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Good midpriced instruments for beginner


Marxtroll

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Hi, I play Irish traditional music for years on guitar and bouzouki. Now I will start with my first melody instrument, the concertina. Does anybody offer a good midpriced instrument for learning? I know that I will be disappointed with a 400€ instrument, but also I don’t want to invest 4k€ for the start.

 

Any good advices or offers? Best case instrument is located in Germany.

 

Thanks for your help

Edited by Marxtroll
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  • Marxtroll changed the title to Good midpriced instruments for beginner

There seem to be two strategies here:

  • Get a vintage Lachenal from a dealer like Barleycorn. These are pretty good concertinas that were made in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Barleycorn fixes them up in a way that leaves them solidly reliable. One with 30 buttons tend to cost between 1,000 GBP and 2,000 GBP, depending on the details of how it's made and what shape it's in. 
  • Get a modern hybrid concertina. Hybrids are made with accordion reeds, which are cheaper to make than traditional concertina reeds. They do sound a little bit accordion-y, which some people love and some people hate. But they're much more affordable than modern instruments with traditional reeds. You can get them at a lot of price points, from "cheap garbage" to "serious investment (but still cheaper than with traditional concertina reeds)."
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6 hours ago, Marxtroll said:

Hi, I play Irish traditional music for years on guitar and bouzouki. Now I will start with my first melody instrument, the concertina. Does anybody offer a good midpriced instrument for learning? I know that I will be disappointed with a 400€ instrument, but also I don’t want to invest 4k€ for the start.

 

Any good advices or offers? Best case instrument is located in Germany.

 

Thanks for your help

 

Agree with Leah, with one additional point: a good hybrid (Morse, Edgley, Norman, Marcus, etc.) will have modern riveted action, unlike non-modified Lachenals. That's an advantage when you start playing faster Irish tunes; a good, well-taken-care-of hybrid will not hold you back. The downside, of course, is that they don't have the traditional concertina sound.

 

I play both high-end vintage instruments and several hybrids. I don't see much of a difference in playability.  Playing on my own, I hear a big difference between the accordion reeds and the traditional concertina reeds; playing in a crowded session or over a big PA, most people can't tell the difference.

Edited by Jim Besser
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Ok, very good hints. Do you have some experience with the Phoenix from McNeela? Seems to be a good price and I saw a lot of good reviews. Also the 30 days money back guarantee is maybe helpful for me.

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44 minutes ago, Marxtroll said:

Ok, very good hints. Do you have some experience with the Phoenix from McNeela? Seems to be a good price and I saw a lot of good reviews. Also the 30 days money back guarantee is maybe helpful for me.

 

Sorry, I've never seen one. I assume they have riveted action, which is important.  ,I've played Morses (I own a few), Edgleys (I had one), Herringtons, Wakkers and Tedrows.  All are very fast, responsive players. 

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On 6/25/2024 at 4:28 AM, Jim Besser said:

a good hybrid (Morse, Edgley, Norman, Marcus, etc.) will have modern riveted action

As far as my early Edgley hybrid (#123) is concerned, it has hooked action, but it is very fast and responsive like other hybrids.

Edited by Takayuki YAGI
typo
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1 hour ago, Takayuki YAGI said:

As far as my early Edgley hybrid (#133) concerned, it has hooked action, but it is very fast and responsive like other hybrids.

Frank explained to me once that he wore out the riveted action in his concertina by a renowned top maker, to the point where it got noisy. I suspect that as a result he worked on engineering a better way to do hooked action. My own experience is that it isn't a bad approach per se, but in many Lachenals the particular design shows weaknesses especially after so many years.

 

I've never looked inside my Edgley to see what kind of action it has; it responds as fast as I could ever play it.

 

Ken

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I don't have a Clare, but I have a Vintage from ICC and it's been great (and I expect the Clare is too). 

 

I started on a Swan from McNeela and played it for about 6 months, but it quickly became a limiting factor (one of the keys was damaged on arrival and I had to manually repair it, the action was generally "sticky", and the bellows was restrictive). My plan was to start on a Swan and take advantage of McNeela's trade-in policy, but when I contacted them about it they told me that they'd only give me about 30% of the Swan's MSRP as trade-in value toward an upgrade (which surprised me, since concertinaconnection promises 100% of the MSRP when trading-in to an upgrade). So, that was kind of an unpleasant experience and it soured me on McNeela ever since.

 

In contrast, the Vintage from ICC is really responsive and has an incredible bellows (and I believe the Clare and Vintage are similar in those respects). My one nit with the Vintage is that the very lowest reed tends to go a few cents flat when played loudly, but that seems like more of a property of the choice of reed material rather than the concertina construction itself. In fact, the Clare may not have this problem, since it uses accordion reeds instead.

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You may have already figured something out, but I just saw this and thought I'd add in my limited experience. Also a beginner and I got a Phoenix. It's OK, but in hindsight I wish I had gone with something else... It arrived with some issues (at least one reed is broken/buzzing, it leaks air rather badly, left side sounds flat and probably needs to be tuned). The bellows seem very stiff, but I suspect they'll loosen with time. I will probably send it off to be repaired (but then I'll be without an instrument while it's gone - ack!) Honestly it's fine for learning, and it's the only concertina I've ever played so I can't really compare. I personally like the accordian reed sound so that's not a problem for me (although I'd love to have real concertina reeds some day too.)

 

My original thinking was to spend more for an "intermediate" level instrument to learn on, then later maybe trade up to something better if I stick with it. But I wanted something better right away... which is probably inevitable no matter where you start. And the Phoenix is not exactly cheap so I kind of wished I had just saved up for an ICC right away, or gotten a Lachenal or something like that to start with. In hindsight, it might be less crucial to worry about fast action as a beginner, since most beginners play slowly at first anyway (at least I do). Just my thoughts and good luck finding a box you like!

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Posted (edited)

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but the Marcus is extremely quick, and compared to all the other hybrids I've owned and tried it sounds most like traditional concertina reeds. I play #101 and it's my current go-to instrument - an absolute joy to play.

 

Gary

Edited by gcoover
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Putting in a second vouch for Marcus Concertinas if you want a hybrid. I just got my hands on #988 and it's an amazing instrument. I cannot recommend them enough if they're in your price range.

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Frank's (Edgley) concertinas have one huge advantage when it comes to the action, its adjustable. Unlike most makes which have a fixed action post basically nailed in place, Frank's hooks can be turned, raising or lowering them to increase or decrease button tension and can be easily replaced should one get damaged or worn. Also I've played many of his instruments in the shop since day one and even the accordion-reeded instruments are so well chambered and baffled to create a sound equal in quality to lots of vintage instruments. And I'm an English player (but started on Anglo).

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I initially bought a Phoenix, which seemed "expensive enough" at the time of purchase. After a few months, I had it replaced because it was faulty, but the replacement they sent was also faulty: I am not saying the Phoenix is a bad instrument, but it's mass produced and it has quality control issues. Also, McNeela's customer service was ace, but their instrument wasn't.
I was able to return the Phoenix and I got an ICC Clare. Twice the price, 3 or 4 times the quality: it's much much faster and reliable, it made me a better player instantly.

To sum up, I don't think you can get a decent mid-level concertina below the 2000$ threshold, unluckily...

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