If you haven't yet seen this video, I think you'll enjoy it. It is (the late) John Nixon playing classical guitar music on a MIDI english concertina set to sound like a classical guitar.
I mostly like to play classical guitar, so I think I could play some of those tunes I already know on an English concertina...
English would definitely be better for playing those kind of guitar-like melodies, but isn't (at the basic level) as intuitive to chord and harmonise as the Anglo. I reckon generally a harmonica is the best thing to compare an Anglo to; maybe the best (abstract) parallel for an English would be the mandolin? Easy to do fast and nimble melodies on, but the chords take a bit of finger-scrunching. Depends what sound/style you're prioritising, and of course a skilled player on either can pull off a lot of techniques that a beginner isn't just going to pick up. Again I'd submit that watching some "tutorials" on eBay for each style, and seeing someone slowly explain how each is played, would give you a good feel for your options. Of course, as others have suggested, nothing would beat meeting some concertina players in person.
English concertinas are less common on the used market in the US (and a glance at ebay.co.uk seems to bear that out for Blighty as well). Just glancing around, the new English options in the UK appear to be the Concertina Connection (£370), the Thomann (rebadged intro-grade Stagi, £380 and apparently not as well-regarded as the CC), and the full Stagi £700 at Hobgoblin. I was a bit surprised at the price on the CC English, since they're US$390 (£250) here, but Music Room is the exclusive dealer, and there's trans-Atlantic shipping and Customs and VAT and all kinds of things I'm sure. The Scarlatti (Chinese-made) is £180, but those have gotten rather rough reviews here on CC; though a couple folks have posted that they bought Scarlattis, and didn't regret it because it helped them decide that they did enjoy English. Just be prepared for some real roughness on a Scarlatti and possible breakages and sticking buttons.
Again just one man's opinion, but given the affordability of Anglos, you could do worse than to buy an inexpensive or used Anglo and mess with it, and sell it if you either don't take to concertina or decide English is really for you. Thomann ABS-bodied 20-button C/G Anglos are £85 new (I think they're also sold as "Brunner by Stagi"), and I've seen used plastic Gremlin-Stagis and similar go for £50 or so on eBay UK, as well as some older plastic Italian boxes which you can search here by name to see which are reputable (Silvagni isn't bad). Be prepared to do some minor tweaking of pads or linkages (and there are good writeups here about that) if need be, but so long as the reeds are in tune the rest can be fixed with baling-wire and bubblegum (or whatever the British equivalent phrase would be). So far as reeds, personally I've not been bashful and on several occasions have messaged eBay sellers of melodeons and arranged for us to connect on the telephone so they could squeeze a handful of keys and play them in-and-out for me to listen for sour notes. Alternately, if you're in a good-sized city your Craigslist equivalent (
is it Kiji in the UK?
nope, Gumtree) might have Stagi/Bastari/Brunner/Thomann/Gremlin concertinas that you can go check out in person for proper functioning. You could also always put up online want-ads on here and at forum.melodeon.net (which is mostly UK) seeing if anyone has an inexpensive starter piece for a noob. One guy on Melodeon sold a beater Scholer for £35 last month; my impression is he buys and fettles beaters pretty frequently, so maybe you can ask him if he has any on the workbench he's tweaking.
Hope I'm not overwhelming you with pricings and names, but this is the kind of dorkery I enjoy doing, and it's always exciting to see someone looking to branch out and try an instrument outside of guitar.
Edited by MatthewVanitas, 18 June 2012 - 10:59 PM.