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considerations about learning new system

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G/D player here. I like my GD lots. But I realise it's not best for ITM - the fluidity/bounce aspect. (insert d'oh reaction here). I'd like to attend an irish music retreat in the fall. So thinking I should switch now, get used to it,  and do beginner/foundation workshops at the retreat. 

If you've switched systems - did you put aside old one for a while completely? did you play new tunes on new system and old tunes on old system with no mixing? Was it a struggle to adapt? 

 

Now for the C/G instrument question: McNeela Swan on sale at the moment. Definitely thinking about it. I've also emailed the Button Box guy about suitable used ones and also the Barleycorn guy. Experiences with the Barleycorn ppl shipping to US? I'm aware that I could get by in ITM with less than 30 buttons (say 26 or 28) and that's why I emailed Barleycorn.  I want to keep this purchase to be under $1k. But still find something I will like playing (no fighting with the bellows, no sluggishness, no overly shrill sound etc). The Rochelle seems rather large and I don't care for the sound so much - but it would do if I found nothing else. But if you were in my shoes would you jump on the Swan or wait and see what you could pick up in a Lachenal? I have listened to restored Lachenal vids on Youtube and I like the sound, but was wondering if vintage concertinas need more TLC?

 

I also have a beginner (Button Box serviced) Stagi G/D I need to find a home for. So asking here if any one wants to trade for their beginner C/G, in case you were curious about learning G/D but didn't want to make a big investment? Long shot I know as most would trade a beginner concertina back for the next upgrade, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Thanks. 

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Posted (edited)

After a very brief period on a C/G Rochelle I switched to a G/D Morse, which at the time suited the music I was learning and playing (English trad and Morris tunes).  That was my main squeeze for 6 or 7 years.  I played mostly "along the rows", with a little bit of cross row, and hardly ever reached into the 3rd row.  When I started to sit in on ITM and Newfoundland trad sessions I ran into the same problem as you, so I got a good C/G.  At first I played my existing English repertoire on the G/D, and learned new ITM stuff on the C/G.  About 2 years ago I got serious with the C/G. There was definitely a tough transition period- I was doing as much un-learning as learning and progress felt frustratingly slow.  However, after a couple of years playing both, my playing style has really changed largely due to what I have learned on the C/G.  I use all 30 buttons (well, maybe 29) on both boxes and have revisited the way I play a lot of my old repertoire.  Now when I learn a new tune I'll try it out on both, regardless of whether it's ITM or ETM (is ETM a thing?) and go with the instrument/fingering  that suits the way I want the tune to sound. I play some fast, bouncy Irish tunes on the G/D, and some of my old stuff ended up sounding better on the C/G (same key, different fingering) My playing and phrasing have really improved (according to people who have listened to me play for years) and I am able to tackle tunes in keys that I wouldn't have touched with a barge pole in the past.

 

As to which instrument to buy, I would say it should be at least as good as what you are playing now in terms of action and response.  I don't think I would have stuck with the transition if I'd gone back to a Rochelle. 

Edited by Bill N

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I am (probably for the duration) an “along the rows” player, so I keep my Morse G/D as my main Anglo squeeze, but also can’t part with my very first concertina, which is a rather beat-up 30+ year old Stagi 30b C/G, so I can play simple stuff in C.  That old C/G cost 95 dollars, and is still worth every penny of that....The reason I mention it is that the more “traditional” older Stagis and Bastaris before them are way nicer to the touch (and probably the sound) than the more “jewelry box” looking modern Stagis.  They have, in my experience, easier bellows, smaller buttons, faster and easier action, and sweet tone.  So, you should find one for a very much lower than kilo-dollar price range.  I sold one last fall for $125 (to a friend, but I’d have taken 250 from anyone) and it was a metal-ended old Bastari that actually sounded more like a concertina than one might think.  I’d suggest, if money is an object, you consider one of those.  I like the feel and sound better than the 20b or the Rochelle.  In fact, though I don’t have experience with them, the modern iteration of the Stagis I describe comes in under a thousand, too, I think.

 

Above all, have fun.  I am quite typical, I think, in that in 7 or 8 years I have rented and/or owned a dozen concertinas, and still own and play 5 of them regularly. Modest “CAD” but measurable.

 

David

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Purely with regard to the posting issue from GB to USA, I have sent two packages to the USA from the Uk recently, a Concertina and a Concertina sized parcel.  The first was collected by FedEx on a Friday morning and arrived at it's USA destination on the Monday.  The second was collected on a Monday late morning here in the West Country and was delivered to it's recipient in Maryland at about 7.30pm the NEXT DAY! 

 

That is quicker than post from our next village arrives with us.

 

On the other hand, a parcel coming this way with USPS arrived at Heathrow last Thursday and has gone into a Covid-19 shaped Black Hole.

 

I don't know who Chris Algar uses but I would certainly trust FedEx to get it there.   

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I have played a Swan and found it to be a good instrument for the price, definitely better than a Rochelle or a Stagi/Bastari. 

 

Lachenals vary wildly in responsiveness.  I have two that I like very much (a 48b Crane and a 20b G/D Anglo) but I've played others that were really too slow for Irish music.  Make sure that you let Barleycorn know that you need a responsive instrument.

 

If you can find a May Fair Anglo (Wheatstone's accordion-reeded budget concertina from the 1950s), they're also often in your price range and good for the price - but they're not easy to find.

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Thank you to all who answered. I did get an answer back from Chris Algar who kindly let me know he had nothing in my budget and he didn't like shipping overseas due to the reeds possibly shifting out of alignment during transport  and thus potential problems for  the buyer.  I don't know if this reluctance was always the case, perhaps reed misalignment  due to rough handling in shipping has been a problem from time to time and he's decided to change how he does things now. 

 

I'm tossing up between the new Swan on sale and a used Minstrel. One is within budget, the other just out of budget but a better 'tina. I know all the good arguments for buying the best a person can afford. :)    I  can't trade in my Stagi for the Minstrel and I'm waiting to hear if McNeela will take it (they did ask me for photos etc) though I suspect ultimately not -  as why on earth would a music store in the land of ITM want a G/D and a stagi at that ?  :D So no firm decision made just yet. 

 

  

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Hello Breve,

 

About 6 months ago, I asked Chris about buying a G/D from him and received the same concern from him re. the reeds might be disturbed from rough handling in transit because they were kept in place only be friction. I ended up with a used Morse Ceili, which I really like.

 

Re. a new Swan and a used Minstrel, I would stretch the budget for the latter. I did own a new Swan for a few months. It’s a decent concertina for beginners but my biggest problem with it is the lack of bushings. From the description on Concertina Connection’s website, the Minstrel doesn’t have this shortcoming.

 

 

 

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I am ignorant about bushings. A quick search told me it's something around the buttons and folks mention them wearing out or slipping out of place. Are they some kind of pad then? What do they do? 

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Oh... That's what that is! Ty!

 

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    The rochelle might frustrate you sooner than you want.  It is good for figuring out where your fingers go, but you will grow out of it if you want to develop any speed.   I have heard some great things about the new Blackthorn, but I have not seen one.  I would ask around about that if you are considering the Swan.   I recently saw a post in a FB forum where someone received one with a defect, got great customer service for a replacement and is quite pleased. 

 

Sorry about the italics, but my computer just defaulted to this for this post and won't let me out. HaHa

 

I have mostly played C/G but have alternated between playing  some tunes across the rows then relearning them along the rows and going back and forth.  I'd think the easiest way to get going on an instrument in a different key would be by learning a new tune.  You could do that while you wait.  Shifting the key of a tune you might be learning to a key where it demands to be played across the row.  It may sound weird at first, but could change your brain finger connection a bit while you wait for the right instrument.

 

Just thinking outside the box here, so to speak.   Enjoy!

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On 4/24/2020 at 9:05 AM, Bill N said:

  About 2 years ago I got serious with the C/G. There was definitely a tough transition period- I was doing as much un-learning as learning and progress felt frustratingly slow.  However, after a couple of years playing both, my playing style has really changed largely due to what I have learned on the C/G.  I use all 30 buttons (well, maybe 29) on both boxes and have revisited the way I play a lot of my old repertoire.  Now when I learn a new tune I'll try it out on both, regardless of whether it's ITM or ETM (is ETM a thing?) and go with the instrument/fingering  that suits the way I want the tune to sound. I play some fast, bouncy Irish tunes on the G/D, and some of my old stuff ended up sounding better on the C/G (same key, different fingering) My playing and phrasing have really improved (according to people who have listened to me play for years) and I am able to tackle tunes in keys that I wouldn't have touched with a barge pole in the past.

 

As to which instrument to buy, I would say it should be at least as good as what you are playing now in terms of action and response.  I don't think I would have stuck with the transition if I'd gone back to a Rochelle. 

Bill N, interesting how your playing improved overall, after you took on the C/G system.  So it was a 2 year learning curve for you - that's good to know. I must be patient and keep persevering then.

I agree with your comments about needing a concertina similar in action/ response to what I'm playing. Otherwise yes it would feel like a step backwards and much more challenging.

 

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On 4/24/2020 at 9:38 AM, David Colpitts said:

I am (probably for the duration) an “along the rows” player, so I keep my Morse G/D as my main Anglo squeeze, but also can’t part with my very first concertina, which is a rather beat-up 30+ year old Stagi 30b C/G, so I can play simple stuff in C.  That old C/G cost 95 dollars, and is still worth every penny of that....The reason I mention it is that the more “traditional” older Stagis and Bastaris before them are way nicer to the touch (and probably the sound) than the more “jewelry box” looking modern Stagis.  They have, in my experience, easier bellows, smaller buttons, faster and easier action, and sweet tone.  So, you should find one for a very much lower than kilo-dollar price range.  I sold one last fall for $125 (to a friend, but I’d have taken 250 from anyone) and it was a metal-ended old Bastari that actually sounded more like a concertina than one might think. 

 

 

David

I like how you kept your old Stagi for nostalgic reasons and also for it's playability. I looked and did not find an old Bastari as you described. The Stagi I have (newer one) has stiff bellows - I did play it for couple of years but the bellows stayed obstinate. My hands/wrists would get a bit sore from the straps digging in as I was pulling against the stiff bellows. It put me off looking at a newer C/G Stagi.

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On 4/26/2020 at 2:23 PM, LateToTheGame said:

    The rochelle might frustrate you sooner than you want.  It is good for figuring out where your fingers go, but you will grow out of it if you want to develop any speed.   I have heard some great things about the new Blackthorn, but I have not seen one.  I would ask around about that if you are considering the Swan.   I recently saw a post in a FB forum where someone received one with a defect, got great customer service for a replacement and is quite pleased. 

 

I once borrowed a friend's Rochelle for about a month. I found it sort of playable - but it felt too big for my (female) hands. I read about the Blackthorn in my research, but couldn't find much out about it, and I was starting to get cold feet from buying overseas in case there was a problem and had to send it back etc.

 

In the end after a fair bit of "sleeping on it", I bought the used Minstrel from Button Box. It was someone else's trade-in and it's already had a little tune up. Keeping to a seller within the US is easier for me if it ever needs a service etc and I now have two USA concertinas, the Minstrel and my G/D Herrin. The Minstrel will work for me very well I think. The advice given on learning a new system is appreciated - it's interesting to hear of others' experiences. On the G/D now, I tend to go cross rows and try to use both hands whenever I can - although most of the work is done on the right hand of course if it's a melody-only tune with no accompaniment.  In fact my memorizing of tunes and getting them up to speed is always delayed because I can't help but try out new fingering. Usually I learn a tune at first in the easiest way - (along the row) and then unlearn all that and try to to learn new fingerings. 

 

So mindful of this inability to just settle on a fingering I've decided I will sub to some online lessons for the C/G and learn someone else's fingering for the tunes! Either Caitlin Nic Gabhann or OAIM - haven't decided yet.  This gives me about 6 months to pick up C/G system for the Irish music camp this fall.

 

Again, thanks to all who responded.

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I can recommend OAIM, I've done a couple of their courses and found them really helpful

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An update to this: The used Minstrel C/G arrived yesterday. It's a plainer looking instrument with the matte black finish and not as nice looking as my G/D. The buttons are a little rough around the edges - so little things like that are noticed. But it has a milder/sweeter tone and less "honky" sounding than the G/D Herrin.  I think volume is a bit less too.  Action of buttons etc seems good (as far as I can tell with my slow playing) and I'm glad I didn't get a more basic entry level 'tina. This will suit me for quite a while.

 

As for initial impressions on how brains learn/rewire.

I decided that as I learnt to play G/D by reading sheet music and learning the button layout off paper, to trick my brain into learning the new system I would learn C/G tunes by ear and not look at sheet music until I was much more comfortable.  Hence the online lessons.

 

The 2 tunes I've learned - one I already knew well, the 2nd was brand new to me.  Of course I picked up the known tune quickly  (OAIM - Maggie in the Woods).  The brand new one (Caitlin Nic Gabhan's free lesson Primrose Lass) took a bit more effort as you'd expect,  but I got there without too much trouble.

 

This didn't surprise me.  But I was surprised at what happened next:

After I was comfortable with Primrose Lass I looked at the sheet music download and tried to play along reading that. My brain didn't like it !  It produced what I can only describe as a sort of cognitive dissonance - the associations learned for those music notes were being constantly tested as I was playing different fingering. It felt a little weird.

 

Then I tried playing along to ABC notation. This is something new to me and I am not experienced doing it at all, but it seemed easier. Reading the letter "A" or "G" etc didn't produce the same odd sensation as reading a music note on the staff did.  Perhaps because it's also new thing  my brain just went along with it without a fight!

 

It was interesting to realise this morning that while  I can hum Maggie in the Woods extremely easily, I can't hum Primrose Lass for the life of me.  It starts on "B" and that's all I can remember. 30 mins of learning the tune last night wasn't enough time for my brain to lock it in.  I suppose professional musicians have brains that pick up and retain tunes much more easily and quickly than my brain.

 

I'm not a neurologist or an educator but I found it interesting to discover these differences - in how the brain receives new info inputs and how the "rewiring" process happens. So even though it's very early days, it's proving my hunch that learning this new system by a different method (ear vs paper) is probably the better way for me. 

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Not sure what "retreat" you're planning to attend, but a lady had a Rochelle at the Noel Hill School last summer and she had a difficult time with it.  I think the Minstrel will work well for you.  Two years ago at the same school, one person had one and it seemed to be fine.  Noel pretty much teaches cross row and takes exception  to those who play along the rows in the class.  So, if you plan to attend one of his classes you may want to practice that.  Good luck with the switch over!!!

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