How difficult is the concertina to play

Learning to play concertina. 5 4 3 2 1 10 9 8 7 6

Which instrument to get started?

After Silvetta closed a few years ago, two-choir new instruments are actually only available on the market here in Europe from Italy from Stagi (i.e. Brno and formerly Bastari) and one-offs from a few hand-drawn instrument makers. The Stagis are of course cheaper, but they also have a few quirks from time to time. If you want to buy a Stagi online, you should C-2 take in C / G tuning and use them e.g. B. order from Oliver Stoffregen from Diatonie, who checks the things before delivery and, if necessary, puts them in a playable state. The C-1 von Stagi is single-choir, the C-2 two-choir and the C-3 three-horned. A two-lecture alternative from Stagi is the model R-8-2, that I've never had in my hand.

As the C-2 can sound like Stagi, Mark Söhngen demonstrate on YouTube with a Valse trouvée and the Crapshooters with the Pope and Sultan.

How do I hold the concertina?

I only play the concertina sitting down. There are players who also play it standing up, but I can't do that. The concertina lies on the thighs. The end with the high notes and the additional button, the air button, is on the right. The hands are put through the two hand straps. The thumb remains outside. Put your hands all the way through until the loop touches the root of the thumb. The hand straps must be loose so that the hand can still move. No, your hands are not too small, it has to be. The hand straps must be loose.

The right thumb operates the air button, the remaining fingers the remaining buttons. The left thumb doesn't play anything.

For those who want to start playing now, I have an excursus: simple melodies and simple chord accompaniment.

The arrangement of the tones.

On the piano, each key is uniquely assigned to one tone. Each key produces exactly one tone, and each tone is only produced by exactly one key. It's different with the concertina. Each button produces exactly two tones, one when the bellows is closed and one when the bellows is lifted. In addition, most of the tones appear on several buttons, some in the same bellows direction, some in different bellows direction. The arrangement of notes on the concertina follows a different principle of order than the arrangement of notes on the piano, and one that I find fascinating.

The notes on the concertina are organized in so-called diatonic series, which are found in a very similar form on all so-called "diatonic" instruments. The best known is the normal ten-hole harmonica (»Blues harp«).

The concertina has two diatonic rows of ten buttons each. Each of the two rows is divided in the middle: five buttons are on the left and are played with the left hand, the other five buttons are on the right and are played with the right hand. The outer row is usually tuned in C major, the inner row in G major. In any case, the inner row is a fifth higher than the outer row. (This is one of the differences to the two-row diatonic accordion, where the dominant row is a fourth under the base row, so that the clay reserves of both rows overlap more strongly.)

The range of notes in a row extends over more than three octaves. Ten buttons for a good three octaves. The piano needs 3 * 12 + 1 = 37 keys for three octaves. A diatonic series provides more efficient access to a subset of the piano tones. A diatonic series in C major offers the tones of C major and a diatonic series in G major offers the tones of G major.

The tone supply of G major differs only slightly from that of C major: Instead of the tone f has the tone in G major f sharp, all other tones are the same: c, d, e, g, a, h. One might think that there would actually be no need for a complete second series in G major at the concertina. It would be sufficient to attach two additional buttons in addition to the C row, with which you can set the sound f sharp could play in all three octaves. With it one could play all notes of G major. Because the concertina has a second row in G major, the notes become c, d, e, g, a, h but only unnecessarily doubled.

Why is there still a complete G series at the Konzertina? - Because in the diatonic series the tones are not simply unrelated, almost absolutely, next to each other, but because the diatonic series has a certain internal structure that is coupled with the function of the pitches within the scale. This means that at the concertina a tone, for example a a ' is not just an oscillation with the fundamental frequency of 440 Hz. Because it is integrated into a diatonic series, its function within the frame of reference, within the key, is clear: in the C major series it is the sixth scale tone, in the G major series it is the second scale tone. On the keyboard it is not clear which position the tone is a in which frame of reference, he is simply just one a. At the concertina, the player has to decide: Heard it a to the reference system C major or to the reference system G major? Is this a the second above the root, or is it the sixth above the root? What is the function a concrete? That is why playing on "diatonic" instruments such as the two-row concertina is always a form of musical and harmonic analysis of a piece, an analysis not with the head, but physically with arms and fingers.

Only the first two buttons per row are available for the lowest octave, so it is incomplete. This low octave is actually only responsible for providing the harmonic fundamental tones for the main functions. Button 1 therefore has the root note when pressed and the fifth when pulled. Button 2 also has the fifth, when you press it. On the move he has the major seventh, the leading tone for the root note, which is on the next button.

left hand push: pull:

The tone assignment of the other buttons follows a simple basic principle: when pressed, the tones of the basic chord of the respective key sound. These are the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale. The remaining notes of the scale sound on train: the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th tone. Since there are three tones per octave when pressing but four tones are being pulled, the position of pressing tones to pull tones shifts by one button in each octave (or after three buttons in each case):

left hand right hand push: pull:

In a concertina with C and G series, the following specific sound assignments result:

left hand right hand push: pull: push: pull:

The tones of the two rows in C and G correspond to the tone material of the white piano keys plus a black key (f sharp / total). That in itself is wonderfully clear.

Not every note can be played with every other note at the same time. Although there are many tones for both push and pull, some tones are only available for push and others only for pull. This becomes important when you want to play several notes at the same time, e.g. B. chords; because then at least all essential chord tones should be playable at the same time, that is, they should be available either by pulling or pushing.

You can only play the following notes when you press it:

These are the notes c, d, e, g and H. This is consistent, because only the tones of the tonic triad of the respective series, i.e. in the C major series, can be played with pressure c, e, g and in the G major series g, h, d.

The following notes can be played on train:

These are the notes from the C series d, f, a and H and from the G series the tones a, c, e and f sharp. In addition, the lowest pitch note in each row is the fifth to the root note, i.e. the tone G or. d. The notes that can be played on pull are more diverse and more inconsistently distributed than those that can be played on push.

When classifying the tones according to the direction of the bellows (push or pull), the arrangement in diatonic series is not taken into account. The ordering principle of the diatonic series is thus superimposed by the ordering principle of the bellows direction. Often in the game you take notes from both rows at the same time.


Since the concertina has a diatonic series in C major and one in G major, you can play in C major and G major. In addition, you can play in the two parallel minor keys, i.e. in A minor and E minor, since they each have the same set of notes as their parallel major keys. However, A minor is not very comfortable, so you should normally play in E minor.

Pieces often modulate into other keys in their course. The most common is modulation to the dominant key and back again. This is also possible at the concertina. You start out in C major and then modulate in G major. If a piece changes to the parallel minor key, that works too in the concertina. It is advisable to start in G major and then modulate to E minor.

But it also happens that pieces modulate in a way that cannot be played at the concertina. It is not uncommon for pieces, for example, to go from a minor key to its major key of the same name. In such a case, one has to "cheat" and instead put the piece in the parallel major key, if that is possible. Traditional dance music often consists of three parts, which are in three different but quint-related keys. On the concertina, however, there are only two quint-related keys available. In such a case, one has to be rather ruthless in reducing the three keys to two.


A chord accompaniment is played on the concertina with the left hand, i.e. on the left side. At the concertina you can play all the chords of the ladder. By the way, you have more chords on the two-row concertina than on the two-row accordion. That, too, is one reason why the concertina is so well suited as a chordal instrument.

You can find the chord tones yourself. For the sake of simplicity, I have compiled the normal fingerings for the most important chords here. Only the G major chord can be played with both push and pull. All other chords can only be played with either push or pull. The major third is missing in the chords E7 and B7 because it is not present on the concertina. The remaining notes of the dominant seventh chord are sufficient to give the listener the impression of the major third in the context of the piece.

left hand push: pull: push: pull:

As a rule, you should only tap the chords briefly and not hold out for as long as in the example recordings above. By the way, you don't always have to play all the notes of the chord at the same time. B. arpeggiate well, especially when the melody is not so busy.

When I play pieces from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, full chords sometimes don't do that well either, because chords don't sound "medieval". Open fifths sound better in such music: Simply leave out the middle third (and the seventh anyway). In rock music, these are called empty fifths Power chords, because it sounds cooler. But it is also nothing else.

Excursus: More about chords.


As in a simple piano accompaniment, you play the bass note on the accented beats and the respective chord on the unstressed beats. The bass note is usually identical to the chord root note. A separate bass note, one octave lower, is only available for the chords C major and G major on pressure.

For practical reasons, alternating basses can only be played easily for C, G, G7 and D7.

Excursus: fingerings for playing with bass and chord.

Unplayable crosses or bes.

If there are unplayable crosses or besides left in a piece after transposing, it is usually due to one of the following three reasons:

  1. In between, the piece modulates into a new key that we don't have at the concertina. Solution: Transfer this intermediate part into a playable key. If necessary, the melody must then be adjusted slightly at the seams. This problem often occurs when a piece changes from major to minor of the same name (and vice versa). Then instead of changing to the minor of the same name, you just have to switch to the parallel minor, more precisely, from G major to E minor.

  2. The crosses or Bes are only used to sharpen lead or alternating notes. You can ignore these signs. Unfortunately, the melody loses some of its expressiveness. (This procedure also applies analogously to double dominants, e.g. A7 → D7 → G. This can usually be replaced with the ii-V-I connection familiar from jazz, i.e. with the sequence a → D7 → G.)

  3. In minor melodies, the sixth and seventh degrees of the scale are variable. So can the notes in E minor cis and dis occur. There are two different solutions here, and you have to try which one you like better. Either you ignore the crosses or you replace the melody tones with related tones of the current chord.

How to practice

By playing pieces with a melody and Accompaniment. At the concertina you cannot practice the melody first and then add the chords later, because the chords essentially determine the direction of the bellows. Practicing melodies without chords is practically worthless.

I think it's also useful to memorize the pieces and then play them without notes. The pieces are usually short enough that this can be done without any real difficulty, although at the beginning it feels very unusual for people who have always played from notes. In the transition phase, it helps to simply close your eyes while playing. Then if there comes a point where you are unsure, you can just open your eyes again.

It is very helpful to record yourself while playing and then listen to the recording. You never listen to yourself as critically as you do to a recording. You don't need any extra equipment for this, you can simply do it with your mobile phone camera.

But what pieces do you play? - At the beginning I had great difficulties in finding suitable pieces. There are pre-arranged pieces for the two-row concertina (did I mention the concertina network?), But most of the time what I want to play is not included. Therefore you have to prepare the notes yourself. If you tweak the notes yourself, you will of course get to know the possibilities of your instrument better.

At some point I came up with the idea of ​​simply looking for grades on the internet. As a rule, it is sufficient to provide the title of a song, the most famous artist and the search term score or grades to find something, possibly also in the image or video search. So far I have almost always found what I am looking for. I then write out the melody part and, if available, the chord names and then transpose the whole thing into a key that can be played on the concertina. You can do this with a pencil on music paper or with a little program that takes care of the annoying transposing and copying. (I myself use the ABCexplorer for this.)

Excursus: application examples.