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Intermediate Concertina; Need Advice for Purchasing in the UK


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Hello everyone! I've been playing concertina for over a year now (started in April 2021), and have been playing with a cheap Scarlatti 30 button C/G concertina. You gotta start somewhere, and I'm at the point now where I really feel I need an upgrade. I'm looking for an anglo concertina, C/G, wheatstone, that is of high quality and playability - not the best money can buy, but good enough for an intermediate player to improve with for I'd say at least 2 years.

 

I am also looking for a concertina I can get fairly soon. I am not looking for a 2 year order time, I am looking for something I can get in a month or two at the latest.


The issue I'm having is with looking at what concertina's are available in the UK, and from where. I have been doing my due diligence in these forums to find out what concertina's folk recommend to advance into, and I have come up with this short list of suggestions:
 

  • Concertina Connection Clover - Seems to be available through their website. Is an American make, and seems difficult to find available in the UK.
  • Concertina Connection Minstrel - More budget friendly than the Clover, but same issue of trying to obtain one in the UK. Also looks like folk recommend the Clover if they're both in budget.
  • Morse Ceili - Seems I missed this one by a month or two; the Button Box store seems to have closed. Similar to the Clover, seems to be an American make that I cannot find in the UK.
  • McNeela Phoenix - This seems to be the easiest to get delivered (just over in Ireland), and seems to be the most budget friendly of these 3, but also seems to have mainly negative feedback when I've been searching for it in the forums (here, here, and here.
     

I have been having a hard time also finding places to buy Concertina's from. I originally bought my Scarlatti from Red Cow Music, however their inventory seems to mainly be introductory concertina's. They have a page for the Minstrel, but I think it's been "out of stock" for over a year, since I bought my first concertina from them. Otherwise I've found it difficult to find anywhere in the UK. There's:

  • Barleycorn Concertinas, but you're at the mercy of what they have in stock.
  • McNeela Music, but they don't stock much other than their own concertinas.
  • The Box Place, but again, you're at the mercy of what they have. I also unsure about second hand, a lot of the prices seem to be quite high, and there's makes and manufacturers that I haven't heard of an don't know of quality; I'm not looking for a bit of history right now, I might be in the future, but I just need a competent instrument.
  • eBay and Gumtree, although looking on here there's all sorts of warnings of scams, so I wanna avoid if I can.
  • Hobgoblin, seems to be introductory concertina's, or second hand much older instruments. They seem to have an Anthony James concertina on sale; I assume new, maybe it's a retailer for his concertinas, would folk recommend this? (http://www.apjmusic.co.uk/)

 

Basically, I'm in a pickle. Looking for something to move into, finding a bunch of recommended instruments, but not finding anywhere in the UK to purchase them. The only one I can find I am getting some bad signals as to it's quality (the McNeela Phoenix). If anyone in the UK can give any advice to what I should be looking at for my next instrument, and where to buy it from, I would very much appreciate it.

If you read this far, thank you very much for taking the time to try and help, even if you can't :)

Martin

TL;DR Are there any intermediate concertina makes that are available in the UK?

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You might consider a Dabbler (https://www.flyingduckconcertinas.co.uk/dabblers.html), or a Marcus (https://www.marcusmusic.wales/new-concertinas) as new concertinas to add to your research, or Andrew Norman both makes new instruments and has vintage ones as well (http://www.acnorman.co.uk/).

 

Depending on where you are in Scotland, Celtic Chords in Stonehaven markets AP James concertinas and the owner may have pre-loved instruments available as well.  I have a vintage 30 key Lachenal which is available and which you'd be welcome to try but it's down south at the moment

 

Alex West

 

 

 

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Hey Alex, thanks for the reply. I'm near Edinburgh jusnow, but I have family I visit in Aberdeen, so Stonehaven is definitely on the table. I think I need to start looking more into APJ concertinas.

Thanks for the suggestion of the Dabbler, I had not found it in my research, however the wait time of 16 months means it'll be a no for me. I really want something soon, as I'm getting fed up with the feel of the Scarlatti XD

 

Those Marcus Music concertinas also look very nice, I shall have to look more into their sound and playability too. Same with Andrew Norman, I'll look into what there is for sale.

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Marcus concertinas are good reliable well made instruments, as are those from A C Norman. AJP concertinas are also good reliable instruments.  Anthony James who makes them used to work for A C Norman.  All these are modern accordion reeded instruments.  There are also American made concertinas with accordion reeds of which Morse, Tedrow, Edgley are the ones you are most likely to find in the Uk secondhand market.  Any of these makes would be a good buy secondhand. You could do worse than contacting the bigger retailers and asking them to let you know when a they have a good midrange anglo available.

 

Vintage instruments have different qualities of sound and playability, and it's a matter of personal preference which you prefer.   If you buy a vintage instrument it's essential that you try before you buy, or have a guaranteed right to return for a refund.  Any decent retailer will offer this.  You are right to avoid Ebay, Gumtree, etc.

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My first new concertina was a Marcus DG followed soon after by a Marcus CG. I found them both excellent for what I wanted to do and I still have them and use them occasionally. 

I am in Callander not far from you and would be happy to arrange to meet up so that you can try them out.

PM me if you think this would be useful to you.

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Thanks for the replies, guys. It's looking like Marcus or AJP might be the way to go. Looking at the ACNorman concertina website, a 18-20 month wait is far too long for me.

 

30 minutes ago, David Williams said:

My first new concertina was a Marcus DG followed soon after by a Marcus CG.

I cannot see anything on the Marcus Music website about wait times, but having bought multiple yourself can you remember how long from purchase-to-delivery the whole thing took? I know I sound impatient, but a month is fine with me. I just don't want to be waiting a year or two; that level kind of quality and care is too much for what I'm looking for in the level of instrument I'm after.

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If you want a decent quality concertina in a short timescale, then you will need to look secondhand.  Making a new concertina involves a lot of time for the maker.  So any maker with a good quality product will have a long wait time.  Anyone turning out concertinas quickly in large numbers will not give you the quality you need.

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2 hours ago, TehRazorBack said:

Thanks for the replies, guys. It's looking like Marcus or AJP might be the way to go. Looking at the ACNorman concertina website, a 18-20 month wait is far too long for me.

 

I cannot see anything on the Marcus Music website about wait times, but having bought multiple yourself can you remember how long from purchase-to-delivery the whole thing took? I know I sound impatient, but a month is fine with me. I just don't want to be waiting a year or two; that level kind of quality and care is too much for what I'm looking for in the level of instrument I'm after.

It was a number of years ago that I ordered my Marcus Tina's so not too sure how long it took to get them but think it was around 3 to 4 months. You will need to contact them to find out the current situation. i found them very efficient and helpfull.  

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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Theo said:

If you want a decent quality concertina in a short timescale, then you will need to look secondhand.  Making a new concertina involves a lot of time for the maker.  So any maker with a good quality product will have a long wait time.  Anyone turning out concertinas quickly in large numbers will not give you the quality you need.

 

Oh, I fully understand that. I hope I haven't come across as assuming concertinas are quick and easy to make; I fully understand good quality takes time. Each separate element must be made from scratch, and to make such an instrument is a really impressive skill to have that takes years to learn and master. All I was trying to imply is that some manufacturers are in higher demand than others, some waiting times are longer than others, and - what I'm hoping - some might have some concertinas ready-made and ready to purchase.

For example, as Alex said, it looks like there Celtic Chords in Stonehaven has an AJP concertina all ready for sale, as does Hobgoblin Music it seems. If Marcus Music doesn't have any of theirs in stock, and there'll be a wait time to purchase one, and it seems they're both good quality instruments, that will affect my decision of which I will purchase. Hope that makes sense :)

EDIT: The AJP concertinas they have for sale might be second-hand, I'm not sure. If they are, then it'd prove your point of buying second hand.

 

I think if I already had a semi decent concertina, I'd be more patient waiting for another. But my current concertina is well below par and has been bugging me for months now, and it's taken a while to save up for a new one, so I cannot wait to get something better in my grubby mitts :)

 

15 minutes ago, David Williams said:

It was a number of years ago that I ordered my Marcus Tina's so not too sure how long it took to get them but think it was around 3 to 4 months. You will need to contact them to find out the current situation. i found them very efficient and helpfull. 


Thanks for this, David. Might be worth me doing some phone calls in the coming weeks, to find out what the stock or waiting times are.

Thanks for your replies, everyone. In only a few hours my ideas of what is available to purchase in the UK has changed drastically :D

Edited by TehRazorBack
Thoughts on second hand concertinas
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I am pretty sure AP James are a good choice, never tried it.

I have tested a few Hybrids (The Clare, Clover, Morse Ceili,...) and somehow I always go back to vintage concertina.

They are slower but they have lots of charm 😉  

Barleycorn have four 30b Lachenal in listing, I would choose one of those...

 

Irish company has a second hand Clare which I personally liked (not that one, but The Clare 😉

https://www.irishconcertinacompany.com/our-preowned-concertinas

 

Nicolas

 

 

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Hi Martin,

 Just saw this post and thought it was worth mentioning that what we have on the Barleycorn website is a fraction of the concertinas we actually have in stock. I haven't counted recently but I'd say we have 30/40+ C/G anglos in stock currently, so whilst you may be at the mercy of what we have in stock, I'd still suggest it's a fairly nice place to be! Just get in touch if you fancy a trip down South to spend the day trying them out.

Cheers!

Ciaran

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As you assess where to spend your money and on what, you might like to think about how you want to play the concertina, on what sort of music, and where you want to play.

 

Some makes of modern concertinas are quite heavy compared with their original vintage instruments, wooden ended 'tinas have a softer and more mellow tone, metal ended 'tinas are usually louder and brasher in tone.  There can be a difference in-between an accordion reed sound and a true concertina reed.  

 

If you are playing stood up, outside for dance you may be looking for a different animal than if you play sat down and for song.

 

I would support Ciaran in this, try before you buy, and Chris and Ciaran will have the best scope for playing different options. However it is best to try with an objective in mind.

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A few years ago I had the same dilemma as you - I upgraded to an A.P. James in 2018, & I liked it. It was consistent & played faster than my previous concertina, which was important as I play Irish trad. It was loud, which can be helpful if you want to hear yourself in a session. Also it never had repair issues. 

I upgraded again in 2020 - a second-hand Lachenal from Barleycorn. It plays even faster &, now that I have concertina reeds, I wouldn't want to return to the A.P. James with its accordion reeds. Although there have been repair issues (some unresolved), I have no regrets. You might say that I should have bought a Lachenal in 2018, but two years of playing the A.P. James really clarified in my mind what I wanted or needed.

I spent an afternoon at Barleycorn in 2020 & I would recommend a visit. It was a bit embarrassing for Chris to hear my terrible playing but, after two hours of trying instruments, I forgot that he was there (having a friend with me helped my confidence, but you need a very patient & tolerant friend!). I must have tried about 12 different  instruments, some two or three times. You're dependent on the stock there, but you probably can't find a better range anywhere.

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Thank you for your replies, folks. Been away from here for a few days, so just catching up with messages now.

Depending on where Barleycorn is based would depend on how feasible it would be for me to travel down on a weekend. I cannot find anything about location on the website, so I'll fill out a form on the website.

Martin

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