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Fingers slipping

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Hey, All:

 

My concertina has Delrin buttons and sometimes they seem a little slippery. Or maybe it's my fingertips that are smooth and worn from all the typing I do on the computer? Anyone ever consider using a tiny bit of rosin or something to keep fingers from slipping off buttons during the fast bits? Or is it just me? Are bone and brass also slippery?

 

Thanks.

 

Christine

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It's a bit ironic...Delrin was used (in one design I am aware of) to make sliding a finger off a button easier during fast playing (as a beginner I watched Grey Larsen do it while playing). I've used a concertina with brass buttons and they were sticky to the point of slowing my playing down (hard to do, it's pretty slow already!).

 

Horses for courses, maybe Delrin is too slippery for some.

 

Ken

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Thanks for your reply, Ken.

It occurs to me that I might be playing into the trope: 'tis a poor carpenter who blames her tools.

 

 

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Eh, everyone has different preferences. A left handed carpenter would be perfectly justified in blaming a tool made for right handed people. I haven't personally had issues with delrin, but I prefer larger buttons with domed tops, while other people prefer small buttons with flat tops. You could probably get used to delrin with practice, just as I could probably get used to narrow buttons. But if there are other options out there, like brass buttons that are more sticky, there's no harm in trying them and seeing if they feel better.

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There's not reason to blame the carpenter if he isn't equally happy with small brass keys, wide glass ones, round tops, flat ones, slippery ones, gripping ones. If it were mine, and I perceived that to be a problem,  I'd probably lightly dust the key tops with a green kitchen pad to break the glaze. This should give just a bit more traction without being problematic. Not hard enough to depress the keys, nor to pull them sideways--just lightly across all the tops at once for a few large, light passes. If it doesn't work, stop!

Edited by mdarnton
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I had a concertina with Delrin buttons, and I found them to be too slick for my taste. I have essential tremor, and materials with a bit more purchase work better for me. Thankfully, when I ordered my Kensington from Dana Johnson--who usually uses Delrin--he was able to accommodate me by making some bone ones. (Thanks again Dana!)

 

The bone had a lot of grip at first, but has been polished by my fingers over time. It is still nowhere near as slippery as Delrin, and provides a happy medium between purchase and speed. 

 

I had the same thought as you when I was playing my old instrument, and wondered whether I was blaming the material for my own faults. But I would echo what others have said. If another material suits you better, there is nothing wrong with that. For a lot of people Delrin is probably ideal. That doesn't mean it is ideal for you.

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Interesting thread.  I guess I must have different skin, technique or something.  I am fairly new to the instrument (Anglo), but find the delrin buttons to be just fine. Not slippery to me.  So, I guess I am a dissenter.  🙄

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I suppose playing musical instruments is all about optimisation. it's the player and the instrument together thet make the music, so the optimal interface between them is all-important. In the case of the concertina, that's the button-top and the finger-tip.

 

I think I can generalise in saying that the button-top/finger-tip contact should not be so slippery as to make the finger slip off the button inadvertently. On the other hand, I've found it useful to be able to slide a finger from a button in the outer row of my anglo to the corresponding button in the middle row. This "slippery enough, but not too slippery" is a typical optimisation task that has to be got just right. The parameters that we can alter are the shape of the button-top: flat, lens-shaped, hemispherical ... and the surface: material and texture (rough, smooth ...).

 

What none of us can alter is the parameters of our finger-tips. these are either hard or soft, rough or smooth, greasy or dry. So - optimally - each type of finger-tip should have a particular shape and material of button!

 

Cheers,

John

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1 hour ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

What none of us can alter is the parameters of our finger-tips. these are either hard or soft, rough or smooth, greasy or dry.

Here is a radical suggestion: cut the finger tips of some tight-fitting nitrile gloves, maybe as far as the top knuckle, and use those on the ends of the button fingers.  

 

Maybe the OP should contact the Button Box about her Morse boxes, the action might need adjusting to better suit her needs.

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There are many factors that affect how your fingers deal with buttons.  Most of these can be mitigated by more attention to what your fingers are doing.  If your fingers are slipping off buttons, look at the mechanics of your finger movement.  Personal preferences for Button top shape should help you decide on your instrument of choice, but you are more likely to be able to teach yourself to use an existing Button style / material , than to find a concertina that also has the rest of the playing characteristics needed for good music.  

   Delrin is a strong moderately slippery plastic, it doesn’t bing in the felt lined Button bushings.  Brass, though it is not very slippery,  has the drawback of adding the cap drawing process to the production and the tendency to develop verdegris overtime, which causes increased friction in the bushing felts.  Plated, stainless or nickel silver buttons escape this to a large degree, but are more expensive to make.  Mind you, if you can find a ball point pen maker using a button shape / diameter that appeals to you, it is cheaper to cannabalize a few boxes of pens, or better yet for large manufacturers, buy a short run from the company who makes the caps.  Bone buttons are excellent, but require much more time to produce.  Cows unfortunately don’t have bones made of dowels just the right size.  This is something you pretty much have to do yourself.  ( have had good luck ordering cow bones for dogs on line.  Nice and clean, still cutting blanks with the needed thickness for turning on a lathe,  created a lot of waste.)

    Players need to have some understanding of what makers have to consider.   They should of course, advocate for what they want,  but realize what is involved in their desires.  

Dana

PS. James, hope you are doing well and your family!

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Always a pleasure to read one of Dana's posts. Thanks.

Best wishes and greetings from NH....

David 

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Don and Alex: You two are cute! But while I think your suggestions of finger cots would certainly solve the slipping problem, I do have my dignity to think of!

 

Thanks all who've illuminated this discussion. I am in the queue for a new concertina that has brass buttons. It will be interesting to compare the delrin to the brass to see if the slipping is more of a finger problem and less of a button issue. Thank you, Dana, for the thoughtful post on what makers have to consider when creating buttons.

 

This week, while practicing, I'll try to make a mental note of when my fingers slip. When I'm tired? When I'm not confident of the choreography of the buttons in a tune? When I'm reaching with my pinkie?

 

Again, I've very much enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts, opinions, and suggestions. Y'all are the best.

 

Christine

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Christine: Maybe you could post a video of your hands while playing? That would be much more the basis of a hands on discussion (pun intended, but by no means an attempt to ridicule the issue).

 

Edited by RAc
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Dana raises some interesting issues. I definitely wouldn't advocate making button material a principle factor in a purchasing decision. The difference between buttons is nothing like the difference between a fast instrument with high quality reeds, and a wheezy old Bastari, or the like. It's not even as significant as the difference between two different heights of hand rest. And of course, addressing ones technique will likely pay more dividends than changing button material. But as someone whose hands shake--especially when I'm nervous or on my third cup of coffee--I do believe that little bit of extra purchase has saved me from a flubbed note here and there. That said, I probably didn't fully appreciate the effort that went into turning those bones into buttons.

 

The concertina is in a strange place as instruments go, insomuch as it was designed to be built in factory (albeit perhaps a small one), and now is built exclusively by individual makers (at least in the case of true concertina reeded instruments). Between the range of skills required and the necessary tooling, we are lucky to have as many makers as we do. But that's a subject for another discussion.

 

P.S. Dana - Best to you and yours as well. Wish I could make it down there on the regular again, but life has a way of getting in the way. Still, #35 brings me a lot of joy on a daily basis, so thank you again for that. Cheers.

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Hey Christine,

 

Late to the party on this one but adding my two cents just in case anyone is still dealing with this.

 

I have delrin buttons and also tiny hands so I find myself slipping off the buttons especially on my pinky finger if I am not careful. What has helped me is to concentrate on where my fingers fall on the buttons to slightly increase the amount of skin touching the button for more gripping power.

 

I have received the good advice to play on my fingertips for speed and accuracy and this has helped me a lot. However, I stay on the buttons more easily if I move my finger slightly forward so that the button is in contact with the top of my finger pad. My finger is a little more fleshy there so the button can sink in a little more and has more skin to grip it. 

 

I have attached two pictures to show you how this looks on my hand. The first "finger pad" picture is my finger sitting a little bit forward for more grip and the second "fingertip" picture is my finger on the very tip of the button without the extra grip.

 

Hope this helps (and Merry Christmas!)

Erica

finger pad.jpg

fingertip.jpg

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You could try a spray product like Cramer Firm Grip on your fingers.  I wouldn't use anything like rosin or chalk that might drop into the concertina and cause problems.

 

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