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Author Topic: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?  (Read 1725 times)

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Melissa Sinclair

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Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« on: February 07, 2017, 05:30:36 AM »

So, now that I'm actually starting out and have two melodeons in two different keys and in two different layouts, I wonder, "why would you ever get different boxes in different keys and layouts?"

I was curious and looked around at different GC boxes (as I really do prefer that sound the best). There are 2 rows, 2.5 rows, 3 rows, 8 basses, 12 basses, 18 basses. Some have accidentals on the side, some on the top. Since playing this instrument involves a lot of muscle memory, how can you all switch between instruments so easily? or do you not? Like when you go from one to another, do you just always get the same keyboard layout to avoid all the relearning? Seriously! Is any other instrument like that? Is the relearning hard?

I ask because it was suggest to me and I followed that advice to start out with lighter, simple two row, 8 basses instrument - makes sense. I already realize how much shorter practice sessions would be if I had a huge, heavy instrument. But if I love this, I will eventually want to get a bigger instrument. I thought I might "learn one" on the smaller box and then once I "had it" move it over to the bigger box. But is that even possible? Huh...

Well, I "kind of" had to learn 3 different fingerings for different horns (F horn/Single horn, F/Bb horn with trigger/double horn, and then the mellophone (marching horn) which has fingering and plays like a trumpet). And it always took me a bit of time to switch between them. I couldn't do it instantly even with a young mind of 20 and that was less of a a switch than these keyboard layouts.

Or are they essentially the same and it's easy to switch?
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2017, 08:11:10 AM »

Hiya,
I've come to melodeon later in life and this question pops up in my head sometimes. I was tempted with a 2.5 row/12 bass as I thought it might be more versatile but I've decided to stick to a 2 row 8 bass for several reasons.

I don't want to confuse myself in trying to learn different systems. I want to get to grips with the box I've got. That's a personal thing. I realise many out there do use different boxes, 2/2.5 and 3 rows, and can change between them. The people I've met who can do this often have been playing longer, have many years playing under their belt and perhaps that comes into play.
Rather than muddy the waters by learning different things at my learning point on my learning journey I've decided to focus on the straight 2row/8bass.

Possibly more to the point - the music I want to play, mainly English traditional music, doesn't really need anything more  than the 2 row 8 bass.
One friend on this forum and excellent player demonstrated to me they keys he could play on his Castagnari Mory, a 2.5 row 12 bass box that has a sound to die for, but is a big beast.
I was blown away at the versatility but got my brain utterly confused. I realised for the type of music I play I simply don't need all that versatility. I don't want to play such a large repertoire that he has, often French as well as English. Maybe in umpteen years time when I'm more proficient, I might review this and enlarge my repertoire but not now.

When you were wondering what to buy a few weeks back, the question often bounced back to you is ' what do you want to play?' That then tends to push you in a direction for which one to go for.
Mostly my English repertoire is DG based and hence my weapon of choice! I'm learning to use the chin end accidentals with ease, and discovering that if I don't have a note ( often a low Fnat ) then I have to cheat - another learning thing!
Theo has often said to me and others that everything is a compromise and it took a while for this to sink in.
OK I can't play in all those other keys but in practice I don't need to.
Hope this has some logic to it..........
cheers
Q



 
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I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Theo

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2017, 08:16:00 AM »

A one row instrument is very limited in the keys it can play in, but with in its own limitations it is a wonderful thing. Adding a second row increases its scope.  All the other systems are attempts to extend the capabilities.  How far you want to go in adding more is a matter of personal choice.  But for everything you add you also loose something of the lightness and agility of the simpler systems.
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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2017, 08:19:34 AM »

I was curious and looked around at different GC boxes (as I really do prefer that sound the best). There are 2 rows, 2.5 rows, 3 rows, 8 basses, 12 basses, 18 basses. Some have accidentals on the side, some on the top. Since playing this instrument involves a lot of muscle memory, how can you all switch between instruments so easily? or do you not? Like when you go from one to another, do you just always get the same keyboard layout to avoid all the relearning?
>
>
Or are they essentially the same and it's easy to switch?
Yes, on the two main rows they are basically the same, and it is easy to switch. The main variation you will find will be in the layout of the half row or third row. There is not really a standard layout for these, although most manufacturers will have their own particular layout which they tend to stick to. Having said that, there is not an awful lot of difference and you will soon get used to where to find the accidentals and reversals on any particular make of box.

I expect someone will come along soon and tell you about the Heim layout or other layouts for the third row, which have generally been developed for maximising playing of modern French music. Some of the different layouts are shown on the 'Keyboard layouts' section of this forum, which I expect you have already discovered. Quite a few are for D/G melodeons so you will need to make the appropriate transposition for a G/C.

Personally, I find that I have no need of a full third row. If I need accidentals in more than one octave, I play my 2.5 row Mory, but otherwise the standard two row is good enough for me, either with a pair of accidentals at the chin end, or as a short two-button half row, like this.
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george garside

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2017, 08:58:31 AM »

All of the above posts stick to the various layouts for 4th apart boxes but of course there is also the semitone box that I think should also be considered if  wanting to move beyond a one or 2 row 4th aprt box.

I started 60 years ago on  a double ray BC  but playing mostly English and Scottish tunes rather than irish trad I found the lack of bass less than desirable!
A few years later I got hold of a 3 voice  trichord with stradella '
I then followed what to me was the 'natural' path to larger 48 and 96 bass 3 row boxes which are very versatile and still part of the 'melodeon family'

for about 20 years I played mostly with myself so to speak!  but then 'found' folk festivals and pub sessions as well as 'english' ceilids. I soon realised that almost everything was in D& G anad that most people were playing 2 row DG pokerworks which I had never come across. So to 'fit in' I bought one and used it extensively for sessions etc  as it was light to carry and its case did not occupy a seat!

my playing then developed in 2 directions  i.e. BC(C#) and DG and when I started playing for English(ish) ceilidhs my weapon of choice was and still is a simple 2 row DG mml. simply because it weighs next to nothing , produces the same volume as a larger box and can be played for long periods without becoming knackered ( me not the box)

I could never see the point in buggering up the 'purity' of the one row or the simple DG with a row of odds and sods that may or may not produce other than home keys  when the BC or BCC# with stradella does it so easily.

I still enjoy playing both systems  and have absolutely no difficulty in switching from one to t'other


 george
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Andrius

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2017, 09:26:31 AM »

Difference between two row and Club is one sound only. And additional 4 sounds - you can don't use them.
So not really big difference. After some time you can decide which system looks better for you. It's possible to change one to another easy - to change one sound only. My 2 row boxes are "clubbed". Lot of players are de-clubbing. It's your choice.
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Howard Jones

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2017, 09:28:50 AM »

You ask "why would you ever get different boxes in different keys and layouts?".

In my case the reason for having different layouts is simply that is how the instruments came to me.  I have a number of melodeons, some have accidentals and some don't, some have half-rows but both the number of buttons and the layouts are different.  I don't have any real trouble switching between them.  The biggest difficulty was with the club system, where the variant button is on one the main rows, but I managed with it for some time and only had it de-clubbed after a lot of thought.  Usually the variants are accidental notes or reversals which you don't need to use very often.

It can become difficult where a tune makes heavy use of the non-standard buttons and in some cases I stick to playing them on one instrument, as far as possible. For most tunes it just means making a conscious effort to switch  - you're still using muscle memory, just a different version of the tune.

If you struggle to switch between different layouts it should be straightforward for a fettler to tune your instruments to the same layout.


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playandteach

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2017, 09:46:35 AM »

I have 3 melodeons in different keys (and makes, and ages)- all 8 basses, one is only 2 row, one is 2 row plus 2, the last is 2 row plus 5. I have had them all set out the same (reversals of some notes) on the 2 rows - which means that I would struggle to pick up a normal box and play without some rethinking. I really need only one of the plus buttons - the G#. All the others I can live without. I'm still thinking of a way to rig a link to the end accidental button on the 2 row only box to give me back that facility.
I would like extra bass buttons - but not really for extra chords, just for bass runs.
I like the light weight and size. If I want to play different music I'll play the piano.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2017, 10:04:02 AM »

Quote
I thought I might "learn one" on the smaller box and then once I "had it" move it over to the bigger box. But is that even possible? Huh...

I'm assuming you're talking about just 'quint' boxes?

If so, I'd say yes, many of the skills are certainly transferable, and your reasoning is good.  However, some of the skills you acquire with the smaller box may need to be 'unlearnt' for the bigger box, IMO, where note reversals are involved.   It seems to me that reversals on the third row are just as useful in extending the abilities of the box as are the accidentals, and therefore developing playing runs that use them as part of you playing is an important skill to learn. I don't see the two-row as a 'workhorse' as many players do, and in fact I don't play one any more.  I know that few agree with me here, but I wish I had started from scratch with a big box.  You sound as if you have a good grasp of music already, and I would have thought that you are likely to be in a position where you quite quickly get frustrated with the significant limitations of two-row boxes.  I hope this doesn't put you off the instrument, because larger boxes, for the usual 'home' keys at least, can remove many of the limitations of the smaller ones.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2017, 11:01:29 AM »

Theo and I have discussed this previously, and his comment above resonated with me though took a while to sink in!
Being only a little chap, I have tried a 2.5 row Mory, it's a big beastie and weight also starts to play a part. The bigger boxes start to get heavy with all the extra reeds in them.

I've also told a slight fib, I do have a 2.4 row melodeon with 8 basses.
It is an old Hohner Erika in BbEb, made in the '30's.
I have had the keyboard set up to exactly mimic my DG melodeons so that my fingering is directly transferrable and won't confuse my small brain.
i.e. I press the buttons in the same order and the tune comes out in another key.
I have no idea what the half row is, I've not visited it yet. I chose the unusual key after listening to a concert where one of the younger chaps here played a BbEb and the sound was just wonderful.  It's my 'playing for myself' box and being lower keys sounds less squeaky than the DG.
cheers
Q

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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

JimmyM

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2017, 11:11:11 AM »

I'm only a few years into my melodeon journey and my views my well change but I often think that on this forum we pay more attention to the boxes than we do to the music that we play on them ( - Ill get my coat :-X )

I'm probably not a very good musician (certainly not as good as I'd like) but for, i'm guessing. 90% of the music that i play I need only 2 keys D & G.

Often at a session I'll take 2 boxes,a D & a G both 1 rows with only 2bass spoons because i like the sound they make. If theres a tune that doesnt fit my boxes/playing ability i'll sit it out and listen. You dont have to play every tune ;)

I have a pokerwork that I play for morris. I do play that across the rows a bit. There are tunes that I only play on that because they wouldnt work on the one rows. And sometimes I'll play '1 row' tunes on the D/G along the row. Its ok but I dont get the 1 row sound that i like so much.

So for me its a compromise between the sound and the music I want to play. I like to play for our morris side :M, ideally I'd like to do it on 1 rows but the tunes they want to dance to really fit better on a 2 row. I like to play with others in sessions where i have more control over what i play so i go with my 4 stoppers because I LOVE that sound ;D

The house is burning down and you can only save one box?! It would be one of the 4stoppers, probably in G  (:)
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Edward Jennings

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2017, 11:20:15 AM »

From the last few posts, it would seem that Melissa and I aren't the only ones to prefer a lower, even possibly a growly sound from the melodeon.
Whilst not wanting to hi-jack her thread, but the point is very pertinent to me at this precise moment; how about a D/G which is an octave lower? Could it still be played alongside those squeaky ones without causing a riot?
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arty

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2017, 11:22:57 AM »

Quote
I thought I might "learn one" on the smaller box and then once I "had it" move it over to the bigger box. But is that even possible? Huh...

you are likely to be in a position where you quite quickly get frustrated with the significant limitations of two-row boxes. 

I really couldn't let this statement go without saying that it is those significant limitations that make the two row box so very appealing, so intriguing, so wonderful for me and I cannot foresee the day when I would want more than two rows. I have been learning for five years and I haven't even scratched the surface of possibilities yet. If I wanted to add to what I already have at my fingertips, it would be extra basses, that's all and even then I am not too bothered.
You have two boxes Melissa and you can get an enormous amount of fine music out of them. My advice is to concentrate on the music, not the box....it is up to you to find it inside those boxes and bring it out.
Enjoy the music and love it!
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2017, 11:52:21 AM »

Arty has a good point that took me a while to see, and what Theo has hinted to as well.
There are limitations to a 2 row 8 bass box, so that makes it all the more stunning listening to what some people can do within these limitations! Some people are quite breathtaking in what they get out of a very limited instrument.
Embrace the limitations and work out how to cheat ways around them as opposed to an alternative plan of getting a bigger box that gets round these limitations by sheer number of buttons.

Key choice comes down to you. I like playing and listening to the throaty roar of a BbEb for a change when in the comfort of my home. The key doesn't matter too much if playing on your own ( hence my BbEb, I like the sound ) but in the sessions I go to it is DG land, you need a DG to play along with everyone else.
Q
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Anahata

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2017, 12:14:47 PM »

Quote
Since playing this instrument involves a lot of muscle memory, how can you all switch between instruments so easily?

The simple answer is that the core keyboard layout for most melodeons is the same. Accidentals on the end or on a half-row, for example: completely different places, but used so rarely that it doesn't make any difference most of the time. If there's just one note in a tune that's an accidental, you soon remember where it is.

Fourth button start vs 3rd button start: again, once your hand is in the right place, all the buttons are in the same relative positions.

There's another reason why it isn't much of a problem: players who have very different boxes typically play a separate repertoire of tunes on each box. A major reason for buying box B is to play tunes that were impossible on Box A.

When you get to fourth-apart versus semitone-apart systems it's another matter altogether: then you are learning to play two quite different instruments.
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Andrius

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2017, 12:20:23 PM »

I think that the best now is to learn as possible with both boxes and then decide about the big one. Some time ago my favorite was 3 row - because more sounds and two 2 row like A/D and D/G in one box A/D/G.
Now i prefer 2 row 2 voice boxes, because less weight and more sensitivity. And it's enough for all music i play - i never have used accidentals on club boxes, and in some boxes accidentals on top of rows are replaced with next sounds of the key. So if you will find that you need lot of additional sounds that are not on your box, it will be sign that you need instrument with more sounds.
I don't know how much layouts will fit in your mind. In the beginning my idea was to keep all instruments as they are and to learn all possible layouts. But it was too much for me, or may be i am too old for my ~50. Only bandoneon has different layouts for every key (it's multi-key instrument). Concertina (the big one) is a little different layouts. Boxes peterburgska are  similar to 3 row diatonic but with another bass system. Difference between two row and club system was too small in the beginning, but three different bass systems of three 2 row 12 bass accordions it was too much for me. I "clubbed" all boxes for the beginning. All 12 bass boxes will be remaded to one system because this is too much systems for me. And i have got beautiful wooden box in C/C#. I am thinking about to sell it there or to remade to may be G/C or B/E because not possible to learn perfect :(
Key of box depend on what you going to do. If you like to play together with other musicians you must look what keys are used around you. If you mostly play alone - it must be what you like more. If you are playing together with other instruments, you must ask musicians about the key.
I left some of my boxes in original key about a=435 Hz special to play alone or in folk group together with strings. C/F boxes are the highest ones to me, and D/G are too high. They (D/G) are very useful for violin too, but now i think better for me is lower G/C and A/D than A/D/G.
Very popular in Lithuania 3 row box peterburgska usualy is G/C/F or F/Bb/Eb. First one are called "very thin" by musicians. F/Bb/Eb - may be the best choice for man's singing. I own both of them but i am looking for very rare Eb/Ab/Db because wonderful low tone. It will be very difficult to play violin or other instruments together, but it will be box for the soul.
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george garside

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2017, 12:34:33 PM »

Quote
Since playing this instrument involves a lot of muscle memory, how can you all switch between instruments so easily?

  again, once your hand is in the right place, all the buttons are in the same relative positions.

 When you get to fourth-apart versus semitone-apart systems it's another matter altogether: then you are learning to play two quite different instruments.

I agree that playing a 4th aprt box  in its home keys on the row is quite different to playing a semitone box  - but playing a 4th apart box in non home keys requiring accidentals and normal semitone playing is not that different!  eg  playing in A on a DG instrument means starting on a different button than the 'normal ' start button ie 3rd or 4th from chin and finding a G# from somewhere - chin end or 3rd row and of course the push pull pattern is different from the home keys.

on eg a BC playing in G on the C row requires much the same process i.e. start on a different button aand follow a different push pull sequence  and find a C# from somewhere..... but on a semitone box the required accidental is not in some odd place like chin end or row of odds and sods but is immediately  to hand ( or finger) on the outside rwo.  Same goes for D = C row + 2 easy nips onto the B row for C# and F#. A same but with an extra departure for the handily placed  G#

other than playing just the home keys on a DG, Cf or whatever  the two systems are much closer than seems to be commonly thought.

george
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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2017, 12:55:27 PM »

Quote
it is those significant limitations that make the two row box so very appealing, so intriguing,

Arty, your comment is one that many on this forum would agree with, I think.  I'm sorry, but I have simply never understood its logic - how can it be possibly be true that a limitation, per se, can ever be a benefit?
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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2017, 01:18:22 PM »

Quote
it is those significant limitations that make the two row box so very appealing, so intriguing,

Arty, your comment is one that many on this forum would agree with, I think.  I'm sorry, but I have simply never understood its logic - how can it be possibly be true that a limitation, per se, can ever be a benefit?

I'd like to answer this, if I may.

The layout of two-row, 4th-apart tuned instruments does two things at once: (a) it makes them relatively easy to learn, especially relatively simple diatonic tunes, and (b) imposes certain limitations when it comes to playing outside the main 'comfortable' home keys (major and minor). On a one-row instrument the limitations of (b) are even more marked.

(a) and (b) together give the melodeon the highly satisfying 'band-in-a-box' character when played in its comfy keys, all set in an instrument which is relatively light and very compact in size. I think this is unrivalled by any other similar instrument with the arguable exception of the anglo concertina (and possibly duet system concertinas).

The 'limitations' of the instrument mean that the player is channelled along certain styles of playing, particularly 'traditional' dance music, to which it can bring an extraordinary rhythmic drive. It is much harder to achieve such character in a fully chromatic, 'same note in both directions' instrument such as a piano accordion or CBA. Yes, it can be done, but the melodeon is just so outstandingly good at it.

For me, those are the benefits of the melodeon.

But if you want to play fully chromatic music on a free-reed instrument, then the piano accordion or CBA are probably the best choices. But the trade-off is weight, complexity and cost, and the greater difficulty in achieving rhythmic drive.
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Steve C.

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2017, 01:35:33 PM »

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Streb mel-o-de-on?
My friends all have multi-boxes, I must make amends.
(apologies to Janis)
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