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Duet concertinas - notes out of pattern, especially thumb


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I'm continuing this discussion here as a new topic, as it has diverged from the main topic where it started: Troubadour Wicky/Hayden duet under General Concertina Discussion.


On 12/29/2019 at 12:07 PM, Little John said:

So I'd suggest it's maybe more that it's odd playing notes with your thumb (or possibly the shape of them) than it is to do with being "out of pattern".


More, yes, but not entirely.


In the left hand, my 59-button Crane has three "extra" notes (i.e., notes not found on a normal 55-button).  They are Bb, A, and F below the low C, and all outside the standard 5-across rows.  The F and Bb are in an "extra column" to the left of the usual 5 columns of a Crane array, and the A is a thumb button.  (The fourth "extra" to make up the 59 is a low B-natural in the right hand, exactly where it belongs by extending the Crane pattern "to rule".)


I can "get used to" playing these notes where they are.  Heck, I could "get used to" playing a random placement of notes, which is pretty close to what one gets with various more-than-30 button anglos, where virtually no two are alike.  But I would be much more comfortable with "reaching" for them if they were where they "fit the pattern", especially if I'm transposing on the fly.  Patterns are patterns; exceptions are... "Gotta stop and think."  And that's not just about where to find the note(s), but how to construct the fingering.  Fingerings have "patterns", too.


But getting back to "thumb buttons":  My thumbs are neither as quick nor as flexible as my other fingers, so trying to use them in "equal" combination with the others is a hindrance to the general flow.  (My "little fingers" are somewhat in between, but that's a separate issue/topic.)  Using the thumb to hold down a drone note is a different matter and could even be a convenience, but that "convenience" can only be available in a very limited number of keys.  The low A thumb key on my 59-button Crane can be cool if I'm playing in A or D (major or minor) but if I want to play in F and take advantage of my "extra" low F as the base of the bass, the A is not appropriate as a drone, and its position makes the low F chord awkward for my hand.


I can see that particular individuals may find particular "out of pattern" notes to be handy in particular tunes or arrangements, but not in general.  Evidence of this is the proliferation of attempts to design "better" general layouts.  (The Wicki/Hayden is one of the few, and the most recent, that has gained wide popularity.)  It's important to ask, "Better for what?"  One of my criteria, which I discovered early in my playing of the English system is a pattern that can be extended unambiguously.  I.e., I discovered myself without thinking reaching for notes that weren't there on my treble English, but when I got a tenor-treble, they were exactly where I had been reaching for them.


I'm curious about what keyboard characteristics others find significant, both from mental (visualizing?) and physiological (finger patterns and shapes) standpoints.

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2 hours ago, JimLucas said:

...  Patterns are patterns; exceptions are... "Gotta stop and think."  ...


Even a "standard" 42, 48 or 55 button Crane doesn't have an entirely consistent pattern. Playing in the keys of F, C, G and D majors (and associated modes) is easy because there is a consistent pattern. To play the "accidentals" you just move one row out. That is, in G and D you move one column out from the F natural to find the F sharp; and similarly for C# and Bb. But that breaks down in A major. The low G# is where you would expect it, next to the G natural. But an octave higher it is next to the A - effectively an Ab instead of G#. Playing in Eb gets worse because in the lower octave E and A are in the central column so for Eb and Ab (G#) you're suddenly jumping from the centre to the outside column and the whole scale pattern is altered. One just has to get used to a different pattern. (I think I'm getting there, but it's not automatic yet.)


2 hours ago, JimLucas said:

I can see that particular individuals may find particular "out of pattern" notes to be handy in particular tunes or arrangements, but not in general.


This is a bit sweeping. As I've mentioned elsewhere I have Bb2/B2 reeds (anglo style) where C#3 would normally be. Both notes are actually more convenient in that position than they would be if the scale were extended "to rule". Chords such as B minor, Bb major and G major (first inversion) are all easy to finger (all "spread", not as simple triads). And I use them so often I don't have to stop and think. So I would argue that these "out of pattern" notes are actually very handy in general. In fact I estimate that if I didn't have those two notes (and in such a convenient position) I would have to re-arrange the majority of my repertoire.



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On 1/1/2020 at 6:32 PM, Little John said:

Even a "standard" 42, 48 or 55 button Crane doesn't have an entirely consistent pattern.


Patterns can be defined by multiple rules.  E.g., I consider the pattern of the Wheatstone ("English") layout to be a nesting of three reflections.  And in those "mirrors", I find that the important differences aren't between "right" and "left", but between "this side" and "the other side".


Your "pattern" rule for accidentals of "just move one row out" is different from mine, which is based on the equal-tempered chromatic scale and says that each accidental is located adjacent to one of its two musically adjacent natural notes.  Starting with the G below middle C (in the right hand), my rule holds for 39 buttons (more than 3 octaves) before breaking down, and at least for my brain, considering G# and Ab to be identical is certainly more in harmony with the rest of the Crane pattern than inserting a bisonoric button into the mix.


What's more, I can extract more rules ("patterns") from the standard Crane layout, e.g.:  In two different octaves, the same note is never found in the same column, and the columns of the lower and higher octaves predict each other.  Also, if an accidental and its natural are on the left side of the array, then in the next higher octave, they'll both be on the right.  But if they're both on the right side, then in the next higher octave, the sharp (it works out that it's only sharps before exceeding the 39-button breakdown), will be on the left, as the flat of the other musically adjacent natural note.  Patterns within patterns.


On 1/1/2020 at 6:32 PM, Little John said:

Both notes are actually more convenient in that position than they would be if the scale were extended "to rule".

For you, maybe.  Not necessarily for me.  I suspect that we approach arrangements and maybe even tunes differently.  By the way, do you limit yourself to certain keys?  How about Eb?  In that key, the first Eb and Ab above middle C are actually positioned as D# and G#, and for a flat 7th, Db has to be played as C#.  I have no problem with that concept, but it sounds as if you do.  I.e., we think differently.

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