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Hi everyone, I just joined to pose a few questions. I'd really love to learn the concertina, but I wanted to clarify some things first. I play the guitar and mandolin, although that is really just playing chords and a few songs I've memorized. I don't read music or understand theory. Thanks to tab and basic chords though, I can play a bunch of stuff. I'm mainly interested in playing music with an Irish slant, but anything that sounds nice is fair game.

 

Now for the questions. I hope this isn't a huge rehash, but I didn't see anything covering what I'd like to know. Given my musical backgroung (or lack thereof), is the concertina something that I can learn to play stuff on without knowing alot about music theory? From my initial reading, I'm assuming that I want a 30 button Anglo as opposed to an English instrument, but I'm not sure about c/g versus g/d.

 

As far as an instrument purchase goes, any recommendations on what to buy? I really can't shell out thousands of $$$ for a great instrument, but I'm mainly looking for something that I can try things out on and keep for a while if I like it. I don't have a very discerning ear and I'm only playing for fun, so as long as it works and sounds halfway decent, I'm open to anything I can afford.

 

Thats all I can think of for now, but if anyone has any helpful advice to add, I'm all ears.

 

Thanks!

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I'm mainly interested in playing music with an Irish slant, but anything that sounds nice is fair game.

 

Now for the questions. I hope this isn't a huge rehash, but I didn't see anything covering what I'd like to know. Given my musical backgroung (or lack thereof), is the concertina something that I can learn to play stuff on without knowing alot about music theory? From my initial reading, I'm assuming that I want a 30 button Anglo as opposed to an English instrument, but I'm not sure about c/g versus g/d.

 

Hi Jeremy,

 

From what you've said, I'd certainly agree that you should be looking for a 30 key (button) Anglo. C/G is generally favoured for Irish music, but I consider C/G to be a good "all-rounder".

 

For non-Irish sessions, many players favour a G/D box, but a C/G will cover most of your needs, and will stretch your playing ability, as you will need to play some tunes in the key of D. I favour a C/G in sessions, as tunes in the key of G will, generally, be played an octave higher than melodeons (assuming that you adopt the melody on right hand, chords on left hand, style).

 

Of course, if you end up playing solo, you can play in whatever key you like, to make either the fingering easier, or the best overall sound.

 

I'm assuming that you are based in the USA, so will leave it to other folks to advise on availablity and prices of suitable instruments, but a search on this forum will turn up a couple of makers based in the USA.

 

Regards,

Peter.

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Jeremy,

Welcome to C.net.. hope we don't scare you off :).

 

1. You don't need music theory to learn how to play or even to read music. If you want to play Irish, what you do need is either someone to help you, or lots of CDs that you can listen to (preferably slowed down) and figure out what is going on.

 

2. You might want to get a cheap instrument first and save up for a more expensive one.. but if you are like most of us here, you will save your money by getting a nice instrument first. The Button Box in MA I believe rents samples of its Ceili Ango which is a splendid instrument. If you like it, you can probably have the rental fee go against the purchase price and if not, you probably are no worse off than having dropped $500 for a decent Stagi.

 

--

Bill

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The Button Box in MA I believe rents samples of its Ceili Ango which is a splendid instrument. If you like it, you can probably have the rental fee go against the purchase price and if not, you probably are no worse off than having dropped $500 for a decent Stagi.

 

Button Box is great!

 

http://www.buttonbox.com/

 

First off, they are box specialists and retune/rebuild any instrument you buy before they ship it out. They also offer and great service and advice. I actually bought my little Hohner 20b from them and found it solid airtight and well set up, which is rare for a low end box.

 

Elderly, out of Grand Rapids, also has very good quality and sends out immaculate boxes!

 

http://www.elderly.com/new_instruments/cats/160N.html

 

Spend a little more if you can, but even a basic 20b can play good music, although you lack the C# and have to play around that note, which kind of makes it a bit of a challenge (I am a piper, so am used to the Mixolydian mode and flat 7th). Be open to the use of different boxes and different keys, as you can use the same learned fingering and just pick up another box to play in the different key (as opposed to playing across the rows, which is confusing to the beginner). Right hand melody and left hand chording/ drone works nicely and is very simple to do. Depending on your area, you may be the only box player and quite unique, so just add whatever sounds you can to the tunes and enjoy!

 

No, you don't need to read or understand theory, but do need to get the tunes in your head well and just go for it! Good luck and welcome to the Brotherhood!

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I agree with everybody, but just add:

Why don't you learn to read music? What's stopping you?

And what is better instrument to learn to read, than English Concertina?

Anglo is very confusing, when you try to go into more complicated and interesting tunes, it has holes in the lower octave etc. If you are into stricktly folk, irish, english, french - Anglo is fine. But if you want to play outside of these areas too, anglo can be a problem, at least in the beginning.

Another problem is squeaky nature of sound of cheaper instruments, they will miaoow many tunes down, you'll sound very nerdy at best So if you want a substantial sound, and have nobody to play with, a G/D or even a C/G, but an octave down might be a good bet. But I'd stay within $1500-2000 range. Just think of a mandoline for this amount of money, huh?

There are some 2 reed per note 20 button instruments, Hohner, Stagi. They are stricktly diatonic, but if you into experimenting, they can be modified to play chromatically.

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I was where you are about 4 years ago. I got a C/G anglo: if you want to play Irish tunes that's what you need. I can now play in sessions and not make too much of a fool of myself - most of the time. As to reading music, here's a few tips: take a look at an Irish tune book and you'll see that nearly all the tunes have either one or two sharps - that means nearly all the tunes are in the keys of G or D or a related minor key - this is really keeping it simple and you don't need to know all about 'dorian','aolian' keys etc, etc. This means you're working with only about 15 or so notes since we play Irish tunes with about an octave and a half. We only use a couple of sharps, that's an F# and a C# on any regular basis. So you don't have to have the music skills of a Mozart to 'read' Irish tunes.

As to time intervals you really get that from hearing the tune first: if you can hum a tune you know the intervals don't you? The written music is for most of us to find out what note they are playing if we don't have the time/skill to learn by ear. Think of it this way: you don't need the written music to sing a Beatles tune do you?

A tip on learning which note is which on the written stave: separate your instrument practice from your music reading practice. Take a tune and read through it sevaral times saying out loud what each note is, 'G', 'D', 'B', etc. Do that a couple of times a day for 5 minutes and next week you'll be 'reading' music.

I would recommend the Frank Edgley tutorial: it's nothing fancy but it has a CD available and will give you a bunch of common session tunes to get you started.

 

Good Luck, Alan.

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I was where you are about 4 years ago. I got a C/G anglo: if you want to play Irish tunes that's what you need.

Eh? You mean all those tunes I play on my English concertina (together with my friends on fiddle, whistle, and banjo) aren't Irish, after all? :D ;)

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I was where you are about 4 years ago. I got a C/G anglo: if you want to play Irish tunes that's what you need.

Eh? You mean all those tunes I play on my English concertina (together with my friends on fiddle, whistle, and banjo) aren't Irish, after all? :D ;)

 

Sorry Jim, we wanted to tell you but we just didn't have the heart to. :)

 

--

Bill

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:ph34r: ooh Mr. Miles we knew ye well. Yer' a brave soul. I'll now dive behind the EC earthworks and await the incoming volley. I hope this oft repeated "discussion" don't run poor Jeremy off. Yup, I hear the drum beat and war pipes (or is that 10 to 15 anglos a full wail) comin' out the next valley... Edited by Mark Evans
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I have been here before, or at least that's how it feels.

 

Advice to the effect that a certain type of concertina is the appropriate type for some genre of music always niggles me badly. This is usually (but not always) expressed as "if you want to play Irish, get a C/G anglo", which has always made exactly the same sense to me as the statement, "if you want to play Irish, get a flute".

 

The correct answer has always been, get the system you want to play. You will work out afterwards how to play the music you want to play on it.

 

OK, so how do you determine the system you want to play. Well, this is something that does not appear to be susceptible to logical analysis; one's preference seems to be established at a much lower, almost physical level. It's a personal reaction. I respect the English concertina but have never had the slightest urge to play one, whereas my partner Anne finds the whole idea of different notes for push and pull most offputting, and is a very happy English player. Good as this forum is, it can only give you other people's rationalisations of their preferences. You will have to handle concertinas in person to be fully confident of making the right choice - anyone who says different is selling snake oil. So, find opportunities to meet concertina players. Take advantage of people like Button Box who will rent concertinas. You might find [heresy warning] that you'd prefer flute after all. More likely you will end up in thrall to your concertina. There are worse fates ...

 

Chris

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I'm mainly interested in playing music with an Irish slant, but anything that sounds nice is fair game.

Do you mean just tunes, or also songs? The concertina tradition that has developed in Ireland mainly uses the anglo. I've heard rumors of a few contemporary Irish players using the English, but those few I've met have been Irish-Americans. (New York City Irish, not to be confused with Americans who grew up in non-Irish communities and decided they liked Irish music.) I, however, play Irish tunes on the English and my playing has been praised by native-born Irish anglo players. In addition, I know more than one player of the English who play in a style that would be identified as anglo by someone who can hear the instrument but not see it.

 

If you want to play songs, the whole world is open to you. There doesn't seem to be an Irish tradition of using concertina to accompany songs, though there are a few individuals. Robin Morton (Northern Irish, formerly of Boys of the Lough) plays English. Niall Vallely accompanying Karan Casey is the only example I can think of where an Irishman uses anglo to accompany song, but I'd be surprised if there weren't at least a few more. And outside of Ireland, all types of concertina are used for song accompaniment, and I think any of their styles could -- and should ;) -- be used with Irish songs.

 

...the duet has an octave left and right which is the same,which is extremely useful for alternative fingering.

The amount of overlap on the smaller duets (anything with fewer than 55 buttons) is rather limited. On the other hand, the same is true of any anglo. What the anglos have which the duets lack is alternative fingerings on a single end, which can be obtained on an anglo by changing rows (and possibly bellows direction). But such alternatives are available only for some notes, not all. What the duets have which the anglos lack is the abilitity to play every note in both bellows directions and the consequent ability to play any note sequence or chord without changing bellows direction.

 

I.e., any concertina will lead you in musical directions that other kinds of concertina (or other instruments) won't. And that has nothing to do with musical "theory", since there's not (IME) any formal theory that prescribes particular yet different arrangements for (e.g.) mandolin, ukelele, and 5-string banjo... or for different kinds of concertina.

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I have been here before, or at least that's how it feels.

Returning repeatedly to locations which are almost the same yet never quite exactly the same is a characteristic of something mathematicians call "chaos". :D :ph34r: More particularly, it's known as "deterministic chaos", which means that although there's no way to predict in advance exactly where you'll end up, there's no way to avoid getting there. :o

 

You will have to handle concertinas in person to be fully confident of making the right choice - anyone who says different is selling snake oil.

Ever since St. Patrick, a particularly dubious purchase for anyone whose interest is Irish music.

 

... More likely you will end up in thrall to your concertina. There are worse fates ...

Please, Chris, tell me what they are! :unsure: If the way I enjoy my concertinas is "bad", then I definitely want "worse"! :) B)

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Wow! Thanks for all the responses so far. My interests range from motorcycles to mandolins to beer making, and it seems that the internet has become a home for all like minded people pursueing their hobbies.

 

I guess I will try to clarify things a bit. As I said, I play guitar and mandolin. I can play chords on both and play anything that uses basic chords, and particularly on the mando, I've figured out (with the help of tabs and slow down software) playing the actual melody for some songs. I have a basic understanding of how to read a staff of music, just nothing close to sight reading. I don't have an aversion to learning it, its just that with the guitar and mandolin, I've been able to play most of what I want to play using chords or finding tabs.

 

As far as what I want to play, I love Irish music. Stuff like the Pouges, traditional stuff, jigs, reels, etc. Thats mostly what I use the mandolin for. Beyond that, I guess things like hymns, the occasional pop / rock song that has a nice melody, Christmas music, slow stuff. That is what I'm likely to wind up playing.

 

What I'm looking for in an instrument is something that won't break the bank (since I just play to amuse myself, friends, and family). I love the sound, and I think I'll really enjoy the concertina, so I want to get something that won't limit me in a year, but I'm not looking for a professional instrument. Just something that sounds decent. As far as English vs Anglo vs Duet, I humbly submit to your guidance as things like "cross fingering" don't mean anything to me.

 

Oh, and one more thing, can one play chords on a concertina?

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Oh, and one more thing, can one play chords on a concertina?

 

Hi Jeremy,

 

I'll start off round 2 of Anglo v English v Duet.

 

Anglo - very easy for playing chords, especially if the tune is in one of the "home" keys of the instrument (i.e. C or G on a C/G instrument).

English - possible to play chords. The better players make it sound very easy.

Duet - developed from the English system, and laid out to give the option of melody (right hand) and chords/counter-melody (left hand).

 

See the following link for more details on Duet systems:

 

http://www.concertina.com/

 

Judging from my attempts to "master" the MacCann Duet over the years (well, I can hack out a few tunes), and the relative ease with which I can hack out a few tunes on the English (single line melody only), I'd still recommend the Anglo as it sounds as if your reading ability is on a par with mine.

 

Regards,

Peter.

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I have been here before, or at least that's how it feels.

 

Advice to the effect that a certain type of concertina is the appropriate type for some genre of music always niggles me badly. This is usually (but not always) expressed as "if you want to play Irish, get a C/G anglo", which has always made exactly the same sense to me as the statement, "if you want to play Irish, get a flute".

 

Makes more sense than, "If you want to play Irish Music, get a trumpet" ;).

 

The correct answer has always been, get the system you want to play. You will work out afterwards how to play the music you want to play on it.

 

I am not sure I completely agree with that. If one simply wants to play the concertina, that might be the best way to go, but if one knows the style of music one wants to play, then it makes sense to see what resources are out there. As much as some players love the Duet and the English and alternate tunings for the Anglo, when it comes down to it, if you play one of those instruments you will probably not find many resources to keep you going if you are mainly interested in playing Irish music. Remember playing a particular genre of music is more than just playing the tunes.. there is a way that different musical traditions phrase the tunes and accompany them, etc. Learning to play classical on the English is probably not the best approach if you want to ultimately play Irish music. (likewise the learning Irish is not the best approach to playing classical ;)).

 

OK, so how do you determine the system you want to play. Well, this is something that does not appear to be susceptible to logical analysis; one's preference seems to be established at a much lower, almost physical level. It's a personal reaction. I respect the English concertina but have never had the slightest urge to play one, whereas my partner Anne finds the whole idea of different notes for push and pull most offputting, and is a very happy English player. Good as this forum is, it can only give you other people's rationalisations of their preferences. You will have to handle concertinas in person to be fully confident of making the right choice - anyone who says different is selling snake oil. So, find opportunities to meet concertina players. Take advantage of people like Button Box who will rent concertinas. You might find [heresy warning] that you'd prefer flute after all. More likely you will end up in thrall to your concertina. There are worse fates ...

 

Chris

 

I agree with most of this, though as I said, I do believe the genre and resources are an important factor. While it is almost certainly possible to play good Irish Music on an English or a Duet, you have recognize that neither instrument is very common in the Irish Traditional Music scene. Now with any instrument that is currently considered outside the Tradition, one of sufficient talent (or a few key players) can cause perceptions to change (Bobby Gardner, Sonny Brogan and the original Paddy O'Brien did that with the B/C accordion in the 50s and 60s) but those players have to do all the work themselves. They have to figure out how to play the instrument in a way that won't annoy the fiddle and flute players. You also have to recognize that your instrument might never be accepted or even if it is, that your style of playing it might not be accepted. Overall, I think the wise move is to decide what music you want to play and then to look at the instruments available in that tradition.

 

If one does decide to choose an instrument like the English or the duet that are not quite in the tradition, make sure that you listen to as many players of the anglo as possible. While you don't need to play exactly like them, it will probably help you develop a style that will be accepted. Fortunately the only people who are likely to notice that you are not playing the anglo will be other concertina players and maybe a few box players. So if you can convince them, you will be set.

 

BTW, Chris, I don't consider it heresy to prefer the flute. I am glad that people prefer the flute, the fiddle, the bango and the accordion. I want to play in an Irish Session, not a concertina session :).

 

--

Bill

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Oh, and one more thing, can one play chords on a concertina?

Absolutely! Press down more than one button at a time while moving the bellows in or out, and you have a chord... unless you have a discord. ;)

 

The answer -- or what you do and how you do it -- becomes more complicated if you want to play chords and melody at the same time. You can also do that on any kind of concertina, but for each kind of concertina some styles of matching one to the other are easier than on the others.

 

Have you yet listened to the selections on the Recorded Tunes Link Page? It's far from covering every possibility, but it should let you form some idea of what can be done on the various kinds of concertina. What I expect is that you'll be surprised at how versatile they all are.

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Hi everyone, I just joined to pose a few questions. I'd really love to learn the concertina, but I wanted to clarify some things first. I play the guitar and mandolin, although that is really just playing chords and a few songs I've memorized. I don't read music or understand theory. Thanks to tab and basic chords though, I can play a bunch of stuff. I'm mainly interested in playing music with an Irish slant, but anything that sounds nice is fair game.

 

Now for the questions. I hope this isn't a huge rehash, but I didn't see anything covering what I'd like to know. Given my musical backgroung (or lack thereof), is the concertina something that I can learn to play stuff on without knowing alot about music theory? From my initial reading, I'm assuming that I want a 30 button Anglo as opposed to an English instrument, but I'm not sure about c/g versus g/d.

 

As far as an instrument purchase goes, any recommendations on what to buy? I really can't shell out thousands of $$$ for a great instrument, but I'm mainly looking for something that I can try things out on and keep for a while if I like it. I don't have a very discerning ear and I'm only playing for fun, so as long as it works and sounds halfway decent, I'm open to anything I can afford.

 

Thats all I can think of for now, but if anyone has any helpful advice to add, I'm all ears.

 

Thanks!

Jeremy, you might want to first invest in the documentary DVD "Playing the Concertina" available on Pauline de Snoo's website. Various opinions regarding the Anglo and English systems are discussed by Douglas Rogers and Steve Dickinson, and both instruments are played. Steve Dickinson, gives a fair appraisal of each systems attributes. Duet too. It's a beautiful film as well. Mike

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I'll start off round 2 of Anglo v English v Duet.

I think it's actually closer to round 37... unless you mean round 2 in this thread. :D

 

Anglo - very easy for playing chords, especially if the tune is in one of the "home" keys of the instrument (i.e. C or G on a C/G instrument).

"Especially"? Some folks think it's "only". (It's not, but depending on the key, it can become anywhere from "more difficult" to "impossible" to play a chord that has a particular desired sound.)

 

English - possible to play chords. The better players make it sound very easy.

It is easy. Incredibly easy, if you want to play only chords. It's when you want to play chords at the same time as melody that it gets more complicated, especially if you insist on a particular style, structure, and rhythmic pattern to the chords. But that's quite different from just "playing chords" -- which I believe is what Jeremy asked about -- or even from producing a pleasing chordal/harmonic accompaniment without being artificially restricted as to its structure.

 

I'd still recommend the Anglo as it sounds as if your reading ability is on a par with mine.

I don't think there's even a wisp of a causal connection there. With an English it may be easier to learn to read music at the same as learning the instrument than with an anglo (or maybe not :unsure:), but there's absolutely nothing about the English that makes it difficult to learn to play without reading music.

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