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How not to chose a duet concertina system ?

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Hi Guys the chap that played one that started my interest only told me it was a duet concertina!!!!!! I contacted anyone that would speak to me and looked on the internet for duet concertina information I couldn’t remember any of the useful information like how many buttons it had I just thought the rosewood ends were pretty LOL

Four systems appeared available


McCann 1884 only vintage instruments , seemed a proven formula they were available but all the info described it as difficult and not very intuitive so this was shelved


Hayden / Kaspar Wicki 1896? looked intersting it was suggested the fingering was more logical, practical, effectively an improved system but I thought it would have automatically replaced the McCann system ,and if only 50 modern versions were made it seemed impractical to actually buy one but I found a budget Stagi Hayden Duet concertina was available and I was going to buy it but found this article


Two down two to go LOL

The Jeffries this could have been the better system but the cost and availability of the instruments made this a totally impractical choice for a beginner


Ahh the Crane system 1896 another potential spanner into the works LOL as it seemed to develop into “The Triumph” used by the salvation army this actually looked the most promising at the time as I figured the sally army would play the easiest most logical system? And it was a proven System as it was popular so it was a Crane for me but luckily

I had some work at the studio where I met the American chap and the engineer had his phone number and after that deliberation It was 46 Wheatstone McCann duet he played LOL


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I remember reading anything I could find on the internet and talking to anyone with an opinion and still being confused. It was easy throwing out Jeffries and Hayden; I picked up the huge shortage of both types of instruments early on. (At that stage the decision hadn't been hugely complicated by the release of the elise.).


But between Crane and Maccan? I didn't realise quite how rare large Cranes (of the size of instrument I favour) are or that might have settled it there, although I'm not sure that I knew then that my concertina development path would involve endless searching for more bass notes (done that phase now: got to 81). As it was, I walked into Hobgoblin in Bristol still unsure and came away with a 61 Maccan on very reasonable terms (one of the things I gave in PX was a portable harmonium that I had picked up at an autojumble, as you do...). I've never looked back, and I'm extremely grateful that they didn't have a Crane in stock, because having tried one since they are undoubtedly easier to get started on; it would probably have sold itself to me.

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Four systems appeared available



I went down this track just a couple of years ago, when I suddenly felt the urge to go chromatic/monosonoric after 4 decades of Anglo and Bandoneon. I was already a Cnet member by that time, so I was well informed. But I still had to make the decision myself!


Somehow, English system was a non-starter. It would have given me something different, but nothing more than the Anglo (chromatic capability at the expense of easy harmonisation).


So it would have to be a Duet.


So I printed out button layouts of all the Duets: Maccann, Crane, Hayden, Rust, even Jeffries, and started analysing them.


The Jeffries fell by the wayside pretty quickly. Apart from the scarcity, it seems to be just a monosonoric Anglo, with the inherited weakness of the Anglo: a marked difference between "easy" and "difficult" keys.


Then the Maccann. This has the aura of the virtuoso's instrument. In correspondence with Maccann players, it emerged that the Maccann is not meant to be easy to learn - it is meant to be amenable to complex music.


Then the Crane. This has the Salvation Army aura - ordinary guys who were evangelists in their free time, and in part of that free time accompanied songs on the concertina. So the Crane/Triumph is exactly the complement to the Maccann.


The Hayden fell down on my criterion of chromatic capability. The only reasonably-priced Hayden is the Elise, which is only partially chromatic. As a first concertina, perhaps, but for the owner of a 30-b Anglo and a 104-note Bandoneon, no improvement.


The Rust system (basically a piano layout) falls down on availability. It is probably so rare because it never caught on. (I did toy with the idea of bidding for a Jedcertina on eBay - that's a 20-button , Lachenal-built, piano-keyboard concertina. But this would have been for sentimental reasons - a "nice to have" - because my name is John E. Dallas, like the inventor of the Jedcertina B) ).


So, realistically, I was down to Maccann and Crane. The choice between easy learning with a possible performance ceiling somewhere up the line (Crane) and a tough familiarisation phase with the prospect of virtuoso performance later on (Maccann).


So I looked more closely at these two layouts.


The Maccann layout struck me as analogous to the English system, with the diatonic scale zig-zagging across four button columns, and the accidentals lying (for the most part) outside these - albeit the four rows are reachable by one hand, in contrast to the EC.


The Crane layout rang a bell immediately. The diatoníc scale runs along a row untl you run out of fingers, and then skips to the start of the next row. Just like a mondolin or violin! And the chords are formed by a few chord shapes that can be moved around the button area to produce different chords, like banjo chord shapes that you can move up and down the neck.


The final choice is a personal one, and my personal parameters were:

- Advanced age (over 60), so little hope of ever becoming a virtuoso, and

- Not much time to waste in learning the new system

- Familiarity with mandolin and banjo since childhood


I plumped for the Crane system, for the above personal reasons, rather than because of the intrinsic values of Crane and Maccann, respectively. But the decision was also largely emotional. As a small child, I had heard the Triumph played at the Salvation Army, and this was what later made me want to take up the concertina in the first place. So the Crane/Triumph was a sort of musical homecoming that the Maccann, the Hayden or the Jeffries could never have been.


Your mileage will almost certainly vary!




Edited by Anglo-Irishman
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I wonder, slightly tongue in cheek, whether all the information now available just makes choosing an instrument more difficult. It appears to have become a question for endless analysis and discussion before a decision can be made.


I saw a cheap chinese concertina in my local music shop. I thought it seemed a folky thing to play, and I'd heard the late Tony Rose playing a concertina on an album and liked the sound, so I bought it. I knew nothing about concertinas, and had no real means of finding out, so I was unaware that there are different systems or that Tony played EC and I'd bought an anglo.


Life was so much simpler back then.

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Hi Guys every time I play the McCann, the system gently reveals itself and although the basic practical key centres are C/D/E/F/G the way it lends itself to more complex tin pan alley, trad jazz tunes with minimum movement is not only incredibly clever but quite beautiful, the better I get the more obvious it sort of becomes and I’m sure Mr McCann was heavily influenced by the music halls and the emerging "ragged," rhythms and popular tunes of the 1890s and would suggest the McCann duet system was probably designed to play this style of music,I don’t think he was drunk when he invented the system I think he was inspired

As to the modern way of information saturation YES YES YES life was so much simpler

You couldn’t compare meerkats the only phone calls you received were from humans or people you actually knew ,junk mail ETC don’t get me started LOL

Everything comes at a price but it’s still wonderful to have all this information at your fingertips and we wouldn’t have internet forums LOL


quote”so I was unaware that there are different systems or that Tony played EC and I'd bought an anglo.”


I would without the information overload probably have bought a Hayden !!!!!!!!!!!


It sort of answers itself LOL


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How not to choose a duet concertina system? Well, I found the perfect answer to that. I just bought a Maccann.


As someone who has always found commitment difficult, I am astonished that I was able to make that decision. But then I didn't really look into all the different duet systems, I just ruled out English and anglo and went and bought a duet.


For a while I wished I'd got a Crane, because I liked the sound of what people could do on them and beginners seemed to make more rapid progress than I was doing. But undaunted I performed in public after 5 months (accompanying myself singing Bob Dylan's 'Forever Young'), and after about 18 months it all started to fall into place.


Being lazy (and a bit on the elderly side), I've concentrated on knocking out session tunes rather than doing Dirge-style practice on more difficult stuff, but I'm happy so what the hell.

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I played C/G Anglo for decades and got frustrated with the limitations of having some notes available only on the push or pull and not having some notes at all, especially the low D on the left hand side. This was especially annoying when playing melody + accompaniment, when I also found myself too often playing both melody and accompaniment on the left hand. I tried a number of alternatives over the years: G/D Anglo, Chemnitzer concertina, and free-bass piano accordion. I enjoyed them all but still wasn't quite satisfied.


When the Elise Hayden Duet came out, I bought one and liked the Hayden system better than any of those, but I knew that the Elise wouldn't be satisfactory to me in the long run because of its accordion-reed sound, limited high-end range, and missing Eb's and G#'s. Once I was ready to move up, I considered buying a Stagi Hayden, but I balked at the thought of spending that much money on a Stagi, and it would still have accordion reeds. A concertina-reeded Hayden would have been great but was way out of my price range. So I did some reading about other duet systems - some of Jim Lucas's old c.net posts on the positive points of the Crane system were especially helpful - and started to think about switching to Crane.


Then someone appeared on c.net (not a player. just a person with a concertina to sell) who had an unrestored Lachenal 48-button Crane for sale here in California. I borrowed a restored 35-button Crane from a local player for a few days and learned enough to see that the system could work for me. So I tried out the unrestored 48-button - the owner lives in Los Angeles and he sent it to my area with his 12-year-old son when he went to visit his grandparents - and I was able to tell that it very good reeds for a Lachenal and could be very nice after restoration. I bought it and sent it to Greg Jowaisas who did a fine job on the restoration, and I've been playing it since then. Of course, I'm now pining for a Crane that has 55 or more buttons, but I'm overall pretty happy with my 48-button (at least for now...).

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