New Stagi Hayden Duet Concertina: A Report

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DavBarnert

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Jul 29, 2001, 1:48:14 AM7/29/01
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A few weeks ago a message appeared here announcing a line of
Hayden Duet Concertinas produced by Stagi with accordion reeds
[see <http://www.buttonbox.com/stagi-hayden.html>]. A friend of
mine recently bought one and brought it to my house on Saturday,
where I had the opportunity to play it and take it apart. This is
my report.

Background:

The Hayden Duet system was developed by Brian Hayden in the latter
half of the 20th century in England. A handful of instruments
using his design have been made by Steve Dickinson and Colin
Dipper. These are expensive instruments and are associated with
long waiting periods. About 20 years ago Bastari mass-produced a
bunch of inexpensive Haydens with accordion reeds but production
stopped when Bastari was acquired by Stagi. In recent years (and
perhaps as a result of discussions in this forum) there has been
increased interest in Hayden Concertinas but there have been none
available.

I acquired my first Hayden in 1987 (a Bastari). I quickly became
proficient at it, using it mostly to play for Morris Dancing,
Contra Dancing and English Country Dancing. In 1994 I was offered
a chance to buy a used Wheatstone (Steve Dickinson) Hayden, and
this is now my primary instrument. I have another (larger) one on
order (since 1990) from Dickinson/Wheatstone but I never expect to
see it.

I have had the privilege (at the Squeeze-In in Massachusetts,
USA and the Chippenham Folk Festival in England) to play various
models of Haydens including Brian Hayden's handmade prototype. I
am not a professional musician.

A more recent announcement in this forum concerns a line of
Haydens on the verge of being introduced by Brian Hayden himself
in conjunction with a Russian reed maker. I have not seen these
instruments yet. They are *not* the subject of this report.

The report:

Let us first dispense with a misconception that I had concerning
the new Stagi Haydens. It seemed a reasonable assumption to me
that Stagi had merely reactivated production of the old Bastari
line, with (perhaps) minor cosmetic alterations. As will be made
clear below, this is simply not true. The instrument appears to be
a completely new design.

External Appearance:

It is larger than the Bastari (which, in turn, is larger than the
Wheatstone, although all three have the same 46-button layout). It
is about 0.5" (1.2 cm) larger in diameter and more than an inch
longer. The distance between the buttons is also greater. The
horizontal rows of buttons are slanted at a different pitch than
both the Bastari or the Wheatstone (which have identical button
templates).

The ends are wood and the buttons are white plastic (both are
metal on the Bastari). Like the Bastari, the hand straps are
leather, screwed at one end and buckled at the other. The air vent
button is on the right end, convenient to the thumb.

Unlike the Bastari (or any other concertina I have seen), the ends
are held to the bellows not by screws at the corners of the
hexagon parallel to the axis of the instrument but by metal pegs
(like on an accordion) radial to the instrument's axis in the
center of each side of the end (see photo at above web site). They
have rounded tops and are easily removed with the fingernails.
When the concertina rests in its natural position on a tabletop,
therefore, it is resting on the heads of two of these pegs (one at
each end of the bellows), which can't be good for either the
tabletop or the pegs.

Inside:

The instrument had a note that was silent on the draw, and that
gave us an excuse to take it apart. We pulled out the six pegs and
removed the end assembly. Like the Bastari, the accordion reeds
were lined up on harmonica-like structures that projected in
towards the bellows. But unlike the Bastari, the reed plates were
held in place with bees wax and the "leathers" were strips of
mylar-like plastic. The instrument is constructed of plywood,
which accounts for its light weight. The bellows is similar to the
Bastari bellows: thin leather over cardboard.

The reeds are not identified, so finding the one that corresponded
to the faulty note required access to the chamber with the
buttons, levers, and pads. Two small Phillips-head wood screws in
opposite corners got us there. The construction of the action was
a bit of a surprise. Each button sits firmly atop a rigid vertical
shaft that pokes through a hole below, guaranteeing that the
position and movement of the button remain vertically aligned.
Each shaft has a hole through it and the ends of the aluminum
levers pass through the holes. The levers then pass over a
straight row of metal fulcrums with individual metal pins (the
Bastari has one long pin through all the levers). The levers then
meet the coil springs, which are stretched as the buttons are
pushed (the Bastari has springs on the button side of the fulcrum
that are compressed as the buttons are pushed). The other ends of
the levers are attached to the pads with what appears to be a
plastic cement.

After identifying the reed plate that corresponded to the silent
note, I realized that (unlike English-construction concertinas)
there was no way to inspect the offending reed without removing
the plate from the bees wax. Instead, I blindly inserted a wooden
toothpick through the reed plate, pressing the reed on the far
side away from the plate. I sent a sharp puff of air through in
hopes of dislodging whatever dust might have been stuck between
the reed and the plate. Then we put it all back together and the
note worked fine.

Playing:

The sound is similar to the Bastari. Reasonably in tune (I didn't
test it with a meter) and nicely responsive to changes in bellows
pressure for shaping notes. The sound is tinnier than you'd expect
with real concertina reeds on a flat reed pan and has less dynamic
range, but it is not without a certain charm.

The action is a little stiff. The wider spacing and different
angle of the buttons took a bit of getting used to, but was not
really a problem. My hands fit through the straps just where I
expected them to. It was fun to play and I really felt like I
could make some music.

I can say nothing, of course, about how it will stand up to
years of playing.

In summary, this is an instrument that is fun to play and has an
agreeable sound. Its disadvantages are its large size, the
inaccessibility of the draw-side reeds, and the unfortunate
position of the metal pegs (see above). At the moment, it is the
only Hayden available and likely to be less expensive than any
Hayden on the horizon.

Perhaps soon there will be decent midrange Haydens available from
Mr. Hayden or The Button Box (which has been gearing up to make
them for some time). But for now, this is the "bird in the hand."
I hope others will agree that it satisfies the need for available
and affordable (if not top quality) Hayden Duet Concertinas.

______ /\/\/\/\
<______> | | | | | David Barnert
<______> | | | | | <davba...@aol.com>
<______> | | | | | Albany, N.Y.
<______> \/\/\/\/

Ventilator Concertina
Bellows Bellows
(Vocation) (Avocation)

will quale

unread,
Jul 30, 2001, 5:43:01 PM7/30/01
to
davba...@aol.com (DavBarnert) wrote:
> A few weeks ago a message appeared here announcing a line of
> Hayden Duet Concertinas produced by Stagi with accordion reeds
> [see <http://www.buttonbox.com/stagi-hayden.html>]. A friend of
> mine recently bought one and brought it to my house on Saturday,
> where I had the opportunity to play it and take it apart. This is
> my report.

first, hi! i've probably met several of you (including david) at
pinewoods, buffalo gap, or other weekends or dances; but i'm just
slowly returning to usenet after several years' absence.

last summer at english-american week, i got hooked on the hayden duet
system (after several years of playing D-G melodeons but wanting full
chromaticism and while maintaining a diatonic layout), and a few weeks
ago, i received one of the new stagi concertinas.

for the most part, i agree with david's assessment: this is nothing
compared to the tone and feel of rich morse's wheatstone, but on the
other hand, this is available now, and is relatively cheap. the stagi
is a fine instrument, perfectly adequate for my purposes as a
beginner; and maybe a few years from now when i can take full
advantage of it, a better instrument will be in production. (i've
known about the button box's plans, but i hadn't heard of mr.
hayden's; where can i read more about this?)

there are a few odd quirks/problems, though, which david didn't
mention but which i have observed:

* on the left hand, when playing the lowest several perfect fourths,
the reeds from the two notes strike each other and a buzzing rather
like a jaw harp results in addition to the two desired notes. doug
creighton said probably nothing could be done about this, though he'd
contact stagi to inquire. i haven't found it an impediment to my
playing, though perhaps david (or other hayden duet players) could
speak to whether it's going to become a problem as i become more
advanced at the instrument.

* i have medium-sized hands, and find it a stretch to get to the most
distant buttons on the left hand. (i haven't had problems with my
right hand.) it took me a while to adjust the straps, since i had to
punch new holes through the leather to make them tight enough. i'm
used to playing much larger instruments -- but melodeons, not
concertinas -- so the comments about this being a "large concertina"
didn't mean much to me until i found myself reaching for those
buttons....

but overall, i got exactly what i wanted: an inexpensive hayden duet
right now. it's no wheatstone, but it's pretty good, and i'm happy
with it.

--will quale
swarthmore

(real email is firs...@lastname.org)

DavBarnert

unread,
Jul 31, 2001, 12:26:25 AM7/31/01
to
Will wrote:

>there are a few odd quirks/problems, though, which david didn't
>mention but which i have observed:
>
>* on the left hand, when playing the lowest several perfect
>fourths, the reeds from the two notes strike each other and a
>buzzing rather like a jaw harp results in addition to the two

>desired notes. ... perhaps david (or other hayden duet players)


>could speak to whether it's going to become a problem as i
>become more advanced at the instrument.

Hi, Will. Glad to hear you've got a Hayden. Welcome to the family.

We noticed a funny buzzing with single notes in the low register,
but I'm not sure this is what you're referring to. It also happens
on the Bastari, and I've never noticed it to be a problem while
playing either instrument.

If you're talking about something that happens only when you play
two notes at the same time (at an interval of a 4th) in the lowest
register, then I'd have to say I didn't notice it because I can't
think of a reason to play such an interval in that register, and
didn't. I can't duplicate the phenomenon on my Bastari, and the
Stagi has gone home (150 miles away).

So I guess my answer to your question (and please take this as a
gentle but serious tease) would be: As you become more advanced at
the instrument, you will stop playing perfect 4ths in the lowest
register. It's a great place to play 5ths, but unless you're
playing classical concertos with "6/4" chords in the cadences, a
4th built on the bass note is considered dissonant (even a 6/4
chord must resolve to 5/3). And the bottom register is a pretty
muddy place to go resolving 4ths into 3rds.

Richard Morse

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Aug 4, 2001, 10:46:23 PM8/4/01
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will quale wrote:
>
> i have medium-sized hands, and find it a stretch to get to the most
> distant buttons on the left hand. (i haven't had problems with my
> right hand.) it took me a while to adjust the straps, since i had to
> punch new holes through the leather to make them tight enough.

You may try just the opposite: loosening your handstraps more than you
would think reasonable. I started out thinking that they had to be snug,
but over the course of several months realized that I could manage the
instrument better if they were considerably looser than "fit".

To "control" the bellows I arch (or cup?) my palms to take up the slack
when I need to - which allows more freedom of movement to get to the
outside extents of the buttons. I've found that playing in Bb or E would
be near impossible on my box without looser handstraps.

-- Rich --
THE BUTTON BOX
http://www.buttonbox.com

Chris Timson

unread,
Aug 11, 2001, 1:38:57 PM8/11/01
to
Richard Morse <rmo...@valinet.com> writes

>You may try just the opposite: loosening your handstraps more than you
>would think reasonable. I started out thinking that they had to be snug,
>but over the course of several months realized that I could manage the
>instrument better if they were considerably looser than "fit".

I went through exactly the same progression with the straps on my
anglos.

Chris
--
Chris Timson Have concertinas, will travel
and For our home pages and for the Concertina FAQ:
Anne Gregson http://www.harbour.demon.co.uk/

"Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls" - John Donne

NEWSserver

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Aug 12, 2001, 7:06:09 PM8/12/01
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the button change sounds an awful lot like a Tedrow hot-rod modification...

L

DavBarnert <davba...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:20010729014814...@ng-fv1.aol.com...

DoN. Nichols

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Aug 13, 2001, 2:36:47 PM8/13/01
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In article <BZDd7.43664$gj1.4...@bgtnsc05-news.ops.worldnet.att.net>,
NEWSserver <mcda...@sff.net> wrote:

[ ... ]

>DavBarnert <davba...@aol.com> wrote in message
>news:20010729014814...@ng-fv1.aol.com...
>> A few weeks ago a message appeared here announcing a line of
>> Hayden Duet Concertinas produced by Stagi with accordion reeds
>> [see <http://www.buttonbox.com/stagi-hayden.html>]. A friend of
>> mine recently bought one and brought it to my house on Saturday,
>> where I had the opportunity to play it and take it apart. This is
>> my report.

[ ... ]

>> The construction of the action was
>> a bit of a surprise. Each button sits firmly atop a rigid vertical
>> shaft that pokes through a hole below, guaranteeing that the
>> position and movement of the button remain vertically aligned.
>> Each shaft has a hole through it and the ends of the aluminum
>> levers pass through the holes.

>the button change sounds an awful lot like a Tedrow hot-rod modification...

Actually -- it sounds a lot more like the standard English
construction. The Tedrow modification has the button free-floating in
its bushing, and just resting over the corresponding lever. The
difference may be that the button is hollow, and the pin is fixed to the
base instead of to the button. This sounds similar to something that I
remember seeing in a Jeffries duet many years ago, except that the pin
was wood.

Squeeze On,
DoN.
--
Email: <dnic...@d-and-d.com> | Voice (all times): (703) 938-4564
(too) near Washington D.C. | http://www.d-and-d.com/dnichols/DoN.html
--- Black Holes are where God is dividing by zero ---

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