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Little John

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About Little John

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    Chatty concertinist

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  1. Little John

    Duet concertina value?

    That will be partly because the Wheatstone has aluminium reed frames. But I'm surprised about the Crabb. Both of the Crabbs I've owned had aluminium reed frames and aluminium ends, and so were really light for their size. What are the ends and reed frames on yours? LJ
  2. Little John

    The Ballad of the Button Box

    When computers came in for us at work I made the effort to learn eight-finger touch-typing, and I'm glad I did. I always felt that playing the Crane duet gave me a head start as I was used to employing all my fingers, and without looking. On the other hand I've only recently come to the smart phone and am still in one-finger mode for typing. I'm not sure I'll ever make the transition to two thumbs - I suspect they've sat idle on the concertina for too many decades now to learn a new role in life. LJ
  3. Little John

    In praise of a good hard case

    I once saw a good compromise. It was a hexagonal fibreglass case which opened along its axis and was, I think, blocked. It had a strap attached to each end so for carrying it was like a gig bag, but much more protective and without the sharp corners of a rectangular box. I understood (though forgive me if I'm wrong because it was some time ago) that it had been designed by Colin Dipper and made by someone in East Anglia. I wish someone would take up production again. LJ
  4. Little John


    It's pretty similar to my description in the previous post too - so the three of us have independently developed the same technique. I guess that somehow makes it a "natural" way to hold the instrument. In my case it's a Crane duet, but all the same considerations apply. LJ
  5. Little John

    larger Cranes - variants and techniques

    Well I've often been considered odd! But glad it allows me membership of this club. Here are the charts. Some might consider these to be extreme modifications, but personally I think them less extreme than having buttons in a sixth column or under the LH thumb. My rationale, explained elsewhere, is to allow better harmonisation of the lowest notes on the right hand than the standard layout permits; and to provide a useful B3 on the right. Additional chords available are: B minor: B2 - F#3 - D2 B major: B2 - F#3 - D#2 G major first inversion: B2 - G3 - D2 Bb major: Bb2 - F3 - D2 (Crabb only) A minor: A2 - E3 - C4 A major: A2 - E2 - C#4 G major: G2 - D3 - B3 (Dipper only) F major first inversion: A2 - F3 - C4 These can all be played as three-note chords on the left hand or used as the lower two notes on the left supporting the top note on the right hand. (The only exception to this is G major on the Dipper, since the RH B3 is push while the G2 is pull.) As three-note chords they are all surprisingly easy to finger - provided you're not wedded to the one-finger-per-column approach! Crabb 48 button Crane.pdf Dipper 51 button Crane.pdf
  6. Little John

    larger Cranes - variants and techniques

    Wolf et al, I'm happy to be considered an honorary member of this new club, though in truth I've never owned a "larger" Crane. Layouts seem to be pretty standard up to 55 button, so I'd take "larger" to mean anything beyond that. That's when you start to get odd outlying buttons etc. The largest instrument I've owned is a 55 button Crabb, at 7 1/4" AF but I was never really happy with it and eventually sold it. My favourite at the moment is a 48 button Crabb. It's actually not as good an instrument as the 55 but I like it much better. Perhaps where my interest coincides with others is the desire for notes below the C3 which is the lowest note on most standard (i.e. up to 55 button) Cranes. I've had modifications made to my instruments to facilitate this. I'll get some charts drawn up and post them. LJ
  7. Little John

    "tenor treble"

    Well, I don't play Irish music either, nor the English concertina that much nowadays, but it's always struck me that the 48 button baritone is a great instrument. All the buttons are easily within reach and you can use normal treble fingering to play an octave down. The compass (up to C6) allows you to play in the treble range too and the logic of the fingering (to which Geoff has frequently referred) means it's not particularly difficult to do so. And all in a smaller and lighter instrument than a baritone treble. LJ
  8. Little John


    I've been playing a Dipper with curved ("ergonomic") handrests for over 30 years, but also lots of other instruments with plain flat handrests. I don't think it makes a blind bit of difference. I'm not in the least conscious of the handrest when I'm playing. Having deliberately looked at my hands, they make contact with the rest at the little-finger side of the palm. On the thumb side they sit half an inch off the rest, whether it's curved or straight. My thumbs sort of curl over the strap and press against my index finger to maintain that stand-off. I might as well add that the thick, stiff straps of the Dipper are no more comfortable than the thin, floppy straps of some other instruments. If anything I prefer the soft straps, and I'm fairly sure that's what was originally fitted. I have the original straps for one instrument, circa 1900, stamped with "Crane and Sons". LJ
  9. Little John

    Steve Turner’s concertina

    I don't know exactly what it is, but I discussed it with him last time he came to our folk club. An unusual feature is that the bottom row is anglo-style with reeds tuned an octave apart. So it has some really low notes but a short gap before you reach the lowest eight notes. LJ
  10. Hi Little John.  This topic is getting quite complex so I'd like to ask you about your bisonoric experience.  What I want to do is create a 6 note thumb activated bass cluster to take advantage of the vacant reed chambers in my Jeff duet.  I've played a little bit of melodeon so I'm comfortable with the push pull aspect.  My intuition is that because the rest of the instrument is unisonoric and because I have an air button, the bellows work needed for the required notes will soon become second nature.  Has that been your experience ?  Thanx.



    1. Little John

      Little John

      Yes. Even though I'm not an Anglo player I've got used to the three bisonoric buttons I have. There is one on the right (B3/C#4) and two on the left (B2/Bb2) and (Eb3/A2) on the left - all of these (push/pull). These were deliberately chosen to pair up - the B2 and B3 both on push and the A2 and C#4 both on pull. You probably won't have to consider this in quite the same way, but you might want to consider how you plan to use them and therefore how to choose the push/pull alternatives; for example either to ease playing a scale or to ease playing a two note bass.





    2. wunks


      Yes, and that's the reason for my interest in the single reed/push pull option.  it would require 6 buttons and actions though, hence the attractiveness of the bisonoric solution.  Thank you very much for your input LJ.


      Happy New Year!


  11. Little John

    "tenor treble"

    ... at the expense of one's current enjoyment, presumably! I understand your point, Geoff, but if this "fiddling" is confined to the margins I don't see much harm. My first Crane was a 35 button which only goes up to G5. As on many such instruments the Eb5 was repurposed to A5. I played this for two years and when I got a larger instrument there was no difficulty in changing to A5 in the standard position. Is there really anything wrong with being a one-instrument player? If it does what you want and the others don't why would you want to play others? The modifications are reversible, so you can do the same to any new instruments you acquire (I've done this) and others who buy your instrument can revert to standard if they wish. LJ
  12. Little John

    "tenor treble"

    Yes. G# could be used for a first inversion of E major, but are you likely to want that if you have the low E anyway? And low C would be really useful. As a comparison, I've sacrificed C#3 at the bottom of my Cranes in favour of bisonoric B2/Bb2 (on one instrument) and B2/G2 on another. I don't need C# for first inversion A major as I have A2 on another bisonoric button (along with Eb3 which is occasionally useful in G minor tunes). LJ
  13. Little John

    "tenor treble"

    [Wolf - did you mean "treble" rather than "tenor treble" in that first line?] Indeed, I do have a couple of bisonoric buttons on my Cranes, to extend the range downwards. I've done this for years and am quite used to it. Being at the bottom of the range they are used frequently enough to be really useful, but not so frequently as to cause any problems. The biggest change I've made is to lower Eb3 to A2 - six semitones. That worked just by adding solder on one instrument, but on another with particularly short reeds we had to find a longer reed to achieve it. I should point out that I've always had the work done by professionals. In the case of a treble English, lowering the Ab to F is quite common (and useful). If you're happy to go bisonoric I'd suggest F and D on the Ab button and E on the G# button; or E and C if you can either lower the reed by as much as 8 semitones or find a longer alternative reed that will fit. This way the notes will appear on the "natural" sides of the instrument, facilitating thirds and fifths. I know of one English with bisonoric buttons. Steve Turner plays one where the bottom row on each side has a pair of reeds tuned an octave apart. LJ
  14. Little John

    Upcoming concertinas for sale

    I second that! LJ
  15. There is another similar between Hayden and piano. When you play a scale on a piano you run out of fingers, so you pass your thumb under your palm and start again. Moving up a row every three or four notes on the Hayden is very similar - you run out of fingers so move up and start again. The piano analogy breaks down for all accidentals, since they are not adjacent to their natural as they are on a piano.