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Overwhelmed by all of the variations of Duet Concertinas


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Greetings! I've spent a lot of time reading so many posts on this forum, and wanted to start by saying hello, and also, a big thanks to all of you for making such a wonderfully supportive and informative online community. I got fixated on playing concertina 2 years ago, and my lovely husband got me a cute (cheap) Chinese one off eBay. It's a 20 key anglo. It was fun at first, but I realized I was  limited to the pirate shanty/Irish jig kind of music and just didn't get very far because I couldn't play the music I wanted to play. PLEASE, no offense to anyone here, but I'm just ... not into playing Irish music.

After a lot of research, I think what I want is a duet. I initially thought my budget was $500, which seems to limit me to the Elise. I've read a lot of people's reviews saying that it's super limiting and that people outgrow within a year and that frustration with the instrument can be discouraging. Unfortunately, my limited music knowledge makes it hard for me to understand what aspects of the Elise's limitations could be dealbreakers for me ("you can't play *name that note*" doesn't help if I don't understand when I might need that note). I guess I'm looking advice about: should I be patient and save money to increase my budget to, say $1,000 (or, does it need to be more?), or just get started playing, buy the Elise, understanding I'll want to upgrade. If I am patient and save my money, then what style do I want.  I'm super overwhelmed by the varieties of keyboard arrangements (Maccann versus Hayden), compounded by all the variations of numbers of keys available.

Important background info: I know how to read music, but am rusty, and I definitely don't remember music theory. I am able to figure out basic tunes by ear (I play bass very badly, and played piano and flute years ago). I get discouraged by toooo steep of an initial learning curve. I'd like to be able to plunk out some basic tunes fairly quickly. I also don't intend on playing music in a group. I really just want to play on my own (to serenade my cats, lol). And, BIG thanks to the person here that compiled the huge list of duet concertina music. It was SO helpful to me. This song is a great example of the type of music I'd like to play.

 

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5 hours ago, Ericaland said:

... but I'm just ... not into playing Irish music.

 

You're not alone!

 

5 hours ago, Ericaland said:

my limited music knowledge makes it hard for me to understand what aspects of the Elise's limitations could be dealbreakers for me ("you can't play *name that note*" doesn't help if I don't understand when I might need that note).

 

There are two limitations in my view. Firstly the right hand goes no higher than A5 (in scientific notation). It's a shame it doesn't go one higher to B5. In my experience something like 96% of dance tunes fit within the range D4 to B5 (based on my analysis of the first 60 tunes in each of two session books). You might lose another 10% of tunes without the top B5 (gut feeling - I haven't counted).

 

Secondly the Elise has no G# or D#. D#5 crops up quite frequently in E minor tunes. Even the D/G melodeon has an accidental button for that. G# also crops up from time to time.

 

The example you give sounds fairly chromatic in nature. I suspect that with only three of the five accidentals you would struggle to play that on an Elise. It's played by @David Barnert, a member of this forum, who will probably respond. He plays a 46-button Hayden. I play a 45-button Crane. That's around the minimum number of buttons you need if you want to avoid serious limitations.

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Posted (edited)

I do not play this variety of concertina ..( my own is 30 key Anglo).. but you can always adapt or transpose music to fit any kind of instrument if need be. Or to fit within the range of notes more readily. (If certain notes happen to be missing for example).🌝 And you can play any kind of music on them ..and they are neutral musical devices after all, that depend upon YOU the musician to make them sing whichever tune you wish to play. 🌝🌝

Edited by SIMON GABRIELOW
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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

but you can always adapt or transpose music to fit any kind of instrument if need be

 

Blabla.

 

Not true on a duet with limited range. A number of pieces in G, for example, begin with the D below the root note of the scale which on most Cranes is the second lowest note available on the melody side, so you could go down to F (one full tone step) at most before losing melody notes (some players manage to "borrow" notes from the LH which imho rarely workes for several reasons). So if you wanted to transpose that to D (the second most popular key in English ceilidh music after G), you would have to transpose higher which on a 48 key instrument means you likely run out of melody notes on top.

 

The other issue is that even though duets are fully chromatic in theory, in practice there are "home keys" in which the fingering is most convenient, and the further you move away from those home keys, the more awkward the fingering gets. On the Crane, being roughly modelled after the piano (with the "white keys" located in the center columns and the accidentals on the outer columns), the home keys are C,G and D along with their respective modal siblings. The accidentals are very useful whenever there is a need to go chromatic (for example in ragtime or temporary modulations as @Little John pointed out), but I know of very few duet players who feel at ease in more than a few keys. 

 

Edited by RAc
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I believe that the Concertina Connection still offers to accept an Elise for trade-in at full initial purchase price against a new, higher value concertina - which would be the Peacock, I think.  

 

 

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3 hours ago, RAc said:

A number of pieces in G, for example, begin with the D below the root note of the scale which on most Cranes is the second lowest note available on the melody side, ...

 

This reminds me why smaller Maccanns (39 and 46 buttons) are limiting - they start at that G on the RHS, which means transposing.

 

3 hours ago, RAc said:

On the Crane, ... the home keys are C,G and D along with their respective modal siblings. 

 

I wouldn't use the phrase "home keys", but I broadly agree with this sentiment. However, I'd add F to that list. I use it and its relatives D minor / D dorian quite frequently.

 

4 hours ago, RAc said:

I know of very few duet players who feel at ease in more than a few keys.

 

I can't speak for others, but I find hardly any call to play outside C, D, F and G plus their modal relatives. So going outside these is bound to introduce an element of unfamiliarity. Adding one extra flat to play in Bb shouldn't be too difficult, but the root note is two semitones below the bottom of each hand and the higher one is rather too high, so I never use this key; though I do use its relative G minor quite happily. Similarly adding one sharp to play in A should't be hard, but I've never had reason to do so. I did once play a melody in Eb but the fingering is a bit strange!

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11 hours ago, Ericaland said:

This song is a great example of the type of music I'd like to play.

 

 

Thank you. But there are quite a few obstacles to your playing this particular tune. I’m playing a 46-button Hayden and would like to have had more buttons available. It certainly won’t work with fewer. Also, you won’t find arrangements for Hayden out there on the web, you pretty much have to arrange them yourself. This one took everything I learned having studied music theory for six semesters in college many years ago. And 30 years of experience with the Hayden (and many thousands of dollars invested in the instrument) didn’t hurt, either.

 

Sorry to sound so discouraging, but I have to warn you. Being able to play something like this isn’t going to happen over night.

 

But good luck!

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I got my feet wet in concertina-ville with a Wheatstone McCann duet 67-key aeola.  A great instrument, indeed.  The only limitation I felt was my own need for more practice.  Having recently become enamored of Edward Jay's bandotinas, I've ordered one knowing I'd have to learn the Hayden system.  To do so, I purchased an Elise in January of this year.  It took only a couple of days before I was phoning Concertina Connection to ask what was wrong with the instrument.  Well, in short, nothing wrong that a very expensive re-incarnation as a higher end instrument couldn't cure.  So, I continue on the Elise and while grateful to be moving through the expected learning curve I am anxiously looking forward to better times on a better instrument.  I was heartened a couple days ago by watching the opening two videos of a new youtube tutorial series for the Elise mentioned in the Teaching and Learning forum here.  I suggest you check out these videos as the instructor does not shy away from acknowledging the Elise's limitations but does his best to help you get your best out of the instrument.

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8 hours ago, David Barnert said:

 

Sorry to sound so discouraging, but I have to warn you. Being able to play something like this isn’t going to happen over night.

 

But good luck!

Oh, no need to be sorry! This is exactly the info/advice I was looking for...I want to be realistic about my own limitations, and set expectations and goals appropriately. This is very helpful. Thank you. And, it's really a lovely tune :)

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8 hours ago, David Barnert said:

Also, you won’t find arrangements for Hayden out there on the web, you pretty much have to arrange them yourself.

What type of duets have the most arrangements available? I'm a little nervous that having to arrange things on my own could end up being too steep of an initial learning curve.

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4 hours ago, Ericaland said:

What type of duets have the most arrangements available? I'm a little nervous that having to arrange things on my own could end up being too steep of an initial learning curve.

 

I don’t know that there’s a good answer to that. Duet concertinas of any sort are so much rarer than English concertinas and Anglos that they’re not getting much attention from the publishing industry. There may be vintage out-of-print books of arrangements for Mccann or Crane floating around. I know that Iris Bishop is working on a book about Duet concertinas in general and it will have many arrangements (at her request, I sent her some of mine). But I haven’t heard anything about the project in three years, so I have no idea what the status is.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, David Barnert said:

I don’t know that there’s a good answer to that. Duet concertinas of any sort are so much rarer than English concertinas and Anglos that they’re not getting much attention from the publishing industry. There may be vintage out-of-print books of arrangements for Mccann or Crane floating around. I know that Iris Bishop is working on a book about Duet concertinas in general and it will have many arrangements (at her request, I sent her some of mine). But I haven’t heard anything about the project in three years, so I have no idea what the status is.

 

I think I heard something recently about Iris's project but I can't recall the details.  I can email her to ask about it if it's important to find out its current status.

 

The Elise Hayden comes with a 50-page tutor book by William (Wim) Wakker that includes a number of arrangements.  A follow-up book called "Tutor for the Wicki/Hayden Duet Concertina, Book 2" was apparently published in 2023 - I haven't seen that one myself so I don't know if it fits within the range of the Elise or assumes the reader has a larger Hayden.

 

There are at least two old Crane tutors available online as PDFs that include some arrangements: http://www.concertina.com/crane-duet/Wilton-Bulstrode-Crane-Tutor.pdf and https://www.concertina.info/tina.faq/images/Salvation_Army_Tutor_For_Triumph_Concertina_2nd_ed.pdf .

 

I don't know as much about the Maccann world, but there are a number of online resources listed at http://www.concertina.com/maccann-duet/index.htm .

 

I didn't use any of these myself, though.  I play Crane (and played Hayden before that) but am self-taught on both.  I already played Anglo concertina, piano accordion and piano and had some knowledge of music theory before I tried out any duet systems, and that helped quite a bit.

 

 

Edited by Daniel Hersh
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Ericaland said:

I'm a little nervous that having to arrange things on my own could end up being too steep of an initial learning curve.

I wouldn't worry about a steep learning curve. I took up a Hayden (a Stagi 46) at age 70 having almost no practical musical background. It's easy to play tunes, and it's easy to play chords. I've never tried any other system so that might be true of lots of them.

 

I swapped to a secondhand Peacock - 42 buttons. I look online for the scores of tunes which have a melody and accompaniment (2-part or 2-voice ABC) and which fit within the compass if my 42 buttons. Sometimes I have to change the key (easy with software) which can result in it being (slightly) less easy to play. Sometimes I have to alter it to fit - find an alternative note or leave it out altogether. Often, as I'm learning it, I change odd notes of the accompaniment because they sound better or are easier to finger. 'Arranging' sounds a rather grand word for that, but I suppose that's what I'm doing.

 

I've never played an Elise but, having gone from 46 buttons to 42, I can't imagine having only 34. But it depends what music you end up wanting to play - which in my case was not what I started on. I rarely play left-hand chord accompaniments, for example. (On my Stagi, and even more on the Peacock, the left hand can easily drown out the melody.)

 

So, buy an Elise - it'll be fun - but if you get on with it you'll quickly want something bigger - and much more expensive.

Edited by DaveRo
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4 hours ago, Daniel Hersh said:

I didn't use any of these myself, though.

 

Likewise. I looked at the Crane tutors but they didn't represent either the material I was interested in nor the style of playing I wanted to achieve. So I'm entirely self-taught too.

 

3 hours ago, DaveRo said:

I wouldn't worry about a steep learning curve.

 

Neither would I. As long as you have a basic understanding of the three notes that make up a triad (simple chord) and the six chords available in each key (I, ii, iii, IV, V and vi), and are prepared to experiment, then your ear will guide you.

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4 hours ago, Daniel Hersh said:

I think I heard something recently about Iris's project but I can't recall the details.  I can email her to ask about it if it's important to find out its current status.

 

Not for me, thanks, unless @Ericaland or somebody else really wants to know.

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12 hours ago, Ericaland said:

What type of duets have the most arrangements available? I'm a little nervous that having to arrange things on my own could end up being too steep of an initial learning curve.

Although the Jeffries Duet is even rarer than the others and is generally priced above your budget it's worth mentioning Gary Coover's Tutor with arrangements for this instrument.

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On 6/3/2024 at 2:02 AM, Daniel Hersh said:

The Elise Hayden comes with a 50-page tutor book by William (Wim) Wakker that includes a number of arrangements.  A follow-up book called "Tutor for the Wicki/Hayden Duet Concertina, Book 2" was apparently published in 2023 - I haven't seen that one myself so I don't know if it fits within the range of the Elise or assumes the reader has a larger Hayden.

I just got a Concertina Connection Peacock Hayden duet. It came with the aforementioned tutor and explicitly says that the Elise is suitable for the tutor. Book 2 assumes that the reader finished book 1 and can read treble and bass clef and work the bellows.

 

The book provides some basic and helpful music theory, including using musical forms, chords and their inversions, blues progression, and lead sheets.

 

 

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