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Little John

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Everything posted by Little John

  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. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Little John

    Upcoming concertinas for sale

    I second that! LJ
  14. 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.
  15. Rasch's review seems rather mean-spirited to me. Perhaps that's because he doesn't seem to understand what Duffin's book is about. Rasch's first paragraphs states "I expected that Duffin’s book would explain How ET Ruined Harmony, preferably after an exposition proving (or at least either demonstrating or suggesting) that Harmony Was Ruined in general, and by ET in particular." [My emphasis.] What does Rasch means by "harmony was ruined in general"? There are possible answers, but without qualification it's a meaningless statement. In my view Duffin's book does exactly what it says it does, and in a very readable and understandable way. And that's true even if, as Rasch claims, there are one or two technical errors; though I am not convinced there are. I could do the maths for myself if I could be bothered, but I'll simply point out that Richard isn't the only one to find it puzzling. I find Bradley Lehman's statement more plausible: "The word "meantone" can apply here, because in all the correctly spelled major thirds (such as C-D-E), taken melodically, the middle note is exactly at a mean (average) frequency. It is a mean tone, as opposed to a 9:8 tone or a 10:9 tone from just intonation. The two fifths to generate that tone, from either direction, are equally sized because all the fifths are equally sized. Therefore it is at the center, average, position within the major third." And that's true of all regular tunings: 1/4 comma, 1/5 comma, 1/6 comma and even 1/12 comma (ET). It doesn't do to get too bogged down in academic discussion. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm pleased I took the plunge, and I have Duffins's book in large part to thank for that. LJ
  16. Richard - this isn't just true of Anglos. I had Ross Duffin's excellent book for Christmas last year, It was one of the reasons I took the plunge and had one of my Crane duets tuned to fifth comma mean-tone. It means I'm "limited" to keys from two flats to three sharps, but in reality that's hardly a limitation at all. Who needs to go outside that range? Saguaro_squeezer - if G# to D# sounds horrendous that will be because the "D#" isn't D#; it's Eb! That's the wolf fifth. It can be placed anywhere in the "circle of fifths", but placed there gives you the keys from two flats to three sharps I mentioned above. LJ
  17. Little John

    The First Time

    I posted this video a couple of hours ago. It would fit naturally in Videos and Music, but there's a story behind it. I've noticed in the past that, when I try out a new technique, the first tune I try it on often doesn't properly gel. This is a case in point. I started learning this carol last Christmas (inspired by a fellow concertina player). I realised I needed to use some tenths and elevenths on the left hand, which was new for me. I didn't get it properly sorted. This year I picked it up again. It's getting there but I'm still not confident with it. However, I realised that I've used this technique in a couple of other tunes during the year, without problem. Somehow having learnt the technique on one tune it has transferred easily to other tunes, but still causes trouble in the first tune I tried it on. Has anyone else experienced this problem? LJ
  18. Little John

    No Concertina Christmas Tree???

    How interesting! A 48 normally has 20 on the LH and 28 on the RH. Is it a standard size - i.e. 6 5/8" AF? LJ
  19. Little John

    No Concertina Christmas Tree???

    That "48b" Crane has three more buttons than normal on the side we can see. Does it have three fewer than normal on the right? LJ
  20. Little John

    What type of music do you play?

    Dance tunes and airs; lots of English, some Scottish, a little Irish. A bit of early music. Song accompaniment. Just now I'm practising 20 Christmas carols to accompany singing in the High Street tomorrow. (With a keyboard, electric guitar and electric bass! In this context it's melody only, but playing alone I add harmony too.) I prefer to play in small ensembles. I'm not really a session sort of player. I play for audiences at the folk club and on other occasions such as village fairs. I play at home for pleasure. LJ
  21. Little John

    What is an English Concertina?

    That's right. I've used the C#3 and Eb3 buttons on the bass side to extend the range downwards to A2, so those two buttons are bisonoric. To keep this vaguely relevant to the title let me add that I know of one English concertina on which the bottom row of each side is bisonoric. Same notes but an octave apart. A curious arrangement because although it extends the range downward by an octave it leaves a gap of a fourth. Has anyone come across any other English concertina with bisonoric buttons? LJ
  22. I saw Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne using just a concertina case and tried it myself. It was certainly better than nothing and gave considerable extra stability to the instrument. I've never seen John Kirkpatrick use any support, but then his Crabb is exceptionally light with aluminium reed frames and ends. LJ
  23. Little John

    Why Give Up

    I suspect people give up because they don't have a reason to carry on. When I was young I played viola, French horn and piano but gave them all up as I wasn't really into the classical music with which I associated them. Alongside these I learnt (self-taught) guitar and bass guitar. I stuck with these longer but eventually gave up on them too. Then I discovered the concertina (English initially, then Crane duet). Although there have been periods of months when I've been simply too busy to play it, I've never actually given up because I just love the sound so much. Later on I picked up bouzouki and re-started bass guitar (after about a 30-year break). I played bouzouki a lot when I had a whistle-playing friend nearby to accompany, but now I play it only when there's a scratch band to play with. Similarly the fretless bass guitar, I play it only when there's a jazz or rock/pop band to play in. I really enjoy both, but don't practise them at all. But the concertina I play daily, whether or not there's any particular goal in mind, simply because I love it. LJ
  24. Little John

    considerations re the idea of a Duet concertina

    Indeed; or if you want to keep it really simple just a single Bb/F fifth for the whole bar. Or Bb/F for the first bar and G/D for the second. Endless possibilities ... LJ
  25. Little John

    considerations re the idea of a Duet concertina

    Well, I'm probably misusing the word! I'm referring to the style where you play a bass note followed by a couple of other notes from the desired chord - "oom-pah", or "oom-pah-pah" for a waltz. In the case of Parsons Farewell it's actually "oom-pah-pah-rest". If you are able listen to the video you'll see what I mean. LJ