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Can the Crane system be bettered?

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I'm sure many Hayden/Wicki aficionados would say "yes", but it is not my intention to re-open that debate! I'm prompted by the posting of this unusual duet. It's similar to the Wheatstone duet (but with five columns instead of four) and to the continental (or "chromatic") button accordion (and Tona's custom concertina, with three rows (rather than columns) arranged by the same principle). I'll refer to it as the Five Column Chromatic system, or 5CC for short (making the Wheatstone duet the 4CC system). Below is attached a button layout.


Some of us in the earlier posting were sceptical, including me. I remarked that five columns was an odd choice. After all, with 12 notes to the chromatic octave the 3CC, 4CC and 6CC (if it exists) would all repeat after (respectively) 4, 3 and 2 rows. The 5CC system doesn't repeat. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised the 5CC system has advantages over all the others. This is mainly because, like the Crane system, the vertical interval between buttons is a fourth. This interval features strongly in the diatonic scale. For example, in major, minor and mixolydian modes the first block of three notes is repeated exactly a fourth higher for the second block of three. This means the fingering pattern is repeated one row higher in the 5CC system. Similar repetitions occur as you go up the scale, and also occur in the dorian mode but at a different point.


Does this matter? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I've spent a little while fingering the table while looking at the button layout and also silently fingering my Crane while imagining it to be a 5CC instrument. I have to say that the 5CC system felt most natural and intuitive. So much so that I'm tempted to say that it is, indeed, better than the Crane system. Here are a few more observations:


  • The vertical interval in 5CC is consistently a natural fourth. On the Crane B-F is an augmented fourth, so playing either F-Bb or F#-B involves jumping columns.
  • The scales of C, F and Bb (for example) all start in column 5 so all have identical fingering. On the Crane the fingering is similar but not identical as it has to be modified to take into account the "black" notes.
  • There are inconsistencies in the placement of accidentals ("black notes") on the Crane. For example the low D# is adjacent to the D whereas the higher D# is adjacent to the E; which leads one to having to modify his fingering. The 5CC system does not seem to suffer this need for a slightly unnatural change of fingering.


As against the other "CC" systems I'd make these observations:


  • Triad chords are easily formed on 5CC (as they are on the Crane) because the three notes always fall in different columns. That's not true of 3CC or 4CC where two of the notes are always in the same column. This makes playing "oom-pah" accompaniment awkward. (I haven't checked for 6CC.)
  • Playing a scale on 6CC required the use of four fingers on one row, spread across all six columns, which again is awkward.


I'd be interested to know what others think about this. It seems to me that the 5CC system has much in common with the Crane but irons out the inconsistencies. For my part, if I were ten years or so younger I'd be very tempted to have one built (or to modify a Crane to the 5CC system) to give it a try. But I'm not, so I'll happily continue with the Crane system. 


Crane and 5CC comparison.pdf



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7 hours ago, gcoover said:

Looks like open fifths would be a bit problematical.


I don't really see why, unless you're misreading the layout. Fourths are the "problem" (like they are on a Crane anyway); the two notes being in the same column. For the same reason open fifths are the "problem" on an English. But not really a problem in either case.


Or is it something different I've missed?

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The layout is fairly intriguing. I'll give it a go on my "soft concertina" vnoizepad application once I can shell out a few cycles.


One of the things I like about it is that (as opposed to the traditional Crane layout in which it doesn't work for Bb and B) ALL power chords can be fingered by flattening a finger to play the two notes in consecutive columns together.


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1 hour ago, RAc said:

I'll give it a go on my "soft concertina" vnoizepad application ...


I hoped you would! I'd love to do so myself but I don't have a Windows machine to run your programme on.



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I now have a 55 key Lachenal Crane in this configuration. Purchased about 6 months ago in standard layout (my first duet, and first concertina aside from some very limited trying out of an almost unplayable English), and after a few months began the transition, then sent it off to a shop for refinement, and received it back just a few days ago. It's unidirectional, with lowest C keys on both sides in the index finger positions. Am very positive about it. During the beginning of the reconfiguration I had been very curious about whether a 6 CC as mentioned by Little John would be a better way to go, and had done some tabletop practicing, but decided to go with what I already had, and in any case a Maccann might be more problematic to convert, though I've never seen one so of course don't know. 

Edited by mskow
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actually, in terms of button arrangement, a conversion wouldn't be too hard, "simply" relocate the leftmost lowest button to the top of the column. Of course this doesn't consider issues like sloped pans.


EDIT: Actually you'd need to relocate three buttons. Oh well.


Spoiler: I currently work on a custom MIDI crane. If I'd known about the 5CC layout before I started the design, I would have added an additional button space, so switching from one layout to the other would be a no brainer. Oh well...


Edited by RAc
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