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Duets More Ergonomic Than English?

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Hi from a new member,

 

In fact, I'm new to the concertina world in general, having played first the fiddle and then the mandolin & tenor guitar for quite a while. The chances of trying out a concertina where I live in France before buying were non-existent, so after a lot of research and much indecision, I took the plunge just a few weeks ago and bought a lovely old Lachenal tutor English concertina through Chris Algar on Ebay and have been really enjoying learning some scales and my first simple tunes.

 

Only one problem: I work long hours as a technical translator typing all day and have minor repetitive strain injury in both hands and wrists. Trouble is, playing the EC seems to aggravate it, although this may still be due to being a novice. Having learnt from overdoing it on my other instruments, I try to keep my sessions short - 20-30 mins or so. I also play sitting down with the concertina on my knee.

 

So I'm in a bit of a quandry about whether to carry on and see if I can work through it or trade in the EC and try a 46 button duet concertina which at least looks to be a bit more comfortable to play. I nearly weakened yesterday and went for the Wheatstone 46b duet offered by Chris Algar on Ebay, but realised I didn't know enough about it. I did consider the duet initially but ruled it out on grounds of being too difficult and not being sure whether it would be suitable for the music I like to play: basically British Isles folk and American old-time music, but no classical or music-hall. I'm not interested in the Anglo system, much as I enjoy listening to it.

My budget is limited and I couldn't afford to keep the EC as well, so if I'm to change, the trade-in would be the only way to go.

 

Any thoughts from the experts?

Is the duet easier on the hands (I'm thinking McCann due to pricing and availability)?

Is it hellishly difficult to learn compared to the English and bearing in mind I have never played the piano?

Would a 46 button instrument be suited to my tastes in music? I'd like to try chordal accompaniment, but keep it quite basic.

Any opinions, even of the "Stop thinking about it so much and get on with playing" variety would be gratefully received.

 

Dean

 

 

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It depends...

 

My guess: The alternating fingering of the English system lightens the touch, at least whilst playing single note melodies.

Then again, if you want to do some chording, the ease for the left hand may outweigh the right hand complication of the duet.

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I don't think it's much different from anything else in difficulty (I find Englishes and Anglos incomprehensible myself). Expectations are higher. People play melody only tunes on Englishes and Anglos and this can be regarded as sufficient, but try that on a duet and people will look at you funny. That, I think, is a big part of the problem; the bar is set higher from the start. Also I think lots of duets are bought by players of other systems who, when they don't immediately start to play great music, get discouraged and go back to their main system. Clearly it wouldn't be their fault for not persisting; it must be the instrument that's too hard. That's just human nature.

 

As to hand strain dunno. Again I find holding an EC very awkward but it's not what I'm used to so...Geoff Woof should comment on this one as the only member I can think of that's accomplished at both.

 

And finally I have a lot of fun with my 46 key playing anything I fancy and busking the chords to suit; tune in the RH and chords in the LH by and large.

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Well Dean,

firstly a Lachenal Tutor model EC is not the easiest concertina on the fingers. They tend to have the return springs set quite heavily on the buttons due to the less than wonderfull lever mechanisms. I was also looking at Chris Algar's 46k Wheatstone Duet and nearly pressed the BID button too.

 

So, having learnt the EC so many years ago that I do not recall any discomfort caused during the process ,I would have a slightly one sided view regarding the same for Duets. I began playing the Maccann 21 months ago and I do recall, and still have, some finger discomforts. I lightened the spring pressure on the buttons.. but then I have done that on my EC's as well. The one thing for me was a need to strengthen a different set of muscles, or at least the muscle action in a different position and especially for the Little fingers which although I do use them on the EC it is only when I have run out of other digits. On a Duet the Little fingers are brought into play constantly. So , for me, some discomfort occured which would be akin to toughening up of skin surface when learning the fiddle or guitar and increasing flexibility of movement, strength of muscles etc., in a new format.

 

I also live in France, by the way, and if you are anywhere near my area (Limousin) perhaps we could meet up and discuss your problems with regard to these instruments.

 

I would agree with Dirge that the Maccann has a longer learning curve, as much due to expectations as any real difficulties. It takes me longer to learn a new tune, but then I am only a beginner,

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Many thanks for the very helpful answers. I'm going to persist with the EC, try varying my hand position etc. and building up some stamina. It's really unfair of me to blame my hand pains on the concertina when they were caused by my job! I've probably just caught another dose of Instrument Acquisition Syndrome, which I'm all too familiar with from my experience with various stringed instruments. I cured that by learning to make my own mandolins and tenor guitars (although not to professional standard), sadly that is not an option with concertinas.

Geoff, many thanks for the insights, which are very helpful in light of your background. I'm in the Charente-Maritime so not a million miles away from you and I'd love to meet up some time, but first I need to get more proficient as I'm still very much a rank beginner.

Best regards,

Dean

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is your EC discomfort general, or re certain notes? I think that reaching the low notes from the classic pinky-in-the-trough position might be uncomfortable for some. i am of the 45-degree-angle, no trough-use group such as simon thoumire.

 

as a cba player, the one thing i'd put in about duets is that, if you're playing a lot of melody music, with bass vamping on the left side, melody line on the right, your right hand is going to do a lot of work. the ergonomics for that right-hand melody workload are different on a concertina than on an accordion, and they are different still for unisonorics than for bisonorics, where the two-notes-per-button and directional switches relieve a bit of the melody-playing load. i'm not sure on the specifics as to your strain issue, so this may be no problem for you....

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Thanks, Ceemonster, you're right in that the lower notes cause the most discomfort. Since my first post, I have loosened up the thumb straps and been more flexible about using the finger troughs. I think it will be best to dispense with them altogether but I'm not yet capable of that.

I have also decided to stick with the EC rather than move to the duet, as I'm very happy with my little Lachenal and the system is well suited to what I like to play. As you mentioned, I was also worried about over-stressing the right hand. I'm hoping that adapting my technique and practicing in short bursts will do the trick and I'm glad to report there already seems to be a bit of an improvement. The problem is putting the instrument down after only 20 minutes!

Cheers,

Dean

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The problem is putting the instrument down after only 20 minutes!

 

I guess 20 minutes (perhaps resumed later the same day?) may be o.k. for the moment. You might be able to expand your practising when you'll have gotten truly familiar with playing this instrument. At least this had been my own experience after intitial limitations due to numbness of the right pinky.

 

BTW: If you support your instrument with one knee, you will not need the pinky rests at all if it suits you better ignoring them.

 

Good luck with your Lachenal!

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