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English V Anglo


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#1 chrisbird

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 09:42 AM

I've played an English Concertina for some years and have become interested in an Anglo. Is an Anglo harder to learn than an English; also, once learned, is it easier than an English to play? Would the fact I can play an English get in the way of learning the Anglo?

My interest has been prompted by a trip to Ireland where the punchier sound of the Anglo definitely appealed.

Also (treading on dangerous ground here as it's a bit 'off topic'!), in terms of difficulty which is harder to learn - the Anglo Concertina or a Button Accordion (Melodeon)? I guess you can see where I'm going with this one.

Many thanks, Chris

#2 Ken_Coles

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 10:10 AM

Actually, you don't need a new thread on this, there are a dozen old ones. This is very emotional territory for some, so I will step out of the way after reminding everyone here to keep it friendly. To sum up, as Chris Timson puts it, all instruments can be used to play all music. You have to decide your priorities/needs/distractability. There is no consensus on things like "harder to learn" as it is completely individual.

Ken
(standing aside)

#3 David Levine

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 10:14 AM

I've played an English Concertina for some years and have become interested in an Anglo. Is an Anglo harder to learn than an English; also, once learned, is it easier than an English to play? Would the fact I can play an English get in the way of learning the Anglo?

My interest has been prompted by a trip to Ireland where the punchier sound of the Anglo definitely appealed.

Also (treading on dangerous ground here as it's a bit 'off topic'!), in terms of difficulty which is harder to learn - the Anglo Concertina or a Button Accordion (Melodeon)? I guess you can see where I'm going with this one.

Many thanks, Chris


Hi Chris,
I started out on the English and played it for years. Then I heard the Anglo and fell in love with it.
I wouldn't say it is harder to play than the English cncdertina. It is equally hard to become adept
on any melody instrument. But it has some challenges that the English doesn't have. I am delighted
to be playing Anglo and don't feel that my having played the English gets in the way.
I also find that the Anglo presents more challenges than the button accordion, but it is more satisfying
to play -- for me, anyway. I'd say to go with the sound you like and don't think of problems before they
arise. If it was all easy everybody would be playing...
David

#4 chrisbird

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 10:22 AM

Actually, you don't need a new thread on this, there are a dozen old ones.


Apologies for the repetition, Ken. I did find various discussions, but nothing I felt that was wholly specific. Then again, given what subjective thing it is that I'm asking, it's probably unrealistic of me to have found an 'absolute' answer.

There is no consensus on things like "harder to learn" as it is completely individual.


I guess that is probably true when the instruments are similar, such as the Anglo and Concertina. But I bet piano is harder to learn than a penny whistle :-)

Regards, Chris

#5 Roger Gawley

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 10:37 AM

I guess that is probably true when the instruments are similar, such as the Anglo and Concertina. But I bet piano is harder to learn than a penny whistle :-)

Regards, Chris


I realise that you are joking but actually it is not. It is easier (for some people at least) to hack out a simple melody with one hand on piano than whistle. The trouble is that this is so easy you are expected to do something different with the other hand.

Like everyone has already said, some instruments are easier for some things. The easy one for you is the one you get on well with.

#6 LDT

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 10:41 AM

It is easier (for some people at least) to hack out a simple melody with one hand on piano than whistle. The trouble is that this is so easy you are expected to do something different with the other hand.


That was always my problem..melody was fine..just couldn't get my other hand to do chords. :P

#7 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 03:21 PM

I've played an English Concertina for some years and have become interested in an Anglo. Is an Anglo harder to learn than an English; also, once learned, is it easier than an English to play? Would the fact I can play an English get in the way of learning the Anglo?

I know several people who play both systems, so I don't think that knowing English would necessarily get in the way of learning Anglo for you. But which is easier seems to depend on the way your brain works. Some people (including me) find alternating hands as you go up the scale, as on English, to be too weird to master. Others find a system where each button plays different notes on push and pull, as on an Anglo or a diatonic button accordion, to be just as problematic for them. I suspect that the only way for you to find out what's true for you is to try it out.

Daniel

Edited by Daniel Hersh, 15 September 2008 - 03:22 PM.


#8 m3838

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 09:24 PM

All Concertina systems are brilliant in terms of compactness and logic of the keyboard for particular type of music they were designed for.
I wouldn't necessarily call concertinas "melody instruments", as they are equally capable of been "harmony instruments".
So to master the keyboard of any kind of concertina is not a big deal, it's only the matter of some short time.
But to master the sound of a concertina is tremendously more difficult, then of an accordion. Concertina's tone is simple, single and right in your face, it's not masked by another reed a few cents sharp, not painted by octave high reed, not supported by the whole bucket of 4 reeds for wall of sound, there is no heavy bass/chord helping hand. You play a chord a little longer - and your concertina becomes an automobile horn, play melody notes a little shorter - it begins to squack. It's small and has little air in the bellows, it's very sensitive and needs mastering of bellows control. You push buttons directly towards the bellows and each push can add a little "Whack" to the bellows, making sound unmusical.
Tough luck.

#9 Michael Reid

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 09:52 PM

Chris,

I've played English concertina for 24 years, button accordion (C#/D) for about 10 years, and Anglo concertina (C/G) for almost five years. I also have a piano background that goes back, well, let's just say a lot longer than I've played English.

Of my three squeezeboxes, English was the easiest to learn, Anglo the hardest. Five years in, I have a lot to learn on Anglo -- but I love it and now devote almost all of my playing time to it. Not coincidentally, my musical interests are pretty focused these days on Irish traditional music; that was not the case 20 years ago.

I don't think that playing one type is an impediment to playing another (nor is it an advantage). I think it's good for my brain to maintain agility on both concertina systems. Sometimes at a session I'll pick up someone's English, and it will then take me a moment to "reboot" my brain, but things fall into place fairly easily.

Occasionally when stuck in a boring work meeting, I'll challenge myself to play "air concertina," imagining how I would finger a tune on one system, then on the other.

#10 chrisbird

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 02:31 AM

Of my three squeezeboxes, English was the easiest to learn, Anglo the hardest. Five years in, I have a lot to learn on Anglo -- but I love it and now devote almost all of my playing time to it. Not coincidentally, my musical interests are pretty focused these days on Irish traditional music; that was not the case 20 years ago.

I don't think that playing one type is an impediment to playing another (nor is it an advantage).

I think I've been given sufficient encouragement to give it a try - certainly nobody has cautioned against it which is encouraging. Like you, Michael, it is Irish traditional music that has prompted my interest in the Anglo; suddenly the English sounds 'boring' to me.

Thanks everyone for your responses.

Regards, Chris

#11 chiton1

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 08:21 AM

I don't think that playing one type is an impediment to playing another (nor is it an advantage).
I think I've been given sufficient encouragement to give it a try - certainly nobody has cautioned against it which is encouraging. Like you, Michael, it is Irish traditional music that has prompted my interest in the Anglo; suddenly the English sounds 'boring' to me.
Thanks everyone for your responses.
Regards, Chris


I play Irish music on English concertina for many years now, and although I was often advised to turn to Anglo instead I never did. I find the challenge of producing a sound on my EC that suits Irish music as good as any music made by an AC quite interesting. In fact playing Irish music on an AC would be too easy (for me); there are zillions doing that already, and there are only very few that can make convincing good Irish music on an EC.
First of all you need a powerfull instrument, my metal ended Wheatstone Aeola proved best (till now). They are not cheap but probably still cheaper as most good vintage AC concertina's. Then you go and explore....
But I am in no way trying to keep you from playing an Anglo, just wanted to air some thoughts as the subject interests me a great deal!

P.S. I still need to make recordings :( My small studio is progressing and I will be able to record soon now.. :rolleyes:

#12 Michael Reid

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 10:33 AM

I play Irish music on English concertina for many years now, and although I was often advised to turn to Anglo instead I never did. I find the challenge of producing a sound on my EC that suits Irish music as good as any music made by an AC quite interesting. In fact playing Irish music on an AC would be too easy (for me); there are zillions doing that already, and there are only very few that can make convincing good Irish music on an EC.

Good for you, chiton1. I'm sure we will enjoy hearing a sample of your playing.

For inspiration, check out this outstanding example of Irish on English: Paddy Fahy jig. The player also recorded his own bouzouki backing.

#13 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 07:06 AM

All Concertina systems are brilliant in terms of compactness and logic of the keyboard for particular type of music they were designed for.
I wouldn't necessarily call concertinas "melody instruments", as they are equally capable of been "harmony instruments".
So to master the keyboard of any kind of concertina is not a big deal, it's only the matter of some short time.
But to master the sound of a concertina is tremendously more difficult, then of an accordion.


On the nail, as usual, Misha!

Compactness is obviously the common denominator of the concertinas. And the small size that calls for compactness also makes the bellows control so decisive. A little change in the applied force does a lot.

As to melody/harmony instruments, I'd even go farther and say that the German diatonic system, as in the Anglo-German concertina, seems most logical from the point of view of harmony playing. No wonder, because the German popular music it was designed for was dominated by chording instruments like guitar, zither and cittern, and the musical forms (e.g. waltz) depended on rhythmic chords.

I see the English concertina as a more melody-oriented system. Its background was the English drawing-room, where there was a piano to accompany melody instruments like the violin, so the concertina didn't primarily need chording capability there. Interestingly, the English lower classes, who had no pianos, flocked to the German concertina, and later to the Anglo!

But of course the Anglo can be played melodically, and the English is more amenable to chording than the violin.

"Melodic anglo concertina = ITM," one might say. ITM is fiddle (i.e. violin) music. Why don't ITM musicians like the violin-like English? As Dan Worrel points out ( http://www.concertin...eland/index.htm ), it is a quirk of history that the concertina used in Ireland is the Anglo and not the English.

Some say that the Anglo sounds more Irish because it has more "punch" (that stupid clichee about Irishmen always wanting a fight ... :angry: ) - but what has the ability to emphasise notes got to do with the fingering system?

???

Perhaps it's not the fingering system at all. Perhaps it's the straps - and here we come to your idea of "mastering the sound".
With the Anglo, the heel of your hand is firmly on the end of the concertina, and the back of your hand is pressed firmly against the wide, heavy strap. The whole strength of your arms is directly linked to the bellows, and there's no slack to take up when you change bellows direction. You are in immediate control of the dynamics.

Recordings I've heard of English concertinas do sound rather anaemic by comparison to typical Anglo (not just ITM) recordings. But perhaps this is because of the tenuous "line of command" between your brain and the bellows. The last joints of your thumb and pinkie are not exactly the most robust actuator rods!

Could the leatherwork be more decisive than the button layout?

Cheers,
John

#14 tombilly

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 09:43 AM

Some say that the Anglo sounds more Irish because it has more "punch" ... but what has the ability to emphasise notes got to do with the fingering system?


Surely because the Anglo is diatonic or whatever it's called - more frequent changes of direction are generally employed. The change of bellows direction helps add punch or lift. I suppose you can change direction on the EC if you wish (I've never played one) but do not most EC players play in and out in big sweeps like piano accordions etc, changing direction mostly as the bellows is too full or empty?

#15 m3838

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:07 AM

Some say that the Anglo sounds more Irish because it has more "punch" ... but what has the ability to emphasise notes got to do with the fingering system?


Surely because the Anglo is diatonic or whatever it's called - more frequent changes of direction are generally employed. The change of bellows direction helps add punch or lift. I suppose you can change direction on the EC if you wish (I've never played one) but do not most EC players play in and out in big sweeps like piano accordions etc, changing direction mostly as the bellows is too full or empty?

The push/pull action definitely acts like an automatic emphasizer, but not very precise. And increasingly useless in the "further" keys. But luckily beginners, who dearly need a "emphasizer" of the push/pull, mostly play in home keys, and as they progress (very few of them, actually), they find ways to play more dynamically in other keys.
The English playing, it seems like, begins in any key the melody was written in, rarely transposed, so often I see two, three sharps right away, but more often I see flats. And gradually (and rarely too) playing becomes more dynamic and push/pull oriented.
But yes, I agree, English bellows changes are less frequent, however I disagree that it depends on fullness of the bellows. It's more oriented towards completion of the phrase.
Leather work has lots to do with the comfort and accentuation, no doubt.
Traditionaly reeded instruments do sound better to me, when played melodiously with very little, but pronounced harmony snippets. In which case Anglo is easier. So it does look like Anglo was designed as harmony instrument, and English as melody. That's why the pinkie rest is there, to place fifth and forth fingers there, and play with other two. Very comfortable and logical. Any other ways of using pinkie rests are anatomically compromised, and playing seated with such a small and light instrument seems like a compromise as well.

#16 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:16 AM

Some say that the Anglo sounds more Irish because it has more "punch" ... but what has the ability to emphasise notes got to do with the fingering system?


Surely because the Anglo is diatonic or whatever it's called - more frequent changes of direction are generally employed. The change of bellows direction helps add punch or lift. I suppose you can change direction on the EC if you wish (I've never played one) but do not most EC players play in and out in big sweeps like piano accordions etc, changing direction mostly as the bellows is too full or empty?


Yes, of course the diatonic arrangement forces you to change bellows direction at certain points in a tune. But it also prevents you from doing so at other points. Even on the Bandonion, with upwards of 50 buttons, you're never quite free to choose whether or not to change direction.
Theoretically, with the English system, you're always free to choose reversal or no reversal. So why do some English players go to the lengths of learning Anglo just to get more "punch"?

The only answer I can think of (never having played an English) is that the thumb and pinkie are just not adequate for all that energetic push-pull. I can imagine that old Wheatstone was thinking of a nice, classical legato rather than a boisterous jig when he invented those thumb-straps!

How about it, you English players - can you "punch" out a dance tune with heavy and light beats (like a Strathspey, for instance) on the English?

Cheers,
John

#17 Larry Stout

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:23 AM

For inspiration, check out this outstanding example of Irish on English: Paddy Fahy jig. The player also recorded his own bouzouki backing.


Very nice!

Many English concertina players may be using longer legato phrases on the bellows because they can and they like the effect. Putting punch in the playing involves both bellows control and a certain amount of stacatto fingering. Adding appropriate harmony (something I'm certainly not good at yet) takes more thought.

Is it possible that the accenting in Anglo playing comes from a different set of muscles than the accenting in English playing: on anglo it seems to come from upper body (chest, upper arms) and on EC from wrist and hands?

A similar thing happens in bowing a fiddle-- delicacy in bowing comes from the wrist and hand, heavy accent more from the arm. Shuffle bowing tends to be from the arm, decorations like the rapid triplet with bowing reversal and the snap found in Scottish fiddle styles use the wrist and hand.

#18 Steve_freereeder

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:32 AM

How about it, you English players - can you "punch" out a dance tune with heavy and light beats (like a Strathspey, for instance) on the English?


Have a listen to the likes of Alastair Anderson (sorry can't find any YouTube clips just at the moment)....
or Simon Thoumire
http://uk.youtube.co...h?v=LiSnLR6Ojuk



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