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Jay Lamsa

How Necessary Is That Ec Finger Plate?

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About a month ago I received my new baritone English concertine - amboyna ends, very pretty and I think it has a very nice mellow sound. It is also fairly heavy, certainly compared to my trebles. I play sitting down, and support the instrument on both knees (with the left side static and moving the bellows with the right hand), since it is fairly large. So I play away, admiring the sound, admiring the nice wood, learning new pieces, it's been great. And I've been playing it at least a few times a week since getting it.

Yesterday I put it down and walked away. Normally, when holding the instrument, you don't look at the sides where the buttons are. As I walked back to the instrument, I looked at it from an angle, and noticed there was no finger plate on the left hand side. I'd been playing for a month and never noticed! There is a fingerplate on the right hand side.

Ultimately, it really got me wondering - there doesn't seem to be a lot of purpose to that plate since I have been content without even noticing it wasn't there. Maybe it's not supposed to be there - I've never owned a large baritone before.

So how necessary do most of you find the fingerplate?

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So how necessary do most of you find the fingerplate?

"Necessary" is a tricky word. I certainly find the plate useful, maybe even necessary for some of the things I do on the English, but not for all. There are some things I could do without it, but not as well, and even some things where it probably wouldn't matter.

 

There are others who claim not to use that plate at all. Different styles.

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Is it actually new, or just new to you? I guess it just begs the question if it is missing (fell off an older instrument) or was never installed in the first place (new manufacturer just forgot to put it on).

 

Pretty incredible either way that you didn't notice it before, but that could just be this particular instrument. I don't play English myself, but most people that I've seen who play standing up use the finger plates quite a bit. It's not so noticeable when they are seated.

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As David has observed, my understanding is that they were originally fitted to enable the little fingers on each hand to provide extra support when playing standing up. I tend to play sitting down, with the right-hand end of the concertina resting on my right knee. The support my knee gives means that I don't need to use the finger rests. I also find that when I do tuck my little fingers under the plates, not for support but to keep them out of the way, it constrains the movement of my playing fingers, so I tend to let them float free. I have tried to play standing up like players like Alistair Anderson do (he seems to be able to make the concertina appear to be floating in the air, especially when he uses the doppler effect!) and found that the little fingers have to be tucked under the plates in order to take the weight of the instrument. The alternative would be to use a neck strap. I have no idea how much a baritone weighs but given that it is bigger and heavier than a standard treble, I would imagine playing it is a knee only job, in which case use of the finger plates, where fitted, is optional and dependent on personal comfort. My first concertina, a treble, had had them removed by a previous owner (perhaps they got in the way). I managed to get some original replacements and fitted them, partly because the instrument didn't look right without them, only to find that using then as intended impaired my finger movement, as mentioned earlier. I rest my case. ;)

 

Chris

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I rest my case. ;)

OK, Chris. You give your case a rest, and I'll state mine. ;)

 

...my understanding is that they were originally fitted to enable the little fingers on each hand to provide extra support when playing standing up.

While I do normally use my little fingers -- together with my thumbs -- to support the concertina, at least as important is using them (thumbs and fingers together) for fine control of the bellows movement and the orientation of the ends. Hooking the fingers under the plates makes it possible to pull outward on that part of the end, rather than to just push inward. I find that very useful.

 

I tend to play sitting down, with the right-hand end of the concertina resting on my right knee. The support my knee gives means that I don't need to use the finger rests.

One end supported by a knee translates into both ends losing the need for the finger plates? How?

 

I also find that when I do tuck my little fingers under the plates, not for support but to keep them out of the way, it constrains the movement of my playing fingers, so I tend to let them float free.

I don't "tuck" my fingers, nor try to "keep them out of the way". I actively use them. Maybe that's a difference? I don't hold them static. I shift them forward and back on the plates and even occasionally draw them free, though mostly they are under the plates and exerting a gentle pressure on the plates in one direction or another. (I also put only the tips of my thumbs into the straps, so that I can use the flexibility of all my thumb joints. If the thumbs are jammed in "to the hilt", then IME that constrains the movement of my playing fingers far more than the finger plates, but it can also make the finger plates seem to be in an awkward position.)

 

For what it's worth, I'm quite certain that the flexible independence of my other fingers from my little fingers has increased through years of playing, so I'm sure that it's something which responds to practice.

 

I have tried to play standing up like players like Alistair Anderson do (he seems to be able to make the concertina appear to be floating in the air,...) and found that the little fingers have to be tucked under the plates in order to take the weight of the instrument. The alternative would be to use a neck strap.

What sort of "alternative" is that? A neck strap is passive. I don't see how it can be of much use in swinging the instrument around, unless your goal is to strangle yourself. :ph34r: That's not meant as a putdown of neck straps per se, merely to suggest that you need to define your goals when considering "alternatives".

 

I have no idea how much a baritone weighs but given that it is bigger and heavier than a standard treble, I would imagine playing it is a knee only job,

Ah, we've had this discussion before. Many folks feel that way, but I not only play even my contrabass English (about 2.2 kg or 4.9 lbs) standing up, I tend to hold it above my lap even if I'm playing seated. I find this gives me more freedom and control.

 

So that's my perspective. :)

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Is it actually new, or just new to you? I guess it just begs the question if it is missing (fell off an older instrument) or was never installed in the first place (new manufacturer just forgot to put it on).

 

Pretty incredible either way that you didn't notice it before, but that could just be this particular instrument. I don't play English myself, but most people that I've seen who play standing up use the finger plates quite a bit. It's not so noticeable when they are seated.

 

It's a brand new instrument. I play sitting down, which is I guess how I missed it. Also, there is this tendency to see what we want to see. It's new, I expect the plate is there, and I don't think about it. There are no holes for the screws, so it was never there.

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It's a brand new instrument. I play sitting down, which is I guess how I missed it. Also, there is this tendency to see what we want to see. It's new, I expect the plate is there, and I don't think about it. There are no holes for the screws, so it was never there.
Interesting. Who made it? If you don't want to name names, was it one of themass-production companies or one of the mid-range "hybrid" makers or one of the modern "vintage" makers?

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Many years ago I met a Salvation Army concertina player who played an English with wrist straps and thumb loops while standing and so used his little fingers for playing the outer row. He was the last concertina player with the band, all the other instuments being brass, and played a Bb concertina reading the trumpet part.

 

All the best

 

Steve

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I find the lower notes easier to get if I lift my pinkies off the finger-ledge. With practise you can do it.

I also find that if my thumbs are angled out some 10 degrees, my thumbs can control the bellows without pinkies (when sat down). If my thumbs are parallel with the box, I have less control.

 

An added problem will be playing the new concertina until you get the thumbstraps exactly right and the leather bends itself to your grip.

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