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Author Topic: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?  (Read 1758 times)

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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2017, 01:37:15 PM »

Steve, I agree with pretty much everything you say, but surely the advantages of the instrument, that you describe so well and with which I entirely agree, are not related to the question of whether to have a third row, which is not immediately going to impact on the lightness and dynamics of the instrument.  But Arty, like many I suspect, seems to be going further - the concept seems to me to be that a limitation, per se, can be a benefit.  That's the bit I have never understood.
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Howard Jones

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2017, 02:17:51 PM »

The benefit is that the simplicity which make the melodeon very bad at playing chromatic music make it very good at playing diatonic music.  As additional rows and basses are added to make it better for chromatic music this starts to interfere with its ability to play diatonic music. 

All instruments are limited in their different ways. This only matters if you try to use them in ways for which they are not suited.
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Melissa Sinclair

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2017, 02:23:44 PM »

Wow! Seems I've hit a nerve/interesting topic!

I won't respond to everything, but I've read it all. So yesterday, I took advice (never say I don't do that!) and noodled around, choosing Twinkle Little Star. Not looking at a video of how I should play it, etc, but just sat down with the box and first plunked out in C the right hand melody. That was super easy as it's just the few notes right in the same line. It's one of the first songs you learn on almost all instruments. I remember it from my very brief stint at piano when I was 6 (and my child's later on). I remember it for the horn... and my son on the trumpet (later tuba), etc.

I picked some chords that seemed to sound Ok, trying to move around the left hand a little. I was still lousy at it, but then tried to do some embellishing. All notes still available on the same row of the box.But to limit the back/forth of the bellows (is that note reversal?), I tried to use the other row to keep the bellows moving in the same direction for longer - making it easier and faster to play those notes and not be super choppy.  I want to learn to play cross rows as it adds more versatility and  I notice the play I like better are people who have mastered bellow action by doing cross row, so I should practice it.

I like all the music if done well, French probably the best, but the #1 thing that seems to stick out with me is I'm awed and find the most appealing are all the people who have mastered the ability to make the sound smooth and not choppy... unless the tune specifically needs to be choppy (that's a different style of play).

It's not about the melodeon being limited. I know that. It's not about making the instrument into something it's not. It's about the boxes that just have more options - even with turning voices off and on and from what I can see with my limited knowledge so far, is that more of those bells and whistles are on bigger boxes.

And it's knowing my own limitations. I am 47 years old. My capacity for learning new is not what it was at 10 or 20. (though I'm not feeling  terribly slow in life at acquiring new either.) So, if say, my dream box is a larger Castagnari or a Saltarelle or some other brand in GC, then I don't want to have to do a lot of relearning if/when I ever switch to a bigger box. I'm glad I'm playing the smaller boxes now as I feel in my muscle in my upper forearm, around my elbow, and the side of my palm some muscle fatigue as I build stamina. The lighter weight and simplicity of the smaller box make it easier to grasp what to do and allows me to practice for longer. All good... but the "worrier" in me wonders, "how much will it suck if I have to relearn the tunes I acquire if/when I switch boxes?"

I'm glad to hear that the changes are less than it seems... as right now, the keyboard layout stuff is only just beginning to make sense to me! I compared side by side three boxes keyboard layout yesterday for a GC instrument just to try to understand more. I used mine, an older, pre-pokerwork Hohner, A Castagnari Handry... and some other I cannot recall with 2.5 rows and 12 bases of some other brand/make. I circled the "have in common" keys, and yes, they do seem to be in a row/similar configuration, but not as much so in the basses (sort of the same, sort of not) and, of course, accidentals placed differently.

I have absolutely no idea how often and when accidentals will be used as I'm just learning, but that would be like changing the keyboard on my laptop... which sometimes happens as my husband is from Croatia and he sometimes turns on the Croat keyboard. He seems to be able to switch back and forth easily enough, but probably because he "knows" that keyboard too from his youth... where for me, I'm like how do you make the  š,đ,ž,č.ć letters again?  ;D And where did the brackets, colons and semicolons go now that they are letters? Yes, I can learn them, but it's an added layer to learning while I already feel I have a lot of learning to do.

So, I thought I would ask... especially when I snoop around here about talk about different layouts and read about how some people just couldn't get on with the new layout and give up on that box and try something new/different. Even the whole discussion (here and other places) on the CBA B system and C system and how people find one harder or one easier (Yes, I looked into those too before deciding to settle on a melodeon).

I think, for me too, noodling around will have limitations with just pulling things from my head because I didn't grow up with hearing and knowing songs that are common to the melodeon. I grew up in the middle of the USA, mostly 2nd-3rd generation German ancestry mixed in with everything else (and my family background is mostly German) and all that folk music is gone. The music I know are radio tunes - as folksy as it gets are those that were on the radio in my parents/grandparents youth and nursery rhymes. It will probably be easier for me to ingest and learn melodeon tunes and then play around with them after learning them because those are more likely to be accidental free. I think? Still don't know.
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Anahata

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2017, 02:27:19 PM »

As additional rows and basses are added to make it better for chromatic music this starts to interfere with its ability to play diatonic music.

Correct. I had a Hohner Gaelic IV B/C/C# once, and playing it in C was really hard!
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george garside

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #24 on: February 07, 2017, 02:50:57 PM »

C is easier using 3 rows rather than tugging and shoving on the row
george
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Jack Campin

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #25 on: February 07, 2017, 03:05:52 PM »

Quote
the concept seems to me to be that a limitation, per se, can be a benefit.  That's the bit I have never understood.

What you do to make the music interesting while staying within the limitations is what makes for a specific idiom or style.  It's what makes modal music of any genre what it is: you are only using a small selection of the notes available to you, which means you have to really understand their combinatorial possibilities.  An extreme example is the music of the Highland pipes, where you start out with only nine notes to work with and then build enormous pieces in scales that leave some of them out.  China has spent 4000 years doing that.

Violinists and keyboard players often use range and chromaticism as substitutes for creativity.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #26 on: February 07, 2017, 04:26:20 PM »

Quote
What you do to make the music interesting while staying within the limitations is what makes for a specific idiom or style

Yes, but, other things being equal, you can do exactly the same thing without those limitations.  If you want.  It's a choice, not a blockage.  OK, many people then choose to go outside the boundaries, because they realise the added opportunities.  It's wrong to criticise anyone for doing so, isn't it?
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2017, 04:38:48 PM »

Melissa, I hope you will post some recordings on here in due course, because it seems to me you are completely on the right track.  You clearly have the ability to recognise the (unique) dynamic possibilities of our instrument.  It is my experience over 40 years of playing the box that it's quite possible to preserve the things that (you, clearly) like, and also overcome the limitations of the more simple instruments, and I reckon this search has maybe been a key feature of this forum.   The button accordion has huge possibilities in terms of variable note dynamics and accompaniment, which few other instruments can get close to.  We can all learn from your clear intention to get down to brass tacks.
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Ebor_fiddler

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2017, 04:41:28 PM »

Melissa: 47 is NOT old when learning a melodeon (at least). A lot of people seem to have started at 60 or more, myself included, and most are perfectly competent players (or in my case, happily incompetent due to lack of practice time available). Learn and enjoy is the motto, especially enjoy!  :|||:
And go with what Chris Brimley says ...
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Melissa Sinclair

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2017, 04:43:36 PM »

Melissa, I hope you will post some recordings on here in due course, because it seems to me you are completely on the right track.  You clearly have the ability to recognise the (unique) dynamic possibilities of our instrument.  It is my experience over 40 years of playing the box that it's quite possible to preserve the things that (you, clearly) like, and also overcome the limitations of the more simple instruments, and I reckon this search has maybe been a key feature of this forum.   The button accordion has huge possibilities in terms of variable note dynamics and accompaniment, which few other instruments can get close to.  We can all learn from your clear intention to get down to brass tacks.

Oh thank you... I am recording my feeble attempts, today is day 4 on my blog.  I'm showing warts and all because learning is a LONG, SLOW process. You can find it by clicking on the globe under my avatar (that's where everyone's blog can be found if they have one).

Today I am working on adding embellishments to Twinkle Twinkle (oh so exciting), but I'm going to help myself by writing it down too as my brain seems to find the "holding the music in my head" quite difficult... Well, I can hold the music in my head, just not in my fingers!  :P

I am not working today, taking a comp day after working 50 plus hours last week.  :o 
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Melissa Sinclair

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #30 on: February 07, 2017, 04:46:07 PM »

Melissa: 47 is NOT old when learning a melodeon (at least). A lot of people seem to have started at 60 or more, myself included, and most are perfectly competent players (or in my case, happily incompetent due to lack of practice time available). Learn and enjoy is the motto, especially enjoy!  :|||:
And go with what Chris Brimley says ...

Well, if I felt I was too old to learn new tricks, I wouldn't start. I'm just saying I don't pick things up like I used to. I have an 11 year old and 20 year old. I see what "quick" looks like. And it takes away the number of years I can work on it to get better.

ETA: I'm also living with my mother in law (81) and her deteriorating brains also influences me. She was a neurologist and psychiatrist - and was very respected in her profession. I have known her since before she was 60 and her brain was already diminishing - not for her expertise, but for anything else "new"... like how to use new cameras, computers, new to her kitchen appliances, etc. At 81, she wants to help, but can't remember how to start the dishwasher despite her living with us for 7 years and being taught no less than a dozen times. So, yes, that looms in my head a bit as basically I see what happens to some people as they age.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2017, 05:05:39 PM by Melissa Sinclair »
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2017, 05:04:17 PM »

nope it isn't old.... a mere spring chicken  ;D
....and yes, Chris is right, you're well on track!
Q
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I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2017, 05:05:47 PM »

Melissa, just spotted your blog.  Do you mind if I suggest something?

Holding the melodeon - at the moment you are not worrying about this because you aren't yet trying to cope with fast dynamics and button changes, but it's probably a good idea to develop a good posture early.  A lot of box players recognise that the floor end of the box naturally wobbles when you change bellows direction, and so we try to restrain it.  Others have different techniques, but I wedge it against my right thigh, with the upper end then naturally falling to my left, which helps me a lot.
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Melissa Sinclair

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #33 on: February 07, 2017, 05:13:16 PM »

Melissa, just spotted your blog.  Do you mind if I suggest something?

Holding the melodeon - at the moment you are not worrying about this because you aren't yet trying to cope with fast dynamics and button changes, but it's probably a good idea to develop a good posture early.  A lot of box players recognise that the floor end of the box naturally wobbles when you change bellows direction, and so we try to restrain it.  Others have different techniques, but I wedge it against my right thigh, with the upper end then naturally falling to my left, which helps me a lot.

Don't mind help/advice at all. Just so it's done nicely and not meanly!  (:)
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #34 on: February 07, 2017, 05:19:40 PM »

I too have had a quick look - you're going great for a few days!
....and clearly enjoying it that's the best bit!

I also see you've linked Jimbo with his 3 tunes on a melodeon, I'm only just getting the first two now!!
My other real inspiration was here....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RyY7WDmkog
Derek and Jimbo ripping up a couple of good tunes with such verve and full on enjoyment, just imspirational.
I'm listening to it as I type, still love it!
Keep at it and keep laughing!
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 #35 on: February 07, 2017, 05:41:12 PM »

Quote
What you do to make the music interesting while staying within the limitations is what makes for a specific idiom or style

Yes, but, other things being equal, you can do exactly the same thing without those limitations.

I can think of several well known and distinctive one-row melodeon styles that simply would not sound right played on a instrument "without those limitations".

You could play the notes on a fully chromatic three-row, but it wouldn't sound Cajun or Quebecois, for example. And those differences, to me, are very much what makes those kinds of music interesting.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2017, 05:48:53 PM »

I think Melissa is just comparing 2-row and 2+ row layouts, isn't she?
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Melissa Sinclair

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2017, 05:56:56 PM »

I think Melissa is just comparing 2-row and 2+ row layouts, isn't she?

Maybe?  Who knows!  It's only day 3,
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2017, 06:27:24 PM »

OK, well I agree with Anahata's point that one-rows can make very different sounds.  The very light LH, small bellows, and multi-voice reeds typically give the opportunity for a driving, dynamic and full sound to be created. 

The problem with one-rows is that having only two LH chords and usually only the diatonic RH notes available does make the melody and accompaniment possibilities quite limited.
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arty

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Re: Keyboard layouts? How/why would you ever change systems?
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2017, 06:29:21 PM »

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!

When I used the words "significant limitations", I was actually quoting you Chris. I don't have much experience with the melodeon as I have only been teaching myself for the last four and a half years. Personally, I don't see any limitations at all, I only see opportunities and that is why I am just as excited by the instrument as I was on day one.
I remember reading something written by Gianni Ventola Danese, (Diatonic Accordion Academy), where he said that the two row, eight bass was the only true diatonic. Now, I can't argue with that because I don't have the knowledge but I do hear the difference when a 2 row is played compared to a 3 row. Quite a lot of the 'punch', the natural rhythm of reversing the bellows is lost by the opportunities the 3 rows offer. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that a 3 row box seems to me to be a kind of half way house....I mean, why not go for a 4 row, as played by Marc Perrone? Wouldn't that offer even less limitations? Then, of course, why not go the whole way and have a CBA?
Personally, in my blissful state of ignorance (!), I actually think of them as almost different instruments that offer different things and one would choose according to the kind of music that one wants to play.
The 2 row box that I play, is perfectly suited to the type of music that I love to play and therefore, I do not feel limited by it at all. I don't know what box you play Chris but I would guess that you have done the same as me and chosen the box that best suits the kind of music that you want to play, in the way that you want to play it. Which, of course, means that neither of us feel limited by our instruments. And that is how it should be, isn't it? It doesn't mean that one is better than the other, it doesn't mean that one is inadequate.
The hard thing for a complete beginner to know, like Melissa, is 'what type of music do you want to play'? But she will know, in a year or two's time, and she will or won't change her instrument accordingly.
She may throw both her melodeons in the bin and buy herself a 120 bass piano accordion....and none of us will ever speak to her again !!!  >:E
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