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Playing With Bellows Centered Over Knee...


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I'm a new concertina player...i just received my brand spanking new Edgley concertina...maple ends stained black with metal buttons...very nice instrument..i've started playing with the bellows centered over my leg...i hear a lot of other people saying u should never do this...but really, how much is it going to affect the bellows...? maybe over 100 years or something it might ? anyone got any thoughts on this...

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Neils,

 

I've no experience of this as I tend to hold mine in the air while I play.

 

However, my attitude has always been that an instrument is there to be played.

and played how you want to play it. So I would say play it in whatever way suits you, and don't worry about the bellows. Bellows can always be repaired or replaced, and are not too expensive - even if you end up replacing them every 10 years or so.

 

Clive.

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Neils, DO NOT rest the bellows on anything. They are there to provide air to the reeds. If, as I do , you play whilst seated, then rest one end of your instrument on a knee. If you intend to play whilst standing, fix a small bracket to each end of your instrument and use a sling around your neck if you find the instrument too heavy . Your thumbstraps (English) should NOT be tight around your thumbs but must allow you to slide them to facilitate reaching all parts of the keyboard.

Good Luck, JOHN NIXON.

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i've started playing with the bellows centered over my leg...i hear a lot of other people saying u should never do this...but really, how much is it going to affect the bellows...? maybe over 100 years or something it might ? anyone got any thoughts on this...

A hundred years? Try five or ten, maybe less if you're energetic.

Denim isn't as efficient as sandpaper, but it will certainly get the job done if you keep rubbing with it. Any fabric will, sooner or later.

 

Bellows can always be repaired or replaced,...

It was not always so. 30 years ago I could find no makers of concertina bellows in America, and the only British ones I ever heard of were Crabb and Wheatstone. Could we return to that situation? Well, I hope not. But why wear something out if you don't need to.

 

...and are not too expensive - even if you end up replacing them every 10 years or so.

Many people here have spoken of difficulty raising the cash for even a 30-button Stagi. I wonder if they would share your criteria for "not too expensive".

 

...my attitude has always been that an instrument is there to be played.

and played how you want to play it.

I think it would be worthwhile for Neils to at least try playing with the bellows end on his knee/thigh and the bellows free. If he finds that insupportable (deliberate pun), then it's his choice. But just because he's found one way that seems to work doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way, even for him.

 

Your thumbstraps (English) should NOT be tight around your thumbs but must allow you to slide them to facilitate reaching all parts of the keyboard.

While my own technique is different (I reach all parts of even a 64-button keyboard without sliding my thumbs), it's not relevant for Neils, because if his concertina is an Edgley, then it's certainly an anglo.

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Hi Neils,

I'm assuming you have an anglo since you indicate it was built by Frank Edgely.

Congratulations on having a wonderful instrument to play and enjoy!

 

While every player has to decide and arrive at the most comfortable technique for themselves and their music let me share a few observations you might consider.

 

The kind of music you play may help determine how you hold the concertina. I understand morris musicians play standing up and sometimes even dance while playing. The Salvation Army had a history of standing and marching bands. Most of us mere mortals prefer to play while sitting.

 

The past two years I have been working very hard on learning traditional Irish music on the anglo. Noel Hill and Wally Carroll have been my instructors and both place the left side of the concertina on their left thigh. I believe Noel's idea is to make the right hand act like the bowing hand of most fiddlers. Both Noel and Wally do a wonderful job with fast reels, which demands good technique. (In contrast, John Williams with a melodeon background but certainly a formidable concertina player, has a different bellows orientation.)

 

I began my concertina playing with the english concertina and when not holding it in the air tended to place the right side of the concertina on my right thigh. I've had some difficulty making the commitment to keeping the left end of the anglo on the left thigh. While this is becoming more natural with time, I wish I had no prior muscle memory to have to extinguish. If I had it to do over again (How many times have you heard this?) I would only play with the concertina on the left thigh.

 

I have a suspicion (perhaps some more experienced players can comment) that how you break in and treat your bellows can make a difference in your concertina's response on the more demanding tunes. I have several vintage concertinas and I find their response to quick bellows reversals to be quite different (aside from quickness of reeds and valves) . If one part of the bellows flexes more than another there seems to be a slight delay. I don't know how the bellows of these different instruments got that way, whether it was fabrication or playing technique. I do know i like the feel and response of a bellows that has a tight, equal flex across all folds.

 

I'm not sure how quickly a bellows can be worn out by playing the folds across the leg. I would be more concerned with compromising the integrity of the bellows system perhaps resulting in the condition i described above. I do know that a leaky bellows can hinder your desire to play and practice. My first concertina needed bellows work from the onset and the leaks just got worse as it travelled with me in an ill fitting case. (Happy to report that I have recently redone the end runs and pads and the 60s Wheatstone is now a joy to play!)

 

So while the most important thing is to play and enjoy your instrument you may want to consider how good technique and proper care of your concertina and bellows can add to years of playing enjoyment.

 

Enjoy the adventure!

 

Greg J

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greg u make a good point about using the right arm like a bowing arm...and since i'm a fiddle player it makes more sense to play like that....actually this concertina playing has come a long very quickly for me...i really really like it...and i'll be playing only irish stuff...i think i'll put the left side on the left knee...

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Neils,

 

You will be in some good company using your left knee. Canada is a huge country and I don't know in what part you are located, but it might be worth reminding you that Noel Hill has a week long Nova Scotia workshop scheduled for

the Fall (October 2-7 in Halifax). More details and a link on the cnet opening page under news and updates.

 

I'm glad for you that the concertina is coming along quickly! We all have different paths to take even when headed in the same direction. Your fiddling experience will influence your concertina style. Best of luck!

 

Greg J

 

(Edited to include the specific Noel Hill Halifax dates.)

Edited by Greg Jowaisas
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...i've started playing with the bellows centered over my leg...i hear a lot of other people saying u should never do this...but really, how much is it going to affect the bellows...? maybe over 100 years or something it might ?

Neils,

 

It used to be common for Irish players to play with the bellows across the knee, perhaps a bad habit from the old German concertinas with frames in the bellows, and many's a good concertina got wrecked because of it - I have met people who literally threw away a good Jeffries because they wore out the bellows ! :o

 

It is certainly easier to get a new bellows these days (though they can cost more than some people pay for their concertinas), but the bellows is a very important part of the instrument (like the bow of a violin, it has been suggested), and though you might feel that you can easily get a replacement bellows off Frank Edgely for your new concertina, what happens if you later get a beautiful old Jeffries with the legendary bellows made by Mrs. Jeffries ? You are not going to be able to change your habitual way of playing, and they are going to be destroyed in no time ! (And for that matter, Frank isn't going to be around forever more either. :( )

 

I have often had to try to save bellows that have been ruined by such use, and I would say that the main problem is not the apparent external wear, but the internal damage to the core (a "skeleton" of cardboard and cloth tape, or leather hinges), which makes the bellows collapse. It isn't designed to support the weight of the instrument, and is likely to fail before you even realise it, followed by gaping holes appearing where the leather rips in consequence. Just give it a few years ... :huh:

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There was an interesting Poll here a while back about how we all hold our concertina's:

(Scroll to the top of the page)

I'm a Right Frame/Right Thigh player, which is 2nd most populay method, but way behind the winning Left Frame/Left Thigh.

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I'm a Right Frame/Right Thigh player, which is 2nd most populay method, but way behind the winning Left Frame/Left Thigh.

"From the heart of East Anglia"? Then you'll no doubt be playing mostly English music. Like you I rest the right side of the box on my right knee, and have never felt an inclination to change. Two is a very small sample to base a hypothesis on, but what the heck ... I wonder if there's a tie up between the music you play and the knee you use to rest the concertina on when seated?

 

Chris

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I'm a Right Frame/Right Thigh player, which is 2nd most populay method, but way behind the winning Left Frame/Left Thigh.

"From the heart of East Anglia"? Then you'll no doubt be playing mostly English music. Like you I rest the right side of the box on my right knee, and have never felt an inclination to change. Two is a very small sample to base a hypothesis on, but what the heck ... I wonder if there's a tie up between the music you play and the knee you use to rest the concertina on when seated?

 

Chris

 

An interesting theory, but I'm not convinced. I like both. I wonder though if Left/Right handedness has any thing to do with it. Are you left handed by any chance?

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Perhaps the hand/side that does the most work helps determine the anchoring side of the concertina?

 

Greg

 

Hmm! Well my floating left hand does tend to do more work than the right which provides the anchor. I'm not convinced that's the reason either though. I'll stick with Left/Right handedness for the choice.

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One tip I will pass on is that whatever knee or thigh you rest the concertina on,make sure there are no keys ,money etc in the pocket on that side.Constant rubbing against a set of keys even in a pocket can cause a lot of damage in a very short while to a set of bellows.

Al

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Bellows can always be repaired or replaced,...

It was not always so. 30 years ago I could find no makers of concertina bellows in America, and the only British ones I ever heard of were Crabb and Wheatstone. Could we return to that situation? Well, I hope not. But why wear something out if you don't need to.

 

Jim,

 

I wasn't suggesting that we should wear things out unnecessarily, only that wear considerations should not be a major influence on playing style. If this were the case then we would all be playing at minimum volume all the time, and driving our cars around at 30mph all the time.

 

 

...and are not too expensive - even if you end up replacing them every 10 years or so.

Many people here have spoken of difficulty raising the cash for even a 30-button Stagi. I wonder if they would share your criteria for "not too expensive".

 

Well I don't consider £100 for a self fit set of bellows, as mentioned by Dave Elliot in another thread, to be too expensive - its cheaper than having a tune up. And simple surface wear repairs are cheaper still, especially if treated before it starts leaking.

 

 

 

...my attitude has always been that an instrument is there to be played.

and played how you want to play it.

I think it would be worthwhile for Neils to at least try playing with the bellows end on his knee/thigh and the bellows free. If he finds that insupportable (deliberate pun), then it's his choice. But just because he's found one way that seems to work doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way, even for him.

 

 

No argument with that, I'm all for experimenting to find out the best way of playing, but as I personally would make the decision based on comfort, stability and playability factors, rather than wear considerations.

 

 

 

Clive

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what happens if you later get a beautiful old Jeffries with the legendary bellows made by Mrs. Jeffries ? You are not going to be able to change your habitual way of playing, and they are going to be destroyed in no time !

 

 

I don't want to upset you Stephen, but my (obviously contraversial) attitude would be that if the legendary and revered Jeffries bellows are destroyed in no time then they couldn't have been 'Fit for purpose' in the first place, given that the purpose was to allow the player to play in his chosen style.

 

For me it comes back to my original comment that the instrument is there to be played, ie it is a tool rather than a work of art. However as I say in my post to Neils - I can see that I am in a minority of one here.

 

 

Clive.

Edited by Clive Thorne
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