Types of accordions and how they work - Concertinas
Concertina Accordions

Concertinas in General

Concertinas have a unique shape, ranging from four to twelve sides (in cross-section). Concertinas have two keyboards, one at each end of the instruments bellows. There are no fixed chords on a concertina; all of the buttons are individual notes. The number of notes and systems vary so greatly that a player of one system will almost certainly not be able to pick up a concertina of a different system and play it without having to almost learn it from scratch.

Each side of the instrument has its own finger, thumb or wrist strap and when in use it is usually supported on the knee. With compact size and light weight, the concertina can be visually entertaining, as players are able to move around with ease. This is one of the things that has made it very popular.

English Concertina

Created in the 1830's by Charles Wheatstone, the English Concertina has a distinctive hexagonal or octagonal shape. It can be recognised by the 4 parallel rows of buttons and by the supports for thumb and little finger on each end. The larger baritone and bass English concertinas frequently have wrist straps as well, to help with the greater weight of the instrument. It was originally intended to play violin melodies, because it is able to play legato.

The two centre rows on each side are in the key of C and the accidentals are distributed between the outside rows. Playing a scale involves alternating between the left and the right hands. The layout of buttons however, allows the player to play at very fast tempos. The English concertina has 48 keys, with a range of 3½ octaves. Some models have 56 keys, with the extra 8 keys at either the top or bottom of the scale.

German Concertina (Chemnitzer)

Invented in 1834 by Carl Friederich Uhlig, the main physical difference of the German Concertina is that it has a square shape. It is related to the bandoneon, being square or slightly rectangular. It was based on a diatonic, with two rows on each side of the instrument. Each additional row is tuned a fifth higher.

Anglo-German Concertina

The Anglo-German Concertina is also known as simply the Anglo Concertina. During the 1850's George Jones incorporated the English Concertina and the German Concertina into the Anglo-German Concertina. Along with the English Concertinas shape and the German Concertina note system, he also added an extra row of buttons. The extra row consisted of accidentals making the instrument fully chromatic.

The most common configuration is the C/G Anglo where the outside row (or middle row on three row) plays the key of C and the inside row plays a key of G. The different types of Anglo are based on the number of buttons. A two row Anglo has 20 buttons and with each row in a different key it is capable of playing in two keys. The three row has up to 40 buttons, and the row configuration is the same, except that the third outside row is assorted accidentals so that the skilled player can play in other keys.

Duet Concertina

Duet Concertinas enables the player to play a melody line in the right hand and an accompaniment in the left hand (similar to that of a standard bass accordion). There have been several systems and key layouts invented, all with a seperate way of achieving this.

Bandoneon

The Bandoneon is based on the German Concertina. With 72 or more buttons the Bandoneon has a larger range of notes, usually up to 4½ octaves, with several different layouts. It can be either diatonic or chromatic. It is especially popular in South America, where they are played in tango orchestras.
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