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Concertina Knee Straps Experiment - Anchoring For Easier Playing

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The concertina's ergonomics cry out for ergonomic improvement to make playing easier and music sound better.
This is one of my experiments - with some success. Advantages are:
1. Firmly anchors both the two keyboards, making playing easier.
2. Reduces the floppy awkward twisting of the bellows at direction changes (in-out-in).
See also my vids about (a) making the thumb straps swivel on just one bolt, to give the hands flexibility, ( B) removing the guard for the little finger, which makes for easier playing © shaving the tops off the buttons so they're rougher for better grip.



Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

20 Lyndhurst St.

Chelwood Village,

Palmerston North06

357 7773 021 176 9711


Edited by Bruce Thomson
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Knee straps would require leg movements instead of arm movements, so I would imagine you lose some of the subtle bellows movements used to create accents and phrasing, even on an English or Duet. Certainly not practical with the direction changes required for an Anglo.


I haven't really seen any floppy awkward twisting of the bellows at directions changes on my Anglo, but maybe that is a peculiarity of the thumbstrap arrangement on an English, or maybe the result of a tendency to play long phrases in one direction, so the bellows are sometimes extended farther than they can be controlled. Certainly, if you make the thumbstraps swivel, and remove the finger rest on an English as you have suggested, then the ends may need some other way to anchor them.


Of course knee straps won't help at all for playing while standing. But I deliberately avoid resting any part of my concertina on my knees even while sitting, and haven't found it to be a problem to keep my Anglo concertina supported and under control, held completely freely in the air. I suppose it could be a fatigue issue with a bulky or heavy instrument though.

Edited by Tradewinds Ted
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I would not want to appear to be pouring cold water on your inventive spirit Bruce but,


Whole générations of players used the English, as supplied. Listen to the old players on the 'English International' CD... or the playing of Gordon Cutty or the waving the thing in the air style of Alistair Anderson.... these people played wonderfull music without modifying the instrument.


As a (one time) repairer- tuner-collector- dealer of Concertinas I have seen hundreds of vintage models and truly I cannot think of ONE that had modified holding arrangements of any sort.


As a player ,I have managed to use the supplied fittings without real complaint for the last 41 years.


I do hope you find a comfortable position to enjoy your concertinas.



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It seems to me that the problems you are trying to solve are not inherent in the concertina as such, but rather stem from the sub-optimal condition of a component of your specific instrument.

I have no experience of the EC, but when I started on the Crane duet (after many years with the Anglo), the bellows seemed to be a bit "floppy", as you put it. However, the hand-straps were also thin and very supple from long use, so I replaced them with new, thick, stiff ones like on my Anglo - and brought the Crane's bellows under my control at once!


If we're talking about "anchoring", I think the important thing is to anchor the hands to the ends, rather than anchoring the ends to something else. In your posting, you refer to making the thumb-strap swivel and removing the pinkie-rest - as I say, I have no experience of EC playing, but this would strike me as being tantamount to "slipping the anchor!"


And, as Geoff pointed out, people have been playing the EC (and the Duet and Anglo) very well for well over a century without fundamental alterations to the straps - although I'm sure many have developed a preference for a certain looseness or tightness of the straps, or a particular hand position. Perhaps experimentation in this area might help you.




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I disagree, that only because a century worth of players used unmodified instruments and acomplished great things, one should abandon all attempts to make the instrument more comfortable for himself. Especially when there are so many people suffering from repetitive strain injuries caused by original concertina ergonomics.


But all different types of concertinas has their own ergonomic issues and one cannot simply compare EC ergonomics with Anglo or various duet systems or even styles of play. E.g.: EC neck strap works fine on EC, but IMHO it's shoulder variant (over right shoulder and below left arm) works better for duets, making (together with left thigh and hip) a very stable foundation for rhytmic accompaniment.


Thumb strap is a great thing for EC and Hayden, as it gives much needed freedom of reach to far notes, but indeed comes with a great handicap in terms of bellows control. I have recently worked on an a different approach on a thumb+hand strap, that I'll use on my DIY Hayden - I'll show it to all of you as soon as it'll be ready.

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I know it is not so helpful if you have financial limitations but a better concertina might alleviate your concerns. Larger concertinas need more hand pressure, and inefficient reeds do too. Because your grip needs to be more rigid to transfer the necessarily increased expansion and contraction power you lose the subtle touch and it is all more tiring. Thinly built bellows or bellows with very deep folds can be floppy, adding to handling issues.

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I disagree, that only because a century worth of players used unmodified instruments and acomplished great things, one should abandon all attempts to make the instrument more comfortable for himself.


Hi, Lukasz,




My point was that most people get comfortable by making fine adjustments to the standard fittings. But your disagreement has put my brain in "mad inventor" mode, so here's an innovation for you:


The EC is different from the Anglo or the Duets (or the Bandoneon or Chemnitzer, for that matter). Non-EC players use their sturdy handstraps and solid palm-rests to press and draw the bellows with the ends more or less parallel. EC tutors, on the other hand, recommend fanning the bellows, i.e. keeping the ends together at the side away from you, and opening and closing the side next to you.


So wouldn't it be a good idea to fit a hinge of some sort between the ends of an EC? A stout, broad hinge at the outer corner should do the trick of keeping the ends upright, however floppy the bellows in between may be, so each end would help to support the other. Alternatively, two pairs of long, pivoted strips screwed to the upper and lower flat sides of each end might have the same effect at lighter weight.


How's that for thinking out of the "box?"




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If you'll look closely, it has a hinge:) There is a strap joining sides at the bottom of his concertina - it is clearly visible at the very begining of the video.

Yes, so there is!


That's like all my most ingenious inventions - somebody has already put them into production!


As a schoolboy, I often got annoyed with bicycle chains that worked loose and came off the sprockets - so I "invented" an arrangement in which the front and rear sprockets were each replaced by crown wheels of the same size, with a drive-shaft with two small pinions between them. Then I visited a bicycle museum, and saw a Belgian bike with exactly that arrangement - dating from 1912! :wacko:




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