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Tarquin Biscuitbox

German & Anglo Concertina's What's The Difference?

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I've been reading up on the history of the concertina as I'm seriously thinking about learning to play one. I just have a simple question - Is there a difference between a German Concertina and an Anglo Concertina?

 

Many thanks,

Jon.

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Hi, Jon,

And welcome to the Forum!

 

Yes, there are differences and similarities between a German and an Anglo.

 

In the very beginning of small free-reed, bellows-driven instruments, there were a German Konzertina and an English concertina. The English one was the invention of the physicist C. Wheatstone, and was fully chromatic, with each button giving the same note on the press and draw of the bellows. It was hexagonal in shape.

The German Uhlig went a different way. On his Konzertina, each button gave a different note on the press and draw of the bellows, and the two rows of buttons each contained a diatonic scale, arranged after the Richter system, such as is used on the mouth organ. This makes it easy to play accompanying chords to a melody, but limits the keys in which one can play. The earliest German Konzertinas were oblong - almost square - in shape.

There were also internal differences. The English concertina had each reed in a separate plate, or "shoe", whereas the German Konzertina had 10 reeds together on a large metal plate.

 

In the 19th century, the English concertina was a ladies' and gentlemen's instrument, and expensively made. The German Koncertina was considerably cheaper, so even in England, the lower classes of musical society took it up. It was also easier for someone without formal musical tuition to learn.

 

The "Anglo-German" concertina was England's response to this market. English makers built their economy models in hexagonal shape, and with individual reeds, but used the Richter button arrangement that many people had already become familiar with from the cheap German imports. So Anglo-German means "English build with German button arrangement." Both Anglo and German originally had 20 buttons.

 

But progress took place, in that more buttons were added to each type, to make more sophisticated music playable. The Anglo-German acquired a so-called "accidentals row" to fill in the missing sharps and flats, and the German Konzertina, still square in shape, expanded its keyboard in various ways, producing what are now known as Carlsfelder and Chemnitzer concertinas and Bandoneons.

 

When the Anglo-German (in England) acquired its accidental row, and could play all the notes in the chromatic scale, it was re-named the "Anglo-chromatic concertina," or Anglo for short.

 

In response to the first Anglo-Germans, German manufacturers started building their 20-button Konzertinas hexagonal, but retained the idea of 10 reeds per plate. This is what German players nowadays refer to as the "Deutsche Konzertina" or German concertina. A lot of the used, 20-button concertinas that appear on Ebay, and look very similar to 20-button Anglos, are, in fact East German "Deutsche Konzertinas."

Most newer German concertinas, like many newer Anglos, have accordion reeds (2 on one plate), so the original differntiation between single reeds (Anglo) and 10 reeds to a plate (German) no longer applies.

 

I personally started out with a 20-button German concertina from the German Democratic Republic, and when I later upgraded to a 30-button Anglo, I didn't have to re-learn anything, just find out how to use the extra buttons.

 

This is probably more than you wanted to know, but you did ask! ;)

 

Cheers,

John

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This is probably more than you wanted to know, but you did ask! ;)

 

And, if you want to learn even more, get hold of a copy of "The Anglo-German Concertina - A Social History" (2 vols.)

by Dan M. Worrall. A superb book! (Though your original post makes me wonder if you already have a copy?)

 

Roger

 

PS: Oh, aye, the link to the book is: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1-thWE5XRmsC&lpg=PP1&dq=worrall+anglo+german+concertina&pg=PP1&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=worrall%20anglo%20german%20concertina&f=false

Edited by lachenal74693

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With a good old English name like biscuitbox, i'm guessing that Tarquin is in the UK.

If so, then what you REALLY need to know is the difference between the ENGLISH and the ANGLO. ( With all respect to duet players).

It's purely down to the layout of the buttons and the corresponding reeds, as stated above.

 

Anglo is a different note on the push and pull, English is the same note push and pull. Most UK people will just use the name Anglo for all 20 and 30 button concertinas, even if they are actually German.

 

Historically, English players were a bit more into classical or performance music and Anglo players more into folk music played at home. But it's very blurred now.

I would get to listen to both styles, and pick the one that you would like to emulate.

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Excellent - I now understand the differences.

 

I'd like to play traditional English music (medieval, morris, hornpipes & folk) on a concertina, but don't know what type to buy? The English concertina sounds... well, more 'English' and has all the notes. It also seems more straightforward than the Anglo as each button produces one note. The Anglo on the other hand was more popular and I've read that it can have more 'bounce' when played, but may also have missing notes. There are also lots of versions to choose from i.e. C/G, G/D, D/A, A/E, F/C & more! It's really doing my head in trying to work out which one to go for. Please help!

 

Any assistance will be gratefully appreciated.

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I think that Patrick is absolutely correct when he said 'I would get to listen to both styles, and pick the one that you would like to emulate.' I've been really inspired by seeing some great English concertina players on You Tube such as Simon Thoumire and one guy called ProfRat, However, I recently saw a video of Will Quale making an excellent job of playing the Presbyterian Hornpipe on an Anglo. This made me unsure of which type to go for. I'm more into folk than classical, so... maybe I should get an Anglo?

 

Patrick was also correct in guessing that I'm from England, though my real name is not Tarquin Biscuitbox - it's just the daftest name I could think of!

 

Wishing you all a good day,

Jon.

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Hello Jon,

 

You seem to have a good idea of what you would like to play. Now is probably a good time to pick up a few of the instruments and give them a try. Depending on where you are in the UK, there are dealers who will be very helpful as you try out both English and Anglo concertina, to see which feels a more comfortable for you. I am sure many here can make recommendations. Another good bet would be to attend one or more concertina gatherings or festivals, talking with players and dealers that might be attending. Again, I am sure that a number of members here can give you recommendations.

 

Also consider the duet system. You might find it has it's advantages also.

 

Good Luck!

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Thank you Daniel - I'll try to do this. Once I've had a play with them, I should know which one to go for.

Steady on, Jon!

 

I really don't believe that one can assess the suitability of a concertina system for oneself after just picking a few up, squeezing them cautiously, and pressing a few buttons. What may seem simple and logical at the outset may present you with difficulties down the road, and vice versa.

 

On the other hand, life's too short to thoroughly learn the Anglo, English and three or four Duet systems before deciding which one to stay with.

 

My opinion (based on personal experience with stringed instruments) is that if, as a lad, you'd found your granddad's old concertina in the attic, you'd have learned to play it, whatever system it might be. And that system would have become your point of reference in matters of the concertina. You'd find ways of making the music you like on that system - although, as you advanced, the system might have influenced your musical taste to a certain degree.

 

So, since it's a mattrer of the Devil and the deep sea - whichever system you decide for, you'll have to put your nose to the grindstone and learn it - I would advise looking around in the musical genre you're chiefly interested in, and favouring the type of concertina that's popular there. It's probably the most suitable.

 

You say: "I'm more into folk than classical, so... maybe I should get an Anglo?"

I would tend to agree. Whether it's Morris, ITM dance music, or nautical or other folk-song accompaniments, the Anglo is pretty well represented.

 

For me, a favourite use for the Anglo is playing instrumental arrangements of well-known melodies: folk songs, comic songs, drawing-room ballads, hymns, Scottish Psalm tunes ... However, now that I've learnt the Crane duet, I often play this kind of instrumental on it, too. Theoretically, a duet system should be more suitable for harrmonised arrangements. But, listening to a practice recording, it's often hard to tell whether it's Anglo or Crane. (The giveaway is that my Anglo has accordion reeds and my Crane has traditional concertina reeds, so there's a distinct difference in timbre. But the form of musical expression is amazingly similar on both instruments.)

The moral of this story: Whatever system you start with, you'll eventually be able to play almost anything (within reason) on it!

 

Cheers,

John

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Hi Tarquin,

 

have you thought about joining a local concertina club or band such as West Country Concertina Players, Kettle Bridge Concertinas , or SqueezEast (there are others dotted around the UK)? That way you you could hire or borrow a concertina for a short period and get to learn how to play it. If your chosen instrument does not suit, you can then try a different system. This way you get to try without expending lots of cash until you are sure plus get some expert tuition as well as making new friends with similar interests. have a look at the International Concertina Association for links to concertina clubs or do some on-line searching.

All the best with your quest.

Mike

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One thing I've observed, which others may or may not agree with, is that it's harder to switch from the English system to Anglo, than vice versa.

I started with a harmonica, so the Anglo arrangement of different notes on blow and suck were familiar.

But I've often seen Anglos for sale by people who play the English, and thought that they'd give an Anglo a try, but couldn't get their heads around the different notes on push and pull, having learn't the English.

 

I've never seen the reverse, so maybe, if it really comes to a toss-up, it would be better to plump for the Anglo, as it might be easier to change later.

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As an Anglo player married to an English player for over 25 years I would say it is just as difficult to try and learn the English when already an Anglo player. It beats me anyway! And as for a Duet...

 

Robin

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I've often seen Anglos for sale by people who play the English, and thought that they'd give an Anglo a try, but couldn't get their heads around the different notes on push and pull, having learn't the English.

 

I've never seen the reverse ...

 

I'm with Robin on this!

My guess is that if you already play the Anglo, or the melodeon, or the accordeon, or the piano, the organ or any keyboard or fretted sringed instrument, you're accustomed to the scale going in one direction. So the zig-zag of the EC keyboard is so mind-boggling that you don't even attempt to learn it, hence you have no unused EC to sell afterwards.

 

:P

 

Cheers,

John

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Ok. If I decided to start with an Anglo for traditional English music, what key would it need to be in - C/G, G/D, D/A, A/E, F/C?

I think most people would say G/D.

It's not so bad as it sounds, because if you learn on a G/D, you can pick up a C/G and play it, you don't have to learn new fingering.

It will just play the same music in different keys.

What part of the UK are you in, Jon?

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They may look similar, but the English Concertina and the Anglo are very different instruments, more different than for example a piano accordion and a melodeon, or even than a guitar and a mandolin

 

Despite the more "classical" history surrounding the EC, both types are suitable for playing English folk music- after all no one ever said the violin wasn't an appropriate instrument for folk! Rob Harbron of Leveret is probably one of the most skillful and best known players of English trad. on a Concertina at the moment and he uses an English system.

 

To me the Anglo is more intuitive, but less logical- if that makes sense! The English is probably more suited to playing from music due to the way the buttons correspond to the notes on the treble clef, while the Anglo seems to suit those that play more from ear. These are only guidelines though, and to some extent I think it just comes down to personal preference, and what you find the most enjoyable to play.

 

Unless there is one particular player that you really want to emulate, you need to try both and find which suits you the best. As someone said above, a few minutes in a shop isn't really long enough. It took me a couple of years to make my mind up and I ended up buying cheap versions of each, and playing them for a few months before finally settling on the Anglo. You can get very cheap Chinese made Anglos, that while pretty crap will at least give you an idea of the system and whether it is something that suits you. I managed to buy one second hand for about £70, later sold it on for roughly the same price. English Concertinas are a bit more difficult as there are no real "dirt cheap" ones that I know of, but perhaps you could borrow one, or if you saw a second hand "Jackie" model for a good price, you would probably be able to sell that on without losing much as they are the most highly regarded of the beginners models out there.

 

Good luck in your search!

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I'm originally from Nantwich in Cheshire, though I'm currently working as a teacher in Poland! I enjoy playing traditional music on my mandolin and looked into playing the melodeon. I liked the sound of it, but was blown away by a keyboard that seemed to be completely illogical. I then got onto the idea of learning more about my cultural heritage. If someone had said to me - name a traditional instrument from Wales, Scotland or Ireland, I could. But I didn't know if there was a traditional instrument from England! I decided to ring Hobgoblin Music to ask them this question and they immediately replied - 'The Concertina'. This is what got me interested in this instrument.

 

Please bear in mind that I'm only interested in owning a single concertina (plus my non-musical wife would'nt allow me to own more than one).

So... at the moment, I'm thinking that I'd be better off playing an English. Anyway, before I make my decision, a few more questions on the Anglo -

 

If I buy an Anglo and learn to play it, won't it be a problem if I want to play songs in a number of different keys i.e I'll need to own more than one concertina?

Am I also right in saying that a G/D concertina would fit in well with the DG melodeon players that do morris music (though I've noticed that the Anglos for sale in The Morris Shop are in C/G)?

 

Just watched a video of a guy called Derek the Nutter making a great job of playing an Anglo C/G - just go into YouTube and type 'concertina.wmv'.

 

Still undecided...

Jon.

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Ok. Check this out. I want to play the same as these guys on YouTube…

 

Will Quale playing ‘Presbyterian Hornpipe’ on a G/D Anglo.

Derek the Nutter playing ‘Concertina.wmv’ on a C/G Anglo.

 

But I can only own one concertina. What’s the answer?

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