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I'm guessing that most of your 1,300 hours was spent on memorizing the layout and shapes of different chords and that most mistakes you make is hitting the chromatic keys which are not part of a key you play in (on the left side)?

Chords aren't really a problem. Most of my songs are in C and the C, F and G chords have the same shape.

I.e., he says that your guess is wrong.

 

You definately should try to switch to Hayden (try an Elise if you can) - it is uncompared for such singing accompaniment,...

Horsefeathers, I say. Besides, what about other sorts of singing accompaniment? Just as on the guitar there are far more possibilities than strumming chords (even after one has gone beyond "the three-chord trick"), the possibilities on concertinas -- anglo and English, as well as the various duets -- are vast, and limited far more by a player's creativity than by any particular keyboard layout. E.g., check out the videos of Jeff Lefferts (concertina.net member boney). He does some great stuff on the Hayden, and he may indeed find that easier in general than the anglo, but his recording of Whistling Rufus on the anglo shows that adopting the Hayden isn't what made him a brilliant musician.

 

I understand, that it is hard to switch after so many ears, but you should keep in mind two things:

 

1) some concertina skills are universal regardles of the exact type of box you play...

And it seems to me that those are the skills that frogspawn says he's struggling with, not the "problems" that changing to a Hayden/Wicki keyboard layout will supposedly fix.

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I'm guessing that most of your 1,300 hours was spent on memorizing the layout and shapes of different chords and that most mistakes you make is hitting the chromatic keys which are not part of a key you play in (on the left side)?

Chords aren't really a problem. Most of my songs are in C and the C, F and G chords have the same shape.

I.e., he says that your guess is wrong.

 

Yes Jim, I CAN read english.

 

I know Jeff Lefferts videos since my first interest in Hayden layout, they are the oldest Hayden videos I could find on YT. And indeed, his Whistling Rufus is brilliant. But perhaps he himself should answer a simple question: which arrangement took less effort to learn and practice?

 

It is quite strange for me to discover, that some concertina players on this board seem to feel some kind of discomfort every time someone playing on a Hayden is comparing the ease of learning different systems. No one says, that you can't be brilliant on an Anglo, McCann, Crane or bisonoric bandoneon. A skilled and dedicated player can master any instrument to a virtuoso level. But not all of us have such dedication or time (myslef included) and it's just easier and faster to learn a system which is logical and consistent. And Hayden makes it very easy to practice two hand play just by fooling around part of a keyboard, hear and feel different harmonies which will by definition go well together and will teach you music theory by playing it. And because of that it gives you much more time to spend on areas you need more practice - a huge advantage for someone who is not a musician and doesn't have a time to practice for whole and every day or can't or don't want to go to a music school.

 

My comment was just a "food for thought" for Frogspawn realy, that maybe after 1,300 hours of practice it is something between him and his Crane that is not working, and not his supposable inability to become proficient on a concertina in convinient amount of time. A notion that seems to upset you Jim to a degree I can't understand really...

 

But yes, I can be a sort of a "Wicki-Hayden fanboy" sometimes, trying to "spread a word" to everyone that might be interested or might benefit from this layout.

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i just tuned back into this thread after posting 24 hours-ish ago and am surprised at the tone it's taken. kind of a nasty, B***h-slap, hair-pulling tone...

 

i just listened to frogspawn's clips and i don't think you're doing as badly as you say. yes, the speeding-up thing is there, but you're aware of it and it's easy to work on. i don't think you're doing badly at all. so, more than this, you'd like....? to be able to play your melodies faster, and do harder, more complex melodies in different keys? or is it....to be able to do more with your left hand in terms of more varied chordal stuff or other bass/harmony arrangement effects? both?

 

have you read, not the "3-chord trick," but the "31-chord trick," a very help essay on robert gaskins' site by the Crane player Kurt Braun? Kurt Bran also has his own Crane site with a number of song samples....if it's stretching your arranging you're after, perhaps you could communicate with him ????? also, there are a lot of tutorials on this sort of theory of arranging. in your locality there should also be human beings who could help you learn that, as well. if it's your all-around musical adeptness at playing crane, well, it's true there aren't many people around, but you'd attack it the same way as anything else except, if/when you ran into a snarlup, you might get contact info for the folks who play it adeptly and ask them....which brings to mind....what about pitching skype lesson(s) to someone like tim laycock or whoever?

 

i don't think you should switch systems unless you really know you're fed up with some hurdle specific to the crane. and that's not clear from what you're saying here. i haven't heard you express a frustration that is specific to the crane. (if you are feeling that, hell, get an elise and see how it feels. they're cheap, what have you got to lose?...) the frustrations i've understood you to express are going to come up with any system where the notes are not in sequential order, and that's all of them but for piano, which has its own frustrations. i play CBA. i'm about at the end of year three. and i spent most of year one slowly slogging (at a very very slow, then later moderate, pace) through scales. not for virtuosity, but to get it firmly anchored into my head/fingers where the notes were. i did do tunes as well to keep myself from going crazy from the grind of it, but it was very, very, very valuable. you'd have to do this same sort of thing on a hayden just as well--no matter how straightforward and logical the keyboard layout seems at first blush, it would take practice and memorization to get certain intervals and chords and aspects of the system into your head/fingers.

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i just tuned back into this thread after posting 24 hours-ish ago and am surprised at the tone it's taken. kind of a nasty, B***h-slap, hair-pulling tone...

 

i just listened to frogspawn's clips and i don't think you're doing as badly as you say. yes, the speeding-up thing is there, but you're aware of it and it's easy to work on. i don't think you're doing badly at all. so, more than this, you'd like....? to be able to play your melodies faster, and do harder, more complex melodies in different keys? or is it....to be able to do more with your left hand in terms of more varied chordal stuff or other bass/harmony arrangement effects? both?

 

have you read, not the "3-chord trick," but the "31-chord trick," a very help essay on robert gaskins' site by the Crane player Kurt Braun? Kurt Bran also has his own Crane site with a number of song samples....if it's stretching your arranging you're after, perhaps you could communicate with him ????? also, there are a lot of tutorials on this sort of theory of arranging. in your locality there should also be human beings who could help you learn that, as well. if it's your all-around musical adeptness at playing crane, well, it's true there aren't many people around, but you'd attack it the same way as anything else except, if/when you ran into a snarlup, you might get contact info for the folks who play it adeptly and ask them....which brings to mind....what about pitching skype lesson(s) to someone like tim laycock or whoever?

 

i don't think you should switch systems unless you really know you're fed up with some hurdle specific to the crane. and that's not clear from what you're saying here. i haven't heard you express a frustration that is specific to the crane. (if you are feeling that, hell, get an elise and see how it feels. they're cheap, what have you got to lose?...) the frustrations i've understood you to express are going to come up with any system where the notes are not in sequential order, and that's all of them but for piano, which has its own frustrations. i play CBA. i'm about at the end of year three. and i spent most of year one slowly slogging (at a very very slow, then later moderate, pace) through scales. not for virtuosity, but to get it firmly anchored into my head/fingers where the notes were. i did do tunes as well to keep myself from going crazy from the grind of it, but it was very, very, very valuable. you'd have to do this same sort of thing on a hayden just as well--no matter how straightforward and logical the keyboard layout seems at first blush, it would take practice and memorization to get certain intervals and chords and aspects of the system into your head/fingers.

 

It would be very useful if I knew how to break up quotes...

 

I like to set achievable goals. My immediate aim is to go on doing what I do now but to do it better:

 

(1) Make fewer mistakes

(2) Improve timing

(3) Improve breathing

 

This discussion has diverged - very usefully - into issues about approach, technique and even system, but my original post was simply a query to elicit some benchmarking with a side comment implying that the concertina (any type, any style) entails a harder, longer road than strumming a stringed instrument. They may be apples and pears, but from my perspective as a performer they have an equivalence. I get my slot at a folk club or in a singaround and I can perform with an instrument or acapella. Of course, instruments are of more interest to modern audiences than singing unaccompanied and concertinas have more kudos than guitars because they are rarer, but the important thing is to perform well, or, as far as I'm concerned, adequately. Performing well might come later but one thing at a time.

 

Yes, I've taken a close interest in Kurt Braun's approach and everything he's written.

 

I will post again later with more background about practising and performing.

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A few words about practising and performance...


It's true that my practising is focused on my repertoire but it has an element of 'stretch'.


My first priority is to rehearse anything that I intend to perform in the next week, then I do

newish songs not yet performed. I just play the songs once but for these two categories I try to do that every day or, at least, every day I have the chance to practice which is not every day!


Then there's maintenance of all the other songs so I don't forget them. I try to play them all at least once a week but sometimes it takes longer to get through them.


My current 'stretching' activities include learning/revising D tunes which I'm not so good at, certain new tunes (for next May Day as it happens), tunes with chords in the same way I do songs, playing tunes in octaves, and new left-hand techniques.


I would also like to spend some time playing along with recordings of tunes I don't know as I find that sort of spontaneous playing very difficult, but I only have so much time available.


I don't really need to learn other keys as they aren't used in sessions and I can normally sing any song in either C or G depending on its range and whether it's authentic or plagal.


I also try to devote some time to guitar (about 5 minutes a day) and mandolin (10 songs, about 10-20 minutes a day). I don't assign any time to acapella practice - I just do that in the shower, while making coffee, gardening or walking etc. A lot of that has to be 'under the breath' which is good for recalling the words but no substitute for singing at performance volume.


This discussion seems to have focused on practice but going wrong in performance is the ultimate issue. On that score I've found my worst enemy is tiredness, that's when my musical memory starts evaporating. Now I'm retired I can get up later and am fresher in the evenings when most folk activities occur. Before you ask, alcohol is not a factor. I drink modestly. A little alcohol probably makes me more relaxed but I'm not reliant on that.


I'm pretty sure that thrashing a guitar requires less fine motor skills than playing a concertina, and that is another reason why it is easier IMO to perform with a stringed instrument than with the industrial-age machines favoured here.

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For what it's worth, I have always made the most progress when I've regularly played with others - preferably people who are more accomplished musicians than I am. People who push me out of my musical comfort zone.

 

 

Same here! For me, "playing regularly with others" means being a member of a group. You don't have to perform - my first group only performed once, if I remember rightly, and that was just a short interlude during a choir outing, but we learned a lot.

The difference between a group rehearsal and a session is that, in a group, you have your well-defined contribution to make, and you don't want to let the others down, so your practice is very focussed.

 

Whether the other group members are better on their instruments than you are on the concertina is not so important IMO. It's your shared musicality that's important - with their help, you learn when to play heavy chords, simple melody or something in between (and you help e.g. the guitarist to judge when to strum and when to pick). At any rate, when the group dynamics decide what is wanted from your concertina, you've got a clear practice objective, the achievement of which you can verify at the next rehearsal. And when you've achieved it, you have yet another alternative for your own arranging.

 

And anyway, playing with others is fun, and fun is a great promoter of learning!

 

Cheers,

John

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And anyway, playing with others is fun, and fun is a great promoter of learning!

 

That is something I'd like to do but I've not had much luck locally. Two people here have very kindly offered to give me some help by Skype. I don't have that facility at the moment but it sounds like a very good opportunity to learn from other players.

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And have you actually tried a Crane? Very logical, repeating keyboard.

 

 

Dirge, I don't get this bit... in what usefull way is a Crane keyboard ' repeating' ? When does a note come back into the same line ? Does it not take 81 notes in succession, or something like that, to repeat ?

 

Or am I missing something ? :mellow:

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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This discussion seems to have focused on practice but going wrong in performance is the ultimate issue.

I'm pretty sure that thrashing a guitar requires less fine motor skills than playing a concertina, and that is another reason why it is easier IMO to perform with a stringed instrument than with the industrial-age machines favoured here.

 

I think that these might be the key points here. I have a few suggestions from my own experience:

  • Only perform pieces that are well within your abilities - "stretch" in practicing, but not so much in performing.
  • Make sure that you know your piece and your arrangement of it very, very well before you perform it. Practice it well past the point of being bored with it.
  • Don't distract yourself by playing too many other things on the last day or two before your performance.
  • Don't change your arrangement at the last minute (that's a hard one for me).
  • While you're performing, relax but try not to get distracted from your playing.
  • If you find yourself slightly missing buttons with your fingers, aim your fingers at the center of each button.
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If you're finding it easier to accompany your singing on the guitar than on the concertina, then go ahead and do that - you don't need our permission. :)

 

For what it's worth, when I'm singing solo, I also prefer the guitar - I just find it easier to crank out a basic accompaniment, without thinking too hard about it, that covers the harmony and keeps the rhythm going and lets me focus on singing the melody. I can do a few solo songs on English concertina (my system of choice), but I find it works better to save the concertina for when I'm playing with others and I don't have to cover all the "parts" by myself. So that's what I do.

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And have you actually tried a Crane? Very logical, repeating keyboard.

Dirge, I don't get this bit... in what usefull way is a Crane keyboard ' repeating' ? When does a note come back into the same line ? Does it not take 81 notes in succession, or something like that, to repeat ?

There are many different kinds of repetition. Repetition of a 12-note scale (albeit in different octaves) through a particular geometric movement is only one kind. By that criterion, the Crane never repeats*.

 

But the Crane layout is based on the application of three principles:

  • The middle three columns (of five) contain all and only the natural notes (of a diatonic scale), while the outer two columns contain all and only the accidentals which complete the (tempered) chromatic scale.
  • The natural notes form a sequence in those three central columns in the order 2-4-3, which repeats in an ascending sequence.
  • Each accidental is located geometrically adjacent to one of its musically adjacent natural notes. (This allows, e.g., D# to be next to D in one octave while its enharmonic equivalent Eb may be next to E in a different octave.)

That second principle is definitely "repeating".

 

* The Crane layout can never repeat in the same sense as the Hayden/Wicki, the CBA, the Wheatstone Double, etc. because the ratio of accidentals to naturals in the keyboard layout is less than that ratio in the chromatic scale, so eventually principle 3. above breaks down. But it's still possible to accommodate more than 3 chromatic octaves (a 38-note sequence, if I remember correctly) without violating any of the three above principles, and I think that's adequately useful. The English system, by the way, does repeat geometrically in the "vertical" direction, but its repetition interval is four octaves, not one octave.

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For what it's worth, I thought your playing was fine. What does need more practice is the art of self-accompaniment, to bring the vocal and instrumental parts together. At the moment you're singing and playing at the same time, which is not quite the same thing. This is a difficult skill, because in order to do the song justice you should be focussing on the singing, whereas the instrument is probably demanding more of your attention. This is where it helps to play a simple accompaniment that doesn't require so much mental effort and allows you to concentrate more on the singing. Playing in public is always more nerve-wracking than practicing at home, and this may trip you up if you attempt something too complicated.

 

I don't think the concertina requires greater motor skills than guitar, but the nature of the instrument does demand more complex playing. Strumming a guitar is definitely easier than accompanying a song on concertina. This is because it provides a different sort of accompaniment. A strummed guitar is primarily providing rhythm, along with some fairly simple chordal harmony. Because the emphasis is on rhythm, the same chord might be played for several bars.

 

A concertina, of any system, is much more about providing harmony. Just holding down the same unvaried chord for several bars would sound boring, without the inherent rhythm which is so easy to produce by strumming. a guitar. A concertina demands a more complex arrangement, such as those you've been playing. Inevitably an arrangement of this nature will be more difficult to play than a simple guitar accompaniment. The comparison with guitar would be to play more frequent chord changes and complex fingerpicking with the right hand.

 

Some instruments are quicker to pick up than others. The guitar is fairly easy to get started on, which is one of the reasons it is so popular. Other instruments such as violin or trumpet take hours of practice just to produce a consistently acceptable sound. The concertina is somewhere in the middle - it will produce a satisfactory tone from the beginning, but does require more practice to actually produce tunes. However once the basics have been mastered, they all require considerable time and effort to become an accomplished player.

 

I you just want an instrument to accompany your singing and find the guitar easier, then I would suggest you stick with that for performing in public until you feel equally comfortable on the concertina. The English song tradition is overwhelmingly unaccompanied, and I doubt whether the concertina is actually any more 'trad' for this purpose than the guitar.

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Frogspan:

In contrast, I've recently started dabbling with guitar and mandolin and can already accompany a few songs. OK, it's not Martin Carthy or Nic Jones - it's just strumming the three-chord trick, but it's perfectly adequate and indeed appropriate for a folkclub floor singer in a noisy pub.

 

As much as I love the sound of squeezeboxes, I'm seriously wondering about the effort to achievement ratio.

************************

 

I started out on saxophone as a kid and later picked up oboe. I studied both in college and managed a 4 year "career" in the Air Force as a bandsman. The saxophone has a marvelous "effort to achievement ratio." The oboe, not so much. After the Air Force I changed careers. The Crane duet has been my avocational instrument since 1978. I love it. I have no wonderments about the "effort to achievement ratio" of the Crane. It is absolutely dismal!!

 

I still play the Crane daily and I love it. I jam with it, sing with it and enjoy it tremendously.

 

However, I also play lots of ukulele as of late. It is so much easier and just plain fun. I can work up a presentable version of a song in a small fraction of the time it would take on concertina and I've only been playing ukulele a couple of years.

 

Still, I love my Crane and will never give it up.

 

Best to you.

Edited by Kurt Braun
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[i don't get this bit... in what usefull way is a Crane keyboard ' repeating' ?]

 

"repeating" might not be the most apt descriptive as to why it is very straightforward. it's more that there is a code, or a key, or a Rosetta Stone to it....and once you learn that, it doesn't diverge. you've got the whole thing on a tiny chip in your head.

--the "principles" listed above are a good way to put it, or another is....

 

black keys on the outside columns (and yes, they will always be adjacent to a logically related white note)

white keys on the two inside columns

UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by Fifths....

 

and that's it. it's eggzackly the same on both sides (ok, on a big crane a couple of the super-low bottom-left bass notes are placed a little jiggy...)

 

and because it never changes, the placement relationshp between note intervals doesn't change, like the 2-4-3 thing...

 

the cliche i keep reading is that maccann is like EC, but imho it is crane that is like ec....

Edited by ceemonster
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If you're finding it easier to accompany your singing on the guitar than on the concertina, then go ahead and do that - you don't need our permission. :)

 

For what it's worth, when I'm singing solo, I also prefer the guitar - I just find it easier to crank out a basic accompaniment, without thinking too hard about it, that covers the harmony and keeps the rhythm going and lets me focus on singing the melody. I can do a few solo songs on English concertina (my system of choice), but I find it works better to save the concertina for when I'm playing with others and I don't have to cover all the "parts" by myself. So that's what I do.

Thanks for the dispensation!

 

Over the next five years I'm planning to learn to perform at least one song or tune on dulcimer, melodeon and whistle just to vindicate my historical accumulation of them. My interest in the mandolin is more serious but still secondary to the Crane.

 

Another advantage singing with guitar and mandolin is that I can do so standing. I used to do that with the concertina but it's too much strain on my back now.

 

I also found the guitar useful for working out chords when arranging, but I can usually do that directly on the Crane now.

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For what it's worth, I thought your playing was fine. What does need more practice is the art of self-accompaniment, to bring the vocal and instrumental parts together. At the moment you're singing and playing at the same time, which is not quite the same thing. This is a difficult skill, because in order to do the song justice you should be focussing on the singing, whereas the instrument is probably demanding more of your attention. This is where it helps to play a simple accompaniment that doesn't require so much mental effort and allows you to concentrate more on the singing. Playing in public is always more nerve-wracking than practicing at home, a

nd this may trip you up if you attempt something too complicated.

 

I don't think the concertina requires greater motor skills than guitar, but the nature of the instrument does demand more complex playing. Strumming a guitar is definitely easier than accompanying a song on concertina. This is because it provides a different sort of accompaniment. A strummed guitar is primarily providing rhythm, along with some fairly simple chordal harmony. Because the emphasis is on rhythm, the same chord might be played for several bars.

 

A concertina, of any system, is much more about providing harmony. Just holding down the same unvaried chord for several bars would sound boring, without the inherent rhythm which is so easy to produce by strumming. a guitar. A concertina demands a more complex arrangement, such as those you've been playing. Inevitably an arrangement of this nature will be more difficult to play than a simple guitar accompaniment. The comparison with guitar would be to play more frequent chord changes and complex fingerpicking with the right hand.

 

Some instruments are quicker to pick up than others. The guitar is fairly easy to get started on, which is one of the reasons it is so popular. Other instruments such as violin or trumpet take hours of practice just to produce a consistently acceptable sound. The concertina is somewhere in the middle - it will produce a satisfactory tone from the beginning, but does require more practice to actually produce tunes. However once the basics have been mastered, they all require considerable time and effort to become an accomplished player.

 

I you just want an instrument to accompany your singing and find the guitar easier, then I would suggest you stick with that for performing in public until you feel equally comfortable on the concertina. The English song tradition is overwhelmingly unaccompanied, and I doubt whether the concertina is actually any more 'trad' for this purpose than the guitar.

I'm sure that's sound advice, and I've received it before both publicly and privately...

 

But I do have one song which I think I can do "well” in my existing melodic style, and that discourages me from giving it up for the other 29. In fact that isn't quite accurate as I already do one song with chords. I'll try to post recordings of these next week.

 

I do accept, however, that I'd be less likeky to go wrong with a chordal approach (if I can perfect it) and it would also be the quickest way of resuscitating the other 30 Crane songs which I retired or put into reserve.

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Seems to me this side-discussion -- not really relevant to frogspawn's query -- should be in a different thread, but right now I'm too busy/lazy to "do the right thing". B)

... in what usefull way is a Crane keyboard ' repeating' ?


"repeating" might not be the most apt descriptive as to why it is very straightforward.

...

UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by fifths. UP by fourths, DOWN by Fifths....

 

 

That's not "repeating"???

the cliche i keep reading is that maccann is like EC, but imho it is crane that is like ec....


In what way? Color? Number of bellows folds? Average age of the players?

OK, those are ridiculous examples, but deliberately so. There are many different kinds of similarity, and I wouldn't try to count the number of individuals who have likened one keyboard layout to another without saying in what way they think they are "alike". To them it may be "obvious", but it's not obvious to me what they consider to be obvious.

I can see that the Crane is "like" the English because the natural notes are all in the internal columns while the accidentals are all in the two outer columns. But that's also true of the Maccann... well, except for that pesky D#. ;) In fact, the Maccann layout is much more like the English in another way that's usually overlooked, but first...

The reason for that is because the Maccann button columns have intervals of a Fifth (for the most part) like the EC .


Wrong. In its diatonic center, the "vertical" intervals on the English are always fifths (with B-to-F as a diminished fifth), while on the Maccann those intervals alternate (more or less) between fifths and fourths. Otherwise, there wouldn't be octave repetition when jumping two rows.

But an interesting feature of the standard Maccann layout (not the "uniform" Chidley variant) is so-called "shift" starting with the G-A-B-C pattern in the octave above high C (right hand). Did that really originate -- as some (even myself in the past) have suggested -- to make the fingering of certain note sequences easier? I now suspect -- and suggest -- an opposite evolution:

In that octave (plus one note), the button layout for the diatonic sequence c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c'-d' is exactly the same (ignoring the octave difference) as the diatonic sequence from C to d on the English, if one were to interleave the central columns of the two ends.


Is that simply a coincidence resulting from an attempt to make certain fingerings easier? Not impossible, I suppose, but I'm more inclined to think that the English layout was used as a basis for the initial attempt to construct a duet keyboard and that departures/variations from that system came about from trying to add in all the accidentals and extend the range downward and upward. With further extension of the range, the 2-row repetition of octaves was adopted, but the original "English" pattern in the center was never abandoned as the Maccann standard (though the Chidley variant was an attempt to do so).

I think that further support for my interpretation is found in the fact that this portion of the Maccann layout is an exact copy (again, except for possible octave shift) of the early Wheatstone Duett, including the same departure from the "English" pattern below the lower C, while Wheatstone's 1844 patent shows other attempts to evolve a chromatic duet keyboard from the diatonic core of the "English" pattern.

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