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About Paul_Hardy

  • Birthday 08/20/1953

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  • Interests
    English concertina. Computers. Walking/rambling/hiking.
  • Location
    Cambridge, UK

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Chatty concertinist

Chatty concertinist (4/6)

  1. I've been playing English for 30 years (I'm 70), and still have the Excelsior I learned on. Here are my hints: I have the left end of the instrument and the beginning of the bellows on my left knee, and start by pulling more with my right hand so that most of the weight remains on the left knee. As time as gone on, I've tended towards having the thumb straps tighter so that only the very first section of the thumb is inserted up to the knuckle. That gives me one fixed reference point at each end. I start playing with just the the tip of the pinkies touching the inside of the curved end of each of the rests (finger at right angles to the end, not along the rest), which gives me a second fixed reference point on each side. So I can reliably put the index and second fingers on particular reference notes G & B on the left and A & C on the right, to locate myself on the instrument. Practice picking up the instrument and without looking at it, play the G and B on the left and then the A and C on the right, to ensure you have a good home position. Without moving those initial reference points I can pretty easily put a finger on any on the full range of notes from lowest G to highest C on the right without any noticeable strain. Once I'm located on start notes and am playing tunes, my pinkies tend to slide back to the middle of the rests, so that they are more under the centre of gravity of the instrument and hence can be used more easily for bellows control. I have had arthritis in various joints (elbow, shoulder, neck), but rather surprising find that playing English concertina does not put any real stress on the joints of the hands or wrists. I hope this helps.
  2. My Midi 'tina (link in first post) has quite good control over volume from a single air pressure sensor in the bellows. It could be better, but certainly allows playing quietly and increasing as you increase the pressure. It also handles bellows reversal well. It has one extra 'Control' button which is used in conjunction with other buttons to choose instrument changes, transpositions, and channel volume - it can play up to three Midi channels with separate instruments at individual volumes and transpositions. So you can play as Cello plus Oboe plus Marimba or other exotic combinations! Be careful about Bluetooth audio. The original standard for Bluetooth has a 400 millisecond latency, to cope with data packets getting lost and retransmitted. Playing a concertina with nearly a half-second delay between button press and sound is to say the least interesting, as you are hearing the note before last! That's why I use wired connection between synthesizer and speaker. I do use Midi over Bluetooth (Widi Master) which has minimal latency of 3ms. It may well be that with the later Bluetooth standards (4 and 5) which have lower latency audio modes you could make this work, but you would have to choose your kit carefully at present to get Bluetooth LE audio support at both ends of the link.
  3. They are sampled - for Midi 'tinas the synthesiser software loads them usually as as .SF2 SoundFont files. There are readily available free soundfonts, or software to make your own from particular instruments.
  4. In another thread, Frank Edgerly said: I admire the knowledge to be able to do this, and understand the functioning etc. But I am not sure why anyone would want to make such an instrument. I know you could make it sound like anything you wanted with such an instrument, but there are other platforms that you can do that already eg. keyboards, Would it only be for the appearance? A concertina that can be made to sound like a trumpet, for example? What's the point? Do that on a keyboard. Sorry if this sounds disrespectful.. That is not my intention. I've put this as a new thread, to avoid cluttering the original question. I have a Midi concertina - a conversion of a Lachenal English (https://pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_30566_midi/lachenal_30566_midi.html), so feel qualified to respond. The main advantages of are Midi concertina are: 1) if mass-produced it could be two orders of magnitude cheaper than traditional concertinas (tens of pounds rather than thousands of pounds), so introduce a new generation of players to our instrument family, in the way that electronic keyboards enabled many more players to emerge than traditional pianos. 2) If you put headphones on, you can practice quietly, without offending neighbours (or spouse). 3) You can take a single lightweight midi concertina, and at press of a button, play it as a baritone, a piccolo, or a bass - baritones are available at great cost, but bass concertinas are las rare as hen's teeth. 4) you can play in any transposed key - for an Anglo, instead of carrying instruments in C/G, G/D, and Ab/Eb, you have one instrument and it transposes as requested. Or have a transposing English, and play in Bb in a session to prevent melodeons joining in! 5) you can be any instrument you want - I used to play Cello as a child, and love the sound, but it is a totally unwieldy instrument to carry around. Instead, I can take a Midi concertina, an iPad and a smallish speaker, and be a very realistic cello, an organ, a bandonion, an oboe, tubular bells, or anything else. The main cons at the moment are: 1) cost - you have to start with a wreck of a traditional concertina, and adapt it using contactless switches instead of reeds, plus a tablet and external speaker. 2) complexity of requiring external synthesiser software on a phone or tablet, plus an external speaker - a mass-produced instrument could include these capabilities internally at less cost and avoiding cables. 3) current designs use physical midi cables to connect components - recent advances in the Bluetooth protocol for audio and for Midi over Bluetooth or WiFi would allow wireless solutions without the latency that early Bluetooth had. 4) no big producer has got involved, so no cost reductions of large-scale production. 5) very few small-scale operators offering to produce Midi concertinas, even though the basic technology has been around for decades.
  5. I have an old George Case English concertina still in Philharmonic pitch of A=453 - see https://pghardy.net/concertina/case_3087/case_3087.html
  6. It's fine in all the keys I'm likely to play in for folk music (up to three sharps , down to 2 flats). The wolf is a long way away from those. See https://pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_27590/lachenal_27590.html for background.
  7. I estimate that probably 99% of English concertinas in use are tuned to Equal temperament, so there is absolutely zero microtonal difference between G# and Ab etc. So the choice is just one of ergonomics, and minimizing brainpower in reading the dots. The sound is the same. I happen to be in the maybe 1 or 2% who do have one concertina (out of 15) tuned in meantone temperament, where the G# and Ab are tuned differently. So there is a further factor of trying to use the enharmonic that is closer to the pure mathematical simple fraction of just tuning. When you are in this case, and try the two, it is acoustically obvious which is 'better'.
  8. Yes, it was spectacular, both in Tokyo, and later on the Nakasendo trail and in Kyoto (the Philosopher's Path). On return to Tokyo two weeks later, there was no blossom, but the azaleas were out. I gather that the bloom was later than recent years because of a cold spring there (and in the UK also).
  9. If I'd known, I could have dropped in there - I arrived in Tokyo on the 6th for my first ever trip to Japan for a wonderful walking and sightseeing holiday!
  10. My midi concertina (a Roy Whiteley conversion of a Lachenal - see https://pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_30566_midi/lachenal_30566_midi.html) uses Hall effect sensors to sense button presses (actually pad lift). The contactless switching is much better than contact switched keying.
  11. It's one of those apparently simple subjects that leads one down a rabbit hole into a world of complexity. Firstly, a time signature says little about rhythm, and nothing about speed. It says how many written beats in a bar, and the written length of each beat. Secondly, Reel, Hornpipe, Polka, March, Schottische etc were all originally particular dance step sequences. Now we often use them as rhythm descriptions, even when used for for difference dances. Thirdly, the words are also used differently in different countries (or parts of countries), so there is not a single answer! Also their meaning has changed through time, so a hornpipe was presumably originally just a tune played on a pipe made of horn! Then it was a triple-time tune in 3/2, then a performance dance for sailors, and now it is usually a swung tune in 4/4. The way I understand them and tend to use them in my tunebooks is: A reel is a faster tune, usually written in 4/4 but which has two stronger beats in each bar, so can sometimes be written in 2/2. Reels often have each bar split into quavers, and played and danced in a pretty even rhythm - Abcd Efgh A Hornpipe in 4/4 is a bit slower and has a swung (dotted) rhythm, where each pair of quavers, although written straight are played with the first longer than the second, as in Thursday. They are sometimes written out as dotted-crotchet, semiquaver, but that would mean the ration was 3:1 - however I play them as about 2:1. A Polka is usually written in 2/2 (or 2/4), and the dance has a lively bouncy dash-dot-dot pattern. A March is a more regular tune in 2/2 or 2/4. When you think you understand those sort of stronger dance beat rhythm aspects, then you find that when playing for dance it's not uncommon to stress the off-beats - the dancers will put their feet down on the 'strong' beats OK but the music needs to encourage them to lift the feet, so more complexity unfolds! Also, it's not difficult to slow down a reel, and swing its rhythm to turn it into a hornpipe, so tunes are mutable between rhythms!
  12. I've successfully used this "round end of drill bit" technique in the past, exactly as you describe (but without the lubricant), to cure a sticking button.
  13. I have had intermittent pins and needles and partial numbness in extremities (firstly hands, then also feet) for a few years now. I think it is due to arthritis in the upper neck vertebrae putting pressure on the spinal cord. The trigger is spending much time looking sharply down (e.g. at feet when hiking down hills), or craning the neck back to look up, or sleeping in curled posture. . I noticed it particularly during Covid lockdowns when I was spending a lot of time reading with a book or Kindle down on my lap. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to particularly affect my concertina playing. I had various tests done (including nerve function, which was slightly degraded but not severe) but no real medical suggestions, other than to keep the neck motion active, but avoid lots of looking up or down! Does any of that sound familiar? I'd be interested to hear how your tests pan out.
  14. ... And I'm generally only playing one note at a time, other than for final ending chord, as I mainly use it for part-planing in duets/ensembles/bands. I see that others are using their baritones for chordal accompaniments and I can see that five-fold bellows could be a problem then.
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