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chas

Crane Duet Handrail Placing And Playability

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A request to Crane drivers. I’m trying to find out about instrument dimensions as they affect button reach: initially, the key dimension for me is the distance between the hand rail (on each side) and the nearest buttons, i.e. those playing the lowest notes.

I played a 48 button Lachenal Crane back in the 1980’s and always found it very comfortable to hold. In fact I recall playing standing up. Recently, I’ve got myself another 48 button Crane, a Crabb with a lovely tone. Unfortunately, however I set the straps, I can only play the thing comfortably with the straps on the knuckles. If I push my hands fully into the straps, it’s awkward playing the lowest notes- manageable if I sit down and rest it on a knee.

I mentioned this in a recent thread about a Crane with EC fittings. Jim Lucas said he had the opposite problem (difficulty in reaching the furthest buttons) and wondered about our relative finger lengths. I certainly find I can reach way past the furthest buttons on mine.

Since then, I’ve had some information from Bill Crossland. He tells me the distance from handrail to nearest buttons (end of row) on his 48 button Lachenal Crane is 34 mm on the right hand, with the left hand equivalent being about 1 mm less. That’s 10 mm more than the same dimension on my Crabb: a whole row. I’m guessing my old box was more like Bill’s.

Is there a difference between makers in this respect? Do boxes just vary? Or have I got myself an instrument with an unusually small gap between rail and buttons? What’s the gap on your instrument? Any help appreciated.

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I mostly play with the straps on my knuckles as well. The straps are loose. I do this so my fingers don't curl-- which causes them to "stumble." I generally favor the lower parts of the keyboards. When I play farther up (higher notes) my hand moves more under the straps. I'm very rarely comfortable playing standing. I'm tall (6'5") and my hands are proportional.

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Sometimes it can help to make the had rails taller. This can make it easier to get to the close buttons, but less of a stretch is needed for the distant buttons compared with moving the handrail further away. Also has the advantage of not requiring additional screw holes in the end plates. You can easily test this for yourself by adding some temporary extra height to the handrails.

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Thanks both. Kurt, if you play the fine Crabb in your photo, then it looks to have a decent rail-to-button gap compared to mine. Hand size obviously cancels this out. Curling fingers and resultant stumbling are exactly my problem. Kind of reassuring to know it's not just me! I guess with time, I'd get used to straps in that position as you have.

I'll try that suggestion, Theo. Otherwise, as you imply, one (more drastic) alternative might be actually to move the rails. Given that the ends are not especially fine (Geoffrey described them as budget for Salvation Army market), this might be worth considering. Other options seem to be:

2) attach a piece to the side of each rail to achieve the same effect;

3) have straps curved so they sit further up the back of the hand;

4) get another box!

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Chas,

My own experience with my Stark layout duet that Bob Tedrow built for me compared to the C-2 Stark layout that Wim built for me is consistent with Theo's description.

Adding temporary height to the Tedrow has made a significant positive difference for me.

In fact, this is a perfect reminder to get back in touch with Bob about this.

Be Well,

Dan

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I hadn't really thought about it before but the straps on my 55-button Cranes also sit on my knuckles. They are tight enough to play standing and loose enough to reach all the buttons far and near.

 

My 70-button Crane is more challenging. I have the straps loser and play it sitting down, but it's not much used.

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I've been an observer on this forum for years, but this and the related post has at last persuaded me to join up.

 

I have three Cranes of different makes, vintages and sizes. The rest-to-buttons distance Chas mentions is about 33mm on all of them. However the only one I can really play standing up is the smallest (a 42 button) and I think that down to weight more than anything. It's 2 1/4 lb. against 3 1/4 and 4 for the others.

 

For years I had the straps tight, thinking that was necessary to bellows control. The result was that I could not reach F# or Bb with my right little finger so I used the ring finger. When I finally realised the error of my ways I loosened them so that I can slide my hands in and out. I can now play these with my little finger, which is much better. Loosening the straps also allows me to rotate my hands to some extent to facilitate "cross-fingering", that is using different fingers sequentially in the same column. I think it also allows me to play chord shapes on the left hand that would otherwise be impossible.

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The hand rests on my 46 key Wakker, parallel rowed, "Wicki" model Hayden duet are about 50 mm from the center of the buttons on the lower C rows. This works very nicely and the straps aren't over my knuckles at any time. I'm 6'1". There is still plenty of room for considerably smaller hands to reach the uppermost rows.

Edited by Jim Bayliss

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For years I had the straps tight, thinking that was necessary to bellows control. The result was that I could not reach F# or Bb with my right little finger so I used the ring finger. When I finally realised the error of my ways I loosened them so that I can slide my hands in and out. I can now play these with my little finger, which is much better. Loosening the straps also allows me to rotate my hands to some extent to facilitate "cross-fingering", that is using different fingers sequentially in the same column. I think it also allows me to play chord shapes on the left hand that would otherwise be impossible.

Yup.

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Useful perspectives all. Hand placement seems particularly crucial on the Crane compared with other systems, though strap tightness is presumably an issue on any system that has them.

Theo's suggestion seems like the way to go for now. But I am increasingly convinced that the straps are unusually close to the buttons on my Crane - 24mm from edge of rail/rest to right hand middle C#. I must get out more and try a few others!

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Chas,

 

I once (for about ten minutes) tried a Crane on which the left hand buttons (whilst normally positioned) played a fourth lower than normal. The right hand was as usual. I found it most disorientating. I imagine it would be similar trying to play yours, but at least both hands would be in a similarly "wrong" position.

 

Since the spacing seems (at least on my sample of 3!) to be pretty standardised I wonder if yours was originally intended to play lower (going down to G instead of C). In that case the notes would have been in the normal position. Is there any indication that it has changed from the original?

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Since the spacing seems (at least on my sample of 3!) to be pretty standardised I wonder if yours was originally intended to play lower (going down to G instead of C). In that case the notes would have been in the normal position. Is there any indication that it has changed from the original?

 

No indication of anything like that. The only thing is the ends: Geoffrey Crabb thought they looked like budget model ends. Marcus wondered if they weren't home-made by a talented former owner (though they bear the Crabb name-plate).

I'm off to Marcus's shortly to pick up a harmonium he's been fettling so I'll get him to have another look.

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Enjoy the harmonium Chas, as they're really nice beasts (just apart from the lack of portability), aren't they? :)

Edited by blue eyed sailor

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Enjoy the harmonium Chas, as they're really nice beasts (just apart from the lack of portability), aren't they? :)

 

Thanks Wolf. My wife plays it rather than me. This is one we've had for 30 years but it had taken a battering - a son had it to play in his room at uni - so we were having it put back in good condition. Technically, it's actually an American organ (sucks rather than blows?) and proclaims itself "The Bilhorn Telescope Organ" as it folds down nicely into something almost as portable as a big piano accordion.

Sorry -getting off topic!

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