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Beginner Question : Vintage Or Cheap Hybrid ?


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I've read a lot of posts in this forum (thanks for all informations !) but this is my first topic here.

I'm a 38 years old french, who already play some instruments. I started with baroque recorder for ten years (even with tin whistle moments !), then switched to folk music with button accordion (currently a Castagnari Handry 18), try church organ (at home with a Viscount Cantorum VI), but still very tempted to learn Irish music (but not exclusively ! I saw the "Morris" or "shanties" words here and would be glad to know more).

For my incoming birthday, I will buy (or make family buy for me :-) ) an Anglo, that's for sure. But I can't count how many hours I spent in front of my laptop (I tried several times on my smartphone, but the Concertina.Net forums are not readable on it) trying to decide which one to choose ! So I ask here some advices or personnal experiences. The price would be roughly less than 500 - 600€

I first saw the Rochelle from Concertina Connection.
The pros seem to me the keyboard with Wheatstone positions and heights, riveted action (but what's this exactly ? For the pivots behind buttons ? For reeds connection with wood instead of glue ?).... but the cons are the weight and size, and seemingly the air hole being too small. I was tempted by the concertina for the very first reason : my button accordion is heavy and doing a push-pull fast on it is too much effort. Yes I could buy an Irish button accordion, but I want smaller and different :-)

The Tina (or Tina Swift) from Irish Concertina Company seem not so qualitative (czech reeds, buttons) and I don't find precise information on it.

The Wren 2 from McNeela seems ok, as I understood is a Chinese one reworked by McNeela with Italian reeds. The YouTube videos gave me the feeling that it's more responsive than the Rochelle. But still plastic "clunky" buttons.

All in all, three hybrids that make me feel somewhat uneasy. I come from accordion (italian tipo a mano reeds, semi-swing) and buying an instrument with "false" (no offense here) concertina reeds is perhaps not a good idea. So I'm looking to vintage concertinas, and some seem in my price range.

Using these names found in this very forum :

Chris Algar / Barleycorn concertinas : http://www.concertina.co.uk/
Theo Gibb / The Box Place : http://theboxplace.co.uk/product-category/concertinas/
David Robertson / Concertina restoration : https://www.concertina-restoration.co.uk/anglo
Andy Norman : http://www.acnorman.co.uk/


it seem that we could afford a vintage but with 20 buttons only. For example these :





With some more money, it could be a 26 buttons :



Most of modern tutors (I will soon probably buy all Gary Coover books) are made for 30 buttons. I guess many tunes are in D or others, and require notes from third row. What do you think of it ?


Your comments and advices will be greatly appreciated. Many thanks !

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Hello and welcome to the concertina and concertina.net. And Happy New Year.


I should start out by saying that I do not play Anglo, so there is a limit to the specific advice I can give you there. But I also came to the concertina (30 years ago) after playing many other instruments and I expect that with your background, you will be happier with a vintage instrument than a “cheap hybrid.”


As for “riveted action,” compare these two photos. This is riveted action. Notice that as the levers pass by the posts, they pivot on a horizontal rivet.




Contrast that to this, where the levers are held up against a fulcrum by the springs:




Many people feel that the riveted action allows more accurate playing at faster speeds.


Finally, to access concertina.net on a smartphone, press the “full version” button at the bottom of the page.

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Hi David,

Thanks for the details about riveted action and mobile access.
Yes I'm seriously considering the possibility to buy a vintage 20 key and "go with it", learn tunes and many things with it. After all, I played many years a two rows button accordions, and it was already pleasant :-)

Happy new year !

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I started on a Rochelle. It was good enough that it inspired me to upgrade. I have played other cheap modern instruments and some of them were so bad they may have inspired me to give up. The Rochelle is a decent beginner's instrument.


After the Rochelle, I bought a Marcus. That is a modern "hybrid" that looks and operates like a concertina but has accordion reeds. It was a good instrument.


I then acquired my first traditional instrument: a Jeffries. Later I got a Dipper, and I now also have a basic Lachenal 20.


I can tell you that I would far rather play my 20 button Lachenal than a 30 button "el cheapo". However, with Lachenals tending to be over 100 years old, there are good and bad examples. Try before you buy.


Unless you have very specialist requirements, the ideal is either a nice new hybrid 30 button from a good manufacturer, or a traditional 30 button in good/restored condition.


A Rochelle is a good starting point, though.


The differences between a good instrument and a poor one include:

Smoothness of the action, and the correct amount of travel on each button.

The degree of clickiness and rattle from the action.

Tone of the reeds as well as how quickly they respond, and how quietly and loudly they can be (dynamics).

Smoothness of operation and airtightness of the bellows.

Ergonomics: correct positioning of buttons.




I think I'm reasonably experienced and skilled - over 10 years of playing most days - and I have picked up instruments that I have found virtually unplayable, including brand new ones from quality manufacturers. It is important to try before you buy, or at least to speak to people who will give honest opinions of their own instruments.

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Like you, I wanted to try the concertina after playing other traditional instruments, though I chose the Hayden duet system. I bought a Concertina Connections Elise, which is the duet equivalent of the Rochelle, andI found it to be a suitable introductory instrument, and enjoyable even within its low budget specifications.

I traded it for a new Beaumont Hayden (there aren't vintage instruments because the Hayden system is new since the 1970s) both to play a better instrument and also because the Beaumont has 52 buttons (approximately the number specified by Hayden in his patent) rather than the abbreviated 34 buttons on the Elise.

I mention this because I quickly wanted to play tunes that required the full chromatic scale which was not possible on the Elise. You might encounter the same frustrations on a vintage 20 button Anglo, since its 30 button big brother has much wider capabilities including the very Irish ability of playing a C/G in the beloved key of D! On the other hand, you've played a two row non-chromatic accordion happily, so a vintage 20 button might be just right.

Best of luck, and happy new year.

Edited by W3DW
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For a slightly different perspective, here's another thought: You might find an old Bastari/Stagi 30 button (Italian) for quite a low price; my first was $95 US, and my second $125. Both sound rather "sweet" and all buttons/bellows work fine, years later. They are not "fast" but in good hands can keep up mostly. I think them more value for the money than a new Rochelle, but that's personal opinion. Lots of folk go quite far with Rochelles. Anyway, you could start there and put the rest of your budget away, to add to it, to get your vintage or better newer hybrid. Nothing about the low-price Bastaris ever made me want to stop; quite the contrary. I have now got a very nice Morse Ceili model newer hybrid, and it plays great, but has the accordion reeds. I also have a nice old 40 button Bastari in G and D, which suits me for Irish music, since I don't have the brain wiring for lots of cross-fingering (meaning I play along the rows, like harmonicas.)


Have a great time!





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Hello, and happy new year !

Thanks for these replies. I would love to have a 30 key traditional anglo, but it seems to be simply out of budget. An old Bastari / Stagi, why not ? But where to find : I guess on ebay or similar sites ? I would be afraid to not to be able to "detect" if it's a "chinese" one instead of an italian.
I think that I would be able to try the Rochelle or any Concertina Connection model, as well as modern Stagi, because I live about 2 hours of car away from Lyon where there is this shop : http://www.accordetmusique.fr/concertinas/rochelle.html. However, wanting a minimum quality and with a low budget, the Rochelle would be the only possible choice in the "try before you buy" way.

I can't imagine how to try vintage Lachenal such as those found on Barleycorn (except going to UK but the price of travel would exceed the one of the instrument :-) )

The idea of a Hayden Duet or any "unisound" type wouldn't suit me I think. I'm used to the "push-pull" playing style and don't want to lose it :-)


Well, for now your posts all tell that the Rochelle is a good instrument. I'm so afraid of the size and the dynamics, especially for the air hole diameter ! You're right : try before to buy.

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Hi Terence,

If you're interested in Irish music you'll definitely miss the C# on the third row for most tunes in the key of D. But you could always just leave that note out if you had to, even though it might drive you crazy.


You can get a lot of music out of a 20-button, but your keys will be very limited, as you well know with the button accordion.


Thanks for the interest in the books! I'd recommend the first 2/3 of Easy Anglo 1-2-3 to get you started, and everything in Civil War Concertina can be played on a 20-button if that helps. Sometime next year I plan to put out a book of Irish tunes just for the 20-button Anglo, and it will probably have about 100 tunes. So if you do end up with a 20-button, you can at least get a fair number of tunes learned before you might eventually upgrade to a 30-button.


Just be wary of most of the 20-button instruments out there - a lot are cheap junk. But any reputable shop should allow you (or someone you know) to try them out first on approval, and if by mail you might only be out shipping costs both directions if the instrument doesn't suit. There have been a few nice-looking 20-button Lachenals on eBay lately, but these instruments often need a bit of work. And FYI, the light mahogany-ended Lachenals tend to be cheaper quality.


But you're doing the right thing to tap into the collective cnet brain trust! With luck, perhaps someone will have an instrument they can offer or recommend.


Best of luck in your search!




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A nice 20 button is a versatile instrument and great fun to play. More isn't always better. However, there's no denying that extra buttons allow greater versatility.


Funny thing: in the world of melodeons, there is a real cachet in having a top end single row and there are whole genres of music that are traditionally played on a 1 row. In the world of harmonicas, overwhelmingly more people play the diatonic than play the chromatic. But in the world of Anglo concertinas, there is a background assumption that you need to have "at least" 30 buttons, and a 20b is "only a 20b".

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Some factors:

- At least one of the dealers you found offers a trial - delivery costs at your expense in both directions.

- A 'vintage' box can always be resold - true only for some hybrids.

- An Anglo is probably easier to resell if you decide it's not for you but you could likely resell a Rochelle quite easily.

- Going from a Handry 18 to a cheap hybrid/vintage will almost certainly be a huge disappointment.

Concertinas are expensive - like diatonics only more so. Would you be happy with a used Corona II for example?

- Brass reeds are usually a bad idea.

- For 'Vintage' instruments, shops may be less reliable than small dealers.

- With the current £ --> euro rate you have about a 20% advantage


(linguistic note: faire acheter - have my family buy me, get my family to buy me, persuade my family to buy me. 'Make them buy' suggests constraint.)

And to be really unhelpful, it's arguable you get more music per £ with an English as they are less popular than Anglos at present.

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Hello Terence,

I bought my Morse Céilí from Accorde et Musique so if you do go there, have a try out on it. It is out of your price range but won't do any harm.

I started on a Scarlatti 30-key (from Hobgoblin in London) which was fine as an introduction. I soon realised I wanted to 'scale up' and bought the Céilí.

The difference is ridiculous but you're paying for it.

Good luck


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Many thanks to you all for these detailed answers. "Food for thought " as said ; I appreciate this as it helps me to see things more clearly. Please continue ?

I ´ll add here of course any news about my "quest "

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Wow , reading these things written in the website of the Irish Concertina Company about vintage concertinas makes me think twice...


I guess that shops I listed above are doing things right, like changing everytime pads and valves, but...


This was written by someone who obviously has a financial interest in discouraging sales of vintage concertinas (he makes new ones) and doesn’t know how to spell “Lachenal” or “advice.”


Just sayin’...

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You have found a number of respected dealers generally with decades of experience finding/pricing/refurbishing and maintaining instruments.

They depend on their reputation to survive in a small world.

Have your family buy you the best you can afford if possible from the widest available choice.

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Wow , reading these things written in the website of the Irish Concertina Company about vintage concertinas makes me think twice...


I guess that shops I listed above are doing things right, like changing everytime pads and valves, but...

The best bit f advice in that whole advertising feature is the recommendation not to buy a concertina from a stranger in a car park, especially with only a few minutes to test it.


If I'd not read the Crabb badge on the picture, I would have guessed it was a cheapish Lachenal.


A company that makes and sells new concertinas is likely to have a vested interest i discouraging people from vintage concertinas. Yes, you can be ripped off, yes, you may have t have an instrument retuned or have valves or pads replaced. These are (within common sense limits) wear and tear items.


I have owned 5 Anglos: a Rochelle (cheap and cheerful hybrid), Marcus (quality hybrid), Jeffries (vintage), Dipper (modern but with traditional reeds and action), and Lachenal (a basic cheap and cheerful vintage. I've tried to get a chance to play every Anglo that has come near me over the last 10 or more years. Some of my favourites have been hybrids, and so have some of the worst. Some of the best have been vintage, and so have some of the worst. I have heard beautiful music made on an instrument that I considered unplayable. There is so much that is personal about the choice.


I have only bought two where I was presented with a choice. I went to Barleycorn Concertinas for a G/D and played every one he had in stock before choosing the Dipper. I went to Barleycorn for the 20b C/G and again I played every one that he had in stock before making my choice. In each case, I chose the one that I kept coming back to, which was the one I kept holding while I was chatting to Chris. My hands knew which was the right box, and I'm still pleased with both choices, even though the Dipper is a 30b with no drone and I had intended to buy something with more buttons.

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