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Ann Sanders

Hand Position

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Hi

Perhaps someone might be so kind as to offer thoughts and opinions on the following? I am learning to play Anglo concertina 30 button. I have longish fingers and am struggling to land the pads of my fingers on the G row because I suppose of the length of my fingers and the way I have to bend them back in, if that makes sense? On the plus side I can reach the accidental row no problem. When needing to play the G row I can manage it a bit better by retreating or moving my hands back slightly mid tune so that the strap is not so much centred across the back of my hands but more towards the knuckle, again if that makes sense? This however gives me a slight feeling of losing control as the concertina feels like it’s out in front??

So I suppose my question is, is this needing to move or slide my hands in and out, albeit marginally, ‘ normal’ or do others have to do the same? 

I hope someone recognises this description or I am bound to sound quite mad. Thank you in advance

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I had the same problem when I started with a duet concertina, which has 4 rows and the same design "wrist" strap as your Anglo.  The closest row felt cramped, and slipping my hand out of the strap a little bit felt insecure. 

I found that I had my straps too tight.  Once set a bit looser, I can keep the strap where it belongs on the back of my hand, but I can advance my hand somewhat toward the farthest row or draw my hand back to access the closest row. 

Yes, I felt like I had a bit less control of the box with looser straps but I think I learned how to compensate with how I used my hand and wrist generally.  And partly I think I just got used to it! I tried tightening the straps again after several months and didn't like it at all.  I hope this helps, Ann. 

Daniel 

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If you have long fingers then you may benefit from having some higher palm rests.

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How are you holding it?

 

4 fingers through the strap with the thumb on the outside.

 

The strap goes across the back of the hand, not the wrist.

 

The strap should be slightly loose.  You can then add tension to it by gripping it with the thumb against the side of your hand.

 

Play seated, with the ends of the bellows resting on your lap, one end on each thigh.  This leaves your hands free to operate the instrument without also having to support its weight.

 

Some people prefer to place the middle of the bellows one one thigh.  This is not wrong but I personally feel it provides less stability, especially when you're learning or playing something tricky.

 

You can achieve a lot by bracing the heel of your hand slightly when you need to reach or "crunch" to reach a particular note.

 

Practise scales across the rows and practise playing along the near row as exercises, rather than just playing tunes.  Do the things you find difficult, don't avoid them.

 

It will get easier and one day you will probably wonder why it was an issue.

 

However, if your fingers really are too long once you've tried all of these things for a reasonable period, it may be time to see about some higher palm rests.

 

On average, women's hands are smaller than men's, and concertinas were designed and developed to fit human hands in the normal size range.  (Pirates and clowns are not known for their digital daintiness.)  There will be a few exceptions, but I suspect that very few people's hands really are too big for them to play a standard sized Anglo.

 

An important part of playing is to relax.  New musicians are often tense and focus their worries on perceived problems with the design or size of the instrument.

 

It is a good starting point simply to have faith that the instrument is right and that you can learn to play it.  For comparison, I am a unicyclist and in the unicycle forum, it is not uncommon for new riders to ask how they can modify their unicycles to make them easier to ride.  When I was a fencer, the fencing forum had numerous queries from beginners who were very worried about the exact size and shape of the grip on their foils.  As you learn an activity, the wisdom of the standard design tends to become more obvious, but there are occasional exceptions.

 

Anglo is a wonderful, challenging, quirky, engaging instrument.  Enjoy.

 

If possible, spend some time with other Anglo players who can see what you're doing and give you tips.

 

Good luck.  :)

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Something I found when learning my English was that as I became more familiar with it, felt more comfortable and loosened up on my deathgrip on the thing. As that happened, I became able to reach farther around to places I couldn't get to before. In retrospect, part of the problem was that I had the thumb straps too tight and the hand straps that I felt were adding to my security were impeding my movement.

 

Now the thing just sort of hangs there on loose thumb straps and I'm not so worried about dropping it, nor about the buttons floating around a bit relative to my hand. That is, my map of the keys is more secure and doesn't depend on just one locked in placement.  Hard as it may be to believe, eventually you will reach the point where your map of the keys moves with the keys, not attached securely only to your fingers, and your fingers will know and follow where the keys are as they rotate around to slightly different positions as you move your position around. Not right away, though, which leads to tension from wanting to keep everything under your hand in exactly the same spot all the time..

 

With that combination of familiarity and looseness, I can play much better, but still find the keys and control the bellows. But it took a while to get to that point of confidence. I imagine the Anglo has similar problems at the start.

 

Initially, I also had a lot of thumb cramping. . . .  same problem--too tense. So with familiarity comes freedom, with freedom comes flexibility, basically.

Edited by mdarnton

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You say that you are struggling to land the pads of your fingers on the buttons. That might be part of the problem. My  own preference is to contact all of the buttons, regardless of the row, with the tips of the fingers. The fingers arch and the tips come down perpendicular to the face of the instrument. I have pretty large hands and long fingers, but I don't have to slide my hand under the straps. I do move my hand back and forth a bit, but the straps are loose enough so that the point of contact with the hands doesn't actually shift. The straps rock back and forth just a bit as needed.

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13 minutes ago, Jim Burke said:

You say that you are struggling to land the pads of your fingers on the buttons. That might be part of the problem. My  own preference is to contact all of the buttons, regardless of the row, with the tips of the fingers. The fingers arch and the tips come down perpendicular to the face of the instrument. I have pretty large hands and long fingers, but I don't have to slide my hand under the straps. I do move my hand back and forth a bit, but the straps are loose enough so that the point of contact with the hands doesn't actually shift. The straps rock back and forth just a bit as needed.

Thank you Jim, that is what I meant actually.Being an ex violinist, out of habit I aim to land the tip of my finger on the button but I call that part of my finger the pad.It's the part just behind the nail.

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