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Everything posted by Spinningwoman

  1. Does it end with a performance? I'm nowhere good enough to take part but it is quite near me so I'd be interested to be an audience.
  2. I'm a recent beginner - I started with an impulse buy of a cheap Scarlatti from amazon, knowing that I would want something better if I continued with it. I watched ebay for a while just to learn more about what to look for, and just before Christmas bought an instrument that was being sold close enough to my home to go and check it out. The advice to buy from a specialist is good, obviously. However, from my perspective as a non expert swimming among the ebay sharks, if looking at ebay or similar he things to watch for in adverts are: The obvious, do all buttons play etc. Does it just say that they play, or that they are in tune? The way this is described, you can usually pick up if this is an instrument that the seller or someone else has been playing, or has it been sitting in someone's attic since 1895. If the latter, then however nice it looks, there is probably work that needs to be done. The early concertinas were not tuned to what we now call concert pitch, so might need complete retuning to play with other instruments. An instrument that has been played will usually have a good amount of information about tuning, work that has been done, any bellows issues etc, and a set of photos that lets you feel you have had a good look round. Condition of the bellows is important - an old one with original bellows might let a bit of air through even with no visible leaks. However, bellows can be fixed/replaced. Mine are a bit wheezy but still play fine for me. Are the reeds brass or steel? Brass is quieter, sweeter maybe, great for practice but less good for a noisy session. I was very happy to buy brass and like the sound, but if I ever get good enough to play with others I will probably buy a steel reeded instrument. If you force too much volume through brass reeds, they will apparently go out of tune quite quickly. Brass reeded should be cheaper. How many folds does the bellows have? (You count the 'mountains' not the valleys and don't count the two ends.). 4 folds is a more budget instrument. If the keys are bone, and have the note letters engraved on them and the C keys stained red, this may well indicate that it was sold as a 'tutor' instrument and so will be at the cheaper range. However, the marked keys were also offered as an option on more expensive models, so you can't just go by that. If you can visit, take something to check tuning - I took an ipad with the 'magic stave' app and a layout of what note goes where. Remember to check each note on the bellows in and the bellows out as the reeds are separate. Check the bellows in both directions by holding it by one end and seeing how long it takes for gravity to fill/empty them. For comparison, I bought a 4 fold original bellows brass reeded 1855 Wheatstone tutor model (though apparently made by Lachenal while he was still working for Wheatstone) which had had new pads fitted and was well tuned to concert pitch for £350 (GBP). I'm very pleased with it. The bellows are not perfectly tight, a couple of lower valves burble a bit and one of the highest reeds is a little bit reluctant on the 'pull'. All those things could be fixed, probably even by me if I worked up the confidence, certainly by a restorer. It had been regularly played until its owner traded up. I can't hear myself at all when playing in a group which at the moment is probably a good thing! Instruments sold by random antique dealers and people with attics tend to be way overpriced because they have seen a concertina sell for thousands and have no idea of the range of condition, quality and rarity. I was put off the instrument you are looking at because the seller only seemed to describe it as an object, not as a musical instrument. Hope that helps.
  3. Thanks, I might see if it would be feasible to come over for your workshop at least - one of the other relative beginners lives nearby and I know she is planning to drop in just to listen to some of the sessions.
  4. I'd like to be, but it seems that's their 'intermediate/advanced' weekend and they are discouraging beginners from taking part.
  5. Well, my point was a more general one, really - practically every village in England has a church with wonderful acoustics, and most village churches are open and not heavily used on weekdays. Obviously I can't speak for other parishes, but I would think it would be very likely that a lot of them would be happy to have musicians practicing. Heating and loos might not be ideal, though!
  6. I am resurrecting this thread on almost its anniversary to say that I am the vicar of seven little country churches, all of which are open from dawn to dusk and have wonderful acoustics, though sadly not much in the way of heating on days with no services planned. People often ask to come in and play the organ or piano, and I see no reason why we wouldn't be delighted to have other musicians come and enjoy the space. I always sing in empty churches - it makes me feel amazing! A small donation or better still an offer to play sometimes would guarantee a welcome in most churches, I would think!
  7. It's not the strap that is the problem but the fixing points.
  8. I'm near Exeter in Devon - I'll be going to the WCCP day at Ruishton on Sunday (afternoon only as I'm working in the morning) if it is anyone who might be likely to be there.
  9. Glad to see this went for a decent price - it sounded like it was a step better than the one I went for, but the other one was local so I could try it out and get it under the Christmas tree. Watching concertinas on ebay recently it looks like people like the bidding to start low enough that they get a bit of a 'run up'.
  10. You're quite right, I added in too many G's , the last in each case should be B.
  11. Ah! Well, I'm very new on the scene, and the references I found on this forum all referred to people searching through the ledgers, so I assumed no-one had got round to indexing them. Anyway, I'm glad to have it confirmed that I didn't just have my eyes crossed and it really isn't there. They were interesting to look through, anyway - interesting to see the annual servants wage listed in the almanac used as a production ledger was 2guineas - even considering that that would be with 'all found' it still puts the instrument prices in perspective.
  12. Listening to these, there seems to be two opinions on the opening few notes - does it go DGGGG or DGF#GG??? The former is how I think I sing it, but the second sounds right too.
  13. I have read some previous threads on this topic but didn't come up with the specific advice I was looking for. I'm quite new to playing English concertina, but have a definite preference for using a neck strap to help keep my hand position consistent while playing. (The fact that I'm also a weaver and always pleased to find a new purpose in life for woven bands is a secondary consideration!) On the Scarlatti I started with, I simply put the thumbstrap screws down through the thumbstrap and the neck strap so the the neck strap was fixed at the same point as the thumbstrap on the top of the instrument and that seemed to work well. However, on my new 1855 wheatstone that isn't going to work as the thumbstrap screws are not long enough to go through the extra thickness of the neck strap and still screw in securely, and I don't want to risk damaging the thread. As a stopgap I have attached the ends of the strap to the metal bars on the ends of the concertina under which the thumbstraps pass. This feels secure and not putting too much strain on a single screw, but attaching to the ends is not ideal. Would it be reasonable to add an an attachment point on the top next to the thumbstrap screws? If so, how? I believe the thumbstrap screws are not screwed directly into the wood, but into a metal thread embedded in the wood. The strap I am using is about half an inch wide. I did wonder about the suggestion to put a strap around the ends and attach the strap to that, but I have some doubts that I could make that secure enough, particularly since it would have to go over the large flat heads of the thumbstrap screws.
  14. Would it originally have had a fabric screen under the fretwork? I quite like being able to see the pads working, but other concertinas I have seen have had a gauze screen, presumable to keep dust and worse out.
  15. Thanks for that, Stephen - I think I've looked through them all now and frustratingly found 7480 and 7483 but no 7481! I'm mildly surprised no-one has done an index by number - it wouldn't take a whole lot more time than looking through them al, and could be built up page by page. Maybe a joint effort?
  16. Might that explain why I don't seem to be able to find more than one or two numbers in the 74nn range in the 1855/56 ledgers?
  17. I love my new-to-me concertina! I thought I would find it difficult at first to switch but I was soon playing the carols I had learned on the Scarlatti and some Folk songs from another Christmas present, William Coles' book, and I'm pleased to say that the musty smell from the bellows is much reduced already. The serial no is 7481 - looking it up on the list gives a date of 1855 - is there any other information around about instruments from that date, like names of craftsmen etc?
  18. I was talking in the local Tesco to an elderly lady who lives near me - the subject got on to the Salvation Army (she once met general booth's granddaughter while on holiday apparently) and I mentioned I was learning to play the concertina. She got very excited and said that her son and daughter-in-law both used to play but don't any more because they think 'it's too old fashioned'. They are local too, so there are two more players within ten miles of me and I already know of two others.
  19. Thanks, I do have Dave's book. I thought I was going to have to dismantle the Scarlatti to stop buttons from sticking, but sorted it out with a little gentle persuasion instead
  20. I can't resist posting a bit about this although I won't get my hands on it until Christmas Day. I had intended to take things slowly looking for an upgrade to the Scarlatti English I have been learning on, but my husband was stuck for present ideas and this one came up locally so we went to have a look and bought it. It is a Wheatstone 4 fold bellows with brass reeds and bone buttons, marked with the note letters. It has been restored and played regularly by someone who has now bought a better instrument. There is no gauze under the fretwork so I can see that the pads are all neat and new looking. I tested every note against a tuner on my ipad and they are all good to concert pitch. There is no air button. It has a very sweet sound, not loud which to be honest suits me at the moment as I am practicing and playing for Myself, not performing. The serial number looks as if the restorer stamped it on a piece of the leather used for the pads, so perhaps the original was lost? It looks consistent with the nearest example in the Horniman archive. Its main fault is that the bellows are original, not appear patched at least on the outside, smell a bit musty and though I wasn't able to track a specific leak, they are not perfectly tight, though definitly playable. However, if that turns out not to be fixable I wouldn't mind having them replaced, maybe with a 5-fold as the lower notes seem to use quite a lot of air. That may be partly technique, though, as the Scarlatti takes quite a strenuous pump to play, whereas this one speaks at the slightest whisper of air by comparison.
  21. I came across a youtube by 'harpsichordkid' called 'Softly and Tenderly English Concertina' www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp_WrenN8Jw I loved it, and noticed that he was playing what looked like a cheap Chinese concertina rather like my Scarlatti. The more cheap and cheerful instruments that are available, the more chance people, especially young people, will be able to give it a try. I also think the playability of these cheap instruments is better than they are given credit for by those used to 'the real thing'. An experienced player tried mine and hated it because it felt much harder and slower to work, but of course if it is your first instrument you just take it as it is. Even though I am very excited to be getting a 'proper' instrument for Christmas, I don't regret starting with the Scarlatti at all, and would be happy to go on playing it. I hope it will go on to start someone else off at some point.
  22. OK, now the latest additions. The English Concertina Absolute Beginners by Alex Wade and Dave Mallinson is great. You can also buy the accompanying CD which has all the tunes played at beginner speed with a counted intro by Alex, so you can eventually play along with them as well as listening to see what they ought to sound like. This is a really great book which has you playing real tunes right from the beginning and provides lots of material that is carefully chosen to introduce extra notes keys etc in a sensible and gradual way. It is also very helpful in marking bellows movements to assist with phrasing. I only have one small beef with it - why oh why oh why did they choose to number the fingers in scale order rather than the order they occur on the human hand? In other words, unlike any other tutor I have seen, finger 1 is the index finger on left hand, finger 2 the index finger on the right, finger 3 the middle finger on left, finger 4 the middle on right etc etc. What? When I am trying to find a note, and see a number 2 above the staff, my natural response is to use my 2nd finger, not my first. Fortunately, only the first few tunes have this labelling, but I found it positively confusing and unhelpful. The terms 'first, second and third fingers' are part of the language, after all, not just a teaching convention and the 'scale order' is unhelpful for a beginner because that is what the book is supposed to be teaching you, not something you already know. However, it is a very small point about a fantastically helpful and enjoyable book. Along with that, I also bought the book and CD for Dave Mallinson's Easy Peasy Tunes - not specifically for Concertina but very applicable and with lots to enjoy. Another great book, thank you.
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