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The Trouble With Anglo Concertina Availability


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#1 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 04:30 AM

I realize that quite a few members of this forum have some of the best anglo concertinas around, be they Jeffries, Dipper, Suttner, Carroll, or Wheatstone. I'm sure many of you are excellent musicians and possibly play professionally, as I do. For you, I'm pleased that you have professional instruments since you surely need them. My grievance lies not with you but with those who have such instruments but would sooner use the word "enthusiast" to describe their relationship to the anglo concertina than "player".

I have held the following views for some time. Let me first explain what finally prompted me to write this.

Today I was reading some older concertina.net articles, including one of a review of Noel Hill's school in 2000. I have to admit I've never attended this school, but it seems like the focus was largely on beginner or intermediate players, as most workshops in the U.S. are. Instruction was given on scales, learning fingering and ornamentation and Noel taught attendees rolls/crans towards the end of the week. So I think it's safe to say that most of the people attending this workshop were beginners. I doubt there was one "professional" musician in the crowd. Altogether, it seems like an appropriate venue for the beginner or hobbyist to improve his/her technique.

And then I read the following sentence and was absolutely floored: "For those who are afflicted with Concertina Envy, this was a veritable heaven. There was one Dipper, two Suttners, one Connor, about 4 Jeffries, 4 Wheatstones and about 5-6 Lachenals."

Now, these aren't Noel Hill's personal instruments we're talking about. As far as I'm concerned, Noel Hill can have as many fine concertinas as he wants. These are instruments belonging to the workshop guests! People who are just learning scales and rolls!

Now, could someone kindly explain why players of this caliber require Dippers and Suttners? Surely a Lachenal or even a Stagi would be sufficient for their purposes, but these people think they need instruments that should be reserved for the top tier of anglo concertina players in the world!

This phenomenon surely isn't restricted to attendees of this school. Far too many of the great anglo concertinas in the world are sitting on the coffee tables or in the attics of middle-aged American hobbyists with money to spare.

This is an open letter to the anglo concertina community to stop this insanity. I feel that we all need to learn the distinction between needing and wanting.

A caveat: I won't say that this syndrome afflicts Americans exclusively; there are great concertinas around the world being misused or unused. But here, the problem is ubiquitous.

I can already anticipate responses to my opinion: "I might not be the best player in the world, but I have a right to spend my money how I want. It's a free country." Or, "There's no law saying only the best players can have a top-notch instrument. I've spent thousands and waited years for my instrument."

True, anyone can order a Suttner today and pay $6000 for it a few years from now. A hobbyist or "collector" has invested as much time and money in this process as an aspiring professional doing the same. Some might call this entitlement. I call it selfish extravagance. The same "if I want it I should be able to have it" attitude is what puts mammoth SUVs in driveways across America and four patties on that Burger King cheeseburger instead of one. You may want the best instrument you can get, but do you need it?

For those of you who are considering buying your first concertina or upgrading your current one, I beg you, please ask yourself several questions:
1. What instrument would be suitable for my level of playing now and in the near future?
2. Would someone else's playing do my chosen instrument justice while mine would not?
3. What are the consequences of purchasing a fine anglo?

Rarely are these three questions asked.

Let's examine that third question. What's so wrong about having an instrument that far surpasses one's abilities?

We all know that excellent anglo concertinas are hard to come by. This is a recent trend that doesn't seem to affect other instruments. There's no shortage of quality Irish flutes (you can get a Grinter in under a year) nor is there a shortage of professional-level button accordions (go to The Button Box and get an excellent Castagnari today.) Even Uillean Pipers don't have this much difficulty procuring a top set of pipes.

However, the relatively few number of superb vintage concertinas and makers of superb new concertinas combined with an increase in popularity has put the instrument-seeker in a terrible bind. This problem has been exacerbated beyond reason by the multitude of people who view music as a diversion rather than a life pursuit. Not only does this unnecessary demand put the current available stock at virtually nil, it multiplies wait lists and vastly inflates prices. You'd be hard-pressed to find a top flute player or accordion player who payed more than a few thousand dollars for his/her instrument. Now we see restored Jeffries going for $8000 or more. Even prices of Lachenels and other mid-range instruments are being inflated by this trend, creating hardships for beginning and intermediate players as well.

My first concertina was a Stagi. Learning to play Irish music well on a Stagi is all but impossible. With the value of a concertina largely determined by its feel and response, a player simply can't improve on an inexpensive instrument that won't respond fast enough for reels or most ornamentation. The Stagi and Lachenal I later owned never did my technique justice. I've had amazing musicians play my old concertinas and even they couldn't make them sound decent. On the rare occasions when I would be able to play another's Dipper or Jeffries, I always surprised myself with the sound of my playing, which had previously been obscured by an instrument that couldn't move nearly as fast or precisely as my fingers. It's a very sad and frustrating moment to have reached the limitations of your instrument and have nowhere to go. And for many, there really is nowhere to go.

I scour the internet on a weekly basis for the next concertina. I have turned to the internet because in the U.S., the reality is that you're not going to find a Jeffries at a garage sale down the street. The situation might be better in Ireland and England, but probably only marginally. Many times have I dishearteningly watched a Jeffries or Suttner put on eBay and sell at ludicrous prices, far beyond the budgets of most. I always wonder how many of those bidders have valid claim to that instrument. How many of them are looking to get that instrument in time for the next Fleadh Cheoil? How many have recordings to make or concerts to play? Few, if any. They want the best and must have it just because it's the best.

I hardly expect any reader to suddenly proclaim, "You're right, you need this Dipper more than I do. Here you go." All I ask for is a little restraint. I know there are many musicians out there like myself who plan on playing music as their primary objective in life. The current climate of concertina sales discourages us from choosing the concertina as a means to that goal. This only serves to hurt the concertina as an art form. Had I known the hardship I'd later face, I would've chosen another instrument. If this environment gets any worse, it will likely discourage promising players from continuing study of the instrument and perhaps some from even starting. I wouldn't be surprised if this is already beginning to take effect.

I invite your responses to this. I expect there to be plenty of negativity regarding what I have written, but I welcome you to defend your viewpoint if feel you belong to the group of people on which I have focused my criticism.

Edited by dpmccabe, 27 October 2006 - 04:37 AM.


#2 Geraghty

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:03 AM

I am an intermediate-level player playing an intermediate-level box. As the waiting list for a Dipper is years long, and I intend to keep practicing to become better, should I have to wait until I am an expert before placing an order? And if my improvement does not go as quickly as I anticipate, and my order should be filled before I am an expert player (or indeed, if I never become an 'expert' player), then should I be considered at fault for having an intrument that is "too good" for me?

There are non-professional car drivers who own Corvettes and race cars. There are non-professional photographers with top-range digital SLRs. And there are non-professional musicians who own top notch instruments. I'm not entirely clear on why you are upset here.

In your post you described how owning a Stagi limited your ability to play. You also ask why players of a beginner/intermediate caliber have Dippers and Suttners. It seems to me that you answered your own question.

Yes, the wait is long and the cost is high. But Dipper and Suttner are not the only makers out there - you don;'t have to jump from a Stagi to a Dipper. There's an intermediate step there - Tedrow, Kensington, Edgley, Morse, Marcus. People who can't afford the cost or wait of a top instrument have lots of makers to choose from with shorter waiting lists and lower prices. When buying a car or a camera, a consumer bases his or her purchase on things like features, reputation, price, and availability. Buying a concertina is the same. Of course, cars and cameras are not handmade, so their availability is much higher. But personally, I'd rather have a handmade instrument than a mass-produced one at half the cost.

To answer your questions:

1. What instrument would be suitable for my level of playing now and in the near future?

Now, I am reaching the limits of my intermediate box. It got leaky very quickly, the action is slower than I would like, and it is heavy. I am currently in the process of ordering a lighter, custom box from a well known maker, although I don't expect to receive it for some time.

2. Would someone else's playing do my chosen instrument justice while mine would not?

At the moment, yes. But I intend to keep this custom instrument for the rest of my life and aspire to improve my playing throughout that time.

3. What are the consequences of purchasing a fine anglo?

I am not clear on what this question means. The consequences for myself? for the maker? for the next guy on the maker's list? for you?

Edited by Geraghty, 27 October 2006 - 05:04 AM.


#3 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:32 AM

I am an intermediate-level player playing an intermediate-level box. As the waiting list for a Dipper is years long, and I intend to keep practicing to become better, should I have to wait until I am an expert before placing an order? And if my improvement does not go as quickly as I anticipate, and my order should be filled before I am an expert player (or indeed, if I never become an 'expert' player), then should I be considered at fault for having an intrument that is "too good" for me?

No. I wish I had your foresight, in fact. You clearly have a vested interest in the instrument and will improve over time. My post is directed at those who see it as a minor hobby, who want a top instrument not because their playing demands it, but for the sake of having a top instrument.

There are non-professional car drivers who own Corvettes and race cars. There are non-professional photographers with top-range digital SLRs. And there are non-professional musicians who own top notch instruments. I'm not entirely clear on why you are upset here.

The fact that I could buy a top of the line SLR or Mercedes today but not a concertina is absolutely key to my point. Other people buying nice cameras has no impact on me being able to buy a nice camera. I'm glad you brought this up because I think it's an important observation that people need to understand.

In your post you described how owning a Stagi limited your ability to play. You also ask why players of a beginner/intermediate caliber have Dippers and Suttners. It seems to me that you answered your own question.

Beginner concertinas do not limit the playing of beginning players, at least not by very much. It's only once you become proficient in ornamentation and have sufficient control of the instrument to play fast does the quality of the instrument become integral.

Yes, the wait is long and the cost is high. But Dipper and Suttner are not the only makers out there - you don;'t have to jump from a Stagi to a Dipper. There's an intermediate step there - Tedrow, Kensington, Edgley, Morse, Marcus. People who can't afford the cost or wait of a top instrument have lots of makers to choose from with shorter waiting lists and lower prices. When buying a car or a camera, a consumer bases his or her purchase on things like features, reputation, price, and availability. Buying a concertina is the same. Of course, cars and cameras are not handmade, so their availability is much higher. But personally, I'd rather have a handmade instrument than a mass-produced one at half the cost.

I agree. But eventually you can move on pass the middle-range instruments. I play an entry-level Connor, which many would even consider above middle-range. However, there's still a huge difference between my Connor and the Suttner I have on order. I've played several Suttners and can attest to this, if the $2000+ price difference does not.

3. What are the consequences of purchasing a fine anglo?

I am not clear on what this question means. The consequences for myself? for the maker? for the next guy on the maker's list? for you?

I'm referring to the impact it has on everyone else who needs an instrument of that caliber. Namely, they cannot get instrument in a reasonable timeframe nor at a reasonable price due to the unnecessary demand placed on supply by players who don't need that level of instrument and never will.

#4 Chris Timson

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:33 AM

I have not time to write a long reply because I am just about to leave for the ICA AGM, where no doubt there will be numbers of fine instruments of all systems. I just thought that Geraghty's reply was considered and well put. I would also add that I do not consider myself a fine player, and that others might be able to do better with my concertinas (which include a Dipper and a Jeffries) than I can. But the acquisition of those concertinas required thought, saving and choices and was not undertaken lightly. I get tremendous tactile pleasure from playing them and from the sound they make, and they make me a better player than I would be if I played a "lesser" instrument. I don't see why I should feel guilty about that.

Chris

#5 Paul Read

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:59 AM

Just look back at the 1940s to 1960s. Concertinas makers nearly died out. Why? The makers couldn't survive because noone was buying concertinas. These days the market is healthy and the number of makers and restorers is increasing because prices have returned to a level where it is worth their while to do this work. Why? Because of the large number of 'hobbyists' who are once again buying their instruments. Maybe the popularity will wane again and then there will be lots of instruments left for any remaining elitists.

#6 Geraghty

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:13 AM

Beginner concertinas do not limit the playing of beginning players, at least not by very much. It's only once you become proficient in ornamentation and have sufficient control of the instrument to play fast does the quality of the instrument become integral.

I disagree. As a complete beginner I purchased an intermediate instrument (the one I have now, in fact) because I believe that if a person is serious about a hobby or interest, he or she should get the best quality equipment that he/she can afford. I did not want to get a Stagi or Lachenal as my first instrument because I felt it would be a waste of my money - my thinking was that if I wanted to play concertina, I should play a good one, and if I didn't want to invest in a good one, then I shouldn't play. I waited over six months and spent far more than I could justify to others at the time - because I was a student and had never played the instrument before. But I considered it to be a good investment and was satisfied with my choice.

But eventually you can move on pass the middle-range instruments. I play an entry-level Connor, which many would even consider above middle-range. However, there's still a huge difference between my Connor and the Suttner I have on order. I've played several Suttners and can attest to this, if the $2000+ price difference does not.

I am not familiar with Connor so unfortunately I cannot knowledgeably comment on this part.

I'm referring to the impact it has on everyone else who needs an instrument of that caliber. Namely, they cannot get instrument in a reasonable timeframe nor at a reasonable price due to the unnecessary demand placed on supply by players who don't need that level of instrument and never will.

I think that anyone who is a serious enough player to need a high caliber instrument will have thought about it beforehand and gotten on the appropriate waiting list in plenty of time. And many top makers will pause their production to assist professional musicians who desperately need to replace/repair damaged or stolen instruments.

Joe Amateur from Kansas City deciding he wants to upgrade his Lachenal to a Suttner shouldn't have to stop and say to himself "if I order this instrument, will that mean that the next rising star player won't be able to get one?" If people thought that way they would be scared off of placing orders, and the makers (already working flat out and not exactly getting rich on the profits) will have fewer orders and less income.

Ultimately the issue of waiting lists is up to each maker. It would be very easy for a maker to say "Right, I make x number of instruments in a year. I don't want to have to have a long waiting list. Therefore I will only accept x number of orders this year, and anyone else will need to try to place their order next year if they still want one."

In fact, Mack Hoover of Hoover whistles in Colorado does just this. He accepts a certain number of orders each month to keep his waiting lists short and quickly attainable. Whistle players don't have to ask themselves "do I deserve to order a Hoover?" Instead they ask Mack "Is your list still open this month?"

Which, ultimately, is a much easier question to answer.

Edited by Geraghty, 27 October 2006 - 06:14 AM.


#7 Alan Day

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:21 AM

A couple of years ago I wrote on this site about the then current cost of a good concertina and the market as it was at that time.The manufacture of a concertina envolves hundreds of components,the assembly time envolves hours of work and with manufacturing costs as well as overheads going up,I suggested that it was time to buy.The market has also been flooded with cheaply made concertinas ,which have created an interest in the instrument.Certainly the amount of tutors I have been sending out confirms that both in the UK and America mainly, but in other countries as well the concertina is a growing market.As you rightly say these cheap concertinas have their limitations,they are purely a begginers instruments and I started on a similar type. So the situation is that there is a strong market for concertinas.Jeffries and Wheatstone concertinas, particularly Anglos are going for huge sums in Ireland as youngsters as young as six are playing better than the instrument they have will allow. Moving on to the current manufacturers there are a number all of which seem to be turning out good quality concertinas.Wim Wakker recently mentions that he has invested in a reed making machine which should greatly increase his output.Frank Edgley,John Connor,Bob Tedrow,Colin Dipper etc are manufacturing concertinas and most seem to have a full order book.One subject that has not been mentioned is that up to now a concertina of reasonable quality is a good investment and if that is the case non players of the instrument will hoard them waiting for the market to rise.It is no good wishing that hundreds of good quality instruments should be made available for brilliant players,the economic situation shows that this is not going to happen. You have to bite the bullet pay the current market value after saving up like we all have had to.It is not going to get better unless someone like Wim can churn out fine quality instruments which will reduce the current demand.
All of this subject is with respect to economics and really you have to accept this situation and put your hand in your pocket and make a decision.
Al

#8 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:55 AM

Just look back at the 1940s to 1960s. Concertinas makers nearly died out. Why? The makers couldn't survive because noone was buying concertinas. These days the market is healthy and the number of makers and restorers is increasing because prices have returned to a level where it is worth their while to do this work. Why? Because of the large number of 'hobbyists' who are once again buying their instruments. Maybe the popularity will wane again and then there will be lots of instruments left for any remaining elitists.

Well there's a comfortable medium here and you've illustrated the other extreme. The percentage of good players to hobbyists is much greater in Ireland than in the U.S. but they are still victim to the economic situation. At this point, there are a good number of pro or someday-pro concertina players who can provide the demand.

I disagree. As a complete beginner I purchased an intermediate instrument (the one I have now, in fact) because I believe that if a person is serious about a hobby or interest, he or she should get the best quality equipment that he/she can afford. I did not want to get a Stagi or Lachenal as my first instrument because I felt it would be a waste of my money - my thinking was that if I wanted to play concertina, I should play a good one, and if I didn't want to invest in a good one, then I shouldn't play. I waited over six months and spent far more than I could justify to others at the time - because I was a student and had never played the instrument before. But I considered it to be a good investment and was satisfied with my choice.

Well, a Stagi does make a noticeable difference. But does a beginner need a Dipper more than a Morse or Marcus? I think not.

Joe Amateur from Kansas City deciding he wants to upgrade his Lachenal to a Suttner shouldn't have to stop and say to himself "if I order this instrument, will that mean that the next rising star player won't be able to get one?" If people thought that way they would be scared off of placing orders, and the makers (already working flat out and not exactly getting rich on the profits) will have fewer orders and less income.

Makers with waiting lists of 5 years could get by with the equal amount of income with a waiting list of 2 years. The length of the list doesn't affect the speed of production unless the maker lets it. And yes, I think Joe Amateur should be asking that very question of himself. Why? Because there are legions of Joe Amateurs ordering them. There's also a much smaller legion of people who actually need the instruments, but they must all wait in the same line. If Joe orders a lesser instrument, it won't really hurt him and it'll help the expert. If Joe orders the good instrument, it won't really help him but does hurt the expert. It's all about the principle of utility. Today, it's the principle of "I want the best one because I can afford it."

All of this subject is with respect to economics and really you have to accept this situation and put your hand in your pocket and make a decision.
Al

Yes, I have made that decision several times. I have much more of a problem waiting 4 years for a concertina than paying more for it than I would have in the past. Although, both consequences can be crippling to the new player. If I could pay more to skip to the head of the line, I would. But for obvious reasons this isn't how it works.

Edited by dpmccabe, 27 October 2006 - 07:00 AM.


#9 Geraghty

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:10 AM

Well, a Stagi does make a noticeable difference. But does a beginner need a Dipper more than a Morse or Marcus? I think not.

Your original example of Noah Hill's class said that it was for beginners and intermediates. Do you know for a fact that it was the beginners who owned the dippers and not the intermediates? Maybe the beginners had the 5-6 Lachenals and the Conner and the intermediates had the Dipper, Suttners, Jeffries and Wheatstones.

Edited to add a quick thought - Noel Hill has a custom fingering technique that he teaches in his school. I had a taste of this technique in a one-day workshop I took with him at last year's Camden Town festival in London. Even people who had been playing for years would need tuition in fingering in order to use Noel's methods!

Makers with waiting lists of 5 years could get by with the equal amount of income with a waiting list of 2 years. The length of the list doesn't affect the speed of production unless the maker lets it. And yes, I think Joe Amateur should be asking that very question of himself. Why? Because there are legions of Joe Amateurs ordering them. There's also a much smaller legion of people who actually need the instruments, but they must all wait in the same line. If Joe orders a lesser instrument, it won't really hurt him and it'll help the expert. If Joe orders the good instrument, it won't really help him but does hurt the expert. It's all about the principle of utility. Today, it's the principle of "I want the best one because I can afford it."

So let the makers determine the lengths of their lists, then, as I mentioned. A world of Joe Amateurs are not going to do so. I'm not certain if you are looking for a discussion here or just want us to agree with your view that all beginners/intermediates should stick to beginner/intermediate instruments and let the worthy few get on with the expert playing on top instruments. Could you clarify your goal, please? Because I don't agree with that view, but I'm happy to discuss the issue.

If I could pay more to skip to the head of the line, I would. But for obvious reasons this isn't how it works.

Aha, then this must mean that it's not all a case of the people with the most money getting the best instruments. Everyone has to wait their turn.

Edited by Geraghty, 27 October 2006 - 07:19 AM.


#10 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:11 AM

Quick addition: I'm no economist, but if makers' income are still low and they are working around the clock, then prices should justifiably rise. Concertinas are complicated and a lot of care goes into their production. For this reason, I don't really have a problem paying a lot of money for a concertina.

I'm not sure why there aren't more high-end concertina makers out there. The demand is there. Even someone like Wally Carroll, who's new compared to Dipper, has a years-long waiting list. Presumably it has something to do with the difficulty in construction and lack of documentation on how to do it. Perhaps prices must rise to encourage new makers to come out of the woodwork.

So I have no qualms about paying $7000 for an instrument. What irks me is the wait and the underlying reasons for it.

#11 Geraghty

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:15 AM

I have heard of many instrument makers (whistle, flute and concertina) who *could* justify charging more for their instruments but don't want to price people out of the market, and therefore sell their instruments for as little as they can reasonably manage. I am sure that Colin Dipper could double his prices and not make a dent in his waiting list - that he doesn't says a lot about the man, and about all the other makers out there who are trying to spread the love of the instrument, not make a quick profit.

I have also heard (on this board, actually) that some makers actively discourage their relatives from taking up the trade, due to the long hours, heavy workload and low pay.

So I have no qualms about paying $7000 for an instrument. What irks me is the wait and the underlying reasons for it.

The reasons for the wait - people feel that the instruments are worth it. Who are we to judge the worth of the people?

#12 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:25 AM

Your original example of Noah Hill's class said that it was for beginners and intermediates. Do you know for a fact that it was the beginners who owned the dippers and not the intermediates? Maybe the beginners had the 5-6 Lachenals and the Conner and the intermediates had the Dipper, Suttners, Jeffries and Wheatstones.

Perhaps someone who has attended the school could give us details. But I don't consider rolls and scales to be intermediate skills (my first teacher taught me a roll on the first day if I recall correctly), which lends me to believe it was primarily beginners. I'm also basing my appraisal off of what I've seen playing around the country.

So let the makers determine the lengths of their lists, then, as I mentioned. A world of Joe Amateurs are not going to do so. I'm not certain if you are looking for a discussion here or just want us to agree with your view that all beginners/intermediates should stick to beginner/intermediate instruments and let the worthy few get on with the expert playing on top instruments. Could you clarify your goal, please? Because I don't agree with that view, but I'm happy to discuss the issue.

My goal is to encourage beginners to think critically about finding an instrument that suits their needs. If there was sufficient supply, then by all means beginners can order whatever they like, whether they're concertinas or SLRs. This isn't the case, though. If Joe Amateur really understands the situation as I've described, if he cares less about having the latest neat toy and more about letting the professional musicians continue playing the music he loves on quality instruments, then he'll reconsider that Dipper and decide he'll be perfectly happy with the Marcus. That is the kind of attitude I think more should adopt.

Aha, then this must mean that it's not all a case of the people with the most money getting the best instruments. Everyone has to wait their turn.

Naturally. It would be awful if that kind of system existed. I agree that it shouldn't work like that. That's what eBay's for, I suppose.

#13 dpmccabe

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:31 AM

The reasons for the wait - people feel that the instruments are worth it. Who are we to judge the worth of the people?

It's up to the individual to judge his/her own need against a given context. I'm talking about needs here, not desires.

Edited by dpmccabe, 27 October 2006 - 07:31 AM.


#14 RP3

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 08:28 AM

I am one of the people who has been attending Noel Hill's class since 1996 and DPMCCABE's assumptions about the class are incorrect but would neverthelss be irrelevant. Most of the students in the early classes were Intermediate or higher. Some people had waited years for a special concertina they had ordered some time before. A few had been lucky enough to find a fine concertina at a reasonable price, and others had merely paid what the market demanded at the time to have a quality instrument. All shared some degree of devotion to the music and the instrument and generally tried to obtain the best instrument they could afford. Others decided that they didn't need a high-end instrument and were happy with much less. But each type made their own decision regardless of skill, talent, or NEED.

For someone else to assail these people saying they are not worthy to have these fine instruments is pure rubbish. There are always a few people who believe they are "entitled" to something and they denigrate those who have what they desire but cannot either acquire or afford. Most of the inhabitants of the developed world have more than they "need" but that is a characteristic of a capitalist economy. I would much rather have that type of economy with its quirks and supposed inequalities than any of the others that have been tried and failed in this world.

Quality concertinas are difficult but not impossible to obtain. Sometimes it takes perserverence, sometimes it takes patience, sometimes it takes money or a combintation of the three. Most current owners of quality concertinas had to have one or more of these characteristics to acquire the fine instrument they now own. I cannot and will not condemn them for having that fine instrument even if their level of talent does not appear to justify that ownership; and no one else has that right in our world. If you believe you need something badly enough, you do the work or make the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goal.

One feature of our little concertina world is that supply and demand is not always in balance. The fact that an instrument can be delivered one day by Dipper or Suttner or any of the other fine makers and be resold the very next day for a much bigger price suggests that the makers are not getting the full market value for their instruments. They could employ different sales practices and likely obtain a much greater return for their hard work. But this would favor only the most wealthy, so it seems fair to conclude that these makers have made a commitment to an instrument and a type of music that they love. They would rather have their instruments in the hands of those willing to make the commitment to wait for that special concertina. Let those who are unwilling to wait go to Lark in the Morning or participate in one of the auctions (eBay or otherwise) and let them pay the inflated price those markets demand. Most of our concertina community have accepted these conditions and limits willingly, strange though they may be. I think that if you can't accept these conditions, you might be better off elsewhere.

#15 Jim Besser

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 08:41 AM

I invite your responses to this. I expect there to be plenty of negativity regarding what I have written, but I welcome you to defend your viewpoint if feel you belong to the group of people on which I have focused my criticism.


Several points.

If Suttner, Dipper, Carroll and the others were depending on PROFESSIONAL concertina players for their market, they'd be out of business. There aren't enough of them. These guys are working fulltime, and I dare say none of them are making as much as your average auto salesman or plumber.

The one Noel Hill class I attended included some skilled, talented players. I didn't see any high-end instruments in the hands of beginners.

It may be that concertinas are vastly underpriced, compared to other instruments. Jeffries are scarce and expensive -- but the best Jeffries still costs far less than a mid-range professional-quality violin, or a 1930s Martin D-18 guitar. Heck, I play with a fiddler whose BOW is insured for more than the most expensive Jeffries.

Perhaps the long waits are the price we pay for seeking such undervalued instruments.

I share your concerns, though, when it comes to COLLECTORS. Markets for many vintage instruments -- guitars, for example -- have gone through the roof because of collectors and investors who are essentially speculating in instruments. A good instrument shouldn't be in a display case.

Edited by Jim Besser, 27 October 2006 - 09:22 AM.


#16 Dave Higham

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 08:48 AM

I wonder if DPMCCABE would be willing to let a jury of his peers listen to his playing and decide what sort of concertina he desrves.

#17 dwinterfield

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 08:54 AM

My goal is to encourage beginners to think critically about finding an instrument that suits their needs. If there was sufficient supply, then by all means beginners can order whatever they like, whether they're concertinas or SLRs. This isn't the case, though. If Joe Amateur really understands the situation as I've described, if he cares less about having the latest neat toy and more about letting the professional musicians continue playing the music he loves on quality instruments, then he'll reconsider that Dipper and decide he'll be perfectly happy with the Marcus. That is the kind of attitude I think more should adopt.


I appreciate that you were careful in raising this subject to present a thoughtful and reasoned argument. I am struggling to respond in a similar manner and not share the anger and amazement at what I consider to be a thoroughly offensive, elitist and exclusionary argument.

Let's start with a couple of points on which I think we might agree. The anglo concertina is a wonderful and challenging instrument. The instruments range from poor to wonderful in terms of quality. Prices for good instruments are high and the good instruments are rare. The interest in anglos seems especially high just now, making the marketplace difficult. Contemporary makers are fine artisans who, even at these prices, are probably not properly rewarded for their skills.

I'm a middle-aged beginner. I have a nice Guens/Wakker hybrid. In order to determine that I wanted to head down the concertina path, I bought a beat up 20 button Lachenal and a 30 button Stagi on e-bay. I communicated with several teachers and dealers. One said to me - "You can make real progress playing the concertina if you are willing to put in a couple thousand hours of practice over the next few years. If you're willing to invest your time, you should get an instrument that will repay your your investment." I didn't buy a concertina from him, but I followed his advice.

So that's where I am. I have an instrument that is better than I can play, but I'm investing the time to get better.

Now here's what I find so offensive about your argument. You seem to be blaming amateur muscians like myself for having the audacity to enter into the field that you have made your life's pursuit and than having the nerve to buy instruments that exceed our skill level. I play music because I love it. Over the last 40 years I've played a number of instruments badly. For some reason, when I play a bit of a song or tune properly at half speed and don't make mistakes for a few minutes, I'm thrilled. For some people music comes easily. Not for me. Music is one of the least rational aspects of my life. If I had any sense, I'd stop playing, but the satisfaction I get far out weighs the ridiculous amount of time I put in. You seem to telling me that I should be ashamed of myself for engaging in this activity in a way that allows me as much satisfaction as I can get. Don't take this personally, but go to hell! My musical choices are none of your business. You seem to be saying that my participation in music on my terms is messing up your livelihood. Wrong and insulting.

Over the years, I've mostly been a consumer of music. Nothing fancy. I buy cds, go to concerts etc. Rock, pop, folk, country. One of things I find very appealing about Irish music is that it is largely participatory music. People play it together. They play in bars and pubs. They still play in kitchens. I don't actually paly in sessions because I'm not good enough yet. Some people make a living from it. I have friends who almost do. I hope it's working out for you and I'm sure it's a struggle.

So here I am. I'm enjoying the process of learning music. I'm appreciating the the open embrace of the Irish music community. And along you come suggesting that I'm screwing up the professional music community because I bought an instrument that both challenges and rewards me. I'm not the problem. The players aren't the problem. The enthusiasts aren't the problem. Joe Amateur is not the problem. If there is a problem, it's that the supply of quality instruments can not meet the demand at the moment. I hope you find an instrument that meets your needs and that you can afford. I know you don't want to hear this, but now that I've started to feel that I can play the concertina, I'm going to be looking for a good quality concertina reed instrument. Like you, my finances are limited and I'll have to decide what I can afford and what meets my needs.
Good Luck.

Edited by dwinterfield, 27 October 2006 - 09:03 AM.


#18 Laitch

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 09:23 AM

Hey dpmccabe

A dedicated, skilled and engaging player, professional or not, can play any reliable instrument and knock the socks off the listeners. In fact, if I were up to it, I'd get more satisfaction from driving great music from a "workman's" instrument than from a pristine, ornate, gilded, blessed, extraspecial, divinely crafted, museum quality artifact because the music I'd be playing would be all about me, which is just the way I like it. B)

A concertina player becomes a professional player by blending patience, focus, and dedication to a goal and that's the same process involved in paying for a prime concertina. Work during the first goal is more desirable because it involves satisfying an obsession, however benign, with music. The work toward achieving the second goal can feel like nothing but work, which just sucks for a lot of us but that's the way it is unless, of course, we don't let it get to us.




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