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clairehk

Buying Concertina

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I've been visiting this site for more than six months and finally registered.

I'm mad keen on Scottish and Irish music and have been wanting to get a concertina for a number of years. I have "dabbled" in music - a bit of guitar, and a bit of fiddle - but I'm no musician - I pick things up by ear.

Unfortunately (as far as concertina is concerned) I'm living and working in Hong Kong at present. I have searched everywhere to buy a concertina here in HK with little luck. A large music store here said they would order me in a Hohner, but I would not be able to look at it before I bought it!! I considered getting one off e-bay, but was reluctant to part with the cash on something unseen.

 

I've read up on all the types of concertinas, and I'm not in the vintage Lachanal etc. range as I can't afford it. But I do want something half decent.

 

Anyway, I did get on to a place in mainland china, selling cheap chinese anglos, and thought I'd get started with this. the factory normally exports only, but they agreed to send me a 30 button c/g down to HK. I've had my cheap chinese now for a couple of months and I think I'm making some progress, although it's all a bit stiff on the push/pull, some buttons stick, and there's often a dreadful wheeze on a couple of the lower notes. Still I'm persevering as I see it as a learning curve. It took me quite a few weeks just trying to figure out where all the notes were.

 

I'm dead keen on getting something better. I will be going over to Amsterdam at Chinese New Year for a short holiday and hoping to get a more decent concertina while I'm over there. Someone recommended that I would in fact be better off getting an English concertina, as it has more "range". Being such a rookie, I'm now unsure. I've made some progress on my anglo and wondering how difficult it would be to change over the fingering.

 

So should I change over to English? I'm mainly into folk stuff. If I go for English should I get 48 button?

 

Should I opt for the Stagi? I don't know much about them. I need something sort of middle price range. Is it better to get one with metal buttons and full leather bellows. And how many folds should it have? Are these types more expensive?

 

Does anyone know reputable dealers with half decent concertina who would ship to HOng Kong, in case I can't get one in Holland? There is a HK Folk Society here, but no one has been able to give me any information on what I want.

 

Out here in the cold.

ClaireHK.

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English or anglo.... That depends on which system comes easier to you and how closely you want to emulate the type of music you'd like to play on it. The Irish seem to favor the anglo and most of the (much fewer) Scottish players I'm aware of tend toward English.

 

No, the typical 48-key English does NOT have a greater range that the typical 30-button anglo.

 

If you're considering a "middle price range" concertina, it won't be a Stagi. they are low end. Yours is rock bottom of the barrel. Yours is about $150, Stagis average about $500 and the "high" range about $4000... though that isn't the upper limit - just the beginning of the high range. So the middle price range is somewhat over $2000 which is around the range of the "hybrids" (about $1500-$2200).

 

A stagi would be better quality than what you have, but not really by all that much. Most players trade up from a Stagi relatively quickly. Once you can play the different types and qualities you'll realize what a huge difference there is between them all. I'm sure that you'll be able to meet with people who can show you all kinds of concertinas during your trim to Holland (Netherlands?), one heavyweight boxer aboard here comes to mind....

 

As for buying boxes, most places with web presence will sell/send them to HK. Check outThe Concertina FAQ which lists lots of places to buy concertinas, including places closer to you like Australia.

 

The types of buttons, bellows material and number of folds, etc. shouldn't be much of an issue to you. Whatever quality concertina you get will have the materials/qualities which is appropriate to its value and playability. It's only when you really get up into the really good concertina range that materials become optional as they would no longer be necessary for playability (such as choosing glass buttons over silver ones, or gold-plated ones...).

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I think you should see if you couldn't visit The Concertina Connection while you're in Holland. Somewhat south of Amsterdam, but it's not a big country.

 

Do you know the Hong Kong Morris team? I don't know if they have any concertinas. I know that they did have a fine melodeon player for a while, but he moved back to England some years ago.

 

Do you just want to play tunes, or do you also want to accompany songs? English should be fine for both Irish and Scottish, though the anglo tradition in Ireland is both broader and deeper. But that tradition seems to be strictly tunes, not song accompaniment. Best if you could try the English before making a final decision. Also, if you have difficulty with the anglo, it could be the cheap instrument you have, rather than the nature of the anglo, itself.

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Claire,

 

Dave Wilmshurst who (I think) is back with the Hong Kong Morris is an excellent anglo player. He should be able to advise. Jim, I think you mean John Rowlands who is back in the UK.

 

Paul

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I think you should see if you couldn't visit The Concertina Connection while you're in Holland. Somewhat south of Amsterdam, but it's not a big country.

As far as I know the Concertina Connection is located in Helmond, which is more than "somewhat south" of Amsterdam. It's about 140 km (see attachment) and takes you about 2 hours travelling (by public transport or by car).

post-4-1101136684.gif

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Do you just want to play tunes, or do you also want to accompany songs? English should be fine for both Irish and Scottish, though the anglo tradition in Ireland is both broader and deeper. But that tradition seems to be strictly tunes, not song accompaniment. Best if you could try the English before making a final decision. Also, if you have difficulty with the anglo, it could be the cheap instrument you have, rather than the nature of the anglo, itself.

Yeah the Anglo is definitely far better rooted in Irish Trad music than the English. I know two people who play Irish music on an English but one of them plays strictly from sheet music and the other one definitely plays alot of music besides just Irish. If you want to play in Irish Sessions, well it always depends on the session; some will accept almost any instrument provided its acoustic (though a trumpet might raise a few eye brows) while others will frown on almost any instrument that is different. That being said, an Anglo is the most likely to be accepted by the vast majority of sessions but Concertinas are weird enough of an instrument that most people who do not have a special interest in them would not be able to tell the difference between an English and an Anglo so you will probably get away with the English as well.

 

Regarding song accompaniment; I don't think there are any strong rules in that regard. Most hard core Irish Trad players seem to only learn songs because its expected at paying gigs. Singing, when it happens in sessions, tends to be solo and without musical accompaniment.

 

--

Bill

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Jim,  I think you mean John Rowlands who is back in the UK.

I do, indeed. John and June lived in New York for several years, where John danced with the (NY) Greenwich Morris Men (he had previously danced with the British GMM) and June with Ring O' Bells. And I believe John is the one who introduced Rambling Sailor as a Morris tune in the US. We (the GMM) used it for Bledington "Morning Star"; other teams picked it up as a substitute tune for other dances. Then a dance was composed in honor of Simon Spalding, a historian/shantyman who styled himself "The Rambling Sailor". (And Simon is the one who got me involved in singing shanties in Poland.)

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As far as I know the Concertina Connection is located in Helmond, which is more than "somewhat south" of Amsterdam. It's about 140 km (see attachment) and takes you about 2 hours travelling (by public transport or by car).

Still 2 hours is not that much compared to half a world away. And on the flip side it looks like it is located near Eindhoven. If you are a WWII buff, it could be a fun trip since that is where the 101st Airborne dropped during Market Garden.

 

--

Bill

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As far as I know the Concertina Connection is located in Helmond, which is more than "somewhat south" of Amsterdam. It's about 140 km and takes you about 2 hours travelling.

Everything is relative. I used to drive 2 hours each way to get to the Greenfield, MA contra dances on a Friday or Saturday night. So that distance for an important exploratory mission doesn't seem like much to me, especially when compared to the distance between Hong Kong and Amsterdam. ;)

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Thanks so much for the information. I will try and find out about the Morris Dancers here in HK and also check out Conertina Connection.

 

Jim, I'm interested in playing tunes, as well as accompanying - in sessions. Should I therefore stick to the anglo? Is the fingering of the English more difficult, particularly when playing by ear?

 

Yes it's probably the LOC that I have which is making it tough going. Still, I am managing to get a bit of a tune out of it and on a couple, I am even beginning to get a little fast!!

 

I see that Stagi is probably not a whole lot better than what I've already got.

 

So I'd be looking into the "hybrids" - whatever that means, at around $1500 - $2000 or thereabouts. What kind of instrument is a hybrid? What are the "better" hybrids?

 

Thanks also for the info on the location in Holland. And to Bill, yeah I am a bit of a history buff, so shall make note to get down to Eindhoven.

 

The main problem is that I feel I can't really browse around and try out instruments, as there's none here to try out. I envy you people who are able to mix it with fellow enthusiasts. I don't want to just order one in, until I know exactly what I need and want. Even with the trip coming up, I need to have my mind made up really, before I get there as to what I'm going to buy - I just don't have the time - only about 12 days away, and then I'm due back at the grind.

 

Thanks for the help.

ClaireHK.

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So I'd be looking into the "hybrids" - whatever that means, at around $1500 - $2000 or thereabouts. What kind of instrument is a hybrid? What are the "better" hybrids?

If you've been reading concertina.net, you are probably already familiar with the concept, although you might not associate it with the word "hybrid." These are the carefully made mid-priced ($1500-$2000 USD) concertinas with accordion reeds, which are much easier to get a hold of than real concertina reeds (and therefore less expensive). Hence, "hybrid" (concertina with accordion reeds). It's a relatively new phenomenon (last 5 - 10 years).

 

Of course, the Chinese and Italian concertinas also have accordion reeds, but they are not quality instruments.

 

The makers (some of whom are active on this list) are folks like Richard Morse, Frank Edgley, Bob Tedrow, Wim Wakker, Harold Herrington, and others. As far as I know, they are all decent. I wouldn't presume to rank them in any order of quality.

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To begin with, I fully agree with Dave that the mid-range instruments are difficult to rank. They are all of good quality and when you only have experience on a cheap low-end concertina, they feel and play like heaven!

I don't want to just order one in, until I know exactly what I need and want.  Even with the trip coming up, I need to have my mind made up really, before I get there as to what I'm going to buy - I just don't have the time - only about 12 days away, and then I'm due back at the grind.

As I live in the Netherlands maybe I could help? I own two mid-range 30 button G/C Anglo's with quite different characters as well as an inexpensive English concertina.

On top of that I live near Arnhem, which is the place to be when you are interested in operation Market Garden.

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As I live in the Netherlands maybe I could help?

Clair, I recommend taking advantage of Henk's offer. He's a fine fellow, and very helpful.

 

The main problem is that I feel I can't really browse around and try out instruments, as there's none here to try out.

One reason I recommended visiting Concertina Connection is that they're one of the makers of excellent "hybrid" instruments, both anglo and English, plus they may also have some vintage instruments on hand for you to "browse". Check their web site for details, then call ahead.

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I'm interested in playing tunes, as well as accompanying - in sessions.  Should I therefore stick to the anglo?

Not necessarily. In particular, if the songs are done in keys other than those used for most tunes (C, G, D, Em), then acompanying on a standard anglo is likely to present problems. (For really good players it becomes intuitive, but to a beginner those other keys can seem totally random.) The scale pattern of the English is more uniform over a wide range of keys. While both simple chords and straight melody playing are simple on either kind, more complex accompaniment styles will tend to differ. E.g., playing steady, rhythmic chords and melody at the same time is an anglo thing. Parallel thirds or a held note against several notes in the melody is more of an English thing. And if you want to use more complex chords, there are some which aren't possible on the anglo, because one note exists only on push and another only on pull.

 

Is the fingering of the English more difficult, particularly when playing by ear?

My personal experience is no, quite the opposite. But others have different experience. It depends on personal factors which may only become clear by trying the different kinds. For some people the fact that musically adjacent notes are on opposite ends of an English is something their brains simply cannot adapt to. For others the fact that adjacent notes require opposite bellows directions is just as unnatural. For some the enforced bellows reversals of the anglo give extra "spirit" to the music, while others find it impossible to coordinate bellows reversals with button changes at reasonable speeds.

 

I play mainly English, though also some anglo and duet. I like the anglo for certain things (tunes, styles), but I prefer the English for all-round versatility, and it's the English I'm most comfortable with. For me, that has been true from the very beginning. The first time I ever had an English in my hands I knew nothing about what notes were where, but within minutes I was playing a song with harmony in parallel thirds, in what I realized years later was not the easiest key. I've struggled with the anglo for decades, and have gradually become more comfortable with it. Others report an opposite experience.

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Many thanks for all the information, especially to Henk's kind offer, which I will take up when I get to Holland, and to Jim for explaining more about the English.

I now understand more about the term "hybrids" - thanks David.

 

Until I get something better, I shall continuing pushing and pulling away on my little chinese number. Can't wait until I get something decent and really get into it.

ClaireHK

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No, the typical 48-key English does NOT have a greater range that the typical 30-button anglo.

Both true and not true.

 

The typical 30-button anglo does have just as wide a range (3½ octaves) as the typical 48-button English. However, the anglo has gaps in its range on the low end, while the English doesn't, and most notes on the anglo are available in only one bellows direction, while the English is fully chromatic in both directions throughout its range. (In a Jeffries anglo layout, only 16 of the 43 notes in the 3½ octaves are available in both directions, and 5 are missing entirely.) The range of the C/G anglo is half an octave lower than the treble English, but many people say they don't use the highest notes on either one. Meanwhile, only 3 of the C/G anglo's notes are lower than the treble English, with 6 notes completely missing in that low range. If you like to use low notes, you might want to consider a baritone English, which is an octave lower than the standard treble, or a G/D anglo, which is half an octave lower than the C/G.

 

I'm sure that you'll be able to meet with people who can show you all kinds of concertinas during your trip to Holland (Netherlands?), one heavyweight boxer aboard here comes to mind....

Rich, I suspect you mean me. There are no C.net heavyweight boxers in Holland as yet. I live in Denmark. :)

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Rich, I suspect you mean me.  There are no C.net heavyweight boxers in Holland as yet.  I live in Denmark. :)

Yes, I had meant you, Jim. My understanding of geography over your way isn't great. I even have problems with the other side of the Hudson let alone the Big Pond!

 

I was thinking that if she hooked up with you that you'd be able to show her hybrids and vintage concertinas of all 3 flavors - plus be able to explain and play them. About as close to a one-stop as I can think of over there.

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I was thinking that if she hooked up with you that you'd be able to show her hybrids and vintage concertinas of all 3 flavors - plus be able to explain and play them. About as close to a one-stop as I can think of over there.

If she were going to be closer, I would certainly recommend it, but the distance between Copenhagen and Amsterdam is about the same as that between Boston and Cleveland, or between Montreal and DC.

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