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What are your preferred buttons


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Here's my take on the issues related to button shape, amonst other factors. Briefly put, I've had several Jones concertinas with flat-headed metal buttons  [more on that in a moment]; a bone-buttoned Lachenal that was lovely and easy to play; and still own a fabulous 44-button metal-buttoned Jeffries.

Jones: I had Greg J replace all the 34 metal buttons with bone on each of my (at last count 5) Jones anglo instruments that I still own or have owned and sold. In addition I have 2 26-button Jones anglo concertinas with the larger-diameter (7 mm, bone) buttons.  I found that the buttons' hard metal edge was irritating my fingertips, making them slightly sore after only 10-15 minutes of playing. In comparing button feel on extremely similar instruments, then, I found the bone buttons were less annoying than the metal. The bone buttons are of 3 types :

1) larger, slightly convex [dome-shaped] 7 millimetre diameter

2) medium, slightly convex [dome-shaped] 6 millimetre diameter

3) small, nearly flat 5 millimetre diameter, obviously recycled from an English-type instrument, since most have a letter incised on the top of the button.

     Now, here come some complicating considerations:

Spring tension + button height (action, one might call it) seem to play an important role in the way that button-fingertip interface affects comfort. Namely, the flatter, smaller-diameter buttons combined with the higher spring tension (resistance) seem more annoying than do the larger-diameter more-convex buttons with lighter spring tension. That's a big generalisation, admittedly.

     Here's yet one additional observation, based on playing my metal-buttoned Jeffries anglo with tiny buttons (4 mm diameter, slightly convex metal) -- I can play it for long periods of time without complaint from fingers, mainly because IMHO it has such light spring tension (low resistance to push), it's super airtight, and responds really quickly. In other words, I find it rewards minimal physical effort more than it does maximal physical effort. Sure, yopu can push it hard and get great volume, but there seems no need to do that. Can you say the same of your instrument?

     Conclusions: Get your instrument(s) set up to find the best balance of button shape (probably favouring slightly convex); material type (I'd choose bone over metal); spring tension (maybe the most important criterion) -- as light as possible; and button height + diameter.

     Hard for me to comment on is (are) variables such as these:

Playing style, e.g., do your fingertips descend vertically onto the buttons? Do you catch the tops foursquare or at an angle, from one side or another? Are you a "pedal-to-the-floor"/"push 'em till they bottom out" player or do you play with relaxed, just-barely-enough force (very "light" touch) to open a pad allowing air onto a reed? Are you playing lots of multi-note/multi-button chords or more single-note-at-a-time melodies? Figure in some contributing effect from height of handrests and looseness of hand straps, which can make for more or less tension in hands & fingers.

 

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