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Which Concertina to buy and how to start learning!

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Hi guys!


I have wanted to buy a concertina for a couple of months now. In this post I want to ask you guys a bit of advice on which kind of concertina I should buy and how I can start learning. I have never played an instrument except for some music classes I had in school.


The music I want to play on a concertina are Sea shanties and quick jigs. I like these because they are quick and upbeat. I will mostly be playing alone. I believe the Anglo concertina would be best for this kind of music. How many buttons do I need? I have also seen some posts about different button layouts. Does button layout make a big difference? 


I am a student so my budget is quite low. I have about 450 to 500 euros I can spend on a concertina. I live in the Netherlands and I have not been able to find any places here that sell concertina’s other than the very cheap low quality chinese ones. So I will have to order my concertina online. Online I have mostly found 20-button concertinas for my price point. I have read that they can be restricting, because there are less notes on it. Does this matter for the music I prefer?


Should I look at new made concertina’s like the ones from McneelaMusic or an old restored one from Barleycorn or AC norman? Is there a difference in quality between restored and new concertina’s? 


Lastly, what would be a good way to start learning? I have seen lots of books for learning the concertina, but there are also a decent amount of online teachers available. What would be the biggest difference between these learning methods?


Best Regards,



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Welcome to the world of free reed ( concertinas).

You have picked as instrument a very special type musical device, with so much to offer; and once you start learning you will probably become well addicted to the instrument, which is so often the case with many who try it out for first time.


There's loads of button choices from 10 buttons, 20,30, and well above this in Anglo types.

I started on a 20 button basic GDR made Anglo, and it got me going years ago.  Then went up to 30 button Later on, and still use that same one some 24 years later!

20 keys does not have to limit you too much, for starting out, and there's an excellent player of 20 key concertina here on c.net itself who makes her own 20 button concertina sound like a complete orchestra in its own right.  But you will have to make sure ( if you read: music on the page) that it will fit the range of it; many are in C and G major, on the two rows but that can vary.

My own 30 key one has that extra row of buttons which provides some sharps or flats to fill in where needed and makes a huge amount of music to play on it possible; hundreds upon hundreds of music can be accommodated in 30 button variety. (  I have collected hundreds over decades now).

I cannot say which make is best ( my own was Hohner branded) but made in Italy by a company that closed several years ago. It has since being restarted by two lovely ladies over there, and they make quite variety of types and price ranges.

One of our c.net people popped a video on here a while back where he visited the concertina Italia to see how they made the concertinas.

You may want an antique one, or one of the other well trusted makes, which ever you do choose I am sure people on here ( c.net) will be only too pleased to give you their own recommendations or advice.


TItchy little mobile phone screen !
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I'm a beginner, having recently gone through the same process of research, with a similarly limited budget.

The 20 button concertina has two rows of buttons. One is for the C major scale and the other is for the G major scale. I don't know how much you remember from your school music class, but those two scales consist of almost the same notes, with one exception. The C major scale has an "F natural" but the G major scale has an F#. So, with a 20 button concertina you'll be able to play things that use those two scales, which is actually quite a lot of music, including music that can be transposed to use just those scales.


The 30 button concertina that Simon mentioned is still basically a 20 button instrument, with the addition of an extra row of sharps and flats, making it possible to play a lot more music, just as Simon pointed out.


You mentioned that you'd like to be able to play "quick jigs." There are plenty of those that use the C and G scales, but there's also a huge body of Irish music that uses the D major scale. That scale uses the F#, as the G scale does, but it also has a C#, which isn't on the standard 20 button concertina. Now, if you're playing alone, you could transpose any of those Irish tunes down a step, to be playable on the 20 button concertina, but you'd obviously have to know how to do that. And should you ever find yourself in a situation playing them with others, they'll almost certainly be playing them in D.


So, if you think (a) you might want to play those Irish jigs and reels, and (b) you might find yourself playing with other musicians after all, then I'd suggest getting the 30 button concertina, which is what I ended up doing.

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...Alone, fast/upbeat, low budget and no shops nearby... I'll get kicked for suggesting this on a concertina forum, but you should be able to source a decent used full-sized, but basic accordion quite cheap in the Netherlands...


- If you play alone and fast, you'll enjoy having chord bass in your left.

- I don't think that it really matters what squeezebox you start on, as for the first year you'll be getting your head round basic bellows control, hand co-ordination and learning basic music theory & reading sheet music. You can jump onto the concertina after that.


Just a thought, hopefully I don't get killed for this by the concertina players here.

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