The Concertina.

The Concertina.

Ordering my first concertina tomorrow. The Rochelle Anglo C/G. I have a bit of apprehension, having never bought an instrument this expensive before, so I decided to take a stroll through YouTube for a bit of inspiration when I found this neat little video :-)

http://youtu.be/E4QHWas4G2I


Remembering Greg showing my friends and I all the concertinas he was restoring and allowing me to play them. Now I remember how they felt in my hands, and how beautifully made they are.

One of my session mates shared with me Mary MacNamara’s album "Traditional Music from County Clare". I’ll have to get her other albums for sure. I finally bought that Edel Fox and Neill Byrne "The Sunny Banks" album. I’ll be ordering "Chords and Beryls" very soon. Got to hear some of the samples and it sounds like a must have. Also bought the "In Knocknagree" album by Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon but I like "Music of Dreams" a lot more.

I’m glad I got into Clare music, I love their repertoires. Yea, I still need my Donegal Fiddle fix every now and then, but this Concertina music is magic. After disliking the other free-reeds and wind instruments so long, it still baffles me that I like this one so much. Pretty ironic I think. I wouldn’t doubt that if I discovered it while I was younger it would’ve been chosen over fiddle.

So, about The Concertina: I think I’ve been quite thorough in my assessment of if I truly wanna learn it or not. Anything you concertina players feel I should know before I get started?

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I don’t know anything about concertinas but I want one now :)
Great video, thanks Jerone.

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Before you start fumbling around you should learn some cross-row technique. A workshop with Noel Hill is worth every penny. Noel Hill has Clare water running through his veins and if you like Clare music there is no better teacher. Alternatively you can do it yourself. This is my own precis of what he does. http://tinyurl.com/oxh87ew It’s a slog to go through it bit by bit, but it’s basically what Noel teaches in his beginning class.
There are a lot different approaches to the concertina, and a lot of tutors out there. But for my money Noel is still the best for a pure Irish style that comes closest to fiddle or pipes. "In Knocknagree" is one of my all-time favorite CDs.
I’m not fond of the Rochelle but if you take it slow, don’t push it and don’t have many expectations for it, you’ll be ok. There’s a reason why the Morse anglo is so much more expensive and why a Dipper has a five year wait list. You should certainly get acquainted with http://www.concertina.net/.
Good luck and happy squeezes….

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Cool video - thanks Jerome!

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Hi Jerone

I had a Rochelle, and now I have a Clover. It has to be said, the Rochelle is one heavy monster. I take my hat off to anyone who can play a tune up to the lower ranges of session speed on it. But it’s good for figuring out where all the buttons are. And as with flute (my other instrument), playing slowly is difficult because you easily run out of air

I’m currently discouraged on the Clover - I still find the bellows requirements make it quite difficult to play fast - and it still has the accordion sound - which, it turns out, I don’t like much. At some point I’ll sell it and get a concertina I really like the sound of.

Greg

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I’d avoid the Rochelle if at all possible. Heavy, stiff, unwieldy beasts that do more to discourage new players than anything else. Save your pennies and get a nice starter hybrid instrument like a used Tedrow or Edgley. I just went through this with a student, he had a Rochelle, now has a Morse. The Rochelle was just so unpleasant and difficult to play.

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I bought a Rochelle about 6 years ago. I actually like it. I think if you hold the vent open, it probably plays a lot like an expensive concertina, but I really wouldn’t know as I’ve never even seen an expensive concertina first hand in my life. (BTW, I don’t actually play it holding the vent open)

that said, concertina itself is one of the strangest instruments I’ve ever played. I put it in the same realm as chromatic harmonica as far as being non intuitive. If I didn’t know anything about music and somebody threw me a concertina and told me to figure it out I’d be stuffed well and truly

BUT…I do enjoy playing my Rochelle. Young children are fascinated by it. My nephew will just sit at my feet and stare in wonder when I break it out for some tunes

I think over the years my Rochelle has gotten easier to play. I replaced one of the straps with a bit of thicker cow hide to help me control it better, but then I do leather work and I tend to modify things to suit myself, so I didn’t replace the strap because of the Rochelle’s construction. The bellows has definitely gotten more supple and the reeds must get easier blowing over time

but for me the reason I bought a Rochelle was that I was curious, had never seen a concertina first hand in my life, knew absolutely no one who played one, and yet the sound of them had me itching to have a go at one. I’m a working man, so I can’t lay out thousands for anything, much less something to satisfy my curiosity, so for less than 500 USD I could get a 30 button Anglo C/G

which is why I’ve been a playing a Rochelle for the last few years

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Nate, I’m glad you enjoy the Rochelle, but I still can’t recommend them to anyone who might aspire to playing concertina in sessions. I’m able to do it, but it’s at least two or three times as much work as a "real" concertina to play at any speed. Maybe they loosen up a bit over time, but I’ve seen several players fight with them for way too long before doing whatever it took to save up and get something better so they could advance in their playing.

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fair enough, but if somebody just wants to see what a concertina is all about I actually would recommend one because for under 500 bucks, its the best thing you are going to find. They are well made in that they work and they hold up to a lot of playing. After several years of regular use, not only hasn’t anything broken on mine, but the silly thing actually plays better. For instruments on the low end of the price scale, that’s no little thing

but I’m not arguing with you. If this was my primary instrument, I’d want a nicer one for sure, but accordions are not my primary instrument, so to have something I can play that didn’t set me back a lot of money, its a perfect fit

so we are talking about 2 different things, really

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Thanks for the input guys!

"Before you start fumbling around you should learn some cross-row technique. A workshop with Noel Hill is worth every penny."

Noel Hill hosts a concertina camp just a few hours away from where I live once a year. I’m going the first chance I get! Also, I’m learning from the Online Academy of Irish music from Edel Fox and Ernistine Healy as well.

Nate Ryan, Michael Eskin, thanks for sharing your experiences. I got the oppotunity to try a Rochelle myself and it’s the reason why I settled on it for the time being. Having played some Jones concertinas and a Carroll, I can see what the hype is about with them, but if I waited another month to get a concertina, my head would’ve exploded. Not to mention it would’ve taken much longer than a month to save up for one of those bad boys!

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You’re most welcome! Have fun playing!

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and Michael’s right, if you get serious about concertina, you’ll out grow it, but you can most likely be able to trade it in or sell it for a good part of what you have in it when its time.

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Entry level instruments are a necessary evil for most of us. I pulled out my first fiddle the other night and had a go at it. Wow! What a nasty sounding little evil thing it is, but it did it’s job and lit the fire. There’s no way I would have sprung for my current set up just out of curiosity. No doubt your concertina is a better instrument than that little screetchy toy. Everything is but a step on the path, so enjoy the journey.

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I rather spontaneously bought my first fiddle at Aldi some years ago. It only cost $100 and I was bored. Other than that playing the fiddle had never entered my head. I was in the back seat of the car and it was just over an hours trip back home. By then I had it tuned up (to some degree), had rosined my bow (to some degree) and could play Fanny Power (to some degree). This came as a big shock to me and so began my addiction, which in turn began to end my depression. I stuck with that fiddle for twelve months and am now on my fourth upgrade. I owe so much to that cheap Chinese box with wires on it.

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Does no-one think it worthwhile to mention getting a reasonable Lachenal or Wheatstone ? Certainly there are bottom-end Lachenals that I would not touch, but a mid-range re-con would be a good buy, and not loose much value if passed on again as you upgrade.

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I only just watched the Op video. I found it really enjoyable and for some reason, very relaxing. I hadn’t expected that!

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Nice story Gobby! I think we can take a lot of advantage from an entry level instrument if we have realistic expectations. I could appreciate my better set up fiddle a lot more because I knew it was better. Also, playing it was a lot easier too. I use to warm up on my old fiddle just to get my hands stretched and ready. I can put up with the Rochelle, at least until I finish the 1st two OAIM concertina courses. I’m glad ConcertinaConnection allows us to do a full-value trade in for the upgraded concertinas. That was the main motive for not waiting.

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The action is a discouragement to playing.

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I started exactly as you, with a Rochelle and the OAIM site. After a bit I purchased a used Edgley, a stretch in cost but a revelation in playing and tone. A teacher makes a huge difference, there is no one nearby to me so I am taking lessons via Skype with a player in Maine. His name is Christian "Junior" Stevens, great player and most importantly, an excellent teacher.
Good luck!

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I agree with the view that you will want to buy something better in due course - but, depending on where you play (& in what company) you may want to keep your Rochelle when you do move up to a better instrument.

Amongst other things, I play in a Morris band and I have a Jackie (= English keyboard equivalent of the Rochelle, by the same people) specifically for playing out-of-doors or at events where there is real risk of some drunk spilling his pint over my instrument.

Yes, the Rochelle / Jackie have limitations, e.g. hard work when new, but [in the UK] they are one-fifth of the price of a decent box.

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If you have a grá for the Clare music, make sure to try and pick up some of the fiddle recordings by the likes of Paddy Canny, Joe Ryan, Bobby Casey, PJ Hayes etc. It’s sublime. Might make you turn back to the fiddle as much as the concertina :)

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Right so… Granted.
Nevertheless — WHO might want to make you stick to the concertina??
:-D :-D

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You have to learn how to play legato on concertina. I have decided to drop it now, but I did learn that bellows control and reed responsiveness are maybe even more important than fingering. You cannot get really responsive reeds on a cheap concertina.

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So are you saying that I can’t learn certain skills, like legato, on the Rochelle because it’s too low quality?

It would literally take me 2 to 3 more years to save up for an intermediate concertina. The money I would spend on an intermediate concertina I could spend on getting a passport and a trip to Ireland. I don’t think it would be a good idea to wait that much longer, and I really don’t see the issue of starting and learning now.

Like Cheeky Elf said, entry level instruments are a necessary evil for some of us. Some of us just can’t afford higher level instruments. The Rochelle alone equaled a months rent. Equaled..

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Here’s a good point made by Kilcash 12 months ago on another thread:-

"There’s a certain amount of ‘musical instrument snobbery’ and I’m sure we’re all guilty of it, if guilty is the right word. We just aspire to better quality instruments and if we have the disposable income, I guess why not? But things weren’t always that way in rural Ireland for ordinary folk. Money was tight and people played on what they could get their hands on. Whether it was home made whistles and fifes, patched up fiddles, cheap concertinas etc. Maybe this gave a bit of that roughness around the edges that people admire?"

And I’m not suggesting that Jerome’s Rochelle could even be considered rough around the edges. Lots of people seem to do a good job on them . I’d be pleased as punch if I could get one.

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Thanks Gobby. I would think that to many of us, $2,500+ was quite expensive for an instrument. I could get a very nice used Yamaha stand-up piano for less than half of that.

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Jerone, you can definitely get something from the Rochelle…I had one for a couple years. But don’t expect to sound like Mary Mac or Padraig Rynne on it.

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They just don’t make bad instruments at that price. We are spoiled. Talk about tradition and think what our predecessors had to play. I often think about the Doherty family when they had to resort to their tin fiddles. I went through all this snobby crap when I bought a Trinity College bouzouki, yet it plays brilliantly and I love it to bits. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with it. And then I think back to 1972, when I bought a guitar from a music shop in Melbourne;- when I walked in there was a black guy who was either Sony Terry or Brownie Mcghee (which ever one of them was the guitarist). I didn’t know that straight away. I just stood there and listened to this guy making magic on this brilliant sounding guitar. It was an early-ish Japanese Ibanez Gibson humingbird copy. He told the salesman that he liked it and asked him how much it cost. It cost $85.00 (near two weeks pay in those days). He said, "No. If you are going to give me one I want a more expensive one than that" (he was being sponsored for a show in Melbourne and obviously got a free guitar). So as soon as he put it down I put it on lay-by and soon after bought it. I had that guitar for 20 years before I passed it on to a young beginner, and I swear it was as good as any Gibson. Best guitar I ever had (and I’ve had a few). There is a lot of brand name snobbery. You can’t know if you love it till you get it in your hands.

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Yea Gobby. I can see a little bit of where the others are coming from. One of my musician friends let me play her $10,000 guitar at one of our parties, and that thing made me wanna get back in practice! If my guitars were set up as nicely and sounded as warm and sweetly as hers, I would probably be a pretty decent guitar player by now!

Lol, still i’ve played a Rochelle so I already know what to expect. And I’ve played Jones and a Carroll so I know what to look forward to :-) Though I don’t wanna wait for a higher-end model, it’s wiser that I use what I can for now. The Rochelle is still much more expensive than other entry level instruments.

Keyboards $45+
Fiddles $75+
Guitars $60+

If this year goes as planned, I’ll be able to upgrade after I finish the 4 concertina courses in the OAIM.

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The Chinese make very serviceable inexpensive guitars and mandolins, even accordions, all of which at least resemble and play like nicer instruments than their price would have you expect. I don’t understand why the couldn’t do the same for something that feels and plays like a standard concertina instead of these Rochelle/Jack/Jackie concertina-shaped objects. Is anyone looking at building a "real" $500 concertina in China?

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I hope so!

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There is a physical difference between starter concertinas like the Morse, Rochelle or Edgely and
the real thing. But a fiddle, flute or guitar has all the same bits on it whether it’s a $50 job or
a $5 million Strad.

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You think of an Edgely as a "starter"? You have high standards indeed!

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Whoops, sorry—Edgley.

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I highly recommend Caitlin Nic Gabhann’s album "Caitlin." Also Padraig Rynne’s "Bye a while." I also have Kate McNamara’s "Are you the concertina player" and I quite like it but am not making a recommendation at this time.

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Richard Dalton, I would say what is going on in that video is he is playing in G. G is probably a favorite key for many concertina players, I quite enjoy that key and base everything mostly off of a G scale. I haven’t studied under any masters but the sample Edel Fox lessons on a website so take what I saw with a grain of salt I guess. The G scale starts on the C row left hand 1st button and the lower notes below G are only available on that row anyway [Edit: or any scale for that matter as there are so few accidentals available in the low range]. Except low F# is 4th on the G row left hand, so it’s kind of funky, that’s why you see him using his pinky, and possibly there was a low B or two in there which are on the pinky (4th button) of the C row. The G scale is G (1st button, C row, left hand, push), A(1st button, C row, left hand, pull)B(1st button, C row, right hand, pull), c(1st button, C row, right hand, push), d(1st button, G row, left hand, push), e(1st button, G row, left hand, pull), f#(1st button, G row, right hand, pull), g(1st button, G row, right hand, push). Also for d I’m fond of using the d on the second button, right hand, pull on the G row as an option.

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I started on a Rochelle. It’s a good instrument on which to develop button layout memory and the neurological connection between your brain and your fingers, but playing it is like stuffing a duvet into a small clothes dryer. If you stick with the Rochelle, don’t be disappointed if you can’t get up to session speed, just let the instrument be what it is.

It wasn’t until I moved up a level (in my case, to a Morse from The Button Box) that ITM on concertina started to open to me. Suddenly, wrist-flick triplets were pissibe and grace notes came almost instinctively. A Morse or a Tedrow may cost more, but a box at this level and price point can be adequate indefinitely in sound, speed, and ease of play.

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Thanks for sharing LHMark. I received my concertina about two weeks ago now and i’ve been really enjoying it :) I knew what to expect and I’m not disappointed at all.

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Glad to read that you’re happy with it Jerone. I’m still planning on doing the same thing myself.

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Thanks! I’ve spent the last few months preparing. Every decision I made was weighted ;-) I recommend finding someone that wouldn’t mind letting you try out a few. That’s what I did.