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Last year I made some progress with using my Crane duet for song accompaniment, which is why I bought it in the first place, and that's what I'm going to focus on in the future.

 

Prior to that I spent three years learning English folk dance tunes, but I've now reluctantly come to accept that a Crane isn't suited to a session environment. I'm not going to get much faster and the 'tina certainly isn't going to get any louder. It may be that I could play at a realistic dance speed, but I certainly can't play at typical session speed. As to volume, it's not that I want to dominate – I'd just like to be able to hear myself which is virtually impossible without holding the Crane up to an ear or going to the back of the room.

 

I know that being able to hear oneself does improve with time, but I've seen other very accomplished concertina players having the same problem. I also realise that extra volume can be leveraged on a duet by playing in parallel octaves, but playing melody with the left-hand creates a further speed handicap. More obviously, I could avoid situations where I have to compete with loud instruments, but that is easier said than done!

 

As is well-known, the Anglo and the English are faster and I've certainly heard Anglos that are much louder, so I would advise anyone who wants to play a concertina in sessions to avoid the Crane. It's too late for me to change system again now, and the Crane fulfils its main purpose so I'm happy with that. If I ever do want to get into instrumental sessions I think I'll try melodeon, mandolin or whistle which have volume and/or sound qualities that can cut through, and they can all be played much faster than the Crane.

 

Richard

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Hi Richard.

Assuming your Avatar is indeed your Crane, maybe therein lies part of the problem, Insofar as It's wooden-ended, and therefore tends to be quieter. (Subjective comment, I know!)

For me, using a 56 MacCann Aeola (metal ended)...and regularly playing in sessions, I've never had a problem hearing myself, even in the company of 100 people, including great swathes of trombones, and euphonia..(is that a real word?)

As for speed of playing...at least in an English session, nothing gets amazingly fast, unlike some Irish sessions, where everybody seems to want to "out diddley" everyone else! (again my opinion).

I'm glad you enjoy the Crane for song accompaniment though...Tim Laycock seems to have made quite a name for himself doing exactly that!

I wouldn't give up on sessions completely though. It's great to see Duets making an appearance occasionally.

One day at Sidmouth there were 4 MacCanns in the same room one afternoon....1 more and we would have reached critical mass!

Good Luck

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Hi Richard.

Assuming your Avatar is indeed your Crane, maybe therein lies part of the problem, Insofar as It's wooden-ended, and therefore tends to be quieter. (Subjective comment, I know!)

For me, using a 56 MacCann Aeola (metal ended)...and regularly playing in sessions, I've never had a problem hearing myself, even in the company of 100 people, including great swathes of trombones, and euphonia..(is that a real word?)

As for speed of playing...at least in an English session, nothing gets amazingly fast, unlike some Irish sessions, where everybody seems to want to "out diddley" everyone else! (again my opinion).

I'm glad you enjoy the Crane for song accompaniment though...Tim Laycock seems to have made quite a name for himself doing exactly that!

I wouldn't give up on sessions completely though. It's great to see Duets making an appearance occasionally.

One day at Sidmouth there were 4 MacCanns in the same room one afternoon....1 more and we would have reached critical mass!

Good Luck

I go along with Ralphie on this one,but perhaps you should investigate single note, tune only, or with single, or double note base line runs that will provide more air and hence increase the sound, The base runs will help your progress with the instrument give you a bit of fun in the session.

Al

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Thanks for the responses!

 

Ralph

I also have a 70-button metal-ended Wheatstone Aeola. It's less convenient so I don't use it much. The tone is a little shriller but not really louder. I will experiment further...

 

Alan

I am only playing melody when I do tunes. Would you be kind enough to explain "base line runs" or refer me to an explanation?

 

Gerry

The Crane is essentially designed for playing chords on the left and melody on the right and for that it is highly logical and excellent. As duets are unisonoric, this gives you three melody notes under your right-hand fingers at any given time. On an English, where the scale is split between the left and right hands, you are using both hands and have six notes available if you use three fingers on each hand. On the Anglo, with the same number of fingers, you have twelve notes available, all without moving the position of your fingers. This is a simplification but it seems to me to be the basic reason why the Crane is relatively slow. I've never played a MacCann, but I get the impression from the layout that it assumes use of four fingers which may give it a slight advantage over the Crane.

 

Richard

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As is well-known, the Anglo and the English are faster .. .

As an anglo player, I didn't know that.

Is the fingering inherently slower or something?

 

Speaking for myself personally, my Anglo is a lot faster and easier to play than my Crane. However, I attribute this to the fact that I've been playing the Anglo for decades longer than I've been learning the Crane. And I've been playing my Anglo with a group for the last 15 years, which is a great incentive to work hard and improve one's performance.

 

Obviously, the Crane seemed very cumbersome at first, but if I extrapolate my improvement in speed and facility hitherto, I would expect to be up to my Anglo speed before too long. Especially if I get an opportunity to use the Crane in a group context.

 

By the way, I don't try to play single melody lines - it would sort of defeat the purpose of a Duet. if I'd wanted to do that, I'd have bought an EC. I wanted something that would let me play the same harmonised style that I play on the Anglo, but in a wider selection of keys, and without the fingering limitations.

 

Cheers,

John

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I am only playing melody when I do tunes.

In that case

  • If you want more volume, try playing in octaves. I.e., play the same melody pattern in both hands at once.
  • If you want more speed, try crossing to the other hand for some notes. (This is a technique used by many anglo players.) You could even try alternating hands for successive notes in the range where that's possible. (Of course, that will be slower rather than faster until you've given it a great deal of practice.)

The Crane is essentially designed for playing chords on the left and melody on the right and for that it is highly logical and excellent.

Excellently designed for that style, yes. But that's not the only "essence" of the design.

 

It's also an excellent (or "essential") design for other techniques/styles, e.g...

  • Playing in octaves, as mentioned above.
  • Playing two "voices", one in each hand. (A parallel harmony a third above or below the melody is quite common and tends to be quite easy both on the English and -- in certain keys -- on the anglo, as well as on duets. But since the hands are completely independent on duets, on them it can be much easier to do harmony lines that are not "parallel", either melodically or rhythmicallly.)
  • In the region of overlap between the two hands, some difficult fingering sequences can be made easier by "flipping" one or more notes into the opposite hand.

As duets are unisonoric, this gives you three melody notes under your right-hand fingers at any given time. On an English, where the scale is split between the left and right hands, you are using both hands and have six notes available if you use three fingers on each hand. On the Anglo, with the same number of fingers, you have twelve notes available, all without moving the position of your fingers.

All of which seems irrelevant if the notes under your fingers aren't the ones you need next in the sequence of notes you're trying to play.

 

This is a simplification but it seems to me to be the basic reason why the Crane is relatively slow.

It's hard for me to accept that as a reason for something that I don't think is true. While I do think the English is "relatively" fast for playing pure melodies, it's not necessarily so for more complex arrangements, and I wouldn't characterize the Crane as "slow", with or without the "relative" modifier. Furthermore, I would list several factors that I believe are at least as significant to playing speed as the number of fingers available. Here is a very incomplete list:

  • Method of holding the instrument. (That's both English vs. anglo-duet "handles" and the very personal ways people make use of them.)
  • Whether in playing a scale (or any particular note sequence) successive notes proceed in a single direction or alternate in direction.
  • In playing a scale or other sequence, whether successive buttons are adjacent or not (i.e., other buttons lie between).
  • Whether it's necessary to reverse the bellows to play successive notes.

Often even more important are the response of both the reeds and the action of a particular instrument.

 

As [the Crane is] unisonoric, this gives you three melody notes under your right-hand fingers at any given time. ... I've never played a MacCann, but I get the impression from the layout that it assumes use of four fingers which may give it a slight advantage over the Crane.

I play the Crane using all four fingers of both hands, not just three. Ditto for the Maccann (to which I've given much less time), though I've spoken with one Maccann player who claims to use only three fingers of each hand.

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I play Anglo in sessions , It's a metal ended Jeffries and can be heard by me and others unless you have too many insensitive players.

 

The thing I notice since changing from button accordion/melodeon is that people don't necessarily see the squeezebox as it's often below table height so they don't seem to allow for when I want to change key etc if I'm leading. Maybe they just see an old geezer fumbling below the table top and look away in embarassment :P

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Duets just have more work to do. If your left hand is playing chords or counter melody or vamping, the right hand is having to play all the notes of the tune. So there is no change of direction (anglo) or change of hand (English) to reduce the workload: every note has to be individually fingered by the right hand. (I am not counting those rare, and unsatisfactory, occasions when the tune goes below middle C and I have to use the left hand. This tends to muck up the accompaniment so I try to avoid this).

 

Much as I love playing Maccann duet, and I really enjoy playing tunes in sessions, I can recognise that I will probably never be as fast as some of the anglo and English players I encounter. After 13 years, I am not always as fast as my wife, who has only been playing concertina (English) for about 9 months.

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Years ago I played with some Irish folks. They seemed to play fiddle tunes with lots of repetition and low toleration for variation and/or harmony. I got bored with that, but I didn't have a hard time being heard (wooden ended Crane).

 

For several years (decades!) I played mostly by myself and did songs and party pieces. For the past two years I have been "jamming" with just about anyone. Most jammers I know like bluegrass, folk, pop or rock from the 70s and 80s (old farts -- but I'm older). I now play a metal ended Crane (I don't notice it being loader than wood, but I'll spot you that). I rarely have any trouble playing softer or louder than the next guy or being heard in groups of say 8 to 10 or less.

 

Here is what I do:

 

To play soft, just the melody on the right hand or two note chords, again on the right hand near the middle of the keyboard and with not too much bellow pressure.

 

To play loud I play the melody in octaves (one note on each hand) and push and pull hard. Speed isn't that much of an issue because as the group gets bigger, the playing slows a bit (more people can not keep up). If it is really fast, there are usually just a few people playing and I can drop the left hand for speed and still be heard.

 

On songs where the phrases end on a sustained note, I can improvise a lick or two in octaves during the sustain -- People always hear me.

 

You can also fit yourself in when no one else is (I've seen Jody Kruskal pull this off) by punching chords in rhythms (beats) that others are not using. Guitar players do the same thing by coming up with a strum that is different from the pack.

 

You can also mix and match this with all sort of variation. For example, do a stride bass and chord on the left (om pa om pa) and some sort of easy block chord with a funky rhythm on the right and then at the end of the phase double octave a counter melody on the sustain. In no time you can be a real pig about it.

 

Three more notes, one of the best musicians I aver played with used to say, "If you can't play well, play loud and if you can't play loud, play fast." Fast and loud are both very over rated, I think.

 

Secondly, sometimes when I don't know how to contribute it is because the best thing I can do is case the 'tina and listen. Just enjoying the others playing is not too bad a thing.

 

Finally, play in groups where all the musicians respect each other. Respectful players with take turns getting "under" the others in the group. You shouldn't have to struggle to shine once in a while.

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Hello Richard,

 

Indeed the Crane lachenal ebony ends is relatively soft, and I have the same experience that it can not compete with a three voice melodeon in an Irish session. But it is not just a Crane problem. My anglo has a beautiful sound and also this concertina cannot compete with loud instruments in a session.

 

I must say that my 70b Crabb duet with all its resonating metal parts is much louder and will certainly be heared in sessions. But still the duet is not ideal for modal music I think. There is more than just the volume. Some music just asks for an anglo. For Irish music I tend to play the anglo. But for klezmer, tangos and jazzy music I tend to play the Crane, sometimes with chords and somtimes without using chords.

 

It may help to "do things with the bellows" to make the sound suitable for session music (direction changes / steadiness of the movements / pressure variations). The effects could make the music more bouncy like in Irish music, I forgot who told me that on this forum, but changing bellow direction can put some emphasis on certain moments. Changing bellow direction on a Crane can make that same bouncy jump like on an anglo in Irish music.

 

Many tunes do not ask for chords at all and that makes it more easy to play at session speed. If you produce only one sound at the time you have a lot of fingers at your disposal to play many notes in a short interval.

 

On the Crane - when chords are involved - you will have to know the chords you want to play (time for thinking may be gone if once you know the tune by head. But it may take more time to move five fingers from one chord to another. It is impossible to play full chords as snappy as single notes on an anglo or english. Also - when you play a chord and then press a button - the additional sounding reed may be less responding. A prt of the air has already gone through another chamber. Without playing a chord - a melody reed will be more responsive.

 

I think music can be beautiful when you play single notes without chords on the Crane, sometimes with the same note an octave lower on the left hand. Apart from playing chords and melody, I sometimes play fast instrumentals with a guitar player that plays the chords. Apart form fast melodies I use it for slow airs - the melody may be not very loud (single notes and no chords) on the Crane and the guitar accompanies the melody with chords. Maybe this is not the kind of music for crowded sessions but it is a nice way of playing in a `sit and listen` settings like a small house room theatre. Playing chords on a Crane is not compulsary...

 

Hoping this helps.

Marien

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Hi

With regard to the volume issue - If everyone wants to play loud enough to hear themselves above everyone else - doesn't this make for a never ending crescendo? If you know your instrument shouldn't you be able to play the notes you need for the tune without actually having to hear them? On the occasions that I have played in a 'band' situation we are always told not to play loudly - I guess on the principle that the overall sound is the important thing, doesn't this apply to sessions?

chris (who doesn't play in sessions)

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Thanks for the responses!

 

.

 

Alan

I am only playing melody when I do tunes. Would you be kind enough to explain "base line runs" or refer me to an explanation?

Richard

Richard sorry for the delay in responding.

Here are some recordings to demonstrate my posting.

The first two are Chocolate Rabbit and Marienne Walz where I play a minimum of notes against the tune, but with a strong base line(two octaves down) as accompaniment. The third is Fubu Waltz where I am playing a combination of one octave down and sixths.(developed for playing against French Bagpipes and Hurdy Gurdy drones.From memory (apart from the ending)all the tunes are accompanied by a maximum of between one and two notes. I occasionally enhance the tune (RH) with an addition note.

The last one to follow

Al

Edited by Alan Day
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Hi

With regard to the volume issue - If everyone wants to play loud enough to hear themselves above everyone else - doesn't this make for a never ending crescendo? If you know your instrument shouldn't you be able to play the notes you need for the tune without actually having to hear them? On the occasions that I have played in a 'band' situation we are always told not to play loudly - I guess on the principle that the overall sound is the important thing, doesn't this apply to sessions?

chris (who doesn't play in sessions)

 

It does in the sessions I like to play in.

 

I strongly believe that when playing in a session (or any music ensemble) the most important thing is to be able to hear all the other players. It makes me shudder every time someone asks me if an instrument is "loud enough to cut through in sessions".

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One of the intrinsic design influences of the concertina causes the sound to disappear out of the ends away from the player. Very often the rest of the room can hear the instrument, but the player can't. I've been in sessions where I could perfectly well hear another concertina in the room, but not my own! Makes for some interesting playing, and it does mean that one needs to know the instrument very well to play along.

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One of the intrinsic design influences of the concertina causes the sound to disappear out of the ends away from the player. Very often the rest of the room can hear the instrument, but the player can't. I've been in sessions where I could perfectly well hear another concertina in the room, but not my own! Makes for some interesting playing, and it does mean that one needs to know the instrument very well to play along.

 

This point is well taken. More than a few times I have gotten surprising feedback on my volume -- and at both extremes. For example, "I wish I had sat closer to you, I never really heard you play." -- after an old timey jam with mostly dulcimers and a few quiet acoustic guitars. Admittedly, I was trying not to overpower the dulcimers.

 

and "Man, that thing has a real presence!" -- at a rather large blue grass jam by the most "senior" cut-through-anything fiddle player -- who on further discussion, liked that fact that I was so loud. However, I didn't mean to be loud on that occasion so it was unsettling.

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Having had a few tunes with Ralphie a couple of days ago, I can vouch for the abundance of volume produced by his McCann. I was playing a very loud EC and having difficulties hearing myself. Mind you it was great to catch up with him after a break of 32 years !

 

Regarding speed playing;

 

as others have said there are a lot of factors.... instrument setup... playing style... personal dexterity etc etc., but I cannot see why a Crane layout should be radically different, in this respect, to any other keyboard.

 

Geoff.

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