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Newbee...thrilled And Overwhelmed...advise Please. Thanks!

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Hey ALL!


I just got my first Concertina! A Hayden Elise, duet.

I chose it due to reviews saying its easy, & from listening to clips on You Tube, ( I liked the 'duet' sound,) and the fact that I could not afford more.

I play a mountain dulcimer, a Viola da Gamba, midevile tenor 5 string fidle, cello, Irish Low-D and penny whistles ( wood version flute.) I am not gifted, but can get by on all.

I play at Mountain ( trad) type Jams in the Appalachian Mountains of SW VA and NW NC.usa..


I find the instrument very hard to hold, & wonder how one can play IF ONE MUST HOLD THE ' air bellows button all the time?) using the right index finger.


The instrument..is definately not, 'Good looking " like all the ( $$$ ) beautiful old models.


ones budget must be satisfied. So...can get past the looks. ( I guess.) It sounds OK..

( I know nothing!)


I just liked the idea of a folky ...sea shanty sound.. that I can sing too, .but at first squeeze...wonder how to hold the thing!

I plan to add a neck cord, so I can stand to play.

Still, while my hands are NOT small, I find the starps very loose.

ANY ADVISE on that or adjusting to make thumb starps?


Anyway Im THRILLED to find YOU!,, and hope to post a tune one of these days.

ANY ADVISE for books or help that will pertain to a HAYDEN is MOST APPRECIATED!


Best regards to all!




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Hi and welcome to the concertina world!

So you´ve got your first concertina. Ain´t it great? I remember quite well my first one, about 5 years ago, it was like christmas quadruple. And I never regretted one minute that I spent with the instrument. For folky shanty sounds that you can sing too, you´re just right.

I play Maccann Duet, so I can only give you limited advice. You find it hard to hold? Do you rest it on one side on one of your knees? Are the handstraps tight but only so that you can reach all the buttons? Actually holding a concertina is kind of hard, it´s one of the restrictions of the instrument. You don´t have a strap around your back like an accordion or such. But everything has good and bad sides. I was thinking about ways how to make the instrument more stable and I invested time and energy (I also wanted to play standing). Now I try just to play it how it is.

And what´s up with the air button? You don´t need to touch that while playing. Not on a duet. It´s only used e.g. if you want to put it back in the case without making too much noise.

Keep on asking, there are many nice people on this site.

Greetings from Cologne ...

...to the Appalachians... gets my thoughts going...folkmusic...

by the way - do you know this website?

http://folkstreams.net/ for me - one of the most inspiring ones

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Hello from a fellow Hayden player! I also play some Appalachian/Irish melodies, as well as some Sacred Harp hymns and the like; have you seen my clip of that on an Elise? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djQCJqOSA-U That was years ago, I really need to upload newer/better clips.


If you like Shape Note tunes, I especially like "Idumea" (among minor tunes) and "Dying Californian" for something more major. Duet can imitate multiple-party vocal polyphony better than other concertinas, so if you enjoy any madrigals or monastic chant or whatnot, Duet is great for those.


In any case, each concertina type has its own strengths and weaknesses: English concertina has speed, Anglo has easy harmony, but Duet is best for complicated multi-part music, rich and complicated chords, etc. I tend to think of the Duet as being kind of like an organ, so I'm working at learning some medieval organ pieces on it. For Appalachian and Irish stuff, Duet has trouble playing jigs and reels at high speed, but if you focus on the slow airs, and other more relaxed melodies, you can play them while applying rich harmony down below, or a long-slow drone, or fill in some high end on the right hand.


So far as ergonomic: I just play the instrument on my knee, but we do have some members who've rigged up neck and wrist straps. I think Łukasz has some good photos of that on this forum. For tightness of the hand straps, I thought the same at first until it was explained to me that you're not trying to cinch your hand down tight to the handrail. Instead, you want it somewhat tight, and then you "cup" your palm to make your hand larger and thus fill out more of the strap. That way by tightening/relaxing your palm you can make the hand-strap tighter and looser depending on where you need to reach. Give that a try and see if it solves your looseness issue.

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You use your right thumb, not your right index finger, to control the air button on an Elise. Even then, you do not need to use it very much. Basically, you play a phrase in one direction and then reverse direction for the next phrase.


The hand straps should be fairly loose so that you can move your fingers across the keys.


Do you have a copy of the Elise tutor that originally came with the instrument? This answers the basic ergonomic questions.



Edited by Don Taylor
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Hello! It's good to have another duet player here, and congratulations on the Elise! It may not be pretty, it may be small, but it definately has a lot of potential in it!


First on ergonomics of an out-of-the-box instrument. Depending on how big your hands are, you might find it more comfortable/easier to controll the bellows if you put your thumbs through the small loops of the straps. Combined with a quite loose overall strap tightness, that should give you a nice, firm grip and at the same time let you easily acces all of the buttons.


As to how to hold a duet: I play with the instrument on my left lap and have my neck&shoulder strap even when sitting. You can play like this without a strap, even when standing if you place one leg on something - a small crate or stool, etc...


Attaching a quick, testing strap to Elise is quite straightforward: just put some thin but strong cord loops under those big washers (you need two such small loops on each side - on the top edge and the next towards the hands. Then attach some longer cord (flat tape will be more comfortable) between concertina sides crossing the tapes (i.e. top edge on one side to the lower edge on the other side). When put on, this strap should go under one arm and over the other shoulder and be long enough, so that when sitting the instrument rests on your lap. This type of strap is more comfortable as it puts no stress on the neck and one side of the instrument is pulled toward your hip making it more stable, while the other side can be moved freely. You can see such strap in action in one of my videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-bySYW3XVA&list=UUMz0Pq4s9eRLXoxNZU_PH7w


As to duets speed: this is played on another system, but shows nicely how fast a duet can be in capable hands ("spaghetti panic" from a c.netter Tona) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MYPTWxpKp0&list=LLMz0Pq4s9eRLXoxNZU_PH7w&index=5 As to my experience, the real speed-limiting factor is the speed and stamina of your own fingers. As discussed it another thread, on bigger instruments with larger overlap you can play duets "in english interleaving style". On the "factory" Elise, the action (especially wobbly, thin buttons) is quite limiting though...

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Welcome fellow Elise owner.


I only ever use the air button when I pick it up to let a little air in to start, and when I'm done, to let the air out before putting it down.


Getting accustomed to the hand straps is a rite of passage. I had a terrible time. I played with my thumbs through the loops above the palm rests for awhile. Take heart, it gets comfortable ... eventually.


A neck cord can be tied off to each hand strap (Wim's recommendation). It can also be looped around each end of the concertina. I liked the second better, but found it unnecessary after a while.


Search these fora for hayden, lots of good info and links here.

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Hi BRG and welcome to the forum from another thrilled newbie, who after 3 weeks of daily 1 - 2 hours' practice is definitely feeling a lot less overwhelmed than at the start! I have an 'Anglo' concertina and, although different from yours, still presents more or less the same problems at first.. like how to hold the instrument in a relaxed but secure way, correct adjustment of hand straps, etc. etc. and so I spend a lot of time on YouTube or google, looking at everything that I can find on my type of concertina… also looking carefully at other players' styles, how they sit and hold the concertina, and listening to as many different types of music being played… it really does help.


There are so many very helpful members on this forum, you can ask more or less anything and receive an amazing variety of knowledgable answers back… it's wonderful! Plus, everyone is genuinely interested in your progress, which is a good incentive and inspiration to push on and work through those first few 'problems' that I believe just about every concertina player has faced.


Good luck with your learning and playing, you will remain thrilled for ever but before you know it those overwhelming feelings will soon disappear...


Cheers, John :)

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I echo the expressions of welcome! As a practically neophytic Elise owner myself, let me assure you that you have purchased a lot of "bang for the buck," and that it will be a great ally in your musical questing. In 8 months, after two years of Anglo concertina and 30 years of "beginner harmonica" playing, I have reached for the Elise most frequently, and have really not scratched the surface of its potential. At the NESI Squeeze-In a couple of weeks ago, I asked long-time Hayden player and regular C.net contributor David B. play my Elise, and his skill showed me that the machine won't be holding me back for the foreseeable future. Rather, it is nimble enough for me to improve, probably for years and perhaps forever, without needing a multi kilodollar upgrade. Of course, fully chromatic in only a few keys, but including G, D, And C, which suits my local sessions, and my kitchen, just fine. What is surprising to me is how fast and smoothly some "muscle memory runs" can be played, when compared to the push/pull of the Anglo. Of course, English players can do that, too, but the genius of the Hayden layout stood out, for me, when I looked for a supplement to my Anglos. You will love it.


Good luck, and regards,



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a warm welcome from my side as well!


I took up the English Concertina three years ago - and they're all concertinas, aren't they? It's just that I have no advice for playing a Duet concertina...


Thank you for your interest and "following" me on Soundcloud! As to Appalachian folk music I'd like to point to two tunes from my repertoire which may not exactly fit in there but seem to be at least related to me:


Mole in the Ground


Lonesome John


with the latter rather being a demo recording, scheduled for taking it up any time soon...


Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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I wonder if the notion that one must "must hold the air bellows button al the time" is a misunderstanding of a warning not to operate the bellows without pushing a button?

Edited by Bill N
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good luck with the Elise.... I took up the Hayden duet just over one year ago ( I also play the English and Maccann duet).


The advice I recieved regarding the Straps was that it is better if they are not too tight . To test this you should have a gap under your palms ( between them and the hand bars) when you press your hands outwards against the straps. This gap ,for me is about half an inch.


Then the back end of your palms might rest against the end of the concertina behind the hand rest bars... so your hands are slightly arched over those bars... THEN... your thumbs can wrap around the end of the bars to lock your hands in position. The idea of the loose straps is so that you can move more easily left to right and back and forth for more comfortable fingering positions.


The keyboard on the Elise is small and thus does not have long rows of buttons so perhaps a somewhat tighter strap setting might be more comfortable for you but when you move up to a model with more notes the slacker straps are usefull.


The tutor that comes with the Elise, though it has some good starter tips, is not much use as a 'method', so I would suggest going to www.concertina.com where you will find several Duet Concertina tutors including one written but Brian Hayden , the inventor of this keyboard for use on a concertina .


Good luck and happy music!




PS; for future reference ,you'll get more responses if you post this in the General Discussions or Teaching and Learning sections :)

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Our member Judy Hawkins has posted several chapters of her self-written "Hayden Tutorial" which seemed to be quite useful to me (however being an outsider here as mentioned).


As they don't seem to be that easy accessible, here's a link to her general content which will list the chapters among other post:


Judy Hawkins' "Hayden Tutorial"


Enjoy yourself! Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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I wonder if the notion that one must "must hold the air bellows button al the time" is a misunderstanding of a warning not to operate the bellows without pushing a button?


I suspect that the misunderstanding about the air button is due to the tutor that comes with the Elise. One of the first things that it suggests is to hold the air button in while pushing and pulling the ends to get a feel for the proper bellows motion.




Hi BRG. I live in western NC near Burnsville/Spruce Pine, and am also a a brand new Elise and concertina owner and wannabe player, coming from some other instruments. I had mine about a week, but have been traveling so haven't had a chance to work much with it. I also disliked the loose feeling of the strap, and ended up putting it in the last hole. Still comfortably loose, but much better feeling.


My initial surprise was how much force is required to pull and push the bellows while sounding a note. I assume that i'll get used to it as my wrists get stronger. I have been able to "play" O Susanna and Auld Lang Syne in a very stuttering way, so i think it'll come.


I wish you well with your progress, and if you get down to Burnsville/Spruce Pine area some Saturday, you're welcome to jam with us (where most of us play guitar, with occasional mandolin, banjo, and fiddle).

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To BRG & rigph a welcome to the world of concertinas, duets, and Hayden Concertinas in particular.


I think that all the problems of straps and the air button have already been answered. Personally I think that hand rests should be somewhat higher in general and much higher under the forefinger than the little finger, but that is not possible on a budget concertina like the "Elise".


Any new concertina takes a little time to be "played in" before the reeds and action loosten up to optimum level.


My musical interests are English Folk music, (and also Scottish and Irish Traditional tunes); and Baroque Music (particularly Vivaldi & Handel). But I have played all kinds of music over the years, and am happy to answer any specific questions about playing on Hayden concertinas.



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