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JS336

Custom G/D/C# Anglo Layout- Would it work?

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Some time last year I had some money burning a hole in my bank account and I thought I'd ask Frank Edgley to make me a concertina. Long story short- my budget at the time was, unfortunately, incompatible with my desired options (though I will admit, as I did in a further email to Mr. Edgley, I did ask for rather a lot without thinking about the amount of extra labour it would involve). I would still like an Edgley concertina one day (sufficient funds pending) though with something of a shorter list of options. Anyway. The point of this post was to mention that I had it in my head that I wanted a custom layout of g/d/c# with a view to being able to play both Irish and English trad music on the same instrument.

 

 I went ahead and, after about a week of checking and revising, put together a diagram of a potential layout with a template I found somewhere. The real question, though, is "is this potential new layout doable and/or workable, or is the idea completely insane and only fit to be abandoned and set on fire?"  I would be very grateful if a few more seasoned concertinaists could take a look at what I've drawn up and tell me whether or not it would work. I welcome any and all comments, constructive criticism, etc; please feel free to weigh in.

concertina layout experiment.png

Edited by JS336

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I only play a G/D along the rows, so in fact the third row of my G/D is almost totally untouched.  Well, I do go to that one note up on the right, but I don’t even know its name...OTOH, I have a great old D/C# accordion that, while way too heavy for my aging shoulders, gives me some hope that I might “someday” learn the smooth and fluid style of semitone boxes.  Your idea might indeed combine the mostly along the rows with the mostly cross-row styles, and I’d like to hear what more experienced people think.

 

David

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No comment on the playability of the system, but I believe it is buildable, at least using traditional construction (either parallel or radial) in a standard 6 1/4" wide instrument. It is a little unusual to have more buttons on the left hand than the right. If you send this to a maker I suggest you specify the octave number on every note to avoid potential confusion (middle C = C4 is pretty standard; it is called "scientific pitch notation").

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@alex_holden Thanks for your response; would you be able to say how much, if any, extra work it would involve? IIRC when I contacted Frank Edgley about the possibity of using this tuning, he mentioned something about having to re-work the design for the reed pan. 

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Just now, JS336 said:

@alex_holden Thanks for your response; would you be able to say how much, if any, extra work it would involve? IIRC when I contacted Frank Edgley about the possibity of using this tuning, he mentioned something about having to re-work the design for the reed pan. 

 

It would certainly need some redesign but I can't really comment on how much time that might take. Any new layout is a significant amount of work. He would have to modify the end plate and action boards as well as the reed pans.

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8 hours ago, JS336 said:

... I would be very grateful if a few more seasoned concertinaists could take a look at what I've drawn up and tell me whether or not it would work. I welcome any and all comments, constructive criticism, etc; please feel free to weigh in.

 

 

I guess I'm "seasoned", so I'll throw in my two-penn'orth. Yes, it would probably work. All sorts of wierd and wonderful arrangements of notes can be made to "work". But what you are proposing is highly non-standard. It doesn't even seem to follow the basic anglo principle of having all the push notes in a given row play the chord of the key it's named after. If you learnt to play this system you wouldn't be able to play a "standard" anglo, and no-one else would be able to play this; making it essentially worthless.

 

Your basic requirement is to be able to play both English and Irish music on one instrument. All I can say is that plenty of people play Irish on the standard C/G anglo, and plenty of people play English on the standard C/G. I'd suggest you make that your starting point. And actually, you could probably get both a decent G/D and a C/G for the cost of a custom special.

 

LJ

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@Little John Thanks for your response. I have tried, struggled, given up on, tried again and struggled again (repeat ad nauseum) with the c/g system and it just doesn't seem to stick no matter what I do. I daresay the g/d tuning may well be the answer; after 20 plus years on the D/G box this tuning is what comes most naturally.

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Comments from a long term G/D anglo player, with 30 buttons, mainly Wheatstone layout.

 

My top note Is F#6 and lowest G2,  your layout is in the baritone range, yours is G5?

 

Your C# row gives you all the notes, but no Ds  on the draw or Es on press. I find those essential. I am happy with the accidental row.

 

Graham

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3 hours ago, JS336 said:

@Little John Thanks for your response. I have tried, struggled, given up on, tried again and struggled again (repeat ad nauseum) with the c/g system and it just doesn't seem to stick no matter what I do. I daresay the g/d tuning may well be the answer; after 20 plus years on the D/G box this tuning is what comes most naturally.

 

So you might think, but the D/G melodeon and the G/D anglo are different, insofar as one tends to play the melody in the lower octave on the melodeon and in the upper octave on the concertina. So the fingering is not the same - e.g. in the lower octave you start with a G/A button but an octave higher it's a G/F# button and the A is on the B/A button. So don't imagine it's a straightforward transition from melodeon to concertina. Also I believe the relationship between the two rows is different from concertina to melodeon, so if you use any cross-row fingering that won't translate either.

 

LJ

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54 minutes ago, Graham Collicutt said:

My top note Is F#6 and lowest G2,  your layout is in the baritone range, yours is G5?

 

Oops, Graham's right, this is in the baritone range. Therefore it would probably need to be bigger than 6 1/4" to fit in the larger bass reeds, and I would expect the cost to go up because it takes it further away from a standard instrument.

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I don't think you will really know for sure until you try it. Two ideas for a less expensive prototype so you could try it before committing to an expensive traditional reed re-build:

 

1. Convert a duet, the lachenals aren't too pricey for the number of reeds they contain. I'm aware this was done quite frequently with particularly Jeffries duets to anglos, so whilst I've not tried myself to appreciate the possibilities, I would have thought the same principals should apply here. It might be an octave up of course.

 

2. Cobble together an accordion reeded version out of cannibalised parts. Who on earth keeps old bits of concertinas lying around? Answer, a large percentage of people on this forum, if we're being honest.

 

For both options there might be ways to allow for further tinkering and reed swapping before settling on a favourite. The chart reminds me of as simple anglo I made for a gentlemen who didn't like the way the notes at the extreme ends of the instruments didn't follow on logically from the pattern in the middle, so his had the scale pattern simply continuing more like a melodeon, and I recall the resulting chords along the rows were rather interesting sounding, which wasn't a problem for single line tune playing of course.

 

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I don't play melodeon, or even have a G/d concertina, but it seems what you really want is something with fingering that is similar to both a D/G "English" melodeon , and a C#/D "Irish" Melodeon, so why not arrange the rows in a pattern to mimic these?  If I understand the note positions of the two melodeons then what seems the closest match would be:

  • The outer row where a concertina normally has accidentals, would be equivalent to the G row on a standard G/d concertina
  • The middle row would be equivalent to the D row on a Baritone GD, so an octave lower than a standard G/d concertina (and a fourth lower than the G row, like a melodeon, instead of a fifth higher like a concertina)
  • The inner row would be the C# row, set a half step lower than that baritone D row.

It would likely need to be sized like a Baritone Anglo, since 2 of the 3 rows would be in the baritone range.  I'm thinking of a 30 button box, so 3rd button start on each row and only 10 buttons per row, although you could add more.  Perhaps this was one of your earlier iterations?  My suggestion basically has the order of the rows the other way around from what you show.

 

My suggestion would still not be at all familiar to Anglo concertina players, but the cross row technique between the middle and outer rows would be familiar to a D/G melodeon player, and cross row technique between the middle and inner rows would be familiar to a C#/D melodeon player.  Such an instrument would still be difficult for anyone else to use if they play concertina, but perhaps melodeon players would take to it?  Two difficulties I can see (besides the custom construction) would be that the outer row can be a bit hard to reach for some people, which is acceptable in an accidental row, but might be awkward for the G row.  If that is a concern it will be true for SOME row no matter what button arrangement you choose.  The other thing is the lateral offset from one row to the next on the right hand would be the other way from what you would find in the upper range of the melodeon keyboard.  Easily overcome, but just a bit less familiar, in an instrument purpose built to be familiar to a melodeon player.  I see that you have addressed this a little bit in the diagram above in the way the G and D rows are staggered, but I'm not quite following your logic on some of the buttons under the right hand index finger.

Edited by Tradewinds Ted
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It's been tried before. I recall a post back in the usegroup days (so, at least 25 years ago) where someone had a B (accidental row)/C/G made, and it may even have been a Suttner in my hazy recollection. I have no idea what the owner thought of it (or who it was, sorry).

 

Ken

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Thanks all for your replies so far- I wasn't aware my proposed layout would put a potential instrument in the baritone range- which would, as you rightly point out, raise the cost, perhaps considerably. I think I may revise the note ranges slightly- I doubt I'd need to go beyond G3 in a session.


@Tradewinds Ted that's definitely an interesting take on the idea; my original vision was indeed to have an instrument that felt familiar to me as a box player, but one that felt like two distinct systems- having the d and c# right next to eachother makes sense to me coming from melodeon- I would treat the c# row as a row of accidentals and would rather have it on the outside, with the d row as the "main" row to provide the basis of any key I might need without having to involve the g-row at all outside of English music. As for the right hand layout, it was really the only way I could think of fitting all the octaves I wanted, into as few buttons as possible, in a system similar enough to the melodeon that I wouldn't have too much to readjust to. 

Edited by JS336

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At first glance what you appear to be proposing is two melodeon layouts (fourth-apart and semi-tone apart) in a concertina body.  However the D and G rows are the opposite way round so cross-rowing would be different, and the scale is split between two hands, so it will not play like a melodeon. Neither will it play like a conventional concertina.  You say you already play melodeon, so if you want it all in a single box then why not adapt one of those?  I have heard of at least one C#/D/G melodeon. This would allow you to play English music in the usual style on the D/G rows, and semi-tone apart Irish style on the C#/D rows.   However this would mean learning two entirely different styles of playing, in order to sound authentic.  Or get a 3-row A/D/G,. or a D/G/acc to allow you to play in A.

 

If it is the concertina sound in particular you are after, then some melodeons have stops to select only a single bank of reeds, and some smaller models have only one set of reeds.  An Edgeley would use accordion reeds so there is no difference there, other than very slight differences due to the different construction, but this is probably not noticeable unless you are very picky (and no two instruments sound the same anyway)

 

What you are proposing is a very expensive experiment which could turn out to be unplayable.  If you cannot get on with standard C/G what makes you think you could master this, especially with no teaching materials available? Even if you could learn to play it, you will have tied yourself to a unique system and would be unable to play a different instrument, and your instrument would have no value except as scrap as no one else could play it.  It is a big risk, simply for the convenience of having to carry around only one box.  Furthermore, whilst you may be able to play both Irish and English tunes on it, I doubt either style would sound authentic.  

 

If you are set on a concertina, you might consider the "franglo", based on a 2.5 row melodeon layout

 

http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php?topic=22623.0

 

However I don't know if anyone is currently making them.

 

 

 

 

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@ hjcjones I've been playing DG melodeon for well over 20 years now and find no difficulty in playing G tunes on the D row. I can literally play the instrument upside-down and so can't imagine being fazed by inversion of the two rows, Having had experience with anglos in the past I'm also used to the differences between the note arrangement of concertina vs melodeon. As for converting or ordering a c#/d/g box, while the thought has crossed my mind, having owned both a castagnari mory and a hohner corona III at different points in my life I can unequivocally state that I am less than a fan of big, heavy boxes- I find them sluggish and unresponsive. 

 

I've been after a Frank Edgley since I played one at a friend's house many years ago. When I do have the cash to order one I'll be having a heritage model to get that classic concertina sound- I own a late 90s model saltarelle nuage with three stops, one with a "concertina" sound that to my mind sounds very little like a concertina.

 

As for difficulties with tuning, I owned a c#/d box a few years ago and found it very intuitive and easy to pick up- it was a doddle compared to the c/g system or indeed the b/c system which I found nigh on unplayable. 90 percent of what I learned on both the d/g and c#/d boxes was off my own bat, so I don't find a lack of teaching materials to be much of a hurdle. 
 

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I also own an early 90s model saltarelle nuage and I agree that the single-reed sound isn't really the same as a concertina, however I am accustomed to concertina reeds rather than hybrids and I've not made a close comparison with one of them. Most hybrids I've come across also sound slightly different from a traditional concertina (which is not to say they don't sound good, and I hear that Edgeleys are very good although I don't think I've come across one).  In most cases the difference isn't enough to matter, especially in a session.

 

I quite understand your desire to play concertina.  I am less clear why you want to try an unknown and untested layout, at considerable financial risk, rather than persevere with the standard anglo.  I think it is unlikely that you would be able to replicate the authentic modem Irish style of playing, which to a large part derives from having to play outside the home keys an a C/G. Some purists won't even agree that Irish music can be played on an English concertina.  However if you are not concerned with that level of authenticity, then in the concertina world it would be worth trying an English or one of the Duet systems. 

 

It might also depend on which type of music is your priority.  If it is Irish, it would be worth persevering with a C/G anglo, which is the standard instrument and for which there are plenty of learning resources teaching proper Irish technique.  If you really can't get to grips with that,  a G/D is great for English music and can also be played in A.

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Quote

 

As you are comfortable with melodeon layout, it could be worth checking the French 'Mixte' accordion for the Accidentals layout.

This was around between the diatonic and the modern button (cba). Basically a GC box with a third row, they have had a mini-comeback among revivalist Musette players.

I don't know if the 3rd row was standardised but there is at least one maker who still does them:

http://www.accorddeleon.com/vente-conception-fabrication-accordage-accordeon/  - see first example.

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