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MatthewVanitas

When Did People (Largely) Stop Making Duets?

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In a post from a few years back, Wim mentioned how sales of his Elise were picking up over time, and sales of Rochelles proportionally lower, partially because a buyer unfamiliar with concertinas in general had a tendency to gravitate towards Duet as being a logical-sounding system.

 

I found this pretty interesting, partially because (although aware of English and Anglo for a decade before) I found Duet really appealing once I became aware of it, and bought an Elise shortly thereafter. It got me to thinking: so there was a general decline in concertina sales around WWII and thereafter, increasing somewhat during the Folk Revival. Did Duets do any much trade in that post-WWII period? Is there a general point in time where major makers largely gave up on making Duets? I know that onesie-twosie Crabb, Wheatstone, and others made some Duets in the 1960s-1980s (including the famous set of 10 Dickinson Wheatstone Haydens), but was the Duet era largely over by then? Is there a particular point where it bottomed out, prior to taking some slight incline when Stagi/Bastari made some square and hexagonal boxes? And am I right in assuming that Wim's fielding the Elise has represented the biggest surge in Duet sales since probably pre-WWII?

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You could search through the Wheatstone Ledgers to see how many Duets were produced during the years .I suppose this could answer some part of your question because each instrument was made to order and thus is a reflection of demand.

Many of us, who began playing the Concertina having seen it in action at Folk Clubs and sessions, naturally gravitated to those keyboards that were being played by others. I'm sure some of us, like myself, looked at the Duets and thought hmmm... a bit more difficult , maybe not.

Now with the introduction of the Hayden, and it being perhaps the simplest of all keyboards to get to grips with, along with the availability of cheap 'starter models', the 'Duet' is relaunched! Yippee, Yippee,Yippee!!! BUT.... where does one go from there?

 

I would like to think that there is the availability of really fine quality models that might equal the sound and playability of the vintage Wheatstones that I have been playing for 40 odd years...but I am yet to be convinced. :unsure:

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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This is a great topic! I would throw in as a possible factor, the decline at just this time for accordions. But if that were a factor, you'd see Anglo/EC production declining as well during this period, no? Well, what if Anglo/EC production DID decline around the 1960s for a while, just not as much as duet? Perhaps duet's "peak" was nowhere near Anglo/EC at any point? I don't know the facts here. But late 50s/1960s on saw a huge decline for accordions....Andin Ireland they do talk about a decline for Anglo concertina, which didn't really come "in" again until, what, the mid 80s?



Funny, because given availability of high-quality affordable duets, I'm with those who think they could really catch on....Particularly the Hayden. As someone who recently acquired a big Crane, I have been pleasantly surprised at how straightforward and playable the system is and taken aback that it isn't being made. Well, I understand that Paul McCann plays a modern Crane made by Connor, which is very interesting...And it seems that the irrepressible Bob Tedrow is game to make any thing....



I wonder what kind of orders WW and BB are getting for the hybrid Haydens. I guess that would have to be, wondering what kind of orders compared to orders for Anglos/ECs, given that cash is so scarce for lots of folks....


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Fulminating further over this...I really think it has to do with, the availability and relative affordability of accordions. They went "out" but they didn't go out the way concertinas did for a while. The unisonoric accordions such as CBA and PA are super-duets, after all--they do the bass/left, meldoy-right thing including two rows of single notes on the left/bass side for single-note counterpoint (most people don't learn how to do that, but you can); and they come with a single-reed switch for a concertina-like sound plus millions of other sounds, with bigger lungs.

 

At a Catskills concertina workshop, Father Charles Coen of East Galway said he thought concertinas went by the wayside for a good while due to the accordion's greater lung power for dance halls and things, and that the advent of better amplification technology had a lot to do with concertina resurgence.

Edited by ceemonster

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@ceemonster: I would add two more things about CBAs - accordions in general are constructed in a way, that isolates finger movement from bellows movement. This makes them a little bit harder to learn but a lot more precise in terms of expression. The second is a free-bass convertors, which makes it a real "superduet" configuration. All of these factors make accordions much more flexible than concertinas of any kind and makes them much more appealing for anyone wanting to play classical music on a virtuoso level - there are classes of accordion in musical schools continously for decades, while we have only one professional bandoneonist in Poland and no concertina players outside of a shanty genre.

 

And on "relative affordability" - a good quality, used instrument around 60 basses, with 3-5 registers can be bought even for the price of new Rochelle/Jackie/Elise, while perfectly playable (for educational or hobby purposes) russian accordions can be bought as cheap as 100$… And a fully blown Bayan, with ton of registers and a free bass will cost you only twice as much as a "simple" modern duet…

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Wheatstone Ledgers show the peak of Duet production was in the early 1920's... I did a Survey of this a couple of years ago and some figures do appear in a Topic at that time... cannot recall the topic title...

 

However, the Accordion does appear to have affected sales of Concertinas from the 1920's onwards in England... production figures never recovered and quality of the finished product declined with declining profits. World War Two pretty much finished off the production of anything of quality produced in the UK. The years following the war when companies were told to "export or die", when it was almost impossible for anyone in England to buy anything other than the bare essentials and Purchase Tax on new items virtually prohibited local sales... most Concertina production went to the USA and South Africa.

 

It is only in very recent years that the strong revival of Irish Traditional Music has led to an upsurge of Concertina making, thus mostly Anglos.

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Wheatstone Ledgers show the peak of Duet production was in the early 1920's...

 

Broadly, were most Duet concertinas in general used for relatively "art" music? That is, classical music, scored and mass-printed sheet music of parlor tunes, light opera pieces, stuff like that? I see glancing around that English concertina concerts were still a thing in the UK even in 1907 or so, but extrapolating from Worral's description of what downpressed the Anglo, I'd imagine that a failure to integrate into the emerging styles of music (including early jazz?) would've put the Duet at a disadvantage against guitar/mandolin/ukulele, as well as the mass-produced piano. And then of course the emergence of recorded music and eventually radio, which as I understand it put a general global dent into the hobby of casual musicianship?

 

Was the Duet ever used much at all for "folk" music (or was the English for that matter, pre Folk revival?), or was that almost entirely the domain of the Anglo? Again theorizing, but if the Duet isn't integrated into any particular stable cultural tradition, other than the fashion-prone ever-shifting world of "popular music", that would've been part of what killed it off? As sales were slumping going into the 1920s, would the last holdout players mostly just be sitting at home with some old sheet music on a stand, for lack of any current interest or social niche for the Duet?

 

 

 

 

most Concertina production went to the USA and South Africa

 

Okay, Boermusik, that makes sense. But I had to go check Dan Worral's book to see who was playing concertinas (in general) in the US around then: "The popularity enjoyed by the anglo in 19th century America amongst immigrants, sailors, Mormon pioneers, minstrel musicians, Salvationists and others was not to last. In the early twentieth century, sales and usage of anglo and other concertinas in the US plummeted." Okay, so less popular than before, but evidently enough market to keep some UK makers limping onward.

 

 

 

 

there are classes of accordion in musical schools continously for decades

 

This is a great point, as I've definitely heard of accordion schools/courses/tutorials in the 1950s-1960s period, as a relatively mainstream option. And that would likely be at a time where very few folks were teaching English concertina, and probably next to none doing formal classes on the Anglo.

 

Building on that, might part of the accordion's relative dominance be that it's popularity extended sufficiently into the modern industrial era that it was able to take advantage of the cost benefits of mass production? Isn't a good part of the expense of concertinas (and the huge expense of trad-reeded concertinas) that there's just no economy of scale to them, as they're outsold by a factor of easily 10 or even 100 by accordions?

 

 

So far as the niche for duets, I do wonder exactly who it is that's buying these Elises. I would imagine that the vast majority of them are coming from a folk background, or else the idea of a concertina wouldn't have occurred to them in the slightest. So they end up buying an instrument that, while it may work great for folk, historically wasn't used for that? I know some folks on the forum play classical or jazz on larger vintage duets, but the number of people doing that professional and/or recording has got to be counted on a hand or two.

 

 

 

 

Now with the introduction of the Hayden, and it being perhaps the simplest of all keyboards to get to grips with, along with the availability of cheap 'starter models', the 'Duet' is relaunched! Yippee, Yippee,Yippee!!! BUT.... where does one go from there?

 

It's interesting looking at old threads (like 2000 or so) about Haydens, or older Usenet postings, where there was the very legit concern that Stagi/Bastari was just about it, short of Dickinson's 10 apprentice-made pieces, and a few odd on-offs, and eventually Wakker's $6k pieces. But I'd say that argument has weakened substantially in just the last few years with the Elise, then Peacock and Beaumont. The proportion of Elise buyers who will "outgrow" a Peacock or Beaumont is probably awfully low, and are there not pro performers that play Morse Anglos and Englishes? So barring people who need 60+ keys or absolutely must have trad reeds, the Beaumont would be a workable "final step" for the great majority. And if Elises continue to sell well, and part of that market filters up to quality hybrids, that creates at least a small pool of market for new trad-reed Haydens, which I could see getting too big for just one maker.

 

Though this brings us around back to the initial question: if the Duet died out because it failed to find a niche in new evolving music and had no equivalent of "isolated farmers in Clare keeping it alive" trad grounding, then what niche is it creating for itself that will keep it growing?

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So far as the niche for duets, I do wonder exactly who it is that's buying these Elises. I would imagine that the vast majority of them are coming from a folk background, or else the idea of a concertina wouldn't have occurred to them in the slightest.

 

I think that might not be the reason - i.e. a folk background behind Elise purchases - at least a part of them.

 

If you'll look at beginner concertina videos on YT, you'll see, that many of them are not trad tunes, but accompaniments for singing covers of popular music (myself included). And this might be a "word spreader" for amateur concertina playing - not tradition but growing popularity of concertina as a casual instrument and a power of YT search engine ;)

 

There is strong revival of casual music playing (at least in my country) - because of different reasons: hipster subculture focused largely on music and creativity, YT cover community, strong scout and campfire tradition etc… While guitar is still the single most popular instrument in Poland - seen on the streets, at campfires and in amateur and professional pop/rock bands, there is a shift latey towards more diversity: we have a revival of accordions, both in hobby playing and popular music; there are woodwinds or brass sections in large number of young bands… On the top of that, young people spend more and more time traveling, be it on summer trips or studying away from home city, so mobility makes portability an important issue - thus when it comes to instrument choices for sing accompaniment it's ukuleles over guitars and concertinas over accordions. And only a duet concertina can be trully called a "miniature accordion". And Elise is cheap (though in Poland it is considered as a very expensive casual instrument, as expensive as a good quality guitar), easy to learn and readily available.

 

Of course, one can argue, that it is possible for a skilled Anglo player to play covers of modern popular music, but IMHO the word "skilled" is the most crucial one in this matter. Especially in fast paced life of young people. Haydens exceed at ease of learning and are very straightforward, they allow intuitive chordal play and even such small instrument as Elise has enough buttons for many popular songs in few different keys.

 

 

 

And if Elises continue to sell well, and part of that market filters up to quality hybrids, that creates at least a small pool of market for new trad-reed Haydens, which I could see getting too big for just one maker.

 

I really don't think, that there will be a significant market for traditional concertina reeded Haydens for two reasons:

1) for all those potential "new approach" players I have described above, the true concertina sound of a trad reed is just an expensive flavour for their "miniature accordion"

2) as can be seen from different discussions over this forum, for traditional concertina players neither Hayden layout itself nor modern trad-reeded Haydens offer a significant advantage over vintage Cranes, Maccans or even Anglos.

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Yes, I have noted the pop-song-accompaniment thing with Elises, but I do think there is lots of duet interest for folk as well....along with the popular songs, you do see Stagis and Elises on the 'tube attempting waltzes, tango, polkas, etc. and i must say, sounding very nice at it. this is what got me interested in duet as it happens--the gent named Marien playing eastern european tango and klezmer or gypsy or other eastern european tunes on that big crane, as well as a couple of other folks playing mediterranean and tango music on them..i don't care about "L'Apres-Midi d'un Faun"...i care about .."Temnaya Noch" ("Dark Is the Night"), the mournful Russian tango ....

 

duets sound and handle really delightfully for world folk forms so long as it's not hyper-fast single-melody stuff....

 

[for traditional concertina players neither Hayden layout itself nor modern trad-reeded Haydens offer a significant advantage over vintage Cranes, Maccans or even Anglos.] I dunno.... I think that on that one we're back to the question of how many potential duet players there really are out there....I suspect that given the interest, many potential duetters duet would find the hayden advantageous both in terms of ease of layout-memorization and ergonomical ease of movement...not so much for irish tunes given their single-melody-line character and how fast they're often played. no duet is optimal for that. but for other stuff....

 

 

 

Edited by ceemonster

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Over the years we have made several McCann and Crane duets and at least ten Hayden duets, all using traditional construction methods. The instruments are very expensive to make and the complexities of playing other than melody lines not always considered by purchasers. We reckon anything over a 58 button will mean a struggle for the player - at worst a struggle for the listener! Comparisons with getting an oil tanker to change direction may be made...

 

We have made numbers of diatonic accordion system concertinas and recently two Chromatic accordion system duets. (Try listening to Thomas Restoin to understand the possibilities of the Chromatic duet).

 

The best duet playing on a small 46 McCann is in my experience that of John Morgan of Ogmore Vale. Valuable lessons lessons in managing the larger duets can be learned from Iris Bishop. Try also the playing on "Eloise" by Ralphie Jordan - who will be sadly missed.

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We reckon anything over a 58 button will mean a struggle for the player - at worst a struggle for the listener! Comparisons with getting an oil tanker to change direction may be made...

 

I agree. My appreciation of my 46-key Hayden (Wheatstone, sorry John) went up enormously after I spent some time playing the Wheatstone 82 key Hayden that showed up at the Button Box some years ago. I remember describing it (the switch back to my 46) as "like playing a jet engine."

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We reckon anything over a 58 button will mean a struggle for the player - at worst a struggle for the listener! Comparisons with getting an oil tanker to change direction may be made...

 

I agree. My appreciation of my 46-key Hayden (Wheatstone, sorry John) went up enormously after I spent some time playing the Wheatstone 82 key Hayden that showed up at the Button Box some years ago. I remember describing it (the switch back to my 46) as "like playing a jet engine."

 

OK I think this piece of stupidity does it.

 

Cnet has changed recently; it used to be a very broad church. Now it seems to be concerned purely with rather unimaginative folk music. I don't feel I have anything to offer, or anything to gain, so I'll go and sit in a darkened room for a while instead.

 

Paul, Ken, thank you so much for what was at one stage a real support line; there weren't many duet players but there were at least other concertina players and through you I learnt what they were up to, got in touch with them and have made many real friends. I have got a lot out of it and am grateful. I hope I put something back too.

 

I'm not saying I'm going for good; who knows what may happen, but I think this is quite enough for the moment. Time for a break.

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We reckon anything over a 58 button will mean a struggle for the player - at worst a struggle for the listener! Comparisons with getting an oil tanker to change direction may be made...

 

I agree. My appreciation of my 46-key Hayden (Wheatstone, sorry John) went up enormously after I spent some time playing the Wheatstone 82 key Hayden that showed up at the Button Box some years ago. I remember describing it (the switch back to my 46) as "like playing a jet engine."

 

OK I think this piece of stupidity does it.

 

Cnet has changed recently; it used to be a very broad church. Now it seems to be concerned purely with rather unimaginative folk music. I don't feel I have anything to offer, or anything to gain, so I'll go and sit in a darkened room for a while instead.

 

Paul, Ken, thank you so much for what was at one stage a real support line; there weren't many duet players but there were at least other concertina players and through you I learnt what they were up to, got in touch with them and have made many real friends. I have got a lot out of it and am grateful. I hope I put something back too.

 

I'm not saying I'm going for good; who knows what may happen, but I think this is quite enough for the moment. Time for a break.

 

Huh? :blink: Dirge took my comment as an example of the recent increase in "stupidity" of c.net posts, even though I said nothing I hadn't said back in 2006. I'm sorry to be the one to finally push him over the edge, but I can't see how his final post in any way relates to the comment of mine that he quoted to post it.

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Whereas, that 82key Hayden is perhaps for most of us a bit of a monster and, SMALL is perhaps beautifull in the Concertina world, some instruments that are a little larger than the norm do not have to feel like manouvering a super tanker. All dépends on who is playing, if that person is used to the size of instrument.

 

Of course we do not expect any maker to produce something that he/she is not comfortable about and I'm sure we can all understand that it is much nicer to produce an instrument for a player like Thomas Restoin who, like many people in Europe probably started playing the Chromatic Button Accordion at age 7. Or all those Irish children that commence playing the Anglo at a similar age... it is a joy to hand over an instrument, that one has toiled long and hard to produce, to someone who plays it to its full potential.

 

In this regard does anybody here play( or has played) the 65key Wakker Hayden Duet, which incidentally is hardly bigger than a 58k Maccann , and would like to comment on it ?

 

Perhaps size is more relevant than number of keys ? All my postings to the Tune of The Month Forum during 2012 were made on instruments that are larger than a 58 Maccann... did they sound like a struggle for me or the listener ?!

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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I can't comment on how many buttons are optimum for a duet (a two-button duet would be beyond me), but I can say this, which might be germane to the discussion:

 

I read most postings, at least those involving taste or opinion, as beginning with an implied "To me . . ." or "In my experience," even though these words didn't actually appear. Even if the poster meant them to have global or universal meaning. As they say with auto mileage claims, your experience might vary.

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Ok, so I am puzzled by the recent tack this thread has taken.

 

I have wondered from time to time about switching to a duet and the apparent logic and regularity of the Hayden layout appeals to me.

 

I thought that I had read that, for the most part, a large Hayden was basically the same as a small Hayden except that you have access to more key signatures. That sounds pretty good to me. Moving up from an Elise would not involve learning (m)any new note layouts or chord patterns - just play the same patterns on a different part of the keyboard. A bit like a capo on a guitar. Am I wrong?

 

Now, John Dipper (who I assume is Colin Dipper's son?) says no - that for a large Hayden 'anything over a 58 button will mean a struggle for the player - at worst a struggle for the listener!' I would love to know why.

 

So, can John and the duet players please explain.

 

Thx. Don.

Edited by Don Taylor

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. Moving up from an Elise would not involve learning (m)any new note layouts or chord patterns - just play the same patterns on a different part of the keyboard.

 

Correct. I moved from an Elise to a Beaumont (34 to 52 buttons) and there has been nothing to learn except how nice it is to have those new notes right where you expect them to be.

 

I've heard of issues with staying oriented in a large button field. David Barnert has reported his experience with a large Hayden here.

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Perhaps size is more relevant than number of keys ? All my postings to the Tune of The Month Forum during 2012 were made on instruments that are larger than a 58 Maccann... did they sound like a struggle for me or the listener ?!

 

As noted in my thread in General about my impressions of my Beaumont, despite being 7" across and having 52 buttons, it is about the same weight as one of the heavier 30b Anglos, despite having 175% as many reeds. So the lightness of design may make a huge difference there despite the number of buttons

 

 

Patrick Scannell, good to see another member with a Beaumont! If you have any impressions to share, I have a thread running on the subject currently, since there was precious little discussion of them up before: http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=16148

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