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Author Topic: Questions about Anglos I can't afford  (Read 1200 times)

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Huw Adamson

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Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« on: December 27, 2016, 03:29:03 AM »

So I have recently had a bit of a pipe dream about getting a nice cheap anglo 20 key concertina, inspired by looking at diminutive melodeons I can't afford. I was envisaging something rugged and inexpensive for camping so I'm not risking my pokerwork (my only box) and therefore my busking livelihood. Something I can carry freely, but doesn't leave me out of puff like a harmonica does, something to help release my inner Snufkin. Despite the fact I'm fairly certain I can't afford one in the near future, I did a little research, (in other words, I googled things,) and I'm left with a few questions.

1) I was shocked, astonished, startled and amazed to see 20 key new anglos on ebay for a mere £130 or so. I can't seriously believe an instrument for that money is playable, but it did leave me wondering, is the difference between decent and shoddy instruments more or less profound on concertina, compared to melodeon? Certainly the chap here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTTZYsXTXq0, seems to know what he's doing, playing a £200 Scarlatti, but then again if their melodeons are anything to go by, it seems like a foolish purchase. Is there perhaps a sturdy, basic equivalent of the pokerwork in the concertina world?

2) I got a quick squeeze on an anglo my grandfather was repairing recently, and had a bit of fun, despite how broken it was. The thing was however, it was only after the first twenty minutes or so that I found out I had been playing it upside down, something I only realised when I discovered the air button. As a melodeon player, and an English one at that, playing mainly in the lower octave, this upside down layout seemed to make more sense to me. The notes were where I wanted them, under my right hand's fingers, and in an octave I understood. My question is then, are there any players who play 'upside down', potentially with a moved air button? Or would I simply have to swallow my pride and just relearn tunes in the top octave?

3) Being a D/G pokerwork player I'm very used to moving onto D row in the lower octave to get the E not present on the G row. When I tried this on the knackered anglo though, I discovered the G row (it was a G/C) to be tuned higher than the C row, making the A sound understandably odd in context. This lead me to wonder why the G under the left hand on the C row on pull isn't an A? It'd certainly make my job easier, converting from a pokerwork, although I'm sure there is an obvious and rational explanation.


That's all the questions I have for now, or at least the ones google doesn't seem to want to answer. Thanks in advance for any answers or insights you can provide.   (:) :||:
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lachenal74693

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2016, 07:00:49 AM »

So I have recently had a bit of a pipe dream about getting a nice cheap anglo 20 key concertina....

Your best course of action is probably to post this query on concertina.net where there
is a wealth of expertise on such matters.

Roger

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deltasalmon

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2016, 10:39:35 AM »

I agree with Roger that you'll get more better responses over at c.net.

Before coming to melodeon I started on the anglo concertina. I had 2 of those cheap 20-button boxes with Italian sounding names and a concertina connection Rochelle. For all of the above, I'd like to mention that they're accordion reeded on accordion reed blocks (not flat mounted like on a real concertina) and because of this they are larger than other concertinas you may have run into. The ones I've played were also difficult to sound the reeds making them quite difficult to play (a lot more strenuous than a real concertina). I was actually so turned off after playing the Rochelle for so long and then having a more experienced concertina player play it and tell me how difficult it was to play that I actually gave up and came to the melodeon instead.

I also have a cheap chinese made melodeon. Compared to my van der Aa it's clearly much worse in quality and takes a little bit more effort but is no where near the difference I saw in some of the cheap chinese concertinas and the mid-range concertinas like Edgely, CC CLover, etc.

The outside row will be higher in pitch so I guess that's something you'll have to get used to. I've only played a C/G and mostly in the keys of D and G which was a crossrow style. I know people who play G/D and I imagine they play more in an up-and-down the row style but I don't have much to say about that myself.

Playing upside down is something I've never heard of before. But I'm wondering if you were actually holding it upside down? The air button on a concertina will be on the right hand side, not the left like on the melodeon. If you're used to playing a melodeon then the scale should be exactly the same on the concertina (aside from the octave difference between the two rows that you mentioned)
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Sean McGinnis
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lachenal74693

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2016, 12:00:07 PM »

...I had 2 of those cheap 20-button boxes with Italian sounding names...

In view of what DS has said, I will add that when I was a penniless undergraduate, I had
a cheap concertina - a Rossetti 'Rambler-de-Luxe' if I remember correctly.

The quality was such that I was put off the concertina for over 40 years!!!

Also, in the video cited by the OP, the vendor appears to be flogging the instrument after
only six weeks or so, in order to move on to a better, vintage instrument. There's a message
there, methinks.

You may well be advised to spend a little more money on a restored 20-button Lachenal
(or similar - George Jones for instance).

Have a look at concertinas-uk (http://www.concertinas-uk.co.uk/) - this is where I got
my first 'tina. It's a lovely thing, but then, they all are.

Hobgoblin (https://www.hobgoblin.com/) usually have several 'tinas in stock though you
may have to travel to the appropriate store, and I have heard that they are 'expensive',
(whatever that means).

There are other dealers/restorers...

Also, advertise on c.net - I bought all my 'tinas bar two via c.net.

The OP should (probably?) consider the key(s) very carefully. I recently had a conversation
with an experienced melodeon player and session organiser with a view to joining his session.
The conclusion we came to was that a G/D concertina was probably the 'best' key combination
if playing with others in a session. Depending upon circumstances, there will be arguments in
favour of other key combinations...

Roger.

PS: Your G/C concertina was probably (in concertina terms), a C/G instrument.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2016, 12:44:18 PM by lachenal74693 »
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JimmyM

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2016, 01:44:23 PM »

Pretty much what all the above have said. Cheap is obviously a relative term but I don't believe there is such a thing in the concertina world. You can buy a guitar for £50 or £60 and its playable or even a Chinese box but I've never seen a concertina that's even close to playabable for less than a few hundred. And if you want 30 buttons the price just goes up to a point where I personally wouldn't want to be throwing it around.

Cheap instruments? I took a £10 uke on a backpacking trip to India for a month. It survived but it wouldn't have been the end of the world if it hadn't. Or the penny whistle. Fairly cheap and robust
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Theo

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2016, 02:10:39 PM »

Agreed, a nice cheap concertina does not exist.

For nice cheap free reed instrument get a harmonica or two. 
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Theo Gibb

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malcolmbebb

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2016, 02:29:27 PM »

With a standard C/G concertina you can play the lower octave fairly comfortably on the left hand, but that gets a bit tricky when you want to play any accompaniment and leaves your right hand somewhat underused. A number of players do play upper octave, fine if you (or your dog) like squeaky.
Or you can can play mainly on the C row, heading south for your F#s when in G.  Even then, the A and below are still on the left hand for the lower octave. Either way, playing in D is a challenge  8) unless you have a 30 button which are disproportionately more expensive.
G/Ds are less common and cheap ones rare, as are 20 button. G/D is nice to play, the notes are under the right fingers - except that the push is on the same button as your melodeon but the pull is on the next one. That can mess with your brain when moving between instruments. I find it harder going from tina back to melodeon. You can get used to it... or just don't try to play the same tune on each instrument  :D

The Rochelle was long (still is?) considered the best value beginner's concertina on C-net. They are of course a bit bigger than more expensive tinas but not heavy.
I had a Mk1 Rochelle for a while and found it OK. The Mk1s have an undersized and asthmatic air valve. It does teach you to appreciate the reversals on the top row to balance your air use and reduce use of the air button. I eventually found the sound a bit thin, the Mk2s have different reeds and a bigger air valve. But as neither terribly expensive nor antique and irreplaceable, it may be worth considering for your purpose especially if you can get a used one (c£250?) 
There is a range of not-too-expensive concertinas around, when you get looking, can't think of the brands offhand. A lot of quite nice looking boxes have low grade metal actions which wear out rapidly and can't be replaced or economically repaired, so care is needed.
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deltasalmon

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2016, 03:35:16 PM »

If you're just looking for a portable box, another thing to consider is swapping a toy melodeon with real accordion reeds.

I bought one of the older wooden model toy melodeons and used http://irishdancemaster.com/reeds.html to replace the reeds with accordion reeds. The LM voicing I have makes the instrument sound much bigger than it really is. The button responsiveness is actually better than a bigger chinese one-row 4 voice I have. The only complaint I have is the bellows are a little breathy but they were in a much worse state when I sent it off.

The box is as portable as can be and still gets great sound.
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Sean McGinnis
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Huw Adamson

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2016, 03:40:20 PM »

The poor quality of cheap concertinas is as I feared, thanks for your responses.

"Playing upside down is something I've never heard of before. But I'm wondering if you were actually holding it upside down? The air button on a concertina will be on the right hand side, not the left like on the melodeon. If you're used to playing a melodeon then the scale should be exactly the same on the concertina (aside from the octave difference between the two rows that you mentioned)" - Indeed, the only difference is the different fingering for the upper octave. I figured that I was holding it upside down based on the facts there was a button where my thumb wasn't and a thumb where a button wasn't.

"Have a look at concertinas-uk (http://www.concertinas-uk.co.uk/) - this is where I got my first 'tina. It's a lovely thing, but then, they all are.
Hobgoblin (https://www.hobgoblin.com/) usually have several 'tinas in stock though you may have to travel to the appropriate store, and I have heard that they are 'expensive', (whatever that means)." - Thanks, I'll take a good look at the former. I looked at the Hobgoblin website before, and it has pretty much the expected price hike from £200 Chinese models to £10000000 European masterpieces with 200 buttons and the like.

"The OP should (probably?) consider the key(s) very carefully. I recently had a conversation with an experienced melodeon player and session organiser with a view to joining his session. The conclusion we came to was that a G/D concertina was probably the 'best' key combination if playing with others in a session. Depending upon circumstances, there will be arguments in favour of other key combinations..." - From my poke around on the internet I came to the conclusion I didn't mind what keys it was in, so long as they were a fourth apart. G/D is better for session playing, particularly as, in broad terms, I'm an up-and-down rather than across-the-rows player. Then again, a C/G would give me an extra key to play in, seeing as I already have a D/G melodeon, and that's what I'd be likely to take to a session. With this in mind, given that, from what I've seen, C/G is more prolific, I'd probably just go for that, playing tunes I normally play in G, in C.

"Cheap instruments? I took a £10 uke on a backpacking trip to India for a month. It survived but it wouldn't have been the end of the world if it hadn't."
"For nice cheap free reed instrument get a harmonica or two." - That's certainly what I have at the moment: a couple of £10 harmonicas and two £20 ukuleles (and a banjolele, although it hardly falls into the category 'cheap').

"I've never seen a concertina that's even close to playabable for less than a few hundred. And if you want 30 buttons the price just goes up to a point where I personally wouldn't want to be throwing it around." - As I feared. That said I'm not after a 30 key, more buttons than I'd know what to do with, and it wouldn't be my main instrument after all.

"The Rochelle was long (still is?) considered the best value beginner's concertina on C-net. They are of course a bit bigger than more expensive tinas but not heavy.
I had a Mk1 Rochelle for a while and found it OK. The Mk1s have an undersized and asthmatic air valve. It does teach you to appreciate the reversals on the top row to balance your air use and reduce use of the air button. I eventually found the sound a bit thin, the Mk2s have different reeds and a bigger air valve. But as neither terribly expensive nor antique and irreplaceable, it may be worth considering for your purpose especially if you can get a used one (c£250?) 
There is a range of not-too-expensive concertinas around, when you get looking, can't think of the brands offhand." - This is the sort of good news I'm after, £250 seems like a decent price, and I certainly don't mind used.

"Another thing to consider is swapping a toy melodeon with real accordion reeds." - Very true and a good bit more feasible. My father has offered to give me his old toy melodeon (as he's moved onto far greater things with many many voices) which is already done up to a large extent, although breathy bellows are always a problem. Good call.
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playandteach

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2016, 09:16:04 PM »

Good to see you here, Huw. Good luck with the Anglo search, but hopefully you'll keep the melodeon as your default instrument. You'll find this a great and helpful site, and the members here will enjoy your skills and enthusiasm.
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Howard Jones

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2016, 12:25:43 PM »

It's a mistake to think of an anglo as a small version of a melodeon.  They are obviously related, and up and down an individual row they work on the same principle, but there the similarity ends. It really has to be approached as a different instrument, with its own techniques and fingerings. If you play one it should give you a bit of a head start when learning the other, but on the other hand you may have to unlearn some habits as you can't always apply melodeon thinking to concertina, and vice versa. 

I took the opposite approach to many, coming to melodeon having already learned to play anglo, and I found the melodeon comparatively easier to play (which is not to say it does not have its own complexities) and have never had any trouble separating the two in my mind.

As an anglo player I would obviously claim that it is worth learning for its own sake, but if you simply want something for travelling then you'd do better to find a cheaper melodeon that you won't worry about damaging and that won't require you to learn a new instrument.
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Pete Dunk

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2016, 10:40:31 PM »

It's pleasing that this thread has drawn the conclusion that concertinas and accordions are entirely unrelated instruments because that, quite simply is the case. I have to question the frequently mentioned 'similarity' between a melodeon and a harmoninca. It may be true to say that both produce a different notes in/out (bellows) or blow/suck (lungs) but they are so physically different to each other that they defy any connection other than logical and that's pretty tenuous in my less than expert opinion.

Bang for buck including self accompanyment = melodeon.

Purity of voice and sheer tonality = vintage concertina without doubt.  ;)
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deltasalmon

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2016, 03:12:18 PM »

I have to question the frequently mentioned 'similarity' between a melodeon and a harmoninca. It may be true to say that both produce a different notes in/out (bellows) or blow/suck (lungs) but they are so physically different to each other that they defy any connection other than logical and that's pretty tenuous in my less than expert opinion.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I don't "practice" harmonica, but I have a few lying around the house. When I want to play one I don't typically try to think of how the tune goes and play by ear, I think about how I'd play it on a 1-row melodeon and then try to imitate the ins and outs. If I wanted to play a tune on the mandolin I'd abandon the idea of thinking about the instrument and think about playing the melody by ear.

I have a 20-button anglo concertina at home and if I wanted to learn it "the right way" I'd really work on the cross row playing, but mostly I just pick it up and play up and down the row the same way I would on melodeon or harmonica. By this I mean I'm not trying to learn how to play the harmonica or concertina as an instrument in it's own right, I'm just trying to play my melodeon tunes on a different instrument. This is possible because of the similarities between melodeon, harmonica and concertina. I wouldn't be able to pick up a string or woodwind instrument and play the same tunes because there are far less similarities between melodeon and those instruments.

Also, I'm not implying that harmonica/concertina/melodeon are the same instrument. My melodeon playing is much smoother than both of the others and I had to work at it even just to get them where they are, I just want to acknowledge that similarities between the instruments are there.

** All references to concertina are to an anglo, the different layout of the English or Duet completely changes things.
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Sean McGinnis
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stevejay

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2016, 03:22:27 PM »

It's pleasing that this thread has drawn the conclusion that concertinas and accordions are entirely unrelated instruments because that, quite simply is the case.

Diatonic "family"
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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2016, 03:44:18 PM »

It's pleasing that this thread has drawn the conclusion that concertinas and accordions are entirely unrelated instruments because that, quite simply is the case.

Diatonic "family"

Depends what type of concertina and what type of accordion..........
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Howard Jones

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2016, 07:47:36 PM »

I have a 20-button anglo concertina at home and if I wanted to learn it "the right way" I'd really work on the cross row playing, but mostly I just pick it up and play up and down the row the same way I would on melodeon or harmonica. By this I mean I'm not trying to learn how to play the harmonica or concertina as an instrument in it's own right, I'm just trying to play my melodeon tunes on a different instrument. T

No one has denied the basic similarity that both instruments are part of the same family of instruments and are based on the same system up and down a row. However that is where the similarity ends.

When you are playing melodeon tunes on an anglo, if you only play up and down a single row on the right hand then you can use your melodeon fingering (if you are used to playing it in the upper octave, that is), but as soon as you go into the lower octave on the left hand you can no longer play it like a melodeon, you are playing it like a concertina.  This is the OP's problem, especially as he appears not to be very familiar with playing melodeon in the upper octave.  Once you start to cross the rows it is completely different, and even on the row the lowest notes are probably not the same.

As you have found, you can use experience of playing melodeon to pick up the basics of playing concertina fairly quickly, but one is not a substitute for the other.
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RogerT

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2017, 07:46:26 AM »

Aside from the playability issue of cheap(?) Anglos,  GC is the most common  key combo - but you need the 30 key variety to get the accidentals, and this is fine for playing in DG but you have to cross the rows. If you have tinkered with a semitone melodeon (like a BC or CC#) then cross row playing seems quite natural, and there are a few good books to help. Also a great (free) intro video to playing in G on the OAIM.ie website. JKirkpatrick, on his website, mentions playing up and down the rows like a melodeon, as a quick way to get a tune out of an Anglo, but it's not really the way to go, because you have to get your hands on a GD box (if you want to play along at a session) , which is more difficult to find.
The one important button that is missing from a 20 key GC Anglo is C#/Eb, which you need to play in D (well, actually you only need the C#) Marcus concertinas make a 21 key Anglo with this extra key. It has crossed my mind to convert an old Jones I have, to substitute one of the lesser keys for this note combo, which would make the 20 key playable in G and D. I'm sure others must have done this already too. But in theory you could end up with a playable and affordable 20 key Anglo, if it were possible to get your hands on an old Jones or Lachenal 20 key, and make the conversion work.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2017, 07:54:15 AM by RogerT »
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Garry Probert

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2017, 11:26:40 AM »

Hi
Quote
It has crossed my mind to convert an old Jones I have, to substitute one of the lesser keys for this note combo, which would make the 20 key playable in G and D.
I have an old Lachenal 20(keith prowse)tagged anglo and have considered this mod ,what button would you substitute?
I was always concerned that having a non natural position button would be confusing ,but having changed my liliput layout
its surprising how quickly one adapts even at my age lol   
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RogerT

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2017, 01:38:15 PM »

V good q I was considering this morning. Maybe the pull D on the C row? Substitute that reed for C#. It has the advantage that probably the reed would go straight in without mods. Otherwise one on the high RH G row perhaps....but then the pan would need modding to take a bigger reed....

Garry Probert

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Re: Questions about Anglos I can't afford
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2017, 02:53:51 PM »

Hi
Quote
Maybe the pull D on the C row? Substitute that reed for C#. It has the advantage that probably the reed would go straight in without mods. Otherwise one on the high RH G row perhaps....but then the pan would need modding to take a bigger reed....
I find this modding conundrum fascinating but so frustrating, my limited lilliput mods have taken months to achieve what i believe for me is the best useable compromise
My maccann duet was actually easier because of the limited number of fingers we have to contort into those unrealistic playing positions lol
Substitute that reed for C#
interesting
   
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