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Hayden vs. English for beginner in Afghanistan? (CC Elise?)


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I'm doing some civilian work in Afghanistan, and along with my tinwhistle thought I should pick up another compact instrument to occupy my downtime. I'm looking into getting a starter concertina from Concertina Connection, and had been going to just get their standard "Jackie" English box. Intent was to do some basic Irish fiddle tunes and Old Time banjo tunes, some vocal accompaniment, and also to do some avant-gardey stuff with vamping melodies over drones, etc. I always liked the work of Peter Bellamy (who I believe used the Anglo), but despite that and also playing the 1-row squeezebox I just never warmed to the Anglo, so was inclined to try English.

 

However, then I noticed that CC now offers a Hayden system concertina (the ''Elise'') for around the same price ($360). The Hayden seems really appealing as "the good idea that never caught on", and I am a sucker for obscure good ideas. However, when I dug up basic info on Hayden concertinas, it seems they're good for accompaniment, kinda of organ-like stuff, but not as quick on melodic work. It doesn't help that the main YouTube clips of Hayden appear to be oompah-band sort of tracks, which isn't so much my thing.

 

I've messed with English (one of those cute Stagi minis) back when I was a teenager, and it seemed a decent setup, with bouncing from side to side to go up the scale. However, Hayden also sounds logical, being able to do bass or chords on the left, and also maybe play a lower counterpoint or even duplicated low octave.

 

I'm not dead-set on being able to do specifically fast fiddle playing with proper ITM ornamentation or anything, and I'm not looking to closely cleave to any particular school of playing. So that does incline me a bit to the Hayden, and also because since I have a strong melodic background (fiddle, lead mandolin, tinwhistle) I'm inclined to challenge myself to focus more on harmony and chordal work).

 

So, should I take a harder look at the Hayden, or just write it off and stick with the more common English system?

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However, when I dug up basic info on Hayden concertinas, it seems they're good for accompaniment, kinda of organ-like stuff, but not as quick on melodic work. It doesn't help that the main YouTube clips of Hayden appear to be oompah-band sort of tracks, which isn't so much my thing.

You can play melodies plenty fast on the Hayden, just not as fast as some of the ridiculously fast stuff a few people can do on an English. You can certainly play reels at contradance tempo, and that's just with your right hand. Then you have your left hand free to provide whatever kind of accompaniment you can manage.

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I'm doing some civilian work in Afghanistan, and along with my tinwhistle thought I should pick up another compact instrument to occupy my downtime. I'm looking into getting a starter concertina from Concertina Connection, and had been going to just get their standard "Jackie" English box. Intent was to do some basic Irish fiddle tunes and Old Time banjo tunes, some vocal accompaniment, and also to do some avant-gardey stuff with vamping melodies over drones, etc. I always liked the work of Peter Bellamy (who I believe used the Anglo), but despite that and also playing the 1-row squeezebox I just never warmed to the Anglo, so was inclined to try English.

 

However, then I noticed that CC now offers a Hayden system concertina (the ''Elise'') for around the same price ($360). The Hayden seems really appealing as "the good idea that never caught on", and I am a sucker for obscure good ideas. However, when I dug up basic info on Hayden concertinas, it seems they're good for accompaniment, kinda of organ-like stuff, but not as quick on melodic work. It doesn't help that the main YouTube clips of Hayden appear to be oompah-band sort of tracks, which isn't so much my thing.

 

I've messed with English (one of those cute Stagi minis) back when I was a teenager, and it seemed a decent setup, with bouncing from side to side to go up the scale. However, Hayden also sounds logical, being able to do bass or chords on the left, and also maybe play a lower counterpoint or even duplicated low octave.

 

I'm not dead-set on being able to do specifically fast fiddle playing with proper ITM ornamentation or anything, and I'm not looking to closely cleave to any particular school of playing. So that does incline me a bit to the Hayden, and also because since I have a strong melodic background (fiddle, lead mandolin, tinwhistle) I'm inclined to challenge myself to focus more on harmony and chordal work).

 

So, should I take a harder look at the Hayden, or just write it off and stick with the more common English system?

The Hayden Duet is perfect for your situation, musical experience, and interests. You'll be quickly playing melodies on the right hand (tho it's good to practice them on the left as well). And for learning harmony and chords, as well as countermelodies and parallel 3rds and 6ths, there's nothing better than a Hayden's left hand. Within a couple days you'll be playing major and minor chords along with your tunes, then move on the oom-pah bass and chords -- or jsut skip that and play single-note countermelodies on the left hand.

 

It's true that many Hayden players use the box as a small accordian, but you don't have to play in that style if you prefer something else. I've been working on more fluid styles of accompaniment, having played Hayden for 5 years now.

 

Don't let the scarcity of Haydens bother you. Any kind of music can be adapted to it, from sheets or by ear, and especially "fake" lead sheets. You can be a one-man band, and will find the DUet very satisfying to play by yourself, but also very versatile when played with other musicians.

 

Go for the Elise. And take care out there. --Mike K.

Edited by ragtimer
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That does sound pretty good! I was initially somewhat concerned about the 34-key range (not quite 3 octaves?) of the Elise, but honestly I almost never go beyond a 2-2.5 octave range on any other instrument I play. Uke, fretless banjo, Appalachian dulcimer, pennywhistle. Not quite an 88-key piano...

 

I contact CC about getting an Elise mailed out to an APO address, maybe with a little extra padding for the long trip. If they can send it, and have one in stock, I believe I shall order.

 

I already figured out one of the first songs I want to arrange: Flowers of the Forest. I think it would go well with some drones and bass accompaniment on the left hand and the lead on the right.

 

 

Also very interested in learning to do fiddle tunes in parallel octaves. In another Duet thread someone mentioned that there's a certain fiddle style based on playing similar tunes an octave apart, and that Duets were particularly adapatable to that style. Any idea what style that would be?

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That does sound pretty good! I was initially somewhat concerned about the 34-key range (not quite 3 octaves?) of the Elise, but honestly I almost never go beyond a 2-2.5 octave range on any other instrument I play. Uke, fretless banjo, Appalachian dulcimer, pennywhistle. Not quite an 88-key piano...

I think you'll find more limitation in the missing notes (like no G# or D#/Eb), than in the pitch range.

But you can substitute chords -- using E minor in palce of E major can make a tune more mournful and sad, for example.

 

I contact CC about getting an Elise mailed out to an APO address, maybe with a little extra padding for the long trip. If they can send it, and have one in stock, I believe I shall order.

 

I already figured out one of the first songs I want to arrange: Flowers of the Forest. I think it would go well with some drones and bass accompaniment on the left hand and the lead on the right.

Drone bass is easy on a Duet, a great way to get started, and I've had good results with drones. Then as you get better, you can start hopping the "chord" around, where the chord consists of the root note and its fifth.

 

Best of luck, and keep us informed of your progress and any questions.

--Mike K.

Edited by ragtimer
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I think you'll find more limitation in the missing notes (like no G# or D#/Eb), than in the pitch range.

But you can substitute chords -- using E minor in palce of E major can make a tune more mournful and sad, for example.

 

As mainly a folk player, and often a modal dulcimer player, I can't imagine the lack of a G# is going to be a dealbreaker.... :P

 

 

CC gave me a very quick email reply, and now I'm on the backorder list for the shipment of Elises coming in in March, and they can double-box to get it safely to Afghanistan.

 

Drone bass is easy on a Duet, a great way to get started, and I've had good results with drones. Then as you get better, you can start hopping the "chord" around, where the chord consists of the root note and its fifth.

 

Best of luck, and keep us informed of your progress and any questions.

--Mike K.

 

I figure I learned a lot on fingerpicking guitar by backing up melody with I-V chords, so I imagine I'll start with the same on the concertina.

 

On a minor sidenote, I believe I recall your sigline from Usenet back in the 1990s. Small squeezebox world.

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Drone bass is easy on a Duet, a great way to get started, and I've had good results with drones. Then as you get better, you can start hopping the "chord" around, where the chord consists of the root note and its fifth.

 

However, be aware that you will have to change bellows direction at frequent intervals, so you won't get a "real" drone (i.e. a continuous, underlying tone) like on a bagpipe or hurdy-gurdy! The effect of an interrupted, underlying tone is quite different.

 

OTOH, the desire for a drone might be a good motivation to practise "seamless" bellow-changes! biggrin.gif

 

Cheers,

John

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However, be aware that you will have to change bellows direction at frequent intervals, so you won't get a "real" drone (i.e. a continuous, underlying tone) like on a bagpipe or hurdy-gurdy! The effect of an interrupted, underlying tone is quite different.

 

OTOH, the desire for a drone might be a good motivation to practise "seamless" bellow-changes! biggrin.gif

 

Quite right, but I was using "drone" loosely, as one applies it to such critters as fiddle and guitar: a backing root or fifth note frequently and repeatedly struck, as opposed to truly constant.

 

Though I play more uke than guitar, I do like classical guitar for those low bass strings. I don't actually strum chords on guitar at all (saving strumming for uke), but just pluck a drone on the bass and noodle around on the higher strings, repeatedly striking a low string every measure or few to keep the background hum. It ends up sounding pretty neat, and works well for slow airs, Persian-esque ramblings taken from dutar music, pipe tunes, etc. Not quite as crowdpleasing as breaking out with "Hotel California", but I like my niche.

 

Looking forward to applying those techniques to duet concertina once CC gets them back in stock and ships one back over to Asia for me.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Minor update: CC's shipment of Elise's was at Customs in Seattle late last week, so might make it to them and get mailed out to me later this week. Still most stoked about getting my hands onto this concertina, and trying out the Hayden system.

 

On a minor sidenote, if I happen to fall in love with the Hayden system, what would be the next step up if I outgrow the 30-key Elise? My impression is that Hayden Duets are pretty uncommon, so would I have to seek out a custom maker of hybrid concertinas to build me a Hayden? Is that a $1500 issue, or a $3000 issue?

 

Will report back once the Elise arrives, and hope to get some pics and YouTube footage of me playing in Afghanistan.

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Minor update: CC's shipment of Elise's was at Customs in Seattle late last week, so might make it to them and get mailed out to me later this week. Still most stoked about getting my hands onto this concertina, and trying out the Hayden system.

 

On a minor sidenote, if I happen to fall in love with the Hayden system, what would be the next step up if I outgrow the 30-key Elise? My impression is that Hayden Duets are pretty uncommon, so would I have to seek out a custom maker of hybrid concertinas to build me a Hayden? Is that a $1500 issue, or a $3000 issue?

 

Will report back once the Elise arrives, and hope to get some pics and YouTube footage of me playing in Afghanistan.

At this point, next up from the Elise is a 46-button Stagi from Button Box for $1000, then there's nothing until you get to Bob Tedrow's 52-button hybrid at $4750, then Wakker's 46-button concertina-reeded one at $5875 and up. There have been discussions of possibilities between the Stagi and the Tedrow in price, but nothing actually on the market yet.
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next up from the Elise is a 46-button Stagi from Button Box for $1000, then there's nothing until you get to Bob Tedrow's 52-button hybrid at $4750, then Wakker's 46-button concertina-reeded one at $5875 and up.

 

 

Makes you want to consider other systems, doesn't it?

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next up from the Elise is a 46-button Stagi from Button Box for $1000, then there's nothing until you get to Bob Tedrow's 52-button hybrid at $4750, then Wakker's 46-button concertina-reeded one at $5875 and up.

 

 

Makes you want to consider other systems, doesn't it?

 

 

 

Alternate point of view: if enough people buy $360 Elise boxes, over time a market for a good mid-level $1500-2000 hybrid Hayden Duet box will develop. I'd imagine it's far easier to sell folks on experimenting with the Hayden now that an affordable one is available.

 

I'm also under the impression that CC has actually been moving this new product surprisingly well, in lots of 50 at a time. They were actually out of stock and waiting on more to arrive when I ordered mine. Who knows, maybe we're on the verge of a Hayden revolution in squeezeboxing...

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I've thought since they came out that our Wim's chief market for elises is not would-be duet players, just people who want to take up the concertina. I think he sells them to people who don't know much more than they like the idea and come in and try the three types and think "This makes much more sense than those funny things" and that's how they decide. Not with preconceptions like "I need an Anglo for ITM" or whatever, purely on what makes most sense to them on the day. I think a Hayden would win that hands down.

 

They don't know that moving to an instrument with a better range will involve great difficulty and/or expense; it wouldn't have occurred to them that they might want a bigger one. If they stay firmly in the folk world they may not ever realise at that.

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I've thought since they came out that our Wim's chief market for elises is not would-be duet players, just people who want to take up the concertina. I think he sells them to people who don't know much more than they like the idea and come in and try the three types and think "This makes much more sense than those funny things" and that's how they decide. Not with preconceptions like "I need an Anglo for ITM" or whatever, purely on what makes most sense to them on the day. I think a Hayden would win that hands down.

 

They don't know that moving to an instrument with a better range will involve great difficulty and/or expense; it wouldn't have occurred to them that they might want a bigger one. If they stay firmly in the folk world they may not ever realise at that.

 

 

 

If the Hayden is an intuitive system for a lot of people, why should they have to settle for a different system? If an affordable Hayden introduces enough people to that system, is it that unlikely the market would even produce to meet the demand?

 

I'm one of those people, from a non-concertina background who found the idea of the Hayden Duet system appealing, and a CC 30-key box wasn't more than $20 pricier than a CC English 30-key. If I decide to upgrade to a $1500-2000 box at some point, that's a bridge to cross then.

 

Out of curiosity, is it that extremely difficult for a builder of English concertinas to make a batch of Haydens? I realize the key placement is a bit different, and the reeds are distributed differently, but is it not a relatively similar construction process? I could imagine a maker might need to set up a different template to drill his holes and whatnot, but if CC sells 500 Elises in the next two years, and 15 of those people end up wanting a $2300 hybrid-reed Hayden, would that demand not attract a maker?

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If the Hayden is an intuitive system for a lot of people, why should they have to settle for a different system?

 

No idea. As I said before I think this is what is actually selling the majority of them.

 

If an affordable Hayden introduces enough people to that system, is it that unlikely the market would even produce to meet the demand?

 

Out of curiosity, is it that extremely difficult for a builder of English concertinas to make a batch of Haydens? I realize the key placement is a bit different, and the reeds are distributed differently, but is it not a relatively similar construction process? I could imagine a maker might need to set up a different template to drill his holes and whatnot, but if CC sells 500 Elises in the next two years, and 15 of those people end up wanting a $2300 hybrid-reed Hayden, would that demand not attract a maker?

 

They don't produce any of the better concertinas on a production line, that's the thing, they're made to order. In most cases as fast as they can. There's a queue and they don't need to be adventurous with duets, they can sell less mechanism for more money easier to the ITM merchants. Nevertheless you can actually order a larger better Hayden these days, so despite that the situation is approaching as good as it's going to get. Now you have to wait while the pool of second hand instruments builds to the point where it is possible to expect to move up to a reasonably priced second hand one when you want to, instead of having to order a new one at full cost. At the rate they sell I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

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Out of curiosity, is it that extremely difficult for a builder of English concertinas to make a batch of Haydens?

IIRC the late Richard Morse was working on a mid-range Hayden after producing similar anglo and english instruments. I don't know what his process was, but given that he never completed the project I'm guessing the answer to your question is: harder than you'd think. There are surely others more with more knowledge of the story than I, but it didn't seem like a simple retool.

Edited by L'Albatroce
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Out of curiosity, is it that extremely difficult for a builder of English concertinas to make a batch of Haydens?

IIRC the late Richard Morse was working on a mid-range Hayden after producing similar anglo and english instruments. I don't know what his process was, but given that he never completed the project I'm guessing the answer to your question is: harder than you'd think. There are surely others more with more knowledge of the story than I, but it didn't seem like a simple retool.

The fundamental problem with building any type of Duet is the large number of reeds and buttons required. A Duet has roughly two chromatic octaves on each side, and the low bass reedds are concentrated on the left side, which typically ends up with fewer notes.

 

Rich Morse was struggling to fit a good Hayden Duet into the same size ends as his other boxes. Once he started makign the larger baritone EC, he figured he could fit a Hayden into that space, but his untiely death has paused the project. Bob Tedrow makes his ends quite large for his excellent 52-button Hayden, and still the reeds jsut fit.

 

Still there';s no reason why a Hayden should be any harder to build than a Maccann or a Crane. (There are enough good used ones of those aroudn that AFAIK nobody builds new ones.)

 

As for DIrge's comment that ease of learning sells Haydens to newbies, I can vouch for myself that the intuitive system was a big part in my decision to buy a Hayden. I could play a scale and chords within a couple minutes, with Rich Morse himself showing me the ropes.

 

But I also wanted a Duet -- bass, chords, and melody, or countermelody, etc. I knew already that those would be dicey on an EC or ANglo. Rich first suggested I get a piano accordion, but I wanted something smaller and lighter and no straps and no bad jokes.

 

Now if RIch had had a nice used Lachenal Crane in the shop at the time, I might be playing Crane today.

 

As for affordability, there are indeed rumors of a hybrid Hayden in 2011. All those ELise players have to go somewhere, as was pointed out. Meanwhile, a $1000 Stagi 46 will go at least 5 years before the action wears out.

--Mike K.

Edited by ragtimer
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UPDATE: the Elise Hayden arrived in Afghanistan today!

 

CC was kind enough to double-box it, and it arrived in perfect shape.

 

I had a few initial confusions: due to having played melodeon I had to fight the instinct to change bellows direction to change the note. Also had some intial "brain pain" realising that the left and right fingerings are mirrored. So as I'm fingering upwards on the right, the parallel scale on the lower is fingering downwards. Despite some initial weirdness, within a minute or two I had no problem figuring out scales, some basic tunes, and then adding some I-V drones in the background.

 

Being a drones fan anyway (and they're certainly an easy way to start accompaniment), I first figured out how to do some droney tunes, mainly Flowers of the Forest and Sgt. MacKenzie. The latter being the song made popular by the Vietnam War film We Were Soldiers, with the lyrics "lay me down/ in the cauld, cauld ground/ where before/ many more have gone."

 

So far, so good. Fit and finish seem quite acceptable for an off-shore concertina, and no sour reeds thus far. Even on the tightest hole the straps are a bit too big for my hands, so I'll probably go to the Afghan leatherworkers on base and have them make a nice, clean extra hole with an awl so I can cinch them further.

 

Will update folks as I get a chance, and hope to get some YouTube clips up once I sound tolerable.

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