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About Mikefule

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    Author of Bridge of Otherwhere, 2018, available on Kindle/Amazon. Dancer, Fool, and occasional musician with Dolphin Morris Men of Nottingham, UK. I play Anglo concertina and harmonica. My concertinas are a Dipper 30b G/D, Lachenal 30b C/G baritone, and Lachenal 20b standard and piccolo. I have composed a few tunes and also written songs for occasional performance at Morris events. Other hobbies include sailing my Cornish Cormorant (12 ft balanced lug), cross country unicycling, motorcycling (Moto Guzzi V7) and other outdoorsy stuff.
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    Lincolnshire, UK

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  1. I'm going to be very blunt because I think you would be making an expensive mistake. With your suggested layout, you get one of every note, with some duplicates. However, the whole point of the Anglo layout is the Richter tuning, and the way that chords and arpeggios fall naturally to hand. A good 3rd row layout builds on that in a natural way. For example, on a standard CG: On the C row, left hand, play buttons 3 4 5 and you get CEG = C major. Move the index finger to button 4 of the accidental row and you get A minor which is a chord you play a lot in tunes in C. So one finger moves and the chord changes between two chords that feature a lot and often follow each other. Now move to the G row and play buttons 3 4 5 and you get G B D = G major. Move the index finger to button 4 of the C row and you get E minor. In each case, you've moved the same finger in the same manner and gone from the major chord based on the tonic, to the minor chord based on the 6th. I could give other examples. Point is that there is a purpose to the standard layout of the accidental row. It may seem illogical at first, but those extra buttons are so often where you need them. This is this sort of thing that makes the 30 button Anglo a genuine development of the basic 20 b layout. I can do more on my 30s than my 20s, but the skills are transferrable: I can play my 30 like a 20, or I can use the extra options of the 3rd row. Your suggested version gives you every note, but only by making the accidental row follow the Richter tuning pattern in C, you are making a pattern that does not help to group "like minded" notes together for playing a tune. The other thing is that you have labelled the buttons a little bit like a DG instrument rather than the more common GD. It's inside out, and you've lost many of the standard cross row scales that Anglo players rely on. I'm all for improvement, or minor tweaks to suit a particular repertoire or style, but nearly 200 years of development based on experience should not be disregarded willy-nilly. Your proposed layout would be unique, and would need a complete new set of skills to play, and those skills would not be transferrable to other instruments. If you want to play an Anglo with maximum chromatic opportunities, buy a 38 button. If you want a concertina with every note of the chromatic scale across 3 octaves, buy an English and work at it. They are wonderful instruments. If you want a push pull squeeze box with C/C# so you have every note somewhere, the C/C# melodeon already exists. Me, I prefer to play my standard 30 b as well as I can, as often as I can. From time to time, the wheel has been reinvented in a new form, but square ones will always remain the exception with an exceptionally limited resale market.
  2. What they have done is include all the potential search terms they can think of in the description. Clearly someone who does not know much about the instrument. I would be surprised if they even have one for sale.
  3. I have CG and GD. I used the same fingerings on both, which means that the key that I get depends on the instrument I've chosen. I play almost exclusively in a harmonic style, so working out and learning arrangements takes a lot of time. I can play some tunes in two keys, which means I can sometimes play a given tune in G on the CG and also in G on the GD. As for chord and note names, I can work them out when I need to, but I find that I mainly think in terms of what the notes and chords would be on the GD instrument. I think in GD because most Morris music is in G or D, and because G is a convenient key for easy sight reading because of where it sits on the stave. For example, three push notes on the left hand middle row = chord of G on the GD. The same fingering on the CG becomes the chord known as, "G, no hang on it's C. on this one."
  4. Just because it's called a drone, doesn't mean it has to be held down as a drone for extended periods. I have owned 2 concertinas with drones, although none of my current instruments do. I used the drone mainly as just another bass note. Just as you can use your right thumb for short stabs on the air button, you can use your left thumb for short stabs on the drone button. If you want a drone sound, as in a sustained note underlying the melody, then think in terms of phrases of music. Don't use it just because you can fit it to a particular set of notes. Use it for a clearly defined phrase, or just a single bar, now and again, to provide contrast.
  5. You need a small amount of slack. I like mine so that if I pull my thumb down, firmly, towards the side of my hand, it takes all the slack out, but without becoming noticeably tight across the back of the hand. If they're too tight, you will struggle to reach some of the more remote buttons.
  6. A post or two ago, you were asking about a 20 button Anglo. Now you are asking about a duet. They are as different as guitar and banjo. You need first to get an idea which type of concertina you would like to play music on, because playing music is what it is all about. Anglo concertina. Every button gives two different notes depending on whether you squeeze or draw the bellows. Some people find this intuitive; others find it impossible. It is heavily biased towards a small range of popular keys. Despite that, it is incredibly versatile and can be played with a single lilting line of melody (like a flute or violin) or with melody and an interesting harmonic accompaniment (the "thinking man's piano" as Keith Kendrick calls it). The Anglo is good for Irish Traditional Music, and for various other traditional styles, particularly dance music. English concertina. Every button plays only one note, whether the bellows are squeezed or drawn. It is fully chromatic, so you can play in every key. The scale alternates between left hand and right hand all the way up, which some people find intuitive, and others find impossible. The English concertina is excellent for anyone wanting to play in any key from sheet music as there is a clear 1:1 relationship between buttons and lines/spaces on the stave. Many people play a single line of melody (like a flute or violin) but both simple and complex harmonies can be achieved by a skilled player. Duet concertina. There are several different keyboard layouts, and someone who can play one may not be able to play another. Duets all share the fact that the range of the left hand overlaps the range of the right hand, so that very complex piano-like arrangements can be played. Duets also share the fact that they are comparatively rare, even in the rarified world of the concertina. It would be unwise to choose between these three fundamentally different instruments solely on budget. You need to hear them being played, have a go on one of each, and talk to players. You need to fall in love with the idea of playing one, because making any progress on a concertina takes daily practice for a long time. My own story: my background is English Morris music. I learned first on harmonica, then on melodeon. I did my research and decided "on paper" that the English was the one for me. I then borrowed an English concertina for a month and tried it every day and made little progress. I then heard an English and an Anglo being played by experts on consecutive nights. I had a quick go on the Anglo and immediately knew it was for me. Partly this was because I was already familiar with the suck/blow, push/pull idea from harmonica and melodeon, but as I have learned more Anglo, I now find myself unable to play melodeon because of the many differences! Please, try before you buy: try listening, try playing, try talking to concertina players, and decide what you are setting out to achieve. All 3 are wonderful instruments, but they do not suit everyone equally.
  7. A 20 button is not necessarily easier to play than a 30. A beginner may think that fewer buttons = less complication, but those duplicated notes on the third row of a 30 b can make some tunes very much easier. I own a couple of 30 buttons and a coupe of 20s. I find the 20s challenge me to improve my technique. If I were to buy a 20 b, I would look for a nice old Lachenal. I have played a few of the cheap Chinese 20 and 30 button instruments and they can be so clunky that they are off-putting to play. However, if you want to start playing Anglo from the position of a complete beginner, the obvious choice is the Rochelle, which is a 30 b in C/G.
  8. Play with confidence. The bellows may be stiff at first but should loosen up after a few (hundred) hours of playing. Playing won't damage the bellows except if you pull them to a ridiculous extent, or chafe them in some way. They should be robust. Based on your description and the link posted by Anglogeezertoo, yes it is at the cheaper end, and you will soon discover its limitations. However, it's a great starting point.
  9. This seems to be the right general approach. Ask for advice, listen carefully, but understand that everyone has their own experience and preconceptions that will influence the advice they give you. You're not choosing a car, where you might prioritise speed, or fuel economy, or luggage space, or social prestige, or some compromise between these factors. You're choosing something that has one purpose only: to make you enjoy playing it. It has to feel right for you. Concertina players are generally a lovely and welcoming bunch, but perhaps a little obsessive about one detail or another that particularly matters to them. Given that there are several distinct styles of playing each system, there are bound to be different opinions about any individual instrument.
  10. I'm not the biggest expert here by a long way, but I can advise on the basis of decisions I have made. I've owned a Rochelle, Marcus, Jeffries, Dipper, and 3 different Lachenals over a period of 12 years, and I currently still own the Marcus and the 3 Lachenals. I play as near as possible every day. Maintenance in the sense of taking action to repair and maintain (rather than just looking after and storing carefully) has never been an issue. Each used purchase has been given a once over by a friend who plays for fun and restores concertinas as part of his business. I invested £100 or so in each "once over". After that, little or nothing has gone wrong. I had a spring go on the Rochelle which I temporarily fixed with one improvised from a safety pin until I sourced a new spring. I had a valve fall off the Marcus and I stuck it back on. That's the two "modern hybrids" which I bought brand new. I have needed no repairs to any of my older ones, other than the once over and tweaking of the tuning when I bought them. There are some very nice modern instruments available, as well as some very poor ones. I won't name brands, for fear of misremembering details and causing offence, but I have seen some that I would passionately love to own, and some that I wouldn't give house room. Price has seldom been a reliable indicator of which would be good or bad. There are some very nice vintage instruments out there, and some that are in a dreadful condition. In either case, try before you buy. There is more to this than choosing one that will be easy to maintain. Does it feel nice in your hands? Does it sound nice to you? Will it make you reluctant to put it down, rather than reluctant to pick it up? The choice is not entirely rational. When I wanted a 30+ button G/D Anglo, I tried half a dozen on one afternoon and fell in love with one that had exactly 30 buttons and a non standard layout. It felt right and sounded right to me, and it is still my absolute pride and joy years later. When I bought my Lachenal 20b, I sat and tried about 7, and there was no doubt which one I wanted. In both cases, the vendor expressed surprise at my choice, but I knew which one would be my "voice". For comparison one of the finest players I ever met had several instruments from one modern manufacturer. He could play them better than I will ever play nd they sounded wonderful in his hands. I tried them all and struggled to get them to sound nice. They worked for him. Try every concertina you can get your hands on, take a knowledgeable friend with you if you're unsure, and never buy a used one "sight unseen". Don't be drawn into any sort of hybrid/vintage snobbery or Top Trumps; find one you think you can love, then play it. It won't be your last.
  11. I keep mine in the case with the lid closed and latched, even between tunes if I'm in a session in the pub. Good discipline. It would break my heart if a drink were spilled on the bellows, or the case were to be knocked to the floor and the concertina fell out. At home, the instruments are in their cases, stored on their sides, not on their ends, in a cool part of the house away from direct sunlight or radiators. I practise in the kitchen (upright chairs and good acoustics) but never leave the box there (condensation and cooking smells).
  12. Midlands Concertina Group: an informal group of concertina enthusiasts who meet twice a year in Nottingham, UK. We had a meeting yesterday. There were 17 present, of whom 15 had brought instruments to play, 1 was a former player, and 1 was a long suffering spouse. We had five "apologies for absence". Also, sadly the ranks of our older members are reduced a little each year. On the other hand, we do have some keen new members. The balance of the group has moved from about 50/50 Anglos/English with occasional duets, to probably nearer to 80/20 Anglos/English, with an occasional duet. I'd guess that with 15 players present, some of whom had brought 2 or more instruments, we had around 30 concertinas in the room. The range of music was as wide as usual, with some people playing Morris tunes, others playing common session tunes, one who specialises in Northumbrian pipe tunes, another who played a country tune often used for line dancing, and two who sang. The biggest surprise of the afternoon was first time visitor, Ed, who self-accompanied as he sang a Half Man Half Biscuit song that rhymed "acolyte" and "ammonite" in the first two lines. Our resident trio, Behind the Times, played an arrangement for baritone Anglo, Anglo, and English. There was a duo playing English and Anglo, and another duo (well, there was some overlap in personnel!) playing Anglo and fiddle! In the interval, a few of the members got together to work on a simple tango which they then performed for the delight of the rest of us. Styles of Anglo playing included single line of melody along the row, single line across the rows in the two main keys of the instrument, single line across the rows in a different key (e.g. A on GD, or D on CG), single line with occasional double-stopping like on a fiddle, simple oompah accompaniment, and more complex chordal accompaniment. Those playing the English system showed a similar level of versatility, with some concentrating on the melody, some on the accompaniment, and some managing both (witchcraft, I tell you!). The duets, as always, did pretty much anything, in a range of keys. This is a friendly group, and all concertina enthusiasts — whether players or not, and regardless of your level of ability or experience — are welcome to come and play, listen, watch, learn, and share. The next meeting is likely to be in late March or early April 2020, details to follow.
  13. Sorry for your loss, Lynda Bass. A Dipper is an exceptionally fine instrument and they do not come up for sale often. Take advice from a number of independent sources if you are considering selling it and take your time to decide. To find the keys, press the third button in the middle row on the low end (left hand) and squeeze the bellows. Compare this note to a piano, or any other instrument, or an electronic guitar tuner, or a tuner app. Whatever note you get is the key of that row. It is most likely to be either a C or a G, although other keys are sometimes found. If that button is a C, then you have a C/G box. Popular for Irish music. If that button is a G, you have a G/D box. More popular for English/Morris music. Other key combinations, rather less popular, include D/A, or B flat/F The fingering for the middle row will almost certainly be standard for the key. The fingering for the nearest row to the hand rests (the "inside row") is typically standard but there is some variation at the very low end (left hand, little finger). I once had 3 boxes, and the pull note on the lowest button on the inside row was different on each. The fingering for the "accidental row" (the one furthest from the hand rests) is where you may find the most variation. Chances are it is more or less standard Wheatstone or Standard Jeffries. However, many people ask for their own quirky selections of notes for one or two of the buttons. The easiest way to find out is get someone who plays one to have a go and see how confused they look after 2 minutes.
  14. There are two ABC files of the tune here: https://www.ucolick.org/~sla/morris/music/abclib.html There is a link to the ABC and PDF and MP3 versions here: https://themorrisring.org/tradition/winster
  15. I have only admiration for those who play the single line of melody style well. Without all the fancy tools of bass, arpeggios, chords, counter melodies etc., they have to play that melody very well to give it lilt and lift. Less complex does not mean simpler. I certainly can't do it well.
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