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General Advice Needed For First Time Concertina Buyer/player

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Hi All,


I have spent some time reading through various threads on these forum pages as well as other resources online. I apologise if I ask questions that have already be asked in the past.


I have decided that I would like to learn to play the concertina for the following reasons:


1) I like the sound

2) The ability to play an accompaniment at the same time as the melody

3) The size - it's really portable


And besides, I reckon they're pretty cool. I already play a couple of instruments (tenor banjo and tin whistle), but I'm no great talent on either.


I am interested in playing the following types of music:


1) Morris tunes and English Folk songs (Jenny Lind, As I was going to Banbury, etc)

2) Sea Shanties and sea songs (Bully in the alley, Old Maui, etc). I would like to sing these songs and play an accompaniment on the concertina.

3) Scottish folk songs (Macpherson's Rant, The Bonnie Lass o Fyvie, etc)

4) The odd Irish tune (Banish Misfortune, Julia Delaney's, etc.)


My online research suggests that a 30 button Anglo concertina would be the way to go. But which key should I be considering? C/G or G/D? A lot of the Morris tunes for the side that I dance with are in G with only a couple in D or Bm. I've been told that playing accompanying chords on a C/G when playing in G means that the melody is played on really high notes and this can make the melody sound squeaky/unpleasant? A D/G was recommended if I wanted to play accompanying chords. What are your experiences and advice regarding this?


Would an English concertina be suitable at all for the type of music I want to play? Can accompanying chords be played with the melody on an English Concertina?


I am looking the following tutor books:

1) The Anglo Concertina Absolute Beginners https://www.hobgoblin.com/local/sales/products/GM47011/the-cg-anglo-concertina-book/

2) Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style https://www.amazon.com/Anglo-Concertina-Harmonic-Style-Coover/dp/0615747353


Has anyone used either of these books before? Are they any good? Do you have any other suggestions for books or DVDs?


Do all Anglo Concertina tutor books teach to play melody on the right hand and accompanying chords on the left?


I also note that most tutor books are aimed at C/G concertinas as opposed to G/D concertinas. I'm assuming for a beginner it would be confusing to use a C/G tutor book on a G/D instrument?


What a peoples experiences in swapping to a from a C/G to a G/D?


And finally, advice on the concertina itself. One thing that struck me when looking into playing the concertina was the price of the instruments. The standard advice for buying a student model seems to be for a Rochelle. I've watched a few youtube videos. Am I right in thinking that the Rochelle is fairly bulky concertina? I must admit that the size really puts me off, as one of the things that draws me to the concertina is the portability of the instrument. In some videos the Rochelle looks almost as big as a melodeon.


For roughly the same price I can get a Wren 2 Concertina from McNeela Music, which seems to be a normal size instrument http://www.mcneelamusic.com/the-wren-anglo-concertina-2/


Does anyone have any experience with these instruments? The sound seems pretty good from the videos. With the huge jump in price from a starter concertina to an intermediate concertina, I don't foresee myself upgrading for a number of years, so I need to make the right decision from the start as the first concertina I buy will more than likely be with me for a quite some time. Any advice would be appreciated.


Sorry for the long post, but I have a lot of questions and not many people to ask them to. I appreciate any time you take in providing some advice and guidance.


Many thanks,




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This is certainly the best place to ask. Hopefully many will be along shortly to help.


I have a Rochelle and at first, 4 years ago as a complete beginner and ignorant of reading music, I was not able to get along with it.

I moved to a D/G melodeon and loved it, still learning. About a year after starting the melodeon I picked up the Rochelle and found I could destroy a few of the Morris tunes I had learned, then they started to sound better.

So now I play melodeon for the dancers and the Rochelle in sessions.


So you certainly can play Morris tunes on a C/G as well as shanties. I have seen and heard Irish on the C/G.

I hope to upgrade shortly to a Marcus. Having tried one the action is so so so much better and of course it is physically smaller than the Rochelle.


If this helps, great, if not - Oh well.



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If you are interested in mainly playing English tunes then a G/D instrument is probably the one to go for. These are the main keys for English music and will fit in more easily with your morris band and in English sessions. This will also do for the other types of music you mention. However, these can also be played very well on C/G - if ti goes too high you simply drop into a lower octave, and the high pitch gives an added brightness which will cut through the melodeons and fiddles.


Irish music is usually played on C/G instruments, but this uses an entirely different technique. G, D and A are still the most common keys but these are played across the rows with both hands, using the middle range of the instrument and with little chording. This is an entirely different way of playing from the chords-left melody-right style you are asking about. It is of course possible to play Irish tunes in this 'harmonic' style but they won't sound 'authentic' and may cause raised eyebrows at more purist sessions!


If follows that not all tutors teach the same style. Those aimed at playing Irish music won't teach the harmonic style you are seeking.


Accompanying singing is a more difficult question, since it depends on which keys you are most comfortable singing in. Anglos become more difficult to play as you move away from the 'home keys', although with enough practice most keys are possible, especially if you only need to provide a chord accompaniment rather than play the melody.

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I play the same kind of music you’re interested in on the Hayden Duet, so I will leave answering most of your questions to the Anglo players. I wouldn’t try to play melody/accompaniment on an English unless you’re really determined. It can be done (and it can be very satisfying), but it’s not easy, you won’t have much company, and you will find few resources.


However I noticed one question in your post that is easy to answer:


Do all Anglo Concertina tutor books teach to play melody on the right hand and accompanying chords on the left?


No. Irish Traditional Music (ITM) is generally played on a C/G Anglo without self-accompaniment. Both hands are used to play the melody, with its ornaments. There are many books that will take that approach. [This was all written and ready to send before Howard’s post appeared, above. Glad we pretty much agree.]

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I play mainly for Morris, in the chromatic style: melody plus chord/bass accompaniment.


I chose Anglo. It very naturally fits the Morris style. I know people who play English concertina for the Morris. They can add chords and other accompaniments, but the Anglo seems to be more at home doing this.


Most Morris tunes are played in G, with D being the second most common key. This is because of the prevalence of the D/G melodeon: the Hohner Wall of Sound. If you are playing solo, you can lay in any key you want for the dance.


It is easier to play a rich harmonic arrangement in G on a G/D Anglo than on a C/G Anglo. Of course, D is very much more accessible on a G/D than on a C/G! However, as you develop your skills, you will find that playing in G on a C/G is fun and rewarding.


C/G are easier to find, and probably easier to sell.


If you plan to play solo on a 30 button, I would say go for a C/G. If you plan to play with other Morris musicians, go for a G/D.


Whichever you buy will be your FIRST concertina, but probably not your LAST.


Much fun can be had playing Morris tunes on a 20 button, including some very authentic sounding accompaniment. Kimber played Morris mainly on the core 20 buttons, even when he had more available. Of course, it has its limitations, but it it is more versatile than you might think at first. Just imagine: for the price of a 30 button, you could have two 20s, one in C/G and one in D/G...

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I haven't used the first book you mentioned, but Gary Coover's books are excellent. I struggled with "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style" the first time I tried working from it, but after working through some of his "Easy Anglo 1-2-3" book to get my head around the skills of playing in a simpler style, I'm really getting a lot out of it. Highly recommended!


If you're at all interested in the early history of the anglo, you might want to check out "Merrill's Harmonic Method" from 1872, freely available here: https://archive.org/details/merrillsharmonic00merr It's got a hilariously un-useful first half on 19th-century music theory, followed by some really excellent exercises for playing in the harmonic style. From what you say about your musical interests, the tunes in the book are probably not up your alley (waltzes, hymns, music hall songs, and American patriotic songs, mostly), but the exercises did wonders for helping me make the leap from playing single melody lines to melody plus accompaniment.


Have fun!

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Since the focus of this thread has directed you toward the G/D Anglo, and since you are put off by the size of the Rochelle, you might want to look into the Edgley G/D concertina currently on offer on the For Sale section of these forums. This hybrid instrument should be a nice step up from the Rochelle, meet your needs and not be too dear.


Good luck,


Ross Schlabach

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Good luck on your quest! You'll find lots of good info and opinion to sort through on this site!


Since you're a beginner, I'd definitely encourage you to consider "Easy Anglo 1-2-3" over "Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style". It's a lot cheaper, and the second book starts out easy but gets really hard really fast. As much as I love the Anglo playing of Chris Sherburn I find his tutor (IMHO) to be the most incomprehensible of them all - really bizarre numbering and notation system, many buttons totally ignored, and nothing about playing in the harmonic style with melodies and chords. I'm sure you'll run across lots of other tutors out there, unfortunately many are of variable quality and with completely different tab and notation systems, but you want something that will get you up and running as quickly and as easily as possible with a minimal amount of overly difficult technical bs and weird notation systems.


Anglo tutors for the past 150 years have all been written for the C/G since that's by far and away the most common type of Anglo. I haven't seen a G/D tutor anywhere but will redouble my efforts to try to talk Jody Kruskal into writing one!


FWIW, I have a G/D that I keep trying to play and invariably end up putting it back down fairly quickly. And why is that? Well, most of the harmonic arrangements I know and like on the C/G sound like mud on the G/D. There are players (like Jody) who know how to lighten up the left side, but unfortunately there are no tutors yet to help you figure out how.


Maybe let your choice be guided by which Anglo players you like to listen to? For recorded music, there's not a lot out there on the G/D. It's no secret I'm a huge fan of John Watcham's style, and I remember meeting with him many years ago when I too was debating the C/G - G/D decision. I thought G/D made more sense because most folk tunes are in G and D (due to fiddle players and now melodeon players), but I was surprised to learn that although he had several concertinas in different keys, 99.9% of the time he plays a C/G and has never even owned a G/D. For Morris music, I feel that higher G octave (on the C/G) is much better for cutting through the crowd.


And of course for Irish Traditional Music, the sheer perversity of playing a C/G in the key of D is a lot of what gives the music such great bounce and lilt!


But, having said all this, there's nothing to keep you from plowing your own path on a G/D (if you so choose) and doing something wonderful with it. Hopefully some of the G/D players here on cnet will chime in and provide some tips and insights.


In the meanwhile I'd suggest trying to meet up with other players, ask lots of questions, try out various instruments - I'm sure you'll finding something that will get you started on the path!



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My G/D doesn't "sound like mud" in the harmonic style. In fact, it is my favourite of my three instruments (G/D, C/G and B flat/F) and I play almost exclusively in the harmonic style.


I tend to do bass notes and single notes as accompaniment more than I do full chords. Sometimes I do pairs of notes together, but often I play them individually. For example, when accompanying a sequence requiring a G major chord (using capitals for lower octave and upper case for the next octave up on the left hand) I might play


C, (eg) | G, (eg) etc. or


C, e | C, g etc. or


c, e | c, g and occasionally


(cg), ceg


I will often alternate between C bass note and c bass note.


It is also important to be deliberate about how long you hold each note down for, especially on the left hand. Sometimes I will lean on a note for emphasis, but otherwise I will play the left hand notes for shorter duration than the melody notes.


I find that I tend to play the melody almost on autopilot and think more about the accompaniment, choosing from the different options as the mood takes me.

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I'll echo the above: I find (on any anglo, but perhaps particularly so on G/D?) that it's all about


1) playing fewer notes than you think you need to


2) "left hand short, right hand long"


Training your hands to hold or release the buttons at different speeds takes a little bit of brain-hand coordination at first, but it soon becomes second-nature. Then look at the chords you think you want to play on the left, and figure out how few notes you can play and still get the right effect. Can you play an open fifth here? Can you just play the single note which tells you (in conjunction with the melody note) that this is a vi instead of a I, or a IV instead of a I, or that gives you a nicely contoured phrase that complements what's going on in the melody, etc?


This has the huge advantage of giving you a wider range for expression by letting you play more notes or longer notes selectively for variation or emphasis, and not just using more or less air.


One thing Jody does to great effect is figuring out when he can shift some of the accompaniment on the right hand ... but that seems more advanced to me, because I've never really been able to figure it out and make it work the way it works when I hear him do it :)


I think the best key for accompanying morris is ... C, on a C/G. The tunes are in the right range to travel much further when played outside than G on a G/D, and much better sounding than G on a C/G. Tell the melodeon players to go have another beer, you'll handle this one, because playing in C on a C/G, you don't need a back-up band to get the volume and the punch B)

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Re. sparse accompaniment.


I realise that I am listening to a midi concertina representation rather than a real player, but making up the midi files for Pete's ABC transcriptions of Frank Butler's Mini-tunes collection has been an eye opener for me.


Frank's arrangements are all supposed to be for a single treble EC, yet they sound full and rhythmic as if played on a duet. Most of the time he plays just one or two notes simultaneously. I would love to have heard Frank actually play some of these tunes on an EC as I find it hard to believe that they can be played on an EC.

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I think the best key for accompanying morris is ... C, on a C/G. The tunes are in the right range to travel much further when played outside than G on a G/D, and much better sounding than G on a C/G. Tell the melodeon players to go have another beer, you'll handle this one, because playing in C on a C/G, you don't need a back-up band to get the volume and the punch B)

Not necessarily. On a C/G (without using the accidental row) there are many tunes that fit C perfectly. Playing in C, you can go C to c, then d & e above. This gives you a continuous 10 notes of the scale on the right hand. Also many tunes modulate up a 5th for part of the music, and the F# is useful for this.


However, on the same instrument, if you play in G, you can play the scale G to g (plus the b above) and you can also go down from the G: F#, E, D, C still on the right hand, leaving your left hand free for accompaniment.


So, as a rough rule of thumb, tunes that spend a lot of time below the tonic often fit better on the higher of the two main keys of the Anglo.


Apart from that, the range of chords available is different, and I find that playing on the higher of the two keys can be more interesting and give more of an "Anglo sound". I feel that the strange and quirky limitations of the Anglo keyboard are a virtue because it makes you find the best compromise rather than just pumping out the ready made chords and basses available on a melodeon or accordion.

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The Rochelle is a largish anglo but its certainly not as big as the average melodeon. I'm not familiar with the other concertina you mention but ive played Rochelles and for the money I think they are very good. Im sure youve worked out already that concertinas are quite expensive :-)


a 30 button c/g anglo will fulfill most of your requirements and the rochelle will keep you going for a year or so when you will probably want to sell it and upgrade. You should be able to get a good chunk of your initial outlay back


Personally I started out with a c/g anglo and Chris Sherburns Absolute beginners tutor and found it easy to follow. There are many many different ways of representing the notes and buttons so my reccomendation is to learn where the notes are on your box including duplications. Then it doesnt matter which note numbering system someone uses. Absolute beginners does not really deal with the 'harmonic' style of playing so if this is important to you you may want to try one of the other Tutor books mentioned. I mainly play ITM so it wasnt a problem for me. I also quite like Mick Bramich's tutor for ITM though perhaps not for absolute beginners


I also recently got a g/d. ( i still have and play the c/g)Very good for 'along the rows' tunes and all your c/g cross row tunes still sound good theyre just in the wrong keys :-) not a problem if your playing by yourself

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Hi All,


Thanks very much for the info and advice. I've decided the following:


1) I think will stick with a C/G Anglo. There seems to be more learning resources available for C/G than G/D. Budget/student models don't seem to come in G/D. I'm not the fastest learner or the most talented musician and trying to learn an instrument as complicated as the Anglo concertina without good resources would only lead to frustration.


2) I think I will get both of Gary Coover's books (Easy 1 2 3 and Harmonic style).


There is a chance I may be able to lend a concertina for while, so I will put off buying one for the moment and continue to save my pennies.


Many thanks,


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