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Crane Vs Maccann


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i am in the market for a duet. have read ivan viehoff's article and i wonder if anyone has more to add on choosing between maccann vs crane fingering? i have an ambition to play ragtime and early swing (eg aint misbehavin). are most of the cnet duet players crainers?

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i am in the market for a duet. have read ivan viehoff's article and i wonder if anyone has more to add on choosing between maccann vs crane fingering? i have an ambition to play ragtime and early swing (eg aint misbehavin).
While I play Hayden duet, I do have some insights to the Maccann and Crane. I've found Crane to be easier to learn than Maccann (but that's just my take) and have heard that from several several people as well - BUT I've also heard that it's easier to finger "fuller" tunes on Maccann, and some fingerings on Crane can be difficult. I haven't gotten good enough at either to be able to verify this.

 

Another thing to consider is the instrument itself. Most Maccanns seem to start on G above MC on the right side - avoid these like the plague! You need as much range as possible to play tunes so that your hands stay independent. Most Cranes and Haydens start on MC on the right. You can get large Maccanns that start on MC but they are large and heavy! I've played some larger (heavier!) concertinas and found them not as easy nor "fun" to play as smaller boxes.

 

I applaud your ambition to play ragtime and swing - I do to (ahem... strive to). Some piano rags, fiddle rags, even guitar rags. Going down to (at least) MC on the right is essential. I've heard those aforementioned English and anglo rag recordings - but they sound truncated compared to what a duet can do. If I were to start over and to choose a concertina for that sort of work (meaning that I didn't already have a Wheatstone/Dickinson Hayden), I'd still choose a duet, but most likely a Crane.

 

Why? I find it easier to finger, can get a smaller lighter box that starts on MC, and I can get a high quality one NOW. Of three I'd prefer a Hayden though the only really available ones are Stagis which are really poor instruments. I'd buy one only if I knew I'd be able to get a better one in a few months - and at *least* a 55- key version. Preferably 58 to 60.

 

My Hayden is a 46-key which I find fairly limiting to play in flatted keys which makes me favor rags in F,C,G,D (I haven't found any in A or E yet). I do some Bb work but it's not much fun. A few parts that modulate into Eb are a real bear. My Hayden also tops out at the high D which is barely adequate. Just two more notes would let me play many more rags without compromise.

 

Another problem with ANY Hayden is that accidentals are far apart. Most of the time this isn't an issue as the accidental most often used is the 1-sharp which is easy to reach. The 1 is usually played with one's index finger and the 1# is only 1 button away from one's pinky's home position. The 2# is quite a bit harder - a 2 button pinky stretch, or if you have a larger box, a 2-button index finger stretch (which isn't as bad as it sounds). The 5# is also a 2-button stretch. All the others are easy (in-pattern or only 1-button stretch) if you play in the "central" keys of the Hayden. All bets are off when playing in perifery keys like F and Bb.

 

While I've played scales and simple tunes on Maccann and Crane, I've never attempted ragtime on them so can't let you know if there are any glaring shortcomings due the the genre. One thing I find easy to do on Hayden is parallel diatonic thirds with one hand which happens often in ragtime. Parallel *chromatic* run thirds are also common but a real challenge on Hayden. I wonder how the other systems stack up to this particular set of notes?

 

Maybe you, ragtimer (Mike who also plays ragtime and Hayden duet), and I can trade tips? Who else here plays ragtime on concertina?

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While I play Hayden duet, I do have some insights to the Maccann and Crane. I've found Crane to be easier to learn than Maccann (but that's just my take) and have heard that from several several people as well - BUT I've also heard that it's easier to finger "fuller" tunes on Maccann, and some fingerings on Crane can be difficult. I haven't gotten good enough at either to be able to verify this.?

I've been told much the same by MacCann players, that the seeming illogical layout favours chords and sequences of notes that the player frequently uses. BUT I have put this to a number of Crane players over the years and they have always denied finding problems of this kind with the Crane system and wax lyrical about its advantages. So yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice. Personally I suspect Main Squeeze Bias here: whatever system you play is clearly the Right Thing.

 

Chris

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While I've played scales and simple tunes on Maccann and Crane, I've never attempted ragtime on them so can't let you know if there are any glaring shortcomings due the the genre. One thing I find easy to do on Hayden is parallel diatonic thirds with one hand which happens often in ragtime. Parallel *chromatic* run thirds are also common but a real challenge on Hayden. I wonder how the other systems stack up to this particular set of notes?

 

I find that the Maccann is pretty good for playing runs of thirds in most of the common keys, but you need to make use of all four fingers to do it, and if you want them legato you have to do the occasional bit of sliding or create the illusion of legato by sustaining one note while cutting the other short.

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While I play Hayden duet, I do have some insights to the Maccann and Crane. I've found Crane to be easier to learn than Maccann (but that's just my take) and have heard that from several several people as well...

Easier to learn what?

... Easier to learn the C scale in the first octave? Probably not.

... Easier to extend that C scale higher? Maybe slightly, due to the fingering shift on a non-Chidley Maccann, but not by much.

... Easier to extrapolate the fingering to other "simple" keys like G, D, and F? Maybe, but once you've found them, it quickly becomes second nature.

... Easier to find the D#/Eb? Yeah, that seems oddly "out of pattern" on a Maccann, but once again it's something one can quickly get used to.

 

But if any of those things are giving you trouble after the first few months, then it's a question of your personal fit to the instrument, not the keyboard layout itself.

 

... BUT I've also heard that it's easier to finger "fuller" tunes on Maccann,...

Whatever that means.... "Fuller" melodies? "Fuller" (richer?) chords? Either way, I don't think it's true.

 

...and some fingerings on Crane can be difficult. I haven't gotten good enough at either to be able to verify this.

Some fingerings on Crane can be difficult. So can some fingerings on Maccann. With chords, in particular, one may favor different inversions on the two systems, but neither is inherently "better"... or in general easier. And with certain harmonies -- e.g., parallel thirds -- the way one shifts the fingers has different "styles" in the two systems, in part because the Maccann's layout is wider than the Crane's. Maybe different people are more comfortable with one or the other, just as some people are more comfortable with the English than the anglo, and vice versa.

 

Another thing to consider is the instrument itself. Most Maccanns seem to start on G above MC on the right side - avoid these like the plague! You need as much range as possible to play tunes so that your hands stay independent. Most Cranes and Haydens start on MC on the right. You can get large Maccanns that start on MC but they are large and heavy! I've played some larger (heavier!) concertinas and found them not as easy nor "fun" to play as smaller boxes.

Maccanns with 55 buttons or less generally have that "problem". 55 buttons seems to have been a standard size for Lachenal, but not for Wheatstone. But Wheatstone had a standard 57-button model (they call it 58, because for some strange reason they include the air button in the count on duets), which does start on middle C in the right hand. Not terribly large and heavy, and far more versatile than a 46-button Maccann.

 

But note that the 55-button Lachenal Maccanns have extra range at the top to compensate for starting above middle C. If you don't mind playing the right hand parts an octave higher than normally written, then you can have the advantage of being able to go "down" to the G below the lowest C in the right hand. And since the left hand goes down only to the C below middle C -- nowhere near as deep as a piano, -- the different separation of the ranges between the two hands might be desirable.

 

I've heard those aforementioned English and anglo rag recordings - but they sound truncated compared to what a duet can do.

"Truncated"? How so? I have to admit that what little I've heard on recordings has seemed a bit thin to me, but I've heard arrangements in live performance which were superior to any of the recordings I've encountered. E.g., Alistair Anderson playing "Strenuous Life" on a tenor-treble English, and Bob Walser doing "Maple Leaf Rag" on an anglo. (Both about 30 years ago.) One can't really play a full piano arrangement on any concertina -- even an 80-button Maccann doesn't have the range of a piano, -- but one can develop arrangements that sound "complete" for the instrument one is using, and (I believe) at least as good as a good guitar arrangement.

 

If I were to start over and to choose a concertina for that sort of work (meaning that I didn't already have a Wheatstone/Dickinson Hayden), I'd still choose a duet, but most likely a Crane.

I think that either a Crane or a Maccann would be a good choice.

 

Why? I find it easier to finger, can get a smaller lighter [Crane] box that starts on MC,...

And is fully chromatic down to the bottom in the left hand.

 

My Hayden is a 46-key which I find fairly limiting to play in flatted keys which makes me favor rags in F,C,G,D (I haven't found any in A or E yet). I do some Bb work but it's not much fun. A few parts that modulate into Eb are a real bear. My Hayden also tops out at the high D which is barely adequate. Just two more notes would let me play many more rags without compromise.

I just tried a little exercise on my Crane (59-button, but I stuck to the 48-button range): I played "Stone's Rag" (a fiddle rag, not a piano piece) with simple chords, in C. Then I experimented with playing it in C#(Db), and found that while the fingering pattern changed quite a bit, it was still quite easy.

 

Another problem with ANY Hayden is that accidentals are far apart.

The importance of the relative placement of notes depends on whether they're being used in melodic sequences or chords, and also on the arrangements you develop and the keys you choose to play in. (Is there anything inherently wrong with transposing a ragtime piece?) But if you feel that the placement of accidentals is a general problem on the Hayden, then maybe that is an issue. I certainly don't find it a problem on the Crane, nor do I think it is one on the Maccann.

 

While I've played scales and simple tunes on Maccann and Crane, I've never attempted ragtime on them so can't let you know if there are any glaring shortcomings due the the genre. One thing I find easy to do on Hayden is parallel diatonic thirds with one hand which happens often in ragtime. Parallel *chromatic* run thirds are also common but a real challenge on Hayden. I wonder how the other systems stack up to this particular set of notes?

I think the parallel diatonic thirds may be easiest on the Hayden, somewhat trickier on a Maccann (depending on the key) and even less fluid on the Crane. One issue with the Crane is that since the layout is only 5 buttons wide, the pattern shifts back and forth across the array more quickly than with the Maccann or Hayden, and it often becomes necessary to "jump" fingers from one step to the next in the sequence. However, because of this same compactness I find that the run of chromatic thirds isn't really any more difficult on the Crane than the diatonic ones, while on the Maccann I think it is more difficult.

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I've been told much the same by MacCann players, that the seeming illogical layout favours chords and sequences of notes that the player frequently uses. BUT I have put this to a number of Crane players over the years and they have always denied finding problems of this kind with the Crane system and wax lyrical about its advantages. So yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice. Personally I suspect Main Squeeze Bias here: whatever system you play is clearly the Right Thing.

I think there may be two factors at work here. The first is the reversal of "the ... layout favours chords and sequences of notes that the player frequently uses." I.e., the player tends to frequent use of those chords and sequences that they find easiest/most comfortable. The second is that as with the anglo/English difference, different individuals' brains may be "wired" differently in ways that favor one kind of duet over another, and that is the one they will prefer and promote, without recognizing that what is "best" for them isn't necessarily best for everyone.

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when you say parallel diatonic thirds i havent quite understood you,could you explain further

sorry,but i am confused.

 

Parallel thirds means playing a tune together with the same tune a third below (or above) in the same time and rhythm. So in addition to G-E-F-G-D-F-E we play for example E-C-D-E-B-D-C a third below.

 

Parallel diatonic thirds means that the notes are all taken from the current key or scale, as above. So, playing in C major for example, as above, all the notes are taken from C major.

 

The main (not the only) alternative to diatonic is chromatic. In this case there will be accidentals which take you out of the current key, but not in such a fashion as to put you consistently in another key.

 

Joplin makes considerable use of parallel thirds, notably in The Entertainer (from which the above example was taken), not always diatonic.

 

Parallel thirds are usually sufficiently easy to play on a Maccann that it is a good trick to have in your repertoire of things-to-do-on-a-Maccann. But parallel fifths are a b****r. I can't speak for Cranes.

 

I like to play Joplin on the piano, and have occasionally sat with my concertina trying to play selected notes from the piano score. I soon gave up, realising that I would have a huge job writing an arrangement first. The first problem with attempting to play such things on the Maccann is that the tunes are often spread over about 3 octaves or so, so you have to modify the tune (changing the octave of some tune sections, possibly even modulating some sections eg by a 5th), and probably the key too, even if it isn't in A-flat. The other big problem is that pianos like "busy" harmonisation, but concertinas don't. So there is a major task cutting down and simplifying the arrangement. This isn't just thinning out the chords; even the underlying harmony will probably have to be simplified. This is because what sounds slick on the piano, when you are including all the notes which will allow the harmony to glide from one chord to the next, may just sound lumpy on a concertina, where the chording is necessarily going to be thinner and probably not legato.

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I had this decision (the system to go for) to make when I took up the duet. I talked and read as much as I could to as many people as would listen and my conclusions went like this:

 

1) There currently seem to be quality players of both Maccans and Cranes; Maccan was the music hall choice, I think, but both can apparently be made to work well.

 

2) Haydens look most sensible but haven't been arround for long and are discountable unless you are happy to be limited in choice of instrument and/or waiting time; there simply isn't the varied second hand pool to dip into.

 

3) Crane looks more logical and intuitive but they are much scarcer. Sort of half-way-to-Hayden in every way then...

 

In the end I decided that it probably wasn't that important as I was starting from scratch and fundamentally you could do as much with either system, but preferring Maccan for the option to upgrade/downsize what-have-you more easily. (That's certainly been true; since buying my 61 key Wheatstone Maccan I've seen perhaps 6 Maccans for sale for every Crane)

 

The other thing I learnt subsequently (obvious really) is that both systems have difficult and easy sequences, so perhaps it's no big deal anyway, more of a trade-off. Personal experience is that some of the 'illogical' positions of sharps and flats on the Maccan actually turn out to be well placed. (There's a right hand E flat in what seems the most stupid position when you start learning but a lot of the time it positively helps fingering when you use it.)

 

I'll add a free controversial bit; having reached the stage where I am playing in public without embarrassment I'm still sure that the advice given me on size was sound; of Maccans I was told several times 'get one with at least 56 keys' and 'make sure it goes down to middle C on the right' (which comes to about the same thing). If you have any ambition to play even slightly sophisticated arrangements and particularly to read music don't buy a 46 keyer (they're cheap). If you want a concertina that helps you learn, rather than adding an extra layer of grief, avoid them like the plague. I had one to use as the 'expendable/party' instrument and sold it as a waste of time, preferring to risk the expensive one.

 

The bigger instruments gain, as much as anything, in the duplicated keys at the bottom of the rhs/top of the lhs which allows the same cross over that a pianist has by using either hand arround the middle C zone. It helps avoid swapping tunes and chords between ends/hands, inevitable sometimes but worth minimising, especially at first. They also have larger X section bellows which allows bigger chords and more sustain.

 

(There will now be great howls of anguish from the 46 key mafia, but your ragtime inclinations should particularly make you shy away from them. You'll want wider chords, accidentals-a-go-go, and good range, won't you?)

 

Finally I was advised to dig deep and buy a good 1920's Wheatstone. It ties up a lot of money (not as much as for an equivalent Anglo; I only recently learned what relatively good value a decent duet is) but if you simply fail to play it you will get your cash back as long as you bought sensibly.

 

The advice continued that concertina technology improved until about 1930 when economy began to affect quality so 1920's ones are tops (but they didn't make duets until later on in the 19th c so age is no real problem as long as it isn't too new). Buy a good one from the start, they said, then it'll encourage you rather than cause you trouble. I love my Wheatstone, it's my prized possession and I pick it up for a muck-about at the least excuse (being on the same floor of the house often serves), so it worked for me.

 

Unfortunately that means I don't get my purchase price back. Ever. Damn!

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when you say parallel diatonic thirds i havent quite understood you,could you explain further
Parallel thirds means playing a tune together with the same tune a third below (or above) in the same time and rhythm. So in addition to G-E-F-G-D-F-E we play for example E-C-D-E-B-D-C a third below.

 

Parallel diatonic thirds means that the notes are all taken from the current key or scale, as above. So, playing in C major for example, as above, all the notes are taken from C major.

An example of a simple run in diatonic thirds, treating the third above as the harmony (hyphenated pairs to be played simultaneously):

... C-E, D-F, E-G, F-A, etc.

A chromatic run using parallel major thirds might be:

... C-E, C#-F#, D-F#, D#-G, etc.

And the same with parallel minor thirds:

... C-Eb, C#-E, D-F, D#-F#, etc.

Or a diatonic run using chromatic major-third parallelism:

... C-E, D-F#, E-G#, F-A, G-B, A-c#, B-d#, etc.

 

When the melody jumps around, the harmony does, too, always staying above (or below) the melody by the selected type of interval.

 

Parallel thirds are usually sufficiently easy to play on a Maccann that it is a good trick to have in your repertoire of things-to-do-on-a-Maccann. But parallel fifths are a b****r. I can't speak for Cranes.

Parallel fifths on a Crane are fairly easy. Parallel fourths -- the inversion of the parallel fifth -- are almost trivial, with the two notes being "vertically" adjacent buttons (except for F-Bb and F#-B, which are diagonally adjacent), and thus even possible to play with a single finger.

 

...what sounds slick on the piano, when you are including all the notes which will allow the harmony to glide from one chord to the next, may just sound lumpy on a concertina, where the chording is necessarily going to be thinner and probably not legato.

And because the notes on the piano die away after you strike them, it's necessary to compensate in some way on the concertina to avoid a stuck-in-the-swamp feeling. Staccato playing, especially in the left hand, can help, but also useful is not using as many notes at a time. It may take some serious experimentation with dropping out and octave-jumping various different notes in order to find the desired flavor.

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3) Crane looks more logical and intuitive but they are much scarcer. Sort of half-way-to-Hayden in every way then...

Almost every way? On the Crane the spread between consecutive half steps is never more than 4 buttons and in many cases only 2 (i.e., they're adjacent), the same as on the Maccann. :)

 

...having reached the stage where I am playing in public without embarrassment...

 

Unfortunately ... I don't get my purchase price back. Ever.

Start getting paid for your unembarrassed playing in public, and you'll get your money back, even if slowly. :)

 

(Dirge has made some excellent points in the parts of his post I didn't single out for comment.)

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I've heard those aforementioned English and anglo rag recordings - but they sound truncated compared to what a duet can do.
"Truncated"? How so? I have to admit that what little I've heard on recordings has seemed a bit thin to me
Truncated as in significant notes missing and choppy sounding as many sequential notes need to be played by the same finger.
One thing I find easy to do on Hayden is parallel diatonic thirds with one hand which happens often in ragtime. Parallel *chromatic* run thirds are also common but a real challenge on Hayden. I wonder how the other systems stack up to this particular set of notes?
I think the parallel diatonic thirds may be easiest on the Hayden, somewhat trickier on a Maccann (depending on the key) and even less fluid on the Crane. One issue with the Crane is that since the layout is only 5 buttons wide, the pattern shifts back and forth across the array more quickly than with the Maccann or Hayden, and it often becomes necessary to "jump" fingers from one step to the next in the sequence. However, because of this same compactness I find that the run of chromatic thirds isn't really any more difficult on the Crane than the diatonic ones, while on the Maccann I think it is more difficult.
The "smoothness" of those runs really affects the way the music sounds. On the Hayden, the diatonic runs can be done smoothly by using different fingers for each subsequent pairs of notes. The chromatic run is more challenging to play smoothly as I find I need to use the same fingers for a few of the subsequent pairs of notes.

Hayden-FC-runs.gif

While the chromatic example isn't *totally* chromatic, it could be... this example is what most often happens in ragtime music (well, I could have done the last in the diatonic sequence using notes D,F# with my M,P but it "sounds" right to keep it in a D chord). Do those note examples work on Maccann and Crane by using the same fingers for subsequent notes?

Edited by Richard Morse
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The "smoothness" of those runs really affects the way the music sounds. On the Hayden, the diatonic runs can be done smoothly by using different fingers for each subsequent pairs of notes. The chromatic run is more challenging to play smoothly as I find I need to use the same fingers for a few of the subsequent pairs of notes.

Hayden-FC-runs.gif

While the chromatic example isn't *totally* chromatic, it could be... this example is what most often happens in ragtime music (well, I could have done the last in the diatonic sequence using notes D,F# with my M,P but it "sounds" right to keep it in a D chord). Do those note examples work on Maccann and Crane by using the same fingers for subsequent notes?

Ouch! To figure out what sequence you're "playing" I had to follow a moving pattern with no speed control on a Hayden keyboard, where the finger highlighting obscured the note names. Well, I think I succeeded.

 

The particular chromatic run you give I can play on the Crane by alternating i-p with m-r for each transition. In other keys it may not be as simple. Your diatonic run I can do with only one jump of a finger, and that to change fingers on a repeated note, anyway. But that isn't necessarily the fingering I would choose as most comfortable. Many of the transitions can be done by sliding a finger to an adjacent button

 

An important point, I think, regarding smoothness is that if you are playing two notes at a time, you can keep the feeling of smoothness if one of the lines remains smooth, even if there's a minute discontinuity in the other line, because the total sound doesn't have a gap.

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" If you don't mind playing the right hand parts an octave higher than normally written, then you can have the advantage of being able to go "down" to the G below the lowest C in the right hand. And since the left hand goes down only to the C below middle C -- nowhere near as deep as a piano, -- the different separation of the ranges between the two hands might be desirable."

 

I found it to be true for two reed acoordion of mine. Very deep bass against very high trebble, with chords in the middle sound very good.

A concertina has one voice, and only the best instruments have solid full voice in higher register. So while theoretically you have a point, practially "starting" with G above middle C is riskey range for a concertina.

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Joplin makes considerable use of parallel thirds, notably in The Entertainer (from which the above example was taken), not always diatonic.
The chromatic example I posted was a bit from his "The Entertainer". The diatonic example was from another of his rags (but I forget which). I've added the notation to make it easier for folks to follow it. When done quickly they add a lot of color. Only when dwelling on a pair does it become objectionally dissonant. I take it that Dick isn't a ragtime fan?
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I take it that Dick isn't a ragtime fan?
yes i do like ragtime,and i suppose to be fair,there is probably other contrary moti on going on underneath the parallel thirds,

Well, I suppose you could consider the bass and chords in the left hand to be "contrary", but they're also rhythmically contrary, so the parallel harmonies are heard as a separate "unit", at least by my brain. And it's true that in the original piano score of The Entertainer most of the parallel-thirds passages do also have a parallel octave, but that's hardly "contrary".

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sorry Jim,Idont like parallel thirds...

...THATS JUST MY OPI NION OTHERS MAY FEEL DIFFERENTLY.

Or to corrupt an old saying about taste: "Yours may differ, Miles." From my own, that is. ;)

 

There are many different tastes in the world... and here on C.net, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place to be. You don't like parallel thirds. I like them a lot, though even I think they can be overdone. We don't have to agree, but I'll warn you in advance that if you ever listen to me perform, you're bound to hear some, so you may prefer to take that moment to fetch a fresh pint. :D

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i am in the market for a duet. have read ivan viehoff's article and i wonder if anyone has more to add on choosing between maccann vs crane fingering? i have an ambition to play ragtime and early swing (eg aint misbehavin). are most of the cnet duet players crainers?

 

I play a Crane and from time to time this question comes up. I remember asking Neville Crabb the same question before I bought my first duet. I can't quote him, but essentially he said that if you are buying your first duet, it really doesn't matter.

 

After nearly 30 years, I have never come across anything, including this thread, that makes me think that Neville Crabb had it wrong.

 

The advise I give is to be flexible so you can get started sooner rather than later and get the best instrument you can.

 

Of course if you are buying your second, it would matter a great deal.

Edited by Kurt Braun
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thanks for all the replies, gentlemen. have been pouring over keyboard diagrams and it seems to me that it may be easier to bring the fourth finger into play with the maccann; whether this would be decisive in any way is hard to say. it does seem like most of the cnet people (and most of the recordings available) feature the crane; curious given that maccann's are so much more numerous.

i will flip the coin and buy what comes up first.

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