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Specials


Alan Day
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Reading the Colin Dipper threads and recalling some past ones.I cannot understand why players want specials.I can understand someone having tiny little fingers or some sort of handicap to need some sort of modification but I cannot think of why there is a requirement to change a system or layout that has created some fantastic players over the years.I can understand a few notes being repositioned, but that is only personal preference and this is only a slight modification to an existing set up or design.Nobody would start ordering a special piano,wind or brass instrument,you would just pick it up or sit down and start playing and learn it as it is. As has been said a special reduces the value of the instrument as it is specifically for you.A concertina with a few reeds in different places can be put back to where they were originally with minimum costs and instruments can be purchased in different keys without detriment to your playing.

I just wonder if you agree.

Al

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Is there a parallel to be drawn with guitar players and the like using different tuning from standard? They can get on very nicely with the normal tuning but the varoius "specials" allow them to play in different styles. Of course the big difference is that is costs nothing to retune a guitar.

If the desire to play the concertina differently (I don't use the word "better" here) is greater than the need to hold onto large amounts of money, then so be it.

 

Edited for typo

Edited by bigsqueezergeezer
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Part of me can certainly see the appeal of experimenting with layouts.

 

But the other side of it is this: for me one of the attractions of the concertina is that each system has its limitations/features/eccentricities, presents its own problems, and its own solutions. And in a way I find that's helpful when making music, because it gives me parameters to work within, which in turn lead me to find new ways of finding satisfactory ways of voicing chords, etc. I'm currently battling with trying to develop some kind of personal style on the Maccann - and am admittedly not really sure where the thing is leading me at the moment - but the appeal for me is mastering the system as it stands, rather than altering it to suit me.

 

It's probably symptomatic of the fact that we've been lucky enough to have (and/or have had) some very accommodating instrument-makers, but I think concertina-players, if not unique, are certainly uncommon in their fondness for either re-inventing or at least thinking about re-inventing their own instrument. But in all seriousness I do sometimes wonder if some of the musical issues that people may try and solve by redesigning, say, the anglo layout, might be just as easily solved by learning a different (and established) fingering system altogether.

 

In my view (and I'm happy for anyone to quibble with the way I express this) all musical instruments are flawed to a greater or lesser extent - after all, Beethoven called his last piano sonata a "farewell to that most unsatisfactory of instruments" - but for me that's what gives them character. If what some view as the holy grail - the "perfect" fingering system, whatever that might be - was ever found, I'd probably lose interest.

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Reading the Colin Dipper threads and recalling some past ones.I cannot understand why players want specials.I can understand someone having tiny little fingers or some sort of handicap to need some sort of modification but I cannot think of why there is a requirement to change a system or layout that has created some fantastic players over the years.

 

(...)

 

I just wonder if you agree.

Al

 

As far as you go, yes, Al. But my impression is that "specials" for some of these makers also includes something like a baritone C/G anglo with standard layout of the notes. Evidently there is not enough demand (or not enough makers) for baritones to be "standard" with all of them. Yet look at the bidding frenzy when a good baritone anglo of traditional construction comes up on Ebay. I envy players of EC who at least have a prospect of getting a Wheatstone or Lachenal baritone someday; I find those baritone Edeophones to be works of art and music. Vintage baritones seem to be rarer than hen's teeth for AC. I would love to commission a baritone, and it seems right now that Morse (who are only in prototype for baritone AC), Wakker, and Tedrow are the choices; IOW, accordion reeds. I can live with that, as you suggest. That's life. The point is just that "specials" may cover unusual ranges in standard layouts, and not just odd layouts.

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Part of me can certainly see the appeal of experimenting with layouts.

There are specials, and there are specials.

Custom keyboard layouts aren't the only thing that can be un-usual.

 

How many guitars have you seen with custom inlay, maybe including the (first) owner's name?

Or 5-string fiddles or basses?

Custom woodwork or fretwork with a standard keyboard is still "special".

So is 12-sided.

Someone with unusually small or large hands might want the rail (hand support bar) repositioned relative to the buttons, and what if that requires changes -- however small -- to the fretwork?

 

Also something like a baritone anglo, or even a G/D is likely to be a "special" for a 1-man or family shop, even if they're listed as established designs, because they're far outnumbered by "standard" orders. For Colin Dipper, who mainly makes anglos, a Crane, Hayden, or Maccann of any size is "special", and I think even a standard treble English would be. (Does anyone know how many Englishes Colin has made?) I know Steve Dickinson has made at least one bass English, but like many other instruments that were once "standard" items, today it qualifies as "special". (So special that he borrowed my own bass to get measurements. If Wheatstone once kept patterns and jigs for a bass, it seems they were gone by the time Steve purchased the company.)

 

Aside from the Hayden, the Franglo, and the less radical innovation of the 24-button Edgley anglo, can anyone tell me of any truly "custom" keyboards that have been built by one of the contemporary makers? I don't count changing a few notes or even adding one or two buttons to a standard anglo.

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Derek, That is something I never even thought of on a EC. For years I played a drone notes on different tunes and songs, just adjusting the fingering to accomodate whichever note is being held (I do it quite a lot actually). It certainly is a compromise in dexterity, but the expense of adding what you discribe...wow!

 

Why not, I guess.

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Aside from the Hayden, the Franglo, and the less radical innovation of the 24-button Edgley anglo, can anyone tell me of any truly "custom" keyboards that have been built by one of the contemporary makers?  I don't count changing a few notes or even adding one or two buttons to a standard anglo.

 

Well, I can. Layout is linked below, built by Bob Tedrow to my design.

 

--Dave

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Aside from the Hayden, the Franglo, and the less radical innovation of the 24-button Edgley anglo, can anyone tell me of any truly "custom" keyboards that have been built by one of the contemporary makers?

Well, I can. Layout is linked below, built by Bob Tedrow to my design.

Thanks for the reminder, Dave. I had forgotten about yours.

The button layout (ignoring the notes) is completely standard, isn't it?

But in the sense of rearranging the notes, it's definitely custom.

And I think the baritone range would qualify it as "special", even without a custom keyboard.

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As has been said, there are specials and Specials!.

 

To me a special is an instrument that is commissioned with some unique features requiring a change in design, like Jim's palm rest example, or the lever operated drones. There are then instuments like the Barry anglos that are not so much specials, but just rare! Finally there are those which are standard instruments 'customised'. For instance:

 

True specials with unique design features or innovations are one or two in a lifetime experiences, my favourite was an English System contrabass with ganged reed chambers set up as organ pipes! so big that it was over 24 inches along its longest axis! Playing that on you lap was quaite a sensual experience!

 

I get to repair an anglo Barry every year or so, less frequently an English piccolo or a miniature. However these are still 'standard' instruments, just not that many were ever made, I suppose a function of demand.

 

Over the last few months I have customised a 42 Key Linolta to make it's accidental rows match the owner's other 42 key instrument of a different manufacture, and I have re-fubished a Crabb (CG) where nearly all the accidentals gave access to more easily playing in the flat Keys, Bb, Eb, F.

 

Clearly the prouction of basic instruments with certain types of 'customisation' such as accidental note alternatives, should be of little consequence to the manufacturer who uses classic concertina reeds, I would think more difficult for those using accordian reeds.

 

I can see that lower demand instruments like the piccolo would need new jigging, take up a lot more time and get in the way of make 'bread and butter' instruments.

 

As for the true unique desgn features, I suppose it depends in if its a modification or a drawing board job.

 

I would suggest that the small scale manufacturer has a living to earn, and is more vulnerable to the cost of mistakes. Bread and butter work must take priority. I know that's what I would do. Anything else is a sink for time and money, frought with risk and a distraction.

 

Dave

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Aside from the Hayden, the Franglo, and the less radical innovation of the 24-button Edgley anglo, can anyone tell me of any truly "custom" keyboards that have been built by one of the contemporary makers?  I don't count changing a few notes or even adding one or two buttons to a standard anglo.

 

Well, I can. Layout is linked below, built by Bob Tedrow to my design.

 

--Dave

 

Bob Tedrow also made a special layout for me, and I am on the Wheatstone waiting list for a similar layout.

 

Jeff Myers

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Hello All,

 

I posted in the other thread wherein I used the word "special" in reference to the concertina I hope to one day receive from the Dippers.

 

Mine is not an altered fingering layout or one-off design. It is simply not an Anglo which Colin considers his "standard" model.

 

Mine will, hopefully, be a treble Edeophone English of Amboyna wood and gold hardware. In our conversations, Colin refers to this instrument as a "special" as it is not the standard Anglo.

 

Hope this helps, at least as far as I understand Colin's classification of my concertina.

 

Be Well,

 

Dan

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To me a special is an instrument that is commissioned with some unique features requiring a change in design, like Jim's palm rest example, or the lever operated drones. There are then instuments like the Barry anglos that are not so much specials, but just rare! Finally there are those which are standard instruments 'customised'.

And what constitutes "special" depends on the maker.

 

"Special" is anything that requires new design, tooling, or setup. For Colin Dipper, a 5-7/8" anglo is not special; it's his standard "County Clare" model. But for almost any other maker it would be special, requiring new jigs and bellows forms, even if they were able to take all the measurements from an existing Dipper. For someone who has only made anglos, any English or duet would be special. As far as I know, none of today's makers has ever built a Crane duet, so that would be a special, even though a standard design.

 

There are also degrees of special.

... 1) Everything standard, except which notes are in which locations.

.. If this can be done with the same size reed frames as in a standard instrument, then there's no extra work, no matter how nonstandard the note placement is.

.. If it requires different-sized reed frames, but no chamber alterations, then that's just some extra care in routing the slots. (If using reeds on plates, rather than in frames, maybe no extra work?)

.. If it involves reeds of radically nonstandard sizes in various locations, it may be necessary to redesign the spacing of the reeds, which could affect not only chamber size and location, but hole/pad size and lever placement.

.. If there's an overall pitch difference -- e.g., an octave lower for a baritone, -- the entire instrument may need to be resized, with separate jigs, fretwork design, etc., and "uncommon" reeds purchased or made.

 

... 2) Some other modification that doesn't require retooling.

.. E.g., a 26-button anglo is just a 30-button anglo with four holes, buttons, levers, and pads omitted.

 

... 3) An addition which is just that... an addition.

.. With some "open" space still available on the reed pan and padboard of a standard anglo, adding a couple of buttons may not require rearranging anything else, except for the new buttonholes in the fretwork.

 

... 4) Special decorative details.

.. Gold plate, inlay, unusual veneer, gold stamping, your name in the fretwork, entirely custom fretwork (koalas & kangaroos, or Persian-style tessellations?)... these all require more or less extra work.

 

... 5) A different shape (Æola, Edeophone, square, "stretched"; has anybody tried making fiddle-shaped ends?).

.. Even just a different size requires not only new jigs and bellows forms, but different-length levers, possibly different-length buttons, and redesign of fretwork (normally the fret holes on larger instruments are not larger, but more numerous; also, while the size/shape of the entire end is different, the size and spacing of the button array isn't).

.. It may or may not be necessary to rearrange the chambers -- and therefor also the levers -- for a different end shape, but at least the lengths of the chambers and chamber walls would be different.

 

... 6) A truly custom keyboard.

.. This would normally require from-scratch design of chamber size and placement, lever size and placement, and at least some of the fretwork details. Depending on the details, it might also require a different-sized instrument.

.. If this is a copy of a historical design (e.g., Linton or Pitt-Taylor keyboard), then a maker might be able to copy the measurements of an existing instrument, but even then new tooling would be required.

 

Even reproducing a prior special has its extra cost. Some parts can be made several-at-once, so the time-cost of making parts for a single special could be as great as that for making several standards, even if all the patterns, jigs, etc. are on hand. And even if the maker charges adequately for the additional time, it would mean serving fewer customers overall.

 

Have I missed anything important?

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As far as I know, none of today's makers has ever built a Crane duet, so that would be a special, even though a standard design.

I didn't know far enough. Colin Dipper tells me that he has made a couple of Cranes... but they would definitely be "specials". He says that he considers even Englishes to be "specials", since he only does a couple of them a year.

 

Have I missed anything important?

I most definitely did.

... 7) Customized internals.

.. Double sets of reeds.

.. Clarionet pipes.

.. Ganged chambers, as described by Dave Elliott.

.. Double-chambered reed pans (a la George Case).

.. Etc.

 

... 8) "Gills" in the bellows (for a single-action instrument).

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