Being interested in learning a new instrument is lots of fun. It sure is a good way to boost brain activity but choosing what exact instrument to learn can make your brain hurt! There is a sea of options, quite literally from all sorts and kinds of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments out there it’s hard to do so. So what if you find a particular instrument, like a concertina, but have no idea what it is or the differences between models? Well, you’re in the right place, here’s how to choose the right type for you!

What Is It Actually?

A lot of people probably haven’t heard of this wonderful and intriguing instrument, but it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. As a free-reed wooden family of Instruments, a concertina might be similar to an accordion, but they are certainly not the same thing! It’s most prominent future is the hexagonal shape and the contracting and expanding part in the middle, it also has keys or buttons on the side, and they produce tunes when you are pushing and pulling the bellows.

The Origin

The first person who created the patent for concertina is Charles Wheatstone, during the 1830s in Great Britain. Truth be told, the free-reed instrument we’re around for a long time, dating back to Asia while they are not so similar to the instrument itself, they still belong to a similar type of instrument even if the time of origin is far away from each other. The 19th century was full of surprising inventions, some more successful than others, one of those being Wheatstone’s’ concertina. Interestingly enough, Wheatstone is more known for his work in science, as he made many breakthroughs in the field. But he nonetheless started with inventing patients for musical instruments. First came his Symphonium, but he later decided that the air should be pumped with bellows instead of using the mouth – and that’s how the idea of concertina came to be!

The Different Types

Since it is a whole family of free-reed instruments, there are multiple types of the instrument itself. This can cause lots of confusion amongst those who are not educated in this matter. There are three main types of Concertina – Anglo, English, and Dual. They might look similar, but they differ in materials, design, layouts, and button systems – all this can change how you play the instrument, from the hand placement to the pace of the tunes, so you should observe the differences!
  • Anglo Concertina
The Anglo concertina is actually of German origin, as it’s a mix of English and German concertina. The Anglo is designed in a way that it has the same layout as the original, with 10 keys that were used to control the sound of the concertina itself. The German model was brought to England and became an instant hit in the 1800s, so they decided to manufacture a new model with similar details and mechanisms. Each side of the Anglo has two rows of 5 keys used to produce the sound. The keys are placed in such a way that the player can touch them while holding the instrument through leather straps. They do not produce the same sound when pushing and pulling the bellows.
  • The English Concertina
This is the first concertina of its kind, originated in England during the 1820s. This is, in fact, a chromatic instrument, meaning that it can produce all 12 tones. The keys are placed in 4 rows on each side of the concertina, and it’s played by placing your hands on the edges of the instrument and leaving three fingers free – as you’ll be using them to play, and some people opt to hold the instrument only with their thumbs and play with the remaining four fingers. It’s also important to note that each key produces the same sound during both the pushing and the pulling of the bellows.
  • Dual Concertina
These types of concertinas are pretty different from the Anglo and the English version, for more reason than one. Even if it is a pretty similar instrument, especially by the looks of it, it actually isn’t. The Duel concertina does produce the same sound when you push and pull the bellows, but it also has lower notes placed on the left side of the instrument, while the higher notes are on the right – making it opposite of the English and Anglo versions. Lastly, the one thing that truly sets it apart from its relatives is the fact that it has a dual system. It’s probably one of the hardest concertinas to play.

How to Choose

When you decide that you want to get a concertina, the main question should be what kind do you want to get? The factor that should play into this is your ability and willingness to learn, then nothing can stand in your way. The English one is a classic, and the Angelo is also on the easier side, while the Dual one is more versatile but harder to master. The placement of the keys should also be a factor; you should choose whatever feels most comfortable and natural to you. The English one is meant for more fast-paced tunes, as the layout allows you to alternate between the notes fast. Lastly, you should check out the materials of the reed itself, steel or brass – as steel will last longer, while brass is a bit softer but see whatever fits you best. It’s hard to say exactly what you should pick. Try them all out and trust your gut feeling. You are the only person who can make the decision! At the end of the day, all concertinas are quite similar, but the subtle details and differences can change the way you play the instrument. But, it’s important to spot those differences and see what suits you the most. If you are that determined to learn a new instrument then you should decide on a particular type, but if you don’t care about the key placements, the materials, or the overall design – get whatever feels right!
Written by Stop The Breaks
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.