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Newbie looking for newbie advice


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Me: 70, retired music librarian, mandolin player (classical), piano player (sort of), have never played a concertina

 

Goal: To record (at home via Audacity) mando/concertina duets (classical) for the amusement of my very forgiving friends

 

What I am looking at online:  1) Restored Lachenal 62 key MacCann Duet; 2) Wheatstone restored 1965 English concertina, 48 keys.

 

Because both are pricey (for me) I'm seeking advice instead of plunging in.  My goal is to have an instrument that is not impossible to learn, that is versatile for both melody and/or accompaniment, and that will be satisfying enough to not send me off looking for something else in a year or two.

 

I appreciate any thoughts you'd care to contribute.  Thanks.

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Posted (edited)

Both of your options should be able to fulfill your stated goals, with the added consideration that (speaking as a duet player), the Maccann has a slight (but not insurmountable) edge over the English in the “accompaniment” department. The English can easily provide countermelodies and drones, but anything beyond that will take a lot of work. The duet can give you that plus real chords and bass lines.

 

Youtube is full of examples of both, of course. Here’s some of what you can do with a Maccan, as demonstrated by my late friend, David Cornell.

 

What part of the world are you in?

 

Good luck, and don’t forget to post the videos!

 

Edited to add: Think of it this way: The English concertina was designed to emulate what a violin can do. Duet concertinas were designed to emulate what a piano can do.

Edited by David Barnert
Added last paragraph.
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11 hours ago, David Barnert said:

Think of it this way: The English concertina was designed to emulate what a violin can do. Duet concertinas were designed to emulate what a piano can do.

That's a helpful way to think about it. What was the Anglo designed to emulate?

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13 minutes ago, zalexander said:

What was the Anglo designed to emulate?

 

I don’t know. It may not have been designed to emulate anything in particular. Played in the harmonic way, it has a bit in common with the 5-string banjo, and the way the Irish play it is influenced by the uilleann pipes. Then of course there’s the harmonica connection.

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According to that ever-reliable source Wikipedia, the originator of the anglo system, Carl Uhlig, apparently took the existing melodeon keyboard and split it between two hands.  It had the additional advantage of being cheaper to make, since each button plays two notes - the other systems require double the number of reeds in order to play in both directions, and also more buttons, pads, levers and other parts of the action.

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Thanks, David Barnert, for the good advice.  I enjoyed David Cornell's voice and personality on the video.  I especially appreciated your added remark comparing an English to a violin and a Duet to a piano -- a succinct way of saying what I had concluded about these.  So, yes, despite the anticipatory screams from my bank account, I've decided on a duet: I'm looking at two Lachenals (MacCann) I've found online, one with 62 keys ("fully restored") and the other with 63 keys (1916 edeophone, "plays well").  I'm waiting to hear back from the owners.

 

Thanks, Richard Mellish, for the sage advice to try out various instruments before deciding.  As I live in semi-rural (we are turning into a suburb) western Maryland, there is little opportunity to try various concertinas.  Having decided on a duet, I would love to be able to try the different duet systems (MacCann, Jeffries, Hayden, Crane) but that seems utterly impossible.  It seems MacCann is the most popular and so that is what I am aiming at.

 

Meanwhile, I've dragged out an old bandeneón purchased many years ago and almost immediately put in the closet because I found it too daunting: 71 buttons, like an Anglo each button has a different note for opening or closing, and with the notes in no discernible order.  Though I have started pushing and pulling, it will be years before I can get a tune out of this thing.  I am counting on a duet concertina to be much easier. 

 

Thanks, again, for taking the time to respond to my request for advice.

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On 7/9/2022 at 3:50 AM, zalexander said:

What was the Anglo designed to emulate?

To put in a Existentialist way: as I see it, the Anglo is neither a reeded violin nor a reeded piano. It is an "authentic" instrument in itself, with neither the ambition to be, nor the pretence of beng, something else.

The diatonic scale played "press, draw, press, draw, press, draw, draw, press" is not borrowed from another instrument, but was thought out by Richter and applied to several free-reed instruments (melodions, harmoncas ...). It is the most rational system for small, hexagonal concertinas because you only need half as many buttons as you have notes, and space is scarce.

 

The 5-string banjo has been mentioned in connexion with the Anglo. For me, it's the Crane duet that has this similarity. I play both the 5-string banjo and the mandolin, and when I took up the Crane, I found that the left hand, with its moveable chord shapes, resembled the banjo, whereas the right hand, where the scale runs along a row until you run out of fingers, then continues on the next row, has the feel of the mandolin about it. But maybe that's just me! 

Cheers,

John

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14 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

To put in a Existentialist way: as I see it, the Anglo is neither a reeded violin nor a reeded piano. It is an "authentic" instrument in itself, with neither the ambition to be, nor the pretence of beng, something else.

 

I agree  although Keith Kendrick refers to the Anglo as "the thinking man's piano".

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