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Back From The Aether...with A Question...or Two...or So...

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Hello again everyone.

I've been out of the loop for almost five years, so I guess that means I'm new here again, and those of you who've forgotten me can meet me for the first time a second time!

I was able to go to the Old Pal event once back in 2012 with my Jackie, and since then I've been busy with a multitude of things. But enough about that.

In regards to my Jackie, I find that the bellows are very stiff in comparison with other (vintage / higher price tiered) concertinas, and I was wondering if anyone had a suggestion or two about how I can get the bellows to limber up without causing undue wear on them.

Also, occasionally the "low C" on the instrument has a buzz, like there's something stuck and vibrating between the valve and the air aperture, but I keep the instrument in the gig bag 99.5% of the time when I'm not actively practicing. Would I gain anything by opening up that side just to see if there's a speck of anything caught in the works?


Lastly, I am finding myself in a situation where I will be needing to learn Anglo for occasional Celtic / ITM work. When going from English to Anglo, are there any keysets that lend themselves more to someone relearning the wheel? I figured that bisonorous bellows action would be the first stumbling block, as opposed to the unisonorous bellows action that I'm used to with the English.


Thanks in advance for any insight that can be offered, and thank all you fine folks for still being around!

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If you’ve been playing the Jackie for 5 years, I would say it’s time to trade up to a better instrument. Both Wim and the Button Box will credit you the original price if you buy something else.


Also, there are people who play ITM on an English. I’ve seen workshops on how to play the EC like an Anglo.

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Desire to trade up: *****
Ability to trade up: N/A


I got my Jackie from the Button Box, and while I ogle at both their offerings and at Wim's offerings, I simply do not have the budget and will not for a long time.

Part of my issue with playing ITM on an English is that my finger dexterity is atrocious. I figure with an Anglo I can cheat some speed via bellows action.

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Hmm. I wouldn't say you'd need noticeably less finger dexterity for Anglo than English. Yes, you're also using the bellows in a different way, but that doesn't mean your fingers get to move less often, or move less quickly or dextrously when they do move.


Finger dexterity can be improved. I'd have a look at (or a talk to) guitar and violin teachers about this, as you'll find a lot more of them about on the internet or where you live. They'll have simple exercises they give their students to increase finger dexterity and finger strength, and these are just as useful -- tremendously useful -- for concertina players. I still use finger exercises I learned thirty years ago from my childhood guitar teacher.


That path could save you considerable money and time, compared to buying and learning another instrument, and it costs you nothing to give it a go :) As Dave said (and others can no doubt provide examples to watch / listen to), there are some great musicians out there who play Irish tunes on an English concertina. The only name I can give you off the top of my head is Simon Thoumire (whose repertoire is more Scottish than Irish, but still gives you a real sense of the possibilities).


The money you save can go towards saving up for an improvement on your Jackie -- a concertina with better bellows and better action will (for a five-years-experience player) give you a substantial boost as well. It may be a ways off, but I'd guess the ~$400 you save plus the trade-in of your Jackie gets you 30% or more of the way to a better instrument right there!

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In my experience when people say the bellows are stiff on their concertina the issue often is that the reeds are inefficient, requiring more effort to get speed and volume and this is being interpreted as a bellows issue. The Rochelle ( my only experience of these concertinas) is good value for money but its best use is often as a means of discovering if the instrument is for you before moving on to a more efficient concertina. This is not to denigrate those who are happy with their Rochelle, some of my students make nice music on them, but if you are interested in dance music or if you need volume you will need a better concertina.

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When I got my Jackie a few months ago I didn't know what to expect, but found the bellows to be stiff.

For the next few weeks I used the air button to expand/retract the bellows a few times at the beginning of each session hoping that might loosen things up.

Now, after a couple of months of playing, the bellows does not seem so stiff - either my hands have become stronger or the bellows have loosened with use.

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...either my hands have become stronger or the bellows have loosened with use.

Or both. ;)




We generally think that concertinas play better when we've played them in.

Concertinas probably think that we play better when they've played us in ...


Think about it ...




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