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Bb/D or other non"fifth" tuned concertinas?


Cathasach

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I've had my concertina for almost a year and as I've been playing I've noticed that every instrument is tuned in fifths, ie C/G, Bb/F. Is there a practical reason for this beyond the fact that musicians tend to think in fifths? Would a Bb/D concertina be a lot harder to play?

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The practical advantage is that there is only one note difference between the two scales, the difference is just one sharp.  This means that most notes in either scale can be found on both rows, and often in the opposite bellows direction, which allows for alternative ways of playing different phrases.  

 

Bb and D don't share many notes (only D, G and A) so the rows would be far more independent of each other. I don't know if it would be harder to play, but it would certainly be more limited.

 

A similar arrangement is found with melodeons - the high and low pitches are the other way around, but the keys of the rows are related in a similar way.  However some melodeons are tuned a semi-tone apart, which is fully chromatic. I'm not aware that this was ever used with concertinas, perhaps because it would limit playing chords.  

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1 hour ago, hjcjones said:

The practical advantage is that there is only one note difference between the two scales, the difference is just one sharp.  This means that most notes in either scale can be found on both rows, and often in the opposite bellows direction, which allows for alternative ways of playing different phrases.  

 

Bb and D don't share many notes (only D, G and A) so the rows would be far more independent of each other. I don't know if it would be harder to play, but it would certainly be more limited.

 

A similar arrangement is found with melodeons - the high and low pitches are the other way around, but the keys of the rows are related in a similar way.  However some melodeons are tuned a semi-tone apart, which is fully chromatic. I'm not aware that this was ever used with concertinas, perhaps because it would limit playing chords.  

Interesting. I was thinking having them more independent would give you greater range in terms of playing in different keys because you have more notes available on the main lines as opposed to having to go up to the accidentals. I guess figuring out the fingering could be tough at first but doing Balkan and other "weird" stuff means that I'm already having to do that.

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1 hour ago, Cathasach said:

Would a Bb/D concertina be a lot harder to play?

 

Interesting choice. With two flats and two sharps one could, theoretically, play in Bb, F, C, G and D (plus associated modes) without the need for the third 'accidental' row most Anglos have. How easy the would be in practice I don't know.

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I remember 25 or 30 years ago seeing mention of a custom early Suttner anglo in B/C/G. There have been custom-built arrangements tried by someone somewhere every few years in the three decades I've been paying attention.

 

Ken

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13 hours ago, Little John said:

 

Interesting choice. With two flats and two sharps one could, theoretically, play in Bb, F, C, G and D (plus associated modes) without the need for the third 'accidental' row most Anglos have. How easy the would be in practice I don't know.

Good point. I'd been thinking you'd be limited to mainly playing along the rows, but it would offer those other options.  Howe easy that would be to play, and whether it would offer the same chording opportunities, is another matter.

 

I think we can say that the 5th-apart model is not accidental, but there are no doubt other possible keyboard arrangements for anglo, and who knows what might have been if something different had been adopted?

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15 hours ago, Leah Velleman said:

I gather a lot of big German concertinas have at their core two rows a whole step apart. But I don't know how far you could get with just those two rows — usually they add another one a fifth away,

Yes, my Bandoneon is like that. The three main rows are like the concertina's, but in G/A/E plus accidentals. The earlier, small, 20-button German concertinas were, I believe, in A/E.

 

The reason for having two rows a fifth apart (C/G, G/D, Ab/Eb, A/E etc.) is that the most common modulation of key within a tune in European music is from the home key to the key with one sharp more (or one flat less). C major plus 1 sharp (F#) is G major; G major plus 1 sharp (C#) is D major. This makes tunes like The Ash Grove or Crimond (The Lord's my shepherd) very easy to harmonise. For the same reason, my old 2-key autoharp is in F/C, and larger Autoharps have their chord bars arranged along the Circle of Fifths, e.g. Bb, F, C, G, D, A.

Both the Concertina and the Autoharp were invented to make musical arrangements of simple music instinctive, and their basis in the Circle of Fifths is a major part of that. Sort of built-in music theory for the amateur.

 

Having said that, I must add that, on the Bandoneon, I usually play the psalm-tune Crimond on the A-row, modulating to the E-row (like I do on the C and G-rows of my Anglo). However, I can also play the tune - fully harmonised - on the Bandoneon's G-row, modulating to the A-row. So the rows that are a whole tone apart do have their uses!

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

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