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Duets And Keyboard Music


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I have this idea that since both a duet concertinas and piano keyboards have the same division of labour

between hands, there's more similarity in what you can do (or what is easier to do) between duets and keyboards than

between English (where the division of labour between hands is different) or Anglo (where the push-pull thing adds its own

flavour). So I figure that it is more direct to take piano music and adapt it to a duet concertina than it would be for the other

system. I've never played a duet, or a piano really, so this is all conjecture. I'm wondering what you duet players, or keyboard players

think about the relative ease of adapting keyboard music for the concertina.

 

The recent "English vs. Duet" thread, reminded me of this again.

 

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Hi Dave,

 

having been an experienced piano player whilst taking up the concertina, I would object to the idea of "adapting" keyboard music in general AFAIC. Since I don't play the piano in the manner of left-hand-chords and right-hand-melody at all this is not what I expect from playing the concertina.

 

The English concertina, which has been my lucky choice, enables me to play melody with added harmony in what I use to call "interwoven" quality. I take the two sides as one larger keyboard, maybe even more as it would be the case regarding a Duet concertina, with its "overlapping" zone asf.

 

OTOH, there is in fact a distribution or spreading of notes with an open fith on one side and the octave, tenth, twelfth asf. on the other side as sort of a starting point or resting position.

 

However, my keyboard playing was very well transformed into a more fiddle-ish free reed thing by playing the English concertina... Worked for me, might work for others, if not necessarily all... :)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

 

edited to add: The ascendent scheme of the four (resp. eight) rows of the EC layout can well be regarded as reflecting the continuous piano keyboard IMO, at least it feels much like that...

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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With large enough duets adapting the keyboard music to contertinas is quite straightforward realy, but there is a "finger limit" factor to consider - you can only use 8 fingers on a concertina, while 10 on a keyboard. And with each duet system you get different constraints on using a single finger to play several notes at once (on a Hayden you can play fourths and fifths with single finger (but each is easy to play only on one side of the instrument) and 1-4(or 5)-8 triads).

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I transitioned last year from Anglo to Duet, and have found the duet much easier for this kind of playing. The Anglo was a constant puzzle: "I need a G# in my RH melody, but then can't keep playing the F in the harmony ...". I'm using a 42-button Peacock duet now, and the main limitation for me is the hard and fast distinction between right and left hands. On piano, you can of course play a "left hand" note with the right hand, and vice versa, but not with concertina. Secondarily, the piano has a considerably larger range---I find myself often playing LH lines an octive higher than written. Overall though, it's been enjoyable. I've been trying to (very slowly) play some Bach 2-part inventions, and have had much greater success with duet than I did when I tried with Anglo.

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Dave,

As a former piano and organ player (Stefan's photo brings back memories), the biggest difference is the loss of the thumbs - and the particular button layout will determine how much of that piano reach can be realized on a concertina. Button access can sometimes either be problematical or tie your fingers in knots, and the lack of sustain can make a concertinized piano piece sound a bit choppy.

 

The "Jedcertina" was an attempt to mimic the piano keyboard on a concertina, and although a few were made, I've never heard of anyone actually playing one.

 

Gary

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IMHO the duet system that might be closest to piano experience is Tona's Dipper Custom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MYPTWxpKp0, but you should ask Tona directly about such comparison. If I recall correctly this is one of CBA layouts fit on a concertina and is next closest to "two row" piano after Jedcertina.
But IMHO Jedcertina this big (button number wise) would be completely unplayable, large and would require a wrist band like the left hand CBA keyboard to be able to freely move your wrist. Even Tona's box has a very elongated button array.

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I have organised a few (piano type) keyboard scores for playing on my English concertina and feel that the continuance of the keyboard with no regard to 'handing' the work either Left or Right is sometimes not the same hinderance that can happen on the duets. Perhaps this is due to long familiarity but more likely due to the contracted nature of the duet keyboards. Sometimes running out of notes on the left and needing to swap octaves in the middle of a Bass run can be annoying , or needing to cross from right to left because middle C is just not low enough for many pieces.

 

A couple of years ago I had a MacCann which went down to G below middle C on the right hand, thus it had the range of the Violin except for the very high notes. This was much more usefull for making arrangements from Piano Scores, in fact that instrument's only fault was not quite enough notes at the bass end of the left hand.....mind you it is a large beast at 9 1/2 inches across.

 

Noting that the Wakker 65 Hayden/Wicki also goes down to the bottom G of the Violin , this is very usefull from the point of this discussion if one is prepared to play an instrument of nearly 8 1/2 inches across....

 

I feel that a range for the left hand of a duet (in an ideal world) should be the same as the right hand, perhaps just one octave lower.

 

Probably the better approach is not to compartmentalise the work for each hand... which view coming from an EC player makes perhaps a different sense; Easy keyboard pieces from the Baroque repertoire are a great way to start, I even managed to retrieve enough of Scot Joplin's "The Entertainer" from a piano score to play it somewhat convincingly on the EC... but I cannot see how I would have managed the opening sequence of runs in octaves on either of the duet keyboards I have tried.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I even managed to retrieve enough of Scot Joplin's "The Entertainer" from a piano score to play it somewhat convincingly on the EC... but I cannot see how I would have managed the opening sequence of runs in octaves on either of the duet keyboards I have tried.

 

Geoff, a welcome reminder of my intending to pay "The Entertainer", with the opening sequence making up a pretty good exercise of octave playing on the EC... :)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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One of the characteristics that duets share with the piano is that the sound origin is imbalanced, meaning one side of the instrument produces one range (the lower) and the other side produces another range (the higher). This is a frequent gripe with recordings; after valuable input of Geoff, I sort of resolved to adjust the sitting position relative to the microphones such that the melody side is closer to the mics while recording.

 

But this added degree of freedom with recording while using single mic can be used to your advantage - it can act as a "virtual baffle" or with two mic recording you can manipulate the ballance later in DAW, or create DUB effect [There is a music genre caled DUB which relies heavily on spatial "soundscape" effects]

 

I once had a quite frustrating problem with finding piano music recordings done from the perspective of a player (large high-low stereo separation) and not the audience (pianos are usually placed sideways to the audience to reduce the separation), as is the case with most piano recordings. And If I'm thinking correctly, the EC players often move the concertina around while playing to "restore" some of that stereo spatial effects that other concertinas or accordions have?

 

post-10030-0-72733100-1426247563_thumb.png

 

This is the layout of the DIY Hayden I'm building. My goal was to be able to play accordion or piano pieces with least "cropping" or octave switching in bass runs necessary, hence the huge overlap and range going down to F on both sides. And I don't mind transposing the more exotic keys, as I'll mostly play solo, so only Eb's are doubled (which will be done by links and not doubled reeds).

 

@Steven: most of the limitations you point out come from Peacock being a small duet - with it's 42 buttons it is less than "standard" 46 button Hayden layout. This was my largest disapointment when it was released, as I hoped for a moderate priced, "full standard" hybrid box. I think that you'll find yourself considerably less constrained by a Beaumont and even less by Wakker H2 and least by an old square Bastari, with it's range and all those repeated accidentals.

Edited by Łukasz Martynowicz
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Without having been able to test ECs, I would think that the EC layout overall produces a more "balanced" sound scape than a duet, is that correct?

As I have not been able to test any Duet concertina myself as yet I can only say that "balance" appears to be a problem with some EC models insofar the "lower" notes may "drown" the higher ones (which couldn't be compensated with baffles, mic positioning asf. then) - however, my Lachenal Excelsior is very well balanced in any regard.

 

Another thing I believe is true is that the "interwoven quality" of the EC leads to another characteristic which (as I understand it although you'd naturally be the definitely more competent person to comment) of the EC which is both a blessing and a curse, namely, the ability to slur melody notes across hands. Would you agree?

Any "slurring" of notes I would try (and hope) to avoid - OTOH the EC enables the player to play ornamentations in a way which might be called "elegant", as opposed to the more "rustic" sound of the bisonoric Anglo (which I like very much too).

 

These two taken together to me lead to the following answer to the initial question: It depends on whether you want to make the concertina sound like a piano (in which case the duet probably is the more natural choice) or open up piano compositions to different sound spaces (in which case the EC might very well be worth given a try).

That's well put, Rüdiger! However, there might exist certain pianistic styles or techniques which are more related to playing the EC...

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I was playing classical music (Cello, Recorder, Classical Guitar) before I started playing Hayden 30 years ago, and so I thought that in no time I would be playing Bach 2-part inventions and Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas on the Hayden. It hasn't happened yet. And not for lack of trying.

 

BTW, many years ago, Jim Lucas suggested these analogies (in a post I can't dredge up at the moment):

  • English Concertina: Violin (melodies, drones)
  • Anglo Concertina: Banjo (limited keys, punchy rhythms)
  • Duet Concertina: Piano (melody + accompaniment)
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BTW, many years ago, Jim Lucas suggested these analogies (in a post I can't dredge up at the moment):

  • English Concertina: Violin (melodies, drones)
  • Anglo Concertina: Banjo (limited keys, punchy rhythms)
  • Duet Concertina: Piano (melody + accompaniment)

 

I agree regarding the English, adding that the melody may be varying the "drone" double stops themselves both on the fiddle and the EC, which results in what I call "interwoven" quality.

 

OTOH, playing the piano doesn't necessarily mean melody plus accompaniment contrary to belief - it should hardly be done that way at all IMO. I recall very well my first attempts to play A Whiter Shade Of Pale resulting in a perfect failure - until I realized that melody and harmony had both to be under the right hand. My starting point to play beyond the dots (apart from playing blues, which had already been familiar to me back then...).

 

Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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I was playing classical music (Cello, Recorder, Classical Guitar) before I started playing Hayden 30 years ago, and so I thought that in no time I would be playing Bach 2-part inventions and Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas on the Hayden. It hasn't happened yet. And not for lack of trying.

 

BTW, many years ago, Jim Lucas suggested these analogies (in a post I can't dredge up at the moment):

  • English Concertina: Violin (melodies, drones)
  • Anglo Concertina: Banjo (limited keys, punchy rhythms)
  • Duet Concertina: Piano (melody + accompaniment)

 

Sort of, though it looks like you've "remembered" some things that I didn't say.

 

Here's a quote of what I said in 2002, in the old version of the Forum:

The difference between an anglo and an English is more like the difference between the 5-string banjo and the violin or mandolin. They seem to favor different styles of music, different harmonies and different patterns of emphasis. And to continue the concertina vs. string analogy, I would liken the duets to guitars or lutes.

 

First note: I did not mention piano, but only three families of portable stringed instruments with fingerboards for selecting notes.

 

I believe that subsequently I described it slightly differently, which is what I'll try to reproduce here, with a bit of elaboration. First of all, while "they seem to favor" certain styles, the different types don't necessarily favor only those styles. I have seen/heard each type of concertina played in less "mainstream" harmonic and rhythmic styles, and those players don't seem to have required extra effort to learn those less common styles, just the imagination (or isolation?) to develop their own.

  • English - Commonly used for musical styles similar to a violin or mandolin. Like a violin/fiddle, it's beautifully adapted to playing single-note melodies (perhaps with occasional double stops), harmonies, or arpeggiated chords. But like the mandolin, it's also quite capable of playing more than two notes at a time, so backing chord work or melody with sparse chording is also a strength.

    A great deal of music for either the violin or mandolin can be played "as written" on a treble English concertina. Meanwhile, the concertina can go where even the mandolin can't go, being able to play richer chords (more notes at a time) or more widely separated harmonies (harmonies that would require a "silent" string between the notes on mandolin or violin). Note that I have not included the ability to play "drones". Possible, but in my experience, not widely used.

  • Anglo - Commonly used for musical styles similar to a banjo, with significan emphasis on rhythmic emphasis.

    The "Irish" style might be likened to bluegrass fingerpicking banjo, in its one-note-at-a-time style, though not in details of arrangement. I would liken the "English" or "harmonic" style to the old-timey clawhammer banjo style... chording along with the melody and tunes largely limited to particular keys or "modes". Other styles are certainly possible, but they're not (yet?) common.

  • Duets - At least until recently, these seem(ed) to be mostly used by individuals interested in non-"folky" musical styles -- classical, pop, hymns, jazz, -- with richer harmonies and a wider selection of keys. Aside from neglecting "folk", I see this as similar to the way the guitar is used.

    There are those who liken the duets to a piano, and one can certainly point out similarities, most notably the "independence" of the hands, which is not shared by the guitar. (Such differences are often neglected in comparisons, as I admit I've also done here.) But here I'm deliberately comparing three sub-families of concertinas only to three families of held-by-the-player, exposed-strings-with-fingerboard instruments... not the piano.

Edited by JimLucas
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Jim,

Interesting parallels!

 

As a bit of anecdotal corroboration to your theory: for many, many years, the Anglo concertina and the 5-string banjo were the solo and accompaniment instruments for my kind of music. They also have in common that I can venture quite far into the "light classics" area with either of them - provided I stick to their respective strong keys (C/G with the Anglo, C/F with the banjo).

 

My fairly recent addition, the Crane duet, seems comfortable with the pieces I would otherwise do on the chromatic autoharp - hymn tunes, art songs, drawing-room ballads, etc.

 

I have no experience of the EC, but find my mandolins (of various types) perfectly adequate for pure melody lines. And if I have to play melody on a concertina, the Anglo or Crane are good enough (Anglo is faster, because the bisonority means less button work, but the Crane overtakes it on flat keys!)

 

However, I've noticed parallels between the Crane duet and the fretted instruments on a different level - let's call it the "motoric" level.

To me, scales on the RH of the Crane resemble scales on the mandolin: they progress along a row/string until you run out of fingers, then skip to the start of the next row/string, and accidentals are (mostly) adjacent to notes belonging to the key signature.

 

Chording on the LH of the Crane reminds me of chording on the 5-string banjo: there are a few "chord shapes," each with a major and minor variant, and they yield all the chords you need, depending on which button/fret they start on. Like the banjo, the Crane leaves me the freedom to play the notes in each chord all together, as arpeggios, or partially.

 

All this added up to the Crane being the duet system for me, because the mandolinist and banjoist mind-sets worked on it right from the start. For me, the Maccann or Hayden would nave meant developing a new mind-set (I'd probably have managed it if someone had bequeathed me a Maccann or Hayden, but at over 60, the less you have to re-learn, the better!)

 

When I'm arranging a solo piece or an accompaniment for the Crane, I very often think about what a piano arranger or composer would do (for song accompaniments, I think of Schubert) and see if I can transfer that. It often works!

 

Cheers,

John

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One thing to recall is that on a piano you have individual volume control over the notes. On the concertina, you don't.

An important point.

In addition, the lower bass end notes are more powerful than the higher treble notes.

If playing a piano arrangement directly, you might find that the higher melody notes are swamped by the stronger lower notes in the accompaniment.

Arrangements for concertina, whether for English or Duet, have to take this into account.

Playing style also helps; longer lower notes can be cut short, and the attack of the melody notes can be emphasised.

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