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Little John

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  1. Little John

    Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

    Thanks both! Glad you liked them. You can find more on Instagram - search for @craneduet. Ritonmousquetaire - I have to say I'm slightly embarrassed by the shelf full behind me. I never intended to become a "collector" and, in general, I think it better that good instruments should be spread about so that the maximum number of people can enjoy them. So, for what it's worth, here are my excuses ... Besides the Crabb and Dipper Cranes I have a Crane and Sons (Lachenal) 42 button which I do play, although not as much as the others. I could do without that, but it's not worth close to what it cost me and could do with a bit of fettling, so I'll probably just hang on to it. The biggest instrument is a single-action Wheatstone bass I've had for decades. It's not been played that much, but it's so good I've always been reluctant to part with it. It's very responsive and has a lovely bassoon-like tone. Fortunately in recent years it's come into its own - a local West Gallery group have an annual open day when you can join with regular members playing and singing. So I have a week of practising scales and arpeggios then a fun day playing alongside bassoons, a serpent, a bass clarinet or whatever happens to turn up on the day. The other two serious instruments have sentimental value. The Jeffries G/D was given to me by a friend I used to play jazz with. He'd inherited it from his uncle but couldn't get on with it. He was a piano / piano accordion man himself. When I received it it was virtually in two pieces - his nephews had had a tug-of-war with it. I had it restored by Dipper and that kick-started the anglo phase of my concertina playing life, although ultimately I returned to the Crane. The Wheatstone baritone came from my mother's nursing home. She was there only a month before she died but during that time I spotted a hexagonal wooden box decorating a small alcove on a stairway. The home didn't have the key but allowed me to take it away to a locksmith. This beautiful rosewood 48 button baritone emerged. It had belonged to a former resident who had apparently played it with a local morris side. His only relative wanted nothing for it so, at the home's suggestion, I gave a donation to a dementia charity. They wanted to keep the box, which is presumably once again gracing the alcove. If anyone ever opens it they will find a note I left explaining who had owned it and what happened to it. Besides this there are a couple of modern novelty instruments. I suppose the missing part of the story is that I started on English in the days when I didn't know there was any other type of concertina, which is why I'm still able to pick them up and play them with relative ease. Life would have been so much simpler if I'd started on Crane (or maybe Wicki) and just stuck to it!
  2. Little John

    Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

    If I understand the nomenclature it's a high Eb/F, which means it's in a very odd position on the keyboard. I suppose it's just to complete the chromatic scale at the top, but I can't help thinking a low F in the normal position would be neater.
  3. Little John

    Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

    Yes, I have some recordings on Instagram. In fact my first ever post featured low B and low A: I noted at the time that I was using the Dipper because I needed the responsiveness for the bellows reversals, but since the Crabb was fettled I can play it on that too. This is my first recording on the Crabb, which features a low Bb at the halfway point. Here's another recording on the Dipper, featuring low B and low A in the A music. The Dipper doesn't have the low Bb; instead it has a low G which you can hear on the final chord. Cheers, LJ
  4. Little John

    Sea of Thieves - Grogg Mayles

    Great progress in just three months!
  5. Little John

    Nice videos on the Wakker Hayden duet by Jim Bayliss

    Or eight-fold bellow instead of seven (not that he looks as if he's having much trouble). I count nine-fold bellows on the big beast!
  6. Little John

    Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

    Not really. Some people are happy with what they have and others are averse to "messing" with the original design. I approach it from the view that on a Crane there are two buttons in the bass (low C# and Eb) which most players probably never touch, so why not adapt them to something useful? The Hayden 46 doesn't even have those notes (on either hand). My solution would not work for everyone as it involves a couple of "anglo" buttons; but if anyone were inclined to follow my path I would certainly recommend replacing the low C# with a B (if you mainly play tunes) or a Bb (if you mainly play or sing in flat keys). Since I do both I ended up having B on push and Bb on pull. Wolf Molkentin, a member of this forum, has discovered how useful a low B can be on a tenor-treble English "I initially considered soldering a low Bb but then realised in an instant - just with my hands on the keyboard - how greatly the low B would fit with tunes in the very "English" key of G-maj (in both positions [i.e. as the root of B minor or as a first inversion of G major - LJ] as you are mentioning). I couldn't even really warm up to the instrument without having this work done, which I managed to accomplish soon afterwards." Listen to his recording of The South Wind (following Fanny Power). I remember decades ago talking to Tim Laycock (a Crane player like myself) who carried two instruments with him: a 55 button which was his workhorse and a big 65 button for when he needed the low Bb. With this modification he could have managed with one instrument.
  7. Little John

    Nice videos on the Wakker Hayden duet by Jim Bayliss

    Interesting. Thanks for posting these. Apropos your thread elsewhere in this forum on range and overlap in duets, these videos perhaps illustrate why more is not always better. The Hayden 46 has a total range of just three octaves and a tone, and on each hand C# and Eb are missing from the lower octave , yet with imagination and inventiveness it can produce great music.
  8. Little John

    Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

    Sorry to join in this rather late, but perhaps I can offer a slightly different perspective. As Anglo-Irishman has illustrated, it's not so much a deliberate prioritisation as a choice of range for each hand. Clearly if you play baroque music from scores you need a pretty extended range (and also a large instrument). For those like me who stick to folk tunes, songs, carols etc. there is less range needed. In my experience the two octaves C4 (middle C) to C6 is adequate for most music (caveat later). This corresponds exactly to the right hand side of a 42 button Crane duet. [Incidentally, I scanned through the first 60 tunes in Playford's Dancing Master and the first 60 tunes in Dave Townsend's English Dance Tune Vol 2. Every single one fitted within that range. In fact 96% fitted within D4 to B5. It may or may not be coincidence that this is the comfortable range of a fiddle and a D whistle.] The caveat is that I know a few tunes, maybe eight or so, that use the B3 one semitone below so to add that would be useful. In fact i think I use that note more than C#4. I suspect that most small duets start at C3, an octave below, because it's rather neat that way - same layout but sounding an octave lower - but a practical consideration is also that lower notes means longer reeds which starts to become difficult in a small instrument. Nevertheless there is an argument for extending the range downwards, and to this extent I agree with ritonmousquetaire's sentiment. It is this: harmonisation of low right hand notes. For example harmonising C4 with an Am chord or D4 with a Bb chord isn't really possible. The bass needs to be extended three semitones to A2 to achieve that. It is conventional wisdom that a range of an octave and a fifth is a minimum requirement for the left hand, in order to be able to produce any triad. This corresponds to the bass of a 48 button Crane - C3 to G4. (The 46 button Hayden is slightly wider, but that's because it's not fully chromatic.) I would suggest that, in light of what I've said in the previous paragraph, a range of A2 to E4 would be more useful overall; though A2 to G4 would be even better, possibly, in order to accommodate it within a small instrument, with some gaps in the accidentals as the Hayden system already has. This is not just theoretical musings. It's what I've discovered over years of playing. My Crane's are all modified to give these downward extensions (B3 on the right and A2 on the left) and I consider them a huge improvement.
  9. Little John

    Fanny Powers - The South Wind

    Very nice, Wolf. I note in the second tune you're making good use of that non-standard low B, both for B minor and first inversion G major. I have it as a non-standard adaptation on all my Crane duets. I couldn't live without it!
  10. Little John

    Regondi-ing the duet?

    I have a single-action English bass concertina with double-decker reeds. It makes space for huge low reeds without the instrument becoming unwieldy. Really, really responsive!
  11. Little John

    English Concertina Chords

    It's the order of notes, lowest to highest, as DaveM describes. Harmonically the same chord - C major - but musically different. Likewise E-G-C, the first inversion of C major.
  12. Little John

    English Concertina Chords

    Let your ear be the judge of that; thought generally lower ones will sound better. The higher ones can sound quite harsh. Besides the basic C-E-G triad, you can also "spread" this by playing C-G-E which can sound gentler. Also very useful is the first inversion E-G-C. Both of these require two hands at once, which might seem difficult at first but which can make life easier in the long run.
  13. Equal temperament (ET) is a special case of mean-tone temperaments (MT); twelfth comma mean-tone in fact. When we refer to mean-tone temperaments we usually mean moderate ones like fifth or sixth comma; but they're all compromises. Pianist is right - a cappella singers can avoid compromises and adjust each chord to true intervals.
  14. Little John

    Concertina as dominatrix ??

    Referring to life as a sailor: "On shore it's wine, women and song; on board it's rum, bum and concertina". I don't know who first coined the expression, or if it's simply part of folklore.
  15. Little John

    Metal Bracket Loop Thumb Makes For Calloused Skin

    Can't really offer any suggestions, but I can commiserate. I have similar problems myself. The wire loop digs into the base of my right thumb if I play sitting down (with the instrument resting on my right knee), but not if I stand up. I don't have the same problem with my main instrument (actually a duet, but similar hand strap) because it's designed with the adjustment at the other end of the hand rest. I've seen a few other instruments made that way, so presumably discomfort from the wire loop is, at least to some extent, a recognised problem.