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Pressing Problems


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I was suffering almost constant numbness along the outside edge of my right thumb. After a while I worked out it was from the pressure of the air button.

And he went on to say that reducing the spring tension on this one button solved the problem. It must have been a very stiff spring. Interesting.


After one tune ,I've got heavy indentations on all my fingers and the indentations are dark blue! I can manage maybe one dance per half hour. [...] The problem is improved with ... lighter weight and ... larger buttons but still it hurts.

Robin, just how do you hold the instrument? Do you press hard on the buttons when you're just holding the instrument but not actually playing? Can you describe what pressure you apply to the support bar and hand strap, with what parts of your hand, and in what directions? How tight or loose do you keep your hand straps? And assuming that you play while standing, where do you hold the concertina relative to your body? I.e., how far forward, at what height (relative to your waist), and at what angle to your body?


I'm wondering how these various factors might interact to produce the problem you experience. I'm also wondering whether anyone else reading this experiences the same problem as Robin.

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Jim....my C/G anglo has 4mm buttons...G/D has 5mm buttons and Colin Dipper , on his order sheet , gives 6.5 as the largest size ( I'm sure he could make larger ones)

As I practised both concertinas today , I realized that I practice sitting down and play for Morris (of course) standing up and this led me to analize more closely what is happening.

As you sit and play , the bulk of the weight is taken not on the wrist straps but on your knee.As I see it, the straps are positioning your hands (either loosely or firmly depending on preference,style etc) over the buttons. When you stand , and gravity kicks in , the instrument rotates downward until the whole weight is taken on the wrist straps .

Its instructive to do this and see where your fingers end up positioned. With me , on the C/G , my fingers relatively move up one complete button. Thus when sitting , my third finger is on C (where you want it).....as I stand my little finger ends up on C. Effectively the instrument has moved down by one button.

So my problem is that I'm trying to jack the concertina back up so my fingers are in the right place ......third finger on C .... ie I'm supporting the weight of the anglo on the buttons and it hurts like heck.

A solution,and I may be able to do this on my new anglo, would be to rotate the hand bars around until your fingers are over the buttons you want , when you are standing , and then affix them permenantly.

Does anyone else share this problem...........If you watch many Morris anglo players they support the weight on their knee, over their head so the concertina is vertically above the wrist, foot on box etc..............all maneuvres to get around this vexing problem. Makes you wonder if the anglo was ever meant to be played standing up.

Regards Robin

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Jim and Robin,


I have been playing the anglo since (about this time of year) 1985. At that time I was 27 and already played several instruments (semiprofessionally, since the age of 12). I practiced very hard the first year or two, playing mostly Irish music, and with the exception of a couple of years have practiced regularly since then.


For many years I played almost exclusively sitting down. But during all this time, I developed more muscle control and found that, even though I still sat down to play, the concertina was more and more often hovering in the air. This meant that my pants lasted longer before wearing through at the left knee. The past year I have found that I do most of my practicing standing up, unless I'm playing very fast and technical jigs and reels. The music I play while standing includes multipart arrangements with bass, chords, and melody, at a variety of speeds. I don't use a footstool (except to relax and use some different muscles after a few hours), and don't use any fingers of the left hand to support the instrument. I do occasionally "touch down" the right little finger for balance, but it is not locked in place, nor is either thumb (both of which I use a lot in playing). I hold the concertina in a fairly typical, horizontal position, and although I have some nice lightweight instruments, I often play a heavy Ab 38 key Jeffries (w/ Praed St. stamp) in this way.


I wonder if there is some minimum amount (and quality) of practice time required to learn the balance, timing, and coordination to play standing up, while using just the normal handstraps (and the heel of the hand as a counterpressure point) for support? I imagine that walking a tightrope must be similar. Certainly, with most physical sports and skills you may start out trying to do the job with brute strength, using lots of extra muscles and energy and becoming tired and sore, but after practice, not only have certain muscles beeen strengthened, but also others have learned to stay relaxed. In the end, it seems more about balance and timing than about strength.


Of course, some concertinas (like the kind Robin describes) are REALLY heavy and may never be suitable for him to play standing up. I also agree with him that wide buttons can help here. I'm sure his new Dipper will be a joy, and make the playing easier. But I have found with most anglo students that they do not have to devote any of their fingers or thumbs to supporting the instrument (making them unavailable for playing buttons) when sitting down. And if my experience is any guide, the skill gained in playing this way (in managing the pressure and tension of the bellows and the weight of a free end, and keeping this work independent from the "keying action" of the fingers) will eventually help you play standing as well.


I'm only speculating, but suspect that if you went directly to playing standing up, and got into a pattern of weight-bearing and bellows management that required fingers locked in place against the ends, it might be hard to give up this habit. Of course, for many styles of music this might not be a disadvantage, and some concertina players do play brilliantly with one or more fingers unavailable to the buttons.



Edited by Paul Groff
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I'd agree with Paul, here. In my early experience playing the anglo I did OK playing sitting down, but playing standing up was next to impossible. I never practise or play standing up, but as my skill developed sitting down, I suddenly found that I could play reasonably well standing.

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