Help me make a concerted effort
May 1, 2013 4:31 AM   Subscribe

I got a concertina for my birthday. Hooray! But I need a bit of help working out what type it is. Once we've cleared that up, could you recommend good books or other resources for learning to play it? Pictures here.

The box says "Concertina aus Klingenthal" (concertina from Klingenthal), nr. 603. The pamphlet that came with it is written in both German and English, but shows four different note maps! How can I tell which one corresponds to my concertina?

Once I'm up and running with it, I'm interested in learning traditional German, English or Swiss tunes and/or sea shanties. I also promised my partner I'd try to learn the Swiss national anthem, though that might be a step too far! Also, my hands are pretty small. Any recommendations or advice for a beginner would be great. Thank you!
posted by daisyk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your Flickr pictures show a traditional concertina (and the last 4 show what the buttons do), yet your Klingenthal link shows accordions?
The concertina is somewhat more difficult to play (imo) as the buttons on the ends give different notes when the bellows are either pushed in or pulled out. It's a long time since I played a concertina but the buttons one end play single notes (the melody) while the other end buttons play chords for accompaniment.
Here is a link giving some advice on playing, and here is a link to YouTube tutorials.
You will need plenty of practice but my old father-in-law was an expert and a delight to hear playing after a few drams.
Good luck!
posted by lungtaworld at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for your links and encouragement, lungtaworld. It somehow never occurs to me to look for YouTube tutorials, but I think those will be very helpful.

As far as I can tell, the Klingenthaler factory made concertinas as well as accordeons (and some other instruments too), but this was before the reunification of Germany. There are a few modern companies with 'Klingenthal' in their names, but I can't tell how much they have to do with the original East German company. The websites I've found are all ... made by people who are really good at making accordeons/concertinas, shall we say. :)

I think this is an Anglo type of concertina. It definitely does make different sounds when pulled out and pushed in. My main confusion is with the booklet showing four different schemes, with no indication which one fits my instrument. Unless I'm interpreting it completely wrong?
posted by daisyk at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2013

All the key layouts you see are the same, but in different keys. Compare one of the notes to a piano or tuning app to figure out what key your concertina plays in. Also, check out
posted by samw at 7:48 AM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: This is an anglo concertina with 20 buttons, or a 2-row anglo (sometimes called anglo-german)
Anglo concertinas have a particular pattern of notes - each row is like a standard harmonica, broken into two halves (left and right hand). Like a harmonica, each row is capable of playing only one scale, i.e. only in one key - for example, like all the white keys on a piano play only in the key of C. Now imagine the second row of buttons is a special piano that has an F# instead of an F-natural, and this set of buttons plays only in the key of G.

Most (statistically speaking) anglo concertinas have a row that plays the C scale and a second row ("bottom row", closer to your body as you hold it) that plays the G scale, a.k.a "a 20-button C/G anglo concertina". That button/note map is the fourth map photo you included. By choosing different sets of reeds, they can also make a D/A, E-flat/B, or G/D. I don't know if this statement will make sense to you, but the relative notes will always be the same - the pattern of buttons and push/pull that you use to make a C scale on the C row (upper row) of a C/G concertina is the same set of motions/buttons that you use to play an E-flat scale on hte upper row of an E-flat/B concertina. It's also the same motions as playing a G scale on the G row (lower row) of your C/G concertina.

To tell which note map goes with your concertina, you can use an application like this online tuner (or any result of a google search, and there are also iphone apps) to see what note any particular button is playing. I suggest the middle button (of 5) on the left hand, press, which is the "tonic of the scale", i.e. a C on the C row (or a D if it's the D row).

The particular instrument you've chosen is more of a reach for small hands than some other brands of concertina (because the buttons are placed higher-up on the instrument) but you should be fine. If you want to know a lot about different types (brands, makers, appearance, as well as key-layout options) of concertinas, you can look at, though their focus is more strongly on irish traditional and english traditional, with some sea shanties and folk-singing traditions, than on other european styles.

If you don't already read music, there's not a huge need for you to teach yourself while you're learning concertina. An excellent first lesson is picking a tune you're really familiar with (even if it's stupid, like "happy birthday" for example) and just poking around at the notes until you figure out which button you need to start on for it to work. (helpful hint: for "happy birthday", it's the left-hand top-row middle-button pull, a.k.a. D if you're on a C/G box)

(confession: I am one of those people who knows way too much about concertinas.)
posted by aimedwander at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (confession: I am one of those people who knows way too much about concertinas.)

Wonderful. I just knew there would be one of you on MetaFilter!

Thanks so much for your help. I'm marking aimedwander's answer as best because it's so comprehensive, but honestly all of these replies helped me put the pieces together. I can't wait to get started.
posted by daisyk at 12:32 AM on May 2, 2013

Feel free to drop me a memail if you have other questions. :)
posted by aimedwander at 6:15 AM on May 2, 2013

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