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Aldon Sanders

Best duet system for SATB hymn playing?

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Hi. It's been several years since I've been by this forum.  During the time I've been gone I played my 64 button Wheatstone English in a group that specializes in American music of the 1850s. It was fun but not very profitable. 

 

My regular gig is as an ukulele soloist and since this is my off season I've been enjoying reading through tune books on my English. I've also been playing out of a hymnbook for the 2 part (sometimes 3 part) harmonic arrangements.

 

What I really want to do is read through SATB hymn arrangements and play them straight off the dots with the full harmony. That lead me to thinking about duet concertinas.

 

Do any of the duet systems allow for playing straight off of the piano score without having to adapt the piece to fit the system?

 

If not, what system would be the most appropriate?

 

Thanks for your time & insights,

Aldon Sanders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Aldon Sanders

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A (larger) Crane would certainly be a good bet as the SA seems to have used instruments for that purpose, and from my limited experience it‘s very well possible (as it has a reoccurring pattern in the button layout).

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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Thank you Wolf.

 

I'll research the larger Cranes' note chart. A larger instrument makes sense because of the need for the chromatics. Many hymns are in Db and Ab and I'd really love to play them straight off the dots and have some sense of organization.

 

(I have looked at the layout of the basic SA Triumph, hoping they were on to something, but saw how haphazzard the notes were. Several key notes were missing on the LH, and according to the chart I saw the button layout for the RH is also 'upsidedown', with the higher notes toward the handstrap and the lower notes on top! Hopefully the Crane will be a better fit.)

 

Thanks again.

Aldon 

 

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3 hours ago, Aldon Sanders said:

 

I'll research the larger Cranes' note chart. A larger instrument makes sense because of the need for the chromatics.

 

All Cranes are pretty well chromatic, regardless of size.

 

Quote

Many hymns are in Db and Ab and I'd really love to play them straight off the dots and have some sense of organization.

 

Db? I think that would be difficult on most concertinas! Do you mean Eb?

 

Quote

(I have looked at the layout of the basic SA Triumph, hoping they were on to something, but saw how haphazzard the notes were. Several key notes were missing on the LH, and according to the chart I saw the button layout for the RH is also 'upsidedown', with the higher notes toward the handstrap and the lower notes on top! Hopefully the Crane will be a better fit.)

 

"Triumph" is just the Salvation Army's name for Crane. The systems are identical. Not sure what layout you were looking at, but it doesn't sound like either Crane/Triumph or Maccann (which is, in my view at least, somewhat haphazard). Neither has an upside-down RH.

 

By it's nature, once you extend beyond a standard 55 button Crane the notes start to get a bit haphazard, particularly on the bass where you end up with breaks in the main sequence, outliers in a sixth column and a note on the LH thumb; but I guess you can get used to these. Follow Wolf's link in the previous post to view some examples.

 

LJ

Edited by Little John

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"I have looked at the layout of the basic SA Triumph, hoping they were on to something, but saw how haphazzard the notes were." 

This was my observation as well, and for this reason I chose a "large" 52 key Hayden, specifically a Morse Beaumont. It's schema is entirely regular and fully chromatic and allows playing in Eb and Ab, though not with the convenience of the simple pattern which is common the keys of A, Bb, C, D, E (almost), F, and G whose scales all follow the exact same pattern. 

 

The largest available Hayden, from the Concertina Connection, extends the unified basic scale pattern to Ab and Eb, and removes the "almost" from E. 

 

Since the Hayden system is quite recent, there aren't fine historical instruments available as for McCann and Craine/Triumph, and hybred construction is common until you reach the very finest levels of Haydendom. And, of course, the irregular fingering patterns of the older systems hasn't prevented the duet players of the last century from doing exactly what you plan to accomplish!

Daniel 

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I have a larger Crane and enjoy playing hymns on that. It works OK directly from the music but sometimes the base can overpower the tune. My Crane (67 button) goes down to the E flat 1.5 octaves below middle C, so can pick up all the lower base lines. Alternatively the low base notes can be raised an octave which also works satisfactorily.

 

Hope you find a good instrument - whether Crane or Hayden.

 

Regards

Peter

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13 hours ago, Peter Smith said:

I have a larger Crane and enjoy playing hymns on that. It works OK directly from the music but sometimes the base can overpower the tune. My Crane (67 button) goes down to the E flat 1.5 octaves below middle C, so can pick up all the lower base lines. Alternatively the low base notes can be raised an octave which also works satisfactorily.

 

I refrained from commenting on this aspect earlier since the OP specifically wanted to play SATB directly from the score. But in truth, all four parts continuously can be really thick sounding and bass heavy, as you say. My preferred approach is to play the tune on the right hand and to respect the general harmonic intent with the left hand, using generally two notes (on the LH hand, that is, so three notes in total); occasionally just one LH note in passing but often three for the final chord.

 

That works for me on an Crane going down to A2 (an octave and three semitones below middle C). But then I tend to play by ear, not from the dots.

 

LJ

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Brian Hayden does just what you’re asking on his Hayden duets. He plays up to six voices. I’ve never heard him do it. My Hayden (46 buttons) has an octave below middle C as the low note, which isn’t low enough for most bass parts.

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Might be an idea to enquire of Harry Lowery (of Yesterday's Men) what he thinks as I know that he does a fair amount of hymn playing on both English and Maccan systems.

 

Robin Madge

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22 hours ago, David Barnert said:

My Hayden (46 buttons) has an octave below middle C as the low note, which isn’t low enough for most bass parts.

 

Larger Cranes will regularly go down to the F below (my Crabb being fully chromatic from A upwards, and has the G below as well).

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Thank you all for your thoughtful replies!

 

I've taken a look at the current prices of Crane duets and noticed how steep they are. They also seem rather rare.

 

The Hayden systems that I found were either low-end or way out of my price range.

 

I played EC at church on a couple of hymns the last two Sundays. I conduct the orchestra (a very small orchestra) and used the EC as a solo instrument for intros. I play the soprano & alto parts straight off the piano chart and only add the tenor harmony as needed or if the opportunity arises. It's been working well.

 

I think the EC will fill my needs for now, but I still want a duet!

 

 

 

Edited by Aldon Sanders

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Oh, and I forgot to mention,

 the duet that has the right hand notes upside-down is the Jeffries Duet. 

 

If anyone can explain the logic of why an upside-down right hand keyboard might be beneficial I'd appreciate the input. Also, can anyone explain the thinking/logic behind the button layout on the Jeffries duet?  It makes my head spin.

 

 

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On 2/19/2019 at 8:47 AM, Aldon Sanders said:

can anyone explain the thinking/logic behind the button layout on the Jeffries duet?  It makes my head spin.

 

Brian Hayden seems to have started his developing the Hayden Duet layout from this point... 😎

 

(the Jeffries is basically an Anglo converted to unisonoric I think - but we have devoted players here who might reply more insightfully)

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
typo

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On 2/19/2019 at 2:47 AM, Aldon Sanders said:

Also, can anyone explain the thinking/logic behind the button layout on the Jeffries duet?  It makes my head spin.

 

On 2/19/2019 at 3:47 AM, Wolf Molkentin said:

(the Jeffries is basically an Anglo converted to unisonoric I think - but we have devoted players here you might reply more insightfully)

 

Speaking as one who has never attempted to play a Jeffries Duet, but once asked the late, great Nick Robertshaw how it was arranged, what he told me was that it was basically an Anglo with alternating rows of unisonoric buttons representing the push and pull notes of the rows of bisonoric buttons on an Anglo. Twice as many buttons, making every note an Anglo can play available on both the push and pull.

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And, even though it's Bisonoric, didn't the Chemnitzer and Bandoneon evolve so that the same notes were available on either push or pull?  It's a stretch to the topic but there are lots of instances of keyboard works being played on Bandoneon.  Some might consider it from the concertina family.  Just something to consider as you explore.  There are unisonoric Bandoneons, too.  So many free-reeds, so little time!

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5 hours ago, saguaro_squeezer said:

Bandoneon.  Some might consider it from the concertina family.  Just something to consider as you explore.  There are unisonoric Bandoneons, too.

Yes, the Bannoneon is definitely a member of the German branch of the concertina family.

The core of its button layout is the same pair of rows in Richter scale, a fifth apart, that was the "German" contribution to the "Anglo-German" concertina. As we know, the 20-button Anglo-German concertina in England was enhanced by adding buttons - some of them providing the missing sharps and flats, but others providing alternate fingerings, which allow phrases to be played in one bellows direction that on a strictly Richter instrument would require bellows changes. On the Anglo, this enhancement was taken a step farther by increasing the number of buttons up to 40.

The development of the large, square German Konzertina into the Carlsfelder, Chemnitzer and Bandoneon (Rheinische) models took a similar route, but bear in mind that even the smallest Bandoneons have over 50 buttons, so more alternate fingerings are possible. The typical tango Bandoneon has 72 buttons (144 tones), so it's no wonder that Argentinian Bandoneonistas can, and often prefer to, play whole melody lines on the draw.   

The "Anglo-" contribution to the Anglo-German concertina was the physical construction of the small, hexagonal box, which limits the number of buttons to 50 at the most, which is the absolute lower limit for Bandoneon keyboards. To counterbalance this, the small, light Anglo lends itself to quick bellows reversals, whereas the sheer mass of the much larger Bandoneon makes it less agile in this respect, making alternate fingerings more necessary.

 

Are unisonoric "Bandoneons" really Bandoneons? As a musician and a linguist, I would tend to say "No." The term "Bandoneon" originally implied a specific button arrangement, patented by a certain Herr Band from Krefeld in the Rhineland (hence the alternate term "rheinische Stimmlage"),.and differentiated the instrument from the  Carlsfelder and Chemnitzer Konzertinas, which are practically identical in shape, size and construction. There's an analogy to the English unisonoric Duets, where "Maccann," "Crane" and "Hayden" are differentiated only by button arrangement, and share the same construction and musical capabilities.

The Jeffries duet is an interesting case in point: from what I've read, it's an attempt to make the familiar Anglo layout unisonoric, so as to make any combination of  notes playable in the same bellows direction. But we don't term this instrument a "unisonoric Anglo;" we call it a (Jeffries) Duet. For me, this is analogous to the "unisonoric Bandoneon;" it, too, reatains certain features of the traditional Bandoneon, while removing the "press/draw" dilemma. So, in analogy to the "Jeffries Duet," we should strictly speaking refer to it as a "large, German duet Konzertina." It has no more in common with the Bandoneon than it has with the Carlsfelder or Chemnitzer Konzertinas. So why don't we drop the word "Bandoneon" from its name?

 

The linguist knows that a word has a definition - but that it also has a so-called "semantic aura." We define "concertina" as "a free-reed, hand-held, bellows-driven instrument whose left and right ends form a continuous (perhaps overlapping) range of single notes arranged according to a common system" (as opposed to the accordion, which typically has the right- and left-hand buttons arranged according to different systems, with notes on the right and chords on the left.) The "semantic aura" of the word "concertina," however, also includes small size, polygonal shape, and a thin, piercing, timbre from single reeds with no "beating".

The semantic aura of the Bandoneon has come to include the dry-octave tuning of its double reeds, which is what gives the Argentinian tango its characteristic "sound." This evocative timbre is much sought-after by accordionists, and some accordions have an appropriate register built in. But for the tango, all that is needed is the dry-octave timbre, and the (concertina-style) single-note left hand, so someone hit on the idea of making this sound avaliable to musicians who are familiar with the CBA. 

 

This move is not new: in the banjo world, we have the guitar-banjo.  At a time when the banjo was mega-cool (because it could hold its own acoustically against the brass of a jazz-band), guitarists wanted that volume and penetration, too, but didn't want to learn the totally different fingering of the traditional 5-string or plectrum banjo. So banjo bodies with six strings in guitar tuning were produced. To this day, serious Bluegrass, Old-Time, Jazz and Classic banjoists are reluctant to accept the guitar-banjo as a "real" banjo. It looks sort of banjo-ish, and the timber is similar, but the musical capabilities (and limitations) are different. As an Anglo concertinist and 5-string banjoist, I see the "unisonoric Bandoneon" in a similar light.

 

Cheers,

John

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On 2/19/2019 at 2:47 AM, Aldon Sanders said:

Oh, and I forgot to mention,

 the duet that has the right hand notes upside-down is the Jeffries Duet. 

 

If anyone can explain the logic of why an upside-down right hand keyboard might be beneficial I'd appreciate the input. Also, can anyone explain the thinking/logic behind the button layout on the Jeffries duet?  It makes my head spin.

 

 

 

As an evolving Jeff duet player I think I can make these observations:

 

-I think much of the confusion comes from a demand or expectation of a visual logic as the premise and anchor for play easily derivable from the written score.  The  visual aspect is indeed present with the Jeff duet but it is less regimented and more subtle than with the other systems.  It seems to be set up more to facilitate the hand/ear/brain feedback loop. The visual step is not essential but is more of an "app" if you will.  This would be true even if the buttons were scattered at random over the two faces of the instrument.  From this point of view, it is more difficult to learn from the dots.  As one plays the instrument into the brain the physical location of the notes becomes second nature, the "hand aspect" withdraws from the feedback loop and becomes more or less an actuator for the wishes of the brain.  Interestingly,  composition seems to be a fantastic learning tool at the early stage while the concertina is singing to the brain.

 

-The left and right hands are "topsy turvy"  only if you are imposing the visual logic of other systems.  The Jeff is arranged in a fan shape with the core scale running left to right in the two middle rows.  sharps and flats are (for the most part) in the upper rows on both sides.  It's much easier and quicker to extend the fingers up than to scrunch and crowd them down and in.  The bottom rows are therefore the extremes of the range plus some less frequently played notes and handy "extras".  Again, the Jeff is built to accommodate the hand in preference to the eye. 

 

-You can certainly play the Jeffries duet from a musical score, perhaps it's even "handier" in the long run.  It's just a little more difficult to start from there than with other systems.  I'd encourage anyone to consider this system.  

Edited by wunks
syntax, addition
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