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Sean M

Button Diameters

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The only concertina I currently have is a cheap Chinese built 20b. This weekend I tried out a Concertina Minstrel and the improvements of quality were obvious, however, I found the diameter of the buttons not very comfortable. They were small and felt like I needed to build up callouses before I could play it comfortably. I remember playing a Rochelle awhile back and it also had small diameter buttons. The Chinese 20b seems to have bigger more comfortable buttons. So I guess my question is: are the smaller button diameters on the Concertina Connection concertinas the norm or are they known to have smaller buttons? I don't have enough experience playing different types of concertinas so I'm not really sure but all the Chinese built concertinas I've played had bigger buttons but also were just bigger in general.

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I'm not sure what the actual dimensions are. Thank you for responding though. Knowing that 5mm is the standard will help next time I'm around one and able to measure.
EDIT: Looks like my Chinese concertina is closer to 6mm. Maybe that's the difference I noticed between that and the Concertina Connection concertinas.

Edited by Sean M
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I too found the Minstrel buttons narrow and a little painful at first. I also play a Morse Hayden Beaumont on which the buttons are larger and more comfortable. With that said, I have become used to the Minstrel and no longer feel discomfort. I think the Minstrel is an excellent intermediate instrument and a significant step up from the Rochelle.

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Even with narrow EC buttons as long as the springs have been adjusted properly then you should not need much pressure to push the buttons.  Maybe 50 grams of force to push the button.  Once you get used to the narrow buttons then you will not notice them anymore and you will not develop calluses on your finger tips.

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10 hours ago, Thomas O Sullivan said:

When you say “small” are they less than 5mm in diameter? I think 5mm is the standard size however some concertinas also have 6mm.

 

My understanding is traditionally the standard size for English instruments was 3/16", which is about 4.7mm. English-made Anglos with metal buttons often were 3/16" too, but if they had bone buttons they may have been more like 6mm or even 1/4" (6.35mm). Some Wheatstone Linota Anglos have 5.7mm metal-capped buttons, which I think is a comfortable compromise. Vintage cheap German instruments tended to have wooden buttons that were on the larger size, sometimes even bigger than 1/4". Modern cheap Chinese instruments are similar to the German style construction, whereas better quality modern 'hybrid' instruments tend to be closer to Anglo style construction but with accordion reeds.

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I once played a Jeffries with 3mm buttons.  It was a terrific sounding instrument, but like sleeping on a bed if nails.  Even though I use 6.35mm buttons on my concertinas and like the feel of them,  I think 5mm is a good size.  After a certain point,  you have to start worrying about the space between buttons which gets smaller when the buttons get larger.  When you make bone buttons, it is a lot easier to find sections of the bone that are big enough for smaller diameter buttons.  I made a 6.35mm set for a customer that were really nice, but finding  straight and thick enough parts of the cow leg bones was quite a job.  

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I can't imagine how painful a 3mm diameter button would be!

 

Over the range of concertinas I've measured, the smallest diameter buttons have been 4.1mm (a number of Jeffries) and the largest diameter 7mm on a Jones.  The most comfortable size for me is 5mm but the comfort does depend on the flatness and radius of the ends

 

Alex West

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The bigger buttons on the less expensive instruments would actually be difficult to manage when playing at speed.  You will not notice the size of a good button on  a well made concertina.  I recently played a hybrid what  had buttons smaller than the buttons you describe on your Chinese concertina, but  felt huge to me after playing my Conner and Dipper.  That may have been a Button Box Morse Ceilli and was a very nice hybrid I borrowed at a session. And what you may think to be tiny buttons on my Dipper are perfectly domed and I don't feel them at all.   That my be due to the precision of the pressure on the Dipper as well as the size of the buttons. I also have a Edgley Concertina that has buttons that appear to be larger than my Dipper's or my (no longer mine) Conner's, but feel very similar under the hand.

 

 

It is tough to pick a concertina.  We don't get to go down to the concertina store and try out a wide range of instruments.  We get to order something and hope for the best.  What your fingers may be noticing could be how well the button is domed (curved) and how hard or softly you need to push to sound the notes.   I have been very curious about the instruments the Irish Concertina Company has been making of late, as well as a new introduction to the hybrid scene, The Blackthorn, sold by Chris Alger in the UK.  And wish I could run over to a mythical concertina store and try them all out. 

 

And, yes, you will develop a bit of a callous on each finger, but they won't be as pronounced as a guitar or fiddle player's.  With a better concertina you will be touching your buttons with less force to sound the notes as well.

 

 

Edited by LateToTheGame
typo

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