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I am very new to playing the concertina, and am having trouble with the right hand being too quiet when playing an accompanying chord on the left hand. 
The left hand notes always seem to overpower the right when played in unison.
If there is already a conversation about this, I welcome the link. I am trying to figure out if it is 

a. Human error 

b. Flaw/damage in instrument 

c. Both a and b

d. Normal. 

and what I can do to remedy it. 


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Hi Amytchickadee,


I recognize your problem - I've wondered if it's something to do with the internal design - acoustics and mechanics.


I found this comment on the Kensington concertina website - the maker is explaining his approach to making concertinas and his design goal:  See the comment about higher notes disappearing in overtones of lower notes. www.kensingtonconcertina.com is the website URL if you want to read the rest.  (I've never played a Kensington concertina btw.)



Originally, I wanted to produce an instrument with a sound that was close to one of Noel Hill’s wonderful Wheatstone Linotas. I also really liked the sound of some of the better Jeffries concertinas. I ended up with something in between these sounds. I found that I actually preferred this in between sound to either of the other instruments. The Jeffries reedy quality was great for melody line playing, but the higher notes would disappear in the overtones of the lower notes when you played counter notes and chords as part of a tune. Noel's Linotas were better suited to this type of playing, but while his concertinas were exceptional, Wheatstones in general had a somewhat nasal quality that too strongly colored the music for my taste. Kensington Concertinas have an overtone balance that both allows the playing of higher notes with low notes without having them get lost in the sound, and a somewhat woodwind like sound that has none of the nasal quality of most of the Wheatstones and Wheatstone copies. My focus now is not to try to duplicate the sound of another instrument, but to refine my own.



I don't know how you overcome this - except finding another concertina that doesn't do this so much.... But in the  meantime you could play a 2 note chord with the LH instead of a 3 note or 4 note chord and thus the RH notes won't be drowned out.  Others more experienced and knowledgeable about concertina design and playing may have  better answers, than just my 2 cents.

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One possibility is playing each of the accompanying chord notes only briefly, while continuing notes in the melody line for their full value, so they shine through.

That really works, but it takes some practice, (I rarely manage it) and it is a stylistic choice which may or may not fit the musical style you prefer.  But I've seen it recommended and demonstrated here by some fine concertina players.


Something I personally find works well is to accompany the melody line with a moving line of single notes, rather than full chords.  That way the melody line doesn't get drowned out.  The melody notes will most often also be in the chord (with some passing notes which aren't, of course) so as you move along through the melody the full chord will eventually be played, just not all at the same moment. One of the great things about the Anglo when playing in one of the home keys, is that quite often just playing a button one, two, or three positions to the left in the same row will provide a harmony note which fits the melody line, and is often within the desired chord, so this is a good start toward a harmony line.  As you develop your way of playing a tune, you can figure out where to deviate from that pattern, or perhaps choose to play the melody note on a reversal using a different button, to make a different harmony note available.  And when there is a passing note in the melody which is not in the chord, briefly playing an available harmony note n the same bellows direction often works just fine even though it isn't in what would be the considered the current chord.  Again, this is a stylistic choice, and it might not fit your musical style, but I find it works surprisingly well.


Neither of these techniques actually make the left hand notes quieter, but they do improve the ratio of melody sound to harmony sound so that doesn't matter any more, without needing to modify or replace your instrument.


Edit:  This situation is quite common, so don't worry about it if you are just starting out.  Most likely you can work around it by adjusting your technique.  Have fun!


Edited by Tradewinds Ted
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As both ends of the instrument are driven by the same bellows, the relative volumes of the two ends are inextricably linked.  There is no way of playing one side more quietly while playing the other side louder.


However, there are things you can do.


Sound reflects.  If you sit with one end towards the wall and one end towards the room, you will hear the "wall end" as louder.


From a technique point of view, it is probably not the volume, but the duration of the notes that is causing the problem.


The duration of the notes on the right hand is dictated by the melody.  A melody is made up of long and short notes.


The duration of the notes on the left hand accompaniment is a matter of choice and practice.


In the early stages of learning the instrument, it is likely that you are playing the melody slowly, and also giving too much value to each note.  The notes should normally be distinct from each other.  The gaps are tiny but should be there.  Instead of playing something that sounds like "Da da daa da da da", a beginner will often play something more like "Daadaadaaaadaadaadaa."


On the left hand, for the same "Da da daa da da da" tune, the accompaniment should be more like "D– d– -da– d  d–d–d–"   (These are sounds, not the note D.)


For a beginner, it is common for the two hands to work together exactly, so that the notes on the right and left are exactly the same length and timing.  This is easier, but it means that the accompaniment sounds muddy and overpowers the melody.


Are you taking your fingers off the button between consecutive notes on the same button?  This is a far better discipline than relying on changes of bellows pressure to start and stop each note.  It means that the note starts crisply as the valve opens, and ends crisply as the valve closes.  You have absolute control over the timing and duration of the note — at least insofar as you have absolute control over your fingers. :)


There is an exercise that helped me in my early days  This works for 6/8 tunes (jigs and some marches) but a similar idea can be adapted for other time signatures.


Assuming a CG instrument:


Right hand, play |C D E, C D E| repeatedly in a steady jig rhythm: "tid-er-ly, tid-er-ly..."


Left hand, play a "tid (gap) ly" rhythm.     |C — E, C — E| etc.


So the left hand is not playing on the D note of the rhythm.


Once you have that timing, play two notes (EG) on the "ly" part of the tidderly on the left hand.


So the right hand will go |C D E, C D E| etc. and the left hand will go:


|C — (E&G), C — (E&G)| etc.


Aim for a clipped, almost percussive sound on the left.  Keeps those notes as short as possible.


Once you can do this, you can build on it, working further up and down the scale on the right hand, and experimenting with different bass notes on the left hand.

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In my experience one reason for this can be the set-up of the reeds. The low reeds often speak more easily than the high reeds, and this makes them louder at all air pressures.


Try this experiment. Hold down the button for a low note (G3, say) and a higher note (G5, say) with no pressure on the bellows. Now slowly apply pressure until one reed sounds. If it's the lower reed that sounds this could be your problem. As you apply more pressure the higher note starts to sound, but the low note has already got louder. You can increase the pressure further but the low note will always be louder than the higher note.


If this is your problem it can be solved. Take the instrument to a good repairer and ask them to set the reeds so that they all sound at the same low pressure. This will go a good way to solving the problem. It will also allow you to use more expression in your playing.



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