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Author Topic: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems  (Read 11647 times)

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Chris Brimley

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Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« on: December 11, 2013, 12:48:09 PM »

There's been a few posts on other threads recently, comparing various systems, and I thought maybe the subject merits its own thread - particularly because there's a wealth of experience around with players of different systems, and we have all gone along separate paths.  By the nature of the beast, it's unlikely that too many players will have had the time in their lives to develop expertise in all the different systems available, so I thought that perhaps setting out the benefits they've found with their systems might be a help to anyone contemplating the choices available.

If I can set a ball rolling, I started playing a D/G/Acc box because I wanted to play English (etc) dance music with other musicians in a band, who played certain chords as accompaniment.  Although I've always liked the dynamics of a D/G pokerwork, I found the two-row D/G too restrictive, even with end-row accidentals, to play along with them properly - the chord clashes were just unacceptable.

So I saw that I needed a box that could play in the standard 'English' keys, keeping the LH going, preserving the 'bounce', and allowing chromatic runs.  Like many others, I guess, because I started on the two-row D/G, I wanted to add other notes and chords to allow me to do that.  I never thought of starting again with a different system, because there seemed no point.

It has always struck me that the big advantage for dance music that the D/G box had was that the dynamics of the sound match the dancers' movements, and that's what makes everybody clap, smile, and dance along with the music - it's natural to them. (The keys are irrelevant, by the way, this applies to any 'quint' box.)  The physical movement of the bellows matches the weight transfer of the dancers.  I have a classically-trained pianist friend who refers to this (somewhat disparagingly, but accurately!) as 'rumpty-tumpty music'.  Violinists can of course do this too, but they don't have the LH accompaniment the box player can provide.  Many other instruments can give you great 'attack', but they don't match what the dancers want to do naturally.

After I learned reasonably proficiency with the D/G/Acc, extended LH chord, layout, I realised that the instrument was capable of a lot more than I had originally planned.  You could also play legato passages by selecting the fingering.  I started thinking about the 'bounce' idea, and realised that this shouldn't be regarded as simply a feature of the instrument, it was something you could plan, using different fingerings and button reversals, to phrase the dynamics of the tune.  I now tend to select fingerings for a tune that give me some sort of pattern, say V^V V^V, or VVV ^^^, for a jig, so that the dynamics of the tune come from the bellows action.  You can plan different kinds of dynamics at will, using this idea.

I don't see the 3-row //Acc box as giving you the ability to play in lots of keys (you'd need several boxes for that), but it does allow you to play a good LH accompaniment against a variety of RH notes, and that allows you to make a good fist of lots of tunes with interesting chords that are not possible for the two-row D/G player, while usually preserving the dynamics, as you wish.

I don't know enough in practice about the other systems around for big boxes to compare all this with others, so I'm hoping everyone will now contribute their experiences.


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squeezy

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2013, 01:14:53 PM »

It seems to be the discussion of the moment  ;D

All I will say again on the matter is that I think that the D/G/acc system is a natural progression from a D/G system (which many people come from) ... it retains most of the dynamic characteristics of a D/G box when played within the "home" keys too.  It allows a certain exploration of the more closely related keys - and with the addition of more extended left hand layouts it can technically allow you to play in most other keys...

But once you get to that place - the quandary most people face is that they have a melodeon almost as big as those used to play other systems (B/C/C# - continental chromatic - which are of course far more suited to playing in any key) ... but of course all their learning up to that time will have been based around a D/G system.  And anyone who plays in a distinctly push-pull style will know quite how disabling a big heavy box can be.

D/G/acc systems simply come out of the desire for D/G type box players to increase the chromaticism with which they can play I think.  And because of that origin, they are, by their very nature bonkers and random.
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waltzman

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2013, 01:50:44 PM »

There is one style of 3 row box that does avoid this crazy randomness of the custom designed D/G/acc boxes and that is the ADG.    Many people who have an accidental row of any length have reported on this forum that far and away the buttons they use most often are the reversals.  The ADG excels in offering options to control the amount of 'bounce' or legato phrasing as mentioned by Chris above.  It also adds very useful chords on the left hand while retaining the basic structure of the D/G two row at it's core.  Given the fact that it is also very commonly available in a wide price range I would think it would be a popular choice once you give up the notion that 'playing in all keys' is some sort of holy grail.
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smiley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2013, 06:11:56 AM »

Thanks for this discussion Chris, as I'm planning to order a D/G/acc Mory soon and have been reviewing how my thoughts on the 'ideal' melodeon have evolved. I'm one of those confirmed D/G players who wants more accidentals [within easy reach] to allow me to play a wider range of music. But I think having more than 4 or 5 buttons on the helper row would be too much for my ageing brain to manage. I've tried a few ADG boxes, a C#DG and a Club IIB - and find my early-model Dony with its 4 buttons on the helper row feels like the right setup for me, although I'm now after a bigger 3-voice LMM sound with 12 bass buttons.

The Mory is definitely one of the "bigger boxes" around, and that's my quandary. In the quest for a 'bigger and better' melodeon I wonder if I'm sacrificing the responsiveness and agility of the Black Pearl II and Sandpiper that I currently play for gigs and sessions. BTW I've never seen a Mory in Australia.
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george garside

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2013, 09:13:39 AM »

I'm staying out of this one! ;D
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2013, 09:25:01 AM »

But George, we need you!

Some very interesting comments - thanks for considering the 'design-philosophical' issues, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

I've seen various comments on other threads, which seem to indicate a frequent assumption that the idea of extended basses and a long third row on a D/G box is to allow playing in different keys, so if you don't want to, you don't need more accidental buttons.  To me this is a misconception.  Sure, you could play in a few more keys if you wanted, but that's not the only (or even the main) reason.  The reason the additional buttons free you up so much is that they allow a huge new range of harmonic and melodic possibilities, though based around tunes which are nominally in the 'home' keys.  Now I'm a folkie, and I like traditional and contemporary folk music of all kinds.  But that's not all I like playing, by any means.  Even the most traditional of folkies would surely have to admit that once you go outside its boundaries you encounter much more complex (and dare I say it, even quite interesting!) music.  The D/G/Acc box will allow you to play a lot of it very satisfyingly, so why not open it up to the wealth of other musical culture around?

I'd be very interested to understand how well it can succeed, compared with say the BCC# system.

So here's an example showing how I go about working out a more complex tune:

https://soundcloud.com/chrisbrimley/un-homme-et-une-femme-theme-on

(It's a bit rough, and not very finished, but I hope it will do.)

This tune modulates all over the place, but seems to end up in E major.  I selected this key so that I could make a reasonable attempt at playing all of it on the box.  It seemed to me particularly important to get the LH rhythm and RH chords right in those first few bars, because that's the basis of the melody.  Those chords are Dma7, C#ma7, Cma7.  So my process is to work what notes I will need on the RHS for each chord (ie DF#AC#, C#FG#C, CEGB), and how I could play them all, or at least most of the important ones.  For the first one, the bass D chord is available in or out, but on my box I only get that important C# note on the pull, so I'm playing F# and A on the G row, and C# on the D row.  For the C#ma7 chord, I have a C# bass only on the pull, so I play F and G# on the Acc row, and C# on the D row (leaving out the clashing and not easily available C note).  And finally, the Cma7 on the push, using the Acc row push C, and the G and B from the G row.  And so on for the rest of the tune.  And after a month or two, it gets committed to 'finger memory'.  And it does work, for all sorts of useful chords, and you can preserve some nice dynamics in there too.

Now the trouble with this is that it takes a lot of time to work out, even when you know some of the likely chord shapes from previous experience, because of the 'bonkers and random' acc row notes, as Squeezy so aptly puts it.

So I'm interested if you BCC# players learn chord 'patterns' for push and pull, that work on each RH diagonal?  I can see that this would be a potential plus, but it must also involve many years of experience?
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2013, 09:51:43 AM »

Smiley, if I can comment on your post - as far as the RHS is concerned, I've always thought that it doesn't matter a lot in terms of weight if you have a long third row, because that's not going to affect the box's 'throwability', and in fact I've found that third row note reversals actually compensate for extra weight by allowing easier fingering patterns.  I personally wouldn't worry about having too many RHS buttons - if you found you didn't need them, then you won't use them.  (But when you've got them, I bet you will!)

I'm not sure there can ever be an 'ideal' box - different compromises work best for different music.

Weight is a strange thing - although I can't come anywhere close to emulating Squeezy's fantastic 'powerhouse' technique, I still in my mid-sixties feel I can get quite a bit of dynamics with my 6+ kg boxes.  I think the easier fingering patterns that are available with more basses and acc-row note reversals help a lot more than you would think - the killer for me used to be the strange rhythms of say ^^V^ bellows movements, that I now try to avoid by converting them to ^V^V or ^^^^.  Not only does this improve the rhythm of the tune, it makes it somehow much easier to play - If I've been playing all evening, it's my fingers that wear out first, never my arm muscles.

But if you really want to cut down the LH weight, I'd say probably go for the extra buttons, but leave out the third reeds.
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Theo

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2013, 10:29:37 AM »

Smiley, if I can comment on your post - as far as the RHS is concerned, I've always thought that it doesn't matter a lot in terms of weight if you have a long third row, because that's not going to affect the box's 'throwability',

I understand what you mean Chris, but it does depend on the design of the box.  If you have for example a Saltarelle Connemara where the reeds for the 4 or 5 extra buttons are on the same blocks as for the main rows, then going to a full three rows will entail additional reed blocks(s) and a bulkier box.  On the other hand if you compare a Castagnari Mory with a Handry, (or Dony with Rik) the box is the same external size, and the weight is only marginally greater.

As far as playability/dynamics/throwability goes, when you are playing a bigger box then reed responsiveness begins to become a much more significant factor.  In a two row 1 or two voice box fairly ordinary reeds will play very nicely, but in a three row three voice by contrast you will be very aware of any deficiencies in reed quality or setup.
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waltzman

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2013, 03:55:19 PM »

Bellows size is a very significant factor in playability and responsiveness too.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2013, 04:27:50 PM »

I see, Theo - you're saying that the volume of the box, which may have to be bigger for more RH reeds, will cause the LHS to weigh more?  (I must admit I've never quite understood why the LHS has to be physically the same size as the RHS, but that's another matter.)

And as far as responsiveness goes, I suppose the point is that for a bigger cross-sectional area of bellows, to exert the same reed pressure you need correspondingly more force?
« Last Edit: December 12, 2013, 04:30:49 PM by Chris Brimley »
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waltzman

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2013, 08:10:53 PM »

And as far as responsiveness goes, I suppose the point is that for a bigger cross-sectional area of bellows, to exert the same reed pressure you need correspondingly more force?

Yes.  I think this factor actually has more effect on the way a larger box plays than the weight of the left side but that's purely subjective on my part.
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george garside

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2013, 10:02:23 PM »

   So I'm interested if you BCC# players learn chord 'patterns' for push and pull, that work on each RH diagonal?  I can see that this would be a potential plus, but it must also involve many years of experience?

Chris, not sure what what you mean by 'work on each diagonal'  as most BCCsharpists don't think in  terms of patterns or diagonals, the key being to know the keyboard well  i.e where and in what direction every note is.

The easiest way to get the hang of it is to think of the C row as the 'white' notes and learn  there location - then  ldeem the B row to be the black notes and learn them.  finally look at the C# row  as providing  another set of  arse upards black notes!

for what its worth    here are maj, min and 7th chords  with bellows directions .   I there is a G in a chord it must be push  and if it has a D,   A  or A#/Bb  it must be pull 

  C maj  push    Cmin push     C7 push

C#maj push/pull   minpush/pull   7 push pull

Dmaj pull       min pull       7thpull

Eb maj push  min pull/push   7 xxx

Emaj push/pull     min push    7 push pull

Fmaj pull   min push pull     7xxx

F#maj     push/pull    min pull   7push pull

Gmaj incomplete push    minxxx   7xxx

Ab/G# maj  push/pull    min push/pull     7push

A maj  pull     min  pull    7 pull

Bb  maj  pull  min pull   7 pull

B maj pull/push  min pull 7 pull


george
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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2013, 10:13:05 PM »

Can't do that C7 push, there's no B flat.
Can do C7 pull without the G.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2013, 09:10:54 AM »

Quote
Chris, not sure what what you mean by 'work on each diagonal'  as most BCCsharpists don't think in  terms of patterns or diagonals, the key being to know the keyboard well  i.e where and in what direction every note is.

George, I kind of imagined that the constant semitone difference between rows for buttons in the 'forwards slash' diagonal direction was the point of the layout, as it might bring sense and repetition into chord fingering patterns, like repeated bar chords up the fretboard on a guitar.  Looking at your chord explanation though, it looks as if you BCCsharpists have just as painstaking a learning process as we D/G/Accers!  Maybe I've missed some unifying theory?
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george garside

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2013, 09:34:45 AM »

Can't do that C7 push, there's no B flat.
Can do C7 pull without the G.

I was referring to C maj 7 with plain ordinary B   - CEGB _ (which has to be push to get the G)    not C dominant 7th with Bb ??? 

george
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george garside

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2013, 09:50:06 AM »

Quote
Chris, not sure what what you mean by 'work on each diagonal'  as most BCCsharpists don't think in  terms of patterns or diagonals, the key being to know the keyboard well  i.e where and in what direction every note is.

George, I kind of imagined that the constant semitone difference between rows for buttons in the 'forwards slash' diagonal direction was the point of the layout, as it might bring sense and repetition into chord fingering patterns, like repeated bar chords up the fretboard on a guitar.  Looking at your chord explanation though, it looks as if you BCCsharpists have just as painstaking a learning process as we D/G/Accers!  Maybe I've missed some unifying theory?

I think that probably the fact that nearly all BCC's have stradella bass, often in abundance, makes a huge difference as far as chordage is concerned as most of the business can be done on that end without worrying about bellows direction  which can be chosen solely to get the best out of the treble end.   

 My modus operandi is to  choose the chords I want on the bass  and to augment these with , mostly 2 note, harmonising bits added to the tune here and there  chosen by sound rather than by correctness or theory.   This quickly becomes intuitive on the basis that the sharp keys mostly on the C row with   123or 4 diversions onto the B row and the flat keys work in a similar way using the C# row as the main road.  (The alternative direction notes  can then be used in any of 4 ways, -- to ease tricky fingering --  to ease tricky bellowing -- to keep bellows tight -- to facilitate  added treble harmony.


george
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2013, 02:07:15 PM »

I think I'm beginning to appreciate that fundamentally the playing of the notes on a D/G/Acc and BCC# isn't in principle all that different - in both cases you need to learn the RH notes thoroughly, and the considerations in picking fingerings are remarkably similar.

However the main difference perhaps lies in the LH side that is usually attached - either 'rectangular' bisonoric, or stradella.  The first seems to have a certain amount of natural sympathetic 'oomphiness' and instant power;  whereas the second benefits from more flexibility across all sorts of keys, but perhaps suffers in the attack department.  So are we saying that the LHS button layout in a triangular vs rectangular pattern is not actually the important difference, the real issue is the choice of LH voices usually made on a stradella system?  I surmise that designers cut down on the weight of an 'all things for all keys' LH stradella system by compromising on lightweight reed systems/voicing.

Since a large number of tunes being played seem to be in a fairly restricted range of keys, the idea of designing layouts for the 'good' as opposed to the 'perfect' key range still seems to have some merit, I would have thought.


 
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george garside

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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2013, 02:44:49 PM »

I think that in many ways the similarities between the different 'diatonic' sytems are greater than the differences

george
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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2013, 12:50:23 PM »

Coming back to a point made by Theo earlier:
If you compare a Mory with a Handry, I'm wondering how the extra reeds etc. in the same size case affects sound.
The 'free space' internal volume of a Handry must be less as it's got more Gubbins inside ( technical speak! ) so to me I'd think the resonance chamber must be reduced slightly.
What difference, if any, does this make to the sound? Is the Mory louder, greater reed response etc as it has more free air movement to be affected by the reed vibration?
I feel there ought to be a theoretical difference but realise sometimes the reality doesn't match up with the theory.
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Re: Bigger Boxes - comparing the D/G/Acc with other systems
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2013, 02:59:08 PM »

My kit is essentially accs/D/G, but I think that includes me in. i do try some funny keys, recently *Bb, but that is only feasible with an extended bass, and a nearly chromatic RH. The Ab note (push only) has long been its bugbear, but that note isn't in Bb scale 8) Should you really want to do this try and get the notes lined up in your head all on pull, or at worst the off note that "rocks" against another note

But even in G and D, and their modes such as Em .. why pay for those extra accs and not use them? Again pull is generally the way. Minors are fun. Dm dorian needs an F, mostly I'd play that as pull, but if it's a more sparse D blues pentatonic minor, I'd do the scale on push to take advantage of my push Ab. Gm used to frustrate me as my Bb was pull, but a reversed G on my accs row, and a pull G bass has recently sorted that.

Very commonly I might play a bit of scale such as E blues EGABbDE against an Em chord, or against G for a bebop effect. This uses my pull D and Bb notes.

F# blues scale is a great one for impro/arrengement when the tune is in A (bebop Blues) or D (blue notes against its dominant A7). As posted before this scale run uses no accs at all, its notes are all there pulling on main rows!

So "in the main" my journey has been to use accs to embellish main key tunes with some "out" notes, or to use reversals to facilitate runs; rather then try to play weird keys. But the latter continue to tempt, eg Pascale Reubens'  *deux frères
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