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Concertina Recommendation, under 500USD


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Hello, I am looking to start learning concertina, and I'm trying to determine what kind of instrument I should get. I know I want a 30 key Anglo, and my budget is under 500USD. I'm perfectly fine with a beginner quality instrument for now, I'd just like one that won't break on me or sound terrible. I'd prefer to avoid buying second hand unless from a reputable shop, just because I don't know enough about the instruments to judge their condition on my own.

 

I am from Texas, and as far as I know, there are no concertina dealers here. I don't mind ordering online from a reputable seller.

 

I will be visiting Ireland in December, which is a good opportunity for me to pick up a decent one there since they'll have more variety. If I can pick one up in the states however, I'd rather do that just so I don't have to worry about travelling with it.

 

I have my eyes on a Wren 2 that comes with a hard case for 420EUR in Ireland where I'll already be visiting, but that's the sale price and I have no way of knowing if it'll still be that price by the time I visit. If I were to get it for that, I should be able to get VAT back when I return to the states, and should bring it under my 500USD budget. That same shop sells a Tina for a similar price if I were to not be able to get the Wren.

 

I've also been recommended Scarlatti, Stagi, Rochelle, and Tina instruments all in around the same price range, but I really don't know much about the difference between all of these as I've not gotten to see any in person to know. That's why I'm coming to all of you, the experts, for help.

 

I have been told I can grab a Rochelle here in the states from a couple of places, without a hard case, and that they're pretty good instruments, so that's looking the most promising to me right now. It has the added bonus of being eligible for trade-in some places for a higher quality instrument if I ever decide to upgrade in the future. I would probably need to invest in at least a nicer padded bag for it, and eventually a hard case.

 

My question to you all is which do you think would be the best for me with my budget? Also, have any of you had trouble travelling with your concertina through TSA? I'd be a bit worried about having all the weird mechanical stuff show up funny on an X Ray and causing problems.

 

Thank you all for your advice!

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Given your budget and preference for a US purchase I would suggest the Rochelle from the the list of options in your post, with a caveat.  I had one early in my learning and it worked very well to acquaint me with the 30 button concertina, and convince me that I wanted to stick with it.  Although it was a little big and clunky, it was easy enough to play that I didn't get discouraged, and when I did move up to a higher quality instrument the transition was easy.  It was also very well built for what it is.  I never had a problem with it, and I passed it, and a few others that I found, to some young students of Irish traditional music in Argentina, where they are still being played after 4 years of pretty hard use.  My experience with other Italian and Chinese made instruments that I have fixed up for beginners is that they are not as well built or durable, and in many cases the inferior design of the buttons and levers renders them almost unplayable.  

 

Now the caveat: if you take to the concertina and want to continue you will most certainly want to trade up at some point- in my case it was after about 8 months with the Rochelle.  If your budget could stretch a little I would suggest looking at the  Rochelle II- I think the refinements in its design and construction might extend the period before you felt the need to move up.

Edited by Bill N
typo
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@Gentry,

 

I wouldn't buy a $500 30b Anglo concertina. I'd rather buy a $500 20b Anglo concertina.

 

With either one, if you stick with Anglo concertina, you'll want to upgrade within a year.

 

But you'll want to keep the $500 20b as a second concertina, and you'll be dying to get rid of the $500 30b.

 

I've been there, done that (the $500 30b - actually more than $500), didn't like it a bit, and wished I had gone with a $500 20b instead.

 

Please read these threads:

 

 

 

 

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@pentaprism thank you for your suggestion! I definitely think you get more bang for your buck with a 20b, however most of the music I want to play would need that extra row of keys. I'm planning on joining a Irish trad group at my school at some point after I've learned the basics, and from what I've heard you really need a 30 key for that. I don't mind having an instrument that's maybe not as nice if I can have the more keys, just because I don't want to feel limited in the songs I can play. I'm not going to be in the financial position to upgrade within a year, which is why I'm looking at maybe spending a bit more and getting one that'll last me, and if I'm ever in the position to upgrade it'll be because I sold the one I have. Thank you for all your advice!

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8 hours ago, Gentry said:

Also, have any of you had trouble travelling with your concertina through TSA? I'd be a bit worried about having all the weird mechanical stuff show up funny on an X Ray and causing problems.

 

I have flown with my concertina (valuable Wheatstone) for decades without problems.
 
There are two airport security-related warnings that I ran across many years ago and have mentioned here many times that are worth repeating (for entertainment value, if nothing else). I have no idea how serious they are. They are a little nutty, but believable.
 

  • If security asks you what it is, answer the question without using the word “concertina.” Being short for “concertina wire,” which can be used as a weapon, the word “concertina” is on the list of things which must be confiscated.
  • When placing the instrument, in its case, on the conveyor belt for the X-ray scanner, do not place it with the ends on the top and bottom. The bellows should be horizontal. If the bellows are axial to the path of the X-rays, the image of the levers radiating out from the keys will look confusingly like a cluster bomb.
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I would recommend Rochelle, or Rochelle-2 if you can stretch your budget. 

If you want to start chepter, you could ask Wim Wakker if he has pre-owned Rochelle in stock. 

 

Rochelle has 5 year warranty and can be traded in at 100% purchase price. (of course, you would need extra S&H though)

 

Rochelle is bulky and a bit slow, but I think it is a good starter instrument. Rochelle-2 is about the size of standard anglos. I have Rochelle-2 myself. 

 

One thing that I am worried about is Wim Wakker not responding to emails recently. I hope he is doing OK. 

 

On the other hand, I know of two Japanese who started with McNeela Wren 2 but purchased another one in less than a year. McNeela accepts trade-in for upgrade, but trade-in price is not 100%. I personally am not in favor of Wren 2. 

 

Ducklings, as Steven Shulteis suggests could be an interesting alternative, only if you can wait over 16 months. Perhaps due to its attractive pricing, waiting list is that long. 

 

Right. 20 button concertinas does not fit Gentry's need, but 26 could do. You can find 26 button vintage concertinas at a lower price than 30 buttons, generally. 

Hope you will come into a good concertina life!

Totani

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14 hours ago, David Barnert said:

 

  • If security asks you what it is, answer the question without using the word “concertina.” Being short for “concertina wire,” which can be used as a weapon, the word “concertina” is on the list of things which must be confiscated.
  • When placing the instrument, in its case, on the conveyor belt for the X-ray scanner, do not place it with the ends on the top and bottom. The bellows should be horizontal. If the bellows are axial to the path of the X-rays, the image of the levers radiating out from the keys will look confusingly like a cluster bomb.

I agree, never mention the word 'concertina' - it can be considered a munition.

 

Also when flying, I always say to the person attending the loading of the conveyor that I have a small accordion in my bag/case.  They may then alert the x-ray scanner person.  I have occasionally had to give an impromptu concert!!

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Gentry,

I began with a Rochelle in April having never even held a concertina before. I tried to rent one to try it out through the Button Box but at that time none were available. So I bought one from Concertina Connection and loved it. I played it an hour or two or more every day and made good progress. In June I found a used Kensington and bought it. It is fantastic, and I can play way beyond anything I could do on the Rochelle. The bellows on the Rochelle are slow. BUT, it allowed me to test the waters, to see that I could not only play it but enjoy it, and to learn. I was fortunate to find and afford the Kensington,  and I would never have bought it without having the Rochelle first. 
 

So, if you are interested, I have a Rochelle in a soft case with 50 days of use on it (perhaps 100 hours). You can buy it for $275 (about $200 less than I paid with shipping) plus shipping from Maine at cost. Price includes a donation to this site. PM me if you are interested. 
John

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Hi Gentry, there is a concertina maker in the DFW area, Seth Harmon. His concertinas are not in the beginner budget price range though, but something to aspire to. Where abouts in Texas are you? There's a handful of concertina players in the DFW metroplex. Are you familiar with the Old Pal festival held in Palestine each year around Easter? It's an old time acoustic music festival (concerts, workshops, jams) with a concertina component. It is going to be held next year - and you should definitely attend. See Dan Worral's posts in this forum for more info and get onto his email list.

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I've asked this question over on Reddit as well, and I think I'm going to look into buying a Wren 2 around black friday and pick it up when I visit Ireland this winter, because at least from what I've learned talking to you all, the Wren 2's size will be better than a standard Rochelle for learning and playing on, it's less than a Rochelle 2, which while really nice and in the US is just more expensive than I can really justify spending with my budget at the moment, and since I have plans to move to Ireland for school in the near future would probably be easier to sell if I wanted to upgrade. Plus it comes with a free hard case. Please correct me if I got any of this information wrong, it's a lot of information to compile into a cohesive thought process and I might have gotten it mixed up.

 

I heard from someone on Reddit who told me that the McNeela instruments are better suited for Irish music than the Concertina Connection instruments, which is what I'm going to be playing at my school. I have no way of comparing as I've never actually been in person with either brand to know, so if anyone has input on that I would love to hear it.

 

I would also like to hear from @gtotani about why you say you don't like the Wren 2? You said you knew someone who replaced it in a year, do you mean got a new kind of concertina or just another Wren? I'm just curious as to what you think because I would like to hear from both sides with both favorable and unfavorable opinions on them. 

 

I did go ahead and email Concertina Connection inquiring about any used Rochelles to see if they had any at a discount I could afford, but I haven't heard back yet. I've got a bit until I'll be buying anything anyway, because I do still need to save up a bit. I just like doing my research and making my decisions early on such things.

 

I appreciate you guys telling me about flying with concertinas, because I had heard about the concertina wire thing at TSA, but not the rest. Definitely good to keep in mind if I'm flying home with one. Wouldn't want my brand new instrument being confiscated at TSA haha. 

 

Thank you all for your help and if anyone else has anything to add either positive or negative on either the Rochelles or a Wren 2 I would love to hear it! Any opinions at all help me make my decisions since it's hard to compare instruments I've never even held before. 

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1 hour ago, Gentry said:

I would also like to hear from @gtotani about why you say you don't like the Wren 2? You said you knew someone who replaced it in a year, do you mean got a new kind of concertina or just another Wren? I'm just curious as to what you think because I would like to hear from both sides with both favorable and unfavorable opinions on them. 

 

I did go ahead and email Concertina Connection inquiring about any used Rochelles to see if they had any at a discount I could afford, but I haven't heard back yet. I've got a bit until I'll be buying anything anyway, because I do still need to save up a bit. I just like doing my research and making my decisions early on such things.

Gentry,

 

Both of them gave up Wren 2. One purchased McNeela Swan and the other AP James. Both of them had troubles with Wren 2 and never wished to buy another Wren 2. From what I have heard from them, you may experience sticky button(s), reed(s) installed inside out, leaky bellows etc. However, since you will be in Ireland, things can be different as you can always visit McNeela to solve the issues. As a matter of fact, Wren 2 was one of candidates when I chose my first concertina, but it went out of the list at ealy stage. Then I considered buying a Rochelle but I ended up buying a Minstrel. I could imagine myself going for upgrade in the future, then realized that starting with a btter instrument gives me more time to practice with the better instrument and it would save extra S&H for trading in as well. 

 

One thing. I understand you (and many others) find that a hard case is a plus. I do not think so.My first concertina is Minstrel by Concertina Connection. When I purchased, I asked Wim that I was thinking of buying a hardcase insted of a softbag, as many air travels were expected. Wim Wakker Immedeatly advised me that if I had any extra budget, I should spend money on bellows upgrade rather than upgrading to a hard case. So have I done and I am happy. My Minstrel had traveled with me to Mozambique, Cameroon, Poland, Germany, Spain, Peru, and of course Japan in a softbag, usually hand carried and sometimes in a suitcase and never had had any trouble so far. Through my experience, I have a feeling that concertinas not-so-fragile instruments.

If the size matters, Rochelle will not be your choice, anyway. And if your budged does not allow buying a Rochelle-2, this is not either. 

 

Good luck and have a enjoy your concertina life. 

 

Totani

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57 minutes ago, gtotani said:

Wim Wakker Immedeatly advised me that if I had any extra budget, I should spend money on bellows upgrade rather than upgrading to a hard case.

Hard cases are generally recommended because you want the bellows to be held in a closed position. If you’re going to go with a soft case it’s a good idea to have a soft strap (velcro?) to wrap around the instrument when it’s in its case to hold the bellows closed.

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1 hour ago, David Barnert said:

Hard cases are generally recommended because you want the bellows to be held in a closed position. If you’re going to go with a soft case it’s a good idea to have a soft strap (velcro?) to wrap around the instrument when it’s in its case to hold the bellows closed.

Thank you David Barnert, for pointing that out. 

Indeed, I use two elastic bands to keep the bellows of concertina closed. These elastic bands are those girls use to stop their hair from falling when they play soccer. 

 

From my experience with McNeela Swan (I used to have one), though provided with "fitted" hard case, elastic bands to keep bellows closed would be recommended and extra padding (like putting tiny stuffed toys in) would be a good idea. 

 

Totani

Edited by gtotani
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Gentry, I don't know how far north you live in the DFW are, but in Mansfield there is a monthly slow-ish session for Irish music, held the 3rd Friday of each month in the evening 5-7pm at Dirty Jobs Brewing.  (10/15/21 - is this month's session date.) There can be up to 3 concertina players who attend. Send me a message for details. I know someone who attends regularly has  a Rochelle that he no longer uses and he probably would let you try it out at the session for you to get a feel. You're also welcome to try out mine - I have a Minstrel. I was thinking of a Wren last year and decided the Minstrel was a better buy. I've not played a Wren but I'm happy with my Minstrel and it will take a long time for me to outgrow it.

Edited by Breve
mistake with date
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