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How Should I Hold A Concertina?


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#1 Nathan

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 11:58 AM

I've owned a Stagi for all of four days now, and am working through "The Anglo Concertina Demystified". The fingering stuff is all making sense, but he skips over the most basic information of all -- how do I hold the instrument?

The hand straps adjust like a belt -- they have little holes in them and you stick a pin through one of the holes to hold them in place. The way the holes are placed, I can either leave the straps a little loose, or very snug. The latter quickly makes my hands go numb, so I've chosen the former for now.

But with the straps looser, the instrument sort of flops around in my hands. I end up unconsciously pressing my thumbs down on the strap (pinching it against the side of my hand) in order to hold things steady. But my thumbs get tired pretty quickly, and this causes tension up through my arms.

Due to RSI problems in the past, I'm very sensitive about excess tension, pain, and/or numbness. I know that now is the time to stop bad habits before they start.

So what should I be doing with my thumbs? How do I hold the concertina steady while playing?

#2 Anglogeezer

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 02:30 PM

-- how do I hold the instrument?

-- I can either leave the straps a little loose, or very snug.--

But with the straps looser ---- my thumbs get tired pretty quickly, and this causes tension up through my arms.

-- I know that now is the time to stop bad habits before they start.

So what should I be doing with my thumbs? How do I hold the concertina steady while playing?


In the beginning I suggest the straps should be firm/snug - to give support - without being so tight as to result in discomfort. You may find that additional holes are necessary in between existing holes.
Don't try to practice for too long at the present, allow the muscles of your hands and arms to become accustomed to what is at present unfamiliar exercise!! You've only been going 4 days!!
My thumbs are firm-ish over the top of the straps without being clamp like, as I have progressed I have made the straps looser.
I dislike narrow straps as sometimes found on entry level 'tinas and favour those that are wider over the back of the hand.
I sit on a firm chair with the anglo on my knee and my music where I can see it without craning or twisting my kneck.
Thats all that occurs to me of the top of my head!!

regards
Jake

#3 PeterT

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 06:18 AM

Hi Nathan,

I'm not familiar with this instrument, but is it possible to punch an additional hole in the strap to give you an intermediate tension? Above all, the position has to be comfortable, and practical.

Regards,
Peter.

#4 Nathan

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 06:51 AM

Thanks guys. It sounds like I've basically got the right idea. I'll punch some new holes in the hand straps so I can get them a little tighter without being too tight, and try to keep my thumbs/hands more relaxed when I play.

#5 Trilby

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 06:34 AM

I'm glad I'm not the only one Nathan. I've been playing for a month and my little fingers are slowly become stronger. They were more of a problem for me for some reason. Also I now have a ganglion, though this may not be concertina related. Hopefully I will mutate into the X man superhero with no more injuries and then I can go around righting wrongs with my trusty box!

#6 Guest_Old Leaky_*

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 12:31 PM

Another aspect of "optimum" holding technique is to place the LEFT HAND side of the instrument on your LEFT leg (assuming you are sitting down!) so that the bellows movement is across the gap between your legs. That way the (stronger) right arm does all the dynamic workof pushing and pulling. The downside (there always is one) is that the left shoulder can develop pain as it will be effectively exerting most of the pressure needed to keep the thing steady. Well, if it works for us students of Noel Hill...

Edited by Old Leaky, 03 July 2006 - 04:48 PM.


#7 jlfinkels

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 05:08 PM

The best advice I ever received was to allow the instrument to do the work. Don't think of it as pushing/pulling as much as allowing air to move through the bellows. If you do the work yourself you end up with a sore back, shoulders or arms in addition to tightening up your wrists and fingers. But if you allow the instrument to do the work with you guiding it your hands and fingers are free to make the music.

#8 bellowbelle

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 11:37 AM

When I am able to play again (I hope), I am going to cut a strip from one of my 'memory foam' mattress pads and make some thumb 'thimbles' for wearing while playing. Already, I've enlarged the thumb strap size to almost the largest size.

I am currently on antibiotics and painkillers due to getting some kind of infection that settled in my thumb, as well as other spots. My right thumb is all puffed up and bright red, and it remains to be seen whether or not I'll need some minor surgery.

I guess I already had the infection, but playing my concertina aggravated the thumb and caused the problem.

Hurt like mad all night! Even with the painkiller.

So....I'll let you know if my Memory Foam thimbles work out and help at all.

#9 Nathan

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 11:38 AM

Another aspect of "optimum" holding technique is to place the LEFT HAND side of the instrument on the inner side of your LEFT leg (assuming you are sitting down!) so that the bellows movement is across the gap between your knees. That way the (stronger) right arm does all the dynamic workof pushing and pulling. The downside (there always is one) is that the left shoulder can develop pain as it will be effectively exerting most of the pressure needed to keep the thing steady. Well, if it works for us students of Noel Hill...


Should you reverse this if you're left-handed?
I tried playing as you describe, but after a few days switched the instrument to my right knee, because I tend to get a lot of tension in my right shoulder (a problem I've had since long before I took up the concertina). If I'm playing for a long time, I'll sometimes switch knees to give one arm a rest.

As it turns out, I'm also left-handed, but that's not why I switched to the right knee.

#10 Dave Weinstein

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 11:29 AM

I generally play with the instrument in the air, switching it to a knee only when I'm droning a baseline.

It's just how I started.

#11 hjcjones

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 06:51 AM

Which knee to use for support?

Firstly, which ever seems most comfortable for you.

I don't think it matters whether one arm is slightly stronger than the other, a concertina is quite light after all and either arm should be able to drive it without too much effort. However you will be using muscles you haven't worked before, and it will take a while to build these up. When I started I used to ache between the shoulder-blades, but this quickly stopped.

The style of playing also plays a part. You want to support the hand which will be doing the most complicated fingering. Irish players seem to prefer to support the left hand, as the tune is shared between both hands and this is (for right-handers) the weaker hand - if you're a lefty you might want to reverse this. Chordal players where the melody is mostly on the right hand seem to prefer to support that end - at least that is my observation of fellow English Anglo players.

What you must avoid is having the bellows across your knee, as this will wear out the corners.

The straps should be just tight enough so that you have control over the instrument, without restricting your fingering or making the fingers go numb. The tendons which work the fingers run across the back of the hand, and if the straps are too tight these can become sore. But if the straps are too loose you won't be able to hold it securely, and this will also affect the accuracy of your fingering.

As you improve you may find that you want to slacken the straps so that you can achieve more complicated fingerings. You may then have to use the thumb technique you have already discovered to maintain control over the instrument. However by then your hands should be stronger.

#12 nnicharra

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 09:43 AM

I find that anchoring the concertina on its left side, on my left knee works the best. It then frees up the right side which, importantly, has the air button. Bellow control is much easier as a result.

#13 Robbie

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 05:53 PM

I'm extremely new at the concertina (days) and I am having a small problem holding my new concertina. This thread has been helpful to get me started, but I find that my right thumb can barely reach the air button (old rugby injury). Is the solution just to loosen the straps and learn to deal with it?

#14 Greg Jowaisas

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 07:25 AM

Robbie,
This thread might help:

http://www.concertin...?showtopic=1906

Good luck,

Greg

#15 BertramLevy

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 02:13 AM

I might add that for beginners, there is a lot of insecurity in knowing which button to press. The result is s a lot of tension in the hands. The fingers are all in the ready- to- go state although only one is actually necessary at any time. This is natural but if you are supporting the instrument while the hands are tense, you are going to inflict damage. I think it is best to leave the mechanisms (wooden parts) each on a thigh with the bellows free and concentrate on learning the fingerings. Once the positions are truly learned the hands will be relaxed and you can begin to develop support.

Bertram

#16 CaryK

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 10:49 AM

I played a 30b Stagi for a couple of years. One problem with it is that the hand rest on the right side has a relatively thick wooden extension on which rests your right thumb, which controls the air button. Whenever I played the instrument for more than a half hour I'd get a very sore thumb from pressing against on that wooden extension while using the air button. This, in turn, contributed to other hand pains. I was advised from a very experienced player to use a coping saw and reduce the thickness of that part of the hand rest by at least half so that the thumb would have easier access to the air button. I planned to do this and then fine sand and finish the modified hand rest so it would look nice when done, but I upgraded to another instrument and sold the Stagi before this became necessary. Just wanted to pass this on in case any right thumb pain is contributing to your problem. Best of luck.

#17 Tootler

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 05:22 PM

Speaking as a relatively new anglo player.

I am right handed, but I rest the instrument on my right knee and work the bellows with my left hand. It has caused me no problems in fingering and controlling the bellows. It just somehow seemed right that way so I reckon there are no rules, whatever works.

I also have suffered some problems with RSI in the past and I did find at first that I had aches and pains. Some of it, I am sure, is simply getting used to a new instrument and you are naturally tense as you are not sure where everything is.

I did find that if I could keep my wrists straight and relaxed, I had far fewer problems with discomfort while playing and I followed a tip I got from this forum. I bought some orthopaedic foam tubing and cut it in two lengthhways and put the "half tubes" over the bars under the hand straps. At the same time, I loosened the straps off slightly. This keeps the wrists in good alignment and makes holding the instrument comfortable. I did find that the aches I had when I started did eventually recede and I do not have problems when playing now.

Geoff

#18 m3838

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 05:31 PM

The advice of avoiding placing the bellows on the knee is not exactly correct.
I think the best, esp. in the beginning, is to have as much support as possible.
So placing bellows over the knee gives the best control. You will not use the wrist straps to 'hold' the instrument, but only to pull the bellows.
To lessen bellows damage try not to pull the ends out-in, but fan it out open - in close. So bottom pleats don't get dragged across the knee, but stay put. Even in the event of corners to get worn a little, what is better, to fix the bellows once a year, or costly (if you are lucky) rehabilitation? And keep those straps loose.
And keep in mind, Stagi will never get easier, even if you spend your lifetime playing. It's just the nature of bad instrument.




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