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Mark Rosenthal

What's Known About The History Of The Fingering System Used On Ang

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Things I've read over the years make it pretty clear that the fingering system/button layout of the English concertina was Charles Wheatstone's design, and never spread beyond instruments made in England. Likewise, the various Duet systems were only made by English manufacturers. (Duet systems have always struck me as reactions by manufacturers in England to the difficulties that the alternating side English system created for players who want to play a bass line simultaneous with an independent treble line.)

 

In contrast to the English and Duet systems, the fingering system found on Anglo concertinas seems to be used on free reed instruments manufactured all over Europe. I don't play Anglo, so correct me if I'm wrong about this, but it's my understanding that the exhale/inhale pattern used by mouth-blown harmonicas is the same pattern as that of the buttons found on melodeons, button accordions, and Anglo concertinas. What, if anything, is known about the history of this fingering system? Where did it originate? When? Who designed it? How did it spread throughout Europe?

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From my knowledge, in harmonica world this 'standard' tuning is known under the name 'Richter tuning'.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richter_tuning

 

"...It is named after Joseph Richter, a Bohemian instrument maker who adopted the tuning for his harmonicas in the early 19th century and is credited with inventing the blow/draw mechanism that allows the harmonica to play different notes when the air is drawn instead of blown..."

Edited by Orm

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Yes. . . . . .Wheatstone seems to have designed the layout of the buttons on the English. . . . .for a fascinating article on where Wheatstone likely got his ideas for the layout:

 

Anna Gawboy, "The Wheatstone Concertina and symmetrical Arrangements of Tonal Space," PICA 10 (2013-2015), 1 - 34

 

note that this is reprinted from the Journal of Music Theory 53.2 (2009)...................

 

Allan Atlas

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Thanks, Mark, for noting the online availability of Anna G's article. . . .I should have remembered that since we had to request permission from them......Allan

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... the fingering system found on Anglo concertinas seems to be used on free reed instruments manufactured all over Europe. I don't play Anglo, so correct me if I'm wrong about this, but it's my understanding that the exhale/inhale pattern used by mouth-blown harmonicas is the same pattern as that of the buttons found on melodeons, button accordions, and Anglo concertinas. What, if anything, is known about the history of this fingering system? Where did it originate? When? Who designed it? How did it spread throughout Europe?

 

It has long been my view that the Anglo wasn't so much "designed" or "invented" as simply "happened" - over a period of time and through the ideas and work of various people.

 

Briefly; Carl Friedrich Uhlig (1789-1874) of Chemnitz (the inventor of the original German concertina) took the keyboard of Cyrill Demian's 1829 single-row accordion and first divided it into two halves, so that he then had the 5 high (treble) buttons on his right hand and the 5 low (bass) ones on his left, in order that he could thus make his own harmonic accompaniment to the melody he was playing. He first advertised his invention (as a “new kind of Accordion”) in the Chemnitzer Anzeiger of 19th July 1834, then added a second row in 1836, and a third (making it Bb/C/G) by 1840.

 

German concertinas were already being imported into England (in seemingly small quantities) in the 1840s, and they were successfully shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, making them better known - whereafter they started to be built by English concertina makers, becoming the better-quality Anglo-German concertina. The English builders quickly started to add semitones, to make the instrument more chromatic, creating the instrument known as the Anglo-chromatic concertina - or "Anglo" for short!

 

You'll find a potted-history of the early free-reed instruments, with photos, in my Michaelstein Conference Paper

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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