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Can You Play In All Keys?


sjmagri
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love the sound. thinking of buying one. just concerned if one can play in all keys, or mainly two such as with the diatonic harmonica. thanks

Scott

 

Hi Scott & welcome.

 

The answer to your question realy depends on which type of concertina you are refering to. If you have a look at the Concertina FAQ I think you'll find the answers you're looking for.

 

 

- W

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concerned if one can play in all keys
That depends on the concertina and the person playing it. Anlgos are set up and play easily in two major keys (and associated minors). If you have enough extra buttons beyond the two main rows, one CAN play in more keys, but it is difficult to extremely difficult - to do so. Certainly there are people who play in D, A, F, and Bb on an anglo set up for C/G, but this seems to be mostly melodic work (the tune only with very little accompaniment) and a feat of raw position memory and persistence. Some people claim to be able to play in all keys fairly fully on an anglo (and I've heard some do it!), but this is very rare.

 

The English is fully chromatic and DOES play fairly easily in all keys - actually more easily than a person playing piano can play in all keys. I've heard that it's also easy to read music on English as well. It was designed to be this way.

 

The duets are also fully chromatic (with a couple of "missing" chromatic notes for the smallest versions) so technically could be played in all keys, though my experience (much on Hayden, little on Maccann and Crane, none on Jeffries) is that practically speaking it's very reasonable to play in all keys on Maccann, a bit harder on Crane, very easy to play in 6 or 8 keys on Hayden and very hard to play in the rest, and I've only heard that it's very difficult to play outside a Jeffries "home" key.

 

Of course the more experience, persistence and time one devotes to playing will make up for a box's limitations, but only to a degree. You may want to choose the type that most easily does what you'd like to do rather than spend a lot of effort overcoming inherent qualities.

 

That said (which is only my view of things), what types of music would you like to play? Maybe you don't need a box that can easily play in all keys. Would you like to play accompaniment as well as melody or would be playing mainly melody lines? What range would you need? Will speed of playing be an issue? All theses factor heavily in what type of box may work out best for you.

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concerned if one can play in all keys

 

The duets are also fully chromatic (with a couple of "missing" chromatic notes for the smallest versions) so technically could be played in all keys, though my experience (much on Hayden, little on Maccann and Crane, none on Jeffries) is that practically speaking it's very reasonable to play in all keys on Maccann, a bit harder on Crane, very easy to play in 6 or 8 keys on Hayden and very hard to play in the rest, and I've only heard that it's very difficult to play outside a Jeffries "home" key.

 

 

 

I play a Crane. I also have played saxophone and oboe and a little of a variety of other instruments including piano.

 

My experience on the Crane is that no key is substantially more difficult than the next. The keys I find easiest are the keys I play in most often. Over time, that shifts. I used to play with a guitar playing friend that preferred sharp keys. Back then I preferred and was most comfortable in sharp keys. Lately, I've been playing hymns and have learned to love flat keys and find myself avoiding sharp keys. This is consistent with my experience with other instruments. The more you play in a key, the more comfortable it becomes and of course, the other way around.

 

If you always play in C, Cb or C# will seem impossible and F or G more friendly. I think it says more about your experience than the instrument. This is not to speak for other systems.

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...practically speaking it's very reasonable to play in all keys on Maccann, a bit harder on Crane,...

My experience is the opposite. Pretty easy on the Crane to play in any key, though for a beginner some "unusual" keys may be a bit harder to learn than the first few (see below*). Slightly harder to graduate from one key to another on the Maccann, as the patterns on the Crane are more regular.

 

But once you've had sufficient practice playing in all keys, I don't think any key is significantly more difficult than another on either the Crane or Maccann. As Kurt points out, what's difficult is trying to do something that you haven't practiced to the point where it becomes familiar. Because as long as you have to think about something consciously to do it, that's an extra step you have to go through, and that adds complexity to the process.

 

* That's because the expectation of similarity is excessive, and most people learn the key of C first. On the Crane, though, if they learned F# first, they would find C# to be easy, as it's almost exactly the same pattern. But then C would seem "difficult", because its pattern is significantly different from C# or F#. (Going around "the circle of fifths", each new key involves one small fingering change from the one before, but shifting between C and C# is the accumulation of 7 such changes.)

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I play a Crane. I also have played saxophone and oboe and a little of a variety of other instruments including piano. My experience on the Crane is that no key is substantially more difficult than the next.... This is consistent with my experience with other instruments. The more you play in a key, the more comfortable it becomes and of course, the other way around.... I think it says more about your experience than the instrument. This is not to speak for other systems.
Sounds like the instruments you are familiar (inlucing Crane duet) with are fairly easy to play in all keys. Some instruments (including certain concertains) are very difficult to play in some OR all keys easily. Any amount of experience won't make up for their key-challengedness.
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I am going to agree with Richard on here mostly. The 30 button C/G anglo is not really suited for playing more than melody in keys other than C/G. You can add some chords into it, but more as an ornament than serious accompaniment.

 

That being said, Richard's comment about playing from raw position memory and persistence makes it sound like playing in keys other than C and G is rather hard. It really is not. It takes some practice, but you get the hang of it. I find the key of D to be fairly easy, A is not to difficult.

 

--

Bill

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