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Concertina Keys


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If you have an Android phone then you can use a free chromatic tuner app called DAtuner to create a keyboard map for your concertina and then compare that to the many keyboard maps you can find by googling around.

 

There is a similar app available for iPhones too.

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Is it an Anglo concertina (different notes on the push and pull)? If so, it's probably in two keys, one for each of the two bottom rows of buttons (closer to the hand rail). Think of the rows on the left as being continuous with the rows on the right. That is, a row on the left and the corresponding row on the right are one long row broken in half.

 

If it is not an Anglo it is either an English (with thumb loops) or one of the several Duet systems (hand straps, like an Anglo). These instruments are generally chromatic, and not thought of as being in any particular key.

 

So lets assume you have an Anglo and we have the task of identifying the keys of the two bottom rows of buttons (if there is a third row, furthest from the hand rail, it is for extra notes that aren't in the other two). Each long row (two sides) contains buttons that, on the push, play the three notes of a major chord, repeated in several octaves. If we can identify that chord, we have named the key of that row. For instance, if all the buttons in a row play either C, E, or G (on the push), then it is a C row.

 

Do you know the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" (you don't have to be able to play or sing it, just recognize it)? If not, search for it on youtube. There's a million renditions of it in different keys. The point is that the interval between the first two notes of the song (and also the first two notes of many other songs and tunes: You Are My Sunshine, Taps/Day is Done, etc.) is called a "perfect fourth." See if you can sing a perfect fourth: "We wish..." (or "You are..." or "Day is done...").

 

OK. Now go to one of the two bottom rows on the concertina and starting at the left end of the row on the left side of the concertina, play all of the buttons, one at a time, going from left to right until you get to the right end of the row on the right side of the concertina. Play them all on the push. If you run out of bellows air use the air button to refill the bellows but don't play any notes on the pull.

 

Can you hear that all the notes you are playing are the notes of a major chord? Listen to the intervals. Some of them will be major fourths. When you find two adjacent notes that make up an interval of a major fourth (and you may find examples in several different octaves), the one on the right (the higher of the two notes) will be the note that has the same name as the chord and the key.

 

Now we have to name that note. You need to compare it to an external source that has notes whose names you (or a friend) know. A piano keyboard is a good choice. Find your key note on the piano, come up with a name for the note on the piano, and you have named the key of the row of buttons you are working with. Write it down.

 

Now repeat the process with the other row.

 

Now say the names of the two keys you have found in this order: Start with the row further from the hand rail. End with the row closer the hand rail. You have just named the key(s) you instrument is in.

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