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sleepymonk

Getting a grip

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I'm new to the concertina as of this past year, and wanted to ask about "getting a grip" (optimal hand position).

 

I am playing a Wren 2, and have adjusted the leather strap fairly tightly to feel secure. This results in a flat-knuckled hand position (the strap is just covering or behind my knuckles). The wooden hand supports seem fairly close to the G row of buttons and those buttons are the ones I'm struggling with, more than seems normal for a beginner.

 

From watching a few youTube videos, it looks as though I should have a more rounded hand position, playing on my fingertips rather than the flat fleshy part of the finger pads.

 

At present, once I try to introduce the G row (more than one note), I have to slide my hand(s) backwards in order to reach the buttons comfortably, and this flat-knuckled approach seems quite awkward. Playing this G row, eventually the instrument feels like it is sliding away from me (I do rest it on my left knee). It's definitely not comfortable going from one row to the other and back, even at my slow student speed. I feel trapped under the leather strap on the G row.

 

If I loosen off the leather strap, I don't feel I have a good grip on the instrument. If I slide my thumbs further forward with the present strap position, I feel quite secure and have a more rounded hand position but can't manage the G row at all.

 

Has anyone got any suggestions or links to help me find the optimal grip (hand position) based on the instrument I have now?

Thanks.

 

 

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I should mention that I am doing self-study (no teacher, just books).

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My early experience was the same as yours - a snug strap was secure, but limited my fingers and nice rounded fingers reached the buttons better but made the instrument feel insecure. 

 

Over time, the loose-strap insecurity lessened and I lengthened the strap several times. I think that I now support the instrument by extending my wrist gently against the strap, taking up the slack of the extra space I've created. My fingers assume the naturally curled position of my hand at rest. 

 

If you had set my straps as I now wear them and handed me my concertina when I was just starting out and said "There - that's perfect", I'd have thought you were nuts! 

 

Let your hand position evolve.  Your flat-hand position will, in all likelihood evolve toward a more flexed-finger position, but only you can judge what will eventually suit you. 

 

Enjoy the journey! 

Daniel 

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Taller handrests can help make that G-row easier to reach too. I find 1" high works best for me. These can either be specially ordered, or you can sometimes add a shim under the shorter handrests.

 

Gary

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Hello,

 

I have also been learning (self-taught) using a Wren 2 and I initially experienced the same problem with the hand rest and straps. Then I read in one of Gary Coover’s books that it’s OK to ‘augment’ the hand rests to suit your self. So, I did just that – and experimented with various options to make the concertina more comfortable for me to use and to improve my control of the bellows and the reach to the buttons.

 

I bought some ‘U’ shaped rubber on eBay and cut and fitted it over the existing hand rests. It’s an ‘interference fit’ or to put it another way it’s a tight fit that holds itself on without any fixings or glue. It now measures 28mm from the end plate.

 

There’s a picture of it below (I hope it loads OK, if not send me a message).

 

Two weeks ago I took delivery of a new higher level instrument from Jake at Wolverton Concertinas (It’s a wonderful instrument and I’m absolutely thrilled at owning it!) But before it was made I agreed with Jake that the hand rests should be 28mm high – which is how he made them. It’s a perfect fit.

 

I hope this helps. Good luck with learning to play your concertina.

 

Best Wishes

Tony

 

20190604_182652.jpg

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, gcoover said:

...I find 1" high works best for me...

 

I was curious about this, and checked a couple of my instruments. The height of the rests was about 27/32" in both

cases (~2.1cm). Is that the 'standard' height then, in the same way that 6-1/4" is the 'standard' ax-the-flats dimension

for an  Anglo?

 

Later edit:

2 hours ago, Big T said:

...Two weeks ago I took delivery of a new higher level instrument from Jake at Wolverton Concertinas (It’s a wonderful

instrument and I’m absolutely thrilled at owning it!)...

 

I should perhaps have said that at the beginning of April, I too was privileged to get my hands on one of Jake's custom

builds (a 30-button C/G with drone). It really is a fabulous instrument! We discussed the height of the buttons, particularly

the air and drone buttons, and everything is just wonderful! We didn't talk about the height of the rests - it never occurred

to me at the time. However, I just measured the height of the rests on this one, and as near as I can measure, it's exactly 1"...

Edited by lachenal74693

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5 hours ago, Big T said:

Hello,

 

I have also been learning (self-taught) using a Wren 2 and I initially experienced the same problem with the hand rest and straps. Then I read in one of Gary Coover’s books that it’s OK to ‘augment’ the hand rests to suit your self. So, I did just that – and experimented with various options to make the concertina more comfortable for me to use and to improve my control of the bellows and the reach to the buttons.

 

I bought some ‘U’ shaped rubber on eBay and cut and fitted it over the existing hand rests. It’s an ‘interference fit’ or to put it another way it’s a tight fit that holds itself on without any fixings or glue. It now measures 28mm from the end plate.

 

 

There's an ancient article on the site here where I did the same thing (20 years ago) using pipe insulation (6 feet/2 meters for a dollar at the local hardware store). In my case it keeps my wrist straight so I don't get carpal tunnel inflammation, while helping me reach all the buttons. I taper mine from top to bottom - if flat handrests don't work it is cheap to experiment.

 

Ken

 

Edited to add a link to the old essay

I should add that since taking those photos I turned the foam over and use it with the wide part farthest from my thumb, but cut them any way that works for you.

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Thanks to all for the responses! It never occurred to me that I could augment the hand/wrist rest.

 

I have two of your books on order, Gary. Coming to the instrument from years as a classically-trained violinist, your notation system seems more natural to me.

 

Last evening, I loosened my strap off two holes, and had a lot of fun discovering new riffs using all three rows. Today I’ll be off to the hardware/plumbing store to look for suitable mods.

 

Cheers!

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Most of us start with straps too tight and slowly loosen them, so I suggest you learn from others' experience and go for it right away!

 

Three of my instruments have rests of 5/8" to 11/16"; the third has "ergonomic" rests where the highest point is 1". But it doesn't really make any difference because I don't rest my whole hand on the rest; only the back edge (little finger side) of the palm. The thumb side of the palm is about 1/2" above the rest and the thumb curls in to grip and tension the strap. So without altering the handrest you can curl your fingers comfortably over the buttons and play with the tip. If you need to move in an out a bit, say to give your little finger better access, you can pivot round the thumb end that's held agains the strap.

 

LJ

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36 minutes ago, sleepymonk said:

Thanks to all for the responses! It never occurred to me that I could augment the hand/wrist rest.

 

I have two of your books on order, Gary. Coming to the instrument from years as a classically-trained violinist, your notation system seems more natural to me.

 

Last evening, I loosened my strap off two holes, and had a lot of fun discovering new riffs using all three rows. Today I’ll be off to the hardware/plumbing store to look for suitable mods.

 

Cheers!

Something else you might try is to bring the strap behind the thumb to a new attachment point so it crosses the hand close to the wrist.  I use the closest fret end bolt for an anchor (temporary, no modification required) and turn the strap end back under the base of the thumb to form a comfortable cradle.

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4 minutes ago, Little John said:

. But it doesn't really make any difference because I don't rest my whole hand on the rest; only the back edge (little finger side) of the palm. 

 

LJ

Exactly,  so I'm contemplating a modified bar rest just for that point of contact for even more freedom of movement.

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Update: I was able to find some 1/2” soft foam pipe insulation and attached it using scrapbooking tape (archival!). I had to trim quite a bit off to form it around the wrist rest so it doesn’t cover the openings on the endplate. Hopefully this is removeable if I decide to upgrade the instrument in future.

 

Now I can slide my knuckles well forward of the strap with a nicely rounded hand, and can reach the inner/outer rows comfortably.

 

I expect the foam will break down eventually, but for approx CAD $6, I have extra left over for replacements.

 

This is certainly an interesting thread on how others handle this issue!

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I totally agree with @W3DWand @Little John. It's amatter of support, which the beginner feels he/she needs versus freedom of movement, which the advanced player needs. As a beginner, I played slowly on one row at a time, so tight straps didn't hinder me. But as I learnt to move between the rows, and press buttons out near the periphery, I realised that a certain degree of hand movement was essential, and loosened my straps. The necessary contact with the instrument that allows you to change bellows direction without "slop" is attained by arching the hand, as described above. This gives you good control, but also allows you to momentarily relieve the tension to move a pinkie to an outlying button.

 

At one point, I did try raising the handrests on my Anglo and Duet (in a temporary and reversible manner) and making the straps a bit tighter, but being tied down a bit farther from the buttons wasn't as good (for me, at least) as being closer and free to move about.

 

Cheers,

John

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Little John wrote:

"I don't rest my whole hand on the rest; only the back edge (little finger side) of the palm. The thumb side of the palm is about 1/2" above the rest and the thumb curls in to grip and tension the strap. So without altering the handrest you can curl your fingers comfortably over the buttons and play with the tip."

 

This is how I am playing as well - my hand touches the hand rest only slightly below the little finger knuckle.  My hand is primarily stabilized by the base of my hand on the fretwork and the back of my hand on the strap. 

 

And Anglo-Irishman wrote:

 

"At one point, I did try raising the handrests on my Anglo and Duet (in a temporary and reversible manner) and making the straps a bit tighter, but being tied down a bit farther from the buttons wasn't as good (for me, at least) as being closer and free to move about."

 

I, too, tried to raise the hand rest following the contour of my palm, but found that nicely curled fingers were not helpful for me if I didn't have the freedom to move my hand up and down my duet's rows.  But you may find it helpful and removable pipe foam is quick and cheap! 

Daniel 

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Gary suggested what an optimal hand rest height might be, such as 1”.

 

Since the hand rest is glued on, a shim is not an easy mod for me.

 

The height of my Wren 2’s hand rest was approx 3/4”. I have a small hand.

 

The added foam has increased the height to about 1.25”, which might be excessive for some, but seems to be more comfortable for me, and I’m able to play on my fingertips with better reach.

 

I like the idea of added strap tension using the thumbs.

 

If this mod starts to limit me, I can always remove it.

 

I hope that more repertoire will be accessible to me as a result. That’s the goal, without creating bad playing habits.

 

Cheers!

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Posted (edited)

Interesting thread.  Good to hear from two more Wolverton players. I have had my Standard 30b C/G for just over two years and it plays better than ever.

 

When I ordered it I had Jake fit his ergonomically profiled hand rests and I just checked the maximum height which is 1.125" or 28mm. This is very comfortable, and although I have the straps reasonably snug (not tight) I get good fingertip access to all the buttons. A friend of ours was so impressed she got her husband to prepare a dimensioned copy sketch to make a pair for her Jeffries.

 

The idea of using U-shaped foam on traditional hand rests as a trial sounds a great idea though. On my wife's 30b Lachenal the height of the hand rest bars is 0.625" or 16mm and they are certainly not as comfortable for me, though she doesn't complain (and plays better than me !). Might persuade her to give the foam a try anyway.

 

'best

 

Rob

Edited by Robin Tims

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Robin Tims said:

(1)  Good to hear from two more Wolverton players. I have had my Standard 30b C/G for just over two years and it plays better than ever.

 

(2) When I ordered it I had Jake fit his ergonomically profiled hand rests and I just checked the maximum height which is 1.125" or 28mm.

This is very comfortable, and although I have the straps reasonably snug (not tight) I get good fingertip access to all the buttons. A friend

of ours was so impressed she got her husband to prepare a dimensioned copy sketch to make a pair for her Jeffries.

 

(3) The idea of using U-shaped foam on traditional hand rests as a trial sounds a great idea though. On my wife's 30b Lachenal the height of

the hand rest bars is 0.625" or 16mm and they are certainly not as comfortable for me, though she doesn't complain (and plays better than

me !). Might persuade her to give the foam a try anyway.

 

(1) So far, there aren't that many of us around - mine (a concertina-reeded instrument) is No. 31. I suspect that there will be a lot more of us as

time passes and word gets around. It is a very, very nice instrument indeed! I just wish the standard of my playing (🙁) matched the standard of

construction! It's good to hear that it's going to get better.

 

I think that we are very lucky in the U.K. to have a group of such talented craftsmen capable of constructing these instruments to such a high

standard - both 'hybrid' and 'real' concertinas. No names, no pack drill, but you all know who you are...🙂

 

(2) I discussed the possibility of fitting the shaped hand rests and air lever (as opposed to button) with Jake before he started fabrication of

my little toy. Basically, I bottled out - I wasn't sure that I'd be able to make a smooth transition between one instrument and another (I have

several 'tinas). It's a perceived problem, if not an actual problem. I need to check now, on my different instruments to see if/how I have 

adapted to the differing hand-rest heights. I suspect I may have set slightly different hand-strap lengths. It's not a problem that had ocurred

to me...

 

(3) I rather like the idea of the detachable hand-rest adjusters - I might have a go at fettling something up...

Edited by lachenal74693

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