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Hi, all,

 

As an EC player in the process of choosing a MacCann duet, I would love to hear your advice on a particular point.

 

The range I need for the kind of music I plan on playing is large enough that I would prefer not to go smaller than a 72. In fact, the 81 is just about perfect in that respect...but I know there are other factors to consider. Basically, I'm trying to figure out whether the increased range is worth the tradeoffs of increased size and weight, and everything that goes along with them.

 

So far, the 81-players I've spoken to seem to feel that it's not really more difficult to play than smaller models. On the other hand, I've also read a lot of comments here in the forums that suggest that the 72 is at the limit of playability. I would love to hear opinions from both sides that might help me in my decision!

 

Thanks,

Josh

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I own an 81 key Hayden, and, for the beginning duet player, I would recommend the smaller instrument. The larger you go, the more you lose some of the dynamics of the instrument. And part of the joy of concertinas is getting a big sound out of a small instrument. Most of my playing is done on 46 key Haydens, and I go to the 81 key instrument mostly for playing in other keys and increased range.

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I have a 72 button MacCann and find it just that little too big for comfort.

 

A person tends to overlook the size of the larger ones when they are seen individually. When viewed side by side to a 7 1/4" instrument it becomes obvious exactly how huge 9 3/4" is. (See the comparison here

)

 

The 81 button model is even bigger at 10 3/4" and how Percy Honri managed to control it so well is beyond me. (See him here

and watch quickly before it gets flagged for some copyright violation)

 

Besides the increased effort that is required for music expression maneuvers there are other things to consider. When traveling on regional airlines it seldom fits in overhead compartments or under the seat. If you are lucky you will evade detection from cabin crew by keeping under one foot. I have been refused going on board with "that thing" even though it is within the prescribed size for hand luggage.

 

You seldom, if ever, use the entire range of the instrument and you are better off, in my opinion going for something a tad smaller.

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I do not think that you would lose much in the way of dynamics with the larger instrument it is just that a great deal more effort is needed to access them.

 

When changing from a 6 inch (treble EC) to an 8 inch model I notice that the difference in push and pull power needed is significant.

It is what you 'get used to' as can be seen from the Percy Honri video (many thanks for the link Sean).

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I do not think that you would lose much in the way of dynamics with the larger instrument it is just that a great deal more effort is needed to access them.

 

When changing from a 6 inch (treble EC) to an 8 inch model I notice that the difference in push and pull power needed is significant.

It is what you 'get used to' as can be seen from the Percy Honri video (many thanks for the link Sean).

 

Completely right Geoff. Every time I have gone up in size I've wondered what I've done at first; within a short time the new 'huge' instrument feels normal. The volume is still there but with an 81 you have to get your shoulder into it, which I rather enjoy!

 

Because the volume range is spread over a wider range of applied force it seems to me to be easier, not harder, to express little nuances precisely with a big instrument. As I say I enjoy it, although I wouldn't claim this as decent compensation for the harder work involved, and I'd have to admit that I think the 58s or 62s are the most comfortable in terms of having enough wind to hold biggish chords while not needing huge effort, but that's a different thing altogether.

 

Sean; if you "seldom if ever use the full range of a 72" it's no surprise you find it "just that little too big for comfort." There's not much point in fighting a big duet if you don't reap the benefits. You either need a smaller instrument or you could join the ICA and use the library a bit; there's lots of music that uses the full glory of a 72 there.

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Because the volume range is spread over a wider range of applied force it seems to me to be easier, not harder, to express little nuances precisely with a big instrument.

Dirge.

 

I have just tried this and yes, of course, you are completely correct. A good and important point Dirge.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Thank you all for your perspectives, and please don't stop! We're definitely hitting at the heart of the matter: it's definitely true that the "feel" of a smaller concertina has a lot to do with why I like to play this instrument, and the larger you get, the less it's inevitably going to feel like this because of the greater volume of air. On the other hand, if I did have the LH range of an 81, I would use it every day. It's a tough choice.

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Let me throw another focusing question into the mix: how *different* is the feel of a 72 versus an 81?

 

And Dirge, a question for you: when you talk about "throwing your shoulder into it," would you say that the effort is genuinely great, such that it takes some real muscle power to play the thing, or just that it's so much greater than the smaller instruments most of us are used to that it seems much harder by comparison? A small free-bass accordion, for example, would probably be of similar weight and air volume to an 81 Aeola, but many people from the smallest to the largest manage to play those without that much difficulty.

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Let me throw another focusing question into the mix: how *different* is the feel of a 72 versus an 81?

 

And Dirge, a question for you: when you talk about "throwing your shoulder into it," would you say that the effort is genuinely great, such that it takes some real muscle power to play the thing, or just that it's so much greater than the smaller instruments most of us are used to that it seems much harder by comparison? A small free-bass accordion, for example, would probably be of similar weight and air volume to an 81 Aeola, but many people from the smallest to the largest manage to play those without that much difficulty.

 

Not easy to answer. I don't end up sweating, or think "Crikey, that's enough of that" (I've never stopped playing for stamina reasons even when Sal's away and I'm being REALLY obsessive) so it can't be that bad, but for playing LOUD I can't think of a better description of how I do it. Relative to a PA there's more effort involved in maintaining the thing's position; no shoulder straps remember and you mustn't let it roll or your fingering is out. Also you need to keep your left hand precisely placed while the end's in movement; it takes effort to keep your hand braced out into the strap on your thumb; and I am having great trouble keeping my fingers relaxed as a matter of course while doing this at the moment; your hand has to be tensed anyway, then suddenly you notice that your fingers are like bars too...perhaps I should remind you how beautiful a concertina sounds relative to a PA at this point!

 

Again I ought to have a useful comment on 72 vs 81 but my 81 is the full lump and the 72's that l/w one so it's not so simple to pinpoint. I tried a fast piece that I've had 'sort of' finished for ages on the 72 when I picked it up (first time for ages) and was surprised that it seemed to flow really nicely, better than it has done recently. I wouldn't have expected any difference but either I've still not truly adapted to the 81 after over 6 months, or the extra bulk needs to be overcome. I suppose either explanation suggests the difference is significant, which is a sort of answer.

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I have been pondering how to calculate the increase in effort. Say that one can equate "sound volume" to internal pressure within the instrument as a result of the force that the player applies. The relationship between force and pressure is determined by the area from the equasion

 

P = F / A

 

In order to maintain the same internal pressure between a smaller instrument and bigger instrument, the force applied must be greater to the ratio of the increase in Area

 

Because P = F1/A1 = F2/A2

 

My 72-Button is 9.5" which gives it an area of 74.76 square inches (not taking the thickness of the bellows into account)

A 81-Button instrument is 10.75" which gives it an area of 115.56 sq in.

 

Thus the increase in force is given by the ratio of Areas, which is 115.56 / 74.76 = 1.54

 

In other words 54% more force is required to apply the same internal pressure to a 81-button instrument than would be required for a 72-button instrument.

 

If you upgrade from a 6 3/4" instrument to a 10 3/4" instrument you would need to apply twice the force.

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I'd worked out it was in proportion to X section too; interesting to see the actual numbers though. 1 1/2 times eh?!.

 

While you were doing that I was playing the 'Nimrod' enigma var. theme. Starts very soft, builds up to end extremely loud then drops right back to dead soft again for a couple of bars. The idea was I'd record it to prove that there was no problem with dynamic range. (having finally found my H2 yesterday) In fact I didn't have much time and only produced a rather creaky rendition so you're not getting it. BUT I built the sound too fast and ended up really working to continue the crescendo and, guess what? by the end I was sweating like a stuck pig. Perhaps it is rather hard work at that. But one doesn't usually play long passages at full volume I suppose; I certainly don't usually notice this effect, thankfully...

 

editted to add that this was the 81 as you probably guessed

Edited by Dirge
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks again to everyone for your thoughts! It's been fascinating hearing all the different opinions. Particularly after seeing the math of effort required, I decided that it made the most sense to start out with the 72-key Aeola that Chris Algar had in stock. It arrived last Wednesday.

 

It's absolutely fantastic. It seems like the perfect balance of size, range, weight and response, and of course the tone is amazing. I love the fact that it's so easy to play across the whole enormous dynamic range, from pianissimo to fortissimo, and it still has that great feel that made me fall in love with concertinas in the first place. Surprisingly, it's so easy to manage the size/weight/etc. that my thoughts have already been drifting to the thought of an 81 someday...well, maybe someday when I've paid off my credit card. :)

 

Incidentally, after trying out and agonizing about every duet layout under the sun, I have to say that I *really* like the MacCann setup. All the notes are there within easy reach, the pathways through passages are sensible and comfortable, and I actually find that the inconsistencies in the layout serve as mnemonics that make it easier for me to remember where I am. I also love the fact that my hand is in the same position no matter what key I'm playing in, so I never get lost the way I used to even on my small Elise Hayden.

 

Back to practicing...

 

-Josh

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Go for the large one, John. I played an 80-button Wheatstone Maccan last fall at Kilve and it had no response problems. It was only marginally bigger than my 69-button Crane but that that elusive C-2 range. I amost succumbed and traded my Crane for it. Thankfully, a real Maccan player stepped up and bought it. Saved again! :lol:

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Go for the large one, John. I played an 80-button Wheatstone Maccan last fall at Kilve and it had no response problems. It was only marginally bigger than my 69-button Crane but that that elusive C-2 range. I amost succumbed and traded my Crane for it. Thankfully, a real Maccan player stepped up and bought it. Saved again! :lol:

No I think that's a sensible choice. You can do a huge amount with a 72 and it's much more handy; he'll be able to play that for life without going larger if he wants. With the 81 playing things like the high register bit of Moscow Nights feels like a stretch. Yes those last few bass notes and extra low treble register are really nice to have, but you don't half pay for them. What was it, 50% more work? Better to start with a manageable one if you ask me.

 

Good luck with it Josh; it's an amazing instrument, and it sounds like you now own a prime specimen.

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