# Concertina - Part 1
My wife and I have decided to learn a new instrument
together. I play a number of instruments already (piano,
guitar, bass, trumpet a bit, drum kit, percussion, melodica,
voice, etc.) and my wife has a choir/singing background. She
tried out ukelele, but it didnt stick and she had some
trouble learning it. In the end I think she learned one song
originally by Radiohead and called it a day. So, what have
we decided to learn? The concertina.
The information below may be inacurate and is based on my
attempt at wading through the differnt options as someone
with next to no prior knowledge of the instrument(s). So
while I think it is mostly accurate, don't quote me on it.
We both somehow came to the concertina as an instrument we
were interested while talking about music the other day. I
then did a bunch of research. It turns out that there are
quite a a number of different types of concertinas (each
with variations within the type as well):
We both felt like we didn't want to do the German one's...
based mostly on their look and the fact that they weren't
really what we thought of when we thought of a concertina.
That left the english and anglo varieties.
The anglo is a keyed instrument that features, commonly, 20
or ~30 buttons. Usually a 20 button concertina will be able
to play in two keys. Most commonly in my research C/G. The
30 button type adds an extra row of keys on each side that
is full of extra notes that allow a much more chromatic
range of play. All anglos are bisonic. That is, if you hold
down a key and push in the bellows it will play one note
and if you hold the same key and pull the bellows it will
play a different note.
The english generally has more keys and they are laid out
differently. There are a few layoute, but in general the
notes that would be on the lines of a musical staff are on
the right hand side and the notes that would be on the
spaces of a musical staff are on the left. All english
concertinas are unisonic. That is, they play the same note
on either a push or a pull. There is a subcategory of
english called the duet. Where rather than have the notes
split by side, the split the lower notes onto one hand and
the higher notes onto the other.
## What type we decided to get
I had initially thought we should get an english concertina.
The fact that it was unisonic felt right to my guitar/piano
based mental model of how music should be played (one finger
placement per one note). So then it was between a standard
and a duet. The duet made it feel in my head like a piano.
That felt nice. But then we, my wife and I, talked about it
and I felt like I was trying to make the concertina into
an isntrument that felt familiar rather than embrace a fully
new instrument. We kept jumping back and forth about what
sounded best. We read articles on the merits of each. It
seems that if you are playing irish folk music you go anglo.
If you want to compose or accompany you go english. At least
that is what the advice felt like at first. So that still
pointed us at the english. I enjoy irish folk music, but am
not trying to play solely that.
I then took some time on the, ugh, web watching videos to
see what kind of video lesson resources were available. I
focused solely on the english at first and none of the
lessons were for the duet, just the standard. There were
some very comprehensive ones. I started to notice that most
of the songs were single note melody lines without much in
the way of harmony or chords. I also found I did not like
the selection of songs that folks were teaching very much.
So, I decided to check out a few anglo videos (keeping my
wife updated on my findings and continuted waffling the
whole time). Immediately the songs were engaging and fun. So
I showed my wife a few examples of each (english and anglo).
We both agreed that before researching any of this that the
sound we had in our head was that being produced mostly by
players of the anglo concertina. Apparently you can play the
same styles on both if you really push it, but in practice
they tend to have a different feel.
So, we decided to go for the anglo.
## Picking a specific concertina
We had looked at english models and had found a company
selling a "student" style model for ~$440 (US). That was
already more than we had really wanted to spend. It seems
that that is really the entry point. Everywhere we looked
we found concertinas in the $1k - $8k range. I had no idea
these instruments were so expensive! I have played music
semi-professionaly for much of my life and I have never
spent more than around $1200 on a single instrument. So,
mid 400s felt fairly pricy for the "cheap" version. Once
we decided on the anglo we found a few in the same price
range from a few makers. We found videos online of people
playing each and they did not sound very good. The tone was
not great and the clarity just wasnt there. They sounded
cheap. We then found that the next price point up was around
$600, followed by around $1k. We listened tot he $600 one
and it was a mild improvement, but still not nice. The $1k
on the other hand sounded quite lovely.
Originally I was going to pay for it and we would both
learn on the same instrument. My wife so liked the songs
taught in the videos for the anglo and so liked the sound
of the $1k one that she decided to split the cost with me.
While I learned guitar and piano on very very cheap
instruments, I am older and have more distractions in my
life and she has never learned an instrument other than
voice. We felt we'd treat ourself to starting out on that,
while still a novice instrument, was at least something we
felt like we would enjoy playing on.
This is the concertina we ended up ordering:
It comes with a hard case and some online lessons.
## Next Steps
It will probably take a week or two to get to us. So until
then there will not be too much happening. But, I plan to
phlog about our progress with the instrument. It will be
nice to write about something other than tech/code or just
general life updates. Stay tuned if you are interested.
Also, if anyone in the phlogosphere plays the concertina
please reach out and say hi! I'd love to get some tips or
just talk about songs or the instrument in general:
sloum AT-THE-HOST: rawtext.club