Jump to content

expanded: button layout options on 20b vs. 30b Anglo

Wolf Molkentin

Recommended Posts

(expanded in May 2019 - re 30b see below)


Whilst happily making my first steps with (harmonic) playing on the Anglo I came to notice the various options for the lowest reed on the G-row (primarily speaking of a C/G here, as I'm approaching the Bb/F instrument just like a transponing instrument), particularly on the pull. Whereas the Crabb has the D (C), forming the root note of the secondary dominant, the Lachenal has a C (minor seventh, or reversal of the tonic's root - and in the charts I'm finding online it's always an A, hence the fifth, or third of the subdominant).


Each variant appears to be useful in its own way. Obviously, the D is redundant, because the player finds it in the same bellows direction nearby on the C-row. However, the D as lowest note in the push G row gives the opportunity to play a full D7 (tetra-) chord (which would otherwise require to knot fingers so to speak), which can be really nice IMO (particularly with faster tunes, f.i. in a C-F-D7-G progression) - so I guess I'll keep this note for the time being (otherwise I would "solder" it "downward").


So I'm just wondering why using such a tetrachord seems to be hardly common - would I have to attribute it to a particular "German" style, or would an English harmonic style be deemed to possibly include that too? Also, I'm not sure if as for me this is just a matter of this "modern" modulation, or should occur in the dominant and subdominant as well...


Thanks in advance for considering and any replies - ?


Edited by Wolf Molkentin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/17/2018 at 10:07 AM, Wolf Molkentin said:

So I'm just wondering why using such a tetrachord seems to be hardly common - would I have to attribute it to a particular "German" style, or would an English harmonic style be deemed to possibly include that too?


I'm a great fan of the Dominant Seventh myself. For me, the chords that you have to learn to accompany songs in C major are C, F, G7, Am, Dm and Em, whereby I'll admit that there are some situations in which G major is preferable to G7.

I really started thinking about chords when I took up the Autoharp seriously, and joined the Cyberlpuckers Internet forum. The Autoharp is basically a chording machine, and it is very easy to reconfigure. With a strip of self-adhesive felt and a sharp knife, you can set up a chord bar to play any chord you can think of. However, the number of chords is limited to the number of chord bars on your instrument, which may be 12, 15 or 21. So there is much debate among Autoharpers about what chords are really essential, and which can be omitted to make room for more supported keys. A lot of forum members - mainly those into American folk music - regarded the dominant sevenths as superfluous. For them, the tonic, dominant and subdominant triads were sufficient for any major-key tune. Since then I have come across many instances in which American folk musicians (e.g. Bob Dylan) use a dominant major triad where most Europeans (and certainly I) would choose a dominant 7th tetrachord.


Could well be that that's a German thing - European classical music is, after all, heavily influenced by German and German-speaking composers (e.g. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and some others not starting with "B"). And the classical harmonisation has percolated down to English popular songs, art songs, hymns, etc., so that the environment that I grew up in was well accustomed to the dominant seventh.

With the increasing influence of American music in the wake of the Great Folk Scare, this may have changed. I've no idea how young English folkies harmonise their tunes nowadays.


BTW, whenever I'm asked what notes I would choose if I could add one button to a 20-b Anglo in C/G, I always say middle-octave Bb and low F. That would give me a resounding C7 chord on the press, resolving to a powerful F major on the draw. (The 30-b Anglo has the low draw F, but not the press Bb, for some reason.)


Liebe Grüße,


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always treat the Anglo as a transposing instrument — especially the 20b — by which I mean I transfer the fingering from one box to another and play in the key of the box.  Some tunes I can finger in 2, or even 3 keys, but most tunes I play in 1 of the two "home keys" or the related modes.


As I am a Morris dancer, surrounded on all sides by DG melodeons, I play my GD Anglo most often, and I "think in G".  I find it far easier to sight read in G, even if it comes out in C because I'm playing my C box.


Moving on to Wolf's other point:  I recently owned 3 boxes and, adjusted for key, the pull note on the lowest button on the inside row was different on each of them.  Writing as if they were all CG, for the purpose of illustration:


One of them had a D there.  That is the root of the V chord in the key of G.  The "benefit" was that if I played straight along the row, the inside row had the same pattern as the outside row.  The disadvantage was an unnecessary duplication.  That note D is available on the pull, 3rd button outside row, offering two easy fingerings for the D major chord on pull.  However, it did make the D7 chord easier: 4 buttons in a row.  I occasionally used it.


One of them had an A there.  That is the root of A minor pull  (II minor when playing in G), with the high notes of that chord appearing on buttons 3 4 & 5 of the same row.  A is also the 3rd of F major, which is the IV chord when playing in C.  I experimented with it but seldom used it for real — although I often use that button on the push.


The other had a C there.  That's the root of IV when playing in G, or the root of I when playing in C.  I've never found a use for it.


I had lessons for many years and my teacher swore by the D.  However, as my other boxes did not have that note there, I taught myself to use the one on the outside row.   If I made the effort to do so, I'd consider putting a B flat there.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

John, as I have once acquired an autoharp myself I can truly relate to these discussions. Guess I would try to make room for at least one secondary dominant seventh chord (f.i. D7 for Cmaj). When I was learning to play guitar I also included all the 7th tabs...


Re the extra button on the LH side I reckon what you’re suggesting would be a good choice.


Thank you for your thoughts re a presumable difference between European and American tradions, with the English right in the middle - worth pursuing...


Liebe Grüße - ?


Edited by Wolf Molkentin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, thank you for your further input which helped me to make my decision: albeit the Bb idea is quite appealing I chose the A (G then for the Bb/F).


Both instruments had a C (however this was the „D“ option in the case if the Bb/F). The D (C) made sense to me, but I easily learned to use the third button of the outer row, as you‘d been reporting from your own playing). This was supported by my discovery of the second button in the oouter row as providing the root note in G on the push.


I agree with your entirely rejecting the C variant, which I had on the Lachenal. I wouldn’t have liked to raise the pitch by 200 cent for sure.


But the A (G) variant is totally different IMO - gives a very nice Amin chord, and is also helpful for spreading the Fmaj chord. It‘s even a push/pull thing between Amin and Gmaj.


So I heated up the soldering iron once again and weighted bothe reeds, transforming the Lachenal C to A and then the Crabb C to G. I‘m finding this solution perfect for me, and probably in accordance with the 30b standard either.


So thanks a lot Mike - playing the 20b is really greet fun and does produce lovely sounds as well.


Best wishes - ?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

o.k., so you have a "G" on the push there - the variations on the push had been discussed somewhere too - I have the B (resp. A) here, and will keep that, as the G is easily available on the C (Bb) row - however what you are suggesting wouldn't be working that way then.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I'm playing my 20b Anglos more frequently than the ECs at the moment, I've been stumbling over another point. The 5th button of the LH outer (C resp. Bb) row is entirely redundant, is not needed for the basiy Tonic/Dominant alternation either and also seems to require only little effort to train the fingers to find the resp. inner row button instead.


So there are obviously two options now, 4th or 5th button of the (30b) accidental row. As I'm quite reluctant to go (even a semitone) upwards in the tuning (which would give me the 5th button with desirable G# and Bb) I just might swap the reeds and get a pull G and a push A, thereby expanding the harmonic options for playing in the Dominant and the parallel minor.


What do you Anglo guys think? (guess I'll give the perfectly reversible option a try anyway)


Best wishes - ?



P.S.: I'm seeking an imminent solution/decision before further advancing with my playing...


Edited by Wolf Molkentin
clarification, p.s. - another typo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

o.k., so I‘m going to reply in soliloquy’s style here ?


I find this modification (which was an easy one with the Crabb but somewhat more difficult with the Lachenal as G and A have different sizes of reed shoes there) another huge improvement, G on the pull for the melody note and the major chord, A on the push for a narrow A minor chord, the run from G to C in the tonic in both directions, a.s.f.


you might say, go for a 30b then - but I seem to be very happy with what I have now...


first recordings to follow soon...


best wishes - ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

As I'm playing my 20b Anglos more frequently then the ECs at the moment, I've been stumbling over another point. The 5th button of the LH outer (C resp. Bb) row is entirely redundant, is not needed for the basiy Tonic/Dominant alternation either and also seems to require only little effort to train the fingers to find the resp. inner row button instead.


I'm not sure what you mean here.


20b concertina.  Outer row is the row most of us play most often.  On a CG, it's the C row.


Most people count the buttons from low to high, so the 5th button outer row is the one your index finger uses.  On a CG, it's the notes G (push) and A (pull).


If this is the one you mean:


1)  It is one of the most vital buttons on the standard layout, whatever style you play.


2)  It is so fundamental to the Richter tuning that if you change it, it would no longer be an Anglo.


The core of the Anglo layout is like it is for many reasons.  There is scope for experimenting with changes to the less commonly used accidentals.  There is scope to change the lowest pull note on the inside row (G row on a CG) as the dominant (D pull) is readily available on the C row.  Make changes beyond these and you are inventing a new type of concertina.


Perhaps I have misunderstood your description?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Mike,


thanks a lot for your reply - and I apologize for possibly having caused offense through my, well, may be naive approach to a new instrument, that lots of you guys are playing beautifully for a long time... (and this is the reason for my having these things discussed here of course).


So yes, I guess there‘s no misunderstanding here; and my initial thoughts were just like you‘re saying: the Richter tuning and its „logic“ would strongly demand to not change this button...


However, I then noticed to my own surprise that I was much more using the third button of the G row instead, and I then tried out how easily I would do that in the remaining cases as well - and found that, within the limits of my experience and ideas as an Anglo player so far, this seemed to be quite doable...


In the evening I did the, apparently, unthinkable..... and soon came to like it.


So in the end you're saying I changed the Anglo into something else. Would I be inclinded to argue I might say in favour of my approach:


1. I have one button of the accidental row incorporated in the home row, which I reckon is deemed essential within the 30b limits, and


2. albeit in fact omitting the essential 5th button of the home row, there is another button with a fully equal pairing of push/pull notes readily available in another row (the G row).


However, I wouldn't be willing to carry this too far - if my solution is deemed non-Anglo, I'll inevitably be living with that, as long as I'm happy with the results of my experiment (which of course may be subject to future changes).


I'll keep you updated.


Best wishes - ?



P.S.: I can honestly say that my expectation was rather like: good idea, but don't fancy your being the first, than what you, Mike, are saying... ?


Edited by Wolf Molkentin
P.S., eliminating error
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wasn't offended, just surprised and confused.


The Anglo itself was the result of changing and adding to previous instruments.  Development is not a Bad Thing.


However, the more you use the standard layout, the more you will find how much sense it makes, and why some of the duplicates are genuinely useful.


Don't forget that the left hand is approximately reproduced on the right hand, although with the one note offset on the right hand draw.  Changing this would make playing parallel octaves more difficult.  Not impossible, but more difficult, because one hand might prefer to cross the row, and the other hand might not have that option.


Also, specifically, when you play in G major on a CG box (that is, in the major key of the inside row) the chord E minor push is one of the 5 most useful.  Yes, you can finger it with the G on the inside row, but consider this


Left hand outside  00000

Left hand    inside 00000


A minor pull:




G major push:


000XX which is the same fingering as A major


F major pull:




E minor push:


00XX0 which is the same fingering as F major


D major pull:




That is a nice run of 5 chords with the same pattern of fingering — forefinger on the outside row, middle and 3rd fingers on the insider row, slightly lower — which would be disrupted if you started chopping and changing the core part of the Anglo layout.



C major push:




D minor pull:


00000  Same fingering, two chords that often appear on consecutive notes or bars, and which have the same fingering.


The Anglo is not perfect — that is part of its special charm — but within its limitations, there are many "hidden" reasons for why it has had such enduring success.  The more you play, the more you will find that the standard layout usually offers an easily accessible option, and that the duplicates are useful, rather than "a waste of precious buttons".


******2 edits made to typos following a message from Wolf.  I normally "think in GD" and I got in a bit of a tangle transposing to CG.  Ooops!  Although the general point stands.





Edited by Mikefule
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Mike,


thank you once again for your interesting explanations. However, maybe I'm just an incorrigible oddball, as I've always been reluctant to regularly apply these kinds of triads when playing the English concertina (which is notorious for providing just this structure) already. So of course with the 20b Anglo this will be necessary here and there, but mostly I seem to play harmonies that are wider spread (and possibly incomplete) here too, so the pattern you're suggesting might not be of so great advantage for me.


I have to admit that my solution: making these changes before fully having explored the "standard" layout is debatable, but OTOH I was thinking like: make your choice before your playing habits will have mostly settled. So for better or worse, and maybe premature: I guess I'll keep my arrangement at the moment.


Best wishes - ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, Sebastian said:

You might want to go to mel.net and search there for the term "dutch reversal".


Thank you Sebastian - that's interesting news for me as I had only been aware of the "Gleichton" anomaly so far. Good to learn about like-minded people on the dark side... ?


Best wishes - ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could I make a polite plea in these sort of posts that we try to stick to Gary's button nomenclature when describing layouts? Given that there seems to be a tribe of new Anglo players learning from his books, I think we could claim at has become the modern standard and it has the advantage of making discussions about layouts a lot easier and faster to comprehend. (But perhaps I'm the only one who had this problem when reading the above?)




As to the modification - it seems any easy one to reverse at a later date, but if you ever move on to a 30 button layout Wolf, relearning the "new" position will doubtless take a lot more effort. On a 30 button, the duplicate As and Gs serve as the key points where you can change your fingers from sitting in the keyboard's "1st position" (for want of a better word) to 2nd.  By this I mean shifting all finger positions by one button to cover the other end of the keyboard, while avoiding playing consecutive buttons with the same finger.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Wolf Molkentin changed the title to expanded: button layout options on 20b vs. 30b Anglo

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...