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Accordion for folk music

Cheshire Chris

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My main interest is playing traditional English folk music and, with that aim in mind, I've bought a lovely secondhand German-made Hohner Concerto III S, which is a 34-treble, 72-bass, 3-voice instrument. I'm an experienced musician, but a beginner at the piano accordion.

What I was wondering was whether this instrument is likely to be sufficient for my needs? I don't see why it shouldn't be, but my plan is to at least start teaching myself from the Palmer-Hughes accordion course (although I also plan to find myself a teacher), and I've read on another thread that at some point the PH course assumes a full-size 41/120 instrument.

All advice is very welcome!

Chris
 

dunlustin

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The idea that 41 keys = full size for a PA seems pretty arbitrary to me.
Firstly, 45 keys are not unheard of but that's still less than 4 octaves and would seem modest for many button boxes.
On the other hand, a guitar does 3 + octaves, a sax around 2 1/2 easily, a whistle one and a bit and a clarinet is silly.
Most folk songs sit over about the same as a whistle.
So, is it about learning everything a PA can do or rather growing your interest in English Folk.
Many pros make a career using boxes with no more range than your PA.
Someone once said that once you've played thro' a Folk tune, all that's left is to play it at a different octave then a final time a bit faster.
On that basis you've got it covered.
As a fairly typical enthusiast I'm tempted to see accordions in terms of what they can't do - this is not good and can lead to great expense!
So my pennyworth is - I don't know but that too is what's great about accordions.
 

Cheshire Chris

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Sorry, Richard, I should have been clearer. I’m not doubting the suitability of my PA for folk music for a moment. My main instrument currently is the D/G melodeon and the overwhelming majority of folk music sits comfortably in the octave and a half to two octaves from around middle C upwards.

My question rather was whether I’ll be able to become a competent PA player on this instrument given the fact that much of the teaching material appears to assume a larger instrument. Perhaps, though, it’s more of a question of finding a teacher who understands the type of material I want to play?

Cheers,

Chris
 

Dingo40

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Chris,
Rest assured, you have plenty of fire power in your Concerto iiis.
Remember, it's never the instrument you play, it's always how you play it!
Look at these guys:
And this one:
 
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jozz

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It all depends on what exactly that it is you are going to play, but I don't see why not. Most of the time you can solve things on the keyboards with some creativity.

If that is musically satisfying is personal.

I have hauled my Concerto around many years - playing Dutch folk, dance and generic populair stuff. I traded it in for my current 72 Bugari with better reeds, mostly because I wanted to accompany female voice in the L register. This was a pain on the standard Hohner reeds.

The only time I am in need of more stradella basses, is when I play session for male singer/songwriter - guitarists that live around E and up on the accordion bass keyboard. If I play lead - I generally find myself around F and C, which is perfectly fine for the Concerto. But this keys might be more of a Dutch/continental thing.
 

dunlustin

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Chris, as a D/G player you know that players often abandon their Pokerworks for a Costalotti. Ten minutes listening to John Kirkpatrick is enough to see that not everyone exhausts the Pokerwork’s potential.

PA potential: If in a tune in Amajor you want to go to F#minor on a 72 bass box, you will find it hard to do, because the IV chord is at one end and the V chord at the other. Solve this by accurate jumps or by finding a 78 bass box. Or by not bothering.

Someone I knew went to Castelfidardo and had his G/C Hohner refitted with better reeds. The difference was stunning. Although a major player in the French diatonic revival he couldn’t get work because nobody took the diatonic seriously – not a real accordion. He learned CBA – not for its completeness but to please the man with the purse-strings.



( Just realised that the above is more or less what Jazz wrote )
 

Chrisrayner

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Since most D/G players content themselves with the keys which can be more or less managed with the rather limited eight basses on a standard diatonic, and a range of about 1 1/2 octaves, I think you will find yourself with an embarrassment of riches with this quite modest piano accordion. In sessions your chief disadvantage will be in tolerating the gibes and evil glances of those who harbour an irrational dislike of piano accordions.

I have myself recently refocused on the chromatic accordion, but in my case the chromatic button c system. I was convinced by the rational fingering on the right hand, which means you only have to learn three sets of fingering to play in all major keys, and the compactness of the keyboard which allows stretches between notes which are not feasible on the piano keyboard. You have made your choice which you don‘t mention as being influenced by existing piano keyboard skills. If you should find yourself struggling with the piano keyboard I would urge you to give the buttons a go.
 

Cheshire Chris

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Thanks, Chris. I do play the piano to a reasonable standard, which probably will help me on my accordion journey. I had a C-system CBA (a Hohner Nova III), but I just couldn't get to grips with it, so I swapped it for the Concerto PA. I really do think that the PA will suit me much better.

Cheers,

Chris
 

craigd

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Now you could allay all your concerns by acquiring a Jupiter Super Bayan. But w the piano keyboard you'll be maxed out at 47 notes.
 

JeffJetton

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What I was wondering was whether this instrument is likely to be sufficient for my needs? I don't see why it shouldn't be, but my plan is to at least start teaching myself from the Palmer-Hughes accordion course (although I also plan to find myself a teacher), and I've read on another thread that at some point the PH course assumes a full-size 41/120 instrument.

I'd say your instrument is pretty much perfect for your needs. 72 bass is plenty for most music (certainly for folk) and LMM is ideal too.

PH doesn't get beyond the range of 34 keys until book 5, and that's only on a couple of tunes that can be easily tweaked to fit. Besides, by the time you're done with book 4, you're going to be in great shape anyway, since you already know piano (a lot of the later books are just introducing new keys and other things that will be old hat to you.)
 

Valski

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I'd say your instrument is pretty much perfect for your needs. 72 bass is plenty for most music (certainly for folk) and LMM is ideal too.

PH doesn't get beyond the range of 34 keys until book 5, and that's only on a couple of tunes that can be easily tweaked to fit. Besides, by the time you're done with book 4, you're going to be in great shape anyway, since you already know piano (a lot of the later books are just introducing new keys and other things that will be old hat to you.)
I agree entirely. Your current PA gives you almost 3 octaves and with folk music that should be plenty when combined with the 72 bass buttons. You have major, minor seventh and diminished chords available to you. Also you most likely would be able to transcribe a song into a more appropriate key as required considering your piano experience.
 

TomBR

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Someone once said that once you've played thro' a Folk tune, all that's left is to play it at a different octave then a final time a bit faster.
On that basis you've got it covered.
Can't let that pass uncommented!
Quoting John Kirkpatrick
"You have to allow a tune time to sink in before you can open yourself up to its inherent possibilities. Then, gradually, you can find all sorts of turns and twiddles, all kinds of ways of bringing out the different aspects of a tune to best advantage.

Musical ability doesn't come into it. Every performance can become rather a voyage of discovery. But this approach will not work if you only run through the tune a couple of times before casting it aside in favour of the next item in your selection. You have to play it ten, or fifteen, or twenty times, before you really get inside it and can feel the full extent of its diversity. These tunes were built for constant repetition. They have been played an infinite number of times by an infinite number of people. If they did not hold many secrets and yield something new each time round they would not have survived. They demand to be cherished. They certainly deserve better treatment than that afforded them by the Medley Maniacs."


From this page
https://www.johnkirkpatrick.co.uk/wr_MedleyMania.asp
 

dunlustin

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What happened to dry humour?
Oh and yes, I heard him say much the same at a Morris Ring (Bath Uni circa 1972) and again at a weekend in St Albans 25 years on.
John's playing is what pushed me to order my Crabb Anglo around 1972 while my 3 row Hohner served me well for around 30 years including as a Morris Box - fair bit of repetition there and I've knocked out a few tunes on the B/C/C# he sold me around 1995.
In conclusion: If you want to know how much music there is in a simple box - go buy Jump at the Sun. Fifty years on it's still the benchmark.
 

Cheshire Chris

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Ok, a minor change of direction 😁. I really liked the Concerto, but as an experienced musician I'm a strong believer in the value of high-quality instruments. Not that the Concerto isn't good quality, but mid-range instruments such as that can certainly be bettered. I also had a slight concern about large jumps from one end of the bass to the other in the less common keys with 72 basses.

Accordingly, today I went back to The Accordion Shop (where I bought the Concerto last week) and had a long chat with them about what was available with 96 basses and better quality reeds, and after paying the difference in price I'm now the proud owner of a beautiful secondhand Fantini. It's the same physical size as the Concerto (34 treble keys), about 1kg heavier, and has 96 basses rather than 72. It also sounds much, much nicer to my ears. A much purer tone, whereas the Hohner is the archetypal German oom-pa sound. It's in really lovely condition. I also considered a slightly more expensive new 37-treble E. Soprani, but to my mind the Fantini was clearly the better instrument of the two, and as a secondhand instrument has already done most of its depreciating in value. And it's got sparkly diamonds ❤️.

More money, I know, but a higher-quality instrument all around.
 

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Cheshire Chris

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In conclusion: If you want to know how much music there is in a simple box - go buy Jump at the Sun. Fifty years on it's still the benchmark.

JK's "How to Play the English Melodeon" DVD set is still, however many years on it is since he released it, THE benchmark for all melodeon players to aim for, to my mind. He does things with a single-row instrument that I can't even dream of!
 
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craigd

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Ok, a minor change of direction 😁. I really liked the Concerto, but as an experienced musician I'm a strong believer in the value of high-quality instruments. Not that the Concerto isn't good quality, but mid-range instruments such as that can certainly be bettered. I also had a slight concern about large jumps from one end of the bass to the other in the less common keys for the more obscure keys with 72 basses.

Accordingly, today I went back to The Accordion Shop (where I bought the Concerto last week) and had a long chat with them about what was available with 96 basses and better quality reeds, and after paying the difference in price I'm now the proud owner of a beautiful secondhand Fantini. It's the same physical size as the Concerto (34 treble keys), about 1kg heavier, and has 96 basses rather than 72. It also sounds much, much nicer to my ears. A much purer tone, whereas the Hohner is the archetypal German oom-pa sound. It's in really lovely condition.

More money, I know, but a higher-quality instrument all around.
I still see that super bayan in your future Chris. At this rate it may not be that far off!
 

Tom

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Good find Chris! Yeah there is so much great music suitable (and played) on the "melodeon." One of these years when I don't feel the need to spend all my practice time to the piano cordeen, I really would like to get into, as I have 2 beautiful ones, 1.44 and 3 row.
 

NickC

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Congrats on the new instrument! It looks nice. Enjoy it.
 

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