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Normal I Hope?


roryveal
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I just bought my first concertina. A rochelle, which I'm sure everyone is familiar with. It is a very well built, good sounding beginner instrument. My only comment would be that after playing it about 1-2 hours a day for the last few days, my shoulders are sore.

 

I really have to muscle this thing around. I dare say I think this would be a wonderful isometric workout device that could rival the thighmaster! Perhaps this is all normal, and like most new things, this too shall pass. Either that or I'm doing it totally wrong. Or perhaps the instrument will loosen up in time.

 

Since I have nothing to compare it to, are the higher end instruments less difficult on the pull? please advise. thank you :)

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The Rochelle is a good starter instrument. The bellows on a new one can be pretty stiff however and so require noticable effort to play. Some of that will ease over time as they relax, but I suggest you not over-do things in the mean time. Speaking as someone who experienced shoulder issues from overdoing Anglo playing, I know that you can cause issues by pushing yourself too hard. I did recover, but it took several months.

 

Really there are two things you are dealing with; the combined resistance to movement within the bellows and the force necessary to make the reeds sound properly. The bellows will relax with use, but the reeds will for the most part still require the same force to sound. There is some break-in where the reeds are concerned, but usually it's much less of a factor. You can help relax the bellows faster by using the air button to stroke the bellows through their full range of normal motion a few minutes each day, but be careful not to over-extend them. You don't need to force them as far as they will go, I think a range of motion of about 12 inches is just about right.

 

I should also mention that If you find you have just a few reeds that require extra force to get them to sound properly, they may need some adjustment. It's not uncommon though for the highest pitch reeds to take a little more bellows pressure to sound clearly.

 

I suggest that you limit the time you spend playing to avoid getting to where your shoulders become sore. Also try to use the minimum pressure needed to get acceptable volume. Playing twenty minutes twice a day would be better than a single setting of forty, and at the moment it sounds like over an hour is just too much. As you grow used to playing and the bellows lose their stiffness, you should find that you'll get to where you'll be able to play for 90 minutes or more without a problem.

 

And to answer your other question, the higher end instruments are typically much easier to play and require less bellows pressure. Most of the "hybrid" instruments such as those made by Bob Tedrow, Frank Edgley and the Morse line from the Button Box require very little effort to play. The more expensive instruments with true concertina reeds are usually pretty easy to play too, though I have seen a few that require more effort.

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I also acquired a new Rochelle about 6 months ago and found it hard work on the arms at first. this really surprised me because as a melodeon player I am used to throwing bellows about. Any bellows instrument does loosen up with use and I agree with Bruce that several short practices is better than one long one.

 

I also found that at first I was playing with instrument resting on both my legs, but this limited bellows movement. I then tried resting box on my Left leg (because that is what most players seem to do) but this felt unnatural because being a melodeon player I am used to moving L hand. I now play with box on R leg, which seems to suit me. I have asked various experienced players, to be told that there is no "right" position, just what suits the player.

 

I also note looking at YouTube clips, that many Anglo players don't pull the bellows straight in/out but tend to open the bellows with a fan like action so that when extended the bellows are curved up or down or even slightly twisted. This action I find seems to require less muscle effort. Keep practicing and saving up for a "proper" instrument.

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Thanks Sid. I'm going to try the box. I read that was a good idea. Right now I tend to favor my left leg. As for a new instrument, the reason I bought the rochelle was Wim Wakker told me they were coming out with a new model called the Leprechaun. Its supposed to be a mid range ($1200-sh) clone of the Clover. Plus they will give me my original full purchase price back upon trade. He said it is supposed to be out summer to fall 2015. By then after playing the rochelle for 6 months, I should be ripped. :)

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I just bought my first concertina. A cheap chinese one so i dont know much about concertinas just yet but i dp play the piano. i used to have one and my fingers were strong then, since i played alot and my fingers had strengthened. Now i dont own one anymore and only play whenever im at a place where im around one and since i have lost much of my fingering strength i get worn out and sore in my arms and fingers from playing. So its just to keep training those muscles and keeping them fit im sure :)

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Roryveal,

Sore muscles are to be expected when you start any new physical activity. You're using muscles you've never used before, or in ways you've never used them before, and you have to train them. And there's a perfect trainer for concertinists ...

 

When I was small, we used to make our own toys. For one of these, we scrounged a large button (e.g. for an overcoat) and some stout button thread. We passed the thread through one hole in the button, back through the opposite hole, and tied the ends together, forming a loop 20 cm or so long (or about 8" in those days!). Stick a thumb into each end of the loop, with the button in the middle, twist the thread by turning the button - and pull! The button spins as the thread untwists, and the momentum twists the thread in the opposite direction. Pull again, and the thread untwists and twists in the opposite direction. You can keep this up indefinitely. Basically a sort of yoyo, but cheaper!

 

Not long ago I saw an exerciser based on the same principle, but with a solid metal flywheel with two holes in place of the button, and stout nylon cord in place of the thread. I made myself one out of some old Meccano pulleys I had, and it is fantastic! After a few minutes, you can feel the warmth spreading from your upper arms to your shoulders and neck, and when it starts to hurt, you know you've done enough. ;)

 

This is just what a concertina learner needs, because normally we don't use the muscles that move our hands apart (though we do exert force inwards when picking up heavy objects). With this exerciser, your "draw" soon becomes as powerful as your "press".

Another effect is to teach pressure sensitivity. For the exerciser to turn back and forth steadily without the cord sagging, you have to offer enough resistance to keep it taut while twisting, but not so much as to prevent it twisting completely. So you're alternately exerting considerable force (to untwist the cord) and well-dosed force to keep it taut while twisting.

 

When I tried the thing out, I noticed that my bellows work became just that bit more relaxed, because I suddenly found I had surplus strength that I could regulate, especially on the "draw". And I was by no means a beginner on the concertina at that time!

 

Might work for you!

 

Cheers,

John

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John and Rory, when I was a kid back in the 70's I remember that toy you are referring to. It was all the rage for a while but they were only on the market for a short time. Kind of like the glass balls that were tied to a string and clanked together. Of course the glass chipped making them dangerous and they were quickly taken off the shelves.

 

As for that pull toy I vividly remember the motion it took to get that wheel moving (and the cool whooshing sound it made spinning at high speed) as well as the muscles it took to do it right. You are correct, it built up the upper shoulders and is the exact same motion required on the draw. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. And I too will be on the lookout for that trainer. It would really help me as well.

 

I dont know how old you are Rory, but try to find one of those toys.

 

ps. I'd love to find that toy again if you remember the name? It might have been made by whamo.

Edited by stetix
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Hi John,

 

I can see that this "toy" might provide certain exercise exceeding the results you get from just playing the instrument - but I would very much prefer the latter insofar it will be likewise helpful (and a concertina is at hand and one wouldn't have to keep it strictly quiet)... B)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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What a small world. I am enjoying this thread; I too have fond memories of making such a "horizontal yo-yo" toy from one of Nana's large buttons. But lately, I have been making them as a demonstration project with basic CAD students, to laser cut them from 1/4" wood. I make them about 3" diameter, and use about 3/16" twine. The kids are amazed, and yes, indeed, one can quickly feel the modest "burn" from steady use. I suggest caution in scaling up too much, since a broken string can create quite an "Unintended Flying Object" which could leave mark, at the very least. I also thought it would be cool to make one concertina shaped, but stopped after the first one, when I realizedwhat those rapidly twirling "corners" felt like when they hit my hands by accident!

 

I seem to recall that some configuration of holes out near the circumference would produce more of a higher pitched whistle than just a windy little roar. Any suggestions?

 

Thanks, and regards,

 

David

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I can see that this "toy" might provide certain exercise exceeding the results you get from just playing the instrument - but I would very much prefer the latter insofar it will be likewise helpful

Hallo, Wolf,

 

Well, music-making is just as physical as sports, and there are sports that train the necessary muscles just by practising - like rowing. And there are others that require other strength and endurance exercises, like boxing. It could be that my instrument - the Anglo - and your instrument - the EC - are equally different. We're talking about the "pull" part of bellows work here, and I can imagine that an EC player with powerful arms and shoulders could put too much strain on the thumbs, which are the only link between the arms and the instrument in this phase. With Anglo or Duet handstraps, on the other hand, only robust body parts are involved.

 

Surplus strength is good for Anglo playing, not just to generate a greater pressure differntial between inside and out, but also to handle the quick changes of bellows direction that the bisonoric system demands. This is, I believe, not such an issue with the EC, because you can plan not to have a bellows reversal in the middle of a phrase. After all, the way you notice whether a car has more or less horsepower than another is not by the top speed, but by the acceleration. The EC doesn't have to accelerate suddenly, does it?

 

Come to think of it, the early sociology of the concertina hints at this differnce between the systems. The EC was the instrument of the gentility, who didn't have to lift a finger to get anything done, wheras the Anglo was the instrument of the farm labourer, factory worker or seaman, all of whom had arms steeled by hard work!

 

Cheers,

John

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You can help relax the bellows faster by using the air button to stroke the bellows through their full range of normal motion a few minutes each day, but be careful not to over-extend them. You don't need to force them as far as they will go, I think a range of motion of about 12 inches is just about right.

 

 

What a good idea! I just acquired a 2nd-hand instrument which has not been played a lot, and I think the bellows

probably need a little of the treatment you describe. I have incorporated the above suggestion into my 'post-cardiac

incident' exercise programme and it works just fine!

 

And yes, having 30-buttons as opposed to 20-buttons is a revelation...

 

Roger

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