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D/a Vs C/g Starting Out?


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Hi everyone,


I'm brand new to the concertina and have been perusing these forums for the past couple days looking for advice. Wanting to learn a new instrument, I bought an old Anglo 20 button Scholer off ebay to try (20 button to start out, and Scholer b/c from the reading I did, for price range going vintage vs new/made in China seemed the way to go.) I got it a couple of days ago, and it seems in pretty good shape, all the buttons have clear sounds, definitely something I could practice on. But, here is my issue. Since everything else on the market is C/G, I mistakenly didn't notice this Scholer is not (which looking back seems common for German-made in that time period). It took me a day to realize oh no, it's not just terribly out of tune; it's in D/A. I've played classical piano and flute for years, so I'm proficient in reading sheet music, and to have the notes on the page not match the notes from the instrument is really messing with my head. So here are my questions, I guess:


1) Is it generally easier to learn on a C/G 20 button if you ever plan on moving up to a (presumably C/G) 30 button Anglo later?


2) Is it much more advantageous to have the C# available than regular ol' C? Should I keep it for that alone? If I do, that means I'll be learning the actual D/A fingering, instead of just pretending it's a transposed C/G, and I would have to learn C/G fingering all over again if I moved up, I think? There's just little to no literature for D/A instruments, too: fingering charts, song notation, sheet music with "tabs", etc are all for C/G. It feels a little lonely. :-P


3) Right now my goal is just to play by myself for my own/friends' amusement, no public performances, but if I ever want to jam w/ someone else, unless they're also tuned to D/A I would have to transpose on the fly, yes? That (and music theory in general) is not a forte of mine.


4) I still have time to return this guy and look for a C/G, but if I do that and want to stay in the same price range, am I making a massive mistake by getting a new instrument? Are they just made so crummily it wouldn't function properly, or it would break and I'd be out an instrument? Other new options right now are Hohner, Stagi, Trinity College, and several plasticky Chinese ones, but reviews are mixed, clearly. Best out of meh options would be...?


I'm in Los Angeles which doesn't have a big Irish/folk music scene really, so nearby help is pretty much nil. I appreciate any advice you can give. I'm really excited but also struggling. Thank you! -Emma

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I can give you my thoughts as another reasonably new player (since last fall).
  1. I don’t think a 20 button would be any easier to learn on than a 30 button. The extra 10 buttons are up on their own row, and you can effectively ignore them if you really want to - it’s not comparable to a clarinet, say, where a beginner player might forget which of the right hand pinky keys they need to press to make it a high C rather than a high C#. The accidentals are just there if you need them. Conversely, I also don’t think that starting on a 20 button would be a bad choice if you later want to go to 30. There are still benefits to playing cross rows on a 20, so you’ll pick up that skill regardless, and even if you have a 30, it’ll probably be awhile before you start venturing onto that top row on a regular basis.
  2. Really depends on what you want to play, and who you’re playing with. I mostly jam will fiddlers who play contra dance tunes, so the C# is absolutely essential, and the G# comes up a fair bit too, though much less frequently. Of course it’s also good to have a C there (for tunes in G), but I probably use the C# just as often, if not more, at least when playing with others. When I’m playing on my own, I do a lot more with that C, but then that’s because I have a C/G concertina, so I’ll naturally gravitate towards those keys. Now I love my C/G, and will probably always keep it as my main instrument, but if I ever got a second concertina, I’d be highly tempted by a D/A, just to make some of those fast fiddle reels a bit easier.
  3. Well, “tuned to D/A” is a tricky concept, and kind of depends on how you’re playing. If you’re reading sheet music in C, and playing your D/A as though it’s a C/G, then that could be a problem if you go to play with other people, in the same way it might be a problem if you try to play an Bb clarinet reading from a score for piano - you’re treating the concertina as a transposing instrument, and your sheet music needs to be tailored for the instrument, otherwise you’ll be a half step off from the piano player and it’ll sound terrible. On the other hand, if you play your D/A as though it’s a D/A, and treat the first button of the right hand D row as an actual D, and not a C, then you’re probably fine - the instrument is then for all intents and purposes still actually tuned to C - it’s just missing a few notes from the C scale, and you can still play from any sheet music written for a C tuned instrument. So yeah, to sum up, so long as you and the other people you’re playing with agree on what frequency a particular dot on the staff means, there shouldn’t be a problem.
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Welcome to the concertina.


In theory you can learn on a D/A instrument as easily as on a C/G: just treat it as a transposing instrument and play *as if* it were a C/G. The fingerings you use will produce a different pitch, but thats not critical if youre playing strictly by yourself.


However, as soon as you want to play with another musicianincluding any recordings in whatever instructional materials you use, YouTube videos, etc.you'll want to be in the same key as s/he is. For that reason the more common C/G instrument may well be more practical, even in the early going.


The important thing is just to get started, and any of the makes you mention, assuming its in good shape, would suffice to learn the basics. One you dont mention, the Rochelle by Concertina Connection, would be my pick in that price range. Its plastic and Chinese, I suppose, but well designed and built. Several of my students have started out on them, and they're very serviceable instruments.


Bob Michel

Near Philly


P.S. Sorry about the missing punctuation in that answer; the text editor is removing it for some reason, and I cant seem to replace it.

Edited by Bob Michel
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The Anglo is a transposing instrument. If you learn a tune on a C/G the pick up a G/D, you use the same fingering but produce music in a different key.


If you want to play in "actual" D, then you can do that on a G/D or a D/A but the fingering would be different.


If you had a C/G, then playing in actual D would require an accidental row and another set of fingering.


Same for playing in actual A. Your choice of box will dictate your fingering.


If your only goal were to make beautiful music fr your own satisfaction, or to perform solo, then any box in any key would be better than none.


If you intend to develop your skills and play with other musicians, then it would be sensible to start as you mean to go on: get a 30 button C/G and learn the same fingerings as everyone else in the session. You will find it easier to learn new tunes, and you will be in the right register.


If you can afford to do so, keep the D/A because there aren't many about and it's nice to have the opportunity to practise on a different instrument, but look for a 30 button C/G.


I don't play Irish, I play mainly English folk which is usually played in D or G. I own a D/G, a C/G and a B flat/F . The B flat/F is no real use to me in a session, but I get a lot of pleasure from playing it at home.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You will drive yourself a little nuts. When you switch to a C/G every note will be in a different place. So you will have a new muscle memory system to learn. Depending on how supple your brain is it may be sort of ok, but I would have a tendency to tell you it is a time waster. Put it up on ebay yourself if you missed the return time period and chalk it up to a learning experience. Or save it for it you want to transpose some day. My first instrument was a Stagi D/G that i bought in error. It still lives in a closet somewhere.


Having a c# in a different place played with a different finger isn't going to help when you switch to a C/G.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Unless you have perfect pitch, your concertina is just a bunch of notes at fixed intervals. If you are playing by yourself, then think in terms of do, re, mi. instead of ABC. Noel Hill plays his D/A in concerts because it carries really well. The fingering doesn’t change. If you wan’t to play in multiple keys, a 30 Button is something to look for. It opens up lots of possibilities, especially playing with others. A c/g gives a good range of keys with minimal fingering difficulty, though most keys are easy if you practice them for a while. But if you are playing by yourself, get a 30 Button c/g layout chart and treat your d/a as though it was a c/g. Then if/when you switch, your g tunes will be in g, your A minor or other modal tunes that don’t use a c# will be the real thing and you’ll be able to add keys without having to relearn all the fingering. I think thinking of your instrument as a badly tuned c/g was really the best bet. Don’t get stuck with labels.

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The Anglo is a transposing instrument.




To an extend yes. But I feel this discussion is ignoring different fingering systems that are open to you.. Mullally played a D/A, Kitty Hayes was used to one and ended up playing in C and F one her C/G.

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