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How many concertinas have you owned/tried?


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This question about instrument experience, and some quantification has sent me stumbling to my repair archives, and has made me scratch my.....er, head, whilst trying to work out just what I have done, and how best to answer fairly accurately. The best way I can come up with is as follows:


I can divide my concertina experience into four groupings:

  1. My own playing menagerie of instruments: Bass (single action), Baritone (single Action) , wooden ended ET; metal ended Aeola , Piccolo, and metal ended Miniature, plus three CG Anglos used for loan/ fun: 30K Lach , 26K Jones; 20 k Lach ( this last was played by Peter Capaldi in the recent David Copperfield film).
  2. Instruments I have with the intention of re-building them, as needed or if I run out of other stuff to do: 10 misc Anglo & English trebles of various grades. I also have two duets to do up one day
  3. Instruments I have sold on, or have been nicked by my daughters: 9 ET's, 2 Anglos, and a Baritone double action
  4. Instruments I have restored/ serviced and played as part of my repairer activities over the last 28 years, say in excess of 700, plus again, those brought to me at clinics, talks or emergency repairs. These are mostly English system, a good proportion of Anglos, and a small number of Duets, mainly Maccans with a handful of Crane. Of the English I would guess at 20 plus were Bass, then double that of Baritones, then a very small number of Piccolos and a handful of oddballs. The repairs are mainly on traditional build instruments. However some were hybrid which were a mix of waxed in, and mechanically retained reeds.
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To be honest, I've hardly ever had the opportunity to try out somebody else's concertina. I'm usually the only concertinist in the area!


However, my contact with, and love of, the instrument started very early in life. I enjoyed a Christian upbringing, with all its glorious music, and before I was old enough to sit through a church service without fidgeting, my mother (herself a musician and singer) took me to the Salvation Army Citadel every Sunday. No fidgeting at all - I was just spellbound by the brass band, and of course the concertina.

When my 18th birthday loomed up, and a special present was on the cards, I wished for a concertina of my own. Back then, in the mid-'60, all that the still-numerous music shops in Belfast had to offer was a 20-button GDR Anglo. So that was my initiation into active concertina playing. I had no idea that it was completely different from what I had experienced at the S.A! 

Originally, I had intended to learn music theory and sight reading for my new instrument - but when it turned out that it was just two mouth-organs sawn in half and fitted into a bellows, that changed. I fell back on the tuition my father (a by-ear player of several instruments) had given me on his mouth organ.

I had fun! I played sea shanties, and when our church Youth Fellowship held a holiday camp in Donegal, I took the concertina with me, as others take their guitars. Our group even held a Sunday sercice in a local Presbyterian church - and it had no organ! So I was appointed organist for the occasion, and my humble 20-button was declared a "mini-organ." It led the congregational singing vey well!

The GDR concertina was one of those with double reeds, and after some years a couple of bass notes went out of unison. So when I left Ireland to work here in Germany, I left it behind. I had other instruments to accompany my singing.


Then, in a junk-shop in West Berlin, I saw a square box with a bellows and buttons. I tried it out, and found that some of the buttons worked just like those on my concertina. So I bought it, and started working up familiar concertina pieces on it - and had fun again! I later found out that the instrument was a single-voiced Bandoneon; that is, a variant of the German Konzertina. Again, I employed it, among other things, for church music, playing the background music during the laying on of hands at my son's Confirmation.

Meanwhile, I had heard Anglo concertinas played by visiting Irish folk groups in the Stuttgart music scene. As I was now - by a combination of circumstances - the frontman of an Irish folk group, I thought a 30-button C/G Anglo would be nice to have. So I visited one of the (then still-numerous) music shops in Stuttgart, and found a nice, metal-ended 30-button Anglo. It was branded "Stagi." It sounded a lot more concertina-like than my old GDR 20-button, or my Bandoneon. So I bought it.

At first, it had teething problems: Buttons slipping under the end-plates, or just getting squint and jamming. With a combination of repair (altering the felt bushing inside the ends) and routine (checking that the buttons were all vertical before starting to play) I played the Stagi for almost 20 years with my group.

At some point, I made the mistake of applying leather balsam to the bellows. This caused the glue to fail, and the bellows to collapse on the draw. In those days, Wim Wakker was still in the Netherlands, and offered a bellows replacment service. I took advantage of this, and the result was a concertina that was twice the instrument it had been before. The Wakker bellows are stout but flexible, and facilitate sharp bellows reversals. The Stagi reeds are still in tune after over 20 years' playing, and the teething troubles with the buttons have vanished. 


Shortly after this upgrade, I did get a chance to try someone's Rochelle. I was utterly unimpressed with it.


The Stagi had (I thought) one drawback: it was an Anglo, and limited in the number of keys that could be played easily, but with a sophisticated accompaniment. So I looked around for a Duet. I settled on the Crane system, found one by Lachenal at Barleycorn, which turned out to be an ex-Salvation Army Crane/Triumph - the type that had originally awakened my childhood interest! I applied myself with zest to the learning of the Crane, with the aid of Internet learning material. I managed to get quite nice arrangements of familiar songs worked out - but I found that I was palying mostly in two keys: C, G and F. At least different from the Anglo's C, G and D, but not really a leap forward. Add to that, I found the equal temperament of the Duet rather harsh, in comparison with the more just temperament of the bisonorics.


So I'm still very much an "Anglo-Irishman" in every sense of the word!

My latest acquisition is, logically, a higher-quality Anglo. It's a Dallas-Crabb, i.e. a concertina manufactured by Crabb and badged for the banjo manufacturer and music publisher John E. Dallas. I bought it because John E. Dallas is also my proper name - but my namesake obviously had an instinct for a good concertina-maker, because this instrument has a wonderful, powerful yet sweet sound. The only weakness is that the bellows is rather too floppy for an Anglo. It is not original, because the present bellows has a repairer's label in Afrikaans, so it must have been replaced in South Africa. The Wakker bellows on my Stagi would probably have been a better replacement.


Nevertheless, this will probably be my last concertina. Or maybe I'll invest in an old (pre-GDR) German concertina for German folk music. I've still got the Bandoneon, the Stagi, the Lachenl Crane, and of course the Crabb.


The story of my life, told by concertinas!




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I have three concertinas and those are the only ones I've ever had the chance to play, but I've only been playing for a bit over a year so I'm hoping to change that!


My most recent purchase was a Lachenal Bb/F with steel reeds. The action is a little harder than I like and the reeds sound a little slower than I'd like but only just and I think they'll improve the more I play since they've already. Before that I got a C/G Phoenix from McNeela. I really like the action and the sound on this one  but I don't play it as much as I like to bc there's some minor technical problems I need to fix. 


My first AC was a Trinity College low end concertina I got off of amazon bc I wanted to try out the concertina before I committed to anything and I still love it and play it regularly. I'm hoping to make a few minor changes that will drastically improve it but I still play it pretty much every day.

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I thought I had nineteen but I counted them this morning and I have 23. of these, nine are destined for the grandchildren, to give them a head start if they want to start playing and to enable them to chose which system they prefer. They will each get an English, a 30k Anglo and a Crane Duet. Of the current total 23, four are English and three are Crane Duets the rest are Anglos. This grand total of 23 includes two Anglos which are out on loan at the moment. I have owned at least 38 concertinas in all, so far, and tried countless more. Four of these 38 were purchased for spare parts.


Of those I have tried, several standout as excellent, including a 30k Crabb (see below) several Jeffries in various tunings, a lovely Dipper and a very fast Wolverton that was one of the first batch Jake M-M made.


I had an ambition to collect at least one Anglo concertina of every tuning but gave that up some years ago, even so I have several Anglo concertinas in different tunings.


From memory the best Anglo I ever tried (to my mind) was a 30k John Crabb that a friend bought but was not sure about, so I borrowed it for a session. A beautiful box. Currently I play a 20k C/G Crabb mainly for Morris as it is so light, fast and loud enough, with a Marcus G/D 31k for Morris tunes in D. I play any of the following in the SqueezEast Concertina Band and our local French dance group , a 30k Wheatstone Baritone Anglo, a 40k C/G Crabb  or a 30k C/G Rosewood Lachenal. For fun at home I play a 20k G/D Lachenal made of spare parts I had lying around or a 20k Bb/F Lachenal as they are both relatively quiet but of delightful tone.


My first concertina was a 30k C/G Hohner Anglo closely followed by a 30k G/D Gremlin Anglo. The Hohner I sold as soon as could buy a decent 30k C/G Lachenal (which I still have) and the Gremlin I gave to another player for parts to keep his Gremlin playing (bits kept breaking inside and it was out of tune so no great loss)


The majority of my C/G Anglos are also used for concertina beginner workshops, although I have done less of these recently,  and most Anglos I have sold have gone to other players who also do workshops.


I really have too many concertinas but they each have a different attributes, type of reeds, tuning, etc. and a some need a bit more work, but all , bar two 20k East German semi minatures, are in playable condition. My wife does  not understand the fascination and thinks I'm obsessed.

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I have two concertinas currently (both Wheatstones, both great!)


Before deciding to purchase my own, I played ONE concertina...just a scale on an Anglo. There's no store on the west coast where I can try makes and models to see what will be a good fit, so it was a process.


I started with a $150 Anglo I found on Ebay. It was fun, but TERRIBLE. I saw the potential, though, and sold that to a friend with appropriate warnings and purchased - 


An English, Jack, from Concertina Connection (lovely to deal with). It was pretty good, probably very good for the price point. The vinyl bellows were stiff, and likely because I'd chosen the nice baritone, the low notes were pretty slow to engage - not ideal for a novice. I sent that one back. That's when I found the forums and read everything I could find. Next - 


An absolutely lovely 1851 Wheatstone (one of my keepers) from Greg Jowaisas. If you're lucky enough to deal with Greg - he is the best and has something in every price point. I started to outgrow this one ($1000ish, which felt insane at the time... they're not cheap instruments - welcome to concertinas, LOL). It has 4-fold bellows, brass reeds, a soft sound...and I wanted more PUNCH. Onto - 


A very promising Edeophone from overseas, which unfortunately didn't work out. The parts that worked well were definitely the sound I wanted. Six month gap in the search, then - 


A fabulous Wheatstone Model 22 (1927 and the other keeper) from SeanC. It has it all - steel reeds, more air, lots of volume - very similar in sound to the Edeophone. 


A friend of mine gave me a hammered dulcimer and a mandolin five years ago or so, which is when my I.A.D. (Instrument Acquisition Disease) started in earnest, but I can see the danger with concertinas. :lol:


Edited by Capitanya
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Let's see...


My first, which I was just talking about on another thread, was a GDR-produced 20-button. It was surprisingly playable, especially compared to some of the other beginner instruments I've tested in shops since then.


Upgraded pretty quickly to a Concertina Connection Clover, which is still my main squeeze.


I realized shortly after getting the Clover that I would eventually need even more buttons, and in my haste, purchased a 38-button Jeffries from eBay which seemed like a good-but-not-great deal (in other words, believable). Unfortunately it was in much worse condition than advertised, I couldn't return it, and I was lucky the Button Box was eventually willing to take it off my hands (after I spent a lot more getting it into playable condition). In the end I only lost... well, about $2k on it. 😐 Do yourselves a favor and stay off eBay.


After I had been thoroughly scared off from vintage instruments, I got on a couple waitlists. Hopefully this year will be the year. (I've since had the chance to try a couple really fabulous vintage concertinas and would definitely consider purchasing one if I got to try it out first—nearly impossible to do here in the US.)


I've had the opportunity to try out a few others at our occasional Bay Area concertina meetup organized by @Daniel Hersh. Can't remember them all but I've definitely tried Wakkers, Carrolls, and a Holden, all lovely.


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My pride and joy is a double-reeded Wheatstone 20-button anglo in a slightly weird layout which gives it G/A reversals and a G drone. It is a bit slow and takes some muscle, like I guess double-reeded instruments generally do, but it sounds lovely and rich and shockingly loud, and it works very well for morris tunes.


I also like having a regular 30-button instrument for playing socially, and for keys that aren't G, and for practicing at not-deafening volumes. Right now it's an Edgley hybrid. I'm about to upgrade to an Eirú.


In the past I've had a used Bastari, a Rochelle 2, and a Lachenal English.

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  • 3 months later...

Probably owned between 20 and 30 over the years and have tried another 20 maybe in search for the perfect tone.  

I now would like to only play my prefered 31xxx amboyna Aeola TT to really know the feel of it well but I am often repairing or restoring an instrument that needs to be “played in and will switch to playing it full time until done.  

Best to stick to just one instrument and specialize in it.  It’s okay to have a backup of course… I do have a Regondi era EC owned by the Bulteel family that is absolutely amazing at quite parlour music and a model 22 EC with short stroke buttons for fast playing that will peel the wall paper off the wall it is so loud so I understand the interest in multiple instruments…. I think it’s called G.A.S. (Gear Accusation Syndrome).


Edited by 4to5to6
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