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Author Topic: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern  (Read 1973 times)

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Gena Crisman

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Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« on: August 07, 2018, 08:45:35 PM »

Hello! I have a question to pose. I've been becoming aware of more 2 row 4th apart instruments recently that have a change to the (beloved?) Diatonic progression that the Melodeon is known for having. For some, the possibility of using a 2.5 or 3 row, or adding additional basses is unappetising, so from time to time, small changes to the 'standard' layout of a 2 row 8 bass are presented or happened across in the wild, and I'd like to talk about one that's taken my interest.

With a 4th apart box, the tonic note of the outside row is positioned on the push on both the inside and outside row. The II note of that scale also is the VI note of the inside row, which will both be found on the pull. This means that there are several buttons that play exactly the same note given a fixed bellows direction. This is actually good and sensible, especially for up/down the row playing, and it maintains the system of progression across the instrument. For extreme cross rowists, it may not be considered an ideal use of resources. This duplication is present in multiple places, every 4 buttons as you move through the push scales, in fact. You may be familiar with the "Dutch Reversal", where some of the plates for the inside row scale are reversed (5th button on a 3rd button start), so (in DG) D5/E5 becomes E5/D5. This can be considered practical because both these notes can still be found with the original bellows direction on the outside row (albeit on different buttons). This, then, gives you a very helpful reversal but has some costs: the duplicate button does offer you the opportunity to reach over your fingers as you play (as one might use your thumb while playing the piano) and allows you to more easily find fingering for a long Arpeggio up either row. As a change later in your playing career, it may also compromise a large number of the tunes that you know.

However I don't particularly want to talk about the dutch reversal at this point. I want to talk about this: In D/G speak, the D4 / F#4 button on the G row shares a D4 with the D4/E4 button on the outside row. Or: the button closer to the chin but adjacent to the 'start' of the instrument on the inside row, possesses a duplicate note to an adjacent button on the outside row. It seems quite common to see D/G players reach over to this button for the much needed E4, due to the propensity of D<->E<->F# runs, so it's seemingly something people already do quite a lot.

To be clear, I'm talking about these buttons:
or

I have heard people talk about changing/having different notes on these exact buttons. Because they do not seem to offer a big assistance with fingering a long arpeggio, and we are used to the pattern breaking down in this area, perhaps it's viable to make adjustments here to enhance our musical vocabulary, without compromising 90% of our repertoire? Heavy RHS chord players are probably very happy with standard low notes, which I have actually completely omitted from the diagrams below, sorry for that! I think this concept may be more interest to only a certain subset of players anyway. Sometimes this conversation can get bogged down in the purely theoretical, so, here are some layouts that I have mostly actually seen, in real life, and may even have the chance to have a go on from time to time to see how they actually behave for me. I would love to hear people's opinions on them, as I have learnt that there are really very few actual mistakes in the layout and pattern of notes and breaking it should be done with caution and at ones own peril.

Firstly, reference diagrams:
Normal:

(3rd button start, no anomalies)

Low G Scale:

(4th button start but with B/C instead of B/D and G/A instead of F#/A - can be done without getting new plates)

However I have also seen these:

Low Scale Push E
(As seen in this thread http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,22486.0.html )

(As Low G Scale, but, the 3rd button is changed from D4 / F#4 to E4 / F#4. Presumably can be done without getting new plates)
I have seen this layout on several (but not all) new Serenellini instruments stocked by Hobgoblin in Southampton. I have included the accidental directions as described in the thread.

Normal with low F & low C

(As normal layout, but, with G row 2nd button D4 / F#4 changed to F4 / F#4, and D row A3 / C#4 changed to A3 / C4)
I recently encountered this layout on a DB Binci II, owned by a box player named David that I met recently. He's very fond of it for playing in A minor as it offers a low natural F and C that are otherwise missing, especially if one does not want to compromise on the high notes on a compact 19 button instrument. I believe that he has at least the original D/F# plate, which suggests that the plate was replaced rather than the D sharpened up 3 semitones, which seems like a lot. This should offer assistance in playing in A minor & C, and with a 3rds stop, also also D minor and G minor should be more possible. This is however at the cost of the low C# - potentially this could be OK as many of the tunes I play in D actually start halfway up, at the mid point D, but, I do know I use that note.

Low G Scale Push F

(As low scale, but with a push low F4 instead of D4)
This is not a layout I have seen in real life, but is a combination of the two ideas above. It reflects the scale that Anahata has pondered about a couple of times I think, but mentioned at least in that same thread. It's sort of a combination of the above two concepts. It seems a bit weird though that a) the Fs might be in different directions to one another (maybe that's good though) and b) now the F4 has an extra button between it and 'the accidental zone'.

Anyway, for one, that's some stuff I've observed. For two, I guess if people have thoughts or have encountered other ideas with these buttons, I would also like to hear them, as I am likely to put my flag on the 2 row / 8 bass hill for quite some time and I'm interested in ideas people have had in this area of the melodeon, especially if they tried them and found they didn't work.
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tiny

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 07:40:53 PM »

Loved reading this Gena, but way above me  (:)
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Theo

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 07:57:40 PM »

If you have a DG box with a low reed set, eg LMM or LM, then you can play in the upper octave and all the low G and the C naturals you need are there.  It doesn't help with F naturals though.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 08:09:20 PM »

I wish I could solve my dilemma.
G#4/Bb4 is fine but I have more problems with Eb/F I want that in the 4th octave and the 5th, or rather, I want F4, Eb4and Eb5. Not so bothered by F5. Too many notes and not enough buttons.
I also want a low G scale and I like have having a D pull and an E push, as well.
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2018, 11:31:06 PM »

Sometimes, I feel like it would be useful to have a melodeon heat map of which buttons I actually use, and which I do not.

If you have a DG box with a low reed set, eg LMM or LM, then you can play in the upper octave and all the low G and the C naturals you need are there.  It doesn't help with F naturals though.

This is certainly my plan - I want a 3 voice sound anyway and am prepared to take the weight hit for it. I have a few tunes that want a single accidental in an octave I don't have it, for example, at my local session we've picked the tunes A Night on the Gin and The Bedbreaker to learn. A Night on the Gin wants an F4 (and an F chord), and The Bedbreaker uses both a D#4 and a D#5. My original plan was to see if I could play the B music of Gin in octaves and use the higher F5 accidental on its own, effectively sneaking into a different octave. With LMM... you're already playing in octaves, so, that would be problem solved perhaps, but for now I just run up to the C5 instead of down to an F4 and actually that's fine. The Bedbreaker, I found that I could cheat the low D# with selective use of the B major chord.

There is a point where the bag of tricks runs out, though, and sometimes you have to work out if it's better for you to to have multiple answers to a single problem rather than single answers to multiple problems.

Too many notes and not enough buttons.

Creativity and then the skill to act on it is pretty much always the answer to playing a tune that really doesn't fall onto the notes that you do have, but there is always going to be a limit, and everyone seems to end up coming up with their own ideas of where they want to push the envelope. I was quite surprised though to see something like a push E from a store dealer on a new instrument: low G scale seems to be catching on, but a few with a push D->E conversion like this seems unusual since it isn't something that I have seen discussed much here, and I have over the last year or so gone down some rather deep holes of reading about dutch reversals and accidental directions and such.

Given that any one thing that you can add to the instrument, eg an L voice, or another button or bass fundamental, increases what you can do with what you otherwise already had, it can be difficult to not end up with a laundry list because it keeps building on itself. Obviously, it adds weight and size too and eventually you're playing a shed. Really, it's not about being set up for tunes in otherwise completely foreign keys, but for tunes that lean into other scales of borrow chords from modes for just a moment, and having enough tools to keep the wheels rolling. If you need a lot, then, really your only option is an extra full or half row.

I guess I'm currently thinking of putting some tape on my G row D reeds and just silence them, and then just... see if I can live without it? I can't currently see how losing this note will hurt me.
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Winston Smith

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2018, 11:47:43 PM »

Good on you Gena! I just love to hear about fearless innovation and experimentation, even when most of it goes over my head.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 07:51:38 AM »

...or convert an ADG to C#DG.. >:E

benammiswift

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 09:02:58 AM »

I have low Push E4 on the D/F# button on my Handry. it just makes sense. You are removing wastage and on melodeons wastage is really undesirable. It also gives you almost a full D scale up on the push from D to B and doesn't interfere with any cross rowing I've ever done before and to change the fingering is so simple. I've changed how my layout works a few times and to be honest you can work around them just requires a quiet room and the brain time.


With regards Dutch reversal, as an idea I loooove it and to be honest I'd recommend it to any new just started player but for me or anyone who has to unwind everything we do in pretty much every key, it's a bit much I think to change something so fundamental and shift those notes onto a different finger on the outside row. Although with these doublings you can achieve super simple triplets in the top octave where they may be super difficult otherwise so they do have their uses aside from being just waste.

Benammi
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nigelr

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2018, 09:32:22 AM »

Hi Gena.  I appreciate that your original question relates to 2 row boxes but after much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that there was a whole raft of contradictory requirements for morris and then for general/session/weird tunes.  My approach after discussions with others has been to have a bog standard 3rd button start/normal accidentals layout for morris (19 button 8 bass Dino - as you saw at Winchester) and then a 2.5 row Dony with a custom layout for everything else.  The custom layout uses Steve Dumpletons 1/2 row and the low end of a Club layout - this basically gives all the notes from G3 to D6 and with a thirds stop on the left hand opens up quite a few different options and keys like Cm, Gm, Dm and E.  I am mostly concentrating on playing scales and a few tunes at the moment to really embed it all in my mind but Mel Biggs had a play around with it a while back and liked what she found.  The Dony layout is attached which was set up by Theo for me.  I'm sure that there as many opinions/solutions/answers as there are players but at the moment this one works for me - not to say I won't change my mind in the future  (:) N
« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 04:20:58 PM by nigelr »
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Julian S

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 09:35:21 AM »

I'm wondering whether there is inevitably a stage in the learning process for melodeon where we get frustrated with lack of certain notes/chords/note direction/button layout and think 'if only'. Possible responses - buy instrument(s) in different keys and/or with extra buttons, change layout (with varying degree of success I'm sure!), or learn to live with this whilst still having periodic grumbles about the problems.
Yep - an extra row with the missing notes is the answer to the ongoing problem of too many notes and not enough buttons - if we ignore downsides of weight and inevitable arguments of which notes where ! The other issue of course is having to learn how to play the thing ::)
Having two boxes with extra buttons but with different layouts this is a source of ongoing personal frustration as I often find problems in playing tunes I learnt on one, on the other - and each instrument has pluses and minuses. Might be missing accidental, note in wrong direction, or change in fingering necessary. And then theres the left hand with different chords and layout as well.I dread it when a fiddler I play with finds a new tune and says 'by the way - its in Gm - that's ok for you isn't it ?'

On the third button start standard layout, changing the duplicated D seems a good option and one I've thought about frequently. Putting an Fnat there would be useful, but I'd really like a Cnat as well. Ok, go for fourth button start - but I have that on one box and have problems reaching the accidentals.
I think it's great that we go through the process of thinking around the basic limitations of our instruments. There obviously isn't a perfect solution which will suit all, but I've often thought that having an instrument where the layout can be easily changed to try different options would be great. Streb maybe ?

J


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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2018, 10:27:31 AM »

I have low Push E4 on the D/F# button on my Handry. it just makes sense. You are removing wastage and on melodeons wastage is really undesirable. ....

It depends on your playing style. Personally, I find that having that push D4/pull F#4 on my G-row is essential for how I play - lots of RH chords. Doing away with that D and changing it to a push E completely burgers up the repeating octave relationships of the rows. Yes - I know that you still have a push D4 on the D-row, but in the heat of the moment when I am improvising RH harmonies, I don't want to have to think about having to shift rows for a particular harmonic pattern. It's too much for my ageing brain cell to cope with. It's my personal opinion and others may disagree with me but I don't consider it 'wastage' at all. On the contrary, it's a highly useful feature. The RH side of a melodeon is more than just about playing melodies.

Quote
With regards Dutch reversal, as an idea I loooove it and to be honest I'd recommend it to any new just started player but for me or anyone who has to unwind everything we do in pretty much every key, it's a bit much I think to change something so fundamental and shift those notes onto a different finger on the outside row.

On my DG Mory, I have the normal D/E on the G-row and the E/D Dutch reversal adjacent on the half-row. So I have the best of both worlds. See Nigel Rainer's account and Dony layout two posts earlier.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2018, 10:43:20 AM »

Having come from a chromatic English concertina, after a while I too started wondering about having something more chromatic than a simple 2row 8 bass.
I think Julian is bang on, we all seem to have got to this point in our playing at some time.
In the end, I've tried to embrace the limitations of a simple 2 row 8 bass, and following some tips gleaned from Anahata and other, learned to cheat  (:)

I have only really missed a low Fnat, and discovered that perhaps, if the tune allows, you can skip over it; possibly change the key where often in G the Fnat becomes C# in the key of D; or maybe ping the phrase up an octave where I do have a higher F nat at the chin end.

After thinking it through, I've stuck to the basic 4th button start 2 row 8 bass.
....but you may well disagree!
Cheers
Q
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I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2018, 12:12:34 PM »

I'm fully aware that RH is about more than just melodies, I do chords all the time. But for me especially on the 18 bass the perceived downsides are far outweighed by the benefits. You get reverse E Minor chord, E major on standard hohner accidentals, reverse low C chord and many cross rowing options. I've never missed that D note at all.

I also have that D/E reversal on my third row and whilst that's fine, you'd free another button on the third / half row by having Dutch reversal.
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2018, 06:24:29 PM »

At the very least it's nice to know that even with more basses and rows, you're still sometimes wondering 'ugh if only I had a...'. There are a lot of questions that can be asked that it is difficult to answer without really trying it. One interesting question to pose would be that, if you consider the Gleichton of the D/G club system, it provides you a push and pull D midway up, and makes available a push and a pull E, too. These are both properties shared by the Dutch reversal, so in that case, do you actually still require the unisonoric C basses? Perhaps you could then club those bases to give a C/F bass pair? Now there's some fuel for you!

The issue really is that, most of us are simply not octopusses - the harder we make it to play the instrument certain ways, the more work we have to put into it when we play it - the less it helps us and the more it fights us - the more likely it is we're going to have problems playing it. Honestly I could never get the hang of the piano when I was younger, and I wouldn't be the musician I am today without the diatonic the system that was designed for the harmonica and melodeon. I can see the arguments both ways for dutch reversals, and I've read them quite a few times before - it always seems to end up feeling like an XY problem going both ways - does it give you more notes you can play in a given direction? Yes. Does it mess up a lot of RH chord patterns? Also Yes. One must pick ones poison. It's just, it's important to remember that the notes were there for a reason to begin with, and our individual playing aspirations are going to guide what kind of layout changes we can tolerate.

Beyond third/half note row choices, and a Low G scale, Dutch Reversal conversations are probably the most commonly discussed layout 'hacks' I've read about, if only because no one can decide if they're a good idea to actually do or not. I know it's not a road I'm going to go down, but, mainly because I simply don't feel the need to do - I've made my peace with that push D/pull E situation, and I hit that button literally every time I play. Interestingly the C# row Roger suggested is interesting because: it's adding on another well known system, rather than a focussed deconstruction of the layout to yield an acc row, and gives you the most transferable experience. But, it's terribly inefficient in terms of layout - who needs more pull F#s and Cs? The answer is of course, countless fantastic musicians - the efficiency was in the use of a system itself.

Going back to 'what is the true cost of changing this one button for me?' though - I have a little bit of tape sandwiched onto my low D reeds on my G row, and I will see how long it is before it annoys me. Knowing that it's something you've opted for, Bemammi, is quite encouraging. I'm more likely to replace it with an F, though.

I have that on one box and have problems reaching the accidentals.

Perhaps the 'low G scale' notes should be treated just like more accidentals and sandwich the regular accidentals so they're higher up or something, or some other arrangement like putting both on the inside/outside row. There's not a lot of reasons for them to be specifically where they are since they are much more melody tools than chord tools once you've changed them. Or, maybe 2 button half rows should just become more popular, even if they're helper buttons and not true extras. I feel 4th button start is more viable for compact instruments where the button pitch is narrower, but I think it's something I will get used to (hooray for long fingers).

I've figured out, I think, that I could get a 2.5 row 12 bass that I would want to play, but only if it was 2 voice. The added weight kills a lot of the fun for me, and if I have to (for weight concerns) pick between a 3v 2+8 and a 2v 2.5+12, I know which way I'd go every time - obviously I want both, but, I don't think that's physically possible within my limits.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2018, 07:12:03 PM »

...do you actually still require the unisonoric C basses? Perhaps you could then club those bases to give a C/F bass pair? Now there's some fuel for you!...
I don't think I would like that for me. I often make use of the C basses and chords being available in both directions. You can get some really nice C drone effects which can help build lovely moments of tension when (for example) playing a tune in the key of G, which then resolves when you revert to 'normal' basses.

E.g. Try playing the A-music of 'Speed the Plough' just holding down the LH C-chord, regardless of bellows changes. Gradually build the volume on the repeat of the A-music, and then crash into normal chords on the B-music :Ph. Quite magical when done sparingly.  (:)
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2018, 09:07:50 PM »

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I nearly always ever played G/C accordions, which can be low, but I've never really felt the need to think about the low notes. Despite having thought a lot about keyboard organisation. It's more or less a thing I've discovered here with Irish music players or D/G players (possibly the most highly pitched accordion), where the lack of low notes may appear  (:)

I've figured out, I think, that I could get a 2.5 row 12 bass that I would want to play, but only if it was 2 voice. The added weight kills a lot of the fun for me, and if I have to (for weight concerns) pick between a 3v 2+8 and a 2v 2.5+12, I know which way I'd go every time - obviously I want both, but, I don't think that's physically possible within my limits.

Depending on your preferred brand/maker, you could have a 3v 2.5/12 that is not really heavier than most 3v 2+8. For instance, a Saltarelle Romané weights only 200g more than a Nuage from the same brand (which, given the variability of accordion weights, means they have similar weights). On the whole, voices are not the major factor contributing to weight. It's rather the size of the accordion. Bigger boxes mean bulkier cases and bellows (that can account for roughly two thirds of the total weight, depending on the model). Say you'd go for a maker that can build to your liking (like many craftsmen) and you could even have a 3v 2.5+12 accordion lighter that most 3v 2+8.
I've discovered when playing with some models, that the feeling of lightness of a box is not always related to the raw value of its weight, but is also affected by how well it handles. And, again, it has a lot to do with the size, and perhaps also with the weight of the left-hand case.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2018, 02:18:59 AM »

On the whole, voices are not the major factor contributing to weight. It's rather the size of the accordion. Bigger boxes mean bulkier cases and bellows (that can account for roughly two thirds of the total weight, depending on the model).

That's a very interesting observation, and one I'll try to factor into my doings. I think though that the increasing size needs of all those reed plates is always going to catch up with me somehow.

Per low notes, the DG has the distinction of having the D row below the G row, but competing in a musical space where some might consider Violins to make the most sense. I think the working theory is that, we can position the G row's start point lower, like on a GC, to match their open G3 string, but then we have our D row run off of the bottom end, mixing us into the sometimes awkward Alto clef zone with our range topping out where a fiddle player's pinky on their top string in 1st position. Or, we can position it to the G4 (where our layout normally lives) sort of in prime melody position in the middle of the violin, with easy access to the D above and below this, just as many fiddle tunes in those keys would come out. But, then our top notes take us up to something like the highest note of 7th position, all the way up there, and those tend not to crop up so much. As a result, it actually sort of makes sense to some people to want to straddle the DG somewhere a little oddly with a 4th button start and drop the top end off, and the low notes or low scale underneath help with that. A GC is just better positioned to fill that part of the frequency range, because it steps up to the C and gives enough top end range (but not too much) without having to slide the start point of the pattern.

Anyway: result from outing #1 with no G row low D, it caught me out a few times but most importantly it got me thinking about it, which did throw me off a bit. No worse than when I flipped my G#/Bb plate though I don't think, and I was able to correct for it fairly successfully. As you might expect, the only casualties were G major tunes, and interestingly it was mostly just lead in notes before the A or B.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2018, 02:03:03 PM »

Gena, that's a very interesting post.

Whilst I can already hear semitone box players chuckling to themselves, it is the case that the quint 2-row boxes offer lots of ergonomic advantages for fairly simple tunes, for home key playing.  However, they have lots of inherent snags, and you have set out some innovative ideas for tackling a few of them.

Can I go back to the basic concepts, though?  It seems to me that for anyone who's at the stage of realising they are hampered by the two-row 8-bass box's limitations, the easiest way forward is to add a third, and maybe even a fourth row.  There is no particular reason why this should detract from the 'playing lightness' of the box, since the RHS (hopefully) is static anyway.  So why would anyone want to do anything else?  You can remove all the inherent RHS limitations, but without disturbing all you've learnt about playing the fundamental two-row quint, and can progressively add new dimensions to your playing using the new row(s).  It sometimes feels to me as if the predominance of the 2-row box amongst players is a self-imposed restriction, harking back to a bygone era, and it has acquired a sort of cult status because it has somehow become associated with a 'traditional' design.  Well, fine, that appeals to many, but it is still a limitation.

Of course, once a player has taken the step of thinking 'outside the box', as it were, they may also realise that more LH buttons would also greatly improve flexibility, and they would be prepared to accept the extra playing weight that that entails.  They may also realise that although superficially the extra weight is a problem, in practice it's not, because you can learn new energy-saving runs that more than compensate.     
 
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2018, 02:58:21 PM »

Gena, that's a very interesting post.

... it is the case that the quint 2-row boxes offer lots of ergonomic advantages for fairly simple tunes, for home key playing.  However, they have lots of inherent snags...the easiest way forward is to add a third, and maybe even a fourth row.  There is no particular reason why this should detract from the 'playing lightness' of the box, since the RHS (hopefully) is static anyway.  So why would anyone want to do anything else?
 

The thing is , Chris, that a decent two row MM box can be played in a style that just won't happen on a bigger box. Not saying it's impossible, but I've never heard it done. Horses for courses, I think, but it would be nice to have box that could cope with a wider range of tunes without gaining too much inertia..
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Greg Smith
Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?
It is empty, but lacks nothing.
The more it moves, the more comes out of it.
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Re: Layout Redundancy and Breaking the Pattern
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2018, 03:16:15 PM »

it would be nice to have box that could cope with a wider range of tunes without gaining too much inertia..

I don't really understand the concern. I think such boxes already exist, and in great number. Just to name one box (but there are many more still), a Castagnari Benny is smaller (meaning it has less inertia) than a Pokerwork from Hohner (and not that much heavier, about 500 g), and smaller and lighter than the Studio from the same brand.
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Y.

Planchée, folk music from Eastern BrittanyIsidore et les sans-soucis, folk music from Québec

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