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Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posts posted by Łukasz Martynowicz

  1. The answer to your staff questions is: "because tradition". It all started with only four lines and neumes (pitch only notes without duration) to notate religious chants and then everything invented later was crudely bolted onto this foundation. Also, great many elements stem from the scarcity of paper to write music on. This is why western notation is so illogical, complicated and require extensive memorisation.

    There are alternative notation systems, and you can read more about them here: https://musicnotation.org but they all have one common flaw - you have to create your own sheet music in them, you won't find anything ready made. Moreover, there is only one piece of software, and only on a Mac, that allows for easy conversion between traditional notation and alternatives and at the same time offers playback. Personally I use the one called 6-6 Parncutt tetragram, as it has a very strong relation to how Hayden duet keyboard is arranged. Most alternative notations have repeatability (each pitch will always land on the same line/space/ledger line) and many of them are similar to compressed piano roll type of notation popular on YT videos.

    In many of those alternative systems, transposing a piece only requires a parallel shift of the staff up or down, without any alteration to note marks. In traditional notation however, your best way to transpose will be input the music into something like Musescore and use transpose up/down option.

  2. 5 hours ago, DaveRo said:

    Curved how? My Peacock has some curved levers - curved in the horizontal plane (with the buttons vertical) - that is they go around other buttons. Those pads therefore do not drop vertically onto the holes. (I have a problem with one of these.)


    It's not clear from Edward's pics at


    but it looks to me that some levers go over others, so the pads land vertically which I think is better.


    BTW, when I saw Edward's 'sine wave' pattern on the end covers it reminded me of a flat plastic air-vent I had: I could rotate a knob in the middle and close the holes. I wonder if you could build in a similar device - a sliding plate which reduces the holes and muffles the bass?


    We talked a lot with Edward during development stages of his boxes and yes, we have talked about such a variable opening. It isn't viable, as it changes the tuning slightly, enough for some reeds to go out of tune. But his sine wave pattern allows for customisation of timbre on order, as he can change the density of those "spokes". But from my personal experiments I must say, that a concertina with mixed LH/RH timbre to make RH stand above LH more doesn't sound all that good. It is one of those ideas, that look good on paper, but if RH is bright and LH is mellow/muted, my mind perceives LH as broken and faulty.

    @ curved - yes, in horizontal plane, to go around buttons and pads. Every Hayden needs those, or else you have to increase the box size or work with very short levers, or place the padholes in suboptimal or straight up wrong places of the chamber, which alters the sound and response of the reed, or everything of the above at the same time. 3D printing is anisotropic and some features need to be printed along the layer to have proper durability/smoothness to work or you have to calculate this anisotropy in your design. Action is the most tricky part to 3D print (except for the bellows, which is straight up impossible). All Edward's levers go straight, some of them only have bridges around colliding buttons. Edward uses special carbon fiber infused filament to ensure enough durability, as those bridges are weak spots because they are across layers.

  3. 6 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

    Thanks for all of these thoughts.


    My takeaway is that square works well for a small concertina - 6" or so, but not so well for a larger box.


    I had hoped that Edward Jay might be interested in building a small, square Hayden with as many buttons as possible but he seems to want to focus on bigger boxes.


    A pity as the only small Hayden currently available is the Concertina Connection Troubadour and that simply does not have enough buttons on the LHS.

    I had no time last year for this project, but there is a non-zero chance I will build/print a prototype of a sqare standard, around 6 - 6 1/4” this year. Just last week I’ve made some preliminary tests of new printed lever design that allows for curved levers, which are absolutely necessary to solve reed placement and lever routing problem on Haydens. The goal stays the same - small and cheap standard, as FB groups show that there is quite an interest in the system, but both Stagi and Elise are just too subpar choices and then there is a significant price jump to Troubadour, which simply isn’t worth that much money.


    And Edward not only want big boxes, he also prefers playing in all keys over having wide range. Despite huge button count his current box goes down only to A2.


    I don’t promise anything, as my mind has a tendency to wander away from concertinas from time to time, but it just turned out in the last few months, that not simply my job, but my entire profession might just become obsolete by the end of year. So I may have all the time in the world soon…

    • Like 1
  4. 3 hours ago, Wally Carroll said:

    The differences in timbre between notes is often more due to the non-reed aspects of the instrument (chamber size, location on reedpan, etc.). This next statement has some caveats: Often if you switch a note that you don’t like the sound of with another of the same pitch, you won’t hear much of a difference. This assumes the notes are from the same original instrument,  neither have been damaged  or excessively tuned and they are held snugly in their slots. The location of the note can play a large role in how bright or mellow a note sounds as fretwork can be blocked over particular notes by the players hands. Also which side of the reedpan the note is on affects tone. Interestingly, if you turn one end of the instrument to point directly at your head, some of these effects go away. The player, unfortunately is in the worst position to best hear the instrument. 

    Not only directing the end at your head, but also playing on each of the six/eight sides sounds different from the player’s perspective. 

    As to original question: beating rhytm of two reeds with the same pitch is quite natural, unless you mean something different than „wet” musette effect. Two pitches „in tune” according to tuner readout can still be 5-6 cents apart.


    Assuming you meant something else, first thing that comes to mind is reed orientation. When I was building my box I run into a frustrating problem of two F3 notes sounding drastically different - one was clear, the other had this saw/trumpet character to it. It was not caused by the reed itself, as the problem stayed the same side after switching reeds around. It also stayed (however to lesser extent) with the endboxes removed. What caused it was the difference in vertical orientation of the reed and turning the concertina upside down switched the side of the problem. Fretwork emphasized the problem further, but the origin was in the reedpan layout itself. I only managed to diminish the problem by altering chamber depth to counter the most offensive harmonics. And as Wally wrote - it was much more noticeable from the player’s perspective, than for the audience.


    Another problem is the fretwork design. If some padholes are under large closed areas and others are under large open areas, notes will sound different. Obviously you can’t redo the fretwork, BUT - when I designed and cut my fretwork I had no idea about the above effects, so my box ended up with huge timbre differences between notes. The solution was to install a thin, rigid, 3D printed baffle, that had solid circles directly above each padhole. Changing the diameter of those circles changed the timbre of individual notes, and at the same time changing the overall open area changed the overall character of the box. Since my original fretwork design is really open, I had the opportunity to test all sorts of variations of such baffles, from nearly completely open up to completely closed, including asymmetrical LH/RH „voices”. I would suggest you starting with such experiments, as such baffles are completely non destructive. If your concertina is a hybrid, you could also experiment with individual chamber depths - even a mm change in depth can make a huge difference in timbre. If you have a traditional box however such modification is not possible.



    • Like 2
  5. Square vs hex vs octagon size debate has two separate flavours - for traditional reeds and construction it is circumference that is more important than area, while with accordion reeds it is area coverage efficiency that is more important than circumference. For accordion reeds, square/rectangular box makes way more sense, as there is no wasted area between reeds and reedpan edges. Both hex and especially octagon shapes must be larger flat to flat than squares. I’m currently solving lever routing/reed placement problem for a small 46 button Hayden hybrid and I can easily fit all the reeds in a 6” square with no inner reeds, but hex needs to be 7” and has some inner reeds (single layer, flat mounted). However, at the same time it is impossible to route levers in this 6” box, as some levers end up too short.


    And a word about bellows cross section and resulting differences. There is one important gain from larger cross section for Duets, that is usually overlooked when talking about concertinas, because of the Anglo dominant character of most of such discussions. Larger bellows provide not only all the air for thick chords and multiple voices, but also mechanical stability. I currently have two boxes fitted with my antlers, heavy 8 2/3” and very light 7 1/4”. It is noticeably harder to play fast rhytmic accompaniment on the small one, despite smaller jumps. Even without lap pad, larger one simply stays oriented the same way throughout the whole bellows travel in a single direction, while smaller one is harder to keep balanced and reacts more to finger taps. 

  6. 6 hours ago, Steve Schulteis said:


    That's what I had wondered about. I didn't find that the Herrington suffered from that issue, but it was in the neighborhood of the standard 6-1/4". The buttons were also near one edge as you recommend.



    It has perfectly normal handrail/buttons placement for ~6” instruments, where there is simply no room for moving handrail more to the front, no matter if it is square, hex or octagon. On push you have a pretty perfect alignment of the squeezing force along the center of the bellows and you only have a small offset on pull.  The problem with large Haydens of any shape is lever routing when there are more than five rows of buttons, which forces you to move the button array a row or two towards the back. In case of Haydens, bandoneon action has way more sense than concertina action.

  7. There is no inherent problem with square bellows, however, one adjustment to design is essential - button array should have a small forward slant, dependent on the size of the instrument. This is because you cannot rotate the box to align it properly relative to your elbow height in sitting position, as the rotation point is way too far forward and the lever length is greater, making it very unstable. This lever length is a problem even on large octagons - my 66b is 8 2/3" and I had to make a lap pad to anchor it in stable position and force a forward slant of about 10 degrees. This lap pad was also necessary for one other very important reason, which is also the biggest problem with Edward's design - his button array is at the center and the hand strap/hand rail is very close to the edge, when a desired configuration is opposite - button array should be off center and the hand rail/hand strap should be as close to the center as possible. My button array is only 1-1,5 rows too far back and it already creates big enough wobble between push and pull endplates angle to make it difficult to maintain stable LH rhytms. With force offsets as huge as Edward's this will be way worse. Large contact area of square sides will help a bit, but this particular design would benefit a lot from anatomically curved lap pad/s or velcro lap strap for at least LH side.

  8. 21 hours ago, David Barnert said:

    From my perspective here in the Northeast USA, any “golden age” that might have been running would have ended last spring when The Button Box closed up shop, both retail and manufacturing. No more Morse concertinas, no more convenient answer to “Where can I get one of those?” (which I still hear all the time).

    This is especially true for Hayden players, as currently there is no affordable nor readily available instrument with at least „46 standard” button count and proper button spacing. So while it might not be the end of golden/silver era for this system, it is most certainly on pause.

    • Like 1
  9. Regarding duets, the most important thing, that differentiates them from Englishes and Anglo is the ability to play two uninterrupted strings of notes, one for each hand. Be it melody and countermelody, melody plus accompaniment, octaves up to fully fledged polyphony. Englishes and Anglos both allow you to play in those ways only in some particular cases and sometimes even only in parts of a given tune. Then the different flavours of duets boil down to two aspects - ergonomy and logic of the button layout, and availability of first/second hand instruments.

  10. 1 hour ago, Owen Anderson said:

    I always visualize them horizontally, even though I know it doesn’t make sense physically. The fact that I am a solid touch typist may influence this. Visualizing then as three horizontal rows makes it very analogous to touch typing.

    Actually, describing them horizontally makes much more physical sense if you consider player’s perspective as a reference point. If you want to see buttons clearly while strapped you either turn the side of the box as you would turn steering wheel in the car, or you lean back over the side, ending in a position, in which buttons are aligned more towards horizontal view axis than vertical view axis. 

    That said, I can understand vertical diagrams easily except for the most bizzare diagrams used by Wim Wakker for CC duet boxes, which are vertical and from an audience perspective (concertina bellows bent inwards) instead of player’s perspective (bellows stretched outwards) resulting in switched LH/RH sides on the diagram. This is really confusing and unnatural for me.

    • Like 1
  11. 9 hours ago, Ken_Coles said:

    Yes the days before the internet were lonely for many interests. I heard of, and got interested in, the concertina around 1980, when I was a poor student in the U.S. I had no idea where to even see one, let alone buy one. No ordinary music store seemed able to tell me anything. In 1992 I finally encountered a red Italian anglo, the first concertina I ever set eyes on, and bought it. Now we have new players who find us, and an instrument, much faster. Lucky in one sense are you who were born more recently.


    While as an admin I get to deal with the few challenging characters here, it is less than 1/10 of 1% and everyone else understands how to maintain a friendly and international community. Keep it up.



    Sounds familiar :) I first heard a concertina on a shanties concert when I was 11 and immidiately wanted to play one. It was 1990. I got my hands on my first DDR made Anglo only some 20 years later, when Ebay became accessible in Poland. At that time I still knew nothing about concertina types, makes or history, as before that point no music shop clerk even knew what concertina was and no library I checked had anything on concertinas. Some time after acquiring this first Anglo I discovered this site and was amazed by just how much knowledge and resources were readily accessible. Sadly, this site saw a noticeable decline in activity after FB introduced groups (same thing happened to few other forums I was active on back then).

  12. Well, if you are brave enough and reeds in this box are mounted with screws, not wax, then replacing valves isn’t really all that hard, it is mostly time consuming. But you would probably have to tune reeds afterwards, which is a bit trickier and even more time consuming. Most low end concertinas will have plastic valves mounted (which is strange as leather valves, though more expensive than plastics, are still just a fraction of a cost of even low end boxes). English and duet concertinas can work nicely with plastics (actually I prefer them in my boxes) but with anglos you will always hear this. It is the nature of the free reed and is a problem even in… midi concertinas(!) with real bellows and pressure sensors. It stems from the small overlap zone in between bellows direction change, when springiness of the air and coupling of reeds and valves of both directions to the same chamber cause both reeds and both valves to vibrate for a moment until airflow stabilises. Heavier valves and leather valves will reduce this effect but it won’t go away entirely and stiffer plastic valves will increase the effect. Using heavier and/or leather valves increases the pressure threshold to start the reed but by doing so you also increase the force you have to squeeze the bellows with to start the reed. So this is always a problem of ballance between the sound and the ease of play.  My box (a duet) is set up so even the lightest bellows squeeze will start any reed mounted, but at the expense of this kind of artifacts happening during bellows tremolo or LH oom-pahs at lower volumes. 

    The bottom line - this behaviour is normal, to a degree. However, it is indeed very strong in your box, most probably because of wrong choice of plastic valves (they are not created equal).

  13. A bit tangent, but as visual arts are my bread and butter I must say this - there is a very, very good reason to differentiate student and pro ranges of paints. Just as there is a reason to differentiate pro power tools from hobby power tools. Can you make a nice art piece/wooden cabinet with either? But yes of course. Can you make a large series of art pieces/many wooden cabinets with them? No, you can’t. They will either brake, run out, frustrate you, waste a lot of time and effort etc. With concertinas it is pretty much the same. If I play occasionally and for pure pleasure and I don’t ever plan to earn money with my play or make a career with it, then my minimum requirement is pretty much equal to my maximum requirement from a squeezebox - that it has enough range to cover my desired repertoire and does not work against the pleasure I get from the act of playing (which is quite high bar on it’s own sadly*) I don’t need the purest tone, the fastest response, the smallest dimensions and featherlight weight.  But if I were to earn money from playing concertinas? Absolute reliability, volume, ease of transport (especially if I had to cary multiple instruments to every gig), those all become very important factors. 

    *for a long time I only had access to Elise and I thought, that the only important restriction was the limited range and I could be happy with „Elise XL”. And then I played my first tune on my big box. Suddenly, all difficult or straight up impossible passages became accessible or trivial and advanced techniques became intuitive. Overnight my ability to play grew, because I no longer had to wrestle with bad ergonomics, stiff buttons, slow bass response, wrist movement restrictions etc. I had fun with Elise for sure, but at some point it turned into frustration from all restrictions it imposed on my progress. The same applied sooner or later to all different work/hobby activities I had in my life. Beginner/student tools are there only to try, if a given activity is interesting for you. You will always benefit from upgrading from begginer to intermediate tools and you will not know just how much until you try. Where there might not be a reason to upgrade is from intermediate to pro level, especially in activities where „pro” means increased longevity or robustness and not necessarily an upgrade to quality. 

  14. 1 hour ago, Richard Mellish said:

    There's some confusion here. Is anyone currently building concertinas where the reeds themselves (i.e. the vibrating bits) are made of brass?


    Insofar as some makers offer reed frames made of brass as an alternative to any other material, what advantages does that offer?

    Both brass shoes and zinc shoes sound significantly different from aluminum, with brass towards concertina sound and zinc towards bandoneon sound. Size is also a factor, my brass reeds are couple of mm shorter than typical accordion reeds.

  15. What Alex wrote. Go to the details page on the site you linked, there’s a picture with those reeds mounted. For at least a decade now, some reed manufacturers, like e.g. Harmonikas.cz make brass (and also zinc) plated accordion style reeds. I have such reeds mounted in my box. I would describe their tone as having more trumpet like character, full and „round”, compared to a bit more „dry” and „sharp” tone of aluminum reeds. To my ear it is much more pleasant. It can be then shaped further with the endbox/fretwork design to be either piercingly bright or mellow but deep (as opposed to more muted/dampened feel of mellow aluminum reeded instruments). They are a bit heavier though.

  16. 2 hours ago, Steve Schulteis said:


    I don't think it's a delay in electronics or software - as far as I can tell, it's how quickly the bar actually flexes. Maybe it's my sloppy playing, but I get bellows changes after button presses that produce a sort of chirpy sound that I don't get with my acoustic. I've tried a number of changes to correct it, including more practice. If you're getting good results, I'd be interested to compare notes.


    My plan is to use the rate of change of the position. I agree that it's not a perfect analog for a real bellows, but an unmoving pressure sensor isn't either. Each captures only half of the feel of a real bellows.

    I think this chirping you’re encountering is not an effect of slow cell action, but not implementing the valve equivalent, that is a pressure threshold that starts the reed. I had the exact same problem and it is a true acoustic concertina behaviour if you have extremely sensitive reed and a very light/thin plastic valve. In an acoustic box you regulate this by the stiffness and weight of the valve. So it is actually the other way around - the sensor is too sensitive and too unstable around zero point. When I tried to correct this with real pressure sensor it turned out, that the reading below about 6 out of 1024 levels was extremely unstable, both in value and sign so it had to be cut off by sending note on/off commands and not just volume commands around zero point (I was working on a duet, so initially sending on/off commands only on button down/up and a global volume seemed viable).


    As to your contraption - I don’t think it will survive a full, intense Irish session. Look at Cormac Begley’s playing style and how much lateral movement of the bellows and ends tilting there is. Preventing ends tilting also prevents doing a basic bellows tremolo.

  17. 43 minutes ago, Little John said:

    The idea that one's little finger is too weak or too slow to play a concertina seems widespread, but misguided. The pressure required on a button is only about 3 ounces (80 grams). Even a small child could manage that.


    I play a Crane duet but much the same considerations apply as for Hayden. You can play with only three fingers, but you deny yourself much flexibility by doing so. Someone else mentioned the common D - G start of many tunes. On the Crane it's so easy if you use the little finger for D and the ring for G. You're then ready for anything that follows There are plenty of other examples.


    I would strongly recommend any duet player (whatever system it is) or anglo player to practice from the start using the little finger.


    Little John.

    Seconded. We’re already hindered enough by immobilised thumb. That said, using pinky with traditional handstraps was a lot harder and less useful than with my antlers or with thumb strap+wrist strap setup.

  18. From my perspective, fixed finger designations don’t really work on a Hayden, even if you do as Don suggests, that is to fix on scale steps instead of notes. Scale structure with two rows, minor and major chords that use different fingers on shared steps, distant sharps/flats etc, force you to break from patterns just too often. And if you play fully chromatic pieces, you will find yourself playing variations of nearly same phrases with completely different fingerings, just to be able to stretch that pinky or index finger to reach an odd accidental. It is way better to train your fingers for common short phrases or passes and generally to think about intervals as geometric relationships between buttons, as this is how the layout is constructed. That way, it stops being about which finger go on which note, but what shapes you have to follow, with any finger that feels natural at the moment. 

  19. I’m surprised, that no one mentioned drums yet. It is very easy on any free reed instrument to flood the rhytm with drones, multiple voices chords etc. It all sounds nice, organ like and all, but what I really miss is deep low drum rhytm. Or banjo/mandolin/guitar, but each if those defines a tune so much for me, that neither is s universal choice. Other than that, I only like combinations of multiple free reed instruments if they are complimentary, not overlapping. So a foot bass or a bass concertina is great, but a duet of two identical concertinas usually sounds cluttered. If the piece requires multiple legato voices, I really prefer combining concertina with fiddle. 

    • Like 2
  20. A word about „fretting”. From my personal experience of my various hobbies and interests, „fretting” about one’s passion is as important as following said passion. It is so, because bouncing your enthusiasm, ideas and achievements off of someone with similar interests is an additional source of both motivation and knowledge. When I bought my first concertina, a no-name 20b DDR Anglo, I knew nothing about concertinas and very little about music itself outside of natural singing an whistling. After just a year of „fretting” I knew enough about concertinas and music to build my first instrument - a MIDI Hayden, and then, after another couple of years, to start a very long, bumpy but rewarding journey of building my very own acoustic concertina. It would’t have happened if I had no community to „fret” about concertinas.

    • Like 2
  21. One other reason is that concertinas are perceived mostly as traditional instruments and rarely played outside of folk music, in which Irish is the dominant one. So most people’s goal is to achieve this „Irish concertina” feel, which pretty much requires an Anglo. 

    The other reason is historical. Concertinas had quite brief life as a mainstream instrument and were replaced by more versatile accordions. Even the largest duets are roughly an equivalent of the smallest free-bass/converter CBA’s, and there is nowhere to upgrade further except from switching to a chromatic bandoneon (Harry Geuns made a few Haydens recently). To sum up - duet concertinas are a niche within a niche, divided even further by overabundance of different duet systems, so there was never a ground or reason for them to gain traction. 

    • Like 2
  22. 2 hours ago, David Barnert said:



    I don’t know anybody who has tried (much less seen) a Wakker H2, with its 65 keys, one bisonoric (eb3/f3). But there it is.

    As I understand it, this bisonoric button is a result of classic handstrap reach limitations. I faintly recall it mentioned by Wim himself. The original H-2 had 64 buttons and ended on E. This Eb/F button is not only bisonoric, but also out of pattern, as those notes are played with the thumb. As such, this $9k instrument not only cannot be primed or closed without sounding a note, you also cannot increase the rate at which the bellows closes/opens to prepate it for the long phrase mid-tune - a feature of an air button (lever in my case) that I use quite often. As I said earlier on numerous occasions, I’m not exactly a fan of Wim’s design choices.

  23. 1 hour ago, MJGray said:


    Well, to an extent, but every choice of instrument is also a choice of repertoire, and a musician's choice of instrument does reflect that taste and inner desire. A piano is not a sitar is not a kora is not an shamisen, etc. etc. I pick up the banjo for a very different set of tunes than I pick up the concertina, and those are both pretty solidly set in Western musical traditions.


    I honestly don't think it's a weakness of an instrument to be better at some things than others. Genuine virtuosos can transcend those limitations, but each instrument has strengths that lend themselves to particular kinds of music.


    So I suppose my answer to the OP's question is "I don't", and will either transpose into a key that works or play a different instrument better suited to that particular tune. I make no pretensions of virtuosity, though 🙂


    Agreed, but what you are describing is a choice of an instrument type, while I'm talking about the limitations imposed by the instrument model. I'm perfectly aware, that I can't ever pull off, e.g. a glissando on a Hayden, or that Arvo Part's Alina is not something that would sound properly on a free reed instrument. But duet concertina that lacks the ability to perform proper duet arrangements, and this is largely the case with any of the offerings from Concertina Connection, is not something I can find an excuse for. 

  24. 3 hours ago, wunks said:

    I'll get in trouble for this but I can't help but notice all those F#s and G#s cozy'd up to each other in the Hayden patterns.  I've combined them on one button where they occur on my Jeffries duet and gained a free button and a more consistent pattern  in each case.  The single bisonoric button occurring in the same place throughout is easy to get used to.


    Not really a viable solution if you are playing in a true duet style. Bellows reversals in odd places would interrupt the flow of many continuous accompaniments I play and the whole idea of unisonoric layout is to not have to care which direction you are playing in. With the amount of air in my 8 2/3 octagon, 8 fold box I pretty much don't care for the bellows direction, only for the bellows dynamics.

    With Elise, the most annoying thing about the design of this box, is that the same sized box, with the same type and grade of reeds can fit 40+ buttons easily, 45 if you push it to the limit. I did exactly that in my "single serving" 3d printed built around Elise's bellows. You just have to mount those reeds flat instead of wasting a lot of room by trying to fit reed blocks into the bellows opening. 

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