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HansiRowe

Absolute Beginner Needs Advice!

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Hi Guys...

 

I've just joined Concertina.net as I would like to start learning to play the concertina. After a bit of research, I think the 30 buttoned Anglo would be the model for me but, now comes the problem of actually choosing a suitable instrument from the many on offer! I have, of course, seen a lot of used and absolutely beautiful concertinas for sale while searching on line, concertinas that I would dearly love to own but, unfortunately, they're all rather expensive, and as I have never played before I thought that maybe my best option is to choose a new, cheap model to start with.

 

I wanted to ask you what you guys think of the Rochelle Anglo 30 buttoned model? After looking at lots of cheap concertinas on-line this model looks and sounds quite nice and appears to be good value for $415… has anyone ever played or owned this model, or have any advice about it?

 

The other question that I would like to ask is… I live in West Australia where concertinas appear to be almost non-existent, so I will have to order either from the UK or US. I read somewhere that, due to the rough handling while in transit, particles of fluff or dust can dislodge and clog the reeds, which may then need to be removed and cleaned. Is this true, and if so, would a novice like me be able to remove any dislodged particles myself?

 

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Many thanks, John

 

 

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Hi John,

I don't think that rough handling will cause the type of problems you describe when an instrument is new.... like there should not be any fluff or dust Inside a new Rochelle.

I'm not an anglo player so I cannot directly comment on the Rochelle as such but I do have an Elise, which worked well straight out of the package and continues to play with out fault.

 

As a very long time player of vintage concertinas I'm not that impressed with the sound that exits from these cheap and cheerfull 'beginners' models BUT.. it has to be said that they provide a great start for anyone wanting to learn and the price is very reasonable.

 

People here who have started on the Rochelle do speak well of it.

 

Good luck.

Geoff.

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Hi John,

 

I'm about one week less new than you! I bought a Hoener a couple weeks ago and was not very impressed with the construction and returned it. Then I bought a used Rochelle from a member on these forums, and have been using it for almost a week. I'm LOVING it so far.

 

I was nervous because it looked different, sounded a bit harsher on the videos online I had seen, and was considered the 'cheap' choice at $415. I'm so glad I returned the Hoener and took the chance on the Rochelle. It looks and sounds great to a newbie like me.

 

I'm sure when I get a chance to hang around a couple of the legends that frequent these boards and hear their instruments in person, I'll be so impressed that I'll have to upgrade. That's absolutely not the case right now though. I'm loving playing it and learning on it.

 

Good luck to you!

Jarod

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Thanks a lot Geoff and Jarod for your answers concerning the Rochelle… even though I have never played a concertina I have heard many good players playing on beautiful, old instruments over the years, so I do realise that there is a big difference in quality and sound. Having said that, I listened to a sound demo of the Rochelle and, for $415 it sounds pretty good! I think, as long as it doesn't have stiff bellows and sticky buttons it should be good enough to learn on while I dream and drool over those beautiful concertinas that I see experienced players using!

Thanks for the info about the fluff, that's good to know. I have carried out a lot of searches on-line trying to find a music shop here in West Australia that either sells or repairs concertinas and so far I haven't had any luck, which would mean that I might have to carry out minor repairs and adjustments myself, so I'm relieved to hear that a new concertina shouldn't have anything loose floating around inside!

I haven't ordered a Rochelle yet, even though I'm really looking forward to getting started… I thought that I would hang on for a few days more, just in case something else comes up for sale, but it looks like the Rochelle will be the one I end up with.

Thanks again guys for your words of encouragement... and Jarod keep me posted on how you're getting on!

 

Cheers, John

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You could try Zenith Music who are between Perth and Fremantle, they used to stock Concertinas

 

Thanks OLDNICKILBY… unfortunately Zenith only stock a few Stagi models and none of them look very good. I've been searching for suppliers over east but haven't had much success yet, but I'll keep looking. By the way, I did find the Hills' Folk Club and a whole list of other clubs in Perth, so I now have a few leads to follow. Geoff also sent a contact here in Perth, so I'm looking into that too. Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it… cheers, John

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Hello John, what kind of music are you fixing to play on it? Irish trad jigs and reels, English country dance stuff, or traditional Aussie bush music?

 

Maybe a fringe opinion, but if you're not doing something like Irish trad where the current styles all but require 30 buttons, perhaps instead of a Rochelle you could spend just a little more and get a vintage 20-button? Iirc, the website of Bush concertina music is all for 20b, and 20 suits some folks who want to do "sea chanties" and other simpler folk songs where there's less need to play in a wide variety of keys.

 

http://www.bushtraditions.org/tutors/concertina.htm

 

In the US at least, you can get a decent refurbished Lachenal 20b for maybe US$500.

 

Disregard if you want to play challenging fiddle-type music, jazzy stuff, etc but 20b vintage could be a very affordable way to get the old-school concertina sound/handling, and in a very compact small frame.

Edited by MatthewVanitas

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Hello John, what kind of music are you fixing to play on it? Irish trad jigs and reels, English country dance stuff, or traditional Aussie bush music?

 

Maybe a fringe opinion, but if you're not doing something like Irish trad where the current styles all but require 30 buttons, perhaps instead of a Rochelle you could spend just a little more and get a vintage 20-button? Iirc, the website of Bush concertina music is all for 20b, and 20 suits some folks who want to do "sea chanties" and other simpler folk songs where there's less need to play in a wide variety of keys.

 

http://www.bushtraditions.org/tutors/concertina.htm

 

In the US at least, you can get a decent refurbished Lachenal 20b for maybe US$500.

 

Disregard if you want to play challenging fiddle-type music, jazzy stuff, etc but 20b vintage could be a very affordable way to get the old-school concertina sound/handling, and in a very compact small frame.

 

Thanks very much Matthew… actually, I have been thinking about that option. I originally planned on 20 buttons but everyone seems to think that 20 buttons are limited and that most players soon regret their choice and then have to upgrade. I have seen plenty of film clips on YouTube with people playing a wide variety of musical styles with just 20 buttons. I wrote to Edel Fox on IOAM and she also suggested that I go straight for the 30 buttons. I guess that it all comes down to what type of music I want to play, and in what style… I like a mixture of everything: Irish, Scottish, American civil war, sea shanties, hymns… even a certain amount of quirkiness, like blues or classical played on instruments meant for something else! I think the style that I like the best is playing chords or little bass runs with the left hand and melody with the right… is this called the 'English' style? I have also been put off 20 buttons by the amazing price difference when you step up to 30… like the price difference is trying to tell me something… that 20 buttons are way inferior, unwanted, and therefor cheaper?

You have touched on something else that's been on my mind… and that's size. I really love the small concertinas, some of the cheap models seem positively huge, the Rochelle Anglo being one of them. Plus, most on-line tuition seems to be aimed specifically at 30 buttons… as if 20 buttons have been passed by and long forgotten. Maybe I really will start to check out the used 20 buttoned Anglos, as you say, it's possible to pick up a good quality, refurbished model, "and in a very compact, small frame." Do you think that learning on a 20 buttoned Anglo makes it more difficult to adapt to 30 later on, or do think that it's a good 'stepping-stone' up to the accidentals once the basics are mastered? I don't mind at all having to upgrade at a later date, as long as I'm not making things more difficult for myself in a year's time. 20 buttons most certainly appear to be less daunting to an absolute beginner… less to memorise at first.

Thanks again for your suggestion… it's got me thinking now!

 

Cheers, John

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Thanks very much Matthew… actually, I have been thinking about that option. I originally planned on 20 buttons but everyone seems to think that 20 buttons are limited and that most players soon regret their choice and then have to upgrade.

 

From my point of view, the missing C# would be the biggest handicap on a 20 button C/G Anglo (for Irish Music) and I could probably live with the other missing accidentals. Maybe I play 30-40 tunes with G# and Bb but I could have lived without for a few years. That C# for the key of D or Em (?) is so important, and I would even go as far as to suggest a reverse C# on the accidental row so you have a C# on push and pull.

 

Also I'd like to add that for all the trouble you're going to go through shipping possibly from the US, you might want to consider forking an extra $1000 and get a hybrid like Morse, Edgley or Tedrow. Yes, it's lot of extra money but this could be your instrument for many years and might keep your motivation higher because the instrument will be much easier to play than a Rochelle. Of course, if you stop playing after a couple of weeks or months, a hybrid will have been a bad purchase so I can understand you might not want to take the risk, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Happy concertina hunting! :-)

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Do you think that learning on a 20 buttoned Anglo makes it more difficult to adapt to 30 later on, or do think that it's a good 'stepping-stone' up to the accidentals once the basics are mastered? I don't mind at all having to upgrade at a later date, as long as I'm not making things more difficult for myself in a year's time.

 

I don't think you will have anything to relearn if/when you jump from 20 to 30 buttons. In Irish Music context, you will be "stuck" playing tunes in G, Am, and maybe manage to play some D mix, but you can still learn proper cross row fingering (if you want to) so jumping to a 30 buttons will simply mean a new world of possibilities will open up to you. There's a few exceptions like that pull low A on the LH G row vs push low A LH accidental row, you might have to relearn using the push one on a few tunes for optimization, but nothing very major.

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Hansi,

I agree with Azalin on this. Learning on a 20-button and later upgrading to a 30-button doesn't involve any "unlearning" - it just gives you added possibilities that you can learn to exploit bit by bit. You can play your old 20-button repertoire on two rows of a 30-button straight away! I've been there, done that! :)

 

The option of a reasonably-priced, vintage 20-button has been mentioned. Believe me, a lot of very nice music can be played on 20 buttons (if you restrict yourself to the keys of C and G), and if you have a vintage instrument, like a Lachenal, your music will have the clear, distinctive concertina sound. The cheap, accordion-reeded instruments (like the Rochelle) don't have this sound, however well you play their 30 buttons. Many say that the good hybrids (Morse, Tedrow, Norman) come close to it, but the prices are above a vintage 20-button.

 

Of course you want to hedge your bet, and not invest too much in an endeavour that may not lead to much, but there's the old adage that a vintage concertina can be resold for more or less as much as you paid for it. That makes it even cheaper for the potential drop-out. ;)

 

Anyway, welcome to the band of concertina enthusiasts - because your enthusiasm is obvious from your postings, and enthusiasm can take you a long way!

 

Cheers,

John

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John, just a little clarification regarding "Irish"? Are you referring to playing like jigs and reels, such as played in a pub session with flutes and fiddlers, or more backing up singing Irish ballads? If the latter, same as most ballad work a 20b is likely to suffice fine. If the former, that does recommend 30b, and that also explains a lot of the price differential.

 

The currently overwhelmingly popular school of Irish Traditional Music (ITM) concertina was established by Noel Hill middle of last century, on a 30b C/G, and the massive proportion of Irish players now play that style on that gear. There are a ton of Irish-style players in the Anglosphere, they almost all want to be Noel Hill, thus the price difference. Even though a savvy player could probably do just fine with a 26 or even fewer, and generations of Irish folks played dance music on 20b G/Cs; one of our members even put together a series of recording on just that topic, tracking down examples of the pre-Hill style. Similarly Gary Coover's recent book of US Civil War songs is all written to be played on 20b.

 

I'm just a little a contrarian, and for the limited time I played Anglo before focusing on Duet I had a grand time on a little 20b Jones that I paid US$700 for (and easily sold to someone just 15m drive from me for the same price), and it was a great player and very small compared to modern hybrids, really distinctively concertina-style tone vice the mellower hybrids.

 

If playing jigs and reels in session is your priority, that almost requires 30b, but if you're doing vocal accompaniment, and more casual play with friends where limiting the range of keys isn't a problem, 20b is a neat creature. Similarly, you can do Irish music just fine on your own in the "old style" playing the 20b C/G "along the rows" for keys of C and G, and related keys.

Edited by MatthewVanitas

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Good suggestions so far and I'd like to add one more. If you intend on mainly learning and playing by yourself the first couple of years, buying a non C/G Anglo (for example Bb/F) if there's a very good deal could be an option. What I'd do in this case is pick any standard tune and, in the case of a Bb/F, take the tune one step down and learn it this way. For example, you'd learn a tune normally in the key of D, in C. This way, you won't need to change your fingering when moving to C/G. That's pretty much what I do when I play my Bb/F at home. I play my tunes in my "normal" C/G fingering, so it plays all tunes one step lower. That's for a Bb/F but it could work with other keys. Of course it would require either patience to transpose a tune down or up, or the use of a software than can do it for you. If you bring it to an Anglo workshop though, you'll pretty much be on your own ;-)

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I hope I and a couple others aren't confusing John with tech-talk, since he hasn't mentioned how much music background he has or hasn't.

 

One abstract way to summarize it: the more you want to play a fixed and formal genre with a larger number of people, the more standardized your gear must be.

 

- If you want to play in Irish sessions, and attend workshops of ITM, you almost definitely need 30b or close to it

- If you want to play general folk music in smaller groups of friends, C/G 20b would probably do you fine since you could nudge them to lean towards playing in C, G, Am, D Dorian, Em, etc. And you could work around songs in a few other keys by just avoiding one or two notes and using an alternate harmony.

- If it's mostly just you playing and occasionally a buddy, you could probably have a 20b in a different key, like Ab/Eb, because you could ask your buddy to accomodate by capoing his guitar, putting down his D tinwhistle and picking up his spare Eb (a Generation Eb costs $10), etc.

- If it's going to be just you singing and backing yourself up, it could something weird like a 20b B/F# that's pitched a quarter-step off the standard tuning, and so long as it's in-tune with itself, and you match your voice to the instrument, you'd sound great.

 

Once you get all your questions pondered out and make a decision, I'll be most interested to hear what you end up coming to.

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As an ex-Rochelle user you won't go far wrong with one. It got me started, although I have moved largely across to the dark side (melodeon) I still squeeze a concertina from time to time.

If you can buy a used one you will probably sell it for what you paid.

 

I now have a 20b Lachenal (which is fine for most of the Australian bush tunes I've tried!) but has a noticeably slower action than the Rochelle.

 

C/G is the most common tuning so there are loads of tunes and instructional material.

 

Obviously take note of the comments above and give some thought to what you want to do. But if you don't yet know, a Rochelle covers most of the bases at an affordable price, and most of what you learn on it will be transferable.

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Thank you so much everybody… Geoff, Jarod, Nick, Matthew, Azalin, & Malcolm, for all of your knowledgeable advice, I really appreciate all the trouble you're going to! I'm so happy that I found this forum, you guys have been more than helpful and made my entry into the concertina world so much easier by sharing the experience that you've gathered over the years… thanks so much.

 

"I hope I and a couple others aren't confusing John with tech-talk, since he hasn't mentioned how much music background he has or hasn't."

 

My musical experience has been a lot of guitars for many years. I also studied classical flute in Vienna, then moved on to the traverso (baroque) one keyed flute, I used to play weekly in a folk & blues club, guitars and singing, I also played in a recorder trio, and over the past few years I've been playing a resonator guitar, both finger-picking and bottle neck slide. So I do read music but it's always been single note, melodic, never the left hand as well... or chords, except for on the guitar.

 

I definitely would like to stick with C/G and the more that I've thought about it over night, the surer I am that I would like to find a used 20 button Anglo with a bit of age and character (just like me!). I know from my flute playing days that there are plenty of Irish or Scottish jigs & reels out there, without sharps or flats… enough to keep me going for a while should I end up with 20 buttons, so I'm not worried about missing out on C# or the other accidentals, at least not for a while yet! As mentioned before, I would like to play other types of music as well, just for my own enjoyment, so there's plenty on offer to choose from!

 

My main task now is to find a suitable concertina… any suggestions where to look? Cheers, John

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Since you are interested in doing some Irish tunes within the key limitations of 20b C/G, you may find interesting this 2003 thread where a member analyzed a tune archive of Irish music and concluded that 40% of Irish tunes in said collection could be played without any missing notes on a 20b C/G. The thread has some other useful commentary on the 20b in Irish, and is part of the reason I got said Jones 20b, though again I eventually settled on Duet concertina to be able to do more organ/keyboard-esque stuff.

 

Other Irish Music Stats: 20-button V. 30-button
Started by caj, Dec 15 2003 08:04 PM

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=490

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Thanks again Matthew… this is a very interesting topic and, of course, one that's foremost on my mind right at this moment! Thanks for researching and re-posting.

 

These two quotes from the thread are just what I've been wanting to hear to give me the confidence to go for the 20 buttoned C/G Anglo… cheers, John

 

It's been my experience that most Irish tunes are in the key of G. At least 85% of the tunes in my tutor, and most of the tunes in the session tune book I put together are. Many others, written in D can be easily "fudged" to sound quite acceptable without actually playing the C#. If I'm not mistaken, Chris Droney's CD, "The Fertile Rock," has tunes mostly in G. You could play 99% of all Irish tunes with a 21 button, if such a thing existed. So I agree with Paul, and others here who suggest a good 20 button would be preferable to a poor 30 button instrument, for a beginner.
I really got a kick out of this. I have argued for years that Irish music beginners on the anglo could and should get a better quality 20 key rather than a poorer quality 30 key (for example) if both were priced the same. There is so much misinformation on the web and elsewhere that "you can't play Irish music on a 20 key," that it can be hard to convince potential new players that 20 key instruments have plenty of notes for a year (or many) of hard work learning the techniques and the tunes of Irish music.

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