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Keyboard Accordian To Concertina


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I've read a lot of lively discussion about different concertinas here. And since I don't play, I've only gotten a general gist of the material discussed.

Here's my dilemma: My wife played the keyboard accordian in an all accordian band in high school(Cincinnati Ohio). At 57 years of age, she still picks it up occasionally to play a song or two. But for the past few years she has fallen in love with the "idea" of playing the concertina. She's convinced me that she really want to make go of learning. She doesn't do research, however. And my research has convince me that there are may variations to consider. And my research says that there is no one near Atlanta Georgia USA who can give any valid help (as far as a dealer in concertinas) SO! My question is one of those old "newbie" things: What kind of instrument, above the "junk-cheap" level, can I get her that would allow her to make the transition from keyboard accordian to concertina? ... with the least amount of radical change in techniques? ... obviously a unisonoric type of box.

This is planned to be a Christmas present. So I have time to work this through. [Hey, maybe I'll learn to play it myself by then ;-> ]

 

Thanks

Bill Kemper

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If the advice we've given to various others in this Forum over the last couple of months hasn't been enough, I'm not sure we can help you further. Maybe if you quoted specific items that you didn't understand?

 

The three main kinds of concertina are as different as a fiddle, banjo, and guitar, so what you've said is somewhat akin to saying, "My wife wants to play a stringed instrument. Which one should I get her." An informed decision requires that you be more specific. The most important question to answer before making a decision is... "How does she intend to use the concertina?" I.e., what kind of music does she intend to play?

Edited by JimLucas
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Sorry, Jim (and others)

Since I don't know enough to ask an intelligent question, I may not be able to further clarify this. Since it's a surprise gift involved, I can't ask my wife to help. The only thing I can say is that she played popular America music (i.e., Pop category of music) when she was young, on the keyboard accordian. And what she would want to play would continue to be melody, with full chromatic capabilities. That's about the extent of what I can add.

Bob Tedrow's location reminds me that a couple of years ago, when she began talking about the concertina, she found someone in Alabama who sold or had further info on accordians and/or concertina. But, again, this is too vague to be of much value.

I'm assuming from what I was able to get from reading, is that the English would intuitively seem to be the best gamble. (and, for me, a gamble it is). But if the differences are truly as distinct as the "fiddle, banjo, and guitar," then I'm probably in a hopeless quandary. (kinda like playing in the Futures money markets when you don't know what you're doing)

Again, sorry for not being more informed. Since I just joined the forum, I'll try to go back further in the archives of the forum, if the database allow. Thanks again.

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Bill,

 

Some other boilerplate advice, after going through the well-used intellectual/tradition arguments, is actually try the various types. Since you want a surprise gift , how about engraving and gift boxing a nice certificate good for one free trip by luxurious family car to Birmingham, where Bob T. will give you a shot at whatever he has around the shop, and for subsequent purchase of a concertina. The choice is so personal that unless you can afford to buy *several* concertinas for your dearest, she needs to give this personal input/reaction.

 

In my ideal world, at least. Just a thought.

 

Ken

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My question is one of those old "newbie" things: What kind of instrument, above the "junk-cheap" level, can I get her that would allow her to make the transition from keyboard accordian to concertina? ... with the least amount of radical change in techniques? ... obviously a unisonoric type of box.

This is planned to be a Christmas present. So I have time to work this through. [Hey, maybe I'll learn to play it myself by then ;-> ]

Bill,

From what you've told us so far, I'll take a shot at your question and say you should get her some type of duet concertina. You yourself have already ruled out an anglo, and the english won't allow her to play melody in one hand and chords in the other, like she does on her PA.

 

So, which duet? There are three common duets out there, Maccann, Crane & Hayden. Just my opinion, and to make this as simple as possible I'm going to tell you to forget about the other two and just get her a Hayden. You can get a Stagi Hayden concertina for 800 bucks. It's not great, but it's ok to learn on. The problem at the moment with Haydens is that there are no higher quality ones out there to buy. In a year or two there will be Haydens available from Morse (The Button Box) & I think Marcus, if she decides to move up in quality.

 

It's also possible to get a duet made by Dipper or Wheatstone, but that takes years..... and you want one by Christmas.

 

You never said how much you'd be willing to spend. If you decide to get a duet AND want to get something nicer than a Stagi by Christmas, then you have to go with a vintage Crane or Maccann. For two thousand dollars or so you will be able to get her a nice one.

 

BTW, I play an english, not duet. As for the different types of concertinas being as different as as banjos, violins & guitars, I don't know. From a players viewpoint I think it's true, they all feel very different to play. The end result (the music that comes out) isn't always as obviously different. There's a cd, Boxing Clever, which has a mix of tunes/songs performed on various concertina systems. I listened to it for the first time a few weeks ago (driving home from the Squeeze-in) in the car and at times I wasn't sure if the tune was being performed on anglo, english or duet. Usually, I knew when it was an english, but some people can make an anglo sound a lot like a duet, IMO. I've never heard anyone make a duet sound like an anglo playing Irish Trad, though. I have heard an english sound a lot like an anglo playing Irish Trad.

 

You might try getting Boxing Clever and see if your wife takes to the sound of one system over another. I'd hurry, Christmas isn't that far away.

bruce boysen

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...she played popular America music (i.e., Pop category of music) when she was young, on the keyboard accordian. And what she would want to play would continue to be melody, with full chromatic capabilities.

That's a start, since I can now ask a few more questions.

 

1) Would she really want to play only melody? PA (piano accordion) players almost never play only melody. The whole point of the left hand is to play chords. So she might well be thinking of playing melody *plus* chords or some other sort of harmony.

 

2) Is she the kind of person who could teach herself by experimenting with the instrument, or would she need a teacher?

 

3) What's your budget?

 

Now for some additional comments, without waiting for your replies:

 

A: Because of her previous PA experience, I would steer clear of the anglo. I'm not saying she would necessarily have trouble with the different-notes-on-push-and-pull feature, but she might. It would be less of a departure, and therefore less of a gamble, to go with an instrument where bellows direction doesn't matter... an English or duet.

 

The English has the quirk that adjacent notes in the scale are on opposite sides of the instrument. That's also a bit of a gamble, since the brains of some people -- though very few -- seem unable to cope with that arrangement.

 

B: There are some good, new instructional materials for the English concertina. Some also for the anglo, but those are mostly restricted to Irish-style melody playing. Next to nothing for the duets; those that exist are old, and I think all are out of print. (David Cornell has some nice arrangements for Maccann duet, but no tutor for beginners.)

 

So I'd steer away from the duets and toward the English if she's not a good self-teacher. But if she can teach herself without the assistance of books or teachers, a duet might be an excellent idea.

 

C: For strictly melody playing, the English can't be beat, but chords vs. melody in the stereotypical PA style is nearly impossible. However, it's well suited to various other kinds of harmony, and really quite versatile in that respect.

 

It's easy to do harmonies on the anglo in some keys, and the separation of the right and left hands is more like the accordion, but there's no consistent pattern for changing keys.

 

Duets can do arbitrary chords and harmonies, and accordion-like separation of the two hands is possible. But both hands still play individual notes, like a piano, so non-chord harmonies are also relatively easy.

 

D: The note layouts of the Crane (same as Triumph) and Hayden duets and the English conform to consistent patterns which make changing keys relatively easy. The Maccann duet is less consistent in this respect, the Jeffries duet even worse, but the anglo is the worst. This may or may not be a matter of concern.

 

E: With prior musical experience, she will probably not be happy with a really cheap instrument. If you have a limited budget, the less expensive but not utterly crap instruments are the Stagis... anglo, English, or Hayden duet. Now there's also the "Jackie" -- an English-system starter model -- from Concertina Connection in the Netherlands.

 

If you can afford a new mid-range ($1500-2000) instrument, there are several quality brands of anglos, a couple of Englishes, and currently no duets. If you can afford a good vintage intrument, you can get all kinds... except the Hayden duet.

 

In top-quality instruments, Englishes tend to be more expensive than duets, and anglos most expensive of all. Hayden duets are an exception, being quite rare, and very expensive if you can find one.

 

F: I think the idea of a "gift certificate" is a great one, since it will allow her to help choose the right instrument. A visit to Bob Tedrow in Alabama (or the Button Box in Massachusetts, but that's a longer trip) would be especially helpful, because then she could try more than one instrument. The caveat here is that there's a good chance they won't have any duets to try, with the possible exception of a Stagi-made Hayden duet.

 

G: Of duets, I personally like the Crane/Triumph duet, but with the keyboard only 5 buttons wide, one has to reach further for the higher notes. If she has short fingers, the Maccann or Hayden would probably be less of a problem in this respect.

 

--> So here's what I recommend:

 

For various reasons the English would seem to be the all-around best bet. You can get good instructional material. You can get an inexpensive starter model, and still be able to upgrade to a mid-range or top quality vintage instrument. You could even rent one first (same with the anglo), to see if it's going to work out.

 

But if you have the budget for a good vintage instrument *and* your wife can teach herself by experimenting and improvising, then I would seriously recommend a duet... a Crane or Maccann (but not a Hayden or Jeffries, because starting cheap and upgrading later isn't really an option with those two).

 

*If* you decide to go with a duet, you should contact Barleycorn Concertinas (Chris Algar) in England. Not only is he an honorable businessman, an expert on concertinas, who sells instruments in top condition and with a warranty, he's the only one I would expect to have a selection of duets to choose from.

 

I hope this helps.

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G: Of duets, I personally like the Crane/Triumph duet, but with the keyboard only 5 buttons wide, one has to reach further for the higher notes.  If she has short fingers, the Maccann or Hayden would probably be less of a problem in this respect.

Bill, just so you know, Jim Lucas has much more experience with various systems than I do.

 

Jim, I've played around with both Hayden & Maccann duets a bit and have some limited time on a Crane too, and I'd love to hear why you've come to prefer the Crane. I've always thought the Crane was the most like an english of all the duets. In the limited time I've had with duets I was never able to get really comfortable playing melody with my right hand. The hayden seemed easiest and the Maccann hardest. Are you to the point where you can play fast melodic runs on your Crane? Could you play a bit of Irish Trad melody (let's not worry about ornaments) up to speed if you wanted to? I understand this is not playing to the strengths of a duet, I'm just trying to get a sense of how fluid someone can get with a lot of practise.

 

I'm not planning on ever giving up on the english, it's the system most suited to what I like.

bruce boysen

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Wow! What a great set of replies!

 

I now have more info than I ever thought I'd need. And it certainly set the stage for one confusing play, if you'll excuse a little punny metaphor.

 

The only way I can see to resolve this, is to break the surprise to Lois, and suggest we drive to Birmingham. I'm sure she'd love to see those old concertinas.

 

As for how much I was going to spend? Welll, like many naive folks, I could at least hope that they wouldn't be much more than my better chromatic harmonicas. I was thinking that if the cheapest ones (read: toys) were about fifty bucks, then I'd go all out and get the better one for a couple hundred. (shame on me!)

 

Nobody appreciates the arts and crafts more than me. (plenty folks are smarter about them, ...but I have a keen appreciation) So I have no doubt that if a craftsman spends a couple of weeks, with fine materials, and makes a quality instrument, that it shouldn't be worth a couple thousand dollars. But I was just not tuned in to the reality here.

 

So, having said all that; I may be all wet in thinking that Lois would not want to spend that much on something that she'll just want to fiddle with every once in awhile. (dang! those puns just keep getting in the way of my typing fingers)

I'm just going to blow the whole thing, and tell her what I had in mind, and see if we can work a trip into her 18/7 work week. God only knows how she multi-tasks all the business things she does now. She'll somehow figure out how to squeeze a 6 hour round trip into 2 hours.

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So I have no doubt that if a craftsman spends a couple of weeks, with fine materials, and makes a quality instrument, that it shouldn't be worth a couple thousand dollars.

I hope that's either a mistake or a joke.

 

If it takes two 40-hour weeks to make one concertina (I don't know how long it takes, but you said "a couple of weeks"), then selling it for $2000 would be $25/hr... assuming *no* expense for 1) materials, 2) tools, 3) rental or mortgage on the shop, 4) electricity & other utilities, 5) insurance, etc. After expenses/overhead it would probably be more like $10/hr or less.

 

As I recall, there are more than 2000 individual hand-crafted pieces -- of different metals, woods, leathers, papers, fabrics, and possibly plastics -- in a single concertina.

 

Now what does a plumber or electrician charge these days? A good concertina maker is at least as skilled. It's amazing they don't cost more.

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So I have no doubt that if a craftsman spends a couple of weeks, with fine materials, and makes a quality instrument, that it shouldn't be worth a couple thousand dollars.

I hope that's either a mistake or a joke.

I think that if one re-reads bkemper's post in context, it's clear that the "shouldn't" was meant to be "should," and that he does appreciate the underlying costs and value of a quality instrument.

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Bruce B. asked me to say something about why I like the Crane system. As I composed a reply, it went way beyond that simple question and became rather long, so I've started a new Topic, "More (But Not All) About Duets", to which I hope others will also contribute.

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I'm just going to blow the whole thing, and tell her what I had in mind, and see if we can work a trip into her 18/7 work week.

Before you tell her you should call ahead to make sure that he has all the types of concertinas you're considering - otherwise it could be a very long and disappointing trip.

 

Have you considered giving her a gift of renting a concertina? That way she could try out a few over the course of a couple of months or so - and then decide to get whichever type and quality suited her the best - or decide not to pursue concertinas if so be (and you wouldn't be out much money, time, traveling, or the surprise).

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You're right Jim. It is certainly worth $2000 for a well made instrument. As mentioned, I did mean to say that I can believe that it "should" cost that amount for such craftsmanship. And I certainly don't mind being caught in my mistake, for clarification.

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I like the idea that's been mentioned above to either give her a gift certificate or card redeemable at Mr. Tedrow's shop, or to allow her to rent a few different types of concertinas (in turn) to try out.

 

If I was to suggest one to settle on, out of hand, I'd suggest a Hayden. Stagi makes one worth having, if she's only going to play it occasionally.

 

Grant Levy :)

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  • 2 months later...

I just bought a Stagi duet, and I'm very pleased with it. Nice sound, very responsive, and lots of fun to play. Hayden layout is easy to pick up. Yeah, the quality may not be first rate, but for an entry level instrument I am happy with it. At some point I may "graduate" to an intermediate level box, but for now I think it's a great sound for the money.

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Jax:"It's Hayden for choice. Stagi is cheap, sounds sweet, and is the only concertina fingering system a piano accordionist will understand before giving up and throwing it against a wall"

 

Goran:I guess you are merely joking..but just in case you are a little bit serious.....Do give that above attitude up! What instruments you have used before really is of negligable importance....Individual factors certainly may be of importance however regarding what instrument might suit you more or less but nobody who doesn't *know* the *individual* VERY WELL could have any chance to give any sort of sensible advise for that choice....

and....it really does not matter at all in general except in the very initial and mostly emotional phase...*musically* it could matter a great deal in the long run however but you don't find out anyhow until 'too late'....:-)

 

Goran Rahm

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