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badwellmac

How Many Of Us Are There ? ( Concertina Players )

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Hi All,

 

I have been looking around the net for all things Concertina in an idle moment and saw it quoted that there're about 50 players of Maccaan Duet Concetinas in the world.

 

This seems a very low number, I know that Concertina"s are rare in the real world, but this seems a very low number.

 

This got me wondering...

 

What is the best guess about the world wide number of Concertina players of all the different types of Concertina ?

 

Is it possible to work it out or make a best guess ?

 

Seasonal greetings from Rural Suffolk in UK

 

Karl

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It could be a "How long is a piece of string ?" type of question. What is the definition of a Concertina? Is a Bandoneon a Concertina and if not why not ?

 

How many concertinas are there ? How many have been sold,traded,restored etc. in recent years? How many people own one (or more) and how many of those people regularly play a concertina. Would a person describe themselves as an Owner,Collector,Player,Proffesional Player, Restorer,Maker..... etc etc.

 

I did start a thread a couple of years ago to see if it was possible to determine how many MacCann Duet players there are currently... it did eventually come to quite a few more than 50....

 

An interesting topic.... perhaps too difficult to determine a figure :unsure: .

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I think one difficulty in calculating the concertina population is that for a great many playing is a solitary pass time. I sometimes play in sessions. But ninety-five percent of the time I play in my barn alone. It is a form of meditation and prayer for me. I think there must be many players who remain anonymous and private in their playing. That said, in Canada in my travels I seldom find concertinas, but I'm always looking.

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I would submit too that there are a number of musicians who focus on other instruments, but own a concertina they mess with sometimes. So people who may even be "concertinists" on-stage, but aren't really specialists on the instrument.

 

I've been on-and-off in that category for years, casually owning (cheap Stagi or similar) concertinas and mucking with them, maybe even take them to jam sessions, but nowhere near the top of my list of instruments I specialized in. I actually kind of fell back into concertina unintentionally, when I brought it to a house-party to jam with the host. Since we'd be doing songs I didn't know, I chose my Hayden Elise figuring it'd be easy to find chords on to do simple backup, and ended up really enjoying the experience.

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This is a question that pops up fairly regularly, and I have no more of an answer this time round ;)

 

I'm always amazed and delighted when I encounter another player of the Jeffries duet system "in the wild" as it were, and even with such a niche (i.e. ludicrous) keyboard layout, there seem to be more people out there playing them than one would necessarily expect. This is particularly true given the probable low number of surviving instruments when anglo conversions are factored in.

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...saw it quoted that there're about 50 players of Maccaan Duet Concetinas in the world.

 

This seems a very low number, I know that Concertina"s are rare in the real world, but this seems a very low number.

It certainly is. Here's a link to the thread "Current players of The Maccann ?" that Geoff Woof started on the subject. And here's a link to the post giving the most recent "count" -- 79, as of two years ago, -- which of course includes only those we here have identified, so far.

 

What is the best guess about the world wide number of Concertina players of all the different types of Concertina ?

 

Is it possible to work it out or make a best guess ?

Not really.

 

It can be fun to speculate, but I doubt that even the NSA or Google® has access to enough relevant information to make an estimate that we could be sure of within an order of magnitude, for either any particular type of concertina or all types together. I'm not sure even the British census would be sufficiently reliable within their borders, if they collected such information, which I'm pretty sure they don't.

 

But for those still wishing they could know, here are links to some other previous threads on the subject.

If you want to continue the discussion, one of the above might be a better place to do so. Otherwise, instead of counting concertina players we might need to start a thread where we count the threads about counting concertina players (among other topics ;)).

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You need to ask the question differently:

How many younger concertina players are out there?

At the NESI in September this year I was amazed at the lack of young up and coming concertina players of all and any styles and instruments. It makes me sad.

 

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I came across a youtube by 'harpsichordkid' called 'Softly and Tenderly English Concertina'

www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp_WrenN8Jw

 

I loved it, and noticed that he was playing what looked like a cheap Chinese concertina rather like my Scarlatti. The more cheap and cheerful instruments that are available, the more chance people, especially young people, will be able to give it a try. I also think the playability of these cheap instruments is better than they are given credit for by those used to 'the real thing'. An experienced player tried mine and hated it because it felt much harder and slower to work, but of course if it is your first instrument you just take it as it is. Even though I am very excited to be getting a 'proper' instrument for Christmas, I don't regret starting with the Scarlatti at all, and would be happy to go on playing it. I hope it will go on to start someone else off at some point.

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You need to ask the question differently:

How many younger concertina players are out there?

At the NESI in September this year I was amazed at the lack of young up and coming concertina players of all and any styles and instruments. It makes me sad.

 

I think that most (?) of those cheap chinese and concertina connection boxes are bought by young people, just starting their adventure with a concertina - there are plenty on YT, so there are probably much more in reality. And as we discussed in the other thread, all those Elises must have been bought by someone :) As I wrote before: IMHO the reason why you don't see them at NESI or other concertina gatherings is that their musical choices are completely different - many of young players on YT play covers of game music or simple accompaniment of popular songs. Of course there are many, who like and play traditional music, but there is a large group that treats a concertina like a miniature accordion and focus only on modern music. They're probably even lurking here, but will never join this or any similiar site because of "traditionality" of this site. There is a huge generation gap between concertina players, because of history of popularity of our instrument.

 

One other thing - young people nowadays tend to learn everything by themselves rather than taking lessons from old and experienced folks. It is partly because of individuality and a sort of "google effect". And at least in my parts of Europe, we usually don't hang out with people outside of our generation.

 

To sum up: an "old school" concertina might be in its dawn years, but the new IS coming.

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ireland has gobs of "up and coming young concertina players," at least in proportion to its size there are gobs. they wouldn't want to go to something like NESI--the concertina events they attend are specialized festivals where they can get polishing in serious (but fun) workshops with master teachers and session opportunities to a high standard in the style they are pursuing. the irish music strongholds of the east coast might not have gobs, but they have their share, and they too do their workshop attendance in specialized contexts such as comhaltas events or the catskills....

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In reaction to the few posts right above this one, maybe consider there are huge differences from one place top the next. The situation in Ireland is quite different, huge numbers of young people taking lessons and working away at it. But most are not much interested in internet sites about their instrument, they're the facebook generation.

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Karl's question started a lively discussion. Lively, probably, because it's unanswerable, other than "how could anyone know?"

 

Another interesting but unanswerable question is "what percentage of the world's concertinists are on cnet?"

 

An answerable question would be, "of those cnet members who post, what is their longevity on cnet?" I'm sure there are many members who never post (don't know why I'm sure of it, it's really a guess), but I've noticed, when looking at older posts, names that I never see in current posts. We know why some, such as the late Leo, no longer post. What of the rest? It's not surprising that those who make, repair, or sell concertinas are around for a long time, but how about those of us who are just players?

 

I suppose there might even be a category of folks who hardly ever touch their box any more, but just love the camaraderie of the forum!

 

Mike

 

Edited to change inadvertent "answerable" to "unanswerable" to the cnet question.

Edited by Mike Franch

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You need to ask the question differently:

How many younger concertina players are out there?

At the NESI in September this year I was amazed at the lack of young up and coming concertina players of all and any styles and instruments. It makes me sad.

 

 

I definitely would not use large formal gatherings as an indicator of youth participation. In addition to what Łukasz points out, such large "convention" events cost money, require travel, and are centered around pre-existing groups of people of a far older generation. A 24 year old computer tech in Chicago who googles up Bach scores online to play at his local coffeeshop is quite understandably less likely to attend than a 65 year old comfortably retired fellow with a $3000 vintage Wheatstone who wants to see all the displays of from high-end vendors, socialize with people similar to him, and attend workshops designed by and for people like him who share his tastes in music.

 

Another possible reason is that, with the clear exception of Irish trad, there's probably negligible family/community pressure/encouragement to play concertina. You can attend a bluegrass fiddle event, Scandinavian dance event, or definitely any kind of classical/jazz event, and find young people there who are supported, financially and personally, by parents/teachers/churches that want them to participate in that musical culture and attend formal classes and workshops. Barring a few folks here, almost nobody cradles their infant child and dreams that someday they'll perform Victorian parlour music on the Crane Duet.

 

 

I think that most (?) of those cheap chinese and concertina connection boxes are bought by young people, just starting their adventure with a concertina - there are plenty on YT, so there are probably much more in reality. And as we discussed in the other thread, all those Elises must have been bought by someone :)

 

I've met several folks my age who have taken up or planned to take up concertina, predominantly English concertina. Though oddly enough I had one first date where I was explaining that I play Duet concertina to a girl in her late 20s, and she responded with "right, the ones with low on one side and high on the other, kinda like a piano. I was thinking about getting one of those." Turns out she'd been looking at Wim's site, and having no particular concertina background, singled out Duet as the most "logical" seeming choice for her as a keyboardist.

 

 

 

 

To sum up: an "old school" concertina might be in its dawn years, but the new IS coming.

 

Indeed. And whether we get many young active posters here or no, sites like this help the cause, YouTube helps the cause, and in all seriousness a real tip of the hat to Wim Wakker for ensuring that there are dependably decent starter concertinas in all three systems.

 

Not that there's a direct equivalency, but the staggering success of ukulele as a Gen Y/Millenial instrument gives hope. Ukulele was all but dead for young people when I was a teen in the 1990s, but now decent ones are sold in most guitar shops, several very active forums with a young user base, kids showing off their instruments on FaceBook, Pinterest and other social sites, and YouTube is absolutely choked to the gills with young people largely playing covers of currently popular music (of all genres) on ukulele.

 

 

 

Minor sidenote re "treats a concertina like a miniature accordion": I treat mine like a miniature harmonium, thankyouverymuch. -_-

Edited by MatthewVanitas

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I definitely would not use large formal gatherings as an indicator of youth participation. In addition to what Łukasz points out, such large "convention" events cost money, require travel, and are centered around pre-existing groups of people of a far older generation. A 24 year old computer tech in Chicago who googles up Bach scores online to play at his local coffeeshop is quite understandably less likely to attend than a 65 year old comfortably retired fellow with a $3000 vintage Wheatstone who wants to see all the displays of from high-end vendors, socialize with people similar to him, and attend workshops designed by and for people like him who share his tastes in music.

While I can agree that cost and travel may minimize participation, the advantage of a such a gathering as NESI is that one attends workshops and sessions of styles of music with which they are not familiar, and meet people of all ages and styles from everywhere. There were a few younger than 25 years in age in attendance but it is nice to know there are more

ITM seems to offer the largest group of upncomers I suppose.

 

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I've been avoiding this thread....and shouldn't reply to it....but have an idle moment and what the heck.

 

I'm fully cognizant of Jim's reservations about the validity of such guesses; that is undoubtedly true. But I'll hazard a guess. After all,

1) The impossibility in making a good estimate has never stopped hundreds of university climate computer modelers from trying to model the infinite complexity of the earth's atmosphere, so why should I be deterred from trying to guesstimate how many players there are? :rolleyes:

2) More to the point, I'm probably the only person on the planet who has visited significant numbers of concertina players in all four traditional homegrounds (Ireland, England, Australia, and South Africa) as well as North America. I also have the sales of my various books and CDRom to look at, not that everyone in this population buys or reads such stuff, of course.

 

I'll stick to the Anglo with my guesstimate. There are only a few score duetists anyway, and I haven't a clue on numbers of English system players (only that they are a fraction of the number of Anglo players). And I'm going to talk about real players, not just ones that have an Italian one in their closet that Aunt Bessie gave them...or folks who just buy them and don't ever play them.

 

Ireland: my guess is somewhere in the 1200 range for active anglo players. Could be double that, or a few hundred less than that.

England: I'm guessing a few hundred. Call it four hundred; could be less and might be double that.

Australia: There are still a few old style players in the outback, declining daily, plus a few score of Irish style players in the big cities. I'll guess about 300. Again, could be quite a bit less and could also be double that.

South Africa: The two Boermusiek clubs combined have about 2000 members, and I saw evidence of a lot of good players there. Not all of the club members are concertina players, but a lot are. I'll guess about 800. Could be quite a bit less, given the rapid pace of emigration to other countries by Boer folk. Could also be double that.

Germany and continental Europe: maybe a couple of hundred total? uncertain on this one; could easily be double. Always meant to connect with some German players.

North America (US and Canada): I'll guess 500. Could be less, could be double. In Texas, there are about 20 total, in New England significantly more in terms of player density.

Everywhere else...what the heck, add a hundred. That includes a few scraps in New Zealand, which should have many more!

 

Totals, worldwide:

Low side: about 2200

Best guesstimate: 3500

High side: 7000

 

Note that I skewed the guesses; it is easy to see how I could leave out some, but it is in my opinion unlikely that the total could reach higher than the high case. Similarly, I think it highly unlikely that there are fewer than 2200.

 

So there it is. Feel free to butcher it with better data in your particular area. But try to give some reasons! I would only try to defend this total number as an order of magnitude. 3500 feels about right, and it definitely isn't as small as 350 or as large as 35000.

 

Have fun,

Dan

Edited by Dan Worrall

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I think we have a better handle on this than you might suspect for the simple reason that almost all concertinas found "in the wild" have been sitting in closets and attics for decades and when they come on the market require restoration and repair. Based on my observations it's an unusual event when a well loved concertina in good working order turns up at an auction, pawn shop, music store, estate sale or other venue. The fact that they don't turn up implies that there isn't a large pool of concertina players who fly under the radar.

 

Another factor is that there is a very limited number of people to do repairs, supply parts, or act as dealers in used concertinas. A concertina in need of service, or one that's for sale, is probably going to one of, what, 2 dozen possible places? The same is true with new instruments, there are so few people making them, and their output is so small that the number of new instruments annually can be easily tracked--you can almost do that math in your head. Again, if there were a pool of hidden concertina players they would quickly show themselves in the form of much higher demand for service work and spare parts.

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If ,like me, you purchase a decent quality, brand new instrument you can have all the fun in the world with little or no recourse to service or spare parts. In 34 years I have had to replace a few worn or fractured springs. I do a bit of very simple home maintainance ( the occasional cleaning,lubricating and polishing ) and I always treat and handle the instrument with the greatest respect. The tuning is as sound as the day I bought it. and I play it every day. Buy a neglected antique found in an attic and you run the risk of having to spend more time on maintenance and repair than on playing.... but then I guess a lot of people derive some fun out of that side of things.

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