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Short Thumb

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First off let apologise if this should have been in the ergonomics section.


I'm learning to play a Stagi and the problem I have is that my right thumb is too short to reach the air button. To use the button I have to take my fingers off the playing keys and shift hand position. Obviously this does not make for smooth playing and makes bellows control difficult. Does anyone know of anything I can stick/wear on my thumb to get that extra reach? I've tried one of those little rubber things that bank teller's use to count money but it was too soft to push the button.

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John Townley's Dipper had an interesting addition for the air button. It was a small "ivory" forearm, hinged at the elbow, with the hand pressing the button. Thus pressing on the arm would press the button. There is probably a picture of that somewhere.



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If you get together with a teacher or a good player they will be able to advise you better, seeing you and your instrument in action.


Sometimes the problem can be ameliorated by modifying (shaving down) the wooden handrail under the thumb, or even by modifying the handstrap to let the hands come in toward the buttons more. Of course, on many (not all) of these Italian jobs the buttons are already too close to the handrail for an average adult male's fingers -- if, due to this geometry, you have your hands way back with straps over your knuckles, that may be why your thumbs are out too. You may want to try relocating the wooden handrail (usually screwed to the ends from the inside of the action case), possibly on an angle as a compromise between what is most comfortable for your fingers vs. your thumbs.


For very small students (like one 6 year old young lady -- a very promising concertinist, too) I have sometimes glued or screwed onto the air button a flat piece of piano-key "ivory" that can be reached more easily by the thumb. This creates something like the lever George described above. (For more lovely and historic examples of similar "air levers," see the illustrations of very early German 20 keys and and an early Jones, in Stephen Chamber's wonderful article -- link under "earliest Wheatstone" in the History section of this Forum). If you do glue an "extension ramp" to the top of air button, use a glue that can be easily broken as breaking this glue joint will be necessary occasionally to gain access to the action case for repairs. I think on one cheap instrument I linked the piece of piano key to the handrail, loosely, with a couple of screws that allowed it to contact the air button but move up and down with thumb pressure anywhere along its length.


In general I worry not at all about originality (or reversibility to original condition - except as necessary for repairs as noted above) with this quality of instrument -- just try to get them working for the player, who is always on a small budget. Most of these Italian anglos are NOT well-designed for comfort or control, and some models would be awkward for almost anyone to play, with insanely located air buttons. The best that can be said in their favor is that (if you can adapt yourself to them, or them to you) they can get you started playing. That is saying a lot, really, but all dependent on the "if."


I suspect anyone advertising concertina repairs could help you rig something up, but again the first step is a well-informed diagnosis of the problem based on observation of you and your concertina.


Good luck!



Edited by Paul Groff
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My thumb isn't abnormally short but I had the same problem with my stagi.

I sawed off about a quarter of an inch of the thickness of the piece of wood under the thumb and revarnished it and that made it just right. I was careful not to take too much off which would have weakened the wood.



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