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Bruce Thomson

Electronic (Midi) Concertina - Current Options?

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I'd still like to have/make an 'everyone's' budget electronic concertina...

 

What's the easiest available way?

I'm a player rather than a builder, I just want to be able to create a custom one that will help me play the ways I enjoy most.

 

If there's a simple kit of the electronics to save me time, I might see if I can create a MIDI concertina with a sculpted keyboard that better suits the arc of the fingers. I've heard of pressure-sensitive buttons, so I'd like that kind, and any other such features to give ability to play expressively.

 

If possible I'll make it battery-powered too, for portability.

 

Any helpful advice/participation will be welcomed.

 

Thanks,

 

Bruce Thomson

palmytomo@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I started making a midi concertina about 18 months ago. I have not been able to work on the project for a while and I do not expect to resume until next winter - if at all. I am a bit disillusioned about the amount of work required to make a midi concertina that feels and responds like a real concertina.

 

Unless you have a donor concertina to convert to midi then the main problems are mechanical: how to make a decent feeling and durable button array/action, and what to use for bellows and an associated sensor. The electronics and software are relatively easy and getting better/cheaper all the time. But if you have to make a real action board and button array plus a quality bellows then that is a long way towards making a real concertina.

Edited by Don Taylor

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Paul Hardy, who i believe posts here sometimes (and has a great website where you can download Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook

www.paulhardy.net ) has a midi English Concertina that he converted himself. I saw him playing it in the bar at WCCP Kilve weekend last year

Anyhow he is probably the man to talk to

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Paul Hardy, who i believe posts here sometimes (and has a great website where you can download Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook

www.paulhardy.net ) has a midi English Concertina that he converted himself. I saw him playing it in the bar at WCCP Kilve weekend last year

Anyhow he is probably the man to talk to

 

Partial correction, I did the original restoration myself, but the conversion to Midi was done by Roy Whiteley of Accordion Magic. The instrument is described on this web page. I like it, but it's not cheap and required the sacrifice of a real tina (albeit one with crap reeds). I also evaluated the S-Wave - see this thread.

 

It would be really good if anyone could come up with a workable design for a 'concertina-like object' that was cheap enough and robust enough to be used by beginners (particularly kids). I'm thinking of something that relates to a traditional concertina like an electronic keyboard relates to a piano. We were discussing this last weekend over cream tea at the Kilve concertina weekend, and I was suggesting that the ICA should fund some tinas for kids. As others have said, the main problem seems to be mechanical in getting a good button/switch array and a bellows equivalent. Doing the sound when you have the button press sequence is the easy and cheap bit these days, with kit like the Raspberry Pi Zero around.

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Thanks, Paul, Jimmy, Greg, Don, for the very useful ideas and suggestions.

 

Yes, I have my old Stagi tenor to convert, or even my Lachenal treble.

If at all possible I'd also like to put the synthesizer and battery inside the thing, to make it portable for kids, anyone.

 

Paul, re. the a good button/switch array I'm hoping to use 3D printing of as much as possible of the whole concertina. I've taught myself to use Sketchup (see example of button design I did).

post-10346-0-08824300-1443733991_thumb.png

 

Imagine if we trial-and-error ended up with a design that
- sounded really excellent
- anyone could
cheaply either get printed by an online 3D printing shop, or at their local library's 3D printer (our library as several) and order off-the-shelf electronics to screw into the ready made holes. =)
- could fairly easily be experimentally modified/evolved by anyone in Sketchup and created overnight to try in the morning.
- was so cheap, a teacher or folk club could print ten and teach a classfull of learners!

 

For the sample sounds, I was wondering if I could simply record sounds from my Lachenal treble, enhance them with a mixer, save as MIDI files somehow, and use that. Anyone know?

 

And I totally agree about the joy of playing other instruments using the concertina interface. But I most of all want a good quality concertina sound, and if possible, make it all cheaply available to everyone in the world who'd like it.

 

I'm trying to contact Roy Whiteley, but the phone number on his website fails when I call, and I haven't had a response to an email I sent.

 

Are any of you able to contact him? The phone number on his website is (44) 07519064196.

 

It thrills me to see already made MIDI concertinas, and to know the electronics are not expensive.

I'm sobered by the task - not sure I could do it. 'Might see what it would cost to get Roy to do it if he can.

Freight to/from New Zealand, plus customs on entry here can be expensive, 'dunno if I'd have to pay hundreds of dollars GST.

 

'Grateful for any help contacing Roy Whiteley.

Thanks again,

 

Bruce

Edited by Bruce Thomson

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'Grateful for any help contacting Roy Whiteley.

 

 

Roy did some repairs to my concertina last year, he was good at answering emails. The address is on the Accordian Magic website.

(He did say that they sometimes fled to warmer climes in winter though)

 

Chris

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He did say that they sometimes fled to warmer climes in winter though

Roy and his family, or the concertinas? :unsure:

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Bruce, for most international call destinations, dropping the first "0" out of the number usually works, i.e. (44) 7519064196.

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He did say that they sometimes fled to warmer climes in winter though

Roy and his family, or the concertinas? :unsure:

 

:-)

concertinas flying south for the winter, a nice thought

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Bruce, for most international call destinations, dropping the first "0" out of the number usually works, i.e. (44) 7519064196.

 

It's a mobile number, so may be set not to accept international calls .... they can cost you large amounts to receive as well as to send!

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It's a mobile number, so may be set not to accept international calls .... they can cost you large amounts to receive as well as to send!

To clarify that, as a UK mobile number (all such start with a 7), there is never a charge in the UK for receiving an incoming call, whether from a landline or another mobile, regardless of whether the caller is UK or international. This is in contrast to some other countries like the USA where mobiles do pay to receive calls. This is because the US has used up all its number space for geographic codes, and couldn't free up any leading number to make mobiles (cellphones) distinctive, so couldn't charge more for calling a mobile number as is the case in most of the world.

 

If Roy is on holiday/vacation outside the UK with his UK phone, then indeed he will get charged a fee for an incoming call, but in this case the charge is the same regardless of whether the caller is in the UK or international.

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Bruce,

 

We might want to differentiate between concertinas with MIDI interfaces, and those with synthesizers ("ROMplers", really), batteries, and headphone amps, which can be used stand-alone, for "quiet practice." I built a few synthesizing English concertinas from scratch, but the design is very expensive -- the raw material cost runs to hundreds of dollars, and the labor time -- well, I deliberately didn't keep track. A large chunk of the expense comes from my slavish devotion to getting the button feel just right, so that I could move back and forth from my Stagi to my synthetic without having to retrain my fingers.

 

Over the summer, I plan to gut the electrical design and make a small board containing the core of my synthesizer, with inputs for keys, pressure sensors, etc., to be used to teach a class on electronic music in the fall. That board might be something that you could use as the basis for a from-scratch concertina design. Also, I would be happy to adjust the design to meet the needs of the the concertina community, but you would have to pay for the materials and the run of circuit boards. A typical run costs $1000 for a few dozen boards (blank boards without electronics installed), which would be doable if several concertinists agreed on what they wanted.

 

In my opinion, the sticking point in any concertina design is likely going to involve the buttons. It took me years of playing around to find a design that I liked, and it's likely too expensive for what you envision. So I suggest that if you want to pursue this, you spend some time on the button mechanism. Once you have something you like, then maybe I can design a synthesizer for it.

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Jim, are there any recordings available that demonstrate what your synthesizer sounds like? ISTR you were using a custom DSP solution rather than a general purpose SBC like a Raspberry Pi running a software synthesizer program, is that right?

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Yes, it's a DSP running custom code. What I've got at the moment is a simple 4-voice "ROMpler", playing looped .wav samples from a microSD card, without pitch shifting or special effects. I don't even have the bellows pressure tied in to the amplitude yet. I also need to package the .wav files into soundfont format. But since this is now work that I have to do as part of my job, there's a fair chance that it will get done.

 

Re DSP vs RaspPi, it was a tough choice, and I have to admit that I'm not sure I made the right one. The DSP is physically smaller, less expensive, consumes far less power, but requires specialized coding skills. The RaspPi can outperform it, and you can code it in C, but that C needs to be carefully optimized, and the caching and Linux can cause determinism and latency issues. I may yet decide that my course should use an SBC like the RaspPI (actually, I'd probably go with the BeagleBone Green -- better I/O and real-time control), but if I do, the offer still stands: if you guys can decide what you want, I'll lay out a PCB for you.

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Very interesting. Yes, the power consumption is definitely an issue, and presumably the DSP boots much faster too. There are other advantages of basing it around a general purpose Linux computer: for example, I think it is probably possible to use the RTP-MIDI protocol over WiFi to stream events to a Mac running a DAW or an IOS-based mobile device (latency may not be great though).

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Hello all, Roy Whiteley here...............

 

Hello Bruce, I don't know whats happening on the communication front? i'm sorry that you've not been able to reach me. No clue regarding phone but I'll check my junk email on Friday (not in work tomorrow).

 

My MIDI concertina history:

 

First English completed in 2004. There are currently 40 something instruments out there, customers in UK, USA, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Spain, France...............

Any concertina can be converted, English/anglo/duet/Chemnitzer, British/American/German or Chinese.

Various methods exist mechanically, always magnets and sensors. Inside or outside of bellows.

Mechanism always opens holes to simulate reed air consumption.

Real time processor always, not pi. The pi is quick but not real time, it WILL miss events better used as a synth.

Bellows pressure always measured and used with look up table and algorithm. Raw data can't be used.

Internal GM MIDI expander can be fitted.

Batteries should not be fitted deep inside the instrument.

 

Currently assembling first MIDI concertina with internal expander and amp/speakers. When finished it will be fitted with OLED screen to improve the instrument setup system. It has 2 part ends milled from solid, I have the g-code and a CNC machine. Buttons turned from white Delrin dyed black, bushed. Bellows traditional. When it's complete I'll post images.

 

Radio is coming also BUT forget ANY system that channel hops and handshakes, just too slow! The secret is NOT to send MIDI at all but something else and that's all I will say on that matter.

 

I have provided kits in the past but I actually found this quite a job............ there are so many bits and pieces and an instruction manual to provide. More work than you would imagine.

 

My intention is to make these available in larger quantities and cheaper than my 'gold' Jeffries type acoustics.

 

I don't believe that you can make an instrument that feels like a real one for pennies though.

 

Roy.

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