OMG !! SHOCK HORROR !!  yes that truly will be the reaction of some. But first of all realise that the Anglo concertina keyboard was not designed for Celtic music, let alone fast Celtic music. In several respects the trad layouts of a Jeffries or Wheatstone, are not holy Writ. Especially on the T row  which has a lot of scope for experiment. But even at the extremities of the C and G rows you can doctor and adapt. They can be improved upon according to the particular music you’re wanting to play.  If you go to www.concertina.net   you’ll see a useful  discussion thread on this ( e.g. Ken Coles’ article “Choosing a Chromatic Row Layout On Anglo: A Smorgasbord”.)

Here are a few thoughts. For some you’ll need to refer to the diagram of my 32-key customized Anglo keyboard .

  • consider sacrificing options which you’re less likely to need (e.g. extremely high or low notes) to insert extra notes that you’ll use more frequently.
  • it doesn’t necessarily make ergonomic sense for adjacent notes to be on the same side of the instrument.
  •  on a 20-key C/G your biggest tuning problem is not having a c# to play the D tunes (and some in A too). However, you can have a c# in both directions by sacrificing notes at either end of the keyboard. I suggest removing the low B on the press from button G1 on the LHS, and putting in a c#. And at button C10 remove the b’ and insert a c# on the draw.
  • It was suggested to me when I was deciding on keyboard options for my current instrument, that I vary the normal Jeffries or Wheatstone practice of having the 2 c#’s on different buttons, and combine them on one button, which on mine is C5b, at the inner end of the C row RHS. This has proved a great suggestion and I can easily reach it from the adjacent notes (i.e. d and B) without having to move “out-of-row”. Without extra buttons you could have them both at T6, which is normally c# and e flat. This means,in the case of a Jeffries layout, that you forgo one of the e flat’s, the one at T6 , but it’s a note you very rarely use anyway. Unless you’re playing very chromatic music you certainly won’t need 2 of them.
  • Some concertinas with extra buttons have a c#  on the draw at button C5a and that is quite a good option too. But I think  C5b is preferable when your previous or next note is an A at button C5, because then the LH index ( which operates both these notes) doesn’t have to switch buttons.
  • Having a lower F# on the press means you avoid that awkward and at times inelegant-sounding change from or to the E. Particularly the G-F#-E sequence which requires 2 bellows changes. With F# on the press at button C5a I have a continuous press sequence from D through to G. It also means that I can play the low D arpeggio triad ( D-F#-A) all on the press without bellows changes. This I do by using the pressed A on the press on the T row  at T4 or the other one I have at T6.
  • But where to put it if you have a 30-button instrument without the luxury of that extra key ? You could put it at T7, and if you have a Jeffries-style layout then this will not change much, especially if, as I and others ( see Coles’ abovementioned article)  have recommended you put both c#’s at button T6.

Whereas if you have a Lachenal/Wheatstone layout there may have to be a sacrifice, or some rejigging. If you put the pressed F# at T7 then you lose the pressed a. Well I almost never use that note anyway. But you don’t even have to lose that a because you can transplant it up to the press at button T10 (which is where a Jeffries has it by the way), and you then lose the high f’, which I never use and cannot foresee ever needing.

So there you go – give yourself that  pressed F# and motor !!

  • I have also put in an extra A on the press at button T6 RHS. This is in addition to the same A on the press at T4 . I use the RHS a lot more because it’s so much easier to reach from LHS notes on the press such as E, G and B.

 Concertinas with lots of extra options such as a 40-key were built with an extra upper f# on the press, generally at an extra button at the inner end of the G row RHS. That would be a useful option too if I could work out where to put it on mine.

  • I have inserted a lower G# on the draw at button  C5a . This note is usually  used in conjunction with the A on the draw, either as part  of the A scale or to grace the drawn A at G3, and it’s easily reached from that A too.

 I have experimented with a few of these variations to the standard keyboard. I was warned from 2 separate sources, not to vary things because –

(a)  I would be thrown if ever I was playing someone else’s instrument which had standard configuration ( this was a caveat made on the CONCERTINA.Net site); and

(b)  it would be hard to unlearn fingerings if I wanted to change things again later.

Well, the latter I have not found to be true. Although I don’t possess an unusually agile brain, I find that fingerings are pretty easy to alter. As for the previous warning – (a) it hardly justifies compromising one’s ideal keyboard setup for optimum playing facility just because once in a blue moon you might be on someone else’s instrument.

So experiment away. If like me you play other instruments you’ll realise we’re quite capable of adapting to several different fingering patterns e.g  I play 7 different wind instruments all of which have very similar but at times subtly varying scales. I can still move from one to the other.

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