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The Left Thumb, Playing Maccann Or Other Duets


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On Saturday I had opportunity to sit immediately to Jon Boden's left as he played his Maccann, and I noticed that he uses his left thumb to play bass notes in chords, playing a number of different buttons with it and doing so frequently -- it's just another finger as it would be on a piano. I'd never guessed this was something one might do!

 

So I'm curious, is this commonplace on the Maccann and I've just never noticed?

Does anyone do this with Hayden or Crane duets?

Or does Jon just have an oddly long dextrous (er, sinister, to be pedantic) thumb and a unique playing style?

Edited by wayman
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On my 46 button Hayden duet concertina I sometimes use my thumb to play the lower G# and more frequently to play the D#. I do this when I am playing a chord which contains the enharmonic Ab or Eb, I don't do this on my larger Hayden concertina as I have these Abs and Ebs in the place where you would expect to find them, as well as the corresponding G#s and D#s.

I remember Rich Morse telling me that he sometimes played the D# with his thumb when playing in the key of Bb on his 46 button Hayden Duet.

I have developed a very flexible left little finger which is able to roam over many of the buttons on the lower rows so I really don't need to use my left thumb.

 

Inventor.

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On Saturday I had opportunity to sit immediately to Jon Boden's left as he played his Maccann, and I noticed that he uses his left thumb to play bass notes in chords, playing a number of different buttons with it and doing so frequently -- it's just another finger as it would be on a piano. I'd never guessed this was something one might do!

 

So I'm curious, is this commonplace on the Maccann and I've just never noticed?

Does anyone do this with Hayden or Crane duets?

Or does Jon just have an oddly long dextrous (er, sinister, to be pedantic) thumb and a unique playing style?

 

I think the practicality of this would depend on the layout of the instrument, as well as the hands/thumbs of the individual.

 

E.g., on my Jeffries-make Crane, it's the spacing from the hand bar to the farthest buttons which is the same in both hands, not the spacing to the nearest buttons. Thus, with fewer buttons in all, it's a farther reach to the nearest buttons in the left hand than in the right. Combine that with my relatively short thumbs, and I can't even get close to the normal array of buttons with my left thumb, though there is one button (middle-C#) that I can reach with my right thumb.

 

But I have other duets where it's the spacing to the nearest buttons which is the same in both hands.

 

FWIW, that above-mentioned Crane does have a separately located thumb button, positioned like a left-hand air button, which sounds an extra low A, though I personally wish it were placed in its "natural" position in the main array.

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I have relatively short fingers/thumbs, and there is no way my left thumb would be of any practical use to me on my Maccann (Wheatstone, 67-key). The Jeffries duet is a different matter, the left thumb being the "low F# lever" :)

Edited by StuartEstell
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