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Little John

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Everything posted by Little John

  1. Little John

    wtb Wakker W-2

    I suggested I might need a taller hand rest on my new Alex Holden instrument. In the end it is the same height as the old one and it doesn't matter. I think the shorter button travel achieves the same effect as having a taller rest. In any event, this new instrument is extremely easy to play. [Pinky / pinkie - I don't think it matters. In either case the plural would be "pinkies" by the curiosities of the English language!] LJ
  2. Little John

    wtb Wakker W-2

    A slant that brought the buttons closer to the little finger would do that, but the Hayden slant does the opposite - it takes the buttons nearest the little finger furthest away. LJ
  3. Little John

    wtb Wakker W-2

    Some people on some systems seem to prefer not to use their little fingers (pinkies). I play Crane and was inclined that way at first (probably because I came to it from the English), but in the end found it was much better to train myself to use my little fingers. Looking at the note chart for the Hayden I don't see how you could play a scale smoothly without using your little finger - there's always a point where it requires four buttons consecutively in the same row. So if I were thinking to play a Hayden I'd go for the layout that allowed easy use of all four fingers. LJ
  4. Little John

    London Pride

    It is, indeed, a lovely tune. Far be it from me to argue with the mighty JK, but this version seems to be closer to Idbury Hill (Bledington) than the Longborough tune. The Black Book also gives an Oddington dance of the name London Pride, but no tune. However, neither Idbury Hill nor London Pride have "slows", so JK must have invented the C music! LJ
  5. Little John

    A rare Crabb Crane

    Looks like a chevron to me! Have you measured it?
  6. So here it is! My new Holden Crane. It's described in detail on Alex's blog so I won't repeat it here. You'll also find on his blog a medley of tunes. They were recorded only minutes after I'd made the instrument's acquaintance and I was just playing whatever came into my head, so you'll have to forgive a few slips. I've actually had this for a while, but I collected it from Alex on my way to a long holiday so I've been unable to post anything until now; which is probably a good job as I'd have just gushed with enthusiasm for my new acquisition. Instead I've had a fortnight to give it a thorough work-out so I'm able to give a much more considered assessment: this is, quite simply, the best duet I've ever played*. The bellows are supple: no need to "break them in" - they were as flexible as you could wish from the outset. Capacious too - I can play long passages in one direction even using a lot of heavy chording. The reeds are very sensitive. They respond evenly and quickly at very low pressure, so that one can play really quietly but still maintain crispness. They also have a wide dynamic range, so plenty of volume when you need it. This means I can play quietly to sing against then ramp up the volume for a musical interlude. The balance is also excellent. A frequent (almost ubiquitous) complaint of duets (and to some extent anglos) is that the lower notes can overpower the high notes. That's not the case with this one. Certainly from my position as the player (and that's usually the worst position!) the melody never gets lost. Tone is a subjective matter, and Alex generally prefers not to describe the sound of his instruments. I would probably say it sounds "solid and full". Others who have heard the recordings have said variously "what a brilliant rich sound", "very nice, full and open sounding", "marvellous sound ... I very much like the bass side", "Wow! Even on the phone this sounds lovely!" Alex, despite his usual reticence, says in his blog "I am really happy with how rich and well balanced it sounds (even more so in person than recorded on a built in phone mic)". Finally, as a general point, it's really easy to play. The light weight and the lightness of the action contribute to that, but I think it's the result of several factors working together that make it so. I've had the concept of this instrument for many years, and Alex has translated it perfectly into a reality. Having played it for hours, day after day, I can find no fault with it and there's nothing I would change about it. LJ *Possibly the best concertina I've ever played too, but a strong contender for that would have to be the special English built by C&R Dipper which I sold about fifteen years ago when I realised I had neither the time nor the talent to be proficient on two different systems.
  7. Little John

    Hayden duet that favors flat keys?

    Well, if you were playing just on your own the obvious answer would be to transpose up or down a semitone to a playable key. (E.g. change Db to either C or D). But would this be too difficult for the rest of the orchestra? LJ
  8. It's about a year since I asked for others' experience with using fifth comma mean tone tuning in another thread. The answers I received were sufficiently encouraging for me to take the plunge and have my 48 key Crabb Crane duet tuned to this temperament. I haven't regretted it for a moment. A brief explanation before I detail my experience. The almost ubiquitous equal temperament (ET) tuning has been understood for centuries, but was shunned in favour of other tuning temperaments until the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. In its favour, ET eliminates the need to distinguish between, for example, F# and Gb and it makes it possible to play equally well in any key on a piano or other keyboard instrument. Against it is the fact that all keys are equally "out of tune" and, in particular, all major third intervals are sharp by about a seventh of a semitone (14 cents). Fifth comma mean tone is but one of many tuning systems ("temperaments") which aim to overcome this problem of the major thirds, but it does so at a price: only six of the twelve keys sound good, but all of them are equally good. However, for most folk musicians (and others) this is no real hardship - how many of us want to play in C# major or Eb minor, for example? So, I go to collect my newly tuned Crane from Alex Holden and play a tune. It doesn't sound any different. I deliberately play the "wolf fifth" interval G# - Eb. Doesn't sound bad really. I play a B major chord where the third has to be Eb rather than the D# it should be. Not that bad. Despite not sounding much different, the Crabb almost instantly becomes my "go to" instrument. Only gradually do I realise that my initial perception was coloured by a lifetime of accepting the nasty intervals foisted on us by ET. It's not so much that the mean tone tuning sounds sweeter as time progresses, but that going back to ET tuning becomes increasing painful. The sweetness of mean tone tuning became instantly acceptable whilst the harshness of ET became only slowly apparent. I think instinctively my ear knew this, but my brain took a few months to overcome sixty-odd years prior experience. What follows is a bit more detailed, so you might want to give up at this point! In my earlier thread I asked two specific questions: (1) what keys will I be able to play in and (2) how will it sound with other instruments? The answer to the first is down to your choice of accidentals. For most people Bb, C#, F# and G# will be obvious choices, but the Eb / D# choice is a bit more difficult. (This isn't a problem for English concertinas or larger Hayden duets which have space for both.) Since I tend to sing in flat keys I opted for Eb. This choice gives me the major keys of Bb, F, C, G, D & A plus their relative minors G, D, A, E, B & F#. This would be perfectly adequate were it not for one quirk: some forms of music like to employ the major seventh in minor keys, usually in the harmony rather than the melody (giving rise in classical music to the distinction between harmonic and melodic minor scales). So some tunes in E minor want a D#. It occurs only rarely in my playing and there are several ways round the problem when it does occur, so I really haven't found this to be an issue. As to the second question, over the past year I've played extensively in a duo with a guitar and likewise in a duo with a melodeon. I've also played in a jazz context with clarinet, trombone and guitar and spent a very pleasant day with a West Gallery band and choir including a vast assortment of instruments. I have never detected any problem with sounding out of tune; nor has anyone I've played with made any comment. One further observation. As the title of Ross Duffin's fascination book on the subject indicates, the problem with ET is that it ruins harmony. Melody is a different issue. In the jazz context I've played in Eb major and C minor, where I have to employ G# for what should be Ab, but as I've been playing only melody it hasn't been in the least bit noticeable. One further oddity, which I can't really explain. In a new tune I was learning an odd chromatic passage called for a Bb minor chord. Unfortunately the third of that chord has to be C# since I have no Db, but it sounds acceptable. The same is true of F minor with a third of G# (not that I've ever used that chord). So the flattened minor third seems to be more acceptable than the sharp major third in, for example, B major. Perhaps someone else can provide an explanation for that. One final point. My experience relates entirely to fifth comma mean tone tuning, which seems to be a common compromise: the major thirds are much sweeter than in ET but not actually "pure". In quarter comma the major thirds are pure whilst the fifths are narrower and the note pitches diverge more from ET. How much these last two factors matter I don't know. Some advocate sixth comma as less extreme than quarter or fifth; but my experience suggests fifth comma is not an any practical sense extreme. In all cases the six major and six minor keys are equally good, but perhaps in sixth comma the other keys are more acceptable. That might be an issue with, say, baroque keyboard music but not one that would trouble most folk musicians. I am tempted to try a duet tuned to quarter comma mean tone, but to be honest I'm content with fifth comma so I'll probably never get round to it. My new Alex Holden 44 button Crane (due to arrive next month) will be tuned fifth comma mean tone. LJ
  9. It depends which accidentals you have on your instrument. If you have and Ab then Ab major should sound good (Ab - C - Eb), but if you haven't (which is probably the case) and have to use G# instead then it will indeed sound awful. G# major will sound awful because the third will be C instead of B#. LJ
  10. I don't know about just temperament, but in mean tone tuning all whole tone intervals are the same as long as you don't step over the break in the circle of fifths. So in my case C# to Eb and G# to Bb would be much wider than the rest. They would probably be tolerable in a melody and they wouldn't crop up in harmony, so it's not that big a problem. Thirds and fifths are where the real problems lie. LJ
  11. If you're really starving, you'll find quite a few of my efforts here. LJ
  12. Little John

    Playing Standing

    I play with the instrument hanging down. Straps fairly loose the same as when I'm sitting. This was originally recorded to illustrate the shape of the bellows in response to a question, but it serves equally to demonstrate the overall hold on the concertina. Much more comfortable than with forearms horizontal or upright. The only downside is that it can be hard to hear yourself if you're surrounded by melodeons! LJ
  13. Steve - it's one of those things, feels like a really big step to take but afterwards you wonder why you didn't do it sooner. I can't really see a downside to it - only benefits. I calculated that, for playing in the "English" keys of G and D it is best to centre the tuning on A. That minimises the deviation from ET. Of course, if you habitually play in other keys than these another centre might be preferable. (If it's a C/G concertina and you play mainly in those keys then D is indeed the appropriate centre for tuning.) See my response above to Bax. My Crane is centred on A so I was able to give a true 440 Hz note to the West Gallery instruments to tune to. That said, if my calculation is correct, his A at 2 cents flat translates to only about 0.5 Hz which I doubt would be noticeable. The "beating" between a true 440 Hz A and the concertina's A would have a two second cycle.
  14. Little John

    One More Roslin Castle

    Thank you Didie. Since this recording I've changed a couple of chords and added an extra bass run in the second part, but essentially it remains simple.
  15. Please note: this is now sold and on its way to a new life in Germany. A donation will be made to this forum. A Jeffries 30 button anglo in G/D. I only realised when I opened it up to take photos that I've had this for 22 years. When I received it the bellows were torn so it was unplayable. It was fully restored by C & R Dipper. Besides the usual things the ends were re-plated and new 7-fold bellows fitted. I played it seriously for a year or two, but then gradually reverted to the Crane duet so it's rarely touched nowadays. The Dipper hand straps show signs of use, but otherwise it's still pretty much in its restored condition. I'm never going to take it up seriously again and besides, I'm waiting for my new Alex Holden Crane so I need the shelf space! It was re-tuned from A/E, as Colin indicates on the inside, but he said at the time it was actually somewhere between A/E and Ab/Eb. That seems odd, but perhaps the "F.CONCERT . OLD" stamped on one side might give a clue. It also states "No 2 . 1926". Anyway, we agreed that since it had to be re-tuned then G/D made most sense. Photographs below, but if you can get to Hampshire you're welcome to try it. I'm looking for £4,200. Buyer chooses courier and insurance at own expense or, even better, collects. Includes hard, non-fitted case. An appropriate donation will made to C.net in the event of a sale from this site. LJ
  16. Little John

    Double Duet

    The idea is interesting, but it's perhaps worthy of note that most layouts of this type are horizontal rather than vertical. For example the CBA, Stark and Tona's layout. There's probably a good reason for that. A particular problem I see with this is forming chords on the left hand. Even for a simple triad there will always be two buttons vertically aligned, which is a fingering problem. For a major chord the first two notes are aligned and for a minor chord the second two notes are. This is pretty well avoided on the Crane and Hayden systems. Another problem is the vertical extant, particularly on the right hand. To get the minimum useful compass of two octaves requires a column of seven buttons. An English covers that range in four, whilst a Crane needs only five and a Hayden (I think) about 4 again. These could be some of the reasons why the Wheatstone Double Duet didn't take off. LJ
  17. Little John

    One More Roslin Castle

    Thanks David. Kind of you to say so. It was actually filmed in landscape but IGTV insisted on discarding 80% of the image from the sides to produce this portrait format. I have seen a couple of IGTV postings that managed to retain the landscape format. I just couldn't see how to do so myself. It seems there are often hidden features that aren't at all obvious. With normal Instagram the default is a square image but it's easy (once someone has told you how!) to retain the original format if you wish. I was using IGTV for the first time because it doesn't have the 60 second limit of IG, which would obviously have made a sensible recording of Roslin Castle impossible. LJ
  18. Little John

    One More Roslin Castle

    I've enjoyed listening to all these versions but decided against learning to play it myself. That is, until it kept creeping into my ear so in the end I gave up resisting! It may not add anything to all the previous renditions, but for what it's worth, here is my interpretation. LJ
  19. Little John

    Sighting - William Holman Hunt painting

    Really interesting! Thanks for giving this link. LJ
  20. Little John

    Anglo style bellows for duet

    How do the bellows differ? Why should there need to be different types? LJ
  21. Little John

    H C Crabb in case # 9442. How old is it?

    I have #9155 (48 button Crane) which Geoff told me was 1934. LJ
  22. Little John

    Aluminium for reed frames

    Hi Greg, Thanks for this interesting and informative reply, but I'm not sure it addresses the key question (maybe it's impossible to answer anyway!), and that is: why would Lachenal want to introduce this innovation, and why was it applied to high end models only? If the only consideration was weight saving, why not use aluminium across the whole range; thereby giving them a greater competitive advantage? Was it cost, or difficulty of working the material, that caused them to restrict its use to the most expensive instruments? Or was it to justify the premium price of these instruments? Did contemporary advertisements laud the virtue of aluminium for its light weight; or even for a perceived improvement in tone? And why, as it appears, did they use aluminium extensively on treble and piccolo instruments where the need was least? Very few people nowadays complain of the weight of a brass-reeded treble and I doubt it was different a century ago, so what was the driver behind the innovation? My own experience is far more limited than yours. I have owned a dozen or so concertinas including two aluminium-reeded instruments, one of which has the richest sound I have heard. The richness of the sound was remarked upon by Colin Dipper the moment he heard it. But I don't necessarily ascribe the tone to the aluminium reed frames. Each instrument seems to have a unique tone for no obvious reason. Which still leaves me wondering: what drove the change to aluminium, and did Lachenal (or others) use it for marketing the instruments in any way? LJ
  23. There seems to be a general perception that aluminium reed frames are inferior to, or somehow less desirable than, brass frames. Why is this? Another recent thread here suggests that many of the best Lachenal and Edeophones had aluminium reed frames (as well as riveted action). The Crabb company also used aluminium extensively, and they are reputed never to have skimped on the quality of their reeds whatever the outside appearance of some of their cheaper concertinas might suggest. Why would Lachenal, apparently, reserve aluminium for their highest quality instruments? Was it because it was more expensive, or more difficult to work with? And what were the benefits - just the weight saving or something to do with sound quality? LJ
  24. Little John

    Rosewood Added To C I T E S Appendix 2

    Roger Bucknall, owner of Fylde Guitars, has recently written: "The 2017 changes to CITES regulations on Rosewood were a shock, not in the overall intention but in the depth to which they apply, needing an export and import license even for a single Rosewood bridge pin, but still only one license for a whole ship full of raw timber. Rather odd and not very effective. Some makers welcomed the changes, I thought they were badly designed and silly at best. I'm probably not the only one, but I thought I had a good relationship with the "authorities" on this, and I wrote some very strong letters to UK and international bodies, including CITES in Geneva. I'm not saying that my complaints made any difference, (perhaps they did?) but the whole issue is being re-examined in May. The new proposal is an exemption for finished musical instruments. We can only hope. I will still be allergic to the stuff even if it is legal." LJ
  25. Little John

    Name of this tune from the Hebrides?

    That's my view, too. LJ