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20 Key Concertina

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While looking for a new concertina I've come across a bunch of nice 20 key Anglos at a cheap price compared to 30 key instruments, I was wondering how restricted I would be in terms of what I could play if I went with a 20 key instrument. Also I have seen some 26 key models, do these offer significantly more variation over a standard 20 key or just a little bit? 

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20-key instruments are great for learning, and work very nicely for fairly simple harmonic arrangements in the two keys they are focused on (typically C and G). A lot of the historical manuals are for 20-key instruments, and Gary Coover has a couple of excellent modern tutors for them. I played a 20-key for quite a while before trading up.


30-key Anglos allow you to play in other keys (more or less easily, mostly less) and give you additional options for direction (push vs. pull) on some useful notes. If you're interested in Irish style playing, this is essential, but it's less important for other styles.


My understanding is that the 26-key instruments have the important extra buttons for playing in, say, the key of D, but lack a few of the handy bass notes at the left end of the top row. I use those a fair bit, but certainly wouldn't miss the furthest right couple of buttons on the other side.



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