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German Concertinas


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This topic got started, sorta, in the "Concertinas of War".

Given that there always seems to be interest in less expensive instruments here on Cnet, and that some of the participants already have a German one; I thought it might be appropriate to have a "complete" discussion.

First, with regard to the works:

1. They have wooden actions, with the air valve button affixed directly to the valve flap (usually rectangular).

2. The reeds are generally 5 to a plate.

3. Normally the reeds are brass.

4. The single reed instruments have the reed plates mounted flat on the reed pan,

where the double reed ones have the plates on boxes raised above the pan.

5. Most are 20 button.

As for the exterior:

1. Generally the button rows are parallel to a side, with "large" diameter buttons.

2. The double reeded have frames in the bellows, usually 2, with 9 folds. However I hve seen a picture of a new Scholer with 1 frame and 8 folds.

3. The corners of the bellows ends and frames have metal "caps".

BRAND NAMES & Manufacturers

At this point I think there should be made a distinction between "German made", and "German type". As far as I can determine, only Scholer are German made, unless Hohner is now making their own. If I recall correctly, Hohner was once marketing the Bastari, and some of the Hohners I have seen have the Scholer roses motif on the sides of the ends.

I can not speak to the Bestler and Laurel, having never had one in hand, but they look suspiciously like the JLDyer Chinese.

Curently, there are two "real" German instruments on eBay: 2561398187 & 2561996701

Comments, please.



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I bought one of these to get me started. It is in Ab/Eb (not folk friendly keys at all!). It cost me GBP40 (about USD60) in 1999 - which I think now, and thought within a week of buying it, was too much money for what I now regard as a "high end toy" rather than a musical instrument. Within three months I had found its wheezy bellows such a limitation that I bought a new Norman C/G 30 button anglo to replace it. My Scholer-type did serve, however, to prove to me that I would get on sufficiently well with an anglo for me to be willing to invest in the Norman.

Hope that information is helpful to someone!


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My 20-button Hohner has plain wooden ends, plain bellows, no flowers (thankfully). It's a solid little Beast, definitely in the spectrum of "beginner's instrument" as opposed to "high end toy." Plays C/G. Picked it up at The Button Box for $225 plus shipping. Paid an extra $12 locally for decent adjustable hand straps.


I expect to outgrow it in about 5 months, at the rate I am going. The local slo-jam has plenty of tunes on its 40-tune list in G to keep me going. Once I learn ALL of those comfortably enough to play along, I'll upgrade to a 30-button..something so I can play all the tunes that are in D.


Right now the plan is to keep the Hohner for occasions when I don't want the upgraded one (drooling over Normans -- Samantha, your opinion?) in less-than-perfect weather, etc.


Doubt this helps, but thought I'd post anyway.

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Hi George,


I suspect it was a typo not a misunderstanding, but don't most of the old German-type concertinas have 10 reeds/plate (5 press and 5 draw)? Each plate corresponds to one VOICE of one ROW of one SIDE of the instrument, so each plate will line up with 5 chambers for the 5 buttons of that row - but there are separate reeds for press and draw for each button.


If an old German style 20 key concertina is "single reeded' or "solo tuned," there will be 2 plates of 10 reeds each for the left side, and 2 plates of 10 reeds each for the right side (total of 40 reeds). If an old German style 20 key is "double reeded," (whether octave or tremelo tuned) there will be 4 plates for each side (total of 80 reeds).



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4. The single reed instruments have the reed plates mounted flat on the reed pan, where the double reed ones have the plates on boxes raised above the pan.


Just a quibble on the terminology here: The term "reed pan" is generally reserved for English instruments, and refers to a plate of wood in/on which the reeds are mounted, which is separate from the plate on which the *action* is mounted, and which is inserted into the bellows frame.


The German-design instruments have their reeds mounted on the *action* board, either directly or on "reed blocks" which extend outward from it. What they don't have is a separate "reed pan".

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Right on. I was trying to be succinct with the description an had written "sets of reeds", then decided that was not adequately descriptive, but did not get back TUIT.



Thanks for the comment. I don't know that I have ever seen a definitive prose description of German concertinas.


If I can figure out how to get them down to acceptable size, I will post pictures of the action & reeds.

Cheers, Geo

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From what I have seen, the post WWII instruments have almost interchangeable parts and construction techniques; making me think there has been only one maker.

The pre WWII instruments have marginally better construction; e.g. using a flat spring on the air valve rather than a bent wire one.

But then, I am no expert, just curious.

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The picture is from a German web site, "Die Konzertina", which shows a new Scholer (note the medallion on the end), and, if my translation is correct, a single reed instrument. Note the Scholer rose motif.




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  • 1 month later...

A fellow member of John o' Gaunt Morris has just given me a low-value 20-button German concertina to examine. It has no maker's name or serial number but has a faint imprint of a swan in an elipse stamped onto the right-hand end. There is a lanel on the bottom of its upright hexagonal case (imitation leather cloth over cardboard), that repeats the swan motife, with the words German Made. On the top right-hand end there is a stamp stating "Steel Notes".

It has four screws per end (rusting steel but not siezed yet!) and is fitted with reed plates as shown above.

It is presumably in old pitch, just about C# instead of C, and in modern temperament.

The ends are quite reminiscent of a Lachenal 20 button in style but it has the wooden action with a flat spring on the air valve so I assume it is just post WW2.


My friend is asking me if it is worth repairing it enough to work so that he can learn to play. Well, refitting the missing 3 buttons isn't to bad, Fitting some replacement hand straps (old ones perished synthetic leather) is OK. Getting the odd duff reed to play in tune with the others is possible.


But should I retune it so that he can play along with others? Would I be destroying historic information or is this too insignificant an instrument to matter?



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If you have read any of my posts on old instruments in this forum over the past two months you may have seen that my views are somewhat contrary to those of many. So this is a very personal opinion: I think the best and most interesting use of these old German concertinas is to recreate the unique sound they had when new. That is not to say they are precious, only that this purpose may make the most sense. They are usually too expensive to repair relative to their usefulness as general-purpose learner instruments. For a cheap learner instrument in modern pitch it is usually a better bargain to get a more recently made steel-reeded German or Italian instrument, either new or in easily repairable used condition. The old ones can be more expensive to fix and retune as well as less functional than these. But it is really interesting (at least to me) what the old German instruments sounded like in their day, and I have been trying to obtain a really nice 20 - 36 key German concertina made for export to England, Ireland or the US with steel reeds on zinc plates. I am more interested in the older ones, but if you decide yours is not worth repairing I might buy or trade for it from you. I am only interested in one that has never had the reeds altered or retuned since it was made. I am not planning on paying too much for it in unrestored condition because these sell cheaply and usually cost more to fix than their general market value once restored - but I would probably pay more for the right one than would anyone else!


How do you get back to the original sound of an old concertina if you want to hear this? This means repairing the bellows and action of the instrument to the extent that is appropriate (depending on its condition and its original quality, there will be a compromise to be achieved between playability and originality). This means leaving the reeds in old pitch and original temperament and trying (after careful study) to bring the reeds that have drifted back to where they were. Of course this only works if the tuning has not drifted much, and if the tuner is savvy enough to understand what the original tuning was and why. A big clue can be found by revalving, gentle cleaning, then checking all the notes that are the same letter name but octaves apart, in the same bellows direction. If only one of these is out from the rest, a visible inspection may confirm if that one is especially rusty or otherwise damaged and if so that one is a likely candidate to be brought in tune with the rest. By proceeding carefully in this manner and taking notes as you go, a reasonable restoration of the original tuning can be achieved *by a tuner who is already skilled and who is paying close attention to the information available in the instrument.* Of course, the tuner must know how to play so that the proper pressure can be selected to compare the octaves. This last requirement seems to be one of several pitfalls for many amateur tuners.


Most of these old instruments are just not worth this process, either, and I think they are best left unrestored with their archaeological information intact, as shelf objects and possibly (if justified by their lack of quality or rarity, or by their fragmentary condition) as donors of parts to revive others.


Are the reeds in yours really steel? I have seen German instruments so labeled that did not have steel tongues. I suspect that (then as now) those who profited most in the musical instrument trade were those who promised more than they delivered.


The modern temperament surprises me and in my experience would suggest either that the instrument is more recent or that it has been retuned. But I find that each new instrument can teach me something I didn't know if I keep an open mind. If it is factory original tuning and in equal temperament from the 40s, that is an interesting fact to me.


I hope this is helpful. You may contact me (paul@groffsmusic.com) if I can help further offline.


Paul Groff

Edited by Paul Groff
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Just a short additional note regarding the term "German concertina" since I have not seen any notice in the thread so far about the larger than 20 buttons (up to 110..) mostly foursided 'Konzertinas' and 'Bandoneons' which also are *concertinas* in common language...despite there is no clear-cut or at least not established definition what 'a concertina' is....!


Goran Rahm

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just spotted on e-bay (item number 2579825367, German concertina T Mark semper sursum) a similar concertina to the one I was describing in this thread.

The one I have custody of is a darker colour wood and has a number 20 in ink on the label instead of 27. Also the gause inside the ends is dark green.



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