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Flying Duck 'Duckling' Concertina Review


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Introduction

I’ve been following Paul Harvey’s work for many years now, as a lifelong vegetarian/vegan the idea of a concertina made without animal derived components has always interested me and when Paul announced his new range of budget instruments I was fascinated.

 

My main instrument is a 45 key Jeffries C/G which I love, but it’s not perfect for everything and I’d been considering buying a cheap 20 key concertina to use when teaching one-on-one lessons with beginners and to use in schools as an instrument that I’d be happy for school pupils to be let loose on. I’d been considering a new Chinese instrument, but Paul’s announcement persuaded me to reconsider and I’m very glad that I did, because this is a very impressive instrument.

 

Feel

This is a very comfortable instrument to play- it is a good size (only slightly larger than a standard vintage 20 key instrument) and very lightweight.  

It has rounded plastic buttons which are comfortable to the touch, these are placed slightly further apart than I am used to, but I didn’t find this to be a hinderance. The button action is reasonably fast, and the button travel is limited so that they do not disappear into the ends of the instrument- a real nice feature to have on an instrument in this price range.

 

Since this is a vegan instrument, the bellows are made from a washable paper instead of leather. I was interested in seeing how this would hold up when compared to leather, and perhaps after a few years of playing I would be better placed to answer this question, but they have already had a lot of hard playing from both myself and about 100+ school children and appear no worse for wear. The bellows are airtight and very flexible- I found that they were much easier to play straight out of the box than most new bellows are.

 

The hand straps are adjustable and (interestingly) the hand rests can be adjusted to be closer or further away from the buttons- this is a nice addition although the hand rests were fine for me in their default position. The method for adjusting strap tightness was unusual (it involves dismantling the hand rests) though it was simple, if slightly fiddly to do for the first time.

 

Sound

So, perhaps the most important question… how does the instrument sound?

Paul uses reclaimed reeds from vintage piano accordions which he tunes and voices to function as Anglo concertina reeds and he does a fantastic job at it. The tuning is good- far more in tune than most factory-built beginners instruments arrive. The sound of the reeds is also surprisingly impressive- of course as this is an accordion reeded instrument, the tone is very different to an instrument with traditional concertina reeds, but I find it to be far more concertina like than any other budget instrument, closer to the tone of a mid-range hybrid like a Tedrow or A.P. James than the tone of a Stagi or Rochelle. I’m sure that this is helped in no small part by the fact that the reeds are mounted flat, rather than in accordion style reeds blocks.

 

Final thoughts

For the price, this is a stunning instrument, very playable and with a pleasing tone. I would actually go as far as to say that I prefer it to some instruments that I’ve played priced at over £1000.

It’s been a great boon for my one-on-one teaching and I’ve used it in dozens of lessons over the past few months. More importantly, so far its done (and survived!) 5 full days in schools. It’s been really interesting to watch pupils that have no experience of concertinas getting to grips with the instrument. I think that this is the perfect instrument for that job- it seems to be a comfortable size and weight for most of the students and is much more hardwearing than say a Scarlatti which in my experience don’t tend to last more than a couple of months of hard playing.

A truly excellent instrument, I look forward to seeing what Paul comes up with next!

 

More details on Paul’s work can be seen at https://www.flyingduckconcertinas.co.uk/

 

Video demo to come in the next post…

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Cohen, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review, it is much appreciated, and your comments are very useful feedback for me. Most of all, thanks for your superb playing and teaching. I'm really happy knowing my instruments are helping to get a new generation involved with the concertina. Paul.

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I am eagerly awaiting delivery of my new 22 button duckling, possibly next week (no pressure Paul…) I am even more excited now!

Great review and playing by Cohen

Regards

Tiposx (aka Michael)

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Very good to have this review as I have a 30 key on order. I am a long-time EC player but have decided to challenge myself

with a new system and this seems to be a good way to get a not too expensive quality instrument to try. Now all we have to do is persuade Paul to make an EC.

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21 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

I've made some preliminary designs for an EC, needs some proof of concept work, perhaps a couple of years away at my current rate of progress.

 

Have you ever thought of making a small, entry-level Crane duet? There's a gap in the market there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for the in-depth review and playing Cohen. I received my duckling from Paul a few months ago and that was my first Bflat/F. Compared to Lachenal, The button spacing is slightly wider(please see photo), but I got used to it soon. I am very happy with it.

ssR0013968.jpg

Edited by Takayuki YAGI
typo
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I received my 22 button Duckling this week. I am already an ec player but I like a challenge. I intend learn some new Irish tunes with the help of Gary Coover’s book to get me started.

I was attracted to the Duckling because of the design, particularly the mechanism. I think it is very clever in giving a conventional piston type action to the buttons. This has always been my issue with Scholer ‘tinas and the like.

The buttons on them move through a tight arc, which doesn’t suit me. I have worked on several of these and found the playing experience pretty poor.

As a hobbyist maker of traditional bellows I am also very impressed with the Duckling plastic bellows. I was quite sceptical but in practice they work very well and hold air without leaks. The whole instrument has a feeling of good design, engineering and construction.

My first ‘tina was a restored Lachenal 22 button Anglo, which was over 3 times the price of the Duckling. It was very hard work and I got rid pretty quick, then went down the ec route. The Duckling is so much better.

It is just amazing value at little more than the cost of a (very) good case! It took Paul 7 months to make to my specification, and I feel very privileged to own this custom built instrument. I am pretty sure that it is the best learner/ beginner Anglo available.

ps after two evenings I can just about plod through my first tune.

Thanks again to Paul Harvey of Vegan Concertinas

Tiposx

Edited by Tiposx
Tipo Typo
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