Jump to content

Holding The Anglo

Recommended Posts

I recently tried out a mid priced accordion reeded concertina..

I am primarily a button accordion player so very much like the sound

Action was fantastic

Box was very well made and look good

I really wanted it...

preferred it to a Jeffries I owned and another I recently played and over and above a very fine Lachenal rosewood ended 30 button


When I placed my hands thru the straps and curled my fiingers down to press the buttons.. my finger tips were at leat a 1/2 inch beyond the outer row of keys

The straps were between the first knuckle of my thumb and fingers

If I scooted my hand back...and placed the strap over the base joint of my fingers

the tips fell naturally on the buttons but then I lost mobility

I tried loosening the straps .. then lost control..

frustrated I gave up and returned the concertina...


Now today I looked at the link to the pictures at the Portsmouth Martime festival and I see a player with the straps over his knuckles


Did I wuss out....???

what is the correct grip or is it "whatever works" ?


Appreciate any comments or observations






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me guess...was it a Stagi W15 with metal ends? These have buttons closer to the hand bar than most other anglo concentinas, and your reaction is a common one. I have rather short fingers for a man and even I can't play them comfortably. You can try their wood model, or on either type drill new holes from the underside of the end and mount the handbar father back, as did one woman I know (who has very long - and talented! - fingers).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did  I wuss out....???

Sounds like it (;)); but that doesn't mean that persisting necessarily would have given better results. Maybe you should have asked us before returning it; then you would still have had the instrument to try our suggestions on.


what is the correct grip  or is it "whatever works" ?

I favor "whatever works", but that assumes that you will find something that does work. (I also favor continually looking for something that works better even after finding something that does work. Just in case there is something better.) No guarantee that such a thing exists; less guarantee that you will find it on your own. And, as Ken suggests, a modified or completely different instrument might be what works best for you. Finding out whether that's true through trial and error could be an expensive process.


I might suggest some things about different ways to hold the instrument, but I don't know whether they would help in your case. For all I know, you've already tried them. :) By the way, to you have unusually large hands or long fingers?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

.....this problem you have is also one I experience..........maybe this should be in the Ergonomics section because it relates to hand bars again.......

If I have the straps tight to support the instrument, my fingers naturally fall on the outer row of accidentals with the fingers about 90 degrees to the palm and stricking through the long axis of the button ; if I move to the C row, they are slightly cranked in; but play on the G row ( or D row on a G\D) and the fingers are actually pushing sideways on the top of the button so the button tends to stall against the bushing,as the fingers move toward the palm of the hand.

I have large (ish) hands and long fingers so I think custom made hand bars ,if they were taller and further away from the buttons , would bring the angle the fingers make with the button closer to the 90 degrees .

Jeff H.....do this problem occur on all the anglos you play or just the one ? ie is it the instrument or the size of your hands

Regards Robin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I apologize


I thought I was posting in the ergonomics


The thread should probably be moved


The concertina was a Morse/Button Box Ceili


I really wanted this instrument...but it wasn't working for my hands and fingers

perhaps I should have tried a little harde


My hands are roughly 4"/100mm across the palm

middle finger is 4"/100mm long

from the base of my fingers (between middle and ring)to the crease in my wrist is

4 1/4"/160mm

across the pad of my middle finger is roughly 13/16" or 20 mm

I am 5 ' 10" 168 pounds


I also play guitar.. Paul Groff and I have had a few discussions about nut width...

we both can handle 1 11/16ths upward but ideally 1 7/8 " and a flat fingerboard..

but anything else for me is a compromise ....


Often on my melodeons (one two or three row diatonics ) I find it necessary to fabricate an additional strip of wood to attatch to the outer edge of the fingerboard

to get my fingers back.... actually have sold a couple custom ordered boxes where I specified the distance and the makers didn't do it...


Some boxes work very well ie standard sized Castagnaris (not Tommy or Lilly) and most Saltarelles and Hohners


I have read many of the discussions about this on concertina.net over the years..

in particular the discussion about the English thumb and pinky debates and wrist straps and so on....brilliant system a bit awkward to hold that I am sure becomes

better with time ....


The alternative is to search for another concertina.. modify a Ceili.. or live with it..

but not for the price... (though I think it's fair) that's a lot of money to spend for a compromise in an area that is important to me...


Thanks for the replies



Edited by Jeff H
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is interesting as the box you're talking about is one of our Ceili's. We designed that instrument to be as "average" as possible.


We started out by making Xeroxes of the endplates (disassembled) of about twenty 30 button English-made anglos (an even distribution of makes, and only the better models), discarded the few really seriously anomalous ones and averaged the rest by regularizing each's layout then applying those patterns to averaging and worked out a mathematical concept behind the pattern. We did weigh our choice of design to be slightly further from the handle than the average was, and gave a bit extra favor toward Jeffries curvature (though not pattern slant).


I mention this as the chance of you coming across a vintage anglo (or new designed after such) with any greater distance between the handle and buttons will be extremely rare.


I've known many folk with hands as large as yours that play the anglo. They usually play with the straps fairly loose (as I do too) and with the hands back from being totally engaged in the handstrap.


There are also fairly easy ways to modify the handles for larger hands (far easier than altering the button end of things!).


Rather than having a simple thin, vertical wooden bar there, a curved bar can be installed (that curves back toward your body, which has the same effect as making it larger toward your body but preserves the original connection to the box and doesn't interfere with the fretwork). The leather strap can also replaced with one with a scoop out of the front (for your knuckles) and which provides more material at the back edge (for support).

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Thanks for the reply, I wanted to commend you and your staff on a very fine effort on the Ceili. I am a wood worker by profession,building traditional American furniture,, I also build the ocassional guitar, mando and squareneck reso.


I had the Ceili for a very brief time as I knew others were waiting to try them..

one day I believe...Doug may relate to you I reenforced your shipping box and made custom fitting foam inserts......


I may not have given the instrument a fair trial and in doing did myself a disservice.


I did think about making some handles that angled back much similar to button accordion keyboards .. I was not aware there were straps with knuckle cutouts.. and yes I did have the straps fairly snug.. not tight just snug....as I do with the bass strap on my melodeons.....


I have heard rumor of another Ceili concertina locally Ashland Oregon

I'll see if I can chase this down .


Thanks again to all for your comments




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello everyone,


Almost without exception the 2 row (20 - 24 key) Lachenal and Jones anglos have a wider spacing of buttons from the handrail. This is sometimes unfortunate as otherwise these underpriced instruments might be recommended for children. But if properly rebuilt (I prefer new, longer and deeper-fold bellows and replaced actions) and in good working order, these are wonderful instruments for adult beginners with large hands. Of course, you can special order a preferred button spacing from the best craftsman makers, as I have, but a nice rebuilt/hotrod 20 - 24 key will get you, and keep you, playing in the meantime.


Of the 3 row anglos made in London from 1870s to WWII, I have often seen Jeffries and Crabb 31 key anglos with buttons very widely spaced from the handrail. There is a lot of variation in these, even within a maker and a time period. I think many or most may have been custom-fitted, or even custom-built, with the buyer's hand size in mind. But (with a sample size of maybe a hundred) I have an unscientific impression that the lower pitch Jeffries concertinas more often had the wider spacing. My second concertina was one of these and its comfort spoiled me in this (and other) ways. In a slightly less expensive range, I have seen quite a few of the aluminum-ended Crabbs from 1930s onward with very wide spacing, though some are more like Lachenals.


I agree with Rich that many men with big hands and long fingers have learned to play on anglos with tightly spaced buttons, but some of the accommodations I have seen them make could be limiting their comfort and/or facility. I don't think it's a great idea to have the handstraps running over the fingers or even the knuckles. Very high handrails (the wooden bar that holds the straps), for me at least, can lead to extra tension in the wrists and ultimately less bellows control. Loose straps do work for some excellent players, but I find the split second timing of fast bellows changes can suffer when I use them. Often the handrail can be relocated further from the buttons, but this can leave the heel of the hand with less leverage against the ends - a disadvantage if you use that counterpressure to control the orientation of the ends as you move the bellows.


Having said that, I find I can adjust my relatively large hands to the Lachenal and Wheatstone 3 -row anglos that typically have tight spacing (especially at the top of the inside row). I even enjoy playing on a semi-miniature 28 key anglo that keeps me on my toes (so to speak) remembering to curl my fingers constantly! But it's not as relaxing as playing on the spacing I like, and for the hardest stuff I play I prefer having that wider spacing.


Of course, whatever works for you is fine. As I have suggested before, my impression is that almost everyone can learn to play almost every concertina out there, with patience, instruction, and hard work. And, IF necessary and practical, some modification of the machine. I have often seen a succession of people at a party, of all ages, sizes, and abilities, walk up to a piano and make a little music. Because this experience is not too unusual today, an adult beginner on piano is unlikely to want to redesign the instrument when he finds playing is initially uncomfortable or awkward. Of course, a teacher is very important to help the beginner sort out the causes and solutions to these problems (and to identify if there really is a problem with that piano). Concertina players are uncommon (at least in North America, today), and good resident teachers maybe even less so, so many beginners lack the confidence that an instrument they encounter will work for them, and misinterpret their initial difficulties as design flaws. I don't mean to knock Jeff here - I happen to know he is a great musician on several instruments, and as a luthier very savvy about all these issues. In fact he raised this question. I am responding here because I thought there were a couple of extra points that could be added to the public discussion.



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.

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.

  • Create New...