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Stonie

Any Ideas For The Short-Of-Thumb?

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Whilst playing I cannot reach the breathe button to adjust the bellows. I have constructed a leather 'bridge' to help me out but I am sure I can't be alone with this problem. Is there is a known solution please?

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Some sort of improvised bridge is the solution, usually running from the handrest along under the thumb to the top of the button.

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You might find this previous topic useful.

Definitely so.....It is fairly selfevident that the traditional pressbutton for the air valve on Anglos is not suitable from ergonomic viewpoint but a lever of the same kind as for some common air valves on Englishes or "bowing valves" is a more adequate solution. The thread in this link shows such instruments from both Geoff Crabb and Colin Dipper. Also notice the modified handle with a thumb strap combined with wrist straps instead of the common hand straps.

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Thanks for the replies. My prototype is made of leather and plastic, and slips over the strap, so does not damage the wood. Very interested in what I've seen so will be refining my efforts. Thanks again.

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I can't understand how the conventional button has lasted all this time.

It's perfectly obvious that a lever that moves from left to right, towards the fingers, is the way the thumb naturally operates.

Hohner do one in their melodeons, and it would be perfect for a concertina.

I don't think it would need to be any higher than a button. The longer levers shown look vulnerable to me.

It's not the height that causes me problems, it's the direction of movement.

 

If I were a modern manufacturer, I'd be fitting a lever as standard, and a button would be a special order.

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I can't understand how the conventional button has lasted all this time.

It's perfectly obvious that a lever that moves from left to right, towards the fingers, is the way the thumb naturally operates.

It's not the height that causes me problems, it's the direction of movement.

If I were a modern manufacturer, I'd be fitting a lever as standard, and a button would be a special order.

Quite so..as I said also in #4 above. Do check what was said on the item before here

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=16472

and a Dipper instrument with lever operated air valve in action here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHoZOyvi3qg and notice how smooth it works

 

There is hardly any reason for makers of today ( nor players of course...) using press button air valves at all. They ought to be dismissed and just like you said only provided on special order.... but even that is somewhat dubious since it conserves an evident historic mistake..

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I think it should be mentioned that the placement of air buttons varies with makers. I've noted that the air button is placed very poorly on some of the less expensive and entry level Anglos, requiring an uncomfortable or almost impossibly long reach. I've seen some that were essentially unplayable without functional modifications to permit practical access to the button.

 

I find myself wondering if the people that specified the button placement on that design had any practical experience with playing an Anglo and my conclusion is that they did not. My guess is that they generally copied the traditional maker's design and engineered a version they could cheaply mass produce, but without any practical consideration of the best location of their air button.

 

I've never encountered a problem with air button placement on any intermediate level or high end instrument. I think those are made by people that actually play and understand the needs of the player. The air buttons on those are typically located near the hand bar and at a height where most people would find them easily accessed and comfortably operated with the side of the thumb. Of course I acknowledge that hands and thumbs differ and not all would agree as to what perfect placement would be. I know that some people request custom height variations on the hand bars to better accommodate their needs.

 

As to button vs. lever, I have one concertina with a lever operated drone on the left and a push air button on the right and I'm not at all fond of the lever operated drone. While a lever action might fit well with natural grasping flex and bend of the thumb, I don't find the design or action of a properly placed thumb operated air button to be uncomfortable or a problem. Thumbs move in two planes and I don't for a moment consider the traditional air button design to be a mistake.

 

I'm not suggesting that anyone's opinion is wrong, rather just expressing mine.

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1. I've never encountered a problem with air button placement on any intermediate level or high end instrument. I think those are made by people that actually play and understand the needs of the player.

2. I know that some people request custom height variations on the hand bars to better accommodate their needs.

3. As to button vs. lever, While a lever action might fit well with natural grasping flex and bend of the thumb, I don't find the design or action of a properly placed thumb operated air button to be uncomfortable or a problem. Thumbs move in two planes and I don't for a moment consider the traditional air button design to be a mistake.

4. I'm not suggesting that anyone's opinion is wrong, rather just expressing mine.

Good points, starting from the bottom...

4. Not "wrong" maybe but conditions are better or worse...We can't blame the initial constructors for possible *mistakes* but certainly as you say about *some* present makers , their ambition may not have been entirely well directed concerning how to work the tool they produced. Sometimes musical instruments have been invented by experienced musicians but often some technician rather was responsible. Just consider *our* dear C. Wheatstone...I have not come across any notice that he ever played a concertina...

1. Even if you and many others have not encountered major problems flaws may exist despite not being fully observed. The press button was likely introduced since it was the simplest/cheapest technical solution. The way you hold and work the Anglo may admit that you manage the operation but no doubt a lever, admitting an anatomically more natural movement, would have been a *better* alternative from the start.

2. Same with this issue ...height of hand bar...AND the location of the hand strap too. Together they lock the hand and restrict finger movements.

Only players with long hands/fingers can be expected to reach the distant buttons on a 30+ key Anglo comfortably

3. I agree of course that the thumb when working freely can move in all dimensions BUT working a concertina is a tricky business and if you let the thumb be entirely free to operate the air button you loose stability and if you grasp the handbar as many Anglo (and Duet) players do it becomes very awkward to manage the air valve by pressing a button. Look at this again

Adding a thumb strap to the Anglo and relocating the handstrap offers a comfortable, relaxed and efficient management of the instrument.

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I'm in the same camp as Bruce. The traditional system works just fine if the button is positioned properly. My first concertina was an early Suttner raised end Linota model. The air button was positioned so low that I could barely reach it. I compared its spacing to real Wheatstone Linotas and found that the Suttner air button was just incorrectly positioned. But when I was first exposed to Crabb and Jeffries instruments, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that some makers had put the air button where it could be reached and managed easily. Later Suttners I had the opportunity to own or play had air buttons placed more conveniently for good access.

 

And when an air button is ergonomically positioned, that air button can be modulated just as easily as a lever version. Most of us Anglo players started off and grew up playing air buttons. Maybe if we had all started off playing air lever systems, we might have a different opinion about them. But that ship has already left the station and for the vast majority of concertina players, an air lever is a solution in search of a problem.

 

All that being said, if you want or need an air lever, you are free to seek out that system and nothing I've said is intended to restrict you in any way. But given the opportunity to play a properly positioned air button on a well designed and executed concertina, you may discover that all you ever needed was there all along.

 

Ross Schlabach

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1.And when an air button is ergonomically positioned, that air button can be modulated just as easily as a lever version. Most of us Anglo players started off and grew up playing air buttons. Maybe if we had all started off playing air lever systems, we might have a different opinion about them.

 

2.All that being said, if you want or need an air lever, you are free to seek out that system and nothing I've said is intended to restrict you in any way. But given the opportunity to play a properly positioned air button on a well designed and executed concertina, you may discover that all you ever needed was there all along.

 

Ross Schlabach

This is an amusing story that of course can go on ( almost) for ever since the essence is that it reflects the common conservative resistance against a novelty of any kind. Ross, I think you hit the right note saying: "if we had all started off playing air lever systems, we might have a different opinion about them.". and then you might NOT have said this

1. "And when an air button is ergonomically positioned, that air button can be modulated just as easily as a lever version" simply because the two versions CAN NOT be ideal both of them...ONE of them likely IS better ergonomically..... You just have to try it out.....have You played an instrument with a lever for the air valve enough to know? and Bruce....have You? Even the very best innovations are initially resisted by most people simply because of old habits. Just imagine the ancient inventor of the Wheel showing it to his fellow tribesmen and they all shouted in unison: "We don't need THAT - we have done perfectly well without it for a million years !"

2. "a properly positioned air button" The major problem as indicated by Stonie is that it seldom IS due to individually different hands.You may of course come across that with a lever too but foreseeably less often and first of all - it is not the position but the un-natural movement by the thumb that is the obstacle

"on a well designed ... concertina"....that is an even more daring statement. They have looked basically the same for 150 years. Does that prove that the design is perfect? Hardly...most tools, even those which have looked the same for a thousand years will change..sooner or later...often because someone was curious enough to try something different.

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@BW77: I've had experience with both buttons and levers on the air valve.

 

My first concertina was an East German 20-button - the kind with the large, plastic buttons for the notes and the air-valve. I found air management on this instrument quite comfortable and convenient.

 

Then I was free-reedless for a few years, until I obtained an old, single-voiced German Bandoneon. This, of course, had an air lever, as all the Large German Konzertinas do. I found this even more concenient, because the longish lever is at right angles to the player's thumb, so any pressing movement of the thumb connects with the air-valve - there's no need to aim for a small button-top, and your thumb can't slip off the lever. However, the direction of movement of the thumb is the same as with an air-button. I've never had any problem - conceptual or anatomical - with the fact that the thumb, like all the other fingers, moves perpendicular to the end surface of the instrument. You want a note - you press down a button; you want air - you press down a button, or lever, or whatever happens to be there.

 

Again years later, I bought a Stagi 30-button Anglo. Here, I did have a problem with the air-valve. This had nothing to do with the location - it was right under my thumb - but with the height of the button. Before the pad of my thumb had opened the air-valve, the joint of my thumb hit the shoulder of the hand-rest, and I couldn't uitiise the full travel. I solved this by 1. shaving a bit off the hand-rest and 2. fitting a longer button, which I had manufactured myself.

 

At one point, I did consider making a lever out of the handle of an old tea-spoon and attaching it to a pivot on the edge of the action-box, so that it rested on the short air-button, with a bit of packing between to get the necessary height. However, methods 1. and 2. together alleviated the problem.

 

To sum up: a lever is a good idea, because it can make the air-valve easier to hit, and is more comfortable to press than a 6 mm button-top; however, I would want to keep the direction of movement of all buttons consistent, and a sideways movement of the air-valve actuator would introduce an counter-intuitive distinction.

 

The thumb is not the problem. Keyboard players have been pressing down keys with the sides of their thumbs for centuries!

 

Cheers,

John

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Everybody's right for what they themselves experience. But the thread is about the short-of-thumb.

Yes, many people find no problem with ANY air button. But they would if they had short thumbs.

I know because I AM short of thumb, and I've handled lots of concertinas and melodeons.

 

Some melodeons have (big) air buttons and they are fine for me. Some have small levers, and they are fine.

You can move your hands around more on a melodeon, and as Anglo Irishman pointed out above, they don't have a raised hand rest in the way, making you tilt your whole hand, if you need to press the air button and have short thumbs.

 

If you started with a button, and don't have short thumbs, then there's no reason why you would find a lever better.

Like Bruce said above, you might prefer the button. But if you started with a well-made lever, I think you would probably prefer it to a button.

 

If it HAD to be a button, then a nice big, high button, combined with a low hand rest, would be fine for most players, even if they do have short thumbs.

 

Edit: I just had a thought. For new concertinas, maybe a small block, attached to the handrest, would allow for a button that moves left to right, instead of up and down?

Edited by Patrick McMahon

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@BW77: I've had experience with both buttons and levers on the air valve.

 

1.My first concertina was an East German 20-button - the kind with the large, plastic buttons for the notes and the air-valve. I found air management on this instrument quite comfortable and convenient.

 

2.Then I was free-reedless for a few years, until I obtained an old, single-voiced German Bandoneon. This, of course, had an air lever, as all the Large German Konzertinas do. I found this even more convenient, because the longish lever is at right angles to the player's thumb, so any pressing movement of the thumb connects with the air-valve ....., moves perpendicular to the end surface of the instrument.

 

3.Again years later, I bought a Stagi 30-button Anglo. Here, I did have a problem withh te air-valve.

 

4.To sum up: a lever is a good idea, because it can make the air-valve easier to hit, and is more comfortable to press than a 6 mm button-top; however, I would want to keep the direction of movement of all buttons consistent, and a sideways movement of the air-valve actuator would introduce an counter-intuitive distinction.

 

5.The thumb is not the problem. Keyboard players have been pressing down keys with the sides of their thumbs for centuries!

 

Cheers,

John

Very good...I do see your views of it and as always any individual may find a personal preference. Still there may be a good idea finding out what likely is the best general solution

1.One factor causing some problems with the common *Anglos* vs *Germans* like this 20k you say may be the eccentric location of the handbar with the British style instruments, Was this one of those German concertinas having the hand bar right in the middle?

2. Well I agree, but bandoneons are different in many ways. You never play them standing just holding them between your hands. As long as you rest an Anglo on your knee the same way you can have a fairly loose thumb which can work in any direction

3. Maybe since it is "British style" as I said in 1, ?

4. Probably an individual thing depending on how liberated your thumb may be. Quite a number ( most? ) Anglo players do have to use their thumbs for other tasks than manipulating the air button

5. Well...Patrik seems to see it differently....and I want my thumbs to be stabilized by a thumb strap just as the Dipper variant in the Youtube clip above....and then you can't manage a press button at all....

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If it HAD to be a button, then a nice big, high button, combined with a low hand rest, would be fine for most players, even if they do have short thumbs.

 

Edit: I just had a thought. For new concertinas, maybe a small block, attached to the handrest, would allow for a button that moves left to right, instead of up and down?

Low hand rests is another ergonomic problem with Anglos since you have to work in a very uncomfortable locked hand position unless you bend the bellows extremely.

Your block idea sounds interesting!,.... can you visualize it somehow?

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I am attempting to upload some photos of my prototype lever. Not sure I've succeeded??

Afraid not, that's a shortcut rather than the actual image file.

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In response to the question, no, I've nevered tried an Anglo with an air lever. I've never seen one other than in photos. I've owned several concertinas over the years and they all had air buttons, including the three Dippers. As mentioned above, one Anglo I have now has a thumb operated lever instead of a button for the low D drone on the left side and I'm not fond of it. I don't find the lever action convenient or intuitive, but even at that I'm not going to call it a bad design, rather it's just not what I would prefer.

 

I'm not taking the position that a lever-operated air valve is inferior or superior for the design of an Anglo, rather simply saying that I don't think a properly located button-operated air valve is a design mistake.

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