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Stephen Chambers

You Can't Play Irish Music On A 26-Key?

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I've been fixing concertinas for Irish players for longer than I care to admit to, and though the perceived needs of (at least some) players have got ever-more demanding in recent years, I've been astonished at what prospective purchasers have been told in the past week about a 26-key Lachenal that I have for sale:

 

Players and parents upgrading from a cheap beginner's 30-key to a "proper concertina" (with concertina reeds) are attracted by the reasonable price (which is only 2/3 of what you'd have to pay for the corresponding 30-key), but teachers are telling them "You can't play Irish music on a 26-key, you need at least 30 keys!" (Even though they're barely using half the notes on the starter one they've got already.) :huh:

 

Yet there never used to be any problem selling 26-key Anglos to Irish players and I've come across a good few, over the years, happily playing on 26 keys, including Terry Bingham (Dipper), Mary Flaherty (Lachenal), and Cormac Begley (with a recently acquired Jeffries), and Jacqueline McCarthy has played a much-admired 2-row, 24-key Wheatstone all her life.

 

Meanwhile, I'm told Noel Hill tells people they don't need more than 30 buttons...

 

At this rate, I may end up converting the 26-key into a 30-key (the chambering is already there for it!) and selling it for 50% more, but that seems downright wasteful with what should be a more-affordable instrument. :(

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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The vast majority of Irish tunes fit in the effective range of a whistle - D below the treble staff to B above it. I make that 19 notes.

 

Add 7 more at the bottom and you have the first position range of a fiddle (down to G). It's daft to incur more weight and expense to go beyond that.

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So "You Can't Play Irish Music On A 26-Key?*

Here's Terry Bingham doing just that:

and even more...as far as I can see ( and hear? ) on these videos he would do just as well with a 20-key...!?

Something to consider when looking at instrument "qualities"....

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You sacrifice very little with a 26 button, certainly not enough to get in the way of playing 99% of Irish music. I have been playing ITM for more than 40 years, 22 on the concertina and had a 26 button Bb/F Jeffries that I could play anything on. I do regularly use all thirty buttons, but only because I am always looking for getting the phrasing right, and I like to add a bit of color with a few chords now and then. The extra notes improve those possibilities.

I think a 26 is a great concertina for someone's first proper concertina. The problem is the teachers not the instrument. Unfortunately they can be a powerful influence for good or bad.

Incidentally, I had a chance to trade plus a little extra cash the 26 button Bb/F for a 30 button Bb/F Jeffries. The 26 played and sounded better. I didn't do the trade and the money wasn't the issue. I wouldn't have traded it for the 30 even at no cost.

Dana

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