Concertinas (Types, Best Ones, Beginner Info)

Concertinas are free-reed wind musical instruments, just like harmonicas and accordions. They are made out of contracting and expanding bellows and buttons (sometimes keys) that are usually placed on both ends.

Concertinas are often used in folk music but they are versatile and can adjust to various genres. Keep reading to learn about the different types available, the best ones to consider, and some beginner information, including the best affordable model below.

What Is the Best Concertina for a Beginner?

You need to choose a concertina of a higher quality even as a beginner. This can be difficult when your budget is limited. Many concertinas you see online are mass-produced and are not of a suitable quality, even for beginners.

With this in mind, when your budget is limited, you should consider the following affordable option:

Hohner D40 Concertina w/ Padded Gig Bag

The Hohner D40 is an Anglo-German concertina (more on types below).

It has 40 reeds and 20 buttons. It's a decent starter concertina for those on a budget and it sounds quite nice. That said, if you take up playing this instrument long term, I'd recommend that you upgrade to a better one later (more on that below), but the price will generally be a lot higher for these.

Better Quality Concertinas

If your budget allows it and you are very serious about learning to play the concertina, check out the Concertina.net forums. The forums feature used instruments and also include video lessons.

Screenshot of www.concertina.net

Make sure to visit this thread for a list of the current concertina makers that are recommended by professionals. However, keep in mind that they’re generally not cheap!

What Does a Concertina Look Like?

The concertina is similar to the accordion but is generally smaller and easier to maneuver. It includes contracting and expanding bellows and buttons.

The buttons are often placed on both ends. This is the big difference between the concertina and the accordion, since in the accordion, there are buttons placed on the front. The concertina’s buttons travel in the exact same direction as the bellows.

How Do You Hold a Concertina?

Place the fingers through the concertina’s straps. Do this on both sides and make sure your thumbs are on the outside. The right hand is placed close to the air button when the instrument is placed the right way up.

The straps can be adjusted so that the movement of your fingers will not be inhibited and your hand is in a perfectly comfortable position.

Is the Concertina Hard To Play?

Overall, the concertina is not hard to play. It is very logical and simple. You will be able to create pleasant sounds from the first lesson. At the same time, there are not many techniques that have to be mastered.

With constant practice, you can play at an acceptable level in just a couple of months. But if you look at the difference between beginners and advanced artists, you quickly notice that concertinas can sound a lot better.

The problem appears when you want to sound musical. This is because the concertina has a limited expression range. You have to develop keyboard rapidity and your touch needs to be light.

Also, the bellows need to be perfectly controlled for optimum note sounds. Basically, to play the concertina really well, you will need to practice and develop specific skills.

Types of Concertinas

Concertinas can be divided into 3 main categories:

1. Anglo Concertinas

These can feature 20 or 30 keys and are highly preferred for Irish music. There is a limitation in the available octaves with the 20-key model, but it is very good for beginners. To become a more proficient player, you would need a 30-key Anglo concertina.

2. English and Duet Concertinas

English concertinas are preferred by English folk music enthusiasts, although Irish music can be played with them as well. The 2 available options feature 30 keys and 48 keys.Regardless of how the bellows move, the same note is given on both pulling and pushing because these instruments are chromatic. This is similar to the piano accordion.

In this category, we also have duet concertinas, which are very similar to English concertinas but their keys are laid out differently. Also, there are 3 main manufacturers (Crane, McCann, and Jeffries) and they all have keys laid out in different orders.

3. German Concertinas

The big difference with this concertina is that its shape is square. It can also be slightly rectangular. The base of the instrument is a diatonic, featuring 2 rows on both sides. Every extra row is one fifth tuned higher.

How Do You Play the Concertina?

To play the instrument, follow these steps:

  1. Hold your concertina with your fingers through its straps. Do so on both sides and keep the thumb on the outside. When the instrument is placed right side up, the right hand has to be close to the air button.
  2. Master the home position, which involves having your fingers placed on the 4 top buttons on the row you play. This should be the same on both sides.
  3. Learn to play the G and E notes in various octaves. Then, move one note further.
  4. Add the A note and get familiar with it.
  5. Add the F and D notes.
  6. Keep practicing.

By taking this approach, you get used to the notes and you can memorize movements one note at a time as opposed to all at once. Start with easy songs like “Pop Goes The Weasel” and gradually move towards higher difficulty, but only after you master the bellow and finger movements.

What’s the Difference Between a Concertina and an Accordion?

The principle behind the instruments is similar, but there are several external and internal differences. The buttons are played in a different way. With concertinas, you push them and they travel in the bellow direction.

With accordions, you push buttons in a perpendicular movement to bellows. Also, accordions feature a bass capable of fully playing a chord. Concertina buttons just play a single note when pushed.

Is a Concertina a Wind Instrument?

The concertina is considered to be a wind instrument.

How Many Buttons Does a Concertina Have?

There are numerous models available and they can have various numbers of buttons. The smallest option features 10 buttons and the largest concertinas feature 70 buttons. There are endless possibilities in how many buttons concertinas can have.

What Is a Concertina Fold?

The concertina fold is not related to music. It is a way of placing advertising material in a continuous folding of pages placed similarly to how concertinas look like. They are usually used for product brochures and lookbooks.

Summary

Concertinas are very common among people that enjoy folk music, especially Irish and English folk songs. They are simple musical instruments when referring to how they operate, but if you want to be good, you will need to practice a lot. Also, the craftsmanship quality counts, as concertinas sold by some manufacturers are a lot better.

If you are a beginner, opt for the affordable model presented. When you decide that this is the right instrument for you, save money and invest in a concertina manufactured by one of the reputable players in the industry.

Featured image: The original uploader was DannyChapman at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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