Jump to content

Flat keys vs. domed keys


Recommended Posts

I have a Lachenal box with flat buttons -- it's a very pretty little box, metal ends & buttons, 26 button, C/G, small size (5.3" AF) with a serial No. of 166861. (1919 p'rhaps).

 

I find the flat buttons uncomfortable to play for any time -- maybe that's why they're not common.

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On an English there are times when the buttons have to be pressed by fingers acting at quite an angle away from vertical. Also ,as Mike says, when shifting up or down and especially when sliding a finger sideways to sharpen or flaten a note. This is usually not a problem with a single line melody because 'fingerings can be adjusted to suit a difficult movement but when chords and melody are being played together then some finger shifts occour that would be uncomfortable and inhibiting with straight cut flat keys.

 

It is at least back in the 1880's when rounder ended keys begin to appear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the early days of Wheatstone English Concertinas, so I understand, the keys were flat on top.

The keys at some point were changed to a domed top. Any ideas on when and why the change took place?

 

I have a George Case baritone (http://www.pghardy.net/concertina/case_baritone/case_baritone.html) with flat topped metal keys. The sharp edges were sufficiently painful on the fingers that I got Colin Dipper to round them off a little - he couldn't do much for fear of cutting into the internal hollow. It's better, but still less comfortable than my other tinas with domed keys.

 

Regards,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a Lachenal Anglo G/D with flat bone buttons. I love bone but not flat ends. Bill Crossland is putting on Suttner metal ended with a wider bushing

 

 

 

I had a Connor , Lachenal refurb with domed metal buttons which I found too narrow. There has been previous discussion on the optimum profile on domed buttons

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your thoughts. Ardie suggests that I pose the following expansion to the topic "why most concertina buttons after 150 years still have uncomfortable 5mm diam while other pressbuttons (phones, computers, calculators,accordions..)  have ideal 10-13(15)mm flat ( or even concave) ones".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your thoughts. Ardie suggests that I pose the following expansion to the topic "why most concertina buttons after 150 years still have uncomfortable 5mm diam while other pressbuttons (phones, computers, calculators,accordions..)  have ideal 10-13(15)mm flat ( or even concave) ones".

Ardie is forever banging away at this idea that somehow playing a concertina is the same as using a telephone etc. It's a keyboard so it works exactly the same as all others? Yeah, right. (as they say in NZ)

 

For you, Jim, not Ardie, who knows I disagree with him violently on this point as he has already tried in a rather high and mighty way to tell me what the truth is in a PM exchange, I offer an explanation and perhaps an answer to your question; one that suits me anyway. The domed buttons are a big help for any sort of advanced play involving rocking fingers on buttons to pick up second buttons, sliding fingers across from one to another in desperate situations where that is the 'best' fingering solution and personally I would also say for comfort and a nice feel. Corners are just unfriendly. Furthermore keeping the key-size down to make space between them makes the keyboard more tolerant of inaccurate finger placement than if the buttons were wide enough to touch and on the same centres, if you think about it. Finally, that dead space between the keys also makes it easier to play pairs of notes with one finger cleanly without getting unwanted adjacent notes.

 

I'd suggest the domed button might have come in as a direct result of the early virtuosi pushing the limits of what was perceived as possible on the instrument to include the sort of shenanagins mentioned above.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would the ease of movement we've just been talking about also be the reason for glass buttons? I've been puzzled why some high-end 19th c. concertinas used glass buttons, but I suppose it must have been for ease of movement.

I always assumed it was for show, along with gold plate and amboyna veneer. Not that it isn't nice to have a classy looking instrument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would the ease of movement we've just been talking about also be the reason for glass buttons? I've been puzzled why some high-end 19th c. concertinas used glass buttons, but I suppose it must have been for ease of movement.

I always assumed it was for show, along with gold plate and amboyna veneer. Not that it isn't nice to have a classy looking instrument.

 

Didn't someone suggest a while ago that glass buttons might be smoother and therefore less friction through the bushings. I can't see that there'd be much of a difference bewteen polished glass and polished metal, though maybe there would be more of a difference after being hammered by sweaty fingers for a while. Now there's a decent reason - glass buttons wouldn't give you metallicy finger tips and I believe some players find that they get blackened fingers from some of the silver buttons.)

 

Back to the domed buttons. I have a lachenal with flat erinoid buttons that I find comfortabl to play, and my new to me edeophone has lightly domed metal buttons that I also like. But I have tried a duet with buttons that seemed almost pointy, with strong springs as well I found it made my finger tips sore very quickly, though the owner didn't seem bothered. He must have built up good callouses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Spindizzy has hit on an important consideration here - the strength of the springs. I have an early Lachenal Excelsior EC with flat topped metal buttons which is a pleasure to play - and whilst my Edeophone Maccan has rounded top buttons and is perhaps a little more comfortable - it doesn't seem to make that much difference to me. That said the Excelsior EC has had 100+ plus years of fairly continual play that has certainly taken any sharp edges and worn in the springs to a 'comfortable' but still effective strength!

Edited by Myrtle's cook
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wim Wakker, of Concertina Connection Inc., makes some (but not all) of his high-end models with flat-top keys.

 

http://www.wakker-concertinas.com/H-1.htm

http://www.wakker-concertinas.com/H-2.htm

http://www.wakker-concertinas.com/parnassus.htm

 

Has anyone asked him why?

 

Only the Hayden/Wicki models come with flat-top keys exclusively. With the Parnassus, you can have either flat-top or domed keys.

 

I would be interested in his explanation, and perhaps he may yet see this thread and have time to shed some light on the matter.

 

That reminds me...

 

*drops a few coins in his Parnassus piggybank*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only the Hayden/Wicki models come with flat-top keys exclusively.

Yes, and interestingly, the corresponding pages say:

 

...built according to Brian Hayden's specifications, which include the standardized keyboard angle, flat top keys, key spacing and distance between the hand rest and keyboard.

I see no mention of flat tops in Brian's patent of the system or his description of how it works. But then again, nor do I see any mention of the standardized keyboard angle, key spacing and distance between the hand rest and keyboard. I have a Hayden built by Steve Dickinson in the 1980s (the decade both of the above documents appeared) to Brian's specifications and it has all the above features but has domed keys.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Button basics

The keyboard dimensions for concertinas are more or less standard. You cannot change the spacing of the buttons without affecting playability. The diameter of a concertina button is primarily determined by the space available in the action. Anglo concertinas have fewer keys per sq. inch than english and duet and because of that can have a relative simple action and larger buttons.

 

Button size and action material were determined by production cost/method, not ‘playing comfort’.

Low end vintage instruments had bone buttons and wire action levers. The standard wire was ca.2mm in diameter and needed a lever hole in the button of 3+mm (room for the bushing). The walls needed to be c. 2mm to provide the necessary strength around the hole. Because of this, anglo buttons on instruments with wire levers were c.7mm in diameter. This was possible because of the low button count per sq. inch. The end plates are not bushed in these instruments.

 

Low end english and duet models also came with bone buttons, but because of the limited space in the action, they only came with the standard button diameter (c. 4.8mm). This required the much more expensive brass sheet levers rather than the crude wire levers. They used the same buttons and action in the ‘next step up the quality ladder’ anglos.

 

Better quality instruments came with metal capped/wooden core buttons (Wheatstone) or solid metal buttons (lachenal, etc.), sometimes with a silver tip. Early instruments had ivory buttons.

Deluxe models could have glass, silver or gold plated buttons. The quality of these instruments was the same as their standard counterparts. The exclusive button material just added a considerable premium to the price….

 

Early instruments (english) had flat ivory buttons. They were flat because of the production method they used. These flat tops allowed players (e.g. Regondi) to develop advanced techniques such as changing fingers on a (pushed down) button, playing fifths with one finger, etc. These techniques also show up in the concert repertoire of the day.

 

Around the 1880s Wheatstone started with domed metal caps. These are much easier to produce than flat tops and keyboards are much easier to regulate.

Flat top keys have a larger surface and allow for more advanced playing techniques. To illustrate, try this: play a button with your index finger (index finger= 1, middle finger2, etc.) on your concertina. Replace your index finger (1) with your middle finger ( 2) while you keep the button pushed down. You can also try replacing finger 1 with 3, 1 -4 (pinky), 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc..

If your repertoire/playing skills don’t require flat tops, domed ones work just as well. The extra surface of flat tops can be nice on duets or englishes, but don’t expect them to improve your playing skills… If you play anglo, don’t worry about button shapes… Button shapes don’t have anything to do with ‘speed’. Keyboard responsiveness is determined by key travel, airflow and key pressure.

All our Wakker models are available with flat or domed keys.

 

A concertina action should never hurt your fingers…Key pressure on a concertina should be around 70-80 grams. The key pressure needs to be around 200-300 gr. Before it will hurt your fingers. The problem is that some players keep pushing the button. It is the same principle as writer’s cramp.

Try this: push a button just hard enough for it to go down. Hold it in the down position and reduce pressure as much as possible without letting the button come up. You’ll notice that you hardly need any force to keep the button down.

 

Wim Wakker

Concertina Connection Inc.

Wakker Concertinas

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...