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Are There Ever Half-Step (B/c, D/d#, Etc) 20-Button Anglos?


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Hate to be a stick-in-the-mud, but I think this is a solution in search of a problem. There are numerous great anglo players in Ireland and elsewhere playing either Jeffries or Wheatstone more-or-less standard anglos. The standard configurations have not held them back at all, so what are we trying to do, or, in other words, what problem with playing are we trying to solve? One of the good things about anglos is that you can share the melody and embellishments over two hands. This system as described, as I envision it, would involve much skipping across rows often one one hand with one finger or the other. This may be difficult as anglo button shape, size, spacing and location, as well as hand straps, make sliding back & forth more difficult on an anglo compared to a button accordion. The anglo concertina has been around for quite a while. During the 150 or so years, the concertina was, for a time, a popular instrument. Competition between makers was significant, with different makers trying to "one up" the competition. Many ideas were tried, but were rejected.....for good reasons. If there were significant improvements to be made to button configuration, that actually made anglos more playable, I suspect they would have occured to someone before now. If you want to play really chromatic music or play music in various keys, the tried and true English system seems like a good idea.....or maybe some sort of duet. An anglo is an anglo is an anglo. It does what it does rather well. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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Exactly. All musical instruments have their particular limitations and the traditional Anglo is certainly no exception. The challenge and (hopefully) ultimate satisfaction is to make the very best of what you have at your disposal... or move on.

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The three-row Tejano/cojunto players are even more so, with some just taking out the whole left-side reed assembly to save weight, so the whole left hand does nothing but pump bellows, not unlike an Indian harmonium.

 

I've read about that, and realised it whilst listening to some Texmex music or so. But I always thought of it as a voluntary self restraint due to the requirements of ensemble playing.

 

The three-row (G/C/F, as I used to play) allows a fairly nice amount of adequate chording, if the player just wants to go solo.

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The coolest thing about "traditional" concertina tuning (like C/G) is that it gives you all those doubled notes that are available as both pulls AND pushes... allowing more options of playing smoothly all in one direction here and there, not to mention the availability of chords in both directions. I wonder if the constant push/pull of a B/C would start feeling (and sounding) a little tedious... even though it's certainly a cool idea.

Edited by John Mock
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Exactly. All musical instruments have their particular limitations and the traditional Anglo is certainly no exception. The challenge and (hopefully) ultimate satisfaction is to make the very best of what you have at your disposal... or move on.

 

Rod,

I would beg to differ!

Musical instruments are developed to create opportunity, not to impose limitations. The opportunity that the German 20-button concertina offered with its layout, which was adopted for the Anglo-German, was for untrained, amateur musicians - who hadn't a clue what a tonic, dominant or subdominant chord was, and who didn't know a sharp from a flat, but could nevertheless hum a popular tune confidently - to render popular songs in a fashion that was acceptable for social dancing and singing.

 

Not only was each row diatonic (no accidentals to confuse you!), but it was also laid out in a push-pull pattern that made it easy to form the chords. And the two rows a fifth apart catered perfectly for the many German (and other) popular tunes that modulated. This is all a vast improvement over the then usual guitar and zither, which had chord shapes to learn and accidentals to be avoided, and really called for tuition and theory.

 

So to a musically-minded farmer, factory worker or sailor of the mid-19th century, the Anglo-German concertina was a godsend! The the musically-minded bourgeoisie, on the other hand, with their piano and violin lessons and a need to accompany art songs rather than popular ditties in their social circles, would have had the theoretical knowledge and the necessary motivation to take up the chromatic English concertina and read music for it.

 

So it depends what you want, and what you can handle. The Anglo-German and English concertinas are two brilliant opportunites for two different types of music and musician. No need to make one of them into a substitute for the other.

 

The Anglo did develop further, but even though the 30+-button version was named the "Anglo-Chromatic" concertina, it was strictly speaking still a diatonic instrument with additional accidentals for more sophisticated music in the two home keys. As a by-product, a couple of other keys became playable to a certain extent. Anglo players have seemed quite content with this for a century or so!

 

The notion of a B/C bisonoric concertina first of all throws the baby out with the bathwater - you lose the capability to chord instinctively in the key a fifth away from the main key of your tune - hence playing modulating tunes becomes less intuitive.

And then you'd have two rows only a semitone apart. This is useless in a song-accompaniment setting. With the C/G Anglo, if the singer can't sing the song in C, they can most probably sing it in G, and vice versa. But if they can't sing it in C, it's unlikely that they'll be able to sing it in B, either.

So a B/C configuration on a bisonoric concertina would be a serious limitation - which is probably why no-one has been able to find a market for one yet! If it's an attempt to make a chromatic concertina - why bother? English and several duet systems are already available.

Chromaticity and bisonority just don't match, which is why the words "diatonic" and "bisonoric" are often regarded as synonyms in the free-ree context!

 

IMHO!

Cheers,

John

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Exactly. All musical instruments have their particular limitations and the traditional Anglo is certainly no exception. The challenge and (hopefully) ultimate satisfaction is to make the very best of what you have at your disposal... or move on.

 

Rod,

I would beg to differ!

Musical instruments are developed to create opportunity, not to impose limitations. The opportunity that the German 20-button concertina offered with its layout, which was adopted for the Anglo-German, was for untrained, amateur musicians - who hadn't a clue what a tonic, dominant or subdominant chord was, and who didn't know a sharp from a flat, but could nevertheless hum a popular tune confidently - to render popular songs in a fashion that was acceptable for social dancing and singing.

 

Not only was each row diatonic (no accidentals to confuse you!), but it was also laid out in a push-pull pattern that made it easy to form the chords. And the two rows a fifth apart catered perfectly for the many German (and other) popular tunes that modulated. This is all a vast improvement over the then usual guitar and zither, which had chord shapes to learn and accidentals to be avoided, and really called for tuition and theory.

 

So to a musically-minded farmer, factory worker or sailor of the mid-19th century, the Anglo-German concertina was a godsend! The the musically-minded bourgeoisie, on the other hand, with their piano and violin lessons and a need to accompany art songs rather than popular ditties in their social circles, would have had the theoretical knowledge and the necessary motivation to take up the chromatic English concertina and read music for it.

 

So it depends what you want, and what you can handle. The Anglo-German and English concertinas are two brilliant opportunites for two different types of music and musician. No need to make one of them into a substitute for the other.

 

The Anglo did develop further, but even though the 30+-button version was named the "Anglo-Chromatic" concertina, it was strictly speaking still a diatonic instrument with additional accidentals for more sophisticated music in the two home keys. As a by-product, a couple of other keys became playable to a certain extent. Anglo players have seemed quite content with this for a century or so!

 

The notion of a B/C bisonoric concertina first of all throws the baby out with the bathwater - you lose the capability to chord instinctively in the key a fifth away from the main key of your tune - hence playing modulating tunes becomes less intuitive.

And then you'd have two rows only a semitone apart. This is useless in a song-accompaniment setting. With the C/G Anglo, if the singer can't sing the song in C, they can most probably sing it in G, and vice versa. But if they can't sing it in C, it's unlikely that they'll be able to sing it in B, either.

So a B/C configuration on a bisonoric concertina would be a serious limitation - which is probably why no-one has been able to find a market for one yet! If it's an attempt to make a chromatic concertina - why bother? English and several duet systems are already available.

Chromaticity and bisonority just don't match, which is why the words "diatonic" and "bisonoric" are often regarded as synonyms in the free-ree context!

 

IMHO!

Cheers,

John

It is true, I don't know almost nothing about music, I play mainly by ear, I play the anglo and the diatonic accordion. I began with the duet and I "miss" now in the duet the automatic "vanishing" of inappropiate notes that occurs only with changing the bellows direction ;-) when playing the anglo, and how easy is in it making chords.

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Anglo Irishman,

 

Of course no musical instrument is 'developed to impose limitations' but that is not to say that limitations do not invariably exist. As one who prefers to play entirely by ear and solely for my own amusement I am happy to be bracketed with those who you describe as 'having no clue what a tonic, dominant or subdominant chord is'. I know what these things are but my playing is spontaneous from the head and the heart and formal musical theory plays absolutely no conscious part in it as far as I am concerned.

 

Any suggestion that the Anglo might originally have been only suitable for 'popular songs in a fashion acceptable for social dancing and singing' is I, would think, to underestimate the full possibilities of the instrument although of course the scope of a 20 button model is inevitably very limiting.

 

Best wishes, Rod

 

 

 

 

 

Best wishes, Rod

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A lot of interesting comment so far, I'm definitely learning a lot. And though I can see it's not everyone's cup of tea, what with the decreased harmony potential, it doesn't sound so bad for my particular habits of playing mostly melodic work on a one-row melodeon. Honestly, if I could get a 10-button Anglo at a good price, I'd probably mess with that just for kicks, and a C/C# is just a 10-button with a chromatic row above.

 

In whatever case, Dancemaster cracked open the box today and is working the reeds, so it should be a quick and easy job. I wouldn't spend too much on something quirky like this, but the box was sunk cost and the reeds a good deal. I also have a Weltmeister 1-row with bad reeds sitting about, so maybe I'll have to find some unusual tuning to try out on that too. Maybe not the most useful boxes, but there's no shortage of beater Stagis and Weltmeisters in the world, so I'm willing to sacrifice a few for musical experimentation.

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