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Yes thanks - I'll try to contact him and invite him/anyone interested, to our Facebook group, Concertina Technology, regarding the (MIDI also) Concertina Nova project.

English-type concertina for a start, but other types later if things go as hoped.

That group is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1771580879534725/?ref=group_browse_new 

We're hoping to have a prototype within a few months (2Q 2019) if the builder has spare time to do the work. He's busy with s house move and his job at the moment.

The design specification aims to produce a totally self-contained (wireless, with battery and speakers contained in it) but with USB socket for loading with any desired .WAV sounds) 

It's not a commercial product, just a collaboration between me (Bruce Thomson, concept and specifications) and the technologist (Nguyenvy Ngo in Vietnam)

 

Hoping the price of it will be about $US450.

 

Concertina Nova logo.png

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A maccann duet version, with different sounds for left and right hand ends, would be my idea of heaven!

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I embarked upon a midi concertina project a while back and eventually gave up when I concluded that I could not build a reasonably usable (to my mind) midi concertina without making a traditional action board and a proper set of bellows.   I felt that this constituted about 2/3rds the cost (time or money) of making a real concertina so I abandoned the idea.  It would be relatively easy to make a crude concertina-like device, but it is hard to make something that feels like a real concertina.

 

The only successful midi concertinas that I know about were ones that were made by taking an existing vintage concertina whose reeds were wrecked and converting that to a midi concertina.

 

I have a box of various parts (all sorts of buttons, Arduinos, pressure sensors) that I would be happy to give to somebody else if they want to have a go.  Please PM me if you want these parts.

 

The search for a midi concertina sound font led me on an 'archeological dig' through some old Macintosh files created by Phil Taylor (he of Barfly fame) which I re-packaged as a .zip file and made available through my Dropbox.  I do use the sound font almost everyday, I have it plugged into Musescore and find it very nice to be able to play scores (including abc files) with a pretty good concertina sound.  You can access this from the link in my signature file below.

 

Don.

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Although I've done a fair amount of electronics on and off for about 60 years I'm very dubious of my ability to build a midi concertina from scratch but I would certainly be in the market for a kit or a detailed construction guide. Personally I don't see a need for bellows actually passing air in and out: I would be quite happy with a simple system for sensing the inward or outward force and using that to determine the push or pull note for each button and the volume, with the advantage of obviating the problem of sometimes running out of air. That was a bone of contention when I discussed the ideas with Steve Simpson after I had had a brief twiddle on a prototype that he had built: he considered real bellows essential. I enjoyed being able to use familiar anglo fingering to play a Carolan tune with the sounds of a harp, but it goes much further; the sound of any instrument you choose and in any key.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Richard Mellish said:

Personally I don't see a need for bellows actually passing air in and out: I would be quite happy with a simple system for sensing the inward or outward force and using that to determine the push or pull note for each button and the volume, with the advantage of obviating the problem of sometimes running out of air. That was a bone of contention when I discussed the ideas with Steve Simpson after I had had a brief twiddle on a prototype that he had built: he considered real bellows essential. I enjoyed being able to use familiar anglo fingering to play a Carolan tune with the sounds of a harp, but it goes much further; the sound of any instrument you choose and in any key.

I built my first version of the MIDI concertina in 1990.  Whilst the first version had bellows and mechanical switches for the buttons, I realised several things which I implemented in later versions:

 

- Mechanical switches were too unreliable - I eventually exchanged these for optical switches - each one being separately setup since a common setup circuity didn't work and was difficult to configure - the need for independent optical switch increased the complexity of the circuitry and cost, but it was much easier to configure.

 

- Using bellows movement is an essential part of concertina playing, without which playing the MIDI concertina becomes a life-less experience with no expression.  Sensing bellows movement is also vital in any MIDI Anglo variant.  Wishing to emulate a traditional concertina I implemented a pressure sensing mechanism that worked to provide bellows dynamics - this worked well, but was difficult to calibrate - and each bellows I tried on the bench required a different setup.  I did get this working and a later prototype did successfully demonstrate the behaviour of bellows pressure changes and its effect on the volume and pitch (pitch bend was a surprising side effect).

 

In the years 1990-1994, I demonstrated both EC and Anglo variants in their various prototypes stages on a number of occasions to concertina meetings at various festivals (eg Sidmouth) and it was not received well.  In the early 1990s there was clearly little interest or appetite for an electronic concertina.

 

I could write a whole book on my experiences on developing the MIDI concertina (and MIDI melodeon).  Having spent an inordinate amount of time with significant financial outlay, I shelved all plans for the MIDI 'tina.  Sadly though the story doesn't end well, and I've now converted back the digital 'tinas to analogue.

Edited by SteveS
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I remember trying one of your prototypes at a West Country concertina players weekend. This would have been in March about 1990 according to my memory, but I am open to correction on the year.  I thought it was good fun to try, but was not in a position to buy at that time.  I did wonder what had happened to the project as I did not see you at the same event in later years.

 

Regards

 

John Wild.

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3 hours ago, SteveS said:

Using bellows movement is an essential part of concertina playing, without which playing the MIDI concertina becomes a life-less experience with no expression.

 

This is very true IMO, as long as performance and enjoyment is targeted. As for myself, I would not be willing to replace my acoustic tinas with electronic ones anyway, at best a MIDI concertina could be supplement in order to either experiment with different sounds and processing or have a convenient device for practising quietly or in unfavourable (f.i. wet and/or salty) environments I reckon (but of course preferences may vary a lot)...

 

However, the technical aspects are interesting in any event...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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3 hours ago, SteveS said:

In the years 1990-1994, I demonstrated both EC and Anglo variants in their various prototypes stages on a number of occasions to concertina meetings at various festivals (eg Sidmouth) and it was not received well.  In the early 1990s there was clearly little interest or appetite for an electronic concertina.

 

I could write a whole book on my experiences on developing the MIDI concertina (and MIDI melodeon).  Having spent an inordinate amount of time with significant financial outlay, I shelved all plans for the MIDI 'tina.  Sadly though the story doesn't end well, and I've now converted back the digital 'tinas to analogue.

 

well, maybe this helps to understand some of the resistance against MIDI concertinas played in a folk environment:

 

I'm digital by profession but analogue by passion. My job is to develop Embedded firmware, specializing on Machine to Machine communication. This is farily technical; I do my share of debugging with an oscillscope, and I'm familiar with most current digital technologies (I can crank out something like the purely digital concertina I recently programmed without a lot of effort). I truly love my job. If there was any value for me in such a project, I could help with the Software side of such a project and come up with a fairly decent solution quite fast.

 

Yet I don't want the rest of my life to be dominated by something that requires electrical power, to a high degree *because* I am very familiar with and aware of its potential for abuse, misuse and overuse. I  refuse to participate in so-called social networks, my access control system is a good old metal key, I'll never invite anything called Alexa or her facefriends in my life, and any gadget named something with "Smart" in it doesn't have any business in a house I'll ever live in. I could write my own book about the naïveté with which people sacrifice very delicate and intimate personal freedoms to modern technology and its luring conveniences (and as a side effect help destroy our planet through useless waste of electric energy, but that's a different story).

 

Thus I don't have much use for digital music. I have a few electric powered music tools (metronome, digital tuner, a virtual concertina on a tablet and a few pieces of software that help with printed music), but those are but aids to help me become better in playing good old analogous instruments of good old natural materials (wood,leather,paper and metal). I use the ETools exclusively at home so that I can interact better with other musicians as soon as there is more than one instrumentalist involved.

 

There is something in the experience of playing real hand made music (even better: for real human dancers) that refuses to become sucked into the digital borg. It's still genuinely human in very many respects, highly interactive and leaves space for things that are automatized away by the algorithmic world we choose to live in. Things like space to make errors, doing irrational activities for the pure fun of it, be part of a choreography that has a lot of beauty without being judged on a scale from 1 to x, provide a play ground to experiment with wild ideas and so on.

 

I like the musical experience being that way. Mainstream music (99% of what is publicly successful and played in public) is streamlined, pre-and postprocessed, industrialized, tailored to marketing manipulated "market demands," predominantly a vehicle to increase company profits and more and more generated without the participation of humans or acoustic instruments. To my ears it's no fun to listen to. Why play a concertina you can by the flip of a switch make sound like a trombone? If I wanted something to sound like a trombone, I'd play a trombone. If I wanted something to sound like another instrument without being another instrument, I'd play a MDI keyboard.

 

Although there is a reasonable space for digitally supported musical instruments in predominantly acoustic environments (a case that springs to mind is electronic bag pipes which allow the player to practice without affecting neighbors and family members), I prefer the "public" folk world to be the oasis it is and thus feel very uncomfortable with electronic instruments of any kind (even electric basses for which there are very valid arguments) in it.

 

Concertinas belong to the niche instruments whose domain *is* the folk world. There are some instances of concertinas being used in other contexts (for example, Stefan's Rock'n'Roll concertina is a very interesting and intriguing crossover which I don't object to because its target realm already is fairly electronic to begin with, so it's taking the concertina into the electronic world instead of vice versa), but most people, I believe, take up concertina playing to be part of the folk (and thus old fashioned analogue) world.

 

I believe (hope?) to be in agreement with a good percentage of other members of the folk community in this respect. Therefore I do not believe there is much reward for an individual putting a lot of work into such a project (unless of course the work is predominantly done for oneself and afterwards shared to other interested people as in my case). I personally prefer to spend my spare time practicing on real concertinas than working on artificial ones, even though the sounds I could generate on the latter ones may sound much "better" (which wouldn't be due to my mastering them, though, but thanks to the algorithms preprogrammed into them).

 

This is not to criticize you or your work, just an attempt to explain why it isn't very likely to catch on (even less as electronics capture more and more of our daily lives).

 

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22 hours ago, RAc said:

Why play a concertina you can by the flip of a switch make sound like a trombone? If I wanted something to sound like a trombone, I'd play a trombone. If I wanted something to sound like another instrument without being another instrument, I'd play a MDI keyboard.

I thought I had posted a reply just to that bit, but it seems not to have taken so I'm trying again.

Learning to play trombone (or harp, or whatever) takes a lot of time and effort. Playing a MIDI keyboard is exactly what we're discussing, but off-the-shelf MIDI keyboards are laid out like pianos. I can play a concertina much better than I can play a piano, so I would like a MIDI keyboard that is laid out like a concertina. That implies some differences besides the layout. Loudness needs to depend on the force applied to the ends rather than on the speed with which the buttons are pressed, and of course for the anglo system each button needs to produce two different notes according to the inward or outward direction of the force. But that's all. I don't need a flow of air in and out of real bellows, so I don't need levers and pads attached to the buttons.

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1 hour ago, Richard Mellish said:

Learning to play trombone (or harp, or whatever) takes a lot of time and effort.

 

You certainly have a point here - however it’s not about playing concertina then...

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On 3/16/2019 at 12:34 PM, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

You certainly have a point here - however it’s not about playing concertina then...

Correct! It's about playing a keyboard driving a synthesiser (separate or built in), just like lots of musicians do, except that the keyboard would be based on a concertina for the convenience of players of real concertinas. There can be various reasons for wanting such a keyboard, and it would be closer to the real thing in feel than a pure software interface on a touch screen.

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33 minutes ago, Richard Mellish said:

...such a keyboard, and it would be closer to the real thing in feel than a pure software interface on a touch screen.

 

I don't think anybody's pawning off one against the other, or am I wrong?

 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Richard Mellish said:

Correct! It's about playing a keyboard driving a synthesiser (separate or built in), just like lots of musicians do, except that the keyboard would be based on a concertina for the convenience of players of real concertinas. There can be various reasons for wanting such a keyboard, and it would be closer to the real thing in feel than a pure software interface on a touch screen.

On reflection, what I found when I demonstrated the MIDI concertina was that there was an apparent lack of appreciation or understanding for the ability and versatility the MIDI concertina offered as a MIDI input device.  The MIDI concertina is not about replacing the traditional concertina, but is intended as a supplement to it.  I play concertina, and not keyboard at the time of developing my original prototypes.  MIDI was a world of possibility that was lost to me as a  concertina player.  I saw the MIDI controller concertina as a means to explore the world of MIDI and alternative sounds without the need to master the keyboard, or other input device.

The concertina as an input device has a number benefits deriving from its physical design.  The ability to not just indicate which MIDI notes are to be played, but also the ability to bend pitch and control volume I demonstrated to great effect.  The ability to assign keyboard note patterns, keyboard splits, left/right side difference effects (on EC), and multi-instrument part playing (EC and Anglo), were all fun to experiment with.  I was even experimenting with key velocity effects, since the way I'd constructed the optical switches allowed this feature.

Edited by SteveS
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I think that this is the midi concertina referred to in the first post of this thread:

 

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I had a midi built from a shell by Chris Algar and constructed at Accordion Magic in the UK. I do not use it a great deal but it is fun to play a violin and dozens of other instruments on a concertina but also to transpose from a treble concertina to a baritone etc. Paul Hardy also has one of these instruments.

  

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On 3/19/2019 at 2:18 PM, jggunn said:

I had a midi built from a shell by Chris Algar and constructed at Accordion Magic in the UK. I do not use it a great deal but it is fun to play a violin and dozens of other instruments on a concertina but also to transpose from a treble concertina to a baritone etc. Paul Hardy also has one of these instruments.

 

Yes, mine is described at http://www.pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_30566_midi/lachenal_30566_midi.html

 

I don't play it often, but I used it in the Sunday evening session at the WCCP Halsway concertina weekend a couple of weeks ago. It's good for playing slow airs with a cello sound (transposed down an octave or two), and for combinations of e.g low Tuba  plus a percussive something (glockenspiel or xylophone), as something different.

 

I also sometimes use it at home with headphones on (and a concertina sound), to avoid disturbing the natives.

 

Certainly the Hall effect contactless switching mechanism used by Roy of Accordion Magic has worked well - no dirty contact problems.

 

Regards,

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