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20b anglo - learning as a complete beginner in music


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Got my very first button box in the mail yesterday. Some 10yr old rebranded Stagi 20b Anglo from ebay. Probs ain't much but hey I'm a total newbie, and it definitely has its quirks and issues. 


My main concern now is where or how to learn. I am completely new to music, I have no idea whats going on, basically. I tried some of the links in pinned, but to no avail - the 19th century stuff just confuses me, probably assumes having basic understanding which I lack. I have a bit of trouble understanding the google drive audio guide (not a native speaker) and the one video from liberty bellows gets me lost and confused rather quickly. There is a big catch, I rather lack in the funding department, so I have to rely on free sources. 


I'd be very glad if someone' will be able to point me towards a good site or something, if there are any. Also, I would greatly appreciate any tutorials on the basics like holding, fingering and bellows control - currently my biggest issue is that I have big trouble with my pinkie, either I don't know how to hold it properly or it's too short. 

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Welcome to the wonderful world of music making! I hope it will bring you much pleasure, but fair warning: it will also bring you frustration and hard work.


For tutorials, read the Instruction Books For Concertina thread. There are several that can be downloaded for free. Of paid-for books, many have recommended Easy Anglo 1-2-3, but I'm not an Anglo player so can't comment.


You need to learn two things: the physical skill of getting the right sounds out of the concertina, and how music works. A decent tutorial will help with the first of these, and then it's up to you to practice. On understanding music, you probably know more than you think, and I recommend starting off playing easy tunes you are very familiar with -- I usually suggest Christmas carols. If you can join a beginner's music group (any instruments), that will be very helpful.


You don't particularly need to read music, at least at first. Most Anglo tutorials use tablature, that is, they tell you which button to press when. You can also try learning by ear: think of a simple tune you know well and figure out for yourself which buttons to press when so that the right tune comes out; this isn't easy but is rewarding and a valuable skill to learn.


Feel free to ask questions here. If you tell us what sort of music you are interested in, we may be able to point you to good resources.

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Like you, I also started with a 20 button Stagi.  I found early on that it was very limiting In what I wanted to do, but it got me through many of the basics.  As other have recommended, Easy Anglo 1-2-3 by Gary Coover is a great beginning book, especially if you also want to learn to read music as well.  If you want to play predominately Irish Traditional style, then I can't speak highly enough of the online lessons offered by Caitlin nic Gabhann at irishconcertinalessons.com.  Go to YouTube and you will find quite a few free "samples" of lesson offerings, and videos of songs from Coover's books.  See what type of playing you are interested in and go from there!


Welcome to the Rabbit Hole!

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Do not be out off if you maybe progress slower than you would have hoped on the instrument; there again you may prove to be a quick learner.

I started on a 20;button ( GDR) concertina ( Anglo).. and it started me off in many musical things over the years I had it. Later I got my 30 button Anglo ( which I still play today).. but you can find a lot of music to fit the range of 20 button, if you want to play from music sheets; many may need to be transposed to fit range of it, depending on which keys it is in. ( Many are in C and G.. but not all.)

I used and occasionally still do a very simple tablature system, which numbers each button, with a mark for when bellows pulled out.


Don't worry about all this technical talk, too early, get trying out instrument and make sound with it, see how you use the bellows, and all the notes it makes. And when you begin to advance, try and use all button range of notes to become familiar with many rather than picking only a few. I find little finger does come in, particularly for the higher notes, for right hand particularly. I would say try to become use to using all your available fingers, not just two or three. Anglo makes two notes on each button ( one note in .. another with bellows pulled out)...

Now get going with learning that concertina.🌝🌝🌝


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13 hours ago, vinmai said:

...I'd be very glad if someone' will be able to point me towards a good site or something, if there are any. Also, I would greatly appreciate any tutorials on the basics like holding, fingering and bellows control...

Some of the comments in this thread, particularly the more recent ones might be relevant in this context?


Some folks find tablature distracting (see some of the comments in the above thread). Me, I use tablature but prefer a very simple (minimalist, if you like) system. Like the Australian Bush Traditions system, which I've now used for several years. It's short, simple, concise, can easily be added 'by hand' to an existing score, and adds only one line of extra material to the score. I decided to use this system after looking at other alternative systems - I think it's important to be aware of the available options, and not to rush out and start using the first scheme you find...


The books by Mick Bramich are good. The system they use is (effectively) the same as the ABT system (though it presents differently on the printed page). I recommend Absolute Beginners Concertina and In-Between Concertina.


FWIW, I've 'extracted' tunes suitable for 20-button C/G concertina from my 'master tune book' file - there are over 5000 of them. Ditto 20-button G/D concertina...

Edited by Roger Hare
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I have many free PDF interactive tunebooks of traditional Irish music with Anglo Concertina tab available at:


In these tunebooks, you can very easily identify those tunes that don't use the 3rd row by the lack of any tab that has the format R1a L2a, etc.

The "a" after the button side and number in the tab indicates buttons on the top row, which you are missing on your 20 button instrument.

Many tunes in my books can be played on your 20 button instrument.

Here is information on how to read the tablature in my tunebooks:


For example (I've selected the "slow" speed versions for you):







Edited by Michael Eskin
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  • 4 weeks later...

The 20 button Anglo is an incredibly versatile instrument.  There are hundreds of tunes you can play on it, and many of them can be played in 2 different keys.


Of course, it is not as versatile as an instrument with more than 20 buttons.  However, if you can learn a tune on the 20, you can always transfer that tune to a 30 or more button later.


The basic 20 buttons is the heart of the Anglo system.  Any more buttons after that are a bonus,


There are several ways to play the Anglo, including, but not limited to:


Single line of melody along the row.  Just pick out a tune using the buttons on one row.  Even within this style, there are many tunes that can be played either low down (mainly on the left hand) or high up (mainly on the right hand).  Mainly on the right hand will give you more options for developing your style later.  Starting in this style will give you the quickest introduction to making music.  Look for simple tunes you can already whistle, such as When the Saints, Camptown Racetrack, Oh Susannah, Donkey Riding, Red River Valley.


Single melody crossing the rows.  On an Anglo, almost every note appears twice.  By borrowing notes from the "other" row, you can often simplify the fingering.  Later on, the ability to borrow notes across the rows will speed up your playing, make it smoother, and give you more options to develop accompaniments.


Octaves.  Whether you play along the row or across the rows, the simplest form of accompaniment is to play the same letter-name notes, an octave apart.  For example, low C on the left hand, higher C on the right hand.  It is rather clunky to play an entire tune in exact parallel octaves.  However, you can emphasise the beat by playing the lower octave accompaniment mainly on the down beats.


Harmonic style.  With this style, you play the melody mainly on the right hand and add an accompaniment that may be one or more notes mainly on the left hand.  This style requires some degree of musical knowledge or at least a good ear and intuition.


Mainly, however, the Anglo is designed to be intuitive.  The notes of each row are arranged more or less like a mouth organ.  Instead of blowing and sucking, you push and pull.  What you have is "2 mouth organs strapped together".  Although it is capable of producing complex and sophisticated musical arrangements, it is also capable of being played "by ear".


Don't try to run before you can walk.  Practise a few minutes a day, every day.  Build up a small repertoire of simple tunes to practise.  Listen to what you are playing and try to get it to sound like music, rather than just a sequence of notes.  Most of all, enjoy it.  No one is testing or judging you.


Free online sources include YouTube (to hear other people playing), thesession.org (for free sheet music and sound files of mainly Irish traditional tunes), and abcnotation dot com (for tunes in ABC notation, with pdf of conventional notation, and sound files).

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1 hour ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

I began on 20 key Anglo (GDR) made one at that time, and it certainly spurred me onto learn more musical things .. in fact by time I bought a new instrument I had found well over 300 pieces of music to fit it's two row G and C range🌝

My journey was almost in the opposite direction.  I started on the assumption that 30 buttons were "necessary".  I then became intrigued by the challenge of getting good music out of a 20 button instrument.  Trying to convert tunes from 30b to 20b introduced a number of problems that made me a more confident and skilled musician.  That then fed back into my playing of the 30 button.


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Grab any of my free Anglo Concertina PDF tunebooks with Anglo concertina tablature from:




Look for tunes that don't have any letter "a" after a number in the tab.  The "a" is used to represent a note on the top row of a 30 button instrument.


I'm sure you will find hundreds of tunes, particularly in the "King Street Sessions Tunebook" that will work just fine on your 20 button instrument. I've attached a couple of examples.



Edited by Michael Eskin
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