Guide To Buying Beginner & Mid-Range Concertinas
Buying a beginner instrument can become a stressful task with an overload of information. We have been besieged by parents with overpriced Starter Concertinas and others who have invested in what they thought were quality Next Stage Concertinas but unfortunately didn’t realize what they were buying until they were trying to sell them on.
Someone has to say stop to the rising prices of low quality concertinas.
After 10 years in the business of manufacturing concertinas, we want to put ourselves out there and offer our services in the way of advise, for parents new to this instrument.
From working within the industry for over a decade we understand what a pupil needs in a beginner instrument and it is from listening to teachers and pupils alike that we created our beginner models.
We import our beginner range of concertinas, whereas our professional range is hand made.
Our first beginner model The Tina, is an ideal starter instrument. They are very good value for money, easy to play and with a high quality sound. They are the most reliable starter concertinas on the market.
Our second beginner model is The Swift. This instrument is for players starting off who would like something with a bit more quality than the Tina.
The Swift has riveted action, which is very responsive and has quality reeds.
The way we see it, its down to your pocket, if you can afford the better model the pupil will get longer out of it. But at the end of the day it’s still a beginner instrument.
Over the next two to three years the teacher will be encouraging the pupil to move up to a higher level of instrument from the beginner.
Mid-Range / Next Level Concertina
The next level concertina is a handmade instrument like our Clare or a Jose Claro, Marcus etc.
When the pupil begins to practise ornamentation and rolls it requires a lot more of the instrument.
The springs must be set at a certain pressure and with quality reeds that respond fast to action. This is what you will find only in handmade instruments.
There are a few dealers selling what they claim are handmade instruments with quality reeds but truthfully they are mass produced in the same factory as the beginner instruments. It is with these models that you will come into a lot of trouble.
The method of construction and the quality of materials in these instruments means they tend to degenerate with time in a way that true handmade concertinas do not.
Examples of the mass-produced instruments are our own Swift, The Swallow, The Curlew, and The Pheonix, These instruments are made in China, and as a huge amount of the demand for these instruments is coming from Ireland, it is my guess that they are most likely all made in the same factory.
There are only 2 makers of Concertinas in Ireland and we are one of them – “The Irish Concertina Company” in Dublin and ‘Jose Claro’ in Tralee.
Why the pupil needs a handmade instrument at this level?
1. Cheap reeds do not respond under pressure and sometimes close.
2. The button is attached to the lever and the lever needs to be riveted because later on when the pupil is playing fast tunes the action needs to be fast and immediate.
3. The pressure of the buttons has to be set the same on all buttons in order to do the ornamentation.
Top of the range C/W Concertina Reeds
Some teachers ask parents to move up to the professional level instruments with Concertina Reeds and here is where another problem may arise.
If the parent chooses to buy new, there is often [but not always] a waiting list which could be anything from months to 3 to 4 years. A few makers like the idea of having a waiting list, but secretly supply shops and agents in the meantime which is disrespectful to parents or players who pay a deposit and have to wait. Waiting lists sometimes happen because makers won’t take on sufficient staff.
Buying new means you have a trouble-free concertina for years, but please remember that just because the instrument has a famous persons name on it, this does not justify the maker charging an extra 2/3000 for it.
Grades of Concertina reeded instruments:
1. Basic singular Brass plate shoes with no work done on the plate. Price between €3000 to €3500
2. Singular Brass plate shoes with Clamp’s. Price between €3500 and €4000.
3. Singular Brass reeds with Clamp’s and Angling. Price between €4000 and 5000.
There are importers of Old Concertinas who over value their instruments and they can do this because parents new to the instrument are fooled into thinking they are buying quality.
There is very little quality available in old instruments with a few exceptions like Jeffries for example. If you know that the maker has made instruments ranging from the cheap and cheerful to the excellent, then when you see one you can judge for yourself.
A lot of these old established named instruments were made over 100 and more years and an example of quantity made, Lachenal made over 150,000 in their time before 1933.
Lachenal stopped production in 1933. [1890 to 1933]
Wheatstone made some good quality (Be aware, instruments made after they were taken over by Boosey & Hawkes in the 1950s are generally regarded as being of
poorer quality than before and 70 years later a lot of these are terrible quality).
Crabb made some quality over the years but I have seen some rubbish in my time.
Jeffries made a lot of quality instruments and these are still fetching big money, but they are not all good quality unless they have been reconditioned well.
If you are seriously considering buying a particular concertina don’t be afraid to ask the dealer to take the ends off and let you look inside. Click here for example
you may find anything up to and including woodworm. It might be too late down the road when you bring to a repair person like us and this is what got us going in the first place with this comment.
Good luck with your purchase and if you need any advise please don’t hesitate to call me on 086 172 1792 Sean Garvey
Our Concertinas are made on site in our workshop at The Trad Shop: An Siopa Ceoil, 184 Crumlin Road, Dublin. Click here to visit The Trad Shop.