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Author Topic: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion  (Read 399 times)

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David Colpitts

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Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« on: September 07, 2019, 02:06:13 PM »

Hello, all.

I am excited by the prospects for “all keys with one pattern” capability of Janko (uniform) keyboard, and inspired (I think) by Huw’s (of this forum) “Instructable” posting have gotten my Yamaha 25 Pianica “hacked” into Janko.  Mistakes in woodwork along the way make a bit funky upon close inspection, but it works great!  Now, once I learn a tune in the Janko layout, I just start in a different position for a different key, and play the same pattern.  Like CBA, but an easy conversion from piano board.  If Nana’s piano had Janko layout, I’d be Billy Joel today!

I’d like to hear from any who have done (or might wish to do) anything similar.  And Huw, if it is indeed your Instructable, thank you much!  You used pennies, where I used buttons.  The crude “genius” of the buttons is that they (mostly) fit between the wooden key slats, so using the elevated layers wasn’t necessary, and the keyboard is much closer to flat.

I am trying to attach a lo-res picture.

Thanks, and regards

David
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RogerT

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2019, 01:45:20 PM »

Does this have the standard reed plates inside? I.e. rising in a chromatic progression?..And are those wooden clothes pegs and ..ahem..coat buttons?

Corinto

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2019, 02:43:34 PM »

Hi David,

Yes, I do have a few JANKO accordions, all are Hohner button accordions from the 1930s decade, small and light ones. My preferred is a HOHNER LUCIA 37 treble buttons 2 voice MM + 48 (4x12) bass. This one goes from G3 to G5 as this range is the best adapted to my tunebooks. I also have a HOHNER CORNELIA I 37 treble 3 voice LMM + 48 bass, same layout. With 37 treble buttons Janko layout this gives 2 full octaves.

Also have 2 HOHNER PIROL 34 buttons 2 voice MM + 24 (8x3) bass, not a full 2 octaves, but OK to keep at other locations (family) so I don't need to take a box with me when we travel, which we do on a fairly regular basis.

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David Colpitts

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2019, 03:15:23 PM »

To Roger:  Yes, indeed, on the standard reed plates.  F to two F’s later, chromatic scale in order.  No, to the clothes pegs.  Thought better of them, since the local art supply store sold 6 mm basswood craft wood in the right cross section, so it was easier.  And, yes, of course, to the coat buttons.  The small size lets them slide down between adjacent wooden keys, whereas any larger buttons would require a much more complex multi-level platform extension for adjacent rows.  I am having much fun, and as soon as the “123..1234.1” scale translates in my brain to tunes, I’ll have ‘em all in any keys!  My next will be the Yamaha 32, for greater range, and improved cosmetics will be a goal.

To Corinto:  Wow!  What a great collection.  How did you set them up, or get them that way?  Did Hohner make a production run?  I’d love to know more.  Are you always the only Janko player wherever you go?

Thanks to all, and regards,

David
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Corinto

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2019, 01:01:30 PM »

How did you set them up, or get them that way?  Did Hohner make a production run?
Not HOHNER production. These were all originally CBA B-system and have been converted to Janko layout. Some years ago WELTMEISTER did a production run of Janko accordions named LOGICORDEON but that was a limited production and not easy to find nowadays. Same was also sold with FRÖHLICH brand.4 rows, 35 notes, 3 voice LMM. See annex. Fairly bigger and heavier than my HOHNERs.

Are you always the only Janko player wherever you go?
Yes, always the only one, but the layout gets attention, and also the small size and lite weight ... but the fact you can't buy them in a shop, makes there are really few people interested in going trough the hassle of a conversion. A piano teacher here, neighbour, said a few years ago that this layout (on a piano) would be the ruin of teachers ...  ;D

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David Colpitts

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2019, 01:23:58 PM »

The scarcity makes perfect sense, considering the millions and millions of piano keyboards out in the world, and the (probably) millions of teachers world-wide with vested interest in maintaining status quo.

I think I am going to try to make a small dent in that situation!  I have ordered another Yamaha melodica (this time, 32 notes, since the 25 was too short a range if I play in key of D, for example.  I intend to make cosmetic improvements, and be very careful to ensure the keys are stable and buttons squared away and aligned, etc.  The same technique could be used on a piano accordion, or I could make a “harmonium-like” table-top model with a bellows drive, from a larger melodica.  It would also eliminate most of the condensation that Melodicas can’t avoid.  The beauty of this type of conversion is that it doesn’t mess with the mechanism proper, but only the keys themselves. 

The next weekend, there’s an immensely popular event nearby in Massachusetts, USA, called the “Northeast Squeeze-In” or NESI.  Every year, some one hundred or so of us assemble at a camp in a beautiful location and Friday, Saturday and Sunday and have workshops, jam sessions, and a big concert and dance.  All types of free reed instruments appear, with lots of PA, English, Anglo and Duet concertinas, a few CBAs, and some Melodicas.  I will, no doubt, be the only Janko, but one of the CBA fellows also has Accordina.  That’s the closest to my conversion, but at about 2000 US dollars, not an impulse buy for many.

Any sound sample to be had of your accordions?

Thanks, and regards,

David
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Clive Williams

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 07:51:03 PM »

Wow, this keyboard layout is very very smart. I've just programmed the layout into my 3 row Streb, as you do, and was playing tunes, albeit a little haltingly, literally within a couple of minutes. And yes, it transposes to any key once you've found the start note :-) Makes my attempts at learning CBA look somewhat pointless! The main issue of course is the range of the keyboard is rather lower than a CBA, or indeed a standard melodeon, but perhaps M. Pariselle could be persuaded to design a 3 row box with as long a reach of notes as is practical, given that the reeds on the 1st and 3rd rows would be shared. Main problem is making the bass chromatic; maybe a Serafini Darwin layout might help, or a weight optimised Stradella.

Anahata

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #7 on: Yesterday at 10:57:05 PM »

perhaps M. Pariselle could be persuaded to design a 3 row box with as long a reach of notes as is practical, given that the reeds on the 1st and 3rd rows would be shared.

The inner and outer rows would be identical, so you could share the lever too - it would just have two buttons on it (like a 4  or 5 row CBA: press a key on one row and another key moves with it.)

I'm not sure what the advantage would be over a normal CBA, in which each row has only 4 buttons per octave compared with Janko's 6.
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David Colpitts

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #8 on: Yesterday at 11:01:22 PM »


Yes indeed, smart!  Wish I’d invented it, though it seems to have been described somewhere around 1650, and thence patented in 1882 or so by Janko.  I have a great app, “Musix Pro” that lets me play with all sorts of keyboards, and I was intrigued by CBA, too, but it didn’t just “work” for me, like the Janko does.  I receive tomorrow the 32 key version of the Yamaha melodica, and it is my next conversion project.  If it works, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise, I’ll see how that range matches my needs.  It’s F3 to C6, I think, so the couple of notes I miss on the 25 key, especially in the key of D, should be there.  After that, the sky’s the limit.  A 44 key Hammond?  That’s as much range, I suspect, as I have on any of my boxes.  And if it’s 4 or 5 hundred USD, it is way less, after conversion, than the admittedly beautiful and well-engineered Accordina.  I am very much imagining a cottage industry converting these little odd gems into something so much more.  Minor keys?  Gypsy jazz?  Klezmer?  It’s as if I might graduate from fireside songs (which I love) to much wider ranges.

Regards,

David

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Clive Williams

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #9 on: Yesterday at 11:10:51 PM »

I'm not sure what the advantage would be over a normal CBA, in which each row has only 4 buttons per octave compared with Janko's 6.

I see 2 advantages

- As a pianist who plays pretty much in C, and nothing else, you only have to learn one pattern, and it's a logical one. On the CBA (I "play" C system) it feels like the notes are sneezed on the keyboard in comparison. I know the layout of a CBA is logical on paper, but when it's under your fingers it sometimes seems a very different thing.

- The repeating pattern runs over 2 rows, not 3. This means that to cover all 12 keys, you need only 3 rows (the scale is either on row 1 and 2, or row 2 and 3), whereas on a CBA you need 5 unless you want to learn 3 entirely different fingering patterns - (1, 2 and 3 or 2, 3 and 4, or 3, 4 and 5). Small 3 row CBAs exist of course, but you need to learn a totally different fingering pattern if you want to play the same tune in C, D and G.

Cheers,

Clive


David Colpitts

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #10 on: Yesterday at 11:54:33 PM »

Bingo!

David
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Corinto

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #11 on: Today at 02:32:15 PM »

Wow, this keyboard layout is very very smart. I've just programmed the layout into my 3 row Streb, as you do, and was playing tunes, albeit a little haltingly, literally within a couple of minutes. And yes, it transposes to any key once you've found the start note :-) Makes my attempts at learning CBA look somewhat pointless!

Hi Clive, I really didn't know one could program a 3 row Streb for this layout. However, there is also bass limitation on the Streb to be taken into account.

I'm not sure what the advantage would be over a normal CBA, in which each row has only 4 buttons per octave compared with Janko's 6.

... and I was intrigued by CBA, too, but it didn’t just “work” for me, like the Janko does.

I know the layout of a CBA is logical on paper, but when it's under your fingers it sometimes seems a very different thing.

Coming from a basic piano learning as a kid, and after starting now some years ago with a piano accordion, I feel the Janko layout much easier to understand and play than the CBA systems, either B or C ... the fingering to be used is the same as with a piano accordion so the tutor books for piano accordion are a perfect help.

The are very few light 5 row CBA accordions, and quite expensive. And now with a 3 row Janko it is an easy learning process.

There are 4 and 5 and 6 rows Janko pianos, and I understand the advantage, but for me, as a retired grandfather, my 3 row Janko accordion is almost perfect. Of course, my HOHNER LUCIA with 37 treble did have 3 octaves in its original CBA layout and now only 2 octaves in JANKO layout, I know. But 2 octaves, from G3 to G5, is almost enough for all my tunes.

... but perhaps M. Pariselle could be persuaded to design a 3 row box with as long a reach of notes as is practical, given that the reeds on the 1st and 3rd rows would be shared. Main problem is making the bass chromatic; maybe a Serafini Darwin layout might help, or a weight optimised Stradella.

If one day I were in the situation to order a custom made JANKO accordion, I think I would have it done by Tania Rutkowski, and it would be 4 rows from G3 to C6 and with 80 (16x5) bass. We already have been looking into this option, but before spending cash on such a project I must definitely work on my playing to be good enough, at least in my opinion, to justify this investment. We'll see.

All this is very personal, and of course ymmv.
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #12 on: Today at 03:07:34 PM »

I’d like to hear from any who have done (or might wish to do) anything similar.  And Huw, if it is indeed your Instructable, thank you much!  You used pennies, where I used buttons.  The crude “genius” of the buttons is that they (mostly) fit between the wooden key slats, so using the elevated layers wasn’t necessary, and the keyboard is much closer to flat.

Hi David,

I play a suzuki study32 'melodion' (their name for this kind of instrument) for some variety at a ukulele song group, and I'm kinda interested in modifying the keyboard in this way, as it seems much more viable as a modification to an existing instrument. May I ask why your lower B note is marked with black buttons instead of white buttons? I assume that these should actually be white, and that this note is still a B natural, and that the conversion can be performed by just building on top of the keyboard without any retuning needed.

I'm also rather interested in how much weight this added. Oh, and I don't suppose you could supply a link to the instructions you followed? Actually I guess is it this: https://www.instructables.com/id/Uniform-Keyboard-Jank%C3%B3-Keyboard-MelodicaPianica-Co/ ?
« Last Edit: Today at 03:09:18 PM by Gena Crisman »
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Clive Williams

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #13 on: Today at 03:15:11 PM »

Hi Clive, I really didn't know one could program a 3 row Streb for this layout. However, there is also bass limitation on the Streb to be taken into account.

Yes, the Streb comes with a key editing program that runs on a Windows PC - you can program whatever layout you like :-) The bass can also be programmed, but in 6 pairs of chord/bass only. You can program multiple bass layouts to support different keys of course.

If one day I were in the situation to order a custom made JANKO accordion, I think I would have it done by Tania Rutkowski, and it would be 4 rows from G3 to C6 and with 80 (16x5) bass.

I don't quite get the advantage of the 4th and higher rows on a Janko; can you explain please?

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #14 on: Today at 03:24:57 PM »

I don't quite get the advantage of the 4th and higher rows on a Janko; can you explain please?

I'd guess it allows easier fingering on certain patterns of notes, in the same way that a 5 row CBA player may sometimes use all 5 rows even though only three are strictly needed.

Thanks, by the way, for your earlier explanation about the advantages of Janko over CBA layout. It does look like quite a clever and simple idea.
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David Colpitts

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Re: Janko Keyboard Melodica Conversion
« Reply #15 on: Today at 03:58:05 PM »

I am so happy people are contributing to this little thread.  Thanks!

Anahata:  I do believe as Clive described, a difference between CBA and Janko is that the CBA really does need more than three rows if one wants to use identical fingering, and not some variant.  The Janko just “sames it,” as my son said when he was young. 

And, Gena, your eagle eye caught my earlier, indadvertent button miscue.  After that pic, I fixed it (they are still securely held by tack putty, while I experiment) and I added a fourth row, but don’t need it and will probably remove it.

The new Yamaha got here an hour ago, and this time my goal is to add enough height to the keys (different heights for black and white I need to accurately compensate for) and then try to make it work without actually cutting the keys.  Don’t know quite how, but in a day or two should have a report.  That would retain all of the keys’ physical stability, and while I don’t feel shakiness or flimsiness, it is clear that cutting off the tops of all black and the sides of all white (save 1) might have some impact on lateral rigidity, particularly.

I also just ordered a cheap  (18 dollars US!) other brand from Amazon for experimentation. 

I am pondering 3D printing for the key extensions, but really don’t want any “taller” keyboard than necessary. 

Opinions on button size?  Smooth or dished?  I am using them dished side up, and the only drawback I can imagine is a rough glissando, compared to smooth up.  But I like the tactile “firmness” of positioning.

The additional weight, BTW, seems negligible to me.  I don’t have a small scale, but standing with it and without it on a bathroom scale, it seems just a pound.

Again, thanks for all the feedback.  I am going to take it to an Irish “slow session” this afternoon, to see if people can stand the sound.  I am optimistic, and several tunes are already “there” for me, and of course in any key. 

David
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