Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Hi,
First post here, but I’ve been enjoying reading threads on here for some time.

I’m really keen to learn the anglo C/G concertina. I’m seeing a lot on the internet about staying away from basically every concertina other than a Rochelle for a beginner (ie. stay away from anything Chinese, the Scarlatti’s, the Stagis, etc). But the problem I have is health issues which makes upper body movement painful. I was reading someone on here asking for tips on what NOT to do when starting out with concertina, and here is a reply one person wrote which stuck with me:


"Re: Top three things not to do on the Anglo concertina
I have just had my Chris Ghent concertina stolen and am back to the Rochelle.
So my first tip is: save up for a proper concertina, a Rochelle is too much like hard work and doesn’t sound like a real concertina anyway. I may improve my upper body strength with the Rochelle, but I’ll never be able to play fast enough for a session, until I buy another good concertina. I’m saving, but also hoping that I’ll find my old one in a second-hand shop!
Second tip: If you get a proper one, get someone to put an F# on the Push. Chris made my 2nd key on the RH Option row an F#. Triples of D-F#-E are very common."



I thought that the Rochelle looked very big from the outset, and hearing that it takes some upper body strength means this is a no-go (also the comment that it will never be fast enough for runs). Should I forget even attempting this instrument? I don’t mind saving up for something non-beginner price range if it means I can get something that I can physically play. But I’m so lost where to look. I am housebound, so everything is buying blind online. If anyone can recommend where I should be looking I’d be grateful.


So, just to clarify: wanting to get an anglo concertina that doesn’t require much physical strength, something possibly smaller than the Rochelle? (I’ve small hands) and something that will sound great and be able to do fast runs.


Can’t say that money is no object (who of us can?!) but certainly willing to save up for a time to get something decent. I don’t have a history of quitting when it comes to musical instruments, so the adage of ‘try it first, you might not like it’ probably won’t come into play here.

Thanks.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Oh, just to add, I want to get a 30 key because I plan on starting out with Online Academy of Irish Music.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I don’t know the Rochelle but I do know its cousin the Jackie (also from Concertina Connection). As commented, it is large and hard work to play. It does have the big advantage of low cost, so I use it when playing outdoors.

A decent instrument is going to cost a 4-figure sum.

My first concertina (not a Jackie) was a wreck - but got me hooked. I then saved up for a year to get a better box.

I then had to un-learn some bad habits caused by playing a bad box with leaky bellows…..

If you are in the US, you might want to consider the upgrade program offered by the Concertina Connection.

Hope your on-line course goes well.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I used to own a Rochelle. I agree, it feels big and is difficult changing bellows direction. If you’ve never played a concertina it won’t seem bad but as soon as you try a concertina on the level of a Clover or Morse Ceili you’ll feel that the instrument is limiting your playing.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

If you have the scratch, start with a Morse Ceili from The Button Box. It’s extremely light, in both weight and push/pull resistance, sounds fantastic, and can be your main instrument for years to come. I use one as my onstage box. They start around $2000.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

In the same price range is the Edgely concertina made in Canada. A nicer instrument in my opinion.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Thank you so much, I’ll take these suggestions and start saving!

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Just to sound a slightly contrarian note, since a similar issue came up in another forum with similar responses (and for that matter, comes up a lot). If you’re able to save $2,000 relatively easily, by all means do and get a good instrument. But if it’s the choice between spending a year or two or more saving up for that, I’d suggest getting the Rochelle. Not only do they have an instrument upgrade program, you’d be getting a year or two or more head start on actually learning the instrument.

Maybe they’re so unusable as to hurt your playing, and disregard the advice above. But most criticism I’ve read about them boils down to the stiffness of the bellows, the larger size of the instrument, the accordion vs true concertina reeds, and the general impediment to speed and easy flowing playing created by these factors. But they seem to be well-made, and for beginners to learn the ropes of concertina playing, it seems like they can be a great intro before buying a proper one (see Jerone’s thread that’s been active the past few days). The key is know that they will never be your last/only instrument, and maybe viewing them like a practice chanter in the GHB: not so much an instrument in and of itself, but a way to learn.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

The trade-up program is nice, I agree. I can only speak for my own experience. I was thrilled when I first got my Rochelle, then I almost immediately wasn’t. I found the limitations frustrating, even easy tunes seemed really difficult to play with any syncopation or lift, and it didn’t fit in well at the beginner session in which I was participating at the time. I ordered my Morse less than a month after getting the Rochelle. It was like climing out of a van and into a sport coupe.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

There is a lot more to concertina than learning which buttons
go with which notes. The big thing is tone production - connecting
the notes. A Rochelle will not help you with that; even a Morse is
not very satisfactory.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

What do you mean by connecting the notes Mark?

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Legato articulation Jerone.

Last year my concertina teacher Mairead Hurley
pointed out more than once my playing was choppy, you know, kind of
like dut dut dut dut. She was referring to smooth changes of direction
with the bellows, minimizing the gaps between notes. I found this very difficult
on the Morse. This is not the only reason I decided to stop playing, but it made
me realize you need a really good instrument if you want to make good music.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Ahh, I see. True, you need a good instrument to make good music. But you can still learn the basics on an entry level instrument. I guess it depends on how much one is willing to put up with without losing their drive and desire.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

In a perfect world, I’d like to see all the Rochelles seized by customs as hazardous waste at the port of entry and melted down. Time to write my congressman.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

you can have my Rochelle when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

the thing about this fellow’s original post that caught my attention was that he said he had a health problem that made moving his upper body painful. My question to you high end concertina owners is this: do they make concertinas that don’t require the player’s chest to work the bellows?

Sure Rochelles take some energy to play, but won’t a high end concertina still require the upper body to move to work the bellows?

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I doubt a concertina can be made that doesn’t require squeezing. My Jefferies has the lightest touch I’ve ever felt and it still requires upper body.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

There’s a huge difference in strength between what’s required to play a Rochelle and any "real" concertina.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I dunno, Edel Fox played my Morse and I can’t say there was any dut dut dut 🙂

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

If upper body movements are an issue I’d be very careful about choosing to play concertina. I’d suggest that arm/shoulder tension is almost inevitable in the early stages (years?) of learning to play. I’m generally fit and healthy and a long time fiddle player but I gave up Anglo after about 18 months when I was having shoulder problems. Can’t be certain there was a connection, but stopped Anglo and probs went away after some physio advice and exercises.

Not saying don’t do it, am saying take care.
Best of luck,
Tom

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I bought and sold concertinas for years. The Morse is my favorite hybrid instrument. It is as well made as any of them and is lighter than any other. Sounds great and is very responsive. If you’re lucky and have good karma you’ll be able to find a used one for $1,500-2,000.
As far as the Rochelle is concerned, if you like Chinese stuff — plastic, utilitarian to an extent, cheaply made — then go for it. The stringed equivalent is the Chinese fiddle that you can buy for $100. If Walmart sold concertinas, the Rochelle is what they’d sell. There is a place for them, granted, but it was never in my shop.

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

Turlingonthepin, due to the Rochelle bashing done here, I have to tell you something that none of them has mentioned.

Yes, the Rochelle Anglo requires a lot of chest and shoulder work. But, if you’re planing on buying a high end concertina, it may still be a good option for you. Here’s why.

ConcertinaConnection

www.concertinaconnection.com

They offer a full purchase price refund towards the purchase of a higher level concertina. So if you buy the Rochelle, and don’t like it, and you come across some money? You pretty much just rented it for free and that’s $450 you don’t have to worry about down the road, given you’ve taken care of it.
http://www.concertinaconnection.com/overview.htm

Their Clover, the intermediate concertina, starts at $2,400
http://www.concertinaconnection.com/clover%20anglo.htm

So there you go. By all means, if you can afford a $1,500+ purchase, and you’re sure you even want to play concertina, go for it. But if you’re not sure, this may be a good option.

One last thing. Get connected with the musicians around you and see if anyone will allow you to try their concertinas. I met someone that was a concertina repairer in

http://www.concertina.net/forums/

He let me try nearly a dozen concertinas to see if it was something I was truly interested in, from the low end Rochelle to the high end Carroll. So if you can, try some out first!

You may even be able to connect with a music shop. One of my friends who works at a music shop told me they occasionally get concertinas through and would be happy to let me try one if one came through. So talk to the people you know too!

That’s all I have to offer, and I hope things work out for you whatever you choose!

Re: Concertina confusion - beginner’s alternative?

I play a Rochelle. Spent around $350 getting it tuned and rebuilt to enable faster button action. Seems plenty fast to me. I guess I’ll find out later this summer at the Cascadia Workshop in Olympia, WA if my button box can keep up. Eric