief experiments with the JD system and so did at least one of my correspondents. The "double manual" (area of overlap between the left and right keyboards) is minimal on most of them, which could be seen as a limitation (or a challenge!) to arranging for the instrument. There may be a problem for children and beginning hobbyists, in that there are no real "entry level " instruments comparable to the Chinese (etc.) anglos that do help get some players started.

But when new concertina players (or potential players) have "beer budgets and champagne taste," or wish they had been around to enjoy the incredible quality that was available very cheaply in second-hand concertinas only decades ago, I always think of the duets (Maccann and Crane as well as Jeffries). A very fine Lachenal-,. Wheatstone-, or Jeffries -made duet can even today be bought very cheaply, relative to how well it is made. Even allowing for first-class restoration (which can understandably be pricier than for the anglos), it almost always would cost much more to have a new, comparable instrument made. In my view, this means that the duets are still underpriced relative to construction quality (or modern replacement cost) and should be considered by those who are motivated by the notion of a "bargain."

Of course, what the bargain hunters REALLY want is "the same thing that everyone else wants these days, in the highest quality, for much less than what is generally felt to be the fair price!" When second hand pre-WWII anglos and englishes were so cheap, it was precisely because so few wanted them - at least where they were most abundant. J. D. players in particular have been very fortunate in recent years to be able to acquire whole instruments for less than the reeds are worth (again, using replacement cost as a measure), and I repeat my suggestion that they really ought to buy them up and invest in restoring them. If they do not, I foresee that the legions of dedicated anglo players, who because of "demand" have much more difficulty affording a quality instrument, will continue to be unable to restrain themselves from continuing to convert duets in order to have a Jeffries at a lower price (still, of course, higher than the JD players seem prepared to pay). I agree with Dave, though; ethical issues aside, most of the J. D.s I have seen, if converted as a whole, would make an anglo too heavy for me to enjoy playing.

Jeffries Duet players -- let us hear you, and and teach a new generation. Keep this tradition alive, creating the demand that will preserve the instruments and perhaps even inspire fine new ones to be commissioned!

Paul

Edited by Paul Groff, 07 December 2003 - 03:44 PM.


#10 JimLucas

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 04:13 PM

Jim, sorry I presumed when I included you among the rare J. D. Players!

Don't be sorry. I was pleasantly amused. :)

I stored one of these boxes for you for a few years and assume you still own it ...

I hadn't thought of that as being behind your assumption. Good point. And yes, it's still mine, about to have something done about the missing lever.

The system does have affinities with the anglo but for that reason might be easy to mix up with the anglo fingering if one tried to play both.  I had that trouble a bit in my brief experiments with the JD system and so did at least one of my correspondents.

Interesting. I wouldn't expect to have that problem, because it's so different in other ways (like all buttons with the same note in both directions). I might speculate that it's more likely to be a problem for anyone who has only ever played an anglo, and that they might even have similar problems with a Maccann, which might feel similar... until the notes sound. Paul, have you ever tried to play a Maccann?

I agree with Dave, though;  ethical issues aside, most of the J. D.s I have seen, if converted as a whole, would make an anglo too heavy for me to enjoy playing.

I'm not sure it was just weight that Dave was talking about, nor did I think he was speaking theoretically, but of experiencing the results of conversions. I thought he meant the sound. (I expect he'll quickly tell us. ) I would expect that at the very least a "conversion" would have to move reeds around enough that alterations should be made to reed pan and chambers, and maybe even some of the holes/pads over certain reeds would be a different size than for those same notes in an original anglo.

I.e., there could be any number of factors affecting the tone of individual reeds. A "quick and dirty" conversion might looka Jeffries on the outside and contain Jeffries reeds, but not sound like a "proper" Jeffries. On general principles, I would suggest that an instrument made entirely of Jeffries parts but not (re)constructed with Jeffries-qualilty craftsmanship, should not be considered a real "Jeffries", and an instrument containing Jeffries reeds but otherwise made by Jim Lucas would be just that, and definitely not a "Jeffries".

Back to the issue of weight: My 45-button Jeffries anglo, in spite of its greater size and weight, is the most comfortable to play of any I've tried, including several smaller Jeffries, Wheatstones, etc. And I have at least one anglo-playing friend who says the same. Clearly, there are other factors involved.

#11 Paul Groff

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 06:44 PM

Jim,

Yes, I've tried the Maccann and all the duets. I love them all, and I'm sure each would well repay my faithful devotion to it for a decade or two, if only I could afford that time away from the instruments I already try to play. If I had heard Tommy Williams beautiful recording as a teenager, Maccann might be my main instrument. Of all of the duets, I think the Jeffries reminded me the most of the anglo and caused the most problems for that reason. The Crane bears a similar resemblance to the english concertina keyboard and was the easiest for me (a total beginner, then and now) to remember, and I remember having the (possibly very wrong) impression that the Maccann had the most potential for comfortable fingerings in multipart voicings, once its idiosyncrasies were thoroughly committed to memory. But I stress that these are the impressions of the very earliest, most primitive stages of learning for me (a piano, guitar, and anglo player) encountering these instruments. I'm describing the foothills, never having climbed to the summit. Only a really dedicated, experienced duet player (again, not me!) could give us insight into how these systems work when you really know how to operate them.

I only make this post because Jim posed the question -- and because the experience of someone who tried and put aside (at least for now) the Jeffries duet seemed relevant to his original question.

Paul

#12 Clive Thorne

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 07:48 PM

I can't promise, but if you agreed in advance that you would buy one of a particular quality at a particular price, a dealer might keep his eyes peeled for just that instrument which he could pass on to you at an immediate profit.

Jim,

A very good idea that I may well end up persuing. Thanks for the idea.

Clive

#13 John Vernon

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 04:27 AM

I don't know why people aren't taking up the Jeffries Duet, but I can tell you why I did. - a number of reasons, starting with joining the Herga morris at a time when Nick Robertshaw was the musician. I never really got to know him, because he moved to America very soon after, but I do remember his playing, he made quite an impression on me. I then took up the anglo and progressed rapidly from 30 keys to 40 keys to 51 keys - probably a converted JD but I didn't know that at the time. I wanted the sound that the Anglo style gives to the music, for morris and dance band, and I also wanted all the chromatic notes for other sorts of music. The other duet systems didn't seem to have the brilliance of tone and attack that Anglo's gave and remembering Nick's playing I went looking for a Jeffries Duet. I toyed briefly with the Hayden layout, even thinking about asking Colin Dipper to make one for me ( this was 20 years ago before Brian's system had attracted much attention), but I felt that the all important "bounce and lift" didn't happen for me with that layout. In reference to the MIDI concertina thread going on elsewhere, I made a working MIDI concertina in 1984-ish that I could easily convert between fingering systems and I tried Hayden, Maccann and Jeffries layouts. Perhaps I was preconditioned by playing Anglo, or by having heard Nick play, but there was no doubt in my mind, even with the restriction that the Jeffries only really worked well close to the "home" key. The Jeffries gave me the sound, the attack and lift that I was looking for. 20 years of playing it haven't changed my mind at all.

John

#14 Ed Stander

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 01:28 PM

Hi Folks:
I have a Jeffries Duet in F, and even play several pieces on it. It is my pride and joy, and has been worth every moment I've spent trying to learn the monster. I play a dozen or so instruments, many professionally (including glass harmonica) but I can only admit to having tapped the surface of the Jeffries. It is as far from an intuitive instrument as one can get. Were it not for the amazing sounds it produces (particularly in the bass register), I would be more than happy to trade in for an english.

For those who might otherwise lose hope in getting their hands on such an instrument - mine cost 300$, and was purchased from a gent who spent years trying to work out a single song on it before giving up in disgust.

And yes - I live in Albany NY.
Best - Ed.



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