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fingers slipping off buttons

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Hello everyone

I've been playing my lovely 30 button CG Marcus anglo now for about 2 years and I love it but I do seem to have a recurrent problem, especially with my left hand. I should say that primary instrument has been the fiddle so the skin on the tips of my left hand is a bit hardened. My issue is that my fingers frequently slip off the buttons if I press a bit off centre, the tops of the buttons are slightly rounded, This especially occurs in my left hand. I was wondering if this might be due to the difference in the skin on the fingers of my left hand or perhaps then accuracy of button hitting in the left hand is more difficult as you jump around the keys a lot more. Perhaps the solution is more practice on button accuracy. Does anyone out there have any tips on how I can get around this problem?

Many thanks

John S

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As a fiddle player my self, playing duet, I find the left hand easier than the right (maybe because the left is the noting hand on the fiddle).  Here are three things that help me note more accurately:


-Loosen the strap so you can move your whole hand over the notes rather than angling and reaching with your fingers creating side ward motion.

-Avoid "flying finger syndrome".  Move the hand and fingers with close clearance hovering over the buttons.

-Play with the left end resting on your knee.  If you have a need to play standing, you can use an elevated guitar players stool, at least till you get more proficient.  I think Randy Stein (?🙂) advocates playing with arms straight up and down when standing and that does help reduce side pressure across the buttons.  

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Thanks for the advice Wunks.

I think the left hand strap is fairly loose, looser than the right hand. If i put my hand in the left strap and pull to the left I have about a 5mm (width of a pencil) gap between my palm and the palm rest. So I feel I can move my hand around OK and apply tension with my thumb when required. I also play sitting with the left action box resting on my left leg. Playing standing up is not something I am considering at the moment - I know this will also take a lot of practice. 

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Hi. As a mostly ex fiddle player I understand what you say about the hardened and in my case shiny pads. I had the same finger slipping off the buttons thing happening, mostly the ring and small fingers on the left hand and predominantly on the inside row although the ring finger on the D button in the middle could be vulnerable. So the first thing I did before I’d play was to give the pads of my fingers a sort of buffing with an emery board or nail file. The cardboard ones or disposable ones, about mid roughness. It was just to ‘key’ them as it were and definitely not a skin peel or plastic surgery!!  This worked to a degree. I have to say though I was so frustrated that I entertained taking a rasp to the top of the buttons and roughing them up!!!!
However I learnt that the issue was more a sensory or mechanical one than a skin issue. It was about how I put the finger on the button. I don’t know about you but I was trained to arch the fingers over the fiddle fret board and press down with the very top of the finger and I just never gave the action of placing it on the buttons a second thought. For me, I found it to be very subtly different. Same muscles and action probably but in the last mili seconds and millimetre there is a different connection on arriving on the button. So it was about slowing down and noticing the finger arriving on the button. I would practice just bringing the finger down and noticing the contact between finger and button. 
Off centre would a bit of a problem alright if you are doing it all the time so that exercise should correct that but if you have the rest right and the landing is correct you’ll get away with the odd off centre because you’ll catch most of the button. 
How you hold your fingers over the buttons when not using them might be an issue. Again if you are repeating the arching it might be causing a problem because I noticed that a lot of the better players keep the fingers extended, presumably in a relaxed way, over the buttons as opposed to being arched ready for action. But I feel an awareness of the minute contact on the buttons will fix it. 
I hope this helps in some way and best wishes. 

Edited by Ann Sanders
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I play the banjo and the mandolin, and I'm inclined to agree with @hjcjones .


I would, however, point out that there are buttons and buttons. English-style buttons are thin (about 5 or 6 mm dia.) whereas German-style ones are thick (about 10mm dia.) English-built concertinas have different shapes of button-top: some are flat, some lens-shaped, some domed. And the millimetre or so difference in diameter can make a difference, too.  These factors man influence whether our callussed fingertips slip off or not. Perhaps there's an optimum button-top-shape for your callusses and your technique.



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Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom. Ann I agree with you and  I am also inclined to use the tips of my fingers a la violin playing. To be honest, I have just concentrated on trying to press the right button at the right time and move the bellows in the right direction. I had not realised the nuances of button pressing technique. So I will certainly concentrate on that technique and not blame funny skin on the end of my fingers. Ann I have also had thoughts about making my fingers/buttons stickier (although not as far as rasping the buttons).

However, today I have had something of on epiphany. Recently I have also purchased a Marcus DG anglo and have generally found this easier to play and had less of the slippage problem. Having had a closer look at the two boxes I noticed that the buttons for the GD are not as high as the CG.

GD button



CG Button



There is only about 1mm difference but it seems to have a big effect. So I have fashioned some kind of 1mm thick gaskets to raise the end plates on the CG so the action is the same or very similar to the GD.



I am getting much less slippage and I find that even if I am a bit off centre and my finger does slip it often touches the end plate before slipping of the button completely. 

I don't know if there is any consensus on button "action" but this seems to have worked for me although I will of course continue to focus on finger technique. At least this modification is easily reversible.

Best wishes and many thanks to all.

John S

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