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Should I Switch From English To Anglo?

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>>Bruce, after reading the rest of your post, I wonder if you aren't hoping to benefit when he gets rid of his Wheatstone Englishes.<<



I wish! I can't afford to buy any more concertinas. I'm selling my McGee flutes to cover the cost of the Wheatstone tenor that I bought this past winter. Between the two flutes & what I sold my Albion for I should just about come out even.


BTW, the tenor is working out great. It's a joy to play. The Crane I bought last year currently has some problems that I need to get checked. Two neighboring notes sound when one button is depressed, plus a few other notes use a lot of air and are weak. It appears that the reed pan has shrunk a bit as it seems to be a loose fit. It happpened during the cold winter we just had here. There don't appear to be any cracks or warps. I can jiggle the reed pan back and forth so I think there is leakage at the edges.

bruce boysen

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Another item that might be worth considering, is the opening of the reed "gap" slightly. I don't recomend this unless you really want the extra volume that an Anglo generally produces.

And I would certainly advise against trying to do it yourself, even if you decide that is what you want.

What a great -- and easy -- way to ruin a fine instrument!

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I never hear of anyone who plays Irish music on an anglo wanting to change to an English. ;)

Well, if you start off on the anglo because that's what you think the Irish play, it would probably take a radical experience to motivate you to switch to the English . Meanwhile, there's a lot of social pressure in the opposite direction from some Irish anglo players.


I personally know one person who played English for several years, gave it up for the anglo to play Irish music, then dropped the anglo and returned to the English several years after that. And I've just heard of a second example of the same. But two examples out of hundreds or thousands of concertina players worldwide is statistically insignificant.


You will never be happy travelling around Irish sessions......or even Ireland......unless you *fit* in with an anglo........regardless of how an English can sound played in an Irish style.

If you mean that unseen122 would not be happy... maybe so; I don't know. But if you mean no one could be happy, I know better. And if you mean that English players in general would be unhappy because they'd be given flak by bigoted anglo players, I doubt even that there would be much of that if the English player were a good musician. (By the way, have you ever heard a flute or fiddle player tell an English concertina player that he didn't "sound Irish" because he didn't sound like an anglo?)


As I've said before, there are people who can play the English so that it sounds like Irish-style anglo. though anyone who wants to do the same will probably have to teach themselves. I don't know anyone actually teaching that technique. But at least some of the better anglo players don't look down on the English. I've seen Niall Vallely both jamming and peforming with Alistair Anderson. I was present when another well-known anglo teacher heard a friend of mine (who is not a well-known performer) play Irish tunes in a non-anglo style on the English, and his immediate reaction was, "I'd like to record with you!" (I haven't asked the parties involved about mentioning their names. I can say that the anglo teacher was not Noel hill. :) )


...if Irish music is the only way you want to go I would get an Anglo.

I would say that if you want to be part of the anglo-concertina in-crowd, that may be necessary. And if it is really the Irish-anglo sound you want, and not just those elements of Irish style that tie together fiddle and pipes as well as anglo concertina, then you should certainly try the anglo. And if you are inclining toward the anglo, you should be aware that it's capable of far more than just tunes. Of course, there's the melody-plus-chords style common for Morris dancing, but I've heard fine song accompaniment, jazz, and ragtime, and I doubt there's any style of popular music that it can't do in good hands. So don't feel that it's necessary to stay with the English to keep broad possibilities open.


But anyone who claims that the English is incapable of playing Irish music in a way that sounds "Irish" -- as opposed to a way that sounds angloish -- is dead wrong.


Edited to correct a silly typo.

Edited by JimLucas
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Maybe I'm wrong but I get the impression that more people start with English and then take up Anglo than vice versa. Is this other folk's experience?

I really don't think there's enough data -- nor even anecdotes in various threads here on Concertina.net -- to support such a conclusion one way or another.

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Get some Irish CDs and listen to the songs and figure out how to play them. When playing English Concertina you will not sound like an Anglo but you will sound more like a Flute/Whistle and probably be more inspired by them (Flute and Whistle players) that is according to english players that play I rish music you would still be playing Irish music and could play a session and have no problem I would advise against switching. :ph34r:

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>>I know this is thread drift, but can you explain what you mean by and how you play Simon Thoumire's one-button rolls (in detail please).<<



I wish I could, but I can't explain in any great detail. According to the interview with Simon (plus listening to his CD's) at the Footstompin (http://www.footstompin.com/home) site, he uses fingers 1 & 2 only to play repeated notes on one button. He said this is central to his playing technique. He does it all the time and some sound to me like three note hammers, and others like 4. I called it a roll because he uses this in places where it seems to me a roll might commonly be used. I love how he does it and I've been working on getting my speed up and also working on the timing of them.


It would be great to go to a workshop or take a few lessions from Simon. I'm a huge fan of his last CD, The Big Day In.


Maybe we could get Simon to go into more detail?

bruce boysen

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Why not play both an English and an Anglo. I had been playing English for about 15 years and then got an Anglo. For me it was a good thing as I find that it gives me the flexibility to choose which instrument to play a particulat tune as I find that certain tunes fit the english better and visa-versa. Also, I have found that learning the Anglo has given me ideas and techniques that have transferred to the English. In all honesty. I can't say that I prefer one system to the other. I love them both and will always play both.

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I have been playing the English concertina for the past 12 years and Irish trad. on it for at least the past 10 years. One of the compliments I received over this time was from my Irish Anglo-playing friend George, who said: "I hate you Jonathan. Because you play Irish music on the English better than I do on the Anglo, and you make it sound like an Anglo." But he doesn't like sitting next to me in sessions because my Aeola treble -- ebony-ended, not metal -- makes his ears hurt. So much for Anglos being louder.


One problem with learning any concertina is keeping the notes distinct and separate. On the English it's important to do this, otherwise they run into one another and you end up with a continuous amorphous mush, with no clear rhythm, emphasis or structure, and completely lacking punch. On the English you can do this for bar after bar nonstop until you run out of air, and obviously, Irish trad. played this way sounds like utter crap. I have often heard beginners do this, especially when nervous. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that that is what Lawrence is doing, to some extent, at least.


Now Anglo beginners will tend to make exactly the same mistake, but will forced to separate the notes at least some of the time by the bellows reversals, which will also provide emphasis. That is what Lawrence is hearing from the Anglo players he mentioned. Note: it is not the bellows reversals themselves producing this effect, but the note separations forced by the bellows reversals.


But Anglo players who progress beyond this level have to learn how to separate their notes properly, too, just like English players have to. So better players of either system can put in emphasis and punch at will, of course, without needing to rely on reversals. Which means that the apparent advantage of the Anglo that Lawrence is observing only exists up to a certain skill level, and that English players can produce much the same effects as Anglo players, whatever style of music is played.


One such typical Anglo effect that is very difficult to impossible on the English (for me personally anyway) is playing in octaves -- playing whole bars of the tune with both the right hand and an octave lower also with the left hand. The most I can achieve in this is short phrases. But while this is a common feature of Irish Anglo music, it is impossible on many other typical Irish trad. instruments and therefore cannot be an essential feature of Irish music in general.


To compensate for this drawback of the English, there are other common Irish trad. features which are much easier on the English, e.g. fast triplets up or down on to any note (often heard in top-class uilleann piping).


So my advice to Lawrence is this: if you were starting the concertina from scratch, with Irish in mind, I would say: get an Anglo. But in your particular case, there are drawbacks to changing to anglo or learning Anglo alongside English:


- You will never be able to get a similar-quality Anglo for one of your Englishes for the same price.

- You will lose two years until your Irish playing has reached the level that your Anglo-playing friends have now. At which point you, like they are now, will still be using bellows reversals as a crutch to note separation.


So: if you are dead set on playing 100% Irish Anglo music complete with playing in octaves: get an Anglo. But if it's 100% (or whatever) Irish music on a concertina you want, the English will do fine, believe me. If as you say your ambitions are not high, you will probably get more mileage for your time and money by sticking with the English and concentrating on improving your note separation. This will help your playing in general, not only the Irish.


You might have trouble finding someone in Southern England who plays Irish on the English, but if you think I might be able to help, feel free to contact me off-forum. I'm over there pretty often.

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Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. I got a lot of useful advice and plenty of ideas. Here's what I've decided to do:


1. To keep on with the English concertina as my main instrument and to persevere with learning to play Irish music on the EC.


2. As a background activity, and as time and funds permit, to experiment with Anglo and Button Accordion.



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Good for you Lawrence! Your decision-making process sure did generate an awful lot of discussion, both here and at The Session! I'm glad you've made a decision, and I hope it's one you'll be very happy with.


After all, when it all comes down to it, it's really about the music, not which type of concertina you play it on.




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Because you play Irish music on the English better than I do on the Anglo, and you make it sound like an Anglo."

At an ICA annual general meeting several years ago, Roger Digby presented a series of pieces on cassette tape, and challenged the rest of us to identify whetjher the instrument we heard was an English, Anglo, or Duet. I think I got about half right, which was a typical score among those present. It is not what you play, it's what you do with it.


- John Wild

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There are folks who play the English system and melodeon/accordion


and you can get a much better accordion for your dollars than you can another concertina..


I say get a melodeon...(button accordion) something straightforward such as a d/g

and if someone tells you can't play Irish on it.. have them listen to Tim Eady...



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