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Brainstorming A Diy Concertina Midi Controller

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Precisely my dear Watson or something like it. I do not know just what it was about the Tina but my playing was so much more fluid and my usual and very favourite box is one of Hamish Baynes that I have had for well over 20 years. Thus it is not an old clunky nail. At the moment I am in serious withdrawal as my partner , Jackie , dropped my beloved Concertina and it is with Doctor Bayne for some serious remedial attention. Dean uses some very elegant and precise momentary on switches with very sweet rubber caps This gives the Tina a really precise action

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Ah, so with Dean's design, it's necessarily that the buttons be flexible/rubbery?


I know Dirge had mentioned that not having smooth metal buttons made things a bit different (despite overall liking the sensitivity). But Dean's way involves having a sticking-up button that must be covered by rubber to work right? Is there any way to "cap the cap" by having a metal or Delrin bit covering at least part of the rubber to present a smoother and more conventional button surface?


Man, I'm finding these threads highly educational. Great forum, this.

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Woah, a lot going on here. Unfortunately, it's coinciding with a work attack over here, so apologies for not keeping up. I'll gasp out a few comments before being dragged back down into the flute mines and carillon fields...


I downloaded Polyphone, a free soundfont editor. It seems to have a useful amount of guidance in the help files. I got as far as loading in a note squeezed out of my conca. My son Ciaron suggested I check YouTube for video tutorials on it and sure enough there are some. (Fifteen year olds these days, they think they know everything. Doesn't help when they are proved right.) So that might well be a way forward. I think it would be very good to translate the help and video advice into a simple linear set of instructions any of us could then follow. (First, catch your concertina....)


An interesting thought hit me in regard to anglos vs same note instruments. If I play the C scale on my anglo, I change bellows direction between each note, and so each note starts and stops with zero bellows pressure. I'd be surprised if that didn't dramatically increase rise and fall times of the note envelope. Rise times in particular are important in "identifying" sounds, so I wonder if that is one of the factors that make anglo and English playing the same tune sound different. I should probably have a look at the differences in rise time in particular in the lab - might make an interesting article. Anyway, we can probably get around that by playing "long staccato" - i.e. bellows pressure up before and after pressing and releasing button.


I haven't in any way investigated the requirement for the length of notes. Do I understand correctly that "looping" is used to make short notes longer? Can we get around that need by making the sample notes as long as you'd ever need? How long is that? I guess if you wanted a drone, it could be very long...


On the need for a mailable recording set, a pair of real condenser USB mics might be the go. Hmmm, do you even need a pair? Record LH notes and RH notes separately? I guess it would be nice to also record a few tunes, to go with Don's Virtual Horniman idea, so stereo would be nice.


I bought a Chinese-made large diameter real condenser USB mic for Ciaron recently at the princely sum of $77. Seems fine for recording voice, although I haven't tried it for any serious recording. Looks like a Neumann, but they cost about $3000 and don't emit a blue light when on. (What good is that?) I could record a note on it and some other mics and see what we learn. High background noise is a common weakness, but may not be an issue in closemiking a concertina. Overload capacity might be!


Don, sorry for picking up the wrong end of the stick on the Horniman concept, but I like your Virtual Horniman idea too. And it's more practical.


If and when we come to laying out printed circuit boards, say to hold press-button switches, I can offer some resources there (others might do better, no worries). I can do layouts and make, populate and test prototype boards in house. Tested layouts can then be emailed to commercial companies for a run.



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Hello folks,
I'm interested in this project, but have just surfaced after travelling for three weeks, so this is a catch-up.

I have practical experience of MIDI concertinas, in that I have a Roy Whiteley MIDIfication of a Lachenal that I had previously restored from a dire state. See http://pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_30566_midi/lachenal_30566_midi.html.

I also visited Dean and tried an S-Wave - I didn't go that way for a mixture of reasons:
1) Physically it is bigger and heavier than I would like. I do like to wave an instrument around while playing some tunes.
2) It is a 64-button design, which to me was unnecessary, given that you can set it to transpose up and down by octaves, and no tune I play is going to need more than four octaves at once, so a normal 48-key would be fine. I tend to get lost on the extra rows of keys on a 64-key instrument.
3) I found the pressure sensing different to the feel of a usual instrument. It seems to be sensing a twist rather than direct push/pull. As a result, I found it difficult to use change of bellows direction, both for phrasing and for repeated notes on same button. I could probably get used to it, but it might affect the way I play a real instrument.

On the plus side, it doesn't require cannibalising an existing instrument (although Roy’s mods are pretty reversible as I still have the original reedpans and reeds); and it is well-engineered and robust.

Both Dean and Roy were very helpful, but the combination of Roy's design being closer to 'a midi concertina' rather than a 'concertina-like midi controller', and me having a suitable starting point of a Lachenal that I had restored that had naff reeds, swung the day. Other people's requirements and starting points will differ. The S-Wave was designed specifically for one person who was used to playing a 64-button tenor-treble, and wanted to use it in public performance through a PA system - if you come from that viewpoint it makes a lot more sense.

I do like my Roy conversion, and I was showing it to folk on Sunday at the Kilve concertina weekend. The responsiveness of the instrument is excellent (no latency while waiting for reeds to start vibrating), and using an iPad as the synthesizer is convenient.

On the subject of samples, I've met Michael Eskin a few times, and I think the samples used in his EnglitinaXL iPad app (http://www.tradlessons.com/EnglitinaXL.html) were recorded in a proper anechoic chamber. On the subject of the Horniman, I'll post separately, as this post is getting too long.

I do tinker somewhat, but my background is in software (also mainly in archaic languages - BCPL, Fortran and VAX assembler, but I can still stretch to Python). However I do have a couple of Raspberry Pi and was wondering about how one might build a 'tina around one.

Incidentally, regarding Terry's comment which I liked

... my programming skills lie mostly in now-dead languages...
Fac aliquid fieri expectat
Ait: "Oportet quod plus est quam vita"
finem faciam

My one year of Latin 50 years ago is not up to translating it (although I can guess the general drift), but Google translates that as:
Do something he expects to happen
He said, "It is necessary which is more than the life"
I shall stop

Can anyone suggest a better translation of the "Oportet quod plus est quam vita"?


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However I do have a couple of Raspberry Pi and was wondering about how one might build a 'tina around one.

The commercial electronic concertina that I'm designing will be built around a Raspberry Pi (at least in the first prototype), combined with some custom electronics to do the keyboard scanning, pressure sensing, MIDI out and high quality analogue audio out (the built in audio out jack on the Pi is pretty low-fi). I also have an idea that it might be possible to plug a USB WiFi dongle into the Pi and use it to send MIDI data wirelessly to a PC using something like JACK. B)

Edited by alex_holden
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After two evenings spent faffing around with Qt Creator and dependencies and OS versioning problems, I eventually managed to get Polyphone to compile and run on my Mac. I've played around with it a little and it looks pretty useable. My plan at the moment is to tune up my Lachenal and then have a go at making a SoundFont from it using my low-end audio recording equipment as a practise run.


BTW it's very interesting to use Polyphone to take a look inside some existing sound fonts (both good and not-so-good) to see how they are constructed.


Should we split off the discussion about creating concertina SoundFonts into a separate topic?

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Thanks to the "Wayback Machine" I have found a copy of the original midi gadget made by Paul Everett (is he on these forums?):


This device:




Paul's detailed write up from 2003 can be found here:




Lots of useful stuff in here.


Paul's device has no means to express dynamics - no bellows, but looking at it I wonder if there might be a usable (cheaper and easier to make) substitute for bellows: a hinge that can sense how fast it is being open and closed. Paul's device does not have a hinge, but it almost looks as if there should be one.

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Thanks to the "Wayback Machine" I have found a copy of the original midi gadget made by Paul Everett (is he on these forums?):



Paul's device has no means to express dynamics - no bellows, but looking at it I wonder if there might be a usable (cheaper and easier to make) substitute for bellows: a hinge that can sense how fast it is being open and closed. Paul's device does not have a hinge, but it almost looks as if there should be one.


Oh good, I'd followed the deadlinks trying to find that writeup before and was frustrated not being able to find the old instructions since the original website died.


So far as dynamics/bellows, rather than having a hinge that measures velocity, given that there's very little span for the hinge to swing through, would it not be better to take a cue from Dean and instead have a pressure-sensitive rod that simply measures pressure/counterpressure so you can "eternally" push or pull it without running out of span?


For y'all savvy folks reading the instructions: is this kind of gadget even easier/cheaper to make these days with the improved components? And could one with a smart-tablet (or even just a smartphone?) just use that in place of the MIDI controller, speaker, and maybe even battery?


I hate to sound lazy, but as someone who has zero mechanical skills, I also wonder if there's any cost-efficient way a clever underemployed fellow with spare time on his hands could knock out a score of these en-masse of these to sell to 10-thumbed people like me. I'd happily put in some extra overtime at work to buy such a device, if it were inexpensive enough, rather than try to learn how to solder.

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Bellows/hinge/pressure-sensitive rod: Dunno,it seems intuitive to me that bellows with pressure sensors would be best. The hinge was just an idea from looking at Paul's gadget. I think (anybody know?) that a solid pressure rod would feel pretty strange - you push or pull and nothing moves. Can you still give a little push or a pull to make the sound whoop?


Modern components: Yes, I think so. Paul made his gadget in 2002. The Arduino came out in 2004 and the Raspberry Pi started appearing in 2012. Mobile devices appeared after the gadget and they have really provoked the development of cheap, small, low power consumption devices like motion sensors. If you read the Thummer death notice then Jim Plamonden notes that the costs in trying to develop their own motion sensor was one of the main reasons for the failure of the company behind the Thummer -see:



Using a smart phone as a MIDI controller: Do you have an iPhone or an iSomething? If so, then cough up $9 for this app:


and let me know what you think of the concertina sound - through headphones or decent speakers.


Added later: Here is Michael's concertina patch running in Thumbjam with his iPad surface app (UI app). Sounds nice to me. Maybe you could persuade him to make a Hayden surface for you...



Michael Eskin, from these forums, has donated a good quality concertina sound font to the Thumbjam folks - his concertina and accordion apps use Thumbjam under the hood so that is how he gets his sounds to play. Anyway, apart from using Thumbjam as an instrument in itself you can also arrange to direct MIDI data to it and have it work as a MIDI synth playing the sounds that are included with it.


I don't have an iDevice (I am an Android kinda guy, you know, cheap!) but I am thinking of getting one for this application when the time comes. I am wondering if space can found inside one of the ends of the concertina for an iPod Touch. You would still need all of the electronics and software for button and bellows sensing, and you would need to formulate the results into genuine MIDI output that could then be connected directly to the iPod Touch. For silent practice you could plug headphones into the iPod, you could use a remote Bluetooth speaker system, or you could connect up to a sound board.


Making a score of them: It is way to early to talk about that, at least it is for me, but there are at least two folks on this forum who are interested in commercial MIDI concertinas. If I ever got anything to work then I would not be averse to making one or two - but not a score of them!








Edited by Don Taylor
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Just to be clear, my concertina apps like Englitina for iPhone/iPod Touch or ConcertinaXL for iPad have my concertina samples built into them and don't require ThumbJam. I have my own sound mixing engine (OpenAL based) in these apps.

They are neither MIDI sample players or controllers. They are essentially standalone instruments with no other hardware or software required.

I also write apps that are pure MIDI control surfaces and are not sound modules. They provide a concertina or melodeon user interface paradigm to control either a software synthesizer like ThumbJam or an external hardware MIDI synth module using the CoreMIDI capabilities built into iOS. MIDITina XL and MIDIAnglo XL are examples of those, which provide English and Anglo concertina control surfaces on the iPad. I also have MIDIPipes, MIDIChanter, MIDIRegs, MIDIFlute, Hohner MIDI Melodeon and Hohner MIDI SqueezeBox, all are MIDI controllers that provide specific traditional instrument based user interfaces.

I provided my best concertina and accordion samples to ThumbJam for free so that people with my MIDI controller apps could have some great sounding samples to play, along with all the other great samples that are available for free in ThumbJam. I also have enjoyed working with Jesse Chappell, the developer of that app, it's a very flexible MIDI synth platform and works really well with my controller apps.

I also very much like SampleTank from IK Multimedia, who also has some good accordion samples and a very flexible MIDI platform. I can also highly recommend their iRig MIDI hardware MIDI interface.


Here's more about my MIDI apps:



Edited by eskin
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Regarding Bluetooth audio, I have found the latency, at least on my iOS devices, to be too long for it to be used effectively for performing with realtime instrument apps.


If anyone has found a specific Bluetooth amplified speaker system that doesn't exhibit terrible latency for use with my apps I'd be very interested!

Edited by eskin
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Er, is this thread in English?

Chris (active member of the Luddite Party of Great Britain)



I don't think the thread is in English, I have not come across the expression 'Bs'ing', and am still in ignorance, so I have been at a bit of a disadvantage with respect to this thread. In fact I wonder what it has to do with concertinas, we have substituted accordion reeds for concertina reeds but now we seem to have stumbled into a cross between 'electronics weekly' and the 'DIY Computer Applications Annual'. we don't even need reeds, nor bellows so why retain keys and fingers?


If you make the device a tad bigger you should be able to blue-tooth midi output from a musical word processor and eliminate the player as well...... thus giving more leisure time to itinerant musicians...........Perhaps then I can then call my laptop a concertina???



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