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Working with Bertram Levy's new book

John D

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I'm curious if you other Edgley owners see a significant difference in button force between note buttons and the air button? The air lever is much shorter than the others, and has a much heavier spring as a result (which might make consistent adjustment during manufacture a bit more challenging). I guess it also gets more opening pressure on bellows close since the pad is larger and doesn't have a reed blocking it.


I own two of Franks fine instruments at the moment. I owned a third a few years ago, so can speak from the perspective of having owned three. All of them have had what I consider to be very light spring pressure on the buttons and I'd not noticed a difference with respect to the air button. In response to your question today I checked the two I currently have and in comparing spring pressure by pressing the buttons with a finger tip, the air buttons on both do have a little more spring resistance than those associated with reeds. That said, I don't notice any extra force needed to depress it when I play. Of course, it is played on the side of a thumb rather than a finger tip, so the mechanics involved are different.


I can also contrast Edgleys with my Dipper Professional County Clare, which has noticeably stronger springs on all of the buttons, and even it requires more pressure to depress the air button compared to the buttons associated with reeds. Comparing just the air buttons between the Clare and the Edgleys, the Clare clearly has a stronger spring and requires more force to depress it.


As others have commented, if you think you have a problem with an Edgley, by all means get in touch with Frank and discuss it.


Back to the thread topic, I had early access and can play most of the studies (22 of the 30) in Bertram's new book from memory. I can report that while I found the initial work with each new study challenging, once you get familiar with the material you find the early difficulties go away, as with working with almost any new and unfamiliar thing. Air issues are just something you need to accept, indeed perhaps expect, when first learning. While Bertram does have extended runs of notes in one direction by the nature of his "phrasing" approach, I've found that I could handle them once I was got to the point where I could play the material at a steady and reasonable speed. Going slow always takes more air because you sustain the notes longer, and as noted above, if you're searching for the next note while holding the current one, you're using unnecessary air. This comment isn't intended to be critical, rather just an observation on the mechanics of the instrument.


Thanks for the reply, Bruce ..


I was just coming back to report that after a number of days of practice I'm able to grab air much easier .. whether it's due to reducing the button pressure or just practicing I can't say, but I'm finding it much easier to sort of lean on the button with my thumb to crack the valve just enough to move the bellows while maintaining sufficent air pressure to have almost no effect on the note being played.


I'm doing both the first and second studies from memory now (I found the second study much easier than the first!), and the second is played 75% opening (!) but it's become almost automatic to just grab (or lose, in this case) air when it feels time.


Again, I meant no offense to Frank or his concertinas .. I love my Edgley, it's totally changed my concertina experience since replacing a very frustrating (and therefore unplayed) Stagi. Now I practice for at least an hour every day and actually enjoy myself .. even my wife enjoys it ;)

Edited by zeke7237
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Just wanted to say arn't we lucky to have Bertram's direct imput on this. So a big thank you Bertram for taking the time and trouble to stay in touch in relation to your latest tutor and for getting the first audio files up on your site. I think I may have been the first person in the UK to get a copy (after reading Bruce's post) and although I've not had as much time as I'd like on it I find it a very interesting approach and look forward to some more time with it, so once again Thanks Bertram All the Best mory

Edited by mory
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I,m finding it very interesting, helpful and challenging.

If Bertram is out there, could you indicate whether you play all bars ( measures) on either pull or push . I find in reality I go for smoothnerss but adapt to get the best chords or drones which may cross bars or require bellows changes mid-bar etc.

I play mainly Irish music at the moment and the adoption of the diatonic 2 row C/G led to a concertina style for tunes originally played on other instruments that still applies. Instruments with more buttons do lend to smoother possibilities but can take away the potentialthatis also a limitation. I'm still amazed at what early players could do on 2 rows.

I play a 3 row Jeffries 26 button so havbe to think more carefully still than te tutor indicates.



I'd also be interested in your approach to seeking varied keys not usually adopted on C/G for trad American music.

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First thanks David for your kind remarks – the geometry of the keyboard is fascinating to me, I see the phrases as constellations of stars in the sky. I have given a great deal of thought to the best way to communicate this vision of the instruments and am happy to help clear up any confusion people might have. I have been communicating with some players through my web site as well and have been adding my comments to my blog at bertramlevy.com.



The process of learning based on visualizing the shape of the phrase first is perhaps quite unique for most players and

I realize that this approach to the instrument is not for everyone. It’s possible to play absolutely great music on 8 buttons in the center of the instrument. However for those that want to expand their repertoire to all music, those players that want to combine harmony or chords while keeping the intention of the melody going, those players that keep getting stuck on a thorny phrase that simply will not cooperate or those that just want to master the entire instrument, this approach is very valuable. The aim of the method is not to teach American fiddle tunes, though that is a happy consequence, but to utilize the repertoire to explore the great potential of the instrument. For this reason I would hope that the many Irish players out there would also find this book interesting.


To address Michael Sam’s questions, the direction of the bellows changes everywhere irrespective of the bars. Changes in bellows direction can be done either smoothly or rhythmically. In the earliest exercises such as Shooting Creek you begin to see smooth mid measure changes while rhythmic changes are exploited to the max in the arrangements such as Old Molley Hare (and further enhanced by playing the right side against the left). In lesson 9 the bellow changes smoothly inside a triplet; it works surprisingly well because it adheres to the pairing principle as discussed in the text.


As to other keys, I would say that this approach is essential. The book explores in detail playing in the keys of C, G, D, B minor, A with three sharps and F with one flat. I will soon be releasing a video of myself playing solo the beautiful Mamallilacula Waltz in C sharp minor with chords and played on a C/G instrument. The piece is built on the C# and G# of the top row. Over the years I have played Klezmer music in C minor and G minor and ragtime tunes in E flat. All on 30 button C/G anglo. By the twentieth lesson, this should no longer be a mystery. The trick with all these keys is air management, which requires careful phrasing arrangements. I can’t really say how that would work on a 26 button Jeffries with out seeing the layout.


hope this answers your question



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Thanks Bertram, I have now looked at some of the later pieces and see what you mean. As I don't read the dots too well it is still quite a challenge but I can appreciate how you are trying to show the range of musics that can be tackled. Thanks for the link to audio materials.


I'll be interested to see the response of the ITM fans on this forum!

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Hi Bertram

I'm very curious to hearing you play in C#minor and other odd keys of this kind !

I would hope that the many Irish players out there would also find this book interesting.


I'm also curious to see what echo your approach gets among irish players. As far as I can tell (in particular from the three workshops I've assisted), irish players are not very concerned with 'smoothing' the fingerings to play phrases all on the push or all on the pull, but rather consider the "chopped" sound of push-pull playing as a constitutive element of "the irish concertina style".

I beleive the acceptance of such an "erratic" phrasing may be due to the influence of the pipes, another instrument in which the choice of detaching/linking notes is not always free but imposed by specificities of the instrument.


I see another specificity of Irish music which somehow defeats your approach : contrary to american fiddle (and many other styles), an irish melody is not usually composed of separated phrases but rather forms a continuous flow (probably again an influence of the pipes, where long notes, or rests, cannot be easily played). Therefore your approach of taking a phrase as a whole, selecting a bellows direction and a fingering pattern, and "arming", is more difficult to apply.

I don't mean that you can't play good irish music with your approach (I'm sure you can !) but the benefit may be less obvious as for other styles such as the american one.



I guess you will also face criticisms from "purists" objecting to this style as non-authentic (in the same way as they seem to dislike the use of the english concertina). But don't care about purists !




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