Crane Tips

Advice and playing tips for the Crane concertina

For beginners, my personal opinion the best place to start is the Lachenal tutor which shows the key layouts and the notes on the staff. This is what I used to learn how to read music for the Crane system: 1 single printed page, you can't get much easier than that! Unless you want the other exercises/tunes skip the rest and just print the notes page.

Crane Tutor, 48-buttonlarger version for print

I suppose you could learn any instrument that way, but on concertina we really are just pushing buttons.

So I can summarize playing the Crane concertina very easily, which would be unfair a simplification, but the concertina is not nearly as elaborate as some other instruments I've tried to learn how to play (give the Uillean pipe a shot than come back gratefully to your concertina).

1) Don't pump the bellows unless a button is pushed. So, if you have an air-button you can push that in and move the bellows, or play one or more notes, just don't sit there pushing it back and forth with no buttons pressed, you will damage the valves.

2) You can "stop" a note 2 ways, by releasing the button while the bellows moves or by stopping pushing/pulling the bellows.

3) I have a lot of printed music and a lot of recordings to listen to, but I seldom have both the tune and a similar transcription. Some books come with CDs or links to download music. If you don't have a big music collection you might start with one of those sets. Check the links page for more recordings and information.

Crane Tip # 1 - Where to get a Crane duet!

Ok, so now you have decided the Crane or Crabb duet is the box for you. You have saved up for months and read dozens of articles. You printed out the tutor pages and ring-bound them. You now know all about steel vs brass, rosewood, bellows folds, vintage and new. You have ended your search: you have arrived at the thinking man's concertina.

Unfortunately young Crane player you can't just waltz into a music store and pick one up, no, your search is just beginning. or should I say it continues - well you're in luck!

It turns out people less enthusiastic than you have tried this system and given up. Though it is sad, their loss is your gain! There are numerous Crane/Crabb duets just waiting for a chance to be in the spotlight again.

Almost all vintage concertinas are owned, catalogued, stashed away in private collections. You might get lucky and find a concertina in an estate sale, but a crane duet that would be a find. I have to update this now as a 42-button came up on auction that was found at an estate sale!

So, the place currently to go to get a duet is through the network of Concertina players and collectors. I can suggest looking at a few shops you can see online in the links section. Hobgoblin Music and Barleycorn in the UK are good starting places. You can sometimes find them listed, or ask to buy, on

Be prepared for sticker shock, many players hold their boxes dearly. Remember, all you need is one. If you are a guitar player imagine you are going to sink the money into a new Rickenbacker.

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