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Hayden Tutorial (Chapter Two)


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Chapter Two, Judy's harum scarum Hayden Tutorial.

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

[For those of you with minimal musical background.]

Adding the left hand to The First Leaves of Spring.

Using your button chart, find the lowest "C" note on the left hand

Hold it down -- play it -- while playing the tune in your right hand.

This is a grand old traditional technique known as the "Drone Note" --
bagpipes are one of the more familiar instruments that use drones.

It's very easy, but gets old pretty quickly, and the way concertina
reeds are, the low ones tend to overpower the higher ones: they're
just putting a lot more energy into the air waves, being longer and
heavier than the high reeds.

So here's a more interesting thing to do in the left hand:

Put your THIRD finger on that C note, and just play it for the first
three notes of the tune: like this:

right hand: C D E
left hand: C - -

Now put your LEFT index finger on the "E" note on the left side, and
play it for the next three notes of the tune:

right hand: E D C
left hand: E - -

MUCH more interesting... Keep doing that alternation for the rest of
the tune:



C D E E D C D C D E D C C D E E D C D E D C - -
C - - E - - C - - E - - C - - E - - C - - E - -


and when you get to the end, bask in the lovely sound it makes, as the
two different notes create a simple chord.

Now play it again.

IF you are finding it difficult to coordinate your hands, just keep at
it. Me, when I first picked up the Hayden, about the fifth instrument
in my lifetime, I still had a hump to get over to get the two hands to
work together. If this is your first instrument, it'll take a bit of
time to get used to, so just stick to it.

Getting both hands working together soon is a really good thing that
will help you along a lot more than just about anything else.

If you're finding it really frustrating, try setting the instrument
down, putting your fingers on the edge of the table, and just silently
tapping the patterns. That means you aren't also trying to work the
bellows; it's a way of simplifying the problem and just working on one
part of it at a time.

There's a very, very, very, very important principle there: when in
trouble SUBTRACT.

If you're trying to learn three things at once and finding it heavy
going, subtract one (the bellows) and just learn two: left hand
working with right hand to create a pattern.

At some point, doing the pattern on the table edge will start to feel
more ok; now try it on the instrument again -- you could do it
silently, not working the bellows, until it is comfortable there; then
add the bellows motion.

But the most important thing you can learn right now is this principle


It is a learning principle that has served me well for decades, and
I'll return to it again and again as I scramble this tutorial

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

[For those with more musical background [and who came back for

If you really did the whole thing, you found out just how quickly you
run into trouble with the keys further around the circle of sharps, on
the Hayden. There's a principle here: all musical instruments have
limitations, and it's worth knowing them, so you can figure out
whether this particular instrument is going to be able to play the
music you want to play.

Here's a couple relatively simple tunes to start exploring intervals
with. The Old Mole has interlocking triads that I find delightful to
play and it is also a very good learning exercise, when transposed
into all the reasonable keys. There's a principle here: find simple
tunes you can listen to a million times and still like them, and use
them as finger exercises.

[Cut and paste to the abc converter here.]

T:The Old Mole
S: The Barnes Book of English Country Dance Tunes, I
|: "Transposed to G" G2G E>FG | A2F E2E | G2G E>FG | A3 c3 |
| B2G E>FG | A2F D2D | E>FG F>EF | G3 G3 :|

The Chanter's Tune has more challenges, and also lends itself to
experimenting with expression. I suppose I ought to make a video of
what I do.... but I'd rather leave it to you to invent your own approach.
Noodle around and find what you like. I play the first two lines with
short sharp notes, especially the repeated notes, and then play the
second two lines much smoother, more legato. I like the contrast.

T:The Chanter's Tune
S:The first edition of O'Neill's Music of Ireland, #143
| GG d(c/A/) | GG =f(e/f/) | gd d(c/A/) | =fe d(c/A/) |
| GG d(c/A/) | GG =f(e/f/) | gd d(c/A/) | (G2 G) ||
|| (B/c/)\
| dd/e/ =f(e/f/) | (d/c/d/e/) =f(e/f/) | gd .d(c/A/) | .=f(e/f/) .d(c/A/) |
| GG .d(c/A/) | GG =f(e/f/) | gd d(c/A/) | (G2 G) ||

Ok, yes, there's no left hand on these. Well: depending on your level
of musical expertise, you can come up with your own... or... gee, my
tutorial is starting to bifurcate again... all these folks at
different levels!


So: here's a suggestion for people who aren't sure
how to go about creating their own left hand:

1) Start with the same left hand as in The First Leaves of Spring. If it
doesn't sound good, rearrange the notes until you like them better.

2) If that gets boring, try adding another note from the same key.

------------ And again:

Play these tunes in every REASONABLE key on the instrument (you figure
out what "reasonable" means to you, it's a good exercise), 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


And: not getting lost in the wasteland where there the playing field
isn't split up into chunks, like on a fiddle, or right under your
nose, like a piano, or laid out so every finger pattern is a different
note, like on wind instruments

-- it's easy to get lost on the Hayden system. Which note is this
button I'm playing? is hard to answer if you don't have perfect
pitch and don't want to look over the side and see where you are.

(Of course, if what you really want to do with the Hayden is to just
pick a comfortable key for singing along to, you're golden: you don't
need this section, you can just learn wherever you happen to be and
you can ignore everything I have to say about transposition.)

But, if you want to play with other people, it helps to be able to
land on G without a lot of struggle, experimentation, and exasperation
(yours and others...))

I will describe what I do to not get lost on the English system, which
has a similar, though not as severe, shortcoming (i.e, you get lost at
the distance of a fifth, which is much easier to figure out and

SO: Holding the instrument, look at your button chart, and focus on the
bottom row of notes on the right side (but don't be peeking over the end

of the instrument to look at your fingers!!!)

Curl your fingers under and touch the handrest.

Brush them back up and find the left-most button on the bottom row.
(This may take some practice, to get it in one shot. In classical
violin training, they call it target pracice.)

When you've got that button, you're oriented.

You can work from there to find the button that you want to play,
lightly brushing the tops of the buttons to stay oriented, and when
you get to that G, or F#, or whatever, you'll have complete confidence
that you will not be committing an error when you start the tune.

IFFFF -- this a big IF -- IFFFFF you practice this a LOT, you will
become so fast at it that you can get lost in the middle of tune,
re-orient, and get back to playing without losing more than a note or

But you have to practice it a lot, and NOW is the time to do it, when
you are first learning the instrument and getting those habits worn
into the deepest crevices of your long-term memory.

Do it on the left hand: do them simultaneously, become (over the long
term) able to find two different notes, one on the left and one on the
right, without hardly having to think about it.

No more lost in a wasteland with no sign posts.

Edited by judyhawkins
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MUCH more interesting... Keep doing that alternation for the rest of

the tune:


C D E E D C D C D E D C C D E E D C D E D C - -

C - - E - - C - - E - - C - - E - - C - - E - -

Judy, a suggestion:


If you want to line up the left hand line and the right hand line so that simultaneous events are over and under each other, use a monospace font (all characters are the same width, like a typewriter). The most common ones are courier and monaco. The simplest way to do that on this forum is to use the "code" function by first selecting the text you are concerned about, then clicking the icon above the editing window that looks like this: < >


You will wind up with this:

C D E    E D C    D C D   E D C     C D E   E D C   D E D    C - -
C - -    E - -    C - -   E - -     C - -   E - -   C - -    E - -

Good seeing you (and the innards of the Beaumont) at NEFFA, however briefly.

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On my larger Hayden Concertina I had the natural button tops made with a white material, and the sharps and flats made with a black material. I am sure I suggested this to Rich Morse. Had Button Box considered this option ?.

On the Bass of a Piano-accordion the Bass C is indented and some others have criss-cross patterns, might that be an option ?


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Hmmmm... I can see the attraction of different colored buttons, especially when you are new at it and feeling more lost, but, well: from my experience playing English, again: playing at speed there's not a whole lot of time to be looking over the end of the instrument to figure out what note you're on, anyways, so it's kind of not the best thing to depend on looking.


You're going to have a much more satisfying experience if you get a map of the instrument into your head, and let it become part of your own long-term memory sense of how the instrument works. That's why I put forth the orientation technique: that's something that will get so quick, so automatic, if you practice it regularly (like any musical skill) that you won't need to look.


Simple tunes played with attention to where you are on the instrument will help to get you there.


And, any time that you do get lost, spending that little extra bit of time and effort to orient your fingers _without_ looking -- that'll develop your tactile sense of where you are faster, and you'll be playing better sooner.





Edited by judyhawkins
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Regarding the use of a GPS/F ( Guided Positioning System/ Fingerings):


In an ideal world we would each start with a "Standardised" instrument where the patern and exact position of the keys never varied from instrument to instrument. If this were the case we could all start to learn a new instrument by purchasing a beginner's model and see how we get on with it.This was generally the case with ECs made during the 'classic' period. Any Treble EC from Wheatstone and Lachenal had a default position for all the notes.


Duets, however, tend not to be so strict in this regard. Even my two current ECs do not have the comfort of one exact position; the Treble is normal and the Baritone/treble's buttons are displaced by a fifth in their alignment to the thumb straps. This causes confusion for me because I tend to play the BT at home and the Treble when I am at a session or playing with the band. In the Noisy environment of public music making I can be heard playing along in the wrong key or even one hand wrong and one correct! :wacko:


Since taking up the Maccann I have had five instruments in my hands and each one was different. Some have a variance regarding the position of the Eb key nearest the hand rail and they all had overal positioning différences regarding the 'stretch' from the hand rails to any note that one considers as the datum. This can be confusing and the beginer who desires to fix their GPS/F and burn it into their memory bank would be best to start their career with the THE instrument that they hope to play for a long time.


Perhaps it is not a real concern if an instrument has more notes at the extremities but the central core wants to be standard. I find that I like this standardisation at the top end of the left hand of all the Maccanns I have tried.


Another point that ,at least, for me I find important is the chair I am sitting on. The height of this can affect the position/angle of your hands to the keyboard so I try to find a chair that allows a comfortable angle for my thighs, horizontal if possible.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I am very pleased to see that Judy is getting notes on both hands as soon as possible. This is why I wrote this into my little Duet tutor right from the first page, even inventing and modyfying tunes to get only 1, 2, 3, & 4 notes on both hands at once. Wim Wakker also naturally does this in his Tutor for the Elise.

On another matter I tryed very hard to keep the instruments as standard as possible, however as I am not a manufacturer or maker this has been very dificult.


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Unlurking for my first post, after much deliberation I went down the Elise route and bought one from our friendly local music shop in Yorkshire. Unfortunately the shop couldn't find the tutor book so it is on back order.


Also unfortunately, my left hand Bb would only speak one way so it has gone back for some attention. When I do get it back, I'll get started using these two guides until the manual arrives from CC in America.


(A Jackie I tried last week also had a similar problem so I got a chance to see inside whilst they took the end off the bellows).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I play Elise, and after almost two years of learning it (I started with almost no musical experience), I can share a different approach to learning note layout, fingering and playing:

1) make a dent or glue something to the top of the button to mark the middle A buttons on both sides and use this buttons as a reference point. Depending on the key you'll play in, this button will fall under different finger. The G-A-D triangle is crucial to not getting lost on the keyboard. My resting hand position is on Am chords on both hands with middle fingers on As, as this is position closest to as much different chords as possible (on the Elise)

2) at the begining don't focus on the key you're playing in but the scale you're playing - on Hayden layout (limited by the number of buttons of course) major and minor scales and chords always look the same, so practice the shapes of scales and chords until they are in your muscle memory and moment of switching row is natural to you. Get used to using your little finger: use it on the row which has 4 notes in it - second in the major scale and first in the minor scale. (Minor scales are a little bit easier to play in my oppinion..) Later on, when playing melodies and not just scales, melody will often force you to change fingering patterns or allow you to use only three fingers. Little finger is usually the only one which can reach to far sharps, so you'll end up using it sooner or later.

3) practice chords and chord progressions with both hands - music is built around chords more than around scales (in my humble oppinion) and practicing chords also get you familiar with intervals. Practice chords as simple "umpa" rythms, then as single note fingerings (think of them as "beating patterns"). I usually practice new chord fingerins on two progressions: Em', Am', Dm'' and D', C', G' (both up and down repeatedly). Then try mix different chords and make all kinds of different progressions. On Hayden system, progressions within music always make some kind of a "circle" on the keyboard (all the buttons needed are confined to some geometric shape). Try to start and end each of your learning sessions with just messing around with chords. Try to work out a fingering, that allows playing chord progressions without noticeable pauses, so try to avoid jumping with the same finger on two subsequent notes

4) when learnin new tune, first learn the melody with your right hand, then play it with both hands simultaneously - hands tend to work together naturaly. Then learn chord progressions with both hands (I often begin with this step, as I play a lot of modern rock, so it gives me base on which I try to transcribe melody). Then try to accompany melody with simple, single button "chords" (just the base for each chord). Once you're comfortable with it, switch to whole chords played without rythm - add rythm to the accompaniment as the last step. When you play with whole accompaniment and find a difficult spot, concentrate on your non-dominant hand, as the dominant hand will do just fine left alone :)


I hope that someone will find this approach useful :)

Edited by Łukasz Martynowicz
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