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James McBee

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Everything posted by James McBee

  1. Interesting. I had a concertina which used--I believe--the DIX reeds, and it had the opposite problem. The bass and mid-range were fairly convincing, but the treble notes required vastly more air, and were consequently swallowed up when playing chords. It was a deal breaker for me in the long run. As it was explained to me, this was a consequence of their shoe design, rather than the tongues themselves. I preferred it to the sound of accordion reedded instruments, but it didn't quite have the quality that made me fall in love with the concertina in the first place.
  2. Dana raises some interesting issues. I definitely wouldn't advocate making button material a principle factor in a purchasing decision. The difference between buttons is nothing like the difference between a fast instrument with high quality reeds, and a wheezy old Bastari, or the like. It's not even as significant as the difference between two different heights of hand rest. And of course, addressing ones technique will likely pay more dividends than changing button material. But as someone whose hands shake--especially when I'm nervous or on my third cup of coffee--I do believe that little bit of extra purchase has saved me from a flubbed note here and there. That said, I probably didn't fully appreciate the effort that went into turning those bones into buttons. The concertina is in a strange place as instruments go, insomuch as it was designed to be built in factory (albeit perhaps a small one), and now is built exclusively by individual makers (at least in the case of true concertina reeded instruments). Between the range of skills required and the necessary tooling, we are lucky to have as many makers as we do. But that's a subject for another discussion. P.S. Dana - Best to you and yours as well. Wish I could make it down there on the regular again, but life has a way of getting in the way. Still, #35 brings me a lot of joy on a daily basis, so thank you again for that. Cheers.
  3. I had a concertina with Delrin buttons, and I found them to be too slick for my taste. I have essential tremor, and materials with a bit more purchase work better for me. Thankfully, when I ordered my Kensington from Dana Johnson--who usually uses Delrin--he was able to accommodate me by making some bone ones. (Thanks again Dana!) The bone had a lot of grip at first, but has been polished by my fingers over time. It is still nowhere near as slippery as Delrin, and provides a happy medium between purchase and speed. I had the same thought as you when I was playing my old instrument, and wondered whether I was blaming the material for my own faults. But I would echo what others have said. If another material suits you better, there is nothing wrong with that. For a lot of people Delrin is probably ideal. That doesn't mean it is ideal for you.
  4. Here you are folks, as requested. I should add the disclaimer that this was recorded on my phone, so the sound quality leaves something to be desired. Also, the fact of recording tends to unnerve me a bit, so please excuse the odd flub. Still, should give you a general idea of the sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQuXUlt2Zyg&feature=youtu.be
  5. Alright folks. Asking $2,600. Considering an ebay listing, but would rather sell here.
  6. I'm offering my Edgley Heritage CG concertina for sale. This one is Ebony with bloodwood trim, a hand rubbed finish, and a custom fitted case. The buttons are Jeffries layout. Will entertain all reasonable offers. You can read more about these here: http://www.concertinas.ca/heritage.html Please feel free to message me with any questions.
  7. It's not my intention to stir the pot unnecessarily, or to stray into politics, but I wouldn't be too hasty to declare the policy insane. I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made, but it wasn't the result of some nefarious plot hatched by thuggish bureaucrats intent on depriving the world of music. This subject pops up regularly on music forums, and it seems there is a great deal of resistance on the part of musicians to admit that they might be part of the problem. I'm not saying that buying a century old concertina with ivory buttons is in any way wrong, but I would be willing to wager that not all of the wood in the thousands or Brazilian rosewood guitars made in the last few decades, came from stumps, or old barns, or wherever the suppliers claimed. Put yourself in the position of the folks at the Fish and Wildlife service. How is one to distinguish between pre-ban ivory, and new ivory being passed off as antique? I'm not saying that these rules were well crafted, but by the same token, there is a very real problem, and most people aren't truly interested in grappling with it. It's not just the nouveau riche of China, or Russian oligarchs. We are consuming the resources of the world at an unsustainable rate. Viewed from a certain angle, the demand for these products is a problem in and of itself. Most people wouldn't dream of buying a piece of ivory that they knew for a fact came from a recently slaughtered elephant, but unscrupulous suppliers and a bit of willful ignorance are all it takes to decimate a species.
  8. My cat was intrigued by the concertina for a month or two, but then she lost interest. On the other hand, if I am listening to a recording of piping, she comes running from wherever she is in the house. If it is a uilleann piper she just sits there staring at the stereo; if it is a highland piper she, uh, 'sings' along.
  9. Sandy Bell's still has music (or at least it did around this time last year). There was even an English concertina player at one of the session I observed. The caliber of the playing was pretty high as I recall, but the bar was so loud and crowded on the nights I was there, that it was a bit difficult to hear unless you could snag a spot near the musicians.
  10. That's an interesting perspective. I really agonized when choosing a system for the very reasons you mention, and seriously considered some manner of duet. But ultimately, it was the sound of the anglo that I fell in love with. It does strike me as a little odd though that the anglo is so often labeled as limited or diatonic (within concertina circles at least) given that it is chromatic melodically speaking. A violin is extremely limited when it comes to chords, and a flute can't play them at all, but both those instruments traverse a wide variety of musical genre. Heck, the anglo has far more chordal and contrapuntal potential than most instruments that can sustain a note. True, it can't do everything that a duet or CBA can, but it seems to me there is an expressive quality to bisonoric instruments which is hard to match through other means. Mike - I certainly didn't mean to imply that there are no concertina players in Baltimore, or that I am some authority on even just the Irish scene. All I meant was that, as someone who attends a fair number of concerts across a range of acoustic genres, it does seem to me that the concertina has considerably less profile in this country than even say, accordion or pipes, much less most stringed instruments. But hey, I could be wrong, and I admit that I haven't heard too much contra dance. But more importantly, I'd like to thank you and Jim for the invitation. What day are we talking about? It's a busy month, but if I'm free, I would definitely be interested in meeting some other players. He's definitely invited, and I can guarantee there will be at least one Jeffries for him to sample! I'm afraid I couldn't do it justice yet...Certainly not in front of other people. I must admit, while the bisonoric thing hasn't posed the problems I feared it would, and in fact has proved a pleasure in a lot of ways, I do still tend to get flustered when playing for even an audience of one, and soon I am pushing on what should be the draw, and vice versa. But still, I thank you for the invitation, and I really hope I can make it, if only to listen, and maybe pick up a few pointers.
  11. I couldn't tell you exactly how long it takes to build a good mandolin, but as I understand it, it is substantially more than for a good guitar (assuming we're comparing an archtop mandolin to a flattop guitar). Anyway, I'm not sure that you can say that no one is hunting for an 80-year old guitar, given that--as you point out--prices have continued to rise. But I assume you mean that vintage Martins have largely moved into the sphere of wealthy collectors, while most musicians, whether professional or hobbyist, have moved on to at least equally great, and in some cases arguably superior modern instruments. Anyway, I certainly hope you are correct about where the concertina market is headed. Heck, though I take some pleasure in playing an instrument which around these parts at least, is exceedingly rare, I would certainly like to see more people exploring the concertina's considerable potential. Most of the ones you've seen, or most of the ones you've seen sitting unsold? Either way, they're far fewer than Jeffries with 30 or even 38 buttons, but they're also not as much in demand, especially by the Irish, who still seem to be driving the market. And keep in mind that there is basically only one market. Low demand in the US won't lower prices in the US when the Irish and English have access to American sellers through the internet. Even auction houses take internet bids these days. Well, now that you mention it, I would say that in the time I have been perusing listings, I have seen more 45 button Jeffries period...Or at least when you exclude auction listings for instruments in poor or unknown condition. Which could be an indication that the 30-38 button ones are being snapped up before they even make it to the internet. Then again, putting aside Jeffries for a moment, watching the classified section here, and also Ebay, I do wonder about the state of the concertina market, and not just here in the US. But I'll leave that to those of you with more experience to discuss.
  12. That is all relative. There are a lot (and I mean A LOT) concertina players over here and the demand for good concertinas is high. I have no doubt that you're right, though I'm not sure where "over here" is. Presumably Ireland or the UK... I will readily admit that I am speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in the USA. But as someone who is fairly familiar with the local Irish music scene in my mid sized American city, I can honestly say that I have never encountered anyone playing the concertina at a session, and have only twice heard concertinas being played in concerts (both times, by touring Irish musicians). Given the differences in the sizes of the populations we're discussing, I think it's fair to say that the market for concertinas is vastly smaller than that for many other acoustic instruments. Just check out the (very much incomplete) builders list over at mandolin cafe, and compare it the number of people making concertinas. So certainly the supply is a lot smaller, which certainly keeps prices higher. As to the issue of demand, I could be dead wrong. It does seem that a number of Jeffries have sat for a long time without selling, though in fairness, most of the ones I have seen have been 45 button instruments.
  13. I'm a new player, so perhaps I'm not qualified to speak to this, but it does seem that prices are a bit inflated. Which is not to say that a Jeffries isn't necessarily worth what people are asking, but rather that asking prices don't seem to have come down much since the recession, and it seems that many of the Jeffries that have been offered for sale recently, aren't moving at the current prices. Perhaps this is a function of how small the concertina world is. I came to the concertina from the mandolin, and while mandolin players are extremely rare relative to guitarists or even violinists, they are extremely numerous compared to concertina players (especially players of any one system). Thus there are many more mandolins out there, and many more musicians who might find themselves in need of raising some quick cash, even if that means taking a multi K hit on an instrument. Which, of course, depresses the market for everyone. Whereas, it would seem that concertina owners, being so few and far between, are mostly content to wait for either a buyer to come along who is willing to pay whatever it takes, or for the market to rebound. The question is whether the latter will happen. It seems to me that it would take either a major upswing of the Irish economy, or an increase in the popularity of the instrument worldwide. Neither of which is out of the question, so it's hard to fault folks for holding onto a precious instrument, and refusing to take a loss.
  14. Pretty much half the concertina greats in the Irish tradition...all at once. If you haven't seen it, check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU-Zk6NjfNs
  15. Thanks all for the informative responses. That's what I was afraid of. I would add, that I wasn't thinking about a Lachenal, which I agree, almost certainly wouldn't be worth the effort. But I've seen a few 26 button Jeffries come and go, in a price range that I should be able to reach in a few months. The price of the 30 buttons, I wouldn't be able to justify to myself, even if I did manage to scrape together the cash. My thought was that I could buy a 26 button, and if I found that I couldn't live without the extra accidentals, have a professional make some modifications. It doesn't sound like that would be a very sound plan, or at least not something that I should count on being able to do. I still wouldn't rule out a 26 button. Anyway, thanks again for all your help. At the very least, I've learned something about these odd little beasts.
  16. Thanks Dave. I'm not surprised if it is a common question, but I certainly couldn't find anything on the subject. Then again, my web search skills may leave something to be desired. And I figured that this was probably a question that no one could answer definitively without seeing the instrument in question, but I thought I'd try to find out if anyone had done it before on any concertina, and if so, what results they achieved. Hi Matthew. I've thought about that as well. It's a little early for me to say for sure, but I would add that I am not solely interested in Irish music. Playing in genres where one doesn't normally hear the concertina, is no small part of the appeal. I'm looking forward to seeing where the instrument takes me. 26 buttons might prove all I will ever need, but I would feel a lot more secure in making a purchase, if I thought I could add the remaining accidentals at some point down the road.
  17. I was thinking in terms of concertina reeded Anglos. I'm currently hunting for an Anglo, and most of the better concertina reeded instruments are beyond my means. The 26 button instruments, however, seem to often go for less than half what the 30 buttons do. Of course, I could take what seems to be the usual route, and buy a 26 button Anglo, save for an upgrade, and hope to get back everything I put into the 26 when it comes time to sell; but that approach has some drawbacks. Personally, I don't enjoy the process of selling, and I have a tendency to become attached/accustomed to an instrument. In other words, while there is a certain thrill to trading up, I tend to prefer to dance with the one who brought me, as long as it can be made to meet my requirements. Anyway, this thought struck me, and I'm hoping to get an idea of what the practical obstacles would be. I too figured there would hypothetically be room on the reedpan. But hypotheticals often fail to account for unknown factors (I couldn't even find a picture of a 26 button's reedpan). Like you, I also wonder about the levers/action. Anyway, if the long and short of it is, that it would end up costing more in the long run than a 30 button, or if the result would likely be a poor player, then obviously I should abandon the whole idea. But if there's a good chance that it might work (and save me some money), I'm definitely interested in exploring it. I know some people might bridle at the notion, and perhaps I have insufficient reverence for the original designs, but it seems like adding the full row of accidentals to a quality vintage instrument, would be a worthwhile improvement.
  18. Forgive me if this is a foolish question, or if it has been discussed before (my searches haven't turned up much), but I'm wondering how difficult it would be to add reeds and buttons to an existing concertina. It's obviously possible to some degree, as the Button Box currently has a 20 (now 21) button Jeffries with an added C, but would the modifications become prohibitive to go from say, a 26 button layout, to the standard 30? I'm guessing the answer is yes, but it seemed worth asking. Cheers.
  19. I should add--a number of people inquired as to what type of music I am interested in playing. As I alluded to in my original post, I listen to a lot of Irish music, but I'm certainly not interested in Irish music exclusively. I am, however, primarily interested in playing melody. Throwing in the odd chord or harmony would be nice, but I think I prefer a simpler (less keyboard like) rendition on the concertina...which would be more in keeping with my musical abilities anyway.
  20. I want to thank everyone again for the incredible outpouring of thoughtful responses. I can't say that I've reached any decisions other than to try all three systems if possible. Thanks Jim for the advice, and for the incredibly generous offer. I'm not in VA all that often (I don't know how you all deal with that traffic), but it it wouldn't be an intrusion, I'd definitely be interested meeting you all, and observing, next time you have a get together. I likely won't be making a purchase before the middle of summer, and even if I do, I will certainly have a lot to learn. Hi John, That's an excellent point, and perhaps the opposite side of how I was looking at it. I'm still not certain though. What really hooked me was a certain kind of concertina sound. Based on the videos, I'm not sure the hybrids really have that. But, buying a hybrid would certainly allow me to figure out whether the technique is within my abilities, before I sell off all my worldly possessions to get the tone I am after. Thanks Doug. I'm definitely leaning towards the anglo. As I said in my original post, the bisonoric thing worries me a bit, as I am not renowned for my coordination, and the logistics of the bellows work seems like one more thing to keep track of, but as you point out, the anglo is the sound that grabbed me, so it probably makes sense to give it a try. Greg is right about my being a fellow Baltimorean (or Baltimoron, as we sometimes say). I live in Waverly, if that means anything to you. First, congratulations on starting such an avalanche of responses on your second post! Of course, list members love to offer advice, and all that they've offered you is good. I could probably arrange for you to get together with a few people to try their 'tinas. I don't know any local duet players, but I know ango and EC players. We tend to be evangelical about concertina playing, of whatever system. One of us might even be able to lend you something. I play EC, for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is that there is an excellent EC teacher in Baltimore (Hampden). Having no experience in playing an instrument before I started at age 68, this was tremendously important (indeed, crucial) for me. It might be less necessary for you. And, yes, consider renting from the House of Musical Tradition in Takoma Park. It won't be a top of the line instrument, but it will give you entry. BTW, you can find YouTube videos of people playing entry-level instruments beautifully. Myself, I need a good instrument to play tolerably. PM me if you want. I'm also in the phone book (I know, archaic information technology). Mike Hi Mike, It's definitely Baltimoron...or at least it is amongst ourselves. I lived in Waverly for a while growing up, and I live in Hampden now. Small world. I'll definitely send you a PM. It would be great to meet some players in the area.
  21. Thanks to you all for taking the time to respond. It sounds like I really need to try and lay hands on a few different instruments. A good point, but I have some reservations. With a stringed instrument, it always seems to me that the better part of the tone is up to me. But with a stringed instrument, I can bend a note, or mute it, or alter the attack in any number of ways. With the concertina, I know that one can alter the bellows pressure or introduce a little tremolo and such, but on the whole the tone seems a bit more built in. I could be wrong about that, but that's the way it seems. I just haven't taken a real liking to the sound of the accordion reeded instruments that I've heard. And in some of the clips of Lachenals, it seems to me there is almost...I don't know how to put it...almost a delay between the depression of the button and the sound. I think I would lean towards Anglo, but it worries me that I might have to sell off all my instruments, just to buy something that I still wouldn't find wholly satisfying. I firmly believe that a great instrument can make one a better player, if only insomuch as it rewards one with a beautiful sound, and so encourages one to practice. Well, I'm thinking you all are right that there's no substitute for trying the thing out. As I said, the bisonoric thing is a little terrifying. I may need to take Matthew's suggestion, and see about renting an Anglo. I doubt an afternoon would be enough for me to figure out whether I can make it work. Yesterday, when I wrote my original post, I was really leaning towards English. Watching more videos on Youtube, I'm increasingly thinking there is something about the ornamentation on the Anglo, that I really love, and would have trouble replicating with another system. I thought a bit about the duet. Two things give me pause: a number of posts on the internet reference a lack of learning material, and then there is the size of the instrument. Most duets seem to be a bit on the large size as concertinas go. I have to admit, part of the appeal of the concertina is its diminutive nature. I like the idea of something that I can travel with, or even haul about town just in case an opportunity to play arises. But I would definitely entertain the notion of a duet.
  22. Hi All, I'm new to the forum, though I've been reading it obsessively for a few weeks. A little background: I only discovered the concertina recently. Or rather, I was aware of the existence of such an instrument, but thought of it only as a small accordion, associated mostly with a sort of cartoon notion of a sailor. Then this past Autumn, I heard Niall Vallely in concert. I was there to hear his brother Cillian, as I love the pipes (though, for a multitude of reasons, I would never attempt to play them). Anyway, I was blown away. Niall is clearly a wonderful musician and a great writer of tunes, but I was also immediately taken with the concertina itself. I played violin for a while as a child but never had the ear/intonation for it. Later I took up fretted instruments, but I always wished for an instrument with infinite (or near infinite) sustain. I thought about the accordion, but the sound didn't quite do it for me. Don't get me wrong, the accordion can be wonderful, but the tone of it seems a little limited somehow. To me, it's always either sort of joyful/raucous, or on occasion bluesy. The concertina is capable of all that, but also of a clarity which seems a bit more poignant, for lack of a better word. Perhaps its the double vs single reed thing. Anyway, I've been doing research, but I'm having a bit of trouble deciding whether it's the English or the Anglo for me, or indeed whether concertina is the right instrument at all. I've bought a number of CDs, and have been watching videos on Youtube, and the stuff I like best is almost all on Anglo. With that said, much as I might like to, I'll probably never be ripping through blistering jigs the way some of these folks can. O'Carolan is probably more my speed. And I have to say, the bisonoric thing scares me a bit. I love playing music, but I'm not particularly gifted. The level of coordination required with the Anglo seems formidable. The other side of that equation though, is that perhaps it is the push pull thing that makes the sound appealing. It's hard to say. The other consideration is price. Frankly, it was shocking to see how much a decent Anglo goes for. I don't have any extra money to throw into what, for me, will only ever be a hobby. So I will have to sell or trade some of my current instruments to make a purchase possible. I have a very nice mandolin that I wouldn't mind parting with, though the mandolin market is very soft now, and I wouldn't get close to what I paid for it. In order to get to even a decent Anglo I would probably also have to sell my tenor guitar, which I would be truly loath to see go. Even then, a Jeffries or better Wheatstone would be out of reach. In contrast, the mandolin alone should be worth a Wheatstone model 21 or 22, either of which seems like it might be closer to the sound I'm after than the hybrid Anglo that would probably end up being my other option. Anyway, any thoughts or guidance would be greatly appreciated. And on the off chance anyone is looking to get into stringed instruments, and has a steel-reeded metal-ended concertina that they would like to trade for a fairly unique, luthier made, archtop mandolin, send me a PM. Thanks very much for your help. Cheers, James
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