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Thummer(tm)-brand Jammer Unveiled!

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The long term future of the Thummer , I suggest, lies in whether it appeals to enough people on this non-logic level as well as the theoretical level. This is something only time will tell.


I agree entirely. On the one hand, the jammer could appeal to concertinists, as they are already familiar with the notion of a 2D button-field. On the other hand, though, many concertinists have chosen to play the concertina (I suggest) as a REJECTION of newfangled electronic gadgetry.


BTW, you can now find much better-quality demo videos on Google Video, and videos of the entire 45-minute announcement of the jammer -- including demos, discussion, expert opinion, and audience feedback -- on www.thummer.com/demo.asp.


Having first encountered the Wicki/Hayden layout on concertina.net, I am happy to have been able to share its details with these forums members. I'll keep your helpful comments and suggestions in mind, and check back in from time to time.


Thanks! :-)


Jim Plamondon

CEO, Thumtronics Ltd

The New Shape of Music


Edited by Plamondon
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Is there compelling reason to stick to easy trasposing keyboard in an electronic instrument, when the key can be changed by the turn of a knob? Even as one is playing.

I think Jummber would do better if it resembled a Hayden concertina, with fake bellows action etc. It could be used as a practice device, and cheap supplement during lenghy wait for a real Duet concertina with Hayden layout.

So far I don't really understan why it's split in two halfs, and not all in one piece.

I'd also give it more than 2 octaves in each hand with large, 2-3 octaves overlap, or either duplicated the two hands completely, or combine an octave of double basses with 2 octaves beginning with middle C for the left. This way you can play Oom-pa-pa type bass/chord accordion style.

Or let owners to map their own layout.

I'm a bit sceptical about many people wanting to learn obscured layout, only available in an electronic form, without any application to the acoustic "prototype".

Look, out of all electronic instruments (hundreds!) the most common is a piano keyboard.

Electric guitars and strings are acoustic really, electronic accordions and concertinas are exeptionally rare, expencive and mimic real instruments. They are used for practice and for easier pick up. Many of them are used with very bad taste though and are a subject for laughter.

As far as intuitiveness of the keyboard - nothing beats piano.

Chromaticity wise - no.1 is CBA

All the rest are compromizes, resulting from limitations of materials, technology, portability, common sense etc.

I don't think Hayden is truly chromatic, as accidentals are not where they should be, but thrown out to the sides. So it is easy to play diatonically in any keys, but not chromatically.

Is it real hassle to re-design the Jummer to resemble a concertina?

Who would not be tempted to buy a good sounding electronic Hayden for mere $500?

I know I would.


I just practiced a tune on my keybaord, pretending it's a Jummer. Works!

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As far as intuitiveness of the keyboard - nothing beats piano.
Depends on what you consider "intuitiveness". Certainly on a piano one can see that semi-tone are adjacent to each other and they are sequentially laid out. And the diatonic notes in the key of C are easy to spot.... But that's about it? How intuitive is it to play in the key of D#? Or quickly find the minor 3rd note of Bb? Or play an ascending scale in parallel 6ths... in the key of F#? The Wicki/Hayden does all this very easily.
Chromaticity wise - no.1 is CBA
Why do you think so? Because the chromatic notes are adjacent? If so, what good does that do? Most western music is diatonic.
I don't think Hayden is truly chromatic, as accidentals are not where they should be, but thrown out to the sides.
The Wicki/Hayden system IS fully chromatic (has "all" the notes or tones). In fact, it's MORE that fully chromatic as one can have the enharmonic chromatic notes be of differing temper. What "should" be: having chromatic notes or diatonic notes adjacent?
So it is easy to play diatonically in any keys, but not chromatically.
The vast majority of western music IS diatonic. So why favor an system that fingers more easily chromatically over one that fingers more easily diatonically? Even though the Wicki/Hayden system is diatonically-bent, it certainly is easy to get whatever chromatic notes one wants.
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I think most of the modern "serious" music is not really diatonic. And chromatic runs are not uncommon. How easy it is to do chromatic run on the Hayden?

Many musicians told me that chromaticity is not just having the accidentals.

It's the relative ease to get them, when needed. Which doesn't mean they have to be placed "logically". Look at bandoneon.

How easy it is to play maj7ths or min7ths, or 9th or flattened 6ths on the Hayden?

It's a compromize. My impression is that the Thummer is an attempt to build universal

instrument, for which purpose it will undoubtedly fail.

My 11 year old daughter had no problem creating any chord in any key. She was often given an assignment to make chords in various keys. No problem there. I'm not a piano player, but had to help her many times and watch over her home work. I totally changed my mind about the paino keyboard. No wonder it's so common. Transposition is not an issue for the most cases. Building an easy transposiing keyboard is a waste of time. You still have to learn your instrument and it takes time to build muscle memory etc. By the time you are proficient you probably can transpose folk tunes on a fly with any keyboard. As for the written music - mostly you play it as written, right?

I noticed one interesting tendency: the easier the instrument is for a beginner, the more difficult it is going to be later on. To play complex music on a diatonic accordion one has to be very knowledgeable about music theory to substitute absent notes and create suitable harmonies.

As for just intonation, does your Hayden has sharps and flats different? Is Button Box planning to produce Haydens with just intonation? Anybody doing that?

My impression is that just intonation for fixed pitch chromatic instrument is history.

Thummer is a compromize between chromaticity, portability, easyness and what have you. But it's a compromize none-the-less. I'd say it would be better off without thumb joysticks and without cool sounds to impress the "youngsters". It failed in the 80s and will fail today. But as a learning tool for Hayden "expecting" folks - hard to over-estimate. Which means small, but steady market. Still not bad.



> find the minor 3rd note of Bb


Isn't it Bb,B,D?

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I don't think it's appropriate to think of the Thummer-brand Jammer as "a good sounding electronic Hayden for mere $500". This instrument is considerably more than just an electronic Hayden.


Note, for example, that the two halves of a Thummer are mirror-reversed! This is a considerable improvement over the Hayden design (and would be an equal improvement for the Maccann keyboard).


As Jim Plamondon notes on his website,


"Since a person's hands are mirror-images of each other, mirroring a pair of ThumFields can provide consistent fingering to each hand."


And, as the video demos show, using your fingers to generate MIDI gives you a lot more choices than using your fingers to generate air going through reed-shoes. A Thummer promises to be considerably more interesting than a Hayden duet.


(And, by the way, the quoted price is Australian $497--which is about USD $375 or GBP £200. That's extremely cost-effective.)

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Mirror images of the two halves of the keyboard is arguable improvement.

Russian bayans are thought to be superior instruments precisely because their free bass sistem is not mirror image, but the opposite.

This is preferred by trained musicians, as it provides better logistics, then mirror image.

That's the thing that bothers me. I really want it to succeed, but so far it's kind of falling behind. It's designed with scientific ideas and without consideration of the tradition.

Now tradition is there for a reason. One is above-mentioned mirror image vs. continuous ascend-descend.

The other is existance of acoustic instruments, of which electronic are just emulators.

There are few electronic real instruments (stringed instruments (guitar, to the lesser degree violin, bass) and Theremin (with vacuum tubes), that have their own sound and can be considered "instruments". All the rest are emulators of existing instruments and at best are substitutes: light and portable electronic piano keyboard, light, reedless accordion and concertina (perhabs). The Thummer is only a keyboard. It can be hooked to any synthesizer and to have powerful quality sound must be accompanied by the whole bunch of expencive gear. Any less (built-in speakers, headphones) are going to make it good for after hour practicinig. Now the question: practicing what? What kind of acoustic instrument? Bystanders seem to fall for "wah-wah", so excellently demonstrated on the video. The "Wah-wah" will not work the second time . $400 is alot of money.

It seems that to start with cheap emulator of Hayden concertina is realistic and may bring some money.

Revolutionizing the musical establishment can wait a little.

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...the two halves of a Thummer are mirror-reversed! This is a considerable improvement over the Hayden design (and would be an equal improvement for the Maccann keyboard).

Robert, do you have experience to back that up? My own experience indicates otherwise.


As one of the few (possibly the only, at least before the Thummer :unsure: ) persons today who has experience playing such a mirror-imaged duet keyboard -- a Pitt-Taylor design -- I have found that aspect of the layout to be neither superior nor inferior to the side-by-side layout of the Crane, Maccann, Jeffries, Hayden, anglo, etc. Interestingly enough, I also find that it's no more difficult switching back and forth between this Pitt-Taylor and the Crane or Maccann than among the English, anglo, and duets. I.e., the side-by-side and mirrored-sides experiences don't seem to interfere with each other.


It seems that the human nervous system is far more adaptable than the human intellect.

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Thummer is a compromize between chromaticity, portability, easyness and what have you. But it's a compromize none-the-less. I'd say it would be better off without thumb joysticks and without cool sounds to impress the "youngsters". It failed in the 80s and will fail today. But as a learning tool for Hayden "expecting" folks - hard to over-estimate. Which means small, but steady market. Still not bad.


I appreciate everyone's taking the time to discuss these issues -- this conversation is very helpful to me.


m3838's comments are well-taken.


I don't deny for a minute that the jammer's design is a compromise. I've biased the design of the first version towards flexibility, for example, by requiring that it plug into a computer. That flexibility comes at the cost of complexity, which is going to cost me a lot of sales. Will the advantage of flexibility outweigh the cost of complexity? Only time in the market can tell for sure. Eventually, I'll be able to build sound-generating electronics and battery power into some jammers, compromising their flexibility in favor of simplicity. That compromise will appeal to a different portion of the market.


It's not about avoiding compromises; it's about making the right compromises -- that is, that set of compromises which deliver a product which delights individuals so much that they choose to exchange their hard-earned cash for my jammers, rather than for any of the myriad other items they could buy.


All designs are compromises. I just hope that working musicians and consumers will find the jammer to be a GOOD compromise, delivering expressiveness, ease of learning, and an expansion of musical horizons, all at a reasonable price and level of quality.


Mirrored hands: I've looked into this as deeply as I can during the design phase, and everything I've found says that mirroring the hands should make learning AND playing easier. I have no hard proof of this, however. Because the PC-side software can flip the mirroring on or off, people will be able to play the jammer either way, so over time people will decide what the best orientation is.


Tradition: I notice, m3838, that you are having this exchange on an Internet forum -- hardly traditional. I gather than English is not your first language (although your English is quite good), yet you are writing in English -- hardly traditional. You are not even using your birth name in these communications -- hardly traditional. You have chosen to flaunt tradition in order to accomplish certain goals. So have I. In this, we are both acting in accordance with a deeper, very well-established human tradition of doing whatever works. Good for both of us! :-)


Diatonic vs. chromatic: the vast majority of commercially-successful music -- which includes Mozart, Beethoven, etc. -- is primarily diatonic. (Exceptions like Bartok prove the rule.) I will sell far more jammers by emphasizing diatonic music than by emphasizing chromatic music. Biasing the jammer towards diatonic music is the only commercially-viable design decision.


Obviously, "selling more jammers" is my metric of success here. I'm a hard-core capitalist, and I will defend to my last breath your right to spend your hard-earned cash on whatever you damn well choose...even if it's not a jammer. I just hope that I can make the jammer's design compromises wisely enough -- with your help, through discussions like this -- that many people will choose to sacrifice a few foot massages, candy bars, novels, or whatever, and choose to spend that money to buy jammers instead.


I don't need to win over everyone. It's a big market. I just want a fair share.


Jim Plamondon

CEO, Thumtronics Ltd


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I will not comment on Electronic musical instruments or on the "Thummer" until I have seen one and tryed playing it however I wil answer to "3838"s questions on chromatic scales and chords.

1) Chromatic Scales.

I had to practice these, however only two finger patterns are needed, and whilst I personally play very few chromatic pieces as such, (my taste in music is traditional music, and Baroque music) I frequently add chromatic runs and decorations to the trad pieces, which fall easily under my fingers. Having a semitone higher or lower not on adjacent buttons (for which you might usually use the same finger) is I find a positive advantage as adding a chromatic decoration to a tune that you already know does not need a change to the basic fingering.

2) Major and minor sevenths etc.

One of the big advantages of the Hayden (and Thummber) keyboards is that you can play both 4ths and 5ths with only one finger. On my larger instrument which has repeated Abs & G#s, and Ebs & D#s I can play any pair of notes a 4th or a 5th apart somewhere throughout the whole compass of the instrument. This enables me to play 3 note Major and Minor chords with only two fingers, and Major 7ths, Minor 7ths with only two fingers. This can be very usefull when playing a quick sequence of chords as you can usually do this on alternate or adjacent pairs of fingers without any finger jumping.



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It certainly looks nifty, and at that price, I rather expect I'll buy one.


Part of it for me is that it is different enough from my Concertina that I won't confuse myself, and I already have the synthesizers/computers/etc that it can serve as a controller for.


Now the only tricky part is waiting for it to be released into production...



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With all due respect etc.

Can you show me how can you play Cmajor7 chord with 2 fingers on Hayden keyboard?




I can see it if you tilt the instrument or/and have the rows going slightly upward. Is that the case? So the Thummer's halves can be tilted the way some split keyboards are?


Also would be nice to know, how to play Cmaj9 or Cmaj9 flattend(I think I correctly depicted needed notes by capital lettters).





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