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Other Irish Music Stats: 20-button V. 30-button


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#1 caj

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 08:04 PM

I thought it might be interesting to count the number of archive tunes playable on a 20-button concertina.

Again, my program scans 1425 jigs, reels, hornpipes and polkas taken from Henrik Norbeck's tune archive, and counts the number of "bad" notes (in this case, notes not available on 20 buttons). This is the number of bad notes encountered when playing the entire tune with repeats.

Results [edited to correct a mistake, pointed out by Dave below]:

              No problems:                          575 (40%)
         Up to 1 or 2 unavailable notes:             688 (48%)
         Up to 3 or 4 unavailable notes:             776 (54%)
         Up to 5 or 6 unavailable notes:             849 (60%)

But, since we're counting repeats, "1 or 2" unavailable notes usually just means you have one passing note you can fake out.

So I'd say that about half of the tunes in the archive are playable on a 20-button: 40% perfectly, and about 50% if you work around 1 or 2 stray accidentals.

Caj

Edited by caj, 15 December 2003 - 09:01 PM.


#2 David Barnert

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 08:42 PM

If your categories are mutually exclusive (a tune can't have 3 or 4 unavailable notes and also have 5 or 6 unavailable notes) why don't the numbers add up?

#3 caj

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 08:59 PM

If your categories are mutually exclusive (a tune can't have 3 or 4 unavailable notes and also have 5 or 6 unavailable notes) why don't the numbers add up?

Sorry, I mean "up to" 3 or 4 bad notes.

Caj

#4 Paul Groff

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 10:09 AM

caj,

I really got a kick out of this. I have argued for years that Irish music beginners on the anglo could and should get a better quality 20 key rather than a poorer quality 30 key (for example) if both were priced the same. There is so much misinformation on the web and elsewhere that "you can't play Irish music on a 20 key," that it can be hard to convince potential new players that 20 key instruments have plenty of notes for a year (or many) of hard work learning the techniques and the tunes of Irish music. (Of course it can be hard to find a good quality 20 key without putting time and money into upgrading a typical one.)

The lovely Kitty Hayes and Mrs. Crotty recordings have been mentioned in this Forum many times. Although both were recorded on 3-row instruments, I challenge readers here to find any note on Kitty's cd that is played on the third row, and although I haven't tried the experiment, I doubt there are more than a couple C#s if any on Mrs. Crotty's cd. It is true that both players transposed certain tunes from "fiddle keys" to keys that suit the anglo, but there is nothing wrong with new players (particularly the beginners who are adults, and make up a large proportion of the beginners here in North America) doing the same. Here you have an extensive representation of the life's repertoire of two wonderful musicians, and if they have not seen a need for the third row notes, why should adult beginners and amateurs (who may take many years to sound as good as these two players, if they ever achieve this) be so convinced they must have all those notes right away? I think it is because they over-intellectualize the learning process, as I have written before. And, although potentially very valuable, internet discussion groups such as this, where music and instruments can be discussed somewhat in isolation from the experience of music itself, may sometimes encourage this misdirection of attention, just because it is so easy to write about and analyze information about notes and layouts, and so hard to write about the aspects of time, rhythm, phrasing, accent that actually make music sound good. It is also much harder (especially) for adult beginners to learn these latter, more important things, than it is for them to learn to play the right "notes" --- just as it can be a bit easier for an adult to learn the vocabulary of a new language than its proper accent, vowel sounds, etc.

Most adult beginners put their efforts into playing more tunes poorly, rather than a few tunes well. If the former is your desire, then your "instrument buying money" should go into more notes, and for a beginner on a budget, a poor to mid quality 30 key would fit right in. But if you chose to go the opposite route, caj has shown that you could have a lot of fun with a 20 key anglo that could be purchased, rebuilt, or commissioned to be made in much better quality for the same money.

My hat is off to caj for his very interesting work here!

Paul Groff

1st time - edited for grammar and clarity;
2nd time - edited to remove term "newbie"

Edited by Paul Groff, 17 December 2003 - 02:17 PM.


#5 geoffwright

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Posted 17 December 2003 - 07:59 AM

As well as Mrs Croty, I am also a Mary Macnamara fan, although she does venture onto the accidentals, many of her tunes will fit onto 20 button. I learned a lot about playing tunes across both rows from listening to her.
Many off her cds are already on the tunatron.

#6 Ken_Coles

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Posted 17 December 2003 - 05:30 PM

A fascinating discussion! Perhaps I should add a link to here from the beginner's part of the Buyer's Guide (where we note 20-button is a choice to consider).

#7 Frank Edgley

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 08:04 AM

It's been my experience that most Irish tunes are in the key of G. At least 85% of the tunes in my tutor, and most of the tunes in the session tune book I put together are. Many others, written in D can be easily "fudged" to sound quite acceptable without actually playing the C#. If I'm not mistaken, Chris Droney's CD, "The Fertile Rock," has tunes mostly in G. You could play 99% of all Irish tunes with a 21 button, if such a thing existed. So I agree with Paul, and others here who suggest a good 20 button would be preferable to a poor 30 button instrument, for a beginner.

#8 Paul Groff

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 09:15 AM

Ken,

I agree that caj's study here should be publicized to those looking to get started in Irish music on the anglo! Of course for other styles of music there may be more need for the third row in the early years.

Frank,

As I'm sure you know, one occasionally sees 22 key Lachenals (and Joneses, etc.) and I do try to acquire these for rebuilding to "upgraded" specifications. I think Jones' first "improved (english-construction) german concertina" had 21 or 22 keys (see the current Jones thread for a link to the reference). A very early one of these (Jones? Nickolds? Crabb?) is at the Dippers undergoing restoration. One player in New York city has been playing lots of Irish music on a 22 key for years now and it suits his lovely style very well. The neat thing about the 20s though is that used english-made instruments are very abundant and generally undervalued (although most require a lot of work to make them suitable for beginners in terms of playability), but still more "complete" in terms of notes for Irish music than is usually recognized.

I understand you are among those who are making new concertinas with a 24 key keyboard (also found on some old Lachenals, Jones, and on Jackie McCarthy's little Wheatstone). This is a GREAT IDEA as I'm sure it allows a significant reduction in expense, size, and weight while maintaining the playability and sound of a well-constructed new instrument. I encourage beginners to consider these anglos with fewer buttons. They may be underappreciated, but for that reason be great value.

Paul

#9 Dave Weinstein

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 11:20 AM

This is actually the chain of logic which led me to start with a G/D Lachenal 20 button, and I still think the 20 button G/D makes a great starting instrument.

The problem, of course, is that you need to learn new fingering if you switch to the more traditional C/G 30 button.

Now I'm off with a really nonstandard layout (and had to relearn alternate fingerings, since the rows shifted somewhat as well), so I can't give any general purpose advice on the switch.

Paul has played my G/D, and might be able to give a better description of how it plays compared to a normal 30 button G/D or C/G. And of course, if you're at the SESI, you are welcome to try it.

--Dave

#10 jmyersgoucheredu

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Posted 18 December 2003 - 07:38 PM

I have 2 20-button boxes with accidentals so arranged that I can play any Irish tunes in D, G, A and, of course, related minors and modes. Thank you Button Box and Bob Tedrow! And, in a couple years when I get my Wheatstone, Steve Dickinson!

Jeff Myers :D

#11 rmerris

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Posted 19 December 2003 - 10:48 AM

As pointed out, Elizabeth Crotty and Kitty Hayes went a long way on 20 key instruments, before acquiring 30-key instruments. An even starker example is Ellen O'Dwyre (Irish but non-Clare) who fared pretty well and whose mainstay throughout her career was a double-reeded 20 key (most likely of German origin).

I think Paul Groff's arguments are unrefutable:
(1) A beginner can go some distance on a 20 key.
(2) A good 20-key trumps a bad 30-key.

The transpose-to-the-key-of-G argument has some merit, too.

However:
(1) If you are into Irish-style playing, you want to learn the D scale sooner rather than later.
(2) Key-of-D tunes (e.g., hornpipes like Boys of Blue Hill) just do not have the same "feel" when transposed. Transposing is time consuming. And the actual playing (fingering) may be harder in the transposed key. (E.g., the triplets in Boys of Bluehill almost "cries out" for Key of D on an instrument with C# in standard accidental position (an the push, pull, or both).
(3) What if you transpose from D to G, but want to play along with D tunes on the CDs that accompany, for example, Frank Edgley and Mick Bramich's books?

Ellen O'Dwyre presumably was perfectly happy with her non-D repertoire. You might say she didn't need the boys of Bluehill. Up to temp, but not supersonic speed, was her forte. And she certainly was not into playing along with an instructional CD/cassette.

For modern purposes, I think there is a compromise. I rise up: "In Defense of the 26-key Anglo Concertina." I have owned four 26-key Jeffries--all exquisite instruments at half to two-thirds the price of a Jeffries with 30/31 (or more) keys. Also nice lightweight feel. l also had a 26 key Jones (not bad, and quite inexpensive).

You are going to hear: "Oh, 28-key is OK, but not 26-key. John Williams won the All-Ireland Senior Championship, using a 28-key Jeffries. Nobody to my knowledge ever won an All-Ireland (at any age level) on a 26-key. But it's a mote point. A 26 key will take a lot of people a long way, especially if they mainly want to play in the keys of G and D (and the key of C, if you really must!).
Maybe even a 22- or 24-key can be recommended for the "second-term" (i.e, the after-I-bought-a 20-key-to-make-sure-I really-wanted-to-learn-this-instrument)beginner, as long as that C# for the Key of D is there.

Personally, if I am going to play in the keys of Bb, F, Eb, Ab, etc., I am going to use concertinas specifically designed for those keys most of the time--i.e, concertinas in Bb/F, Ab/Eb, baritone in F/C, etc. (If you re going to play in church, get a Bb/F to keep the pianist/organist happy.)

#12 goran rahm

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Posted 19 December 2003 - 12:19 PM

Paul:"This is a GREAT IDEA as I'm sure it allows a significant reduction in expense, size, and weight while maintaining the playability and sound of a well-constructed new instrument. I encourage beginners to consider these anglos with fewer buttons. They may be underappreciated, but for that reason be great value."

Goran:The choice of 20 (-26) key Anglos as being attractive I think is splendid and for many years I have advocated for a similar 'reduction' of the English treble to say 40 or even 36 when playing 'folkmusic' after checking the range of about 200 standards and I think about 60% of them had a span less than 1 1/2 octave and 90% 2 octaves or less.
I would like to add just some objection to what you say above Paul regarding 'size, weight and sound'. (Expense reduction is without question for a 20 key and of course some for a 26 key also)

1) Size. Is there any advantage with reduced size? Not in my view since the common Anglo actually could be regarded as undersized allready for functional holding of it and for efficient 'bellowsing'. The 'handle' (= the site of the transmission of force from hand to instrument) should be at the centre of the end and even the traditional size does not admit that.
The (musical) advantage with reduced size is better tonal control and less effort for bellowsing but you loose air capacity for chords.

2) Weight. The small differences of weight we speak of (a reduction of 10-15% or so) should be of very little importance. I think instrument weight often is wrongly
perceived as a problem for 'playing effort' while it actually only has some significance for 'carrying' the instrument and if/when that is a problem a better handle should be considered.

3) Sound. Depends what you want of course but tonally you may experience a loss of quaility (at least 'sonority' or 'sweetness' of tone..) if size is reduced.

So - on the contrary,when making new Anglos today I would suggest using a standard size slightly larger than the common tradition, same for 20 up to 40 keys.
- The handle could be better located for better balance
- The 30-40 key instruments would suffer less from jamming inside
- Longer reeds could be used and good tonal qualities easier achieved
- 8 sides or rectangular shape could facilitate layout.Another method is rotating the layout 30 degrees (like some German models)
- Keyboard measures could be adapted for wider buttons

Goran Rahm

#13 Ken_Coles

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Posted 28 December 2003 - 09:28 PM

I've added a link to this Forum topic on the Buyer's Guide page (right next to the editorial written six years ago by you-know-who). ^_^

#14 JimLucas

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 07:04 AM

The problem, of course, is that you need to learn new fingering if you switch to the more traditional C/G 30 button.

I would prefer to think of it not as a "problem", but as an opportunity. :)

(But then, I love experimenting with new fingering systems and alternate fingerings.)

#15 JimLucas

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 07:34 AM

...tonally you may experience a loss of quaility (at least 'sonority' or 'sweetness' of tone..) if size is reduced.

Then again, you may not.

My Dipper "County Clare" certainly doesn't seem to lack any "'sonority' or 'sweetness' of tone", though its 5-5/8" ends are 10% smaller than the standard 6-1/4".

#16 Frank Edgley

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 11:35 AM

R. Merris :(2) Key-of-D tunes (e.g., hornpipes like Boys of Blue Hill) just do not have the same "feel" when transposed. Transposing is time consuming. And the actual playing (fingering) may be harder in the transposed key. (E.g., the triplets in Boys of Bluehill almost "cries out" for Key of D on an instrument with C# in standard accidental position (an the push, pull, or both).

Response: I think the way around many D tunes is just to leave out the C#, rather than transposing. That would work quite well with Boys of Blue Hill. Not quite the same, but a small detail, nevertheless :) .

#17 Patrick Brown

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 09:43 PM

For modern purposes, I think there is a compromise. I rise up: "In Defense of the 26-key Anglo Concertina." I have owned four 26-key Jeffries--all exquisite instruments at half to two-thirds the price of a Jeffries with 30/31 (or more) keys. Also nice lightweight feel. l also had a 26 key Jones (not bad, and quite inexpensive).

You are going to hear: "Oh, 28-key is OK, but not 26-key. John Williams won the All-Ireland Senior Championship, using a 28-key Jeffries. Nobody to my knowledge ever won an All-Ireland (at any age level) on a 26-key. But it's a mote point. A 26 key will take a lot of people a long way, especially if they mainly want to play in the keys of G and D (and the key of C, if you really must!).
Maybe even a 22- or 24-key can be recommended for the "second-term" (i.e, the after-I-bought-a 20-key-to-make-sure-I really-wanted-to-learn-this-instrument)beginner, as long as that C# for the Key of D is there.


How available are 22-28 button anglos? Are they actually cheaper than 30 button anglos? Also are non C/G tunings available?
It seems like a D/G anglo like this would be extremely handy for irish trad.




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