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Hayden Tutorial (Wheeeeee!)


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Elsewhere someone asked if the Button Box has plans for a Hayden
tutorial; no; but I'm going to dive off the edge (wheeee!!!) and try
my hand at it. Can't foist a new version of the Hayden system on an
unsuspecting world and not at least offer *some* kind of user

So, here's a first lesson based on what I've been doing to teach
myself the Hayden system.

There are two sections: first one, for folks with no musical
background at all; then in the second section I'll present some ideas
for folks with more musical background.

------------------------ Section One ---------------------------

Ok: so: you've got a Hayden system concertina (any type -- Stagi,
Elise, Beaumont, Peacock, Wheatstone, Tedrow....), you've probably
figured out some way of holding it so you can get sound out of it:
basically, sticking your hands through the hand straps, leaving your
thumbs outside (so you can hold onto the thing and work the bellows.)

Put the instrument on your knee, whichever one is comfortable; or both
knees, or in your lap: try different places, and find what is most
comfortable. If you need more ideas, or visuals, google "anglo
concertina hold" for ideas -- you hold Haydens the same as Anglos.

Now: you probably have a button chart telling you what buttons play
which notes on your particular instrument. If you don't, there's one
somewhere on the internet (or if you can't find one there, try the
Button Box),

Find a C note on the right hand side. (or, really, any note with two
buttons to the right of it, and call it "C" for now.)

Put your index finger on the C. Let's call that finger "1".

Put the next finger, number "2", on the next button, a D;

And the third finger, number "3", on the next button, which is an E.

Pull on the thing to start air flowing, and type 1, 2, 3, or:


just like on a computer keyboard.

So: that was the first three notes of a tune called "The First Leaves
of Spring." Now here's the first half of the tune, spelled out in letters:



Play that slowly, several times. If it's hard to get your fingers to
behave --- coordination happens if you just keep at it slowly. You're
just using fingers number 1, 2, 3, going back and forth.

(If you're feeling like this is hard and weird, you're right; just keep
at it slowly and it will get easier and more familiar. Learning to
play music is all about taking on hard things, doing them many times
slowly until they stop being hard things, with various strategies
along the way for making it easier for hard things to get easier.
I've got a lot of little things that have worked for me, and I'm
hoping you will find them useful.)

Here's the second half of the tune. It starts off exactly like the
first half of the tune, but then it changes:


D E D C - -

I put dashes to show that you hold the C note longer, since it's the
final note.

Ok. Play that many times, until you are comfortable with it; next
post I'll show you how to put a left hand part to it and make it sound
a lot more like something real.

--------------------- Section Two --------------------------

For people who are more advanced:

One of my first questions on the Hayden was what fingers should I be

At the session the evening before the concertina workshop, I was
sitting between two very experienced Hayden players, and I asked
them. They both said they mostly use the first three fingers,
reserving the pinky of the right hand for the occasional note way out
in the upper right. They use their left pinky hardly ever, if at all.

An exercise for you: Here's the abc for the whole tune, right and
left. It's written in G, but my suggestion is to play it on every
button on the instrument, looking at the written music and getting
your head around two things:

1) be thinking about what ACTUAL key you are playing in (your
button/note chart will come in handy here!)

2) meanwhile using the written notes to tell you when to go up and
when to go down. Use the written notes as a kind of graphical
representation. It's an exercise in transposition, in ignoring the
absolute pitch information that's written on the page. You're
learning a new instrument, it'll be easier now than any other time.

[if you aren't familiar with abc, there's an abc converter on

T:The First Leaves of Spring
V:1 clef=treble
V:2 clef=bass
[V:1] |: GAB | BAG | AGA | BAG | GAB | BAG | ABA | (G3 | G3) :|
[V:2] |: G3 | B3 | c3 | d3 | G3 | B3 | c3 | (B3 | B3) :|

Try this starting on every button on your instrument. You'll get
REALLY familiar with the beginning of the major scale, and you will
have to work very hard around the split between the left hand and the
right hand to piece the scales together. If you do this, you will be
moving very fast towards becoming an expert Hayden player.

You'll also get to know how the outer reaches of the instrument feel
to you: all the notes will become comfortable and familiar.

Here's the same tune in its minor version:

T:The Last Snows of Winter
K:G minor
V:1 clef=treble
V:2 clef=bass
[V:1] |: GAB | BAG | AGA | BAG | GAB | BAG | ABA | (G3 | G3) :|
[V:2] |: G3 | B3 | c3 | d3 | G3 | d3 | c3 | (B3 | B3) :|

This will keep you busy until I can get together some more stuff for
you to work on.

A brief road map of my self-teaching approach: find simple tunes you
like a lot; learn them at the written pitch with a simple left hand
accompaniment and then transpose them all over the instrument. You've
got about the most tranposable musical object ever made, right there
between your hands; this is great for when you want to transpose, and
HORRIBLE when you get lost and you're playing a half step off from
everyone else.

Next post I'll talk about not getting lost in the wasteland of no
signposts that is perhaps the most annoying characteristic of the
Hayden system.

Judy Hawkins

Edited by judyhawkins
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Hi, Judy.


Two points. First, a typo in the above: The link to the abc converter works, but the displayed text says concertina.com instead of concertina.net.


Also, while Aaron and I tend to avoid using our little fingers, both Rich Morse (who got me started) and Brian Hayden have advocated using them liberally, and playing a tune like the one you provide with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers rather than 1, 2, and 3.


It's probably true that the way I play is a bad habit. It works for me and I'm not likely to change. But I would probably teach a beginner to do it "right."

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Regards tutors for the Hayden Duet, I would like to point players in 3 directions:

1) The "Elise" comes with a very usefull 50 page Tutor, with lots of diagrams, and a little bit on reading music.

It takes you through the early stages of with lots of usefull diagrams of the keyboard. Perhaps Wim Wakker might make this book available as a stand alone item ?

2) When Hayden Duets first became available I started doing a series of tutorials for several people (up to about 9) who had taken up the system; we used to meet on several occasions a year. Most of them asked specifically about how to use the Left Hand. So over a period I produced a series of sheets of music. One of the problems that beginners encountered was reading the Bass Staff, so I simply wrote the left hand an octave down in what English Concertina players know as the "Baritone" staff. These sheets were combined together to form a little book which is available from the "West Country Concertina Players", and you will also find it on the web on the "Maccann Duet" site. As the sheets always came with me as well I simply showed pupils where to put their fingers on the instruments. I will come back to this later, to expand it further.

3) I had noticed over the years on my duet that a very large number of Traditional tunes used what I called the "Golden Hexagon" of buttons. 3, 4, 4, 3. (I will write this out later as I am not sure if it will print out well). And selected a good number of tunes which used only these 14 buttons. Then at Sidmouth I picked a book and to my surprise found that another person had discovered the same set of 14 notes. This is "Easy Peasy Tunes" by Dave Mallinson; I cannot more highly reccomend this book for beginners and improvers.


Edited by inventor
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Ah, but how to finger the golden hexagon? I followed the advice of Inventor, Rich Morse and more recently Wim Wakker, if I remember their advice correctly. While I still respect that advice, my opinion has changed. The following discussion applies only to right hand fingering.


The choice of fingering style is IMO the most important step in learning the Hayden. This topic has been debated about 3 times before on this forum with active participation from Rich Morse. While I am an avid fan of the Hayden system, it is still my contention that its fingering patterns shift usage from stronger fingers to weaker fingers more than most other systems, certainly anglo and English. The advocated fingerings are: 234 1234 2 or 123 1234 1 as you play a major scale up the rows, e.g., CDE FGAB C and 1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring and 4=little finger. I practiced a number of scalar patterns when I was first learning and found the 234 system less awkward. I will now illustrate why I have since changed my mind.


Even in major tunes, the 234 fingering uses the index and middle fingers less than the 123 system. It is in minor keys, however, that the shift becomes more obvious. Often the index finger is hardly used at all. I offer finger usage patterns of 2 tunes as evidence. The attached graphs below demonstrate typical finger usages in a major and minor key for both patterns. I believe these tunes to be typical of finger usage in most western tunes. (The natural C in Fiery Clockface shifts 1 occurence from little to index finger). I have been retraining myself to use the 123 system for all minor tunes and I hope that I eventually transition to that consistent fingering for all tunes.


I play a Tedrow Hayden, by the way.


Edited by Stephen Mills
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I do not give a specific fingering for the "Golden Hexagon", because I am a great believer in flexability. I recomend starting with the 234 because it strenthens up the little finger, and gives another less obvious option.

In my youth when I took up the melodeon, hardly anyone played them, so nobody told me that you were only supposed to use just the middle and fore fingers to play the Bass. There were two rows of 4 buttons one above the other, I had four fingers so I played the "G four" with my little finger and ring finger and the "D four" with my middle and index finger. As most of the tunes that I played were in G this strengthened my little finger quite considerably. It reminds me of Lewis Carols poem "You are old father William" - the muscular strength it gave to my little finger has lasted the rest of my life!


Edited by inventor
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  • 2 weeks later...

Judy, you are to be commended!! I've been trying to find a tutor for my 64 button Bastari for years. Brian Hayden made short attempt but it really isn't enough information. I hope you are able to go further with your efforts.




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  • 7 years later...
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