Concertina brands

Concertina brands

Hello,
My name is Tim. I play bass in a Michigan traditional Irish band named Limerick. You can check us out on Limerickmichigan.com.

I’m looking for a decent concertina to add to our sound. I’ve heard so many horror stories of name brand concertinas breaking down so easily. Does anyone have a recommendation as to where I could find one that would not have issues and above all sound decent?
Thanks in advance! Keep on rocking those jigs.
Tim

Re: Concertina brands

Edgley concertinas makes good concertinas in the US. I wouldn’t go any lower than 1.5k for a concertina. It’s possible to make good music on a Rochelle but it’s hard work. Might want to go for a single voice accordion instead if price is a concern.

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Re: Concertina brands

Isn’t Frank Edgley still in Windsor, Ontario? So, not US, but on the bright side, adjacent to Michigan.

I’m not a concertina player, so I cannot really comment directly on the quality of the instruments, but I have nothing but the greatest respect for Frank. He’s one of the good guys.

Re: Concertina brands

Frank’s instruments are quite lovely and an excellent value. I have one of his early hybrid models from 2000, and he’s continued to improve and expand his product offerings every year. If you can afford it, I highly recommend Wally Carrol’s instruments, his Noel Hill model is my primary C/G instrument.

Re: Concertina brands

Hi Tim,

I know of Bob Tedrow in Homewood Alabama who makes, sells and of course repairs Concertinas. Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with him in any way nor am I selling anything, but he is an expert, a true craftsman and a great player as well. And an all around nice guy! I used to play in a session in Birmingham Alabama and got to know him a little bit and visit his shop. Unfortunately his wait list is several years out, however he is an authorized dealer for a concertina maker in washington state I think, link below. I remember the price was mid $2k, so not a small investment. My Wife is learning and so I went to him for advice and this model is what he recommended. Can’t afford it yet, but if I get one I’ll let everyone know how it plays…

http://hmi.homewood.net/cloveranglo/

Best of luck and keep swinging those hornpipes (just don’t hit anyone while doing that)

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Haha, I’ll try not to hit anyone with my hornpipe!

Thanks everyone for the advice. The Hedgley and Tedrow both look like beautiful instruments, and it would be amazing to own a hand crafted concertina - especially from across the pond. I plan on having a longer conversation with one of these shops in the future to purchase one.

My issue, however, is that I’m a composer and teach piano and bass for a living, with a 10 month old to feed - meaning 2k, even 1.5k, is a lot of money for me. Is there a beginner level that isn’t a complete waste of money? I’ve heard multiple stories about the $4-600 comcertinas being so cheaply made and out of tune and they have shelf life - as in it would cost more to repair than to simply replace.

Any recommendations for the starving (not really) artists?

Thanks again for the replies!
Tim

Re: Concertina brands

If that’s your budget then a Rochelle is your best bet: certainly a whole rank above the no-name Chinese made things that crop up on eBay and will only put you off.

The Rochelle is good enough to get some way on, certainly good enough to find out if you and concertina are made for each other. You are looking at at least 1.5 - 2k if you them do want to move up to a Tedrow, Edgeley, or a decent older instrument.

Re: Concertina brands

Echoing advice given above, in your price range the Rochelle is your best bet. It might be worth checking in with Bob Tedrow still though, as he sells them and has a process of tweaks he does to enhance playability. The Rochelle is certainly better than some of the other lower priced offerings that tend to experience sticky buttons, or tuning issues, but because of the nature of it still being a budget instrument, the bellow can be a bit of a workout. Another option is to rent a Rochelle from the nice folks over at the Button Box (they’ll ship it to you so no worries about needing to be local to rent) and if you decide you like it they’ll apply some/all of your rental fees to the price of purchase. I rented one from them for several months before I took the plunge and bought a second hand Tedrow from them.

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I remember Frank Edgeley playing a lovely concertina way back in the day, 25 years ago or more, at the North Hero (Vermont) Piper’s Gathering. He also played his lovely Northumbrian Half-Longs - a great sound that so many attending pipers were drawn to. Within just a year or two later, Hamish et. al. were in the border pipe business and the genre exploded. Great days.

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Morse Concertinas

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I’m sure I’ll take some flak for this, but I’d like to see all the Rochelles put on a ship and sent to the bottom of the ocean. I think they do more to dissuade people from playing the instrument than anything else. Tedrow makes a marvelous instrument for a very good price, and you would certainly get essentially all your money back if you decided it wasn’t your thing. It was Bob Tedrow trading me one of his instruments for a flute I was selling at the time that got me into concertina in the first place. Every Rochelle I’ve tried has been just awful.

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Maybe if you just want to use one for accompanying singing, that’s not bad, but for playing tunes at any kind of speed, they are awful. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not much fun and probably puts one at risk of injury.

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Michael, I"m not saying Rochelle’s are great by any stretch, but the OP has clarified that he does not have the budget to accommodate the purchase of a Tedrow/Morse Ceili/Edgley, and it also sounds like he’s merely wanting to add the sound one to his band right now. We all know there is a huge gap between the cost of entry level "gateway" instruments and the likes of a Tedrow etc. The last quote I got from Bob on a price for a new Tedrow was " $4000 and up with a several year wait list…."

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If I were in the position of the original poster, I’d be scouring concertina.net and other sites for a nice used instrument. You should be able to find a used Edgley for around $2000. I’m surprised to hear about a $4000 Tedrow, when used ones go for up for sale they generally are under $2000. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but these instruments, if maintained, will last decades.

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Michael, I think you may have missed the post where the OP specifically listed his budget at around $500-600. So even a used Tedrow or Edgley is way out of his price range. It doesn’t even sound like he knows how to play the concertina yet either, so understandably may be reticent to drop a few grand on an instrument. As for the price quote on a new Tedrow, I put it in quotes because it is verbatim what Bob emailed me when I contacted him inquiring about his instruments.

Re: Concertina brands

Well then my advice is keep saving until he can get a proper concertina rather than settle for a Rochelle, or at a minimum rent one from The Button Box and apply the rental towards a purchase later.

Re: Concertina brands

Tim,

Welcome to concertina sticker shock. Only pipes are as expensive to get into, it seems to me. The reality we in the concertina world have all learned is that it is a very complex instrument. Hundreds of parts crammed into a tiny, very elaborate (read "Victorian") package. Irish music puts big demands on an instrument - speed, ornaments, the need for even response across 2 or more octaves. So a performance-quality instrument requires scores of hours to build, and costs accordingly. When I started out I heard all the same things, and met people who had paid more for top-shelf antique concertinas than my sister paid for her vintage Steinway grand piano. I later wrote an editorial on concertina.net (where I am now one of the admins) pointing out that more folks than will admit it started on the only choice 25 years ago, a cheap Italian 20-button instrument (so did I). You can’t play Irish dance music at speed, but you’ll find out if your brain is wired for it. There are several threads going at any time on concertina.net, if you have hours to read them, about this dilemma/price of admission. In my experience lately folks use Rochelles or old Italian boxes and learn to fix them (again, like pipes and reeds!, which I’m starting with now - even my bagpipe teacher can’t believe I’m tackling uilleann pipes after years of dealing with a concertina).

So start out on what you can afford. It just ain’t like guitar where a couple of hundred bucks/quid/euro will get you a decent learners instrument. Then return the rental (Michael has a good suggestion) or give away that first cheap box and spread the madness.

It is often pointed out that accordion/accordeon is cheaper to start (I’m guessing it is because they have more room inside, easier to engineer), so some folks look into that also/instead.

Have fun,
Ken

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Re: Concertina brands

Ken, I think the lower price of accordions is more due to there being a huge infrastructure already in place in Italy and Germany for the production of accordions, reeds, and accordion parts with increasing production being done in China.

Concertinas, particularly at the high end are essentially completely hand-made by the builder and don’t have such an existing infrastructure and supply chain. They are like having someone build you a Model-A Ford from scratch.

Re: Concertina brands

Buy the best you can … sell the wife and children - they’ll thank you eventually!! Personally I use Morse English system instruments - playing for the Morris dance - and have done so for the past seven or more years … so far I’ve only had to make two small mendings to keep playing. Cheap instruments can be OK - but may not last very long - they can also be a hinderance to learning the beast (with "non-standard" finger spacings, slack springs, leaky pads/valves etc). My first cheap concertina (sold back to the shop in under two months) was so bad I couldn’t play even a simple tune on it as the buttons kept getting caught under the finger board!!
Pay as much as you can afford - and then some!
Good Luck - Enjoy!