Jump to content

Small Duet Concertinas - Your Opinions


Recommended Posts

Folks,

 

My recent obsession with the idea of taking up the Crane duet system has prompted me to do some research. I now know that there is a version of this with only 35 buttons. Both left and right-hand layouts are identical to the lower ends of the larger layouts. I notice that the bass just has one fully chromatic octave plus two notes, and the right a chromatic octave and a half (middle C to G).

 

I was wondering whether something like this would be desirable (there's one on Ebay now, but it looks like a restoration project). Obviously, it would give me an idea of how the Crane system works - and more important, how well I could work with it. And the investment would probably be moderate. The layout being a true subset of the larger models, upward migration should be relatively easy, if it works for me.

 

My question is, however, how much real music you can make with a 35-k Crane? I would assume that baroque polyphony is too ambitious for it, and obviously one is limited in the voicing of chords in the bass, with each note only available in one octave. And one would probably have to be careful what key to choose for a tune, to keep in within the compass of the right-hand buttons.

But I could imagine playing folk songs or simple hymns with a chord accompaniment that is at least as complex as you can play on the guitar at the open position.

 

Has anyone had any experience of playing - or listening to - small Cranes, and are there music styles for which they are adequate?

 

Cheers,

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and are there music styles for which they are adequate?

 

There are loads of great old Scottish and Northumbrian pipe tunes from the era of the simple un-keyed chanter that have a range of only 9 notes. There may be Irish pipe tunes with a similar range, but I'm not familiar with that repertoire.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and are there music styles for which they are adequate?

 

There are loads of great old Scottish and Northumbrian pipe tunes from the era of the simple un-keyed chanter that have a range of only 9 notes. There may be Irish pipe tunes with a similar range, but I'm not familiar with that repertoire.

 

Theo,

I spent my childhood in the Highlands of Scotland, so I know what a wealth of tunes there are for the unkeyed chanter :rolleyes:

 

I alread play a 30-k anglo, so I've got all the notes I need for pipe tunes - and a lot more in the way of accompaniment. With the Duet idea, I'm thinking more in the chromatic direction - harmonised pieces in different keys. A lot of folk songs have a range of no more than an octave, because that's comfortable for untrained singers. I'd like to try a Crane for song accompaniment with nice instrumental verses interspersed - nothing to high falootin'. ;)

 

Cheers,

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John,

 

Ask and you shall receive:

 

There's a small Crane on Ebay as we speak, # 120279452237

 

I play a 48 key Lachenal Crane that I'm very happy with. As you're an Anglo player, you'll find a Crane somewhat different but you'll figure it out without difficulty. I find this system very intuitive and pleasant to play. Playing a 35 key instrument will limit you but it should be a reasonably painless way to test the waters. I won't mention that I'm lusting after a 55 key instrument, in order to better play that Baroque polyphony you mentioned ;)

 

Small Cranes, as you've probably noticed, don't attract much interest, so if you do purchase one, plan to keep it. When you later move up to 48 or more keys, you'll have a nice little 35 to use to teach your first Crane student.

 

Good luck and let us know what happens.

 

Cheers,

Henri in stormy Florida

Edited by Henri VIII
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I started with a 35-key Crane back in 1971. For folksong accompanyment they're fine, and it's a good introduction to the system. Most of the song accompanyments I do now could fit within the 35 key instrument. Dance music is another thing, many tunes in the commonly used keys require the 'A' above the stave, which the 35's don't have. And of course more complex music will require the greater range and flexibility of the larger boxes. As a starting point though, the little 35's are a 'cheap & cheerful' way to find out if the system works for you - rather like a 20 button Anglo.

 

Be prepared to 'lust after' a bigger box in a couple of years though.

 

Andrew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I play the MacCann and have fooled around with the Crane system a bit. In my opinion the most logical is neither of those but rather the Hayden duet layout. Read a comparison here http://www.concertina.com/gaskins/which-duet/

 

Yes, the Hayden is brutally logical, isn't it! Unfortunately, it falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down. As a fretted-string player from childhood, I'm accustomed to getting my accidentals with just a slight variation on the fingering of the diatonic scale - and that's what the Crane system gives you, even more consistently than the Maccann. ;)

 

I've read, surfed and chated a lot about this, and I'm pretty sure that, if I go duet, it should be Crane.

Cheers,

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, the Hayden is brutally logical, isn't it! Unfortunately, it falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down.

Is it that you usually play tunes with lots of non-diatonic notes in them? :huh:

 

-- Rich --

 

Well, yes! Well, not lots of non-diatonic notes, but there are a lot of European songs, English hymns and Scottish Psalm tunes that modulate to the dominant key, so having the next sharp handy is a good idea. Others modulate to the subdominant, and need the next flat. There are even folk tunes that have no accidentals in the melody, but very decidedly modulate, and need the extra sharp in the accompaniment.

 

Cheers,

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

there are a lot of European songs, English hymns and Scottish Psalm tunes that modulate to the dominant key, so having the next sharp handy is a good idea. Others modulate to the subdominant, and need the next flat.

I'm still a beginner on the Wicki/Hayden layout, but I feel confident saying that playing tunes that modulate to the dominant or subdominant is a strength of the system.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, the Hayden is brutally logical, isn't it! Unfortunately, it falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down.
Is it that you usually play tunes with lots of non-diatonic notes in them? :huh:
Well, yes! Well, not lots of non-diatonic notes, but there are a lot of European songs, English hymns and Scottish Psalm tunes that modulate to the dominant key, so having the next sharp handy is a good idea. Others modulate to the subdominant, and need the next flat. There are even folk tunes that have no accidentals in the melody, but very decidedly modulate, and need the extra sharp in the accompaniment.

But what you are describing are tunes with NO non-diatonic notes but that they modulate into another key which is drop dead easy for Haydens (and other isomorphic systems) - you just move your hand position one button/key over and play away as usual. The new key has all the notes where you'd expect them to be (including the "new" accidental which is now in it's "regular" position). Personally, I think it's a lot easier to play with a system that didn't have notes/keys I don't want/need intermixed with the notes in the tune (primarily the diatonic notes).

 

Think of the Hayden as being somewhat analogous to a piano with just white keys. You play a tune in that diatonic. Fine, no problem. But IF you need an chromatic note it is always there in a regular place... on an adjacent row of identically sized/spaced white keys.

 

Now say your tune modulates from C to F. On a regular piano you have a slightly different fingering as you now have the Bb to deal with. And new chord positions as well. Some common chords are identical (C, F, Dm...) but they are not "the same" chords. The F is now the tonic rather than the subdominant....

 

But with our Hayden-analogous piano rather than splitting your playing between two rows (white and black), you play entirely on that second row of white keys. The fingering of the new scale and all its chords (and their "meanings/positions") are all identical to the first "C" row of white keys.

 

Or say you want to play the next piece in E major. That's a real tough call for most of us who aren't piano pros but on the HAP you move your hands to the E row of white keys... and play away just as you would for the C row. You need an errant accidental (or few) while in E? It's always located in the same relative (and easy to finger) place), though on an adjacent row. And it's in the same relative position in every key you play.

 

Say you're playing for a singer and the piece is written in F. No problem playing or backing up on a regular piano. But s/he wants it a little higher to suit her/his vocal range. So on a HAP you switch to the F# row without loosing a beat as the fingering is identical to the F (or any other key) row. Try that on a regular piano? S/he asks you to play a couple bars of that piece with a muted-feeling (minor?) chord rather than the one you had used. Can you quickly change that major chord to its natural minor? So what IS the natural minor of the IV chord in F#? I can't tell you off the top of my head what notes those are but I can play it without thinking on my Hayden. I can also *look* at my Hayden and quickly see that is a G#m chord.

 

Up for consideration: a system in which every key and MOST MODES have different fingering patterns, made furtherly more difficult as notes you'd never use are interspersed within the keys you're playing... or a system in which every key AND MODE is fingered identically without notes you rarely use (non-diatonic chormatics for that key/mode) being in the way... yet they are always close by in a regular place?

 

And your original conclusion: "the Hayden... falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down."

 

What most people don't realize is that of the 5 semitones NOT in a diatonic scale, 4 of them are located ONLY ONE note away from the diatonic pattern and only one of them is located two notes away from the diatonic pattern. In reality the difference between of fingering an accidental between a piano and Hayden system is that 1/5 of the accidentals are one more key/button away out-of-pattern. Not much of a compromise given that you may need that note only a few times a year.

 

I hear people say - but that "out-of-pattern" semitone is 3 notes away on a Hayden and conveniently the *adjacent* note on a piano. In reality due to the positioning of one's hand when playing in a (diatonic) key on a Hayden, that "out-of-pattern" semitone IS the *adjacent* move to a finger - and is easy to play. It's just not adjacent to the finger playing it's sibling.

 

-- Rich --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, the Hayden is brutally logical, isn't it! Unfortunately, it falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down.
Is it that you usually play tunes with lots of non-diatonic notes in them? :huh:
Well, yes! Well, not lots of non-diatonic notes, but there are a lot of European songs, English hymns and Scottish Psalm tunes that modulate to the dominant key, so having the next sharp handy is a good idea. Others modulate to the subdominant, and need the next flat. There are even folk tunes that have no accidentals in the melody, but very decidedly modulate, and need the extra sharp in the accompaniment.

But what you are describing are tunes with NO non-diatonic notes but that they modulate into another key which is drop dead easy for Haydens (and other isomorphic systems) - you just move your hand position one button/key over and play away as usual. The new key has all the notes where you'd expect them to be (including the "new" accidental which is now in it's "regular" position). Personally, I think it's a lot easier to play with a system that didn't have notes/keys I don't want/need intermixed with the notes in the tune (primarily the diatonic notes).

 

Think of the Hayden as being somewhat analogous to a piano with just white keys. You play a tune in that diatonic. Fine, no problem. But IF you need an chromatic note it is always there in a regular place... on an adjacent row of identically sized/spaced white keys.

 

Now say your tune modulates from C to F. On a regular piano you have a slightly different fingering as you now have the Bb to deal with. And new chord positions as well. Some common chords are identical (C, F, Dm...) but they are not "the same" chords. The F is now the tonic rather than the subdominant....

 

But with our Hayden-analogous piano rather than splitting your playing between two rows (white and black), you play entirely on that second row of white keys. The fingering of the new scale and all its chords (and their "meanings/positions") are all identical to the first "C" row of white keys.

 

Or say you want to play the next piece in E major. That's a real tough call for most of us who aren't piano pros but on the HAP you move your hands to the E row of white keys... and play away just as you would for the C row. You need an errant accidental (or few) while in E? It's always located in the same relative (and easy to finger) place), though on an adjacent row. And it's in the same relative position in every key you play.

 

Say you're playing for a singer and the piece is written in F. No problem playing or backing up on a regular piano. But s/he wants it a little higher to suit her/his vocal range. So on a HAP you switch to the F# row without loosing a beat as the fingering is identical to the F (or any other key) row. Try that on a regular piano? S/he asks you to play a couple bars of that piece with a muted-feeling (minor?) chord rather than the one you had used. Can you quickly change that major chord to its natural minor? So what IS the natural minor of the IV chord in F#? I can't tell you off the top of my head what notes those are but I can play it without thinking on my Hayden. I can also *look* at my Hayden and quickly see that is a G#m chord.

 

Up for consideration: a system in which every key and MOST MODES have different fingering patterns, made furtherly more difficult as notes you'd never use are interspersed within the keys you're playing... or a system in which every key AND MODE is fingered identically without notes you rarely use (non-diatonic chormatics for that key/mode) being in the way... yet they are always close by in a regular place?

 

And your original conclusion: "the Hayden... falls down on the distance between a given note and the semitone up or down."

 

What most people don't realize is that of the 5 semitones NOT in a diatonic scale, 4 of them are located ONLY ONE note away from the diatonic pattern and only one of them is located two notes away from the diatonic pattern. In reality the difference between of fingering an accidental between a piano and Hayden system is that 1/5 of the accidentals are one more key/button away out-of-pattern. Not much of a compromise given that you may need that note only a few times a year.

 

I hear people say - but that "out-of-pattern" semitone is 3 notes away on a Hayden and conveniently the *adjacent* note on a piano. In reality due to the positioning of one's hand when playing in a (diatonic) key on a Hayden, that "out-of-pattern" semitone IS the *adjacent* move to a finger - and is easy to play. It's just not adjacent to the finger playing it's sibling.

 

-- Rich --

Doesn't all this wonderful theory go flying out the window fairly quickly when you hit the edge of the keyboard as you modulate further from C, at which point you, like every other duet player, have to stretch for chords?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doesn't all this wonderful theory go flying out the window fairly quickly when you hit the edge of the keyboard as you modulate further from C, at which point you, like every other duet player, have to stretch for chords?

I think that's a good point, it certainly happens often enough on my 46-key Hayden. But it's also surprising how many tunes even on a small Hayden can be moved easily from D to C, or G to F. And quite a few can be moved from C or D to F or G or A. You'll run into a few changes at the edges on some tunes, but it's still a big help that it's mostly the same. There's a German carol I learned with simple accompaniment that I can play in C, D, E, F, G, A, and B with no changes. I will say, though, that since on a concertina your hand is strapped in, it feels slightly different to play in a different key, it's not as easy as just moving your hand and off you go. I'm sure with practice it gets easier, but I can't transpose seamlessly on the fly. With a large prone keyboard, all those problems would go away, of course.

 

Robert Gaskins writes in his 2004 article Which Duet Concertina—Hayden or Maccann?:

By the time you get down to the 46-key or 55-key Hayden duet concertina, there are so few duplicated buttons that the variability in different key signatures—of fingering for the scale for chord patterns—is approximately the same as for any other way of arranging unduplicated buttons on a concertina.

 

The compromises required to fit the “Wicki-Hayden” system onto a concertina, no larger than most people can play and light enough to be responsive, seem to limit or remove entirely most of its advantages.

Which I think is judging the system far too harshly. For folk tunes on a 46-key, almost every chord you'll use is of the "standard" shape, suggesting that it's no different from any other arrangement is really selling it short.

 

So, the advantages don't go "flying out the window," I think even a small Hayden truly shines as a vehicle for simpler tunes, folk tunes, marches, waltzes, cakewalks, stuff like that -- mostly diatonic music with a relatively limited range. There are diminishing returns the more chromatic the music gets, and the more you want to transpose or play in odd keys.

Edited by Boney
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, the advantages don't go "flying out the window," I think even a small Hayden truly shines as a vehicle for simpler tunes, folk tunes, marches, waltzes, cakewalks, stuff like that -- mostly diatonic music with a relatively limited range. There are diminishing returns the more chromatic the music gets, and the more you want to transpose or play in odd keys.

 

I think we're of one mind on this one; this is why you have a Hayden, I have a Maccan, and we both have the most suitable instruments for our personal use. You can substitute Crane for Hayden in that quote and it still makes sense, I reckon. Very much horses for courses, like all these 'this concertina vs that concertina' choices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doesn't all this wonderful theory go flying out the window fairly quickly when you hit the edge of the keyboard as you modulate further from C, at which point you, like every other duet player, have to stretch for chords?

I was addressing the system and the distance of semitones. To focus on your question though - practically speaking, a small Hayden system concertina is limited, though not "flying out the window" limited. The 46-key can play in (and modulate to) 6 keys with identical fingering and chords. That's half of all that's out there. The rest are available but with increasing fingering difficulty as you go further into the flatted and sharped keys.

 

What other duet system can come close to that? ISTR that all the other duet systems have different fingerings for *every* key AND EVERY CHORD as well!

 

Considering that most of us rarely stray much from tunes in C, D, E, F, G, and A (the 46-key Hayden's identical keys), I think that the little Hayden does quite well! Unfortunately one of my favorite keys happens to be Bb.... So I stretch for one note which is out-of-pattern. It's surprisingly doable but I really have a hard time playing in Eb. I lust after a larger version!

 

-- Rich --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doesn't all this wonderful theory go flying out the window fairly quickly when you hit the edge of the keyboard as you modulate further from C, at which point you, like every other duet player, have to stretch for chords?

I was addressing the system and the distance of semitones. To focus on your question though - practically speaking, a small Hayden system concertina is limited, though not "flying out the window" limited. The 46-key can play in (and modulate to) 6 keys with identical fingering and chords. That's half of all that's out there. The rest are available but with increasing fingering difficulty as you go further into the flatted and sharped keys.

 

What other duet system can come close to that? ISTR that all the other duet systems have different fingerings for *every* key AND EVERY CHORD as well!

 

Considering that most of us rarely stray much from tunes in C, D, E, F, G, and A (the 46-key Hayden's identical keys), I think that the little Hayden does quite well! Unfortunately one of my favorite keys happens to be Bb.... So I stretch for one note which is out-of-pattern. It's surprisingly doable but I really have a hard time playing in Eb. I lust after a larger version!

 

-- Rich --

 

Well it depends what you want doesn't it? I was and am less interested in finding the easiest system to learn than the one that had the most musical possibilities and I wanted to play both by ear and particularly sheet music. When it came to the initial choice between the 3 duet systems I discarded Hayden immediately without thought as there were clearly virtually no decent sized instruments, so whether it worked well or not was irrelevant. In the end I went Maccan as much because of the availability as anything, but I am now, as a result of previous Cnet discussions, confident that the equivalent size of Crane I would be seeking by now is also incredibly rare and has a keyboard stacked so tall as to be an awkward stretch to play anything expansive on.

 

I most certainly do not stay in the basic keys mentioned; I usually work from piano music these days and everything lately seems to have umpteen flats; on the Maccan this involves a lot of use of the 2 outside columns where lots of the accidentals are; they are an easy bridge of the hand and this is extremely simple to do.

 

I really don't know if there is much in it, ultimately, between Hayden and Maccan for playing complex music or not, I can't be bothered to think about it too much, the point where it might affect me is long passed, but one thing is for sure and that's that I can go and buy AND PLAY a Maccan with nearly the range of a piano (and not only that but made to the highest standards too) more or less off the shelf. When you can do that with a Hayden I'll show a bit more interest in the things. At the moment, endlessly talking up the things when there are no 'concert sized' instruments to graduate to just holds the cause of duet playing back. It's encouraging people only to point them down a dead end.

 

I am sure in my own mind that anyone with ambition to go beyond simple busked melodies needs to bite the bullet and learn the Maccan system.Taking everything into account it is head and shoulders above the competition as a musicians' instrument. Sorry.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert Gaskins writes in his 2004 article Which Duet Concertina—Hayden or Maccann? By the time you get down to the 46-key or 55-key Hayden duet concertina, there are so few duplicated buttons that the variability in different key signatures—of fingering for the scale for chord patterns—is approximately the same as for any other way of arranging unduplicated buttons on a concertina.

I talked to RG about that to find that his rationale behind that statement was based on the premise of identical "fingering for the scale for chord patterns". He would play a simple tune and back it up with a simple I, IV, V chord accompaniment, trying to play every chord with the same shape - and moving it to identical positions. IOW, the I chord played with (on the bass side, natch) 1,3,5 patterns MOVE to the same relative locations... as such:

 

Hayden-chords.gif

As you can see, on the bass side of a 46-key one can only play in F, G and A like this. I suggested that his observation was a bit harsh as one could also play the keys of C, D, and E but that either the IV and V chords (fingered identical shaped) would need to be both below or both above the I chord (rather than always having the IV higher and V lower).

 

He responded that he was putting fact to the claims that the fingering for many scales and chord patterns were identical... and stuck to his guns on his review of this.

 

Yes, but in reality few people would limit themselves to playing this way - and especially when alternate octaves/inversions of chords are so readilly available (my observation - not RG's).

 

-- Rich --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

one thing is for sure and that's that I can go and buy AND PLAY a Maccan with nearly the range of a piano (and not only that but made to the highest standards too) more or less off the shelf.

Yup - you are so right! And for people that aspire to duet work in more than folk tunes in typical keys... due to lack of availability, Haydens as a choice is not in the running. I can hardly believe that I've put up with my 46-key for over 20 years now - and it certainly hasn't been for lack of trying to get a better/larger one!

 

-- Rich --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...