THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT WRITTEN BY ME, SIMON, THE CREATOR OF THIS WEBSITE  It comes from USA Anglo player David Levine. It used to be in a thread on Concertina.Net. Although I’m not an absolute adherent of Noel Hill’s teaching in general ( although I hugely respect his greatness and contribution both as player and teacher), there is some useful stuff in here . N.B David uses a different system to mine to refer to the button locations, just follow the chart below …

 ” What follows is what I learned from Noel Hill about playing the Anglo concertina. Noel is a superb teacher. This is not a substitute for taking his class. He has not read this and he has not endorsed it. It is what I gathered from lessons I had with him twenty years ago and from a class a few years later. And from my own playing over the past twenty years. In recent conversations he has affirmed what I say here and how I understand his approach.

It will help if you can associate written music (dots) with buttons on the concertina and know where to go when I say LH G row B or RH C row B (the same note). Being able to read music could make life a lot easier for you.

The concertina makes its own sound, unlike the fiddle or flute- which is great. Fingering is rational on the fiddle and the flute because there is basically one note for each finger. This is not the case on the concertina. Each finger controls two notes – one on the push and one on the pull. Plus, notes are duplicated in different combinations and places. This complicates matters at first but eventually will make playing smoother and less awkward. Your fingers will play the notes that naturally lie under them on the first four columns. Get used to using your little finger. It’s tricky but very important. For the lowest notes you will learn to shift your hand position – but this comes later.

Noel teaches the concept of first choice. There is a flow you get by playing across the rows. You don’t just play tunes following the scale on the home rows of C and G. Although Noel’s way of playing is not intuitive, ultimately it makes sense to play this way. Other fingerings are second and third choices that you make in order to avoid chopping and to phrase properly.

 Chopping is when you use the same finger to hit two buttons one after the other. This slows you down and becomes awkward as you become able to play faster. Chopping is the one thing that most accomplished players agree should never be a part of your technique. You can always find a button in order to avoid chopping. That’s one of the good things about the C/G Anglo, but also one of the most confusing. You have to think ahead and it can take some time before it becomes instinctive. Often you have to map out a tune so you know where your finger should land.

Since there are duplicate buttons – i.e, three middle As on the 30 button Anglo  – choices have to be made all the time. But the basic “system” remains very simple and straight-forward. It roughly describes a “Z.” After a while it becomes intuitive and you begin to sense when a tune requires that you leave the system to use an alternate fingering. For a while you will have to map out every tune after learning the melody itself. First we have the system for the D scale, and then for the G scale.

You must know where the notes are on the instrument, and what button yields what note on the push and on the pull. I have added here a fingering chart . In the interests of legibility you can also find the chart on Wally Carroll’s site and see some lovely concertinas as well:

 The first choice for the D scale  is to start on the C row with a LH (Left Hand) D draw- #8. Then press E #9, then G row draw F# #12, C row for G press #10 and A draw #10. Then a RH B draw #21. C# top row RH press #17, 2nd. finger (Jeffries system). Back to G row for LH D press #15 & E draw #15. RH G row for F# draw #26, G press #26, A draw and B press #s 27.

It goes like this: 8-9-12-10-10 // 21-17 //15-15-26-26-27-27. And back down in reverse order. This is what you have to play, over and again until it’s automatic. It is the range of the simple system flute. Lower notes present other challenges and can wait.

This is always the first choice in the key of D, even though you can’t play every tune that way. Learn this way of playing the scale. It is what you go to first. If it doesn’t fit then you go on to other choices. It would be worth drawing the diagram, or tracing it on the chart of the concertina keyboard to visualize it. You are moving between and across the rows. You have to memorize this progression. Noel makes sure you can play the scale this way, both up and down.

For the G scale, starting on the D, you’d do the same thing. But the Cn would be the LH G row draw with the second finger – #14. You would occasionally use the C press (#21) on the right hand- again, depending on phrasing and ornamentation, and to avoid “chopping.” But the first choice is the C draw #14. I often do use #21. It’s easier for me to ornament when I use that button. I rarely use B #14. I frequently use A draw #13. #13 is the secret to playing many tunes smoothly.

That’s the whole thing. Simple, isn’t it? What follows after that will take some time to absorb. Things get complicated when you have to use secondary choices to avoid chopping. You never move the same finger from one button to another consecutively. You must avoid going from C row G press (10) to G row D press (15) with the left index finger). In order to avoid the chop (from G to D) you would go from C row G (10) to the D draw on the right hand C row (21). That would be the choice here – but it’s not the only choice – it would depend on the tune. 

When it would be awkward (a chop) to go from the D press (15) to the A draw (10), you would use the A draw on the G row (13) – that button is your friend. Learn to love it.

Moving between the RH G row G (#26) to the C row B draw (#21) is another problem chop.  You would often use the right hand G press (#23, bird-finger) to #21 on the C row – or go from #26 to the G row B (#14) – to avoid chopping. Noel does not like #14 but I find it helpful sometimes.

Chopping can be hard to unlearn. At first it seems easier to chop and to play within each row than to learn separate fingerings. But when you have fingering choices you aren’t fighting the instrument. Eventually it become second nature to avoid the chop.

What I have said is not an obvious way of playing were you to pick up the instrument for the first time. You often hear players who attempt to play Irish music who are fighting the instrument. They have not learned to play across the rows. The concertina is deceptive. It only seems easy because the tone is self-generated. But it is the only instrument I play which continually involves such a wide choice of fingerings and which requires constant fore- thought. It is a Rubik’s Cube,  a musical chess game where you are playing both sides of the board. Good luck- and remember- there is always the tin-whistle! “