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  1. "The only difference is the button layout." Nope, they are fundamentally different instruments that happen to bear a passing resemblance. The violin and guitar are both stringed instruments with a broad shallow body and a long neck with tuning pegs, but the resemblance ends there. The Anglo is heavily biased towards a small subset of closely related keys. Even the ones that have loads and loads of extra buttons are not fully chromatic across their entire range; that is, some of the accidentals only appear once even though the instrument covers several octaves. Each button produces two notes, one on the draw and one on the push. Some notes are duplicated. At first sight, there is no "logical" arrangement to the buttons, but the more you play, the more you realise that each one is in "just the right place". The Anglo follows the internal logic of music, rather than the abstract logic of mathematics. The rows are orientated more or less vertically when the instrument is being held. The low notes are on the bottom left, and the high notes are on the bottom right. The Anglo has hand straps which pass over the back of the hand, and these are essential to be able to play it. (Ignoring small novelty instruments with very few buttons.) The English is designed almost completely logically. You get one note per button, whether it is push or pull. It is completely chromatic. The rows are orientated more or less horizontally when the instrument is being played. The English has a thumb strap and a "pinky rest" and is usually played without straps across the back of the hands. The most distinctive aspect of the English is that a simple major scale alternates between left hand and right hand, with the lower notes towards the player and the higher notes further away. There are several very different systems of duet, so it is misleading to think of "the duet" in the same way as we think of "the Anglo" or "the English." Duet players no doubt have their reasons for preferring one system over another. Duets are designed to be almost a portable piano, with the layout enabling a full and rich accompaniment to any melody. As I understand it, the compass of the left hand overlaps the compass of the right hand which allows a whole load of musical opportunities not available on Anglo or English. As a general rule, it is difficult to swap between the systems. However, it is not impossible. A few people play Anglo and English regularly. I know someone who plays English, but also plays melodeon, which has some similarities in layout to an Anglo. If you play two systems of concertina, I suspect the trick is to see them as two completely different instruments and ignore the superficial similarities. From my personal experience, I tried hard and failed with the English, and took to the Anglo fairly easily. However, I had some experience with harmonica and melodeon which share the layout of the main two rows of an Anglo.
  2. When I was first thinking of getting a concertina, I spent a lot of time trying to get my head around the differences and the strengths and weaknesses of the Anglo and English systems. (Apologies to the duet players: you were not on my radar at the time.) I remember posting here words to the effect that it seemed like Anglo players pump the music out of their instruments, and English players just press the buttons and let it pour out. This was not a criticism of EC players, but a way of trying to describe the fluidity and soft expressiveness that is possible with the instrument. I became aware that the accepted wisdom is that Anglo is rhythmic and good for dancing and Irish, and English is more legato but "harder to dance to". However, my actual experience of listening and dancing is that the most important variable is the musician. Keith Kendrick can pump a tune and accompaniment out of an EC so that you'd really think it was an Anglo. I have learned many of the cross row "routes through the maze" on an Anglo that allow a legato approach to whole phrases. My Morris side has an EC player who combines lift and flow in such a way that it is a joy to dance to. We also have a former member who has played EC for us many times who is every bit as good. Elsewhere, I remember reading similar debates where advocates of acoustic guitars argued that the electric guitar is "incapable of expression". (No doubt that came as a surprise to B B King!) When I was trying to choose whether to play Anglo or English, my head told me EC because it is fully chromatic and laid out logically. I borrowed one for a month and could barely get music out of it. I then picked up an Anglo, it made sense, and the more I play it, the more sense it makes. It is for others to judge whether I play "expressively". Perhaps the truth is that no instrument is "expressive". An instrument is a conduit for the musician's expressiveness. That is why there are a few excellent bodhran players, many proficient players, and some who just make a banging noise. I think if I were to try EC now, and work at it as hard as I worked at Anglo, I could probably make it work. I understand music more now than I did then. With Anglo, my first objective was to start crossing the rows for a purpose. With English, it would be to learn the bellows control to put the phrasing and lift into the tunes. As with the piano accordion, it is possible to play long passages on the EC without changing bellows direction. However, the best players are those who deliberately choose when to do this, and when to play with short chopping movements of the bellows.
  3. Glad you sorted it. It seems counterintuitive at first, but a reed starts to work by allowing the air to push it into the slot. Think of the air pushing a slightly ajar door closed, rather than pushing a slightly ajar door open. When you are squeezing the bellows, the air is coming out of the ends of the instrument, and the "squeeze reeds" are the ones where the reed plates or shoes are mounted with the reeds facing the inside. It takes a little effort to get your head round at first. Coincidentally, I had just been resolving a "suddenly silent push reed" on my Lachenal Piccolo before logging onto this forum.
  4. Interesting. I started on a 30, then for a while had a 38(?) and now I play as much on my 20b Lachenal or 21b Marcus Traveller as I do on my 30b Dipper. I too have a preference for minimalist solutions (fixed wheel bike, unicycle, balanced lug dinghy, air cooled motorbike...) and as I have become a more experienced player, I have really enjoyed the challenge of getting more out of 20 buttons. The 20b Anglo is a very versatile instrument. That said, there is no doubt that a 30b is even more versatile, whether you play melody only, or harmonic style, or both. I don't see a particular advantage or disadvantage to having 26 buttons rather than 30. There are plenty of 30s around. In real life, some of those buttons seldom or never get used, depending on your repertoire and style of playing, of course. If I were in your position, wanting to "move up" from a 20, I would be guided by how the instrument feels in the hands and how it sounds rather than being dogmatic about the number of buttons. Looking specifically for a 24 or 26 may mean that you miss many of the very nice 30b instruments that are out there.
  5. No idea what it's called, but it's nicely played. Try typing the note names for the first 2 or 3 bars into here: folk tune finder
  6. Yes, "fake" = "counterfeit" and entails a deliberate element of falseness. If someone made a copy of a Jeffries, and included Jeffries branding or marks, and tried to make it look the appropriate age, that would be a fake. A cheap and cheerless mass produced item with no attempt at passing it off as an established brand is not a fake.
  7. The air button is the hardest button to use on the Anglo at first. Then suddenly, it stops being a problem. The change may happen after a few weeks or months. Have your straps very slightly loose. Put your 4 fingers through the strap, and your thumb on the outside of the strap. The strap should pass across the back of your hand. Pulling your thumb in sideways towards your hand will then take some of the slack out of the strap. You can also brace and arch your hand to take up some of the slack. Reverse these moves to allow slack when your fingers need to reach the less accessible buttons. The air button should be tapped with the outside of your thumb. You should very seldom need to hold it down for long: just a quick tap timed to fit a suitable part of the musical phrase. The longer you've been playing, the easier and more intuitive this becomes. Also, the longer you've been playing, the less often you will need the air button. Beginners tend to play slowly, and to hold the buttons down for longer than necessary. Therefore, they need more air, and the bellows reach their fully open or fully closed position sooner/more often. An experienced player tends to play a little faster (although speed is not an objective in itself) and will usually clip most of the notes, leaving more "daylight" between the notes. Also, they will know more routes around the keyboard, The combined effect is to use less air, and therefore the air button is needed less often.
  8. It's a strangely fascinating instrument. Only yesterday I discovered a new and better fingering for a tune I learned several years ago. What other instrument gives you that?
  9. I very occasionally give lessons. A while ago, I had someone approach me to learn "from scratch". He was a singer, but had never played an instrument. I always invite any prospective student to visit me, and we spend an hour (no charge) chatting and seeing whether what I can offer is what they are looking for. I got on well with this chap. When he said, with alarm in his voice, "I won't have to do scales will I?" I should have turned him away there and then. However, I thought I could get him to include scales by introducing tunes to him that included phrases up and down the scale. With hindsight, it was predictable that he never once practised between lessons - he always had a good excuse, of course - and he never learned a single tune. To some extent, I regret continuing to give him lessons, but I did my best. Before I discovered Anglo, I played at various instruments but never had any sort of structured practice regime. When I bought my first Anglo, I made a commitment to set off as I meant to carry on, took lessons and practised. It is the only way to make progress.
  10. If you're playing alone. Pretend it's CG. The tunes will work with the same fingering, but will be transposed from C or G to D or A. Anglo is often played as a transposing instrument in this way.
  11. To say there are "no wrong notes" is simplistic. There are of course some notes that break all the written and unwritten rules of harmony, sound awful to everyone, and clash with any other instruments that are playing at the same time. This may be more true in some forms of music (for example, brass band) and less true in other forms (for example, free jazz.) Many concertina players have a folk/traditional background. Two things about folk/traditional music: It is about conventional form and structure rather than innovation, but... It is about participation rather than perfection. The fear of playing a wrong note should not be an obstacle to playing at all, but that should not be the same as being complacent about bum notes. And yes, occasionally, you find a note that doesn't seem to fit according to the conventional rules of composition and harmony, but nevertheless sounds good. Music that exactly fits the formula: metronomic beat, perfect note duration, predictable harmonies with perfectly correct passing notes, can be predictable and bland. A note of tension that is resolved can add flavour. It was the little burned bits on the top of my grandmother's bread and butter pudding that made it taste better than the blandly homogenous ones I can buy in the supermarket.
  12. Funny thing is that when great musicians/singers/performers like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, got together for a live show, they sang the simple songs they knew and loved: I Saw the Light, May the Circle Be Unbroken, I Fly Away. There was no sense of these being "only" simple songs, or trivial. Similarly with many great jazz musicians: When the Saints, and so on. Many (but not all) Morris tunes are simple to learn, but the skill is in playing them well. Simplicity plus talent and passion can make great music. Complexity is no more a guarantee of great music than is the raw speed you find in some sessions.
  13. There should be such a word. Some tunes just sit comfortably on the (Anglo) concertina and some were apparently designed to be difficult for the sake of it. It is presumably the same for English and duet systems. "Tinaphilic"? ("Anglican" is already taken.)
  14. I agree to some extent with Simon's point that boring and childlike tunes can be off-putting for some new musicians. However, there is definitely a place for them. Some people come to concertina with a background in playing other instruments. They may already have a repertoire that they know and understand and can translate to a new instrument with relative ease. For these people, learning concertina is like learning to drive a different type of vehicle from the one they are used to. They already know the rules of the road, and the basics of steering, braking and so on. They have skills they can apply. Some people come to concertina with no experience of playing an instrument, but with a good background knowledge of a particular genre of music. They know what Dingle Regatta, or Princess Royal, or Gathering Peascods sounds like, even if they cannot yet play it. For these people, learning concertina is like taking driving lessons after many years of being a passenger in cars. They are aware of many of the rules of the road, and they know more or less what driving should feel and sound like. They have a head start. However, some others come to the instrument with no experience of playing, and a very limited experience of listening. They may well have been bewildered by badly-taught music lessons at school, and intimidated by hearing highly skilled musicians playing complex music at high speed. For these people, learning concertina may feel like wanting to learn to ride a bicycle and being handed the keys to a Honda Fireblade. They have none of the skills, background, or "understanding by osmosis" that might give them the confidence to climb into the saddle. For this third category, being shown how to play something simple but easily recognisable from their childhood may be a big step towards gaining the confidence to try something more difficult. It helps to learn a tune if you can already confidently hum or whistle it. For some people, that means Hot Cross Buns, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or When the Saints, or Oh Susannah, or Red River Valley. Once they know that they can make the instrument work, the next step to a simple "trad" tune such as Winster Gallop will be less intimidating. There is another distinction. Some concertinists, on Anglo or English, aim to play a single line of melody: playing the concertina as a fiddle or flute. Although technique, touch, and nuance take a long time to develop, it is a fairly simple thing to learn to press the buttons and move the bellows in the right sequence to learn a basic tune. It may well be that case that something like Hot Cross Buns is too trivial for many, or even most, new musicians in this style, although not all. Others (including probably all or most duet players) play melody and accompaniment, treating the concertina as a "thinking man's piano". They need to learn the complex motor skills to coordinate the "independent" movement of left and right hand. "Independent" in quotes because, of course, the accompaniment is linked structurally to the melody. Learning to accompany a melody may well start with the 3 chord trick, played underneath a simple and intuitive melody such as Hot Cross Buns. Later, that 3 chord trick can be applied to more complex melody, and the 4 chord trick and 5 chord trick can be introduced. However, as a starting point, having the simplest and most trivial of melodies will free processing power for the complex skill of coordinating the accompaniment.
  15. Definitely, within every level, there are instruments that are easier or more difficult to play. When I chose my Lachenal 20b, I played 6 and the choice was very clear to me. Since then, I have played several others and only found one better. This was nothing to do with overall condition or specification. Just some played more nicely than others. When I bought my Dipper GD, I tried several quality GD instruments including one other Dipper The decision was easy to make as one played so much better than the others. I have played several Normans, and found them all cheerful boxes to play but some more difficult than others. However, one of the finest players I ever knew swore by one specific Irish maker (I won't mention the name) and had 2 or 3 of their boxes. I could barely get a tune out of them, and hated them, but he could play them far better than I willever play my own box. So, while there is considerable variation within makes and "price points", there is also the danger of the bad workman blaming his tools. I have taken the big step recently of ordering a box unseen. I trust the manufacturer, but I have to accept the risk that I will be disappointed with the result. I prefer to try before I buy.
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