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Holding A Crane Duet While Standing


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#1 frogspawn

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 12:43 PM

I need to stand to sing so I'm going to have to learn to play my Crane duet (55 keys) standing up when using it for accompaniment. After a few days of finding my way round the keys I've begun to focus on the issue of what angle to hold the instrument at. I see that extra straps are an option but that's not my initial inclination.

A song doesn't last long and I suppose I can develop the muscles to hold it horizontally (i.e. 90 degrees at the elbow) but there is a lot of downward pull with an instrument of this weight. Holding it at 45 degrees doesn't seem much better and it puts the concertina right in front of your chin. Holding it at 120 degrees is the most comfortable but seems to restrict arm movement and also seems a little precarious should I relax my thumbs.

Judging from past posts, English players have issues of their own, but I'd be very interested to hear from other duet and maybe Anglo players about how they cope with this. I can feel quite a few muscles aching as I type!

Richard

#2 PeterT

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 06:31 PM

I need to stand to sing so I'm going to have to learn to play my Crane duet (55 keys) standing up when using it for accompaniment. After a few days of finding my way round the keys I've begun to focus on the issue of what angle to hold the instrument at. I see that extra straps are an option but that's not my initial inclination.

A song doesn't last long and I suppose I can develop the muscles to hold it horizontally (i.e. 90 degrees at the elbow) but there is a lot of downward pull with an instrument of this weight. Holding it at 45 degrees doesn't seem much better and it puts the concertina right in front of your chin. Holding it at 120 degrees is the most comfortable but seems to restrict arm movement and also seems a little precarious should I relax my thumbs.

Judging from past posts, English players have issues of their own, but I'd be very interested to hear from other duet and maybe Anglo players about how they cope with this. I can feel quite a few muscles aching as I type!

Richard

Hi Richard,

Whilst a 55 key Crane, with ebony ends, will feel significantly heavier than an English, you will, eventually, get used to it. Some of the Music Hall artists used 81 key Maccann Duets with metal ends!

You could try supporting the "business" end (right hand) by resting your foot on a chair. This will make the fingering a bit easier. If this is not an option........

Remember that the instrument has a balance point (your posting suggests that you have discovered this). If your arms are too low, gravity makes life difficult. I'll guess that somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees from your chin will be optimum. Depending on your strap tension, you might find that 45 degrees is better with looser straps, 60 degrees with higher straps.

I have to say that with a Duet, I tend to support the instrument on my leg. However, with an Anglo, I'm happy standing up until the straps start to cut across the backs of my hands (since I don't play so much Morris nowadays). However, with the Anglo, I try to keep the instrument moving, in order to ease the pressure on my hands.

As with many things, trial and error will help you find the optimum set-up. Then it's a case of practice. Your Crane will get "lighter".

Regards,
Peter.

#3 frogspawn

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 05:24 AM

Whilst a 55 key Crane, with ebony ends, will feel significantly heavier than an English, you will, eventually, get used to it. Some of the Music Hall artists used 81 key Maccann Duets with metal ends!

You could try supporting the "business" end (right hand) by resting your foot on a chair. This will make the fingering a bit easier. If this is not an option........

Remember that the instrument has a balance point (your posting suggests that you have discovered this). If your arms are too low, gravity makes life difficult. I'll guess that somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees from your chin will be optimum. Depending on your strap tension, you might find that 45 degrees is better with looser straps, 60 degrees with higher straps.

I have to say that with a Duet, I tend to support the instrument on my leg. However, with an Anglo, I'm happy standing up until the straps start to cut across the backs of my hands (since I don't play so much Morris nowadays). However, with the Anglo, I try to keep the instrument moving, in order to ease the pressure on my hands.

As with many things, trial and error will help you find the optimum set-up. Then it's a case of practice. Your Crane will get "lighter".


Peter: Many thanks for your response which has been very helpful. As my local folk club is usually quite packed I'll try to avoid depending on the availability of a spare chair! 60 degrees seems about optimum. In fact, holding it up at this angle allows my right-hand to push further throught the strap and makes it possible to reach the top buttons. My practice sessions will just have to double as a body-building course!

Richard

#4 frogspawn

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 04:40 AM

Your Crane will get "lighter".


I'm pleased to report that after a month of moderate practice (about 30 minutes/day) the weight of holding it is, as predicted, no longer an issue!

Richard

#5 Dirge

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 04:00 PM

Now I'm interested. I've tried to play my 56 maccan standing and decided it was near impossible; I always use a chair, anything, to lift one knee to rest point (as classical guitarists often do). How are you holding it then? Straight out in front? Don't you lose control?

Incidentally Paul Maccan (who perversely plays Crane) plays standing by letting the thing hang, arms straight, against his thighs, so he doesn't carry the weight. Looks odd though. I have been intending to organise a neck strap.

#6 frogspawn

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 05:56 AM

Now I'm interested. I've tried to play my 56 maccan standing and decided it was near impossible; I always use a chair, anything, to lift one knee to rest point (as classical guitarists often do). How are you holding it then? Straight out in front? Don't you lose control?

Incidentally Paul Maccan (who perversely plays Crane) plays standing by letting the thing hang, arms straight, against his thighs, so he doesn't carry the weight. Looks odd though. I have been intending to organise a neck strap.


When I'm practising just the Crane I do this in a normal sitting position. When I sing with it, I stand up. But in both instances my arms are in the same position. My wrists are raised from the horizontal, but not as much as William Kimber on the front of Dan Worrall's book (http://www.folkandro...o.uk/kimber.jpg), so I would guess my lower arms are about 50-60 degrees from the vertical/ 30-40 degrees from the horizontal. My upper arms are a little forward at the elbows so altogether my arms form a V shape when seen from the side. I guess this is just a natural point of balance and varies from one player/instrument to another.

The concertina, then, is completely suspended in the air using the strength in my arms and back. It does tell on the muscles but I'm getting used to it. My hand straps are fairly tight and I've only just started to use the left-hand, but I'm not aware of any loss of control.

I did try the hanging-down-on-the-thighs position but didn't like it. It seemed to restrict the movement of my arms and of the bellows and I was worried about dropping the whole thing. You can wrap your thumbs around the front of the handles/straps but that's just another thing to worry about and another possible source of muscle fatigue.

I'm pretty convinced this is the right way to go.

Richard

#7 Dirge

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 05:44 PM

I'll have another go. I really would like to be able to walk around and play. I'm reluctant to tighten the straps when they suit me but it's probably what I need. Knowing that someone else CAN do it will help too.

I've a 71 Aeola too. Because it's bigger the handles are more central and it hangs in the hands much more happily, but of course that weighs more again, aluminium frames or not. Again it would be nice to be cut loose from the stool. I must try harder.

I suppose there had to be SOME drawback to the duet system...

Edited by Dirge, 28 January 2007 - 05:47 PM.


#8 Dirge

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 02:50 PM

I don't know how you are doing it, Richard. I found that the thing pivoted enough under it's own weight, even with the straps tight, to make the top half of the keyboard awkwardly 'round the corner'. I'd need a hook or straps to get my thumbs behind.

I've one more row of buttons than you, I think (maccan). Maybe the extra width is critical.

Playing against the thigh works credibly for me, apart from the straps feeling if they were slipping (paranoia because it doesn't bear thinking about, perhaps?)

#9 ragtimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 09:12 PM

I don't know how you are doing it, Richard. I found that the thing pivoted enough under it's own weight, even with the straps tight, to make the top half of the keyboard awkwardly 'round the corner'. I'd need a hook or straps to get my thumbs behind.

Another problem that I don't think has been mentioned, is that when you have the bellows fully open, their weight sags in the mddle and tries to rotate the two ends, so the buttons near the beginning of each row are harder to reach, and your wrists get tense from fighting this.

I tell the people I play with that I just don't play standing up, I have to sit and rest at least one end against my knee or thigh. I do wish I could stand and play. Maybe just practicing that way will do the necessary "body building". Besides, mine is just a 45-key Hayden, but it's a Stagi with the thick ends and many, many pleats in the bellows.
--Mike K.

#10 Dirge

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 10:40 PM

Oh well, glad it's not just me. A leg up on a stool, tableleg, what-have-you is my only way. or, as I said earlier, to organise a neckstrap

#11 ragtimer

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 11:46 PM

Oh well, glad it's not just me. A leg up on a stool, tableleg, what-have-you is my only way. or, as I said earlier, to organise a neckstrap

No, it's definitely not just you ;)

My Stagi Hayden has no provision for attaching a neck strap, and anyway that's kind of awkward -- if I want to strap into an instrument, I can drag out this old Hohner 120-bass PA :rolleyes:

I have tried propping one foot up on a stool or whatever, and resting one end on my knee or thigh. THat does work for a while, and is probably the best solution -- as mentioned, it's got a precedent in guitar playing.
--Mike K.

#12 peverett

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 09:28 AM

I once marched in a local parade, vamping behind a band of young fiddlers. For quick/dirty/free straps, I sacrificed a set of elastic suspenders (braces), using the attached hardware to throw a tight loop around each end of a robust Stagi Hayden. To march I wore a 2nd set; to "hook on", moved the front clamps from my pants to the cut-off ends of the loops around the instrument.

It took maybe 5 minutes to get the instrument hanging right, then I marched very comfortably the length of the route. By the end of the parade I had forgotten about it.

Haven't done much marching since, but it seems to me that if you have a concertina with smooth shoulders (that is, anglo/duet style straps), it would be worth experimenting with cloth strap, velcro and soft non-skid strips. The suspenders rig works fine, but LOOKS like 10 minutes' work! No instrument alteration is required, and both the angle and altitude of hang are easily adjusted to taste.

#13 ragtimer

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 10:07 PM

I once marched in a local parade, vamping behind a band of young fiddlers. For quick/dirty/free straps, I sacrificed a set of elastic suspenders (braces), using the attached hardware to throw a tight loop around each end of a robust Stagi Hayden. To march I wore a 2nd set; to "hook on", moved the front clamps from my pants to the cut-off ends of the loops around the instrument.

It took maybe 5 minutes to get the instrument hanging right, then I marched very comfortably the length of the route. By the end of the parade I had forgotten about it.

Haven't done much marching since, but it seems to me that if you have a concertina with smooth shoulders (that is, anglo/duet style straps), it would be worth experimenting with cloth strap, velcro and soft non-skid strips. The suspenders rig works fine, but LOOKS like 10 minutes' work! No instrument alteration is required, and both the angle and altitude of hang are easily adjusted to taste.

Thanks! "Robust" is one of the nicest words I've heard yet for our Stagi Haydens :rolleyes:

I'm wondering about two things: First, how did you kep the suspeneder loop from sliding off the end, or conversely, sliding over into the bellows folds (where at least it might stay put, but at some risk to the bellows)? Did the loop pass thru the hand strap? I'm missing something here :unsure:

Other concern is that, whenever I try to play my Stagi standing up, when the bellows are fully open, their weight tilts the ends downward, and makes some buttons hard to reach, and adds a lot of strain to the wrists and hands. I think you'd need a strap around the center of the bellows to deal with that. In fact, some old tinas seem to have a center wood section with a strap attachment ring on top.

Anyway, thanks very much for working up a solution to the problem. --Mike K.

#14 Dirge

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 02:04 AM

I thought that I could trap a D ring in a loop of leather and screw it under the metal thumb rest that secures the fixed end of the strap. I reckon that would give you a point to clip on a camera strap or similar and have the 'box hanging at about the right angle. But i haven't got off my backside and done it; there always seems to be enough furniture about...

#15 peverett

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 03:47 PM

Ragtimer: First, how did you keep the suspender loop from sliding...

The problem didn't manifest. I clamped the stretchy loops over the ends under fair tension. I held the instrument level, rather than the usual on-one-knee slant. It doesn't seem like the risk is great -- you're hanging on to the instrument with both hands anyway. And I did periodically eyeball the situation. If just never shifted.

Ragtimer: ...when the bellows are fully open, their weight tilts the ends down...

Wow, you get a lot more travel than I do. Particularly oompahing at volume (two units behind the banjo club, several blocks ahead of the chainsaw choir), I reversed direction a lot to keep things from getting too loose and floppy. No long legato passages. So I didn't run into that problem either.

Who worried about drops was the string bass: volunteers selected for being short shouldered the bass and carried it like a New Orleans funeral procession, while the musician sawed away over her head. The cello player just lashed himself to his instrument and limped. A good time was had by all.

Paul E.

#16 ragtimer

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 10:53 PM

Ragtimer: First, how did you keep the suspender loop from sliding...

The problem didn't manifest. I clamped the stretchy loops over the ends under fair tension. I held the instrument level, rather than the usual on-one-knee slant. It doesn't seem like the risk is great -- you're hanging on to the instrument with both hands anyway. And I did periodically eyeball the situation. If just never shifted.

OK, that sounds good enough. You're right about how it doeesn't matter if the strap loop slips off once in a while. Just need to check it before starting each tune, since it would be real awkward if either side slipped off during play -- you'd have to sit out the rest of that tune.

Ragtimer: ...when the bellows are fully open, their weight tilts the ends down...

Wow, you get a lot more travel than I do. Particularly oompahing at volume (two units behind the banjo club, several blocks ahead of the chainsaw choir), I reversed direction a lot to keep things from getting too loose and floppy. No long legato passages. So I didn't run into that problem either.

Funny you mention that -- I have just started to practice reversing the bellows more often, and in more appropriate spots in the music. I do tend to get long legato passsages, though, and the bellows can wind up pretty well stretched out. But sometimes I do just play bass and chords, and maybe don't even play the RH side.

Now to hunt thru my closet for some suspenders ...

Who worried about drops was the string bass: volunteers selected for being short shouldered the bass and carried it like a New Orleans funeral procession, while the musician sawed away over her head. The cello player just lashed himself to his instrument and limped. A good time was had by all.
Paul E.

This must have been SOME parade to watch! I hope someone shot video of the bass and cello. And here I thought the last laugh was the drum & bugle corps folks marching backwardds carying tympani for a separate player :P
--Mike K.

#17 ragtimer

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 11:18 PM

Ragtimer: ...when the bellows are fully open, their weight tilts the ends down...

Well, I paid some more attention today during my practice session, and I'm sorry to report that for me and my Stagi Hayden, the sagging of the bellows in the center, and subsequent twisting of the ends, seems to be the real problem, that requires some kind of support. Even with the bellows only one-third open, the ends try to twist in the hands.

I tried resting one end on a knee, then the other end, but I found that I was comfortable playing only when the center of the bellows was supported across my thighs (sitting down). Standing up is out of the question for now.

Yes, that wears out the bellows corners. So I'm careful to be wearing pajamas or my exercise pants, or to put a towel acros my lap to reduce friction. Maybe a chamois would be best, as others have noted.

All comments welcome (besides "Don't expect me to buy your used tinas!") -- Mike K.

#18 Dirge

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 05:15 AM

All comments welcome (besides "Don't expect me to buy your used tinas!") -- Mike K.

Damn!




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