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Holding Anglo Concertinas

How do you hold anglo concertina  

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;) In response to Tom: I anchor the concertina on my right thigh. I move the bellows with my left hand, but I am right handed. I think this means I am doing most of the work with my nondominant hand. Is this what you meant, Tom?
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Without counting the replies the impression seems to be that the majority does use either side (left or right thigh/knee) supporting one of the ends of the instrument and mainly working the bellows with the other.


Spontanously this is a bit odd to me since the handy and light Anglo with its symmetrical construction really invites to symmetrical management which is most easy to practise playing standing. Symmetrical playing while seated is a bit awkward:

If sitting on a table chair you have to lift the instrument in the air too high for comfort.If sitting on a foot-stool the postition may become more comfortable.

If resting the instrument somewhere on the legs like has been said hanging it over one thigh is not efficient and the obstacle is not only wear of the clothes but the friction obstructs bellow movements. The Anglo is usually too small for resting one end on each thigh like you can do with larger instruments and wider bellows.

My trick for playing seated symmetrically is resting just the edge of one end on one knee/thigh and 'fanning' the bellows by opening mainly the upper bellows folds.

This is not always efficient for Anglo playing however if you do very frequent and forcible push/pull but for English playing it is superb (despite not always ideal for the durability of the bellows since the strain on the folds is uneven)

I have writtten more about this in the article "Holding the concertina":



The main reason that most players do use some kind of support by the knee/thigh I believe is the lacking stability of the 'system'. Compare accordion playing which mostly offers fixation of the right part of the instrument. An improved handle for the concertina may offer better stability and options to play more 'freely' without this support by the legs. The specific type of music likely decides how much stability you need for good performance.

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Yes, Tom, I do play Anglo.


I think it is good Jim feels challenged. Then he'll keep responding. I'm trying to see if when he hits 300 responses, he gets a party hat for his avatar. Course, he doen't have an avatar. :P

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I'm yet anotrher one who holds it in the air between the two hands, the the position varying between arms almost straight down, to having the instrument at head hieght. Also lying on my back, sometimes resting it one my body, sometimes in the air.


This surely is one of the beauties of a concertina, you can play it in almost any position you want!. Standup,, sit down, lay down, all without interrupting the tune!



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  • 20 years later...

Guess I'll respond on a 19 year old thread with some observations. 


I play Irish music so this is all centered around that genre.


I've always taken the warnings about not playing the bellows on the leg seriously, and no end of great players don't do that.  Nevertheless some do, like John Williams, the only American to win the All Ireland.  Don't know what they do when holes form in the bellows; cope?  Get a replacement? 


I never liked playing with the bellows on the leg, anyway; it's great for stability but creates all this drag at the same time.  The advice I've always read is to put the left side on the left leg.  To my surprise quite a few players do the opposite - right side on right leg:




This is Hugh Healy, I have his CD, great musician.  This photo is from a a page hosted here of photos taken by Peter Laban.  The majority of snaps there actually show players like Hugh holding right-on-right, or as I'm going to joshingly refer to it, playing the concertina backwards.  ;)   Or how about righties and lefties? 


The next photo is of Brid Meaney, also a righty.  Here's a video of her with fiddler Síle, her sister I assume.  Terrific music!  Trying to find more about Brid I found that was Florence Fahy's first instructor, and Flo also is a righty. 


Another thing Hugh and Brid both do is to tilt the stationary end way over to the side at an outwards angle.  Guess that helps the thing to do more of the work?  It's far removed from Noel Hill's keep the ends parallel approach.  I've never had luck with angling like this, it doesn't make things more comfortable.   I've found that I need to keep the stationary left side basically upright, and angle the other side downwards, otherwise my right hand really begins to ache.  Perhaps I have a sensitive nerve on top of my right hand, where the strap makes contact.


Here's one more approach:  2014 All Ireland Champion Ciaran Hanna holds the right side on the left leg - with the left side hanging in the air.  This is common with box players.  Here's a video.


Hope this is all of interest/help to people.  Try anything - I believe that what's best for us in how we hold the concertina has a lot to do with our physiology.

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Two ways:

One end against left thigh (if I'm doing tricky things especially with my pinkie on the lower left side) - right side if right (I have a short little finger and it helps..)




Playing the anglo standing (e.g. for dancing/singing with a group) - in which case I'd like to say I play it more vertically, with the instrument over the elbows, but in practice it varies..  I also move it around more (unconsciously - I guess it just goes with the whole body movement).

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On 3/8/2024 at 3:10 AM, wunks said:

Concertinas are magical objects like a sorting hat.  They know who you are and will invite you to play.  They are playing you as you play them.  

This is SO true.  They come up with the tunes, too!

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1 hour ago, wunks said:

Exactly, even to the point of supplying the words to the melodies!

Darn, mine only supply melodies to others’ words. And is no use when I’ve forgotten words!

Edited by Kathryn Wheeler
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