Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
KevinBradfield

Another Newcomer Asking Advice!

Recommended Posts

So I have gotten the bug to learn how to play the concertina, but am having a difficult time deciding on which concertina to give it a go with. I will be starting out with a rental from the button box, they seem to get good reviews for a starter instrument, and it keeps me fairly cheap on the initial investment.

 

I am not sure which concertina I want to learn on. I am leaning towards an English. My short to medium term goals are to be able to sing with it around the campfire with my nieces and nephews, teaching them the chorus lines of folk and sea songs. I also want to be able to accompany other instruments such as guitars and fiddles. I have also found some good youtube resources on learning to play the English, as well as plenty of written material.

 

You would think it was a done deal, but while I was digging around on youtube, I came upon some Duet concertina pieces. I was blown away listening to players able to produce a melody and accompaniment on one instrument. With not being around a lot of instrument players in my social groups, this seems like it can give me more than the English in terms of a fuller sound when playing for friends and the like. However, I do not see very many resources other than books on learning to play the Duet.

 

So in short, I think I would enjoy either one, but with fewer resources available should I go towards the English? Will I regret not trying the Duet later on down the road?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, Kevin. Welcome to the club.

 

Each system has its advocates, but there's no bad choice. You'll likely find more instructional material--and more support from fellow players--if you play Anglo or English, but chances are you'll be doing most of your learning on your own in any case.

 

The best approach to the decision, I think, is to listen to a number of players--on commercial recordings or YouTube, or--best of all--in person, and to get a sense of who inspires you and whom you'd like to emulate. If it's duet concertina music that you find the most appealing, then that's one very solid argument in favor of one or another duet system. But do check out players of the other systems as well before committing yourself. And keep in mind that your choice, whatever it is, needn't be a life sentence: if your tastes or needs change later on, you can add another system, or switch entirely.

 

What sorts of music do you like best? Do you read standard notation, or play any other instruments? Some people claim (for instance) that beginners with previous formal training tend to get on better with English, while those who are self-taught and ear-trained may find Anglo a better fit. So it would be helpful to have a slightly better idea of where you're coming from.

 

Whichever road you take, you have a lot of fun to look forward to. And there are many knowledgeable and encouraging people on this forum to lend a hand.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do know how to read music, I played the French horn many years ago. I enjoy all kinds of music, not real big into classical and really enjoy listening to folk songs, which kinda drove me towards the concertina.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Kevin! I came from a similar background, in that I'm a competent musician on other instruments (french horn and accordion) and wanted to pick up a concertina. Largely I was looking for something to play children's songs on with my kids, meaning it was intended mostly to accompany vocals and to play simple melodic lines.

 

First off, I will reiterate what others have said. Everyone has different tastes, and what works for me may not work for you. But I will say that, based on what you've described, I think a duet may be what you're looking for. I have VERY limited experience with the English, but even a short glance at a fingering chart makes it obvious that it is very well suited for playing melodic lines, and not so great for playing chords and accompaniments. A duet will make it much easier to play chords, arpeggios, boom-chucks, or whatever accompaniment you like while a singer or instrumentalist plays above your accompaniment. I've also found that I have no trouble playing melodies on my duet, though I'm sure I could do fancier ones on an English.

 

I purchased my starter (an Elise Hayden Duet) from the Button Box almost 4 years ago. At the time they had a "rent to own" sort of program. You could rent an instrument for a block of time (3 months, if I recall). If you wanted, you could mail the instrument back and rent another one. When you selected one to purchase, they would apply part of the rent you'd paid (half of it, if I remember right) towards the purchase price. I found this to be a very non-threatening way to sample the instruments. I ordered the Elise duet first, and I never returned it.

 

Good luck in your search!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do know how to read music, I played the French horn many years ago. I enjoy all kinds of music, not real big into classical and really enjoy listening to folk songs, which kinda drove me towards the concertina.

Well, folk songs can work well on any sort of concertina. Though as a point of historical interest, the Anglo (along with the 20-button German instruments from which it developed) has a special affinity for folk material; that's what it was originally intended to play--whereas the English and different duet systems were more musically ambitious from the get-go.

 

The Anglo is the least fully chromatic of the systems, though a 30-button Anglo still has a respectable range of 2 1/2 chromatic octaves for playing melodies (harmonic arrangements are easiest in the home keys, and grow much more challenging as you move away from them). The constraint of not having every note available on both push and draw is its great weakness and strength. Some people chafe at the limitation; others find themselves more than compensated by the bounce and drive that seem hard-wired into the Anglo's layout. So it might be worth giving a close listen to that system--or, better, trying one out--as well.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First off, I will reiterate what others have said. Everyone has different tastes, and what works for me may not work for you.

 

Not just "tastes", but capabilities. Some folks just can't their heads around the "split" layout of the English. Others have difficulty coordinating the in-out of the anglo. (I'm one of those, though over the years I've gradually gotten better at it.) I would definitely recommend that you use the Button Box's rental program to try one of each -- English, duet, anglo -- before making a decision.

 

I have VERY limited experience with the English, but even a short glance at a fingering chart makes it obvious that it is very well suited for playing melodic lines, and not so great for playing chords and accompaniments.

Hogwash! :D I say that not in anger, but with a grin. See my next comment. ;)

 

A duet will make it much easier to play chords, arpeggios, boom-chucks, or whatever accompaniment you like while a singer or instrumentalist plays above your accompaniment. I've also found that I have no trouble playing melodies on my duet, though I'm sure I could do fancier ones on an English.

Constant boom-chucks against a melody are usually between difficult and impossible on an English, though there are even occasional tunes where that's not so hard. But I use lots of chords, both with and without simultaneously playing the melody, just not in boom-chuck style. I also use non-chordal harmonies, e.g., drones or parallel thirds or sixths (and even parallel fifths work on some tunes).

 

The big difference between the English and the duet (or anglo) is that on the latter it's possible to play the melody in one hand and a separate accompaniment in the other hand, while on the English the two are inextricably combined. But that characteristic isn't unique to the English concertina. It's shared by guitars and their relatives... lute, ukelele, mandolin, even the violin (see some of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas). Even a lot of piano music isn't structured to have only melody in the one hand and only "accompaniment" in the other.

 

I don't have time right now to work up a list, but there are a number of English players here who have posted recordings which demonstrate arrangements with chords and harmonies and a variety of styles of accompaniment. It's worth searching them out. Some have their own threads. A very few of my own arrangements can be found in the old Tune of the Month and Theme of the Month threads.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kevin,

Welcome to the world of concertinas and good luck as you embark on the adventure.

 

Somewhere down the road as you gain more experience or are planning to be traveling close to Cincinnati drop me a line to make an appointment to stop by and try some different concertinas and systems. Nothing like have an instrument in hand to get an idea of what it feels like and can do as well as a system's compatibility with your intuition. I have examples of most kinds of concertinas that you are welcome to try out.

 

Best,

 

Greg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Somewhere down the road as you gain more experience or are planning to be traveling close to Cincinnati drop me a line to make an appointment to stop by and try some different concertinas and systems. Nothing like have an instrument in hand to get an idea of what it feels like and can do as well as a system's compatibility with your intuition. I have examples of most kinds of concertinas that you are welcome to try out.

 

Kevin, I would certainly suggest that you take advantage of Greg's offer. However, I still recommend that you try the Button Box rental program for trying the different types. Why? Because a few months with each of the different types will tell you a lot more about what suits you best than just a few minutes with each.

 

One advantage of Greg's offer, though, is that you'll get to experience a wide range of higher quality instruments, quality that won't be available for rental.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

G'day Kevin,

 

Welcome to the world of concertinas and concertina enthusiasts. We are special you know and so will you be if you pursue your desire to play a concer.

 

After playing an english concertina for a squillon years I have very recently acquired a duet concertina, a very nice Wheatstone McCann system instrument. I've long played the english as an instrument for song accompaniment for which I think it is well suited but as Jim has pointed out the english does have limitations. However for song accompaniment I don't think the limitations are all that relevant. The reason I acquired the duet was first, it became available, and then to pander to a desire to play accompaniments that require a different, more complex approach. And also to play instrumental music that requires more of a piano type approach.

 

After two months of fairly concerted effort with the duet I feel it's quite difficult, mind you I'm not a natural muso, I have to work at it. I've a few tunes/songs up but none very tight or sophisticated. Getting each side working independently is quite a challenge. That's my perspective so far.

 

With the english system, for song accompaniment, I think you would be able to move ahead much more quickly, just with a simple melodic line to start with and then later with some chordal accompaniment. Keep in mind if you become a concertina tragic you will very likely want to upgrade to a quality instrument. They really do make a huge difference to your playing and quality instruments hold their value, when you die your children will be able to cash in for very little loss. With duet, the Hayden system seems to be the popular option these days, a very logical system but quality instruments are difficult to acquire unless you are prepared to wait years and pay the large price for a brand new one. Mind you I did that for an english and don't regret it one bit. Vintage duets of different systems are available of course and I'm content to plow on with the McCann, a quite manageable system.

 

But if I were starting again I think I'd still go for an english with the ability over an anglo to play in any key. Of course you can just play one side of a duet in any key..... but no, if I were starting again I'd still go for an english.

 

I hope my experience gives you something to reflect on and some guidance.

 

Cheers Steve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't usually join in these discussions making recomendations to beginners, for fear of being accused of self advertising. However I would first like to scotch a couple of myths about the Hayden Duet. Firstly: the days when you had to wait years before you could obtain a better quality Hayden Duet are long since gone, Good quality Hayden duets are available fairly quickly from both Button Box, and Concertina Connection, and are listed in their catalogues. Secondly: that Duet concertinas are difficult to learn to play. Whilst this may be true of the Maccann it is certainly not true of the Hayden Duet.

 

I discovered what is now the Hayden duet system around 50 years ago; whilst I was the accompanist for a professional Folk Song duo.; who sang folk songs including many Sea Shanties.

 

I would recomend you try an Elise from Button Box (Concertina Connection also offer a similar deal), and can only quote MetroGnome's final statement - " I ordered the Elise duet first. and I never returned it".

 

Inventor.

Edited by inventor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kevin,

 

I used to live near Lafayette, IN and will be over there tomorrow for the next week. I can bring several examples of systems (anglo, English, Hayden) for you to try - let me know in the next 24 hours so I can pack them. Cheers,

 

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kevin,

 

I used to live near Lafayette, IN and will be over there tomorrow for the next week. I can bring several examples of systems (anglo, English, Hayden) for you to try - let me know in the next 24 hours so I can pack them. Cheers,

 

Ken

Ken,

 

That would be absolutely wonderful! I saw you were in Logansport, and was hopeful to make contact, in the concertina world, thats right next door! I live in Brookston, and work in Lafayette. I will shoot you a PM with my cell number! Thank you very much!

 

Kevin

 

 

I appreciate everyone's input and opinions, always nice to see a welcoming group of people when you get into a new hobby!

Edited by KevinBradfield

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What made you decide you wanted to play concertina? Did you hear someone play and think "I want to be able to do that"? Well, find out what they were playing and get one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...that Duet concertinas are difficult to learn to play. Whilst this may be true of the Maccann it is certainly not true of the Hayden Duet.

 

"Difficult" is a personal thing. My experience is that none of the duets is inherently more difficult to learn than any other, and none are difficult. Although my main squeeze has been the English for more than 40 years, I feel qualified to say that, as I've experimented with five different duet systems "in the flesh", as well as the Wheatstone "double" in paper simulation.

 

What can be difficult -- on any instrument -- is trying to play particular preconceived types or arrangements that it turns out aren't well suited to the particular layout... e.g., wanting to play three notes together that all seem to require the same finger.

 

I recommend that the thing to do -- in the beginning -- is to explore the (each) instrument to see what sorts of "music" result from various comfortable fingering patterns, rather than starting with a particular tune or arrangement in mind and trying to find where you have to put your fingers to reproduce it. Then once your exploring has found a few pleasant patterns, you can probably find tunes that include them and work on filling in the parts between them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, Kevin and I had a nice get together in Lafayette, Indiana this afternoon. I brought a Morse anglo in C/G, a Bastari 30-button anglo in G/D (which actually works very well for a Bastari), a decent Lachenal treble English (rosewood, steel reeds, metal buttons), and an Elise. We fooled around, and I think he sees how the build and playability and quality varies. And we did (I hope) a sampling of all kinds of tunes on several systems (though I'm a pretty basic player on EC and little on HDC). I did my Bb minor tune on anglo too. Limitations can be strengths and challenges, as several have pointed out already.

 

Kevin clearly gets it - folks play every style on every system, and tells me he's seen lots of online videos but isn't after a particular idol's style. I expect he'll chime in here. A fun day!

 

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is always fun to get your paws on potential new toys. It was really nice as a newcomer, to be able to sit down and talk with someone about different aspects of the instruments, and be able to play around with them a bit. I really enjoyed being able to sit down with the two of you. At the end of it all, I contacted button box today and have an Elise en route to give this a go. After reading and reading, AND reading some more, talking with Ken, and being able to check them out, I am going to give the Haydens a go and see what happens.

 

In the meantime, I am working on learning about additional music theory, it is a big step from playing basic notes to having to learn about chords, fifths, thirds, etc. It is always fun to learn new things, and am enjoying it so far.

 

Thanks again everyone for your input and thoughts!

 

Kevin

Edited by KevinBradfield

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really enjoyed being able to sit down with the two of you.

 

As our readers might guess, Priscilla came along and gave a perspective as a beginner.

 

Have fun with the music everyone.

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Elise is a ton of fun, if you're looking to do song accompaniment or do some keyboard/organ-like vamping above lower bass backing, the Duet is a great instrument! I'm a duet player myself, had an Elise a couple years before I started playing it regularly to accompany a guitarist friend for house-party gigs, and then swiftly upgraded to a More Beaumont (the CC Peacock is a great middle-priced alternative). Playing it a lot more since I got back to the US, just need to find folks in Austin that could use some concertina backing for home recording projects or casual local gigs.

 

If you want to see song accompaniment with Duet, lakeman is a member here and plays the Crane Duet (but same concepts apply), and his channel is really worth a listen: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb0RPKsGLVEEC6OqFjxplwA (I especially like his rendition of the ballad Jim Jones).

 

Good that you mention music theory too; the Hayden system is just brilliant for understanding intervals and chord formations since the same finger motions apply across all keys. Note that the Elise is a pretty simplified Hayden, so great for starters but if you get seriously into it you'll be in the mood for an upgrade before too long, though in the short term it's great particularly if you play mostly folky stuff in limited keys.

 

Excited for you, and kudos to Ken for meeting up to let you try out gear! I've also met with friendly Cnet members in two different states I've lived in to check out their gear to help inform my purchase decisions, really friendly crew here.

Edited by MatthewVanitas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...