The concertina is a free-reed instrument very similar to the accordion. It is lighter and smaller.
If you are one of those people who wonder how to play concertina, you should know that it is a little more difficult to play than the accordion. Although this will also depend on the type of concertina, you decide to play.
To play it, you just have to open and close the bellows while pressing the keys to take the notes. With a little practice and dedication, you will learn how to play this instrument with no problem and will play popular tunes in no time.
It was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829, with a patent for an improved version in 1844. Concertinas usually have buttons on both ends.
They differ from the accordion in the direction the keys or buttons take when pressed; in the concertina, the buttons go in the same direction as the bellows. On the other hand, on the accordion, the buttons travel in the perpendicular direction of the bellows.
This instrument began to be manufactured in the middle of 1829 and 1830 and was sold in England and Germany. The difference in price and customary usage in the German and English systems led to a kind of class difference between the two.
The English concertina had a bourgeois air, while the German concertina was considered a low-class instrument. The English model was very popular as a classical music salon instrument. Instead, the German model was associated with the popular music of the time.
There are 3 keyboard systems for German concertina: Carl Zimmerman’s Carlsfeld system, Uhlig Chemnitzer system, and the Bandonion’s Reinische system.
The concertina came to many places by German emigrants and by the Salvation Army in England. It was able to reach the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and thus the whole world.
Although in the 20th century, the popularity of this instrument began to drop rapidly due to the popularity of the accordion and the production of other instruments such as the piano.
There are currently at least 11 creators of traditional hand-made concertinas in Europe, Australia, South Africa, and North America.
Concertinas are distinguished by:
- For the notes and ranges, it has
- By the position of the buttons
- For the sound of the notes
- The ability to produce sound in both directions
- By the shape or size of the instrument
The buttons on a bisonorous instrument produce several different sounds when pressed, depending on whether the instrument is compressed or stretched. Whereas the buttons of a Unisonic instrument produce the same sound when pressed. In this case, it is not differentiated whether the instrument is stretched or compressed.
English Concertina Type
The English type concertina is a fully chromatic instrument; it has buttons distributed in a rectangular arrangement of 4 rows. It is where the short side of the rectangle is directed at the wrist. This traditional English style has similar characteristics:
- They are fully chromatic
- Each button has a pivot
- Hexagonal shaped ends
How to play concertina (English type how to lay concertina)? It is supported by inserting the thumbs into the straps and putting the pinkies on metal supports. Three fingers are left free for notation.
German concertina type
These concertinas are bisonoro, the reeds are mounted on a lake dish, with separate chambers for each set of reeds. It is diatonic, the buttons on each pivot row on a shared pivot arm. This German type usually uses more than one reed for each note, which produces a fuller sound.
Anglo Concertina Type
The Anglo or Anglo-German concertina is a mix between German and English concertinas. This model has buttons in curved rows following the fingertips, is a bisonoro type, and the button layout is generally the same as the original German 20-button concertina.
Normally this type of concertina is supported by putting your hands through the leather strap, your thumbs outside the strap, and your hands must rest on the wooden bars.
This leaves four fingers free to touch the keys and thumbs to press the air valve in the case of stretching or contracting the bellows without sounding a note.
Duo Type Concertina
This type is less common than the English and Anglo types. Duo systems are differentiated by button layouts, which provide the low tones on the left hand and the highest notes on the right.
They are unisonorous and are also fully chromatic. The best known are the Crane or Triumph system, the McCann system, and the Hayden system.
Do You Want To Learn To Play The Concertina?
If you want to know how to play concertina, you must follow the following ten steps that we bring you below:
The first step is to choose what type of concertina you want to play.
You can choose between the Anglo-German or the English, which are the common ones. At this point it is recommended that you know that you want to play the original, you should choose the English concertina. Use the Anglo type. If you want the easiest to play, it will all depend on your taste.
Get the concertina.
You can buy it, rent it, or borrow it. Study the best option among your possibilities.
Learn to hold the instrument
At this point, the first thing to do is look for the air button at the top. If you hold the instrument correctly, the key should be on your right side.
This key allows you to open and close the bellows without making a noise. To activate it, you must keep the air button pressed with your right thumb.
Slide your hands down the straps, keeping your thumb out.
In this step, you should look for a thumb rest on top of each side of the concertina. You should place your hands inside so that your fingers can rest on the side keys.
Some instruments will have supports for your pinkies on the bottom.
Tighten or loosen the straps so that your fingers can move more freely.
To have the correct position, you must move your fingers over all the keys so that you can easily reach them. If your hands come off the instrument easily, you should tighten the straps.
On the other hand, if you see that you cannot move them well, you should loosen the straps at each side until you feel comfortable.
Rest one end of the concertina on your leg to hold the instrument
You must keep one side on top of your thigh so that you can use your other hand to open and close the gusset. In this way, your hand can move freely without having to worry about bearing the weight of the instrument.
You can also hold the concertina without support; this will depend on you and how you feel most comfortable.
Play with the first notes
You must keep your fingers on the top 4 keys in the first row. In your concertina, this row is called the “Starting Row.” Remember to keep your thumb off the straps and use your index finger across your wrist to control the keys.
If you are a beginner and you can reach all the keys, you can practice moving your fingers to increase dexterity in the hands.
Verify that the keys play specific notes.
This will depend on how many keys your concertina has because each instrument has a different design for its keys. In this case, it is useful to find a fingering table so that you can know which keys produce the notes you want.
In the intern, there are web pages that can be used to obtain this information; an official concertina page is a good option. Middle C is a good starting note, if you have the English type, this key is where the second finger will rest, or the middle finger on the left start row.
You must press the down key while opening or closing the bellows.
At this point, the note you selected will play whenever you move the bellows. Watch videos on the internet so you can improve your notes and location.
You can also get a book of simple songs or songs that are specific to your type of concertina.
10. Learn how to use the bellows
Just gently pull on the bellows while pressing the individual buttons. You don’t have to worry about playing specific chords if it’s started, you should initially focus on doing a C to C scale.
To learn songs, you must obtain the basic 8-note or octave scale (”oct” = 8).
Tips and recommendations
- After these steps, you only have to practice a lot, whenever you can take the time to get to know them better.
- Find melodies you know by heart, if you can’t read music, you can learn by ear.
- Download sheet music online, and you can ask a friend to practice with a guitar, so they will find notes and chords to combine.
- Remember to search the internet for videos of talented artists so you can get extra help.
- When buying your concertina, it is advisable not to look for the cheapest option. In general, English concertinas are slightly more expensive than Anglo types.
- A concertina usually has the same rank as a violin. Violin scores can be played on this instrument without a problem.
- For Irish or folk music, an Anglo-type concertina is a good option, because the notes change quickly when opening and closing the bellows. The English type is more versatile because it has additional buttons for alterations.
If you already have your concertina with these simple steps and these tips, you can start playing it easily and safely. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember that the important thing is to practice and have the gain of learning.
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