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Midi English 48key Coming Up !


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Does anyone have any conclusions about how this midi compares with the one being produced by the Concertina Connection? I have tried to make a comparative assessment, but I am not sure of the criteria.

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Ok then, here it is, the way it came about and my thoughts on the subject (as sugested);

 

Briefly, I was an electronics engineer with a terrific job working on new Robotic manipulators for a living and then I had 2 heart attacks and eventually a triple heart bypass before I was 41! A change of carrier required me thinks....

I had been restoring accordions for a while and that led on to flutina's, melodeons etc and on to concertina restoration- by accident really but I have come to prefer them over the other instruments. Aesthetically pleasing, nice and simple mechanism, lovely sound and feel, the only thing missing was a modern electronic one and guess what.......... I could do that as well and so here we are........

 

I wanted to enable a concertina player to enjoy the experience of playing while listening to the sounds produced by other instruments.

Having converted a great many acoustic and electronic accordions to MIDI over the last few years and having developed the circuitry and software myself, I knew it was possible to do and was surprised to find very little on the subject of MIDI concertina's on the internet, the odd huge chemnitzer and a switch based prototype unit made elsewhere were the only things I could find. I did'nt know if anyone was developing such a unit and had some spare time to give it a go.

 

Once people have listened to the stunning sounds that are now available on modern MIDI equipment, its more often the case that they eventually seek to try it out for themselves. Listen to an expert playing a MIDI accordion on three channels with Bass, Chords and Treble with or without a backing from an automatic accompaniment and it will blow your socks off! Transcribing music is easier, just play through MIDI into a PC and the music can appear on the screen in real time before your very eyes. When I became involved with Melodeons, Bandoneons, Chemnitzers, Anglo concertina's and other Bisonoric/Diatonic instruments it soon became obvious how restricting these instruments can be i.e. with key selection. A MIDI ANGLO can play in ANY KEY, the expander or indeed the concertina can transpose what you normally play into the new key automatically and as you play. Now if ever there was the need to justify such an instrument then that was the one!! Dont buy 3 acoustic instruments, buy one MIDI instrument.

 

I'm sure that the only real reason that it's not been done before is the daunting lack of space under the end covers of the instrument and the fact that a normal concertina is full of reeds making the situation even worse.

 

The decision to use old Lachenals etc was that there are loads available, I had a couple of tired brass reeded ones anyway and I did'nt need to make an expensive concertina body, simple as that. Initially, I had considered keeping the reeds in situ and building the entire system under each end cover but bearing in mind that I only had a week or so to do it, I decided to dispence with the reed pans and use that space instead.

 

There are two basic requirements for a MIDI instrument, the first is ofcourse that you need to detect when a key has been pressed and released with some sort of switch and secondly you need to be able to vary the volume. The simplest accordion MIDI system is fitted to the bass key mechanism only, there are only 12 bass notes on an accordion so only 12 switches are required, the volume is varied with a foot pedal. Without wishing to state the obvious an English concertina usually has 48 keys and so 48 switches are required, more importantly a concertina player makes better use of the bellows whether English or Anglo than does the accordionist and is in fact essential for correct operation of the bisonoric Anglo, so the foot pedal is out.

 

The requirement then was for 48 switches and a method of controlling volume with bellows pressure, in fact the bellows must actually do this by varying 'expression' in MIDI speak which is a percentage of the master volume. Switches on key based MIDI instruments used to be mechanical and comprised either a spring wire system of contacts or actual spring contacts, simple but 'scratchy' and prone to dirt and corrosion, they also take up a lot of space. Modern instruments use Hall effect switches which are small semiconductor devices which resemble transistors and their associated small magnets, these are used to form magnetic switches and are basically immune to dirt and dust, they also switch cleanly without being 'scratchy' and occupy less space, just move the magnet near to the device to switch it on and then move away again to switch off. The decision was made to use Hall effect switches and to mount them close to the pads on the lever arms where sufficient movement was available and where there was room for an 'electronic PCB bus' system to which 24 switches could be connected. The bus can be seen in the pictures in this thread as the hexagonal assembly above the pads.

Measuring bellows pressure is not as difficult as some would have you believe, a small pressure transducer (guage or absolute type) is used with an instrumentation amplifier to change the pressure into a voltage that the microprocessor can read. Bellows direction can be determined using the same device, other switches etc are not required if the circuit is designed carefully and the signal derived is stable and reliable. This system was also adopted in the MIDI concertina.

 

The first of these MIDI concertina's (as in this thread) eventually had 3 extra pushbuttons to select 3 channels, 3 potentiometers to vary 3 expressions and Anglo straps fitted although it was actually an English concertina. The 3 pushbuttons could be used to select channel, select English or Anglo and also 'null' the bellows pressure. The four top left hand keys could be used to change octave on the three voices and the remaining 'playing keys' used to select the voice for a particular channel, I did also consider split points etc but when you get down to it, at least SOME of the MIDI functionality should be assigned to the expander itself otherwise a very complex concertina would result.

The original prototype is now in the hands of John Nixon, at least for the next two weeks while I'm on holiday. The 2nd and 3rd differ from this unit in that only a singe EXTRA pushbutton is required to select 'program mode' and the remainder of the keys (48) are used to select channel/octave/expression and voice and are almost indistinguishable from a normal English concertina.

 

PHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I'm out of breath now, away for two weeks from the 9th but I hope the above info is of some use. Comments always appreciated.

 

Regards

Roy Whiteley

 

Accordion Magic Ltd

Lanzarote, beach, sun, free beer, free food, pool, pool bar, more sun, lazy afternoons, more beer, more food, all in, Internet - Oh NO!!............................................I'm there!

Bye for now

Edited by accordionmagic
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Roy's discussion was very interesting, but I am still not sure about how to compare. In the Concertina Connection description, they talk about several keyboard layouts that are available. Does that mean that an English, for example, could be set up to be played like an Anglo as Roy had done? Could you have an Anglo layout but not have it work in diatonic fashion? Could you in effect make the English into a Duet? I will eventually buy a Midi instrument, but it is a relatively expensive proposition, and I want to be clear before I decide. Maybe Chris could say why he has chose the Connection instrument, and I am curious about which one Pauline actually intends to use. And what about Jim Lucas? What would he do or will do in the case of a midi choice.

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Ok then, just to clarify:

 

1) You can use ANY keyboard layout

2) You can assign ANY (one or Two) notes per key

3) You can choose Treble, Baritone or Bass etc

 

So....... You can use an English as an Anglo

Use an Anglo as an English

Use Either as a Duet and vice-versa

 

All switcheable

 

It really does not matter to me, I've developed my system/electronics/software and basically you can have what you want.

 

Cheers

 

Roy Whiteley

Accordion Magic Ltd

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...key board layouts are different between systems, how is this addressed?

This may or may not be the same thing that Dave meant, but the physical layout of the buttons -- spacing, arc of "rows", etc. -- on an anglo is quite different from that of an English laid on its side. So just reworking the note-button assignments (including different notes on push and pull) and mounting a bar and hand strap is going to result in something that I suspect I might call an "anguish" if I tried to play it. Still, I'd be willing to give it a try. :)

 

1) You can use ANY keyboard layout

2) You can assign ANY (one or Two) notes per key

3) You can choose Treble, Baritone or Bass etc

[...]

All switcheable...

I, at least, am not sure quite what is involved in "switching" the "switchable". One could switch between treble and baritone by flipping a single switch if the difference was preprogrammed for that switch. One could do the same between Wheatstone and Jeffries 30-button anglo layouts. But if I wanted to create an arbitrary layout, I think I would either need to program it somehow in advance... or have a lot of switches.

 

Please enlighten.

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OK,

 

In answer to the above, yes, each and every keyboard layout must be pre-defined or a system whereby each key can be assigned a note must be devised.

By switcheable, I mean a switch or indeed a combination of key presses with an extra 'program' key would select between one pre-defined layout and the next.

 

Ofcourse each system has its own particular layout and playing one system on another will always be a compromise BUT is nevertheless a possibility.

 

The concertina I showed to Dave at Swaledale was switcheable between English and Anglo. I had pre-defined a simple 20 key layout, the left hand as follows:

 

Anglo LH top row on actual English LH keys C#/C/A/D#

Anglo LH bottom row on actual English LH keys F#/F/D/G#

The lowest keys in each case being G# above C# and Bb below F#

 

These keys were pre-assigned the push/pull notes for a C/G Anglo when required i.e. when switched to.

 

NOT particularly uncomfortable I might add!

 

In electronics speak, the keys are 'mapped' differently in each case, the keys could be mapped backwards!!!!!!!! if so desired but I think it should by now be clear what is possible!

 

I have not stated ANYWHERE that a megga-chemnitzer/bandoneon should be fitted with MIDI and then re-programmed and used as an English but if anyone wants to prove a point then get one to me!!!!!!!! yes it's possible but lets be reasonable.

 

Regards

Roy

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  • 1 month later...

:rolleyes: Today I have had a midi concertina made by Roy exactly one week and sofar I have used it connected to my computer in order to experiment and mainly to write music. I love it. Great work by Roy, very clever indeed.

I will tell more about it in a few months time when I will have been able to use it on it's own in my teaching too.

And I love the possibility to use the different sounds of different instruments. Since I am not good at the normal piano type keyboard this is ideal for me.

Pauline

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J had originally intended to buy a Concertina Connection MIDI anglo, but lack of funds have left me selling instruments rather than buying. I still want one eventually, they look like lovely boxes. However, if you happen to have a concertina that is not much use otherwise, then Roy provides a cost-effective way forward. I have had such a Lachenal for years, where the bodywork is in decent nick but the reeds are very poor. It's now with Roy, and I shall report back when it is ready. Hopefully we're giving an old box a new lease of life.

 

Chris

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  • 1 month later...

Hello all,

 

Here are a few pics of my latest MIDI concertina.

This is John Nixons MIDI english and is another first in that it has the MIDI expander built in!!

Self contained, battery powered with audio output to any amp.

Normal functionality with 3 channels, bellows pressure, volume, octave and voice selection provided.

It was a shot old rosewood ended Wheatstone with bone buttons and four fold bellows but now it's like new. :)

 

post-623-1125062393_thumb.jpg

post-623-1125062420_thumb.jpg

post-623-1125062443_thumb.jpg

 

Cheers

 

Roy Whiteley

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Just a bit of modern history-- when I was looking for our first concertina back in about 1988 I made a trip to the shop of the Star Concertina company in Skokie, IL. I didn't know there were so many different kinds of concertinas: they specialized in Chemnitzer concertinas for polka bands and I was looking for an English. When I went to the shop there was another customer trying out their new MIDI Chemnitzer: a whole polka band in one box!

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John's in for a treat!

 

I've had my MIDI anglo (Whiteley anglo No. 1, if you please) for a few days now. We are still working between us to tailor the response to just the way I want it (Roy does that by reprogramming the device, the hardware is all finished) but is is now pretty close and the workmanship is superb!

 

We're away this weekend at Bridgnorth festival, but when the final tweaks are made next weekend (we're calling in on Roy as we pass by on our way to see Anne's mum) I shall be putting up a photo essay on the web site.

 

Roy is a pleasure to deal with.

 

Chris

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  • 2 weeks later...
I assume this means you liked it. I've always been better at understanding words than smilies.

 

I, too, have been very happy with the quality of the Concertina Sound Font. It is the default sound on my copy of BarFly (when I notate a tune in abc, I hear it on Phil's concertina).

 

 

I don't know if the Mac sound fonts work on Windows PCs either, but it would certainly be interesting to see if the MIDI concertina develops in a manner akin to the Roland V accordion, where a selection of sampled sounds could replicate treble, baritone and bass concertinas at the flick of a switch. Even better with the added sophistication of making the sound characteristics of steel versus wooden ends, steel versus brass reeds, Lachenal vs Wheatstone timbre etc.

 

Charles Mackay

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I am now the proud owner of Whiteley MIDI English No 4, formerly Lachenal 26736. Good bellows feel and the advantages of switching between treble and baritone ranges in an instant hardly need stating. Octave and instrument voice switching is very easy, all in all a very novel invention.

 

Roy did a really nice job with this, both from a technical and aesthetic angle and he gives good, patient, advice on options like playing via a PC, MIDI expander or MIDI keyboard, so I came away confident I could make good choices on these options. For now I am using my PC as the amplifier with a USB MIDI connection.

 

Charles Mackay

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The Concertina SoundFont works fine in Windows XP and sounds great.  Well done Phil Taylor! 

 

 

Charles or anyone else who has been successful.

What the heck do I do with this Concertina.sit file to make it work in a MS Windows OS

I would rbe great if I could get Tune-O-Tron to play a concertina instead of a piano

 

Ian

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