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I was corresponding with our very own Mike Franch who has been happily playing English concertina for three years. We were talking about how much we enjoy playing and how we each started. I don't think Mike will mind if I share some of that conversation with you all so that you can join in if you like.

 

Mike - These guys were writing about the Chemnitzer, but I feel this applies to me:

 

Most concertina players know immediately, from the first push of a button, if they "are" concertina players. You seem to be born a concertina player, which means you die a concertina player. It's a love between player and instrument, a love that never ends!

(This from Steve Litwin and Mark Kohan, "The Chemnitzer Conertina: Polka Music's Workhorse," 2004, http://www.polamjournal.com/polka/chemnitz.html

When I started, I didn't know if I could do it or how good (or bad) I'd be. But I decided that even being a bad concertina player would be better than not being able to play the concertina at all.

 

Jody -

As for your Chemnitzer quote, that was certainly the way it went for me. After avoiding the thought of playing concertina just like my brother Tom, I picked his up one day and the durn thing just bit me and has not let go these many years. I remember the shock of touching the instrument and having it respond to my touch dynamically as if it were alive and reading my mind. I didn't know what buttons to press but it didn't matter, it was the bellows response that got me.

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I'm afraid my experience was much more pedestrian. I've picked up many instruments over the years and thought I would love playing every one of them. Only a few have taken root, nearly always because I got a teacher or was in a group. Only fiddle, just a few years ago, fell right under my fingers immediately, and Rich Morse's old fiddle, which he sold me in 2007, is still a joy to play.

 

Maybe the affinity-at-first-touch is a sign that you are destined to play well/be a pro!

 

All that said, I do of course love my concertina!

Ken

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Sometimes you just know. Sometimes it dawns on you gradually. I was at a going away party for 2 friends who were going to Ireland for a year. There was a great session that night--I had my bodhrán (my only session instrument at the time) and though i love to play it, I felt like kind of an outsider. It made me think about how I had really really wanted to learn a melody instrument for awhile. after trying the whistle a few years back and losing interest, i just gave up.

 

But back to this night--I also spoke earlier that evening to a fellow who said he'd been playing the flute for 8 years. he was pretty good. He'd decided he'd play for 20 minutes a day, and see what happened. It worked. That really inspired me. I thought, "Hell, I can do that!"

 

I spent the rest of the evening playing my drum but thinking about what other instrument I could take up. Whistle? No too shrill and it would exacerbate my tinnitus. Fiddle? no the tinnitus thing again, plus it would take forever just to make the sound tolerable, much less learn any tunes. Pipes? no way, not in this neighborhood.

 

Suddenly, before I had even left the party, the concertina popped into my head. I have no idea why, really. there WAS a squeezer there, but i'm not sure i really paid him any particular attention. Anyway it just hit me. And it MADE SENSE! I don't know why exactly, but I just knew it would be perfect. I didn't think twice--I rented the Rochelle from the Button Box and away I went. I loved it from the first press of a button. The more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. I love the way they sound, how they look, the way they play, the materials they're made of, the fact that when you press a button, it makes a bee-yoo-tee-full sound, no screeching or shrill caterwauling required!

 

Six months in I can tell I'm getting better. I'm picking up my Morse Céilí this week, after saving for 6 months.

 

The End...? I think not.

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Most concertina players know immediately, from the first push of a button,
if they "are" concertina players. You seem to be born a concertina
player, which means you die a concertina player. It's a love between
player and instrument, a love that never ends!

 

This was very true for me. I had been playing guitar and hammered dulcimer in dance bands for at least 15 years. Then I picked up a garage sale Scholer concertina with a shot bellows, and someone gave me another cheap German concertina with no reeds but a decent bellows; I grafted them together, started playing, and had an almost immediate sense that this was the right instrument for me. That hasn't changed in the last 15 years as I've moved on to increasingly good instruments.

 

I'm still in bands - 3 or 4 right now - but only play concertina. It feels right in a way guitar and dulcimer never did. In my early band days, I had a restless urge to take up new instruments; since my rebirth as a concertinist, the urge is gone (to be honest, I did take up melodeon, but only to fill in some holes in my Morris dance playing).

 

I feel incredibly fortunate to have made this discovery. I enjoyed my life as a contra dance guitarist and dulcimer player. But it's just different with concertina. It feels right.

Edited by Jim Besser
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I had three different kind of revelations with different instruments I picked up over the years.

 

With the flute, it felt like I was pouring my soul into the music - just the way your breath seems to come from your deepest inside and comes out as sweet music.

 

With the fiddle, it felt like the fiddle was alive, was music itself, and I was the instrument, a mere tool, to allow the music to come out. A little bit like the anecdote of the sculptor who simply liberates the shapes already inside the stone or wood he works with. With the fiddle, I definitely got the feeling that it was meant to be. Before picking up the fiddle, I even had a recurring dream about being at a friend's place, finding an old dusty - and marvelously perfectly tuned - violin (at that point in time, I didn't know yet that it was supposed to be a fiddle) on the top shelf of a closet. I would take it out and play it. Just like that. I had this dream repeatedly over I don't remember how many years, although I had never really liked violin music that much. The puzzle pieces came together when I decided to learn Irish fiddle, and the dream never occurred again.

 

With the button accordion, it felt like I was sculpting the music three-dimensionally, because of the interaction with the bellows.

 

I experienced these feelings at the very beginning of my learning these instruments, and after getting used to them, those feelings faded away. But at the time they occurred, they were quite overwhelming. Pretty strange...

 

Since the concertina in many ways is so similar to the accordion, I didn't experience anything new, but it's still a match made in heaven! :-)

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I had played harmonica reasonably well, melodeon in a workmanlike fashion, and trumpet badly, as well as trying and failing at piano, guitar, drums, penny whistly, fife...

 

I never really liked the concertina. It was squeeky and rather elitist - far too much mystique.

 

Then one day I wanted one.

 

It is the only instrument I have really persevered at, and I now own 3 Anglos, to a total vaue of more than both family cars.

 

It is the combination of logical layout and illogically placed accidental notes that almost make sense, and eventually feel perfectly logical althoguh I could never explain them. It is the combination of hand crafted beauty, the feel of the instrument, and the sound. It is making something that looks and feels beautiful sound beautiful. It is playing a new tune on a 100 year old instrument.

 

If you've got to ask, you won't understand the answer. ;-)

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I first thought the concertina might be fun when I heard Richard Carlin play EC around 1979. But I never acted on it (I was a poor medical student then, and couldn't justify the $200 it would have cost) until Rich Morse put a Hayden in my hands in 1986 (by then I was an anesthesiologist). I had been playing banjo and hammered dulcimer and pennywhistle all along, but those have all gone on the back burner since I first pressed a button on Rich's Hayden.

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Dear Folk,

 

I still don't understand the machinations of the site,and don't want to mess up as I reply (limping laptop, snowed-in in CT, USA) 'cause I think I won't be able to get back to the forum....So, no multi-quotes, or whatever.

But, this one really grabs at my mind and heart. The fact is, like Mikefule and others, I was a years-long harmonica player, and when I picked up the concertina (September last, at NESI) it seemed almost perfectly natural. Simple me, but I just treated the Anglo as two harmonicas in my hands, and I have not looked back. After just 5 months, I am quite comfortable playing by ear in a couple of local sessions (old timey/fiddle at one; more generic folk/Americana at another) and have just not done any real work at cross-row. The straight-along-the-rows-home-keys method has let me play just about everything I have tried (perhaps I am limited by my own vision, but I still intend to learn slicker fingering "later") which is really the point for me. I got some Jody Kruskal CDs (thank you, Jody, and Margaret at Button Box for the suggestion) and can happily play Log Driver's Waltz, Gooseberry Pie, and the like, admittedly without the wonderful touches of Mr. Kruskal, but still fun and easy to listen to, my associates affirm. Anyway, the idea is that the Anglo concertina has become almost like a true voice to me (currently untrained and simple) in that if I can "hear it in my head" I can play it, if not instantly, then with a couple/few tries. I just sat in for the first time with a CT group playing French music, and although I hadn't heard most of the music before, I found that by "humming along with the concertina" I was able to harmonize within a few bars, and often join in the chorus by the end of the song. It is magic!

 

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and playing and listening to concertinas, and much time here on this site; it and you folks have been so kind, thoughtful, and inspirational. I can't imagine a better fit for me, and the fact is it seems to have helped some with my other instruments; probably just learning new tunes and rhythms, 'cause it certainly ain't extra practice on the harmonica.....that time is now mostly diverted to concertina.

 

And, I must note that the one I play most of the time, now, is the sometimes-maligned Stagi 20 button G/D, which while slower than even my old Stagi C/G, fits beautifully and directly, key-wise, with most of the music my new associates play. If I need A, I use a harmonica, but G, D (with only 20 buttons, hasn't mattered a bit) and C on the 30-button, it has far exceeded my expectations.

 

I am almost ready to try to humbly show-case my progress, with an eye towards constructive (critical) feedback. Do novices post somewhere here, with links to tunes they have uploaded? Do I need to learn about youtube, or similar?

 

As always, thanks for any and all comments and suggestions. Perhaps soon I'll learn how to reply more directly/appropriately with the forum software, but I read and appreciate all.

 

Regards,

 

David

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I also spoke earlier that evening to a fellow who said he'd been playing the flute for 8 years. he was pretty good. He'd decided he'd play for 20 minutes a day, and see what happened. It worked. That really inspired me. I thought, "Hell, I can do that!"

 

Yeah, that's what I keep telling my students. 20 min. per day will work wonders... but do they do it? No. Instead they hire me to whip them into shape with a weekly scheduled lesson to work up to and prepare for. That works too, of course, and I'm happy to provide that service. Whatever it takes.

 

Regardless of how you do it, you just have to do it. No one can do it for you. Remember that great spiritual song, "You Have to Walk That Lonesome Valley"? Sung by many, including

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Dear Folk,

 

 

And, I must note that the one I play most of the time, now, is the sometimes-maligned Stagi 20 button G/D, which while slower than even my old Stagi C/G, fits beautifully and directly, key-wise, with most of the music my new associates play. If I need A, I use a harmonica, but G, D (with only 20 buttons, hasn't mattered a bit) and C on the 30-button, it has far exceeded my expectations.

Hi David,

 

I have suggested for many years that old-time American sessions and fiddle tunes in general feel and sound better when played on a G/D Anglo, so we are in agreement here. One can play many of these tunes on a C/G, but with the sort of harmonic play that I like, that requires either shifting octaves mid-tune or extensive left hand melody playing. These work-arounds are OK but are almost never needed with the G/D.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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My Lachenal english 48 was made 150 years ago...it is incredible that such a complex little musical machine is still eminently playable after so long a time. It also continues to amaze me how quickly you can learn to play a simple tune on it...and then there are the virtuoso players!!! Something to aim for. I admit I mainly play melodeon and mandolin, but my Lachenal is never far away.

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