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Hello!

Thank you in advance to anyone who can help me. I currently play a celtic harp, but have wanted to play in Irish sessions for quite some time. Since the harp seems to be rarely used in sessions and I have been interested in concertina for awhile, I'm thinking of giving it a try. I understand the Anglo is the concertina of choice for Irish music.

So I have many questions. Is it difficult to join in or find sessions where a concertina would fit in? I realize I will give myself at least a year or more to learn the instrument before even considering a session. Next, would a 30 button be a better choice over the 20, and is there plenty of music available out there to learn on a 30? There is a shop in my area that offers lessons and currently has a Silvetta 20 button, however, I saw and heard a Scarlatti 20 on you tube that sounded pretty decent. I haven't seen many 30 button, but am thinking that it might be wise to invest in one over 20.

Any thoughts of advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

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Hi! Not that I think you shoudn't take up the concertina, but a celtic harp is gorgeous to have in a session as for me... :)

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You can start with anything, but I'd suggest a 30-button Anglo. While many tunes can be played on a 20-button instrument, I imagine you'd quickly find yourself missing the accidentals and alternate playing options that a 30-button offers. If you're looking for an inexpensive start I'd suggest a Rochelle as a starter instrument. I suppose "inexpensive" is a relative concept, but I think you'll find greater satisfaction.

 

By the way, concertinas are very much at home in sessions and fit in well. Those of us that play them might even think of them as core instruments in such settings.

 

As to music to play on a 30-button concertina, if you are considering Irish music, it all fits on a concertina. If you're looking for sheet music, there are many session books available online. You might also consider a visit to www.thesession.org to search out music for specific Irish tunes. You'll find ABC and sheet music options there for thousands of tunes.

 

I don't know about local concertina instruction options where you live but you can find online instruction, Skype instruction and teaching workshops around the country over the course of a year. To get you started I'll just mention that there are two popular methods of playing Anglo concertiina. One is "along the rows" and you might think of that as playing music using a single row of buttons (like just the "C" row) for a tune on the instrument. The other is usually referred to as "cross-row" and that approach has the player using all three rows as the souce of notes. Most Irish players use the cross-row approach and I think it offers the most versitility

 

Read the past postings in the forums here and you find a lot of useful insights.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey

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Thank you blue eyed sailor and Bruce. Bruce, how long do you think it would take before I would be ready to join in with a concertina? I realize it depends on how much time is spent with lessons and practicing, but, I thinking it may take me a couple of years. I plan to just visit as many sessions as I can in the meantime. Thanks!

Edited by Turloughsgirl

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That's one of those very "iffy" questions, but I know you realize that. Much depends on what you play now, how (dare I say) talented you are and how you approach music. If you can play music "by ear" or have a talent at least in that direction it will be a great help. That's not to say you can't learn from sheet music, but it's a slower process for some and the outcome sometimes has a little different sound in the player's rendering of the tunes.

 

If you have been playing music for a few years and can handle medium to complex music on the harp, I wouldn't be surprised if you could play Anglo concertina fairly quickly. That is especially true if you already have a feel for and play some Irish music on the harp or another instrument. If that's the case you might find yourself able to play a few tunes in just a few weeks. I've known people that were already highly accomplished on other instruments that have picked up Anglo concertina and could play many session tunes in just a few months. That is not typical however.

 

You might find it will take you several months to get to where you can play just a few tunes reasonably well. Many of us have struggled for years and still aren't quite where we'd like to be in our skill level. Among other things, I think we keep raising our target, but I supose that's a good thing. If you get good coaching at the start as to playing technique it'll be a great help - thus the notion of searching out some instruction in playing Irish music on Anglo.

 

Another point worth mentioning is the character of the sessions you might approach. Some are quite friendly, open and receptive to new players, will encourage them to play and are willing to play tunes at a comfortable pace for new members just learning their instruments. Not all are like this though. I know of some sessions where I live (Seattle area) where only highly experienced and fast paced players are welcome. I don't suggest you should be afraid of sessions, rather just saying that you should be aware that session groups aren't all the same. By all means, search out sessions, attend (even if you aren't ready to play) and try to get to know the players. You might even encounter someone that plays Anglo that can give you some good pointers.

 

So back to your question of "how long?" I'll say at least a few months and perhaps a year or more to get to the point where you could play some tunes in a receptive session group. I'd hazard a guess that if you work at it reliably it would still take you two to five years to get to where you could play most of the tunes favored at your local session at the group's preferred pace. That said you can have a lot of fun along the way if you get into a friendly receptive group.

 

This "how long" discussion is all conjecture and guess of course, in the end it takes what it takes and no less.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey

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If you want to play in ITM sessions, a thirty button C/G is the place to start. G and D are mainstay Keys for a lot of the tunes, maybe the majority. A 20 button will get you all the Straight G tunes ( that don't modulate to D at some point, ) but you really want your C#s, and there is no point in getting an instrument that will severely limit your repertoire in the near future. A 20 button will do the relative minors fine and the modal tunes that are.mostly D but stick with the C natural. Play your harp with out using any sharing levers except the F/F# and you will see what a 20 is capable of. With a thirty button c/g and clever fingers and practice, everything else in a Violin's range is open to you.

You need a decent concertina to play up to speed in a medium to fast session. A good concertina is much easier to play well than a poor one. Get the best you can manage. Listen to a lot of concertina music to get an idea of what they can do and the different styles you can learn. A big problem for beginning to intermediate players in sessions is the inability to hear yourself. Your neighbors will hear you fine. Sit in a corner if you can. The sound coming out the ends will bounce back to your ears enough to tell what you are hearing. Harpists often play with a wall behind them to reflect the sound coming from the back of the harp.

C/Gs are easy to play in most of the keys you'll find at most sessions. Most other keys aren't that hard, but require enough practice to really familiarize yourself with their scales. The other concertina keys like Bb /F , C#G/# or D/A etc have their uses, but aren't appropriate for most sessions. Good lessons, especially at the start, are important. There are a lot of pitfalls new players fall into. Bad habits are easy to develop and hard to break. Once you get the basics right, you can do more on your own ( though a good teacher will get you where you want to go much faster.)

As far as Harps in sessions go, Lilly Neil used to come to ours in DC before she went to Dublin and went all career on us. She was a treat then and I gather nothing short of amazing now.

Dana

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Thank you so much for the valuable information, Dana. I think I'm going to rent out a Rochelle 30b to get started, or maybe just purchase one. I really appreciate everyone's input, it has helped a lot! :rolleyes:

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Which end of Pennsylvania are you in?

 

Ken (near Pittsburgh)

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With a "friendly" Irish session, you can sit in playing just drones. Say the root notes of the chords that would be used. Then you can learn the chords and progress to integrating melody. I would caution not to play full chords loudly - you want to be background. It all helps to sit in the back row of the session.

 

Bob

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I currently play a celtic harp, but have wanted to play in Irish sessions for quite some time.

Since the harp seems to be rarely used in sessions...

 

Don't I remember Derek Bell playing with the Chieftains many years ago (25?)? I certainly

remember thinking that it worked very well - I'm not sure if it was a Celtic Harp, but maybe

you could try and find an Irish session which is looking for a harp? Of course, you must

buy a concertina as well, then you can fulfil two roles within the session!

 

Roger

Edited by lachenal74693

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Bob and Roger,

It's encouraging to hear there are some "friendly" irish sessions. After reading Barry Foy's Field Guide to the Irish Music Session, you would think that such a thing is non-existent. I know of a session in my area with a group who are are all professionals, including a celtic harpist, who have made several recordings. Although I messaged them, I don't expect to be part of that group, as I am an advanced intermediate harpist and do not play professionally. Bob, thanks for the advice, I definitely would not play anything loudly, a session that starts out "friendly," may quickly become "unfriendly," if I were to try that and may get thrown out all together with concertina in hand:)

Roger, I remember hearing Derek Bell with the Chieftains, and he was an excellent harpist. I think the challenge with playing celtic harp in sessions is liking and learning to play jigs and reels, which is not something I would typically choose to play. So, I plan to get started on concertina and visit as many local sessions as I can to just listen and enjoy some good pub food.

I'm so glad I found this site, it has been a wonderful blessing!

Edited by Turloughsgirl

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Anyone out there play celtic harp and concertina?

 

There's one bloke in Germany (I guess he wouldn't mind me saying that he's a much more advanced harpist than concertina player) who I was referring to in my first post. His contributions to that (mainly English and Irish) session were truly enchanting... Robert / concertino might be able to tell you more...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Thank you Wolf! Woooohooooo, I am so excited, I have scheduled my first concertina lesson for this Friday! Please wish me luck. I attended a workshop once at a Harp Festival and found the concertina to be a somewhat mind boggling instrument, but I guess if I've learned to play the harp, I can learn concertina as well!

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I guess if I've learned to play the harp, I can learn concertina as well!

 

Yes, this will almost certainly be so! Best of luck with your approaching the concertina, they're all fantastic little instruments!

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Thank you! I hope I will be as passionate about playing concertina as I am about harp. I didn't begin harp until I was almost 30, and had to learn to read music. It was my determination and passion for the instrument that enabled me to play and to keep going. I consider myself a young senior citizen now, and as long as my brain and hands are functioning, I will continue to play!

Edited by Turloughsgirl

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