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Dirge
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The driver of a 3 wheel 'V8 trike' came up to me today. He does tourist rides too so we see each other most days. He said he was enjoying hearing me play and how much was a concertina like mine worth? That stopped him in his tracks, but we chatted on and I learnt he has no musical skill to speak of, has played with various instruments in a lightweight sort of way (including the mouthorgan which he got on 'OK'with.), and fancies a go on the concertina, chiefly for folkie sort of stuff.

 

It seemed to me that an Anglo was his best choice. I thought 'rochelle' and volunteered to print off a bit of info for him to follow up.

 

Do we still think the Rochelle is the best first step? There was discussion about buying vintage 2 rowers at one stage, and stagi has been bandied about recently.

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In this forum, the recommendation for a good cheap basic Anglo has consistently been the Rochelle for several years. It's the advice I got when I asked. I bought one and was pleased enough wity it to become enthused and to upgrade within a few months to a Marcus.

 

I have since had the opportunity to play other cheap beginner's models such as the Hohner, and have found them infintely clunkier and less playable than the Rochelle.

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Thanks both; as I thought.

 

I just had this idea that someone had been saying that a 2 row vintage was comparable price and as good a bet as a rochelle, and I'm not sure how limiting a 2 row is if you're just playing 'ordinary tunes by ear' which I think is all this man is after. I do know even a basic Lach sounds better to my ears and is smaller, lighter and more handsome than a modern.

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I have played a 2 row Lachenal and it was nicer to hold, nicer to play and much nicer sounding than my old Rochelle. However, unless you are a real purist who likes to make things difficult for yourself, a 30 button is very much more versatile, even on simple tunes. As a main instrument, a 2 row is very limiting.

 

That said, if money were no object, I would add a nice old 2 row to my "collection" just for the simple joy of playing the simplest form of the instrument from time to time.

 

Of course, a 2 row was good enough for William Kimber, and as I understand it, when he was bought a 3 row, he just ignored the extra row most of the time.

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I have played a 2 row Lachenal and it was nicer to hold, nicer to play and much nicer sounding than my old Rochelle. However, unless you are a real purist who likes to make things difficult for yourself, a 30 button is very much more versatile, even on simple tunes. As a main instrument, a 2 row is very limiting.

 

That said, if money were no object, I would add a nice old 2 row to my "collection" just for the simple joy of playing the simplest form of the instrument from time to time.

 

Of course, a 2 row was good enough for William Kimber, and as I understand it, when he was bought a 3 row, he just ignored the extra row most of the time.

No that really explained it Mike, thanks; I'll print off a bit on the rochelle and give it to him.

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DIrge,

 

In this particular case, I'd advise against the Rochell, other cheaper Chinese ones, or even Stagi.

 

What makes this case special is that this guy heard you playing, and that's what got him interested. We all know how well you play, and assume that even your "beater" for noodling outdoors is a traditional-reeded vintage concertina. If your friend tries to play any of the above, it will sound awful by comparison, and he'll be terribly disappointed. Not just that he won't play as fluently as you - that's normal with a beginner - but he'll miss the "concertina sound", and think it's his ineptitude.

 

Someone who's never heard a concertina played (and apparently we do have such among the beginners) wouldn't notice the difference.

 

I speak from experience. I caught the concertina bug as a child at the Salvation Army, listening to a Lachenal Triumph duet. What really impressed me was the timbre. Many years later, I purchased a concertina of my own - but it was a German Anglo (all one could get in those pre-Internet days) and although I learned to play it easily with my mouth-organ background, it just didn't sound like the concertina I remembered. I was bitterly disappointed!

 

So in this case, I'd go for a restored vintage 20-button. It takes a while to get to the point where you miss buttons 21 - 30, and it will sound more like what he heard you playing right from the start!

 

Cheers,

John

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Interesting point, and your personal story is a powerful reminder that the sound is the important thing. However, it constantly surprises me how many musicians (not just beginners) pay little attention to it - whether it is guitarists choosing on shape and colour, or melodeonists choosing on price and the latest fashion. We regularly get people in this forum asking for advice on whether to buy and English or an Anglo, when the sound that they make is so very different.

 

My Rochelle was cheap and cheerful and workmanlike. It was far better than a Hohner concertina, but on a similar level to a Hohner Erica melodeon. It was nothing special, a bit slow and clunky, but good enough to convince me that I wanted to play Anglo concertina and I wanted a better one. I had previously borrowed a lovely Wheatstone English for a month and hadn't got on with it at all.

 

My second box (Marcus) cost me about £1,500 and there is no way I would have spent that on a first box, not knowing whether I would make a go of it.

 

My third box (Jeffries) cost twice that, but there is no way I would have spent that on my second box, straight after the Rochelle, not knowing if I would ever get good enough to "deserve" it.

 

When I bought my Marcus, I never played my Rochelle again, even though it was in different keys.

 

When I bought my Jeffries, I continued to play my Marcus, although less often.

 

The Rochelle was sold ages ago. Even though I now have a fourth box (Dipper) which is in the same keys as the Marcus, I still play the Marcus from time to time. It doesn't sound as pure, but it is nice to play.

 

The point being that a Rochelle is cheap enough to get you started, but good enough to get you interested.

 

Playing a concertina is like riding a unicycle - many try but most fail. It is a brave or wealthy person who invests a lot in their first box or first unicycle. It is a rare enthusiast who does not upgrade as soon as he or she realises that they like it and that they're reasonably good at it.

 

I have really enjoyed playing a friend's 20 button Lachenal - I never miss an opportunity - but I feel that it is the skills I have learned on the 30 and 38 button boxes that has given me the confidence to bluff my way around the 20's simpler keyboard.

 

Biggest single example: on a C G box, there is a right hand G on the pull on the accidentals row. This gives you the options to harmonise the G with either C major (push) or G major (pull). In my view, this is the single most important pair of options, and the first step to choosing the right harmonies for a tune rather than making do with the only option available.

 

For these reasons, as a first box for a beginner, wanting to start to explore the possibilities of the instrument, I'd personally recommend 30 buttons.

 

All other things being equal, I'd always say get the best quality instrument you can nearly afford, and traditional reeds sound nicer. However, in the very early stages of deciding if it is for you, for most people, I think the versatilty trumps the better tone.

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I can see how 20 button design came to be, however today it is simply obsolete. The price difference, whether cheap chinese or expensive handmade models, does not justify the possible choice, IMO... Once you start on 20 buttons, those will always be ingrained in the memory as "main" buttons, thus "unequal". Sure, you can get used to the remaining 10 buttons of a 30-b layout later, but why go through that? Why not build a proper, natural relationship with a keyboard from the start, where every button is a necessary, equal note of music, overall? Anglo has enough idiosyncratic inequalities (asymmetries)built into it, as it is. Preferential home keys, scales, chords of the anglo - all is not a plus in the modern sense of chromaticism, rather issues to overcome. I could see a point in trying a 20 button if it could be had for $30 or so, $50 at most - to really just see if it's something for a beginner or not, but even then, it is a cruel choice to make for a beginner. Don't get me wrong - I do look at those vintage 20button deals on ebay, and if I really liked the traditional concertina sound, I'd probably buy one, purely out of love for simplicity and beauty of vintage english craftsmanship, though I don't know what purpose it would ultimately serve. For campfire occasions and camping trips - I'd still be taking my chinese 30 button, and not a limiting vintage 20...

Edited by harpomatic
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I can see how 20 button design came to be, however today it is simply obsolete. The price difference, whether cheap chinese or expensive handmade models, does not justify the possible choice, IMO... Once you start on 20 buttons, those will always be ingrained in the memory as "main" buttons, thus "unequal". Sure, you can get used to the remaining 10 buttons of a 30-b layout later, but why go through that? Why not build a proper, natural relationship with a keyboard from the start, where every button is a necessary, equal note of music, overall? Anglo has enough idiosyncratic inequalities (asymmetries)built into it, as it is. Preferential home keys, scales, chords of the anglo - all is not a plus in the modern sense of chromaticism, rather issues to overcome. I could see a point in trying a 20 button if it could be had for $30 or so, $50 at most - to really just see if it's something for a beginner or not, but even then, it is a cruel choice to make for a beginner. Don't get me wrong - I do look at those vintage 20button deals on ebay, and if I really liked the traditional concertina sound, I'd probably buy one, purely out of love for simplicity and beauty of vintage english craftsmanship, though I don't know what purpose it would ultimately serve. For campfire occasions and camping trips - I'd still be taking my chinese 30 button, and not a limiting vintage 20...

If I had to choose between a good Lachenal 20 button or an inexpensive offshore model, it would be a hard decision. For most playing you would only miss the C# on the third row on the 20 button. That C# gives you the key of D. Many tunes in D can be "fudged" to play in D by noodling around the missing C#, or you could have a skilled repair person put the C# somewhere on the keyboard where you would not miss the note removed. I don't buy the argument about not being able to play a 30 button after getting used to a 20.

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I saw him today and it wasn't mentioned so I'm guessing the moment has passed but i will ask him.

 

I think on balance the average view is what I thought, that an antique 20b is a contender. If it comes to it I shall probably explain the choice but point out that the old ones may not be so versatile but sound so much nicer...

 

Ok forgetting the learner bit now: I learnt to play on a 61 key duet. The first time I tried a 46 I thought it was hopelessly inadequate. More recently I bought another one and have had to work a bit to get something nice out of it, so I feel completely in sympathy with Mike's comments about 30B vs 20B instruments above. But I wonder, Mike, if we have both been spoilt? Perhaps if you had started on a 20B and me on a 46 we might not think like this? Getting used to extra notes on a Wheatstone duet is not difficult, they just add in to what you know already. Wouldn't it be much the same for a third Anglo row? I suppose what I'm asking is, is it easier to start small and go big rather than vice versa with these things?

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My impression of this fellow's intent is that he's unlikely to have a particular need to play anything in the key of D. Play it all in C and G. If somebody wants to play along, they'll figure it out fast enough.

 

If he really develops a burning need to play a C#, he can pick up his handy mouthorgan in the key of D.

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I can see how 20 button design came to be, however today it is simply obsolete. The price difference, whether cheap chinese or expensive handmade models, does not justify the possible choice, IMO... Once you start on 20 buttons, those will always be ingrained in the memory as "main" buttons, thus "unequal". Sure, you can get used to the remaining 10 buttons of a 30-b layout later, but why go through that? Why not build a proper, natural relationship with a keyboard from the start, where every button is a necessary, equal note of music, overall? Anglo has enough idiosyncratic inequalities (asymmetries)built into it, as it is. Preferential home keys, scales, chords of the anglo - all is not a plus in the modern sense of chromaticism, rather issues to overcome. I could see a point in trying a 20 button if it could be had for $30 or so, $50 at most - to really just see if it's something for a beginner or not, but even then, it is a cruel choice to make for a beginner. Don't get me wrong - I do look at those vintage 20button deals on ebay, and if I really liked the traditional concertina sound, I'd probably buy one, purely out of love for simplicity and beauty of vintage english craftsmanship, though I don't know what purpose it would ultimately serve. For campfire occasions and camping trips - I'd still be taking my chinese 30 button, and not a limiting vintage 20...

If I had to choose between a good Lachenal 20 button or an inexpensive offshore model, it would be a hard decision. For most playing you would only miss the C# on the third row on the 20 button. That C# gives you the key of D. Many tunes in D can be "fudged" to play in D by noodling around the missing C#, or you could have a skilled repair person put the C# somewhere on the keyboard where you would not miss the note removed. I don't buy the argument about not being able to play a 30 button after getting used to a 20.

Frank, continuing the thought of modifying the 20b, I remember somebody once had an idea of retuning the entire row of a 20b to the sharps/flats that are missing.Is anyone aware of the success of such an endeavor? How practical is such a layout? Sure, you'd be missing some "across the rows" action & chords, but... Is it an option to consider?

Edited by harpomatic
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One of the things that my earlier post(s)didn't take into account was that some people play single note melody only, whereas some other people play both melody and accompaniment. (And no doubt some play almost exclusively chords to accompany songs.) The range of chord otions is irrelevant if you mainly want to play single notes, perhaps with occasional thirds or octaves.

 

I started to learn to play on a 30 (Rochelle) and was lucky to get a 38 as my next box but one. My most recent purchase is a 30 but with no drone and with a slightly different keyboard layout from my Marcus on the left hand. Some tunes fit one box, some fit another. Some I can play on any, and some I can do by using two sets of fingering.

 

When I play a 20, I certainly feel I am adapting my playing to the unfamiliar limitations of the box. It is a fair point that if I had started on a 20, I might feel I was adapting to the increased options of a 30. However, I doubt I would have made any progress at all in the "English" hordal style if my first box had been a 20.

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...I doubt I would have made any progress at all in the "English" chordal style if my first box had been a 20.

And yet, so many of the old players -- and tutors -- did just that.

 

It's also what's sometimes taught, specifically on a 20-button box, as the "German" style.

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...I doubt I would have made any progress at all in the "English" chordal style if my first box had been a 20.

And yet, so many of the old players -- and tutors -- did just that.

 

It's also what's sometimes taught, specifically on a 20-button box, as the "German" style.

 

Acsh'ly, I just realised that something I wrote about choice of harmonies was wrong, but as noone picked up on it, perhaps I should keep quiet!

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...I doubt I would have made any progress at all in the "English" chordal style if my first box had been a 20.

And yet, so many of the old players -- and tutors -- did just that.

 

It's also what's sometimes taught, specifically on a 20-button box, as the "German" style.

 

Acsh'ly, I just realised that something I wrote about choice of harmonies was wrong, but as noone picked up on it, perhaps I should keep quiet!

Well it's not going to be me noticing it, is it?

 

The chordal point is well made; that's what he heard and admired. But surely a 2 row 'self accompanies' fairly easily? Isn't that one of the good things about any Anglo? That was a good part of my basic conclusion that an Anglo made most sense for him.

 

(This may be a rhetorical Q by now but I'm interested to pursue it if you can cope?)

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The 30 button GD has a D note available on the pull on the right, which a 20 button doesn't. I find this the single most useful "accidental" and it gives you several accompaniment options - either a luxurious big D or D7 block chord, or a nice little bass run. However, my earlier post was wrong because I said that it was the only way to get the choice between harmonising the note D wth G major or D major. That is clearly b***ocks because of course you can get the D major on the push on the D row. (I find it easier to think in GD because that's what I play most often.)

 

The next most useful chord using the accidental row is the E minor on the push. That allows you to harmonise with the G or B and it is a much richer sound than the higher Em that is available on the pull on the D row.

 

There is then an E note on the right hand accidental row that also harmonises with the push Em chord.

 

The accidental row also has a low C bass for that important IV chord, C major.

 

These are simple options but they add a huge variety to the ways of "attacking" tunes. They open up more harmony options and more ways of crossing the rows to make the melody run smoothly.

 

For the way I use the Anglo, I play most tunes in the home key, a few in the second key, and some in the related minors. The main emphasis is on interesting bass runs, part chords and occasional block chords.

 

If I were playing melody only, I would have a different view of the button layout. Melody only probably opens up a wider range of keys with the accidental row.

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