Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

If you play concertina, then I have some questions for you.  I do not play, but I am considering getting one.  There are numerous configurations of course and I want to learn about pros and cons.  I'm leaning towatd and English Baritone.

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Tom, what kind of music are you wanting to play on it, and in what keys?

Hi Strumeilia,  I want play in numerous keys (C,G,D,A,E,F)  But mostly in G and D.  So, it seems I should not seek an Anglo?  Of course most players wish to play tunes (melodies) such as the hundreds of Irish tunes one might encounter in "sessions."  And although I like that music, it is not my main objective.  My objective is to use it for accompaniment of 19th century songs (with early banjo of course).  So, accompaning a singer in a more piano or organ-like manner.  (chords, harmony, rhythmic counterpoint.)  How am I doing?  I think I am leaning toward an English Baritone.  The reason being: 1) Ability for playing chromatic notes, and 2) The lower range to stay out of the way of a singing soprano or tenor.  Repertoire?  You know . . . Stephen Foster, James Bland, etcetera . . . songs.  Thank you in advance for your advice Friend!  Best Wishes, Tom

Strumelia said:

Tom, what kind of music are you wanting to play on it, and in what keys?

I do play concertina at times.  Mine is a 20 button anglo in C and G.  I have a friend who has a Stagi anglo in D and G.  I've another friend with a Lachenal English concertina.  I would be very tempted to consider getting an English concertina because of its versatility. I know that the 30+ button anglos do have additional accidentals, but I am not sure about how historical they are.

I have three English (one, an 1852 Wheatstone) and have never played an Anglo.  Maybe that negates me from giving an unbiased opinion, however......  Because, as John says, "its versatility" (it's chromatic), etc., I too would go with the English.  The Anglo has the punch and bounce that's good for dancing but English can accomplish it and is better for song accompaniment.   Since Spring is getting close, here's a rebroadcast of a tune I submitted a couple years ago.  

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5miB8IxNvK4&t=20s

Al! That was fantastic!!!!  Well you know what they say!  Talk is cheap but a performance like that is worth a million bucks!

Thanks, Tom, but "live" is another matter!

OK, so I am getting settled in on the English key & bellows system. Now the next half of my question: Which range?  My hypothesis is that baritone would be more practical for accompaniment, and that tenor/soprano more appropriate for solo melodic play. But maybe not!  We all play early banjo which is generally significantly lower in pitch ... could be called baritone ... and we all love it. So ... maybe a baritone is for me!  Opinions?

I'm sending your inquiry to a friend who has been playing English concertina for close to 50 years, gives teach-ins at the "Squeeze-inn" in Massachusetts every year, and has owned tenors and baritones.  Ironically, he plays tambourine on Bob Winan's "Early Minstrel Show" CD.  I'll forward any insights he might offer.

I play ITM on an Anglo.

It seems like what you want is an English.

My main problem with the English concertina is they suck ergonomically, IMO.

People do find a way to play them though.

Check these out;

http://buttonbox.com/morse-geordie.html

Also look at the Concertina.net for more opinions.

Hi Tom,

I have a C/G anglo but I'm not very good at it.  Unlike the English, you get different notes on the same button when you push or pull.  Mine is a 30 button Jones built in 1910.  30 buttons allow playing in keys other than C/D but I haven't figured how to do that yet.  I got mine in England back in 1995 at Hobgobblin Music.  The Buttonbox is a good source here in the States.  

Hope this has been of some help.

i found a small manufacturer (luthier) right in my own state of Washington. My main purpose is to accompany 19th century songs and banjo tunes. I bought an English Baritone! 

Scott Danneker said:

Hi Tom,

I have a C/G anglo but I'm not very good at it.  Unlike the English, you get different notes on the same button when you push or pull.  Mine is a 30 button Jones built in 1910.  30 buttons allow playing in keys other than C/D but I haven't figured how to do that yet.  I got mine in England back in 1995 at Hobgobblin Music.  The Buttonbox is a good source here in the States.  

Hope this has been of some help.

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