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Alternatives To The Icons & Other Thoughts

Walker

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It would be ever so easy to only choose accordions of yesteryear - and why not? There was something magical about the special accordions from the 1950s, 1960s, even into the 1970s. Excelsior Symphony Grand, Scandalli Super VI, Titano Royal, Petosa AM1100, Hohner Gola, Dallape Supermaestro, Victoria W420V, Hohner Morino M series, Giulietti Classic 127, Sonola SS20 etc. These old icons still make wonderful instruments for today. If it ain't broke...

However, there are some interesting alternatives to the famous names of old, that give a different perspective. Sure you can still buy a new Super VI or AM1100. These are still great choices. But if I had, say, £10,000 or so for an accordion I could buy a new Scandalli Super VI, or even a vintage one - with money to spare - I have done it before. Yet with further thought, I would probably make a different choice. For example, I could look for a Scandalli Conservatorio BJP442. It's not close to the top of the Scandalli free bass accordion price list or specification - but it is class. For a quality 41 key accordion, suitable for an artist who needs free bass to express themselves fully, it's really great. It's compact, with rich tone and has terrific balance between the treble and bass. With a quint converter, it would be a very interesting instrument to me. Okay, the serious classical musicians would want more keys, say 45 minimum. But we don't all need extended keyboards. I would consider a Scandalli BJP442 - I am fairly sure that's the instrument Hana Koskova is playing, but with chromatic free bass.


Normally, I do not suggest buying new accordions, unless it is going to be kept for a long time. There is actually great enjoyment to be had from a new instrument - but for those who regularly sell and replace instruments, it's not a great financial move. Accordions tend to have little or no investment value in the short to medium term - and drop a lot straight away - certainly the VAT etc.

Preowned accordions might be a smarter financial move, as unfortunately it is the first owner who takes the biggest loss. But then, some accordions are a slightly safer bet than others, like buying the big brand names known for quality - can help a bit - Bugari, Pigini, Scandalli etc. But to be honest, the true demand for things like accordions is not that high. Big names, something slightly specialised or rare, maybe that can help.

No, the true value in buying a new instrument that's an alternative to the old icons, is that it gives the chance for a musician to explore, learn new things about the accordion and create their own sound - be different. Even talking to the manufacturer and being involved in a small way adds to the experience.

There's nothing wrong with exploring new types of instrument or music. Even from spending a month or so on this forum, I have gained a lot more understanding of the C system button accordion with C system converter bass. I have heard other international styles of music and listened to new perspectives. Even the great Mogens Ellegaard, seemed to have moved from Hohner Gola (button system) towards a Russian Jupiter and then Pigini accordions. I suppose it's all just part of the journey.

Here is an interesting man who knows all about different Jazz accordion perspectives - playing a Pigini button accordion - I never expected that choice!


If you were to consider something other than a standard or iconic choice... What might you choose?
 
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Monty [IIIII]

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Like many if not most accordion players, I started out with used instruments. Some had well known names such as Petosa and Scandalli, as well as obscure brands such as a clunky old squeezebox I bought in a junk store outside of Prague. The biggest problem I found with old accordions is allergens such as mold and dust to which I have severe allergic reactions. Other problems are wear, tear, and bad repairs. Sometimes the reeds are worn out and won't survive any further tuning. These were usually inexpensive purchases, good for learning about the the inner workings of an accordion, but essentially disposable.

However, in one case I was persuaded to buy an old "top quality" "performance model" Guerrini with a MIDI system that I thought would be good for practicing quietly with headphones. I soon learned the MIDI didn't work as advertised and couldn't be repaired. By the time I had the obsolete electronics stripped and the instrument properly tuned, I had invested nearly as much as I would have buying a new instrument. And, while it sounded pretty good, it was pretty heavy to be carrying around to sessions and festivals. So I went looking for something new, good quality, wood finish and as light as possible for a piano accordion.

I went to a variety of dealers trying expensive, light weight, good quality, beautiful sounding, new accordions from Petosa, Scandall, Pigini, Saltarelle, Brandoni, Siwa & Figli and others. Prices were from $6,000 to $10,000 or more. Not being a virtuoso player, it was hard for me to justify spending so much on a new accordion. While mulling over the decision, I came across a web site for a dealer I had always associated with melodions and concertinas. I saw they were offering new, light weight, wood finish, piano accordions by a company of which I had never heard -- Serenellini. I did some research on the company, and was impressed by the specs on their instruments. Lots of "natural wood and hand made" references in their promotions. The price was lower than any of the competitors. And it was all "Made in Italy". The dealer offered a "trial with free return". So I ordered a beautiful, wood finished 34/72; LMM, hand made reeds, 19 pound accordion, with the thought that I would return it if it didn't live up to the advertising.

The Serenellini looked and sounded as good as any of the other, more expensive, new accordions I had tried. But to reassure myself I took it to an accordion technician I trusted for his evaluation. He was impressed by it as well, though he thought the factory tuning could use a bit of touch up. After the little bit of tuning I felt I had as good an accordion as I had ever played, at a price that was only a few hundred dollars more than what I had invested in the old Guerrini restoration. I was so pleased with my purchase, I bought a second Serenellini with more reeds, buttons and switches, but little more weight, for pursuing my interest in French musette.

As I said, I'm no virtuoso performer. Other opinions may differ. But opening my case to the smell of new leather instead of musty, dusty, antique store odor, well, that, to me, is nearly as great as the sound of a well tuned instrument.
 

Tom

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It would be ever so easy to only choose accordions of yesteryear - and why not? There was something magical about the special accordions from the 1950s, 1960s, even into the 1970s. Excelsior Symphony Grand, Scandalli Super VI, Titano Royal, Petosa AM1100, Hohner Gola, Dallape Supermaestro, Victoria W420V, Hohner Morino M series, Giulietti Classic 127, Sonola SS20 etc. These old icons still make wonderful instruments for today. If it ain't broke...

However, there are some interesting alternatives to the famous names of old, that give a different perspective. Sure you can still buy a new Super VI or AM1100. These are still great choices. But if I had, say, £10,000 or so for an accordion I could buy a new Scandalli Super VI, or even a vintage one - with money to spare - I have done it before. Yet with further thought, I would probably make a different choice. For example, I could look for a Scandalli Conservatorio BJP442. It's not close to the top of the Scandalli free bass accordion price list or specification - but it is class. For a quality 41 key accordion, suitable for an artist who needs free bass to express themselves fully, it's really great. It's compact, with rich tone and has terrific balance between the treble and bass. With a quint converter, it would be a very interesting instrument to me. Okay, the serious classical musicians would want more keys, say 45 minimum. But we don't all need extended keyboards. I would consider a Scandalli BJP442 - I am fairly sure that's the instrument Hana Koskova is playing, but with chromatic free bass.


Normally, I do not suggest buying new accordions, unless it is going to be kept for a long time. There is actually great enjoyment to be had from a new instrument - but for those who regularly sell and replace instruments, it's not a great financial move. Accordions tend to have little or no investment value in the short to medium term - and drop a lot straight away - certainly the VAT etc.

Preowned accordions might be a smarter financial move, as unfortunately it is the first owner who takes the biggest loss. But then, some accordions are a slightly safer bet than others, like buying the big brand names known for quality - can help a bit - Bugari, Pigini, Scandalli etc. But to be honest, the true demand for things like accordions is not that high. Big names, something slightly specialised or rare, maybe that can help.

No, the true value in buying a new instrument that's an alternative to the old icons, is that it gives the chance for a musician to explore, learn new things about the accordion and create their own sound - be different. Even talking to the manufacturer and being involved in a small way adds to the experience.

There's nothing wrong with exploring new types of instrument or music. Even from spending a month or so on this forum, I have gained a lot more understanding of the C system button accordion with C system converter bass. I have heard other international styles of music and listened to new perspectives. Even the great Mogens Ellegaard, seemed to have moved from Hohner Gola (button system) towards a Russian Jupiter and then Pigini accordions. I suppose it's all just part of the journey.

Here is an interesting man who knows all about different Jazz accordion perspectives - playing a Pigini button accordion - I never expected that choice!


If you were to consider something other than a standard or iconic choice... What might you choose?
A Roland or, if acoustic, another Piatanesi, with my specifications. I am at the sweet spot where my talents are (more than) adequately met by my instruments, including accordions. Yeah, a $20,000 instrument would sound so sweet and better but I don't care.
 

Monty [IIIII]

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Tom wrote: Yeah, a $20,000 instrument would sound so sweet and better but I don't care.

After years of hearing damage from noisy work compounded by old age, I wonder sometimes if I can really hear the difference between a well tuned $2,000 accordion vs a $20,000 instrument. But there is something owning a Ferrari even if you can only drive it to the grocery store at geriatric speeds. :)
 

Ben-jammin

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If I could justify the expense and it fit my budget I would like to check out a Cooperfisa or Stocco. But I would probably have to also budget a trip to Italy to get my hands on either to try out.

As it is I have an instrument that isn’t holding me back and that I enjoy playing. Maybe in a few years if I’m still playing as much as I have been this winter I could possibly justify something new.
 

AccordionUprising

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If I had $20,000 (that I could only spend on accordions), I'd go spend a few months with Kimric at Smythe's Accordion Centre and co-design a new class of electric/acoustic (not digital) amplified accordion. It'd be awesome, maybe. Fun for sure.
 

jozz

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I lean more towards the solid wood finished boxes, like the Saltarelle Clegan 35/96.

But with a sack of money like that, I would be obligated to travel to the factory and have them build a one-off for me.

And if it would come to that I'd rather have one of the very few Dutch boutique builders build it.
 

debra

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When looking for alternatives to the "great old", the first step is to forget about these brand and model names. A new Scandalli Super VI or Hohner Gola is nothing like the old ones, and while they are still good quality accordions you pay a premium price for the name, not reflected in what's really inside.
Look for solid quality and/or innovation. For instance, some years ago I tried a Beltuna Prestige Paris IV at the Frankfurter Musikmesse and I was really impressed about how it played and sounded. (The price was a bit steep, but still not 20.000 at that time.)
The key to finding a good new alternative to the old icons is trying and comparing. Many factories churn out good quality accordions (sometimes with a few quirks that need fixing first) but they all feel and sound differently. Another important hint is to search for and talk to players of the instruments you appear to like. There are occasionally some hidden issues that are better to know beforehand than experiencing them yourself later, leading to buyer's remorse...
 

JerryPH

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"But there is something owning a Ferrari..."
Yeah! Pure vanity and the lack of perception that the people looking at you are most usually thinking: "What a pretentious old wanker!" ;-)
Oh... is that what they say when I drive my Corvette around? I can live with that because I am the one enjoying every second in it! :D :D
 

Dingo40

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Jerry,
If I should ever see you driving your Corvette,
please be assured I'd be thinking, there's Jerry enjoying every minute of it!??
 

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