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Key Layout On English Baritones


synchopepper
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After years of playing an English Stagi tenor I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Lachenal New Model extended treble restored by Wim Wakker. I knew there would be a period of adjustment and that part of that process would be changing keys or fingering when moving between the tenor and the treble. This is probably less of a problem than getting used to the difference in action. While the Stagi was very good they are very different.

 

The key shifting between the tenor and the treble is still not a change I care to be regularly making on the fly. As I often accompany singing I have been planning on getting rid of the tenor and acquiring a baritone. A major justification for taking up the baritone was my assumption that all baritones are laid out just like trebles only one octave down. If this were so then moving between a treble and a baritone would not require key shifting.

 

Recently I have heard that all baritones are not necessarily laid out exactly one octave below the trebles. I have been told that instead some baritones continue directly down the staff from the low key on the treble and that they do not exactly match trebles in layout. I have also heard that some baritones differ from trebles in that sharps and flats one octave down are not in the same position, possibly due to the direct extension down the staff from the treble layout instead of being exactly transposed one octave down from the treble’s layout.

 

Can anyone shed light on this topic for me? Are there baritones that have the same fingering as trebles and some that do not? If there are differences how does one identify them when shopping for a baritone? Finally does anyone have any additional advice for someone shopping for an English baritone?

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After years of playing an English Stagi tenor I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Lachenal New Model extended treble restored by Wim Wakker. I knew there would be a period of adjustment and that part of that process would be changing keys or fingering when moving between the tenor and the treble.

Syncho, you leave me confused. Why would you change keys? If a tune is in G, shouldn't it stay in G? And if you sing a song in Eb, your voice isn't going to change just because you have a different instrument.

 

As for fingering, the New Model will be missing the lowest notes (4 buttons on each side, low C up to F#) of the tenor (it will also have some new ones at the top), but the positions of the rest should be exactly the same as on the tenor, except for a slight shift of the entire array of buttons. I.e., each note should still be in the same hand, and in the same long row; all the notes of the C scale are in the two inner rows, G# is next to G, Bb next to B, G "above" C, etc. No?

 

As I often accompany singing I have been planning on getting rid of the tenor and acquiring a baritone. A major justification for taking up the baritone was my assumption that all baritones are laid out just like trebles only one octave down.

That is the standard for what is commonly called a "baritone". The other kind -- a treble continuing down into the baritione range -- is commonly called a "baritone-treble". (See below.)

 

Recently I have heard that all baritones are not necessarily laid out exactly one octave below the trebles. I have been told that instead some baritones continue directly down the staff from the low key on the treble...

As just noted, there are such instruments (I have one), and they are generally known as baritone-trebles to distinguish them from octave-lower-than-treble baritones.

 

...and that they do not exactly match trebles in layout.

For all the notes that they share with the treble, they do match exactly. And they should also match your tenor, throughout the tenor range, since that also continues downward from the treble. Corresponding notes an octave lower are on the opposite side of the instrument, but you should be used to that, as it's also true for notes an octave higher on the treble or tenor... or any English-system concertina.

 

I have also heard that some baritones differ from trebles in that sharps and flats one octave down are not in the same position,....

It depends on what you mean by "same position". They're on the opposite side of the instrument from the octave above, but then so are the natural notes. Each accidental is still next to its corresponding natural note, not "in the same position" in a left-right sense, but very much "in the same position" in an outer-row vs. inner-row sense.

 

If there are differences how does one identify them when shopping for a baritone?

Ask.

 

Finally does anyone have any additional advice for someone shopping for an English baritone?

Yep. Check out the new mid-level baritones from The Button Box and Concertina Connection. In my opinion, a big plus for the Albion baritone from The Button Box is that it's the same small size and light weight as their treble, but it has the deep, rich sound of a baritone.

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The original tenor concertinas, in the mid-19th century, had only 43 keys and were pitched in F, designed to play viola parts (the viola was then still commonly referred to as the "tenor"). I wonder if synchopepper's Stagi was modelled on one of these ?

 

It was only later in the century that what we now understand as a tenor concertina (a treble, made without its top row of notes, and extended downwards by one row) developed.

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The original tenor concertinas, in the mid-19th century, had only 43 keys and were pitched in F, designed to play viola parts (the viola was then still commonly referred to as the "tenor"). I wonder if synchopepper's Stagi was modelled on one of these ?

Interesting question.

Syncho, are the Bb's on your tenor in the inner rows out the outer rows?

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My original reference to either changing keys or shifting fingering to go between the tenor and the treble meant that I must shift finger position one row as the tenor has four more keys at the bottom – one row offset compared to the position of the thumb straps and finger rests from the treble. My accidentals are still in the same relative (one row offset) location on both instruments so that is not a problem. A flat is on the inner (top) rows on both instruments.

 

Since I learned a good number of songs on the tenor’s lower range I must now play them very low on the treble requiring me to slip the hold on the finger rests or play them in another key. This is not a problem if - I am not changing from one instrument to the other all the time.

 

What I want to do is to be able to switch between the treble and a baritone without making these kind of adjustments. I’m old and set in my ways. To do that I would want a baritone that is exactly, key for key, like the treble one octave down. I need to be able to confirm, verbally, that a baritone under consideration meets that requirement without having to review the notes ascribed to every key on the instrument. I was hoping there was a common term for that layout. Is “exactly one octave below a standard treble on every key” the best term to use to convey to a seller my needs? I notice the Button Box describes the Albion baritone as “range exactly one octave lower” than the treble model. Assuming the Albion treble is a standard layout I would think this would be the layout I am looking for and had assumed was the standard design for a baritone. Can I assume that deviation from that would mostly be in extended instruments?

 

I can understand that treble-baritones, tenor-baritones, extended baritones, etc. might not be laid out exactly one octave below a treble relative to the placement of the accidentals and thumb strap and finger rest position because they deal with a continuous extended range. My question is will a standard 48 key baritone have the same key layout one octave down as a standard 48 key treble?

 

My treble is larger than the tenor. While I realize that the tenor’s two-level accordion reeds is a different layout my understanding is that generally with standard concertina reeds the lower the range the bigger the instrument to accommodate the larger reeds. I had reconciled myself to having to live with a larger and heavier instrument if I purchase a baritone. The Albion mentioned by Jim intrigues me. While the action on the Stagi is great the reason I bought the Lachenal was for it’s out-standing steel reeds and I value it’s wonderful mellow tone compared to the Stagi. I am surprised that a baritone with Accordion reeds would sacrifice additional keys to make it as small as a treble. I am assuming here that the Albion treble is not significantly larger than a treble with concertina reeds. I have also thought that an older brass reed baritone might be more to my liking but worry about them going out of tune too easily.

 

I am really thankful for the input I am receiving here as I am very isolated out here in the mid-western wilderness. Any other advice concerning purchasing and playing baritones is much appreciated. Later this month I am making a pilgrimage to Cincinnati, OH for the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil where they are supposed to have competition in a concertina division if anyone enters.

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My original reference to either changing keys or shifting fingering to go between the tenor and the treble meant that I must shift finger position one row...

But if you move your chair while working at the computer, do you need to think of the individuals keys on the keyboard as having changed position? Try not to think of the shift from the tenor to the treble as the buttons having moved, but of your hands having shifted slightly relative to the whole keyboard. Then just aim your "shifted fingers" at the same old keys.

 

I need to be able to confirm, verbally, that a baritone under consideration meets that requirement without having to review the notes ascribed to every key on the instrument.

That's easy. Unless it's some custom-made variant -- in which case it shouldn't be called "baritone"-anything -- all you have to do is check the lowest note (which is always located in the lowest position of the right hand, equivalent to the low G of the treble, or the low C of the tenor). If that note is G, it's a standard "baritone", and what you say you want. If that note is F, it's a "baritone-treble", which continues downward from the treble or tenor pattern.

 

I was hoping there was a common term for that layout.

There is. "Baritone"

 

Is “exactly one octave below a standard treble on every key” the best term to use to convey to a seller my needs?

Yeah, but forget the "on every key". I haven't seen one yet that's an octave below on some keys and not on others.

 

I notice the Button Box describes the Albion baritone as “range exactly one octave lower” than the treble model. Assuming the Albion treble is a standard layout I would think this would be the layout I am looking for and had assumed was the standard design for a baritone.

Exactly

 

Can I assume that deviation from that would mostly be in extended instruments?

I think you're confusing yourself by trying to reuse words without being sure what they mean. There are other "deviations", but they're not standard, and "extended" can have more than one meaning, but the important thing is that any "deviation from that" would not be what you want, so it shouldn't matter to you what it's called. Just stick to the descriptions "baritone" and "one octave below standard treble", and you should be fine.

 

My question is will a standard 48 key baritone have the same key layout one octave down as a standard 48 key treble?

Once again, the answer is yes.

 

 

My treble is larger than the tenor.

??? That's the opposite of what I would expect. My experience has generally been that Stagi Englishes are larger than their "vintage" counterparts, and I'd hardly expect the tenor to be smaller than the treble. (But 48-button tenors might not be larger than 48-button trebles, either.)

 

I had reconciled myself to having to live with a larger and heavier instrument if I purchase a baritone. The Albion mentioned by Jim intrigues me.  ....  I am surprised that a baritone with Accordion reeds would sacrifice additional keys to make it as small as a treble.

It doesn't. The Albion baritone has the same number of buttons (37) and reeds as the Albion treble. It's the size of the reed plates for the accordion-style reeds -- even in the treble -- that forced The Button Box to choose between fewer reeds or a larger instrument. They opted for the former, because many English players report that they never use the really high notes on a standard treble, anyway. (I'm one of the exceptions, but even I don't use them all the time. I can be quite comfortable playing an Albion.)

 

I am assuming here that the Albion treble is not significantly larger than a treble with concertina reeds.

As I recall, it's the same size, but lighter in weight. And their baritone is the same.

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Thanks to Jim for enlightening me on several points about baritones. I believe I got off track when someone told me that baritones could have different layouts. A friend, who recently visited the Button Box wrote:

 

“The BB has one for sale. It's a really nice Wheatstone, I think from the early 1900's, but the buttons are sort of backwards from my perspective, read: non automatic translation from the treble and after playing it for a while I'm less certain that I need or want a baritone.”

 

I had assumed the baritone in question was the one BB currently has listed which is a 48 key model. It appears I have made too many assumptions along the way. I have written the Button Box to see if I can throw any additional light on the subject.

 

I made a slip of the pen relating to the size of the tenor vs. the baritone. As Jim pointed out the 48 key tenor is LARGER than the 56 key treble. I do take issue with Jim’s statement about seldom using the highest keys though as I have used them to perfect my bat calling and get much enjoyment doing bird calls and tormenting my pets with all those squeaky little reeds.

 

As the Albion attempts to strike a balance between the space required for accordion reed plates, number of keys and size of instrument I wonder why they didn’t opt for a two tier approach to mounting the reeds as the Stagi does?

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I believe I got off track when someone told me that baritones could have different layouts.

Only two different layouts: the "baritone" and the "baritone-treble". I used to use the term "baritone" for both, not being aware of the second term. But since the Wheatstone ledgers have been published, I've found that "baritone-treble" is Wheatstone's own terminology.

 

A friend, who recently visited the Button Box wrote: “The BB has one for sale.  It's a really nice Wheatstone, I think from the early 1900's, but the buttons are sort of backwards from my perspective, read: non automatic translation from the treble and after playing it for a while I'm less certain that I need or want a baritone.”

 

I had assumed the baritone in question was the one BB currently has listed which is a 48 key model.

Who know? Maybe your friend saw a different instrument, which was a baritione-treble. But anothe possibility is that (s)he was expecting a baritone-treble, i.e., expecting treble notes to remain on the same side and row as they are on the treble, and not for octave-lower notes to occupy those locations (which is what you want). Well, the Wheatstone ledgers identify that serial as a Model 10, i.e., a standard baritone. But the BB can easily tell you for sure.

 

I do take issue with Jim’s statement about seldom using the highest keys though as I have used them to perfect my bat calling...

No problem. With a lower instrument, you just have to call bigger bats. ;)

 

As the Albion attempts to strike a balance between the space required for accordion reed plates, number of keys and size of instrument I wonder why they didn’t opt for a two tier approach to mounting the reeds as the Stagi does?

I'm sure Rich Morse could answer that one at great length. :)

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As the Albion attempts to strike a balance between the space required for accordion reed plates, number of keys and size of instrument I wonder why they didn’t opt for a two tier approach to mounting the reeds as the Stagi does?

Our balance factors were: range, size/weight, quality, and price. It HAD to have a minimum range of g-d''' (as typical 48- button trebles but without the uppermost notes most people don't use), HAD to be the standard 6 1/4" size, SHOULD be fairly lightweight, HAD to be high quality (responsive, fit/finish, durable/reliable0, and MUST be reasonably priced. Being able to fit all the reeds on a single level within our minimum range and target size allowed us to seriously up the quality while keeping the price reasonable.

 

Having any more range (as 48 key) would entail making the instrument larger and/or necessitating the two tier approach. Larger is heavier, considerably more expensive, and less facile. The inner tier reeds are also noticeable less responsive and have a different tonal color - a serious quality issue.

 

We'll leave the 48-key model to when we get our concertina reeds going. That'll be a different model altogether as those reeds engender different design and construction considerations.

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FWIW, our experience with the Morse baritone (which my partner Anne plays since I bought one for her birthday last year) has been very favourable. In a collection which also includes 2 Wheatstone trebles and a Wheatstone brass-reeded baritone, the Morse is probably getting as much playing time as all the rest put together. It's an excellent instrument, the gem of the Morse range, IMHO.

 

Chris

 

PS I seem to recall you saying, Rich, that there would be a baritone version of the C/G anglo in due course. Are you considering making a baritone version of the G/D? (What Colin Dipper calls a bass anglo). If ever you do, put me at the head of the queue!

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