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Kurt Braun’s Concertina — Sounds and Images of a Crane System Duet

The two Bach pieces are examples of what a duet can do with guitar transcriptions, note for note with no modifications.

My Country ‘Tis of Thee is an example of  run-of-the-mill four part harmony rendered on the duet.  Other examples could come from hymnals or books of Christmas music.  One would be hard put to find another instrument as portable as a duet concertina capable of this.  It is no mystery why the Salvation Army once liked the Crane duet.

My Creole Belle and Mairzy Doats are examples of playing from a fake sheet and “faking” everything but the melody with chord symbols provided.  This was my original idea of what a duet would be good at and is pretty much where I live on the concertina.  I have a large fake book filled with tunes and songs collected over many years from which I play and sing. The idea is that if one can not play well, at least be able to play a lot of songs. It has also been very enjoyable just to collect tunes and songs. Here is a play list of selected recordings.

The recordings and the playing both fail to capture the best qualities of Mr. Crabb’s instrument which sounds sweeter, richer and more musical than portrayed here.

Crabb 10555

Mr. Crabb playing 10555.jpg Crabb 10555 was built in 1950 by Henry Crabb for his own personal use. The aluminum tops were used to reduce the weight as he always played standing. It is eight sided (Æola) with and an eight fold bellows.   It uses a Crane fingering system, which is different from either of the considerably more common English and Anglo systems.  Crane system duets are fully chromatic and capable of playing melodies with accompaniment and polyphony, though not on a scale of larger instruments such as pianos and organs. 

Five columns of keys or studs are used.  The innermost three columns are natural notes and the outermost two columns are flats and sharps.  The studs of this particular instrument are slightly closer together than most other Crane concertinas.  In addition , Mr Crabb added a single stud B-flat on a sixth column on each side under the little finger.

The left side range is from F just below the bass staff extending upward two octaves and a second to the G on the second line from the bottom in the treble staff.  The lowest F# was modified by Mr. Crabb to play the C, two octaves below middle C.

The right side of the instrument has a range of two octaves and a fifth, or from the Bb below the treble staff to the F on the third line above the treble staff.

As one might imagine, this is a very fine instrument and I’m very fortunate to have it.

Concertina Links
This is the center of concertina on the internet.  The forums are interesting and everything is worth checking out.  There is an excellent article by Roger Digby on the Crabb company.  This site covers all things concertina with much of interest on the more common Anglo and English systems as well as Duets. 

Crane Duets
This site is dedicated to Crane Duets. There are pictures, some history and links to other Crane Duet sites.

Maccann Duets
This is a stellar site.  The emphasis is on Maccann system duets with historical and scholarly information.  It has a good bit of Crane items as well.  Best of all, it is the repository of David Cornell’s very well crafted and free arrangements for duet concertinas.

About Me 

Kurt Braun I grew up in Wisconsin and Arkansas.  At the age of thirteen I took up the saxophone.  I was a very avid and serious saxophone student through high school and three years of college as a Music major.  I also played oboe and recorder in college.  Before finishing my degree, I joined the United States Air Force as a Bandsman playing saxophone and oboe.  After a 4 year tour, I returned to college and finished in History.  I now live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with my wife and two children.

I became interested in the concertina in while in graduate school.  During the summer of 1977  I visited with Neville Crabb in the Crabb shop in Islington.  After about an hour of trying several concertinas and talking, I decided that a Crane system was most suited for what I wanted to do.  In the fall I wrote Mr. Crabb and ordered the best available used instrument that could be found within my meager budget.  The instrument, a Lachenal, 55 key Triumph, did not arrive until May of 1978.  By 1987 the instrument was unplayable due to leaks in the bellows and ends.  I acquired my current instrument, also from Mr. Crabb, in 1988.

Kurt Braun


  1. Paul McCann says:

    Hi Kurt, just stumbled across your very nice website and recordings. One of these days I’ll get round to doing something similar. Thanks for the inspiration! If you haven’t already, you might want to join the International Concertina Association ( I confess a vested interest as I’m its treasurer! However, we do have a growing number of members in the US.
    best wishes
    Paul McCann that plays a Crane (yes, it confuses a lot of people).

    • Scraggy says:

      Hey Paul,

      Can’t wait to see your site and have heard good things about your playing. It isn’t too difficult, especially with WordPress and the nifty portable recorders on the market these days.

      I belonged to the IRC for a year in the ’70 and another in the late 90′s. I’ll try again one day, but it is hard to get to the meetings!

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. Hi Kurt. Just catching up to your web page after a year. JCH

  3. Hello Kurt,

    I got the hint to contact you if you maybe have some starter tips for me. I found a 1924 Crabb duet concertina 58 keys Crane system. The instrument is besides 3-4 silent notes and some tones slightly out of tune in brilliant shape and I want to learn how to play. It would be great if you have any advice for me.
    All the best from Germany,
    and kind regards,

    • Scraggy says:


      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

      Your instrument sounds like a winner. First thing would to be to open it up (carefully) to see if there is anything easy to do to free up the silent notes. Crabb Cranes are special. Please don’t rid yourself of it before getting in touch with me.

      I can offer lessons on Skype if you like.

      I check my email daily, unlike

      Best regards,


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