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aeolina

My Unusual Duet (wheatstone 32410)

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Several members have asked about my unusual duet. My duet is serial 32410 and is a 69 key metal end 8 sided thing. The leger describes it as "piano fingering" which it is not as the scale rises (at right angles to the length of the fingers) left to right in semitone leaps without any separation into white and black keys as the name might suggest. I bought it c 1983 from a music shop in Glasgow which siad it had lain uncollected and unpayed in its basement since it was made - perhaps it was never colleceted as the keyboad was not the correct piano style ordered and

thus it might be seen as an error. I will attach a youthful photo of me playing it to my profile.

 

I did draw out a finger chart which I can't locate at present but will scan and present it once found.

 

Any information would be welcomed.

 

Stuart

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The leger describes it as "piano fingering" which it is not as the scale rises (at right angles to the length of the fingers) left to right in semitone leaps without any separation into white and black keys as the name might suggest.

Not what I'd expect from the name, either, though perhaps a matter of interpretation. On a proper piano, if you cut off the white keys at the front of the black ones, they are all of equal width and spacing (though still of differing height). And that would seem to match your description.

 

I did draw out a finger chart which I can't locate at present but will scan and present it once found.

Then I'll wait for that, rather than ask more questions, now.

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It could be like a 'Double' duet system,...

Nope. A close look at his avatar picture shows clearly a row of 6 buttons in a "horizontal" line, while the "Double" has rows on a diagonal slant and only 4 buttons wide. The Double also has thumb loops like the English (but not finger plates), while Stuart's has the standard anglo/duet-style "rails".

 

I'm guessing from Stuart's description so far that two adjacent rows comprise an octave, with C-F in one row and F#-B in the next. The two sets of rows also appear to be horizontally offset by half the interbutton spacing. This would be similar to the Hayden, except that the Hayden has a full step between horizontally-adjacent buttons (and a slight slant to the rows), and this is a profound difference when actually playing the instrument.

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Perhaps this an example of the Wheatstone/Chidley system.

No. Stuart's differs in two significant ways from the Chidley, Maccann, and other duet systems. 1) It has straight-across flat rows (visible in Stuart's avatar picture), while all other duet systems have some sort of arc or angle to the rows. 2) Stuart says that (all) horizontally-adjacent buttons differ in pitch by a semitone, which is quite different from any of the other arrangements.

 

The Chidley arrangement has a 2-row pattern, repeated in each octave, in which the one row is

C#-C-E-Eb-F-F#, and the other row is

G#-G-A-D-B-Bb.

Anticipating Stuart's posting his own diagram, I am guessing from his description that his instrument has a 2-row pattern in which the one row is

C-C#-D-Eb-E-F, and the other row is

F#-G-G#-A-Bb-B.

 

Wheatstone apparently made a number of instruments with unusual or even unique keyboard designs. A picture of one can be found on the A. Norman web site; another is the 1924 Pitt-Taylor design I'm currently studying and which is documented in the Brian Hayden article on keyboards. (I don't have the URLs handy. I'll try to add them later.) Stuart's appears to be yet another.

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Stuart says that (all) horizontally-adjacent buttons differ in pitch by a semitone, which is quite different from any of the other arrangements.

No - Stuart said "as the scale rises (at right angles to the length of the fingers) left to right in semitone leaps" - you shouldn't be using vertical or horizontal

without definition, to avoid confusing everybody

 

So "different from any of the other arrangements" except the double, and why I said "like a 'Double' duet system" - if you ignore slopes. The other system layouts are based on a distributed 8 note scale pattern, the double is an integrated chromatic 12 note scale pattern. Stuart's may just be a 2 column/6 row per octave variant of the 3 column/4 row per octave system used on the Double.

 

I only mailed to point out something I thought seemed similar. Why try to argue over it until he actually tells us?

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I only mailed to point out something I thought seemed similar. Why try to argue over it until he actually tells us?

Good question.

 

I only responded because I thought you were suggesting that maybe it was a Wheatstone Double, which it ain't.

 

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

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Stuart, do you actually find this a comfortable playing arrangement of the buttons?

 

I am assuming Jim's interpretation that this "Chromatic" concertina has buttons in rows of 6, each comprising consecutive semitones, eg, C, C#, D, D#, E, F in one row, and then F#, G, G#, A, A#, B in the next row, and repeating as one goes up. If correct, I would guess this is actually a very good arrangement of buttons.

 

Any scale, major or minor, would select 4 notes from one row and three from the next, just like a Hayden playing in a major key (though Haydens play minor scales rather less comfortably), except on the Chromatic the notes would not be adjacent as on the Hayden, but would have gaps representing the tones. In no major or minor scale is there more than four notes out of a row, and so one is most unlikely to run out of fingers in playing a melody. Another Chromatic feature I like the thought of is that the immediately parallel note in the next row would be a diminished 5th away, so one would rarely need to play a note and its immediate parallel together or consecutively. In contrast on my Mccann the parallel button in the next row up is often a 5th, 4th or semitone away, resulting in the frequent need to twist your fingers around each other to play these common intervals up the column.

 

The Chromatic would also have the property that some intervals would often form in the same positional relationship, or at least in two common patterns. For example, one up and one to the right would always be a fifth. In fact every fifth would be like this, apart from the end of the row where it would be two up and five to the left, unfortunately. Similarly, a minor third would be either three to the right, or one up and three to the left. A doubt that Robert Gaskins expresses in his recent article comparing Hayden and Maccann is whether these common positional relationships are actually helpful. He found keeping the same position for playing chords hindered smooth transition between them. Of course we pianists have to put up with this, but we have more spare fingers to smooth the transition. But actually we do like positional variation - a good mix of black and white notes help keep the fingers untangled, which is why experienced pianists often prefer playing in keys with two to four accidentals in the key signature.

 

Taking this line of thought, it occurs to me that a "piano" arrangement of buttons for a concertina would be very hard to finger. Suppose one had alternate rows of seven and five keys arranged thus

first row - C, D, E, F, G, A, B; second row C#, D#, F#, G#, A#

(to have 6 keys in each rows the B could be put in the second row).

Playing a scale with just 4 fingers would be extremely difficult on this concertina. We pianists have to do it, but we tuck the thumb underneath when we start running out of fingers, and you just can't do that on a concertina. You would have to twist the fingers around each other. Now, there was a style of keyboard playing in the 18th century that avoided the use of the thumb. But the length of a keyboard key means that one can strike a key further up so that there is space to get some fingers around behind it ready to hit the next key. Again, not possible on a concertina. I suspect that the concertina maker made a very intelligent interpretation of the customer's order, but forgot that customers are always right, even when they are wrong.

 

In sum, I think that a Chromatic concertina might be a very nice instrument to play.

Edited by Ivan Viehoff

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Stuart, do you actually find this a comfortable playing arrangement of the buttons?

In Stuart's original post (before this thread started), he said, "...(hopeless for melody) but great for adding bass lines and chordal accompaniment...."

 

That's interesting, because I -- like Ivan -- feel that it "should" be fine for melody playing. (However, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but not in practice." :) ) And I don't know whether the rows being straight across -- rather than arced -- makes a significant difference.

 

Taking this line of thought, it occurs to me that a "piano" arrangement of buttons for a concertina would be very hard to finger.

The "Jedcertina" was just that, though quite limited in range. I had one, which I sold "cheap" to Paul Groff, because I found it musically useless.

 

In sum, I think that a Chromatic concertina might be a very nice instrument to play.

Just a quibble about terminology: I know you capitalized "Chromatic", but all the duets (and the English) are in fact chromatic, just not a chromatic scale sequential in a straight line.

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I hope I have done this correctly but here is the layout of my unusual duet. Note that the buttons are in straight lines offset and the ascending scale running from left to right at right angles to the outstretched fingers (thumb to the left at G, small finger at C). Playing a scale or melody is not facilitated by the layout and there are large stretched between say C and G and while triads are relatively easy some chords are quite awkward (but not impossible). Ironically, the limitations of the instrument (apart from carrying the dam thing!) do not prevent it sounding very well within the group setting in which it is used as can be heard on several Cds, film scores etc...

 

Stuart

 

 

G G# A Bb B C

C# D Eb E F F#

G G# A Bb B C

C# D Eb E F F#

G G# A Bb B C

 

left hand

 

A Bb B

C# D Eb E F F#

G G# A Bb B C

C# D Eb E F F#

G G# A Bb B C

C# D Eb E F F#

G G# A Bb B C

 

right hand

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Thanks, Stuart. I've thought about it for a while, and its raised lots of points, so sorry this is a bit long.

 

As suggested by your initial description, its a variant of the adjacent semitones system used for the 'Double'. Its surprising that no earlier instruments of this system seem to exist, even as a prototype, since its a fairly logical variation, but perhaps someone may have seen this scheme described somewhere. Very few 'Doubles' were ever made, which may point to the general scheme of adjacent semitones not being found to be very playable.

 

The 'Double' is a bit like the English, and has thumb loops, but no little finger rests, presumably to encourage the player to use a different finger for each column (using 'keyboard diagram' row/column conventions). But I don't think we can imply from this that your instrument was intended for a six fingered Scot. As Ivan pointed out, scales and chords follow a few repeatable schemes, and at first glance, your system seems to be easier in this respect than the Double, so again, why no earlier instrument? Does this suggest that we quantify things differently to players of the Victorian age? Your comment on awkward stretches is interesting, as the same thing would also seem to apply to a Maccann system (also six columns), especially in any of the key signatures with two or more sharps, as F# and C# are located in the outer columns. Does the missing top G on the right hand side suggest that perhaps your system was intended to be played more in A,E, and B major?

 

Its interesting that the ledger describes this as a 'piano' system, as I think most of us have assumed this was something nearer the JEDcertina, or the piano system Brian Hayden described. More research is needed on the piano system listings in the ledgers, and if any could possibly be like yours. I think it unlikely that Wheatstone would have supplied something as unusual as this without a specific requirement, so its languishing for years at the back of the shop seems even more mysterious!

 

Another possible variation on this system would be three column/four row per octave, so perhaps we may eventually come across one of these too.

 

I've produced a 'pretty picture' of your keyboard. If you have any comments to make it more realistic, I'll edit this post to change the picture. I suspect your phrase 'straight lines offset' may mean that I need to offset alternate rows. And any chance you could let us know what the overlap between sides is?

 

Thanks again!

 

Edited in bold above, and picture changed 20 March 2004

post-9-1079782280.jpg

Edited by wes williams

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Wow Wes,

 

Thanks for the comments and pretty picture. Please note that the buttons are not arranged as columns as in the npicture and my text which was autoformated by the list programme. Evey second row (ie C# D Eb E F F#) is offset to the right of the others so that the first button in this row sits between the first two of the rown beneath thus making a diagonal grid. Does that make sense?

 

There is, of course, a degree of overlap between the ranges of the two manuals.

 

Again, I am sure it is highly restricted in terms of playability and often wish I had an English (my concertina of choice) of the same range. I could not have afforded an English of this range and quailty at the time (and probably could not now either!) and have learned to make do with it to, I hope good and appropraite, effect.

 

Stuart

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Evey second row (ie C# D Eb E F F#) is offset to the right of the others....

So along the "sides" the buttons form a sawtooth pattern (rather than a single slanted line)?

 

How much is the overlap? 1½ octaves? Is the lowest note in the right hand the low G of a violin and the low note in the left an octave below that (bottom line of the bass clef)? I admit I'm guessing.

 

The top row in the right hand is incomplete, but is it shifted off to the side, as your diagram and Wes's suggest, or is it just missing the G and G# on the left and the C on the right, but with the other notes still directly above their lower counterparts?

 

I made a copy your avatar picture and viewed it at larger size, and some of the things you've had to explain were obvious just from looking at the photo. Maybe you should attach a larger copy. (I could do it, but I won't without permission.)

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I've edited the 'pretty picture' in line with what I think Stuart means, and also moved the top right hand buttons to the 'correct' position - Further comments

Stuart?

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Taking this line of thought, it occurs to me that a "piano" arrangement of buttons for a concertina would be very hard to finger.

 

 

The "Jedcertina" was just that, though quite limited in range. I had one, which I sold "cheap" to Paul Groff, because I found it musically useless.

 

For those interested, here is a modern, almost Jedcertina type, currently on eBay, made in Czechowhateveritisnowskia :rolleyes:

 

Interesting that only the right hand side is like this, the left resembling a standard 20 key layout.

 

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi...&category=16218

 

Regards

Malcolm

Edited by malcolm clapp

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For those interested, here is a modern, almost Jedcertina type, currently on eBay, made in Czechowhateveritisnowskia :rolleyes:

 

Interesting that only the right hand side is like this, the left resembling a standard 20 key layout.

I have had one of the same type, years ago, and that is what it is ; piano-system right hand and German-system left.

 

And if you thought the Jedcertina musically worthless, I think this is someting even more so ...

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I have had one of the same type, years ago, and that is what it is ; piano-system right hand and German-system left.

 

And if you thought the Jedcertina musically worthless, I think this is someting even more so ...

For what it's worth, I'm not bidding on that one. I'm not even tempted.

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