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ritonmousquetaire

Duet concertinas - why such a large overlap?

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5 hours ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

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

In "vocal duet style," as you put it, the lower voice is usually the harmonic support for the more exposed, higher voice, so the higher voice has the more elaborate role. The lower voice can provide this harmonic support with a narrower range: if the optimal note would be too high, the note an octave lower can have a similar effect. The fact that most duet systems have a narrower range on the left-hand side than on the right reflects this.

 

Cheers,

John

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

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.

 

At least this doesn't really apply to JSB, as he did not write his music for any instrument A or B or whatever; au contraire there are - as I'm sure you will already know - pieces which can best be let shine by, say, a brass ensemble instead of a keyboard - it's particularly the "Art of Fugue" I have in mind here; similarly the as famous as beautiful Trio Sonatas, written out as pieces for the organ, can gain so much being played by multiple instruments, be it woodwind or bowed or whatever, one for each voice/part, and the experience can then be reintroduced in one's keyboard playing.

 

So I would very much welcome every fellow concertinist (Anglo, English, Duet - whatever) playing Baroque pieces and thereby hopefully expanding the vision of this wonderful music. Some of us are doing this already, starting with rather basic scores or arrangements (and then there are the likes of Adrian Brown and Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne of course...). If one is setting his or her sights high, including complete keyboard scores, I'm eager to listen to the results.

 

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
typo

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Thanks to everybody for the very interesting remarks! I do agree that one does not need to bound himself to the original intent of the instrument, yet it is interesting to understand why an instrument was designed in a particular way. I still wish that duet makers would make them with a greater range - but at least now I understand why they are the way they are.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/17/2018 at 11:22 PM, ritonmousquetaire said:

 

But on small instruments - the 46-keys Hayden layout for instance -, to what extent should the overlap be prioritized over the range?

 

Sorry to join in this rather late, but perhaps I can offer a slightly different perspective. As Anglo-Irishman has illustrated, it's not so much a deliberate prioritisation as a choice of range for each hand. Clearly if you play baroque music from scores you need a pretty extended range (and also a large instrument). For those like me who stick to folk tunes, songs, carols etc. there is less range needed. In my experience the two octaves C4 (middle C) to C6 is adequate for most music (caveat later). This corresponds exactly to the right hand side of a 42 button Crane duet. [Incidentally, I scanned through the first 60 tunes in Playford's Dancing Master and the first 60 tunes in Dave Townsend's English Dance Tune Vol 2. Every single one fitted within that range. In fact 96% fitted within D4 to B5. It may or may not be coincidence that this is the comfortable range of a fiddle and a D whistle.] The caveat is that I know a few tunes, maybe eight or so, that use the B3 one semitone below so to add that would be useful. In fact i think I use that note more than C#4.

 

I suspect that most small duets start at C3, an octave below, because it's rather neat that way - same layout but sounding an octave lower - but a practical consideration is also that lower notes means longer reeds which starts to become difficult in a small instrument. Nevertheless there is an argument for extending the range downwards, and to this extent I agree with ritonmousquetaire's sentiment. It is this: harmonisation of low right hand notes. For example harmonising C4 with an Am chord or D4 with a Bb chord isn't really possible. The bass needs to be extended three semitones to A2 to achieve that.

 

It is conventional wisdom that a range of an octave and a fifth is a minimum requirement for the left hand, in order to be able to produce any triad. This corresponds to the bass of a 48 button Crane - C3 to G4. (The 46 button Hayden is slightly wider, but that's because it's not fully chromatic.) I would suggest that, in light of what I've said in the previous paragraph, a range of A2 to E4 would be more useful overall; though A2 to G4 would be even better, possibly, in order to accommodate it within a small instrument, with some gaps in the accidentals as the Hayden system already has.

 

This is not just theoretical musings. It's what I've discovered over years of playing. My Crane's are all modified to give these downward extensions (B3 on the right and A2 on the left) and I consider them a huge improvement.

Edited by Little John
Changing punctuation for clarity

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Thanks a lot Little John for this very complete analysis - there are several ideas I hadn't thought about here; the explanation for the one octave difference (same layout) is very convincing and answers one of the questions I still had about the 'traditional" duets layouts. Your observations on the necessity of bass notes for harmonization give a nice theoretical argument in favor of a range extension.

 

it's also quite interesting to see that you've decided to adapt your instruments to these ideas. Have you ever tried to "convert" other players to your revised layouts?

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On 7/6/2018 at 11:11 PM, ritonmousquetaire said:

 

it's also quite interesting to see that you've decided to adapt your instruments to these ideas. Have you ever tried to "convert" other players to your revised layouts?

 

Not really. Some people are happy with what they have and others are averse to "messing" with the original design. I approach it from the view that on a Crane there are two buttons in the bass (low C# and Eb) which most players probably never touch, so why not adapt them to something useful? The Hayden 46 doesn't even have those notes (on either hand).

 

My solution would not work for everyone as it involves a couple of "anglo" buttons; but if anyone were inclined to follow my path I would certainly recommend replacing the low C# with a B (if you mainly play tunes) or a Bb (if you mainly play or sing in flat keys). Since I do both I ended up having B on push and Bb on pull.

 

Wolf Molkentin, a member of this forum, has discovered how useful a low B can be on a tenor-treble English "I initially considered soldering a low Bb but then realised in an instant - just with my hands on the keyboard - how greatly the low B would fit with tunes in the very "English" key of G-maj (in both positions [i.e. as the root of B minor or as a first inversion of G major - LJ] as you are mentioning). I couldn't even really warm up to the instrument without having this work done, which I managed to accomplish soon afterwards." Listen to his recording of The South Wind (following Fanny Power).

 

I remember decades ago talking to Tim Laycock (a Crane player like myself) who carried two instruments with him: a 55 button which was his workhorse and a big 65 button for when he needed the low Bb. With this modification he could have managed with one instrument.

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The idea to have a few "anglo" buttons on an otherwhat unisonoric instrument seems excellent to me. An excellent way to compromize between overall playability and extending the range without increasing the instrument's size. Have you made any recordings that feature these modifications of yours?

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1 minute ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

The idea to have a few "anglo" buttons on an otherwhat unisonoric instrument seems excellent to me. An excellent way to compromize between overall playability and extending the range without increasing the instrument's size.

 

This idea has been discussed for the English as well, but to my knowledge Little John is the first concertinist being so bold to actually implementing a thing like that.

 

I could not convince myself that this included "Anglo logic" would fit with my style of playing (albeit I would love to have at least an additional low F# with the treble and a low Bb with the tenor treble), however I wouldn't rule that out for others at all...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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11 hours ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

The idea to have a few "anglo" buttons on an otherwhat unisonoric instrument seems excellent to me.

 

The 65 key Wakker W-H2 Hayden Duet has one bisonoric button (a low Eb/F on the right hand).

 

keyboard%20layout%20H2.jpg

Brian Hayden says he likes the idea.

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19 hours ago, ritonmousquetaire said:

The idea to have a few "anglo" buttons on an otherwhat unisonoric instrument seems excellent to me. An excellent way to compromize between overall playability and extending the range without increasing the instrument's size. Have you made any recordings that feature these modifications of yours?

 

Yes, I have some recordings on Instagram. In fact my first ever post featured low B and low A:

 

I noted at the time that I was using the Dipper because I needed the responsiveness for the bellows reversals, but since the Crabb was fettled I can play it on that too.

 

This is my first recording on the Crabb, which features a low Bb at the halfway point.

 

Here's another recording on the Dipper, featuring low B and low A in the A music. The Dipper doesn't have the low Bb; instead it has a low G which you can hear on the final chord.

 

 

Cheers, LJ

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13 hours ago, David Barnert said:

 

The 65 key Wakker W-H2 Hayden Duet has one bisonoric button (a low Eb/F on the right hand).

 

keyboard%20layout%20H2.jpg

Brian Hayden says he likes the idea.

 

If I understand the nomenclature it's a high Eb/F, which means it's in a very odd position on the keyboard. I suppose it's just to complete the chromatic scale at the top, but I can't help thinking a low F in the normal position would be neater.

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You have it right apparently, Little John:

 

Right hand:

     hayden%2065k%20RH.jpg

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Little John > these recordings are great! The arrangements are nice and the sound of your instruments sound superb. I also have to say I'm jealous of that shelf full of concertinas we can see behind you in the last video 😀

 

About the Wakker W-H2 : interesting to see that this feature was implemented here. I guess this button is to be played with the thumb. The same idea could be used on the low notes of both hands to make the instrument fully chromatic I guess - maybe this could even apply to 46-keys Hayden? David, as a Hayden player, do you feel such a modification would be helpful, or would it make the instrument lose too much of its efficiency?

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The Music Lovers in particular - very nicely done indeed John!

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On 7/12/2018 at 11:23 AM, Little John said:

If I understand the nomenclature it's a high Eb/F, which means it's in a very odd position on the keyboard.

 

Of course you’re right. I’ve never actually seen one, and assumed it was low due to the position of the button, without noticing the octave numbers.

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I think that I would prefer that Eb3/F3 in its normal position just above and to the left of Bb2 although I suppose you are meant to use your thumb to play that key.

 

Then again, Brian has trained his little finger to play independant bass runs on the left hand side so he must have octopus-like hands!

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On 7/12/2018 at 10:30 PM, Wolf Molkentin said:

The Music Lovers in particular - very nicely done indeed John!

 

On 7/12/2018 at 10:19 PM, ritonmousquetaire said:

Little John > these recordings are great! The arrangements are nice and the sound of your instruments sound superb. I also have to say I'm jealous of that shelf full of concertinas we can see behind you in the last video 😀

 

 

Thanks both! Glad you liked them. You can find more on Instagram - search for @craneduet.

 

Ritonmousquetaire - I have to say I'm slightly embarrassed by the shelf full behind me. I never intended to become a "collector" and, in general, I think it better that good instruments should be spread about so that the maximum number of people can enjoy them. So, for what it's worth, here are my excuses ...

 

Besides the Crabb and Dipper Cranes I have a Crane and Sons (Lachenal) 42 button which I do play, although not as much as the others. I could do without that, but it's not worth close to what it cost me and could do with a bit of fettling, so I'll probably just hang on to it.

 

The biggest instrument is a single-action Wheatstone bass I've had for decades. It's not been played that much, but it's so good I've always been reluctant to part with it. It's very responsive and has a lovely bassoon-like tone. Fortunately in recent years it's come into its own - a local West Gallery group have an annual open day when you can join with regular members playing and singing. So I have a week of practising scales and arpeggios then a fun day playing alongside bassoons, a serpent, a bass clarinet or whatever happens to turn up on the day.

 

The other two serious instruments have sentimental value. The Jeffries G/D was given to me by a friend I used to play jazz with. He'd inherited it from his uncle but couldn't get on with it. He was a piano / piano accordion man himself. When I received it it was virtually in two pieces - his nephews had had a tug-of-war with it. I had it restored by Dipper and that kick-started the anglo phase of my concertina playing life, although ultimately I returned to the Crane.

 

The Wheatstone baritone came from my mother's nursing home. She was there only a month before she died but during that time I spotted a hexagonal wooden box decorating a small alcove on a stairway. The home didn't have the key but allowed me to take it away to a locksmith. This beautiful rosewood 48 button baritone emerged. It had belonged to a former resident who had apparently played it with a local morris side. His only relative wanted nothing for it so, at the home's suggestion, I gave a donation to a dementia charity. They wanted to keep the box, which is presumably once again gracing the alcove. If anyone ever opens it they will find a note I left explaining who had owned it and what happened to it.

 

Besides this there are a couple of modern novelty instruments. I suppose the missing part of the story is that I started on English in the days when I didn't know there was any other type of concertina, which is why I'm still able to pick them up and play them with relative ease. Life would have been so much simpler if I'd started on Crane (or maybe Wicki) and just stuck to it!

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