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Paul Groff

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Everything posted by Paul Groff

  1. I open the Ball Beavon. The box has described "8426" in left reed pan. So, the birth of the box as Crabb is 1906. I can't find name in action box. Yes, it is the metal-ended Ball Beavons on which I have seen the internal J. Crabb stamp (so far!). Does your Jeffries-stamped wooden ended one have a Crabb serial number too? Usually the instruments with a Jeffries stamp lack the 4 digit number (but not always). But, this concertina is good original satus. Inside is very clean as like NEW! So, I think she seem to have long vacation in Japan like "Sleeping Beauty". Yes, sometimes the concertinas that wound up in areas of the world without a strong tradition of playing have survived to the present with the least disturbance of their original quality, and so can tell us the most about the maker's ideas about valving, tuning, etc. Quite a few of those I have seen from the USA seem never to have been opened since made. Also the low humidity of (some regions of) the USA, while tough on the woodwork, has sometimes preserved the original condition of the reedwork much more so than was the case for many "original" instruments kept at home in England. Congratulations and be sure to learn all you can from your "time capsule" (actually I prefer "sleeping beauty!") before you hasten to alter its condition in the process of restoring it. Paul
  2. Dear wakasaobama, This instrument resembles some Jeffries-stamped 26-key wooden-ended instruments; if it is as similar in sound to those as it looks, it should be a joy when carefully restored. It is always interesting to try to figure out the Ball Beavons. The metal-ended, bone button ones I have seen often have "J. Crabb Maker" stamped on the UNDERSIDE of the metal fretwork, inside the action box. These are also great sounding anglos! Paul
  3. Hi Peter, FWIW in my experience all the original-condition 20 key C/G Lachenals from this period have had that middle C on the draw, lowest button of LH inside row. Of course, this note was often changed during restoration to the more "standard" options of middle D or low A. THis is why most players who bought a restored instrument of this brand, type, and period may be unaware of what was originally there. Always in concertinas one must be ready to find an exception (I would not be surprised if someone responds, having seen an original one like this without that middle C draw) but in dozens (maybe hundreds) of unrestored original high-pitch examples I have seen, the middle C draw was there. Maybe this reflects the desire of each maker to have a slightly different layout early in the anglo's evolution (hard to do with only 20 buttons!). Anyway, it's an interesting choice because on the Lachenal 22, 24, 26, 30, 32, and 36 keys, the middle C is not available on the draw in original examples I have seen. It starts to show up again in the (relatively rare) Lachenal anglos with a button for the LH thumb. I haven't seen and obviously can't vouch for this instrument, but if the bellows are decent the fact that they have been upgraded to 6 fold makes this a very attractive option for an anglo beginner on a budget! Paul
  4. Hi Jack, I know where you're coming from, but I think your point may be misunderstood by some here. It's probably true that in Irish music today most anglo players will want or need a top quality three row instrument by the time they are "top-notch" as you say. Not so true of today's Irish box players, some of the best of whom play 1 row melodeon with 10 keys, or of the great cajun accordion players mentioned above. Of course, some of those top-notch melodeon and cajun accordion players choose to own several or even many different one-row instruments, but that doesn't take away from the fact that when they play their brilliant music they are doing it all with 10 buttons. But most beginning and intermediate Irish-style anglo players go through a period in which they can not or will not commit the price of a used car to buying a top-quality 3 row. Since many of them have gotten the idea that making good Irish music on the anglo REQUIRES 30 keys (often based on misinformation from this site and other modern resources), they compromise the quality of their instrument rather than the number of buttons. No cajun player would make that mistake because they understand the point made above, that the rhythm and the tone makes the music. Similarly, no highland bagpiper (9 notes not counting drones!) would compromise quality of tone and response to get more notes. Musicians in these traditions are consistently told that they must work within a limited vocabulary of notes and devote thousands of hours of practice to nailing the rhythm just right. My point is that the same option is available to Irish anglo players. They can take settings of hundreds of tunes from the best of the pre-WW2 players (and also some lovely current players), which require only 20 keys and sound lovely. That is more than enough tunes to keep a beginner going until they are an expert who would rather invest in a great concertina than a car. For $1600 you can take a good Lachenal steel reeded 20 key and hotrod it, replacing the short bellows and the bad action and upgrading the reeds so that you have a great sounding instrument with traditional reed response, but much faster than Mrs. Crotty's 3 row Lachenal (BTW she only used 2 rows in the tunes that she recorded). Your comment about "different styles" is true but can be slippery. For example, Noel Hill can easily play great music on a 20 key. He may not be using all of his bag of tricks, but that is beside the point. He doesn't need that entire bag of tricks to sound great, so again this shows that rhythm, taste, knowledge of how to work within the limitations of the instrument are the necessary ingredients of the best quality music. I have heard that a few years ago he tried to place a student playing a 20 key hotrod Lachenal into his "advanced" class in the US, above other students who own but cannot fully control their more expensive 3 rows. The student with the 20 key had only been playing 6 months and was wise enough to want to stay with the intermediates, but the point is that she was successful in sounding good by the standards of Irish trad, and the other students playing “in more keys” and “with more keys” were not as successful. I wish more anglo students, especially those I see here in the US, would master a few simple tunes and make them honestly sound good rather than divide their energies among many different tunes (indifferently played) across the chromatic spectrum. I really think that by focusing in and getting a few tunes in a few keys just right and very solid rhythmically they would make much faster progress, even if their ultimate goal is to play in every key on a 3 row. And for this approach, a year or three on a hotrod 20 key would be a perfect foundation, no matter what "style" they want to achieve in the end. I’m saying that even if you wish to go for a modern style using the third row for ornaments, octaves, reversals, or chromaticism, you may achieve good rhythm (hence good quality) in that style faster by concentrating for a year or three on what can be learned from a good 2 row: posture, physical control of the keyboards and bellows, air supply, how to start and stop a note with split-second timing regardless of what was before or will come after, timing, accent, and articulation of successive notes, controlling air pressure on a traditional concertina reed, and of course the layout of the core keyboard of 20 buttons that are also most often played on a three row. Obviously everyone is different and good luck to everyone learning and teaching in the way they wish! However some curmudgeons believe that there is a lot of poorly-executed, complicated music being attempted (murdered some might say) in the name of "Irish style 3 row anglo" these days.... Maybe this is the sound that Dave Prebble criticizes above, believing it really to be Irish (or Irish-influenced) music, when it is just bad music. All the best, Paul
  5. Only 2 accidental buttons never stops me playing in C or A on the D/G meldoian or in D and F on my 22 G/C lachenal anglo. You either miss the note or drop down the octave for a a note or two. As to "...far too little.." I went to a cajun melodian work shop with Marc Savoy a few years ago where he happily played in every key imaginable on a one row C box by just ignoring the buttons he didnt have sounded great. His wife demonstrated the fact that the guitarist only needs to play one chord too; I kid not. Rythmn makes it all work. I could not agree more with this. In fact I have often argued (seemingly in vain) with so-called experts on this site about how much music (an infinity, really, or at least several lifetimes' repertoires) can be made with 10 key melodeons and 20 key german or anglo concertinas. The reason is exactly as you stated -- great rhythm (and decent choices within a limited range of notes) makes great traditional music almost no matter how few different notes you have to use. Conversely, no matter how complete the chromaticism of your instrument or your setting, less than perfect rhythm results in limp music. The best of the Irish 1-row melodeon players and the pre-WW2 generation of Irish anglo players made and make better music without "all the sharps and flats that you [supposedly] need" than many (most?) of today's players with fully chromatic instruments. That shows that it is a fallacy that quality Irish music requires, much less arises from, a chromatic instrument. Sometimes I fear having "all the notes," combined with an overly notation-influenced or intellectual approach to the music, can actually lead to worse music than would be played by an ear player with a 10 or 20 key diatonic instrument. Now, if you want to play Joplin rags, bebop, or Mozart these styles need a lot of notes. But on this site so much of the time it is the Irish music beginners who complain so bitterly of the cost or availability of 3 row anglos -- when all the time the lovely recordings of Mrs. Crotty, John Kelly, Kitty Hayes and many more demonstrate the way great music can be played with far fewer notes available. Paul
  6. MY THANKS TO ALL FOR THE INFORMATION SUPPLIED. I play concertina and like the net, so I thought I would go fishing here first - having read so many helpful comments in the forums. BEST TO ALL.....John You might want also to check out: www.irishdancemaster.com Paul
  7. I think the previous replies, though well-intentioned, missed the real question posed in your post. What have been my experiences? I have used a decent, reasonably priced Chinese stopped melodeon for the purpose you mention and it did work. So it is worth considering. However, a decent, even more reasonably priced Chinese bamboo backscratcher (such as the type carved and bent to resemble a monkey's hand) does an even better job. The suggestion above of a Parrot (or 2 rows of them?) is also worth considering. Good luck, Paul
  8. It is true, the time and money is mostly a waste, if your goal is to make one(!) good instrument and stick with it. But experience you get from all this "junk" is eye-opening. Not only you learn many skills, but you get to handle many types and systems, hear many different sounds and see in reality very unusual instruments from many parts of the world. Believe it or not, this really describes many of my activities the last 10 years! The good, general purpose instruments that I acquire or get into shape end up going to serious students who want one instrument, working as well as possible within their budget, and the oddball instruments that are special-purpose or weird (or in nonstandard pitches, keys, etc. but with a fine original quality that I cannot bear to compromise by re-forging them into more standard types) tend to accumulate on my own shelf. Not as a collection "just to own," but as examples of different, and sometimes historically significant, musical sounds that can still be used today by the open-eared. Paul (edited for spelling; also "moden" in my previous post should read "modern")
  9. Hi all, I enjoyed reading all the discussion here (to date). While I understand why some people have indicated they were offended by the initial post or subsequent comments, I think the passionate argument reveals a lot about the self-perceptions of some members of this forum, and that is always interesting to me. My first reaction to the entire discussion is that the idea of a "concertina community" needs further examination, if it means anything more than the sum of people who post to this internet site. There is also the idea of an "Irish traditional music community" which I think is probably many different, only partially overlapping, communities with very different values and motivations. For any kind of human community that is meaningful to me to have a future, it must invest heavily in the young. The adults and especially the most successful and established should be happy to sacrifice to provide opportunities, resources, knowledge and hope for the generations that will follow. My personal view is that in many ways our current culture in the US (and perhaps elsewhere) often falls far short of honoring this obligation. Some are happy to invoke the notion of community when in need themselves, but switch to more individualistic philosophy when they are asked to sacrifice. A famous cartoon by Toles called "The reading of the will" expresses my thoughts on this issue concisely, bringing together the rampant exploitation of natural resources, the problems of pollution (I'll add extinction of species), and deficit spending as examples of intergenerational selfishness. Back to concertinas and traditional music, we can all think of cases in which the adult do foster and support the young. It makes me very happy when I hear of an older musician loaning or giving an instrument to start a young person along. Of course those with vocations as music teachers or instrument repairers make a tremendous investment of time and energy, perhaps for very little pay compared to what they could make in other fields. And, as has been noted, the strange economics of the concertina seem to suggest that the fine instruments are still underpriced so that makers are working hard for little pay (sometimes for the benefit of impoverished musicians, but sometimes for the benefit of very successful and shrewd-dealing amateurs who have another livelihood, don't need extra concertinas or even the extra money, but do enjoy turning them for a profit). Generous behavior of all these types, and more, has to be voluntary of course, but it is also recognized as a form of leadership in a community that values its solidarity and its future. However, it has to be said that there are many whose involvement with the concertina and with traditional music seems to ask "what can this community/instrument/musical tradition do for me?" rather than "what can I do for this community/instrument/musical tradition?" Maybe this selfishness is normal for any hobby that adults choose. Certainly we all deserve to have some well-earned fun. My point, though, is that this activity really fosters community (in my definition) only when it is outgoing, supportive, and generous. In a community not only do the adults sacrifice and give to help the young, but also the young respect and follow the experienced. I call it a community if those who claim to love a form of music make an effort to support the most promising young talents and foster their efforts and dreams - for example by creating opportunities for professional, paid work - rather than being happy only when they, the "fans," are playing. I call it a community if those most talented (possibly professional) musicians have the opportunity to show their full integrity by developing their music to the highest levels. They repay the support and investment made in them by the rest of the community by undertaking this challenging, poorly-rewarded work and sharing its fruits, but also (to the extent possible, without compromising their art) by inviting respectful participation by all... by teaching the rest of us, trying to bring us along the path of understanding the music and playing a bit of it, as far as we can get. If the adults, the financially more powerful, the majority of the community don't do everything within their power to support the most talented of the young, then the majority may reap a certain amount of contempt in return as the young talents come to their powers. But I have seen young people who *were* supported and helped by their community, and their gratitude and respect for the community repays the older members in many ways. Then in turn they will sacrifice and give to those coming next. Maybe the notion of a concertina community is too loose or abstract for most to be worth major sacrifice to maintain it. I hope not. Now, I don't know dpmccabe, whether she or he is young, old, good, or bad. But the forgoing discussion, and my experience hearing and knowing some brilliant young musicians, inspired these thoughts. I hope the young and brilliantly talented will try to be charitable and patient with the rest of us, when they do acquire their dream concertinas and can play rings around us. I hope that we more established members of the "community" are doing all we can now to deserve this patience later! But mainly, whether they will respect me or condemn me as a selfish old fogey, I hope the up-and-coming players, and those to come later, will find a way to continue the tradition of this instrument that I love so much, and bring it to new heights. Paul
  10. Anthony, Re: do-it-yourself tuning, I agree with Rich entirely. Larry's point is also well taken, but a less immediate issue for you. Now you may be feeling like the parent of a kid who has brought home a $.25 goldfish and now needs to invest in a tank, filter, food, a place to put it and time and work to keep it going... But maybe it's just human nature to require some blind optimism (or very creative cost-accounting) before getting into a major new endeavor. Cf. parenthood, wars..... at least the first can be very positive in the long run, despite the rough patches. So many guys (and gals, but it seems mainly guys) who would hesitate to invest in a restored instrument for $1000 get pretty excited about a $300 project and hope that sweat equity will make up the difference. The truth (sometimes avoided for years or forever by amazing psychological maneuvers) is that this can be a very expensive way to go in money as well as time, and often fails to result in a playable instrument at all. The fantasy of not only sailing around the world, but first building your own boat, is appealing. But for most it remains a fantasy and if you want to start sailing a bit maybe better to begin in a reliable boat built by someone with well-developed skills. If you do decide to keep that concertina, I strongly suggest that you contact Rich's shop or another experienced pro to do the initial work. Further thoughts.... It *may* turn out that the instrument's internal tuning is good enough to play without messing with the reedwork, even if it is not in moden pitch or temperament. Also keep in mind that tuning concertinas requires some different tools, skills, and attitudes than tuning reed organs. Good luck, have fun, and best wishes! Paul
  11. [ Nick I don't know if he's still directly in the repair business or not, or if he would do tuning on instruments other than those he himself has sold, but I would recommend Paul Groff. I'm on my second Groff restored and tuned box would highly recommend his work to anyone. -David Thanks very much David, it's a pleasure to contribute to the work of such a talented and promising young player. However, I don't work on instruments except for my retail customers and students. Nick, since you have asked for suggestions, I have three ideas. Do NOT mean to impugn anyone by omitting them here -- I'm sure many would do a good job for you -- but speaking from my limited experience with other restorers, 1) Colin Dipper is my closest friend, hero, and mentor in concertina tuning and for that reason I always suggest calling him. My sense is that he is overworked and refusing new repair jobs also, but why not ask him yourself? 2) You mention a concern with shipping costs, and with cost in general. In North America, call the Button Box; I'm sure they will do excellent work and will save you on shipping. However, while on this subject, be careful what you communicate about your desire for inexpensive repairs (and this applies to any repairperson). For a top quality instrument I would always advise that you adopt the perspective that trying to go cheap on restoration may cost you much more in value over the long term. In the case of this instrument, anyone who works on it should be told that you don't want "the minimum," but want their best work even if more time-consuming and expensive. The quality and nature of repair work on a fine instrument obviously influence its sound and playability, but (especially if there is a major rise in prices, as with Jeffries anglos, pre-war Martin guitars, etc.) can sometimes affect resale worth by an order of magnitude! 3) You mention how much you appreciate Steve Dickenson's work on your other duet. If you know that he does them in a way that you like, why not give him your business again? Maybe like some other repairers he is not taking on work because the standard rates don't really make it worth his while (this is just speculation since I don't know him), but if he is hesitant to work with you again I would consider offering him a substantial premium. I bet that all the work he did for you, that has kept you playing for decades, seems ridiculously cheap now (perhaps to you, perhaps to him...), so why not reward him with your business and a big bonus to be paid if the work is completed very promptly. Moral of story, never ask for advice....;-)
  12. Hi Robin, I *think* you are asking this Paul ... anyway the "why" of the Bb/Ab/Eb would have to be a surmise on my part, since I only have the internal evidence of the instruments, and the experience of seeing what works (from my perspective) in playing the system. But, more generally, Ab/Eb (in more standard 3 row configuration) was a common key for Jeffries (usually in pitches from A = 439 to 453). Ab/Eb anglos have a uniquely resonant sound; low enough to avoid all shrillness yet not as boomy or slow as the lower pitches. They work very well with (some) male voices and also for tunes (can be played equally well along the rows, or in "C/G fingering," or yet again in "G/D fingering"). And of course, for playing with wind instruments Ab, Eb, and Bb -- the major keys with the most options on a standard Ab/Eb -- are very handy keys. However on a standard Ab/Eb 3 row, of course the key of Bb major must be crossfingered like D major on a standard C/G. Specifically for the Bb/Ab/Eb concertinas, I surmise that the several of these I have seen were commissioned by players who wanted all these features of an Ab/Eb, but whose style emphasized more playing along the rows, so preferred to have the third row in Bb to allow playing that key on the row like the other two keys. I think Geoff Crabb has mentioned various 3 or 4 row custom anglos being built by the Crabb firm, with each row in one key (indeed John Crabb may have made some of the Jeffries like this). I have also heard of players from the English folk revival re-tuning 44-48 key Jeffries or Crabbs to a system of C/G/D/A or similar. I love all these expressions of originality and individuality -- again, they remind me of guitar styles using alternative tunings for the strings (Hawaiian slack key, blues, etc.). But again, they are only an invitation to lots more work learning to make use of their options, not a "magic bullet" that will solve the problem of learning to play for beginners. If you are going to learn to play one anglo very well, the standard Lachenal and Jeffries 3 row systems have a lot to recommend them. Paul
  13. Hi Jody, Although I am repeating a previous posting again, I always say that what any novel keyboard layout really needs is a very good musician to stick with it and learn its ins and outs -- how to get the music out of it that "you were looking for" and then also what unexpected features pop up that can also be musically effective. I really believe that *any* conceivable layout can shown to be effective in making great music if a great musician chooses to make that layout her/his mode of musical expression over a period of many years. Unfortunately, most people experimenting with new layouts seem to be beginners who are attempting to "outsmart" the long and difficult process of learning to play by developing a "magic layout" that makes playing "easy." I think most of these folks may be better off with a more standard layout so they can benefit from more opportunities for help from other musicians, rather than a personal, customized design. But whatever makes music fun for you! I got a good bit of music out of all those concertinas, and not only playing on the rows. As someone who has played a lot of guitar (and other fretted instruments) in different tunings, I just figured out where the notes I wanted were and tried to remember those button positions (and bellows directions) when I needed them. I think that all those systems have their own advantages, as no doubt does John Hazelhurst's. To the many beginning and intermediate players who frequent this board, though, I remind them that whether you learn to drive in a Chevy, Toyota or Studebaker is probably not so important as lots of time developing a feel for the rules of the road, steering, braking, active perception, etc. -- that is, general skills that apply whatever your gear (though the details of *how* to apply them may differ depending on your gear). Paul
  14. Hi Jody, This reminds me of several non-standard layouts I have seen in original Jeffries and Lachenal 3 row anglos. One lovely old 31 key Jeffries had the middle row in Ab and the inside row in Eb, but the outside row in Bb - making it somewhat analogous to the layout you have presented, but transposed down a major third (discounting the fact that the one I saw was still in old pitch, unequal temperament). The biggest difference however was that in that 31 key all the comparable notes of each key (doh, etc.) lined up. I note that in the layout you show, the D scale on the right hand side is displaced, presumably to allow for a more "standard" (Wheatstone/Lachenal!) position for the C#/Eb button on the RH first finger 3rd row. I am pretty sure I have also seen a Bb/F with the outside row in C. I have also seen several Lachenal and Jeffries with the third row tuned uniformly one half step up from the middle row, e.g. A/E with the third row in Bb etc. These would be the transposed equivalent of a C/G with the third row a complete C# diatonic scale (as has been noted, the standard 3 row anglo layouts are not too far from this anyway, in places). I am pretty sure I have mentioned these nonstandard layouts in previous postings to this site, and if I am not mistaken Jim Lucas came up with an unambiguous way to name them. The trick is that when we discuss a "3 row standard C/G" we are listing the middle and then the inside row, so if we call a nonstandard 3 row a "C#/C/G" (etc.) there may be some risk of confusion. As I have also noted before, a century ago when someone commissioned a fine anglo he might sometimes have been playing a good time and accumulated some interesting personal preferences, evidently resulting in customized layouts and tuning such as I have seen. When we encounter unmodified original instruments today, there is often much that can be learned from them if we take the time to do so, before hastening to "restore" them to our own tastes or the tastes of some standardized "market" for resale. Paul
  15. I don't know (with my limited experience) how rare Jeffries 36 Button anglos are, I've never seen another, but I have no doubt that the knowledgeable readers of this forum are the people to ask. Maybe there are more 36 button Jeffries out there. One oddity on it is that the top push B on the G row is actually a Bb, which can be useful in Gm, but can be frustrating at other times. Does have anyone else have this button tuned to Bb? Clive, It is common for John Crabb and Jeffries C/G anglos to have that button tuned Bb (press)/G# (draw), especially when they have more than 31 buttons. It is more-or-less "standard" (with exceptions of course) on the 38 and 44 key anglos. Early Crabbs and Jeffries with buttons layouts between 31 and 38 buttons are not uncommon, and some have 36 keys. What is unusual about Des's William Jeffries is that the 36 buttons are physically arranged like those of a 36 key Wheatstone, i.e. in 3 rows of 6 buttons each per side. Can't remember, but Des's instrument may also have a LH thumb button making it really a 37 key + air. But in many hundreds of instruments I can't remember having previously seen that (3 X 6) + (3 X 6) keypad on any John Crabb or Jeffries family instrument. Later Crabb family anglos seem often to have been made in the patterns more typical for Lachenals/Wheatstones (30, 32, 36, 40 keys sometimes with additional keys for novelty effects), as well as in configurations like the early John Crabb and Jeffries anglos. I'm not saying there were no other such early Crabb or Jeffries with the same button pattern as Des's, just that I haven't seen them yet. Together with the flat levers, that makes the construction of this William Jeffries interesting to me. However, as Des may want to share, others of its features are decidedly non-Wheatstone-like. Paul
  16. Robin, Don't contradict ceemonster.....his/her point of view that players "should" not pay those prices for great old concertinas, but purchase new, accordion-reeded instruments instead, is actually the best hope that prices for the vintage ones will not go higher! Ceemonster, You are absolutely right. The vintage, unrestored concertinas with original, craftsman-made reeds are very poor value now and I agree that the rest of you "should" stop bidding them up. It's contrary to the spirit of "the music." Instead, the dealers "should" buy them, restore them, and sell them to excellent players in Ireland who understand their true value as instruments with the quality of a fine piano or violin, but much more rare. And, ceemonster, if you succeed in discouraging others from bidding on them, Robin or I may have a better chance to pick up the odd one also. And when you are done with concertinas, could you please get to work on the market for houses. My family would like to own one of them someday. An aside, I was very disappointed to read Bill McHale, who was arguing similar points (relative value of traditionally reeded vs. accordion-reeded concertinas) for so long, start to discuss ordering a Suttner. I wish those of you who are championing the new accordion-reeded instruments would just have the courage of your convictions and stick with them, and show us over a committed lifetime of playing all their possibilities for making great music. I'm serious here. That's what the Fender electric guitar players did when the players and makers of more expensive archtop electrics mocked the "plank guitars." Paul
  17. Ken, Interesting article, and great that you found a solution that lets you control the instrument without injuring yourself. My take on your approach is that you might not have the problem that I mentioned with raised ends, because (unlike me) you do not maintain contact between the heel of your hand and the corner of fretwork that is delimited by the handrail. Correct me if I'm wrong in my observation; I've never seen or heard you play in person, but it looks as though the heels of your hands "float." I know I have to give up some subtlety in control of the ends when I have to play on an instrument that prevents the heel of my hand from applying variable pressure directly on that corner. But again that's because I learned to operate the concertina using such pressure as a variable. All these technique issues are very personal and there are many solutions that can work well and sound well for different players. On the other hand, from the number of players who have trouble controlling their instruments or who develop tendonitis/carpal tunnel etc., there are evidently approaches that are "wrong," at least for those players! Paul
  18. Hi all, Rich is right of course about multi-ply veneer on Wheatstones and Lachenals, and the techniques, and Jim's latest post is consistent with the raised-end Wheatstones I have seen -- they are thinner than flat-topped ones at the banding (casework side edges). This could possibly lead to a weight savings, all else being equal, but of course there may be some extra weight in the raised vs. flat tops themselves. An aside: in the US, selllers of flat-ended concertinas with a molded edge (e.g. a typical 30 key rosewood Lachenal anglo) have often incorrectly listed these as having "raised ends." I once tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to get Elderly Instruments (who would never be caught listing a D 28 Martin as a D 35) to correct this mistake. I think the error comes from a false analogy with the way the term is used in cabinetmaking ("raised panel" doors etc.). My main point (below) will not apply to most english-system players or to angloists/duettists who control the ends differently than I do. But FWIW, I personally prefer to keep both wrists relatively straight and stably braced while playing. That is, the long bones in my hand are more or less in line with the long bones of my forearm. I avoid flexing my wrists (or even keeping them in a stable sharp-angled, backbent position as many players do). Long experience with piano, guitar, and other instruments has taught me that the flat-wrist posture is much easier on the tendons -- less friction among the internal "working parts" when your forearm muscles make your fingers move. Lack of flexing and twisting at the wrist joint (though requiring long practice to achieve with control and comfort) also creates a very stable platform for accurate bellows control and fingering. (Again I stress that many players succeed in sounding great despite using a different posture than mine.) There are several consequences of the approach I prefer. First, it leads me to prefer a low handrail (wooden bar that supports the palm) exactly as dimensioned and positioned on many original early Jeffries and John Crabb anglos. Second, this approach implies a relatively closely-adjusted (but not constricting) handstrap with a relatively narrow region between the thumb and index finger. Third, for my fairly large hands and long fingers I prefer a button spacing that gets these buttons well away (but not TOO far away) from the handrails, so that my fingertips come vertically down on the middle row buttons, and have to angle only slightly for the inside and outside row buttons. Again, many original 19th century Jeffries and Crabb 31 key instruments are set up just right for my hand with this technique. This may mean the players who commissioned them had similar hand dimensions and technique...or that they had different hands with a different technique to compensate! (Anyway it certainly explains why I like the ergonomics of many stock, original early Jeffries anglos). Quite a few Wheatstone and Lachenal anglos have the inside row, index finger buttons a little close to the rails for my preference, but still my posture works fine for them. The difference I detect may reflect the lengths of my particular index fingers rather than the general wrist posture. Finally, all this means that the "heel" of my hand (fleshy pad of lower palm side just beyond the wrist) can easily contact and brace against part of the fretted ends (tops) of the concertina, creating a counterforce against the straps. With practice, you can create the effect of a very stable and well controlled pair of keyboards, rather than the jumping, wriggling, unpredictable creature that many beginning angloists appear to be wrassling. And -- here is the relevance to the thread: * raised ends are often a disadvantage in this context. * Raised ends usually require a higher handrail (at least on the near side) than flat ends, to put the fingertips on the buttons properly. But this means that the fretwork is farther away from the heel of the hand, so putting a subtle, precise, controlled pressure against the fretwork there is more work. And the hand is more likely to bend into that sharp double angle (rather than a flat wrist and gentle arc of fingers) that has given many anglo players repetitive-motion problems over the years. I have often seen angloists and concertina repairmen try to overcome problems in accommodating large hands to short button spacing, etc., via high handrails. I know a lot of you may be used to playing on these high rails. Fair enough if they work for you. However, given the number of hours I have logged trying to get the anglo to make music, I am sure my posture has helped me avoid tendonitis and related problems. So I avoid raised-end anglos -- going Colin Dipper one further, if I had to pay extra for the flat ones, I would! Still, as a musician I have learned how to make raised ends work for me when I need to play an instrument that has them. Paul (edited for spelling)
  19. Hi all, I certainly don't want to contribute to the over-commercialization of holidays that some of you may be experiencing this month. However it is a fact that gifts are given in many parts of the world at this time of year. Some of you may have friends or relatives whose love for the concertina may need further cultivation. Some of you may have family members anxious to know what gifts *you* might appreciate. "Anglo International" is the obvious answer for those who still haven't bought a copy. I think the specialized shops that have this wonderful cd for sale are listed above in this thread. I finally got my shipment and can promise you "holdouts" that, when you are lucky enough to get yours, you will clear a special place for it near your cd player. "Thank you again" to Alan Day, Graham, and all the other musicians who made this project so inspiring!
  20. Hi all, I'm sure Geoff Crabb could tell us a lot about these. I have seen early (J. Crabb) instruments with frettted metal sides to the action case (such as those once owned by Peter Bellamy and by Scan Tester) and also at least one similar with C. Jeffries stamp. If memory serves these other concertinas had thinner vines to the fretwork and no cartouche on the LH side. The one in this ebay auction has a couple of features that suggest a later date to me -- just a hunch really. I bet the layout as listed for the LH side is twisted a bit (i.e. does not really show what the instrument has) but again who can know for sure without the instrument in hand. The 48 keys might come in handy for those now busting fingers to learn the Blakeney-Edwards arrangements from the brilliant new "Anglo International" cd (see other threads about this). Paul
  21. Hi Jim, All interesting points, but the tuning of octaves particularly interests me. It is certainly possible for two reeds of a concertina that are an octave apart to sound out-of-tune and to beat when played together. So if there is some kind of physical coupling that brings the pitch of the two reeds together, it does not always function. Maybe what you have noticed is due to the different effects of changing pressure on pitch, for reeds at different pitches. Because of this, there is usually only one bellows pressure (light, medium, strong, etc.) at which two reeds an octave apart can be tuned beatless. If the octaves are set true for medium pressure, then at high pressure the low reed will usually go "flatter" than the higher reed, and at low pressure the low reed will be "sharper" than the higher reed. I think that a lot of the art in concertina tuning has to do with the choice of the exact bellows pressures used to set each set of the octaves true. This choice might be influenced by the stiffness of the reeds, the bellows, the response of the action, the weight of the instrument -- and of course the style of the player. Obviously no matter how fancy an electronic tuner you use, and no matter how delicate your filing, there is no substitute for the touch of a player when it comes to this aspect of tuning. Some sensitive players, especially if playing in situations where they are playing sustained tones and can hear themselves very well, will naturally tend to adjust the pressure as they play various octaves, to bring them into tune. But if these octaves have been set to uneven or inappropriate pressures, this makes extra work, and likelihood of error, for the player. On the other hand, a concertina whose tuning has been really well-balanced (from this point of view) may even help the player to keep the octaves in tune. Another possible explanation for your observation is that some people seem to prefer very high-pitched sounds to be a little sharp of "true," from a mathematical point of view, especially when played sequentially with other pitches. That is, what sounds "in tune" to them is a high reed that is actually sharp and would beat against the next octave down if they were played simultaneously. I think, but am not sure, that this issue is distinct from the issue of "inharmonicity" that is involved in "stretching" the octaves when tuning pianos. At least in the realms of folk and traditional musical styles I think there is a lot of room for more research on these subjects. Paul
  22. Hi Frank, Thanks for the clarification. In view of your prestige as a player, teacher, tuner and maker, I was concerned that some would read your comments as a dismissal of any practical utility for non-ET tuning. So I felt I had to launch a tough defense of our discussion here up to that point! I also agree with what you have just written, and was just about to post: Allan, (re: open chord voicings) An excellent point, though these aspects of harmony/orchestration could be a thread in their own right. Due to the additional distance between their fundamentals (and thus between their partials), major and minor sixths (in a sense, "inverted thirds") will tend to sound better than major and minor thirds on the concertina, and "tenths" better yet. But in each of these cases, when playing the same interval and voicing, a concertina tuned with thirds pure (or narrower than in ET) will sound much warmer and less harsh/buzzy than will a concertina tuned to ET. On many concertinas, when playing thirds in the second octave above middle c, the "difference tones" (that can be heard as additional notes combined with the ones intended) are very audible. In ET these come in as extra notes that are grossly out-of-tune with the two notes of the third, and make such thirds almost unusable musically. In 1/4 comma meantone however, the thirds are glorious, all the way up. On the other hand, the fifths in 1/4 comma meantone are pretty active, maybe even harsh to many ears. If your style emphaizes harmonies in fifths and you never play thirds, ET might really be a better option than 1/4 comma. I personally would hate to play the concertina without the option of adding thirds, sixths, and tenths "Just tuning" (when you are playing in the keys in which the tuning really gives just intervals) gives you both (some) fifths and (some) major thirds that are uncompromised, and the sound that results can really spoil your ears... This may be one reason many Irish pipers are so loyal to the wonderful sound of their instrument, and why some actually resent having to play with instruments tuned to ET. BTW I have encountered pipers who are surprised that my non-ET concertinas do not clash with their music as much as they might usually expect. More food for thought, in the context of Chris’s project Paul
  23. Hi Frank, Since you don't seem to mind the sound of harmonies in equal temperament, this discussion may indeed seem interesting to you only "from an academic point of view." But to many musicians (and many of these completely unschooled in music theory) it's just about the very practical, visceral issue of how beautiful the music sounds. I think the point of Chris's question and of his plans so far is that he would like his concertina to recreate the tuning of the Irish pipes, with a view to emulating the moving, pure and resonant harmonies that he hears in the music of Willie Clancy and others. Whether you are a good player or a bad player and whether you play with other musicians or not, harmonies on the concertina will not sound like the characteristic harmonies created on the Irish pipes if the concertina is in equal temperament. The points you raise are not really relevant to his aim. Of course, the concertina is not the pipes. There are things the pipes can do that the concertina cannot, and vice-versa. So in my personal view the tuning that seems to be preferred for the Irish pipes (we might say that this is in fact the "standard" for THAT instrument) may not be the ideal for concertinas, even they are used in playing Irish music. But it is significant that many concertina players do prefer the sound of thirds that are pure (or purer than in ET), when they have a chance to hear them, as Theo and others have noted. The harsh thirds of ET to which many of us grew accustomed while learning music from pianos, etc., are even more offensive to a sensitive ear when played on the concertina (especially in its treble range), compared with most instruments. These thirds can be dramatically improved, at least in a core group of preferred keys, by use of any of the alternative tunings or temperaments that have been discussed in this thread (excluding equal temperament and "Pythagorean tuning"). And as mentioned in previous threads, the meantone temperaments actually seem to be original and perhaps formative for the early history of the English-fingering concertina, and have a special role in playing some of the repertoire for that instrument. To single out Colin Dipper's melodeon in the context of this discussion suggests that, today, deviations from equal temperament are few or anomalous. But in fact, leaving aside whole genres such as cajun music, a good number of the best players of free reed instruments use instruments in non-ET tunings and temperaments as an important part of their sound (see for example Peter Laban's comments above). Yet beautiful harmony need not be restricted to the best musicians. Any concertinist who uses chords can benefit from having the thirds sweetened, from his or her first day of playing. There will continue to be an important role for equal temperament, especially for those who can and do play in all 12 keys on the same instrument. But for the concertinists whose playing is concentrated in a few keys and their modes (probably most of us), there are many tuning options that will sweeten the thirds considerably. Paul
  24. eskin, How do you like the MicroTrack? It looked good to me from the specs but it has been slammed in some early reviews. I heard there was a firmware upgrade but have not heard if this was successful. Interested to hear how it is working for you. Paul PS someone buy his Sony, that's a great unit
  25. Chris, There are a lot of good reasons to prefer the "cents" notation and I for one am more familiar with it. So, I won't comment on your "just tempered scale" except that 1) Just intonation is not tempered, by definition, and 2) so-called "just scales" in common use (with 7 notes for a major scale or 12 notes for the 12 notes/octave of a piano keyboard, etc.) actually contain some "unjust intervals," that while not tempered, are not very useful musically. The second point is the one that I made previously re: the intervals E-B and C-E. It is also the reason that I am suspicious of the frequently published statements such as "the scale in just intonation is...." In fact "just intonation" refers to the purity of harmony at any one time in the music, and for many types of music, no single tuning for instruments of fixed pitch will insure that the music played will always be in just intonation. Finally, it looks to me as though 480 Hz is more than "a little lower" than the B corresponding to A 440 in ET. More like about halfway between Bb and B. With this in mind, you might want to look around for an old-pitch concertina in Ab/Eb high pitch (A =453 or so) as a starting point. Jeffries made some great ones, but there are Lachenals around in that key and pitch also. I'm not trying to undercut your efforts here, only to help you refine them. Good luck! Paul
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