Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

I would like to learn to play a duet concertina but I’m not sure which of the entry-level instruments I want to buy. I don’t live near any shops that sell them, so I can’t try one on for size before I buy. I’m thinking about the Concertina Connection Elise, but am concerned that the buttons might be to close together for my large hands. Could I get some input from any Elise owners out there?

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

Hi Allan, hopefully someone will chime in with useful info here but have you asked the question over at concertina.net - Duets are a bit of a niche, even in the "concertina world." Good luck!

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of duet layouts I’ve seen only go up to a. You are really going to want the b above that for Irish tunes. Hopefully someone else will weigh in. The duet does seem to me like it would be the easiest system to learn.

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

There are several different keyboard layouts for duet concertinas. The most common are McCann and Crane. Less common are Jeffries and Hayden/Wicki. They are all quite different from one another. Whether they are easy to learn is very much a matter for the individual, and the same goes for the Anglo and English systems. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. The advantage of the Hayden system (used on the Elise) is that the same fingering pattern can be used to play in any key, depending on the starting note, so that is probably one of the easier systems to learn.

I’m an Anglo player in the "English" harmonic style, but if I were starting again I might choose duet instead. However if I had wanted to focus on Irish music, the Anglo is more authentic and there are more learning materials available. Be aware that some in the ITM world can be a bit snobby about using anything other than Anglo.

Duets play the same note in either bellows direction (unlike Anglo) so that is one less thing to think about, Duets really come to the fore when playing in the harmonic style, as you can play chords on the left hand and melody on the right and it is fully chromatic, but without the constraints which Anglo players in this style face. However for Irish music, assuming you would just be playing melody with little or no accompaniment, this is probably less important.

The Elise has a 2 1/2 octave range from C to A2, so Cheeky Elf’s comment shouldn’t be a problem for most tunes as you would usually play in the middle range.

Most concertinas have quite small keyboards, and some very good concertina players have large hands.

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

I’d look carefully at the upgrade path from an Elise before going for that system.

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

Are you planning to play ITM on it? Hard work on a duet as the tune is all right hand and you need a different button for every note. Much easier to play fast stuff on an anglo, where much of the work is done by bellows changes, or English, where the tune is divided between your two hands. I’ve played all three over 45 years but used duet (Crane, in my case) only for song accompaniment or fairly simple melodies. Mind you, I’m left handed, which does make a difference. I’d say much depends on the genre you’re hoping to play.

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Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

I play a Maccann duet. There are essentially 3 and a half duet systems. All have the same note on push and pull, low notes on the left and high on the right, and some notes appearing on both sides. Hayden is modern, and looks logical to the eye. Crane is old, and looks logical. Maccann is old and looks bizarre, however your fingers get accustomed to it fairly quickly (I’d say its easier than learning to play across rows on an anglo which I couldn’t get). The half a system is the Jeffries, half because it’s as rare as hens teeth (lots of them were and are converted to anglos). It’s supposed to feel a bit more like playing across the rows on an anglo.
There are no beginner Jeffries models. There arw vintage beginner Crane and Maccann models, but (like a 20b anglo), they limit what you can play. However they’re fine for learning on. Minimun 55b for a Crane and 57b for a Maccann is needed for proper playing unless you don’t mind crossing sides (NOT a 55b Maccann). Those are counts without the air button.
There are beginner Haydens, but there’s a 4 year waiting list for a good, new built model. That’s the issue with the Hayden, the upgrade path.
Beginner Maccanns and Cranes are more expensive but will take you further. There are far more Maccanns than any other type, so you have a lot more choice of instrument. That’s why I play Maccann.
ALL the duet systems can play the same stuff equally well. All have their own foibles which cease to matter to a good player. The only real distinction is availability (and price) and perhaps an easier start if you particularly take to one system. They all have real scope to imitate chanter accompaniment on the pipes, and will all play any style of music with enough practice.

Re: Best Duet Concertina For Beginners

Some notes from a proficient Hayden Duet player:
1. I was given an "Elise" (Concertina Connection) as a unexpected gift 8 years ago and learned how to play it on my own without any instructions. I found it to be very intuitive, but I was already proficient with a piano accordion and a melodeon.
2. I discovered that the Elise could play tunes in the following keys: F, C, G, D, and A, however, there were a few notes that seemed to be missing on some tunes in the key of A.
3. In 3 years, I advanced to a "Peacock" model, which had more buttons and discovered that I could play all of the tunes in the key of A. The excellent tone of the "Peacock" was well worth the cost.
4. I play in bands and in sessions, but I mostly play by myself, as a busker in a nearby city.
5. My opinion is that the Hayden Duet is probably the most versatile of the concertinas, and can play any genre, however Irish reels are not what it is best at, due to the aforementioned comments concerning the ability to play faster with the other two.
6. The Hayden Duet’s best use is for playing more melodic pieces, such as airs and waltzes.
7. The ability to play bass notes on the left along with a melody on the right allows one to play very well without any accompaniment. Perfect for busking.