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Looking for solutions to ergonomic problems and options for replacing or improving my New Model EC.


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As this post touches on multiple topics that individually could better go in other forums, I thought is best to put them in the general forum to be considered together.

 

I have been playing a Lachenal New Model 56 key extended-treble for many years. As it is used for accompaniment to my vocal range, I play mostly at the bottom range of this instrument. I have noted that the thumb straps are now wearing out and it appears that the wear is due to twisting to reach the lower buttons.

 

When I traded up in quality years ago I moved from a cheaper tenor instrument which I still own. Losing the lower range was a consideration when I purchased the New Model but the lost lower range has not really been an issue except for the ergonomic problems with thumb strap wear, and recently, arthritis in my left thumb which I think has been caused, or exasperated, by my concertina playing.

 

The thumb problem has reached the point where I must do something to continue playing and I have considered two possible options. The first would be to replace the thumb straps on the New Model with thicker and/or more flexible straps and have wrist straps installed to relieve pulling pressure on the thumbs. The second option would be to trade up to a tenor, baritone, or treble (with an extended downward range) to better position my hand in the lower range (and probably also wrist straps). My intention is to trade up to a comparable or better quality instrument as the current New Model.

 

Fortunately in the past few years I have sat down at both the Button Box and at Barleycorn and played many concertinas allowing me to have some idea of what I am looking for. My big take-a-ways from trying so many instruments is that I do not like the harsh loud sound of metal ended instruments and that some of the more modern ECs, many of which are hybrids, are better than I expected.

 

As this will be my big chance to do a trade up, I’m considering Aeolas, Ediophones, and other ECs of that caliber or one step below, depending on what I can get for trade in value on the New Model. I am also considering the possibility of a more modern EC but would still want to move on from the current New Model so might have to then sell it separately.

 

If anyone has suggestions or thoughts or other options I should be considering please let me know. I could use some advice. Thanks!

 

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hmm, if you have not seen this already you might be interested in the ergonomic developments of Henrik Muller. You can learn about it here: http://www.concertinamatters.se/page38/page38.html 

 

Maker Alex Holden has done some work based on this new ergonomic idea, producing some instruments (or converting older ones? I can't remember). Having heard Henrik play, I was quite impressed by the different articulation and expression he was able to achieve. 

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Thanks Jake; there is more information in @Henrik Müller's article on the Concertina Journal:

https://www.concertinajournal.org/articles/no-thumb-straps-no-finger-rests-but-it-is-an-english-a-personal-journey/

 

I've done two conversions so far and have some orders for full new builds on the waiting list. I believe @polavoyhas also experimented with a partial Müller conversion, changing the hand rests and straps on a Wheatstone May Fair without re-spacing and shortening the buttons.

 

 

Edited by alex_holden
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Simplest  fixes  for  sore  thumbs  and  strains   on the EC  are wrist  straps.  

 

Add to  that,  Syncopepper ( for  your comfort  around the lower  notes)  an instrument  where the  thumb  strap  relation  to  the  keyboard  favours  the    bottom  end  buttons.  For  this  I  find my old hands  are  happiest  playing  my  Baritone/Treble  Aeola.  I  lean  my  hands  back into  the wrist  straps  and  those  'one row  lower'  thumb straps  allow  comfortable  button  pressing  right to  the  bottom  end.   I  keep  the  thumb straps  a  fairly  loose fit  so  I  can  slide  my hands  backwards  and forwards  to  better cover  the  whole  keyboard. There  is  no  twisting of  the  thumb straps  after  10+  years  of  daily playing..

 

Of  course the  weight of these larger  instruments  , like the Baritone/Treble,  is a consideration so  perhaps a  'Tenor'   48k   might   make a  better  choice ?  

 

On  my  Treble  the   thumb straps  started  to  tear  from  twisting  so  I  made  soft,  but strong,  replacements  with  an  extra  canvas  layer  in between  the  leather  ones.  So far  so  good  and  comfortable  too.

 

 

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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45 minutes ago, Geoff Wooff said:

For  this  I  find my old hands  are  happiest  playing  my  Baritone/Treble  Aeola.  I  lean  my  hands  back into  the wrist  straps  and  those  'one row  lower'  thumb straps  allow  comfortable  button  pressing  right to  the  bottom  end.

May I ask if you keep the wrist straps tight or quite slack?

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9 hours ago, John Wild said:

May I ask if you keep the wrist straps tight or quite slack?

Hmmm,  I'll have to  think about that  during my  morning  practice.  Perhaps  not  too tight  but  sufficiently  so  to  transfer  the  'pull'  effort  from  thumbs to  arms.

On  my  Treble 48  I  generally  only  employ the  wrist straps   when  not  seated.

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9 hours ago, David M. Dahl said:

I am having my own left-thumb problems playing my CC Busker EC. I understand that some people use wrist straps. Where might I get wrist straps for my Busker, and how can they be attached?

 

Thank you!

Best wishes,

David Dahl

Portland, Oregon

I  suggest the  best person to  contact  with these  questions  is  Wim Wakker  at  concertina connection.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Thanks, Geoff. I did contact William, but he suggested my main problem was improper technique. Unfortunately, I am attempting to use good technique as I understand it, and have no one to correct me. EC teachers are not easy to find in my corner. In any case, CC does not offer hand straps for a EC, so I am apparently on my own. I am curious though, where people get the appropriate leather for hand straps.

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Leather  craft  workers,  harness  makers  etc.  The  straps  should  not be a problem  but  fixing those  straps  to  the instrument , at least  in the  way  that was used  during  the  vintage  period, might  need  the  services of  someone  with  a  half  decent  workshop.

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You probably won't want to ship it off, but Bob Snope at the Button Box in Massachusetts put nice wrist straps on my Lachenal EC. Owing to various injuiries over the years I need them all the time to play EC (which I don't do as much as anglo, but enjoy nonetheless). He just put some of their inserts that hold a threaded screw into the end frames and then cut and attached the straps.

 

Ken

 

PS Edited to add: If you call they might be able to send you the parts and talk you through doing it yourself, if you are reasonably handy with a drill and have the proper sized bits.

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Thanks to everyone for good advice and recommendations. These forums have been a source of a lot of great information over the years. Here are some of my reflections -

 

On 12/18/2020 at 5:53 PM, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

might be interested in the ergonomic developments of Henrik Muller. You can learn about it here: http://www.concertinamatters.se/page38/page38.html 

 

 

Very interesting approach to ergonomics. I am used to the standard angle of attack on the EC (having played that way for more than 35 years), it’s the deep reach to the lowest keys on the extended treble layout that is problematic for me now.

 

Geoff’s thoughts seem to fit my situation pretty well. The Trinity 48 key tenor learner that I still have is more comfortable regarding thumb position - first because I am used to the treble range and do not often go to the bottom eight keys, and second, the thumb strap position is a little closer to the lowest keys than on the New Model. Like Geoff my twisted thumb straps have started to tear. My days of playing stand up are pretty much over due to wrist tendon problems I have developed over the past few years so the weight of the instrument is not a big issue.

 

My optimum solution would be to trade up to a restored wooden ended Aeola, preferably a tenor or possibly a baritone, and install wrist straps. Unfortunately these instruments seem to be in short supply and I would like to go to a good dealer where I can also negotiate a trade-in on the New Model.

 

I saw mentioned here lately that Wim Wakker has a thicker reinforced thumb strap available. Wim originally restored my New Model for his daughter and has done the work on it over the years for me. Can anyone review these straps for me?

 

It has occurred to me that a thumb strap designed for mounting on a traditional concertina that had a swivel base that would more easily rotate the thumb downward might be a great idea. Has anyone run into a device like that?

 

Regarding the discussion about procuring or jury rigging wrist/hand straps. Does anyone know of where one could get straps professionally installed or find details about how and where to attach them? If I can come up with a better thumb/wrist/hand strap configuration I might think about holding onto the New Model as I am very happy with it otherwise.

Edited by Syncopepper
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Wim  Wakker  thicker  thumb straps;  I  think  the  straps  that  began to  tear on  my  48 Treble  were  these  heavier  Wakker  straps. They had  served  a  dozen  years  of  strenuous   use  and  I  have  rebuilt them  to  the same  thickness and  comfort.  Highly  recommended .  Though  the  much  thinner  thumb straps  I  use  on  the   ' sit down'  Baritone/Treble  do  work  well , quite  loosely   adjusted, because  they  are  supported  by  the  wrist  straps  and  allow  me to  slide  my  thumbs  backwards and forwards depending  when  I  desire   a  hand position change  for  fingering  purposes.

 

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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On 12/21/2020 at 4:38 AM, David M. Dahl said:

I am having my own left-thumb problems playing my CC Busker EC. I understand that some people use wrist straps. Where might I get wrist straps for my Busker, and how can they be attached?

 

Wrist straps can be bought from Mark Adey at Concertina-spares, they're number 4 on this linked page, and the simplest way to attach them would be with two pairs of his Anglo Bottom Strap Fixings.

 

But, I hope you realise, they're used in addition to the thumb straps - they don't replace them.

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Thank you for the suggestions regarding the wrist/hand straps for my EC. Would it be reasonable to attach the strap to the top using the same connection point as the thumb strap? And would the bottom connection be at the same offset from the edge as the top?

 

Brass screws and inserts for straps are listed on the Concertina Connection website, and I am thinking about ordering a pair. The idea of drilling into my EC doesn't appeal much, but might be necessary to avoid pain.

 

Thank you, and Happy 2021!

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