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Hayden Duet Layout That's a Fifth Lower - Why Not?


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Posted (edited)

I've been contemplating this layout for a bit, and I think it makes sense, but I'd like a gut check from some of you with more experience before I go much further. I do realize that choosing a non-standard route will have drawbacks, and I'm willing to live with that. My main focus for this instrument would be playing folk and hymn tunes with basic harmony.

 

Here's the 51-button layout I'm proposing, using scientific pitch notation:

hayden-51-proposal.thumb.png.44936342c3d448af562fd0fb90f860f7.png

 

Starting from the "standard" Stagi 46-button layout, here's what I've changed:

  1. Shifted every note down by a fifth. This also trades out D#'s for Eb's.
  2. Added A5, Bb5, and B5 back to the right hand.
  3. Dropped F3 from the right hand.
  4. Filled in gaps to make the instrument fully chromatic across its range.

 

Here's my reasoning for all of this:

 

Shifting the left hand down gets me some great bass notes that I particularly want for playing hymns. This is probably the biggest motivator for the whole concept.

 

Folk tunes establish the required range for the right hand. Nothing goes below G3 (because fiddle), so F3 isn't needed. At the other end, B5 is very common, so the range needs to extend at least that high. The few tunes I play that go higher can be transposed down an octave and still fit on the right hand. Hymn melodies are mostly in the range of B3 to D5, so they fit nicely in this range with room to transpose them up or down a little as I desire.

 

Dropping the D#'s for Eb's gives me favored major keys of Bb, F, C, G, D, and A.  That covers the folk music I currently play and probably the most common keys I see hymns in as well. Hymns are all over the map though, so for a lot of them I'll have to either transpose or deal with awkward fingering patterns. I don't see any practical way around that on a Hayden concertina.

 

Keeping the entire range fully chromatic is mostly a convenience to be able to more easily recognize when music as written doesn't fit on the instrument. There is one note missing from each side in the overlap, but I didn't think filling them in was worth the two additional buttons.

 

I am still tempted to add a few more buttons. My top choice would be to extend the range by adding E2 on the left along with C6 and C#6 on the right. Another option would be to add Ab's to make the key of Eb major more accessible. I don't want to go too crazy, though, since my impression is that 45-55 buttons is kind of the sweet spot for balancing between weight and versatility, and a lower-pitched instrument will already be a little heavier.

 

I found an old post indicating that there have been a few Crane duets made with a similar range on each hand, so this isn't a completely original idea (which I take to be a good sign). Still, those aren't especially common, so I have to wonder if I'm missing something important. Any insights are appreciated!
 

Edited by schult
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I don’t know if you would consider it a deal breaker, but below G3 reeds get bigger fast.  Not only that but the chambers need to increase in length over and above what the reed frame would need in order to respond well.  For low reeds this means chambers that take up a lot of space.  Weight will be more the result of the larger overall size instrument needed to accommodate the larger reed/chamber space on both ends, rather than the weight of the bigger reeds.  30 years ago I converted a Wheatstone 67 button McCann into a 63 button Hayden.  The right side was similar to yours except for having a C6 and D6 on the top row, but the left only went down to C2.  This was a large instrument, something around 9 inches across the flats, and believe me, there was no extra room.  It didn’t include your F#2 or G#2 on the left hand lowest row.

   The other issue is volume balance.  On extended range instruments, the lower notes are much louder than the higher ones which is ok for melody where you can vary your playing pressure to suit the note, but playing left and right together can be a problem since one bellows pressure applies to all the reeds being played.  Wheatstone tried with only small success to quiet the left hand by having a much smaller fretwork on the end with the pads being covered by solid surface of the end plate.  
   Lastly and least important, on equal tempered instruments the only difference between D# and Eb is what you choose to label them.   Sharps and flats are musical conventions telling you where a note is relative to the home key.  The distinction does matter in other temperaments where the “ideal”  ratios to the home note are the goal.  One of the beauties of the Hayden is the ability to maintain fingering between any key which is asking  for equal temperament unless you want to restrict yourself to only a few keys.

Dana

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Thanks, Dana, that's exactly the kind of informed insight I was looking for.

 

I could drop the F#2 and G#2 without feeling too bad. I like the idea of a fully chromatic instrument, but those two notes probably won't see enough use in my playing to justify a significantly larger instrument. It also sounds like if I go ahead with this I'll have plenty of room on the right to add a couple more high notes, which wouldn't be a bad thing. I'll have to think about how large a box I'm willing to live with, though. I don't suppose there's been much published about how to size reed chambers in concertinas?

 

The volume difference is something I was expecting, although maybe not to the degree you've indicated. Since this instrument is intended to avoid much need for the melody to cross over to the left hand I had planned to fit the left side with baffles. My G/D Edgley actually has pretty quiet bass notes, so it seems like there must be some way to deal with this issue.

 

Regarding Eb versus D#, I was just trying to distinguish between putting the note on the left side of the keyboard or the right. It seems like the convention for Hayden concertinas is to mark the notes on the left edge as flats and the ones on the right edge as sharps. If you don't have any duplicates, the side you choose for a particular note determines which scales and chords can be played with the standard patterns and which ones require jumps between the far edges of the keyboard. This is what I was getting at when I mentioned "favored" keys. I certainly intend for this instrument to be in equal temperament. Sorry for the confusion.

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This may not be important but just because two notes are enharmonically equivalent does not mean that they are equivalent as far as Hayden patterns are concerned. 

 

For example, if you only have an Eb and not a D# then a B major chord requires a long stretch for the little finger on the LHS.

 

Is this going to be a home build?

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1 minute ago, Don Taylor said:

Is this going to be a home build?

 

That's the plan, assuming this idea survives the current phase of evaluation. For reeds I was considering trying the harmonikas.cz "DIX concertina original" reeds, which appear to be more concertina-like than the "DIX concertina" reeds that have been discussed here in the past.

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Being able to play hymns means nothing to me, but back when Rich Morse was alive he asked me what I’d like in a Hayden that my 46-key Wheatstone didn’t have, and my answer was low notes on the left hand to duplicate the range of a guitar (which I also play) so that I could sing with and play my guitar arrangements on the Hayden, with the bass notes generally staying below the pitch of my voice.

 

He talked me out of it, for many of the same reasons mentioned by Dana, above. And to be honest, I don’t miss it.

 

BTW, Dana:

 

8 hours ago, Dana Johnson said:

30 years ago I converted a Wheatstone 67 button McCann into a 63 button Hayden.  The right side was similar to yours except for having a C6 and D6 on the top row, but the left only went down to C2.

 

C2? Are you sure? That’s the low note on the cello. Your use of the word “only” makes me suspect that you meant to write “G2.”

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I'm close to completing a 62 button Hayden with the attached layout (specified by my client). I fit it into a 7 3/4" octagon, but it was a tight squeeze. There are lots of pictures of it on my Instagram.

 

keyboard_layout.png.8a59556ba6906c8c4926ce24ba1aab03.png

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The Eb rather than D# would make it awkward to play in E, a very common key for the American folk/blues players that i jam with.

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, schult said:

I've been contemplating this layout for a bit, and I think it makes sense, but I'd like a gut check from some of you with more experience before I go much further.

 

I'm happy to pitch in! I play Crane duet. My main interests are folk tunes, Christmas carols and folk song accompaniment; so I understand completely where you are coming from.

 

18 hours ago, schult said:

... 45-55 buttons is kind of the sweet spot for balancing between weight and versatility ...

 

I'd go further and say 45 - 48 is the sweet spot. I've played Cranes in all sizes from 35 to 55 buttons. I now have just one - a 44-button made by @alex_holden (though in fairness it has three "anglo" buttons so it's 47 notes). I very much value that it can be fitted into a 6 1/4" box, whilst having all the notes I need. The range is A2 to G4 on the left and B3 to C6 on the right.

 

Smaller sized Cranes and Haydens start from C3 on the LH and C4 on the RH. I can understand you wishing to to go lower. Quite a few melodies go down to B3 which is why I've included that on mine. A few go to A3 so that would be useful if there's room without increasing the size of the instrument. A very few to G3; too few to justify its inclusion for me.

 

On the LH you would need to go down to E2 if you intend to play hymns from written arrangements, but if you're happy to make your own arrangements then A2 should be adequate. I certainly find it so for carols. I also find it useful for harmonising C4 or C#4 in many folk tunes. (It can sound weak if you have only A3 available.)

 

18 hours ago, schult said:

Dropping the D#'s for Eb's gives me favored major keys of Bb, F, C, G, D, and A.  That covers the folk music I currently play and probably the most common keys I see hymns in as well.

 

I agree with this apart from one small exception: E minor tunes often demand a D#. On the Hayden that really demands a separate button. On the Crane it's the same button. However I have mine tuned to fifth comma mean tone in which Eb and D# are different notes. So I have it that the Eb4 button on the RH actually plays D# on the push for when I need it. The mean tone tuning give me exactly the six major keys you mention and it's entirely adequate for my needs.

 

17 hours ago, Dana Johnson said:

The other issue is volume balance.  On extended range instruments, the lower notes are much louder than the higher ones which is ok for melody where you can vary your playing pressure to suit the note, but playing left and right together can be a problem since one bellows pressure applies to all the reeds being played.

 

This is often the case, but it doesn't have to be that way. I noticed some time ago that Crabb Cranes have a good balance. I put this down to the fact that the Crabb family were great players of the Crane system, so they would have developed an understanding of how to get the balance right. Much of it is to do with setting the reeds so that they all start speak at the same low pressure. When @alex_holden was designing my 44-button Crane we opted for long-scale reeds on the RH and standard-scale reeds on the left. The result is a really good balance; though from other recordings it sounds like Alex's instruments have a good balance anyway; probably from how he sets the reeds.

 

Hope this helps!

 

LJ

 

Edited by Little John
Typo.
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 Hi David, It has been a really long time since I had that duet, but it’s low note was the same as the low note on the 67 button McCann.  The right side went down to C4 originally but because of the music I wanted to play, I added notes town to G3.  That made for a very full reed pan.  Even in that large format, I couldn’t have added extra notes unless they were inboard.  The lever arrangement was difficult enough with all those notes.  
   It used all long scale reeds, so going short on the lower notes would help with the relative volume.  If you will remember it was originally the same model as that Wheatstone McCann that that fellow with the operatic baritone voice who played McCann at the early NESI years had. His name escapes me.  That thing could roar!. (And so could he)

For other makers, that Duet had tilted reed pans so the highest notes had shallower chambers and the lowest were deeper.  Both sides were like this, but on a more limited range would be less necessary.  It did mean that you had less flexibility with reed placement when thinking about lever patterns, but it was important.

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Posted (edited)

It looks like there's a pretty solid consensus that going as low as F2 will produce a large, unwieldy instrument without enough benefit to justify it. I definitely have a better appreciation for why the standard range is what it is. I'm still thinking about trying roughly the same range as Little John's Crane (going down to A2), although I would end up with a larger concertina than his since I don't want to use any Anglo buttons.

 

My preference for the Eb's over the D#'s hasn't changed. The folk group I play with never seems to play any E major tunes. LJ's comment about D#'s in E minor tunes does have some pull with me - I'm a sucker for minor key tunes - but after a bit of fiddling around with a borrowed Elise (which required some imagination, since it doesn't have either Eb or D#) I think I'll be ok with the position of the Eb for those cases.

 

I think I need to get my hands on a few reeds and experiment with things like scale length and chamber sizes to build a better understanding of the constraints I'm dealing with.

 

To all of you who have offered your advice in this thread (and several others I've been digging through), thank you so much. Alex, your blog and instagram are a fantastic help as well. I sincerely appreciate everyone's willingness to take the time and share their hard-earned expertise.

Edited by schult
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6 hours ago, Dana Johnson said:

... that fellow with the operatic baritone voice who played McCann at the early NESI years had. His name escapes me.  That thing could roar!. (And so could he)

 

David Cornell.

 

 

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2 hours ago, John Wild said:

Thank you so much for posting that video of David Cornell. A great musician with a great voice.

 

Sorry for the thread drift, but I should mention that he passed away two years ago after suffering for many years with Parkinson’s disease.

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19 hours ago, schult said:

My preference for the Eb's over the D#'s hasn't changed.

 

It is, of course, quite possible to use the D# key as an Eb even when it’s at the wrong end of the keyboard. Here are two G minor tunes I play regularly making liberal use of it.

 

 

 

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On 5/31/2021 at 3:49 PM, schult said:

... I don't want to use any Anglo buttons.

 

Absolutely. They wouldn't make sense on a Hayden. As observed before, the Hayden (at least up to 46 buttons) lacks the low C# and Eb on each hand, and as far as I can tell that doesn't cause any real problems. (And of course C#4 and Eb4 exist on the LHS anyway, so it's only C#3 and Eb3 missing altogether.) The Crane does have those notes, but they are probably the least useful. That's why I've re-purposed those buttons (and only those) to get more useful notes.

 

Even on a Crane I can see most players balking at the idea of Anglo buttons, but I'd still advocate replacing C#3 with B2 (which I use really frequently) at the least, and Eb3 with A2. I've attached my own layout in case anyone is interested. (Beautiful diagram courtesy of Paul Hurst.)

 

7 hours ago, David Barnert said:

It is, of course, quite possible to use the D# key as an Eb even when it’s at the wrong end of the keyboard.

 

And presumably vice versa for someone who expects to use Eb more than D#. Incidentally, Abbots Bromley is more usually played in Em. Any particular reason for Gm?

 

55161_44buttonCrane.thumb.png.9ede2c1e0779583e064629a0525e2c20.png

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On 5/31/2021 at 10:49 AM, schult said:

... I don't want to use any Anglo buttons.

 

24 minutes ago, Little John said:

Absolutely. They wouldn't make sense on a Hayden.

 

The Wakker W-H2 (65 key Hayden) has one such button on the right. It toggles between a high Eb and F (both higher than the range of my 46-keys). I’m not sure I’d have any use for it either, but there it is.

 

32 minutes ago, Little John said:

... the Hayden (at least up to 46 buttons) lacks the low C# and Eb on each hand, and as far as I can tell that doesn't cause any real problems.

 

I occasionally use the mid-range B and C# on the left to play melody notes as they arise (not present on the right). I only play 3 tunes regularly that go lower than that, to the A (Amelia) or G (Ashokan Farewell and Abbots).

 

Which brings us to...

 

36 minutes ago, Little John said:

Incidentally, Abbots Bromley is more usually played in Em. Any particular reason for Gm?

 

That’s what key Cecil Sharp published it in, and I think it’s a good bet (although I have no evidence) that it is the key in which Robert Buckley a) presented it to Sharp (1910s), b) wrote it down 50 years earlier, and c) heard the wheelwright, Robinson play it at that time. Robinson was an old man at the time and said he learned it from listening to the ABHD fiddler in his youth. I would think there’s no reason to suppose that that late 18th c fiddler wasn’t also playing it in the same key.

 

ABHD.jpg?raw=1

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