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klezmer music, anglo or english?

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Other then irish music i would love to play klezmer music, would i be better with an EC than an anglo?

I've played quite a bit of klezmer on the Anglo over the years and I've found it quite a challenge. Often the keys that are required by my band-mates make me want to play my Bb/F. Some tunes work fine but many go from major to minor in a way that I find awkward on the Anglo. It can be done though and the rhythmic chording and comping possibilities can be very exciting. I often find myself fudging with the melody when things get too hard... which always leaves me feeling like I'm cheating. Conclusion: I think that the Anglo system is not a natural fit with Klezmer but it can work well with some tunes.


I don't play EC but Wendy Morrison from the Washington area US does. She plays some klezmer EC but I seem to remember that she prefers her PA for that material. I hope these observations are helpful.

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I often play klezmer music with my EC, and enjoy it immensely. Being fully chromatic, the EC easily handles the accidentals in klezmer melodies that might give you fits with an Anglo. But whatever instrument you play, I encourage you to try klezmer - it's a lot of fun! :D

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Other then irish music i would love to play klezmer music, would i be better with an EC than an anglo?


I played Klezmer on the anglo in a band, but it has its limitations. The klezmer group I play with has a lot of tunes in D minor. This tuning fits on a C/G anglo - although (in the default lachenal/wheatstone key layout) I am missing some keys such as a high D on pull - so I sometimes have to leave out some notes or `improvise` to hide the feature of missing notes. For tunes in other keys it may be difficult to play the oriental scales (i.e. in E-minor or G flat or F-major.


I prefer to play the Klezmer tunes on the Crane Duet concertina. It enables me to play any chord on the left hand, while playing the melody lines on the right hand side. It is fully chromatic without having to switch from left to right hand side for any note (as is often necessary on an EC).


If you don't need chords then the english system enables you to play fully chromatic tunes, and many tunes can be played relatively fast, as you have 6 to 8 fingers for the melody line - whereas on a duet it is usually the right hand side only that plays melody - so compared to an EC you will have to move your 3 to 4 "melody" fingers to another posittion faster on a duet. Nevertheless I prefer the Duet for Klezmer music.


Hoping this helps,

Marien Lina

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Hello Nanookqc,

The comments that the others have already written are very instructive.

That Jody finds it a bit challenging to play Klezmer on an Anglo, alone speaks volumes.

I've played Yiddish music for decades - and its various origins make it quite diverse in many ways.

However, at the risk of over-simplifying its scope and richness; and intentionally avoiding the rather complex music theory and terminology that can be applied here, I offer the following "exercise" with which you can experiment to get a sense of playing in the genre.

Much, if not most, of the "book" in this genre is reflected in the following two scales. It's certainly not all that there is, but it will provide you with a representative understanding.

Playing these scales well will afford you a glimpse of the scope and modality typical of Yiddish music.

If you can master these scales and their inversions on any instrument, you are in good stead for succeeding in the genre.



The following accidentals are common, if not routine:

B in the C scale

Eb in the F scale

For perspective/reference, the "whitest piano key" version of the C scale above starts on E.


Not many melodies played here, but it's good for reference.

Speed and fluidity are important aspects of the genre.

The Kammen International Dance Folio No. 1 is a meaningful and representative resource for expanding your experiment beyond my representative scales.

When you can play the Kammen Folio 1, you will have a reasonably meaningful appreciation of the genre.

Best wishes in your pursuits.

Be Well,



PS: I've played this genre primarily on Chromatic Button Accordion (C-griff) and English Concertina.

Due to deterioration of my shoulders, the weight of even a small accordion is becoming too great, so I am hoping to someday have a concertina with the CBA layout.

For the record, the Hayden layout doesn't work - FOR ME - as the the accessibility to notes for playing minor keys and progressions is very inefficient - AGAIN, FOR ME.

Edited by danersen
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Many years ago, Al Watsky (yerpalal on the forum, but I haven't seen him active for years) posted in a thread on a similar question. I remember his words: The English Concertina is a Klezmer Dynamo.

Yes, it is.

I've been meaning to write a post explaining why that's so, but it keeps getting interrupted by other tasks (including posts) that are 1) quicker, 2) more urgent, or 3) both.


Maybe tomorrow?

Trouble is, I've been saying that to myself for the past week.

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Other then irish music i would love to play klezmer music, would i be better with an EC than an anglo?


I've been jamming with musicians who also play in klezmer bands for years. It's fun on the anglo - but as Jody said, it's generally awkward because of the keys most commonly used. An EC would be much more practical, IMHO

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There's a channel on YouTube that shows up occasionally from the Czech Republic with videos of an English Concertina and Klezmer music. A warning though, there are over 90, and most of them are of him playing in concerts, and it's addicting to watch and listen.





Leo :)

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Here is a site that shows many kinds of music that played a role in WW2 as used by the germans. It contains all kinds of music - also nazi and german propaganda music (yagh) - but much more interesting jewish music in war time. The direct link is a reaction to a series of assaults in 1959 that culminated in the defacement of the newly reopened Synagogue in Cologne in 1959 / no concertina involved but don't miss it...

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The English concertina is the an ideal instrument for klezmer music.



Because on the English concertina, those "unusual" klezmer scales are no different from "ordinary" major and minor scales (and the other Greek modes).


The concept of "keys" in Western music theory assumes that accidentals (sharps and flats) occur (or accumulate) in a particular order. E.g., the key of G has one sharp, F#; the key of D has two sharps, F# and C#; the key of A has three sharps, F#, C#, and G#. The key of F has one flat, Bb; the key of Bb has two flats, Bb and Eb; the key of Eb has three flats, Bb, Eb, and Ab. But there is no "key" that has G# without also having both F# and C#, no "key" that has Eb without Bb, and absolutely no "key" which has both sharps and flats.


Not so with klezmer. Klezmer does use such "ordinary" scales, but also makes use of some scales with key signatures (the collection of sharps and/or flats that define the scale) which
include both sharps and flats, or groupings of sharps or flats that don't follow the "standard" rules. The ordinary scales are all composed of a series of whole-step and half-step intervals in a particular order. The "unusual" klezmer scales include different orderings and even one or more of a different interval, 3/2 step. On many instruments, these unusual intervals also form unusual fingering sequences, but
on the English concertina.


In all of the most common "keys", the scale in the English keyboard layout alternates between the two ends, with successive notes on each end alternating sides of the end's center line in a sort of "walking" pattern.


But then how do the various keys differ?

On each side of the center line, the buttons occur in pairs, an "inner" button (adjacent to the center line) and an "outer" one. The inner button of each pair is always a
note (i.e., not a sharp or flat), while each outer button is either a sharp or a flat (there are some of each). In the pattern of "walking" up an end by taking buttons on alternating sides of the center line, each "step" has to select either the inner or outer button of the pair.


The key of G major, for example, has one sharp, F#. So wherever that F# is found in the music, the button to press is the outer one of the pair, but all the other notes in the scale are the inner buttons of their pairs. In the key of Eb major (or C minor), three notes in each octave (Bb, Eb, Ab) are on the outer buttons of their button pairs.


For such ordinary keys, which buttons are
and which are
are determined by the rule for sharps and flats in the key signature, and so the combinations are a very restricted subset of all the possibilities. But it turns out that some of the other combinations give non-"standard" klezmer scales... e.g., Eb, F#, Bb, and C#, or just Eb and Ab (but B-natural, rather than Bb). But the overall
-- of "walking" up both ends, while alternating ends -- is exactly the same as for C major, E minor, or D mixolydian.


Of course, there's more to music than just playing scales in a line. But on the English, playing
sort of melodic contour using
of these "walking-alternating" scales will feel essentially the same, and thus be almost equally easy (or equally hard, but I find that
applies far more often than


Chords are simple. A standard triad forms a simple, small triangle on a single end, with two buttons on one side of the center line and the third on the other side. Sometimes one can use a single finger to press two of the buttons in the chord. To modulate between major and minor, one simply shifts one finger (the one for the third of the chord) between the inner and outer buttons of its pair


What's more, harmonies in parallel thirds are quite common in klezmer music (and in many other traditions, too), and they are "dead simple" on the English. The pattern is the same as for a simple scale, except that one uses two fingers -- two "adjacent" buttons on the same end -- at a time.


What's not simple (and usually considered "impossible" on the English) is keeping a steady, rhythmic chord background going while playing melody at the same time. But that's not a problem, since very few instruments can do that, anyway. The accordion and the piano can, but the violin, clarinet, and string bass can't, yet they are among the most common instruments in klezmer. Even the mandolin can't do so, though it's often played with more chording and harmony than the violin. (And arrangements for the mandolin can often be played unaltered on the English concertina.

There you have it.


And while there are key signatures/scales for which the end-alternating-and-walking pattern breaks down, they are rarely used. What's more, they have their own relatively simple -- though slightly different -- patterns.

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Jim's excellent summary above omits one word that I would have included: The technical name for the kind of scale which he calls "ordinary" (well-behaved scales with key signatures that fit the pattern he describes). The word is:




This should suggest that playing scales and tunes in keys that are something else might be a bit of a challenge on a "diatonic" instrument like the Anglo. Same goes for the Hayden Duet, which while not strictly diatonic, is designed to favor playing in diatonic keys.

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