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my new carroll

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i just got my new carroll today. three and a half long years of waiting and it's finally here. i no longer have a need for companionship, education, sustenance, or oxygen--i have a carroll concertina.





consider this review a work in progress until this line has been removed.


and for any who wonder, it is indeed, an anglo.


i would like to say that my carroll concertina is truly a work of art. it is light weight and highly responsive. it is unbelievably fast. the best part of it all is the sound, which is saying a lot, because the rest of the things about the concertina are to such a high standard.


when i received my instrument, the sound that came out of it was exactly the sound i had in my head of the ideal concertina. i was instantly taken aback by the sweetness of the sound, and the subtlety of the tone. even my mother who knows nothing about concertinas was instantly taken aback by the marked difference of tone between my carroll and my hybrid.


the instrument is unbelievably responsive and quick. i can now play passages effortlessly that used to take a deft hand on my hybrid. on hybrid concertinas, i feel like i am walking on pins and needles. on my carroll, i dont have to worry, because i know that whatever i want it to do, or whatever sound i want it to make, i am set to go. when i lean into a note, it does not choke like on a hybrid, but instead it just has more to give.


sliding from F to F# was never so easy. cranns and cuts come out crisp and chirpy. different tone colors come out as easy as the notes themselves. chords sound so mellow and sweet, and it is a piece of cake to balance the melody against chords.


a friend of mine who owns the carroll that was done right before mine. he told me that he has owned a lot of concertinas, and that he currently has a dipper, a jeffries or two, a suttner, and a carroll. he said that he "doesnt know if a concertina can play itself," but that his new carroll comes "awfully close."



the concertina is surely a sight to behold. i deliberated over many years what wood choice i wanted, and i chose solid black, because i love the look of black from an audience's perspective. little did i know how great it looks from a players perspective! when i first opened the box, i knew right away that it was the eye candy i dreamed it dreamed it could be. it is very sleek looking, yet it has an air of delicacy to it. the finish on the wood is a subtle matte with just the right amount of shine.


wally is just as obsessed with the finishes on his concertinas as he is with the rest of it. he has spent a lot of time coming up with the most durable ways to finish a concertina, to best preserve the wood underneath. i dont know if he's changed the finish from his earlier black ends, but it certainly had me surprised.


i have seen some of his other concertinas with wood grains in real life, and the pictures online give no comparison. especially love the burls. he puts a lot of consideration in choosing the right wood for the end plates, and one of the coolest things is to go into his shop and see all the veneers he has of all the different type of woods, and to imagine what they might look like on a concertina.


the bellows are made out of a shiny and highly textured black leather. i guess i cant really compare them in appearance to other black bellows, because i've never really paid attention before. but, it says something about them that i did notice them and appreciate their aesthetic appeal.


the buttons are dome-topped stainless steel. you mightn't notice, but the tops are textured, and the sides are not. i believe brass may be an option now, which would suit wood grain very nicely, but i prefer the "silver" look with black. the handstrap adjuster is also what i assume to be steel, and it screws into the handbar, not the frame of the concertina.


the hand straps are black, laser engraved with the carroll logo, made from a leather that is both easy on the back of the hands and very strong. my hand straps are smaller than on most other carrolls, because i requested them to be.


the thumb rest is a made of a smooth plastic, fully hiding the screws underneath. the concertina comes with self-adhesive pads in case you want something more luxurious on top of the thumb rest, but i prefer it this way. the handbar is a solid black matte, less glossy than the rest of the concertina.


the ends are a traditional wheatstone pattern, with a thin, double-border on the sides of the concertina.





the concertina fits my hands like a glove. there is an adjustable handbar option to accomodate different hand shapes and playing styles, but it just so happens the shape of my hands fits perfectly at the default position. the distance between the rows is just how i like it, and i can reach all the buttons just fine. as i said earlier, i chose the smaller handstraps, which i like because i have smaller hands, and i like to tighten my straps a lot. my handstraps tend to stretch over time, and i want a lot of more room to go up to the notch. i have my straps adjusted on both sides to account for this.


the concertina is surprisingly light. picking up the case, it is hard to believe there is a concertina in there at all. it may be just as light as other concertinas out there... i dont have another concertina-reeded one to compare it in weight. i am not sure how accurate my scale is, but i weighed it as just under 2.75 lbs.


as i play, the concertina requires very little pressure to get it to do anything. on my hybrid, i always felt like i had to contort the bellows just so to get it to play right, adjusting slightly different angles for every read. on my carroll, i feel like i can just go in and out, not worrying about the precise angle of my bellows. i was also surprised at how little back pressure--i.e. pressure from the concertina into your arm--is needed on the carroll to play smoothly.



the concertina is incredibly responsive. it plays very quickly. i feel like i am no longer limited by the concertina, but only by my ability. on my hybrid, there are points in some tunes where i need to pay a lot of attention, because the reeds may choke if i changes bellows direction quickly while accenting a note. now when i play these passages, i play them and dont even notice that i did until a measure or two later, because i am not used to them playing so easily.


i like to slide into notes, especially F to F# (both sides) C# to Dnatural and Eb to Enatural (right hand side). now i dont even have to think about it... it just happens automatically. even though i have only had it a total of 3 days, i can already feel my playing changing. i am starting to slide into notes more often, even when a note is not accented. i am also starting to slide into notes LESS often, because the difference between sliding and not sliding is more distinct than on a hybrid, and therefore more noticeable when i vary it up.


i have already discovered some new little tricks. sometimes i like to slide in the second octave from G# to A on the right hand side, using the push button A on the LAST button on the outside row (jeffries layout). however, just today, i realized i can get an even better sound by going from a G push to A pull (G row), by putting an intermediate F# between the two. i do this by not lifting my finger up right away when switching from G to A. i definitely have it working when my starting note is G. as i just discovered it a few minutes ago, i am still working on it when my starting note is F#.


ornamentation is so much easier, because of the speed of the action and responsiveness of the reeds. i can cut F# on the left hand side with an A now, where before i could not get my pinky-pointer-pinky movement fast enough. the cranns are very crisp and quick, and i can do them more often and with more imbetween notes.


the best part of the responsiveness is the sensitivity of the reeds. i can lean into a note and not worry about it choking, AND actually have a change in tone and volume to go with it. this is great, cuz it means i can shape my notes a lot more, and take out some cranns and ornamentation and just put a nice, long note with some good "neagh" in it (pron. like yeah with an N first).


although i play irish style music, it works great for english style as well. vamping sounds great, and the notes are really well balanced between the sides. for those of you who know me, this will come as a shock: i find myself slowing down to appreciate the timber of the notes.




the action of my carroll concertina is top notch. in addition to the reeds, it is oen of the reasons the concertina is so fast. you cannot see it in the pictures, but each lever is adjustable using a tiny screw and a wrench. i was told mine is only the second they have made with this new type of action, and i think it's a great success. the adjustable action allows for unbelievably precise fine tuning, so that you can get it exactly where you want it to be, without clicking. i dont recommend trying to adjust the levers unless being instructed to do so by someone at carroll concertinas.




as ive said, it is a great sounding instrument. the reason i chose carrolls 3 and a half years ago is because i liked the reeds so much. i feel i can push the reeds to do what i want, and that they can be very quiet or very loud. the sensitivity of the reeds is really evident in the sound of the concertina, and it allows for you to pull out multiple tone colors depending on how you attack the note. i chose carrolls for the reeds, and the reeds have gotten even better since then.



attention to detail


i have always been impressed by wally's committment and attention to detail. back in the day, when he was making the concertinas in his basement, he spent so much time making sure everything was just as he want it, and is always working on making things better. he used to even go so far as making the 12 end bolt screws himself (now he has an employee do it). nowadays, i feel like he puts even more time into making sure everything is just right. instead of doing everything himself, he has people to supervise, which means not only does production speed up, but he can spend more time looking at the work being done and ensuring that it is even better.


with the purchase of new equipment, his concertina making has gotten even more precise. the end plates and reed pans are exchangeable between instruments. when i try to take out my reedpan, it comes out with no effort at all, but is still incredibly tight within the concertina. he has more control than ever over the entire process, which he is using to be more and more precise.


i love the little things... like the precision of the laser cut handstrap-notches (it takes no effort at all to switch into an unused hole), as well as the laser-engraved numbers reed pan to aid in re-assembly of the action board, and the note names on the reed shoes so you can put them back in. ok, so maybe i just like the laser cutter, :lol: . i love the fact that the 3 tools that come with have their own holders in the case so they dont scratch the instrument (thanks greg!). and i love the fact that the thing is just oozing with quality.




this new carroll feels like a whole new experience in comparison to the carrolls made before his new workshop, which were so good that i got my first job so i could buy one. they still feel and sound like a carroll from yore, but the manufacturing is even more precise, and the quality even more controlled. a lot of subtle things have changed which you might not even notice, but they sure add up to make one heck of a concertina.


as for the sound goes, i cant compare it to any of the old carrolls, cuz i dont have any with me. all i can say is that i couldnt be happier with the sound. from my memory of playing ones from the old workshop and the new one side by side, the sound varies as much as any concertina to another. but who cares... mine just sounds like heaven.


in comparsion to a hybrid, it is a world of difference to someone who is a concertina freak like me. i love my hybrid, and it has treated me well. however, the amount of music you can get out of a hybrid is amazing and equal to that of a concertina-reeded instrumen. i would like to say that the difference between a hybrid and a carroll is no where near as big as a stagi is to a hybrid. in fact... i would not be able to appreciate my carroll if it were not for my hybrid, because my hybrid taught me how to play. i learned a lot from it. it really taught me to pay really close attention to my posture, wrist angle, muscle tension, bellows control, and finger position. i am glad i had my hybrid first, just like i am glad i had a stagi, because it taught me how to struggle through anything and not let your concertina limit you.


comparisons part 2


i cannot compare my carroll directly to another concertina-reeded concertina of top quality, modern or vintage. i will not say that carrolls are the best, only that they are my favorite. so, in this part, i will talk about what i like about each maker. many people prefer the sound of a jeffries to a wheatstone (or is it most? hmm...), but i am not one of those. so, how can i say that a wheatstone linota type concertina is better than a jeffries type, or a carroll better than any other linota type? i will not mention hybrid concertinas in this section.


it all depends on what you want out of a concertina. to be honest, when i first placed my order, i had planned on placing an order with colin dipper after i got my carroll--i have since changed my mind. i ordered a carroll to begin with because i liked the way the reeds felt like a race car engine under my fingers. i am kind of a brash and over-excitable sort of guy (if you cant tell!), and i felt like i could "go to town" with a carroll more than a dipper.


i have played more dippers than i can count. maybe, 5, 6+?what i love about dipper concertinas is that they are all different and personalized, and i love how dipper reeds have that refined subtlety that makes you consider them and eke out something deep in your soul. the reason i wanted a dipper is that i loved how they fit my hand and felt when you held it (and i love the tight fit of his buttons through the bushing felt). the other reason is that i liked the different feel of the reeds, in that they made me work within them.


i have only played 3 suttners, and never for any length of time. all i can say is that i remember loving how responsive they were.


i have played two wakker's. my favorite thing about wim is that he has so many options, you can find what sort of concertina you like. he can make you an anglo with the reeds set up to better play french music, and he even has a new "eire" model designed specifically for irish music (it's really cool. try one if you can get your hands on it). from my discussions with wim, he loves to change around things and do custom work. he also has done some exciting work with reed chamber design.


i have unfortunately never played a kensington concertina. all i know is that a friend of mine sold her carroll a couple years back to get her kensington. she liked it better. also, many people prefer the wider, bone-style buttons than the smaller metal buttons the carrolls have (i call them pin-pricks, :P).


we all know about antique jeffries. 'nuff said.


i have only played one wheatstone from prior 1950's. i didnt spend much time with it. carrolls are modeled after a linota, and so therefore i betcha i would like a linota.


you can knitpick all you want, but bottom line, if i had ordered a dipper, or a suttner, or a wacker, i would be set for life, just as i am now. which is why i am not going to buy a dipper right now--all those hours of work that would go to pay for it could be spent enjoying music instead.



the summary at the top says it all, so please read that if you want a better sense of conclusion :lol: .


every person is different. please play the concertinas you are interested, and choose what is right for you. some of you probably think i'm crazy for choosing solid black over wooden ends--i just might be! a lot of good music is made every day by better musicians than me on other instruments.


there are just not as many carrolls out there as other makers', so i wanted everyone to have a thorough review to refer to. thanks to anyone who read the whole thing, and happy squeezing!



i have taken some pictures. i have included the best. i took them inside at night, so i may retake some tomorrow to get the finer detail of the action if possible.


here is the link: http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v431/dai...mview=slideshow


please also refer to http://carrollconcertinas.com/24.html for a black one, and to http://carrollconcertinas.com/40.html for a fancy-schmancy one.



sound cilps


coming, depending on my mood and practice habits.





there is some sarcasm in the thread following this post. i enjoy it a lot (it makes me laugh out loud). but to clarify for people who are not in on the joke, carroll concertinas are hand made in the USA, including the reeds. they are also the bees knees. get one, now.


if you are buying a carroll to replace a dipper, suttner, wakker, wheatstone, crabb, jeffries, kensington, thomas, or any other fine concertina, please donate your old concertina to me.


tombilly's post immediately after this one is--in fact--funny. however, since i have severely expanded this section, it seems strange. he had posted his comment when all this post said was:


"i just got my new carroll today. three and a half long years of waiting and it's finally here. i no longer have a need for companionship, education, sustenance, or oxygen--i have a carroll concertina." i just dont want the poor guy to look like a looney because i have since updated this post.

Edited by david_boveri
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Have fun Daiv!


thanks, i will! thanks again for all the work you have put into my concertina.


i wish you many happy years of fixing my concertina and polishing out every minor scratch and knick :lol:.

Edited by david_boveri
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please check back up to the top of the post, as i have added a link to a slide* show of pictures.


*i am aware that technically "slide show of pictures" is an oxymoron, as they are indeed pictures, and there are no slides.

Edited by david_boveri
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Well, it seems my source wasn't that trustworthy after all... His code name is "gerG sasiawoJ" but I can't tell you who it is.


At the supreme risk of being way too serious let me say it concerns me to be linked to rumours and false information even if it is obviously tongue in cheek or in "fun".


Personally, I'm working very hard to build a reputation as a serious and knowledgable repairer and restorer of concertinas. It is not easy work and taking someone's favorite concertina and making it play the way it should can be an awesome responsibility.


As a member of the Carroll Concertina team I give my full attention in contributing to a world class concertina. Wally Carroll works long hours for too little compensation. His efforts merit respect and the growing, good reputation Carroll Concertinas enjoy.


So while I "know" Azalin and David were only being facetious, and David on a number of occasions has lavished praise on his Carroll Concertina, I can't help cringing a bit, thinking someone might take their remarks out of context where they might put in question some hard won reputations.


Have fun fellas, but remember everyone is listening, sometimes to only part of the conversation, in cyberspace.



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I can't believe you had to disembowel it the very first day! If you bought a new car, would you immediately take it apart? I think not. I would have thought you'd instead have spent hours and hours enjoying the dulcet tones that instrument can yield.


Now that your curiosity has been sated, I imagine that Noel expects you to start practicing those tunes you've been accumulating for all these years of NHICS. So, get to work!


And enjoy,



Edited by RP3
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Congratulations on your new instrument. I had a smaller thrill a month ago when I got my old trusty 26 button Lachenal back from the Button Box (new bellows, mainly). But I have a Modal A next to your new Porsche. Maybe I'll see you at a Chicago session sometime.

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So while I "know" Azalin and David were only being facetious, and David on a number of occasions has lavished praise on his Carroll Concertina, I can't help cringing a bit, thinking someone might take their remarks out of context where they might put in question some hard won reputations.


Allright Greg, please forgive me, I understand why it can be a sensitive subject, having devoted so much work to achieve this. Mea Culpa. I'll make fun of Suttners instead. ;-)

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