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electronic practice concertina

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On 7/31/2022 at 11:21 AM, Richard Mellish said:

I would be interested in your design, particularly what you used to sense bellows (real or virtual) pressure and direction.

Analogue differential pressure sensor and normal bellows. My box was built around a repurposed cheap, german made anglo. This gives the full information about bellows expression and direction, which was then utilised for bisonoric functionality (I fiddled with a concept of bisonoric Hayden based layout for a bit) and volume modulation or MIDI velocity in case of piano mode. 

It was a nice experiment, but as Don wrote above, ultimately you need real action and hal switches to make a decent instrument, so unless you need MIDI input for music production it isn’t exactly worth it. Baffled acoustic ’tina played softly is way better as a quiet practice instrument than a ‚cut corners’ e-tina. 

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I help to run a community workshop including running a weekly electronics drop in session.  A couple of weeks ago one of our members asked if I could help with a midi concertina design.  At this stage he didn't know that I play the concertina (I tend to keep music and engineering lives separate.)


I started with 15 small buttons mounted on a pcb just to get the electronics sorted but of course the feel wasn't right being click switches and with just a couple of extra switches to indicate directions the bellows.  The resultant midi signal was sent to a convenient Yamaha synth module which was lying about. 


Then I acquired a batch of "press to break" push switches.  These produce a signal immediately the button starts to move and then there is about 3mm travel after that.  The spring pressure is a little bit high but quite comparable with the button on my Wheatstone 1950s 40 button C/G.


Draw up the hex ends and switch positions and laser cut 3mm ply boards, leaving space for the Arduino nano, a strain gauge to connect the ends together along with a small HX711 electronic module to connect it and later a small oled display.


The result is in the attached pictures. Not fully enclosed so you can see some of the innards.

The small switch enables you to go into "setup mode" where some of the buttons are used to change, pitch, octave, sensitivity and program number. Also the shape of the response curve for pressure to volume which I haven't yet fully explored.


There's a video of me playing it at https://youtu.be/XSPmpdLq0fc

Be kind, this is just the accordion patch in Yamaha MU15 synth and me getting used to the feel of the thing including how the strain gauge responds.


It feels strange, not moving, and there's an urge to reach for the air button as your hands are close together but of course it's not necessary.



Howard Mitchell




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Howard, I love the simplicity of your build. It looks like a very budget-friendly setup, and my impression is that it strikes a good balance between cost and function. Obviously it doesn't perfectly replicate the feel of an acoustic concertina, but in my opinion that's a nice-to-have feature and not essential to the purpose of a midi instrument. Would you be willing to share details of your design, like source code or links to specific electronic components?

Edited by Steve Schulteis
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6 hours ago, Steve Schulteis said:

Would you be willing to share details of your design, like source code or links to specific electronic components?


I’d be happy to publish details.  Give me a little time to put something together ( some parts of it are in my head!). 

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I've put a schematic, an Arduino .ino file and 2 .dxf files for the hex ends with holes for the switches in a dropbox at - 




The code needs a bit of tidying up and optimisation but it works as is.


Here are links to the load cell, the switches and the oled display.









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2 hours ago, Howard Mitchell said:

Here are links to the load cell

Which 'weight' of load cell did you go with?  Would you stick with that weight if you built another one?


I wonder if two fairly heavy springs between each end of the load cell and the concertina ends would give it a better feel? Or even two load cells with a spring between them.


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1kg. It’s sensitive enough at the low end and doesn’t peak at the high end. 

I wondered about springs or maybe foam buffers. They might affect the response time when changing bellows direction. 

I’m working at the moment at making the ends further apart and at an angle to mimic the way I normally play. Also plugged it into a computer with your concertina sound font.   Had to modify the code as the Logic Audio sampler doesn’t recognise “all note off”. 

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Those switches have a  (reasonably good) lifetime expectancy of >=10,000 depressions but they will fail at some time.  Can they take a push on connector so that replacing a switch does not require electronic surgery?


Dammit, I am feeling the urge to revive my earlier abandoned project.

Edited by Don Taylor
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My (mechnically crude) version uses just such a load cell. I tried a 5 kg one then changed to a more sensitive one. I think it's 2 kg but I can't see its marking. I have it rigidly attached to the left-hand keyboard and have tried various arrangements for connecting it to the right-hand keyboard and allowing some play, none of which have yet satisfied me. That is one of the ergonomic aspects not yet resolved. The other is the 1.57 N operating force of the switches, which with the small diameter (3.4 mm) of their buttons makes them a bit uncomfortable to play. I thought about replacing them by switches with a lower operating force and/or gluing larger caps onto them but temporarily shelved the project before coming to a conclusion on that.


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I did build a MIDI 40 key ES concertina a couple of years ago using hall-effect sensors and magnets in the keys. I also made a 30 key anglo, which I never quite finished. Both played via an APP on an I-Phone and got their power through the USB line. For a while the ES MIDI worked via bluetooth:


Concertina 2.0


I since have been working on a system to convert one of Aeolas to midi without tempering with the original instrument...

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