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Jody Kruskal

The Ballad of the Button Box

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Bob Snope from the Button Box store wrote this excellent concertina song. Here I am performing it at the Horsham Folk Club last November.

 

 

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I'm sure Rich Morse is smiling, up in squeezebox heaven!

 

Ken

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"If you can type, then you can play the concertina."

 

Taking a typing class in junior high school certainly hasn't hurt my concertina playing, but...

 

How many folks these days are accomplished typists.  Most of my friends with keyboard-equipped computers are "two-finger typists".  Others only have phones... or maybe tablets.

 

So... is anyone producing a concertina that can be played nicely with just two thumbs?

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2 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

Not a concertina, exactly - but it has got free reeds: the Kalimba!

 

 

Touché!

 

And even simpler (one reed, one thumb or finger):  the jews harp.

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The typing analogy is funny. I often tell folks that the buttons make as much sense as a QUERTY keyboard at first.

 

cdm

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15 hours ago, Halifax said:

the buttons make as much sense as a QUERTY keyboard at first

Yes, or the QWERTZ keyboard that we have in German-speaking countries. It's just as crazy as the QWERTY, but the Z and Y are swapped.

A bit analogous to the difference between the Wheatstone and Jeffries layouts for the 30-button Anglo!

 

Cheers,

John

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22 hours ago, JimLucas said:

"If you can type, then you can play the concertina."

 

Taking a typing class in junior high school certainly hasn't hurt my concertina playing, but...

 

How many folks these days are accomplished typists.  ...

 

When computers came in for us at work I made the effort to learn eight-finger touch-typing, and I'm glad I did. I always felt that playing the Crane duet gave me a head start as I was used to employing all my fingers, and without looking. On the other hand I've only recently come to the smart phone and am still in one-finger mode for typing. I'm not sure I'll ever make the transition to two thumbs - I suspect they've sat idle on the concertina for too many decades now to learn a new role in life.

 

LJ

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I taught myself to type at the age of 11 because my handwriting was already bad, though since then it has continued to get worse and worse. Fairly early in my time of playing the concertina I also had a thesis to type -- twice, once a rough copy for my supervisor to comment on and then again a fair copy to be submitted. I have always believed that those two activites helped each other. I'm not entirely a touch-typist but I do use most of my fingers. I tried Hayden Duet for a bit but missed having an obvious home position, as one has on an Anglo (my usual instrument) and is supposed to have on a typewriter or computer keyboard.

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On 1/17/2019 at 2:22 PM, Richard Mellish said:

"an obvious home position, as one has on an Anglo "

Quite right Richard. Without home, I would be completely lost.

 

I tried to make this ballad arrangement as fancy as I could, thinking it cleaver to show off, while showing up the lyrics for the droll comedy that they are. In performance though, I found that the song just sings itself.

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On 1/17/2019 at 2:22 PM, Richard Mellish said:

I tried Hayden Duet for a bit but missed having an obvious home position

 

I’ve been playing the Hayden for over 30 years and my hands fall into place into what I would call the “home position,” right index and left ring fingers on G. Sure, I have to move around a bit when playing in other keys, but I always know where home is.

 

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” —Robert Frost

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On 2/27/2019 at 8:49 PM, David Barnert said:

my hands fall into place into what I would call the “home position,” right index and left ring fingers on G. Sure, I have to move around a bit when playing in other keys, but I always know where home is.

 

David

 

I am puzzled by your statement because it addresses one aspect of the Hayden system that I have been struggling over.  Hopefully, I am mistaken in my interpretation and you can set me right.

 

Anyhow, I can see that you can have G as the home position for your right index finger, when playing in D and G but this does not work for me in any other keys.  In F and C my right index finger homes over F and my middle finger is usually over G, in Bb the home key would be Eb and my ring finger would be over G, in E and A it would be A plus G natural is not even in these keys!

 

I find this a problem when trying to play from a written score.  Unlike an EC where the same finger is normally used for the same note whatever key the music is in, on a Hayden it seems to me that there are different fingering positions for different pairs of keys.  I have to keep a different mental map of which finger to use for playing each note depending upon which key the piece is in.

 

This is not insurmountable, but I do find that after playing from a score in G for a while it takes me some time to get used to playing in F.   I can often transcribe a score to G, learn it in G, put the score aside and just 'capo' shift the tune into other keys.

 

Hopefully I am missing a key trick that you can teach me because it seems that my home is a mobile home.

 

Don.

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

I have to keep a different mental map of which finger to use for playing each note depending upon which key the piece is in.

 

This is not insurmountable, but I do find that after playing from a score in G for a while it takes me some time to get used to playing in F.

Don,

David did mention that he has to "move around a bit when playing in other keys".

Now, I'm not a Hayden player, but I did study the various duet layouts before deciding for the Crane. And what struck me as the difference was that, whereas the Crane has all the natural notes in the centre three columns and the sharps and flats in the outer columns, the Hayden provides a doh, re, mi ... scale starting on (theoretically) any note.

That means that, to play in another key on the Crane, you have to take different notes from the outside columns; on the Hayden, you have to start on a different note, and employ the same fingering pattern.

I remember thinking at the time that standard notation would be fine for the Crane: you look at the key signature to see how many sharps or flats there are, and you know when to move to the outer columns. The Hayden struck me as being more a case for tonic sol-fa notation: the intervals of the scale are always the same (like for a singer) and the instruction "Key C" or "Key Bb" that precedes the tonic sol-fa notation tells you where to start your scale. I would imagine that, for a Hayden player, "Key F" would be more meaningful than "one flat".

 

On the Crane - as on the piano - "Key F (major)" and "one flat" are practically synonymous.

 

Cheers,

John

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Posted (edited)

John

 

I like your analogy of the Hayden being a bit like a tonic-sol-fa box, that is how I have been treating it, but David's observation has caused me to re-think my approach to be more typewriter-like.

 

 

Edited by Don Taylor

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