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Diatonic 3 row accordion bass buttons limitations ?

gerardo1000

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I am a beginner and I am tempted to buy a 3 row button diatonic accordion of decent quality (I briefly had for 1 day a new Panther that I returned because of an issue with some bass notes on the left hand side that were not responsive when closing the bellows). I am not, however, into the typical Norteno Tejano etc... music, I would play easy classic, French (like the "Amelie" movie waltzers) some pop, some Italian folk, some easy jazz. Playing the melody with my right hand and accompaniment with the left hand. I am 70 with some back issues therefore I am attracted by the light weight and the small size of a diatonic. However, as far as I understand, the 3 row diatonic's 12 bass buttons only offer two mior chords when pushing and two minor chords when pulling the bellows, a total of four. And I wonder if this could be a limitation, even if I traspose the music and I adapt it to the accordion tuning? A possible alternative could be a 26 keys piano accordion with 48 bass, they are still reasonably light and compact, and offer quite a wide range of bass notes and bass chords, including minor and 7 chords. In summary, I am undecided between a Hohner Corona or a Hohner Bravo 48, or similar. I'd appreciate your opinions, thanks.
 

Tom

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Hi Gerardo,

It's not so much a question of limitations of the diatonic as it is, unfortunately, one of personal choice.

There are those that find great joy in playing a diatonic accordion, despite the limitations of the number of available keys and sonic range.

Likewise there are those that find no joy in a full featured, casotto equipped, 5 treble voice, 14 switch piano accordion and give up in disgust after 3 months.

No one can say what your experience will be.

However, from the music that you aspire to (Amelie, Italian, pop, and jazz), conventional wisdom would dictate that a piano accordion like the Hohner Bravo would be a better choice.

Good luck!
 

Chrisrayner

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I agree with Tom. I am 73. I played diatonic accordion on and off for ten years or so; much taken with the lightness and handiness, but increasingly irked by the musical limitations. I finally took the plunge a couple of years ago and bought a chromatic button accordion to see if I could hack it. Much to my surprise I found the transition much less work than I expected. The initial purchase was part-exchanged for a rather splendid, if a bit weighty, Paolo Soprani 120 bass four voice instrument. This has to be played sitting down, so the load on the back is modest, the burden is borne by the left thigh. A good chair is essential; expensive, but well worthwhile.

In your part of the world of course the vast majority of chromatic accordions will have piano keyboards. If you are already a pianist then the choice is simple. If not, I would recommend you consider a button instrument. The keyboard is, in my opinion, more logical than a piano keyboard, and with a five row instrument the fingering for the major scale may be identical in all keys. even with three rows there are only three fingerings for all major scales. It is quite easy to stretch to span two octaves, and the chord shapes in the right hand are identical for all chords.

As you have noted, the flexibility of a stradella bass is much broader than even the most well endowed diatonic instruments (typically 18 basses). Indeed, once you start pushing the diatonic envelope with more basses and voices you find that the size of the instrument soon approximates that of a small chromatic accordion and is less flexible.

I still like to play both, as well as my guitar and sundry other plucked string instruments. I have, however, largely laid the diatonics to one side and am concentrating on my learning the chromatic button. After going at it quite diligently for over two years (including the periods of ghastly Covid lockdown) I am now able to play simple arrangements of such French standards as “La Vie En Rose”, “Plaisir D’Amour” etc. I’m even struggling with Satie’s “Gymnopedie 1”. I’m still progressing.

I would recommend you consider trying a small instrument such as the Pigini Peter Pan or similar. These are sized to suit young children just starting the instrument, but they are quite playable with adult hands, and are, of course, smaller and lighter than most medium to large sized accordions. Given that the players for whom they are bought eventually either tire of the instrument or wish to progress to a larger one they come on the market in good condition from time to time.

On the two Hohners you mention, I can give no opinion on the Corona, but I have owned a Bravo briefly. I bought it at what I thought to be a good price. I found it to be rather raucous and poorly finished. It was, of course, a chromatic button one, but the innards of the piano instruments I am sure will be identical. I believe that they are made in China, and that this accounts both for the cheap price and poor quality. I would always choose a European made accordion now. As the Rolls Royce publicity used to assert, the quality remains long after the price is forgotten.

Good luck in your retirement folly, from another elderly fool.
 

gerardo1000

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I agree with Tom. I am 73. I played diatonic accordion on and off for ten years or so; much taken with the lightness and handiness, but increasingly irked by the musical limitations. I finally took the plunge a couple of years ago and bought a chromatic button accordion to see if I could hack it. Much to my surprise I found the transition much less work than I expected. The initial purchase was part-exchanged for a rather splendid, if a bit weighty, Paolo Soprani 120 bass four voice instrument. This has to be played sitting down, so the load on the back is modest, the burden is borne by the left thigh. A good chair is essential; expensive, but well worthwhile.

In your part of the world of course the vast majority of chromatic accordions will have piano keyboards. If you are already a pianist then the choice is simple. If not, I would recommend you consider a button instrument. The keyboard is, in my opinion, more logical than a piano keyboard, and with a five row instrument the fingering for the major scale may be identical in all keys. even with three rows there are only three fingerings for all major scales. It is quite easy to stretch to span two octaves, and the chord shapes in the right hand are identical for all chords.

As you have noted, the flexibility of a stradella bass is much broader than even the most well endowed diatonic instruments (typically 18 basses). Indeed, once you start pushing the diatonic envelope with more basses and voices you find that the size of the instrument soon approximates that of a small chromatic accordion and is less flexible.

I still like to play both, as well as my guitar and sundry other plucked string instruments. I have, however, largely laid the diatonics to one side and am concentrating on my learning the chromatic button. After going at it quite diligently for over two years (including the periods of ghastly Covid lockdown) I am now able to play simple arrangements of such French standards as “La Vie En Rose”, “Plaisir D’Amour” etc. I’m even struggling with Satie’s “Gymnopedie 1”. I’m still progressing.

I would recommend you consider trying a small instrument such as the Pigini Peter Pan or similar. These are sized to suit young children just starting the instrument, but they are quite playable with adult hands, and are, of course, smaller and lighter than most medium to large sized accordions. Given that the players for whom they are bought eventually either tire of the instrument or wish to progress to a larger one they come on the market in good condition from time to time.

On the two Hohners you mention, I can give no opinion on the Corona, but I have owned a Bravo briefly. I bought it at what I thought to be a good price. I found it to be rather raucous and poorly finished. It was, of course, a chromatic button one, but the innards of the piano instruments I am sure will be identical. I believe that they are made in China, and that this accounts both for the cheap price and poor quality. I would always choose a European made accordion now. As the Rolls Royce publicity used to assert, the quality remains long after the price is forgotten.

Good luck in your retirement folly, from another elderly fool.ere are
Thank you SO much for your info and insights! I have considered a chromatic button accordion, I believe it would be a great choice because they are versatile and light and compact. However there are not many offers and most of them are super expensive. My problem is that I am just starting to learn, before investing so much money I want to be sure that I will stick with the accordion. There is a Chinese brand that is sold in US and they are quite unique because they offer several chromatic button models, which is rare, and they have a warranty and repair center in US: www.excaliburaccordions.com . Their button chromatic models range in price from $800 to 1200. Maybe I should invest in one of these? And if I continue my journey with the accordion, I can sell it and invest in a better quality instrument?
 

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Tom

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Hi again Gerardo,

I think a chromatic button accordion is a good choice, although it will probably not be very common in the Detroit area.

I'm sorry to say that I have no experience or knowledge of the Excalibur brand. Again, common wisdom here is that accordions made in China are not as well built, or as reliable as those made in Italy or Germany, either now or in the "golden age" of the 50s to the 70s. Paul Debra, for example, is a trusted member here who usually chimes in with advice about Chinese instruments.

I fear that you could have a similar experience as with your Hohner.

With all the polka music going on in the greater Detroit/Cleveland/Toronto area, there's got to be somewhere you can go where knowledgeable people can help with your decision. Don't be afraid to ask for a good shop location on this forum.

Good luck!
 

dunlustin

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The Corona II is a workhorse – I played one for 20+ years – but I can not vouch for the China models.
Re: 26 key PA, a very limited range and the 48 bass is more limited than first appears. Accordions are all about compromise.

I now play a chromatic button accordion.
The Button Box has a used Weltmeister – a ‘value’ but OK brand – at $1895. This should tell you all you need to know about a new CBA at $800

Go with your first idea of a diatonic, choose a make to hold its value and trade up later. For decades, plenty of ‘pros’ in Europe have spent a lifetime playing diatonics (in the US too).
Accordion skills: finding buttons you can’t see, bellows technique, LH and RH working independently all these apply to a diatonic.
In N Europe, diatonics have ‘grown’ a lot – ‘neutral chords,’ keeping weight below about 11 lb, partial 3rd rows giving more key options. Adding bass/chords likewise. Better reeds.

I stick with my GC suggestion - with the exception of UK players there’s a lot more on-line for the GC . Adding the F row is a marginal gain which adds bulk (and weight ). I always found the 3-row slower to play.
By the way, did you know that many Irish players almost ignore the LH and Norteno players often remove the LH reeds completely?
 

NickC

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There is a lifetime of music to play on the diatonic accordion and there are players who take these instruments to a whole new level of artistry. There are even models with Stradella bass.

However, given your goals/genres, it might be a good idea to at least look into a chromatic instrument, whether CBA or piano accordion. The size of diatonic instruments are very appealing, but there are smaller chromatic instruments available (each with there own set of 'limitations'). I find that more notes can be put on a smaller box with the CBA.

Have you looked at a mix of sheet music for a few tunes that you want to play to see if the Corona offers enough notes?
 

cat

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I play DBA, PA and concertinas (english and anglo), and naturally wanted to play CBA too. But, with everything else going on (I play strings and woodwinds), I was able to resist getting into CBA 😐. I always say that if someone is brand new to accordions - without prior preferences, associations, etc - go with CBA.

Having said that, bisonoric boxes are fun to play and are particularly good for dance music, where quick bellows reversals provide rhythmic accents and articulations. I play a lot of dance/rhythmic music, so I get a lot of use out of my hohner clubs (2.5 row).

I ultimately got into PA - having met failure trying to arrange gnossienne #3 on the diatonic buttons. That was the breaking point. But then forro and new orleans style lit my fire for it. And, they are readily available for cheap in North America, where I reside.

*If you could try both for 6 months, you may come away with a strong preference either way.
 
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gerardo1000

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I play DBA, PA and concertinas (english and anglo), and naturally wanted to play CBA too. But, with everything else going on (I play strings and woodwinds), I was able to resist getting into CBA 😐. I always say that if someone is brand new to accordions - without prior preferences, associations, etc - go with CBA.

Having said that, bisonoric boxes are fun to play and are particularly good for dance music, where quick bellows reversals provide rhythmic accents and articulations. I play a lot of dance/rhythmic music, so I get a lot of use out of my hohner clubs (2.5 row).

I ultimately got into PA - having met failure trying to arrange gnossienne #3 on the diatonic buttons. That was the breaking point. But then forro and new orleans style lit my fire for it. And, they are readily available for cheap in North America, where I reside.

*If you could try both for 6 months, you may come away with a strong preference either way.
"If you could try both for 6 months, you may come away with a strong preference either way."
You are right and that is what I just did. I bought a Hohner Compadre and a Hohner Bravo II 48 bass, with the goal to learn and play with them for a few months and see what will be my preference. I may decide to keep both or to sell the one that I see that I play less. If I discover that a chromatic accordion is my favorite, in the future I can always upgrade to a chromatic button!
 

NickC

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Congrats on the new instruments. Enjoy them.
 

cat

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Great - interested to see what you make of them!

My own approach - I try to play it on DBA; if it won't work, I go to the chromatic box.
 

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