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FOLKS: As John Nixon said: here we go again. Indeed, it was an exchange on this very website that served as a jumping-off point for my discussion of how to hold the instrument -- there is NO correct way/there is NO incorrect way -- in Contemplating the Concertina, where I try to show that there have always been those who played standing and that there have always been those who have played sitting and that there might have been those who heeded the remarks of William Cawdell, who, in 1865, penned the following:


The concertina may be played in any position, standing, sitting, walking, kneeling, or even lying down. If confined to the house by a sprained ankle, you may play whilst reclining on a sofa. . .and when you are convalescent, you may take your instrument into the fields where the Piano can never be.



Edited by allan atlas
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...how to hold the instrument -- there is NO correct way/there is NO incorrect way...

Just now I tried playing a tune on my (English) concertina with my little finger in the straps and my thumbs in the finger plates. And at the SSI, a couple of us played a tune on two concertinas, each of us with one hand on each instrument. While the result in both cases was a recognizable tune, I would still venture that both methods should be considered "incorrect" for ordinary use. ;) :P


Edited to add: In both instances mentioned above, I was standing. :)

Edited by JimLucas
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As Jim Lucas said "Ah, here we go, again". I think I also read a lot on this subject in another forum.


I have recently purchased Allan Atlas's book 'Comtemplating the Concertina', and have found it very useful for many things, but especially for holding the instrument. I think it is worth quoting his Moral II " Do what's comfortable". I actually came to this conclusion many years ago.


I play an English Concertina and always play sitting, however there have been a couple of gigs where I have had to attempt to play standing. Many years ago (pre-internet) I looked into a strap and got a really well-informed letter from Douglas Rogers (dated 21 September 1991) on how to make one but I never got around to making it.


The internet and forums like these are great for the exchange of ideas. I may even purchase one of those "nerdy" cords.



Edited by Poaceae
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NANETTE: many thanks for the kind words. . . . .obviously, the goal of that chapter was neither to PREscribe nor PROscribe any one method of holding the instrument. . . . rather it was to present a concise "historical survey" -- by means of tutors and photos -- of the various ways in which various concertinists have held the instrument. . . . . .and yes, i would reiterate my "moral": DO WHAT'S COMFORTABLE. . . . .we're making music, not posing for a sculptor . . . . . .


and to Jim L's two INcorrect ways of holding the instrument, let me add a third (at least i've found it rather inconvenient): playing with one hand in the shower while washing one's hair with the other..........


yes, i suppose there are some INcorrect ways of doing anything. . . . .for instance, trying to eat rice with ONE chopstick (at least trying to eat more than one grain at a time)..............on the other hand, i guess that one can always SPEAR that piece of sushi after running the single chopstick through a pencil sharpener. . . . . .remember that utensils (knives and forks) did not become part and parcel of most households until the sixteenth century. . . . . . .until then it was considered quite correct to eat with one's fingers and even to pass the goblet of wine around. . . . .indeed II: it was only at the end of the sixteenth century that the FORK, appearently first used in Venice, began to spread throughout europe. . . .indeed III: writing in the early seventeenth century, the English traveller Thomas Coryat noted the following while meandering through Italy:


I observed a custome in all those Italian Cities and twons through which I passed, that is not used in any other country that I saw in my travels. . . .The Italian and also most strangers that are commorant in Italy, doe alwaies at their meales use a little forke when they cut their meat. For while with their knife which they hold in one hand they cut the meate out of the dish, they fasten their forke which they hold in their other hand upon the same dish, so that whatsoever he be that sitting in the company of any others at meale, shoulde unadvisedly touch the dishe of meate with his fingers from which all at table doe cut, he will give occasion of offence unto the company. . . .This forme of feeding I understand is generally used in all places of Italy, their forkes being for the most part made of yron or steele, and some of silver. . . .The reason of this their curiosity is, because the Italian cannot by any means indure to have his dish touched with fingers, seeing all men's fingers are not alike cleane (after Richard Barber, Cooking and Recipes from Rome to the Renaissance [London: Allen Lane, 1973], 119).

Edited by allan atlas
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For my English concertina I found that a strap was really needed when I play standing, primarily to take most of the weight off my wrists. I went to my local fabric store and picked out a couple of different ribbons that matched the green and gold on my concertina's bellows. After a bit of knot adjustment to get a length that felt consistently right, I stitched a loop in the end and put it under the thumbstrap screw. When I'm sitting I just let the ribbon lie behind the instrument.


I don't remember which book mentioned the ribbon idea. It might have been Mr. Atlas', or one of the (several) others I picked up to learn more about this instrument that has fascinated me for so long.


- Keith

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