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For the specific purpose of sea shanties, does a 20b Anglo Stagi have any advantage over a 30b Anglo Rochelle or Wren?


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Hello, I'm a moderator on r/Concertina on Reddit, which is a relatively small and casual forum, where we share music and answer basic questions, and quite frankly refer newbies to your forum here for anything serious because you have an outstanding community.

 

Not sure if all you have seen this, but there's been a sudden and massive fashion for sea shanties (and other nautical music) amongst the youth of today due to some trending videos on social media. Like it's big enough that serious media is talking to it, and r/SeaShanties on Reddit basically doubled in subscribers in a matter of weeks. We on r/Concertina are thinking of ways to encourage a small niche of interested shanty noobs to consider concertina (noting that the association between sailors and concertina is somewhat exaggerated in popular culture). So we're assembling some basic information on the instrument for the purposes of shanties to put a little very basic layperson article together.

 

There's one detail we're not sure about: if someone can acquire a Stagi 20b Anglo for $300ish or so, vice $400-500 for a Rochelle or Wren, is the Stagi actually a decent option? To one degree, the Stagi afaik is Italian made with Italian reeds, the Rochelle and Wren are Chinese (but made to a higher quality standard than usual Chinese); is that correct? If someone really just needs 20 buttons for a genre based around limited scales, is the Stagi a decent deal at a slightly better price point and Italian made? Or should people just buckle down and get a 30b so they have more versatility should their tastes expand?

 

Speaking of Stagi, who is even selling new Stagis these days? I saw a post on this forum about how the firm is under a new name and ownership in Italy, but still producing, but I'm having trouble finding anyone in the US at least who routinely stocks Stagi in general, much less a 20b.

 

Any help is appreciated in wrapping our heads around how to recommend concertinas to beginners who've been seduced by sea shanties.

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Having learnt on a Stagi myself I can vouch for their suitability as a beginner instrument. I managed to pick up a second hand 30k for about £250 on ebay at the time, and it really did play very well, much better than the reports I get of other similarly priced new boxes, though I haven't tried a good many of them. I've tried concertina connection's accordion reed instruments in the past too, though not the Rochelle, but I was impressed by the quality.

 

As for range, I would say a 20K is a very good start for a complete beginner. I started on a German 20K before graduating to 30, and it does help to get your head around the layout before adding the more confusing row of accidentals. Also, I doubt there are many shanties that you can't play entirely on a 2-row, even if you have to transpose the key.

 

I ship my own tutor model anywhere in the world, though it probably adds around £70 in shipping and taxes. I'm finding adding a few additional buttons to the 20K to give a bit more flexibility is proving popular, e.g. a 22-26K range.

 

I will check your feed on Reddit out, it sounds good and nice to see there is an increase in interest. I can also definitely recommend this 1979 recording: "on deck and below" by Tom Sullivan, it has lots of shanties, tunes and songs on a variety of instruments, all recorded on board a working ship. Mr Sullivan himself plays a Bastari (i.e. Stagi) on the recording, which were popular on the boats as they were less valuable than English made concertinas. Certainly sounds good to my ears!

 

 

 

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You don't really need a concertina for Sea Shanties, it was originally an unaccompanied form of work song and there are many shanty groups here in the UK that still do it that way.  For example The Keelers.

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2 hours ago, Theo said:

You don't really need a concertina for Sea Shanties, it was originally an unaccompanied form of work song and there are many shanty groups here in the UK that still do it that way.  For example The Keelers.

Agreed, something that the recording I reference attests to. There is a distinction between "sea songs" and "sea shanties" the latter being particularly for work requirements and even felt to be bad luck if sung on land, superstitious as sailors were. I think the distinction now is getting very blurred, and the OP notes the exaggerated connection between the concertina and the sea. However, this is how music lives and I look forward to the land based development of this art form, with or without concertina accompaniment, and great too  if it results in a greater interest in the instrument.

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1 hour ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

Agreed, something that the recording I reference attests to. There is a distinction between "sea songs" and "sea shanties" the latter being particularly for work requirements and even felt to be bad luck if sung on land, superstitious as sailors were. I think the distinction now is getting very blurred, and the OP notes the exaggerated connection between the concertina and the sea. However, this is how music lives and I look forward to the land based development of this art form, with or without concertina accompaniment, and great too  if it results in a greater interest in the instrument.

Bingo, this exactly.

 

I'm a folkie nerd so well-aware that shanties are acapella, but the kids getting in on the fad aren't sticklers and are interesting in nautical-themed folk in general, so I don't think it's at all misleading to nudge some concertina into the mix. Even though, as many of us are aware, cheap bisonoric concertinas were played by farmers, miners, factory workers and the like too, and sailors played many popular instruments of their social class and culture other than concertina.

 

So it's less a historically-rigorous promotion of the instrument, and more a practical offering of an option that fits in with the theme at least on a popular culture conception level.

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6 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

I ship my own tutor model anywhere in the world, though it probably adds around £70 in shipping and taxes. I'm finding adding a few additional buttons to the 20K to give a bit more flexibility is proving popular, e.g. a 22-26K range.

 

Wait wait wait, hold up a moment: so I checked your website and you're telling me that you yourself sell concertinas that are at least decently usable and start as low as US$230 (after shipping from UK) for a 20b Anglo?


If that is the case, (if I can rib you gently despite not knowing you personally), I am unclear as to why you are even available to speak to at the moment and not simply spending all waking hours spreading word of your product so you can sell a bunch of these to newfound sea-shanty enthusiasts.

 

I don't know your work, but if folks on this forum have taste-tested them and opine they're worth the money, I think I can suggest you a few simple ways to spread the word about your product and get your order-books filled through 2022.

Edited by TapTheForwardAssist
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2 hours ago, TapTheForwardAssist said:

 

Wait wait wait, hold up a moment: so I checked your website and you're telling me that you yourself sell concertinas that are at least decently usable and start as low as US$230 (after shipping from UK) for a 20b Anglo?


If that is the case, (if I can rib you gently despite not knowing you personally), I am unclear as to why you are even available to speak to at the moment and not simply spending all waking hours spreading word of your product so you can sell a bunch of these to newfound sea-shanty enthusiasts.

 

I don't know your work, but if folks on this forum have taste-tested them and opine they're worth the money, I think I can suggest you a few simple ways to spread the word about your product and get your order-books filled through 2022.

 

Thanks - making these isn't even my full time job! Early days for this little side project, I think by the end of the year I'll have a few people who may be able to give an outside opinion on this forum and elsewhere. Making loads isn't necessarily my aim, and I don't do any marketing as such for that reason. I think if I got loads of orders I'd simply end up with a rather long waiting list. That maybe ok for a high end instrument, but I think for a first instrument people would want to get their hands on something fairly soon they'd go elsewhere or lose interest. I am keen on getting people started on a half decent instrument though, so hope to do my bit there.

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11 hours ago, TapTheForwardAssist said:

Wait wait wait, hold up a moment: so I checked your website...

I'm having a bad day! Could someone please point up the relevant web-site? I couldn't find it. Thank you.

 

On the wider point, I saw the originating thread on Reddit. My take on this is "Be careful what you wish for.".

 

It could take only a few weeks/months before some other idiot journalist comes along, and assumes because

of the 'shanty-oriented' thrust of any social media 'campaign' that concertinas are only suitable for 'shantys',

and writes an equally prominent 'rubbishing' article based on its narrow range of capabilities. We of course, 

all know that they are versatile, adaptable and suitable for all types of music. However, I do plead guilty to

tending rather to look on the black side of any situation.

Edited by The Crimson Avenger
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2 hours ago, alex_holden said:

Ta! I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years!  

 

Edit: Rats! I now see that the URL is in Pistachio Dreamer's sig. That's what you get for doing stuff at 0600 before the first cup of coffee! Sorry!!! 

Edited by The Crimson Avenger
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10 minutes ago, The Crimson Avenger said:

Ta! I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years!  

 

Edit: Rats! I now see that the URL is in Pistachio Dreamer's sig. That's what you get for doing stuff at 0600 before the first cup of coffee! Sorry!!! 


I thought maybe you were viewing on a phone - the signatures only appear on the desktop version of the site. 

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6 minutes ago, alex_holden said:

I thought maybe you were viewing on a phone - the signatures only appear on the desktop version of the site. 

I now realise I was looking before I actually logged in - sigs seem not to appear unless you are logged in - I didn't know that.

End of off-topic excursion...

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21 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

 

Thanks - making these isn't even my full time job! Early days for this little side project, I think by the end of the year I'll have a few people who may be able to give an outside opinion on this forum and elsewhere. Making loads isn't necessarily my aim, and I don't do any marketing as such for that reason. I think if I got loads of orders I'd simply end up with a rather long waiting list. That maybe ok for a high end instrument, but I think for a first instrument people would want to get their hands on something fairly soon they'd go elsewhere or lose interest. I am keen on getting people started on a half decent instrument though, so hope to do my bit there.

 

Ah, so it's a "passion project" and not necessarily something you're interested in really promoting or scaling up at this time?

 

Totally understand, folks have day jobs and families and the rest of life. That is one of the quirks of the niche musical instrument scenes, that the folks eager to hustle a buck avoid us because they can't scale the profits, and many folks who know and love the instrument build as a hobby rather than a hustle.

 

I had the same talk last week with a colleague who builds lyres, since I moderate r/Lyres on Reddit and have gotten quite a few folks to take up the lyre (often as a first instrument) during Covid lockdown. I was speaking with a luthier who makes affordable lyres but in awesome designs, pitched him a few ideas about "a friend of a friend knows a guy who plays Viking-themed heavy metal and has a lot of Instagram followers, I can get him to do a review, get you more orders!" And he politely declined because he's building as many lyres as he enjoys to and doesn't need more emails. So I totally get it.

 

But I'm really thrilled to see your designs come to life! I believe "vegan concertina" rings a bell, probably I saw your posts here while lurking in years past. I really appreciate your creativity and innovation!

 

If you're trying to keep demand low-key, and maybe are kind of in "beta testing" mode where you're getting some boxes out there to see how players take to them, is it okay if I share your website and demo on r/Concertina, since we're pretty small and likely to get you a little buzz but not any avalanche of demands for squeezeboxes next week? Just wanted to ask first since I don't want to come across as not respecting your process, but definitely folks on our little sub would find your work very cool!

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29 minutes ago, TapTheForwardAssist said:

 

Ah, so it's a "passion project" and not necessarily something you're interested in really promoting or scaling up at this time?

 

Totally understand, folks have day jobs and families and the rest of life. That is one of the quirks of the niche musical instrument scenes, that the folks eager to hustle a buck avoid us because they can't scale the profits, and many folks who know and love the instrument build as a hobby rather than a hustle.

 

I had the same talk last week with a colleague who builds lyres, since I moderate r/Lyres on Reddit and have gotten quite a few folks to take up the lyre (often as a first instrument) during Covid lockdown. I was speaking with a luthier who makes affordable lyres but in awesome designs, pitched him a few ideas about "a friend of a friend knows a guy who plays Viking-themed heavy metal and has a lot of Instagram followers, I can get him to do a review, get you more orders!" And he politely declined because he's building as many lyres as he enjoys to and doesn't need more emails. So I totally get it.

 

But I'm really thrilled to see your designs come to life! I believe "vegan concertina" rings a bell, probably I saw your posts here while lurking in years past. I really appreciate your creativity and innovation!

 

If you're trying to keep demand low-key, and maybe are kind of in "beta testing" mode where you're getting some boxes out there to see how players take to them, is it okay if I share your website and demo on r/Concertina, since we're pretty small and likely to get you a little buzz but not any avalanche of demands for squeezeboxes next week? Just wanted to ask first since I don't want to come across as not respecting your process, but definitely folks on our little sub would find your work very cool!

Thanks Tap!

 

Yep the scale up is definitely not something I'm interested in doing, it ends up with just another factory made box. I'm aware I'm trying to offer something different in a hand made beginner instrument with a bit of customer focus. Most makers are concentrating on the high end instruments for good reason - they command a higher price, and therefore better return.

 

I've worked out some techniques and material choices that makes their construction pretty straightforward and quick, I may do some further posts on here about that another time. Another advantage of a vegan instrument is the materials also tend to be a bit cheaper, especially leather. Reeds themselves, they're as little as 10p each when supplied in a beaten up old accordion, and they sound fine if you know which ones to go for and are prepared to do some fettling.

 

You would be welcome to post a link on reddit, thanks very much. Funnily enough I found myself mentioned on a Japanese concertina forum the other day, a nice post once I translated it!  I'm not against these sort of organic introductions. I haven't used reddit much but I did take a look today and contributed to a post as you might have seen, it looks like a nice community and good to have the link back to cnet to harvest new forum members! Keep up the good work!

 

Paul.

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10 minutes ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

Thanks Tap!

Thanks, Paul!

 

I just didn't want to step on any toes, so just wanted to run it by you first.

 

Totally understand you're keeping the project small and personal in this situation. If you're ever inclined to license the design or something, we could probably drum up someone on this side of the pond to make their own spin on it, and maybe someone inclined to slightly scale up more, but that's just tossing an idea out there since I'm in a creative industry.

 

I'll make a basic post on r/Concertina mentioning your work just so our small sub can take some inspiration from your innovation, and maybe a couple folks will hit you up with orders that you can take at your own pace. I do really like that you offer a range of button-sizes for versatility, and the possibility of different pitches, which is the kind of cool flexibility you get from custom work. I would be highly tempted myself if I were better on Anglo, but I stick to Maccann Duet and some Hayden on my starter Elise. But if you ever feel like trying a Duet variant...

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Okay, I wanted to see if there were any 20b Anglo deals out on the market, since sea shanties and nautical music is one of the rare genres where 20b is sufficient. Turns out Liberty Bellows in Philly has German-made 20b Anglos in C/G and D/G and A/D as low as $299. Might be worth checking out

 

https://www.libertybellows.com/shop/Concertinas/Anglo-Concertinas--20-Buttons.htm

 

I just called Liberty, and they confirmed that those 20b are indeed German-made and not China-made, and they physically have them in stock at those listed prices and those aren't simply a "we could order them for you." Anyone have any grave misgivings about possibly recommending these over a new Rochelle, Wren, or Stagi 30b? I particularly like that they offer D/G so there's an off-shelf lower pitch option even at that price range (D/A is a bit shrill, no?).

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Quite a lot of sea songs and shanties can be played on the 20-button Anglo, but of course the 30-button gives you more options for different keys which might be important for matching the ranges of certain singers.

 

Shameless plug time: Sea Songs for 20-button Anglo Concertina has 96 songs, excerpted from Pirate Songs for Concertina and Sailor Songs for Concertina (both of which also have songs for 30-button Anglos).

 

And yes, the whole sudden shanty phenomenon is great to see, perhaps building on the interest in Sea of Thieves and Assassin's Creed. Sales of The Pocket Shantyman are currently skyrocketing as well! It's wonderful to see so many people interested in these great old songs that are so much fun to sing and play.

 

Gary

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