Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by sleepymonk

  1. 16 hours ago, LateToTheGame said:

    I am not sure I could play without my air release button.  In fact, I know I can't.   There might be something going on with your hand and wrist placement or there may be something wrong with the design of your concertina.  I have never played a concertina where I couldn't reach that button.   Depending solely on bellows direction for air control may limit speed or emphasis as you advance.     


    And I have seldom seen a concertina player playing standing up for any length of time.   So I wouldn't worry about that too much.   (Though I know of Morris players and parade bands that march or stand, and we can't forget those old Salvation Army bands back in the day,)  Most of us likely play sitting down most of the time.


    You’re right. I was temporarily using foam pads to help form a good hand position (curved, not flat). Now I don’t need the foam, so I can use the air button and reach all the rows.


    I saw a fantastic video on youTube of a guitar, bandoneon, and orchestra. The bandoneon player used a concert piano stool as a footstool to play standing up, with his left knee raised way up.

  2. Update: the foam grip helpers came off yesterday.


    As I progressed this week, I found that the left hand foam was interfering. As for the right hand, my fingers are now nicely curved, and I can both reach the far row and the air button without the foam.


    I did try an intermediary step of carving the foam away from the pinky sides to see if that helped with support.


    I’ve got the left strap fastened on a fretwork anchor point and the right strap is back screwed into the hand rest. I’ve tightened the straps so they feel secure but with some wiggle room for the index & second fingers.


    The scrapbook tape came away nicely, without residue.


    In the violin world, there are bow hold “jigs” for beginners. I would call the foam grips a useful temporary mod for beginners, like training wheels on a bike.


    Next step is to sand the left grip corner so it’s not as sharp where the strap used to anchor. It’s a bit irritating to my thumb (yes, I’ll remove the end before sanding, mask the fretwork, and do it in my woodworking shop away from the instrument).


    Thanks for all the suggestions in this thread!

  3. 5 minutes ago, Tradewinds Ted said:

    You are in luck, a quick google search came up with "Musical Instruments of Canada"  operated by the De Florio family in Toronto.  Their website accordionscanada.com


    Thank you for looking that up for me. It’s good to know.


    I looked at Edgley instruments online when I was first considering buying one, but didn’t think I wanted a more expensive instrument as a beginner. I didn’t think I’d become proficient enough to warrant the purchase.

  4. 3 hours ago, sleepymonk said:

    On the other hand, if they are accordion reeds waxed in... while this is theoretically also reversible with new wax, it would be a terrible hassle, and an amateur attempt seems a catastrophe waiting to happen. I wouldn't do it!


    I remember why I briefly looked inside the concertina before and closed it back up.


    Here are two photos of the left hand reed pan (iphone photos so distorted). I'm not sure what I'm looking at, whether it's push or pull valves. Assuming I'm looking at valve 10  E (pull) on the far right (second photo), it is open, and would explain the gurgles. I also have some minor clicking on valve 4 F (pull) but nothing looks out of place there.


    I can't see the opposite reeds at all as they are enclosed in these wooden blocks.


    The valves themselves appear to be some kind of thin plastic. I don't know what I could do to close the gap, but I can live with it. I don't think it's bad enough to ship it back to MacNeela for a fix. I've no idea who repairs concertinas near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, so I hope I don't need any other repairs on this instrument.


    Some food for thought as I ponder which concertina might be next for me.


    Wren reed pan A.JPG

    Wren reed pan B.jpeg


  5. 55 minutes ago, sleepymonk said:

    I’m getting better at more efficient use of air. The biggest handicap is needing hand rest padding for my right, and moving the strap anchoring point so it’s over my knuckles. I’ll have to keep playing with that as general fingering skills improve. I realize the air button is going to be needed. I like the idea of moving it elsewhere, though.


    I wonder if anyone has tried resting an end on each leg, and using leg muscles to control the bellows?! The ultimate in stability ..


    33 minutes ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:


    At least one player tried not only resting, but also straping via velcro patches. On similar note, I have observed differences in my performance depending on the kind of trousers I rest my concertina on, with the best results with my bare skin - not only giving me additional traction, but also better tactile feedback. I can play softer and with less overall volume that way.


    I just tried it (seated, feet flat, one end on each thigh), and it helps with stability. Of course, the legs don’t control the bellows, but the ends can freely move as needed since I’m not pressing downward.


    I had been playing with my left leg propped up, and sometimes crossed over the right on a lab stool, so I guess the softer tone is now due to the instrument being further away on my lap.


    I wear jeans.

  6. I’m getting better at more efficient use of air. The biggest handicap is needing hand rest padding for my right, and moving the strap anchoring point so it’s over my knuckles. I’ll have to keep playing with that as general fingering skills improve. I realize the air button is going to be needed. I like the idea of moving it elsewhere, though.


    I wonder if anyone has tried resting an end on each leg, and using leg muscles to control the bellows?! The ultimate in stability ..

  7. I am just a beginner, so trying out different technical things on my Wren.


    I am slightly ambidextrous.


    I find that I am most comfortable resting the instrument on my left thigh. Changing to the opposite thigh seems unstable. This may have something to do with being a violinist and using the bow right-handed.


    The further the bellows open, the less stable it feels, perhaps because I worry about running out of air (my air button is out of reach due to right hand placement).


    It all feels really unstable if I play standing up!

  8. 8 hours ago, Tradewinds Ted said:


    Well, if you really want to try it, you may be able to do so for free:   What make of concertina do you have?  and how do you feel about opening it up and tinkering?


    If yours is a traditional concertina reed instrument, you likely could swap out all the reeds (keeping them in their reed shoes) to the opposite side of the reed pan, if the reed shoes for the push and pull reed under each button are the same size, or very close.  Absolutely free to try, and completely reversible once you are done, as long as you have carefully marked where each one was originally!  For any one button, the notes on the push and pull are usually very close in pitch so the reeds/shoes are likely to be very close in size.


    If it is a hybrid/accordion reed instrument, and the reeds are fixed in pairs to plates screwed to the reed pan, then it is likely very easy to just turn each of those plates upside down (inside out?) to reverse the reeds, and again, this is free and completely reversible.  Again, be sure to carefully mark how they were originally.  A friend of mine actually did flip the plate holding the reeds for the C#/Eb on the right hand of one of his Wheatstone system Anglo concertinas, to make it more similar to his other Jeffries system instruments, at least for playing in D.  I changed it back, when I later bought his instrument, and it only took a couple minutes to carefully swap the one plate, so swapping thirty of them could be done well inside of an hour.


    On the other hand, if they are accordion reeds waxed in... while this is theoretically also reversible with new wax, it would be a terrible hassle, and an amateur attempt seems a catastrophe waiting to happen. I wouldn't do it!


    I have a Wren, a beginner’s instrument. Bought a year or so ago, but I’ve only been practicing and making more progress recently.


    I’ve opened one side enough to check a problem with a valve or tongue (clicking, gurgling), but didn’t remove the pan.


    I’ve been reading the repair forum here, and have the concertina maintenance book, so will probably open it up again to look and maybe tinker with it.


    I have some minor valve and button issues that are more evident as I learn to navigate around some more difficult tunes. One vanished button popped back out when I merely loosened two long screws (and tightened them back up). That’s too difficult a maneuver while in the middle of a tune ...


    I’m probably going to want to upgrade to a better instrument, but not sure what at the moment.

  9. 9 hours ago, Tradewinds Ted said:

    Ok, so my estimate of the average pressure difference as 1/60th, or 0.017 of atmospheric pressure, though admittedly small, was nearly 1.4 times bigger than your more informed estimate of 0.0122 of atmospheric pressure.  I think I guessed pretty well then, and but more importantly I must admit you are correct that the difference is not likely to be consequential.


    I also forgot about the eventual practical upper limit of pads lifting if the pressure inside the bellows is too high, before the bellows blow out.


    Sorry to have side-tracked the conversation quite so much, as I do agree that ergonomic considerations are likely the real reason why most (not all) types of diatonic bellows instruments have been standardized to start the scale on the push (or blow, for harmonica.)  And that in turn MAY lead to push notes more often on the downbeat, as discussed previously.




    I don’t think the conversation got side-tracked at all. I learned a few new things.

  10. 9 hours ago, wunks said:

    Yes, and the down bow expends its energy abruptly, then peters out , whereas the up bow reserves it's power and options.


    Therein lies one of the many challenges of bowing: maintaining an equal pressure and tone from one end of the bow to the other, regardless of bow direction. Depends on the music being performed.


    I’m trying to draw on my experience as a violinist (where possible) in phrasing and articulation on the concertina, without pushing my luck.

  11. 11 hours ago, wunks said:

     A concertina reed whether Anglo, English or duet is a push reed or a pull reed, never both.  Whoever invents a bi-directional single reed assembly will revolutionize the instrument.




    I was reading the link that Howard Mitchell provided in his response, and read a bit of the reference to Wheatstone’s Letters Patent in the 1840s. Wheatstone’s fourth improvement was a tongue that would produce the same note on a push or pull, using a self-acting valve. Is this what you had in mind?


  12. 23 minutes ago, Ed Ebel said:

    Hey Sleepy...just one more word from a 45 year-playing violinist who “kind of” wasted two years with all the books you are using...Irish trad is way different in many ways from English and especially Morris.  Not better or worse, but different. And the styles don’t really lend to crossing over.  The books that I tried gave no help with lilt, or swing or cuts or rolls and triplets.  The last two, the cuts and rolls and triplets are what give the irish tunes the “snap”.  (You know...like in “That Thing You Do”...its got to be snappy.). Without that snap, its never going to sound quite right.  And to be fair, Morris has snap as well, but the chords and tunes are really different.  


    Also, I play on the left knee with the right arm working the bellows, and totally agree...watch out for right arm soreness, especially at the elbow.


    P.S. After struggling with no teacher for two years, I know how frustrating it can be to try to get stuff out of books.  Books will never be able to tell you if you are playing with the right motion or give you other options.  If you ever want to Skype I would be glad to share some of what I’ve learned in the past few years, including lessons with some really great players at Willy Clancy this year


    That's why I'm glad this forum is here, for answers to some questions that books won't give. I've watched some sample tutorials online, and I'm a big believer in one-on-one teaching, but at the moment, the books will have to suffice in giving me the basics. I am a quick learner depending on the instrument (I can't play a flute or a tin whistle).


    At the moment, the Irish trad style escapes me, so I'll have a look at some point. Thank you for the Skype offer (I haven't had much success with Skype due to internet connectivity issues).

  13. 18 minutes ago, wunks said:

    Change the sound post, change the bass bar, re-cut the bridge, new nut , new tailpiece, new strings to compensate for different string tension due to peg head...... 'bout does it eh?  Nope.  good violins are built with the growth rings of the spruce top oriented narrow to the high side, wide to the low side


    It's really not the best setup for a violin, I agree.


    15 minutes ago, Ed Ebel said:

    Hey Wunks...nice post.  Look at any large orchestra...do we think that all the violinists, viola(ists?) and cellists are right handed? And yet, they are all playing the same way.  And where are all those left-handed pianos? :-). If someone wants a left-handed concertina, just flip it around.  And since both hands do exactly the same kind of action (unlike the violin or guitar), exactly what benefit would a left-handed concertina give?  


    Perhaps fiddler Ashley MacIsaac can have the last word on left-handed violins (and a lefty concertina)  "Well, if you change the strings on your fiddle, you'll never be able to play anyone else's fiddle. So if he's gonna learn that way, learn that way".


  14. Fascinating responses! Thanks. Keep 'em coming. This forum is great. I appreciate all the links too.


    Regarding the different muscles involved:

    As for the violin downbow being the preference, the wooden bow itself is stronger at the frog vs the tip, so one can definitely exert more pressure there. Also one has the weight of the arm and gravity to help with muscle strength at the frog, whereas at the tip of the bow, pressure normally needs to be applied using one's muscles for a downward force, and it's usually not equivalent to the downbow. This is a very simplified explanation, as there are more aspects that the violinist can control (or be at the mercy of, I suppose!). For non-bowed-string players, the frog is the mechanical part of the bow that holds one end of the horsehair as well as the hair tensioning mechanism.


    My ribcage and back are definitely sore after a week of intensive (for me) practice. I rest the concertina on my left leg, so I guess my right side gets more of a workout. Plus I just got two of Gary's books in the post today and I wanted to work through some tunes. The fingering system is great and I am sight-reading with great ease as a result.


    I would love to try a "wrong" direction concertina just to satisfy my curiosity. Can't afford a custom build to find out :< Looking forward to the revolution!

  15. As a violinist learning to play the anglo concertina, I am constantly questioning bellows direction.


    We are trained on the violin to use a downward (pulling) bow motion on the first note of a bar (very generally speaking, as there are lots of exceptions). An upward (pushing) bow motion is used on the upbeat of a bar, again very generally speaking.


    With the concertina, the opposite appears to be the case (generally speaking), where the push is the first note of a bar, etc.


    How is it that the instrument was designed this way? Is it inherited from other reed systems?


    Has anyone tried an alternate, like reversing the reeds on each note? (violins can be reversed for left-handed players).



  16. 2 hours ago, wunks said:


    Yep. the palm rest is now in the way.  Exchange it for a small saddle under the pinky/palm joint (see comments above) and you'll begin to have strange dreams of clusters of bass notes or accidentals under those liberated thumbs........😃


    I think I better slow down the modifications ;) but thanks for the suggestion ...

    • Like 1

  17. Update: another unforeseen benefit (of moving the wrist strap to another anchor point) is that I’m forced to become more adept in bellows management, since I now can’t reach the air valve with my thumb! (index finger can reach it)

  18. 10 hours ago, Ken_Coles said:


    I found the old article with photos, in case it gives you any ideas. It does show how the inserts keep my wrists straight, which is important for my own orthopedic issues, but that is very individual and may not be an issue for you.




    Thanks for the link, Ken.


    It looks like you used the hard foam, which is probably easier to cut & carve. I opted for the soft foam.


    I’ve also moved the thumb side of the strap to the nearest long screw on both sides, and my straps are long enough that I can let them out for the extra distance. Hole #3 on the right and hole #4 on the left.


    I’ve noticed that I’m holding my wrists straighter now too - thanks for pointing out that important benefit!

  19. On 8/10/2019 at 10:15 AM, wunks said:

    Something else you might try is to bring the strap behind the thumb to a new attachment point so it crosses the hand close to the wrist.  I use the closest fret end bolt for an anchor (temporary, no modification required) and turn the strap end back under the base of the thumb to form a comfortable cradle.


    Thanks, Wunks, for this tip. I’ve just tried it, and it’s a fantastic idea. Now I have the nice cushiony handrests (I need the extra height) and my fingers can more easily curve over the inner rows. Instant improvement.

  20. Gary suggested what an optimal hand rest height might be, such as 1”.


    Since the hand rest is glued on, a shim is not an easy mod for me.


    The height of my Wren 2’s hand rest was approx 3/4”. I have a small hand.


    The added foam has increased the height to about 1.25”, which might be excessive for some, but seems to be more comfortable for me, and I’m able to play on my fingertips with better reach.


    I like the idea of added strap tension using the thumbs.


    If this mod starts to limit me, I can always remove it.


    I hope that more repertoire will be accessible to me as a result. That’s the goal, without creating bad playing habits.



  • Create New...