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Are There Ever Half-Step (B/c, D/d#, Etc) 20-Button Anglos?


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I was messing with my one-row melodeon recently, and reflecting that a D/D# or D/C# box would be kind of cool, since I could play it in much the style of a melodeon, but with all the chromatics available.

 

Then it occurred to me: a 20-button Anglo is basically two 10-button rows split between two hands. Have there every been any Anglo-based bisonoric boxes with the two rows a half-step apart, similar to the Irish B/C and D/D# boxes?

 

If one had, say, two cheap Italian G/C boxes, would it be possible to take the G row out of the second box, raise the 20 reeds a half-step each, and plug it in place of the C row on the first box?

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Over the years folks have experimented...for example, I heard of an early Suttner anglo built as a three row in B/C/G. My guess is inertia and habit keep folks using the existing systems; OTOH both anglo and duet players are continually coming up with "improvements!" (Do English Concertina players know something we don't know?) ^_^

 

Some Italian concertinas have reeds you could probably swap. English-style ones would be more tricky because the size of the reed shoes varies. Have fun,

 

Ken

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Been talking to Michael at Irish Dancemaster the last two days, and he's willing to convert one of my C/Gs to C/C# at a very reasonable price. I have an old Silvertone 20b, almost identical to the Bastaris and presumably a Sears Roebuck rebadge of them or a similar Italian maker. It's in pretty good shape, interesting label but nothing valuable or fancy, so seems a good candidate for the re-reeding.

 

 

If I get this made, I'm thinking that its max utility might come from letting other musicians mess with it, see if anyone ends up taking a liking to the half-step system. Would folks here be interested if I end up doing a passaround? I've done them on other forums, compile a list of reputable/recognised/long-term members who want to try it, and each person agrees to try it for three weeks and then pay postage/insurance on to the next person on the list. I'm also thinking that Irish BC buttonbox players might be as or more interested in this than concertinists, so I might check in with The Session and Chiff & Fipple forums to see if their folks are interested too. That way a number of interested parties can feel out this format at really minimal cost. What say y'all?

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Been talking to Michael at Irish Dancemaster the last two days, and he's willing to convert one of my C/Gs to C/C# at a very reasonable price. I have an old Silvertone 20b, almost identical to the Bastaris and presumably a Sears Roebuck rebadge of them or a similar Italian maker. It's in pretty good shape, interesting label but nothing valuable or fancy, so seems a good candidate for the re-reeding.

 

 

If I get this made, I'm thinking that its max utility might come from letting other musicians mess with it, see if anyone ends up taking a liking to the half-step system. Would folks here be interested if I end up doing a passaround? I've done them on other forums, compile a list of reputable/recognised/long-term members who want to try it, and each person agrees to try it for three weeks and then pay postage/insurance on to the next person on the list. I'm also thinking that Irish BC buttonbox players might be as or more interested in this than concertinists, so I might check in with The Session and Chiff & Fipple forums to see if their folks are interested too. That way a number of interested parties can feel out this format at really minimal cost. What say y'all?

 

I think it's a really interesting idea and would like to hear the results - but I don't play button accordion so I can't contribute myself.

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Would folks here be interested if I end up doing a passaround?

 

I think it's a really interesting idea and would like to hear the results - but I don't play button accordion so I can't contribute myself.

 

Don't see why that should be a requirement. The question is whether someone trying it finds that it "works" for them -- whether they find it useful/comfortable for playing their kind of music, -- not whether they think it serves them like a C/C# button accordion. One could do a similar pass-around with an ordinary concertina to folks who don't already play concertina, to see if it "grabs" them.

 

In fact, I seem to recall that Bob Tedrow did just that some years ago with one of his new designs, though for obvious reasons the pass around went to folks who already played concertina.

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Would folks here be interested if I end up doing a passaround?

 

I think it's a really interesting idea and would like to hear the results - but I don't play button accordion so I can't contribute myself.

 

Don't see why that should be a requirement. The question is whether someone trying it finds that it "works" for them -- whether they find it useful/comfortable for playing their kind of music, -- not whether they think it serves them like a C/C# button accordion. One could do a similar pass-around with an ordinary concertina to folks who don't already play concertina, to see if it "grabs" them.

 

In fact, I seem to recall that Bob Tedrow did just that some years ago with one of his new designs, though for obvious reasons the pass around went to folks who already played concertina.

Well, for me the whole idea of two rows tuned a half-step apart seems extremely counterintuitive, so I still don't think I'd be a good bet. There are lots of people who play both half-step button box and C/G Anglo. I would think they would be the ideal testers for this.

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I'm perfectly happy to mail it to anyone who's well established enough on any of the major folk music boards that we can consider them "someone the community knows". A lot of other passarounds are done with some geographic priority to keep shipping costs down, such as moving west to east across the US, dipping up to a few folks in Canada, and then over to Ireland and the UK. I'd aim to do something like that, but within a given continent I'd be open to shuffling folks if there's a specific musical event that a borrower wants to take the 'box to for more folks to try it.

 

I'll hold off on soliciting folks until I can get the box down to Michael and converted, which apparently shouldn't take too long at all. Just to make sure that this box will work out and the final product be decent.

 

This could be fun, and there are certainly enough old 20-button Italians kicking around that anyone who really enjoys the loaner could obtain a conversion of their own quite affordably.

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Such and instrument would be useful for melodies with lots of accidentals, or melodies that wander into different keys. It would still be essentially a C box with all the black notes, rather than an instrument suitable for playing in any and every key.

 

There is chromatic harmonica built on this principle: the Hohner Koch, which is a C/C# with the same reed pattern as a blues harp - more or less the same as one row of an Anglo. (A normal chromatic harmonica repeats the 4 hole pattern meaning that the C (and C#) notes are duplicated every four "blow" holes.)

 

Received wisdom is that if you have a chromatic harmonica, you mainly play it in it's natural key, and have the availability of accidentals.

 

For someone who plays Anglo in the "English" style (melody and chords) the a C/C# box would offer very limited accompaniment options.

 

A change of subject, but talking about "pass rounds" organised through forums like this: a few years ago in the unicycle forum, someone sent a new design of geared unicycle to a nearby club for "feedback" in this way. A year or two later, the unicycle returned to its owner with every single component (except the geared hub) upgraded: new frame, seat, cranks, pedals, wheel rim...

 

It might be worth sending around a C/C# Rochelle and see if it comes back with Jeffries ends, reed pans, bellows, action...

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In a coincidence, I had a conversation last week with Jackie Daly in a Miltown Malbay pub. He suggested just such an animal. I was showing him my 20 button, octave (double-reeded) South African CG boerekonsertina, and he commented that it would be really great if it were tuned C/C#. He puzzled at why concertina players continue to hang on to the two-rows-a-fifth-apart design, when a C/C# tuning would be able to be readily played in any key. He of course plays a C/C# so could perhaps be expected to say that! We talked about that for awhile. Odd how C/C# accordion players continue to have a bass row on the left hand that goes largely unused, because the chords don't usually fit the keys being played (according to Jackie). A two-row C/C# concertina would do away with that, and then offer the advantage of having eight fingers covering the instrument, instead of the four fingers covering the melody on the button accordion. Could be a very fast way of playing.

 

I don't expect I'd ever go for that...I'm a bit of a traditionalist stick-in-the-mud....but some might. Let us know how your experiment works out.

 

Dan

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Jackie has a concertina that was previously owned/played by Paul Davies. Quite a lovely small sized Jeffries. He showed it to me at his house ten years or so ago. I didn't ask what keys it was in (I suppose I assumed it was a c/G). Ofcourse it doesn't mean that's the only one he has.

Edited by Peter Laban
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I would think it difficult to play. On a B/ C or C#/D accordion the buttons are low, and there is an ability to slide from row to row. On B/C the shared notes of B natural and E do allow for a direction change, and the D scale stays is the C row until the slide over to the F# from E and C# from B natural.

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Just curious: Half-step melodeons ore only in half steps on the

right. Will your half-step anglo be so on both the right and the left?

 

Meaning that the chord buttons on the left hand of a melodeon don't do half-steps? Since this is still going to be an Anglo, and not an Organetto, it'll be a strict C row on one row (across both hands), and an exactly equivalent but transposed C# row on the other row. Not sure yet if I can easily have the C row moved to the lower and make the C# the upper row, since I presume that'd be easier.

 

 

 

I would think it difficult to play. On a B/ C or C#/D accordion the

buttons are low, and there is an ability to slide from row to row. On

B/C the shared notes of B natural and E do allow for a direction change,

and the D scale stays is the C row until the slide over to the F# from E

and C# from B natural.

 

The buttons are a bit further apart, granted, but the same is the case for 30b Anglos, and those seem to play across rows just fine. A C/C# box will have some shared notes as well, just a half-step higher than B/C, so though it might not be ideal for the same keys, the relative intervals are the same. Honestly, if I were messing with it I'd just transpose mentally and play it as a "D" even though I'm playing in C. It's not like many folks trying out the initial experiment have a great need to use it in a full band, so for just solo or playing with a friend or two, capoing, downtuning, or using a C tinwhistle doesn't seem unreasonable, just for feeling out the system.

 

I'm not at all suggesting that a C/C# Anglo is superior to either a B/C or a D/C# or D/D# Anglo, just that those options would cost twice as much and take longer. Michael said a C/C# conversion he can knock out quite quickly, keep half the stock reeds, and get back to me before the St. Patrick's rush; and for such a quick change his price is very reasonable indeed.

 

 

Odd how C/C# accordion players continue to have a bass row on the left

hand that goes largely unused, because the chords don't usually fit the

keys being played (according to Jackie). A two-row C/C# concertina would

do away with that, and then offer the advantage of having eight fingers

covering the instrument, instead of the four fingers covering the

melody on the button accordion. Could be a very fast way of playing.

 

This is part of my initial idea: a lot of two-row buttonboxes are really underusing a whole hand. The three-row Tejano/cojunto players are even more so, with some just taking out the whole left-side reed assembly to save weight, so the whole left hand does nothing but pump bellows, not unlike an Indian harmonium.

 

 

 

A change of subject, but talking about "pass rounds" organised through

forums like this: a few years ago in the unicycle forum, someone sent a

new design of geared unicycle to a nearby club for "feedback" in this

way. A year or two later, the unicycle returned to its owner with every

single component (except the geared hub) upgraded: new frame, seat,

cranks, pedals, wheel rim...

 

The thought had occurred to me... :D

 

This Silvertone could certainly use any small improvements (better straps, fresh mesh/tule in fretwork, resleeving, valves checked, etc), so while I wouldn't make that a requisite for the passaround, I certainly wouldn't say no to anybody wanting to do a little tweaking to make it smoother.

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Personnally i'd not be interested as i like to play with chords, but this is certainly worth experimenting !

Two thoughts to contribute to the discussion :

 

1/ some consider the accidental row of the 30 button as "loosely derived from a c# row". At least, it is presented as such on the wikipedia page. I don't know if there is any historical support to this idea, and if instruments actually tuned in this way have existed. Surely the "historians" of the forum can tell.

(incidentaly, this means that if you want to convert an existing instrument to experiment, it will be much easier to pick up a 3-row c/g and retune to c/c#/g).

 

2/ as far as i understand, accordeons players using half-step tuning mostly use the upper row ( i.e. a b/c will be mainly played along the c row, etc..) So, a c/c# will have c# as its 'main key'. this will not be a problem to experiment playing alone, but you will be inbig trouble if you try to join a session.

Of course you can change your approach and consider the lower row as the "main one", but then the potential interest for accordeon players will be lost as they will have to completely re-learn the location of accidentals !

Edited by david fabre
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Personnally i'd not be interested as i like to play with chords, but this is certainly worth experimenting !
Two thoughts to contribute to the discussion :...

...(incidentaly, this means that if you want to convert an existing instrument to experiment, it will be much easier to pick up a 3-row c/g and retune to c/c#/g).

2/ as far as i understand, accordeons players using half-step tuning mostly use the upper row ( i.e. a b/c will be mainly played along the c row, etc..) So, a c/c# will have c# as its 'main key'. this will not be a problem to experiment playing alone, but you will be inbig trouble if you try to join a session.
Of course you can change your approach and consider the lower row as the "main one", but then the potential interest for accordeon players will be lost as they will have to completely re-learn the location of accidentals !

 

 

On the first, since I already have a spare cheap 20b, it's the easy candidate. Also, for the way I play I'm not unduly interested in having a third row a fourth above; I mainly want a 1-row "melodeon" with a second chromatic row to be the "black keys". Also there are plenty of cheap Stagi/Bastari 20b floating around since folks these days want 30b, so plenty to experiment on.

 

For the second point, it really seems to vary by style. As I understand it, there are folks who play a C#/D as "D box" on the inner row, and switch to a D/D# for Eb sessions, not to play in D. However, as this article mention (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sean_quinn/psoprani/psoprani5.htm), some players like Johnny Leary played the D/D# "from the outside row in", and similarly Joe Derrane with the D/C#. Since a 10-row D is what I've found intuitive, playing the outside and using the inner for chromatics works for me.

 

The C/C# is, again, just a compromise pitching just for proof of concept since it's the easiest half-step tuning to go to, though I suppose B/C would only be slightly more expensive to turn to, and so long as one's just playing it solo playing it as a "B melodeon" and transposing Irish tunes would go fine. I'll check with Michael once he gets to the box to finalise tuning, but I'm feeling pretty good for having the low note on the outside row, and the higher half-step on the inside

 

 

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I would think it difficult to play. On a B/ C or C#/D accordion the buttons are low, and there is an ability to slide from row to row. On B/C the shared notes of B natural and E do allow for a direction change, and the D scale stays is the C row until the slide over to the F# from E and C# from B natural.

Jackie Daly had a similar comment. He was looking at the plastic, wide buttons on the SOuth African concertina, and saying that they would be easier to slide with if they were rounded a bit more. He also said one would need them to go all the way down flush with the face of the instrument to make sliding easy. On the German-style concertina (like the SA one) this is not an issue. Anglos of course are not built that way, in general.

Of course, it goes without saying that you would want an octave tuned double reeded one if you wanted to emulate the sound of the melodeon. The better German ones would do this. If you go this route, he suggested completely dry tuning, as the old German concertinas in Ireland were tuned this way.

Edited by Dan Worrall
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