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Hi to everyone. I'm totally new here....and new to concertina ownership as I'm about to enter the world of the 'tina. And isn't it a minefield?

 

I'm in the UK with a very limited budget (which isn't likely to get any larger as there's always something that seems to need fixing at home!) so from what I can see I'm going to have to go with Anglo, much as I'd love an English these are way way over my measly £45-£75 budget. (yes I know that's tiny but I have to start somewhere!) I'll only realistically manage 10-15 minutes a day to practice so I assumed that some sort of 20 button Anglo could be a good thing to start on?

My entire experience has been a few months playing on our children's Scarlatti junior melodeon but that's very limited with only 7 buttons! But as a result I'm not entirely new to the diatonic instrument and have even learned a few tunes on the basic little thing - I give it 10 minutes a day nonetheless just to prove to myself that I will indeed keep it up. It's given me the bug and I realise that a concertina is the next step as it takes up much less room that a full size melodeon and (I think) looks far nicer!

We're an English Folk-loving family so that's what I'll be wanting to play.

 

 

I'd love a few pointers before I buy. There are no places near me to try things out (there's no longer a Hobgoblin in Nottingham) and the English Folk scene in my area is almost non-existent so I'm going to have to take the plunge and just go for it blindly and hope for the best. Probably something used on ebay - I've been watching the listings for the past month and researching models but the concertina is a complex old thing, isn't she?!

 

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give to a concertina newbie!

Edited by Helen Lindley

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For the budget you've mentioned you could buy a really horrible anglo, or a rather good harmonica. The harmonica is even smaller and more portable.

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Hahaha - can't sing through a harmonica though!

But seriously I have to start somewhere. I can't afford spending more currently (2 young children!) and the couple of people I've spoken too have been rather snooty, implying that if I can't afford to spend over £200 then I have no right learning to play!

But it's like my kids who are learning clarinet - they have the cheap plastic practice instruments to learn on as recommended by the teacher - they sound bloody awful but they are learning how to play at a vastly reduced cost.

It might not be the preferred route of more affluent players but hey, you have to go with what you can.

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You most certainly have a right to learn - and to learn the concertina! The real problem is price - and this does rather favour those of us who are either well paid, managed to buy in the 60s/70s, found a mircaculous bargain or who no longer have to support growing children.

 

The amount of practice time you mention does not necessarily millitate against learning. Many of us who are working probably manage this much, plus a little more at weekends/holidays if life permits.

 

At the budget end there are some servicable instruments. The Concertina Connection Jack and Jackie are decent enough instruments to get started on. I am lucky enough to own a wheatstone aeola as my main instrument, but for some time have had a Jack baritone that gives me a lot of pleasure and whilst it isn't as pleasant to play and listen to, the fact it was 1/15th the price and probably c.40-50% as playable so means its probably pound for pound excellent vfm. I can't speak for Concertina Connections other instruments, but their English system instruments are worth your consideration - they pop up on Ebay (and with some dealers) second hand and are probably just about within your budget. I have to say the various other 'cheaper' modern concertinas I have tried have not been experiences I would wish to repeat!

 

Good luck. Don't give up - concertinas are immensley rewarding - if at times equally frustrating for all sorts of reasons including availability and price

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That's the idea - cheap and (probably not so) cheerful to start with and gradually upgrade. My husband and I own a small woodworking business so we're members of the 'artisan but poor' crowd!

But I remember back in the day being told that it's far better to actually go for it (with anything in life) and not waste your life waiting around until you have more time and/or money as there's always something getting in the way. And before you know it you've never got round to doing anything. We did it with our business - had the idea and just went for it - and have never regretted it. Apart from being relatively poor of course. Poor but happy!

I have seen some used bargains but it's a case of waiting for something to pop up. These things have a habit of doing so.

 

Thank you for your comments and advice.

Edited by Helen Lindley

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That's the idea - cheap and (probably not so) cheerful to start with and gradually upgrade. My husband and I own a small woodworking business so we're members of the 'artisan but poor' crowd!

But I remember back in the day being told that it's far better to actually go for it (with anything in life) and not waste your life waiting around until you have more time and/or money as there's always something getting in the way. And before you know it you've never got round to doing anything. We did it with our business - had the idea and just went for it - and have never regretted it. Apart from being relatively poor of course. Poor but happy!

I have seen some used bargains but it's a case of waiting for something to pop up. These things have a habit of doing so.

 

Thank you for your comments and advice.

Hi Helen, I understand and sympathise (broke aspiring concertina-maker). Unfortunately concertinas are complicated little beasts to build, and the very cheapest ones have lots of corners cut in their construction that make them not just sound bad, they are more difficult to play and wear out quickly too. Imagine trying to build a fine chest of drawers with the sort of tools you find in a £1 shop.

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In view of where you live it might be worth having a word with the folks listed under ' Nottingham and East Midlands Concertina Group' on the ICA website at:

 

http://www.concertina.org/regional-groups-with-regular-meetings/

 

They can't be very far away and may know someone who can help with a loan or hiring.

 

Good luck!

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My first concertina was a 20 button/key C/G Italian anglo that cost me 50 USD and served well enough to learn on for several years - it didn't fall apart. I even played it in public once! There must be some of those floating around. Keep asking.

 

Ken

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Decades ago, I started playing on a 20 button Anglo of dubious origin, found at a yard sale for a few dollars. The bellows were shot, but someone gave me a similar instrument with bad reeds, and I combined the two for a genuinely frankensteinish piece of junk. But it's what got me started. I still have it - it doesn't sound great and moving the bellows is an aerobic exercise, but it got me thru the beginner phase.

 

If you or your husband are handy with tools, you can probably turn one of the really cheap Chinese instruments common on Ebay into something that will serve you until you can afford something better.

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Sometimes you can rent an instrument, or even rent-to-own.

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Sometimes you can rent an instrument, or even rent-to-own.

 

That's how I started, with an instrument rented under a hire-purchase agreement from a local music shop. When after six months I decided I could make the instrument work for me, they deducted the rental price from the purchase price.

 

However, I also back the suggestion to contact a local concertina group - them may have instruments for loan, or have a member with 'excess' instruments (can one ever have an excess of concertinas?) who could loan you one.

 

I could probably loan one but it would be an English not an Anglo, and I'm near Cambridge which is a bit far.

 

If you want to find out about concertinas with an event presumably not too far from you, it is Squeezeast in Stamford a week on Saturday (http://squeezeast.org.uk/), and there will be dozens of tinas there.

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Networking with other concertinists in your region is a really good idea. I had a decent concertina out on loan to several local beginners for a few years. Many players are eager to help newbies, and you might be able to borrow an instrument from one.

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If you want to sing with concer accompaniment then I recommend the english system over the anglo. One can sing with the anglo but the push/pull might make it harder for a beginner and as a beginner you may be limited to just two keys for a while. And in fact a cheap one would only be in two keys at most. Of course I speak as an english system player/singer, could I be biased? With the english a few simple chords could get you going, which is the case with the anglo too I might add.

 

Perhaps you should try very hard to rent or borrow an english system concertina for a while, just my opinion.

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Or just go to the concertina meeting and ask to try each system. There's a well-documented experience here that preference is very individual and due in part to how your brain is wired. Good luck.

 

Ken

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Hi Helen,

See what John Adey's suggestion brings, in my experience all concertina groups are very friendly and welcoming (even if we can be slightly obsessive).

 

It is possible to hire instruments from SqueezEast Concertinas (and West Country Concertina Players (WCCP)) as you save for something of your own, and as Paul says

"If you want to find out about concertinas with an event presumably not too far from you, it is Squeezeast in Stamford a week on Saturday (http://squeezeast.org.uk/), and there will be dozens of tinas there".

Unfortunately he got the day wrong, its Sunday 4th June, and all details are available on our website, just go there to register (nil cost) or just turn up. If we know you are coming we can bring some hire instruments with us either English or Anglos or both. You will be very welcome and we won't expect you to join in with the band.

 

Mike (member of SqueezEast)

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Hi Helen,

See what John Adey's suggestion brings, in my experience all concertina groups are very friendly and welcoming (even if we can be slightly obsessive).

 

It is possible to hire instruments from SqueezEast Concertinas (and West Country Concertina Players (WCCP)) as you save for something of your own, and as Paul says

"If you want to find out about concertinas with an event presumably not too far from you, it is Squeezeast in Stamford a week on Saturday (http://squeezeast.org.uk/), and there will be dozens of tinas there".

Unfortunately he got the day wrong, its Sunday 4th June, and all details are available on our website, just go there to register (nil cost) or just turn up. If we know you are coming we can bring some hire instruments with us either English or Anglos or both. You will be very welcome and we won't expect you to join in with the band.

 

Mike (member of SqueezEast)

Excellent - I'm from Stamford originally - only just up the road now on the other side of Grantham so although I can't make 4th June I'll certainly check in. Thanks Mike

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Decades ago, I started playing on a 20 button Anglo of dubious origin, found at a yard sale for a few dollars. The bellows were shot, but someone gave me a similar instrument with bad reeds, and I combined the two for a genuinely frankensteinish piece of junk. But it's what got me started. I still have it - it doesn't sound great and moving the bellows is an aerobic exercise, but it got me thru the beginner phase.

 

If you or your husband are handy with tools, you can probably turn one of the really cheap Chinese instruments common on Ebay into something that will serve you until you can afford something better.

Thanks Jim.

Tools and practicality are not a problem - we make stuff all day every day - we handmake painted wooden boxes for a living. And I taught myself about computers in the early 1990s by taking 2 old ones apart and rebuilding them into 1 so I'm more than happy in the long term to buy a renovation projects.

 

When you see what I've been playing for the last 4 months then you'll understand why I'm perfectly happy to 'upgrade' to a simple 20k pre-owned!

(Sorry for huge image - I can't seem to resize it) C2aQ1F7XEAEnxSt.jpg

Edited by Helen Lindley

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Thank you everyone for replying. Some very useful information and it's marvellous to finally find some people local (ish) to me which I shall check out after half term. And thank you for sharing your stories of starting at the budget end. It's not the perfect way to start but perhaps an imperfect start is better than no start at all?

 

I had considered the hiring issue but I know darn well that my music loving children will want to play whatever I buy (our 5 year-old and 8 year-old do seem to have a natural ability to play music, which we obviously encourage!) and I'd hate to feel too worried about anything which wasn't mine getting damaged.

Perhaps I need to try to up the budget slightly though to buy a used entry-level English.

 

Much food for thought. Thank you again (tea break over, now I'm back into the workshop!)

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