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Author Topic: "Playability"  (Read 312 times)

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Little eggy

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« on: August 12, 2018, 02:34:15 PM »

What is 'playability'?   How much is subjective?  Here are some opinions - I'm 2 years in to my melodeon 'career'.

When browsing in search of the next purchase, along the winding, rocky, weed strewn trail that leads to my perfect melodeon, I often encounter the word 'playability'.   A quick search throws up some obvious things which have no direct link to  playability :- Looks/ cost/ sound/ volume/ maker.   I say this because they are often listed separately from 'playability' in comments about particular boxes.

I have a DG Pariselle; a DG Erica and a DG Scarlatti Nero.   If I'm learning a new tune I pick up the Erica.  The ease with which I can (a) access and move between the buttons I need - especially the bass/chords (b) operate the air button (c) pull and draw the bellows (d) support the box for a long practice session,  all point me to the Erica.   The Pariselle has gorgeous tone but is heavy and there's something about the bass/chords that stop my fingers flying over them.  I can't get air in and out of the Nero quickly enough.  I don't like the air bar.

I had a go with an Excelsior in Hobgoblin a while ago - I found it scored very highly on all these criteria. 

So, can 'playability' be defined, or, if not, described?  What's the most 'playable' make/model that you've ever played?



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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2018, 03:26:18 PM »

I'd define it as the inverse of the effort overhead when playing the instrument. Given a tune there's the essential effort you have to invest - pushing the right buttons in the right time, bellows movement etc. Given a box as well you now suddenly have to take inertia, action etc. into account, this is your overhead.

It is, of course, highly subjective, as different players have different styles, arm strength and requirements, which incur different overheads on different boxes.
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Joan Kureczka

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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2018, 03:52:14 PM »

My Oakwood-Baffetti Super II.  Super playable, compact box. Fast and capable of being either very subtle or loud.

george garside

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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2018, 04:44:16 PM »

playability is not something you can easlily define as  whilst boxes have a named make and model and therefore 2  or several of the same make/model should have the same 'playability'  we, the players, as humans are all different and perceive things differently.

So one persons ideal box with great playability   may not provide the same satisfaction to a different person. Also a boxes 'playability' can(to an individual) increase with familiarity.  eg my mid range mml serenellini that I have played considerably for 25 years or so is extremly satisfying in the playability stakes ( to me) but may not be to somebody else.   Also  to me a wet tuned box is generaly more 'playable' or should I say 'satisfying' than is a dry tuned box.

so perhaps to find a box with more of your particular notion of playability it is simply down to getting once that feels right and sounds right to you and sod what anyone else may think!


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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2018, 05:02:31 PM »

Perhaps it is easier to define 'unplayable' rather than 'playable'.
  • Stiff bellows
  • Air leaks
  • Notes not sounding or speaking sluggishly
  • Poor tuning
  • Stiff or heavy action
  • Excessively noisy action
  • Ergonomically awkward - e.g. poorly designed or poorly functioning air button
  • Absence of, or badly adjusted straps
Any or all of these things can put a would-be player right off the melodeon, especially if the player thinks it is their fault and not the instrument. It's a recipe for early disappointment and giving up.

Helping a player in that situation to move on to a well set-up, and hence playable, instrument of whatever make and type of tuning can be a revelation. That's what I think of as 'playability'.
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Gary Chapin

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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2018, 05:16:34 PM »

You have all said wise things.

To me playability is essentially, "How does it feel under my fingers?" Does the instrument want me to play well?
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Winston Smith

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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2018, 11:22:26 PM »

"Stiff bellows
 Air leaks
 Notes not sounding or speaking sluggishly
 Poor tuning
 Stiff or heavy action
 Excessively noisy action
 Ergonomically awkward - e.g. poorly designed or poorly functioning air button
 Absence of, or badly adjusted straps"

That's my "new" D/G to a tee, Steve, but I'll carry on fighting with it for the time being. Hopefully, your playing workshops at Whitby might help me to stamp my authority on it!
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Re: "Playability"
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2018, 08:12:35 PM »

After spending a small fortune on boxes from a number of makers I've found that, for me, a properly set up Hohner 21x8 2 voice box such as a pre Erica, Pokerwork or Black Dot is the most playable.  That's because they're got design feature that make them light and punchy, with bright reeds and the right bellows capacity for my style of playing.  I only learned to appreciate lightness when I'd played a Nuage for three or four years.

Those aspects of playability are there right from new, and can't change or be changed.  It goes without saying that all seals and joints should always be airtight enough for the box to work well.

There are other aspects of playability, which depend on a mixture of chance and/or good management.  How the box should be "properly set up" is subjective judgement.  How freely the reeds speak is crucial, as is the evenness of the tuning.  The weight of the keyboard springs and the height of the button crowns above the keyboard is most important.  The extent of button travel is also important.

I like light spring weights, button crowns set about 5mm above the keyboard, and as short a travel on the keys as is commensurate with best reed performance.  The reeds must breathe freely and speak as readily as possible.  I like light swing tuning applied progressively up the scale.

Details like button profile and keyboard surface finish can be issues, but I can live with Hohner's choice.

Bellows are possibly the hardest thing to judge.  Stiff bellows on a brand new box will probably become flexible with playing, but how quickly?

If I'd written this when I first started playing my answers would probably have been very different, and there wouldn't have been as many of them.  Perhaps the longer you play, the easier you manage to cope with boxes that might have seemed unplayable when you started out.     
Nuage, Tommy, Cairdin, 
Double Ray DLX 21x12, Black Dot,
Pre-Erica, Pokerwork
plus various stringed things
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