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Posts posted by Steve_freereeder

  1. Yes - I am also please to hear that you have now got a suitable concertina. The 30-key Stagi will stand you in good stead for a while yet and you will learn a lot with it. As it is a new instrument, it will be in concert pitch, so no worries there.


    Enjoy playing your new-found friend. It could well become a lifelong obsession! smile.gif

  2. I only discovered this site today! I am 12years and did own a wheatstone concertina...until it was stolen.

    Oh dear. Sorry to hear about your loss. I'm guessing it... umm... wasn't insured? ohmy.gif

    It's an expensive lesson to learn.



  3. I'm left-handed too, and I've never even thought that it might affect the way I play instruments. I just get on and do it. The keywork on the woodwind instruments which I play (clarinet, saxophone, flute) is laid out in a manner which means you have no choice over which hand to use on which half of the instrument. The LH is always nearest your mouth, the RH always furthest from it. Whenever I see youngsters learning to play the whistle the 'wrong way round', I always fear for their future problems which they are building for themselves should they ever want to learn a standard woodwind instrument with keywork. I have just once seen an adult ITM player on a keyless flute playing it the wrong way round. But never, in over 40 years of orchestral playing, have I seen anyone with a custom built left-handed instrument. And believe me, there are plenty of left-handed players among them.


    Apart from most brass instruments, where the valves being operated by the RH only, most other instruments normally require finely refined motor skills on both hands, requiring them to do intricate things, and in my experience, there is no special advantage nor disadvantage in being left- or right-handed.



    But back to concertinas:

    I was interested to read Molly's post. Like her, I also rest the end of my anglo on my right knee - it seems to feel more natural that way, although I can do it the other way round too. I play in the chordal, harmonic style, so much of the melody is on the RH, which I find no difficulty with. If I am very analytical, maybe I do find my little finger action fractionally easier on my LH than on my RH, but if so, the difference is very, very slight. When playing English concertina, I find no difference between playing LH and RH sides.

  4. My concertina is going to be ready in july and I am seriously concidering asking the guy not to bother making the ends and do them myself.

    Don't forget that the ends are not just about the fretwork. The thickness needs to be exactly right to tie in with the travel of the keys. There are the holes for the keys to consider, which need to be accurately aligned with the action, and also are tapered holes, not cylindrical, to allow for the felt bushing to be fitted. Then there is the really accurate alignment of the end-bolt holes, which are normally done at the same time as the drilling of the same holes into the end frames.


    My advice would be to allow your maker go ahead with the complete concertina, including the ends. If you subsequently want to build additional custom ends yourself, at least (a) the maker's ends will provide you with an accurate template to work from, and (B) you will have a playable concertina in the meantime, and ultimately, in case something goes wrong with your own construction work.

  5. Hi all,

    Has anyone else had trouble with a key sticking on a new Rochelle? The C/D key on the right hand end is sticking and sounding continuously. I bought the Rochelle two weeks ago and have played it quite a bit already. (18-22 hours I would guess.) Any suggestions? Thanks, Dave.

    There could be several reasons. We need more information, e.g. does the key actually stick fast in the pressed down position? (could be a bushing problem). Does it flop about and not return properly? (would suggest a broken or detached spring) .. etc. Sometimes on a new instrument, even a change in temperature and humidity can cause a button to stick temporarily; or a bit of workshop dust/debris can get lodged somewhere it shouldn't.


    The best thing you can do is have a look for yourself. Concertinas are designed to be disassembled and reassembled. Start by unscrewing the 6 bolts around the end. Make sure you have the correctly-sized screwdriver, and gradually release the bolts by working from opposite sides rather than sequentially round the circumference. Lay the bolts to one side and remember the order and holes they came from so you can put them back in the same hole afterwards.


    The end should now be able to be released from the bellows. I'm not completely familiar with the construction of a Rochelle, but you should then see the flat inside face of the action board which butts up to the reed chambers. There should be a further screw(s) which you can then release to gain access to the action. You will probably also need to release the handstrap bolt too. You should then be able to see the action levers, springs and pads, and careful examination of the offending button/lever, comparing it with its neighbours, should help you pinpoint what is wrong.


    There's no mystique involved. Just go carefully and methodically, one stage at a time; make sure you have the right-sized tools. And before you move on to the next stage, be sure in your own mind that you can reassemble everything from your current position.


    Let us know how you get on and tell us what you see/do.

  6. Thanks. I'm nursing a cold and may not get to trying out the chart until the end of the working week. As far as I could tell, though, there was no such order when I first tried to figure out the keyboard. And I believe it was Theo who responded that if it's playing notes when I'm not pressing buttons (as it is), it's broke. Is that not right?

    Yes - it was Theo, several replies back. You've even quoted his reply yourself.


    Just one other thought occurs to me. Are some notes playing all the time, even when you push and pull the bellows without pressing any buttons? If so then the concertina needs repair.



    Look - the concertina you have is not working as it should, it is in need of repair, but if it is a really cheap and nasty one, it is probably not worth it and even if it could be got playing again it is probably going to be hard work to play and sound none too good, which isn't going to motivate you to practice. If you've got the budget to run to a new beginner's concertina then that is the way to go. The best one to go for is undoubtedly the Rochelle (for anglo system) or the Jackie (for English system). They are designed by Wim and Karen Wakker of the Concertina Connection and although made in China under licence, the quality control is good and they are good instruments, unlike so many other cheap imports. They are good value for money and will hold a fair price against a trade up to a better quality instrument at some point in the future


    Your question about whether to go for the anglo or English system has been addressed in your other post.




    As to whether we all know each other - well no we don't. Some of us are separated by 1000s of miles. But some of us do indeed know other members and have met in person on several occasions, some are even good friends. As the UK is a collection of small islands with a great tradition of concertina playing, it is inevitable that our nearest concertina-playing neighbours generally live fairly close by. I personally know at least 20 other concertina players who live within an hour's drive of my home; some of them are within walking distance. And there are probably a good few others whom I don't know about.


    I guess in Memphis, the population density of concertina players is much lower, but I would be very surprised if there were none at all. They probably don't know about this forum, that's all. A google search of 'concertina players Memphis' gets a number of hits......

    • Downvote 1
  7. I guess it depends where you live. There are plenty of both anglo and English players around in the UK. You would have no trouble meeting up with your peers.


    But what, if you live in Memphis TN, like Concerteeny? :ph34r:

    Emigrate? tongue.gif




    What I'm seeing at this end when I hit those links is the picture, displayed as if to someone who is not logged into Facebook. I was under the impression that you should be able to see those pictures. Can anyone confirm this or not, who does not have a Facebook account (other than Steve, obviously!)



    If it's not possible to access then, then I think we'll have to get Ralphie to have a word with Nancy to obtain proper pics.

    Thanks, Irene!

    I think I've found a fix.

    I normally access this forum from Safari (version 4.0.4) running on Mac OS 10.4.11 which does not allow me to see the photos on Facebook via your original links.

    However, when using Firefox 3.6 I can indeed see the Facebook photos, so my problem would appear to be a browser-dependent thing.

  9. Main thing: Anglo is not fully chromatic but easy to pick up by ear and play folk tunes, with or without self-accompaniment.

    English is fully chromatic, but one needs to understand harmony to sound livelier and self-accompaniment is trickier to master, as it needs some time for finger dexterity. Probably less easy to play by ear and it doesn't have "automatic" harmonizing in home keys, like Anglo.

    Quite good summary by Mischa, but I will clarify a few things....


    Anglo is key specific, English is key free.

    A 20-button anglo in C/G will allow you to play easily in C, G, modal Am and modal Dm, with some of D major (but you don't have that all-important C#)

    A 30-button anglo is fully chromatic across much of its range and much more versatile in terms of keys; C, G, F, D, Am, Dm and Em, are fairly straightforward.


    Although the English is fully chromatic over all its range, most people find it rather challenging to play in the more extreme keys say more than 3 sharps or flats in the key signature (although this is largely a matter of familiarity and practice).


    If you choose Anglo, you will have many to listen to, but only in Irish style.

    Not true. There are plenty of Youtube videos and CDs of anglo concertina playing in non-Irish style.


    English will leave you longing for company, unless you have donkey ears.

    I guess it depends where you live. There are plenty of both anglo and English players around in the UK. You would have no trouble meeting up with your peers.



    But Rochelle is probably less capable instrument then Jackie. Anglo need to be able to speak quickly bellows change, needing to play melody, unless you are going to play slower and without those quick tricks.

    Jackie will allow you to play faster, if you are not into bellows changes for accentuating the beats.

    I think by 'less capable' you are referring to the Rochelle's response and ease of playing? The reeds in the Rochelle and the Jackie are exactly the same quality.

    Having played a Rochelle, I am impressed with its responsive nature. It speaks quite readily and the bellows direction changes are fine. I think it is an excellent beginner's anglo, probably the best on the market for its price.

  10. Understandable. So far I can't find a Rochelle in D/G & if I'm going to pay that much I want it in a key I can also use for singing. I've seen Stagi panned, too. The Button Box has some Stagi D/Gs & states their prep makes the difference. If I understand correctly, I'd also be advised to travel there as shipping can cause problems, too. I'm not sure if that's just for problems caused by heat meaning it would be o.k. in the winter.

    From what I've heard, the Button Box do a good job on setting up the Stagis as well as can be. The sadly late Richard Morse of the BB was a very experienced concertina maker and his Morse concertinas are very good indeed, and some of that wisdom will undoubtedly have been passed on to the experienced people who work on the Stagis.

    I've never heard that shipping can be a problem. After all, the BB exports instruments across to the UK. I think you could be confident in ordering a G/D Stagi from the BB and having it shipped to you; the BB is a good organisation with a reputation to maintain.

    My question to you was about me wondering if there was something that automatically lets you know it's not good enough just by looking at a picture even without knowing the manufacturer. I'm admittedly new to the instrument & find some people have concertinas w/o knowing whether the instrument is any good or not. I know the instrument needs to be played & inspected, but you seem to have some guidelines to instantly rule out some.

    In this case, and as Daniel has rightly surmised, I know exactly what to expect from those stained wood ended Scholers. Not just from the one I had, but I've come across a few others over the years too. All have been similarly horrid. To a large extent, with concertinas, you do get what you pay for. The really cheap ones are usually just not worth bothering with for the reasons I've already outlined. The Rochelle and its English counterparts, the Jack and the Jackie, are the exceptions to this. They have been designed by Wim and Karen Wakker, who are renowned concertina makers.


    But as you want a G/D instrument, then you really need to be thinking of a Stagi as your base-line quality instrument, and that comes down to getting it from the Button Box with the extra set-up service that they offer. You may drop on lucky and find a reasonably good second-hand instrument, but then unless you try before you buy (and preferably get a concertina-playing friend to do the same), it is always a risk.


    I confess I don't know much about the particular Castiglione concertinas which Daniel mentions, but the double-reeded types will have two reeds per note, tuned an octave apart, producing a rather different, accordion-like sound, more akin to the bandoneon and the large Chemnitzer concertinas rather than the sweeter, purer sound of the single reeded instrument that most of us here recognise as a concertina. If the Castiglione dealer is within travelling distance, then the best thing would be to visit and try as many different concertinas as you can. Then you will be in a much better position of knowing what it is you really want.

  11. OK being serious here for a minute....


    Yes - we all have to start out somewhere and it is highly likely that we may have to buy a lower-quality concertina to begin with. That's quite understandable. However, there is a trade-off between making progress and having a really poor-quality instrument, which will actually hold you back, because (i) it is physically hard to play, (ii) it sounds awful and (iii) it is likely to go wrong sooner rather than later. I know this - I've been there, many years ago.


    It is far, far better to just spend a just a little bit extra money and get a decent beginner's instrument, perhaps a Stagi or preferably a Rochelle. You will learn faster, be less frustrated and you will want to keep coming back to the instrument to practise. A Rochelle will actually hold a lot of its value for when the time comes to upgrade.

  12. O.k., Steve, I'm sure you're far beyond my level, but for those of us just starting out, what about the picture says it shouldn't be called a concertina? Hope you see this & have restrained your strong urges.



    It's not a concertina, but a hexagonal shaped accordion.wink.gif


    Oi ! Someone's modded my previous post.ohmy.gif The bit in the dots [....] referred to the female ex-Prime Minister of the UK a few years back.

  13. Like Bill I was thinking of a DDR German double reed concertina in GD.

    It may help if you add a picture.


    Is it something like this?





    Arggghhh! Whenever I see a picture of something like that calling itself a concertina, my reaction is the same as when I see [...] on the telly. In the latter case I have this strong urge to throw a brick at the screen.


  14. Well I had a go at it...but I'm really struggling with the last bit and seemed to make more mistakes in front of the camera and didn't have time for more than a handfull of attempts.

    (for anyone watching recent series of lark rise it was in episode 3..thanks to steve for transcribing it for me....even with a cold)


    Well done - that's coming along nicely. You need to work on keeping the tempo a little more even throughout, i.e. not slowing down in some parts, not speeding up in others. But you have got the idea and you have done well on the cross-rowing bits to give you smooth singing-like phrases. Also the little Am chords are good.


    You can apply all this technique to lots of other tunes. Keep looking out for opportunities to use what you have learned here in other tunes. Well done again!

    • Like 1
  15. My concertina was tuned a few months ago (September/October) and sounded fine for a while, but has already deteriorated in sound, and 3 of the left-side notes are asthmatic. So much so that the guitarist next to me commented on it the other night in our rehearsal.


    It's a Stagi Gremlin. The repairer man said that he found the blades to be of "disappointing" quality.


    How often would you expect to have to tune an English concertina?

    With good quality steel reeds, once they have had their initial tuning, there is a settling-in period of a few weeks to a few months. During this period some of the reeds may go slightly out of tune, and will need a slight re-tune. After this though, the instrument should stay in tune for a long time, often many years. Harsh, hard playing may cause the reeds to go out of tune more quickly. Also, if the leather valves are replaced, sometimes the reeds may need slight touch-up tuning.


    But it all depends on the quality of the steel used. I think the comment of your repair man tells it all really. Gremlin concertinas are not the best concertinas in the world.


    Asthmatic (breathy?) notes are perhaps indicative of inefficient air flow around the reed tongue; perhaps the 'set' (the gap between the reed tongue and the top of the reed plate) is wrong. If certain reeds will persistently not hold their tune or proper set, that may be an indicator that the reed tongue is weak and/or about to fail.

  16. Mike,

    A big and indeed interesting question or set of questions. I don't know all the answers but here is my response to some of your points...

    This may be obvious to some but does cause me some difficulty.


    I play an Anglo C/G 26 and a 30 button and like Irish tunes, Morris, 'English harmonic style' , singing accompaniment and am working on songs from an older period of popular music from Music Hall through to pop music. if I could i'd play blues, cajun and South African tunes.


    I don't aspire to classical music but if I mastered a Duet or English i might, I love all music.

    Yes - that's important. It's all music, and remains so, whatever style it is, whatever chords or accompaniment or other harmonic complexities are there.



    The question is about what chords and and when to use them.


    In private or with a few friends I reckon anything goes and there are few rules but in a public session or ensemble how do you find a common ( not lowest) denominator?

    As you rightly say, there are few, if any, rules. If it sounds good and musical it probably is good and musical. However, in a session where there are a number of people playing spontaneously and with little or no pre-arrangement, we tend to stick to simple chords or none at all; the whole thing would become blurred and muddy if people started using their own individualistic chords/accompaniments.



    I've been told that for traditional music you don't use 7ths, too many chords spoil the broth, there is no place for 'jazz chords' in Irish music, 'modal chords' are best so take out the 3rds etc etc.


    I notice that with many melodeon players there is an increasing trend to 'fancy' chords and retunings and layouts to achieve them , and that players who do it are widely esteemed.

    See my responses above. Ask yourself 'does it sound good?' and more subtly: ' does it enhance the melody?'

    Both those are rather subjective ideas, the latter especially; and we are usually constrained in one way or another by the 'tradition' of the genre of music that we are playing at the time. Hence the assertion that you don't use 'jazz chords in Irish music'. There are rules, but they are unwritten and subtle. Whether you can successfully break them or not depends on your courage and conviction and your musical prowess on your instrument. If you can make it sound good and make people suddenly prick up their ears and think 'wow! that sounded different!' then you will have achieved success. But if they are left thinking 'what is that prat trying to play?' then I suggest that either you weren't playing with enough conviction, or you need to find another venue where people don't have such closed minds.


    There is always room for innovation and experiment, even within so called 'traditional music'. If it didn't evolve by people trying out little bits of new things here and there, then it would become lifeless, dead and fossilised. Look how Andy Cutting has breathed new life into some traditional English, French and Quebecois music by being a bit adventurous with the left-hand buttons on his melodeon. As for Irish music, I was listening to some of the orchestral backing music arrangements for Riverdance - there are all sorts of fancy chords and stuff going on there. OK - so it may not be 'traditional Irish music', but it sounds Irish and it is exciting. And if it brings lots of people into contact with a music and dance tradition and encourages them to try it for themselves in one way or another, then that has to be a good thing in my view.


    With concertinas, where you have more scope to build up chords within the constraints (and possible limitations) are people looking to more buttons and layouts for wider effect?


    A big question but I am seriously interested in any response. As we get more and more new players and more recordings such as Anglo, English and Duet International, will we get back to the high esteem for arrangements that seems to have existed in the past.

    Maybe they are. I think this is the sort of thing that Gav Davenport is looking for on his big anglos. And the other Gav - Gavin Atkin plays some wonderful jazzy harmonies on his Jeffries duet.


    Can such expertise have a detrimental effect on fok or trad music. I feel that the kind of piano accompaniments to fok tunes that Sharp, Grainger and Vaughn Williams et al added actually detracted from the music and one of the influences of the 50s and onward revival was ahealthy reassertion of simpler values. Or was it a backward step in some peoples' eyes?

    Cecil Sharp was a pianist. So when he started to collect traditional tunes and songs, it was natural for him to write them down and add 'interesting' or at least playable piano accompaniments. It was partly the fashion of the time. Many households possessed a piano and usually someone who could play it too. There were no recording devices then except for the wax cylinder which was really not suitable for anything other than field recording and collecting. The benefits of Sharp's arrangements were (i) the music was saved from sinking into oblivion forever and (ii) the traditional tunes and songs were suddenly made available to a much wider audience. We may consider the piano arrangements odd and artificial now (although actually they are quite good and do not seriously detract from the original tunes), but again it was the fashion - and like the clothes of the time, the arrangements are now rather dated.


    Percy Grainger was something else - he was an oddball innovator. He collected tunes and songs too, but he also used them as part of his highly original compositions for both piano, and for orchestras and bands, which contain all sorts of squashy and discordant chords in places. But some of it is really exciting stuff.


    I think you are right about the 50s revival being 'a healthy reassertion of simpler values'. Wireless and television had brought more people into contact with traditional music and dance, and some of them wanted to try it for themselves and would eventually reclaim it as 'the music of the people'. The two-row D/G melodeon came into popularity in this period and players tended to use it just as two one-row instruments stuck together. It is only in recent years that the youngsters have started to show us some of its other potential too.


    This is turning into a long ramble. Going back to your original questions, my views would be:

    • Be guided by your ears - if it sounds OK it probably is OK.
    • It's OK to experiment.
    • There are no rules, and yet there are rules too. It's a sort of Orwellian 1984 doublethink. Be guided by your intuition and sensitivity about the situation you find yourself in, and the 'rules' which that situation has or does not have.

    Edited to add:

    Daniel Hersh posted his reply while I was writing this. We seem to have said much the same thing but Daniel has put it much more succinctly than me!





  17. Thanks. No offense taken. I also sing without making people's jaws drop, so I'm pretty sure I'm not tone-deaf. It's not that it plays the same note in either bellows direction - it sounds like it plays F when pulling and then D when pushing, although both notes have overtones.But pressing many of the buttons doesn't change the note much. One button on the left hand changes the note to E when pushing, and another one changes it to B (push) and C (pull) another button changes it to low C (push). As I'm playing around with it trying to explain it,I 'm finding more changes, but they don't seem to fit at all with the chart on a site recommended by someone on this site, and some of the buttons don't seem to change anything.

    So - they do play different notes on the push/pull. This does sound an odd set-up or maybe it is just badly out of tune. Some of the notes having 'overtones' sounds as if it could be another of those double-reeded Scholer concertinas also discussed on this forum today.



    Can you do a systematic check of the notes on the push/pull of every button and post the results on here please?

    Something along the lines of:


    Left Hand

    Outer Row Buttons (push/pull), working from lowest pitch to highest pitch:

    1. C/G 2. G/B 3. C/D 4. E/F 5. G/A


    Inner Row Buttons

    1. B/D 2. D/F# 3. G/A 4. B/C 5. D/E



    and then do the same for the RH side.


    If you can post a couple of photos of the concertina that might help too.

  18. It looks like the picture of the Anglo Stagi C-1 or C-2

    In that case I can only conclude one of three possibilities:

    (i) some drastic modification to the tuning has been carried out on the instrument to make the buttons play the same note in either bellows direction.

    (ii) something is seriously wrong with the concertina to give it the same effect as (i)

    (iii) you are partly tone-deaf and not able to distinguish between musical intervals of a tone (the normal difference between the push and pull notes on an anglo. I'm not trying to be nasty here. It does happen occasionally. But since you already have played guitar and piano, it is probably unlikely.


    As a check, I recommend that you let someone else hear the concertina and ask them the question: "Does this note change in pitch when I push and then pull the bellows?"

  19. I'm a newbie who got some kind, helpful responses to my question about how to start yesterday. Unfortunately, I looked at the suggested websites and tried to start, but pushing the buttons while pushing and pulling did not change the notes. I know nothing about concertinas, but I have played guitar, piano, etc. So is it likely that this struggle is standard for a beginner, or could it be the instrument (it's an inexpensive 20 button that fell into my hands)?


    See my response to your other thread:


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