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Midi Hayden Duet? Assessing Demand

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@Matthew: I've posted a link to an example of a two-way air pressure sensor in my DIY thread some time ago. As to pistons/bellows replacement, if you can live without true bellows (travel distance) then you can adapt the same pressure rod solution as the S-Wave, or combine the air pressure sensor with something like this: http://www.chawison.pl/35,gruszka-powietrzna-z-pedzelkiem-do-czyszczenia-2w1,354 - it is an air bulb for cleaing of photographic equipment. You could also use air cylinders but I didn't dug into this solution, I just have made some tests with LEGO cylinders I had at hand. The most important requirements for such cylinders would be long travel, light weight and most importantly low pressure operation (low friction/low initial resistance is crucial for fast responses). IMHO if you want as close imitation of an acoustic concertina, then traditional bellows operation is the most logical solution. I was considering other options mostly because I want a hybrid controller, i.e. for wind AND velocity driven dynamics.

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I'll have to see if Dean is okay sharing trade info, which he well might if it's more of a passion for him than a livelihood, and since we're not fixing to make any run of Englishes that would compete with his.


So pressure sensors for the "bellows", and how to get enough buttons in small enough of a space, those are the two main puzzles? Is there somewhere written Brian's specifications for how large the buttons are and the distance between them?

Not in the patent, AFAICT, but in this article he specifies the button spacing:http://www.concertina.com/williams/hayden-chat/index.htm


The patent does, however, describe a free bass button accordion based on a Hayden layout. Interesting?

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If I'm pretty much the main person interested in non-bellows pressure sensors, I can drop that for now and go with the majority, especially if we might this year be able to find someone to put this stuff together. Leather still the best bellows-option, no synthetic substitutes worth considering? And MIDI Boutique as noted already has the proper air-sensors for making MIDI squeezeboxes.


If we go with bellows, the main issue we come down to is the buttons/switches. Turning again to MIDI experts, what say we try to just diagram out what we want our ends to look like, and then just ask MIDI Boutique how they recommend going about it? It could be the answer is as simple as "oh, if you want that just order some XYZ switches and they'll plug right into our boards."


If the majority of folks want to continue exploring the "buy unbuttoned/unfretted cheap Anglo bodies from China" angle I'm open, but given that such boxes are huge and the bellows okayish in quality, plus the expense of having to ship them from China to Bulgaria and pay yet more taxes, a Bulgarian solution seems appealing. I mean, our "ends" are just cut plastic octagons with some relief hogged out for room to drop in the MIDI board, battery, and the switches assembly. Would it be so pricey to have those made in Bulgaria by a local 3D milling workshop? So far as bellows, are those a high-skill item or could we get a run of serviceable ones made by some local Bulgarian accordion-repair shop?


Would anyone be willing to just do a quick 30m computer sketch of what and end would look like (with some scale) so we can show Boutique and get their input on:

  • would their off-the-shelf accordion MIDI setup work fine for our Hayden?
  • is there a practical way to fit in our buttons into said space, what switches needed?
  • Are they strongly in favor of buying cheap Chinese bodies, or is the ends and bellows simple enough to be made affordably locally?


If we buy Chinese bodies, those things are like 7" across, so we'd about definitely go for the 64b option. But if we're having ends made to order, then we can do octagonal ends (if that won't jack bellows difficult too high), and we can take a harder look at how small a size we can make and still fit a reasonable number of buttons on it. I personally would be fine with 46b (or even 42b) since we could fit that in probably 6" or less. Here's a Wakker 46b, 6.25" in diameter, and even without changing the layout-handrail arrangement we could probably shave .25" at least of it, or else make it 6.25" and get the button-count higher. And for the sketch, are folks broadly okay with non-slant ("Wicki") angle?




Anyone feel up for sketching out a really, really rough view of what we're imagining and share with the thread? Jordan read the thread earlier, so I think we'd be fine to post ideas here, and I/we can ping him to ask for his opinion, whether over email or if he wants to sign up here and post.


I dunno, this seems like something we could feasibly get a prototype by year-end and a run made early 2015, especially if the MIDI stuff and switches turns out to be less difficult than anticipated.

Edited by MatthewVanitas
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What Don is pointing out regarding switches is that there is a problem obtaining ones that are small enough AND require low force to operate. I have 9x9mm switches wich are small enough to make a Hayden array, but they require 120grams of force, whilst typical concertina button works on ~80grams. Don have found some computer keyboard switches that work with such small forces, but they are to big to place one by one.


The solution for this is to build a conductive rubber keypad - it is just one more circutboard to design, but I don't know what is the smallest batch quantity for this to be economicaly justified (probably it is an option only for huge runs). The other solution is to build an entire actionboard…


As to the bellows: traditional concertina bellows is very labour intensive and it has a completely different construction that the accordion one… The chineese boxes that you find not good enough have poor bellows mostly because they have hexagonal accordion bellows… But there might be a workaround for many of theese problems - had you actually tried to contact the chineese manufacturer and ask if they can make a smaller box? Maybe in the size matching a Wakker bellows? Then one wishing to have a better bellows in his MIDI instrument could simply buy a traditional one.

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There may well be small diameter switches out there that are well made, not clicky, require low activation force, are easy to mount, have a throw comparable to a concertina button, etc., etc.


But, over the last few months I have bought maybe a dozen sample sets of different switches only to find them all wanting in many respects. I have given up buying more samples.


Two switch types that I did like:


Cherry Brown (yes that is the real name) computer keyboard switches that are designed specifically for gamer keyboards. A very well made switch with low activation force, no tactile click and a design life of millions of depressions. They are too big and expensive at $2.50 for each switch without a key cap or a PCB to mount them on.


I also like some low activation lever arm switches that I have, but these would need concertina buttons and a complete action board to make them usable. Too much work.


Because of their small size and high complexity, concertinas are very difficult things to make. Replacing the reeds with electronics and software still leaves a very small, complex box to assemble.


I am beginning to think that the only practical way might be to base it on a donor Elise. This is what Midi Boutique's designs have been used for in the past. But is a midi Elise really what you want?

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Another design issue that you should raise with Midi Boutique is how, or even if, they can interface their midi output with an Apple device, specifically can they connect up to the Lightning connector on current iPhone, iPods and can they then drive the Thumbjam app to convert their midi output into nice concertina sounds (from Michael Eskin).

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Just wrote Jordan again, inviting him to join this discussion. Particularly regarding suitable switches. And hopefully he'll have an answer for Don regarding Apple products (which I'd also prefer over Android).


Don, thanks for the great comments about switches; I was quite surprised to hear that it's so hard to find small enough switches. My layman's brain just assumed miniaturization had gotten much further and cheaper these days, but apparently no. But maybe Boutique or others know of other switches to recommend of proper travel/weight/size.



Łukasz, good comments on bellows. But if we have a 6.25 octagonal frame, it'd be only Wim's own bellows that would fit onto it? For the other makers who have 6.25 hexagonal ends for their Anglos, are they remotely standardized in bellows size, or are they all of idiosyncratic size? In the immediate term, if the Bulgarians can make accordion-style "concertina" bellows for a price/quality approaching what Chinese ones would cost us (factoring in shipping and taxes), I'd still be inclined to have this all made in Bulgaria if possible to minimize transport/export costs.

Edited by MatthewVanitas
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Hi guys, this is Jordan from MIDI Boutuque!


I will try to answer here few of questions about the possibility of MIDI conversion of Hayden Duet that I could figure out browsing this discussion.

Please forgive my poor English.


Q. Whether we can do produce MID interface for it?

A.Yes, we can do the electronic stuff, regardless the model and make of the original instrument, providing that we have technical drawing with dimensions.

Otherwise, we can do this if we get the original instrument itself in hands, so we can design, produce and install the MIDI electronics inside it.

This is more expensive but most reliable way to go. We already did such job for an English concertina fro a customer in England. See the project description article here.


Q. Whether we can produce the instrument body with bellows?

A. Rather not. Although there is a possibility to produce the boxes, we cannot arrange production of the bellows.


Q. What button contacts would I suggest?

A. In the English Concertina project described in above article we used miniature (10x1.5mm) Reed contacts and small magnets attached to key air taps. Keeping the original action board allowed most natural feeling where the original buttons are kept intact and bellows reaction depends on number of simultaneously pressed keys. More keys - lighter movement and vice versa. With pure electrical contacts and removed action board, there is no way to achieve variable air flow. The air intake/exhaust valve is supposed to have constant flow, so the bellows mechanical resistance won't depend on number of keys actuated simultaneously. I don't know is this is acceptable or not, as I am simple engineer and not player. So you tell me... If constant airflow/bellows resistance is acceptable, then I'd suggest removing the action board and using keys made of Zippy momentary switches. They can be used with cylindrical plastic caps much similar to buttons used in concertinas. As far as I know the caps can be even ordered in different colours and concave/convex tops. The sheet of suggested switch can be seen in attached file "zippy.pdf". The size of these buttons is 8x8 mm so I think it should fit in any layout considered standard. Are there systems with key distance less than 8 mm?


Q. What about using the converted instruments with computer or mobile device that don't have MIDI input?

A. We can do it with USB interface, which is driver-less, compatible to Windows, MAC X and Linux. Unfortunately it does not provide support for Android though, so in case of Android or other mobile platform, you will need to find MIDI-USB interface for that specific system.


Well, enough for now. Let me know if there are more questions.






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Hey Jordan, thanks so much for dropping in with your expertise! Your English is great, so no worries there.


I also dropped a line to Dean Onyon, maker of the S-Wave, to invite him to comment if he would like.



Don, are the Zippys he mentions amongst those you've already tested and rejected, or might those be an option?


And re the Elise, I don't think I or many other folks would be satisfied with just taking an Elise with stock buttons/action and putting magnet-sensors on the levers, since it'd still have a limited scale and only okay action. I love the Elise as a starter, but I think just chucking all the internals and just using the plyood hollow ends and bellows would be the main way to get use out of Chinese bodies. Are the cheap Chinese Anglo bodies set up (handrail-wise) just the same as the Duet? If so, there are tons of makers doing nearly-identical 7" Anglos that we could theoretically contact to sell us a dozen sets of pre-fretting/holing ends and bellows, and we drop the 64 buttons and electronics into those. Though still I'm seeing appeal in having this done in Bulgaria with nicer-quality ends/bellows, unless the cost-savings are big.


So far as bellows, I've regularly seen a seller on eBay, "sandylaneman" who routinely sells replacement concertina bellows. Irish maker, using Nigerian goat leather; to my layman eyes seems to be someone who takes bellows seriously. His run €150 for 6", 6 1/4" or 6 5/8" ; I suppose it's an issue of scale, where if the ends and electronics end up costing €800, another ton-and-a-half isn't bad for a quality product, but if this can be done much more affordably, then the bellows start representing a larger chunk of the cost. Kinda similar with ends materials: at a certain level of expense (especially if we're using real leather bellows) we might just want to use good-quality wood, or some quality composite material, since the material cost is small relative to the labor/electronics cost. At the opposite end, if this turns out being easier than expected, a cheapo but decent version with basic cast plastic ends and a bellows substitute looks feasible to keep costs down while maintaining playability.


Jordan, your writeup of making the MIDI English was really fascinating. A lot of it I didn't understand, but what I did was neat. It seems you've got a lot of the basic issues and brainstorms (linking up the ends, air-pressure unisonoric sensor, transposition switch) already figured out. The idea we have here is different (easier?) since we aren't dealing with the internal levers and all, rather using electronics buttons that directly inform the board. Do the number of pre-orders we can round up have an appreciable impact on the price? That is, rather than being a one-off, if we have 10 or so people that all want the same instrument, does that help spread the costs? I would also hope that if we do a good run of these, and people really like the product, there could be demand for further runs using the same boards/ends so you could re-use the same specs and techniques.


EDIT: we have about 8 people in this thread who've expressed interest, so if even half of those want to proceed, we could probably rustle up enough orders by pinging outside colleagues an Hayden enthusiasts to get up to at least 10 initial orders. Or if this looks to be a great idea and reasonably affordable, we can publicize it more widely to get attention outside the concertina community, maybe Kickstarer it for visibility, etc.

Edited by MatthewVanitas
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No, I have not tried those particular buttons. The would just fit for the 9mm x 16mm button spacing on a Hayden. The service life numbers do not look appropriate for the application - most non-keyboard switches are designed for intermittent use only to turn something on or off.


As far as interfacing to an iPhone, iPad or an iPod Touch is concerned. Apple does not support a standard USB connection either in hardware or software. Their proprietary version of a high speed serial port is called Lightning and there is only a Lightning connector on each of these devices. Apple does sell a camera connection adaptor that allows you to plug a camera into an iThing using a USB cable. But this does not necessarily mean that you can connect other USB devices and expect them to 'just work'. Reading various forum posts and Amazon.com reviews, it seems that folks can generally get a midi keyboard to work on a iPad, but not so well with an iPhone or an iPod Touch. I think that this is still an open issue.



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I have the exact zippy switches in my prototype, but probably the standard force variant - unfortunately I don't know for sure. I had some issues with them - after a couple of months some of them have stopped to response and needed replacement. They have shor travel of about 2 mm, and if force is not applied exactly straight they tend to increase their resistance… And even the light force variant will probably be too stiff for Don - he would like his buttons closer to 45gf than 90gf-120gf. IFAIK standard concertina buttons operate on 60-80gf.


Roland did have solved the variable airflow problem in their digital accordions but I don't know how - probably not by traditional action, as this is a new feature and only available in the most expensive accordions.


As to number of people interested - don't count me in, I will more likely focus on finishing my DIY solution, when I will finally have some time to spare on this project.

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Ah, I was just about to post the iRig. There are other devices like the Line 6 that are cheaper, but less well-reviewed, but several options on the market.





I had not realized that finding buttons would be so tricky; I would've thought that in the massive world of electronic fidgety-bits, someone would make buttons that were the right pressure/travel/durability.

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AKAIK Midi Boutique's interface is physically a USB port, not a midi line so I don't think an iRig will do.


Quality mechanical keyboard switches like the Cherry switches are rated for 50 million depressions. Most, maybe all?, micro switches are rated for a few thousand or tens of thousands of depressions.

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Don, in fact it is MIDI by nature. Don't forget, we we are MIDI Boutique.

What I was trying to say was that it can be converted to USB,


Matthew, when doing custom projects, customer pays not only the product itself, but the design and prototyping costs.

In case more than 3 are ordered at once, these development/prototyping costs are covered by ourselves.

You can order as many as you want, considering above.

For first batch the first price break is at 10. For further orders (after production costs are precisely estimated

during first batch production) it is possible to set the lowest price breaks at 5.

Edited by JDP
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And the Cherry switches are right-out just based on size? I mean, expense is relative depending on how expensive the overall package is, so if we're going deluxe 64x$2.50=$160 isn't ungodly, but not conducive to making an affordable little thing. But if Cherrys are just too large, and aren't available in any smaller size, then that option is just off the table if we want Hayden-standard. Is it that the Cherry buttons would just be wider buttons than concertina standard, or that the full switch assembly is too large to maintain the required distance between buttons, center-to-center?


Does the S-Wave have buttons of generally standard separation? I glanced around some old threads to see if Dean has publicly mentioned his thoughts on switches, but no dice.


EDIT: even back 5 years ago, even our very discerning Duettist Dirge was impressed by the S-Wave action, so Dean is clearly doing something right with his buttons. Dirge's short review: http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=10197&p=102312



I thought for a moment about the Paul Everett "Gadget" Hayden, which has buttons all near-touching like a CBA, unlike concerrtina. Then I noticed that the fellow who used to make kits for them was our same Jordan Petkov! One of the things I'd pondered whether there's any way to upgrade the Gadget just enough to make it tolerable as a concertina trainer, as an affordable MIDI option that might also lure electronic musicians into the acoustic concertina world. Though for the moment it seems we have more folks interested in a good-quality instrument closely resembling a true concertina. Jordan, y'all no longer make that Gadget kit, do you?



Ran across an interesting "bellows alternative" item today. Probably not a feasible method for what we do, not particularly natural-feeling, but this pulley system informing the MIDI is rather clever: http://crewdson.net/






EDIT: Jordan, thanks for laying out the pricing scheme. If we can come to any kind of slap-table agreed good idea here that offers good bang-for-the-buck (ie maybe a little spendy but great quality), getting three folks onboard would be easy. And if it's reasonably affordable, rustling up 10 orders seems quite feasible even for a first run, price depending.

Edited by MatthewVanitas
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Paul Everett's gadget was based on our earlier MIDI encoder mkc-MG. Its successor is mkc64x.

It is pure key encoder, no continuous control neither air pressure control.

Simply scanning up to 64 contacts and converting their status changes to NoteOn/ NoteOff messages.


As about "bellows alternative", I understand how it works, bot how does if feel?

I mean you cannot push/pull bellows, you can only pull the strings,

and the pulling force is converted to continuous controllers for "pressure"

but this would require completely different technique of playing, right?

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Jordan - this string bellows is a lot more complicated than simply measuring pulling force. I once read the whole conversion history of this instrument and each of the three strings give you two angular measurements and one distance measurement, so you can read precise relative location of the ends. It gives so many MIDI controls that this controller, when properly programmed, could do any dynamics or expression.

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