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Concertina is calling me

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 9:20 am
by JackJ
Anyone care to share what their learning experience was like on concertina, especially if they came to it from prior whistle/flute experience?

Last thing I need to do is take up yet another instrument. But I do like the process of learning, and hope it keeps my brain fresh.

I'm already familiar with, and I'm scoping for an instrument that's at at the right cost/quality junction for me (damn, these are not like acquiring whistles, lamentably).

But here I'm curious about how folks found the learning experience. Harder than expected? Easier? I mean, no embouchure considerations, so it's got that going for it. But clearly all those buttons and the bellows aren't quite as simple as pressing piano keys if you want to play a melody. Just wondering what I'm signing myself up for, and will appreciate the perspective of those who don't consider themselves primarily concertinists.

Re: Concertina is calling me

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:21 pm
by deltasalmon
JackJ wrote:I'm scoping for an instrument that's at at the right cost/quality junction for me
I know people say this for many instruments but concertina is one where I think "buy the most expensive instrument you can afford" really applies. I got my first concertina to play Irish music and started with a crappy chinese 20 button. I realized that wasn't capable of doing what I wanted and then got a Rochelle. The Rochelle is the best around for it's price but it still left me longing for a nice concertina especially when playing other mid-level concertinas that made my Rochelle feel like I was fighting it just to get it to play. At that point I ended up switching to button accordion but I wish I had started with a mid-level "hybrid" concertina because I think it would have had me sticking with it longer.

The good thing about the Rochelle is that the maker and some vendors offer an upgrade program. If you do go the route of a Rochelle I would advise you to upgrade as soon as you realize this is something you're going to stick with.

Re: Concertina is calling me

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:04 pm
by busterbill
I picked up the concertina a few years back at age 64 or so. I do play it decently but only have a couple of sets I can keep up with at a decent session. And boatloads of tunes I can play at a slower place that give me great joy. Heck I do love it. I got a Conner years before, before hybrids were a thing, but never did get a chance to give it any time for over 15 years. I was lucky enough to have that good sounding instrument to learn on. Then I lucked into one of the best concertinas made.

I think some of the hybrids are decent entry level instruments, and some are lifetime instruments. But even those are pricey. If you want to see, "Does my brain work this way" try renting something. The Button Box has some if you are in the US.

Concertina playing is sort of counter intuitive, sort of like touch typing, switching from hand to hand for melody lines.

If you don't have a concertina teacher around I recommend taking a few months of lessons on The Online Academy of Irish Music. They build up systematically.

There is also one more thing to consider with concertinas. There are Jeffries systems and Wheatstone systems. They are basically the same on two rows, but the accidental keys on the top (third) row, including the very important C# are in different places. I play Wheatstone system, but lots of people play Jeffries system. I do believe that the Jeffiries systems are most popular. But I'm not sure.

As for the button accordion, I do wonder with the smaller lighter instruments out there now if I would have been tempted if they were available at the time I started. Some swear they are easier to learn. I have no idea.

And you are right on the prices. The best whistle you can get your hands on by a living maker is a drop in the bucket compared to the price of an excellent concertina.

Though in Ireland there is a company called The Irish Concertina Company that is making concertina reeded models that are relatively quick to purchase. I have never had personal experience with one of them. Modern makers of concertina reeded models have relatively to extremely long waiting lists.

Hybrid models are less expensive and vary in quality of action and sound.

There is a forum out there similar to Chiff and Fipple. Join and ask questions. :D Oh yeah, I play flute, whistle and concertina out in the world, and fiddle at home every day as well.

Re: Concertina is calling me

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:57 pm
by JackJ
Thanks for the tips! I'm still undecided if I want to start with a Rochelle. I know I wouldn't be satisfied with it long term, and I'd only buy it because of the trade-up policy offered on it by Concertina Connection (the maker) and The Button Box. It's tempting as a way to get started relatively cheaply, but of course if I then find an instrument available somewhere else, I wouldn't get the full purchase price back. So I'm still looking for a reasonable deal on something used from one of the vendors whom I can trust to fix any issues. Fortunately I'm not in any rush.

The Wheatstone vs Jeffries layout is a little hard for me to wrap my head around. Jeffries seems preferable as it offers C# on both push and draw, whereas Wheatstone has, I believe, just one C# available. But for some reason, Wheatstone is the more common of the two, even on new instruments. But once you step up to a Morse, Edgely, or similar, you get to pick. And the difference isn't so drastic that going from one to the other upon upgrading would be all that serious. Still, one of the things to ponder.

Re: Concertina is calling me

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:58 pm
by busterbill
You will find that the least expensive instruments have the Wheatstone system. Then the hybrids tend to lean towards Jeffries, but not always. The Button Box's website says they occasionally have used instruments for rent. I'd seriously check that out. Most people just sell their cheapies within a year. And you will take a bit of depreciation. But that is the nature of reselling used items. If you can rent a hybrid rent one. Get on a good makers list as soon as you can afford to. Or buy the best hybrid you can when you decide you are ready to take the plunge if the custom made instruments are out of reach financially.

You are correct. They are pricey little beasts.