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FREE BASS

Chickers

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I am basically a beginner accordion player----judging by my slow progress, I'm beginning to think that I will remain a "lifelong" beginner.
I guess my point above is to help justify my reason for this post, and my question to you all.
In viewing those accordionists that play a Free Bass, it appears as though the free bass system allows those accordionists to play piano scores without the need to transpose. I appears as the free bass system user can play the bass clef as written in piano sheet music.
Is that a correct assumption ?
Thank you,
CHICKERS
 

Glug

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Yep, in Stradella bass the bass and counterbass buttons play 'one' note but in up to 5 octaves.
In free bass all bass buttons play one note in one octave (or sometimes you get 2 octaves I think with LM free bass registers)

The Roland manuals have note layout charts that are quite interesting:
See https://www.musikkhandel.no/media/files/3388/FR-4x_reference_e01_W.pdf and the section at the end under "button layouts"
The "N. Europe" free bass layout goes from F2 to F7.

I think mechanical free bass is usually a much smaller set of bass notes.
No doubt an expert will be along in a minute :)
 

Ben-jammin

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It kind of depends. I can’t speak for all free bass systems but I do have quint system free bass on my Titano. This gives me three octaves on the left hand C2 to B4. A standard 88 key piano will start at A1. So you would at least have to transpose up an octave if any notes in the piano score are lower than C2.
 

Ben-jammin

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A few other thoughts:
There’s another possible restriction is number of fingers in play. A pianist would have ergonomic use of a thumb for the left. Where the accordionist would not.

Quint freebass is a bit of a compromise to mirror the bass and counter bass rows of a stradella layout. This makes it easy for someone that already knows stradella and probably simplifies the mechanism to switch between quint to stradella. The compromise is there tends to be large gaps to accidentals as diatonic “groups” are close together with 3 octaves together. This makes some pieces harder to play on quint than it would be on other systems where chromatic notes for a given octave are close together.
 
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Alan Sharkis

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I don’rrecall the gentleman’s name, but he had his bass made with steps, something like the steps that some cba right hands have and this enabled him to cuse his thumb on the left hand.
 

debra

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It kind of depends. I can’t speak for all free bass systems but I do have quint system free bass on my Titano. This gives me three octaves on the left hand C2 to B4. A standard 88 key piano will start at A1. So you would at least have to transpose up an octave if any notes in the piano score are lower than C2.
A piano starts from A0, not A1. Accordions cannot go lower than C1 because that's the lowest reed in production.
An accordion can go up to C#8 in the H register. A piano only goes up to C8.
 

debra

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A few other thoughts:
There’s another possible restriction is number of fingers in play. A pianist would have ergonomic use of a thumb for the left. Where the accordionist would not.

Quint freebass is a bit of a compromise to mirror the bass and counter bass rows of a stradella layout. This makes it easy for someone that already knows stradella and probably simplifies the mechanism to switch between quint to stradella. The compromise is there tends to be large gaps to accidentals as diatonic “groups” are close together with 3 octaves together. This makes some pieces harder to play on quint than it would be on other systems where chromatic notes for a given octave are close together.
Some humongous quint freebass accordions have 8 rows instead of 6 and thus do 4 octaves instead of 3.
The quint freebass is not only a bit of a compromise regarding the range (3 or 4 octaves) but also in terms of accurate tuning. The whole mechanism works with register sliders, so for one reed there can be two holes and depending on which hole the air comes through the tuning can be slightly different. Tuning is normally done for the freebass setting, and the slightly off-tune notes don't matter too much when using stradella as more reeds play simultaneously anyway. On a chromatic convertor with convertor switch the air for each reed always comes through the same (single) hole. (Some chromatic convertor accordions with registers to switch between freebass and stradella also have the two-hole issue.) I just tuned an Excelsior with that register system (and no convertor switch). Pigini also made some smaller convertor accordions using registers instead of a convertor switch.
 

Walker

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I do have quint system free bass on my Titano. This gives me three octaves on the left hand C2 to B4
Hi Ben-jammin, my Pigini quint converter has two voices giving: L, LM, M. It effectively gives me 4 octaves on a standard 120 bass accordion. Do you have the same options?
I don’rrecall the gentleman’s name
Hi Alan, I think you mean this musician...
 
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Walker

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bit of a compromise
Hi Paul, good to speak to you.

Quint does involve compromise, but this is true of every system.

I would like to quote Professor F. Palazzo, who is an exponent of quint. On his Youtube space he demonstrates scales etc. and he writes of some of its virtues...

"The free bass "quint system", or Galla Rini free bass system, is based on the same logic “quint” scheme of a normal standard bass (“Stradella”) bass mechanic. As normally on a 120 bass, 6 row, bass mechanic you will have the first 4 rows of buttons as chords and the last two rows as fundamental notes, in the extension of an octave. Using the converter the pre-made chords are transformed into bass and conterbass shifted of one octave (instead of major/minor chords) and again bass and conterbass shifted one more octave (sept./dim. chords). For example: starting from C we have: C1/E1 , the first octave (low key), C2/E2, the second octave (chords M/m), C3/E3, (chords 7/dim.) third octave, all in a row diagonally. Moving up or down vertically we have again the same layout of notes a quint up or down. Of course this layout notes develops a logic tonal executive positions because they necessarily create preferential way to switch from one octave to another. In fact the scale’s fingering is different tone by tone. The l60 basses has one octave more low, from C°/ E°. This special layout of notes, not consecutive but for quint, as opposed to the chromathic system, in which the notes are disposed in consecutive order semitonal, creates an enormous ease in the execution of scales, arpeggios and even double notes (thirds and sixths), executions polyphonic share late steps in prohibitive areas for any other type of layout of keyboards. It’s precisely due to the approximation of the eighth. Also to consider is that on a piano or chromatic keyboard the hand runs parallel to the keyboard itself and therefore to cover the entire range of the keyboard the hand have to go all the physical space, in the quint system the hand moves perpendicular to the keyboard itself so it can cover without moving the entire length regardless of the physical space on which develops the entire keyboard. It should be added in this regard, that the type of movement from inside to outside and back on the left keyboard is more comfortable movement from bottom to top and back, just the chromathic system, because it keeps the pulse much more relaxed and above all to reduce greatly the movement: in fact, it may take up to 4 octaves without moving an inch below the wrist itself. In addition to this we must also consider that a keyboard of 120 buttons develops an extension of 36 real notes and a keyboard of 160 keys 48, in which means that each note is repeated in different places 3/4 times and this allows fingering the same passage in different ways and in completely different positions, each time choosing the most comfortable position as possible."
 

Ben-jammin

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Hi Ben-jammin, my Pigini quint converter has two voices giving: L, LM, M. It effectively gives me 4 octaves on a standard 120 bass accordion. Do you have the same options?
On my grand I only have one voicing in quint bass, so am limited to the range depicted elsewhere.
 

Ben-jammin

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This might be a bit of a rabbit hole, and possibly straying a bit from the intention of Chickers original question, which I understood to be more related to having the notes on the bass clef to play piano scores. This kind of begs the question though about the suitability of an accordion to faithfully recreate a piano score.

Accordions and pianos have quite different capabilities when it comes to control of the sound envelope and dynamics. Sustain on a piano is long decay. On an accordion unless the player purposely reduces bellows pressure sustain is at constant volume. These characteristics make each instrument good for certain applications.

Piano scores may use the sustain pedal and have multiple notes in a state of decay while new notes are being played (similar affect can be made by holding multiples keys down while hitting new ones) This certainly can’t be recreated on an acoustic accordion (well maybe you could do something with a lot of reverb that could “close”).

An accordion and a piano could play the same score with the same marked dynamics but the true resulting dynamics would be different.

I’m interested to hear how more advanced players approach this. Personally I like fairly liberal reinterpretations of existing music, but some music tolerates that less well than others.

Obviously the answer is it needs to be done by a case by case basis but do people feel that there ever should be effort to try to recreate as close as possible the “effective” dynamics of a piano in cases where that was the intended instrument?
 

JerryPH

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I am basically a beginner accordion player----judging by my slow progress, I'm beginning to think that I will remain a "lifelong" beginner.
I guess my point above is to help justify my reason for this post, and my question to you all.
In viewing those accordionists that play a Free Bass, it appears as though the free bass system allows those accordionists to play piano scores without the need to transpose. I appears as the free bass system user can play the bass clef as written in piano sheet music.
Is that a correct assumption ?
It is.
Treble clef is played as written and bass clef is played as written, no transposition required.

Jerry
 

JerryPH

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An accordion and a piano could play the same score with the same marked dynamics but the true resulting dynamics would be different.

I’m interested to hear how more advanced players approach this. Personally I like fairly liberal reinterpretations of existing music, but some music tolerates that less well than others.

Obviously the answer is it needs to be done by a case by case basis but do people feel that there ever should be effort to try to recreate as close as possible the “effective” dynamics of a piano in cases where that was the intended instrument?
Well, it may be a bit obvious to say but Free Bass accordion players ignore the pedals, as there are none, unless you use a Roland V-accordion which can give you the sound of a piano or accordion or both at the same time. :D

- From the point of view of a beginner, the notes are the notes.
- From the point of view of an intermediate, we can do something that a piano player cannot do, and that is to play the same note on the left hand and right hand as we have 2 separate keyboards and not one long one... in effect something that a piano player cannot as easily do (unless they start laying their hands on top of each other... lol)
- From the point of view of an advanced, the piano players can ultimately make the extremely more difficult/long runs much easier than a Free Bass accordionist can as we have different keyboards/weights/systems and that tends to remove a lot of the smoothness out of it (a really good accordionist can minimize this to being inaudible, but those are far and few in between).

An accordion has no pedals we have no "sustain"effect. A piano cannot create the sound of a 15 second note at the same volume.
If you want the sound of a piano, play a piano. If you want the sound of a Free Bass accordion, play that. The written music for either one can be the same except for the pedal markings on the piano music and registration changes on the accordion music.
 
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JerryPH

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Hi Ben-jammin, my Pigini quint converter has two voices giving: L, LM, M. It effectively gives me 4 octaves on a standard 120 bass accordion. Do you have the same options?
The old MIII offers 4.5 octaves, 5.5 octaves if the register switch based off of 3 rows above the Stradella system, which of itself is another minor advantage... there is no need to make register changes to move from Stradella to FB and back again.
 
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Walker

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My old MIII offers 4.5 octaves, 5.5 octaves if I use the register switch based off of 3 rows above the Stradella system, which of itself is another advantage... I have no need to make register changes to move from Stradella to FB and back again.
Hi Jerry,

You have great passion for the accordion and the MIII system - and I admire that! There is no doubt about it, chromatic converter and the MIII offer a greater range of notes than quint converter. Indeed, it is equally true that the chromatic button accordion can boast several notes more than a piano accordion.

However, the great Scottish accordionist, Professor James Crabb of the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, who owns Pigini Mythos No 4, and extols the virtues of the Classical bayan above all other accordions, including piano accordion. He writes "however no instrument should ever be judged alone from its looks or technical specifications – the musician’s ability to express is what brings the instrument to life and communicates music to the listener. This is after all the whole point in the art of music-making." Professor Crabb is an amazing musician, and he was 2nd Prize Winner of the Gaudeamus Interpreters competition, 1989 in Holland. (Information, from Jamescrabb.com).

Interestingly, Stefan Hussong, piano accordionist (who uses MIII system), in an interview on Free-Reed Journal (29th June 2000) when asked "are there any pieces that would be easier to play on the chromatic accordion? Can you please discuss the two keyboard styles and why the piano accordion became more accepted in Germany."

Hussong replied "No, not at all, do you have that impression? The two keyboard systems are a matter of historic development of the instrument. Up to now, none of them can claim to be better (even if some people like to defend one system against the other). It's much too early to discuss that. As I said before, caring about sound and good music for our instrument would be much healthier than getting taken away by ten buttons/keys more or less." As a matter of coincidence, in 1987 Professor Hussong won the same International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition for contemporary music, only two years before James Crabb's success!

I respect the classical button accordion. I also respect the accordion with MIII free bass. But let me give respect now to quint converter:

Richard Galliano, in Strumenti & Musica when interviewed on 27th January 2013, and asked about his views on the accordion said (translated to English):

"As for the systems, I prefer the loose bass for fifths (meaning bassi sciolti per quinte), because the sound seems more beautiful to me. In my career I have also played the "chromatic" system (minor thirds, ed) with the low notes at the top and also with the low notes at the bottom, so I think I know what I'm talking about."

This is what I say - What a wonderful instrument the accordion is! All of them!

Stewart
 
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JerryPH

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Interestingly, Stefan Hussong, piano accordionist (who uses MIII system), in an interview on Free-Reed Journal (29th June 2000) when asked "are there any pieces that would be easier to play on the chromatic accordion? Can you please discuss the two keyboard styles and why the piano accordion became more accepted in Germany."

Hussong replied "No, not at all, do you have that impression? The two keyboard systems are a matter of historic development of the instrument. Up to now, none of them can claim to be better (even if some people like to defend one system against the other). It's much too early to discuss that. As I said before, caring about sound and good music for our instrument would be much healthier than getting taken away by ten buttons/keys more or less." As a matter of coincidence, in 1987 Professor Hussong won the same International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition for contemporary music, only two years before James Crabb's success!
Basically, *any* system played at the expert level will make most lower level accordionists wish they could do that, but I am also a realist. If I was starting over today as a 10 year old, I would be 100% playing that Zero Sette that Ovind Farmen plays. :D

There is no doubt that a chromatic button accordion can do things that a piano accordion cannot (merely lumping 62 keys in a smaller area that a piano accordion's 41 keys with room to spare) points to several advantages right there and therefore, is silly to contest, especially when it comes time to play something fast or complex at the expert level, and this C-system Free Bass is without doubt the best, as one can use all 5 left hand fingers to play and it is the same system left and right hands. So to that end, though I love the man and his playing, Stefan Hussong is not strictly 100% right about his statement. :)

That said, I started on the piano accordion, not because it was better or worse, but that back. in 1963 in the then small town of Saskatchewan Canada, there were no button accordions found and certainly no button accordion teachers within a 1500 mile radius, so piano accordion it was for me, as chosen by my parents. Same thing for the Free Bass. When I was at the RCM in the early 70's all you saw were MIII piano accordions, and the vast majority by far were all Hohner Gola 454 accordions. I'm a victim of my environment, and why I love the Gola, but I am not complaining at all, because I am enjoying the journey, just at a very slow pace nowadays. :)
 
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Walker

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Hi Jerry, your position is a reasonable one; sticking with the piano accordion path, despite thoughts that chromatic accordion with stepped bass would be optimal for you. This is a well thought out option. It does not make you right or wrong - it's simply your analysis, and it's good. Nobody would disagree, 62 (or 64 notes) is a bigger number than 41, 45 or even 49 keys. I also understand your point of view on ergonomics too. The truth is very few people can get close to exhausting the capability of any world-class accordion, regardless of system, that's one of the reasons why some accordions are world-class...

Maybe its about finding the balance - the right instrument for the right music, and the right person.

I am not sure if there is any perfect system. How can there be? We live in an imperfect world. We are not perfect. All systems have weak points, that's why there are so many systems.

When we talk about incredible musicians – Farmen, Crabb, Hussong, Galliano, not one of them plays the same type of accordion. Counting buttons may be very important for stocktaking duties at the haberdashery store - but for expressing the emotions of the heart, it is less so! The greatest bayanist can move a man to tears, but so can a man with a humble melodeon.

Another perspective concerning free bass systems by Mirco Patarini of Scandalli accordions (and former world champion) is quite interesting... See Accordions Worldwide (Interviewed December 2015 by Lorenzo Baiocco, Published courtesy of Strumenti & Musica) for the full interview.

Mr Patarini stated, “For several years I played with the quint system free bass, first the six rows and then to eight. After that I played for about one year a button instrument with c-griff free bass. At the end, I chose to keep the piano accordion with c-griff free bass.

In any case I think the problem of the system is secondary to the music, you may very well play at a high level with any system... Corrado Rojac, which I mentioned before, played for years with the piano accordion quint sistem free bass and then he decided to change completely and play button instrument 'Russian system', both right and left.

And we have not to forget, for example, Fabio Rossato, fantastic performer, playing even a c-griff button accordion to the right hand and a quint system free bass on the left.

In any case, however, I would not be honest if I said that the existence of various systems is not a problem.

Today we have these systems:

RIGHT HAND KEYBOARD:

piano accordion
button c-griff
button b-griff
button finnish

LEFT HAND KEYBOARD

standard bass (Stradella), two bass rows and four chords
system with three bass rows and three chords rows, in two versions (with minor third or augmented quint)
belgian system (identical to the 'Modenese' system, almost disappeared today)

LEFT HAND FREE BASS KEYBOARD

additional rows, three or four, close to the bellows c-griff system
convertor c-griff system
convertor b-griff system
convertor Finnish system
convertor 'Russian system' (reversed b-griff)
quint system

In addition to this variety of systems, we also have uneven pairings, more often than we think. It is clear that, even if from a musical point of view we can arrive to play well any system, such variety of configurations become a problem for didactics programs, and also for the production time and the costs of the instruments.

My feeling is that we are moving towards the system b-griff on the right hand and the "Russian" to the left. I disagree with those who as a matter of "logic" or ergonomics, every system has conditions favorable or unfavorable depending on what you play.

I just want to say that, knowing very well the dynamics of the nowadays market, I see a direction more and more pronounced. Certainly, it does not mean that other systems will disappear.... Try, for example to go to South America WITHOUT piano accordion...”


After all that - time for some music. Mr Patarini made mention of the great Corrado Rojac - who moved to Russian button accordion. Guess what! he didn't entirely move away from quint converter.

Enjoy...

 

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A good precis, Walker, which adds weight to the adage: "Horses for Courses", which we antipodeans are wont to use.
There's a lot of philosophy behind that.
 

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