Jump to content

My first days with an English Concertina

Recommended Posts

I recently purchased a Wheatstone English concertina to explore the possibilities. Having never tried an English system before receiving it, I am still exploring the instrument. I can play a few simple scales and getting used to the buttons. I play irish dance music exclusively, so will continue learning some tunes this week. I find myself still occasionally looking at my hands, but hope to be past that by the weekend. How many Anglo players here also play or have tried and English system? I use bellows direction in the same way I do on my Anglos, with most As being pulled, most Gs pushed and second octave d and e the same as my Anglo cross fingering. The Wheatstone has nice sounding steel reeds, and an original 1952 bellows. Appears totally original to me, but a little leaky and needs valves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Larry,

Looking forward to working on your english. In the meantime, as you translate some of your Irish trad to the english concertina I'd advise that bellows direction can aid phrasing and some accent punch but don't neglect the strength of the instrument in being able to string a series of notes together in the same direction. Keeping your finger work more toward the staccoto is a good way to offset the legatto tendency and to avoid it from taking over.


I've heard good things about Geoff Wooff's Irish playing and I'm sure he'll have some good tips on technique.


Enjoy the adventure!



Edited by Greg Jowaisas
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawrence, say it isn't so. I can't believe you've crossed over to the darkside!


Any more news on the Tionol?


Ross Schlabach


Certainly not going to give up on the Anglo! This might be a short lived experiment, and might be a keeper. Still deciding. The tionól details are being finalized as we speak, and will be posted this week.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good luck with the new venture Lawrence,


it really is not as traitorous as some would have us believe. I recall one old friend who tried playing the EC by changing bellows direction for each consecutive note, in the hope of getting an Anglo type sound. Well, for me it is a lot like the differences in Fiddle Bowing styles; Donegal... a lot of up and down. Clare; much smoother with several notes in each direction at times. I tend to study the fiddle players and try to follow their ideas more than trying to make the EC sound like an Anglo. After years of playing the Pipes I came back to the EC and, I think, made much more sense of ITM on it.

Use Bellows changing for Phrasing and emphasis yes but, much rhythm (internal and external) can be achieved with finger attack and as Greg says keep things on the Stacato side and avoid Elephantitis!


Elephants allways keep two or three feet on the ground, apparently, so the reference to that here is because some people, when they are learning the EC, like to keep a finger on a button untill they have started playing the next note, for spatial location reasons I guess. This can lead to a mushy over Legatto style which might be the reason why the definition of an EC player is "someone who hangs around with musicians". Not my definition, I hasten to add, but one I heard years ago and truly hope it was not being aimed at me :unsure:



Edited by Geoff Wooff
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is interesting to see that Clunktrip does not appear to use his bellows for emphasis and that all his music and rhythm is coming from the fingers. Plenty of Attack, fingers coming down from a good height. This can be very hard on the action and Bushings, as can be heard on the videos.


Personally I am not an advocate of reiterated buttons using two fingers to produce triples... yes, now and again but not as a primary source of Ornament, however, overall I agree with Chris.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Larry - welcome to another world...


About bellows direction

I think there are two schools (in lack of a better term): those who change direction on certain notes and those that don't.


I don't - at least I don't think I do. When I change consciously, it seems to be guided by the fact that certain phrases or melody runs "feels"/sounds better on the push than on the pull or vice versa.


But what I do is use the bellows for emphasis, down to single notes, all the time.


About fingering/Irish Music on the English

After 6 intensive years developing something like a fingering system or fingering guide, I'd say the best advice is to be prepared to neglect all you hear a Good Lad should do when it comes to "which finger on which button". I've managed to surprise myself a couple of times by - in frustration or despair - throwing a finger upwards where it definitely "shouldn't" be and realizing that "What?! It works!".


Emphasis again

Apart from using the bellows for emphasis, I also use the "never the same finger twice on the same button"-rule. Que? Emphasis? Yep: it is difficult to emphasize the second note of two by using the same finger twice - it becomes like "A-A". With finger switching you can do "A-A".


Maybe it is time to record a little tune, with notes and fingering added...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Clunktrip did not do all of that damage to the concertina, it was in very poor condition when he received it. The rattles and bangs make it seem he is treating it badly but having spent time in his company it is not the impression you get watching him playing. I do wonder if he would play differently if the bellows were not so leaky. He perseveres with that Anglo mainly because it is a Wheatstone Model 22, fast and relatively loud for an antique instrument.


The major difference when comparing Anglo and EC in their capacity to play Irish is you can exert much more sudden force on an Anglo.



Edited by Chris Ghent
Link to comment
Share on other sites

okay, i'll "come out." i purchased a chinese 48-button about six months ago on ebay. it's like a jackie, but 48 buttons. it sounds like a jackie (which is good imho), and the action is like people say a jackie's action is. the bad news was that the reed response is jackie-like only in the central "white key" columns, while the outer "black key" notes are painfully difficult to elicit a response from, so i'm not really playing it now. but the mind-boggling thing is that the chinese are this close to producing a full 48-button EC that is playable for couple hundred bucks.


anyway, i took to the two-hand system like a duck to water, started trying irish tunes on it, and in a month or two got the hang of it enough to learn numerous jigs, reels, and hornpipes, and then try them in even the most exotic "black-key" keys--and it WORKED, way more fun and easy than playing in those keys on anglo--and was playing them at the relaxed end of "to speed" with no problem. i only quit because the tortured reed response on the outer columns was giving me tendonitis.


however, i am not using the pinky thing, and am playing it "backwards" with the low notes near my index and middle and the highest notes near my pinkies. on a treble EC, the lowest notes are much-used alto notes very common to irish and other european folk tunes, and i like having them right near noel's crucial index-and-middle fingers. i did not want EC for chordal music like many people do, and for melody music i definitely find it makes more sense held and fingered that way (a tenor, maybe not, but a treble EC, definite). i got the dump-the-pinkie-thing idea from youtubes of simon thoumire, who frees his hand to range all over the buttons more freely without the pinky bedpan.


but i'm still not sure i'm going to get a "real" ec due to being intrigued by duets as well. if you got one with a lot of bilateral overlap seems to me you could use both sides for single-melody music, and then use change and use the duet in the intended bass-left, melody-right style when you felt like arranging that way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...