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Everything posted by MJGray

  1. I have not played a Wren (I started on a very cheap 20-button Hohner and traded up to a Concertina Connection Clover once I decided that I wanted to pursue playing the instrument), but here's a thread in which some folks were not super impressed: It depends what you want to do. For Irish music, you definitely need the 30-button design. Keep in mind that it's hard to get a "good" musical instrument of any kind for less than $500. For that budget, all you can really hope for is "good enough for now". Mike
  2. Agreed on Gary's books, and his "1-2-3" book in particular does a nice job of ramping up to fairly complex arrangements. I'd also second what Mikefule said about playing in octaves. This is an excellent way to enrich the sound of your playing, and gets both hands involved quickly. New forum member Kathryn Wheeler recently posted a lovely arrangement of a tune (in the General Discussion forum) where she uses octave playing extensively. It's an old-fashioned, but very effective style, and personally, I love the way it sounds. -Mike
  3. 🙂 Or you can just play a bit each day on whatever tune you want and just have a good time. Also a valid strategy! It'll take longer to "get good", but if you're having fun, who cares? It all depends on your goals.
  4. Examples I pulled off a quick YouTube search (solo playing in very simple settings): From Gary Coover, harmonic style - combining melody (mostly right hand) with chords and rhythmic harmony accompaniment (mostly left hand): From Sarah Thomsen, Irish trad style - mostly a single melody line with lots of ornaments, similar to how other instruments are used in Irish music: Gary and others can fill you in on the detailed technical differences, but my feeling, as a fairly unsophisticated musician, is that harmonic style playing is more old-fashioned and fits "more naturally" on the Anglo vs. ITM, which is more technically demanding, but has a dynamic living tradition with more active high-level players.
  5. If you're interested in the history of the Anglo concertina and the role it's played in music in countries around the world (including Australia), you can't beat Dan Worrall's "The Anglo-German Concertina - A Social History", available for free in two volumes on archive.org: https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_1-thWE5XRmsC https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_JKZO1aevsiIC Fascinating stuff!
  6. I started in more or less the same place. Luckily, the Anglo was designed to be easy to learn to play! There are also lots of learning resources available, both modern and historical. What kind of music are you interested in playing? This thread in the "Teaching and Learning" forum is a great resource: The most important thing, of course, is to have fun! Mike
  7. I sort of agree here. You can play any kind of music on any kind of instrument, but each type makes certain things easier. Anglos sacrifice being able to play easily in non-home row keys for simplifying rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment. English and Duet systems make other compromises. If you're a virtuoso musician, it doesn't matter, but if you're not planning to dedicate your life to the instrument, it may be more fun to pick an instrument that is optimized for the kind of music you find most interesting and fun to play.
  8. 👆What David said! The Button Box is great, and they will be able to help you narrow in on the right instrument for you. For a very broad overview, Anglo concertinas are mostly used for folk music and are designed to make harmony easy (at least in their home keys), English concertinas are fully chromatic, more melodic (being originally designed for classical music) and less rhythmic, and duet concertinas are meant to allow more complex arrangements in many keys.
  9. 20-key instruments are great for learning, and work very nicely for fairly simple harmonic arrangements in the two keys they are focused on (typically C and G). A lot of the historical manuals are for 20-key instruments, and Gary Coover has a couple of excellent modern tutors for them. I played a 20-key for quite a while before trading up. 30-key Anglos allow you to play in other keys (more or less easily, mostly less) and give you additional options for direction (push vs. pull) on some useful notes. If you're interested in Irish style playing, this is essential, but it's less important for other styles. My understanding is that the 26-key instruments have the important extra buttons for playing in, say, the key of D, but lack a few of the handy bass notes at the left end of the top row. I use those a fair bit, but certainly wouldn't miss the furthest right couple of buttons on the other side. Mike
  10. Fantastic resource! Thank you for compiling this. A small addition to the 20-button list, and a personal favorite of mine: Merrill's Harmonic Method (1872) - https://archive.org/details/merrillsharmonic00merr And while I was looking for that, I found this for English (which I don't play): The Concertina Without A Master (1857; Case, Sedgwick, & Ruttinger) - https://archive.org/details/concertinawithou00case Mike
  11. If you look at the music in very early 19th C. Anglo tutors, they're about evenly split between dance tunes, music hall songs, and hymns. I think it was always meant to be able to play a wide range of "genres".
  12. In my experience, that happens on a regular 6-month cycle with no extra effort needed, but YMMV. ?
  13. To be honest, I've had something like this problem, and it was a big turnoff from getting into playing Irish music. Now, I'm not very technically accomplished, but I've definitely encountered folks with the attitude that if you don't know the locally "right" version of all the tunes and can't get it all by ear immediately, you're not welcome to play. That kind of gatekeeping just makes it less fun if you're not already at a very high technical level. Presumably there are Irish music scenes that are friendlier to new folks and have the kind of healthier attitude Gary describes above. (My personal solution was to stop going to Irish sessions and play other kinds of music, but I also mostly play solo for my own amusement. I don't have any particular emotional attachment to Irish music, and there's plenty of other things I can spend my time on. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish, I guess.)
  14. I have not played a Minstrel, but you can mark down another satisfied customer for the Clover!
  15. I started on a cheap (~$100) 20-button Anglo, and had a glorious time honking away at it for a year or so before I shelled out for a fancier instrument. It was a great way to figure out if I thought it was fun to play without a serious investment up front.
  16. Most of the 19th century instructionals have regular sheet music, although often also with tablature (of one sort or another). Most of them don't include accompaniment, though. And, of course, that does nothing for "showing" rather than "reading", but it may be useful regardless. A few examples: https://archive.org/details/merrillsharmonic00merr/page/18/mode/2up https://archive.org/details/imslp-for-the-german-concertina-sedgwick-alfred-blair/page/n27/mode/2up https://archive.org/details/winnerseasysyste00winn/page/12/mode/2up Mike
  17. Interesting. I'm no expert (quite the opposite!), but I definitely use both pinkies when I play anglo. I play mostly in a harmonic / octave style and am very very bad at Irish style, for what it's worth.
  18. Not sure what you mean by "Jones 26", exactly, unless it's an antique Jones 26-button. That being said, of the choices you've listed, the Swan looks like by far the most reliable choice. The others could be OK, but without playing them in person, I'd be skeptical.
  19. Another consideration is that there is much more instructional material available for the Anglo than for the other systems. (Personally, I typically play by myself, so I also really like the Anglo's capacity to play both melody and accompaniment at the same time. A single melody line always sounds kind of sparse in my hands, but then again, I'm no good at Irish music on any instrument.)
  20. Jim, You might be interested to read Dan Worrall's two-volume "The Anglo-German Concertina", available on archive.org at this link: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A"Worrall%2C+Dan+Michael" That would answer all your questions about the history of the Anglo, and has fascinating chapters on the use of the instrument throughout the world, including African Zulu and Boer musical traditions. Here's some great concertina music that certainly falls outside the traditions you list, anyway:
  21. William Kimber (foundational figure in modern Morris dancing) played a 20-button concertina, and there are plenty of old 78s and such that people have uploaded to YouTube. Here's a good one:
  22. Something to consider is that Gary Coover's "Pirate Songs for Concertina" exists, and is written for the 30-button Anglo. It's a very nice collection of sea shanties and related tunes.
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