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Carroll Concertinas: Small vs. Standard models


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I'm elated to be on the waiting list for a Carroll, and have months to go before Wally and company get started on my instrument.  Which means months to ponder the different options.  I had the opportunity to briefly try all three models (Standard, Small, Noel Hill) during a visit to Carroll, but the truth is I liked them all almost equally.  The difference between the three was less than the difference between any one of them and my current instrument, a Morse Ceilli.  But I have to choose one and, alas, only one.

 

I play Irish Traditional almost exclusively, and based on that, Wally has recommended the small model.  His website description states:

 

  • "Our small instrument plays a little faster than our standard model but also requires a little more bellows movement to achieve the same air pressure required to drive the reeds.  This does not mean that it is harder to play - it is actually easier to get the notes to sound, but it does run out of air quicker than our standard model.  It is ideal for single note, fast Irish music but is not the best choice if you need the instrument for significant accompaniment work. If you primarily play fast Irish music with the occasional chord here and there, and you don't have large hands, you will probably prefer this instrument over our Standard model."

 

My hands are probably about average for a 5'10" (1.78 meters) male, and I didn't feel cramped playing it.  So I'm confident it's a good choice for me.  During my visit the "Small" I got to try was Wally's personal instrument, and it had a gorgeous tone.  I also didn't notice myself running out of air.  But the novelty of the experience didn't allow me to carefully evaluate the subtle differences between the models.  I also rarely make use of chords in my playing, as I have not yet progressed to the point where I've focused on that.  But I certainly intend to get there while remaining in the context of ITM.  I may at some point branch out to other types of music, too, but that's much less of a concern at this point.  And I intend to keep my Morse, which I suppose could serve me well for chordal accompaniment if the Carroll doesn't.

 

So I'm wondering what led other new Carroll owners to choose the specific model they did, regardless of what type of music the play, and especially if Irish Trad is their focus.  Is there anyone here with a "Small" who has found the lower volume of air in the bellows to be a factor in their playing?  If so, would upgrading to a 7 fold bellows be an option you would recommend?  Anyone with a "Standard" who wonders if the "Small" might serve them better?  Or vice versa?

 

While the Noel Hill model might be the obvious choice for someone debating between the Small and Standard, the price jump is significant, and I prefer the wood and design options that are only available on the other models.  I also don't think I'd have much use for the drone button.  So I don't think it's in the running.

 

Thank you for any insights,

 

Jack

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Jack,

I graduated from a Morse Ceili to a Carroll about 4 years ago. I chose the Noel Hill model....BUT I chose to have my button layout in the same pattern that my Ceili had. This is what Wally refers to as his standard configuration. Noel suggested a slightly different layout, but I liked (and was used to) what I had.

 

I have taken Noel's summer classes for several years and I had a chance to sample a "Small", a "Standard", and several of the Noel Hill models. I pretty much exclusively play Irish Traditional music.

 

The Standard was a tad bit heavier, and I think bigger than my Ceili. The Small was VERY nice and responsive, but I have fairly large hands for a woman (also 5' 10") and I have arthritis, so I was worried that my hands/fingers might cramp. Otherwise, I really liked the Small and I agree that the option to have different wood and design options is very nice. They are beautiful instruments.

 

The NH model just "fit" better for me and it was a very smooth transition from the Ceili to the Carroll.

 

I've been very pleased with my choice.

 

I don't think you can go wrong with any of them!

 

Susan

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Thanks Susan!  I greatly appreciate your insights, especially since you've tried all three models.  I'd planned to go to last year's Noel Hill summer classes in Cincinnati, and was hoping to try some Carrolls there, but of course it didn't happen.

 

Here's hoping that 2022 will bring Noel back to the states.   And by sometime early in the year I should have my instrument.  Probably the small, but I'm still pondering.

 

Jack

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8 hours ago, SusanW said:

The Standard was a tad bit heavier, and I think bigger than my Ceili. The Small was VERY nice and responsive, but I have fairly large hands for a woman (also 5' 10") and I have arthritis, so I was worried that my hands/fingers might cramp. Otherwise, I really liked the Small and I agree that the option to have different wood and design options is very nice. They are beautiful instruments.

 

Are the buttons closer together or nearer to the handrail on Carroll's small model? I thought it was just the outer dimensions of the box that were smaller.

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Jack, 

  I echo Susan’s comment that any of the three models are excellent.  In my opinion, each model would be a right choice.  Maybe ask yourself if you would have regrets by not having your preferred wood design, or the drone, or which ever feature(s) is unique to a certain model.

   I have happily played my Noel Hill Model for 3 years now, after 6 years with a CC Clover.  The drone was the what decided it for me.  And trying to use the drone, which also works just for chords btw, was led me to focus on working chords into ornamenting my playing.  My interest is Irish tunes.

    I am a bit confused though with your statement about the “price jump”.  You say, “While the Noel Hill model might be the obvious choice for someone debating between the Small and Standard, the price jump is significant, …”  My view is:  if you are considering a concertina priced at $6250 (currently per Carroll’s website) that’s is a lot of money!  The NH model at $7250, is still, only, a lot of money…  Considering the years of future playing: will it matter?  Unless there is that “regret” about paying more.

    Regardless, enjoy (soon) your new concertina!

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Hi Rick,

 

You're right, in that I could justify spending a little more to get the Noel Hill.  But on the other hand, it's $1000!  My ITM journey began with a $10 tin whistle, so I'm still gasping at the price of a new top level concertina.   But what's really got me shying away from that model is that I love the wood veneer (the amboyna burl, in particular) I can get on the small, and I have a slight preference for some other options (brown leather bellows, no bellows paper).  All superficial, of course.  But I'm a sucker for beautiful things.  (Which is not to imply the NH isn't an extremely attractive instrument--it's aesthetic is just a little less compelling.)

 

Initially, I loved the idea of the drone, hoping to get an uillean pipes effect.  But in trying it, I realized the bellows reversals prevent you from getting that long drone effect I was anticipating.  And I've head from some others that they haven't incorporated it into their playing much.  So I'm glad to hear your getting good use out of it.  Hitting it for chords certainly makes sense, but I'd like to hear more about what the drone adds to the instrument for you.  I could still be persuaded!  

 

 

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1 hour ago, SusanW said:

Alex Holden, I think they might be closer on the Small, or maybe it just "felt" that way to me.......

 

I wish I'd taken a closer look, or even some measurements, when I got to play the two side by side.  Since I've really only spent time with one concertina, my Morse, both the Small and Standard Carroll felt different to me, but not significantly different from each other.  

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