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Problems Playing Inside Row On An Anglo


Mike C
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Hi there all

 

I'm after some advice here. I have been playing anglo concertina for just over a year, and have progressed from a starter Lachenal, through a Connor rebuild, to now having a Wakker WA-2. The problem I'm having is that I find the inner row too close to the hand rest, so that in order to play anything on that row other than the occasional note, I have to move my hand quite a way back in the hand strap. I find the problem worse for the second and third fingers, particularly on the left hand side. When I'm playing like this, the strap and hand rest is more or less in line with my knuckles, which mucks up my control of the bellows to some degree. I don't recall having this problem so much on the Connor, but then I probably wasn't using the inner row so much - I can't be sure though!

 

So I'm now thinking I may need to change concertina again, but to what? I've had a go on my teacher's Suttner A4, 38 key Jeffries style, and I find the layout much better for me. I haven't played any other Jeffries, but would they all be the same, i.e. inner row further from the hand rest than Wheatstone layout? Do Crabb anglos all use the Jeffries layout, with closer rows, etc? I'd hate to have to get rid of the Wakker, as it's a lovely instrument, but if a different concertina would solve my problem the so be it.

 

Any help and advice greatly received!

 

Thanks in advance

 

Mike

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Hi Mike,

 

I have been playing myself for about a year and a half and play a 31 Suttner. I too found the inside row to be a bit of a problem initially and indeed would still be struggling with going say from third finger to small finger on left hand. But what I have learnt is that a lot of problems I encountered with fingering originally did get sorted eventually after plenty of practice. Problems that I just couldn't see being sorted and because of, was tempted to give up on it a couple of times. Fingering on the inside row still needs a bit of compensation in my hand movement to get the fingers around it but it is getting better. I don't know if this will give you any hope? A year- year and a half is not that long to be playing !!!

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The problem I'm having is that I find the inner row too close to the hand rest, so that in order to play anything on that row other than the occasional note, I have to move my hand quite a way back in the hand strap. I find the problem worse for the second and third fingers, particularly on the left hand side. When I'm playing like this, the strap and hand rest is more or less in line with my knuckles, which mucks up my control of the bellows to some degree. I don't recall having this problem so much on the Connor, but then I probably wasn't using the inner row so much - I can't be sure though!

Hi Mike,

 

Sounds like your strap tension might be too tight; have you tried adjusting it?

 

Regards,

Peter.

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I think both Peter T and Larry have good observations regarding your difficulty, Mike.

 

The Jeffries and Wheatstone layouts differ in where some of the notes are located not where the buttons are located. You likely will need to play the inside row buttons with a different part of your finger tip than you play the middle and outer rows. Your fingers will need to be limber and you may need to loosen the handstrap a little to accommodate curling your fingers toward the inner row. You may need to punch an intermediate hole in the handstrap to do this. If your difficulty has not been caused by lack of enough focus, practice or patience then I suspect that there are variations among the manufacturers in button row positions, relative locations of the handrests to the button rows and even button heights and profiles to which you are sensitive. If modifying the handstrap doesn't help, a less drastic move than buying a different concertina would be to try increasing the height of your hand on the handrest by adding some comfortable material under your hand or, finally, by relocating the handrest with the help of a skilled concertina or musical instrument tech.

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I agree with Peter T. It's been my experience that most of the players we admire play with hand-straps that are very loose.

Most new players tighten their hand-straps to give them a feeling of security and control, but at least for Irish I find that loose

straps work very well, enabling me to move my hand around as necessary.

Dana Johnson, who makes Kensington Concertinas, is aware of this and makes his rails with the particular player in mind. He makes

different rails for differently sized hands. I don't think just any Jeffries would solve the problem since Jeffries would vary depending on

when the concertina was made, number of buttons, tuning, etc.

Really loosen the hand-straps so you can reach all buttons easily and play it that way for a while. I bet that will solve your problem

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I think any difference in distance between hand rests and buttons will depend on the manufacturer rather than the fingering layout. Even then, different instruments from the same maker may vary.

 

I've just measured my 1972 Crabb C/G and the inner row is 45-50mm from the hand rest. My 2007 Dipper is the same, and so is my Lachenal baritone. My 1924 Crabb G/D is slightly further, 50-55 mm. They're all Wheatstone layout (in the sense of how the accidentals are arranged) although the physical arrangement of the buttons on the Crabbs resembles Jeffries (Crabb made a lot of instruments for Jeffries).

 

Do you have very large hands? However, John Kirkpatrick has hands like shovels, and he seems to have no problems playing a Crabb very similar to my C/G.

 

My guess is that it's more to do with your hand position and strap tension. You say you've only been playing a year - most novices seem to start with their straps fairly tight, as they feel it gives them more control, but find as their technique develops that looser straps allow greater mobility and allow more difficult fingering. It quite OK, in fact its often necessary, to move the hands around to get at the fingerings.

 

You say the strap is "more or less in line with the knuckles". That's more or less how mine are: in my "home" position the strap presses against the base of the knuckle where it joins the back of the hand. With my fingers at a right angle they fall onto the middle row, and I have the straps loose enough to reach out or curl in to reach the other rows. But I then twist and move my hands around as necessary.

 

As you have a teacher, you should discuss it with them, and work on your hand position. You don't say what style you play, and Irish may have different demands from the chordal English style I play. If your teacher is insisting on a hand position or strap tension which doesn't suit you, it might be easier (and certainly cheaper!) to try a different teacher before changing instruments.

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I also agree with Peter and the other comments.

I have just measured the gap between the palm of my hand and the hand rest and it is approx one centimeter.I can reach above the top buttons on my three row Jeffries and below the bottom row.The exact position of the hexagonal corner of the instrument sits exactly five mm from the bottom of my wrist and where my arm starts at the base of the thumb muscle. By arching the hand (in the same shape as you hold the computer mouse) you form a lock against the strap on a triange from the back of the hand ,to the hand rest to the hexagonal corner of the instrument. If I straighten my fingers ,my hand is at an angle of approx 30degrees away from the instrument

Al

Edited by Alan Day
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Thanks all for the replies and advice. I didn't mention that I play Irish.

 

I don't think my straps are too tight, but it looks like I need to sit down and re-appraise the way I play concerning this problem. It's interesting what hjcjones says about his Crabb measuring 40-50mm from inner row to the hand rest, as on my Wakker the measurements are 40-45, so there does seem to be some difference. Also. I guess it's more to do with overall feel, which is effected by many other things, button height and size, etc. I guess I'll persevere, for now at any rate.

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The problem I'm having is that I find the inner row too close to the hand rest, so that in order to play anything on that row other than the occasional note, I have to move my hand quite a way back in the hand strap

 

So I'm now thinking I may need to change concertina again, but to what? I've had a go on my teacher's Suttner A4, 38 key Jeffries style, and I find the layout much better for me. I haven't played any other Jeffries, but would they all be the same, i.e. inner row further from the hand rest than Wheatstone layout? Do Crabb anglos all use the Jeffries layout, with closer rows, etc? I'd hate to have to get rid of the Wakker, as it's a lovely instrument, but if a different concertina would solve my problem the so be it.

You say that your teacher's Suttner works better for you, but have you closely examined any differences aside from the layout? I don't think the "differences" between the Wheatstone and Jeffries layouts normally refers to dimensions such as distance from the hand bar to the buttons, but only to which notes are under which buttons. It's far better to make measurements than to make assumptions. In particular:

  • What's the distance between the hand bar and the G row (I'm assuming a C/G) on each of the two instruments?
  • Do you have the same trouble with the "new inner row" -- the few extra buttons inside the G row -- on the Suttner? Or is it possibly even worse?
  • Aside from the distance between the hand bar and the buttons of the G row, are there other dimensional differences, e.g., height, width, thickness, even roundedness of the top, or one of the bars at an angle?
  • Are the straps adjusted to the same tightness on the two instruments?
  • Aside from tightness, are there any differences between the straps on the two instruments, e.g., width, shape, thickness, or stiffness?
  • How broad are your hands and what are the lengths of your fingers?

Of course, it would be even better if you could answer these questions for all of the instruments you've used, but I don't really expect you to have access to the earlier ones, now.

 

Some of these parameters have been discussed in various Topics here on Concertina.net, and the Search facility might help you find those discussions. I believe strap tightness has been discussed many times, bar height and distance less often. There have also been discussions of finger length, and at least one mention of an adjustable hand bar design.

 

But if you can conclusively identify the parameters relevant to your problem, I think it would be worth your while to contact Wim Wakker and discuss with him whether he could reasonably make modifications to your WA-2 which would make that instrument comfortable for you.

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Mike,

It may be that you just have long fingers, as well as the straps also being too tight. When I played the Wakker (WA2) "Traveler" I found I had to have the straps looser that I do on my Crabb (30 button C/G) in order to reach the inside row with ease.

 

The Wakker did have the inside row closer to the hand rest than other concertinas I have played, with Suttner being one of the longest reaches.

 

For reference here are some measurements I made. The distance quoted is from the hand rest to the center of the g/a button (C/G concertina) inside row on the left side.

 

Waker WA-2 46mm

Crabb (30 button) 49mm

Suttner A2 (30 button) 54mm

 

 

I also concur with Jim’s advice on contacting Wim Wakker to see if he could make adjustments for you.

 

 

Dave

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Mike,

It may be that you just have long fingers, as well as the straps also being too tight. When I played the Wakker (WA2) "Traveler" I found I had to have the straps looser that I do on my Crabb (30 button C/G) in order to reach the inside row with ease.

 

The Wakker did have the inside row closer to the hand rest than other concertinas I have played, with Suttner being one of the longest reaches.

 

For reference here are some measurements I made. The distance quoted is from the hand rest to the center of the g/a button (C/G concertina) inside row on the left side.

 

Waker WA-2 46mm

Crabb (30 button) 49mm

Suttner A2 (30 button) 54mm

 

 

I also concur with Jim’s advice on contacting Wim Wakker to see if he could make adjustments for you.

 

 

Dave

 

Thanks Dave, that's really interesting to see those comparisons, and to hear your thoughts with the Wakker. Even though I will try to change my playing to suit the Wakker, I get the feeling that I may find something else a little more suited.

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Before you consider moving to a different instrument I encourage you to explore options that raise your hand further away from the instrument. I discovered early on (in trying out other people’s instruments) that the height of the “hand bars” varied and it was easier to play the inner row of buttons on concertinas that had taller hand bars. The extra height of your hand allows more room for your fingers to curl in close to the base of the bar without feeling uncomfortable. No doubt the need for such modifications and the benefits derived depend on the specific instrument and the individual.

 

There are ways you can make temporary (no-damage) changes to test how raising your hands works out for you. The bottom line is that you just need to put some sort of filler material between your hand and the top of the existing wooden bar. I seem to recall that someone on this forum once recommended using a couple of pieces of foam pipe insulation, cutting it the length of the bars and then slitting one edge of the foam to open it up and allow it to slip it over. Then of course you need to loosen the straps to compensate for the extra height.

 

If you try elevating your hands and that does the trick for you, most makers are quite willing to make alternate height hand bars (shaped and painted to match the originals) for a very nominal fee and just a short wait. I've had custom bars made for some of my instruments and they were quite easy to change out and look absolutely original once installed. One of the makers made them for free, another for $20 including shipping.

 

You can hang on to the originals and reinstall them if you ever feel the need or want to sell the instrument. I don't have a concertina at hand at the moment to offer measurements, but I seem to recall that I've had my hand bars made about 1/2 to 5/8 inch taller than standard.

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