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Which instrument to choose to play Classical Music

Happy girl

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Would members who are experienced in this field please help me to understand which features should be considered when purchasing a piano accordion for the purpose of playing classical music?

It is my instinct that a 120 bass would be necessary for the range & that it should be a straight instrument, i.e. no tremolo.

Are these factors important or am I way off the mark?

Thank you.
 

debra

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The 120 bass is not important for the range as everything from 72 bass upwards has exactly the same notes, in Stradella bass. The rest is just copies of the same. With 72 bass you have no redundancy, and as a result 96 is popular as it gives a bit of redundancy at the top and bottom end.
For classical music it is best to have "melody bass" which nowadays means a convertor. And while large (120 bass) instruments will give you up to 58 notes on the convertor, what matters is that it starts with low E and as you won't be using the highest notes it really doesn't matter much whether it has 49, 55 or 58 notes.
For the keyboard what matters is that the more keys the better (41 often leaves you short, 45 is very common, 47 and 49 are rare and extremely expensive instead of just very expensive). Cassotto (L+M) is important. 4 reed banks: LMMH, but it is not important that it should be a straight instrument. You won't be using the second M reed much if there is tremolo but when you do have tremolo it makes more types of music possible without needing a different instrument. Straight tuned has a nice sound but the slightest error in the tuning will be heard.
A very good and relatively popular instrument is the Bugari 289/ARS/C which has 45 keys, 4 reeds (tuned as you like), cassotto for L+M, and 58 bass melody bass. Used a lot by professionals.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Paul,

I believe that this question was inspired by a request for advice by a new member. Arianna specifically asked me about the size of instrument she should buy. I took into account the fact that she is brand new to the accordion, and physically petite.

My advice was (and still is) that she should try a few different sizes, though I ventured an opinion that a 72/34 may be the most appropriate instrument for a smaller person to learn on.

The logic I applied to Arianna's original question was based on the information I had before me, together with my own experience of 72 Bass instruments. I tend not to give specific advice unless I am asked to do so, which, on this occasion, I was.

Happy Girl responded by casting doubt on my advice, stating that a 120/41 would be more appropriate. She went on to suggest that Arianna should wait for advice from more experienced members, though none were around at the time.

I have never, and would never, offer advice which I did not believe to be correct. I have read that many accordion tutors suggest that their clients begin with 48 or 72 Bass instruments, and feel that this advice is especially appropriate for a young woman of diminutive stature.

Arianna does not have much money to spend on an accordion, making her choice all the more important. Buying a 72 Bass on which to learn would give her a couple of years in which to save up for a larger instrument, if she decides that she wants or needs to.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

debra

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Stephen Hawkins post_id=50009 time=1504430114 user_id=1440 said:
Paul,

I believe that this question was inspired by a request for advice by a new member. Arianna specifically asked me about the size of instrument she should buy. I took into account the fact that she is brand new to the accordion, and physically petite.
...

Thats always the problem when we dont know more about a new member than what she reveals...
Knowing about classical instruments without tremolo suggests that she did already look into the issue seriously.

I presume that knowing her and that she is physically petite you already gave the advice that to get more serious about classical music PA is not a great idea. You need to be of the size of Ksenija Sidorova (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyEb4C3YFZwV9Y1UVmpLpGw) to feel comfortable with the type of instrument you end up with once you reach a reasonably advanced level. For someone who is physically petite there is essentially only one option: CBA. You get a much more compact instrument with large range of notes, often used in classical music.

My wife could also physically not handle a 45/120 convertor instrument. The choice was then either to get an instrument that is restricted in its capabilities (especially range of notes) or to make the switch to CBA. She can comfortably handle the Bugari 540/ARS/C which is only 41cm (keyboard length) x 22.3cm (depth) x 43.5 (height standing on its feet). That gives her 52 notes on the keyboard (more than any PA), 120 basses and 49 notes on the convertor. In terms of capabilities in a small size it doesnt get better than that.

I fully understand that this now is a serious dilemma: not being able to handle the PA that may be needed later for more and more advanced classical music, but probably dreading the switch to CBA which she can handle but requires restarting from scratch...
 

donn

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Is it possible that there's a type of accordion playing that would be named "classical", but wouldn't require the extended range or the convertor? Maybe ... excuse me, but suppose I had a gig playing opera excerpts and the like in a restaurant? That's "classical music on the accordion", is it not?
 

debra

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donn post_id=50019 time=1504452028 user_id=60 said:
Is it possible that theres a type of accordion playing that would be named classical, but wouldnt require the extended range or the convertor? Maybe ... excuse me, but suppose I had a gig playing opera excerpts and the like in a restaurant? Thats classical music on the accordion, is it not?

Sure there is classical playing that does not require a large range or convertor. Even baroque is possible. Some early works I played on the accordion without convertor were the famous Air by Bach and the Largo (from Xerxes) by Handel. And you can even go as far as the famous Czardas by Vittorio Monti. Where the convertor comes into play is in polyphonic music where having just one octave of notes on the bass side no longer cuts it. Of course in a band you can play all of that with just the right hand because you can distribute the parts over multiple players.

As you start playing more advanced classical music the problem becomes that whoever arranged the piece for PA is more likely to assume the presence of 45 keys (E to C). And there are lots of excellent Russian arrangement that assume you have 64 notes as well...
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Paul & Donn,

I have no actual knowledge regarding the music Arianna wishes to play but, in some ways, this could be deferred to a later date. What I do know is that she has never picked up an accordion in her life, and that to saddle an absolute beginner with an instrument which is unsuitable due to its sheer size is doing her a disservice.

At any rate, it is doubtful that Arianna will be quite ready for "The William Tell Overture" for some time to come, so she may progress faster by learning on an instrument which is comfortable and more manageable for a girl of her size.

What we are talking about is not classical music, but the needs of a person who has never played an accordion before. In that regard, classical music is a red herring, and advice given should take more basic considerations into account.

So, the question should be: "What size instrument could you logically recommend for a young lady of slight build?" A year or two down the road and the answer may well be different but, at least for now, I will stick with the advice I have offered.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

donn

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Stephen Hawkins said:
What we are talking about is not classical music, but the needs of a person who has never played an accordion before.

To be strictly accurate, that's what you're talking about. If she's interested in joining the conversation, that would be terrific, but as she has not, I'm talking about people who might pick up the accordion with the stated intention to play classical music.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Hello Donn,

No, I'm sorry, it is not what I am talking about. Apart from the briefest mention of classical music, Arianna's main concerns are about a suitable instrument for a novice to begin learning on. She also made a point about her diminutive size, which I factored into the advice I offered.

This young lady is currently cash-strapped, though this may well change at some point in the future. She will, I think, pay less for a 72 Bass than she would for a 120 Bass, which will give her the opportunity to save up for a bigger and better instrument should she wish or need to buy one in the future.

I see and fully understand the points you are making, and agree that someone wishing to expand their repertoire to include more complex music should heed your advice. All I'm saying is, with a novice player, it may be better to gain experience on a more manageable instrument before grabbing up a 120.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

JerryPH

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Size of the accordion means little if you play sitting and use good technique. I like to think that the epitomy of being able to play classical music on accordion demands Free Bass in any of its many forms. There are several incredible women who play large free bass and Bayan instruments and who can be considered petite:

<YOUTUBE id=ST2c9IRC1s4 list=PLmogBlvtk6ooEp-eTQDt_ZlXr7qfVP3Es url=></YOUTUBE>

<YOUTUBE id=0BSQccG7zXk list=PLmogBlvtk6ooEp-eTQDt_ZlXr7qfVP3Es url=></YOUTUBE>

<YOUTUBE id=DB1MhVkncoI list=PLmbLKqgUpDYzMjP2u8ZukZdmlM9xFJMoO url=>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DB1MhVkncoI&list=PLmbLKqgUpDYzMjP2u8ZukZdmlM9xFJMoO&index=3</YOUTUBE>

<YOUTUBE id=caIbXmt3qbk url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caIbXmt3qbk>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caIbXmt3qbk</YOUTUBE>

There is something inherently very attractive seeing a little lady mastering a big beast of an accordion! :D
 

donn

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Stephen Hawkins said:
No, I'm sorry, it is not what I am talking about.
It's getting tough to communicate in here. Whatever you say you're talking about, I agree that it's what you're talking about, and I will brook no dispute on that point. My point is that while that's your privilege, there's no real reason for the rest of us to make this thread be about that thread. There's a very important difference - she started and participated in that thread, while she has not participated in this thread, so it would be silly to make it about her.

I see and fully understand the points you are making, and agree that someone wishing to expand their repertoire to include more complex music should heed your advice. All I'm saying is, with a novice player, it may be better to gain experience on a more manageable instrument before grabbing up a 120.

I actually have no advice, other than to get ahold of some accordions in person, and keep an open mind on what may be manageable. Among the possibilities that might turn up, in the US anyway one fairly often sees old used "ladies" keyboards, with smaller dimensions, going for pretty modest prices.
 

Happy girl

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My enquiry regarding ‘The best instrument to choose when playing classical music’ is exactly what it asks, & not a subject of anyone else’s perceived interpretation.

I was very pleased with debra's answer, which cleared up beautifully questions which have been lingering for a while. His answer was very interesting because, although I knew that the notes on a 120 bass are repeats, I thought that, especially too play classical music, 120 bass would be essential in order to avoid big jumps. What didn’t occur to me however, is that, central to playing classical music, a larger keyboard is essential. How many of us know that???

It is also fascinating to learn about the characteristics of a straight instrument; I don’t think this subject has not been discussed previously on the forum.

debra’s answer is concise, straight to the point & exactly what I was seeking.

Jerry PHs point about a free base being necessary in many of its forms is something I have wondered about too; his answer suggests that it is not an absolute must, but I wonder if it is an advantage for this genre of music?

Thank you very much for the positive & informative information; I have learned a lot, & that , to me is what it is all about & I am very pleased I asked the question.
 

debra

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I'm glad that most questions seem to have been answered.
Very useful also that Jerry posted some videos of not so tall women playing the largest type of CBA (none actually a Russian Bayan) and that last one with a 41-key non-converter PA (keyboard only just longer than the body of the instrument).
The size of these instruments is about the same, but the CBA gives you 64 notes (from E more than an octave lower than that of the PA up to G (almost an octave higher than that of the PA).

A lot of classical music can be played on a regular 41-key PA with 96 bass or more. But arrangers of music will assume that you have at least have 41 keys. The keyboard runs from F to A. There are "lady size" instruments that give you the 41 keys in the same length as a "standard" 41 key keyboard. If a regular 120 bass PA is too large, consider lady size!

In the orchestras/bands I play in (with a lot of classical music) people with a 96 bass accordion with 37 keys (F to F) are often missing the highest 4 notes. Also, in orchestra arrangements the first part quite often makes the assumption that there are at least 45 keys (E to C), using the low E or the highest B or C, sometimes even more. With a CBA you can have a compact instrument with a large range. A Bugari Seniorfisa 351/SE without convertor has the F to A 41 notes with 96 basses and measures 41.5 x 19 x 39cm and a 360/SE/C with convertor has 46 notes (E to C#) and is 45.5 x 21.3 x 40cm.

WIth an instrument that has L, M and H the effective range is one octave lower (in L) and one octave higher (in H) so why would you still need lots of keys? That's because to make use of that range you need to change registers and you may not have time to do so. (And I'm not even considering a difference in timbre between these registers.)

When you are still starting from scratch, CBA is definitely the best option to start with. (I wish I had that option when starting as a child.) And whether you start with PA or CBA, it is important to start with an instrument that fits well. Don't assume that for a beginner a smaller instrument is better. When the instrument is too small and not comfortable the experience of playing will not be great. There is a large number of used accordions on the market so you can get instruments in all possible sizes for not too much money.
 

JerryPH

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debra post_id=50047 time=1504511340 user_id=605 said:
Very useful also that Jerry posted some videos of not so tall women playing the largest type of CBA (none actually a Russian Bayan)
Your wish is my command. ;)
Lidia Kaminska is VERY petite, in fact I doubt she tips the scales much higher than 120 pounds and plays a Zero Sette Bayan!

<YOUTUBE id=rkM7kT6TF6I list=PLmogBlvtk6ooEp-eTQDt_ZlXr7qfVP3Es url=></YOUTUBE>

... and not that it is completely on topic, here is the famous Uwe Steger playing the same song as Kaminska plays, also on his Bayan... *and* his Roland FR-7X.

<YOUTUBE id=9jfJJOdWsAQ url=></YOUTUBE>
 

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wirralaccordion post_id=50057 time=1504516679 user_id=2229 said:
Being seated makes all the difference!

From a very interesting article, which Im sure many will have seen before at
http://www.ksanti.net/free-reed/essays/back7.html

It matters not a hoot that your accordion weighs thirty pounds or twenty pounds (or in the case of the plastic fantastics sixteen pounds). The actual weight of the instrument has absolutely nothing to do with the ease of playing the instrument or getting injured. Provided, however, that you play the instrument in its proper playing position which is sitting down. What most people dont realize (obviously doctors and some manufacturers), is that in the sitting position the accordion weight rests on the thigh or thighs, thereby relieving all the actual weight from the shoulders or neck. There is absolutely no additional strain or compromise placed on the neck, shoulders or the spine when played in an energy efficient upright position.

However, for those of you who stand to play the reverse is true. Unless you are an entertainer, like Dick Contino or Myron Floren, whos solo presentation on stage is part of the show, there is no reason that one should stand. You dont see pianists standing to play to enhance their musical presentation. Why should an accordionist stand? It is a difficult enough instrument to master without creating physical and painful distractions by having the instrument hang off the shoulders and strain the neck and low back. The accordion is balanced nicely in the sitting position with the player assuming a position which is relaxed, upright and energy efficient. The number of accordionists I have seen professionally who have serious neck and shoulder problems over the years is considerable. Almost without exception, they are the performing, standing players. If you want to shorten your playing career, stand-up while playing!
 

debra

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JerryPH post_id=50054 time=1504514843 user_id=1475 said:
debra post_id=50047 time=1504511340 user_id=605 said:
Very useful also that Jerry posted some videos of not so tall women playing the largest type of CBA (none actually a Russian Bayan)
Your wish is my command. ;)
Not sure what you are referring to... as none of these videos are of women playing a bayan. But lets not restart the discussion on what the differences are between a CBA and a bayan. The video of Toeac posted earlier illustrates quite well that women who are petite (both of them are, I know them personally) can barely handle an instrument the size of a bayan. It also illustrates nicely why melody bass is so valuable for classical music: <YOUTUBE id=ST2c9IRC1s4 url=></YOUTUBE>
Note that the cover photo of the video shows very bad posture, but in the video itself they use correct posture playing the instruments.

It actually took me some time to find YouTube movies in which women are playing the bayan.
Here are a few:
<YOUTUBE id=Oj7PFjGzLqM url=></YOUTUBE>
<YOUTUBE id=0ve-4hrvur4 url=>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ve-4hrvur4</YOUTUBE>
but these women certainly do not qualify as being petite.
They do illustrate how (vertical) you are supposed to hold the instrument and then your head still needs to be just high enough above the instrument to comfortably use the chin switches. (And the instrument should not be too small because then you cannot reach the switches with your chin.)

One of the reasons I heard for not finding many (Russian) women playing the bayan (and which may just be a rumor) is that the bayan was considered an instrument for the men and the PA an instrument for the women. Maybe someone else here can either confirm or deny this rumor?
 

donn

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TomBR pid=50058 dateline=1504519066 said:
Unless you are an entertainer, like Dick Contino or Myron Floren, who's solo presentation on stage is part of the show, there is no reason that one should stand. You don't see pianists standing to play to enhance their musical presentation. Why should an accordionist stand?

I reckon that when pianists wish to behave as if they're playing accordion, they pick up an accordion for that purpose. I don't want to ever suggest that my act is one bit like Dick Contino's, but my accordion performance situation does pretty much require that I stand, and I'm reconciled to that. I try to groan and wheeze while picking the accordion up, just in case it helps to make my colleagues appreciate the burden.

Clearly, from the pictures I'm seeing here, classical performance style is more sitting down, but then like I was saying earlier - "classical music" is a broader genre than I think we're really talking about here. That player who has been engaged to stroll around the restaurant, annoying people with opera excerpts, can probably get away with some sitting down, but it depends.
 

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