Jump to content

A Squeezbox For Many Styles


Recommended Posts

I seem to have just come across this fantastic community in the nick of time. I may be asking for far more than can possibly be realized, and hope much that someone can give me some advice on what to get and how to get it.

 

I'm a classically trained oboist, and come to the idea of wanting to obtain a concertina from long and long ago. Besides my days as a double reed player, I've also played the Irish flute (or rather, a simple-system flute in an Irish style), penny whistle, and banjo. I've spend years studying orchestration and composing, and now...well, now I'm a full time writer.

 

So here is my problem, if you have traveled this far with me. I'm looking for an inexpensive concertina to see if I like 'er before investing a bundle, as it should be with a student situation. I am torn between the Anglo and the English styles. I'm desiring to play chordal accompanyments, as well as solo tunes, perhaps both if possible - I am the first to admit I know almost nothing about the little things - and love sea tunes / chanties, various American, English, and Scottish folk tunes, and of course Irish music. And, if I am not being difficult enough, how about the possibility of some baroque music? And while I am at it, any possibility of be-bop and perhaps even some rock 'n roll?

 

So, what do you all think? An English style instrument, or would an Anglo style be better for a beginner with a lot of music theory and performance behind him? How much chromaticism can I expect from a concertina, if any outside the majors and relative minors? Modes? Benefits of 20 buttons, 30 buttons, and more buttons?

 

Next to last - keys concertinas are made in? C/G, C/D? Is that standard, or do you have to watch out for odd keys like B? I ask that because a dealer on Ebay replied to my question about keys for a 30 button English instrument by saying it was in the key of B, and that didn't sound right at all. He did tell me he is a violinist, and doesn't know the instruments he sells.

 

Finally, any advice about makes to purchase for a new player?

 

And that was a lot of questions. Thanks in advance, and I hope someone can help me out.

 

Dane

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Dane,

 

You'll probably also want to consider the Duet type of concertina.

 

Also, whether you want a high- or low- toned sounding concertina -- tenor, baritone, etc.

 

I play the English...still learning...and I don't really know much about the other two types except what I have heard and seen of them. (I do have a second-hand oboe; I got a short start on that a little while ago, but, I'm not destined to play the oboe, that's for sure.)

 

The Duet is generally recommended for it's versatility, and chordal accompaniment possibilities. But, really, I find the English to be suitable and I prefer the symmetrical balances of it. The Anglo is probably as equally amazing, but, I wanted to be able to pull/push the bellows in any direction for the same tone(s)....

 

Anyway, I'm sure that you'll want to check out the link for The Button Box (at this site).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dane,

 

Neither your post nor your profile say where you live. Some standard replies:

 

If you tell us where you live, one of us may be nearby and can just show you some concertinas. Experience tells me this is so personal that all the intellectual arguments my dear colleagues will soon post here may not work for you personally. There is nothing like holding them and playing them.

 

Also, check the faq:

 

The Concertina faq

 

a very balanced treatment by Chris Timson. You'll get an idea of the generalizations and exceptions to same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Dane --

 

I sounds like you're headed toward a duet as they are fully chromatic, set up to play multi-part music and have the range you've described.

 

A good thing to do would be to find a situation with players of all three types of concertinas and get a good handle on what the instruments can/can't do (with regard toward your musical interests) easily. There are a number of festivals where this happens, quite a few music sessions, and some music stores as well (that carry all 3 types and can demonstrate them).

 

You seeking an *inexpensive* concertina "to see if you like it" (as in tone and playability) is worrisome to me as they are such poor instruments - so much so that many folks have not pursued the instrument as it was not easy, fun, nor enticing sounding.

 

Imagine that you don't play banjo and are now interested in taking it up. You go out and buy a new 5-string Taiwanese model for $199.95 (or a used one for $80) which has 1/2" high action, el cheapo strings, tuners which don't work and bridge affixed so that the instrument is NEVER in tune... and has lousy dynamics and thin sound.... Enticing NOT (particularly to a seasoned musician such as yourself)! All that money and effort down the drain as you never realize that there is a world of difference between that inexpensive model and the Style X No. 9 Tubaphone....

 

If you are seeking an *inexpensive* concertina to save money (in determining system propensities), I suggest that you consider renting concertinas to try them out as they will be better quality than the inexpensive ones are -- AND you could check out all three types for a few months for less than the purchase price of a single cheaper one. Probably for less cost that the hit you'd be taking between buying/selling that cheaper one....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Richard M, Renting is a great idea . If you live in the Balt . Wash. area , where can you rent an Anglo C/G Lachenal, Jones , Wheatstone , etc? Does anyone offer this via mail? I know I want o buy a decent anglo and would love to have the opportunity to try several makes and compare, contrast. Is there anyone out there that offfers this?

Thanks,

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many people will agree with this statement, I suspect: "Always buy the best instrument you can afford." If you decide you and the instrument are not made for each other, you can usually get close to what you paid for it, if you did not overpay to begin with. If you like the instrument, you will not likely outgrow it, at least for quite a while. A cheap instrument is hard to sell, and harder to get anywhere near what you paid for it. Buying a "vintage instrument" is not easy and full of pitfalls an inexperienced purchaser may fall for. Try to have an experienced player advise you before making the leap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good advice here, and thank you all for replying. Ah, the cheap instrument vs. the expensive one for beginners - I, too, would advise a new student to buy as fine an instrument as possible, but at the same time, it is a lot of bread to put down on something they may not like a bit. My first banjo was a professional model, just lovely in all aways, and I only touched it a few times (I had worked with a teacher who was a bluegrass guy, and that might not have helped much), and sold it for about a thousand dollar loss, just to be rid of it. Many years later, I got one someone had bought at a tag sale and badly restored, and after working on it a bit myself, I love the thing. High action still, but a sound instrument with good tone, if seriously ugly to look at still.

 

Renting is a good option, and I live in Western MA, so there is a concertina store in Amherst, near me. Honestly, the idea of putting down 4,000 for a vintage instrument makes my hair stand on end, although I also know fine instruments never come cheap, and the best you can get is always the way to go.

 

To answer the question of high vs. low, probably a tenor model would suit me, although a higher one might be fine too. A lower one might be nice, too. You see, I'm flexible. I sing bass, btw.

 

Sounds like the duet might be the way to go, as would be an English, though not a perfect solution. The Anglo seems to me that it is counterintuative, but I am not knocking those who like them. Just not for me.

 

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff? I've heard very few real live concertina players is why I am asking, and have yet to look into recording artists and all that.

 

Dane

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Renting is a good option, and I live in Western MA, so there is a concertina store in Amherst, near me....

 

Honestly, the idea of putting down 4,000 for a vintage instrument makes my hair stand on end....

 

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff?

Dane,

 

You probably didn't realize that the Richard Morse who suggested renting earlier in this thread is the owner of The Button Box in Amherst. You couldn't find a better place in the U.S. to check out the varieties of concertinas ... you are well situated!

 

While you're there, you can try out their excellent R. Morse line of mid-priced (under $2K) concertinas. As far as I know, they're the only ones making mid-priced English concertinas. As of yet they don't make a duet model, though that is planned.

 

You should also check out Allan Atlas's new tutor for the English concertina, which is published by The Button Box. As an experienced musician, you won't be intimidated by this book, and a scan through it should give you an idea of the great variety of music (beyond folk) that is playable on the English system.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Renting is a  great idea .  If you live in the Balt . Wash. area , where can you rent an Anglo C/G Lachenal, Jones , Wheatstone , etc?  Does anyone offer this via mail?

Have you tried The House of Musical Traditions in Tacoma Park MD? They rent anglos though I don't think they do vintage anlgos. It does sound like you're within their 60 mile radius rental area.

 

Not to toot our own horn, but The Button Box in Western MA DOES rent vintage concertinas - as well as (the higher end model) Stagis. We rent to folks all over the country (and beyond) by mail (err... by UPS, actually).

 

Now for the bad news, our stock of rental vintage concertinas is in such high demand that you usually have to "wait in line" for awhile before one gets freed up. Not such a problem with our regiment of Stagis.

I know I want o buy a decent anglo and would love to have the opportunity to try several makes and compare, contrast.

I'm sorry that you missed our Northeast Squeeze-In just a couple of months ago. Scores of concertina players 3 times as many concertinas. You can check out Tom's review of this past event (note the concertina.net crowd is well represented) as well as other year's events by following The Links.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Renting is a good option, and I live in Western MA, so there is a concertina store in Amherst, near me....

 

I sing bass, btw.

 

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff? I've heard very few real live concertina players is why I am asking, and have yet to look into recording artists and all that.

Yikes! Seriously -- you should arrange to take the day off to visit our store next time David Cornell (Maccann duet player and basso profundo) is hanging around. Blues, classical, schmaltz, Vaudeville....

 

We also have hundreds of recordings to peruse through (we have "shop copies" to play) including those that get quite beyond the "folkie stuff". I think you'll find the trip quite worthwhile.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, life is strange, and just works out sometimes. I will indeed come by the Button Box. Now, if I can only convince my wife that a concertina is a necessary thing! I did build her a harp a while back, so perhaps she will support this.

 

You guys have all been great, and I appreciate the fantastic advice and words of encouragement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, life is strange, and just works out sometimes.

It does occasionally, doesn't it? Once you get your feet under the desk, as it were, come over to England sometime for one of the big concertina meets at Witney or Kilve. You'll have a great holiday and meet *lots* of other players.

 

Be warned, though, you are looking over the edge of the abyss. Once you've bought your very own beast, there's no going back!

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff? I've heard very few real live concertina players is why I am asking, and have yet to look into recording artists and all that.

 

Dane

You could try a search on Victorian concertina....or, see what the International Concertina Association mentions re such. There are a lot of Victorian ('classical') arrangements for concertina (mostly English, I think?).

 

As for me, though I am not a pro, I personally prefer to work on my own, solitary stuff, nobody else knows it, and seldom hears it. I don't know what you'd call it. Stuff. I enjoy the trad tunes, though, and they're good practice. Not only that, but, other people know them!

 

The concertina is not really one of those loud bashing instruments...doubt that there's many used (noticeably) outside of folk and classical. (?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
The concertina is not really one of those loud bashing instruments...doubt that there's many used (noticeably) outside of folk and classical. (?)

Not many in classical, either, but more than none in that genre, jazz, music hall, and more. A German friend plays English concertina in a group that plays what I -- in my ignorance of today's subtler distinctions -- would call "avant garde", and a Swedish friend is who plays Irish fiddle is playing concertina in a rock group... at the insistence of the other band members.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff? I've heard very few real live concertina players is why I am asking, and have yet to look into recording artists and all that.

I have just started to play an anglo concertina in a trio with two clarinet players. I usually play French Horn with these two friends but wondered how my concertina might sound for a change. This experiment is working well, we play more towards the "classical/romantic" end of things usually, although I have been given the parts of a baroque style clarinet duet to see what sort of chordal accompaniment I can think up. The anglo I play in this group has home keys of Bb/F.

Samantha

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am very happy to see this topic. I've been thinking about getting some sort of squeezebox for some time and am unsure what would be the best instrument for all the various things I do and want to play. I'm afraid someone is going to say that piano accordion is my only option.

 

We have several accordion players in our region, both piano and button.

 

I am a serious quasi-professional mandolin player. But I've been curious about concertina. I love the sonic texture it gives to music. I am, however, confused about what instrument I should even be trying to test/rent prior to taking the $$$ plunge. The music I play includes a pastiche of bluegrass, contradance/old-time, country, Americana (a cover of The Iguanas aches for the sound of something with a bellows), Celtic and gypsy jazz. Perhaps I have been listening to too much accordion lately, but I would also like to play what I can only call global cafe music -- all of which has some sort of squeeze instrument in the mix. This includes French musettes, Italian cafe music, Argentinian and Brazilian music, lots of Piazzolla. And I would also love to learn some Nortenos. This obviously means I need accordion and bandoneon. ;)

 

It seems, based on what I have read thus far, that I might be best off thinking about a duet-style instrument. What from there? I assume apart from workshops, I will have to teach myself. Will this be difficult without significant piano training and calcified standard notation reading skills (tablature ... where was it when I began playing guitar!)?

 

The more I read, the more confused and overwhelmed I become. Most of the information out there seems to deal with playing in a Celtic or Morris setting only.

 

Pardon the lengthy post. It is my first. I have been visiting this site frequently for years in order to convert ABCs into formats for learning tunes. All suggestions are appreciated.

 

Many thanks!

 

ldpaulson

Edited by ldpaulson
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Say, does anyone here use their instruments for something other than folk music? And would the sound of the concertina lend itself for more than folkie stuff? I've heard very few real live concertina players is why I am asking, and have yet to look into recording artists and all that.

I remember joining a photography club years ago. I brought some pictures to the first (and only) meeting I attended. I was the only one who did. Everyone else brought cameras and other gear to share.

 

On this forum too, a lot of the the sharing here seems centered on equipment, history and so on. There is also some good stuff on tunes and practicing, but not enough to fill what to me seems to be an emptiness. Having not attened a squeeze-in, I may be talking out of school, as it were. But, I have to pose the question hinted at here.

 

Wouldn't we all be enriched by doing more with sound files? It wouldn't have to be record or performance quality to share what we are all doing. I, for one, would be more interested in what someone was trying to accomplish musically than the number of buttons, etc.

 

What do you people think?

Edited by Kurt Braun
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...