"Concertina" - Anglo Concertina
for the iPhone

by Michael Eskin

Concertina Icon

Go to the iTunes App Store to buy

If you are looking for an English Concertina, please check out Englitina, now available on the iTunes App Store.

Concertina is an easy to play, authentic sounding virtual Anglo Concertina in the most popular keys of C/G and may be transposed into any other key.

The instrument is bisonoric, meaning it plays a different note for each button depending on whether you are pushing or pulling on the bellows.

A C/G instrument has one row of buttons where the push notes make a C chord and on the other row make a G chord. The pull notes provide the scale tones between the chord notes. The third row on the right side of the app is used for additional accidentals not found in the scales on the other two rows.

The C/G tuning is the most commonly used when playing tunes with other instruments like fiddles, flutes, and whistles in their standard D tuning.

To play, simply tip to the left for a bellows push note, or to the right for a bellows pull note, and press a button. The PUSH/PULL display shows which direction the bellows is moving.

Touch the "?" icon to show the note names.

You may reverse the bellows while pushing a button simply by tipping in the opposite direction.

Touch the "i" icon to show the settings where you may adjust the transposition, tilt sensitivity, push/pull tilt direction, and right-side chromatic row configuration.

You may transpose the pitch up or down up to one octave in semitone increments.

Touch the number to the right of the transpose slider to reset the transpose to zero.

For a Bb/F instrument, set the transpose to -2, for an A/E, set the transpose to -3.

For a Bass Baritone instrument, one octave lower than a standard C/G instrument, set the transpose to -12.

When transposed, the note labels do not change, just the pitch produced.

Up to five buttons may be pressed at the same time to play chords.

The button layout is based on a 17-key modified Jeffries style for playing traditional Irish dance tunes in the most common keys.

Uses extremely high-quality audio samples recorded from a high-end Anglo concertina.

Concertina App Overview

"The Polka Challenge"

Main Screen (artwork by Janelle Shane)

Concertina 1.1 Wood Skin

How to place your fingers on the buttons

Hand Position

How to hold the iPhone

Here's the best way to hold the iPhone while playing

Support the iPhone between the top of the palm on the left and the thumb and little finger on the right. This allows the fingers to reach all the buttons. The iPhone can face up or away from you.

On the left hand,the closest buttons are played with your left index finger, the next farthest with your middle finger, the next farthest with your ring finger and the farthest with your little finger. On the right, the closest buttons are played with your right index finger, the next farthest with your middle finger, and the farthest with your ring finger.

Holding the iPhone

Using a soft rubber case on your iPhone helps make it easier to hold and will allow you to relax rather than having to grip the device.

Suggestions for how best to play, particularly if you are having trouble

The Anglo Concertina can be challenging to play even on a real instrument, and developing the same skills on a small device where there aren't any physical buttons to feel and press will take some time and lots of practice. Be patient and give yourself time to learn your way around the instrument.

First and foremost, the PUSH/PULL indicator is your friend, I find that if I don't pay attention to it, its easy to forget that I have to tilt the device to change the bellows. If you're struggling, try watching the PUSH/PULL indicator when you're playing.

By default, the app ships with the tilt sensitivity set moderately low, so if you find yourself wildly tilting your iPhone chasing the bellows, try turning up the sensitivity by adjusting the slider to the right on the settings page (touch the 'i' icon).

I find it easiest to play seated so that I have a more stable reference for tilting. If you lean or move around while trying to play standing, it can make it more difficult to play.

Questions and Answers

Q: Are the fingerings the same as a real Anglo Concertina?

A: Yes! To show a comparison between the app and a real concertina, here is an animated diagram showing the evolution from the fingering chart for a modified Jeffries 30-button C/G instrument (dual C# on the right side) and the fingering chart for the app C/G version:

Concertina App Fingering Chart Evolution

App fingering chart, reoriented and compared to the app's user interface:

Concertina App Keyboard Evolution

The fingering chart for the app, with the exception of the the push/pull G# on the right side top row (button 8a), is identical to the standard 30-key modified Jeffries layout, but missing some of the less commonly required keys to allow it to fit on the iPhone screen. Even with this reduced layout, I am able to play the vast majority of traditional Irish dance tunes with no alteration to my standard scale fingerings.

You may choose between several possible note combinations for the bottom button of the right hand accidental row. The choices now are C#/C#, Bb/C#, or C#/Bb, with C#/Bb being the default.

Q: What's the best way to play cleanly and quickly?

A: I find that the best way to play the app quickly and precisely is to use a staccato style. If you are changing fingers along with a bellows direction change, practice completely removing the previous finger from the button before the bellow change, tilt the device the other direction, and then put down your finger for the new note. This avoids "crossing" sounds and results in a very clean style of playing. With practice, you can play extremely quickly and cleanly using this method. This technique also translates well to the real instrument.

Q: Where can I learn more about how to play the instrument?

A: Please visit the following sites for more information and online learning materials:

Concertina.net - Learning to Play the Anglo Concertina


Q: Now that I've learned the fingerings for some tunes on the iPhone app, I'd like to buy a real concertina. Who do you recommend?

A: I personally own or have owned instruments from the following builders and highly recommend any of them:

Frank Edgley

Bob Tedrow

Wally Carroll

Also The Button Box carries a wide range of new and vintage instruments.

Future Plans

I am very interested in any suggestions for features or improvements to the apps for future updates, please drop me an email anytime with your ideas!

More Apps To Enjoy

AppCordions iOS Apps Catalog


A huge thank you to Janelle Shane for generously developing truly inspiring artwork for the new background skins.

Additional thanks to the beta testers: David Boveri, Patrick Maun, Mike DeSmidt, Ben Jaber, Steve Pribyl, Patrick D'Arcy, and Fel Bautista.


For more information, please contact Michael Eskin or visit the AppCordions.com website:

Visit AppCordions.com

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