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Everything posted by caj

  1. Hi, It might be easier to simply machine them from Delrin. I had to replace the buttons on my concertina (I bought it in a condition where many of the metal buttons were worn down significantly.) What I did was buy Delrin rods from McMaster-Carr, and mill them to shape with a Dremel tool. To make the bottom peg of the button, I discovered a neat Dremel trick. I set a Dremel tool in that dinky Dremel drill press that they sell, with a fat cylindrical grinding bit close to the drill press platform (a little less than one rod diameter away). Then I'd take a few inches of Delrin rod, hold it firmly to the platform with both hands at the ends, and roll it firmly so that the middle of it rolls into/under the grinding bit. By rolling it in, this mills the middle to a skinnier diameter, and I then cut it in the middle to produce two button blanks. It took surprisingly little time to make a full set of replacement buttons this way, machined with great uniformity despite my grad student budget and my cheapo tools.
  2. Hi, sorry I've been away, I built a MIDI anglo a long time ago by pushing 30 SPST push-buttons into the holes of a Stagi, removing the action and the reeds. It was luck, really: I found a pack of 40 push buttons at a surplus store in California, and they were a perfect fit, skinny and just the right action. The rest was a bidirectional pressure sensor for the inside of the chamber, and a PIC microcontroller to output MIDI---that was back when a PIC ran about 1-2MHz and had no serial organ, so outputting MIDI required some carefully written assembly code. It never worked in a very satisfying way (the bellows were very leaky and I wasn't reading the pressure sensor well) and eventually I purposed the buttons to other projects. If I had to do it again, I'd probably skip the pressure sensors and experiment with microphones. I bet if you sealed the bellows and drilled a hole in the pan, a cheap condenser mic right next to the hole would decently measure air flow from the hiss. Two of them with flaps would give you push/pull. But the big problem would be acquiring a nice set of bellows, that isn't part of a nice real concertina.
  3. That's for sure. I made buttons for my Crabb, and one can see a clear difference in skill between the left and right sides as I slowly figured it out. I made buttons from 3/16" delrin rods, bought from McMaster-Carr. The fabrication was pretty simple using a dremel tool etc. Maybe I should put a photo essay up, as an excuse to refab the left-hand side. Caj
  4. Indeed, my own layout had to be built before I could tell if it would work at all. It will take at least a month of acclimation before I can say anything definite on its ease of use---I will also have to tweak the reedpans, which for one reason or another result in a couple less responsive notes. It is much harder to evaluate when something is mechanically off. In the end, there is no way to tell if something will really synch with someone's brain, and we know that even with popular layouts, which are all known to work, the layout results in different playing styles etc. Caj
  5. I believe that most chords can be played, save for a couple very obscure ones. The original design allowed all chords in all keys, over the full range of the instrument, but this had the tragic disadvantage that some crucial melody notes weren't available in both directions (towit, D) Adding D and A to the extra buttons restricted a few weird chords. Caj
  6. You're right, it isn't Catalonian. I mistyped: this was wine I had when in Catalonia. The layout is as follows: (Pull/Push) Left side Right side E5/C5 F#5/A5 A5/E6 C6/F5 C#6/G#5 Bb5/Eb6 B5/F#5 D6/G5 G5/B5 F5/D5 (high) E4/C4 F#4/A4 Bb4/Eb5 B4/F#4 D5/G4 A4/E5 C5/F4 C#5/G#4 G4/B4 F4/D4 (medium) D3/C3 F#3/A3 A3/E4 C4/F3 C#4/G#3 Bb3/Eb4 B3/F#3 D4/G3 G3/B3 F3/E3 (low) pinky ----> index finger index finger<---pinky I may have the octaves a bit wrong there (but thankfully not in the box.) The outer two columns are extra notes and allow chords. The inner 3 columns on each side are for playing melody. Note that a scale jumps all over the map. Pick any scale in any key, and follow the buttons in the 3 inner columns (index-ring) For example, a C scale is: L2 R3 L3 R2 L1 R1 L2 R2 Whereas a full chromatic scale over all 3 octaves is L2 R2 R3 L1 L3 R1 R2 L2 L1 R3 R1 L3 R2 L2 L1 R3 R1 L3 L2 R2 R3 L1 L3 R1 L2 R2 R3 L1 L3 R1 R2 L2 L1 R3 R1 L3 Caj
  7. This is actually a Norman Model H, with the reedpans removed, and a custom set of accordion reeds installed to follow an absolutely daft and nonsensical note arrangement. I completed it this afternoon. The package store down the street just started to carry my favorite Catalonian wine, just in time for me to celebrate its completion. This note layout was designed to have all sorts of crazy mathematical properties, which as a grad student I confirmed using extensive computer simulations (on MIDI files generated from ABC tunebooks.) They are: All keys are equally "easy" to play; The layout minimizes the probability that two consecutive notes require two different buttons in the same column. I hate it when that happens; All melody notes are on the first three fingers, no pinkies except for harmony and alternate notes. This is even true on the low end of the concertina's range; All scales, major minor etc, are semi-smooth, requiring two direction changes per octave; Playing in octaves is possible over the entire range of the instrument. Okay, the downside is that the note arrangement follows no pattern that makes sense to any sane person. Basically it took me 15 minutes to find the G scale, and I designed the thing. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But my design assumption is that, like typing and playing the Anglo, patterns don't matter; all that matters is practice and muscle memory. So over the next week I will try to learn to play a few tunes on the thing. I will also tweak the mechanics, because my reedpan-building skills are not perfect. Caj
  8. I once built a MIDI Stagi with a PIC16F84. Never finished it, but I did get to the point where it was outputting notes. The pressure sensors were too noisy, however. Anyway, a 16F84 is a fairly cheap, low-end PIC, if you can still buy one. And that had enough non-volatile RAM that I could squeeze in two different keyboard layouts with suffiently clever coding. For different keys using the same "layout," you wouldn't need the RAM. Just read the key from a switch, and add the appropriate number of half-steps to each note before it goes out the door. Caj
  9. Hello, The inner lining that holds the reedpan snug: am I right in assuming that this is the same material the valves are made from? That is the impression I get from my Crabb. I ask because I have a set of bellows from an accordion-reeded box, and I am building traditional reedpans for it. I need to line the interior for a snug fit. Caj
  10. Thank goodness. I thought "foot play" was a euphemism for "stomp on." Caj
  11. When I was working in silicon valley one summer, I dropped by Lark in the Morning to check it out, and saw my first low whistle. This thing was a single piece of aluminum pipe with holes, the fipple being part of the pipe. My first thought was, "jeez, that looks like a half-hearted attempt to disguise a weapon as a musical instrument by putting some holes in it. I absolutely have to try bringing that through an airport." I did end up buying that low whistle, and I did travel a lot that summer, always keeping the thing in my carry-on to see how the TSA would react. I felt a bit upset that nobody ever raised an eyebrow as it passed through the x-ray machine. By the end of my job, in August 2001, I was convinced that I could bring a pistol in my carry-on bag and the guy manning the x-ray wouldn't even blink. Caj
  12. That's awesome. It looks like it's overheating from playing some really fast tunes. You can take that thing to a session, and if someone comments on the look you can say, "ooh, yikes, looks like I need to adjust the rods in the reactor core." Caj
  13. Speaking of reedpans, I think I finally figured out the trick for milling them. I only carved a few test slots, but they are precise and snug. This after several failed attempts to cut them by other means. When my summer job is over, I will begin cutting the pans in earnest, and taking some photos. Caj
  14. Okay. My 2 cents aside, let me add that those pictures are pretty cool. I am in the very gradual process of putting together an unusual concertina with a weird layout. This will be an anglo-type layout, 30 buttons, but with the notes in genuinely weird places. I already have a fine set of reeds, and "just" need the box around it. I've been trying to mill a reedpan without losing a finger, and have discovered to my astonishment that this is hard . Maybe we can join forces and trade notes. I've very little experience with the box frame, since I am working from the inside-out. I did fabricate a set of replacement buttons for my old new Crabb, so I have some experience with that. That's made from delrin (you can buy delrin rods of 1/4 or 3/16 from McMaster-Carr,) and it was a "kitchen table" project. You can tell how my skill increased by looking at the left half and then the right half of my concertina. Caj
  15. If you're really doing this in your kitchen, I recommend a certain level of awareness of the particulate matter y'all may be inhaling. Certain hardwoods produce toxic sawdust, and if you intend to make buttons out of delrin plastic you certainly don't want to breathe that. Delrin dust is not poisonous, but it doesn't biodegrade either. Caj
  16. Here's a thought: a concertina requires so very little pressure to make a note. So then, a wobble in the atmospheric pressure would be significant compared to the pressure difference across the reed, and so have a more audible effect on the sound. Meanwhile, bagpipes require hella pressure to make the reed sound. If you ever tried to use a mouth-blown practice chanter, you'd know that it's not fun being a bag. That would mean that a wobble in the air doesn't make as big a difference to the reed. Maybe the reason you hear different amounts of wonkiness from accordions and concertinas is that the pressure in a button accordion is higher? Also, here's a simple test: try playing loud under a ceiling fan. Does the effect diminish? Caj
  17. Okay, so let's ask ourselves: what makes a concertina different from other instruments? One is that the sound projects out the sides of the instrument, and bounces off walls. Could that be the reason fans cause trouble? If so, you should get a similar effect with any other very directional instrument aimed away from you. Caj
  18. If you really want to go crazy with experimental features, you can get some kind of solid state gyro (like hobbyists use in radio control airplanes/helicopters), and install them on the ends to measure the instrument's orientation. This way the player can tilt one end upward or downward while playing, and that effect can be converted to something. Then again, I don't know how cheap those gyros really are. Caj
  19. It looks like you have a Stagi case. Those will be a tad large for other concertinas. I used to keep my 1st box in a Stagi case, also with foam baffles. I eventually got an insulated lunch cooler as a soft case, which made it less obvious to thieves anyway. My current concertina came with a delapidated but snug case that is constantly falling apart at the ends, and I think the hinges are about to split too. I keep it together with occasional repairs, and I've noticed that people think it's some kind of trendy lunchbox. They're always telling me "that's a cool box you have there," without ever wondering what could be inside it. Caj
  20. That's incredibly tidy. I love those hexagonal power/ground rails. I've always wondered how the pros did pressure sensing. I was converting a Stagi to midi back when I had more free time, and I couldn't get decent precision from the pressure sensor, a dual-ported Motorola sensor whose packaging was kind of a pain to interface with the box. I was thinking instead of using a single-ported sensor, or maybe a pair of them if that would help with noise. But that's for another time. Cool box! Caj
  21. Heh, there's that word "vintage" again. Thanks to eBay, every time I hear the word "vintage" I get a picture in my mind similar to the picture in that auction: a big, bright red pearloid concertina. When people use the word "vintage" to talk about wine, I can't help imagining a bottle of wine being opened and a dozen loose parts falling out. And then I get an asthma attack from breathing the air comes out. Caj
  22. The best recording I ever made of a concertina used a directional stereo mike placed a few feet in front of the concertina player. But, this was in a big empty square room, so that the sound from both ends must have been reflecting off the walls and back to the mic. Caj
  23. It is a tough decision between NHICS and IAW. But there's a big difference in what you get. At NHICS you will learn a lot. If you want to learn a lot about how to play the concertina, NHICS is your best bet. If you want school, go to NHICS. At Irish Arts Week, you experience a lot. Sessions all night every night, performances by lots of people, a town up in the Catskills that for one week every year is suddenly populated by musicians, like some kind of myth. It's an opportunity to hear lots of music, make friends and socialize, etc. But it's not really for learning. You do learn a little, but you don't have much time to work. BTW, I took the class w/ Michael Rooney last year, and I think he's a great teacher. You can tell that he has experience teaching, probably kids, by the way he kept everyone in line. Musicians at IAW don't always provide a lot of structure---some are just, "um, here's some tunes"---but I learned a lot from Mr. Rooney. Caj
  24. I hate to muddy the waters regarding terminology, but thanks to eBay I am reluctant to call anything "vintage." It is becoming a disparaging term. In the secret language of eBay, "vintage" means "not really antique, but boy it sure looks and smells like it's been through a couple wars." Auctioneers tend to call something "vintage" if they can't confidently call it an antique. I prefer "traditional" to describe concertina-reeded boxen, then "modern" to describe the new, expertly made accordion-reeded ones, and "Stagi" to describe Stagis. A traditional box made before Crabb stopped manufacturing is "old". My concertina is "old," tho not by much; I'm about the same age as it. Caj
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