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Steve Wilson

Midi Would Be A Game Changer

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Hi All,

 

If you haven't seen the thread "Concertina in Public Education" in the Teaching and Learning forum I urge you to have a look. What Alex Wade has been doing with children is fantastic but with limited reach because as she says "It really boils down to the cost of instruments, so we need to get inventing!"

 

A cheap concertina, certainly less than $100, hopefully a fair bit less, would be a game changer. I know a few of us C-net folk have been involved in developing midi concers and also Concertina Connection have done some development work. But I don't think they have one available yet, couldn't find a price at least. It seem though from what I've read in these forums and elsewhere that a midi concertina is pretty close to being sorted out. Commercial development is probably the bigger issue.

 

So where are we up to with the development of this GAME CHANGER? Can we as a group facilitate development? Can the few few involved with development of midi concertinas get together and pool resources? (IP issues I know). What is needed to get things rolling? Funding? Industry partners?

 

For the sake of a big future for concertinas I'm starting this thread to hopefully get things rolling. Ideas please.

 

Steve.

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I've just re-read the recent "Electronic(Midi)Concertina - Current Options" thread, probably should have done it before posting above. Seems there are midi concers available but probably not very cheap. From that thread I gathered a goal is to make a realistic instrument with the sound and feel of a traditional concertina. But it seems to me Robert's idea of a very cheap instrument, not much more than a toy, without dynamics would be the GAME CHANGER. Hundreds of concertina playing grandparents worldwide would be buying their grandchildren these concertinas and schools and community groups could afford them. Children who excelled could upgrade (be upgraded - thanks Granpa) to more sophisticated midi instruments and probably eventually "real" concertinas. A few years after a cheap concertina hit the market there could be thousands of children worldwide mucking around with concertinas.

 

Can we make it happen? It's probably mostly up to you fellas doing the development work but can the rest of us in our concertina community assist in any way?

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There may be a mixture of merit and wishful thinking in this proposition.

I remember being given a plastic Flutophone as a VERY young child, and I played it almost incessantly and took it everywhere I could. Over time, I graduated to better instruments - eventually becoming accomplished saxophonist. It's remarkable how well that piece of black and white plastic performed and the enjoyment, satisfaction, and inspiration that it provided.

On the other hand, The first mandolin that I encountered wa a POS mandolin and I was so discouraged by it that it was years before I picked up another - a friend's. Fortunately that was a quality instrument, I bonded with it immediately, and I have since enjoyed many decades of mandolin playing.

All of this to say that there is a level of quality to any instrument that will generate enthusiasm and encouragement or frustration and discouragement.

Where that "break-point" is in a concertina, I don't know; but I do believe that it exists among all instruments including concertinas - especially for a child who is initially being introduced to it and is unlikely to have the perseverance to overcome the shortcomings of an instrument not knowing what pleasure could lie ahead with a finer one.

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Sounds good, but unless they can make one that looks like a guitar or an iphone, it would be an uphill battle ;)

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Speaking as someone who owns a midi concertina (from Roy at Accordian Magic), they are great for various purposes, but it is hard to conceive them as an answer to the problem posed. The Jack/Jackie is the best product available, but it is difficult to think of anything comparable that would meet Steve's price proposal and still have the configuration and sound of an actual concertina rather than simply a device that could play through a computer. But the video of the classroom was indeed inspiring.

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Sounds good, but unless they can make one that looks like a guitar or an iphone, it would be an uphill battle ;)

I had a thought this morning: Nearly everyone (but a luddite like me) has a super duper phone, and that folks like Mike Eskin have written aps that approximate a concertina layout and produce sound. The thing that has not attracted my attention to the aps is that the keyboard orientation is limited to putting both sides of the layout on the flat surface of the phone.

 

I wonder if there is a reasonably economic way to "jack in" an additional touch surface and modify the concertina aps so that the R & L hand can be on different touch surfaces. Then the phone and it's jacked in drone could be mounted on a concertina like module. You would not have a bellows action but the fingering would be much more concertina like and if the jacked in touch pad were possible and not too expensive it might use a lot of existing popular technology. :blink: ??

 

Greg

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I wonder if there is a reasonably economic way to "jack in" an additional touch surface and modify the concertina aps so that the R & L hand can be on different touch surfaces. Then the phone and it's jacked in drone could be mounted on a concertina like module. You would not have a bellows action but the fingering would be much more concertina like and if the jacked in touch pad were possible and not too expensive it might use a lot of existing popular technology. :blink: ??

 

Speaking as one who has done a fair amount of playing on Mike's "Duettina" app (Hayden emulator, see http://youtu.be/6u113mHmnNo), I feel I need to say two things about the above suggestion. One is that unlike a real concertina, a touch screen gives you no tactile feedback about where your fingers are with respect to the buttons. You can't play by feel. You have to be able to see the screen, which becomes difficult if you're working with two screens facing away from each other. The other is that until I got an iPhone 6+, the images of the buttons were too close together for any kind of fluid playing.

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Yeah, my iphone 5 is too small to really play the Anglo app.

 

If your iphone 6 works though, could you add a standard transparent screen protector sheet with buttons painted or glued on? Perhaps a drop of glue? Something just thick enough to feel but thin enough to allow operation?

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In Alex Wade's post in the "Concers in Public Education" thread she is certainly of the opinion that the instruments need to be real concertinas, not apps on iphones and I agree with her. She says the kids were fascinated with these little magic boxes, doesn't seem like she had to battle uphill too much. So a cheap concertina would have to have bellows and buttons that go in and out and a degree of quality to avoid frustration as has been pointed out. But it could be mostly plastic, possibly even the bellows, and have some sort of small internal speaker and take a couple of small batteries for a power source. I'm not sure how the bellows movement would relate to the sound produced, there are some among us who know about that and it could be a development problem.

 

Actually I'm totally ignorant about how a midi concertina works so I hope a few involved in their development might add to this thread and either confirm or dispel any merit to this proposal. Perhaps I am just indulging in wishful thinking.

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Here my thoughts:

 

Any MIDI-concertina is not a musical instrument as such, but basically just a keyboard for some kind of electronic sound creation.

 

I really enjoy playing my midi to emulate other instruments or play with loops. But if I want to play concertina, I take a concertina!

 

So far MIDI concertinas cost just as much as real ones - with good leather bellows being a mayor cost-factor!!

 

If you want to make a low cost midi, you first of all will have to decide, which system! There are loads of ITM anglo players, the ES has its advantages, but a Hayden duet offers a nice logical and versatile layout!?!?!?

 

A 40 key ES similar to mine ( size of a Stagio Mini ), but without bellows could be produced in medium quantities ( 50 plus ) for less than 100€, in large quanities ( 500 plus ) for less than 50€ ( without profit! )! Like mine it would have to be played over an apple device ( so far android does not work well! ), but it could have real keys and a fairly good action! An anglo would be a little cheaper, a Hayden a little more costly.

 

post-7162-0-68972400-1464017803_thumb.jpg

 

My first one was prototyped with flying wires, the second one ( anglo ) had a PCB and DIL technology. A professional solution would use SMDs.

 

post-7162-0-10309600-1464017831_thumb.jpg

 

Unfortunately I'm too busy to do the whole job, but I wouldn't mind to be part of a team!

 

 

PS: The great advantage of a MIDI is that it can be played and practised with earphones!!

Edited by conzertino

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But it could be mostly plastic, possibly even the bellows, and have some sort of small internal speaker and take a couple of small batteries for a power source.

Plastic is only cheap if you're able to invest many thousands up-front in tooling costs for injection moulding. 3D printing can be used for prototyping, but it isn't cheap either because the machines are still really slow compared to more traditional manufacturing methods (I'd guess something on the order of a couple of days to print all the parts for a complete instrument). What might possibly work better, at least for the end boxes, is CNC cut plywood. That may even be what the Chinese manufacturers are already using.

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My apologies to those that have seen this stuff before, but I think that it is worth reviewing again.

 

In 2001 (yikes) Paul Everett created this:

 

hands1.jpg

 

(Those hands belong to David Barnert).

 

Paul documented his work on his own web-site which has since gone to the Internet of the Great Beyond.

 

Fortunately, we have a psychic Internet service through which we can talk to the dead - the Wayback Machine, aka. the Internet Archive. Here is a scrape of Paul's website from 2007:

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20071121112801/http://home.stny.rr.com/peverett/gadget.html

 

Paul's "Gadget" (which he describes as a "a cheap concertina practice chanter") was a small Hayden with no dynamics and was made using the electronic technology of the day - which would be about a century ago in dog years.

 

It would be fairly simple to reproduce this using today's technology and have it play through an Apple device using Michael Eskin's concertina samples instead of a Casio Midi Sound Module - which was obsolete in 2001.

 

At first glance it looks like the Gadget is hinged and that maybe the hinge controlled dynamics. Well, Paul's Gadget does not actually bend at what looks like it might be a hinge. But I think that could be done.

 

The choice of key layout is arbitrary - it does not have to be a Hayden, but if you want an Anglo then a hinge and a sensor would be required. Unisonoric concertinas would not absolutely need a hinge.

 

It would be (at least electronically) easy to scale up to 32 buttons on each side.

 

Choosing buttons that feel marginally like concertina buttons would be important - and tricky as most of the off the shelf buttons (switches) need too much force to be comfortable.

 

Something along the lines the Gadget is the only way that I think that a concertina could be built for ukulele prices - and even then you have to add in an Apple iPod Touch, an iPad or an iPhone. An Android device will not do because Android has too much internal latency in the software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Robert, Don and Alex for your responses. Never realized Alex that plastic could be so expensive.

 

Robert, thanks for your input, obviously you've put a lot or effort into the development of a midi concertina. Sadly 50 euro (without bellows, or profit), is too expensive to be a GAME CHANGER.

 

And Don, thanks for alerting me about Paul's "gadget".

 

Now neither Robert, Don or anyone, have responded to my suggestion that a midi concertina could be battery powered and have a speaker, just as the old Casio keyboards did, little toys almost that kids learned to play "Twinkle, twinkle little star" on. Could a midi concertina be set up like that? Or is that an android sort of thing? Sorry, I'm ignorant about this sort of thing.

 

Anyway, I'm beginning to realize perhaps I'm indulging in some wishful thinking. But perhaps this will go on the back burner for down the track. I believe a cheap concertina (and it would have to be a midi) would be a GAME CHANGER.

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I recall, this came up many years ago , in Sydney, when Frank O'Gallagher made an electronic English Concertina... built some organ parts into a hexagon aluminium tube and constructed keyboards at each end. He was convinced that every mother would want their child to play one of these instead of the piano . Several of us just laughed at the idea.

 

The fact that Alex Wade had some success with those children was , I would think, as much to do with her hands on approach as anything. When we live in a society where the vast majority of people, even in England where the instrument had once been popular, have never seen or heard of a concertina... thinking only of Razor Wire when the word comes up, it would be one heck of a project to revive four generations on.

 

I feel it would need 'real' concertinas and a large number of 'role model' players and teachers. The work done by Wim Wakker to improve the quality at the very cheap end of the market has had a positive effect but for the most part the only bouyant, growing sector of concertina playing is with the Anglo in Irish music and that is culturally led. Regular television programs and local radio stations in Ireland devoting hours of time to the traditional music creates an interest which is strongly supported by parents.

 

Here in France , where the Accordeon was perhaps as popular as the guitar, it is possible to get lessons at any of the conservatoires which are in every town. Hiring an instrument of any type for the first year or two at a nominal cost, tuition fees supported by government grants , professional teachers and recognised qualifications to be gained, all help to keep young people playing music.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Yes, it's technically possible to put a synthesiser and an amplifier and speaker inside the gadget. Doing it for a very low price in relatively small quantities is the difficult part. In terms of the electronics, there's a tradeoff to be made between sound quality and cost - something that sounds like a 1980s toy Casio keyboard could be done with cheaper components than one that closely approximates the sound of a real concertina.

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We probably need a few dozen folks like Alex Wade playing the role of a circuit rider preacher in bringing the concertina gospel to young people.

 

It is possible to bring the concertina to the public's attention through small workshops. I'll be bringing twelve 20b anglos to a workshop at the Pinelands Folk Music Center in Mt. Holly, NJ this June.

 

At one time I also had a dozen lower end englishes refurbished for a similar workshop.

 

But initial exposure aside it still leaves even the most ardent convert with the dilemma of finding an affordable concertina that sounds decent and is fun to play.

 

Greg

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Yeah, my iphone 5 is too small to really play the Anglo app.

 

If your iphone 6 works though, could you add a standard transparent screen protector sheet with buttons painted or glued on? Perhaps a drop of glue? Something just thick enough to feel but thin enough to allow operation?

 

It's a 6 plus, a little bigger than a 6, and the buttons come out to 15mm separation, very close to Brian's specification (16mm along the rows, 12mm on the diagonals). A 6 might also work. The 5 screen is no wider than the 4 screen, which is what I had previously and didn't work. I thought of the "drops of Crazy Glue on Saran Wrap" idea a while back, but haven't gotten around to trying to implement it yet.

Edited by David Barnert

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