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Anglo-Irishman

Anglo, English, Duet Relationships

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2. The Anglo... it seems that you need to use more-and-more extra buttons which add in missing notes and reversed notes to play really well;

 

I disagree. You do not need more and more buttons to play really well. By that logic, it would be impossible to play a 1 row melodeon or a harmonica well because they have even fewer notes.

 

What the extra buttons give is versatility: a wider range of keys, chords and chord shapes.

 

Play a CG 20 button in G and you have easy access to the I, IV, V chords, II minor, V minor, VI minor, and probably others I can't remember at this time of night. For folk music, that's most of what you need most of the time.

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II major would be needed for some more "modern" tunes (polkas f.i.), but iii minor should be inevitable for an Irish slow air (however, the latter will be available, will it not?).

 

But I absolutely agree re the challenge of limitations and restrictions...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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But seriously, the English leaves nothing to be desired...

That all depends on who is doing the desiring. ;) :)

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Nobody has yet mentioned the Jeffries Duet, which is clearly modeled on an Anglo layout, turned into a workable Duet. Similarly, the Crane and Maccann layouts seem to have been designed by folks using the English Concertina as a starting point.

 

The Hayden Duet (my instrument) has superficial similarities to both. Like the EC it is unisonoric and chromatic. Like the Anglo, it is arranged in horizontal rows, each row with pitches ascending from left to right and lower notes in general on the left side of the instrument.

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But seriously, the English leaves nothing to be desired...

 

That all depends on who is doing the desiring. ;) :)

I can't object to that, Jim. 😎

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If I recall correctly, at least one of those "anglo duet" concertinas has surfaced, and it's an instrument with an anglo core....

 

Aha! Here's an old thread relating thereto.

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Yes, the layout looks tempting...! But seriously, the English leaves nothing to be desired...

 

 

Indeed. Even the "more logical" criterion should usually be described more accurately as "more familiar".

 

Wolf, absolutely, though seeing that those small crane duets are not so expensive, I will try it one day. Anyone has one for sale - let me know, it could be a "fixer-upper", I can restore one myself.

 

Jim, what an excellent point!

Edited by harpomatic

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Nobody has yet mentioned the Jeffries Duet, which is clearly modeled on an Anglo layout, turned into a workable Duet. Similarly, the Crane and Maccann layouts seem to have been designed by folks using the English Concertina as a starting point.

 

The Hayden Duet (my instrument) has superficial similarities to both. Like the EC it is unisonoric and chromatic. Like the Anglo, it is arranged in horizontal rows, each row with pitches ascending from left to right and lower notes in general on the left side of the instrument.

 

All those "duets", including your Hayden, share the characteristics I listed in my previous post. I don't have time right now to compose a proper cross-comparison, so I'll just mention a few details, plus a couple of links to past posts of mine, mainly about the Maccann, but embedded in more general discussions.

 

The Jeffries duet system is definitely based on the anglo. Its core is the "unfolding" of a single-row, single-key anglo into two adjacent rows, one containing the anglo's "push" notes and the other containing the "pull" notes. Two additional rows, bracketing those "core" rows, contain the necessary accidentals to make the instrument fully chromatic. In some instruments, additional buttons on the ends of the rows are used to extend the range.

 

The Crane/Triumph system, described by its author as an "improvement" on the "English", shares three significant characteristics with Wheatstone's original layout: 1) The notes of the diatonic C scale are all contained within the inner columns (as normally pictured)... though three columns instead of two. 2) Every accidental is located directly to the side of one of its musically (or on the piano keyboard) adjacent natural notes. And 3) scales and chords in various keys form similar patterns.

 

The logic behind the Maccann system is multi-layered, but as David notes, appears to have evolved directly from Wheatstone's "English" layout. This is easiest to see if one compares it with Wheatstone's early "duett" (which was not a commercial success). I refer you to two posts in past threads where I discuss the Maccann's "logic". 1) A relatively simple outline of the layered logic. 2) A more detailed discussion of the Maccann layout.

 

A major inspiration of the Hayden layout seems to be the ability to transpose a piece without any change in the pattern of the fingering, though I note that the offset of the paired rows also favors diatonic playing.

 

And there are various other "duet" systems, though mostly rare or even unique. I won't try to list them in detail, though some references can be found in the above-linked threads.

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4. My search for a high-quality, small, lightweight Crane duet continues.

 

How "small" and "lightweight" do you "need"? As I've mentioned elsewhere, my 55-button Lachenal New Model Crane/Triumph is exactly the same weight and size across the ends as my 48-button Crane & Sons.

 

 

 

My 51 button Dipper is 6 5/8 inches AF and weighs more that 4 pounds. My Crane and Sons 42 is 6 1/4 inches AF and weighs less than 3 pounds. The Dipper is a wonderfully dynamic, responsive instrument but I have to rest it on my knee to play. So my ideal would be 6 1/4 inch AF and weighing 2 1/2 pounds or less, but with the playing characteristics of the Dipper.

Edited by Little John

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3. Much depends on what you start with and what you get used to.

 

Indeed. Even the "more logical" criterion should usually be described more accurately as "more familiar".

 

 

 

There's an element of both familiarity and logic here, and perhaps "logical" was not the best word to use. But let me illustrate. A few days ago I learnt Gaudete (just for fun - it's Christmas) in A minor on the Crane. Last night I tried it on my G/D Anglo. It translated surprisingly easily. However ... On the third note the G in the melody is on the G row, but for the sixth note the same G (now in the accompaniment) has to be picked from the D row while the low C has to come from the "accidental" row. Later on (first syllable of "Maria") the D has to be taken from the reversal button in the "accidental" row, even though the same note is in both the G and D rows. Perfectly playable, but for an instrument whose original intention was one row for each key (like a mouth organ), not entirely "logical".

 

Then I tried to play it on my baritone English. I couldn't get through to the end! Even at the third note, when the hand that's played the melody for the first two notes suddenly has to jump to playing the accompaniment (and the other hand vice versa) I stumbled. To my poor brain it was illogical, even though the English layout is entirely logical.

 

Since I'm at least as familiar with the English as with the Anglo, this illustrates that familiarity is important but not everything. My brain is definitely wired for melody-plus-accompaniment and I can't cope with that on the English. If I'd come to the Anglo first I'd have probably stuck with it. Likewise if fate had led me to the Hayden or Maccann I'm sure I would have been content; which answers the part of Anglo-Irishman's question I omitted with my first response. (I'm not so sure about the Jeffries duet, which strikes me as rather random once you get away from the home octave.)

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2. The Anglo... it seems that you need to use more-and-more extra buttons which add in missing notes and reversed notes to play really well;

 

I disagree. You do not need more and more buttons to play really well. By that logic, it would be impossible to play a 1 row melodeon or a harmonica well because they have even fewer notes.

 

What the extra buttons give is versatility: a wider range of keys, chords and chord shapes.

 

 

Mikefule - I entirely agree with you. Poor choice of words on my part. When I said "to play well" I was really thinking "to do the things I want" which, as you say, is versatility.

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4. My search for a high-quality, small, lightweight Crane duet continues.

How "small" and "lightweight" do you "need"? As I've mentioned elsewhere, my 55-button Lachenal New Model Crane/Triumph is exactly the same weight and size across the ends as my 48-button Crane & Sons.

My 51 button Dipper is 6 5/8 inches AF and weighs more that 4 pounds. My Crane and Sons 42 is 6 1/4 inches AF and weighs less than 3 pounds. The Dipper is a wonderfully dynamic, responsive instrument but I have to rest it on my knee to play. So my ideal would be 6 1/4 inch AF and weighing 2 1/2 pounds or less, but with the playing characteristics of the Dipper.

 

And how many buttons?

 

In my experience, a Lachenal New Model in as-new condition is very responsive and dynamic. My own 55-button, ebony-ended New Model Crane is 6-9/16 inches across the flats, has a 6-fold bellows, and weighs 1380 g (just a hair over 3 pounds). So if you could find a New Model with fewer buttons, you might be able to get close to your ideal. I haven't seen or heard of any New Model Cranes with fewer than 55 buttons, but maybe some of our members who are restorers or dealers have? (My suspicion is that Lachenal wouldn't build a top-quality instrument with a lesser range, except as a special order.)

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but for an instrument whose original intention was one row for each key (like a mouth organ), not entirely "logical".

 

 

But was this the original intention? When you look at the key relationships between the rows, on both concertinas and melodeons, it seems to me that once additional rows of buttons were added these were intended from the start to be played as a whole keyboard and not as separate keys. Semi-tone intervals are fully chromatic, fourth and fifth apart provide reversals for most of the notes in the main scales, albeit in different ways. I'm sure these were all the result of deliberate design decisions rather than accident.

 

Coming back on topic, I think the difficulty is that there are very few players who have truly mastered all three types of concertina and who are really able to make a fully-informed judgement of their relative merits. I suspect the real answer is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst they might each favour being played in a particular way, in the hands of a good player almost anything is possible on any system.

Edited by hjcjones

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Coming back on topic, I think the difficulty is that there are very few players who have truly mastered all three types of concertina and who are really able to make a fully-informed judgement of their relative merits. I suspect the real answer is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst they might each favour being played in a particular way, in the hands of a good player almost anything is possible on any system.

 

Very true - we just can (possibly) tell what our resp. "home" system is meaning to or has (presumably) done for us. However, that's more than nothing, isn't it?

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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but for an instrument whose original intention was one row for each key (like a mouth organ), not entirely "logical".

But was this the original intention? When you look at the key relationships between the rows, on both concertinas and melodeons, it seems to me that once additional rows of buttons were added these were intended from the start to be played as a whole keyboard and not as separate keys.

Semantic arguments from differing points of view. I side with LIttle John in this case, since the original "German" (now known as "anglo") concertina only had two rows (or was it just one?). The "added" rows were not "original", and on the "anglo-Chromatic" concertina constituted a significant departure from the pattern of the original (in England) "anglo-German" design.

 

Even on the anglos with more than 20 buttons, those additional buttons/notes seem intended more as added "notes" rather than as added "keys". There's no consistency among the patterns of scales or chords for the keys that become available outside the "original" two.

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4. My search for a high-quality, small, lightweight Crane duet continues.

How "small" and "lightweight" do you "need"? As I've mentioned elsewhere, my 55-button Lachenal New Model Crane/Triumph is exactly the same weight and size across the ends as my 48-button Crane & Sons.

My 51 button Dipper is 6 5/8 inches AF and weighs more that 4 pounds. My Crane and Sons 42 is 6 1/4 inches AF and weighs less than 3 pounds. The Dipper is a wonderfully dynamic, responsive instrument but I have to rest it on my knee to play. So my ideal would be 6 1/4 inch AF and weighing 2 1/2 pounds or less, but with the playing characteristics of the Dipper.

 

And how many buttons?

 

In my experience, a Lachenal New Model in as-new condition is very responsive and dynamic. My own 55-button, ebony-ended New Model Crane is 6-9/16 inches across the flats, has a 6-fold bellows, and weighs 1380 g (just a hair over 3 pounds). So if you could find a New Model with fewer buttons, you might be able to get close to your ideal. I haven't seen or heard of any New Model Cranes with fewer than 55 buttons, but maybe some of our members who are restorers or dealers have? (My suspicion is that Lachenal wouldn't build a top-quality instrument with a lesser range, except as a special order.)

 

 

Your last point is very true - "small" and "top-quality" don't go together for duets; yet that's probably the ideal for today's folk musicians. But your question was "how many buttons"?

 

On my 51 button I've used all but one (top F) at some time or other, but often only for one or two tunes. For all my songs and for the majority of my tunes I don't need that many. So, starting with a 48 button Crane, I reckon you could lose the top three notes from the treble side and the top two accidentals (E flat and F sharp) on the bass side without too much trouble. So that's 43 buttons. I should also confess (and here we're in danger of going off-topic and setting a few hares running) that I have three modified buttons on all my Cranes - one on the right and two on the left - to extend the range down slightly. So a 43 button with those modifications would be perfect for me.

 

I have, in fact, got a 48 button Crabb which, with its aluminium (or alloy) ends and reed frames, is an ounce lighter than the 42 button. It's a good instrument which I use for singing (standing up), but I think it would take a lot of effort (and money) to bring it up to the standard of the Dipper - if it could be done at all.

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...I think the difficulty is that there are very few players who have truly mastered all three types of concertina and who are really able to make a fully-informed judgement of their relative merits.

I don't claim to have "mastered" any of them, not even the English, which is my "main squeeze". But I believe I have enough experience with various anglos, Englishes, a few duet layouts, and other players to make informed judgements. And my judgement is that there is no inherent hierarchy of suitability either for all individuals or all musical genres, nor even for any particular musical genre, though a given individual may find themselves more capable with a particular type of concertina than with the others.

 

I suspect the real answer is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst they might each favour being played in a particular way, in the hands of a good player almost anything is possible on any system.

Absolutely! But I caution that "almost anything" should mean "a style suited to any particular musical genre", and not "any particular arrangement of notes". Different keyboard layouts will often require different detailed arrangements in order to achieve similar "feelings".

 

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Friends,

Thanks for making this thread so interesting!

 

A lot of good points were made, and one of them can be summed up with this post and counter-post:


I suspect the real answer is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst they might each favour being played in a particular way, in the hands of a good player almost anything is possible on any system.


Absolutely! But I caution that "almost anything" should mean "a style suited to any particular musical genre", and not "any particular arrangement of notes". Different keyboard layouts will often require different detailed arrangements in order to achieve similar "feelings".

The proof of this lies in the fact that (apart from a few "multi-concertinists") each of us has found a system that he or she can use to make the kind of music they like. In that respect, it seems to me less important how the real, existing assortment of small, polygonal bellows instruments came about, and more important how each of us made the decision for one system or the other.

Tied in with this is the frequent preferance for the term "familiar" over the term "logical" when comparing one's own ease of playing a given system vs. another system.

 

The question was put whether the Anglo, the EC and the various Duets should be lumped together under the generic term "concertina."

A good question indeed, because what makes two individual instruments qualify for the same name - e.g. mandolin - is the fact that a person who has learnt to play the one can immediately play the other without further tuition. And this is definitely not true of Anglo, EC and Duet. Not even of Maccann, Crane and Hayden duets!

Rüdiger (RAc) provided the key to this by pointing out that guitars are still guitars, even when they are re-tuned in such a way that all the fingering patterns change, and have to be re-learnt. The only significant difference between an EC and a Duet by the same maufacturer is, in fact, the "tuning", i.e. the allocation of fingering positions to notes.

 

Historically, the duet is a late arrival (I know, there was that early Wheatstone "Duett", but it took a while for Prof. Maccann to make a usable instrument of it!) With the German, the English and then the Anglo-German well established, what moved the Maccanns, Butterworths and Haydens of this world to add their duet layouts to the establshd hardware - and what led them to believe that there was a market for a new layout? They must have seen an added value somewhere!

Perhaps we have collectively found the answer to that.

Some of us admit to being unable to connect with the push-pull of the Anglo, with its constant search for alternate fingerings; others say they can't grasp the constantly changing roles of melody and accompaniment between the hands on the EC. The Duet can be perceived as a concertina lacking the "quirkiness" of the established systems (I'm sure we are all in agreement that the Anglo and the EC are each quirky in their own way, compared with pianos and guitars). In a way, of course, the Duets are quirky, too. You can't play a scale in a straight line from left pinkie to right pinkie, like on the Anglo (or the piano); and when you play fast, melodic passages in the treble your left hand can't assist your right, as it can on the EC (or piano). But somehow, I see these peculiarities as less quirky than the Anglo push-pull or the EC left-right.

 

In the end, the music-hall artistes proved the Maccann - and the Salvation Army the Crane/Triumph - to be useful instruments, and both were made in sufficient numbers to give us a wide choice of ways to produce that distinctive concertina sound.

 

Thanks for your contributons,

Cheers,

John

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