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John D

Hand geometry and concertinas

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I was traveling to a town up on the CT/MA border Saturday for a meeting involving my other hobby (Amateur Radio), and since I was 3/4 of the way there I decided to run up to Sunderland MA to pay a visit to the Button Box. I had recently sent them the Stagi I had bought a few years earlier for trade-in, and wanted to try out a Ceili and some of the vintage boxes they have in stock.

 

One of the big problems I had with the Stagi is the buttons didn't seem like they were in the right place. Even though I've got large hands the button spacing was so large that it was uncomfortable to play. My Edgley is much more comfortable though I'm still trying to find the right tightness for the straps to give me enough hand motion without losing bellows control. I was very interested to try the Lachenal 40-button box they had, but when I picked it up and tried to play a bit I found that I could barely get my hands into position to play Flop-Eared Mule from Bertram's book .. the buttons were much closer together and the entire pattern seemed rotated in relation to the handrest in a way that my hand didn't want to go! I next tried the Jeffries 45-button they had and though it also has closer spaced buttons I didn't have the same problem (and it sounded lovely, but I wasn't crazy about the little metal buttons). I then picked up the Dipper (http://www.buttonbox.com/cac0401.html), stuck my hands in the straps .. and fell in love! It fit me like a glove, the buttons were right where my fingers wanted them to be ..if it was in C/G or G/D I would have started negotiations instantly :) (is that a Cotswold? it has raised wooden ends)

 

So the question is: how much variation on button position/placement is there on vintage (and new non-hybrid) concertinas? It seems to me to reinforce the idea that I'd better not purchase anything without getting my hands into the straps first. I would assume that a given maker is going to have a single geometry .. but maybe even that isn't a safe assumption? e.g. if I order a Dipper, when it shows up sometime in the hazy future will it feel like that Geo. Salley special?

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Wally Carroll has developed an adjustable hand rest. Now I've always sensed, with sufficent practise, our fingers can get used to playing any button they can reach. That said, when my Carroll arrived last year, I adjusted the left hand rest so that the F# is exatly alligned with my left pinky. There are lots of flaws in how i play, but i can't use reaching for the F# as an excuse any more. Button placement matters, but so does everything else in the design of the concertina ends.

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Hi John,

 

You are apparently now going through what I experienced back in the late 1990s. I started off with a Suttner that was a clone of the Wheatstone Linota. It was quite cramped and the palmrest was ill positioned. Through lots of experimentation and measuring, I found out that Wheatstones and Lachenals have their rows of notes closer to the palmrest than do Jeffries, Crabbs and custom-made Dippers -- as you have experienced. George Salley's instrument is a one of a kind that I think became the basis for the Shantyman model that Dipper has made. I too had Dipper make me a small Cotswold (just a bit bigger than the County Clare model) that was customized to fit my hands.

 

You will find that virtually all of the concertinas -- regardless of brand -- with more than 30 buttons will have tighter and, for me, less comfortable button spacing. 40 button Wheatstones and 45 button Jeffries will be about the worst for this. So stick to 30 button models to avoid this issue.

 

Over the years I have found that just about any regular Jeffries, Crabb, Ball Beavon will fit my bigger hands just fine. But I have to pass on Wheatstones and Lachenals for the reason I mentioned. As was already mentioned, you can get a Carroll with adjustable palmrests (for some extra $$). Another way to get comfortable spacing for your hands on a Carroll and possibly the other two is to have a taller palmrest made. Wally Carroll did that for me and it solved the Linota spacing.

 

So, my advice is to either get on Carroll's wait list (with adjustable palmrest or taller palmrest) or hunt for a Jeffries, Crabb or possibly a Ball Beavon. Any of these will solve your hand comfort issues.

 

Best regards,

 

Ross Schlabach

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