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Ivan Viehoff

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Posts posted by Ivan Viehoff


  1. Maybe you'd like Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer (Love-Song Waltzes)?

    Absolutely one of my favourites (but beware - touched by the success of the first set he later wrote a second set, which aren't a patch on the originals).

    But I think they are rather busy to arrange for soloist + concertina, without losing a lot of the original, because they are mostly part songs for 4 singers with piano duet accompaniment.

     

    Schubert is a good starting point, because he wrote lots of simple songs with unpretentious accompaniments, widely available with (inevitably flawed and sentimental) English translations. Of course, not all of them are simple, indeed most are not, so you will have to be selective. You could buy the Peters Edition Schubert Songs Vol 1, which will give you about 80 of the best known, and then leave you with the same problem I have when I get a book like "10,000 Favourite Session Tunes" - which ones are actually the really well known ones? And of those, which ones would be good for concertina? And are they still singable by you when put into a sensible key for playing on a concertina? But probably there are cheaper options available in the US, or "best hits" type books.

     

    You can get them on line too (not necessarily free). You will need to download Sibelius Scorch (free) to see the score on some of these links - it will prompt you.

     

    The Trout (Die Forelle) link is probably the single best known Schubert song. It has quite a fast tripping accompaniment, which I can imagine might be rather tricky to recreate on a concertina, (it's rather tricky on the piano) though if you have to play it on a concertina an English would be best. The original key is Db, so you will be transposing that one to C, if it hasn't already been done for you.

     

    Absolutely ideal for concertina - in fact probably better than the original piano accompaniment - would be The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (Der Leierman) link from the Winterreise song cycle. It has simple and rather mediaeval drone-like accompaniment of bare fifths. A minor is a suitable key for both concertina and med/high voice.

     

    Another one that comes to mind is In Spring (Im Fruhling) link, (definitely in Schubert's top ten). Like the Schumann mentioned above, it has a good counter melody. So maybe it would be possible to strip away a lot of the dense piano accompaniment, just leaving the counter melody and some bass notes, if that is within your concertina skills. You will be looking for it in a key like G, if you are a true soprano.

     

    I would also have a look at some late renaissance songs, Italian and English. Albums of popular collections are available. The Italian ones have composers like Caldara, Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Gluck, Giordano, Monteverdi, the English ones Dowland, Campion, Morley, Gibbons, Ferrabosco, etc. Again, as these Italian songs are well known, they will have (awful) translations available, but I'd stick to the Italian - it's easier than German.

     

    As these are very old, you will find many of them downloadable off the web (eg Giordano's very well known Caro Mio Ben link). A favourite of mine is Durante's Danza, Danza Fanciulla Gentile link (dance, dance, sweet maiden) (suggest A minor).

     

    This is a transition period from the contrapuntal style (multiple simultaneous melodies) of the mediaeval and early renaissance, to the more recognisably modern Baroque style, so you will find songs with contrapuntal accompaniment which won't be suitable (unfortunately Gibbons' wonderful Silver Swan - comes in a version for 5-part choir, though somehow it is also commonly done on a lute - maybe just take the tune and write your own accompaniment link), to much more suitable chordal style (eg, Dowland's Fine Knacks for Ladies link, or Campion's I Care Not For These Ladies link).


  2. "O insonio dunha noite de verán" composed by A. Seoane
    means "The insomnia of a summer's night"

    Ivan, is that definite, or a guess? (Or even a joke?)

    It could be a better joke than those in a parallel thread...

     

    According a web Galician dictionary, insomnia in Galician is insómnio, which is essentially the same as Spanish insomnio. This may mean there isn't an established word in Galician. Additionally, insonio is seen as a mispelling in Spanish, and in Portuguese the word is insónia. With a lack of clear authority on Galician spelling, and the absence of a plausible alternative meaning, I think I am on firm ground.

     

    Sound is son in Galician, som in Portuguese, sonido in Spanish. Insonio isn't a plausible construction from that.


  3. I have a book in Galician/Galego, and accounting for few differences in the spelling rules, it is more than 95% the same as Portuguese. In Portuguese, night of summer is: "noite de verão". There are several dialects of Galician, and the way you pronounce a word such as verán is a major diagnostic of which dialect you have: there are more than 5 possibilities. A good compromise for the outsider is to pronounce it like (European) Portuguese, but with a B instead of a V, and a rolled r (rather than the gutteral r you would hear in Lisbon). So something like: noit' d' be-row(ng), where ow(ng) indicates the sound you would make if you said ow while holding your nose, and the apostrophe is a vowel sound that has almost completely disappeared.


  4. In the second half of the concert I performed in last night, Tasmin Little (perhaps Britain's finest violinist) played Beethoven's Violin Concerto. She performed from memory, accompanied by the Orchestra of St John's who played with scores.

     

    The big difference between a trad band and a classical orchestra is that the latter is playing a great diversity of repertoire, which they just do not have the time to learn, and which they play well enough on limited rehearsal. You would get a still better performance from them if they did have it from memory, because having to read the score does get in the way of interpretation however good you are. But generally promoters aren't willing to pay an orchestra for that amount of rehearsal for one (or a small number of) performance(s). A trad band, on the other hand, gives many repeat performances of the same stuff, and so gets the rehearsal time to get it from memory.

     

    As for the soloist, I want to hear a soloist who knows the piece so well that she can play it all from memory. We (the audience, via the promoter) pay her a lot of money, so we are indirectly paying for the rehearsal time. And learning a 50 minute Beethoven Concerto from memory is a lot harder than getting a few session tunes with simple chords from memory! She has the advantage that, unlike the orchestra, and more like the trad band, she will do a lot of repeat performances - with different orchestras and in different halls. A soloist such as her will have a fairly small number of concertos in her repertoire at any one time, and do a sufficient number of repeat performances to justify the many, many hours of getting it from memory.

     

    Another difference between the trad band and score-reading performers is the nature of the music. For example last night, we in the choir sang from scores, as we usually do. We can sing pretty well from sight if it is a conventional tune with a straightforward harmony, and no doubt I could learn to sing such a piece from memory fairly quickly if someone forced me, though in reality if we were doing such music we would just have less rehearsal, as rehearsal costs. However the stuff (Arvo Part, etc) we were doing last night was another matter. Ever changing bar lengths, ever changing phrase lengths, phrases that were almost but not quite like the last one, strange harmonies, entries here there and everywhere, in fact almost no structure to hang your memories on. And hard enough to sing it right, let alone remember all the note lengths and entries. And the words of one of the pieces, which included a list of about 60 unusual biblical names, would be a serious test of a professional actor's memory.

     

    Having come from a performance tradition where you are "expected" to have the score, unless you are the brilliant soloist (which I am not, nowhere near), I have found the score has become a crutch. Even pieces I think I know backwards, I can barely remember the second bar without the score. Playing the piano with my nose in the score, my fingers subconsciously know where to go, but if you take the score away, my brain does not consciously know where to send my fingers, and the sight of my fingers actually puts me off. It's like typing - my fingers subconsciously know where to find the letter K, but if I have to think about it, my brain does not consciously know where it is - I have to look for it with my eyes, which is a lot slower.

     

    The score has become such an essential crutch I couldn't even play Happy Birthday on a bare piano (or concertina) until I wrote it out on a score. I must embarrassedly tell you I couldn't get it quite right on a score for a few days - until finally it dawned on me that it starts on the dominant (ie Happy Birthday starting on a C is in F-major, and therefore has B-flats on the way - probably obvious to all you, but for someone used to seeing these things written down, my ear isn't very hot at picking these things up.)

     

    One reason for taking up the concertina this year was to challenge my nose-in-the-score approach to music. I feel I ought to be able to work out how a simple diatonic tune goes and to put a few basic chords under it without too much effort. So far I'm not doing very well at all, though I have nearly got Happy Birthday...


  5. If we define pitch as a number so that each semitone is 1 unit higher than the previous note, setting the origin at A440 = 0

    so ... A220 = -12, ..., G=-2, Ab=-1, A440 = 0, Bb=1, B=2, C=3, ...A-880 = 12, ...

     

    then we can convert frequency (f) to pitch (p) by the formula:

     

    p = 12 log2 (f/440)

     

    where log2 means logarithm to base 2.

     

    On this scale, a cent is 0.01.

     

    So cents (and semitones and any other interval you choose) are logarithmically related to frequency.

     

    If you want to implement this on your calculator or spreadsheet using the log function (where log is logarithm base 10 or log base e - same formula does for either so long as you are consistent), then use the formula:

     

    p = (12/log 2) log (f/440)

     

    where in this case log 2 means the logarithm of 2 in the selected base.

     

    Or in reverse

     

    f = 440 exp ((p log 2)/12)

     

    where exp is your appropriate anti-logarithm.

     

    We can use the formula to calculate the pitch number of 660 Hz (a perfect perfect fifth above A440, ratio 3/2) as 7.01955. So a perfect perfect fifth is nearly 2 cents sharp of an equally tempered fifth. Take 12 of them (12 fifths should be 7 octaves), and you are now about 23.5 cents sharp, nearly a quarter of a semitone, which is the amount a piano tuner is out over the (just over) 7 octave range of a piano when using perfect fifths to tune by ear, which he then has to "temper" to put the octaves in tune.

     

    By the way, it is my understanding that Russian orchestras play (or at least recently still played) in a different pitch from A=440. I was at a prom concert about 10 years ago when one of the big Russian orchestras was accompanying a piano concerto. An announcement was made apologising for the state of the piano, which the tuner had tuned to 440, and on learning of his error had only half an hour or so to correct it to Russian pitch, which therefore had not been done perfectly. Not that we could notice anything of course. Though it did strike me as odd that the orchestra couldn't play to the piano's pitch (pace any xylophonist or celesta players) - what do they do when playing with an organ?


  6. I wonder if these ladybirds were there to eat the moth larvae, because I have only ever seen them in concertinas with moth-eaten pads ?

    I think you must have struck on the explanation, Stephen.

     

    A little research and we discover ladybirds will feed on many small soft juicy insects, insect larvae, insect eggs, etc. The first thing a newly hatched ladybird larva eats is often the unhatched eggs of its siblings. Although most species prefer aphids, a few species specialise on other prey. You can even get special bio-control ladybirds to eat a variety of greenhouse pests in addition to aphids. I also discovered I was wrong to say that they are strictly carnivorous, as if there is nothing else they will eat pollen and soft parts of plants, but don't do very well on it.


  7. Ladybirds are strictly carnivorous, so if you found one in your concertina it was just resting (but not in the sense of Siberian parrots). Their favourite food is aphids. Some beetles have squishy worm-like larvae of totally different diet from their parents, but juvenile ladybirds can be found running up your roses eating aphids, just like mummy. They look a bit like a beetle with the outer cover removed, so you can see all the segments. Ladybirds lay their eggs on plants, not concertinas. If there is a hole in your concertina, and you found a ladybird in it, something else ate it first and the ladybird merely took advantage of it as a place to hide. Or else what you saw wasn't a ladybird.

     

    Some of my old bottles of wine suffered from "cork weevils", though fortunately I haven't found any weevilled bottles for a few years now. These blighters eat holes in wine corks, and the wine may spoil if the air seal is broken. They seem to have a particular taste for the most expensive bottles in the cellar. Now a weevil is another kind of beetle, one with a long "nose" (properly called a "rostrum"), and a strict vegetarian habit. Like ladybirds, they can be rather sweet. My friend Nicola used to have a pet leaf weevil called Trumpton, which was a nice metallic green colour - you can find ones just like at this time of year eating the leaves of your fruit trees. Some weevils, for example the acorn weevil, have exceedingly long rostrums, longer than their bodies. I therefore had a picture in my mind of a merry "cork weevil" with a corkscrew shaped rostrum.

     

    It therefore came as something of a shock to me to discover that the "cork weevil" is not a weevil at all, but a moth. As you might expect it is the larva that does the nibbling. It is a very small moth, indeed a flightless moth (or maybe just the female is flightless - there are many species of flightless moth, and often science has not managed to work out what kind of moth is the male, as it can look totally different). They are quite small enough to get in through the tiny airholes that are often punched in the top of the capsules of fine wines to allow any escaping wine to evaporate. (There are also many species of "micromoth" far smaller than the night-flying moths we are familiar with, and often confused with other tiny insects.) Plainly cork weevils have been around longer than wine bottles, and their diet is not confined to wine corks. They will also eat the cardboard boxes that wine comes in, if there is some dampness in the storage area.

     

    In fact concertina pads seem just like the kind of thing "cork weevils" might like to eat.


  8. JimLucas Posted: May 10 2004, 01:21 AM 

     

    I was once asked to stop playing by a violinist, because my concertina was tuned to A441, not A440.

     

     

    A.D. Homan Posted on May 10 2004, 08:47 AM

    she was too stubborn or ignorant to tune up

     

    Some people have such perfect pitch they find any other tuning offensive, and can't play with it or listen to it.

     

    However such a level of sensitivity is not necessary to identify the non-standard temperament of Bob Dylan's vocal tuning.

     

    (I still can't work out how you do those quote boxes with the originator neatly lined outside the top of the box).


  9. I sacked a piano tuner once because he persistently left my piano with tuning errors that I could hear - and my ear is not particularly sensitive. He was particularly prone to leaving one of the three strings faintly out of tune with the other two. I merely observe that he used an autotuner rather than traditional methods.

     

    Personally I don't expect concertinas to be perfectly in tune. It is part of their charm, like Bob Dylan.


  10. Both the Norman and the Morse have what look like pieces of wire stuck onto the longer valve flaps (with the red disk), which is not something I have in my Lachenal, nor have I seen in pictures of the innards of other vintage concertinas.

     

    On the other hand, the vintage concertinas have these thin pieces of wire sticking out of the side of the reed chambers, whose purpose appears to be to stop the valves in the chambers from lifting too much, though there is no restraint on the valves on the bellows side.

     

    Why all these differences?


  11. A few comments from someone who has recently started to learn Maccann Duet.

     

    You sound like you haven't got a concertina yet. You are only going to start by getting one, and it is clear from your posts that you need to find out about them in order to find and choose one. I suggest you start by reading Chris Timpson's Concertina FAQ and then, for more detailed info on Duet concertinas, move onto The Maccann Duet Page, which has information on all the Duet systems, not just Maccann. There are also many useful nuggets on these pages.

     

    Particularly interesting on the Maccann page is a recent article in which Robert Gaskins compares his experience of taking up a (new) Stagi 46-key Hayden Duet, and an (antique) Lachenal 46-key Maccann Duet, two concertinas which he obtained (about 3 years ago) for £500 (US$800) each - they would cost a bit more today - and you can't just wander into a shop and buy a Stagi Hayden as very few were ever made, though they are still available. Gaskins concludes the Lachenal is superior in practically every way. The comparision isn't quite fair, because he didn't include Crane sytem, and I suspect all of the advantages he claims for the Lachenal Maccann would apply equally (at least) to a Lachenal Crane, though I suspect you would have to pay a little more money, and wait a bit longer, to obtain a playable Crane. Also I think it is a straw man. It took me only a few seconds in a music shop looking at a Stagi concertina to conclude that this was not the small light-weight sensitive instrument I associate with the concept of "concertina". More better quality new Haydens may be available "soon", but there are already waiting lists in advance of production, and they will cost thousands not hundreds.

     

    I have a Lachenal 46-key Maccann Duet. I got it because I needed to start to somewhere to find out if I really wanted to play concertina. I got it because I didn't want to spend too much money on that journey, in case I found it a journey I did not wish to continue on. I got it because it was sitting dusty in a shop with a large discount and so I could buy it now instead of waiting for one to "come up". Had it been a Crane sitting there in that shop instead, I would have bought that. I knew it was in concert pitch, had been restored sometime in the past decade or so, and that was as much as I could possibly know at that stage.

     

    Simply owning the thing, solving the little problems that arose, etc, has been a big education, helped by ownership of Dave Elliott's Concertina Maintenance Manual, some children's PVA craft glue (white smelly stuff) some leather "balm" for the bellows, some instrument screwdrivers and some small fine-nose pliers. Now that I have got it, and know what I know, I probably would have paid a little more, and waited for the right one to "come up". But I needed that education to know how to identify the "right one". By the time I have solved some more of its little problems, the one I have will be close enough to the right one (for now).

     

    Now how did I set out learning to play the thing? I have a big advantage in that I play piano and sing in choirs, even though I'm not very good. So I read music fluently and understand about chords and all that, and have large quantities of printed music in the house. So in the absence of a reputable modern Maccann Duet concertina course, I am quite capable of inventing my own exercises. In practice that is largely what I have done. If you are largely a non-music reader, hoping to learn to play by ear, someone else will have to help you with that, and they may suggest the Anglo route to that.

     

    On the Maccann Duet page are pdfs of number of tutors (press "Instruction" link). (I was unable to print them off the page - I had to save them onto my computer before I could print them out.) Most of them are more of historic interest than much use to the modern player. Brian Hayden's "All Systems Workshop Tutor" is the best. It is definitely at elementary level, which is what you need to start with.

     

    Towards the end of Brian Hayden's workshop, he is encouraging you to find own tunes and make your own simple arrangements, and largely that is what I now do, in fact I would do it without that advice. Since I need to transpose tunes to make them fit on the limited range of the concertina, (and because I prefer the sound of the lower reeds on the right hand) I have taken Jim Lucas' advice of finding a simple notation programme that allows me to transpose tunes. Since it took me time to find it, let me suggest some freeware that does that: Finale Notepad you only have to register to be allowed to download it for free. It is limited, but it does let you transpose, a huge time-saver.

     

    The other thing that helped was some ideas on technique, intended for English system concertina, but relevant to Duet I'm sure. These are on Geuns-Wakker Concertina Connection pages at Playing Skills

     

    The historic tutors on the Maccann site are of limited value for learning because they contain very little elementary material - mainly scales and chords before moving on to fairly complex tunes, nothing in the way of specific technique exercises like those I use for piano or singing. But what they do contain is designed to be playable on a Duet Concertina, and therefore you might find it of some use. At least it indicates what type of music Maccann thought a duet concertina capable of - very chordal. He must have been very skillful because when I press 6 buttons at once I only get about a microsecond before my 6-fold bellows are at maximum extent. I think Maccann's own tutor is marginally more useful than Rutterford's. Robert Gaskins has put his own method of playing chords on a Maccann on his site, though there are alternatives to his recommendations.

     

    You can also obtain print copies of the Salvation Army Crane/Triumph Duet tutor, (eg, through The Music Room). Having flicked through the pages of one, I don't think it would be worth buying even if I had a Crane, except for its historical interest.

     

    Have fun.


  12. Looks very pretty.

     

    I count 25 keys. From the layout I guess it is a fully chromatic two octaves from Bb to Bb, with Abs rather than G#s, and no duplicate keys. I presume we are looking at just the left hand end here.

     

    In contrast the draft at Jax RCFB Hayden Page (25-reed version) shows a top B with the top Bb omitted, has G#s rather than Abs, and three linked duplicate keys.

     

    It looks like simplicity and compactness won out.


  13. I wonder what kind of brass "brass reeds" are actually made of? There are many kinds of brass, but springiness is not generally a property one associates with brass. If one wants a springy copper based alloy, then the traditional material is phosphor bronze. Perhaps this is what brass reeds are really made of. Or if they aren't, perhaps they ought to have been.

     

    Copper alloys generally have a much worse tendency to creep (which translates to go out of tune) and suffer fatigue failure (ie break in response to a large number of flexes) than equivalent types of steel.

     

    I notice that Mr Morse has been having discussions with aerospace materials companies in sourcing a metal for his future concertina reeds. I wonder what they will be giving him. Perhaps one can find a modern copper alloy with better properties. Beryllium copper is a superior modern spring material, for example.

     

    I suspect that historically the steels used for steel reeds would be so-called "spring steel", ie a rolled high carbon steel of suitable temper, related to the kind of steels still used for hack-saw blades, etc. I would guess the relative harshness of old steel reeds comes from the fact that the material is springier than that used for "brass reeds". So perhaps the alternative is to use a less springy steel.

     

    High quality modern accordian reeds may well be some kind of stainless steel carefully selected for its spring properties. Stainless steels are a surprisingly recent invention, and would not have been available to Messrs Lachenal and Wheatstone. (They didn't have plastic either, I would point out to the person who suggested that Lachenal "bone buttons" might be plastic.) Today stainless spring steels are available.

     

    Accordian reeds can be "sweet," indeed the word "sickly" comes to mind. I suspect the accordian reed makers carefully choose their steel to achieve this.


  14. I almost fell off my chair when I followed the link ldp gives, since it describes Lilliburlero as a "march". It is tinkling in my mind as a fast and light dancing folk song that a Holst or a Vaughan Williams arranged, along with many other C20 English folky composers, and usually sung at about MM150. However I can't find any evidence that GH or RVW ever did arrange it, and it is probably a deliciously scrunchy Michael Tippett arrangement I can hear in my head as I write this.

     

    What counts as a march is plainly quite wide ranging. Look at Brahms' Deutsches Requiem: "Denn alle fleisch es ist wie grass" is a slow section in 3/4, which the composer clearly marks as a march, and you'd definitely need 3 legs for it.


  15. Stuart, do you actually find this a comfortable playing arrangement of the buttons?

     

    I am assuming Jim's interpretation that this "Chromatic" concertina has buttons in rows of 6, each comprising consecutive semitones, eg, C, C#, D, D#, E, F in one row, and then F#, G, G#, A, A#, B in the next row, and repeating as one goes up. If correct, I would guess this is actually a very good arrangement of buttons.

     

    Any scale, major or minor, would select 4 notes from one row and three from the next, just like a Hayden playing in a major key (though Haydens play minor scales rather less comfortably), except on the Chromatic the notes would not be adjacent as on the Hayden, but would have gaps representing the tones. In no major or minor scale is there more than four notes out of a row, and so one is most unlikely to run out of fingers in playing a melody. Another Chromatic feature I like the thought of is that the immediately parallel note in the next row would be a diminished 5th away, so one would rarely need to play a note and its immediate parallel together or consecutively. In contrast on my Mccann the parallel button in the next row up is often a 5th, 4th or semitone away, resulting in the frequent need to twist your fingers around each other to play these common intervals up the column.

     

    The Chromatic would also have the property that some intervals would often form in the same positional relationship, or at least in two common patterns. For example, one up and one to the right would always be a fifth. In fact every fifth would be like this, apart from the end of the row where it would be two up and five to the left, unfortunately. Similarly, a minor third would be either three to the right, or one up and three to the left. A doubt that Robert Gaskins expresses in his recent article comparing Hayden and Maccann is whether these common positional relationships are actually helpful. He found keeping the same position for playing chords hindered smooth transition between them. Of course we pianists have to put up with this, but we have more spare fingers to smooth the transition. But actually we do like positional variation - a good mix of black and white notes help keep the fingers untangled, which is why experienced pianists often prefer playing in keys with two to four accidentals in the key signature.

     

    Taking this line of thought, it occurs to me that a "piano" arrangement of buttons for a concertina would be very hard to finger. Suppose one had alternate rows of seven and five keys arranged thus

    first row - C, D, E, F, G, A, B; second row C#, D#, F#, G#, A#

    (to have 6 keys in each rows the B could be put in the second row).

    Playing a scale with just 4 fingers would be extremely difficult on this concertina. We pianists have to do it, but we tuck the thumb underneath when we start running out of fingers, and you just can't do that on a concertina. You would have to twist the fingers around each other. Now, there was a style of keyboard playing in the 18th century that avoided the use of the thumb. But the length of a keyboard key means that one can strike a key further up so that there is space to get some fingers around behind it ready to hit the next key. Again, not possible on a concertina. I suspect that the concertina maker made a very intelligent interpretation of the customer's order, but forgot that customers are always right, even when they are wrong.

     

    In sum, I think that a Chromatic concertina might be a very nice instrument to play.


  16. I feel overwhelmed with your kindness to share your thoughts, Jim, and what you say makes a great deal of sense.

     

    Don't change any notes on your current instrument for at least 6 months. Instead, explore what you can do without any changes and experiment with ways to get around what you are viewing as problems.

     

    Thanks, I'm persuaded.

     

    RH melody-LH chord I associate with traditions of dance music where melody is often played on flute, whistle, or fiddle and favored keys are G, D, A, and C. Flat keys I associate with "traditions" that use brass and reed instruments, such as jazz and marching bands

     

    On the piano I play anything from Bach to Elton John. With the concertina, I mainly want (at least for the moment) to play British folk-songs etc, which I don't do very well on the piano, and anyway pianos aren't very useful around the camp-fire. As you say, Celtic dance music is largely confined to keys with small numbers of sharps. But a fairly high proportion of the British folk music that I have in printed form is in flat keys; and a great deal is in minor keys, and that usually means flats too. (In truth a lot of English folk music is modal, much of it Dorian, but a lot of it has evolved, or has been "corrected" by censorious Victorians, into minor keys.) But with just a 2-octave range for the right hand, I can see that some work with a pencil to transpose some favourites might be time well spent, and then I have more control over the incidence of black notes.

     

    If you intend to stay with smaller duets (something which isn't independent of price), seriously consider switching to the Crane system.

     

    When a man who has spent a long time playing on Maccanns tells you that, it is a statement that carries some considerable force.

     

    Some time ago I coined a phrase: "No matter how much you paid, if you didn't get what you need, the price was too high."

     

    When I went out looking at concertinas (and I spent a long time researching first), I realised that I couldn't really know what I ultimately wanted, or even if I really wanted one, until I had lived with one for a while. That was one reason for not wanting to spend too much to start with. I knew that a Maccann is a bit more QWERTY than a Crane, but had no way of knowing what practical effect the design differences would have on playability and repertoire, once I got used to it. What I did know was that I had a quite unexpected opportunity to buy an excellent small Maccann, one whose quality was plainly visible in front of my eyes and ears, and to go on searching and looking from that point would delay starting to learn, and with the risks of buying sight unseen or making long journeys to buy less common boxes. The Maccann I have bought has already been been a huge education, that I could not have had without some concertina. And given its resaleability, it has been an education cheaply obtained.

     

    .....By the way, where are you located?

     

    I live in Buckinghamshire and work in London.

     

    Ivan


  17. Many thanks for your comments.

     

    If I might summarise Richard's advice, the practical route is to swap reeds, and for that to be straightforward then they need to be reeds of the same shoe size. I presume I would get a pro to do it, as there would be some final tuning, as from what I gather you can't just put a reed in a box and expect it to be in tune.

     

    But I am still not sure whether my idea of doing this is dotty. At the moment, I THINK that a top B-flat is more useful than a top G# on the LHS, and possibly bottom D rather than C, (cf comment on mostly playing in D/G - the B-flat being useful for G-min), so I shall have to look at the shoe sizes and then investigate whether spare reeds can be sourced.

     

    I notice from Maccann's own tutorial manual on the Maccann site (which for some reason I can't get the pdf to print off beyond page 8) he gives a fingering chart for 39 and 47-key boxes, not 46. The 47th key is the left hand top B-flat which is the key I feel I am most missing.

     

    The reason that I have a 46-key Maccann is that (1) I didn't want to spend a huge amount of money on an untested new hobby (2) I didn't want a big heavy rapidly depreciating Stagi Hayden and (3) I had a window of opportunity to get a Lachenal 46-key steel reed concert pitch 6-fold Maccann in good working condition for rather less than I would pay for an 48-key English with the same spec (and seeing the 46-key unrestored Maccann currently being auctioned on ebay, I am even more appreciative of what I have).

     

    If the hobby sticks, I might feel I want to dip my toes in deeper. I will have the basics of playing Maccann system. I could therefore try to get a larger Maccann, though from what I see they tend to be special boxes and hence considerably more expensive than a 46-key. Or when the production Haydens really are in production, that presents another attractive possible route.

     

    I observe that Chris Timson recently purchased a 39-key Maccann, which according to you has fewer keys than one would reasonably wish for. I wonder how he finds it?


  18. As things stand, you can't play a triad of E-flat (major or minor) on the left hand of a a 46-key duet concertina, either Maccann or Hayden system, except in inversion.

     

    I have recently obtained a 46-key Maccann Duet, which I am teaching myself. As a pianist my inclination is to play chords with the left hand, and a tune on the right. In fact I selected this concertina precisely because with a piano background the duet seemed most likely to fit under my old fingers, you can get a decent quality Maccann for a modest investment.

     

    However the absence of an E-flat triad (except in inversion, or by picking out a note on the right hand) makes ordinary keys like B-flat major and even C minor, something of a headache to play in.

     

    To play every triad, major, minor or diminished, it suffices to provide a chromatic scale of 19 notes. Both Maccann and Hayden 46-key duets have 21 keys for the left hand, but the chromatic portion is only 18 notes long, in each case from E to A. It follows that precisely one triad (major and minor) is unachievable, and that is E-flat. The Maccann gives you additionally a C at the bottom and B and C at the top, whereas the Hayden gives you C and D at the bottom and B at the top. [in contrast, a 48-key Crane/Triumph has only 20 keys for the left hand, but they form a chromatic sequence from C to G, which allows one to play Onward Christian Soldiers in E-flat.]

     

    Now I assume "professors" Maccann and Hayden thought rather carefully about the key selection, after all they were/are good players and I am barely starting. However it does, perhaps hubristically, occur to me that a small adjustment to the key allocation would give me a more useful accompaniment instrument.

     

    How easy is it (for a professional repairer) to change a reed by small amount, say a tone or minor third - would it be a matter of retuning the reed, or would one need a replacement reed - if the latter is there serious engineering work to the reed pan?

     

    What would duet players think of the following alternative substitutions?

     

    1. Change top G# to B-flat - still has only 11 triads, but the missing one is now the less useful C# (still be available in two inversions) - and the changed key is duplicated on the right hand

    2. Change bottom C to E-flat - now has all 12 triads, but lose bottom C, and on the whole I would have rather more use for a bottom D than an E-flat

    3. Change top C to B-flat - now has all 12 triads, top B-flat is a useful key, but more useful with the C

     

    If I selected option 1, I might also think about also changing the bottom C to a D, which would "give some life" to the bottom F# I have, since three C's in 21 keys seems a luxury in comparison to one D (when I have 2 F#s and G#s).

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