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Beginner's Question - Leak?


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My first post in this forum after a brief period of lurking. Hi, folks. :)

 

I am considering buying an English concertina. A have been able to borrow one for a couple of days from a friendly local music shop. It's a Lachenall 48 button.

 

I have no training, no teacher, and very little idea of what to expect. My background is as a pretty reasonable harmonica player and a fair to middling melodianist. I do not have regular contact with concertinists, although I know a couple of Anglo players and a couple of English players.

 

I have been able to pick out a scale in G major but I find that it is almost impossible to run all eight notes with the bellows travelling in the same direction. Even if I do a little run G A B C C B A G (i.e. quicker and easier) I still have to change direction.

 

If I close the bellows completely and hold the concertina in such a position that gravity is tending to open the bellows, they reach full extension in about 10 - 12 seconds. Another English on display in the same shop is similar.

 

My gut feeling is that it shouldn't open this quickly with no keys depressed. However, I have no experience against which to measure this.

 

Can anyone give me some guidance? I have to say that I find it hard to imagine playing a tune on this fiendish device if the amount of notes per squeeze is so limited. I'd have to change bellows direction at least once per bar.

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I am considering buying an English concertina. A have been able to borrow one for a couple of days from a friendly local music shop. It's a Lachenall 48 button.

 

I have no training, no teacher, and very little idea of what to expect. My background is as a pretty reasonable harmonica player and a fair to middling melodianist. I do not have regular contact with concertinists, although I know a couple of Anglo players and a couple of English players.

Hi Mike,

 

Welcome to the Forum.

 

I'm curious that with your harmonica/melodeon background, you are thinking of the "English" rather than "Anglo" route. Do you have specific music which you are thinking about, or just looking for a different type of instrument? Sounds like the Lachenal which you currently have, on loan, is leaking somewhat :( , which will inhibit progress and not give you a fair chance to try out a new system.

 

By the way, where abouts are you based?

 

Regards,

Peter.

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Thanks for the quick replies, and the links.

 

I think I suspected that I knew the answer, really. I have tried the opening under gravity test and the closing under gravity test and get about 12 seconds for each. I have tried the playing a single note quietly test and got a similar result. The feeling is very similar to playing the melodeon with the air button open.

 

The shop has done me a favour in lending the instrument to me free of charge, so no complaints there, but it is obviously not a tempting purchase, then.

 

Why the English?

 

I find the harmonica a very expressive instrument, limited only by the fact that it is diatonic, and has only one key, a very limited range of chords, and so on. The two common tunings for chromatic harmonicas do not greatly appeal to me. The Koch tuning (G/G# diatonics) limits you pretty much to G with accidentals, and the "chromonica" tuning is significantly different from a normal diatonic tuning. Its chromatic facility is pretty nominal, as keys with the tonic on the "draw" are unpleasant to play in.

 

I find the melodian a rather clunky instrument, and although it offers two keys plus at least one easily accessible minor and some chords, I don't really enjoy playing it all that much. Also, it suffers from the Hohner wall of sound - where one melodian is played, others will surely congregate, and play louder and faster, destroying all dynamics, ornamentation and musicality. That's not to say I'm a good player, but that "better" players put me off by putting speed and volume above all other considerations.

 

So the Anglo would be just another diatonic instrument, disappointingly similar to the harmonica and melodian, but irritatingly different. Also, most are C/G (most Morris session music is G/D).

 

The English, on the other hand, is truly chromatic with (it appears to me) no huge bias towards one key or another. It is almost as portable as a box of harmonicas, and far more versatile. That's the theory. The reality so far has not been all that positive an experience, however.

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Well, here's some progress! After a couple of days, I was able to find a full scale in C or G, but could only play one full scale per bellows stroke, and then only quietly.

 

I took the concertina back (it had only been on short term loan) and politely remarked that it seemed surprisingly leaky "compared to a melodeon", and the chap in the shop immediately played it in a passable imitation of musicality.

 

But then this evening, I borrowed a friend's English (Edeophone? It had about 12 sides and looked like it would roll off a table easily) and that was about 100 times easier for me to play, even though she confessed it was a little leakier than it should be.

Edited by Mikefule
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