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How Accidental Was Your Choice Of System?


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By the way, philosophically speaking, logical is not synonymous with simple! :P

Absolutely not.

Nor necessarily antonymous, either.

 

"Logical" and "simple" -- as I understand the concepts -- are independent qualities. But I have noticed that there are lots of people who seem to think that "logical" is a synonym for "seems simple [or even 'obvious'] to me". B)

 

If there's a philosophical discussion, you won't expect me to stay aside.. B)

 

As for me "logical" includes: an organisation (here: of buttons, reeds, notes) which I can (or have to) value all the more as I get involved with it...

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Ok, it's time for me to weigh in on this discussion. Here's the short version of my story...

 

My older brother Tom discovered Morris dancing at an early age, took a trip to England, visited Crabb in Islington, and got himself an Anglo to learn Kimber style Morris by ear. This happened when I was 8 or so. The following 12 years, I heard his efforts. So when I was finally bitten by the concertina bug, I knew just what I wanted... or so I thought. I got myself an Anglo C/G and started to learn, by ear, all of the tunes I had heard my brother play. Such fun I was having! It wasn't until a musician buddy of mine told me that I was playing all of the tunes in the wrong keys, that I realized my problem. The easy solution was to find a G/D and then all of the tunes I had learned, were now sounding in the right keys. That's why I play mostly G/D today, because it makes the richest harmonic sounds in the keys that fiddle tunes are mostly played in. To my ear, Anglo is cool but fiddle is king, so joining the fiddle with the sound of my Anglo brings me the greatest musical pleasure.

 

Jody

 

I was very struck by your point about "the richest harmonic sounds" for G and D coming from a G/D Anglo. In my ignorance I thought the G/D was favoured for English tunes because most of the melodies are are in G and D and can be played on the home rows. Now it's obvious to me that the chords, thirds and fifths are much more accessible than you'd get in D on a C/G machine. I guess the G is also lower and more acceptable.

 

Given that the vast majority of English folk dance/session tunes I know are free of accidentals, I'm wondering why 20 button G/D Anglos aren't more common as they would seem to me to be quite adequate in this context and much more useful than 20 button C/Gs would be for ITM.

 

Rik

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Totally accidental. I was at Whitby folk festival back in (gasp) 1971, a newcomer to folk music with a desire to play vastly greater than my ability. I owned a guitar at that stage, as that was what everyone seemed to play then, so in a club with about 20 resident guitarists, I came in at about 21 for skill. I heard Lee Nicholson playing concertina, and wanted one. I wanted to accompany myself singing, but found the basic guitar style of playing across the tune rather than along it (well, I know what I mean) got in the way of my singing (I couldn't sing either). I went to Lee's concertina workshop, where he explained about the difference between English and Anglo - both from the description seemed strange, but I guessed they'd make sense once I had one. Back home, I went out to one of those long-lost junk shops where so many of us seemed to start in the days before E-Bay, and there in the middle of the window was a concertina. I tried it. I liked it. But it wasn't either an English or an Anglo, having the same note on pull or push, but the high notes on the right and the low notes on the left. I bought it, learnt a tune and immediately became the club's best concertina player, which felt like a promotion. About 2 years later, I discovered it was called a Crane Duet. I traded up from 36 to 48 buttons, and the rest is history - or mostly geography, as I was all over the place to start with. Since then, I have owned and tried to get on with Anglo, English and Maccann Duet, but eventually sold them all on and stayed with the Crane. Not that the others were lesser systems - I suspect that I would have got on with whichever one I had found first - just that the sounds of the others were so similar to what I was already doing on the Crane that it didn't seem worth the effort to learn a new system. In addition to song accompanyments, I've played for Morris dancing and in a ceilidh band - once did a ceilidh as the sole musician, just me and the caller - so all in all, I'm glad I found that first Crane. Cost me £15 too!

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Only the first one was accidental: I was finding playing a 120-bass piano accordion for morris (affectionately known as the musical 'fridge) far too heavy, and so researched concertinas, and was convinced that the English system would be the right one.

 

It wasn't. To this day I can only just get a tune out of an English if I concentrate really, really hard. I find going backwards and forwards between the hands very unintuitive.

 

But: I got an anglo in my hands and it made perfect sense as a kind of keyboard-harmonica.

 

The duets were a deliberate move. I love the anglo, but I also like to be able to sing in the right key for my voice - first came the Maccann, and then curiosity from studying keyboard layouts online drew me to the Jeffries duet. Chris Algar happened to have one that I could try, which had been on eBay but was still unsold by the time I caught up with him at Witney that year, and it was love at first "where the devil is everything?" I now play Jeffries duet almost exclusively, the other systems only being used for specific song arrangements.

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I went to the store for a piano accordion (which I played, somewhat). But, once there, I saw a concertina. I thought of how nice it would be to not have to strap something right onto me, and how my back might feel better...

 

Deliberately went for the English system, charmed by the opportunity to have left and right hands be more 'equal' -- with the piano accordion, the system is that the melody is played by the right hand and the left hand plays chord buttons.

 

I do not regret my decision... have thought maybe I would have liked the Anglo as much, but I don't know.

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Semi-accidental. Years ago, I was smitten by the playing of Tom Kruskal on his seminal album Round Pond Relics, with fiddler Jim Morrison. But at the time I was playing guitar and hammered dulcimer in dance bands and didn't think about anglo v. english v. duet.

 

About 30 years ago my father gave me what I later learned was a cheap, no-name Italian 20 button Anglo with a shot bellows that he found at a garage sale. I think he paid one dollar. It wasn't playable, but I found another with good bellows but shot reeds. I combined the two, despite a little bit of mismatch - I think there was some glue and duct tape involved - , and started puttering around with it. When my daughter was very young, I used to play to her - we played "name that tune," with me playing her favorite kids tunes on concertina and her identifying them. Great fun. I spent a lot of hours playing along with Tom's record ( genuine vinyl).

 

I found Anglo intuitive; it made sense to me. It was what Tom Kruskal played. So I never considered switching.

 

As an aside: about 15 years ago I played alongside Tom for the first time at a Morris event. I was scared out of my freaking mind.

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Back in 1979 or so, I was learning to play Irish music. I played tin whistle and was looking for a more substantial instrument. I saw a classified ad for a concertina at a low price. It was a 20-button red pearloid Italian-made C/G Anglo, so that's what I started on. I moved up to a used Bastari 30-button fairly soon, and to a restored old probable Crabb a few years later. So that was more or less accidental...but several decades later, I became frustrated with the limitations of simultaneously playing melody and accompaniment on a 30-button C/G Anglo. I tried a G/D Anglo with a few more buttons, which was better, but when the Elise Hayden was announced I decided to try out a duet system. I liked it a lot but missed the sound of concertina reeds. I hesitated to spend $5000+ on a concertina-reeded Hayden, so I switched to Crane for most of my duet playing.

 

So C/G Anglo was accidental, the duet systems much more deliberate (as was my attempt at Chemnitzer somewhere in between, but that's another story).

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I tried Anglo and couldn't make heads or tails of it (still can't). The whole push for one note and pull for another is just baffling to me. Oddly enough, I can play a harmonica, but I completely lack the hand/brain coordination to work the bellows.

 

I picked up an English, and immediately realized that the left hand played the lines and the right hand played the spaces. Written music was just a tab system for English concertina. It made absolute sense to me. Then I figured out where the 3rd's and 5th's lived, and I was hooked.

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Ultimately it was the harmonica that did it.

 

My daughter bought me an 18-button Stagi EC for Christmas after she and I saw Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangson at a folk festival and spoke with Cindy after the show about her concertina. She recommended English. Though I learned to get tunes out of it, the pull of the clawhammer banjo was stronger. Then I gave up playing any instrument altogether for a few years.

 

A year or so ago, I began a binge of listening to a lot of English folk music and was intrigued by the sound of the melodeon and concertina. I bought a Hohner pokerwork and dusted off the Stagi.

 

But I was particularly fond of the concertina playing of John Spiers. A little research established this was an anglo. I got a Bastari from eBay, fixed its buttons, and tried it.

 

A lifetime of casual harmonica playing (I have them in the glove box, in my brief case, own one in every key) -- straight melody-playing, not blues harp -- meant that the Anglo felt completely natural to me. I was sold. Even playing in octaves comes pretty naturally, because my mind is hard wired to the way the scale works on the row. I've learnt basic chords. I find myself picking up my concertina in preference to any other instrument.

 

I eventually bought a Rochelle from a Cnet members, and have a Lachenal on order from Greg Jowaisis.

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Ultimately it was the harmonica that did it.

...

A lifetime of casual harmonica playing (I have them in the glove box, in my brief case, own one in every key) -- straight melody-playing, not blues harp -- meant that the Anglo felt completely natural to me.

Greg,

As I've said, my choice of the Anglo system was made for me by the unavailability of anything else. But my joy of that first 20-button was definitely enhanced by my experience with the mouth organ. "Straight melody-playing," as you put it, though not with your thoroughness.

 

However,the instinctive transfer of skill from harmonica to Anglo did at first have a down-side: The buttons on the concertina corresponded very nicely to the holes in the harmonica, but the bellows also correlated to my lungs. So, at first, I breathed in when opening the bellows, and breathed out while closing them. This correlated so perfectly that, when the bellows were fully extended (as they often are with beginners!) my chest would be almost painfully expanded, and when the bellows were fully closed, I'd be slumped together.

 

Of course, singing to the Anglo at this stage was out of the question!

 

Then it dawned on me that the air-button of the Anglo corresponds to the harmonica-player's nose, and everything just fell into place. In both cases, you can inhale or exhale more air than you actually need to sound a short phrase on the instrument.

 

After a while my brain finally deleted the link between lungs and hands, and I could sing to the Anglo just as easily as to the banjo.

 

I wonder if this "lungs-bellows coupling" is the reason for the several reports in this thread (and others) of failure to grasp the Anglo despite prior experience with the harmonica?

 

Cheers,

John

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Maybe not accidental, but possibly destiny. In 1993 I inherited my Great-Great-Grandfather's 26 button Henry Harley Angl(icized)-German concertina from my Grand-Dad (who didn't play it). It had come to Canada with my Great-Grandfather in 1905. Previous to that I had never seen nor heard another, and in those pre-internet (for me) days there wasn't much information available. As a harmonica player since childhood, I could pick out a tune, but the old box was a little fragile, so it went on the curiosity shelf.

 

About 5 years ago I got curious again. An internet search brought me here to a plethora of resources, and my interest was piqued. My encouraging wife bought me a Rochelle, and I made contact with a nearby C-netter who was incredibly supportive and invited me to a local session. At the same time a member of my museum's board started a Long Sword dance side, and asked me to play for them. We learned the dance and music together.

 

I now have a nice Kensington (the Rochelle is on loan to a young friend), play for the Oakville Ale & Sword, took first place at the local Chomhaltas competition this year, and am playing in my first folk festival this weekend. I couldn't have done any of this if Concertina Net didn't exist. Last year I made my first trip to England for the Swaledale Squeeze (a fantastic event), and made a pilgrimage to the Rose & Crown in Marsden, Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire, where my G.G. Grandfather was the publican. I played a few traditional Enlglish tunes there on his concertina, with the blessings of the current owner of the pub.

 

Full circle.

Edited by Bill N
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I was fascinated by Spencer Tracy playing the hurdy gurdy in "Captains Courageous". I thought it was called a concertina. I told my wife I would like one for my birthday. She found a Scholer 20 button and that's what I got. Fit me nicely, given no musical experience or talent, until I learned enough to know that I was missing a few notes. So, after a bit of research (pre-Google) I bought an EC. For me that was total confusion. Even a scale was a misery. After much bumbling about I got a nice Wheatstone 30 button C/G Anglo and have enjoyed playing "Happy Birthday" ever since. And a few other tunes in Irish and English style as well. Push, pull, it's kind of like breathing.

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Maybe not accidental, but possibly destiny. ...

...

 

Full circle.

Great story.

 

May it continue.

 

It is a great story.

 

We should link to it every time somebody comes here to get a value for their Grandad's concertina that they want to sell.

 

Don.

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