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Concertina do Minho

The Portuguese concertina is a diatonic accordion and is especially popular in northern Portugal, mainly in the  Minho (the north-west region of Portugal) where it has become the “national instrument” (taking over from the bagpipes, which are still the traditional instrument of Portugal’s other northern region, Tras-os-Montes).

On our recent campervan holiday to the north of Portugal, we made a special detour to Ribeira de Pena to visit a shop that sells new and 2nd hand concertinas (alongside a fantastic mix of other goods including woodstoves, washing machines, furniture, and clothes).

I’ve had a fancy for playing an accordion since I was a child. However I’m completely lacking in musical knowledge or talent and had never considered actually owning one before, but we saw this shop (closed) last year and the possibility of buying one had gotten into my head.  This year I was going to buy one!

I had absolutely no idea what I should be looking for, no knowledge at all of concertinas, and had done no research beforehand (very unlike me). The shopkeeper (and several passers-by!) played various concertinas that were (more-or-less) within my budget that they recommended as being suitable for a beginner. I found it really hard to choose between the beautiful decorations that I loved most, and the sound that I loved most (unfortunately the two didn’t combine in the same instrument).

I finally decided on a Hohner Club III B F, it’s an old one and doesn’t have as many buttons as the modern concertinas, and the sound is not as deep and smooth as my other favourite (which had been modified, and thus was almost double the price). The design is very plain but I love it, especially when the bellows are opened revealing their red glitter!

I am still utterly talentless and know basically nothing about concertinas, or scales, or notes, or chords, or anything at all musical.  What I have discovered so far is that concertinas seem rather complicated to play – you get different notes depending on whether you push or pull the bellows (which is pretty hard work and makes my arms ache) but I am having a LOT of fun watching lessons on youtube and have so far learnt to play the first part of “La Piedrera” which I am ridiculously over-excited about.

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