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When is it time to move to a top brand? Is there a sound difference and play difference from say a Stagi. What brands would be considered better than a Stagi? Looking to go with an anglo maybe 30 button. Would it be better to go with 30 button over 20 button? Thanks Ron

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Yes, there is a sound difference between brands, as well as responsiveness and ease of play.

 

As to when it is time to move up, I'd say the sooner the better, but that advice is tempered by several considerations, not the least of which is your degree of interest, personal goals and available funds.

 

First, moving from a 20-button to a 30-button should be an immediate goal for anyone that intends to devote serious effort to playing. You can play a lot of music on a 20-button, but so much more on a 30-button which offers a full range of sharps/flats over two octaves and some duplicate notes in the reverse bellows direction too.

 

There's also a key consideration. If you choose not to select a concertina tuned in C/G, you should have a specific reason for doing that. In general a C/G is the most popular and offers the experienced player the opportunity to play in several other popular keys.

 

I usually put Anglo's in three grades; relatively inexpensive starter instruments, intermediate grade serious student models and high quality instruments. If pressed, I further divide the first group into barely functional and reliable starter instruments.

 

While I've seen a few surprisingly playable Bastari/Stagi instruments, the only beginner instruments I recommend are the Rochelles. There are several other $450 and under instruments available from eBay and other sources, but a beginner is not likely going to be able to recognize a truly playable instrument in that price range and without someone to advise them on a case by case basis, a beginner may make a bad choice. Unfortunately many Anglos in this price range are frustrating to play, with slow reed response and uneven volume.

 

A decent instrument in this price range offers a good opportunity to learn the basics of playing and may serve a serious student for a year or more. They offer reliability but are not as responsive or as easy to play as the next level of instruments, and most would say they don't sound as good either.

 

Moving to the intermediate grade serious instruments opens up several possibilities. Several brands/makers out there offering instruments at this level, I prefer Edgleys, Tedrows and Morse instruments, but there are others. Expect to pay $1,600 or more for a good used one. These are very playable with a sound most people find pleasant and many players never feel a need to move to a higher grade concertina.

 

I caution against considering old Lachenal concertinas. There are some very good ones out there, but a lot of bad ones too, and I've seen too many beginners spend $1,000 to $2,000 on one of these and end up with an inferior and physically difficult to play instrument. You really need an experienced player to test and advise you if you are going to consider one of these.

 

A high quality instrument usually starts at $4,000 or more used, and up to $7,000+. Again, several brands/makers at this level. I could name some, but you are not looking at this level now and if you ever do, I expect that by then you'll have your own perspective.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey
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Yes, there is a sound difference between brands, as well as responsiveness and ease of play.

 

As to when it is time to move up, I'd say the sooner the better, but that advice is tempered by several considerations, not the least of which is your degree of interest, personal goals and available funds.

 

First, moving from a 20-button to a 30-button should be an immediate goal for anyone that intends to devote serious effort to playing. You can play a lot of music on a 20-button, but so much more on a 30-button which offers a full range of sharps/flats over two octaves and some duplicate notes in the reverse bellows direction too.

 

There's also a key consideration. If you choose not to select a concertina tuned in C/G, you should have a specific reason for doing that. In general a C/G is the most popular and offers the experienced player the opportunity to play in several other popular keys.

 

I usually put Anglo's in three grades; relatively inexpensive starter instruments, intermediate grade serious student models and high quality instruments. If pressed, I further divide the first group into barely functional and reliable starter instruments.

 

While I've seen a few surprisingly playable Bastari/Stagi instruments, the only beginner instruments I recommend are the Rochelles. There are several other $450 and under instruments available from eBay and other sources, but a beginner is not likely going to be able to recognize a truly playable instrument in that price range and without someone to advise them on a case by case basis, a beginner may make a bad choice. Unfortunately many Anglos in this price range are frustrating to play, with slow reed response and uneven volume.

 

A decent instrument in this price range offers a good opportunity to learn the basics of playing and may serve a serious student for a year or more. They offer reliability but are not as responsive or as easy to play as the next level of instruments, and most would say they don't sound as good either.

 

Moving to the intermediate grade serious instruments opens up several possibilities. Several brands/makers out there offering instruments at this level, I prefer Edgleys, Tedrows and Morse instruments, but there are others. Expect to pay $1,600 or more for a good used one. These are very playable with a sound most people find pleasant and many players never feel a need to move to a higher grade concertina.

 

I caution against considering old Lachenal concertinas. There are some very good ones out there, but a lot of bad ones too, and I've seen too many beginners spend $1,000 to $2,000 on one of these and end up with an inferior and physically difficult to play instrument. You really need an experienced player to test and advise you if you are going to consider one of these.

 

A high quality instrument usually starts at $4,000 or more used, and up to $7,000+. Again, several brands/makers at this level. I could name some, but you are not looking at this level now and if you ever do, I expect that by then you'll have your own perspective.

Thanks for covering everything. I will keep an eye open but I don't think I can make the judgement of if its good or bad. Many on ebay will just say its good. Thanks again and I keep practicing and looking. Do the Edgleys, Tedrows and Morse's have the same key setup as Stagi. Ron

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Hello Ron,

 

I agree with Bruce's assessment. The mid-grade instruments will have the basically the same set-up of the Stagi on the two rows with only minor variations. The difference generally lies on the third row. The most common set up choices are the Wheatstone layout and the Jefferies layout. As far as I am concerned the choice between the two layouts is insignificant as far as one being better than the other, more a matter of preference, or in the case of most of us dictated by the instrument we actually purchased. Keep doing your homework. Try to find players in your area and discuss their preferences. Best of all is to attend some workshop where players gather and see the various instruments for yourself. It is a considerable investment, take your time.

 

Daniel

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I'm the opposite. I have a few expensive concertinas, which play absolutely brilliantly. But I find myself picking up an old beat-up Gremlin, 30 button g/d. ( similar to a Stagi )

Why I don't know. Maybe because it's there, or because I find it easy to play it quietly.

 

The tone is actually quite nice to my ears. The left hand plays really well. The right hand is a bit wheezy, but again, it's easy to practice quietly with.

 

I don't think it matters too much what you play till you get to a higher level than I will ever reach.

Unless the thing has faults that make it hard to play.

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I'm the opposite. I have a few expensive concertinas, which play absolutely brilliantly. But I find myself picking up an old beat-up Gremlin, 30 button g/d. ( similar to a Stagi )

Why I don't know. Maybe because it's there, or because I find it easy to play it quietly.

 

The tone is actually quite nice to my ears. The left hand plays really well. The right hand is a bit wheezy, but again, it's easy to practice quietly with.

 

I don't think it matters too much what you play till you get to a higher level than I will ever reach.

Unless the thing has faults that make it hard to play.

I agree! I have a Bastari double reed which has buttons harder than normal to press so I use it to exercise my fingers. I have a Stagi single reed which seems very easy and fast button press after playing the double reed and a 30 button anglo Stagi nice for more difficult stuff. I do like them but would like to hear a good quality concertina. All mine are Anglos and to me sound good. Good fun! Thanks Ron

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Bruce and Dan have given you some excellent advice. I would like to add a little to that. Even when you are relatively new to the instrument, there is no substitute for actually getting an instrument in your hands to try it out. For this reason, I would warn against eBay because you have zero idea what you are really getting. Dan's recommendation about you taking the time to find local players is a very good one. You may be given the opportunity to play their instruments or they might have one to sell, so there is a potential opportunity to try out instruments and learn more.

 

Bruce's warning about Lachenal's is generally good advice. Lachenal made lots of cheap anglos in addition to some much better ones, and when you are starting out, it's hard to know the difference. But there are some reasonable ones out there that could suit your needs. You might want to contact Greg Jowaisas in Cincinnati; he is a regular on this forum. Greg is a highly skilled concertina repairman and he has taken the time to locate and refurbish a number of Lachenal and Jones concertinas to a good playable standard. More importantly, he backs his instruments. So he will send out an instrument on approval, and he will return your money if you decide it is not for you. Of course, the best course would be to visit him and try instruments in person. So that gives you another way to find a suitable 30 button upgrade.

 

Don't ever feel that you have to grab something before it gets away. Sometimes that might be true, but it will be more likely that rushing into that purchase will be a mistake. Feel free to ask us more when and if the need arises before you leap into a new acquisition. And good luck with your search.

 

Ross Schlabach

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Dan's recommendation about you taking the time to find local players is a very good one.

 

In Sparta, NJ, you're less than 40 miles from New York City, less than 20 from Morristown. There are definitely players in NYC, and I suspect there might also be some in the Northern New Jersey folk scene, which includes Morristown. (I know at least one concertina player, but he plays English, not anglo. However, it's more than 20 years since I was last there.) At least a couple of those must post here, so ask to meet them. And they can probably help you to meet others.

 

That should not only give you the opportunity to test-drive a variety of working instruments and evaluate the differences in feel and sound, but you could also see and hear a variety of what they do with their instruments in a musical sense.

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Inexpensive doesn't have to be bad, I know one fellow with a 30-button Bastari that tells me he bought it used for $20 about 25 years ago and he favors it over his Jeffries and Dippers for everyday playing, even performs with it sometimes. I've tried it, and it plays readily and evenly. He also says that because he only invested $20 in it he isn't afraid to leave it in a hot car or otherwise subject it to conditions and situations he wouldn't dream of with a more valuable instrument.

 

Over the years I've owned and seen several Bastari and Stagi models that looked far better than they played, so in general I just can't recommend them sight unseen. You really need to test and evaluate any such instrument before purchase, and to do that you need to get them in your hands and have prior playing experience to provide points of reference.

 

I expect there are some gems out there in several of the low cost brands but a beginner on their own just isn't equipped to know what to look for. In most cases eBay offerings are very uncertain waters since a glowing description by the seller may not reflect the actual playability of the instrument, new or not, and returning them may be difficult or impossible.

 

I notice that you appear to be located within 20 miles of Rockaway, New Jersey. I also noted this website: https://bestofnj.com/traditional-irish-music-lessons. I see Doug Barr is listed on the site for concertina lessons. You may not have an interest in Irish music but I suggest you contact him, I suspect he'd be willing to offer you some useful insights about local Anglo players and sessions in your area. He may also be able to give you leads on good local instruments for sale.

 

While I've never met him, a Google search reveals that Doug has a strong connection with the Anglo. If I were you I'd be inclined to set up at least one lesson with him, I expect you will find the experience very beneficial. You can learn a lot from these forums, but spending a little time with an instructor will offer you very specific guidance and coaching in the essential basics of playing. There aren't many concertina instructors around, so if you have a serious interest in playing Doug is something of a rare and valuable resource.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey
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Inexpensive doesn't have to be bad, I know one fellow with a 30-button Bastari that tells me he bought it used for $20 about 25 years ago and he favors it over his Jeffries and Dippers for everyday playing, even performs with it sometimes. I've tried it, and it plays readily and evenly. He also says that because he only invested $20 in it he isn't afraid to leave it in a hot car or otherwise subject it to conditions and situations he wouldn't dream of with a more valuable instrument.

 

Over the years I've owned and seen several Bastari and Stagi models that looked far better than they played, so in general I just can't recommend them sight unseen. You really need to test and evaluate any such instrument before purchase, and to do that you need to get them in your hands and have prior playing experience to provide points of reference.

 

I expect there are some gems out there in several of the low cost brands but a beginner on their own just isn't equipped to know what to look for. In most cases eBay offerings are very uncertain waters since a glowing description by the seller may not reflect the actual playability of the instrument, new or not, and returning them may be difficult or impossible.

 

I notice that you appear to be located within 20 miles of Rockaway, New Jersey. I also noted this website: https://bestofnj.com/traditional-irish-music-lessons. I see Doug Barr is listed on the site for concertina lessons. You may not have an interest in Irish music but I suggest you contact him, I suspect he'd be willing to offer you some useful insights about local Anglo players and sessions in your area. He may also be able to give you leads on good local instruments for sale.

 

While I've never met him, a Google search reveals that Doug has a strong connection with the Anglo. If I were you I'd be inclined to set up at least one lesson with him, I expect you will find the experience very beneficial. You can learn a lot from these forums, but spending a little time with an instructor will offer you very specific guidance and coaching in the essential basics of playing. There aren't many concertina instructors around, so if you have a serious interest in playing Doug is something of a rare and valuable resource.

Thanks very much for all that info. I will contact Doug Barr and see what he recommends. I am retired and feel when you get older lessons might not be the correct way. I have played music for 60 years but different instruments. Thanks again Ron

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...I see Doug Barr is listed on the site for concertina lessons. You may not have an interest in Irish music but I suggest you contact him, I suspect he'd be willing to offer you some useful insights about local Anglo players and sessions in your area. He may also be able to give you leads on good local instruments for sale.

 

While I've never met him, a Google search reveals that Doug has a strong connection with the Anglo.

 

Doug is a member of concertina.net and he often comes to the Northeast Squeeze-In (NESI), where I have gotten to know him. I agree with Bruce’s suggestions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am a bit surprised at the dismissive comments about Lachenal Concertinas. Lachenals are a premier brand of instrument, a company that made many of the best instruments around their time, and still in use now.

 

I suspect that Bruce's' somewhat sweeping statement derives from the fact that Lachenal also made some deliberately low grade instruments to be sold to those who simply could not afford the middle and upper grades of instrument, The price range in the 1860s for a Lachenal was £1-11s-6d to £21-00s-00d. You got what you paid for.

 

The basic Lachenals are so very easy to spot, and avoid if that is what you wish to do, The basic concertina ends are usually very simply fretted mahogany, there is no machined molding around the concertina ends (the end covers) - an ogee molding. The reeds are usually brass, steel reeded versions are usually much better to play, but are still basic in their cosmetics. On steel reeded Lachenals the 'STEEL REEDS' hard stamp is visible on the upper surface of one of the palm rests. There will be a lesser number of bellows folds, and the bellows papers will be gold dot and cross on a white background. The better grades can also have dot and cross papers, the design was very popular across virtually all manufacturers; but basic instruments always had dot and cross, occasionally lacquered over black.

 

I would say that Lachenals are as good as any traditional make, as long as you get the grade of instrument you want. I regularly see 20k rosewood, steel reeded, with fine fretting and molded end covers, lovely instruments, so the key count is no indicator of grade either. Lachenal also made very high grade brass tongued reeds which can appear in some of the better instruments, as a buyer's preference.

 

Compared with the care and standard of manufacture of even a more basic Lachenal, some Jeffries are positively shoddy, but win out against the poor grade brass reeds that the basic Lachenals employed.

 

I play English system, the basic Lachenals exist in the ET's too. and the same comments above apply.

 

My Main Squeeze is Wheatstone, my loaner spare is a Wheatstone, my 12k miniature is Wheatstone, my Baritone and Contra Bass are Lachenal, my Piccolo 'tina is a Jones. So pick and play with care before purchase.

 

Have a look at Neil Wayne's on line concertina museum and see what the different outsides and innards look like. 'Caveat Emptor' comes to mind

 

Dave

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I'm not sure I agree with high-quality accordion-reeded concertinas being classified as middle-grade, even "better" middle-grade. That view is not unique to this thread, it's common, but I have come to question that view

 

I've come around to the view that if the accordion-reeded concertina has premium hand reeds and top-quality action and craftsmanship, it's a top-quality concertina full stop, but an accordion-reeded one, and either you want accordion reeds or you don't.

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You have a good point.

 

Typifying the three categories in terms of quality only works well if you are primarily judging on matching the sound, response and playability of the acknowledged best traditionally reeded instruments. Such a basis of comparison can easily cast an undeserved dark perspective on the physical construction quality of an instrument. Many of the accordion reeded "hybrids" are very well made and it does them a disservice to suggest they are not quality instruments.

 

You sometimes see hybrids characterized as being "good student grade" instruments but while that term reflects a perspective of comparison to the playing characteristics of true concertina reeded instruments rather than build quality, it still suggests some lesser construction standing, however undeserved. Certainly I know people that have purchased very well made hybrids and are very satisfied with their construction, sound and playability.

 

That said, I've never seen an accordion reeded model that matched the response and sound of a good concertina reeded instrument, and those that seek the traditional sound will likely only be satisfied by those more expensive instruments. From that perspective hybrids still represent instruments of a lower standing.

 

So what terms best apply for the three principal groupings - the lower priced beginner grade, the more expensive (and typically much better) hybrids and the traditional true concertina reeded instruments?

 

"Beginner," "Hybrid" and "Traditional?"

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You have a good point.

 

Typifying the three categories in terms of quality only works well if you are primarily judging on matching the sound, response and playability of the acknowledged best traditionally reeded instruments. Such a basis of comparison can easily cast an undeserved dark perspective on the physical construction quality of an instrument. Many of the accordion reeded "hybrids" are very well made and it does them a disservice to suggest they are not quality instruments.

 

You sometimes see hybrids characterized as being "good student grade" instruments but while that term reflects a perspective of comparison to the playing characteristics of true concertina reeded instruments rather than build quality, it still suggests some lesser construction standing, however undeserved. Certainly I know people that have purchased very well made hybrids and are very satisfied with their construction, sound and playability.

 

That said, I've never seen an accordion reeded model that matched the response and sound of a good concertina reeded instrument, and those that seek the traditional sound will likely only be satisfied by those more expensive instruments. From that perspective hybrids still represent instruments of a lower standing.

 

So what terms best apply for the three principal groupings - the lower priced beginner grade, the more expensive (and typically much better) hybrids and the traditional true concertina reeded instruments?

 

"Beginner," "Hybrid" and "Traditional?"

Thanks for all that great info. I was looking at a 20 button wheatstone but don't know if its all original. Thanks again for the help Ron

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