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Concertinas Good-to-bad Or Best-to-junk


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OK, I sure hope I dont start any fights here :unsure: But I think it would really be a big help to us rookies to have a list of the different concertinas by maker starting with the best down to the junkers.

 

I have been saving my $ to buy a concertina and just bought myself a Hohner D40 (for $100.00 I might add) and yes I know everybody tells me the Hohner is mostly a piece of junk. But it will give me something to learn on and its better then having no concertina at all. When I first came here to the club one of the members offered to let me use his Stagi concertina. I thought that was really super nice of him since he did not know me except I was on a limited SS income and had no concertina at all. Howerver I could not take him up on his offer because my mother taught me if I barrow something from someone to make sure I return it in as good or better condition as when I got it. Since I could not afford to have it repaired if someting happened to it I had to decline his wonderful offer. But I got one now, even if its a Hohner :P

 

And now I'm going to start saving for that "upgrade" I know will be coming and a list concertinas from the top quility ones to the junkers would really help.

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Sorry, no can do, I'm afraid. The top is easy: Wheatstone, Jeffries, Dipper etc. The bottom is easy as well: anonymous clunkers from China and Eastern Europe. But what do you do about Lachenal, who made everything from clunkers to gems? How do you rank the modern hybrid makers, whose instruments vary in such distinctive ways that any ranking is well within the realm of individual taste? And I wouldn't even write off Hohner/Bastari/Stagi, especially if the instrument has been souped up by the Button Box or Bob Tedrow.

 

Best thing to do, I think, is to ask about any individual make you have an eye on, wait for the dust to die down and then make up your own mind. :)

 

Nice question, though.

 

Cheers,

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Timson
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Well said, Chris. There are further complications too:

  • A post-WW2, pre-Dickinson Wheatstone is generally seen as not as nice as the ones before and after, but it's said that even within that post-WW2 lot there can be quite a bit of variation in quality.
  • Then there's the matter of ranking the current makers of concertina-reeded concertinas (Suttner, Carroll, Wakker, Thomas, etc.) against each other, which I would certainly not attempt to do.
  • Where would vintage Jones and Crabb concertinas fit in?
  • And there's the whole question of whether a concertina-reeded concertina is "better" than a well-made accordion-reeded one, or just different, which is a can of worms of its own.

Best bet, as Chris says, is probably to ask about a particular make & model that interests you.

 

Daniel

 

Sorry, no can do, I'm afraid. The top is easy: Wheatstone, Jeffries, Dipper etc. The bottom is easy as well: anonymous clunkers from China and Eastern Europe. But what do you do about Lachenal, who made everything from clunkers to gems? How do you rank the modern hybrid makers, whose instruments vary in such distinctive ways that any ranking is well within the realm of individual taste? And I wouldn't even write off Hohner/Bastari/Stagi, especially if the instrument has been souped up by the Button Box or Bob Tedrow.

 

Best thing to do, I think, is to ask about any individual make you have an eye on, wait for the dust to die down and then make up your own mind. :)

 

Nice question, though.

 

Cheers,

 

Chris

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You know what, I've been searching the net for a couple of years now looking up concertinas trying to learn as much about them as I can and often wondered why I never seen such a list. Me thinks me understands why now :blink:

 

Thank you nice people for the reply..................

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I think it would really be a big help to us rookies to have a list of the different concertinas by maker starting with the best down to the junkers.
I think that would be a good idea too as even a little help will be better than no help. As others have mentioned, each maker can have quite a range of qualities... so perhaps a chart of ranges would be more suitable with some basic parameters - such as the concertinas would be in a "typical" condition as from a "typical" place one would buy them (restored from concertina dealers, new from makers, and "factory fresh" from music stores - not from places like eBay or garage sales).

 

The chart could be a bar graph with 1 to 10 across the top (lousy to great) and maker's names down the left side. For instance Wheatstone's bar may be from 7-10. Lachenal's may be from 6-10. Jones might be 5-8. Hohner may be from 2-3....

 

It would be easy to make a bar chart up like that populated with info from the concertina.net community. If anyone is game, please provide your estimate of quality range (1-10) for each make and model of concertina you are familiar, perhaps a few comments, AND your experience level with concertinas (low, medium, high - which represent that you've had little experience with only a few makes to much experience with many makes of concertinas). I feel that that last qualification is necessary to adjust the data for accuracy as I've met many people who've played concertina for many years who claim that their Stagi is the best instrument ever.

 

An example might be:

 

I have H experience

 

Hohner D-40................ 2-3......

No Name Chinese........ 1-2......

Rigoletta...................... 1-3...... Italian made?

Lachenal Edeophone... 8-9......

Wheastone Aeola........ 7-8...... Boosey & Hawkes from the 50's

 

I think that a compilation into a bar chart of such input would be very useful to beginners. To keep things simple I was thinking of having just one line for each maker though with comments on the bar. An example of this might be that Wheatstone's bar may go from 5-10 and on the 5 end would be the note "pre-1860 and student models", around 7 would be "1950-1975 vintage", and around 9 would be "Aeolas".

 

Anyone game?

 

-- Rich --

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I was at a local music store and saw a Stagi Gremlin, black 30 button concertina with a black case. I fell in love with it and bought it even though it was $400. I had never even seen a concertina up close before. Since then I have discovered Concertina.net and have been enjoying learning about the issues and people of the Concertina World.

One thing I have been learning, much to my dimay, is that the Stagi seems to be looked down upon by many. Please explain why. I think it is really cool.Was I foolish to spend so much on it? Is this not a good instrument for a novice? Perhaps many of you play beautiful, expensive instruments, and of course, these instruments are of exceptional quality. I imagine that many of you are accomplished musicians, as well, and would not dream of going down to such a low level instrument. But I'm still at the stage where I am exploring the sounds that this "strange and exciting " instrument makes and trying to figure out the "ins and outs" of the mechanics of it. It's like a musical rubics cube. Please help me put things in perspective... is it really so bad?

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I would agree with Chris. Such a list contains too many pitfalls. Also, the sampling is too small to come up with reliable results. One or two very positive rankings, or very low rankings would skew the results. And how can anyone compare two"9s" for example, when the players who have assigned the numbers have not been able to play all the concertinas available. Player "A" may think his brand "X" concertina is great and give it a "10", but he has never played a brand "Y" concertina, and has nothing to compare it with. Player "B" has a brand "Z" concertina, but brand "Z" has "concertina" reeds, and, of course assumes it MUST be better than brand "X" or "Y". The only way to do this would be to have each current maker bring or send his best model concertina to a central location, have a "Blindfold Test" (to eliminate prejudice & unfounded presumptions), and have a large enough sampling of testers to make the test reliable. The concertinas would also have to be tested on various factors, such as tone, action response, reed response, etc. Tone is a sticky matter, as the room in which each instrument is played affects the way in which tone is perceived. Some concertinas sound best in a live room, while some are best in a room which is not live, such as a carpeted room, and some sound best outside. The testers could also be an issue. Players of Irish music, for example, may have diiferent requirements than someone who uses his/her concertina for Morris, or for singing.

 

Any poll which does not account for these factors would be a disservice to the makers involved, and ultimately to the playing public. The best poll is the one you do yourself. i.e. try as many as you can, ask around, listen to sound samples etc.

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Please help me put things in perspective... is it really so bad?

Well, clearly not. From an objective viewpoint you may have one of the better Stagis; they do vary. From a subjective point of view (and this, in many ways, is more important) you like your concertina and you want to play it. What more could you ask for? A time may come when you get better than your instrument and you decide it's time for something better, but you'll always remember the first. I still remember the little Lach that was my first concertina and have always regretted selling it.

 

Chris

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I was at a local music store and saw a Stagi Gremlin, black 30 button concertina with a black case. I fell in love with it and bought it even though it was $400. I had never even seen a concertina up close before. Since then I have discovered Concertina.net and have been enjoying learning about the issues and people of the Concertina World.

One thing I have been learning, much to my dimay, is that the Stagi seems to be looked down upon by many. Please explain why. I think it is really cool.Was I foolish to spend so much on it? Is this not a good instrument for a novice? Perhaps many of you play beautiful, expensive instruments, and of course, these instruments are of exceptional quality. I imagine that many of you are accomplished musicians, as well, and would not dream of going down to such a low level instrument. But I'm still at the stage where I am exploring the sounds that this "strange and exciting " instrument makes and trying to figure out the "ins and outs" of the mechanics of it. It's like a musical rubics cube. Please help me put things in perspective... is it really so bad?

 

Hi, Betsy,

Welcome to C.Net - and to the Stagi Owners Club!

 

Yes I, too have a 30-button Stagi. I bought it about 12 years ago, and I've been playing it intensively ever since. In public, too! People always comment on how good it sounds.

 

So why are some people so disparaging about it?

 

Well, Stagi is a modern factory concertina. Most other modern concertinas are made in small workshops. As with a lot of factory instruments, quality is a hit and miss thing. When my Stagi was new, I had to do a bit of tinkering with the action. A button kept falling out, and a spring broke, and one particular button would jam in the hole in the pressed position. These were all problems that would not have got past a good quality inspection at the factory without a rework - but, gee, music is my hobby, so I did the rework myself. No special tools, just pliers, screwdrivers and a bit of glue.

 

What I now have is an instrument that I can rely on to be heard outdoors or in a large hall, and which doesn't let me down. Just a year or so ago, I had a new bellows made for it by Wim Wakker, and this has improved the handling and the sound. I have had no problems with intonation - and I play regularly with fiddlers and guitarists who tune electronically to concert pitch.

 

The old Wheatstones and Jeffries you read about were factory instruments, too, of course. But they were made at a time when labour was cheap, so quality didn't cost so much, and when concertinas were being made in very large volumes, so that, even with the inferior ones having been thrown away by the intervening generations, there are enough good ones left (and they have got over their "teething problems").

 

There's also a bit of vested interest in this "snobbery". Nobody is going to admit that a concertina that cost a quarter of what his cost sounds three-quarters as good ;)

Just joking - but the truth is, a Stagi IS a concertina, and the general public realise when they hear it that it's not an accordion, but something different -usually something interesting. A Jeffries or a Wheatstone is a difference in degree.

 

So have fun with your Stagi - and soon people will find it fun to listen to you!

 

Cheers,

John

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Hey everybody I think you all got the wrong idea as to what kind of list I had in mind. I did not mean which concertina was the better sounding/playing type list judging one concertina against another. I dont think such a list would be possible.

 

What I had in mind was say in groups like. Group 1: would be, "Top Of The Line models", group 2: would be "Advanced Models", group 3: intermediate models, group 4: "Beginner Models", group 5 "Junk" or Not So Good Models.

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Another issue that makes ranking pretty hard would be the fact that there are so many factors involved: price, tone, action, bellows, weight, appearance, etc. Sure, a Suttner (to pull a name from a hat) may have 10s on every measurement except price; but for me that gives the instrument an overall low rank. Something truly expensive is a 0 for me no matter how good it is otherwise, I'll never be able to afford one, so why lust after one?

 

I will say that I would give the ElCheapo chinese a ranking of 0 to negative infinity, though. Ye gods, I hate that thing still. It did interest me enough to get me to log onto this site, but if I had not come here on a lark and learned about the Rochelle and the Céilí I probably would not play concertina at all. How many others have been completely turned off of an otherwise interesting instrument? So, junk.

 

I don't know about the Hohner.

 

The Rochelle I suppose is about the same as a Stagi, roughly (beginner to intermediate, advanced players may use them in chancy situations for busking or in rowdier bars I suppose).

 

But for the rest -- outside of the reeds, aren't the so-called 'hybrids' as good as any of the best instruments made? Seemed that way to me at the Workshop last month. Even the reed difference wasn't jarringly noticible to me (though I can feel a difference between the Hohner/Stagi/Rochelle tone and the expensive boxes' sound). But I was in the Navy and the big guns going 'BOOM' may have desensitized my ears a bit. I'm very happy with my Céilí, and from what I saw last month I'd have been equally happy with one of Mr. Edgley's. That's good enough for me.

 

Doesn't Mr. Chambers have a wonderful picture for this kind of thread?

Edited by wntrmute
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... is it really so bad?

 

I quite liked the Stagi I played for two years. It was a modern 30b one I bought from the Button Box. But it really does have limitiations in how it is made and how you can play on it. It was a good beginning box for me and it may be for you. But once you get to play a better instrument, you'll know why the Stagi is not in a class with better models. I now chiefly play a really nice Edgley Concertina and it is light years ahead of the less expensive boxes. And my impression/experience is that it plays better than other comparable instruments I've tried, but that is getting into subjective territory. If your Stagi will play without great effort and if you like the tone it produces then it should be a fine box to begin with and may last you for years until you decide if you want to upgrade. But beware, once you try a better model, you'll probably be convinced you need to upgrade. Best of luck.

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But for the rest -- outside of the reeds, aren't the so-called 'hybrids' as good as any of the best instruments made?

 

I tried Edeophone and was really surprized at the strong and clear sound for the very high reeds, and it was extended treble, extended upwards.

My Albion has lots of difficulties up there, and it's going up only to D. So yes, there is a difference.

Other than that, you are right.

But if it is possible to put tags and lables on Visual Art, why is it impossible to make such a chart for newcomers?

I sent PM with some hierarchy (my opinion only), but myself would have been helped enormously, if such chart or advice has been given to me. I think Neutral Nicety is an abuse of priviledge to speak.

Been nice and not warning a newcomer will effectively help a seller to exployt his naivetey. A seller must make a living, after all. We are sinking in a pool of praises to each other.

I think everybody will agree that Hohner D40 , not tweaked by a mechanic, is unwise gamble with 80% chance of complete disaster.

Then we have Stagis, low level, tweaked and fixed and tuned will probably share it's place with Rochelle/Jackie/Jack, but lose in monetry value.

Anything from Stagi that is above $700 is not worthy of spending so much.

Then we have so called Hybrids, and it's a very considerable jump in price, from $500 to $2000. All are good, but for each it's own, and have to be tried for tone, responsiveness, comfort etc. But been new, they will depreciate in value significantly.

Then we have antique ones.

They are good investment, because they have depreciated already some 100 years ago, and are growing in price over time (will probably stop soon, and start depreciate).

They may be bad, leaky, out of tune, good - but all share remarkable craftsmanship.

Most will need overhaul price added. We are talking about what, $400 - 5000 range?

Most good ones can be had at $2-3000 today and up a thousand next year.

Then we are talking about some top ones, and we really shouldn't at this point.

On the other hand if it's too expencive, I bought Yamaga upright grand for my daughter at $4000 and it was the cheaper one.

Somehow large size justifies high price, doesn't it? Onestly though, it's more of an instrument, than even the best Anglo ever made, if to count acceptance, school, access to great written music, teachers etc. But it doesn't have uniqueness and specialness of such rare thing as concertina.

It's like comparing Dodge Caravan to very special bicycle at twice the price.

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What I had in mind was say in groups like. Group 1: would be, "Top Of The Line models", group 2: would be "Advanced Models", group 3: intermediate models, group 4: "Beginner Models", group 5 "Junk" or Not So Good Models.

 

Bear,

 

Concertinas don't fall into the categories "Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced". They're all just concertinas. There are good, bad and indifferent ones.

 

With most portable musical instruments, there are two lines of thought on what is suitable for a beginner:

 

Some say, start with the cheapest you can get, so if you find you don't like it, you've sunk as little capital as possible. If you do like it, you can upgrade later. (I personally find this rather defeatist.)

 

Others say a beginner should have the best instrument he can afford, because the noises he makes with it will be more pleasant, motivating him to persevere and bake even more pleasant noises. And one feature of any good instument is "playability". An expert can get good music out of an "unplayable" instrument, but a beginner can't.

 

I guess the ideal case is what happened to me with the mandolin: inherit a top-notch instrument from your Dad, who had the luck to get a bargain in a pawn shop. But you can't bank on that! (At least I know what it's like to start learning on a top-class instrument. The very sound of it just fascinates you!)

 

With concertinas, the price goes with (the name, of course, but also) the timbre. Nobody seems to evaluate the ergonomics - which are different for people with big hands and people with small hands. Yet what really puts a beginner off (on an anglo at least) is an outer row that he can't reach, or an inner row that he has to curl his fingers to reach. Or an instrument that's so heavy he can't hold it up.

 

So my recommendation for beginners would be "the cheapest concertina that feels comfortable to you, and is in tune." The timbre is really just nice to have, until you reach performance level.

Having said that, beginners should avoid junk concertinas that are always breaking, because you ought to leave the acquisition of repair skills until later, and be able to concentrate on learning to play.

 

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

John

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With most portable musical instruments, there are two lines of thought on what is suitable for a beginner:

 

Some say, start with the cheapest you can get, so if you find you don't like it, you've sunk as little capital as possible. If you do like it, you can upgrade later. (I personally find this rather defeatist.)

Expanding upon that a bit I'd like to mention that a beginner needn't *buy* and instrument. Borrowing is usually free and *renting* an instrument is usually less expensive than buying one. For instance the Button Box rents anglo, English and Hayden duet concertinas for as little as $25/month (other stores' rental fees are probably similar). So for the same price as a $100 eBay Chinese box that needs service/repairs from the get-go - you can have 4 months use of a better quality box which has been been upgraded beyond factory-fresh. And during your rental you can swap it for a different system (or two and back again...) to see which one suits you best.

 

-- Rich --

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