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Why not more "expressive" bellows changes on the English?

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Thanks. It is a Model 21, 48 button. I also have a 36 button Wheatstone and I have never used the high C button on any tune I play. So I removed the reeds and buttons on this one which lightened it up a good deal. I have since made other modifications following Henrik Muller's ideas about button travel. All mods are reversible.


Edited by fred v
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Some of these challenges/issues are behind the practical developments in English Concertina design by Henrik Muller (for Irish) and Paul Connolly (for Scottish) and in my Caledonian Concertina (for Scottish). The developments for playing Scottish traditional music also have considerable potential for enhanced playing of ITM, subject to taste of course. 

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When I was first thinking of getting a concertina, I spent a lot of time trying to get my head around the differences and the strengths and weaknesses of the Anglo and English systems.  (Apologies to the duet players: you were not on my radar at the time.)


I remember posting here words to the effect that it seemed like Anglo players pump the music out of their instruments, and English players just press the buttons and let it pour out.  This was not a criticism of EC players, but a way of trying to describe the fluidity and soft expressiveness that is possible with the instrument.


I became aware that the accepted wisdom is that Anglo is rhythmic and good for dancing and Irish, and English is more legato but "harder to dance to".


However, my actual experience of listening and dancing is that the most important variable is the musician.  Keith Kendrick can pump a tune and accompaniment out of an EC so that you'd really think it was an Anglo.  I have learned many of the cross row "routes through the maze" on an Anglo that allow a legato approach to whole phrases.  My Morris side has an EC player who combines lift and flow  in such a way that it is a joy to dance to.  We also have a former member who has played EC for us many times who is every bit as good.


Elsewhere, I remember reading similar debates where advocates of acoustic guitars argued that the electric guitar is "incapable of expression".  (No doubt that came as a surprise to B B King!)


When I was trying to choose whether to play Anglo or English, my head told me EC because it is fully chromatic and laid out logically.  I borrowed one for a month and could barely get music out of it.  I then picked up an Anglo, it made sense, and the more I play it, the more sense it makes.  It is for others to judge whether I play "expressively".


Perhaps the truth is that no instrument is "expressive".  An instrument is a conduit for the musician's expressiveness.  That is why there are a few excellent bodhran players, many proficient players, and some who just make a banging noise.


I think if I were to try EC now, and work at it as hard as I worked at Anglo, I could probably make it work. I understand music more now than I did then.  With Anglo, my first objective was to start crossing the rows for a purpose.  With English, it would be to learn the bellows control to put the phrasing and lift into the tunes.


As with the piano accordion, it is possible to play long passages on the EC without changing bellows direction.  However, the best players are those who deliberately choose when to do this, and when to play with short chopping movements of the bellows.

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The English is chromatic while the Anglo is diatonic.


I really don’t see the difference between an Anglo and English as far as articulation.  Both have a bellows. Both have their challenges. I think the real difference is that an Anglo is diatonic just like the Irish whistle which is absolutely awesome if you play in just a couple of keys.  If you want to duplicate a diatonic instrument, then use another diatonic instrument.  The same with playing in modal music…  you can’t beat a diatonic instrument.  

However, if you want to play classical music or violin music, etc. then the English will shine.  The English is chromatic while the Anglo is diatonic.  That’s how I see it although the flight of the bumble bee (chromatic piece) has been successfully played on both.  I personally warm up my English each day by running up and down the chromatic scale a few times and playing all keys up to 4 sharps and flats around the circle of fifths up and down.  

I really should also do Regondi’s golden exercise which is basically harmonizing all keys with arpeggios going up one semitone at a time.


No one instrument is “better”!  One is just a little better suited to a particular style / genre.

Edited by 4to5to6
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