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A Chinese concertina you've never heard of

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Since the origin of free reed instruments (笙, Sh’eng) in China, this type of instrument has hardly changed in this country. Even in the last few hundred years, Sh’eng have ceased to be a mainstream instrument. It was not until the 20th century that China gradually accepted the chromatic accordion under the influence of the Soviet Union. There are many kinds of free-reed instruments in Europe, but most of them are rare in China, especially the concertina.


Nonetheless, there are some Chinese people who are keen to learn about things that are rarely seen around them and there was even an accordion maker who designed his own concertina system, WF-System By Wang Guoping(王国平), A.K.A. Wang Feng(王峰), that’s how the “WF” comes from. See the layout chart below:




Wang’s design is based on a 20b Anglo-German concertina but with C/B rows rather than C/G, like all other Anglos. I think this combination is what we usually seen on the RHS of a multi-rowed melodeon. And he made an additional C-scale row on the top, with exactly the same notes but all on another direction of pulling and pushing. There are also a 20b version, which is without the reversal rows on both side and the 6th column on RHS.


And for the actions, Wang’s concertina are pretty similar to the larger instruments like Chemnitzer Concertinas or even Bandoneons. It has multiple reeds for one single note in octaves, which is what all the Chinese players usually want for an accordion: more reeds. And of course, his concertinas are huge like:




Look how huge it is! If a person who doesn't know all about this sees this photo, the person might have a cognitive issue: is this a shrunken person holding a normal-sized concertina or a normal-sized person holds a huge instrument?


Wang's main job is to make and repair accordions, and he is very busy every day (i.e., my accordion has been in his workshop in Beijing for over half a year, and still in a long waitlist!) I haven't had a chance to try any of his instruments myself, so I don't know how they play. But I've seen some of his video and it seems he can play harmonic style on his instrument. I’ll try to upload some of those video on Youtube.


What do you think of his design? 

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I have found this most fascinating; how things are adopted over side of the globe, and each nation is still then adapting  the instruments to suit their own needs.

Looks like a very big instrument, and maybe smallish man! Playing it. Also what a lovely colour it is painted!

Just another example of what a huge variety of "free,reed" instruments there is out there!


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Thanks for translating it into notes, Luke.


Very unusual, with the two top rows being mirrored. The accidentals look a little awkward, though, maybe some tough reaches? Would love to hear what sort of music he plays on it!



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Musing on this a little more, it seems like this layout is almost a piano layout, but bisonoric... on the top two rows you have all the notes in the diatonic C scale in either direction and in a straightforward/predictable place, and all the accidentals on the bottom row (plus some overlap with the top two rows). If I were designing a layout like this, I'd be tempted to combine the top two rows into a single unisonoric row, and have a separate unisonoric row of accidentals (i.e., piano). But I suppose this layout gives you the ability to play closer to the bouncy Anglo style, if you want... I'd be curious to know what considerations went into Wang's design.

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And here the video is! I can't find one more shows how Wang plays the WF except this quite low resolution video. Seems this video was filmed like at least a decade ago. I tried to ask Wang himself for more materials but he didn't reply my message yet due to the Chinese New Year.


2 hours ago, Luke Hillman said:

I'd be curious to know what considerations went into Wang's design.


Actually I, myself don't think the WF-System is a very good idea, it surely does make the melody be more fluent and colorful but it almost killed all the benefits to play chords on the Anglos. I guess when Wang made this layout, he didn't know there are English or Duet Concertinas. And he did want to make the grace notes and vibratos possible on a concertina, then the WF-System came out. But his mirror row which is a solid invention we can't doubt, absolutely reduced the impact of the air issue on a bisonoric instrument.


The performance in video is not something close to harmonic style like I said in the beginning of this threat, sorry about the mistake I made there.

Edited by LazyNetter
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Just got word from Wang that when he finished prototyping (the blue one in the photo) and the first instrument (mahogany one in the video), just recorded the video in that link, and both instruments were sold. Now it seems that who owns an actual WF-System concertina has become a mystery...

Edited by LazyNetter
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