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Type of concertina

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I sometimes wonder whether the difference in sound between Anglo and English has something to do with the way they're held, i.e. hand-straps v. thumb-straps.


With the heel of my hand pressing the bellows and the draw effected by a stout hand-strap distributing the load to my whole hand, I can get as much "oomph" as I like from my Anglo or Duet. Surely this is not possible with just the thumb drawing and only the thumb and pinkie pressing the EC - or is there a trick to playing the EC fortissimo that's not obvious to outsiders?

Also, my hands are braced between the endplate and hand-stap of an Anglo or Duet, so changes of bellows direction have no "slop" whatever, and this makes for a clean attack, which also makes the notes clearer.

(I've only had an EC in my hands once, and I felt only tenuously connected with it; it wasn't as if it was "part of me.")


Just wondering!





Good question John,

and it needs a good answer!


Firstly as I have tried to suggest 'not all EC's are born equal' from the point of tone and attack, relating to the construction. One does need strong thumbs and a willingness to quickly change the pressure applied to the instrument and the instrument has to be able react to dynamic changes instantly. In other words an efficient instrument in good condition.


I relate the movements of the bellows to the use of the Bow in fiddle playing; whilst fiddlers, and fiddling genres, will change bow direction for each successive note, others will play several notes in one bow direction but with different emphasis, speeds and pressure of attack.


Another thing is finger attack, the speed and weight used to touch the keys.... touch or hammer or something in between.


As we know bellows direction changes work most quickly when the bellows is nearly fully closed... this is due to the lack of flexibility of the bellows hinging parts at this point of its travel. At the other end of the movement, bellows 2/3rds fully extended, the bellows is quite flexible, or it should be, and this flexibility can be used to good effect on the EC to punch and bounce notes whilst not changing the direction of movement, just appearing to.


Watching the movement of Alistair Anderson's Concertina, when he is in full flight, the bellows appears to hover at 70% open and the tension in his arms is controlling the air movement... this is what I think of as the bounce point.


There is plenty of punch to be had from an EC if you want it... however it appears that some people just use the bellows to supply air to the reeds and not so much as an expressive part of the instrument. Then there are Concertinas that have only one volume, they are on or off, and even a poor quality Anglo might appear to have some bounce (drive, punch, whatever you want to call it)by the necessity of changing bellows direction to obtain a scale.


I have recently taken up the Duet so I am thinking about the 'better availability of attack' provided by the hand strap and rail... my jury is still out on this. Whilst the system of holding the Anglo and Duet might contribute something to the tonal differeces between them and EC's I do not think would be much... It appears to be more concerned with the way we play them or what we play on them.

If I play a piece of Morris dance music on my EC using all the same notes that an Anglo player would use I could come close to a similar soundscape... perhaps not quite so punchy.

If I take a piece of music and play the same arrangement on EC and Maccann Duet.. is there a difference in sound ? Only as much as one instrument to another.


I play Anglo and have never held an English. Is it not possible to play the English with Anglo style straps and if not why not ?

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I play Anglo and have never held an English. Is it not possible to play the English with Anglo style straps and if not why not ?




The height of the keyboard, the rows of buttons stretch away from your hands at 90° to those of an Anglo. This is perceived to be the problem with using an Anglo style hand rail. The difficulty of spanning the whole EC keyboard from a hand rail position.

The Thumb strap system places the hands in a reasonably central position over the keys.


However, on some Duets there are as many buttons ( at 90° to the hand rails) in a row as most EC's, but good access to the upper reaches are just that, a reach !


I think several people here have fitted Anglo style hand straps to EC's but I do not have a problem with the traditional Thumb strap system even though all other squeeze box players find it very strange.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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