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Posts posted by wayman

  1. Here's a photo of the gooseneck mounting system I devised and have used for two ceilidh dances this month. The system seems to work, but I'm not satisfied with the AKG-519s I'd borrowed for these gigs. After interviewing a dozen people, I'm taking Rob Harbron's suggestion and ordering a pair of Supralux PRA-383D XLR mics which I'll have by the next ceilidh I'm playing, in three weeks. I'll review them then, and I suspect my mounting system will get a little smaller and more refined with the new, smaller, mic clips.



  2. Jody, the carol singers squeeze in the pub just fine, all two or three or seven hundred of 'em, and they only squeeze in the pub maybe a dozen times a year for carols. You and I, no trouble -- we concertina players practice squeezing every day (and often in pubs no less)! We'll have no trouble at all, provided we wake up good and early on Sunday.


    Jake, I hope to see you at St. Neots.




    I have a few days off on the 19th and 20th this November. I’m planning to attend the Fil Tebbut concert at The Royal in Dungworth (near Sheffield) on Saturday where I hope to sing a few myself. Then on Sunday I’ll be back for the famous carols. I've heard about this amazing event for years but I've never had the chance to go, so here's my chance.


    Wish me luck on actually getting in the door. It’s not a huge pub and the carols are known for being more than well attended.

  3. I don't have the answer about 'sticky paper', but I'm reminded of Brendan Power's use of blu-tack to temporarily retune harmonica reeds:


    2. The first use of Blu-Tack as a quick, reversible re-tuning method.
    I had been using solder to lower reed pitch, but one day around 1980 thought of trying that blue putty used for sticking pictures on the wall: Blu-Tack. I found that it stuck really well, and stayed there for years, decades even! Not only that, it was reversible, so you could stick it on and remove it at will. This was a great way to try new tuning ideas quickly, or have several tunings in one harp!
    For example, I could raise the 5 draw a semitone (from F to F# on a C harp), then apply enough Blu-Tack to lower it to its original pitch. If I wanted the F I kept the Blu-Tack on, if I wanted the F# I removed it and stuck it on the rivet pad for later use to lower the reed again. Nice!
    Check out the photo below, of the same early 80s harps as above. You can see a reservoir of Blu-Tack on the blow reedplate and bits on some of the reeds. Thin beads of Blu-Tac were also used to attach and seal the extra reedplate segments. Since I started publicising it on harmonica forums, Blu-Tack has become quite commonly used for harmonica retuning now.

  4. I've recently made a Bb/F anglo [1] which is intentionally modular so that in time, I can make alternate fretworks and ends [2] to experiment with the resulting sound and performance. As a busy post-graduate I'm not sure when I'll have the opportunity to make alternate parts, but in theory as I've already got the files it's just a matter of finding the time and materials. I hope to experiment with ...


    different kinds of wood

    different kinds of metal

    different thickness

    different open-ness of design

    whether the material of the end frames contribute meaningfully to sound difference separately from the ends themselves


    Someday. And someday sooner I'll throw together a page about its design and construction and record and post some videos!



    [1] (... about which more later, someday, when I have a chance to write this up properly! but in short, newly-designed and built 39-button anglo using 1926 Aeola reeds plus a few from a ~1900 Lachenal baritone anglo)

    [2] (theoretically reedpans too, though that was never the design)

  5. Jim, when you switch concertinas mid-set, do your arrangements tend to give you sixteen or thirty-two bars in which to make the switch, or not even that much time?


    I'm now envisioning a system where, say, two endbolts are used to attach a small plate (like the discount card) to each end of each concertina

    ... and each plate has a couple of those neodymium magnets glued to it

    ... and then you've got two more little plates with neodymium magnets glued onto them, to which your gooseneck mics are attached


    In sixteen bars, you could easily set down the concertina you've been playing, remove the L and R magnet plates with the goosenecks attached, and stick them on the next instrument, and pick it up and start playing. No need to adjust the clips or make sure things are secure, the magnets are fast and easy and strong. The only main question I'd have is whether they'd interfere with the cables / wires / microphones. Well, and if your springs are steel, would that be a problem?... probably not as the magnets are far enough away from the innards of the instrument, but it's funny to think about that being a hindrance to playing :)

  6. I've just last week been working through this same question (and have been asking rather a few people for their input). My goal is different than Jim's -- I specifically want gooseneck L/R mics -- but I'll go ahead and present what I've learned so far. (A quick look through c.net suggested that while this topic has come up in the past, it's been some years since the last time.)


    Microvox "as intended"

    2x m400 microphones £76.68 for the pair in UK ; $130 for the pair in USA

    plus Microvox Standard PSU £58.50 ; $105 in USA

    plus Microvox Jack-XLR 5m cable £14 ; cheap adaptor cables readily available in USA

    total cost, UK = £130.46, free shipping within UK (ordered directly from Microvox)

    total cost, USA = $235 plus shipping (ordered from Button Box ; adaptor to XLR not included)


    * omni-directional (not cardiod)

    * designed specifically for concertinas

    * designed to attach to end of concertina with velcro (so, half the velcro is permanently affixed to your instrument)

    * L and R microphones plug into a belt-pack which lets you do your own mixing

    * belt pack output is a 1/4-inch plug which then likely needs to be converted to XLR for most purposes

    * phantom power will KILL YOUR MICS so make sure your sound board operator keeps phantom power off


    reviews (collected from the internet and from several players) all seem to concur that these are fine but prone to breaking a lot and in need of periodic re-soldering, repair, or just outright replacing -- very low quality components and workmanship, apparently



    Microvox "special modifications"

    2x m500 microphones £58.46 for the pair

    plus Orchid Electronics Contact Microphone System £64

    total cost, UK £122.46, free shipping within UK (ordered directly from Microvox and Orchid)

    not available from Button Box in USA


    * m500s are a) cheaper, and b ) perhaps easier to create DIY goosenecks for (see Jody's post for photo)

    * your DIY goosenecks could attach any number of ways ; Jody uses velcro but you might come up with your own method!

    * Orchid Electronics box has an XLR output AND can be used safely with phantom power, and can still adjust L vs R balance


    almost everywhere I've found Microvox discussed on an internet forum, someone has chimed in to recommend the Orchid box over the Microvox one, on account of its reportedly higher quality and particularly as it can handle phantom power


    t.bone cc75

    2x t.bone cc75 microphones

    total cost, UK = £70 from Thomann (£35 apiece)

    available exclusively from Thomann (German), easy/free shipping to UK

    not sure if there's a USA distributor ...


    * cardiod microphones

    * clips for attachment to instrument ... handstraps or to some sort of mount you create yourself

    * each mic has an attached 4m cable to XLR plug

    * so, two XLR cables to the sound board, mixing happens there, phantom power


    you get what you pay for?

    * Charley Roberts, who runs sound for a lot of UK contra and ceilidh bands, says they're a good value, not stellar quality but good enough for a ceilidh band in a noisy hall and cheaper than AKG

    * Ollie King, Maccann player, says they're good, but "prone to breaking and feedback in my experience" (but cheap to replace), and the sound is inferior to AKG

    * Matt Quinn, Maccann player, says t.bone is "brilliant. Warm sound, nice short neck, big heavy duty clip, plus it's really cheap"


    AKG c519 M

    2x AKG c519 M microphones

    total cost, UK = £270 from Thomann (£135 apiece)

    total cost, USA = $498 from B&H ($249 apiece)


    * way cheaper in the UK than in the USA!
    * lots of folks in the UK seem to use these (or the same mic, different mount, c516 M) for concertina or melodeon

    * cardiod microphones

    * clips for attachment to instrument ... the clips are pretty huge and bulky

    * each mic has a detachable 3m cable to XLR plug

    * so, two XLR cables to the sound board, mixing happens there, phantom power

    mixed reviews:

    * John Spiers loved the predecessor c419/c416 but wrote that the c519/c516 is much worse in the bass range
    * Ollie King loves these, much prefers them to the t.bone
    * Matt Quinn "Always hated them. Alway gave me feedback and too big"
    I've used two AKGs (with an old belt-pack by some third-party company), borrowed from somebody, and I concur that they're just too big and bulky. The melodeon player next to me in the band was having feedback issues with his AKG c516s, for what that's worth.


    note: the cheaper AKG c519 ML has a shorter cable with a proprietary plug which would go into

    a) a wireless transmitter that only takes a single input

    b ) the now-discontinued B29L beltpack which took two inputs (what you'd need for a concertina or melodeon)

    so it doesn't look like you can do your own mixing with AKG anymore, but until recently you could create this sort of set-up

    ... or maybe there's a third-party beltpack which takes two inputs (similar to the Orchid one for Microvox) but I haven't found one yet (or does the Orchid one work with AKG? I don't think it takes the right sort of input plugs)


    Audio Technica Pro35

    2x AT Pro35 microphones

    total cost, UK = £370 from Thomann (£185 apiece)

    total cost, USA = $298 from B&H ($149 apiece)


    * way cheaper in the USA than in the UK!

    * cardiod microphones

    * clips for attachment to instrument ... the clips are pretty small, and the whole thing is much less bulky than the AKG

    * each mic has an attached several-metre cable to XLR plug

    * so, two XLR cables to the sound board, mixing happens there, phantom power

    aside from cost, people seem to love these:
    * Aaron Marcus, Hayden player, clips these to the nearest bellows fold to each end and that works really well for him
    * Rob Harbron, English player, has fashioned wings which stick out perpendicular to the ends (held on by additional strap screws into the end frames -- so, two extra holes drilled into his Aeola for this) ; I've asked him for a review but not yet heard back
    for mounting clip goosenecks, I've come up with my own system:
    * get two plastic 'credit card sized' cards (from your favourite coffee shop, say)
    * punch holes in the lower corners the same distance apart as two adjacent endbolts on your concertina
    * take out those bolts, and use them to hold the card flush against the end of the concertina but sticking out like a wing
    * clip the mics to those
    * keeps everything out of the way of your hands, puts the microphone where it needs to be, and doesn't harm your instrument!
    the initial prototype used beermats -- too flimsy but otherwise worked
    this week, I'll try it with the stiffer plastic discount cards and see how that is with the borrowed AKGs
    Having done this research, my current leaning is towards a pair of AT Pro35 microphones ... initially, I'd given some priority to the beltpack and having only one board channel, but I've had many players and sound engineers tell me this isn't really an advantage, especially when one takes the low quality of Microvox gear into account. They're pricey, but seem worth it. But if others here have experiences to share, I'd love to read them.
    And I'm particularly interested in how others have addressed attaching microphones to their instruments! It seems like everyone's got a personal solution here and many of them are really creative :-)

  7. I've got an H2N and while it makes great recordings, that's all I've found it's good at. Given that that's exactly why I bought it, I'm extremely satisfied with it! But everything else that it might say it does is not worth doing on there. The interface and screen for doing everything besides recording is similar to that on a mobile phone from the late 1990s.

  8. I've moved notes around in vintage instruments (Jeffries) partly because I already know that previous owners did so -- the instrument I have is not 'just as it was a century ago' already, it's been changed and changed again to suit many players. There's no reason not to do the same (within reason). 'Within reason' means I'm not going to change any of the woodwork in the reedpan, but I'll happily move reeds around or find substitute reeds (and store the others, with notation of where they had been, in little envelopes in the instrument's case). In a few cases, I dropped the pitch of Jeffries reeds with solder (which is reasonably reversible).


    I find the B/A (LH button in question) far preferable -- otherwise there's no draw A. There's already a perfectly good draw D on the C row, and I've no need for a duplicate. Other players with different styles and repertoires may well very much want that duplicate D; but it doesn't suit me, and were I to come into an instrument with that, I would seek to change it. (Or, were I to be offered such an instrument, this would count as a mark against buying it and would have to be outweighed by other positive factors.)


    I likewise prefer the Jeffries layout on the RH accidental row, though I can switch between the two. When playing on the Wheatstone/Lachenal layout my arrangements are simpler, my repertoire reduced. I don't have any tunes that are enhanced (or only possible) in this layout, whereas I have a great many such tunes that require the Jeffries layout. But I recognize that there are many players who have equally strong preference for the Wheatstone/Lachenal layout and do fantastic things with it!


    If you can swap reeds among the reed slots to achieve the same layout -- whichever you like better -- on your two instruments, in ways that are reasonably reversible, I say give it a try (just take notes on what you did so you can revert later if you ever want to). The instruments predate us and will live on after us, but in my opinion there's no reason each player shouldn't adapt the instrument a bit (as well as adapt to the instrument as it is) -- the two of you are working together as a team to make the music :-)

  9. I don't know whether what David says -- "The word "concertina" is on the list of items that must be confiscated, because it might mean concertina wire, which may be used as a weapon" -- is technically, legally true, but I can say that in practice I have said 'concertina' dozens of times in the past five years to airport security people in the USA, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and Ireland, and nobody has batted an eye.

  10. The Morse G/D Ceili is unchanged. As a 6-1/4 inch instrument with full-scale hybrid reeds, there just isn't any extra room to work with. I don't think the BBox has considered making a G/D as a 7 inch instrument, but it's certainly technically possible to do it with not that much custom designing. It would have to be a custom order and I couldn't say for sure whether they'd go for it. (Anyone who wants to try ordering one, give them a call and ask!)


    I think by doing this one could certainly get a bit more out of the G/D's lowest notes. The trade-offs of course would be that it's larger, heavier, and probably more expensive. And I have no idea what model name it would get. Extra Special Ceili? ESC? :-)

  11. Having TAM reeds is part of the equation, but the real 'special sauce' of the ESB's balance and responsiveness is the size and shape of the chambers for the low reeds. A lot of math and prototyping went into their design, and the improvement in response over the course of several major design revisions and prototypes (before the ESB launched as a production model) was fun and rewarding to experience! :-) All that high school geometry and trigonometry finally got put to great use and I did all the drawings and calculations by hand -- my beloved high school maths teacher Mr. Boe would be so proud!


    At some point, we redesigned the chambers of the Morse Geordie Baritone taking into account what we learned from developing the ESB, and the lowest half-octave or so of the Geordie Baritone became brighter and more responsive. I couldn't tell you offhand when exactly that change happened (somewhere between eighteen and thirty months ago roughly?), and no, it's not possible to retrofit older Geordie Baritones in this way. But recent ones, and all future ones, are a bit better than the earliest ones.

  12. That depends in large part on everyone's personal definition of 'affordable', but as for 'playable' -- balanced tone, responsive even in the lowest octave -- the Morse ESB is pretty good. But as an instrument built to perform well and hopefully to last 'probably forever' (at least as far as the lifespan of a purchaser is concerned...), the ESB is well above the price range of the Rochelle or Jack.


    I should note that I'm the least unbiased person who could possibly say this (as I was a co-designer and built all of the ESBs from their introduction until a couple months ago). But others on c-net have ESBs and have given some positive reviews in the past as they may do again here :-) And as one of the very few (or possibly only) readily available new hybrid anglo baritones out there, it may be just about your only readily available option aside from a vintage Lachenal or a custom order from the likes of Colin Dipper.

  13. Will, have you seen the Rob Harbron workshop in Lewes, Kent, on 10th September (it's posted on c-net somewhere)? Rob plays English system, but the workshop is open to players of all systems and speaking as an anglo player who has taken a workshop with Rob Harbron before, I can say with some confidence that Rob will present lots of ideas and approaches and technique that you can apply to anglo as well as English. You might well not be the only anglo in the workshop, but even if you are, it's worth a go (if there's still space).


    (I see Lewes and Maidstone are 42 miles apart; but I would imagine someone else might be going that way or that there are means of getting there other than driving? I can't say, really, as I've never been to Kent and don't know how well-connected it is by buses or trains... But for someone of Rob's talent being so near to Maidstone for a workshop, I'd say it's worth a bit of inquiry.)

  14. My repertoire to a large extent coincides with Jody's, so I agree (from a personal standpoint) wholeheartedly with what he wrote, especially "As I have often stated, for tunes and songs (but not Irish pure drop Anglo style, which I don't play) I find the G/D superior for 95% of what I do play... contra dances, sessions, most fiddle based music, dance tunes, and songs. At sessions and gigs I often bring my C/G too, but rarely play it. The G/D is my instrument of choice most of the time. Still, I do find the C/G useful for C tunes, Dm and G modal tunes and some songs where it fits my voice better than the G/D, but these are the exceptions in my circles and rep."


    Most of what I play is English pub session tunes, (English) ceili dance tunes, bal folk and scandi dance tunes, morris tunes, and trad Manx tunes, with a handful of contra dance tunes from other traditions, and the G/D suits the bill perfectly for me as I'm largely playing in the harmonic style. But I'm playing in G, D, A, E, C, F, and Bb, and various minors, quite happily on the (38-button, I should add) G/D. (So far, just Calliope House in E, but wow is that a sweet tune on the G/D!) I'm getting a 38-button C/G shortly, but the main thing I'm looking forward to is playing tunes in three flats, which has got to be among about the weirdest reasons I suspect anyone has sought out a 38-key C/G.


    But I suspect I'll also use the C/G in time for the trad Manx stuff. There aren't a lot of Manx anglo players -- fewer than a dozen, perhaps -- and only one to my knowledge (besides me) plays G/D, the rest play C/G and play a much more Irish-influenced style. I fear I might sound 'too English' in some way when I play these tunes. (Curious about this very question, I decided to do an MA in Ethnomusicology to study it over the next year....) I might start dabbling in Irish traditional music. And I might do some teaching, in which case having an ace C/G becomes a very useful tool. For outdoor morris or sword playing solo, I might well go with the C/G too, but that's not a situation I'm often in.


    Of available resources (teachers, books, and recordings), availability of a suitable and affordable instrument, desired repertoire, and personal factors (your vocal range and singing keys, what sounds best to your ear), the first two often favor heavily the C/G, the third favors the C/G if you want to play Irish music in the same way as most Irish players traditionally do but favors the G/D in cases like Jody's and mine and anglophiles in general perhaps, and the fourth being personal doesn't necessarily favor anything. There's no one answer that's right for everyone :-)

  15. Veering off-topic on a brief tangent...


    Bob wrote "... a D/G melodeon (as we don't call it on this side of the pond)" and I thought ... really? That's the most common thing I've heard it called on both sides of the pond! The only alternatives I'm aware of are saying "G/D" instead of "D/G" (but in my experience most people do say "D/G" and only a very few say "G/D") and saying "button accordion" interchangably with "melodeon", but it's generally not for anyone's lack of knowing or liking the term "melodeon", just for variety.


    So I'm curious -- are there pockets of the USA where "D/G melodeon" really isn't used at all, and if so, what is used there?

  16. I started with a G/D (and a repertoire of primarily morris and Manx trad tunes), and self-taught. I attended a few workshops for which a C/G was handy and borrowed my friend Roger's.


    After I'd been playing for about a year and a half, Roger passed away and passed his C/G on to me, and I switched almost entirely to playing his C/G ... both playing tunes at correct pitch (and thus with new different fingerings) and playing tunes with the same old fingerings (and thus a fourth higher), and generally messing around a lot more with cross-row stuff and improvisation. Here in America, musicians like John Dexter and Peter Klosky and our own Jim Besser play for morris in C on C/Gs (as of course did Kimber and other ancients; and of course Roger Cartwright on the very instrument I now had), so the idea wasn't as strange as it might be in England.


    A few years after that Robin H sold me a G/D Jeffries, and I switched to playing that almost entirely ... but now I play almost everything in various ways that don't follow the rows, even in G major on the G/D. A week of workshops with Andy Turner really changed my playing in that respect, though I think that was something I learned more from watching him than from his actual workshop teaching. And now, my favorite key to play on the G/D is ... Bb or Gm. Go figure!

    But just as Will Moore notes, the G/D is particularly well-suited to English and Scandi repertoire. If this is your goal, and you can afford to start there, by all means start there! (Though I will note that my absolute favourite instrument for duets with nyckelharpa is my C/G baritone anglo.)

  17. Rob, here are several factors each of which may contribute in some way to the prevalence of C/G over G/D anglos... many will surely find quibbles with one or more of these, as many of these are somewhat subjective rather than objective criteria, but this is roughly how I see it.


    The C/G often has a more balanced sound -- the lowest half-octave on a G/D is just low enough that it often isn't quite as responsive as the rest of the instrument. This varies by maker and by concertina, but it's a tendency. Those low notes just tend to be slower to respond and have less dynamic punch.


    The C/G overall, being half an octave higher, projects more sound. Played outdoors (eg, for morris dancing), a C/G can generally be heard clearly much further away than could an equivalent G/D. Many morris concertina players play in C on a C/G when outdoors and solo. Only if you're 'stuck' playing together with a D/G melodeon player do you have to conform and play for a dance in G.


    There were more C/G instruments made, historically, and thus more of them available when the folk revival hit and concertinas transitioned from being £5 charity shop items to valued instruments. Maybe that was because they could project more in pre-amplification days; maybe it was because they were a little easier to make well; maybe it was because people thought an instrument really ought to be based in the key with no sharps or flats; maybe Other Things.


    Irish traditional musicians picked up the prevalent C/G anglos in days of yore because they were, well, prevalent; but they realized that D was actually a great key on them because for playing fast melodies, D uses the most dextrous fingers on both hands rather than having the right hand do most or all of the melody playing. While it's certainly possible to play Irish music well on other anglos like a G/D or D/A, if you want to play in the style that's been developed, and predominated, over the past century, you want a C/G. Irish music isn't (broadly speaking) about playing in the 'rich harmonic style' but in the 'fast melodic style', so a C/G turns out to actually be better for D tunes than a G/D would be, in this context.


    So a G/D anglo is great in some circumstances, but those are primarily (in my experience): playing in English pub sessions or other predominantly G-and-D sessions where you want to be able to play lots of chords instinctively and sink into that slower richness; playing for morris alongside other musicians who want to, or have to, play in G or D, and you want to be able to really punch out tunes with chords; accompanying singing using a lower-register instrument because it suits your voice well; or because you just prefer the sound of it.


    If you know that's what you want, perhaps a G/D is the best place to start, but unfortunately that requires a larger monetary outlay because the best-value new starter instrument (the Rochelle) is only available in C/G and, to some extent, a larger degree of motivation and ability to self-teach is needed because there are relatively fewer resources on the market at the 'I'm completely new to music and am not really the self-teaching through trial-and-error and musical intuition sort' level; and thus it's a less-commonly taken path by new players. It would be great if there were an equivalent-quality readily-available ~$500 G/D anglo ... but there isn't.


    (Yes, you may read between the lines my personal view, that I think Stagis are far worse on a value-for-money level than Rochelles. But also, I think it's worth getting to know how to play along *and* across the rows early on, whatever your anglo is, because it opens the instrument up right at the beginning and doesn't let you get mentally locked into playing 'along the rows' such that you have to 'break away from your comfort zone' later on.)

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