Instrument Control
Holding the instrument







          One of the most important subjects of playing an instrument is the correct playing position. Just
          like with other disciplines, the foundation on which playing skills are built decide the level of
          refinement obtainable.  Professionally trained musicians spend many years training and fine tuning
          their playing position and muscle control through specialized therapies like Mensendieck, Alexander
          etc..  In order to develop technical and musical skills which will enable you to play advanced music,
          you should begin with a solid knowledge of the correct playing position.

          As with all musical instruments, there are two main objectives:

  • freedom of movement
  • maximum control over the instrument


        Standing up, or sitting down
          Most beginning concertina players prefer to sit down while playing. One of the advantages is that
          you have more control over the instrument because it rests on your knee. The stability also allows
          for more freedom of hand movement, since you don't have to lift up the concertina. On the other
          hand, the arm and hand position is not perfect in this position.  The angle of the arms should be
          close to 90 degrees.

          Since (for most people) the torso is longer that the upper arm,  the angle ends up to be more than
          90 degrees. Many players tend to correct this by slouching, correcting the angle with their back.
          A better way is to use a guitar stool under one foot, or to cross your legs. This way the instruments
          sits a little higher, just enough to maintain a (almost) perfect arm angle.

          With the exception of ensemble playing, especially on the heavier bass concertina, the concertina is
          best played standing up. This will improve the sound projection on a stage, especially in combination
          with, for instance, a (grand) piano, just as with violins, flutes, etc..

          When playing in a standing position, it is advisable to use a cord, just like they did in the 19th
          century (see the back ground picture). The use of a cord is a logical consequence of the two objectives.  
          It offers the same advantages as resting the instrument on you knee in the sitting position. The arm
          angle can be adjusted by the length of the cord. 


Our variation of a cord attachment: Silver hook and  ring, attached to a leather strip
(complete set  $32.00, including a length of fancy cord and shipping). order


        Adjusting the thumb strap
          The thumb straps are the only fixed contact with the instrument. In order to have freedom of
          movement, the thumb should not be inserted all the way, since this will obstruct most of the
          movement of the hand. The thumb should work as a hinge, enabling the hand to reach the high
          notes and, especially on tenor-trebles, also the lower notes.  Therefore the thumb should be inserted
          only up to the first joint. This way the hand is free to move.  If the strap is too tight, it will interfere
          with the blood circulation and will become painful. If it is too loose, it will not give the necessary
          support. One of the consequences of this is the 'pinching' with the thumb and little finger, in order
          to obtain some control over the instrument. As a result of this, the little finger, now necessary for
          holding the instrument, will not be available for playing. A side effect of this pinching is an increased
          tension in the hand, which will obstruct the movement of the other fingers. In other words, you'll
          play a lot faster if you do not use your little finger for holding the instrument.


        Hand position
          When the thumb is inserted in the thumb strap, lay your index, middle and ring finger over the keys
          and your little finger on the finger rest. Now bend you fingers, including the little finger. The basic
          fingering is; index finger (finger 1) for row 1 and 2, middle finger (finger 2) for row 3, and ring
          finger (finger 3) for row 4. Remember, this is only the basic hand position. In more advanced music
          you will need to use all fingers, including the little finger (finger 4) on all the rows.
          Make sure not to stretch your thumb, this will obstruct the movement of the hand muscles, and
          therefore the fingers. Bending your thumb slightly will relax the hand muscles.  The little finger (4)
          is free to move over the finger rest and beyond, especially when playing the highest or lowest notes
          it will often leave the finger rest. Make sure to keep it bend. If you stretch your little finger, it will
          force your thumb to (over) stretch which will pull your hand out of alignment with the keys and
          obstruct  the movement of the hand muscles, and therefore the fingers.  In order to be able to us
          all your fingers, your arms should form one line with the sides of the concertina.
          Avoid bending your wrists too much.

The correct hand position: Thumb slightly bend, fingers rounded.
In this picture the little finger is being used for (chord) playing.


        Pressure points
          You should always have two pressure points per hand on the instrument to maintain control of
          dynamics and tone forming.  Normally these pressure points are your thumb and little finger.
          Because they are at opposite sides of the keys, the concertina will be stable and not 'wobble'.
          Later on, when you play polyphonic music (more melodies, up to 4,  at the same time) or chords,
          you will be needing your little finger for playing. In that case the wrist will take over from the little
          finger. Your pressure points will than be your thumb and wrist.  If you have problems controlling
          the ends and/or bellows, you can practice with all three pressure points (thumb, little finger and wrist).
          It is also a good pre-polyphonic exercise.