From Academic Kids

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English concertina made by Wheatstone around 1920

A concertina, like the various accordions, is a member of the free-reed family of instruments. It was first invented in 1829 by Sir Charles Wheatstone. Concertinas typically have buttons on both ends and are distinguished from an accordion (piano or button) by the direction of their button travel when pushed. Concertina buttons travel in the same direction as the bellows whereas accordion buttons travel perpendicular to the direction of the bellows.



There are several common kinds. To player familiar with one of these "systems," a concertina of a different system may feel like an entirely new instrument.

Anglo concertina

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Anglo concertina mad by C. Jeffries around 1910. Note three rows of buttons.

The Anglo concertina (from "Anglo-German") has buttons in curved rows following the fingertips. Pushing and pulling the bellows give two different notes from the same button. The Anglo concertina is typically held by placing the fingers of each hand through a leather strap, with the thumbs outside of the strap and the palms resting on wooden bars. This arrangement leaves four fingers of each hand free for noting and the thumbs free to operate an air valve (for expanding or contracting the bellows without sounding a note) or a drone. Anglo concertina is often associated with the music of Ireland, although it is used in other musical contexts as well. George Jones is often credited as the inventor of the Anglo concertina. British builders active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries include C. Jeffries (who built primarily Anglo-style concertinas) and Louis Lachenal (who built concertinas in both English and Anglo styles and was the most prolific manufacturer of the period).

English concertina

The English concertina has buttons in a rectangular arrangement of four staggered rows, with the short side of the rectangle at the wrist. Pushing and pulling give the same note. A scale in most keys alternates between one side and the other. The English concertina is typically held by placing the thumbs through thumb straps and the little fingers on metal finger rests, leaving three fingers free for noting.

Duet concertinas

Various duet system concertinas, which are much more rarely seen than Anglo and English concertinas have button layouts that provide low notes in the left hand, high notes in the right, with some overlap (like a two-manual organ), and the same notes pushing and pulling. The instrument is held in the same manner as an Anglo concertina.

Chemnitzer concertina and other German concertinas

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Chemnitzer concertina made by Star Mfg., Cicero, Illinois, USA in 2000
  • In the United States, particularly in the Midwest, the term "Concertina" often refers to the Chemnitzer concertina. Chemnitzer Concertinas have similar internal construction to bandoneons, but with a different keyboard layout and decorative style, and some mechanical innovations pioneered by German-American instrument builder and inventor Otto Schlicht.
  • There are various German concertina systems, which share common construction features and core button layout with Chemnitzer concertinas and bandoneons.

Bandonion or Bandoneón

Although not called a concertina, the Bandonion or Bandoneón is in essence a German concertina, with the keyboard layout devised by Heinrich Band.


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