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As I am pondering other reed instruments with bellows (BC Irish accordion and/or concertina of some sort), I wonder what kind of concertina I should consider? I am a violinist, and it would be nice to procure an instrument that is chromatic. I go to a local session occasionally, and the concertina player there plays an Anglo 30 button. In the concertina world, what would make the most sense for not only Irish repertoire but all kinds of music - folk, classical, you name it - and that has good instruction material to make it happen? I also like the idea of the BC accordion being chromatic to venture into all kinds of music that way, too. I should add that I am learning the Cajun C melodeon as well. Many thanks for your feedback and suggestions.

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A large question Charviol !!

 

You're at the fork in the road.... all ways look good.... some ways look more good than others....

 

Cajun Accordion is fairly specific to that genre I guess, and B/C Box would not be very usefull for playing clasical music, although anything is possible I suppose.

 

If you want a Concertina with good instructional material and want to primarily play Irish music , and you have started down the Melodeon road... then it would appear to make sense to take up the Anglo.There are people who play all sorts of music on the Anglo, a quick hunt around on Youtube will surely find lots of examples.

 

I play the English; it is, to me, a lot like playing the Violin. Same range of notes, working its scales from one side to the other could be imagined to be like changing bow direction, although the changing of bellows direction also has that "Bow" feel about it.

Fully Chromatic , it is possible to play almost any type of music you could wish to.Instructional material is not so plentifull but there are again plenty of videos on Youtube. I like the English, perhaps because I have played it for so many years.I can change from playing 'Irish' to playing Bach in an instant.

 

I have very recently started to play a Duet concertina (Maccann); it has somewhat the advantages of both the Anglo and the English; no push and pull to worry about, hand straps for control, Chromatic, without having to learn seperate scales for each bellows direction, the ability to play whatever harmonies you want to when you want , play two (or more) parts (hence the name duet).

Is a Duet really good for playing Irish music ? I have yet to find out, by trying it, but I do not know of anyone doing it.There are more than three different Duet keyboards to choose from athough the main three is what you will normally find.

 

Have a good search though the forums here for stacks of information on all systems and then you might wish to look at all the different types of accordions.... plenty of choice there too.

 

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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The beauty of the EC is that you can use any sheet music in the vast global repertoire for violin - gypsy, klezmer, classical, ragtime, jazz, folk, bluegrass, whatever. The treble EC mirrors the range, and the versatility, of the fiddle. The only downside is that good ECs are not cheap or easy to find - but they're well worth the effort! :)

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I would agree with yankeeclipper - although alot of this may come down to personal learning style and perhaps even how our brains are hard wired (if that's the right term). I have always really liked the sound of the anglo and the idea of having the alternate push-pull notes/facility. I have, however, been quite unable to play one in practice, whilst the English system seems to come quite easily and flows relatively instinctively from printed noted to finger tip. No idea why this is, and can only put it down to the way my brain working in a resolutely chromatic way.

 

As with Geoff I am learning Maccan duet at the moment. I haven't got to the stage where I can say it is particularly good for a specific styles of music yet, but it feels to have the versatility of an English concertina, and as Geoff says, the facility to play two parts opens up new worlds, although that may be more than is needed to join in a good Irish session. They do seem well suited to chordal accompaniment that would make them a good addition to a group scenario, or taking a step back in a session.

 

Porbably no better solution to the question than trying a range of boxes - especially if you can find someone to rent/lend one for a few weeks.

 

Incidently, David Cornell's arrangments at www.maccan-duet.com/cornell/ give some idea of what it is like to arrange/play the Maccan system duet.

Edited by Myrtle's cook
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What is the range of the anglo concertina? Is it chromatic throughout its entire range? For English players, is the back and forth from one hand to another on scales and such difficult to get used to? Does the key layout make pretty good sense? I certainly appreciate all the good informative feedback here. Thanks.

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What is the range of the anglo concertina? Is it chromatic throughout its entire range? For English players, is the back and forth from one hand to another on scales and such difficult to get used to? Does the key layout make pretty good sense? I certainly appreciate all the good informative feedback here. Thanks.

 

The anglo concertina is not a fully chromatic instrument. It is chromatic over two octaves of its range. The full range includes two more nearly complete diatonic octaves at the high and low end. I find it's easier for me to understand this kind of thing by looking at a chart, so here is a chart of how anglo buttons are arranged: http://www.concertina.net/ms_finger_layouts.html Something to think about here is that though two octaves are chromatic, some chords or polyphonic arrangements may not be possible due to the in-out nature of the instrument. I have also heard that though the middle octaves are technically chromatic, it is very difficult to play in certain keys.

 

Sometimes Anglos have more than 30 buttons. Here's a 40 button layout to give you an idea of what the larger instruments are like: http://petertrimming.webs.com/Wheatstone%2040%20key%20CG%20Layout.pdf

 

I literally just picked up the English concertina and I find it's layout to be very intuitive. At this early stage, reading music has helped me keep track of which notes are on which hand. Notes being surrounded by thirds and fifths makes a lot of sense to me. It hasn't taken me long to adjust to seconds being on the opposite hand. Sometimes when I am figuring out a song by ear, the correct note just falls in my hands, and I think that's because of the keyboard. I certainly haven't memorized all the keys yet.

 

I think there are advantages to this keyboard, even if the layout seems funny at first. For example, lots of chords are really easy to make. Another thing is that it's easy to transpose into a number of keys. I expect if I practice, I will be able to "sight transpose" to C, G, D, A, E, F, Bb, and Eb reasonably easily. I think sight reading may be easier than on other keyboard instruments as well.

Edited by EmzillaStomp
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The EC makes sight reading easy: notes on staff lines are on the left side of the instrument, notes on staff spaces are on the right. Even I :rolleyes: could figure it out quickly. And don't worry about the bellows: whether you're pushing or pulling or running out of air, the EC is very tolerant of beginners. :)

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Another thing would be what the sound quality would be. Are there significant differences between the sound or tone of an anglo vs English vs duet concertina? Are there differences in how a particular concertina would sound both for very rapid passages as well as long, sustained notes? Are there any advantages an English concertina would have over a duet concertina, knowing both are completely chromatic? Thanks.

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Another thing would be what the sound quality would be. Are there significant differences between the sound or tone of an anglo vs English vs duet concertina? Are there differences in how a particular concertina would sound both for very rapid passages as well as long, sustained notes? Are there any advantages an English concertina would have over a duet concertina, knowing both are completely chromatic? Thanks.

 

 

 

Speaking of Traditionally made Concertinas ( I know nothing about the modern 'Hybrid construction' instruments)... there usually is a difference in sound between the Anglo and the English caused by the internal construction of the Reedpan (that part which holds the reeds)... in the Anglo this reedpan has equal height chamber walls which are usually quite shallow.. this gives the Anglo a fairly direct, clear and perhap un-sofisticated sound that more closely resembles the Harmonica.

 

The English in its later (useable, playable in a session/band) form almost always has a reedpan where the chamber wall heights (and volumetric space) are graded in size from large at the low note end to much smaller for the high notes. The idea of this is to modify the loudness and tone of the notes so that wide spread chords can be played without some notes dominating so much that others cannot be heard.In effect this idea rarely works totally perfectly but it goes a long way to achieve what it sets out to do. This can tend to make the English more refined in sound, too "Drawing Room" for Folk musics. The Duets ( at least the Maccann's and Cranes) are also made on this principle for the same reasons.... it is generally not possible to do this with the Anglo because of the disposition of the notes (I say generally because someone here will pipe up and tell us that they have an Anglo with the Graded reedpan if I said otherwise).

Having said that I have an English that has "flat reedpans" like the Anglo and thus it sounds very much like an Anglo and therefore it is this English that I use for playing sessions and in Bands.

 

When it comes to sound there are other factors; materials used, construction periods,different makers, different sizes of instrument etc etc., and all of these can effect the overal sound of a particular concertina.Some will sound better for sustained notes, some will play easily the more rapid passages.. perhaps 'speak' more quickly but with a not so nice tone... the best instruments will sing and go like hell.

 

Size for size the English will (ususally) have a larger range of notes than the Duet's, will play fast passages with more ease etc. The Duets will be ideal for 'two (or more) Part' playing and making chordal accompaniments more easily than with the English.. though it is possible to make an English sound like a Duet and vice versa. English Concertinas are more plentifull in the market place but the Duets are cheaper because demand is much lower.

 

It would be best if you could get to a Concertina meeting and hear all the different instruments that others play... I know they have these in England , Germany, Holland etc.. perhaps also in the USA ?

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Charviol,

 

As to questions of, "is this or that system more suited to scales, chords" or whatever: When you play violin, do you stop and think consciously, OK, a 3rd line D, and I am in first position, so I will put my ring finger/annulus down on the A string? No, that would take forever, and it is (I'm sure for you) long since subconscious. I play anglo quite a bit and have done enough English concertina to get some tunes down. I wouldn't learn these (or the other instruments I can handle) without just getting scales and other patterns down to unconscious muscle memory (cerebellum, for you cerebral types?) by lots of repetition. Then, whether you plan to read music or play by ear, your brain has a map of where the music is that you can readily refer to without thinking about it.

 

Like everyone here, my experience is individual. I happen to find reading music by sight easy on anglo now (scales and ear are the key for me personally), and for some reason EC makes sense to my brain as a play-by-ear instrument. I wouldn't find the line-on-one-side-spaces-on-the-other the least bit helpful in reading music on EC; I don't comprehend music that way. Maybe others do. As Chris Timson has so long pointed out, all kinds of music have been played on every system, and you can do it too if you put in the time and get some of mechanics in your head. But if you play violin (a huge mystery to non-players: "How do you know exactly where to put your fingers?") you already know that!

 

Have fun whatever you do,

Ken

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What key layout is recommended for the anglo concertina? For English, is the 48 key model the best way to go? What brands of concertina are best to look into? I wouldn't mind a model for a novice, but a good, perhaps more expensive, instrument for the long haul doesn't like a bad way to go, either. Thanks.

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The two main keyboard layouts for anglo are the Wheatstone and Jeffries variants. The differences are in the location of some notes in the accidental row. Which is "recommended" depends on who you talk to, and is often dependent on which system they learned on. However individual instruments often vary as players may make their own variations to suit their own repertoire or playing style. I have three concertinas and the keyboard layouts all differ slightly - you learn to adjust.

 

Jeffries instruments are particularly sought after by players of Irish music, so if you want to specialise in that style you may find teaching material is based on that layout. However it's entirely possible to play Irish music with a different layout, and especially if your interests are wider then I wouldn't worry about it too much. For most music the relatively minor differences won't make much difference. Find the right instrument for you, and learn to play the layout it comes with. When you have more experience you will know whether that suits you or whether to make some changes.

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For English, is the 48 key model the best way to go? ...a good, perhaps more expensive, instrument for the long haul doesn't look like a bad way to go...

 

If you're thinking about an older, higher quality instrument, what you get will depend on what you can find and what you can pay for. A quality 48 key treble EC will be easier to find than baritone or 56 key models, and likely more affordable. After trying out several factory-made contemporary ECs, I'm thankful that I learned on a good, responsive older instrument (a 1915 Wheatstone Model 21) - it was a lot easier and more rewarding. You get what you pay for. B)

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For players that play pretty much one type of concertina, what kind of music do you enjoy playing on it? For players of more than one type of concertina, do you play certain kinds of music with one and other types on the other, or is it all mixed? If I don't want to pay a fortune but still want to get a fine, good-sounding instrument whose sound I will enjoy for a while, what do you recommend for Anglo and for English? Are Stagis worthy contenders? Should any consideration be made regarding boxes from China? Should one consider good, fine-crafted newer boxes from North America or Europe even as a novice (perhaps around $2K)? I like the idea of buying handmade instruments if the prices aren't too high and the availability is there. Thanks!

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For players that play pretty much one type of concertina, what kind of music do you enjoy playing on it?

 

I enjoy playing folk, klezmer, ragtime, classical, just about anything that strikes my fancy. Being fully chromatic and mirroring the range of the violin, the treble EC gives you access to the whole world of sheet music.

 

The custom-made ECs of today are superb, but costly to make. The factory-made ECs are, IMHO, not very good. If you can find and afford a decent pre-WWII Wheatstone or Lachenal in playable condition, I think you'll be happier in the long run. B)

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I play lots of different instruments, but never made it to learn playing the violin/fiddle, whereas I always wanted to.

 

Now that I have found the English concertina as one of my favourite instruments, I enjoy playing it like a fiddle (with open 5ths, double stops/drones a.s.f.) very much.

 

You, as a violin player, might consider this, too. The English Concertina is making such a style particularly easy...

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