Introduction to Concertina studies




I bought my first concertina from Neville Crabb in London, in 1974, but a busy life and a preoccupation with the flute meant I could never get into it.  The concertina I bought was nothing special - a wooden-ended Lachanel Anglo, but it had been refurbished by Neville, and so was in good shape.  It set me back 50 pounds at the time.

But a chance happening in late 2013 brought concertinas back to the front of the mind.  Perth musician Sergio Patuto was looking for a flute, and offered me a swap - one of my keyed flutes for an Anglo made by Ian Simpson in Australia's Snowy Mountains.  I'd just reached retirement age (whatever that means!) and so felt able to give myself permission to indulge my youthful ambition.  The deal was done.  

But it's one thing to have a nice concertina, and quite another to learn to play it.  We had moved from Canberra to Malua Bay on the south coast of NSW in 2007, and surprise surprise, our little seaside village of a few thousand souls didn't seem to include an Anglo concertina teacher.  Scarcely credible, I know!  But, looking to the Internet, I found the On-line Academy of Irish Music had no less than three series of lessons devoted to the instrument.  With their guidance, I found I made rapid progress.  What's that about old dogs and new tricks?

But, you know me - can't leave anything alone.  It wasn't long before I started to wonder about the workings of these things.  What sorts of pressures are involved, and flow rates?  What constitutes a leaky bellows?  How are reeds tuned, what's the ideal button pressure, and so on?  So I joined, and soon found myself among others so afflicted.  Even so, I found that the questions I asked weren't always answered.  I thought maybe I should look into them myself.

As a flute maker and researcher, I already had some instrumentation that would be of help in understanding concertinas, so I set about ordering what I needed to fill the gaps.  While that was in train, I devised a means of putting it all together to form a flexible pneumatics lab.  And a great long list of issues to start with.

So, you may well be wondering by now, why am I telling you all this?  There's something I need to make clear.  I'm not a world authority on concertina physics, indeed I'm not even a good concertina player (about 6 months in).  I'm just an enquiring mind, with some scientific and engineering background, keen to explore some matters of musical interest.  So, be warned - don't take anything at face value, but do feel free to question and quibble - you'll find I take criticism well.  I'm in this for the journey, so if you want to tag along, and offer suggestions from time to time, we should get along famously!


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Created 9 June 2014