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ritonmousquetaire

Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

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Hello everybody,

 

in another thread we had a short discussion about the overlap on the duets - I'm always surprised to see how even in small instruments with not many buttons the builders seem to favor the overlap over the range. Looking at the layout of a Stagi 46-keys Hayden concertina [ archive for previous link if it doesn't work] for instance, one can see that both hands share almost a complete octave. While the presence of an overlap is of course understandable - user ocd gave a good explanation here, I have the feeling here that increasing the range of the instrument - which in this case doesn't even have three fully chromatic octaves - should get the priority over the ability to play "high" notes with the left hand. Of course a small overlap is necessary, but in this case, where the instrument is limited in the bass to the C below middle C, is it really a priority for the user to be able to play such a high note as B4 with the left hand? Wouldn't it be better for the left hand to start a little bit lower, say at G2, so the overlap is still present - yet in a reduced form - and to keep a larger overlap for the larger versions of the instrument?

 

I'd be curious to hear the opinion of duet players on the matter. Would you prefer a larger range for your instruments, or do you feel that a large overlap is a better option?

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Ritonmousquetaire,

 

(My apologies! It's me again.) I think that to answer your question one has to take into account the type of music and arrangements that one wants to play.

 

To play baroque keyboard music directly from the standard sheet music, I would like to have an extension of four octaves plus one note:  starting from the second C below middle-C and ending on the second C above middle-C.  I would also like the left hand to go up to the C above middle-C and the right hand to down to the G below middle-C. That makes 67 keys in total: 37 keys on the left side plus  30 on the right hand. I know, it feels strange to have more notes on the left hand side.

 

On the other extreme to play a melody on the right side and bass and chords on the left perhaps one can get away with four octaves or so: two octaves plus one note on the left hand side and two octaves plus one note on the right with no overlap, for a total of 50 keys. On this one, one might be able to play more complicated music by careful arrangements.

 

Layouts in between are possible. I have a second duet concertina (also Maccann/Chidley) with 57 keys, 25 keys on the left hand side and  32 on the right. The left hand side goes to the first C below middle-c and to the first C above middle-c; the right, goes from middle-C to the third G above middle-C.

 

Please take a look at the arrangements by David Cornell.

 

http://www.concertina.com/cornell/

 

Most of the music there fits on the 57 key concertina I described below.  At least on one ocassion he goes down two Gs below middle-C. However, one cannot play Bach directly from the keyboard sheet music.

 

The larger the overlap, the less one has to think about the arrangement, I think.

 

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No need to apologize! I found our discussion in the other thread very interesting and thought that this specific point - the overlap - deserved a thread on its own.

 

The ability to play baroque directly from sheet music on a concertina is sort of the ideal thing to me - I get that an overlap is necessary to reach that goal, considering that on a piano keyboard, the hands are not strictly limited to one side or another. Indeed, having a large overlap naturally offers the players more possibilities, and, as you said, reduce the need to arrange.

 

But on small instruments - the 46-keys Hayden layout for instance -, to what extent should the overlap be prioritized over the range? Isn't not being able to play notes below C3 a greater problem when playing directly from sheet music than not being able to play relatively high notes with the left hand? I get that larger instruments can have both the range and the overlap, but I feel - and that's pure feeling here, I don't have playing experience to back it up, hence this thread - that when having to choose between them, having a larger range - especially in the bass - would allow the player to have less work to do on adapting the lower staff of a regular piano sheet music. Yet on most duets the overlap was chosen over the range, and I still struggle to understand why this was the case, especially on small instruments.

 

In your experience, when playing from sheet music, how do you handle the notes that are too low for your instrument?

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1 hour ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

In your experience, when playing from sheet music, how do you handle the notes that are too low for your instrument?

No note is too low for my concertina 😁.  In baroque keyboard music the lowest note I've found is the second C below middle-C.  I believe that there's no lower note on the Well-tempered Clavier nor on Rameu's work, for example.  Occasionally I have to play with the left hand notes that on a piano (harpsichord, clavichord) would be played with the right hand, as the lowest note on the right hand of my large concertina is the G below middle-C.

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11 hours ago, ocd said:

  I believe that there's no lower note on the Well-tempered Clavier nor on Rameu's work, for example.  Occasionally I have to play with the left hand notes that on a piano (harpsichord, clavichord) would be played with the right hand

'The well-tempered Clavier' was both a wrong answer and a correct answer on Jeopardy last week ! sorry, question, it was both the incorrect and the correct question (to two separate clues), because Jeopardy does everything backwards.

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, nicx66 said:

'The well-tempered Clavier' was both a wrong answer and a correct answer on Jeopardy last week ! sorry, question, it was both the incorrect and the correct question (to two separate clues), because Jeopardy does everything backwards.

 

so one answer presumably was: its preludes and fugues are fitting into the range of a Duet concertina... 😇

 

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
typo and swapping emoticon

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17 hours ago, ocd said:

No note is too low for my concertina 😁.  In baroque keyboard music the lowest note I've found is the second C below middle-C.  I believe that there's no lower note on the Well-tempered Clavier nor on Rameu's work, for example.  Occasionally I have to play with the left hand notes that on a piano (harpsichord, clavichord) would be played with the right hand, as the lowest note on the right hand of my large concertina is the G below middle-C.

 

Of course, I guess you don't feel any limits with your 88-keys duet! But when playing on your 57-keys Maccann, you have to find a way to get around them - or do you keep the direct adaptation of keyboard music for your bigger instruments?

 

I haven't checked the sheet music, but you're probably right about Bach; when playing his music on piano the music rarely - if ever - goes below the second C below middle C. As for Rameau, I know of at least one case where the B below that C has to be played : it's in his Rappel des Oiseaux - one of my favorite pieces on the harpsichord -, in a passage where the descending bass is played in octaves. Have you ever played Rameau's music on the concertina? I'd be curious to hear some records if you have any!

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33 minutes ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

Have you ever played Rameau's music on the concertina? I'd be curious to hear some records if you have any!

 

So would I!

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49 minutes ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

So would I!

I have played with (not really played) "La Poule" which seems to fits the instrument pretty well. But I don't dare yet  play it in public.  (Daquin's "Le coucou" also works pretty well.)

 

And, yes, I reserve the larger concertina for playing from keyboard sheet music.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 6/15/2018 at 11:05 PM, ritonmousquetaire said:

I'd be curious to hear the opinion of duet players on the matter. Would you prefer a larger range for your instruments, or do you feel that a large overlap is a better option?

OK, here's my 2 cents ...

 

1. Philosphically speaking, much as I enjoy and admire Baroque keyboard music, especially that of J.S. Bach, I doubt whether that was the kind of music that Messrs. Maccann, Crane and Hayden had in mind when they developed their duet systems. Certainly the capability to play the entire Baroque keyboard repertoire is not a valid criterion for the success or failure of the systems. If you're looking for an instrument on which you can play that entire repertoire, try the harpsichord! If you can find pieces that fit on your duet concertina, more power to your elbow - I'd like to hear them! But you must always bear in mind that when you play music composed for instrument A on instrument B, though the result may be impressive, compromises and no-go situations will be inevitable.

 

2. Practically speaking, as I see it, the duet concertinas have something to do with the musical term "duet." Most people associate this term with two people singing in harmony, one with a high voice, one with a low voice: e,g, soprano and tenor, tenor and bass, soprano and alto. Consequently, a duet concertina has two "voices": a high voice on the right and a low voice on the left.The offset of an octave between the two has proved useful, and it is convenient (easier to read) to have the same notes an octave apart on the same buttons on each side.

To continue the analogy with vocal duets: Given that an average, trained singer has a range of more or less two octaves, but their bottom notes are not usually an octave apart, a vocal duo will have a lot of overlap. This allows the voices to remain within the same octave, even when the higher voice is getting close to the upper limit of its range. Similarly, when my melody line lies in the upper octave of the right-hand end of my Crane, I like to have my chords or tenor notes in the upper octave on the left - i.e. in the overlap area.

 

To sum up: the presence of the overlap on a duet concertina is not the result of a deliberate decision to provide an overlap. It is rather the consequence of the decisions to pitch the ends an octave apart, and to provide each end with an adequate range. Adequate, that is, for popular songs, SATB hymn-tune arrangements and the like.

 

Cheers,

John

Edited by Anglo-Irishman

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10 minutes ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

If you're looking for an instrument on which you can play that entire repertoire, try the harpsichord!

 

At this place I'd rather consider the reed organ... 🤗

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The harpsichord was actually my first instrument, and I also play the reed organ. When I started playing the concertina - a 20-keys anglo I got by chance - I first attempted to play the pieces I had learnt on the harpsichord. This did not bring me very far, but I did play a rather floppy arrangement of the first part of Rameau's Rappel des Oiseaux, and could also play the first bars of Couperin's Les Barricades Mystérieuses - although I had to transpose it in G to make it fit. Playing baroque music on the concertina isn't my focus anymore - I'm more in oom-pah music now, but since these days I've kept the idea that a concertina with more buttons should also allow me to play these pieces in a more satisfactory manner. But to attain this, range is an essential factor, and I always find it frustrating to see that most duets don't have the range a 56-keys EC or even a basic anglo can attain (although, in the latter case, there are many gaps between the lowest and the highest notes). Though the overlap is necessary, I feel the range should have priority.

 

John, your remarks on the term "duet" are very interesting. I have to admit I hadn't given that much of a thought, but your idea that the real consideration of duet systems designers was to provide two voices pitched an octave apart and that the overlap is simply a consequence of that choice definitely makes sense. Actually, I feel you answered the question I had asked in the title of this thread!😀 Yet, I still have one question : looking at the old duet methods available on the internet, I had the feeling that the left hand was often used in a quite simple way, often providing basic accompaniment to the right hand's melody work. I haven't seen many pieces taking advantage of the "vocal duet" style you mention (though I should maybe have a better look) - do you have any references for duet arrangements using these characteristics?

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As much as one admires the original designers,  the original intent is irrelevant to us.  The designs have flown the coop and we are free to do with them whatever we can get away with.

 

To this point, the anglo concertina was designed for what we call harmonic style: melody on the right, oompah on the left. I am sure that the designers of the Anglo concertina never foresaw, hallucinated, their use in contemporaneous Irish Traditional Music, which many of us play and admire.

 

Bounding oneself by what one imagines their original intent was is, IMHO, silly.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ocd said:

Bounding oneself by what one imagines their original intent was is, IMHO, silly.

 

I strongly agree. This kind of knowledge (or perhaps even imagination) can be of help in certain given circumstances (of course I like the idea of the EC being designed as replacement of the fiddle, inspiring me to rely very much on open fifths and copy some fiddle techniques f.i.), but I would not let it get in my way of developing an individual approach to the instrument. The EC has "pinky rests" on each end, meant for the little (and probably as well ring) finger to hold the instrument in combination with the thumb and thus leaving only two or at the maximum three fingers left and right for pushing the buttons. The idea of "freeing" the pinkies came later, and therewith the chance of playing full-fledged harmonies, even with an extra "bass" note on a tenor treble, thus taking avantage of all the 96 resp. 112 reeds, with up to 48 resp. 56 reeds being ready to sound simultaneously. Maybe the original intent was even a "single-melody" instrument, just as it is used today by many. Anyway, it is perfectly capable of so much more...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

 

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin

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My 52 button Tedrow Hayden spans the range from a low C to the D above the C 3 octaves higher, with a full octave of overlap between the sides.  On the relatively few occasions I tackled baroque pieces with 4 part polyphony, I found that it was usually much easier to finger and make the voices flow when I fingered 2 buttons on the left side and 2 buttons on the right (though not always possible).  If you depress 3 buttons on one side, some difficult positions arise and further, when one note moves and the other 2 stay, you often have to refinger all 3 buttons to continue the melody – not ideal ergonomically or musically.  So that’s another virtue of overlap.

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2 hours ago, ocd said:

To this point, the anglo concertina was designed for what we call harmonic style: melody on the right, oompah on the left. I am sure that the designers of the Anglo concertina never foresaw, hallucinated, their use in contemporaneous Irish Traditional Music, which many of us play and admire.

 

Bounding oneself by what one imagines their original intent was is, IMHO, silly.

I fear I must disagree here!

The button layout of the Anglo - that is, the aspect of it that makes it more suitable for certain types of music than others - was not designed, it was adopted from the German concertina.This is based on the Richter scale, the main virtue of which (apart from giving you twice as many notes as you have buttons) is the ease of harmonisation. Very nifty for parallel thirds, for example, which are played on adjacent buttons in the same bellows direction, but also for bass runs. Oom-pa is no easier on the Anglo than on the Duet, piano or guitar. On the Anglo and related German concertinas, the tonal space is not rigidly divided into a descant and a bass (like on the accordeon), it's a continuum. Lower melody notes frequently lie on the left-hand end, higher harmonies often on the right.

 

So IMHO, what is silly is bounding oneself by ingoring the original intent, and regarding "oom-pa" or single-note melody with a few double stops as the be-all and end-all of Anglo playing. The accordion does "oom-pa" better, and if I'd wanted to play Irish dance music exclusively, I'd have kept my violin going. It's unrivalled for single-line melody - as fast as you like - with a few double stops. But for the odd jig now and again, I can use the same Anglo that I use to accompany my singing or to play instrumental solos. OTOH, I couldn't accompany myself on the fiddle.

 

To me, the Anglo is a very open concept. It offers ease of harmonisation, which you can use whichever way you like - oom-pa, block chords, arpeggios, parallel thirds, bass runs, all in one piece, if you wish to. Or you can exploit the bisonority in melodic mode  by having to move your fingers only half as often as a fiddler or fluter. 

The price of all this is the difficulty of handling different keys. You can't just transpose an arrangement, like you can on the Crane duet - you have to make a new arrangement for the new key. In certain genres of music, this is a major drawback - in other genres it's hardly perceptible.

 

I find the Duet concept equally open. You can do a lot with it, but as with any instrument, there will always be things you can't do quite so well with it.

 

Cheers,

John

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9 minutes ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

So IMHO, what is silly is bounding oneself by ingoring the original intent, and regarding "oom-pa" or single-note melody with a few double stops as the be-all and end-all of Anglo playing.

 

John, I guess next to no one will make such a claim. It's all just about expanding the options IMO...

 

(and I'm saying that contre-coeur here if you will, as I'm always including plenty of harmony myself - or stick to my various recorders...)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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