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Paul Groff

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  1. David, There is a habit in Irish music of omitting the "#" when writing the notes "F#" and "C#." This is not universal, but common enough that it is a “slang” that needs to be understood to communicate with many excellent players. This may have come about through the illiteracy, or near-illiteracy, of some players and teachers (to be fair, for hundreds of years a good few of the best players of Irish traditional harp, pipes, and fiddle were blind), and from the emphasis on the natural scale of D as a point of reference, rather than that of C for “standard” (European) written notation. Thus the Irish have often notated the D major scale: D E F B A B C d. I think the Scottish highland pipers use a similar shorthand. Keep in mind that in both cases (highland pipes and Irish pipes) we are talking about a very characteristic set of pitches that do not correspond exactly with the pitches that most contemporary keyboard players would have used, even back when those keyboards were also not in ET, so in a sense to notate this scale D E F# G A B C# d might also have been misleading! At any rate, in his discussion of the ET'd concertina he heard I believe Peter was referring to the notes you would call d and f#. Note that I do not imply by illiteracy any lack of quality! Remember Homer, et al. The finest tradition of Irish instrumental music has been described by O'Riada as an "orally transmitted art music" (i. e., not a "folk music"), analogous to the art music of India. The failure to adhere to a particular notational convention should not draw attention from the brilliance of the Irish piping tradition, in its own terms. Allan, One interesting source that compares several of the historically significant microtonal/enharmonic/syntonic/meantone fingering charts published for violin is P. Barbieri's article "Violin intonation: a historical survey," published in Early Music in 1991. Barbieri reproduces and analyzes the chart by Geminiani, but also those by Galeazzi, Warren, Loehlein, etc. A very interesting issue (and very relevant both to "fine traditional" and "amateur folk" fiddling) is whether the open strings were/are tuned to pure, or ET, or 1/4 comma -narrowed (etc.) fifth intervals. I'm sure there are many other reproductions and discussions of these charts but that is one article I have to hand. PG
  2. Chris, Thanks for the link - that's a very useful website. Its detail might intimidate some, and some technical niceties might confuse the novice. E.g., it is technically true that "equal temperament is a special class of meantone," but in ordinary usage most of us find it clearer to employ the term "meantone" only when referring to the non- (equal temperament) meantone scales. Let me know what tuning you choose (in the sense of, “how you choose to have your instrument tuned”) and how it works for you! Allan, Those are also great references that I too recommend. Like you, I distinguish between the terms "tuning" and "temperament" (see my posts in previous threads on this site), although the former term has multiple meanings. Specifically, a scale based on “just intonation” is a tuning, but not a temperament. But your clarification may help some readers here -- I realize that when I wrote "tuning(s) or temperament(s)" some might read this usage as implying equivalence, when I meant it to imply two alternatives. Paul
  3. Chris, Despite my efforts one year, I don't play the Irish pipes. Peter Laban may have some good advice for you here. But it is my understanding that, on an unkeyed chanter the pitch of the notes D# (or Eb, which is of course a different pitch in some temperaments and tunings), G# (Ab, ditto), Bb (A#, ditto), and F natural are mainly controlled by the tuning of the other notes I mentioned, plus the particular fingering and bellows pressure used. SO they would not be independently tuned by the maker....except in that the bore, reed, and hole positions and dimensions relevant to those notes might cause a compromise in the "set" tuning of the 8 notes I mentioned in my previous post. (The D#/Eb note might be an exception here but I haven't seen a reference to any "standard" target pitch for this). Again, keep in mind that the player of Irish pipes has some latitude to push each pitch around while playing. On a keyed chanter, there will be separate holes for some or all of these "extra" notes. For the "target pitches" used to size and position those holes, you will have to consult one of the makers. G# could be tuned pure with E, Bb with D, F with A (or with C!) , D# with B (or Eb with G)....there are many possible ways to continue to make "just intervals" as you fill in the scale. But remember, as I noted before, even within the 8 notes I gave before there are already the "unjust intervals" E-B and C-E, so from that point of view it is really not the whole tuning that is "just." Pipe tuning merely includes MANY just fifths and major thirds. Best wishes, Paul (Edited for spelling and greater clarity. I now see that I also made some typos in my other posts but don't like to edit a post once there has been a response. Hope the meaning is clear.)
  4. Hi Doug, Thanks for your interest. Would you or anyone who owes you a favor like to hire me as a professor, musicologist, curator, or even librarian so that I can make a living doing this? Seriously, I am glad if you (or anyone else) have found my contributions to these discussions helpful. It is my pleasure and my nature to teach and to be forthcoming with information. But in this country, where expenses for raising children are so great and where support for my kind of art and research is so meager, it would be irresponsible to my family for me to give everything away. I do have a business and if you ever were to patronize it you might find that I am even more generous and helpful to my customers than to the public at large. I do promise it all will be published someday!
  5. Hi everyone, It warms my heart to see such interest and enthusiasm for tunings "outside the equal-temperament box"! I would like to caution those new to this subject (and maybe some who are not) that in the preceding discussion some technical terms have been used haphazardly or even incorrectly. Anyone who would like to learn more about tuning and temperament can find excellent books and articles on the subject in any music library (or email me for particular references). Some of this books have very useful glossaries that I recommend. A few specifics: "meantone" is not equivalent to "unequal temperament," or to "just intonation." There is only one "equal temperament (with 12 tones to the octave)." There are many, many unequal temperaments and tunings, some of which are meantone and some not, some of which have more or fewer than 12 tones to the octave. In my own work I always emphasize the difference between a tuning or temperament that includes one or more pure intervals, and a "just tuning," some times called "just intonation." In fact my personal view is that the concept that there is only one "just intonation" is flawed, especially as applied to traditional music and instruments such as the german/anglo concertinas or the diatonic accordion family. Thus, as Theo noted, 1/4 comma meantone (but NOT other meantone temperaments) has major thirds that are pure or just, but it is not what is normally considered to be "just intonation." The fifths in meantone temperaments are narrow, as has been noted. As David points out, the theoretical concept of "Pythagorean tuning" has major fifths that are pure or just, but the thirds are wider than in ET and very harsh. Stephen makes an important point, implicitly -- perhaps suggesting that the "cajun accordion tuning(s)" used by Louisiana builders today may well have a partial ancestry in the unequal-tempered tunings of the prewar German accordions such as the Monarch etc? That has always been my speculation also. These older German accordions (I don't mean the later version of the Hohner 1 row) were still being played by some cajun musicians during the time that the first Louisiana-made instruments were being developed. The cajun tunings are different than the German tunings (e. g., I have heard that some makers actually sharpen the F for a pure F-A), but both share very pure triads on the tonic and dominant chords in the home key of the instrument. It may ALSO be true that the cajun fiddlers independently preferred pure fifths and/or thirds, as do many traditional fiddlers, and perhaps the fiddle styles favored such intervals even before the accordion was introduced into this music. Marc Savoy knows more about the cajun instruments and their history than I may ever learn, but it surprises me that the old German accordion tunings are rarely given credit for their possible contribution. Back to the question that started this discussion.There is a scale for "just intonation" that has sometimes been published in the context of tuning the Irish pipes. Basically, this is a scale for the D major diatonic scale, plus the note C natural, and is designed so that the following fifths are pure: C-G, G-D, D-A, A-E And the following thirds are pure: D-F#, G-B, A-C# This scale allows the fifths and major thirds most commonly played on the Irish pipes (including regs and drones) to be pure. In deviation (cents) from equal temperament, this is one version: D-0, E-+3.9, F# -13.7, G -2, A +2, B -15.7, C -3.9, C# -11.7. Note that this leaves the fifth E-B and the third C-E very raucous! You can certainly tune your concertina to this scale and it will sound BRILLIANT for much Irish traditional music played in the traditional keys, especially if you play with pipes or other drones. But this scale does not tell you how to tune D#, G#, Bb, F natural. And no matter how you tune these latter notes, if you "pipe-tune" the keys of D and G, playing in some of the other keys often used on the anglo will sound pretty wild. If you want to sweeten the tone of a concertina without going all the way to "pipe tuning," the various mean-tone and well-tempered scales are alternatives, as are some special tunings that were actually used in the 19th century by the anglo makers themselves, and that are the subject of my ongoing research. I have also invented some new tunings and temperaments that can be useful for particular purposes. Ultimately the choice of how you tune your instrument is part of your musical expression, and the comments by Jim, Allan, Geoff, and others illustrate that this choice also needs to be considered in the social context of your music making. I do want to salute the pipers, though. For the most part, they have been loyal to the traditional sound of their instrument, which is really inseparable from its unequal-tempered tuning, and this shows great integrity. The same for the cajun accordionists. In a way, I wish the anglo players had shown more loyalty to the old sound, rather than going so heavily for equal temperament in the 20th century. But that is just my personal opinion – and I do use ET myself very often. One last point - pipes do have an advantage over concertinists in that the pitch of notes played on the chanter is much more adjustable by the player in real-time, using alternate fingerings and subtle pressure changes. This gives a good piper the ability to fit fairly well with fretted instruments if desired, and then to play a solo spot with drones and regulators with the most splendid pure harmonies. Paul Edited only to add: I see that now some of those who misused technical terms have edited their posts (above in this thread), subsequent to my original post here. This is good if it reflects a learning curve, but it does make the original course of the discussion here hard to follow now! PG
  6. Hi Jim, Kurt, and all, Jim, I don't have time right now to confirm the details of your post but taking it all as accurate, I think your argument is excellent. Nothing wrong with reversibly modifying a Crane as you suggest, to see if that helps your music. However, it seems to me that the result will have the fingers lying on the buttons in a different way (relative to the handrails) than just "playing as if in C" and having the instrument transpose that pattern to D. The latter is my notion of a transposing instrument. The choice between the two (as long as careful reversibility is maintained) is really a matter of preference. However Malcolm had commented that to convert the whole instrument up a step would be hard to reverse, and I aimed to show that was not necessarily so. Tedious, I grant you! Re: Kurt’s comments in the original thread (I am paraphrasing): "no one plays a transposing piano keyboard", * "the standard for an instrumentalist is to play in all keys," etc. I anticipated these criticisms when I defended the "transposing duet/english" concept and I half agree with them, as a piano player myself. For a very serious musician with dedication to master their entire instrument, of course all keys and fingerings (and every other dimension of musical expression) beckon and challenge. But even in the "classical music" world there are reeds and horns pitched in F, Bb, Eb etc. These transposing instruments are set up as they are to facilitate the fingering, to increase reliability, and to get closer to the range, and the tone, most desired. The "double french horns" have a valve to switch between two different (typically non- C) keys, that is analogous to the capo used on guitars! In this context, keep in mind that music for a Bb brass instrument could be read by players of "Bb" transposing concertinas. And what about those guitar capos...in the folk and traditional music world, they are used very widely by players, often of excellent and/or professional standard, to get the effect they want: a particular fingering they already know and prefer, but in a range (and often a timbre) that is different from the one this same fingering gives in the "normal" key. Again this is the role of a transposing concertina. Obviously the "Bb" englishes and duets were made to make life easier for players at the time they were made. More than a few such instruments were made, and so we can reasonably conclude they were successful, at least for some. Similar transposing instruments (and possibly "new" ideas such as Malcolm's) might have even more application today. Remember that not all players of the concertina will have the time or dedication to master all keys on the instrument. As much as I would like to encourage the highest standards of concertina playing (in all styles including totally original styles), for the sake of the instrument's future, I know that many adult beginners gravitate to the concertina exactly BECAUSE it is so easy to succeed in learning to play just a few, very simple, pieces. These are players who might never have gotten beyond screeches and scratches on the violin or feeble hoots on the flute. Probably (as George Bernard Shaw implied) this has always been an important function for the concertina -- to make a little uncomplicated music very easy for the amateur to achieve. Of course playing any music VERY WELL is never simple, no matter how easy it may be to get out the notes in order...but even getting to the baby steps on many other instruments can be much more challenging. Anyway this is part of the charm of this instrument, to give a musical voice to many hobbyists who might otherwise not have found one. And if a transposing instrument helps them get on more easily with what they want to do (or maybe even if they THINK it will) then why shouldn't they have one? & Jim thanks for your agreement on the singer's range issue. Yes, this was probably not the reason for most transposing instruments of the past (concertina bands or mixed bands with brass might have been the reason), but might be a reason to have some more made today. Paul * Actually the “electronic transpose” function on electronic keyboards seems to get used A LOT by many players I know.
  7. Hi all, As more of a "fan" than a serious player of the system, I really like the Crane layout also. And although it may be heresy to many duet and english players, I also like the idea of instruments that transpose up or down, to facilitate playing in the unusual keys. I am surprised that more transposing concertinas are not used today, especially by singers, to put the easiest and fullest keys available on the instrument in tune with the favorite keys for a voice, etc. E.g., if you love to sing in Bb or A, wouldn't it be great to have the instrument go down to a low tonic note in those keys rather than a C? I know bigger duets are available with lower ranges, but of course at greater weight and cost. Malcolm, Since you asked for comments about bringing a standard Crane layout up to a "D" core.... do you have a few spare reeds available? If so, what *I* would consider doing in your situation is to repitch the whole instrument "reversibly". I suggest you move every reed in your Crane so that it is in a slot originally designated for a reed 1 step lower in pitch. I.e., move every D reed to a "C position slot," every D# to a C# position, etc. In most cases I would expect each reed to be a slightly loose fit in its new position, and so will need a small paper or cardboard shim (such shimming is easily reversible without any alterations to the reeds or to the reedpans). As an experienced restorer I know you will know how to insure the reeds will be just tight enough in their new positions, that they are situated so the tongues clear the airways, etc. Obviously a couple of original reeds will be left over at the low end (and also at the low end of the "overlap" or "double manual" region), and a couple of extra, unoriginal reeds will be needed to be inserted at the top of the range (and also at the high end of the "overlap"). I haven’t worked this out on paper with a Crane 48 layout to hand, but it might only be as few as 4 extra reeds that would be needed…if the layout isn't fully chromatic at the top of the range, maybe it would be 6, 8, or 10 extra reeds needed. But this would be a completely reversible alteration, and would also have the advantage of requiring only very minor retuning of tongues, if any (assuming they are in tune to begin with). Finally, the interval relationships of the entire Crane keyboard would be preserved -- just pitched up one full step. Some detailed notes of what reed came from where, which are unoriginal to the instrument, etc., (along with the removed original reeds) could be kept in a safe place near the concertina to insure that the original condition can be restored if desired in the future. Of course, if the main point is to try your suggested "modified Crane layout" with different internal intervals between the buttons, rather than to bring as much of the instrument as practicable up a tone, that is a different issue. I would be interested to hear how the project turns out. Paul
  8. Hi all A nice model Crabb english from the 1970s ought to be worth at least as much as a comparable model Lachenal or Wheatstone in comparable condition. An exact appraisal is never possible without the instrument in hand to evaluate the MANY dimensions of its condition, playability, appearance, and tone, and would also have to reflect the fact that even the same concertina will have a different value in different geographic regions, or when sold by a professional (with a guarantee) vs. by a private seller. Yes, accurate information and a local service warranty do add value to an item for sale. An anglo with 48 keys (although possibly a bit heavy for most players) might be worth more as was noted above. A 48 key Crane duet might possibly be worth a bit less (to my customers, FWIW) since most duettists seem to be requesting larger instruments. FWIW, I just sold a lovely 1904 31 key Crabb C/G anglo (ME, BB) on consignment for $6000 US. It was a restoration (including superb Dipper bellows) that had a few years of playing on it but is still playing well and sounding great! I also have an earlier (probable) Crabb with Jeffries stamp, also a consignment, for $5500. And also recently sold a wrecked one (really a major restoration project) for $2000. So they aren't ALL 6K GBP. But to EXACTLY replace Mr. Kirkpatrick's prized 40 key instrument at today's labor costs would indeed be expensive and might take a while even were he given the special treatment he well deserves! It is great news that Geoff Crabb has made new Crabb concertinas recently and of course I'm hoping he will post his thoughts to this thread. Re: prices for Dippers, you can contact Colin and Rosalie for their estimates of delivery time and cost, but a better indication of their market value is the price they fetch when someone has one in hand that is actually for sale "now." However, their owners hate to sell them so this is rare. I remember that recently a c.net member offered her used County Clare for sale and collected offers up to around $6000 before deciding she would rather keep, overhaul, and play it than sell it for that much -- even though I suspect that amount is much, much more than the Dippers got for making it a decade ago. The special model Dippers made for sale through my shop (for which I have a waiting list that is currently full) sell for a good bit more than that. However, the "Groff's Music" price also includes the option to trade in other instruments previously purchased from me at 100% of their sale price, and a service guarantee from me that can be very useful for North American buyers. Paul
  9. Hi Allan, I think we can figure out the layout for this instrument, assuming that the red buttons are the C naturals as is normally the case with ivory keys, and that the other buttons where present are given the notes we would find in corresponding positions on a 48 key. If so, the lowest button on the left is a C and the lowest button on the right is a B (without its "normally associated" Bb). You can work out the rest from this. Continuing this reasoning, both the range and at least one accidental (though not one that is "enharmonically duplicated") were sacrificed from the layout. Paul (edited for grammar and to make better sense, and to add): If my prediction holds, the entire range of the instrument would be from B to a G that is two octaves and a sixth higher in pitch; within this range of pitches every note (including accidentals and the duplicated enharmonics) would be included.
  10. Well, it looks like there's very little in the available published ledgers from 1947 (some on pp. 44-45 of SD03). Still, depending on the features of the instrument (does it have an original riveted action? traditional reeds in brass shoes? etc.) there may possible be evidence in the instrument that it was made earlier than the 1950s or even than the 1940s, and if so maybe it once had a much earlier number as in the case of #31742. This is of course only one possibility and the point that Stephen made about non-sequential numbers must also be kept in mind. However I would agree with Jim that an obvious date inside a concertina would usually be considered evidence that the instrument was made before that date (sometimes long before). What is the internal construction of the tina like, Flip? To approximately when would you date it if there was no number at all? Paul
  11. I seem to remember a couple of cases in which it appeared that Wheatstone anglos made earlier, and originally assigned lower numbers, were renumbered with numbers in the 50,000s when repaired and/or resold at Wheatstones during the same period in which most of the 50,000 series anglos were being made. I will edit this post to give a reference for that occurrence if I can find one. Edited to add: Ah yes, one reference is the the article by Mr. Gaskins on this site. He mentions this interpretation for the ledger notes relative to # 31742. So maybe some searching in the ledgers, starting around 1947 (but possibly earlier, maybe informed by the constructional features of the concertina e.g. type of reeds, action, endplates, etc.) will turn up a lower numbered anglo with a notation that the instrument was later re-numbered to 53120. Paul
  12. Hi Stephen, Sorry I wasn't clear. I meant (and thought I wrote) that some high notes on the LH side have pads that open away from the player (hence brighter in timbre), but the low notes on the RH side (which ARE those same pitches, making up the "overlap") may be more likely to have pads that open under the right hand (hence duller in timbre). Anyway as you say there are many causes for such differences! Thanks, Paul
  13. Stephen, As usual I am in basic agreement with you but have a point or two to add, that may possibly be relevant to tony's question. On at least some of the smaller Lachenal duets the reed pans are set into the bellows frames at an angle so that on a single reedpan the higher notes have shallower chambers than the lower. At the moment I don't have one of these instruments handy that will let me check whether the chamber for "g" on the left side is very much deeper than the chamber for "g" on the right side, but I believe you! Another issue may be that the levers for the high notes on the left side may lead to pads that are away from the player (this can lead to a brighter tone as heard by the player). The levers for these same pitches on the right side (that is, the low notes of the right side) may lead to at least some pads whose notes are partly muted by the position of the right handrail and hand. This latter effect may be greater on the smaller vs. the larger duets. On the one hand, the smaller duets have a smaller endplate measurement that might lead to a proportionately greater muting of the "near pads." Also, I think some of the smaller Lachenal duets had handrails more like the cheaper Lachenal anglos, i.e. not the "duet style" ones that on the larger Lachenal duets often have heartshaped cutouts to let more sound come out from the "near pads." If this is what is going on you could test for it (and possibly mitigate the effect) with a partial baffle on the left side. Frank Edgley (and I) have often reminded this forum about this cause for differences in timbre between different notes on a concertina. I (still) tend to think that a lot of such differences (due to this cause) are more noticeable to the player, especially when practicing in a quiet room, than to a listener a few feet away. The high frequency partials that on some notes are muted by the hand, and on other notes clearly heard by the player, are very directional and easily lost a few feet away. Paul
  14. Robin, Have you considered (if it is not too late) asking to have the chamber corresponding to the left hand thumb button configured with slots in the reedpan that could accommodate reeds? If the reeds are left out and valves left off this could give you a "pretty good" vent key on the left, but if you changed your mind and went with notes for that LH thumb key it would then be an easy matter to slot in reeds and add valves at a later date, with no woodworking and maybe even without a need to send back to the maker. That "more typical" (I'm NOT saying better) layout also might perhaps be preferred by another owner 100 years from now... Just an option to consider... Paul
  15. Hi Stephen, Yes, that's the Jones model of which I've seen a couple in rosewood, and at the moment I have a metal-ended, bone-button Jones Bb/F with slightly different fretwork but the same button layout. As you know, the two buttons for the left hand thumb are "same note both ways" (with reference to your catalog, one of these must be the bagpipe and the other the hurdy-gurdy effect, I guess) and the two buttons in the LH inside row are the cock crow and whistle. On the Bb/F the higher LH thumb button is Bb just below middle C, both ways, and the lower LH thumb button is the C an octave and a tone higher, again both ways. Paul
  16. Stephen and Jim, I have seen a few used german concertinas in D/A over the years, mostly of fairly recent (post- 1970s?) date, on the smaller side, and with a single set of steel reeds. I have never been in a position to order quantities of new ones, so I don't know the availability of them, but if you have not been able to order them maybe they were discontinued a while back or possibly some distributor in this country made a special order, with the results still circulating here. Paul
  17. Hello all, I agree in general with what Stephen has said, including his suggestion that the D/A system is underutilized in Irish music. I wouldn't be too quick to write off the G/D 20 key german or anglo concertina though as another option, or even better the G/D 3 row. My comments here are with regard to some players of Irish music that I have heard. There are some lovely players in the US who play very traditional sounding Irish music in the normal keys using G/D Jeffries - two of them in the San Francisco Bay area alone. And as has been noted recently, there are a number of players in the US who use the D/A anglo to play Irish music in the normal keys. Both work great - not better than the C/G, but great in their own right. Bill is right that all three of the types ("home-key" systems) of concertinas listed in this paragraph would require a different fingering system to play, for example, the "Silver Spear" in the same key of D. As it happens, that tune among others is and was played in all 3 fingering systems by different players (or even the same player at different times), and can be played in D on a 20 key example of any of the three types of anglo listed. Or in the keys of C, G, or D on a C/G 20 key. But this diversity of fingering systems is not just something that developed recently this side of the Atlantic. When John Kelly, sr., or Mrs. Crotty, or Tony Crehan, (or some modern players) play(ed) "D tunes in C" or "Em tunes in Dm" on a C/G they are using "D/A fingering" (that is, the fingering that would cause these tunes to come out in the "normal keys" on a D/A instrument. But also the "G/D fingering" was used by many Irish players that started on 2 row german concertinas, as when Mrs. Crotty played "The Wind that Shakes the Barley/ The Reel with the Beryl (sic, or Birl)," or the two hornpipes "Harvest Home/THe Liverpool." "The westmeath hunt," a G version of the "Dublin reel," played by Packy Russell among others, could also be considered a "G/D" fingering version since on a G/D instrument that setting of the tune would come out in the more familiar key of D. The same goes for Packy's high G setting of the "Fisher's Hornpipe." Some very well known Irish players have been known to use G/D fingering on an Ab/Eb instrument, which is one way to get a tune into "Eb pitch," a half-step high of concert, and which is especially suitable for the fiddle tunes in D, Em, Am, and G that go into a very low range. I remember discussing this issue of "G/D fingering" (as well as "D/A fingering") being used by Mrs. Crotty with Michael O'Raghallaigh, and I believe his thought was that she might have had a G/D instrument at one point. I think this is possible (since it would have put those sets of hers in "G/D fingering" in tune with a fiddler) but also maybe she just liked playing them there and didn't mind playing them solo! With any "home key version" of the 2-row anglo or german concertina you have to be selective with your tune, setting, key, and fingering, but on any of them a certain amount of "C/G," "D/A," AND "G/D" fingering is possible, giving a lot of options for fitting tunes in various modes and ranges onto the concertina. The older generation of players used this leeway very freely, transposing the keys of the tunes to suit themselves and their instruments. Paul
  18. Hello all, Several have used the word "passion" and others have given examples of their own. This is a thing about concertinas....some people do seem to "fall in love" with them. I'm guilty myself of course. These passions aren't logical and can lead to irrational thoughts -- both of the positive, daydreaming type (and maybe these will lead us to "put foundations under our castles in the air") and maybe sometimes of a negative type, including blaming others for our failure to have what we want. Although personally I would make a lot of sacrifices to go beyond the instruments that satisfy Ahskettle and Relcollect, their general philosophy that you can make great music with “the concertina you have” is what I like to hear. I think Bono told the joke about the one guy who looked up at a fine house on a hill and said, "Some day I want to live in a place like that," and the other guy looking up at the same house, who said "Some day I'm going to get that @$%#&*." Maybe neither of them will suceed but the first point of view seems more productive of progress and personal happiness. One very unusual thing about concertinas, at least in the US, is that there is vanishingly small support of the instrument and its professionals (performers, makers, repairmen, teachers) from the culture at large. It sometimes seems as though the only people who listen much to concertina music in this country, or who spend any money on it, are those who play. There just is not the huge influx of money that helps support the traditions surrounding the guitar, keyboards, DJ equipment (;-), etc. Newcomers to the concertina often find it refreshing to encounter such an intimate, and mostly amateur, musical world. A lot has been written in this site about the joys of amateur music making, and I agree with all of those comments! I have spent much of my time with the concertina teaching, that is helping people learn to teach themselves, to play solely for their own enjoyment. But another side to the story deserves airing. Even among those with many interests in common, like families, there will always be conflicts, and perhaps the very limited circulation of “concertina capital” that I have noted above intensifies some conflicts between the interests of the pros and of the amateurs. In this country (the US) the same bar that pays out for a pro jazz band on Thursday, a pro rock band on Friday, and a pro country band on Saturday might offer a “free beer session” for amateur traditional musicians on a Sunday, where no musicians are paid. This can provide a valuable and rightly-cherished opportunity for an amateur concertina player, but on the other hand it can mean a lost opportunity for a gig (maybe as a “session anchor”) for a pro concertina player, and can foster a view among the public that traditional music is all of an “amateur night” quality. See Joe Derrane’s interview in the last issue of “Concertina and Squeezebox” for a rare case of an excellent musician willing to comment publicly on this last aspect of this problem. I have learned to sympathize with all sides here (even the bar owners), but I have heard frequent complaints, off-the-record (and mostly from excellent Irish traditional players, going well beyond the concertina), that the dominance of amateurs can hurt the quality of music performed and enjoyed, and the chance for someone to make his living performing. Similar complaints can be found in the history of all types of music and instruments, and even in the history of many other professions. At least in England, it seems that many pro concertinists were supported in the instruments’ heyday –- allowing some players of truly astonishing accomplishment, and the great quality of the fine antique instruments, to develop. And – back to the start of this discussion -- I’m sure that many of them had several instruments. I'm not saying that either the pros or the amateurs are "right" or "wrong" here, only that there is a conflict of interest that needs mediation and understanding on both sides to find the more important COMMON interests and so to keep peace in the "concertina family." I think the same goes for the issue of "hoarding" vs price. If my airchair analysis has any value (and the economists or others may find me wrong here), this situation places a special burden on all of us (players) to support the instrument and its professionals who do so much to keep the tradition alive – who make or repair our instruments, who teach our children, and whose brilliant music inspires us (and may some day again make waves in the general culture). Those who have made a committment to a professional involvement with the concertina or to becoming the caretakers of a few (or more) instruments are often those who have the most to offer to the new players of today and of the future. We need to thank them, learn from them, and help them in their work, because the royalties from MTV are not paying their bills! Stephen, as usual, makes this point so well. I'll second his thanks to Neil Wayne, and add my thanks to Stephen himself, and all who have spent so much of their lives contributing to the future of the concertina. Paul
  19. Hello all, Even though, beyond my shop's inventory, I own a few special concertinas (that I see myself as "preserving" in an original condition that would likely be altered by other owners), I am very sympathetic with the EMOTIONS of the original post. I can remember having a similar complaint early on in my experience with concertinas (around 1985), when I was a graduate student and the prospect of finding 500 pounds sterling (then around $500, and more than I paid for my 1920 Martin in 1979) for a Jeffries seemed doubtful. It seemed that anyone with two good anglos had one too many and was the reason I couldn’t afford one. Somehow I borrowed and made sacrifices and was able to obtain one. I know at the time I made my first car (a Toyota with wrecked and rusted body, 8 years old when I bought it) last another decade, and since then I have usually gone without one. I still don't own a house. But emotions are not always the same as logic or understanding. What if I were to turn the tables and suggest that anyone not living in the simplest of flats should give up their "excess" real estate so that housing prices come within reach for me? Or even the more limited idea, to extend the suggestion of my valued friend Jim Besser, that those who "invest" in second houses are to be resented for the high costs I would face to buy my first one? Of course, those who control a valuable resource are in a sense responsible for the costs another must incur to acquire it (this has been the way of the world for all of human history, even before there was money), but it is widely accepted (if not "human nature"!) that people will try to make wise investments to provide for themselves and their families. Fortunately, as Jim Lucas observes, fairly playable "concertina family" instruments are being made today at a small fraction of the cost of the most expensive concertinas. (To say nothing of the brilliant instruments made today by the best makers). Like him, I try to find ways to get new players started (even though others might complain that in the long run this will "increase demand," again raising costs) because new players are the future of the concertina as a musical tradition. Where there is a will, there is a way, and a really dedicated student can learn on anything. Unless you have a narrow sense of entitlement focussed on "the best of the best," there are still a lot more concertinas around than there are players. However, most of the antique instruments need to be restored professionally before they can be playing their best, and it is only fair that the restorers be paid a living wage. That's the cost of admission, and who better to pay it than those wanting to get "in" to the concertina? On the other hand, as has often been said here and elsewhere, it may well be the very finest (and currently most expensive) concertinas that will appreciate the most going forward, because compared to the "best" of many other instruments they are actually underpriced. It is only fair to warn new players that buying a cheap concertina may prove to be a much worse investment than buying a better one -- IF they can afford the better one. Mark makes a good point about this. I think this relative undervaluing of the top 10% of quality in concertinas is due to a very small market worldwide and also to a mid-20th century period of low demand and give-away prices (as is the case now for as-is piano accordions) from which we are still recovering. Those who discovered the concertina during this period may have assumed that 1960s or 1970s prices would last forever, or would return someday -- reminding me of the "cargo cults" that developed in the Pacific after World War II. Of course, they could be right, you never know for sure about the future. If you are a teenager and not yet working, or in school, or starting a family (as I am now, believe it or not, at 46), buying an expensive top-shelf concertina as a hobby is not usually a high priority, even though you may feel that your ability to play, or even the "potential" you recognize in yourself, deserves one. But you may later find a way, or make a way, to move to a better one, if the instrument BECOMES enough of a priority. Most of those with a continuing interest in this instrument will find they invest much, much more of their precious time than of their money, and that over the decades a little more money spent on a better quality instrument will cost them much less in "learning time" and aggravtion, and pay a rebate of much greater enjoyment. But at least a fine concertina is not a necessity of life, like food, clothing, housing, medical care, or (for most of us) diminishing oil resources. The worldwide ownership of these resources, and the suffering caused by injustices in their allocation, are much more likely to keep me up at night. Paul P. S. I have cross posted with Jim, but I’m sure I’ve said more than enough....Best wishes to all! Keep playing and enjoy that concertinas are still undervalued, really!
  20. David, One more point since I'm in this thread anyway. Many, many Irish traditional tunes in the key of D that sound best harmonized with major chords (so that most musicians think of them as "D major tunes") actually only use 5 or 6 different notes and so are really pentatonic or hexatonic. Many never need a C# and can be played very satisfactorily on a C/G 20 button anglo. So when playing in D on a C/G 2-row one is not limited to the Dorian or Mixolydian modes. Examples: "The Boyne Hunt," "Rolling in the Ryegrass," the "Kerry Polka," "the Bohola Jig (Cooley's Jig)," "Mickey Callagahan's Fancy" (D version from John Kelly's fiddling, as noted in the Breathnach book), and many more. Paul
  21. David, If you follow the link Bruce provided, there is a mention that this tune was composed by the late "Junior" Crehan, an influential West Clare fiddle and concertina player. Junior’s son, Tony Crehan (R. I. P.) was one of my first concertina teachers, and I have a short recording somewhere of the father and son playing a few of Junior's lovely compositions, both on concertinas. Not the"Otter's Holt," though, unfortunately. I had also heard that Junior composed the Otter's Holt. (Re: "composing," though, keep in mind, that many of Junior's well-known and often recorded tunes were to some extent "re-workings" of previously-existing traditional material). In the link given by Bruce, one writer mentions that Junior played "the Otter's Holt" "a tone low" (presumably meaning in A minor rather than the more familiar B minor key common in - concert pitch - Irish music sessions today, due to the influence of the Matt Molloy recording). I often think there is a little too much literalism about "standard keys" among a lot of today's Irish music hobbyists, especially among some of my fellow North-Americans who didn't grow up in the tradition and first encountered it as adults. This may be because so many of these adult learners are getting their tunes from written or ABC versions, rather than letting the music sink into their ears and feet, or because they are in such a hurry to start playing in groups before they have gotten a sense of what makes the music tick. When playing solo, Junior Crehan -- like any great musician in that tradition -- was a complete musical experience, and his fiddle playing needed no accompanying "session" to communicate all the rhythm, tonality, mood, local style, and personal inventiveness that any listener or dancer could hope for. Many of the West Clare fiddlers of his generation were recorded with fiddles tuned down a half step or a whole step from what we think of as concert pitch (so when playing a tune "fingered in D" it might come out in C# or C). Of course, playing solo they would be free to pitch the fiddle or to choose the "keys fingered" to suit their comfort or their sense of where the tune sounded best. When joining with other fiddlers of course a rough consensus would have to be achieved but this would not necessarily be at D pitch or at A 440. The presence of a flute (maybe an antique more comfortable at A 428 or A 452) might influence things - or of a concertina which might be a C/G played in C, or a Clarke's whistle played in C (so a "tone low" in either of the latter cases). I don't know whether Junior always (or sometimes) FINGERED the Otter's Holt on the fiddle using the fingerings a concert-pitch player would use for A minor, or whether he fingered it in B minor and had the fiddle tuned down a tone on the recording mentioned. I do know that when playing a C/G concertina he was happy playing some of his compositions in the key of A minor. From what I heard of his concertina style, I doubt he would ever have played the "Otter's Holt" in B minor on the concertina unless the concertina had one of its rows in D or A (but I might be wrong about that!). Perhaps Kevin Crehan who plays many of his grandfather's tunes -- and who plays concertina as well as his lovely fiddling -- can tell us more about Junior's "original" or "preferred" key(s), and pitch(es), for this tune. But no matter where he pitched it I think a musician should consider finding the fingering, key, and pitch with which he or she can get the most music out of the tune, on whatever instrument they are using. I think that is what the musicians of Junior's generation did. I also think that is what Matt Molloy did. You might or might not find others to play along with you, but if not then your version will still be worth a listen. Paul
  22. Roy, Thanks for the confirmation! Just a speculation (since of course I haven't examined the instrument), but I wonder if you think the instrument might have been made as a G/D and then, concurrent with some of the very old "repairs" you noted, later tuned up to slightly high pitch Ab/Eb where you found it. If the old repitching work was professionally done and done long ago, it might not have been very apparent by the time you met the concertina. BTW, in my experience the Jeffries instruments that I have seen and conclude to be most original in pitch and temperament, when made in keys such as Bb/F, Ab/Eb have their reeds properly stamped for the notes appropriate to those keys. So in Ab/Ebs you find reeds stamped "Db" and even "Cb" (for the enharmonic accidentals), that wouldn't even exist on a C/G. This does seem to run counter to the practice of the Crabb firm as Geofff has reported here. Thanks again, Paul
  23. Dear Roy, Thank you for your posts and the beautiful photographs. A = 475 as you wrote is actually higher than the note Bb (in A= 440), which is around 466 Hertz. To me this would imply a tuning of G#/D# or Ab/Eb for the instrument as you received it, even though the reeds were evidently stamped for G/D. Even with reference to Ab/Eb, up a half-step from G/D, the instrument as you describe it would have been in a higher pitch than A = 440. Is is possible you meant to write A = 457? This is also very high of course, since the more common concertina pitches were in the ranges of A = 439, 443, 447, and 452.5. However if A = 457 is what you meant, it would be interesting as I have a curious early semi-miniature 28 key with a Jeffries stamp (but some Jone features) that is also in its (apparently original) unequal temperament around A = 457-458. I also have a lovely "Wyper" style International 2 row button accordion in this same exact pitch and unequal temperament, and the two make a lovely pair when played together. Steinway (pianos) in the USA are reported to have used this very high pitch (around A = 458) in the late 19th century. My apologies to you for the digression if you meant exactly what you wrote, which would also be very interesting! Thanks again and best wishes. Paul
  24. As Stephen points out I've already written on this subject, but since it keeps coming up, let's revisit a couple of related subjects. When referring to the button itself (rather than to any particular tuning for it), I don't usually call it a "drone button." I think it's better to speak of the "left hand thumb" button or buttons. If the notes are not the same on the press and draw, it would be especially misleading to call it a drone button (as in the example of F press, C draw). Though any NOTE on the anglo can be held as a drone until you change bellows directions, to my way of thinking a BUTTON will only be a drone if tuned the same both directions. If the notes are the same, well the button can be played as a drone and might as well be called such, though it's worth pointing out that this button might be used in many ways that have nothing to do with a drone sound. Frank, my general argument against putting the notes G/G on this button is the same as for D/D. A good player can find G's on both press and draw (and the lowest ones on a C/G can both be played with the little finger, leaving all other fingers free to play above this). So if you want a G drone there is no need to devote an extra button to it. Just move your LH pinky from one button to the other every time you need to reverse bellows direction. Very easy to learn. (See my comments on the thread Stephen referenced for how to add a "D drone sound" when playing any C/G anglo, even a 20 key with no LH thumb button). However, Paul Read does make an excellent point when he notes that, if you want a drone sound, giving the same notes push/pull to the thumb may make fingering easier. This could be used as an argument in favor of assigning a G drone (as suggested by Frank) or a D drone to the LH thumb button. However my view is that in both these cases, BOTH the press and draw notes are redundant - they exist in both directions as part of the standard 30 key scheme. At least with the C drone you are getting one note not otherwise normally available (middle C draw). And, gee, I like Irish music in C. So do many pipers and whistlers I know. At many tionols there are C sessions. Kitty Hayes plays many of her tunes in "C pitch." And with a C/G anglo, if you learn "C pitch" fingering (actually the same fingering used by players of D/A concertinas who play in concert pitch), it's like having 2 anglos for the price of one. No reason except time and effort not to learn to play "the Trip to Durrow" in C (as I have heard lovely Clare concertinists do) as well as in D, all on your own 3 row C/G. The tune may have a different bounce and phrasing in the two keys (even if you learn it well in both keys), and vive la difference. So in sum, why not C/C or F/C (press/draw) as so many of the old ones had? Or whatever you choose instead, if it suits you! Any could be useful if you make the effort to use them. Stephen, the 3 or 4 Jones anglos I have seen with double LH drones have usually had the 2 notes middle C and a D in the higher octave (for a C/G; or the 2 drones Bb and C for a Bb/F instrument). It's interesting that some C/Gs were made with C and G drones, as you state. Paul
  25. Stephen, While I was writing my overlong response you made my point very concisely with your last sentence! Alan and others have also said much of what I wanted to add. However, let me add my comments to the weight of opinion, FWTW. Those who find this too much may scroll through. Chris, Although I don't know the Dippers as well as you and I live far away, my shop has done business with them and I can confirm what you wrote. They have sometimes been willing to undertake jobs such as new bellows, action, and custom wood and metal work for concertinas I sell through my shop (mostly to my anglo students). I expect that these jobs will sit in their queue for months or years until it is most convenient and efficient for them to do the work. It is always well worth the wait, even though this adds to the high cost of maintaining inventory for a small business. Fortunately, I was able to arrange years ago for a series of instruments to be made for the shop. These do not appear to be coming to me earlier than "projected," in fact sometimes years later. I am not at all surprised to encounter a delay in the manufacture of such a complicated machine, requiring so many different skills, tools, and materials that are sometimes unavailable in suitable quality. Like the repairs, the new instruments have always been more than worth the wait. My only difficulties are financing these instruments (which are not "specials" perhaps, but a unique model for my shop) on my shoestring budget, and encouraging patience in MY customers. There are a number of professional manufacturers and repairers of fine concertinas, and also many amateurs and semi-professionals doing this work (some of whom post to this site). But from around the world amateur players, pros, and shops beat a path to the Dippers' door and the pressure on this family business must be very great. They go to great lengths to maintain high standards of quality work and did so even when their instruments sold for a few hundred pounds, a very small fraction of what those same instruments are worth today. Needless to say when those instruments change hands, their owners (some of whom I have heard complaining about the Dippers' service) often make much more profit on them (having in some cases merely stored, or even having abused, these concertinas for years) than did the makers. I am sure it must be very difficult to strike a balance among the desperate pleas of hundreds (thousands?) worldwide for immediate attention while maximizing the integrity of the craftsmanship. Does Oddball expect that impatient (or perhaps even angry, rude, or unreasonable) requests will encourage his work to be given priority? Jeff, I highly respect you and your work. I think also your business model may be better attuned to what many educated consumers have come to expect, especially in the U. S. I hope the market continues to reward you very well for your efforts (both in the workshop and in production management). But I think it is possible that not everyone can operate their business the same way, and do the work the way they need to do it, and keep finding it worth their while. The world of concertina professionals is a small one of unique personalities, and, like the members of your family, each should be understood and appreciated as an individual. It can be a valuable education for some modern musicians to learn (through experiences that might sometimes include frustration) something about the traditional independence of a fine craftsman following his own lights. I would like to see all the makers, restorers, dealers, teachers, and professional players of the concertina receive much more support than they get. Almost without exception they do it IN SPITE of the financial "rewards," and could much better support their families by applying their talents to almost any other work. But they love the concertina and so have devoted themselves to professions that, directly or indirectly, form a foundation for all players. To many, it is part of its charm that the concertina is so rare (especially here in the US) and that almost all its modern players are amateurs, but their dominance of the concertina buying market, of the music sessions, and the internet sites should not lead them to conclude that they can solely dictate what is right and wrong for the instrument. I look to the few very best players, best makers, most experienced repairmen, and dedicated historians for the wisest guidance. They have very good reasons for their opinions and policies, as I increasingly understand. Trust me that the Dippers, I, and every concertina professional I know want to aid and encourage players at all levels, and to bring new players to the instrument. But there is more to that than satisfying the most superficial, immediate, short-term wishes of these “customers.” "The customer is always right" is a cliche that holds much truth. But it is not the whole or only truth. It does not apply in the education business, where the customer must often be encouraged tactfully (or even disruptively) to discard his or her current beliefs and gain a new point of view along with the new knowledge. And we in the concertina business (like many contributors to this site) often find ourselves struggling to convince newcomers to the concertina not to repeat the many mistakes - based on misunderstandings - we have made or seen. I think someone said "you can't expect a custom instrument maker to offer the convenience of W*lm*rt." Well actually you can demand this if you wish, but what a shame (literally) if every potential customer ("patron?") did. I fear that might cause some of our dedicated makers to give up their economically irrational mission, allowing the businesses who are comfortable with the W*lm*rt model to take over completely. I know that the instrument and its serious players would be poorly served if that happened. Maybe the false sense of intimacy between the internet user and his or her keyboard encourages one-sided, unfair, self-absorbed rants that ignore the complexities of the challenges others face. I did mean that last comment to apply to the originator of this thread, but of course the reader would be entitled to the opinion that it applies to this post also. Paul
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