Although many different instrument makers were involved in the development of the concertinas and their fingering arrangements, WCCP Members play one (or more!) of the three main types of concertina available in the UK. WCCP organises instrument workshops, band groups and bar sessions so that all players have the opportunity to play individually, in groups of the same instrument and in bands using the various systems.
The Anglo Concertina
The Anglo Concertina is commonly used for dance music and for song accompaniment. It is a close cousin of the harmonica and as such is a diatonic instrument, in that the middle and lower rows are positioned to play in two sets of keys; C/G, G/D etc. If you blow into a harmonica, one note is produced; if you draw your breath, a different note is produced. The Anglo Concertina is basically two harmonicas, split in half and placed on top of one another, with the lower notes of each placed on the left side of the concertina and the higher notes on the right.
The 20 button instrument is the basic model. Other models may have an extra row on top, made up of scattered notes, many of which are sharps and flats, enabling you to play in other keys.
Working the bellows, this system gives a much punchier sound that makes the Anglo concertina very popular in playing for Morris Dance and Irish music.
The Duet Concertina
The Duet Concertina can be used for any type of music and song accompaniment as it can play in any key. It is similar to a piano in that the lower notes are on the left hand side and the higher notes are on the right hand side, however, the same note is played no matter which direction the bellows move. It is ideal for playing chords or accompaniment on one side and a tune on the other.
There are a variety of Duet concertinas; McCann, Jeffries, Crane (or Triumph) and Hayden. Each has it’s own unique, logical fingering system and in the right hands can play anything from Classical to Ragtime and even emulate Church Bells.
For those of us who are not piano players, this tends to be the most difficult instrument to master, however, perseverance is well worth while as it is possible to produce wonderful sounds. WCCP have nicknamed this instrument the ‘two brain concertina’ as it certainly keeps the whole brain working hard!
The English Concertina
The English concertina, like the Duet is fully chromatic and plays the same note whether on the push or the pull of the bellows. The fingering system is logical in that it moves from one side of the instrument to the other, thus making it easy to play fast runs.
Chords are easy to play as the notes are very near one another so it is possible to accompany a tune on this instrument and it is often used for song accompaniment. Experienced players use the bellows to good effect to make a similar punchy sound for Dance and Irish Music.
The majority of English concertinas are Treble instruments where the range is similar to a violin from G to C and depending on the number of buttons, they have from two to three and a half octaves.
In addition to the Treble, there are also other models of English Concertina:
Very high, not many notes.
Extends the range down to lower C but loses the upper range
Covers the whole range from C to C.
Has a range one octave below the Treble.
Covers the low notes only, two octaves below the Treble.
The Bass Concertina
The Edeophone English Concertina was the top of the Lachenal range, unusual for having twelve sides and a 56 button extended range.