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Playing Legato On An Anglo

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#1 Mjolnir



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Posted 02 October 2017 - 09:08 PM

I recently acquired a Rochelle anglo, and I'm absolutely loving it. It's an absurd instrument in many ways, but I feel that's just part of the charm.


Anyway, I'm going through the included tutor, and I've arrived at the section on finger articulation, and it explains that I can't play legato using the same finger for two adjacent notes, and that if I'm crossing a bellows change, the best I can do is try and fake it - all perfectly reasonable. But then it goes and asks me to play a bunch of pieces that involve playing legato across bellows changes and using the same finger for two adjacent notes (assuming, at least, that they don't want me to start using alternate fingerings that they haven't yet taught me, and even then, that might just introduce other problems).


So I'm doing my best, and I understand I'm not going to get the same kind of sound as I might on my clarinet, say (or an english concertina, for that matter), but I still feel as though there's something I'm missing here.


I'm curious whether there are any tips and tricks for hiding some of those more awkward note transitions.



#2 Bill N

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 07:53 AM

I apologize in advance if this is too obvious, but I always spend a lot of time trying out alternative fingering when learning a new tune.  Many notes are available on both push and pull, or in different locations on the same blows directions.  I fool around with the various options until I get a passage as smooth or as lumpy as I want it to be, then start practicing to develop the muscle memory.

#3 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 12:28 AM

Hi Mjolnir ,

Well, there are good rules that must be broken sometimes. One of them is that it is best to avoid what's called "cutting" - but sometimes you are forced into it -  using the same finger for two adjacent buttons/notes. If the notes are fast 1/8ths, then it can sound choppy because it forces you to play staccato, but if the notes are slower 1/4s or 1/2s then you can often get away with it by using finesse.

As for legato... just take that to mean you should hold the button down as long as possible before playing the next note, regardless of cutting or bellows changes. It is possible to resort to cutting and still be somewhat legato if the tempo is slow or the notes are the longer type.

Of course, the opposite would be staccato, where you pick the fingers up just after putting them down... think tapping the buttons.


Using this idea of variable button duration is one of the principle ways to create expression in concertina music. The other main route to concertina expression is in variable bellows pressure making loud or soft notes and passages and employing accents and rhythmic emphasis with the bellows.


Welcome to the wonderful world of squeezing!

Edited by Jody Kruskal, 04 October 2017 - 01:01 AM.

#4 adrian brown

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 01:42 PM

I think it helps to try to memorise the anglo keyboard as two entirely different layouts: one pushing and one pulling. Then if you get into difficulties fingering in one bellows direction, you can change to the other and will often find a more convenient combination. Depending on the complexity of the music and the style you want to play, the legato issue might well be a reason further down the line, to change to a 30+ layout. My 38 button layout is almost fully chromatic in both bellows directions over its middle two octaves, so you have a lot more alternatives and can decide whether to play with the quick in/out bellows movement or use a more relaxed legato in/out you would use on a duet. The bouncy in/out movement that is encouraged by the anglo's bisonoric nature is a delightful thing, but it doesn't fit all styles of music and I like to have the choice.


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