I recently went to a combined concert with Flook and Mary Kasey. The accordian/concertina player was Niall Vallely. I was not prepared to be impressed. But it happended anyway, and after being literally "wowed" by Flook the hour before.
I guess my question is this: Can I, and if yes - how can a beginner get started with one (concertina) late in life. Is this even practical?
I am certainly willing to devote practice. But will it be overwhelming and to this survey's point - what tuning/type should I look at to start?
Thank so much for your time!
I took up concertina at 50, so it can be done. Niall's playing is incredible, no? I've seen him and know why you were wowed, he's great.
[Warning: Long response follows]
Of course, the best place to start is by reading everything you can find. In particular http://www.concertina.net/
. There are a number of other great sites, but these are good ones to get you going.
Here's my take as a beginner on your questions but of course your mileage may (and likely will) vary.
1. Can I, and if yes - how can a beginner get started with one (concertina) late in life?
Yes, as I said I took it up at age 50. Basically listen to great players, read everything you can find on concertina, buy as much instrument as you can comfortably afford, study with a good teacher if possible, play as often as you can.
2. Is this even practical?
Is it practical for a mature person to spend their free time listening to nothing but Irish music on concertinas? To spend hours drooling over their keyboard at pictures of concertinas? To attend sessions weekly listening and picking up new tunes? To email great players and ask questions and get advice?
If that's practical, then yes. One thing you'll find is that concertina players are the nicest, smartest, handsomest, prettiest, have the best overall shapes and the most hair of all musicians on the planet
Seriously though, the folks I've conversed with are wonderful and very happy to share their knowledge and experience like all musicians interested in Irish music.
3. I am certainly willing to devote practice. But will it be overwhelming?
Only as much as you are willing to practice. If at all possible, find yourself a teacher to get you started. I've taken lessons sitting in a classroom with 8-12 year olds and while it may have felt somewhat silly at the time, it definitely got me started on the right track.
I practice about 30 minutes to 2 hours a day and try to learn 3-6 new tunes a week. Listening to great players is a help and inspiration. I never expect to play like them, but it does provide a goal and a sound in my head I can shoot for.
My answer is generally set a goal for the week to learn and play from memory one tune a week to start, then progress to as many as you are comfortable with. And listen, listen, listen.
4. And to this survey's point - what tuning/type should I look at to start?
This is a contentious point, but I'll give you my opinions (since you asked
There are 3 main concertina systems; Anglo, English and Duet. I've tried all three and they are all good and with instruction likely similar in difficulty to learn. Personally I selected Anglo since my goal is to play in sessions and after trying all 3 my personal experience led me to the Anglo as being easiest for me to pick out tunes on. I don't read music, nor do I really want to. I just picked them up and tried to play a few tunes I knew.
Tuning-wise I went with a G/D for a number of reasons. I was limited in how much I could spend and wanted a good sounding instrument, and the gentleman who was helping me had a excellent quality 20-button G/D Lachenal in stock that was in my price range. There's a lot of reasons to start on a C/G though, since that is what most people play and it will be easier to take it with you to group lessons and music camps. If you do go C/G though get a 30-button since you'll need the accidentals for Irish music.
Personally I don't think it matters much, you'll either play in the rows or use cross-fingering. The most important thing is play! I strongly suggest contacting dealers in your area to ask questions. They are all very helpful and lovely folks who have a deep knowledge of the instrument and like to share their experience. The Concertina.Net website contains pointers to all the well-known dealers and makers, so that's a good place to start.
One more piece of advice is to avoid eBay until you're more experienced. Find a dealer/maker you trust and follow their advice. Purchasing an instrument off eBay will leave you more likely to be disappointed. You can get a decent quality instrument for $600, a good quality one for $1200, a very good quality one for $1800 and a great one for $3800 and up. Pick a budget range, get the best you can and start to play.
Best of luck and welcome to concertina madness.