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Dana Johnson

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About Dana Johnson

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    Heavyweight Boxer

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    Playing ITM and making concertinas
  • Location
    Kensington Maryland. USA

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  1. Hi David, It has been a really long time since I had that duet, but it’s low note was the same as the low note on the 67 button McCann. The right side went down to C4 originally but because of the music I wanted to play, I added notes town to G3. That made for a very full reed pan. Even in that large format, I couldn’t have added extra notes unless they were inboard. The lever arrangement was difficult enough with all those notes. It used all long scale reeds, so going short on the lower notes would help with the relative volume. If you will remember it was originally the same mode
  2. I don’t know if you would consider it a deal breaker, but below G3 reeds get bigger fast. Not only that but the chambers need to increase in length over and above what the reed frame would need in order to respond well. For low reeds this means chambers that take up a lot of space. Weight will be more the result of the larger overall size instrument needed to accommodate the larger reed/chamber space on both ends, rather than the weight of the bigger reeds. 30 years ago I converted a Wheatstone 67 button McCann into a 63 button Hayden. The right side was similar to yours except for having
  3. Especially if you want to play the genres you mention, having more key flexibility is a must. 30 buttons are fully chromatic for most of their range, but getting fluent in a number of keys will require diligent practice. However, if you organize your practice around that goal, it will become much more natural as you get to associate certain pitches with their buttons ‘ direction. One good exercise is to play something in your normal key, then one whole note up on through some sequential keys. You can do half steps too. Remember, you still have to place the music in the instrument’s range.
  4. Having 2 mics pointed at each end seems logical, but unless they are quite close, or you are in a fairly well acoustically damped room (or outdoors ) the distance between the mics can cause very noticeable comb filtering, as both mics pick up sound from the other side slightly later than the closer mic. ( causing interference of sound waves that happen at frequency multiples of the separation distance 1x2x3x etc.) Center location in front keeps things equal and having a coaxial x/y mic preserves the stereo aspect without comb filtering. Listening through headphones connected to the mixer or
  5. I am really not sure, but I’d guess the point of the “ Anglo system “ was being able to increase the number of notes available in a workable size. Reeds are the most expensive part of a concertina and having each button/reed chamber play 2 different notes rather than one substantially increases what you can pack in a small package. A 48 button treble English has 96 reeds while a 30 button c/g Anglo covering a slightly larger range only has 60 reeds. Diatonic free reed instruments have been around for quite awhile, and I expect that their adoption in folk music was driven by low price firs
  6. When I was a kid, I was told that you only used the stalks of the rhubarb not the green leaves because that is where the oxalic acid was. ( Checked in the encyclopedia )Many plants use this sort of distribution to discourage critters from eating the leaves. The stalks below the leaf have little if any oxalic acid. Potatoes are similar in that the potato is fine unless very green from light exposure, but the rest of the plant including the fruit contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid. Sometimes it is the other way round as I discovered when our young dog discovered the bulbs of some of our hyac
  7. When The Button Box first started making the Ceili, Rich seriously considered adding weights to it because compared to other concertinas, it was so light. Just as well they decided to see how people liked it. The rest, as they say, is history. Dana
  8. Even though 20 button’s only completely cover the 2 major keys and their relative minors (Amin and E min for a c/g), you can still play a lot of tunes in D for instance which is only missing the c#. Some tunes really can’t do without that note, but for many others, you can simply hold the previous note or substitute an ornament or chord for the duration of the c#. In Irish trad music, there are a lot of D tunes that leave out the C# presumably because they were composed on instruments that are like harps without sharping levers or one row melodions. Some great players like Jacqueline McCar
  9. 2 more little things. Lower reeds that are thin (and don’t have enough strength) may respond well, but are more subject to choking and also blowing flat under pressure. Badly centered reeds also blow flat more easily than well centered ones. Reeds need to develop enough spring force to return effectively against the playing pressure. In instruments like large duets, baritone and tenor Englishs need longer reeds in the mid range to compete in loudness with the naturally large, long and loud lower reeds, so the scale for baritone or tenor may be longer for the same pitches than a tre
  10. It is very possible to make two reeds of substantially different lengths that are still the same pitch. At the high end say C6, shortening reeds makes a big difference in pitch, so reeds that, as a practical matter, work as they should, end up very close to the same size. However lowering pitch by adding length creates reeds that in the lower notes C3 etc. get long fast and take up more room. In order to keep lower reeds a workable size in a concertina where space is at a premium, shorter lower reeds are chosen and then weighted near the tip either by grinding the reed to be thick at the ti
  11. It isn’t the number of posts, but the quality of them that counts🙂
  12. If the leather is actually white and not very light blue grey, it is probably alum tanned or tawed. It was commonly used in concertinas in the past and you’ll find many vintage concertinas of good quality that used it. It has the benefit of being quite springy for its thickness without being stiff or heavy. The big problem with it is that over time, it corrodes the brass of the reed shoes next to it. I discovered this on one of my instruments back for tuning after about 10 years and noticed the corrosion only on the reeds next to this kind of valve. Haven’t used it since. Here’s a pic of
  13. “My guess is that the curled up reeds prevent some of the high vacuum pressure from occurring inside the bellows by allowing some excess air flow through non-sounding reeds. This prevents too a vacuum pressure that would tend to choke the reeds that are intended to voice. If those reeds weren't so leaky in the first moments, perhaps the playing reeds would choke and not play at the right time. So we want maximum dynamics in volume, but don't want to choke the reeds.” In my experience, reeds that are set low enough to risk choking under either rapid pressure gradients or high pre
  14. There are a lot of tunes in ITM. That seem to have been built for along the rows playing. I figure perhaps they came from the melodion players. They organize themselves beautifully around the push pull nature of that kind of playing, matching good phrasing and rhythm, as opposed to other tunes that chafe at being forced into that restriction. C/G’s are very versatile given their pitch range which is similar to a fiddle and covers all the notes typically found in the whole ITM repertoire. The common ITM keys are very easily learned on a C/G.
  15. In old leather what people call drying is often degradation caused by decomposition of tanning chemicals left in the leather as well as absorption from atmospheric pollution especially from coal burning and similar high sulphur fuels. The same stuff in the air that tarnishes silver does a job on leather over the years, weakening the fibers to the point of breaking. Some tanning methods produce leathers that last centuries, but the modern age and chemical revolution weren’t much concerned about longevity, book binders were, but for most other people, price was the important feature. Recently
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