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A "special" Crane Aeola


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I never cease to be astonished by the bizarre things that people do to concertinas, but this one surely takes the Garibaldi.

It's a 65-key Crane Aeola, No. 28423, listed in the ledgers as a special. I assumed that this would be because it has English-type thumb-straps and finger rests rather than the usual hand-straps.

However, when I started on the reed work, I discovered just how "special" it is. On the right hand, the third and fourth rows have been switched - 1-2-4-3-5. On the left, though, things get much more complex. The outer, accidental rows have been switched, and then all three of the inner rows have been moved too, so the order is 5-4-2-3-1. The strangest thing is that the instrument clearly left the Wheatstone factory with this bizarre configuration. Has anyone seen anything like this before, or can any Crane driver suggest why anyone might think that it would be an improvement on the conventional layout?

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I never cease to be astonished by the bizarre things that people do to concertinas, but this one surely takes the Garibaldi.

It's a 65-key Crane Aeola, No. 28423, listed in the ledgers as a special. I assumed that this would be because it has English-type thumb-straps and finger rests rather than the usual hand-straps.

However, when I started on the reed work, I discovered just how "special" it is. On the right hand, the third and fourth rows have been switched - 1-2-4-3-5. On the left, though, things get much more complex. The outer, accidental rows have been switched, and then all three of the inner rows have been moved too, so the order is 5-4-2-3-1. The strangest thing is that the instrument clearly left the Wheatstone factory with this bizarre configuration. Has anyone seen anything like this before, or can any Crane driver suggest why anyone might think that it would be an improvement on the conventional layout?

 

One thing I see immediately: The left hand layout appears to be the mirror of the right hand layout. (Edited to correct: I misread the column order, and it's not exactly mirrored. That is strange. Nevertheless, I'll leave intact what I've said about mirroring, even though it doesn't fully apply to this specific instrument's layout.) That sort of configuration has been suggested by a number of folks as a general principle for duets... same finger for same note (perhaps with an octave difference) in both hands, rather than same layout to the eye when laid side by side.

 

Until a little over a week ago, my seemingly unique Pitt-Taylor duet was the only instrument I had encountered which embodied that principle. But that's when I visited Neil Wayne, and one of the odd/bizarre instruments in his Concertina Museum collection also has mirrored keyboards, though with a slightly modified uniform Maccann/Chidley layout. Interestingly enough, it also has identical ranges in the two hands, rather than different octaves. Can there be a connection between these two instruments? (Neil's isn't by Wheatstone, but appears to be "homemade", with used Lachenal reeds.) Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to find out, as Neil's instrument has no documented history.

 

FWIW -- as I've reported before, -- I find that a mirrored layout is inherently neither better/easier nor worse/harder than a standard layout, and I didn't suffer any confusion switching between the two. Not sure if that would still be the case if there were two instruments with the same keyboard layout except for one being mirrored and the other not.

 

As for the flipping of the columns, I'll think about that, but my first reaction is that it's certainly no more strange than various other "nonstandard" duet layouts I've seen, including and especially various modifications of the Maccann.

Edited by JimLucas
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Are you going to return it to being a standard Crane?

 

I think "return" wouldn't be the right description. And I certainly hope its unusual features aren't destroyed.

 

Whoever winds up owning it, I would very much like to try it out, to see what it's like for playing music

Edited by JimLucas
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Are you going to return it to being a standard Crane?

 

I think "return" wouldn't be the right description. And I certainly hope its unusual features aren't destroyed.

 

Whoever winds up owning it, I would very much like to try it out, to see what it's like for playing music

 

I'm afraid, Jim, that I have a living to make, and I suspect that the market for an (almost) mirror imaged Crane might be a bit limited, so I am indeed reconfiguring it to the conventional layout. (The left hand is complete and sounding good.)

I see that the layout is sort of mirrored, but this particular mirror must be a bit cracked. To be a true reflection of the right hand as found, the left-hand columns should have been arranged 5-3-4-2-1. To reflect the conventional right hand layout, the left should have been 5-4-3-2-1. Neither was the case.

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On the reversal of columns 3 and 4: playing a scale of C major the fingering is a repeated pattern of 243, 243, ... on a standard Crane. On this modified design it becomes 234, 234, ... which you could argue is more intuitive (think Wicki / Hayden), but in practice there's probably little to choose between them.

 

So let's think about the accidentals in column 5. If we consider them in terms of the English system, that is as a modification of adjacent button, the standard layout would describe them as D#, G#, C#, F#, Bb (48 button instrument). On the modified design these become Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cbb. The former is the first four sharps of the sharp key signatures plus the first flat of the flat keys; the latter is second to fifth flats plus a double flat that no-one in his right mind would think of using.

 

The former strikes me as much more sensible, and could be the reason for the original decision to go 243 for the basic scale. In my own playing, I use the first accidental as Eb but all the rest as they are on the standard layout.

 

I can't add to what JimLucas has said about the mirroring of the left hand side.

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...I certainly hope its unusual features aren't destroyed.

 

Whoever winds up owning it, I would very much like to try it out, to see what it's like for playing music

I'm afraid, Jim, that I have a living to make, and I suspect that the market for an (almost) mirror imaged Crane might be a bit limited, so I am indeed reconfiguring it to the conventional layout. (The left hand is complete and sounding good.)

 

Well, it's yours, though I wish I could have at least tried it out before the "normalization".

 

I see that the layout is sort of mirrored, but this particular mirror must be a bit cracked. To be a true reflection of the right hand as found, the left-hand columns should have been arranged 5-3-4-2-1. To reflect the conventional right hand layout, the left should have been 5-4-3-2-1. Neither was the case.

Ouch! You're right. :( That really is weird. (I thought I had very carefully checked your reported column orders to make sure they were truly mirrored. I must have been more tired than I thought. Now I'd better go edit my earlier post.)

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David

 

In changing its configuration to standard Crane do you have to simply move the reeds about, or maybe redesign the lever layout or even make a new reed pan?

Nothing quite so complicated, fortunately. It's simply a matter of routing out some of the reed locations to make them fit the bigger reeds. And of course, lengthening the slots so that the reed tongues don't foul the woodwork. And moving the chamber reducers to make room for the longer reeds. Oh yes, and filing the sides of the bigger reed shoes. Piece of cake, really...

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David

In changing its configuration to standard Crane do you have to simply move the reeds about, or maybe redesign the lever layout or even make a new reed pan?

 

Nothing quite so complicated, fortunately. It's simply a matter of routing out some of the reed locations to make them fit the bigger reeds. And of course, lengthening the slots so that the reed tongues don't foul the woodwork. And moving the chamber reducers to make room for the longer reeds. Oh yes, and filing the sides of the bigger reed shoes. Piece of cake, really...

So you just use a reverse router to make some of the reed locations smaller...

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David

In changing its configuration to standard Crane do you have to simply move the reeds about, or maybe redesign the lever layout or even make a new reed pan?

Nothing quite so complicated, fortunately. It's simply a matter of routing out some of the reed locations to make them fit the bigger reeds. And of course, lengthening the slots so that the reed tongues don't foul the woodwork. And moving the chamber reducers to make room for the longer reeds. Oh yes, and filing the sides of the bigger reed shoes. Piece of cake, really...

So you just use a reverse router to make some of the reed locations smaller...

 

Every workshop should have one...

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  • 2 months later...

I see that David has now listed this Crane on eBay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Unique-65-key-Crane-Duet-Aeola-concertina-/281554150973?pt=UK_MusicalInstr_Keyboard_RL&hash=item418def663d

The main issue being that it is pitched an octave high (it occurs to me that a certain ITM player here who wants a loud metal-ended session dominator might find this an advantage?)

If I had the money (which, sadly, I don't) then it occurs to me that this might make a great base for a big midi Crane.

Assuming that the reed pans can be pulled out so that they could be replaced with a similar system to that which Conzertino describes in this post:

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=17004&p=161515

Such a midi modification would be reversible without damage to the instrument.

--------------------------------

Edited to ask:

 

David:

 

What are the ranges on each side of this instrument?

 

Does the RHS start on the G above middle C like this 69 button, but an octave higher?

 

Does it have an octave and a fourth overlap like this one?

 

crabb69.jpg

Edited by Don Taylor
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Edited to ask:

 

David:

 

What are the ranges on each side of this instrument?

 

Does the RHS start on the G above middle C like this 69 button, but an octave higher?

 

Does it have an octave and a fourth overlap like this one?

 

 

Don, firstly, the 69 in your posting is one of the 'standard' layouts, the RHS starting at G below mid C.

Hopefully, with Davids permission, the layout of the Wheatstone in question is as per this attachment

 

 

Please note that the across flat dimension should read 7.5 inches

 

It will be seen that it has the same range as a 56 Treble English.

 

 

Ruediger, as with any concertina fitted with finger rests, their use is entirely optional and as the instrument would have been custom made, we can only suppose that the original customers method of play required them.

 

Geoffrey

Edited by Geoffrey Crabb
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Ruediger, as with any concertina fitted with finger rests, their use is entirely optional and as the instrument would have been custom made, we can only suppose that the original customers method of play required them.

 

Geoffrey

 

 

Thanks for the clarification, Geoffrey! I have to admit that my perception is probably limited due to the fact that I haven't so far played other Cranes than the ones who have the traditional wrist strap.

 

I can see that resting the instrument solely in your thumbs could be an alternative; would be interesting to try that some time. And since the instrument restored by David (looks like a very nice job as far as the pictures can reveal, by the way) does not appear to have an air button (or does it? what is the little lever thing on the right hand side next to the thumb strap?), the thumbs could be dedicated to holding the instrument, leaving the other four fingers free for playing (requires a pretty strong set of thumbs though I would assume, though).

 

Thanks again!

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Ruediger, as with any concertina fitted with finger rests, their use is entirely optional and as the instrument would have been custom made, we can only suppose that the original customers method of play required them.

I have to admit that my perception is probably limited due to the fact that I haven't so far played other Cranes than the ones who have the traditional wrist strap.

Neither, as far as I/we know, has anyone else... except for the previous owner(s). This instrument is the only Crane I've ever heard of with the EC-style hardware for holding it.

 

And to pick a nit ( ;)):

It's not a "wrist strap". It goes over the back of your hand, not your wrist. No?

 

I can see that resting the instrument solely in your thumbs could be an alternative; would be interesting to try that some time. And since the instrument restored by David (looks like a very nice job as far as the pictures can reveal, by the way) does not appear to have an air button (or does it? what is the little lever thing on the right hand side next to the thumb strap?), the thumbs could be dedicated to holding the instrument, leaving the other four fingers free for playing (requires a pretty strong set of thumbs though I would assume, though).

There are players of the English who advocate completely abandoning the finger plates (I've even heard of some removing them) and using all four fingers for normal play of the buttons. I'm not one of them. I don't just hang the concertina from my thumbs, but I use both thumbs and little fingers to grip, which I find gives me much greater control of the ends and the bellows. Besides, my little fingers are both weaker and much shorter than my other fingers, and it's ridiculous for me to try to give them equal responsibility. HOWEVER, I do occasionally lift a little finger from its plate (not "rest") and use it to press a button. But then I put it back, to resume its normal (for me) function.

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Thanks for the clarification, Geoffrey! I have to admit that my perception is probably limited due to the fact that I haven't so far played other Cranes than the ones who have the traditional wrist strap.

 

I can see that resting the instrument solely in your thumbs could be an alternative; would be interesting to try that some time. And since the instrument restored by David (looks like a very nice job as far as the pictures can reveal, by the way) does not appear to have an air button (or does it? what is the little lever thing on the right hand side next to the thumb strap?), the thumbs could be dedicated to holding the instrument, leaving the other four fingers free for playing (requires a pretty strong set of thumbs though I would assume, though).

 

Thanks again!

 

 

That lever would be the air valve (or bowing valve if there was another on the left hand side).

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