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Peter Hunter

A Modified Wheatstone Duet Keyboard Layout

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I have a Wheatstone Aeola duet, 65 keys that had the keyboard layout modified in the 1940's by a Mr R G Cheeseman who entertained in South Australia during the war. The quickest way of describing the layout is that to play a natural scale 3 adjacent keys are played in order starting from the tonic, move up a row and play 4 adjacent keys, move up and play 3 to continue. This pattern is repeated for most major keys starting from the tonic. It is similar to the 5 row continental system in accordians (I think) and is easy to pick up and play tunes you already know.

 

My question is would it be preferable to revert to a standard layout because since many of the reeds have been moved the voicing of individual notes maynot be optimal. Some of the reed frames were too long for the slot so they were filed to clear the bellows frame (shudder!). I've had it too long and want to start playing it again.

 

Thanks for any suggestions. Also Happy birthday, Geoff. Long time since we talked.

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Sounds a bit like a Wikki/Hayden.

Yes it does. But I do recall seeing something about the "Cheeseman" layout before... perhaps a search here on Cnet will reveal more information.

 

Hi Peter,

it certainly is many years since we spoke last and thanks for the birthday greeting.. how's it all going down there on the Under side ? Do you still have number 29028 ?

 

Putting your MacCann back to original might be the best thing to do but it might prove difficult too because there could be more alterations than just some reed frame shortenings, like carving out of some of the dovetail slots in the reedpan to fit the moved reeds... A detailed examination is needed.

 

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Sounds a bit like a Wikki/Hayden.

 

A bit, but the placement of the accidentals should make or break that comparison..

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That sounds really interesting. Could you write out the layout in full ? I had heard of the Cheeseman system with Australian connections, but have never been able to get much information about it . I had heard that it had a Maccann like keyboard but with repeating octaves (rather like the Chidley system), and with the naturals as you have described; but had assumed it to be a Chidley system with just the Ds & Es reversed.

 

Is it a metal or wooden ended instrument ?

 

If it is virtually the same as the Hayden system it might be simpler to slightly modify the action to bring it to the Hayden keyboard standard. This would be fairly easy if it is wooden ended, but a little more dificult on a metal ended instrument. I would definitely not recomend disturbing the reeds from their present placement.

 

Many years ago Neville Crabb converted a Maccann duet for me to the Hayden layout, and Dana Williams also showed me one that he had converted for himself.

 

Inventor.

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Wikki/Hayden?? Ithought you were having a lend of me at first but I guess a lot has changed in 30 years.

 

Yes, Geoff, I still have 29028 and it gets to play regularly :1st Cello suite (Bach), A suite for a musical Clock (Hayden), various classical, latin and pop tunes not to mention "Begged, Borrowed & Stolen". It's never sounded sweeter.

 

I miscounted, there are 29 +34 buttons which have positions that don't really follow the MacCann layouts in Gaskins' treatise on chording. Regarding the disposition of notes, I have misplaced the hand drawn version that came with the instrument so it will take time to reconstitute it. I'll come up with something soon. Also the relative button positions are not as regular as Gaskins would have it (poetic license?).

 

The reed pans have quite a lot of markings on, some are notes that don't correspond to that on the reed frame so I have some detective work ahead to work out what has been done and it seems it may not have been a "standard" MacCann layout anyhow. Point taken about moving the reeds - quite a few have paper shims of various thicknesses to keep them in place and a couple of slots seem to have been widened but I think I can rectify that.

 

Incidentally, the serial number is 31421 and is a raised wooden ended Wheatstone AEola. It will need some work on relacing chamois sealing but that is later, it is reasonably air-tight now.

 

I'll keep you all posted. It's nice to have someone to rave about concertinas again!

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I have checked the reed positioning and the following was revealed:

  • reed frame markings coincide with the current note assignment so no reeds have been retuned
  • the current layout is a Wikki transposed onto a McCann keyboard
  • the previous layout (from the markings on the reed pan) was also a Wikki layout with the natural rows move as a whole (accidentals followed)
  • assigning a "McCann" layout onto my keyboard doesn't work particularly well
  • the above points leads me to the supposition that the previous Wikki layout was the original

Except that the bass side has fingering for any scale is exactly the same as the right hand. ie playing a scale on both sides has each hand using identical fingers all the way through. The opposite to any duet layout I have seen (admittedly few).

 

Hopefully the pdf of the spreadsheet layout of the keyboard will show what I am on about.duet layout.pdf

 

Any thoughts?

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I have checked the reed positioning and the following was revealed:

  • reed frame markings coincide with the current note assignment so no reeds have been retuned
  • the current layout is a Wikki transposed onto a McCann keyboard
  • the previous layout (from the markings on the reed pan) was also a Wikki layout with the natural rows move as a whole (accidentals followed)
  • assigning a "McCann" layout onto my keyboard doesn't work particularly well
  • the above points leads me to the supposition that the previous Wikki layout was the original

Except that the bass side has fingering for any scale is exactly the same as the right hand. ie playing a scale on both sides has each hand using identical fingers all the way through. The opposite to any duet layout I have seen (admittedly few).

 

Hopefully the pdf of the spreadsheet layout of the keyboard will show what I am on about.duet layout.pdf

 

Any thoughts?

Edited by Peter Hunter

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Honestly, this sounds pretty intriguing. If it had been modified by just some guy in the last few decades I could see wanting to convert it back, but if this is a pre-1970s proto-Hayden by a recognized performer, I'd say it's a valid historical item in its own right.

 

While 65b Maccanns aren't dirt cheap, they're not exactly dinosaur eggs either, and what you have might be almost unique. Are you expert on the Maccann system already, or would you be equally happy learning this unusual (but possibly quite intuitive) system?

 

If you're strongly leaning towards modifying it, I'd suggest asking around first to see if any collector would value it over the cost of a similar bone-stock Wheatstone, so you could just swap and the historical experiment could be left un-tampered. And in either case, you may find it very useful to document the provenance of this instrument, if you can get any signed statement from the seller, or Cheeseman's descendants, etc. That way future owners would have a clearly documented record of this squeezebox's story.

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Except that the bass side has fingering for any scale is exactly the same as the right hand. ie playing a scale on both sides has each hand using identical fingers all the way through. The opposite to any duet layout I have seen (admittedly few).

Until now, my own Pitt-Taylor duet (one of various designs he patented) was the only one I knew of with such a "mirrored" layout. (My P-T layout isn't related to the Wiki/Hayden, though.)

 

Various concertina.net members have at various times asked here why the mirrored design wasn't the default, though so far I haven't heard of any of them having a duet built that way for them.

 

My own experience with my P-T, limited though it is (currently not at the top of my practice list), is that of the standard relationship between the two ends and the mirrored version, neither has any inherent superiority. What's more, in switching between a mirrored keyboard and a standard one, I haven't experienced any interference... i.e., I don't find myself trying to play the mirrored keyboard as if it were standard, nor do I find myself trying to play the standard keyboard as if it were mirrored.

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Honestly, this sounds pretty intriguing. If it had been modified by just some guy in the last few decades I could see wanting to convert it back, but if this is a pre-1970s proto-Hayden by a recognized performer, I'd say it's a valid historical item in its own right.

 

While 65b Maccanns aren't dirt cheap, they're not exactly dinosaur eggs either, and what you have might be almost unique. Are you expert on the Maccann system already, or would you be equally happy learning this unusual (but possibly quite intuitive) system?

 

If you're strongly leaning towards modifying it, I'd suggest asking around first to see if any collector would value it over the cost of a similar bone-stock Wheatstone, so you could just swap and the historical experiment could be left un-tampered. And in either case, you may find it very useful to document the provenance of this instrument, if you can get any signed statement from the seller, or Cheeseman's descendants, etc. That way future owners would have a clearly documented record of this squeezebox's story.

I would second what Matthew has said and add my own emphasis on a few points:

If you're already absolutely sure you want to play a Maccann, for whatever reason, converting this instrument is not the best -- nor even a very good -- way to go about it.

  • Good Maccanns with the same range can be found, and at (relatively) reasonable prices.
  • A crude conversion -- simply moving the reeds around -- would almost certainly have adverse effects on uniformity of response, tone quality, and volume, but would still involve the expense of modifying slots in the reed pan.
  • A "top quality" conversion would require building new chambers, but it might overcome those faults of the crude conversion. (Probably the easiest way to do that would be to build completely new reed pans, copying an existing Maccann.) More expense.
  • Not guaranteed, but quite likely you would be able to acquire a nice existing Maccann more quickly than you could get this instrument converted.
  • If you convert, you would likely be depriving someone else -- quite possibly several someones-- who would be interested in trying the Cheeseman layout without first having to pay contemporary rates to have a new one built.

But if you're not already irrevocably committed to the Maccann,

  • I would certainly suggest that you first try learning to play this concertina in its present configuration. You just might find that you like it.
  • If not, you would still have the option of converting the instrument or (much better, in my opinion) trading or selling it to someone else who will* appreciate it. The trade or sell option has the further advantage that what you replace it with could be a Maccann, but it doesn't have to be. Anglo, English, Crane, and Hayden are just the most common alternatives.

* In fact, I think it would be worthwhile for those who would be interested in trying this Cheeseman layout to say so here in this thread. (I would certainly be one, if my finances permitted. Unfortunately, at the moment, they don't.) It should be interesting to see how many there are.

 

I'm not trying to start a bidding war, but my memory of posts over the last several years leads me to believe that there might be several individuals who would at least like to give this layout (including the mirroring) a serious try. Maybe they could even buy this instrument cooperatively and pass it around, then sell it to one who has decided (after trying it, of course) that it's the "perfect" instrument for them.

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Thanks for the thoughts and relax, I'm not about to wantonly destroy the layout. I suspect (unfounded) that this layout is the original (either Hayden layout). And to emphasise, the button disposition is as exact as I can render it. Converting back to the marked layout (#2) would possibly restore the original voicing - in this case not an irrevocable step.

 

I don't play the McCann system and I don't desperately want to convert, only return it to it's original layout , what ever that was.I learnt a few waltzes 20 years ago and the ompa bass accomaniment was easy to figure out and play so I should be able to reproduce that relatively easily.

 

I take you point about it's history. I bought it in ~1986 and would guess it was from a deceased estate from soon before that. From what I was told I would guess that Cheeseman had it from early 1930s probably from new. I will try following up the seller and the family.

 

Mean while I will try to give it some exercise and shake some of the rust off the reeds. I'll keep you posted and if you are in Adelaide at any time drop in and have a honk...

Edited by Peter Hunter

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Peter: you have an interesting historical instrument. I strongly advise not altering it. With the mirrored left hand it closely resembles the Wicki layout as on his Bandoneon type instruments.

Whilst the right hand side could fairly easily be converted to the standard Hayden layout. the mirrored left hand side could not.

It could of course be fairly easily converted to a "true" Wicki layout, However as there are are few if any Wicki players still living it might have rather a limited market.

It occurs to me that a couple of Wicki "bandoneons" from an Austrian Museum were in recent years sold to a collector; I wonder if he could be traced and might be interested in the instrument ?

Inventor.

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