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New to Concertinas. Looking for advice.


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Hello, I've recently become interested in Concertinas and was looking for advice on a good one I could potentially buy. I have always wanted to learn to play an instrument and thought this might be a good start as well as a good way of connecting with my Irish routes.

 

 I've looked at these forums and see people recommend a Rochelle a lot, but they are currently unavailable. I found a Wren 2 Anglo available on McNeela Instruments that is currently on sale and thought it might be a good start since it is in my $300-$500 dollar budget. Would this one be a good one to start with? 

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Thanks for the reply, I have no particular genre I wanted to get into but thought playing some shanties or traditional Irish music would be nice. I would also like to do covers of songs I like from various genres.

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Ah, I'm not an Anglo player but from what I see around, 30b Anglo you really can never go wrong with. And it does indeed seem that the Rochelle and the Wren are the most commonly-recommended student Anglos. I started on an Elise (the Duet equivalent of the Rochelle) and was overall pretty pleased for the price.

 

This forum has a really really good list of reference materials, free or paid, for concertina, so definitely check those out. If you're interested in shanties, composer (and regular here) Gary Coover has quite a few books of concertina music, and you may want to check out his "Sailor Songs for Concertina" ($25 paperback or $9 on Kindle [or free Kindle app on whatever tablet or phone you have]).

 

I was making a list of shanty resources on Reddit, focusing on the 20b Anglo, but if you're wanting to explore all Irish trad options at some point, get a 30b and you can always temporarily ignore one row and play it as a 20b. If you like shanties you may also like the "Australian bush concertina" site, which has a lot of free stuff. A lot of this music is in "tablature", numbers that say where your fingers go so you don't need to know how to learn music.

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I have not played a Wren (I started on a very cheap 20-button Hohner and traded up to a Concertina Connection Clover once I decided that I wanted to pursue playing the instrument), but here's a thread in which some folks were not super impressed:

It depends what you want to do. For Irish music, you definitely need the 30-button design. Keep in mind that it's hard to get a "good" musical instrument of any kind for less than $500. For that budget, all you can really hope for is "good enough for now".

 

Mike

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I was looking for a while to find something to learn and was not finding anyone with starter Concertinas. I know many were out of stock maybe due lots of interest to learn something new during lockdowns or lower production for the same reasons. Concertina Connection reached out that there Rochelles would be back in and it was hear in less than a week. 
I’m very happy with my decision, it’s great for where I am and they have a full upgrade program for down the road. I’m  working with Edel Fox’s lessons and enjoying myself a great deal.

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@MJGray

 

I'm going to be a little contrarian and argue that one doesn't absolutely need a 30b C/G Anglo to play Irish. And going a different route opens up interesting possibilities beyond the mainstream tradition.

 

A member here (don't recall which) had a post many years ago explaining that something like 50% of Irish session tunes can be played on a 20b C/G. If OP is wanting to get started inexpensively, there are some highly affordable used C/Gs by Stagi/Bastari floating around, and they can try that first and decide what they want to leap to next. And of the 50% of Irish session tunes that can't be played on a C/G at original pitch, the majority (those lacking accidentals) can be played on a 20b C/G by transposing (pretending one's C row is a D or whatnot) which is fine for solo play or playing with others willing to play a D tune in C.

 

A 20b C/G is also advantageous because if OP can stretch budget to $600 or so, they may be able to get a vintage 20b C/G as their first concertina, so something way nicer than the normal cheapies and with "true" concertina reeds and sound.

 

Another way to go: 20b G/D Anglo. It would be a different "along the rows" style compared to a 30b C/G, but it would be very intuitive to play and be able to cover most Irish tunes. And depending on OP's vocal range a G/D might be even better for shanties, plus lower pitch and less shrill on the higher buttons. Finding a used inexpensive G/D is a little trickier, but since OP is in the US, they could for $300-350 buy a 20b G/D from Liberty Bellows, either German or Italian made. Or again if they want to stretch, a vintage 20b G/D is a little harder to find but not hugely pricey.

 

We had a thread just a few days ago about "G/D anglo for ITM" that OP can check out if that angle appeals to them:

 

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We don't disagree as much as you think.

 

Absolutely you can play many Irish tunes on a 20-button anglo, especially if you're willing and able to transpose, but if you want to participate in the dynamic and technical living tradition of modern ITM concertina playing, that means playing cross-row on a 30-button C/G instrument, in keys that are convenient for fiddle players. This is not the most intuitive way to play music on an anglo, but essentially all of the modern instructional material and teachers will assume that's what you want to do.

 

As you point out, G/D anglos are fairly rare on the ground, and finding one in the OP's price range is tricky. The subject of "can you play ITM on a G/D concertina?" comes around periodically, and always has roughly the same answer: "Yes, you can, but most people don't and will think you're weird for insisting that you know better than they do." If you don't care what those people think (a good plan!) and have the self-confidence and musical chops to play your instrument well, go you! Maybe the rest of the world will come around to your thinking. Some maniac managed to make the Greek bouzouki a fairly mainstream ITM instrument.

 

Mike

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Thank you everyone for the replies and feedback. I'm still unsure what I'm going to end up going with at the moment, but I'm stuck between a Wren and a Rochelle for a starter. Choosing the right one is difficult because I also don't want to get stuck taking too long making a decision.

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I totally agree with what everyone has said so far.

 

Another point of consideration is available instruction - to date there is only one book for G/D (hard to find), compared to dozens and dozens for C/G written over the past 150+ years.

 

I, too, initially thought a G/D would be more logical for tunes in G and D, but you'll quickly learn that logic has nothing to do with it! The Irish play the C/G since that was/is the more common instrument, and it is also how they can develop so much energy and lilt in G and D, especially by playing across the rows. 

 

I had a really nice Jeffries G/D but never learned to play it due to the lack of any tutors. It has long since moved on to a new owner, and I'm now perfectly happy to explore all the options and quirks of the C/G, both 20-button and 30-button.

 

Gary

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16 hours ago, gcoover said:

Another point of consideration is available instruction - to date there is only one book for G/D (hard to find), compared to dozens and dozens for C/G written over the past 150+ years.

Gary, have you any thoughts about G/D players using materials written for G/D (or other fourth-apart) button accordions?

 

In the "G/D for ITM" thread I linked here, I mentioned Tim Edey's video series on D/G melodeon for Irish music as a potentially applicable tutorial.

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Probably not much help.  On a GD concertina the D row is higher in pitch than the G row, on a DG button accordion the D row is lower in pitch.  Consequently any  cross row fingering patterns don't copy across from one to the other.

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I can add my 2 cents worth as I started on G/D. I bought a concertina on Ebay and  discovered it was a G/D.  I enjoy the chording harmonic style but also wanted to play Irish trad. I discovered some Irish tunes can be played and some not as well.  You'll end up doing a lot more fingering on one side than the other, meaning everything is mostly happening on the right hand side, with only an occasional dip to a note on the left hand side. I used to try and figure out how to involve the left hand more as I didn't want the choppy in-out bellowing all the time. (Just my preference)  I was deliberately trying to play cross rows as much as I could even though some tunes automatically fall along the rows. 

 

Last year I bought a C/G and started over from scratch learning on that. While I've learned brand new tunes on the C/G I have transferred over a few Irish tunes from the G/D. Some proved to be easier on the C/G than the G/D. EG, I could never get the hang of Off to California or The Butterfly on G/D, but they were easy tunes to learn on C/G.

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As Breve mentioned, one of the main advantages to playing ITM on a C/G Anglo is that many of the tunes are played "across the break" between the left side and the right side. This frees up your strongest fingers on both hands to do most of the heavy lifting, and also allows the other fingers to add the ornaments and occasional low accent notes that mimic the pipes.


Gary

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I'm only two weeks into my concertina journey. I went with a new Wren 2 from McNeela.

 

From my perspective as a newbie, it is a quality instrument for the price. I've spoken to someone on the Reddit concertina sub who has much more experience than myself and he owns a Wren 2 as well as a more expensive concertina. He says it's a fine instrument but he found that, during more complex pieces, he has an issue with the air capacity of the Wren 2's bellows.

 

I'm plugging away with mine just fine. I can play the Kesh Jig as Garry Coover has tabbed it in his 75 Irish Session Tunes book, in time with popular recordings just fine without falling behind to take gulps of air with the valve button. I can also do the melody of Grogg Mayles just fine as well but these are relatively simple tunes compared to the brilliant songs out there played by brilliant players. This shouldn't be an issue until we are advanced players, if I understand correctly. It is, after all, designed and marketed as a student's concertina.

 

I have no regrets so far with my Wren 2 purchase. I can see no quality control issues. All of the buttons have easy and smooth action and all of the notes are in tune.

 

Good luck out there!

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