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Crane Duet System Concertina


badwellmac
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cranes are quite rare, and metal-ended even more so, apparently....all the more for edeos...

 

Judging by eBay, the "scarcity" -- which I think may be more accurate than "rarity" -- of Cranes varies. A couple of years ago I recall seeing three 48-button Cranes for auction at the same time. I know of a couple of 55-button New Model Cranes besides my own that were never listed on either concertina.net or eBay. All admittedly "ebony"-ended, though I've had three New Model Maccanns -- a 70-button (actually 69+baby cry) and two 55s, -- and all have been metal-ended. So maybe there were quite a few metal-ended Cranes, too, but they just haven't (yet?) shown up on eBay? There have been some bmore-than-55-button Cranes on eBay (I don't recall how recently), and I believe most (if not all) have been metal-ended Crabbs. My own 59-button Jeffries-label Crane is metal ended, and I've come across at least three more... also never listed for sale either here or on eBay. (I got my own many years ago at the Northeast Squeeze-In, where somebody offered it for sale.)

 

I know lots of Cranes -- or "Triumphs" -- were made for the Salvation Army, and my own New Model has serial number 3027, so Lachenal must have made at least that many. (I believe it was established a while ago that Lachenal had separate serial runs for Cranes and Maccanns.) Not as many as Maccanns, but still quite a few, so I think it makes more sense to wonder why they aren't flooding eBay than to assume that they don't exist.

 

As for Edeophone Cranes, I only recall ever seeing one, which I owned for a while, and it had "ebony" ends. But unless that's the only one ever made, one can hardly draw any valid statistical conclusions from it. B)

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I was looking into a finer Crane recently (have a 35b Lachenal now), and was advised that while, yes in theory, a 42b would sell for a lower price than a 48b Crane, the 42b pop up so infrequently it's a pretty academic point.

 

The perceived paucity of available Cranes has got me more than a little tempted to try out Maccann and see if that system is actually as baffling as it first appears. It seems extremely illogical and uncomfortable, especially compared to Hayden, but the serious Duet players seem to employ Maccann just fine. I find Crane to be in the middle: not as regular as Hayden, but less weird than Maccann. Crane rather reminds me of something between a guitar and a piano, with the same sort of weird "things don't quite line up uniformly" that causes just one guitar string to be a diminished fourth above the others vice a full fourth.

 

Though I'd prefer a Hayden, at least with Crane I can tell myself that having to be cognizant of what key I'm in will help me if I ever try playing clavichord/keyboard as I've intended.

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I was looking into a finer Crane recently (have a 35b Lachenal now), and was advised that while, yes in theory, a 42b would sell for a lower price than a 48b Crane, the 42b pop up so infrequently it's a pretty academic point.

I wouldn't disagree. I haven't been compiling statistics, but searching my memory I'm not sure that I've ever seen a 42-button Crane for sale, and the 48s far outnumber the 35s. Unless you have some reason for wanting a reduced range (reduced weight, maybe?), I would suggest not going for less than a 48... not just for range, but also for availability.

 

The perceived paucity of available Cranes has got me more than a little tempted to try out Maccann and see if that system is actually as baffling as it first appears. It seems extremely illogical and uncomfortable, especially compared to Hayden, but the serious Duet players seem to employ Maccann just fine. I find Crane to be in the middle: not as regular as Hayden, but less weird than Maccann. Crane rather reminds me of something between a guitar and a piano, with the same sort of weird "things don't quite line up uniformly" that causes just one guitar string to be a diminished fourth above the others vice a full fourth.

I think I can go a long way toward de-mystifying the Maccann. It does have a logic, even though that logic isn't the sort of geometrical regularity you seem to focus on. (I don't guarantee that my explanation will make you feel comfortable with it, but I think it's worth the effort.)

 

But as noted in another thread, right now I should be playing, not writing. So I'll hope to get around to posting my explanation in the first week of October, and I would be pleased if you would remind me of the fact on October 1.

 

Cheers,

Jim

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[[[The perceived paucity of available Cranes has got me more than a little tempted to try out Maccann]]

 

Not to fulminate against the Maccann....But RE Crane scarcity.....I suspect that if you made a habit of checking in with Chris Algar at regular intervals, there would be a nice Crane to be had now and again.

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Karl, I can't speak for any advantages the Maccann layout might have over the Crane as my experience of the latter is limited, but the Maccann keyboard is eminently playable, and the irregularities are nothing that practising a few scales won't fix. The fact that there are Eb and Bb buttons scattered liberally throughout the "white notes" takes a little getting used to initially (and you can guarantee that a wrong note played by a Maccann player will be an E flat!), and in my experience it's easiest to play in keys on the sharp side of Bb - F, C, G, D, A, E are all fine.

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All keyboards have advantages and disadvantages. To me the fact that notes appear in different row positions on the Crane depending on which octave they are would mean that one has to memorise the whole keyboard... but that is normal of every type to some degree except perhaps the Hayden where logic can guide you to the right note more easily.

 

At least most of the notes on a Maccann occur again in the same row for the next octave... especially so on the later ' homogenised' version.

 

Hiding the Eb's next to the D's in the centre of the keyboard ( and the Bb's) would appear to be a compromise but in fact there are advantages to this both for making chords and mélodies and the logic of having the sharps and flats adjacent to the naturals as with the EC or Piano keyboard.

 

The fact that the Maccann appears to have been more popular during the 1900- 1930's does not mean it is better, just that several virtuoso players had an influence on choice.

 

The one big advantage that the Maccann has today is availability of very high quality instruments at reasonable proces.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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[[[judging by eBay, the "scarcity" -- which I think may be more accurate than "rarity" -- of Cranes varies.]]]

 

on ebay, what appears is usually lower-end, fewer-buttons, basic wood models. that has been the case for dog's years now. i'm sure you have indeed witnessed nice metal-ended examples, but that is different from availability. i was told within the last year by chris algar that higher-end, metal-end cranes with more buttons come available very rarely, which jibes with my observation of about seven or so years. ten years ago, might have seen more plentiful availability. for that matter, this is also true of the wider-ranged, higher-end ecs, the TTs, etc. yes, plenty of them were made, and i'm sure folks in the UK or europe have seen plenty out there, as you have seen cranes, but they are not coming up available at nearly the rates they once were, though not as little-seen as higher-end cranes with more keys.

 

[[[Does the Maccann fingering pattern have any advantages ?]]] the maccann layout seems very friendly to complex melodic/chromatic playing. but hayden is as well, and crane doesn't seem to have any deficits in that department either.

 

the "disadvantage" of maccann is the learning curve of getting the note locations into your head---not just, the initial memorization but then getting that to be second-nature fluency. it's not as nearly as hard or "random" as bandoneon by any means---there is kind of a "rule" with maccann, but in each octave on each side, the "exceptions" are slightly different. the patterns for the sides are not the same and the patterns for each octave are not the same.

 

but in terms of playing, the recorded evidence out there is that the maccann system is very supportive of virtuosity...

Edited by ceemonster
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I think I can go a long way toward de-mystifying the Maccann. It does have a logic, even though that logic isn't the sort of geometrical regularity you seem to focus on. (I don't guarantee that my explanation will make you feel comfortable with it, but I think it's worth the effort.)

I had hoped to write this up more than 3 weeks ago, but (as usual) other things intervened. However, here it is:

 

Logic of the Maccann duet keyboard (as I see it)

 

The first thing to note about the Maccann layout is that it's not organized around the chromatic scale, but a diatonic scale1, specifically the key of C2. I.e., it's not "all notes are created equal", but the "accidentals" (the sharps and flats) are treated as simply variants of their "natural" notes. As such, in the layout each accidental is located immediately next to one of its musically adjacent naturals3.

 

The Maccann layout is 6 columns wide, but the two outer columns are used only for accidentals. So how are the natural notes arranged in the four inner columns? Let me point out that the rows aren't straight across, but seem to be slanted slightly upward from left to right, with a downward turn of the rightmost column. In fact, I find it makes better sense to consider an even more irregular contour to comprise a "row", as outlined in this diagram:

 

Maccann_layout_markup_d2.jpg

Now we can see that the inner four columns of these two "rows" form a complete diatonic octave, including the octave repeat of C, but in a strange order. "Strange"? Looking at the buttons within the red-outlined areas in the above diagram, we can see that they match similar segments on the English concertina layout, except for being an octave higher and with the left hand columns reversed (or viewed "from behind", i.e., from the right-hand end).

 

It's often cited that the alternations of the English layout when playing scales -- alternating between ends and between/among columns on each end -- aid in comfortable and "fluid" playing, and my experience supports this claim. What's more, in my experiments with a number of concertina layouts -- including some rare and unusual ones -- I find that the side to side alternation (and lesser up and down alternation) within a row on the Maccann give a similar (if smaller) advantage, at least in part because it gives more opportunity to repostiion the hand/fingers without having to "jump" a finger (use the same finger on two different buttons in succession).

 

But you can also see that the Maccann doesn't follow the "English" pattern throughout its range, not even on a Maccann with only 46 buttons. Why not? Because of the accidentals.

 

Between the two hands, the English layout has 8 columns, the 4 inner ones for the natural notes and the 4 outer ones for the accidentals. But the Maccann has only 6 columns, and where it follows the English pattern they are the 4 inner ones for the naturals and only the 2 outer ones for the accidentals. On the English, having the same number of buttons for accidentals as for naturals gives an excess, so that two accidentals in each octave can be duplicated4, while on the Maccann having only half as many buttons for accidentals means that there aren't enough, and one or more5 have to be left out. What can be done to make sure all accidentals are included in the keyboard?

 

Well, there are 12 notes in a chromatic octave6, and in two 6-wide rows there are 12 buttons, so 2 rows could exactly contain one octave7. But how? With 4 columns there are 8 button locations for 7 naturals, and with 2 columns there are 4 button locations for 5 accidentals. The "obvious" solution is to use one of the buttons in an inner column for an accidental rather than a natural. But which one? This is where the Maccann's "logic" perhaps gets a bit "fuzzy".

 

An "obvious" choice would be to replace one of the two C's with an accidental. But that would force us to violate another principle noted above8... that each accidental should be immediately next to one of its musically adjacent naturals. Instead, the D# was placed next to (immediately below) its adjacent D-natural, forcing the A and B to be shifted "forward" in the "English" sequence. Doing it this way also meant that the Bb (=A#) could be placed next to the B-natural, yet still be in an outer column.

 

That 2-row layout could be repeated identically for each and every octave, and in fact was repeated downward on instruments with extended lower ranges, while a different but related modification was used for extended upward ranges. But instead of using this pattern for the entire keyboard range, the "English" core was retained. Why?

 

There doesn't seem to be any historical record of why Professor Maccann designed the keyboard the way he did, but his patent is said to claim9 "improvements", rather than a completely new invention. So perhaps he was already familiar and comfortable with the earlier Wheatstone Duett -- which is also built around the "English" core of the Maccann layout -- and didn't want to abandon it? My own experience suggests that that English core may have advantages for comfortable, "fluid" playing, which more than offset the "disadvantage" of having to learn a more complex layout. That ease of playing -- once one has reached a level of not having think about note locations individually -- is another kind of "logic".

 

In fact, K.V. Chidley, one of the last managers of the Wheatstone company, developed what is now known as the "Chidley variant" or simply the "Chidley system", which is a Maccann-like layout that is fully uniform from octave to octave as in the lower range of the Maccann, except for placing the D# above rather than below its corresponding D.10 It didn't catch on, but I don't think it's yet had a chance to be judged, since so far there have been too few of both instruments and potential players.11

 

In summary, I woud say that the "logic" of the Maccann layout is three-fold: The layout itself consists of three segments, the middle one following the logic of Wheatstone's "English" keyboard, while the upper and lower ones are separate representations of a logic that is uniform from octave to octave. The third "logic" is that once learned -- to the point that conscious thought is rarely needed in connecting notes with buttons, -- it seems to be comfortable for fluidly playing a wide variety of music.12

 

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to two two interesting articles I discovered while fact checking after writing the above. The first is by K.V. Chidley; it discusses the Wheatstone/Maccann layout and Chidley's own "uniform" variant. The other, by Phil Inglis, discusses the various duets and their history. (It doesn't include the Hayden system, which hadn't yet been invented by Brian.)

 

1 In fact, in nearly all the popular concertina layouts, the primary concept is the diatonic scale in a central key (or keys, in the case of the anglo), not the chromatic. The Hayden layout is the exception, and even it has the two rows comprising an octave aligned to facilitate or favor playing diatonic music.

 

2 Except for transposing instruments, of course.

 

3 Musically (and on the piano keyboard), each accidental (black note) is located between, and therefore adjacent to, two natural (white) notes. An equal tempered scale is assumed.

 

4 D#=Eb and G#=Ab

 

5 One D#=Eb and one A#=Bb, in the range which follows the English.

 

6 A word that derives from the diatonic scale... but never mind.

 

7 Withourt the octave repeat of the first note, which is often considered part of an "octave", and which even gives it its name.

 

8 Also found in (possibly even borrowed from?) the English layout.

 

9 Unfortunately, I haven't yet seen a copy of the patent itself.

 

10 That also happens to place it (as Eb) beside its corresponding E.

 

11 My personal suspicion is that it's inherently neither superior nor inferior to the standard Maccann for making music.

 

12 An example of a layout which I believe lacks this sort of logic is the Jedcertina. Simple and "logical" both in its geometric layout and its relation to common musical concepts, my personal experience is that in a concertina-type instrument it's absolutely awkward for actually playing music.

Edited by JimLucas
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To me the fact that notes appear in different row positions on the Crane depending on which octave they are would mean that one has to memorise the whole keyboard....

It's not that bad.

 

For the natural notes the Crane layout is cyclic with a period of three, and so there are only three relationships for each diatonic interval. E.g., for a note in column 2, its next higher octave will be in column 4; column 3 maps to column 2; and column 4 maps to column 3.

 

For all accidentals the octave jump always maps column 1 to 5 and 5 to 1, though the number of rows jumped varies according to whether the accidental remains next to the same natural (e.g., C# is next to C in both octaves) or to its alternate natural (e.g., D# above middle C is next to D, but in the next octave it appears as Eb next to E).

 

Meanwhile, I generally find fingering of octave intervals easier when the two notes are not in the same column.

Edited by JimLucas
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Simple chord structures on the Crane are also very easy and regular. Make a Gmaj chord on the left end - index finger on G, ring on B, middle on D. Move the whole shape forward a row, and you have Cmaj (C, E, G) - back a row from G gives Dmin (D, F, A). You can get Dmaj by just moving the ring finger out from F to F#, same move converts Gmaj to min (B to Bb) or Cmaj to min (E to Eb). In the key of Gmaj, most simple folk style tunes only need the chords of G, C and D, which are all the same shape - the 'three-chord trick'. Same principle applies for chords based on the middle column of notes (E, A, D, G) and for column 2, except that Bmaj is odd because of all the accidentals.

 

I played a 48 Crane literally for decades without feeling restricted, but then, I'm a simple sort of bloke. Having now moved up to a 55, I am learning to appreciate the extra scope, especially where song accompanyments need to go below the bottom C of the right hand. Before, I had to 'fudge' the low notes into the left hand or harmonise them away, now I can shift the whole accompanyment up an octave because I've got those extra top left end notes. Gives a whole new feel to the sound. I still play many things that would fit into the 48, and even a few I could do on a 35 without missing anything.

 

But yes, of course, every system has its advantages and disadvantages. Learning to do what we want within those restrictions is part of making music.

 

Andrew

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i have access to a wonderful crane at times and find it a very easy, system. for whatever reason, it goes quickly into the brain pathways. all you have to know is, each vertical column goes up by fifths, down by fourths. later, the way the columns are placed next to each other just seems very sensible and convenient. and crane has that same ec or maccann thing going on where accidentals are next to a logical neighbor "white-key" note.

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Simple chord structures on the Crane are also very easy and regular.

Absolutely - and a darn sight more so than on the guitar! Yet the guitar is regarded as a basic folk/pop instrument, and many don't get past it.

 

Here are some musings of a multi-instrumentalist:

As far as chording is concerned, I find the Crane and the 5-string banjo quite similar. On both, the basic chord shapes repeat fairly quickly to yield other chords as you go up the Crane keyboard or up the banjo neck.

And for melodic playing, I find the Crane similar to the mandolin or fiddle, which are also pretty basic, widespread instruments that nobody regards as particularly difficult.

 

Interestingly, the words "logical" and "illogical" are not used when characterising stringed instrument tunings! I suppose it's because fretted strings are by definition "logical" anyway: one fret up = one semitone up.

 

Cheers,

John

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...all you have to know is, each vertical column goes up by fifths, down by fourths.

Careful there. An interval going up has to be the same interval going back down. It's fourths, just as in the English layout it's fifths. (And similarly, there's a single variant: On the English, the B-to-F fifth is diminished. On the Crane, the F-to-B fourth is augmented.)

 

...later, the way the columns are placed next to each other just seems very sensible and convenient.

It's "sensible and convenient" because it's cyclical, like a helix (spiral) that's been flattened. Going up the C scale, the notes fall into the columns in the same repeating order -- 2-4-3-2-4-3-2-4-3, etc., -- as if going around a circle, with each return to a column being one button higher than the time before. I.e., no matter which note you play in column 2, the next note in the C scale is in column 4; from column 4, the next note is in column 3; from column 3, the next note is in column 2; and from column 2... oh, wait, we've been here before. ;)

 

...and crane has that same ec or maccann thing going on where accidentals are next to a logical neighbor "white-key" note.

 

Yes, although on the Crane -- because there are not quite as many buttons for accidentals as for naturals, -- which white-key neighbor the accidental is next to can change from one octave to the next. D# in the octave above middle C is next to D, but in the next higher octave it's next to E, as Eb. C# is next to C in both octaves, though if your keyboard goes high enough, it becomes Db in the next octave.

 

Still, there are at most two places to look for any given accidental, i.e., at most two notes it can be next to. (I say "at most" instead of "exactly", because if one of those two notes is in the middle column, then there's no place for an accidental next to it.) So if you don't find it next to the one note, enharmonic equivalence will tell you which other note it has to be next to.

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my mnemonic is note names, though i think i did have it backwards. on EC, the note vertically above d, is a, which is the fifth of the root note d. the note vertically below d is g, which is the fourth of the root note d--this mnemonic is not pitch-wise, just note-name-wise. so my mantra when starting ec was, up by fifths, down by fourths. for the most part all i've used is the up by fifths part.

 

this mnemonic worked very well for me, and worked very fast, when starting on ec.

 

the row of tonic bass notes on the left-hand stradella bass system for PA and CBA are the same kind of deal. the note to one side of a given tonic bass note is its fifth. the note to the other side of that same tonic is that same tonic's fourth. not pitch-wise. note-name-wise.

Edited by ceemonster
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Don't forget all the "one finger chords" on a Crane. Press any white button except B and the button directly below it, and you have an inversion of the major or minor of that note. E.g. A: the note below is E, so the chord is A or Am. OK so the middle note is missing, but being able to play: C, Cm, D, Dm, E, Em etc, at the "touch of a button", and without much thought is really helpful.

(Probably this is also true of Maccann, but using the button above the chord name button).

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my mnemonic is note names, though i think i did have it backwards. on EC, the note vertically above d, is a, which is the fifth of the root note d. the note vertically below d is g, which is the fourth of the root note d--this mnemonic is not pitch-wise, just note-name-wise. so my mantra when starting ec was, up by fifths, down by fourths. for the most part all i've used is the up by fifths part.

Unfortunately, that is wrong. That's like saying that since February is two months after December, then -- going only by names -- it must also be two months before December. You see the problem?

 

the row of tonic bass notes on the left-hand stradella bass system for PA and CBA are the same kind of deal. the note to one side of a given tonic bass note is its fifth. the note to the other side of that same tonic is that same tonic's fourth. not pitch-wise. note-name-wise.

That's true as far as it goes, but as soon as you add such words as "up", "down", "above", or "below", you're talking about something different. I.e., the button below D (on the English) is G, which is "the fourth" of the D scale, but it's not "a fourth" below; it's a fifth below.

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the row of tonic bass notes on the left-hand stradella bass system for PA and CBA are the same kind of deal. the note to one side of a given tonic bass note is its fifth. the note to the other side of that same tonic is that same tonic's fourth. not pitch-wise. note-name-wise.

That's true as far as it goes, but as soon as you add such words as "up", "down", "above", or "below", you're talking about something different. I.e., the button below D (on the English) is G, which is "the fourth" of the D scale, but it's not "a fourth" below; it's a fifth below.

 

 

I think ceemonster is getting into difficulties here by not distinguishing between notes in the scale and chords in the harmonic structure. Specific notes in a specific octave can be a fifth apart, e.g the G above middle C is a fifth above middle C; and reciprocally, that C is a fourth below that G.

 

With chords, the terms "above" and "below" are not really relevant. A chord can be sounded in any octave and have the same harmonic effect. To make up the 3-chord trick, what we need is the tonic chord, the subdominant chord and the dominant (seventh) chord. In the key of C, these chords would be C, F and G(7). You may find it mnemonic to think of these as the keys rooted on the ist, 4th and 5th step of the scale - in fact, this is the basis of the Bluegrass "I-IV-V" harmony notation, which is, nota bene, a pitch-independent notation! But what I think of is the tonic chord and the chords adjacent to it in the circle of fifths: F - C - G. This is why the Stradella bass on the accordion and the chord bars on the autoharp are arranged this way.

 

Cheers,

John

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